Essay Holocaust Denial

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DENYING THE HOLOCAUST The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. Although those deniers would have had no interest in reading either of these books, it is good to know they are now available to people of good will who do not know what to say, or what to think, when they are told -- by demonstrators, in advertisements, in classrooms or on television -- that the Holocaust never happened.

But it seems unlikely that as many as a fifth of all Americans would have doubts that the Holocaust ever happened were it not for the strenuous efforts during the last half-century, and especially during the last 15 years, of the Holocaust deniers, who have grown ever more successful in having their arguments presented -- and heard with receptivity and respect -- in high school classrooms, on college campuses and on television talk shows. Lipstadt's important and impassioned work, as well as Pierre Vidal-Naquet's penetrating "Assassins of Memory: Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust," could not have come at a better time.

The evidence includes, moreover, meticulous German records, such as the precise counts of Jews, often broken down into the numbers of men, women and children, and even broken down further into the number of boys and girls, who were transported to Auschwitz on particular days from particular places in Europe; some of these people -- the strongest -- were tattooed with numbers and were allowed to work in the camp for as long as they might survive its brutal conditions on starvation rations, while most of those arriving at Auschwitz -- particularly the elderly, the ill, mothers and children -- were immediately sent for gassing.

The surviving records of Auschwitz transports and killings are considerable, despite the energetic efforts by retreating Germans to destroy all incriminating evidence before the camp's liberation.

One finds oneself doing it, though not without distaste, because, in dealing with Holocaust denial, one has entered the innermost arena of the absurd.

During their nearly five decades of activity, as both Ms. Vidal-Naquet note, the deniers have attacked this evidence not by disproving it but through outright lies, nonexistent documents, misquotations, pseudotechnical "investigations," flagrant illogic, the reinterpretation of clear evidence of gassings so as to make it seem to be referring to something else, like deaths from typhus, and the simple refusal to accept any testimony from any source, whether Jewish or Nazi, that contradicts the deniers' position that the Holocaust never happened.The mountain of irrefutable evidence for this historical fact is available in the immense body of careful scholarship by numerous historians, some of which is summarized by Ms. 4, 1943 -- by which date most of the Holocaust's victims, probably close to five million, had already been killed -- in which he talked about the Nazi program for the "extermination of the Jewish people," stressed his conviction that "we have the moral right, the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us" and boasted that the extermination program was "a glorious page in our history and one that has never been written and can never be written." A recording of this speech can be heard at the National Archives in Washington; by recording it, and by using clear language about the exterminations, Himmler violated his own orders to use euphemisms, camouflage and indirection in discussing the German program to murder the Jews.The evidence for the Holocaust also includes an enormous number of documents about the killings.Some were sympathetic not only to Germany but also to Hitler, and they argued that the Germans had done nothing against civilians, including the Jews, that had not been matched in magnitude by the actions of the Allies, such as the bombing of Dresden or the transfers after the war of Germans from parts of Poland and Czechoslovakia.In addition, some historians, journalists, members of Congress and public figures, like Charles Lindbergh, bitterly criticized Allied war crimes trials and denazification programs.It was in France that Holocaust denial started in earnest.In 1947, Maurice Bardeche, a self-proclaimed fascist, was the first to maintain that the gas chambers that were said to have been used to exterminate Jews had been used, instead, only to disinfect clothing; that the evidence, including photos, documents and testimonies regarding the annihilations of Jews, had been falsified; and that whatever sufferings the Jews had experienced had been deserved, since they had been enemies of the German state.Vidal-Naquet's intellectual and moral power and achieves, in the end, a deep appreciation of the absolute centrality of truth to the twin tasks of writing history and preserving memory.It is important to say, though dismaying to have to say it, that for any legitimate historian, as well as for any reasonable person weighing the evidence, the Holocaust -- the planned and systematic extermination by the Germans, during World War II, of approximately six million European Jews -- is, quite simply, a fact. This evidence includes, for example, speeches and orders by the highest Nazi leaders: for instance, Heinrich Himmler's secret speech in Posen (the German name for Poznan, Poland) to SS leaders on Oct.This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. The two books are apt accompaniments to the recent opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which tells the story of the destruction of Europe's Jews by Nazi Germany with immense power, compelling immediacy and a stunning fidelity to the truth.To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Not surprisingly, attempts were made to interrupt the museum's dedication on April 22 by Holocaust deniers, who demonstrated against the museum's "Jewish lies" and handed out pamphlets.


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