The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Los Angeles Times
May 17, 1995

© Copyright 1995 Times Mirror Company 000047096

How to Respond to Objectionable Cyberspace Talk? Talk Back


Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 17, 1995
Home Edition Business Part D Page 4 Financial Desk

There were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. Anne Frank's diary is a fake. The Nazis didn't intentionally kill innocent Jews, only 300,000 of whom died in concentration camps. Mostly they were felled by disease.

My blood pressure rising, I learned all this from one of the Internet's more controversial World Wide Web sites, which I visited this week to see what all the fuss was about. But don't take my word for it; see for yourself by pointing your Web browser at There you'll find the home page of Holocaust revisionist Greg Raven, who says the Holocaust as we know it is a myth useful mainly for winning support for Israel.

Never mind the mountains of documentary evidence, the thousands of eyewitness accounts, the scholarship of historians such as Lucy Dawidowicz, the documentary films such as "Shoah," the diaries of people such as Etty Hillesum. According to Raven and his pseudoscholarly Institute for Historical Review, based in Newport Beach, this evidence isn't real or has been grossly misinterpreted.

This column is hardly the place to insist that, yes, the Nazis perpetrated the destruction of European Jewry, dragging along a goodly number of Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, freedom fighters and others. In Germany and some other countries today, you can't go around denying that there was a Holocaust. Doing so is a criminal offense.

Fortunately, we don't live in such a place. Ignorance is scarier than lies, and in America, I hope, the response to objectionable speech really is more speech. Not everyone agrees, of course, and the presence of Raven's Web page--and some others like it--has generated a roaring controversy. Many no doubt well-meaning opponents of Raven and his views want his Internet access provider, a private company called Kaiwan, based in Orange County, to toss him off the Net.

"It is within your rights not to act as his messengerboy," wrote Alex Schipal from Austria. "It is your moral duty to stop spreading this infectious disease."

Kaiwan.general, a newsgroup carried only (as far as I know) by Kaiwan, has been the scene of a big debate about all this. In posting Schipal's e-mail as part of the discussion, a Kaiwan administrator wrote that "Kaiwan's official position is that we will not censor political expressions on our system." (The larger issue of Holocaust revisionism has been thrashed out for much longer in the more widely available newsgroup alt.revisionism.)

At first blush, the Kaiwan debate is reminiscent of the controversy that erupted in 1992 when Warner Records brought out the "Body Count" compact disc by rap singer Ice-T, which many people attacked because of the song "Cop Killer." When protests erupted, Warner sought to wrap itself in the cloak of the First Amendment.

That argument was specious, of course. People are free to sing about whatever they want, but record companies, like book publishers, can pick and choose what to bring to market. (My agent has the rejections to prove this.) Warner's decision to produce this particular record was open to question, and it soon announced that, at Ice-T's request, it had dropped the "Cop Killer" track. Later it ended its association with Ice-T.

I think Kaiwan is a different story. Providing Internet access isn't like bringing out a compact disc. Not only that, I'm beginning to believe that the upright souls pressuring the company are actually doing more harm than good, showing that the information highway and the road to hell may yet have the same paving materials.

Let me confess at this point my heartily knee-jerk approach to most free speech issues. Not only am I perfectly ready to defend the rights of any maniac or nitwit who insists that the Holocaust is a convenient lie maintained by the Jews, but as an American, a writer (OK, a hack writer, but still) and a Jew, I probably have a special obligation to do so.

So why not pressure Kaiwan to drop the Raven page? Why not withdraw our spending, organize a boycott and so forth? Well, let's say Kaiwan drops the Holocaust deniers and later on picks up Planned Parenthood. What happens when the right-to-lifers object? If I start a Web page about the pleasures of smoking, should my provider kick me off? Why not boycott Duke University Press--and what the heck, Duke University as well--because it is the publisher of Richard Klein's thoughtful book "Cigarettes Are Sublime"?

It's not as if Kaiwan is the cyberspace center of hate speech. And with the same patina of reasonableness that marks his Web page, Raven notes that he doesn't advocate violence and is breaking no law, which as far as I can tell is true. Thus, he clearly deserves to have two things happen to him: He ought to be criticized, and he ought to be allowed to carry on.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people on the Net who agree that the answer to objectionable speech is more speech. Ken McVay and Jamie McCarthy, for instance, have for several years now devoted their spare time to combatting lies about the Holocaust on the Internet. Both are motivated by moral outrage and a belief that the truth must be told. Neither is Jewish.

I asked McCarthy, a computer programmer in Kalamazoo, Mich., if he thinks Raven's Web pages should be closed down. "Absolutely not," he replied without hesitation. "I would rather they stay in one place so they're easier to keep track of."

He added that it would be hard for him, were he an Internet access provider, to decide whether to carry a Holocaust denial home page, but he opposes pressuring Kaiwan on this score.

McVay and McCarthy's hard work has borne new fruit in recent days with the Nizkor Project, a Web site dedicated to monitoring and combatting Holocaust denial. Although still under development, it has just opened to the public at

McVay and McCarthy will have plenty more work to do. Holocaust denial seems to be spreading on the Internet, McCarthy says, and Raven plans to expand his Web offerings to further counteract the, uh, Holocaust myth. The Internet, after all, is the perfect marketplace for ideas. The great thing, though, is that in such a market the truth can't help but triumph.


Daniel Akst welcomes messages at


Where to Learn More

You can use the Internet to learn more about the Nazi destruction of European Jewry by visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum at Go to the education page and then choose the "brief history" selection.

For an even stronger antidote to any Holocaust falsehoods you may have soaked up on the Internet, visit the educationally oriented Cybrary of the Holocaust at, which offers eyewitness accounts, images and more. Or point your gopher or web browser at gopher:// and select Holocaust Information for a trove of eyewitness reports and hair-raising photographs. This site also contains some point-by-point refutations of Holocaust denials.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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