Continuing to Distort the Holocaust: 2009-2011

 Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, No. 107, 1 June 2011 / 28 Iyar 5771

  • In recent decades, the Holocaust has become the major contemporary symbol of absolute evil. As such, it has acquired a central place in the collective memory of Western societies. This development has been accompanied by an ongoing intentional distortion of its meaning.
  • At the origins of this abuse are a multitude of motivations, such as anti-Semitism, including anti-Israelism; politics; desire for absolution of guilt; peer pressure; wanting to draw attention or provoke, and so on.
  • Distortions can be categorized according to eight themes, namely: Holocaust justification and promotion, Holocaust denial, Holocaust deflection and whitewashing, Holocaust de-Judaization, Holocaust equivalence, Holocaust inversion, Holocaust trivialization, and obliterating Holocaust memory. In several cases these categories overlap.
  • Education plays a central role in maintaining Holocaust memory. So do museums to a lesser extent. Other important issues in upholding Holocaust memory are monuments and memorials, ceremonies and remembrance days, art and literature, commemorative projects, and correctly mentioning the Holocaust in public discourse.

 

In recent decades, the Holocaust has become the major contemporary symbol of absolute evil. As such, it has acquired a central place in the collective memory of Western societies. This development has been accompanied by an ongoing intentional distortion of its meaning. At the origins of this abuse are a multitude of motivations, such as anti-Semitism, including anti-Israelism; politics; desire for absolution of guilt; peer pressure; wanting to draw attention or provoke, and so on.[1]

The issue concerning guilt requires further explanation. American political scientist Andrei S. Markovits noted:

The constant analogizing of Israelis with Nazis comes from the European gut. This, of course, is a double effrontery. By doing this, Europeans absolve themselves of their own history. At the same time they succeed in accusing their former victims of behaving like their worst perpetrators. This discourse is not new. It was already widespread during and after the 1982 Lebanese War when – for instance – a German newspaper featured side-by-side on its front page the infamous photograph in the Warsaw ghetto of a Nazi soldier marching behind a little Jewish boy who was holding up his hands, and a parallel photo of an IDF soldier marching behind Arab youngsters in Beirut.[2]

This author’s book, The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses,[3] presents many illustrations of such abuse of the Shoah. The latest examples given are from August 2009. The flow of Holocaust distortions has continued unabated since, and the examples given below are mainly recent ones. This article thus extends the data in the book.

Distortions can be categorized according to eight themes, namely:  Holocaust justification and promotion, Holocaust denial, Holocaust deflection and whitewashing, Holocaust de-Judaization, Holocaust equivalence, Holocaust inversion, Holocaust trivialization, and obliterating Holocaust memory. [4] In several cases these categories overlap.

Some issues return frequently; one is the attitude of Pope Pius XII toward the Jews in World War II, as well as whitewashing of his behavior. Other examples of such exoneration will be discussed further on.

Another subject that attracts recurrent attention in many different ways concerns the memory of Anne Frank. In August 2010, an event of seemingly worldwide interest occurred in Amsterdam: the chestnut tree Anne Frank had seen from her hiding place was felled during a storm.[5] Hundreds of media from all over the world showed photos of the fallen tree or reported on it. Saplings were taken to be planted in the United States, Israel, and other countries so that the tree will live on. It was announced that segments of the fallen tree will be placed in museums in various countries.[6]

In April 2011, a new book revealed that Karl Joseph Silberbauer, the Austrian SS officer who arrested the Frank family, was one of hundreds of Nazis employed by the German postwar intelligence service.[7] A month later, retired New York Giants football player Tiki Barber drew the wrath of the Anti-Defamation League’s national director Abe Foxman. The footballer said that when he separated from his wife, he was hiding with his girlfriend in the attic of his Jewish agent. Barber referred to it as “a reverse Anne Frank thing.” Foxman called his words a Holocaust trivialization.[8] 

Holocaust Justification, Promotion, and Denial

Holocaust justification posits that the Jews bore responsibility for their own destruction. Holocaust promotion consists of the continued incitement toward genocide against the Jews or Israel. For instance, in July 2010, on the website of the German concentration camp Buchenwald, neo-Nazi hackers replaced the list of victims with far-right slogans. They posted messages such as “We will return” and “Brown is beautiful.” The latter is a reference to the brown uniforms of the Nazi SA storm troopers. The website of another camp, Mittelbau-Dora, was hacked as well.[9]

One also finds that in public abuse the motif of Holocaust promotion recurs. In February 2011, John Galliano, chief designer of the Paris fashion house Christian Dior, was arrested for a short time after he had publicly insulted a couple by saying, “Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f—ing gassed.” He had also exclaimed “I love Hitler.”[10] Thereafter he was fired by his employer.

