June 23, 2000 Halifax Herald
There's no denying humanity's legacy of horrors
There's no denying humanity's legacy of horrors
On April 14, after three months of testimony and documents, a British court found that Professor Deborah Lipstadt, an American of Jewish persuasion and an author, had not libelled British historian David Irving by portraying him in her book Denying the Holocaust as a denier of, and an apologist for, Hitler's atrocities. In finding for Lipstadt, Judge Charles Gray labelled Irving a bigoted would-be-historian who had intentionally distorted historical facts to support his extremist political views.
Irving deserves the condemnation and label, and deserved to lose his lawsuit, but one thing troubles me--the possibility that silencing such crap will actually be beneficial to the truth deniers. I've learned from the days when I exposed the crimes against humanity that were committed against the Mi'kmaq in colonial Nova Scotia, that having apologists and deniers engaged on behalf of the perpetrators better enables one to educate the public. The interest they arouse, by the debate created when trying to refute the authenticity of well-documented revelations of atrocities, helps the effort tremendously. This is especially so when they try to defend the indefensible with what comes across to the general public as invention.
Irving's position fits snugly into this category. Deniers, such as he, state that the holocaust did not actually happen and, if it did, it was not as bad as depicted. With the mountain of evidence attesting to the fact that the Holocaust did occur, including eyewitness Jewish and non-Jewish accounts, only those with severely warped anti-Semitic mentalities can deny it, and only those likewise endowed would believe them.
The genocide committed by the Nazis, begot by many intelligent but warped minds, is one of the best historical monuments to the seemingly endless extent of man's capability of committing horrendous inhuman crimes. The responsibility the Nazis hold for their crimes against humanity must never be permitted to be diminished or perverted to the point where the victims are blamed.. This is what happened in the Americas during the European invasion, where society labelled the victims - Native Americans - responsible for their own victimization, and adopted an air of aggrieved innocence.
These mindless efforts to abrogate or diminish the magnitude of genocidal attempts brings to mind a couple of examples: I once came across a statement coined by a bigot about the extent of the carnage the Nazis visited upon the Jews. It stands as testament to the blindness towards evil of the deniers, or perhaps itís part of their sick souls: "Only about a million were exterminated, not six million." As I digested the statement and tried to understand the distorted logic that could give birth to such an invented statement, I was awe-struck by its utter stupidity. These people cannot grasp that putting to death just one innocent person because of racial heritage, or other God-given differences, is a crime of such magnitude that it is without forgiveness. A lesser number of dead wouldn't diminish the scope of the barbaric crime!
The next incident is also an illogical response about the number that died during another extermination campaign against humans deemed inferiors by white supremacists. It occurred one evening after I had delivered a speech to a university class about the post-Cabot Mi'kmaq struggle for survival in Nova Scotia. During my talk, I had mentioned that some reliable sources now estimate that the number of First Nations peoples who had died as a result of the carnage caused by European invasion run as high as one hundred million. Following the session, a young man approached and said - these are the exact words of admonition he delivered to me in a very offended tone - "You sure exaggerate. Everyone knows that only about fifty million died." What made this encounter more memorable was the outraged response his statement garnered from many of those around us; they chastised him thoroughly.
After the Nazi defeat and the barbarities they committed exposed, the phrase "never again" was often used. It was a false commitment. Since then, horrendous killing campaigns occur in Asia, Africa, Europe and in many countries in South and central America. In most cases, the world community has tut-tutted, and stood by and watched the blood-letting without intervention. This makes it starkly apparent that aggressive action is needed to instill in humanity a zero tolerance for it. Education is a key factor in reaching this goal.
There is no better place to start educating than on home turf., Nova Scotia Education Minister Jane Purves has announced that as of 2002, a mandatory Canadian history course will be part of grade eleven. I would suggest to the government and to the people who will be designing the course that they include a large section about the barbarities that were committed by mankind around the world over the last two millenniums. This knowledge will go a long way toward preventing repetition!
Daniel N. Paul