The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/american/codoh/press.response/cpd.040994

Archive/File: orgs/american/codoh/press.response cpd.040994
Last-Modified: 1994/06/22

From: aa824@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Mark Ira Kaufman)
Newsgroups: soc.culture.jewish
Subject: Article on the Holocaust
Date: 15 Apr 1994 21:20:05 GMT
Message-ID: <2on0e6$d2v@usenet.INS.CWRU.Edu>

The following article ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on April 9th, and
in the Akron Beacon Journal on April 10th.
			The Holocaust offered choices

   Phil Donahue, a master at plucking fruit from the freakier branches of 
the human family tree, recently had on his show a man whose profession is
claiming that the Holocaust never happened.

   Bradley Smith, self-proclaimed "working man" and "former bookseller," 
insists that the Nazis never murdered millions of Jewish men, women, and 
children in a grand scheme to erase the Jewish people from the face of the

   His full-page ads, which have appeared in dozens of college newspapers, 
claim the Holocaust is a hoax.

   Smith appeared on the Donahue show with David Cole, a young man claiming
to be Jewish by birth, but was now, like Smith, an avowed atheist.  Both are
members of a group called the Committee for Open Debate On the Holocaust.
   Cole was so rude during the first segment that after a commercial break,
Donahue announced that he would not be back for the remainder of the show.
   It was then left up to Smith to spit into the wind of history, spewing 
claims unfettered by the ravages of fact.

   In spite of eyewitness accounts by survivors, numerous confessions from
those who ordered the genocide and carried it out, photos and films taken
by the Nazis themselves, documents which include the minutes of the Wansee 
Conference(the meeting at which the 'final solution,' the plan to murder
all the Jews in Europe was formulated), and quantities of physical evidence
measured in tons, Smith maintains that there is no proof of the Holocaust.

	When confronted with the facts, he dismisses it with a wave of his 
hand, declaring them either fabrications, or erroneously interpreted.  When
asked to respond to death camp survivors, he accuses them of lying.  When 
asked to explain the Nazis use of poisonous Zyklon-B gas, Smith declares 
that they were merely 'disinfecting' Jewish prisoners.

   Smith's vision of history evokes images of those people who continue to
insist that the earth is flat or that the moon landings were created on a
Hollywood set.

   But Smith is not the first to claim that the Holocaust is a myth.

   German-Canadian Nazi Ernst Zundel, and French anti-Semites Robert 
Faurisson and Jean-Marie Le Pen have been trying for years to make the 
Holocaust go away.

   In 1980 the Institute for Historical Review, an organization devoted 
exclusively to Holocaust denial, offered a $50,000 reward to any person
who could prove that Jews were gassed to death at Auschwitz.

   Mel Mermelstein, who lost his entire family in Auschwitz, did just that.

   When the IHR refused to comply with its promised terms, Mermelstein sued, 
and won.  He was awarded the $50,000 in the original IHR offer, and another 
$40,000 for the pain and suffering caused by the original offer.

   Educated folks, when confronted with the likes of Smith or the IHR, ask
how people could believe that the eyewitness testimony, the gas chambers, 
the mountains of corpses, the films, tattoos, photos, confessions, and six 
million Jews who vanished, were all faked.
   While Holocaust denial seems limited to a few bizarre people like Smith,
their fraudulent message could influence millions.  Surveys indicate as 
many as a third of Americans surveyed wonder if the Holocaust happened.

   Holocaust deniers, all of whom claim to have thoroughly investigated 
the matter, certainly know that the Holocaust is an historical fact.  A 
closer look provides the motive for their denial.

   One trait they have in common is that they all wallow neck-deep in anti-
Semitism.  They attack the Holocaust as an 'industry' created by the Jews 
for the purpose of extracting 'guilt money' from the rest of the world.  
This slur is followed by the commoner anti-Semitic canards that, the Jews 
control the media, the banks, the government, the schools, and the drinking 
   While hatred of Jews is something Holocaust deniers have in common, it 
does not explain why they deny the Holocaust happened.  Many anti-Semites 
not only acknowledge it happened, but express admiration for the Nazi effort 
to kill every Jew they could get their hands on, and disappointment that 
Hitler did not get them all.

