War of the words: The Holocaust
By Frank Scott
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Oct 19, 2007, 01:39
During an exceptionally rude introduction of President
Ahmadinejad of Iran, a university president announced that the holocaust was
the most documented event in history. While this overstatement was in keeping
with most of his remarks, it provokes a question: exactly what do we mean when
we say �the holocaust�?
When someone is called a �holocaust denier,� what is being
denied? Confusion over those words is being used to cloud minds and threaten
another war in the Middle East, once again for reasons that cannot be
substantiated in the material world but are simply political excuses to commit
Those who express doubt about some key aspects of the story of
Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe during the Second World War are often
imprisoned or face threats to their very lives. We witnessed the spectacle of a
head of state invited to speak at an American university and introduced with
the most scurrilous language imaginable, all provoked by that leader�s alleged
�denial� of the holocaust, along with his supposed existential threat to the
Jewish state of Israel. And when speaking of one, the other must be addressed,
since there is no rationale for the Jewish state of Israel without �the
There is no question about the dreadful treatment of
European Jews by the Nazis, their racist persecution, their deportation from
homelands to concentration and labor camps where tens of thousands died under
the most deplorable conditions. Nor is there any question that many suffered
massacres outside of camps, whether conducted by Germans or others acting under
their rule. These things, as the crude academic claimed, are well documented.
And there is little doubt about them, except for honest questions about the
actual death toll.
But critics wonder about the centrally organized and secret
plan to annihilate all the Jews of Europe, and the use of mass extermination
gas chambers to murder hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people. No
such devices were ever found, and verification of their existence depends
entirely on stories told by traumatized survivors, confessions made under
severe stress if not outright torture, and photographs of empty buildings or
reconstructed ruins said to have once been used as gas chambers.
Consider whether we would uncritically accept the reality of
America�s ugly racist history of lynching, with no more evidence than hearing
stories of the horror told by miraculous survivors, and seeing photos of trees
alleged to have once had bodies hanging from them.
Any critical person can wonder, but millions of us have been
so shocked at films of the terrible conditions of the liberated camps, and
especially the piles of emaciated dead bodies, that little thought is given to
asking how those terrible scenes of suffering and death could have had anything
to do with gas chambers, let alone crematoria. And if a plan was afoot to
secretly murder millions and cremate their bodies to remove evidence, why and
how could so many have been left plainly exposed to public view?
The near total physical breakdown of Germany near the war�s
end never seems to enter consciousness as a possible reason for some of the
drastic scenes revealed at those camps. While many German cities were
devastated by bombing, with their citizens reduced to homeless refugees often
near starvation, should we imagine that under such conditions prison camps,
which were dreadful places to begin with, would somehow be able to furnish adequate
food, shelter and medical care to all inmates?
When President Ahmadinejad referred to myth surrounding the
story, he was not denying that Jews suffered, anymore than holocaust
revisionists -- who are slurred as �deniers� -- make such a charge. But they,
and he, and thousands the world over who have read critical works that barely
see the light of day in the West, join in questioning vital aspects of that
story. Bigots who smear them with nasty labels are playing with words, and in
Anyone who would deny the racial madness of the Nazi ethnic
cleansing of European Jews might be an idiot, or simply consumed by hate. But
those who deny the right to question the existence of gas chambers or other
details of the story, and vilify those who dare to do so are either ignorant,
or more likely, driven by a more dangerous hate. Anything forbidden to be
questioned must be held suspect by thinking people, and the more that criticism
is suppressed, the more dangerous the possibilities for the world, and not just
Ahmadinejad repeatedly says that whatever crime Europeans
committed against Jews is no reason for the terrible persecution and suffering
inflicted upon the Palestinians, who were guilty of nothing. Most of the world
agrees with him, as do many in the West, though hardly anyone in American
politics will risk stating that obvious fact. The power exerted by the Israel
lobby is such that even when a former president, or establishment scholars site
the moral injustice and the threat to our nation posed by one-sided policies in
the Middle East, they are slandered as anti-Semites, the way that revisionists
are smeared as deniers.
While thousands of Jews in Iran are apparently living
without fear, thousands of Jews in America have been led to believe that
Ahmadinejad threatens them with another holocaust. That is not just irrational,
but dangerous for all humanity. This situation is being used to help provoke a
further bloody war in the Middle East, but reason must prevail over fanatical
beliefs and psychotic fears or all of us will suffer. The war over these words
and their clear meaning must not be allowed to perpetuate more injustice, and
worse, threaten a global disaster.
Copyright � 2007
Frank Scott. All rights reserved.
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Scott writes political commentary which appears in the Coastal Post, a monthly
publication from Marin County, California, and on numerous web sites, and
on his shared blog at legalienate.blogspot.com.
Contact him at email@example.com.
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