Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Debating the Holocaust?

A recent series of Facebook comments focused on the Holocaust, including the suggestion that no law should exist to prevent someone from denying the Holocaust.  That was prompted by yet another country making denial of the Holocaust illegal.

According to one colleague, the law prevents the free flow of ideas and a healthy debate.  

That argument is, of course, hogwash.

A debate requires two sides.  There isn’t any in this case.  The Nazis kept meticulous records that provide the details necessary to prove the Holocaust took place.  The mass graves, eyewitness accounts, photographs and more supply all the additional evidence anyone could ever use.

Defendants in Nuremberg
What’s to debate?  What can someone use as evidence that the Holocaust never happened? Deny forensic evidence that fills warehouses?  Pretend eyewitness accounts were faked?  Ignore reams of testimony and evidence presented at the Nuremberg trials?

That’s not a debate.  That’s a sham.

I’m all for discussing the Holocaust: How did it happen? Why? How can something like that be prevented? Why would anyone believe it didn’t happen?  Or, a question that arose during the Facebook give-and-take: Why is the Holocaust terminology limited to Jewish victims? 

After all, an estimated 12 million people died in Nazi concentration camps, from slave labor and other atrocities.  They included Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, intellectuals, religious leaders and more.

The Nazis were equal-opportunity killers. 

After Krystallnacht
In this case, as with the actual event itself, there’s a clear answer: The term Holocaust has become reserved for the Jews mainly because they were the largest, single target of Nazi outrages, from early anti-Semitic tirades to Krystallnacht and then the camps.  An estimated 6 million Jews died simply because of their religious affiliation.  They didn’t have to be practicing Jews either.  Having a grandparent who was Jewish was enough to earn a death sentence. 

Under the circumstances, as poster children for genocide, Jews have a right to label this 12-year horror anything they want.  The word "Holocaust" fits perfectly.

The bigger question is why anyone who consider this worthy of a debate.  Who cares what it is called?  Murder is murder; there’s no disguising that under some alternative title.

I have no problem with investigating and examining the Nazi reign of terror.  It’s been done many times since the war ended in 1945 and is perfectly legal even in countries that refuse to allow deniers access to public airwaves. 

Besides, historians love to debunk myths.  I have no doubt someone will discover some fact that upsets current thinking, such as Hitler really was part Jewish or that his Vienna paintings really were masterpieces; or that propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels really didn’t kill his wife and children.

Debunk away.  Everyone needs something to write about, even historians.

The Holocaust isn’t above such fact checking; it’s just not going to be affected by any new research.   It happened, and it was as awful as can be imagined.

As a result, Germany, among other countries, has banned deniers simply because they are continuing the same kind of hatred that prompted the Holocaust in the first place.  By denying what evidence clearly shows, they are trying to subvert history.

Not that’s it’s anything new.  Scholarship throughout history has supported phrenology, the use of animal testicles to improve virility and lots of other dubious subjects.  None of it changed reality that astrology is fake; so is looking in crystal balls or turning over tarot cards.

I’m not willing to lump that Holocaust in that category or to allow deniers equal status with real facts.

There’s precedent: schools cannot teach creationism in schools.  Why?  To do so, would give that pseudo-science equal credibility with evolution.  Instead, creationists can teach whatever they want in their churches, but not in a public school

The same is true with the Holocaust.  Anti-Semites can mutter all they want in the back alleys of academia, but their unsupported claims cannot be given credence on par with the extensive research on the subject.

There isn’t any debate about that.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1

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