   A likely explanation is that Holocaust deniers represent a breed of 
anti-Semite who cannot face the historical consequences of their brand of
hatred.  They shun the Holocaust in an attempt to sanitize anti-Semitism. 
Holocaust deniers need their Jew-hatred decontaminated of its genocidal 

   In the face of so many people who wonder about the Holocaust, there is
a danger to dismissing Holocaust deniers as a small collection of Jew-
hating crackpots expressing an opinion.  The danger is in permitting 
historical reality to be reduced to 'opinion,' and in the risk of losing 
the valuable lessons of the Holocaust.
   Understanding the Holocaust is exhausting.  Even those jaded by the 
world's current low regard for life find the Holocaust's horrors chilling.  
Its scope and brutality challenge credibility.

   The range of human behavior associated with the Holocaust makes it a 
morality play on par with the Bible.  Like the Bible, it is a saga of 
bravery, treachery, endurance, indifference, and denial.
   It is no coincidence that many Holocaust deniers are intensely anti-
   The colossal dimensions of the Holocaust could eclipse its real lessons,
which are the stories of individuals.  If the Holocaust is reduced to an 
accounting exercise, it becomes nothing.
   This is why Anne Frank's diary is so precious, why recollections of a 
Holocaust survivor can generate a shiver, or why justice is demanded when 
it is discovered that some old man committed acts of ruthless brutality as
a young man.

    One person who has maintained Holocaust awareness is John Demjanjuk, 
the controversial Ukrainian immigrant and former allied solider, whose 
bloody story is still unfolding.
   As the story of his past continues to unfold, the story of Holocaust 
hero Oskar Schindler has become the subject of the most shattering movie 
ever made on the Holocaust.

   Oskar Schindler and John Demjanjuk represent two different responses to
the greatest evil humanity ever unleashed upon itself.  While there are 
more villainous villains than John Demjanjuk, and nobler heroes than Oskar 
Schindler, their stories are useful because, when studied together, comprise
the greatest human truth the Holocaust has to offer.
   Demjanjuk was an allied soldier, captured by the Nazis, and thrown into 
a POW camp.  From there, documents show him serving in several Nazi death
camps.  Authenticated evidence of this is so plentiful that the Attorney 
General has reaffirmed the government's eagerness to deport him as a Nazi 
war criminal.

   Some of Demjanjuk's defenders who acknowledge the evidence of his past 
claim that he did not have a choice, that he would have been killed if he 
refused to help murder Jews.

   But Demjanjuk's main financial supporter, Clevelander Jerome Brentar, 
is a Holocaust denier.  He has spoken before the IHR to declare Demjanjuk's 
innocence, basing his claim not on mistaken identity as Demjanjuk claims,
but, rather, that the crimes in question never occured.

   Oskar Schindler, a married womanizer, black market dealer, and heavy 
drinker, went down a different path.  This German Catholic, a member of the
nazi party, ended up exhausting his fortune, and risked the consequences 
of arrest by the Gestapo, to save more than 1,100 Jews from certain death.
	When the war had ended, Schindler was asked why.  His answer is 
disturbingly similar to one often given by the murderers and their 
spectators.  "There was no choice."

   Schindler's answer is the same false claim made by most heroes.
   The hero always has a choice, just like any other person.  Choice makes 
the act heroic, just as it makes the criminal's act a crime.
   Those who ask why the Holocaust happened often question why God would 
permit such a catastrophe to take place.  If one believes that the Creator
endowed humanity with free will, the answer becomes obvious.  God did not 
kill six million Jews.  People did.

   It was people who pushed people into the gas chambers.  It was people 
who stood by and permitted their Jewish neighbors to go up in smoke.  And
it was people, like Oskar Schindler, who risked their own lives, by choosing
to save their fellow human beings from certain death.

   The Holocaust, like the Bible, teaches that morality cannot exist 
without freedom of choice, and that freedom of choice does not grant 
freedom from choice.  It is true for the Holocaust hero and the Holocaust 
criminal, and the millions of others who might have opposed the evil, but 
did not.

   If all who stood by had simply stood up, there would not have been a 

  But most did not stand up, and the Holocaust happened.
   It is the same today as it was then.         
   The stories of Holocaust heroes, villains, victims, are an affront to 
the spectators of the world, who evade their moral obligation to act.

   Nor are such stories embraced by Holocaust deniers.
   No human being can comprehend the Holocaust while remaining indifferent 
to human suffering in today's world.
	The lesson of the Holocaust, independent of time and place, is a 
simple lesson.

   Some people are guilty.  Some people are innocent.  But all are 

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