Holocaust denial can be defined as the negation of the main facts of the extermination of the Jews in World War II. New deniers emerge frequently and sometimes in unexpected places. Anders Mathisen of the Norwegian Labor Party, a member of the indigenous parliament of the small Sami ethnicity, wrote on Facebook that the Holocaust is a lie and that he is proud to be an anti-Semite.[11] 

Deflection and Whitewashing

The essence of Holocaust deflection is the admission that the Shoah happened, while simultaneously denying the responsibility of specific groups or individuals who participated in it. Typical cases have been countries such as Austria and Romania.[12] There has also been much whitewashing concerning institutions and professions in German wartime society. One by now well-known fallacy is the claim that the German army, the Wehrmacht, was not involved in the atrocities of the Shoah.[13] 

A number of recent studies and admissions have provided new information about some specific sectors of German bureaucracy and society that had diminished or whitewashed their role under the Nazi regime. In October 2010, Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle presented a study compiled by historians about the Foreign Ministry and the Nazis. He noted that the Foreign Ministry had been heavily involved in the violent policies of the Nazis after Hitler took power. The ministry knew early on about the crimes committed by the German war machine. It was also involved administratively in the destruction of European Jewry.[14] A former German diplomat, Manfred Steinkühler, declared that after the war there was great resistance to confronting history in the ministry and that he had regularly met fellow diplomats who had Nazi pasts.[15]

The next month, Hans-Peter Ullmann, one of the historians investigating the wartime role of the German Finance Ministry, revealed that the ministry had played a more active role in the persecution of the Jews than was generally thought. It let monies plundered from the Jews and others be channeled through it. These represented 30 percent of the funds used for the German army during the war.[16]

In December 2010, Frank Schneider, president of the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Treatment of Nervous Diseases, admitted that the race and euthanasia policies of the Third Reich had not been forced on German psychiatrists. They had, rather, been among their initiators.[17]

In March 2011, it became known that a new study had found that almost half of the German medical doctors were members of the Nazi Party. Doctors murdered hundreds of thousands, and most doctors remained silent about the crimes.[18]

In the same month, the TV station ARD broadcast a documentary on how the German police had increasingly served the criminal aims of the Nazi government during its rule. Concurrently, an exhibition at the German Historical Museum covered this subject as well. One example of “adaptation” is Walter Zirpins, who in 1932 carried out a professional investigation into the arson of the Reichstag, the German parliament. Later, when Germany was under Nazi rule, Zirpins joined the SS and was the commander of the ghetto police in Lodz for a year. He also performed other functions that required him to commit crimes. Yet, in democratic postwar West Germany, he became head of the criminal police in Hanover.[19] 

New information on other countries has come to light as well. In November 2010, it became known that American intelligence officials had created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after the war. This was one of the items revealed in a six-hundred-page report that the U.S. Justice Department had kept secret for over four years.[20]

Another regularly recurring theme is that new information is revealed about the wartime past of well-known Germans or their parents. One such case involved the father of Hannelore Kohl, the first wife of former chancellor Helmut Kohl. It has emerged that her father was the personnel director of a military industry and, in that role, was one of the people responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jewish slave workers.[21] 

In May 2011, the Swedish German-born Queen Sylvia announced that she had, together with other family members, taken the initiative to have the activities of her father Walter Sommerlath investigated. It was known since 2002 that he was a member of the Nazi Party, even though he had denied this during his lifetime. However, recent information indicates that he had also taken over a German factory belonging to a Jewish owner in 1939 as part of the German government’s “Aryanization” program.[22]

Pope Pius XII

One personality whose wartime past has been continuously whitewashed by the Catholic Church is Pope Pius XII. This distortion of the past is of a radically different nature than that of the German institutions. While this Pope did save many Jews, the main claims against him concern his silence in the face of the genocide during the Shoah.

