The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

David Irving's Hitler
A Faulty History Dissected
Two Essays by Eberhard Jäckel
Translation & Comments by H. David Kirk


Books by Eberhard Jaeckel:

© Copyright 1993
© Foreword, Robert Fulford

[Continued]

The Holocaust deniers claim no such intervention from other- worldly sources: they claim that this astounding project, convincing the world that six million died when they didn't, was carried out by more or less ordinary human beings. That the Jews are said to have done it for practical gain (to acquire both money and political support for Israel) isn't particularly notable; that idea fits into ordinary antsemitic rhetoric. What must make us stand back in wonder, at both those who conceived the idea and those who claim to believe it, is the titanic scale of the lie.

Who, after more than a moment's thought, would believe it?

A fair number of people, apparently, and not all of them certified antisemites. In the spring of 1993 the Roper Organization announced that 22 per cent of the American adults it polled said that it seemed possible the Holocaust had never happened; an additional 12 per cent said they did not know if it was possible .[2] Even those who are skeptical about opinion polling, believing that results often reflect only half-hearted views, must acknowledge that Holocaust denial has found an audience of considerable size.

Why? One reason is that our historical period distrusts authority of any kind, believing (unless persuaded otherwise) that statements issued by those in authority are likely to be self-interested and routinely untruthful. In this case, possibly, some people have decided that the standard account given in history books and the media represents the view of authority; Holocaust denial, on the other hand, may be seen as the unofficial, outsider's view, which is automatically more credible in many eyes. The popularity of Holocaust denial rnay be one fruit of a whole generation's shared belief that any statement endorsed by power should be distrusted and that there is always a "real" truth, hidden from all but a few.

Holocaust denial probably also profits from a widely held view that if an idea is repeated often enough, and insisted on vehemently enough, then it is probably entitled to "a fair hearing." Of course, anything like a fair hearing (such as the publication of unedited defense "evidence" by the Canadian newspapers in the first of Ernst Zundel's trials in 1985) amounts to a wonderful gift to the deniers, who are allowed to spread their poisonous ideas further. Even if eight out of ten readers decide that they are fools or scoundrels, the deniers still gain. Simply allowing them into the forum of public discussion (as many schools are now being pressured to do) gives their ideas a certain validity.

Perhaps a general change in our culture's view of history has done even more to create a kind of welcome for the deniers. One of the most striking characteristics of this period is the waning of history as a subject of study, contemplation, and discussion. During the last thirty or so years, our civilization has grown steadily less concerned with the past and more concerned with the present and the future. Those who believe that a knowledge of the past is crucial to all human enterprises have become a minority (consider how infrequently politicians and other leaders invoke historical precedent or tradition).

In this vacuum, when a large part of the population has lost any sense of history and how it is written, a bizarre thesis like Holocaust denial can flourish. Perhaps the most pressing and painful of the lessons forced upon us by Irving and the Holocaust deniers is that we need to renew our relationship with history. If we are not attentive to the past, if we carelessly forget it or regard it as only marginally important, then the past can become a playground for evil.

Footnotes:

1. Robert Fulford, a Toronto journalist, writes a weekly column for The Globe and Mail. He has written frequently on Holocaust denial and related issues.

2. Quoted by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, 30 April 1993.

Work Cited

Robert Fulford, Irving's Hitler (Introduction), Port Angeles, Washington: Ben-Simon Publications, 1993. pp 2-3)


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