Changing the Story
May 2, 2000
organizations and commentators are greatly agitated about
Holocaust denial in America, in Europe, and in the
Arab world. Thanks to Jewish pressure, several countries have made
denying the Holocaust a crime; no doubt it would be illegal here too if not
for the First Amendment. Even the Israeli government pitches in against
accused Holocaust deniers in other countries.
As the Israeli writer Amos Elon has
observed, its extremely odd for a democracy to criminalize an
opinion about historical events. You expect it in a Communist country, but
not in the free world.
Why is so much more importance
attached to the Holocaust than to, say, the far more murderous Soviet
system, which, in peacetime, set a record for mass extermination that the
Nazis never approached during a world war?
Many secularized Jews define
themselves less by Jewish religion and tradition than by persecution. As
the historian Peter Novick points out in his thoughtful book The
Holocaust in American Life, the Holocaust appears to such Jews
the only thing Jews really have in common, the only sure warrant of
shared identity. It takes the place of religion in their minds, and they find
denial of it deeply unsettling a form of heresy.
Moreover, the state of Israel has made
a large investment in the Holocaust, staking its very legitimacy on the
Nazi era, which it says shows the necessity of Israel as a refuge from
persecution. This implies that if the Holocaust were proved to be a myth,
the Jews would have no right to the Holy Land, since most of them no
longer believe that God gave the land to Moses and the ancient
The Arabs are quick to grasp this
implication. The official Syrian newspaper recently said that
Zionists created the Holocaust myth to blackmail and terrorize the
worlds intellectuals and politicians. True or not, the
Holocaust story has become a political weapon, and Arabs have the same
stake in denying the story that the Israelis have in maintaining it.
Though the standard story is probably
broadly true, its exploitation is bound to create resentment, and changes
in its details are bound to create suspicion. Few still believe that the
Nazis made soap and lampshades out of Jewish corpses; even Jewish
scholars now say the number of Jews who perished at Auschwitz is closer
to one million than to four million.
There has been another change too.
During World War II, Novick reminds us, Jewish spokesmen were anxious
to convince Christians in America, many of whom opposed getting into the
war, that Hitler wasnt just persecuting Jews; he was
everyones enemy, they stressed, and he was persecuting Christians
too, particularly Polish Catholics. After the war Jewish leaders thanked
and praised Pope Pius XII for his efforts to save Jews from the Nazis.
its quite literally a different story. Jewish leaders now say in
effect that Pius XII and the Catholic Church were on the side of the Nazis.
Pius maintained a culpable silence about the Holocaust,
they insist, and the Catholic Church was responsible for the anti-
Semitism that motivated the Nazis. The Anti-Defamation League (ironic
name!) now says the Holocaust was essentially a Catholic operation: the
current Pope, complains ADL director Abraham Foxman, has failed to
apologize for specific Catholic wrongs against the Jewish people,
especially the Holocaust!
Now they tell us! Gee, thanks, Mr.
Foxman. Why, when the war was raging, didnt you and your brethren
inform those Catholic boys who were being sent to fight Hitler that, as far
as you were concerned, their Church was really on Hitlers side?
Why mislead Christians into believing that Nazism and Christianity were
polar opposites? Did you fear that if you told them what you really
thought of their religion, they might not see that war as a cause for which
Christians should shed their blood?
Talk about Holocaust revisionism!
Imagine the reaction of Christians in 1941 if they had heard Jews blaming
Hitler on Christianity. They would probably have said: All right
then. If the Jews want Hitler beaten, let them fight him themselves, and
for heavens sake keep our sons out of it!
No wonder so many people are weary
of the Holocaust obsession, even to the point of wanting to deny that it
happened at all.
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