In December 2010, The Guardian revealed that the Vatican had wanted to join the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (ITF). A U.S. diplomatic cable from October 2009, however, stated that the Vatican had backed out of this, perhaps because of its desire to avoid having to declassify records from the war during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.[23]

During the same month, Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree on Pope Pius XII’s “heroic virtues” together with those of Pope John Paul II. This brought the wartime Pope’s sainthood a step closer, prompting much criticism from various Jewish organizations. In view of the criticism, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi issued a statement that the beatification process of Pope Pius addressed his “Christian life” and not the historical impact of his operative decisions. Lombardi was, in effect, splitting the Pope’s personality.[24]

In January 2010, Pope Benedict XVI visited the main synagogue in Rome. The president of the Jewish community, Ricardo Pacifici, said during the visit that the silence of Pius XII at a time when hundreds of thousands of Jews were being rounded up across Europe and sent to death camps was still hurtful.[25]

In February, eighteen leading Catholic scholars wrote an unusual letter to the Pope imploring him to hold off with the canonization of Pius XII. The letter warned that if this Pope was made a saint before all archival material was released to the public, it could cause major damage to Catholic-Jewish relations.[26]

In November, Italian Jewish leaders sharply criticized an Italian TV documentary that showed how Pope Pius XII had made a major effort to save the Jews of Rome during the Holocaust. Pacifici called the documentary “unacceptable revisionism.”  Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni called the miniseries “junk.”[27]

Europe Obscures Holocaust Criminals

The Austrian political scientist Elisabeth Kuebler writes that in the Holocaust remembrance programs of the Council of Europe, “evil ideologies and subsequent crimes are being denounced without clearly pointing to the individuals and societies who are guilty thereof.”

As one extreme example she mentions the book Teaching about the Holocaust in the 21st Century. It was written by French educator Michel Lecomte and published under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Kuebler observes that “the discussion of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism in it is restricted to the Polish pogroms of the late 1940s and 1950s.”[28]

Shoah De-Judaization

Shoah de-Judaization encompasses a wide range of distortions. These include the broadening of the term Holocaust to include people other than Jews who were murdered or died in World War II. Another de-Judaization method is to void, or to a large extent, minimize the Jewish character of the victims. One major example of the de-Judaization of the Shoah is the presentation of the Anne Frank story as that of a universal symbol of victimhood, relegating her Jewishness to the background. This particular de-Judaization process covers a long period.[29]

Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs of the Dutch Provincial Rabbinate said he had never visited the house where Anne Frank was hidden during the war “because this one example is an exception. The Anne Frank House encourages the belief in the fairy tale that the Dutch [hid] all the Jews from the Nazis.”[30]

International myths about Dutch wartime behavior continue until today, and are mostly fed by the romanticizing of the Anne Frank story. Sander Pleij, a Dutch journalist, was involved in the late 1990s in investigating the shortcomings of the postwar restitution of looted Jewish possessions. Pleij told this author that he then realized that he did not live “in the country where Anne Frank had been hidden, but in the land where Anne Frank had been betrayed.”[31]

Louise Arbour gave a lecture to the Dutch Auschwitz Committee on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2010. A Canadian, she had been the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 to 2008. In Arbour’s speech, entitled “Auschwitz Never Again,” she mentioned the words Shoah and Holocaust a number of times yet somehow managed to avoid saying the word Jew. She did not even state that the Shoah was unprecedented. Anyone who knew little about the subject did not learn from her speech that there had been a mass murder of Jews.

Those who invited Arbour could have known that her career as High Commissioner was a very checkered one. An analysis of her tenure by UN Watch concluded that “Arbour held back from criticizing many countries that wield power and influence at the UN.” Specific examples were China, Russia, and Egypt. “She failed…to address President Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic campaign of Holocaust denial and incitement to genocide.”[32]

Alvin Rosenfeld considers the de-Judaization of the Holocaust almost inevitable.

A less taxing version of a tragic history begins to emerge – still full of suffering, to be sure, but a suffering relieved of many of its weightiest moral and intellectual demands and, consequently, easier to bear. Made increasingly familiar through repetition, it becomes normalized. And, before long, it turns into something else – a repository of “lessons” about “man’s inhumanity to man,” a metaphor for victimization in general, a rhetoric for partisan politics, a cinematic backdrop for domestic melodramas.[33]  

Holocaust Equivalence

Shoah equivalence consists of three subcategories. The first two, prewar and wartime equivalence, are based on the false claim that the German genocidal behavior under the Nazi regime was similar to that of other nations before and during the war. The third, the postwar variant, has several motifs. One is that Communist rule after the war was similar to that of the Nazis. Another is that some events today – often including trivial ones – are equivalent to those caused by Germany under Hitler’s rule. A third element of postwar Holocaust equivalence is that certain bodies or individuals behave like Nazis. For instance, during a demonstration in Athens in June 2011 against EU pressures on Greece to reduce expenses, a poster was unfolded saying: Merkel = Nazi.[34]

In September 2010, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused France of carrying out a “racial holocaust” against the Roma, of whom one thousand had been expelled from the country in the preceding weeks. The French Foreign Ministry spokesman said that these words showed Castro’s ignorance of history and disdain toward its victims.[35] Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, characterized the French treatment of the Roma as a disgrace that reminded her of World War II roundups of Gypsies and Jews.[36]

 

Shoah Inversion

Shoah inversion is a derivative of Holocaust equivalence. The inverters seek to delegitimize Israel by claiming that it behaves like Nazi Germany. Holocaust denial is commonly considered the most damaging type of Holocaust distortion. Shoah inversion, however, is far more dangerous as it can be used by inciters to justify a possible Second Holocaust.

