Remembrance in the Face of Denial

By David Dickerson
Holocaust/Genocide Project

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler stated that "the great masses of the people . . . more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one. . . ." (231); he also argued that, in propaganda, "the simplest ideas" should be "repeated thousands of times" so that the masses will remember them (185).

Fifty years after the end of World War II and the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camps, Hitler's words aptly describe the strategy of the Holocaust deniers (who hide behind misleading labels, such as "revisionist scholars"). One is hard pressed to think of a more offensive "big lie" than the denial of the Holocaust. In their efforts to legitimize the Nazi regime and revive National Socialism, the Holocaust deniers repeat their "big lie" over and over, using printed publications, the Internet, short wave radio, recordings, and television/video.

In Justice at Nuremberg, Robert E. Conot mentions the parallels between today's neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers and the propaganda techniques of Hitler's time. He notes such examples as the deniers' claims that victims were not murdered but died of starvation as a result of food shortages and that Zyklon B was used only for disinfecting (Conot, xiii).

Victims did indeed die of starvation (and exhaustion and disease), but they perished as a result of the Nazi programs of deliberate food deprivation and Vernichtung durch Arbeit ('annihilation through work') -- as well as from torture, mistreatment, "medical" experiments, and murder. Originally, Zyklon B, patented by IG Farben, was used as a disinfectant, but the firms of Tesch and Stabenow (Hamburg) and Degesch (Frankfurt am Main) supplied Zyklon B to the Nazis for the undeniable purpose of mass murder (in addition to its continued use as a disinfectant).

The Holocaust deniers have generated vast quantities of propaganda, much of it presented under the deceptive guise of scholarship, complete with footnotes, and published by organizations with delusive names such as the Institute for Historical Review and the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. Despite the absurdity of the deniers' claims, we should be alarmed at their increasing activities. Although there is much discussion on how to deal with the deniers, education about the Holocaust is one very effective means of ensuring that they remain ineffective fringe groups -- and those of us who are involved in this work should consider each of our educational efforts an act of commemoration for the victims and survivors.

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