We can all recognize classic Holocaust denial. Originating from the far right, Holocaust deniers assert that Jews were never exterminated in the Holocaust, there were no gas chambers, and the overwhelming proof of its historicity is fabricated. Most of the people who engage in classic Holocaust denial are transparent. It is clear that their denial is racially motivated. They openly hate Jews, yet deny the Holocaust. It is an act of absolution. The far right will even spin conspiracy theories that the true perpetrators of the extermination were Jews who killed large numbers of whites in Russia. Ironically, while on the one hand they deny the Holocaust, on the other hand they vocally endorse another one.
But what about the people who do not completely deny that the Holocaust happened, but question the magnitude of the event. Some Jews were killed by the Nazis they say, but it was few – certainly not six million – and the majority of Jews who died did so from disease or starvation. They call six million an exaggeration. This view has become popular on the left, especially in Europe. It has moved into the mainstream. Recently, the UK Labour party hosted a lecture on free speech and Israel where they invited a speaker who promotes the position that under the guise of free speech, people should question the number “six million”. Is questioning six million or other details of the Holocaust a form of Holocaust denial? And if it is, since Holocaust denial is a clear form of antisemitism, why has it become normative on the the left among people who consider themselves progressive and anti-racist. Why is this view become so popular among the left wing parties in Europe, such as the UK Labour party?
When Momentum’s vice-chair and outspoken UK Labour member Jackie Walker writes “It’s horrible but don’t they have the figure for the Holocaust wrong?” is that a legitimate question or a form of Holocaust denial?
To answer that question, lets think of the Holocaust as the world’s largest and ugliest block of soapstone.
If I told you that this large, ugly block of soapstone doesn’t exist, you would think I’m crazy. It’s right in front of you. The evidence is overwhelming. Only someone completely delusional would believe that the block of soapstone isn’t there.
But, what if I tried to convince you that this block of soapstone does exists, but it isn’t as large and as ugly as you think. What if I slowly chip away at this block of soapstone. I sculpt it and polish it until it looks like something different. And then, I ask you is that piece of soapstone really that large and ugly? You look at it and think it’s not really that bad. In fact, the sculpted and polished soapstone is kind of pretty. Why are they trying to convince otherwise? What are they trying to hide?
Is questioning if six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust or the authenticity of Anne Frank’s diary a form of Holocaust denial? The answer is an overwhelming yes. Not only is this a new and insidious form of Holocaust denial, but it’s a far more dangerous one. The classic Holocaust denier shows you the block of soapstone and tries to convince you that it isn’t there. No one in their right mind believes it. The new breed of Holocaust deniers – the neo-deniers or Holocaust revisionists – are like the sculptors who are slowly chipping away at the large, ugly block of soapstone and sculpting it into something that isn’t so bad.
Denying that the Holocaust occurred is absurd. The overwhelming evidence of the atrocities is like the large, ugly block. How can any rational person look at the tens of thousands of pieces of evidence, the tens of thousands of survivor testimonials, the images of the piles of dead and believe that none of it is real? But if I can slowly chip away at parts of the narrative, like a sculptor chisels away at parts of the ugly soapstone, I can make something that isn’t so ugly out of it. What if I can make the soapstone look like this?
If I can convince you that the large, ugly block of soapstone is really this sculpture by John Brown, you are more likely to believe it. If I can chip away at it piece by piece, the Holocaust no longer looks so large, so unique, or so ugly. This is what Holocaust revisionists do, and it is dangerous and evil, even more so than classic Holocaust denial . The revisionists mask Holocaust denial behind a vernier of free speech, inquisitiveness, academia, or some other excuse in order to chip away at it until you no longer see the Holocaust for what it really is, a large and ugly block of history perpetrated against the Jews. If I showed you this beautiful sculpture first, would you be able to picture the large, ugly block of soapstone? This is why this new breed of Holocaust denial that has ensnared Europe is so dangerous, because it’s hard to see it for what it truly is.
So, why has Neo Holocaust denial or Holocaust distortion become so commonplace in the European left and considerable portions of the UK Labour party? The answer is far less transparent. It is old fashioned anti-Semitism. As with classic Holocaust denial, the neo-deniers are seeking absolution. Both classic and revisionist forms are agenda driven. They are both looking to paint Jews as not the victims, but the perpetrators. So while the far-right says the “Holocaust didn’t happen but what did was Jews killed 60 million White Christians in Russia”, the left says “the Holocaust wasn’t that bad. What happened to the Jews is nothing compared to what these White European Jews are now doing to the Arabs in Palestine.” This is also why they push the false narratives that Jews served in Hitler’s army and Hitler was a Zionist, an accusation brought to the forefront by former London mayor and UK Labour member Ken Livingstone. Make no mistake, they are all sculpting the Holocaust, like a large piece of soapstone, trying to make it look different than the truth of it.
When (now former) Labour Party activist Gill Kaffash says to the Iranian news agency, “There is no doubt that a great number of Jews along with other victims of the Nazi army were killed by Hitler. However, historical phenomena need to be further examined to uncover the truth. Therefore banning opposition to the theses termed as ‘invariable reality’ is irrational” she is engaging in Holocaust denial.
When the recently reinstated member of the UK Labour party Mike Sivier says that he doesn’t know if six million Jews died in the Holocaust and it’s “no big deal” if Jews are excluded from a list of Holocaust survivors, have no doubt that this is both Holocaust denial and racist. The statement serves only one purpose, to de-victimize Jews as the object of the Nazi’s atrocities and paint them as the new Nazis. This is antisemitism.
If you can convince people that Auschwitz wasn’t that bad and most Jews that died there did so from diseases, you can more easily convince the world that Gaza is worse than Auschwitz and that it is the real concentration camp. If you can convince the world that Anne Frank’s diary is a fake and she wasn’t murdered in a concentration camp by Nazis, then you can more easily convince the world that the arrest of Ahed Tamimi for assault is far worse than the fate of Frank and the Jews who arrested her are worse than the Nazis.
Have no doubt, questioning if six million Jews died in the Holocaust is Holocaust denial, it is anti-Semitism, it is a tool used to push an agenda. It’s just a far more clever one than the far right employs. The sheer fact that they are able to place doubt in so many people’s minds that it is Holocaust denial shows how dangerous it is. So the next time you see a post from Jackie Walker asking the question if the figures of the Holocaust are wrong, you will know what she is really doing.