This possibility of a new Holocaust is discussed frequently. Ahmadinejad’s genocidal remarks against Jews have stimulated this debate. Iranian leaders have said many times that Israel has to be removed from the Middle East. Many experts think Iran is not far from the production of its first nuclear bomb.[37]

This fuels public discussion about whether or not Israel will be destroyed. For instance, former Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar wrote: “If Israel goes down, we all go down.”[38] An opinion poll by the Spanish government found that 9 percent of Spaniards thought that Israel ought to disappear (while 77 percent disagreed). Almost 35 percent of the population had anti-Semitic opinions (while 46 percent had favorable opinions of Jews).[39] Earlier studies had already indicated the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Spanish society.[40] 

Holocaust inversion has now become a mainstream view in both Western and Eastern Europe. A report by the University of Bielefeld on behalf of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation details its permeation into a number of European societies. The study found that 63 percent of Poles think Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. The lowest figures in the study are from the Italians and the Dutch, with 38 percent and close to 39 percent, respectively. In Hungary, Britain, Germany, and Portugal, 40-50 percent of the population consider this to be true.[41]

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has suggested links between the Holocaust and structural elements of modern society. He notes that the Holocaust was a product of men who were educated in the most refined of the Western cultures. The Shoah was thus a product of Western society and civilization. Since nothing fundamental has changed in Western societies, the study of the Holocaust is of more than academic interest. In Bauman’s view, even though another Holocaust may not occur, the infrastructure and mechanisms for a similar event are still in place.[42]  One should extend Bauman’s analysis and ask in what ways postmodern society contains additional elements that constitute a foundation for such a new Holocaust.

 

Holocaust Trivialization

Another derivative of Holocaust equivalence is the trivialization of the Shoah. This is a category of abuse that does not necessarily result from anti-Semitism. It is often used by politically motivated activists to metaphorically compare phenomena they oppose with the industrial-scale extermination of the Jews. This may include remarks about “the environmental holocaust,” “the abortion holocaust,” “the animal holocaust,” “the tobacco holocaust,” “the human rights holocaust,” and so on.

A second type of Holocaust trivialization takes place in a commercial framework; there are many examples. In March 2011, Sony Music and the American TV network MTV apologized after the Japanese pop group Kishidan appeared on primetime TV wearing Nazi uniforms. The performers subsequently apologized.[43] 

Red Bubble, an Australian-based online vendor, sold t-shirts with texts such as: “Eastside, Westside, Genocide,” “Back to the Fuhrer,” and “Three Reichs and You’re Out.” After protests, it took the shirts off its website.[44]

In September 2010, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi told a youth rally a joke: Adolf Hitler was asked by his supporters to take power again after they discovered that he was still alive. Hitler, according to Berlusconi, replied: “I’ll come back, but on one condition…next time I’m going to be evil.”[45] More than a month later on his birthday, Berlusconi told another joke making fun of a Jew hiding another Jew during the Holocaust. The incident was condemned by both L’Osservatore Romano of the Vatican and Avvenire of the Italian bishops.[46]

Danish film director Lars von Trier jokingly called himself a Nazi at the May 2011 Cannes Festival, and said about Hitler, “I think I understand the man….. He’s not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against Jews. I am of course very much for Jews. No, not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass. But still how can I get out of this sentence?”[47] Von Trier apologized later but was still expelled from the festival.

 

Obliterating Holocaust Memory

Collective Holocaust memory is attacked directly and indirectly in many ways. One type of the former is the defacing or destruction of memorials. Another type is disturbances during Holocaust ceremonies or memorial gatherings for the dead. On 4 May 2011, the memorial ceremony in Utrecht on the Dutch National Memorial Day was disrupted by three people in a passing car who shouted anti-Semitic slogans. Similar things have happened in the Netherlands in recent years.

