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 earth. 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 water. 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 past. 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- religious. 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 Holocaust. 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 responsible.
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