ON HOLOCAUST DENIAL
By: Joseph Wilf
Truth telling is once more under assault. The latest research evidence from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum indicates that there are currently 126 published books denying the Holocaust written by Ph.Ds from recognized universities around the world. Perhaps even more troubling, is the proliferation of Holocaust denial websites on the Internet. Battered, violated, and cleverly twisted out of shape, historical reality is on the defense. The forces of denial in America, as in Europe - the tireless captors and foes of truth - are alive again, using the benefits of high-tech to globally orbit their message. And their presence may not simply be an aberration but a sign of society's decay and the fraying of its fabric.
Truth-bashing, no matter its political hue, is an unpardonable sin. For those of us who passed through the fires of the Holocaust, the imperatives of memory are, and must remain, uncompromising. We know that only by a precise accounting will history be served.
A few facts. I was born in Jaroslaw, Poland, a spoke in the wheel of what was once the most thriving Jewish community in Eastern Europe. Indeed, the heart of Polish Jewry, with its unrivaled roster of yeshivas, synagogues and cultural institutions, beat in sympathy with the deepest currents of humble humanity. Then came 1939 and the Nazis. A thousand years of Jewish life went up in smoke during the Nazi juggernaut that swept first across Poland and then the rest of Europe, turning the continent into a charnel house.
My family and I were deported by the then pro-Nazi Soviets, who had invaded Poland from the East, to a Siberian labor camp where life hung by a thread. But we were the lucky ones for war's end found us haggard, emaciated, broken but still alive. We tried to make our way back to Jaroslaw, the city of my birth, but widespread pogroms in post- Holocaust Poland forced us to flee the country and find haven in the American occupied zone in Germany.
The survivor community is daily reduced by the ravages of age and illness. And what is it that we, the remaining witnesses, hear in our autumnal years? A rising chorus of mendacity, orchestrated by the demons of hate and enhanced by faux erudition and high-tech bulletins direct from hell. If this is what we are hearing while we are yet alive, imaging the hate and misinformation after our passing.
Libertarian free speech theorists remind us that hate mongering, after all, has a place in a democracy. They inform us about society's need for expressive autonomy. We, the handful of survivors - the victims of the State's depredations - should, of all people, be the first to appreciate the higher virtues of the First Amendment.
There are those who reassure us that Holocaust deniers are a fringe element, their books nothing but scurrilous ravings, the kind of nuttiness that is almost normative in post- industrial society. Others assuage our fear by reminding us how secure we are on this side of the Atlantic. Aren't we survivors the sociologist's dream, if not the demographer's. Haven't' many of us achieved comfort, status, even recognition, after nimbly climbing the ladder of success? Other consolers announce that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history, with memorials aplenty.
And yet we know that the hardest thing to predict in the twentieth century is the past. Ideologues, armed to the teeth, are studiously at work rewriting history. Words foreshadow actions as lightening does thunder. When Holocaust deniers spread their venom we survivors find ourselves again directly in the crosshairs of danger. In the 1930s, the West slumbered before the scourge. Today we must not be caught napping, even if the danger is yet relatively small. And we must stand guard against the slippery compromises that academic charlatans, clamoring to be heard, can lead an unsuspecting public to.
Survivors, as all people of conscience, must expose falsehood, catch the cunning in their craftiness. We who have walked through the valley of death, must not be hoodwinked into silence and hurried into oblivion. We have learned the most desolate lessons that history has to offer, so horrific as to be beyond uttering. Yet we are commanded by the call of memory to speak out loudly and clearly. Not only do we owe it to ourselves, but far more importantly, we owe it to the millions of dead who can have no rest as long as the truth goes brazenly denied.
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