Chief Rabbi Jacobs reported that in 2010, “during a memorial meeting for Holocaust victims, Dutch youngsters shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ during my speech.”[48] This occurred at a remembrance gathering for a child transport  from the Dutch camp Vught. From there, in 1943, 1,296 children were deported to the extermination camp Sobibor, where they were subsequently murdered.[49]

There are many other examples of efforts to obliterate the Holocaust. In December 2009, the sign “Arbeit macht Frei” (“Work Sets You Free”) from the former Auschwitz death camp was stolen.[50] It was recovered the next month.[51] A Polish court convicted three men for the theft in March 2010.[52] A Swedish neo-Nazi, Anders Högström, who was suspected of initiating the theft, was extradited to Poland in April to face trial.[53] In December 2010, a Polish court sentenced him to thirty-two months in jail. Högström admitted in a plea bargain that he was behind the theft.[54]

Another mode of obliterating the Holocaust is allowing the history of locations of important events to fade away. Yet another example of Holocaust obliteration is accusing Jews of Holocaust-memory abuse. This has become increasingly frequent. The best- known proponent is Norman Finkelstein, whose books are sold in large numbers and have been translated into many languages.

In January 2010, shortly before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, a former head of the Polish Bishops Conference, gave an interview in which he said this tragedy should not be expropriated for propaganda. He added that “they, the Jews, enjoy good press because they have powerful financial means behind them, enormous power and the unconditional backing of the United States and this favors a certain arrogance that I find unbearable.” Pieronek later said that one of his statements in the original interview: “The Holocaust as such is a Jewish invention,” had been manipulated by the interviewer.[55]

 

How to Fight the Distortions

A fundamental open question is, to what extent does the maintenance of  Holocaust memory succeed in counteracting the reemerging anti-Semitism?  

Or in the words of UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks a decade ago:

Let me state the point as simply as I can: anti-Semitism is alive, active and virulent in the year 2002, after more than half a century of Holocaust education, interfaith dialogue, United Nations   declarations, dozens of museums and memorials, hundreds of films, thousands of courses, and tens of thousands of books dedicated to exposing its evils; after the Stockholm Conference, after the creation of a National Holocaust Memorial Day, after 2,000 religious leaders came together in the United Nations in August 2000 to commit themselves to fight hatred and engender mutual respect…. What more could have been done? What more could and can we do to fight anti-Semitism?[56]

What can one do to fight the massive attacks on Holocaust memory?
The youngest witnesses who retain any memory of the Shoah are currently in their seventies. Their testimonies remain the most powerful tool against forgetfulness and distortion. Video-recorded testimonies are an important yet less effective substitute.

Another important activity that will be ending in the coming years is the trials of war criminals. Even if these are presently few and far between, the public debates that center on them often bring major aspects of the Holocaust accurately into the open.
Nazi death-camp guard John Demjanjuk was taken into custody in Germany in May 2009 after he was deported from the United States.[57] When German doctors decided in July that he was fit to stand trial, this received much international media attention.[58] In November 2009 in Munich, the German trial against Demjanjuk began. It has gone on since with some interruptions due to health problems of the accused.[59] In May 2011, Demjanjuk was condemned to five years in jail – and freed immediately in light of his advanced age.[60] Still, the trial facilitated public debate.

As time passes, the role of the testimonies of survivors will have to be replaced by a combination of many other activities. Further documentation and research of the Holocaust must remain an ongoing priority. Yad Vashem  has recently launched a major campaign to collect personal artifacts, photographs, and documents related to the Holocaust. The institute’s chairman Avner Shalev said, “A large part of what we do here at Yad Vashem including our educational and research work is based on such documentation. That’s why we’re encouraging people who may have items related to the Holocaust to bring them in so that they may be viewed for posterity.”[61]

 

Trends in Holocaust Research

The Dutch Holocaust scholar, Johannes Houwink ten Cate, has identified a number of current trends in Holocaust research. He mentions, for example, the rise of “Holocaust history as local history.” He writes: “Historians are attempting to tell the large story of the Holocaust through the perspective of the history, not of one region but of one single city, or even in one major labor camp.” Other trends he observes are the integration of perpetrator and victim histories, the analysis and explanation of perpetrator behavior in ideological terms, and the study of the history of the different types of camps.

Houwink ten Cate has speculated about future developments in Holocaust studies. He predicts that there will be more discussion on the possible outlawing of Holocaust denial in European countries. Another problem, he adds, involves the dangers of unbounded freedom of expression.

