Monday, February 20, 2006

Two stories of the Holocaust

Surely there can be few people in the world less deserving of sympathy than dodgy historian David Irving. Especially as he is (literally) author of his own misfortune, as he chose of his own free will to go to Austria where his published denial of the holocaust is illegal.

Nevertheless it is excellent that following his guilty plea in court he has admitted: “Obviously, I've changed my views. History is a constantly growing tree - the more you know, the more documents become available, the more you learn, and I have learned a lot since 1989….. I would call [the holocaust] the Jewish tragedy in World War II. … Yes, there were gas chambers … Millions of Jews died, there is no question. I don't know the figures. I'm not an expert on the Holocaust."

Interestingly, at the same time there is a growing row between the German and American governments about the refusal of the Germans to release all the documents from the concentration camps, that are currently held by the International Tracing Service (ITC) in Bad Arolsen. There are apparently 15.5 miles of filing cabinets with meticulous details of the 17 million people who passed through the camp system. According to today’s New York Times the German and Italian governments, along with the ITC itself, are dragging their feet on releasing the documents to scholars because they fear further claims for reparations – the German government has already paid out $80 billion. Tempers are flaring over the issue, and Paul Shapiro, a director of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, has accused Germany of "abusing efforts to achieve consensus … exerting a stranglehold on the process." He has even gone as far as saying "Hiding this record is a form of Holocaust denial." I presume he has no aspirations to become a diplomat.

It is not clear that the documents even belong to the German government, or the Red Cross, as the USA disputes whether ownership was ever transferred, and obviously the legal owner after the end of WW2 were the victorious Allied powers. German sovereignty was restored in 1955 by the Bonn treaty, but this did not necessarily include evidence of crimes committed by the Third Reich and seized by allied armed forces.

There is a rising tide of anti-Semitism today, for example a major newspaper in Iran, Hamshahri, is offering gold coins to cartoonists to produce 12 drawings to lampoon what they call the “alleged” holocaust. It is good news that David Irving has recanted his holocaust denial, which is a serious blow for the lunatic right, and their friends. But the growing respectibility of holocaust denial in some parts of the world shows why it is absolutely necessary for all the Nazi documents to be open to scholarly review and appraisal.


Reuben said...

clearly holocaust denial is like terrorism then its a crime n less its done by government

Jim Jay said...

I can't believe how happy this made me feel, sigh, one interesting thing though...

our esteemed historian said that although he denied the holocaust all those years ago he no longer did so... what prompted his change of heart? New historical research!

It really was so unclear fifteen years ago whether the holocaust had happened or not - but it's all been cleared up now, thank goodness

AN said...

He claims that it was reading new primary sources that convinced him, but why was he convinced by the journals of some olf Nazis, but not by the living testimony of holocaust survivors, and the physical evidence of the camps? And his public acknowledgemtn of the Holocaust was only made following the prosecution. he was in Austria to talk to some far right student society, and still tours the USA speaking to fringe groups of Aryan supremisists and people who think that lizards in human form rule the world.

But to be honest although I obviously enjoy seeing Irving suffer, I am not sure it is right that someone should be sent to prison for something they wrote years ago, in another country.

Jim Jay said...

The discussion continues in Weekly Worker

AN said...

The WW are almost beyond parody.
This article that Jim Jay quotes contains some interesting arguments, and facts, but is also poluted by almost unreadable dross about what “communists” should and shouldn’t believe. For example, the following turgid paragraph:

“This should be an elementary proposition for any organisation calling itself Marxist or communist. As argued in the Communist manifesto, in order “to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class” we must “win the battle of democracy” (K Marx, F Engels The communist manifesto London 2002, p243). In other words, communists struggle to extend and broaden democracy to every sphere of life - knowing that the working class can only become a universal ruling class if it masters politics and scientific discourse in general, which in turn requires access to the most advanced theory available. Without the free, full and open clash of different and contending ideas, such theory - so necessary for our self-liberation - can never truly emerge. In terms of classical Marxism, this is very much the orthodox position.”

It is like a cargo cult – where if they can mimic the organisational forms and linguistic styles of some dead Russians, then the revolution will surely come.

badmatthew said...

Just to note that there is a story based on an in terview with Irving in the Independent on Sunday today basically saying he still doesn't really believe the Holocaust took place. Maybe it was one of those court room anomalies that happen from time to time.