Dr.Gerstenfeld’s article on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, titled: The Multiple Distortion Categories of the Holocaust first appeared in Algemeiner and republished here with the author’s consent.
The Multiple Distortion Categories of the Holocaust
Many people equate Holocaust distortion exclusively with its denial and minimization. This is incorrect. These are only one category of Holocaust distortion and not even the most abusive. Holocaust inversion is worse because it claims that Israel behaves toward the Palestinians the same way the Nazis dealt with the Jews.
There are also a variety of other categories of Holocaust distortion which can only be mentioned briefly here. Holocaust justification refers to the claim that Jews were the cause of their enemies’ antisemitism and bore responsibility for their own destruction. Blaming Jews for the hatred against them is a common antisemitic theme to this day.
Another important distortion category is Holocaust deflection which admits that the Holocaust happened. At the same time it denies the complicity or responsibility of specific groups or individuals. In this way, blame for the Holocaust can be placed on others. One example is Austria which for many years portrayed itself as the first victim of the Nazis, while it was a major Holocaust perpetrator.
Holocaust whitewashing consists of many techniques and requires profound understanding. It aims at cleansing individuals, groups of people or nations of blame without necessarily accusing others. For decades in West Germany false claims were made that the Wehrmacht, the German army, did not participate in the atrocities that took place. In fact, it was only at the end of the last century that claims about the Wehrmacht’s involvement in mass killings of Jews became irrefutable.
In 1985, then German President Helmut Kohl invited US President Ronald Reagan to visit his country’s military cemetery in Bitburg, While the initial impression was that only graves of soldiers of the Wehrmacht were there, it became soon clear that members of the Waffen SS were also buried at the cemetery. Understanding whitewashing techniques of the Holocaust is important because they relate to many contemporary whitewashing techniques of antisemitism. A well-known case concerns the British Labour party.
Another Holocaust distortion category, de-Judaization has several variants. One can broaden the term Holocaust in order to include people other than Jews who were murdered but not part of the genocide.
A second type of de-Judaization is to avoid or minimize to a large extent the Jewish character of victims. A major example of the de-Judaization of the Holocaust is the way in which Anne Frank’s life has been presented over the decades. In many places she became a universal icon while her Jewish identity was minimized.
The distortion category of Holocaust equivalence manifests itself in a number of ways. Pre-war and war time Holocaust equivalence consists of claims that Germany did not act differently from what other nations had done earlier. Post-war Holocaust equivalence alleges that certain actions or attitudes of others since the end of World War II are the same as those of the Germans during the war. This includes claims of the double genocide which refers to the supposed symmetry between Nazi and communist crimes. Furthermore, several American presidents have been compared to Hitler.
Holocaust trivialization is partly a tool for some ideologically or politically motivated activists to metaphorically compare phenomena they oppose to the industrial scale of the extermination of the Jews. Frequent examples are the “animal Holocaust” referring to the mass slaughter of animals. Another is the “abortion Holocaust.” A very different type of trivialization happens in commercial activities. One for instance sometimes finds images of Hitler used to promote companies or products.
Yet, another category of distortion is the obliteration of Holocaust memories. This has many aspects. One facet is the destroying or besmirching of memorials. Another is disrupting memorial ceremonies. The Muslim Council of Britain tried to void the content of Holocaust ceremonies. In 2005 this organization wrote to a British Minister that it would not attend the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz unless it included the Holocaust of the Palestinians.
Sunday, January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On that occasion it would be important to focus also attention on the many categories of distortion of the Holocaust.