Concerning research, Houwink ten Cate says more research should be done on bystanders of the Holocaust and other modern genocides. He warns, however, that research on the passivity of foreign bystanders is useless without underlining the responsibility of the local perpetrators.[62]

 

Post-Holocaust Studies

It would be of great importance to establish a new discipline of post-Holocaust studies. Many books and articles have dealt with issues that occurred after the Holocaust. Yet all of these are based on research that is done more or less in isolation. Many of the relevant subjects concerning the Holocaust in postwar society, however, are not only interrelated but also interwoven.

Such a field of post-Holocaust studies would group subjects such as repatriation and migration of survivors, their reception in postwar societies, the reestablishment of Jewish communities, restitution issues, official attitudes toward Holocaust perpetrators, Holocaust memorials, memories vs. myths, post-Holocaust education, postwar art related to the Holocaust such as literature, theater, music, movies, and so on, psychological issues concerning survivors as well as the second generation, the role of Holocaust survivors in the societies they live in, legal developments stemming from the Holocaust, Holocaust research and documentation, abuse of the Holocaust, and so on.[63]

 

How to Maintain Memory

How to maintain the memory of the Holocaust has been discussed in great detail in this author’s earlier-mentioned book.[64] Holocaust education plays a central role here. One among several positive developments was that in April 2011, Israel and UNESCO signed an agreement to promote Holocaust education and fight its denial.[65] In 2010, Prospects, UNESCO’s quarterly journal of comparative education, devoted two issues to international perspectives on policies and practices of Holocaust education.[66]    

Another important role in maintaining Holocaust memory is played by museums. In March 2010, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum welcomed its thirty-millionth visitor. Of these eight million were schoolchildren, and eighty-eight visitors were heads of state. The museum opened in April 1993.[67] In 2009, the former death camp Auschwitz had a record 1.3 million visitors. Among their nationalities were fifty-eight thousand Germans, which put them in fifth place after Poland, Britain, Italy, and Israel.[68]

In June 2010, the mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno announced the creation of the first Italian Shoah Museum. It will open in 2013 and be located in Villa Torlonia in Rome.[69] In October 2010, the first stone was laid for a new Holocaust-museum building in the Belgian town of Mechelen.[70] The museum is an expansion of the Jewish Museum for Deportation and Resistance, which has existed since 1995. At the end of May 2011, however, the museum at the Sobibor death camp in eastern Poland was closed due to a lack of funding.[71] A few days later the Polish government announced that it would reopen the museum, and that from January 2012 it would become a branch of the museum at Majdanek, another camp.[72]

As stated before, absolute freedom of speech has led to major abuse and distortion of the Holocaust. Legal measures to limit this abuse can play an important role in diminishing its harmful effects.

In February 2010, the Hungarian parliament approved a law making Holocaust denial punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The law was aimed at the right-wing Jobbik Party; the Hungarian Guard, a radical nationalist movement; and other right-wing extremists.[73] Jobbik gained almost 17 percent of the votes and forty-seven seats in parliament to become Hungary’s third largest party in April 2010.[74]

Other important issues in maintaining Holocaust memory are monuments and memorials, ceremonies and remembrance days, art and literature, commemorative projects, correctly mentioning the Holocaust in public discourse, and so on. In May 2010, Athens became the last European capital to establish a monument to honor its nation’s Holocaust victims. The remnants of the Jewish community had campaigned many years for this. Sixty-five thousand Greek Jews were murdered in Auschwitz from 1941 to 1944.[75]

A crucial element in maintaining the memory of the Shoah will be to increase the effectiveness of Holocaust education, museums, and visits to concentration and extermination camps. It should be noted here that interviewing staff members at such camps will offer many insights into the current attitudes of local populations toward the Shoah, attitudes with which these people are confronted. Achieving greater effectiveness will again require major research. This is yet one more reason why the establishment of a specific field of post-Holocaust studies is so crucial. Within this framework the overall issue of how to properly memorialize the Holocaust could also be investigated.

The Holocaust indeed is over, but the threats to the Jewish people and to Israel in contemporary society have mutated into many new forms. Better understanding of what occurred both during the Holocaust and in the post-Holocaust period is imperative in fighting the more recent manifestations of large-scale global hatred.

 

*     *     *

Notes

[1] Manfred Gerstenfeld, The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2009), 30-31. The second edition of this book can be viewed for free  online at: www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/showpage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=84&FID=843&PID=0.

[2] Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Andrei S. Markovits, “European Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism: Similarities and Differences,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 16, 1 January 2004.

[3] Gerstenfeld, Abuse of Holocaust Memory.

[4] Ibid., 23-28.

[5] “Anne Frankboom omgewaaid in Amsterdam,” Trouw, 23 August 2010. [Dutch]

[6] “Resten Anne Frankboom naar museum,” Telegraaf, 8 September 2010. [Dutch]

[7] Tony Patterson, “The Nazi who arrested Anne Frank ‘became a spy for West Germany,’” The Independent, 11 April 2011.   

[8] “ADL slams retired footballer Tiki Barber for Anne Frank joke,” JTA, 27 May 2011.

[9] “Hackers hit Buchenwald website,” JTA, 29 July 2010.

[10] Theunis Bates, “Fashion Designer Galliano Rants: ‘I Love Hitler,’” AOL News, 28 February 2011.

[11] “Norwegian lawmaker under fire for denying the Holocaust,” Haaretz, 24 March 2011.

[12] Laurence Weinbaum, “The Banality of History and Memory: Romanian Society and the Holocaust,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 45, 1 June 2006.

[13] “Es ist nie zu Ende,” Die Zeit, 21 January 2004. [German]

[14] Guido Westerwelle, “Man konnte Mord als Dienstgeschäft abrechnen,” FAZ, 29 October 2010. [German]

[15] “Auswärtiges Amt wollte nichts von NS-Vergangenheit wissen,” Die Welt, 28 October 2010. [German]

[16] “German Treasury aided Nazis more than we thought,” Jerusalem Post, 9 November 2010.

[17] Joachim Müller-Jung, “Wir haben geschwiegen!,” FAZ, 3 December 2010. [German]

[18] Basil Wegener, “Fast jeder zweite Arzt war Mitglied der NSDAP,” Die Welt, 24 March 2011. [German]

[19] Sven Felix Kellerhof, “Als der ‘Freund und Helfer,’ zum Mörder wurde,” Die Welt, 23 March 2011. [German]

[20] Eric Lichtblau, “Nazis Were Given ‘Safe Haven’ in U.S., Report Says,” New York Times, 13 November 2010.

[21] Torsten Krauel, “Verstörende Details aus dem Leben Hannelore Kohls,” Die Welt, 11 June 2011. [German]

[22] “Swedish queen probes her father’s Nazi past,” The Local, 16 May 2011.

[23] “WikiLeaks: Vatican backed out of Holocaust Task Force,” Jerusalem Post, 22 December 2010.

[24] Rachel Donadio, “Vatican Defends Status of WWII Pope,” New York Times, 24 December 2009.

[25] Nick Squires, “Jewish leaders confront Pope over Vatican’s Holocaust ‘silence,’” The Telegraph, 17 January 2010.

[26] Philip Pullella, “Catholic scholars urge pope to slow Pius sainthood,” Reuters, 17 February 2010.

[27] “Miniseries glorifying wartime Pope Pius decried,” JTA, 3 November 2010.

[28] Elisabeth Kuebler, “Holocaust Remembrance in the Council of Europe: Deplorable Victims and Evil Ideologies without Perpetrators,” Jewish Political Studies Review 22:3-4 (Fall 2010): 45-58.

[29] David Barnouw, Anne Frank: voor beginners en gevorderden (The Hague: Sdu, 1998). [Dutch]

[30] “Jacobs: Geef tolerantie plek in onderwijs,” Reformatorisch Dagblad, 6 July 2010. [Dutch].

[31] Manfred Gerstenfeld, Judging the Netherlands: The Renewed Holocaust Restitution Process, 1997-2000 (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2011), 134.

[32] “The Right to Name and Shame: An Analysis of the Tenure of Former UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour with Recommendations for New High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay,” UN Watch, 4 August 2008.

[33] Alvin H. Rosenfeld, The End of the Holocaust (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 11.

[34] Boris Kálnoky, “Die Griechen haben einen Sündenbock – Deutschland,” Die Welt, 20 June 2011

[35] “France condemns Castro Roma ‘holocaust’ remark,” BBC News, 11 September 2010.

[36] Bruno Waterfield and Henry Samuel, “Europe compares France Roma expulsion to Nazi deportations,” The Telegraph, 15 September 2010.

[37] Mark Mazzetti and David E. Sanger, “U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent,” New York Times, 19 August 2010.

[38] “Former Spanish PM: If Israel goes down, we all go down,” Haaretz, 18 June 2010.

[39] Barak Ravid, “Poll: One in three Spaniards is anti-Semitic,” Haaretz, 12 September 2010.

[40] “Polluting the Public Square: Anti-Semitic Discourse In Spain,” Anti-Defamation League, 21 September 2009; “Unfavorable Views of Jews and Muslims on the Increase in Europe,” Pew Research Center, Spring 2008.

[41] library.fes.de/pdf-files/do/07908-20110311.pdf.

[42] Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 84ff.

[43] Justin McCurry, “Japanese pop group Kishidan’s ‘Nazi’ outfits force Sony to apologise,” The Guardian, 2 March 2011.

[44] JTA, “‘Hipster Hitler’ T-Shirt line goes offline in Australia,” Jerusalem Post, 6 June 2011.

[45] Tom Kington, “Berlusconi jokes about Hitler at youth rally,” The Guardian, 13 September 2010.

[46] Saviona Mane, “Berlusconi’s Jewish joke draws rebuke from Vatican,” Haaretz, 4 October 2010.

[47] Mike Collett-White and Nick Vinocur, “Cannes expels ‘shocked’ Von Trier for Hitler remarks,” Reuters, 19 May 2011.

[48] “Jacobs: Geef tolerantie plek in onderwijs,” Reformatorisch Dagblad, 6 July 2010. [Dutch]

[49] “Kindertransport-herdenking pijnlijk verstoord,” Hakehillot Nieuws, 9 June 2010. [Dutch]

[50] “Auschwitz death camp sign stolen,” BBC News, 18 December 2010.

[51] “Auschwitz entrance sign returned,” BBC News, 21 January 2010.

[52] “Three jailed for Auschwitz theft,” BBC News, 18 March 2010.

[53] “Auschwitz suspect sent to Poland,” BBC News, 9 April 2010.

[54] “Swede jailed for Auschwitz sign theft,” The Local, 30 December 2010.

[55] “Polish bishop accuses Jews of using Holocaust propaganda,” Haaretz, 25 January 2010.

[56] Jonathan Sacks, “The New Anti-Semitism,” Haaretz, 10 September 2002.

[57] Karin Matussek, “Demjanjuk ‘Fit Enough’ to Stay in Jail, Official Says,” Bloomberg, 13 May 2009.

[58] Nicholas Kulish, “Germany: Demjanjuk Cleared for Trial,” New York Times, 4 July 2009.

[59] Johannes Houwink ten Cate, “The Demjanjuk Trial: An Interim Assessment,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 99, 1 July 2010.

[60] “Demjanjuk wird trotz Verurteilung aus Haft entlassen,” Die Welt, 12 May 2011. [German]

[61] Gil Shefler, “Yad Vashem wants to collect privately held Holocaust papers,” Jerusalem Post, 8 April 2011.

[62] Johannes Houwink ten Cate, “The Future of Holocaust Studies,” Jewish Political Studies Review 22:2 (Spring 2010): 33-41

[63] The notion of post-Holocaust studies has been defined in Manfred Gerstenfeld, Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Yad Vashem and World Jewish Congress, 2003).

[64] Gerstenfeld, Abuse of Holocaust Memory, ch. 11.

[65] “Israel, UNESCO to jointly promote Holocaust education,”  JTA, 8 March 2011.

[66] www.ibe.unesco.org/en/services/online-materials/publications/prospects.html.

[67] “30 millionth visitor to U.S. Holocaust Museum,” JTA, 11 March 2010.

[68] “Former death camp Auschwitz saw record 1.3 million visitors in 2009,” Haaretz, 3 January 2010.

[69] “Museo della Shoah, ecco il progetto Alemanno: ‘Pronto entro il 2013,’” la Repubblica, 30 June 2010. [Italian]

[70] “Vandaag eerste steenlegging nieuw Holocaustmuseum,” Joods Actueel, 22 October 2010. [Dutch]

[71] Jennifer Lipman, “Death camp museum closed over money worries,” Jewish Chronicle, 2 June 2011.

[72] Gil Shefler and Reuters, “Poland says it will reopen Nazi death-camp museum,” Jerusalem Post, 5 June 2011.

[73] “Hungary criminalises holocaust denial,” The Independent, 23 February 2010.

[74] Bruno Waterfield, “Hungary elections: first step to power for far-Right since Nazi era,” The Telegraph, 11 April 2010.

[75] Helena Smith, “Athens unveils its first Holocaust memorial,” The Guardian, 9 May 2010.

 

About Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is former Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where he founded and directed the Center's Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism program. Dr. Gerstenfeld is an international business and environmental strategist. Dr. Gerstenfeld is the author of many books including Revaluing Italy; Environment and Confusion; Israel's New Future Interviews; The State as Business: Do It Yourself Political Forecasting; Judaism, Environmentalism and the Environment; and The Environment in the Jewish Tradition-A Sustainable World. His latest book, Europe's Crumbling Myths exposes the origins of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism.