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International Holocaust Remembrance Day: The Dangers of Historical Revision

A distressing recent surge in antisemitism in the U.S. has included the dissemination of prejudicial tropes by mainstream politicians, the misguided invocation of Adolf Hitler by groups claiming parental rights, and acts of intimidation and terror targeting specific populations. This makes commemorating Saturday’s Holocaust Remembrance Day important not only to honor the memory of the millions who died, but also to educate present and future generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust and how and why it happened.

Throughout history, tension and inconsistencies have marked the status of Jewish communities within their respective nations. The attention to antisemitism in the U.S. increased as antisemitic incidents rose after the terrorist attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, and inflamed tensions within the country.

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) analysts have documented a significant rise in swatting incidents involving fake bomb threats directed at synagogues and other Jewish institutions in recent weeks. While SPLC has monitored swatting of Jewish institutions consistently for some time, the frequency of such incidents has recently escalated to alarming levels. Even before these attacks, the upper echelons of the U.S. government had acknowledged the escalating prevalence of antisemitism in 2023. In May 2023, the Biden administration introduced the National Policy to Counter Antisemitism, a bipartisan-supported initiative that was backed by several social justice organizations. The initiative declared that “Hate will not prevail,” emphasizing that “the poisonous scourge of antisemitism will not define our era.”

Antisemitism continues to fuel the far right, unifying otherwise disparate hate groups and ideologies. Groups explicitly promoting antisemitism have capitalized on the conflict in the Middle East and are exploiting it to escalate discord, present insincere support for Palestinians and take advantage of the United States’ alliance with Israel and its diplomatic achievements in the region. Since last Holocaust Remembrance Day, the trend of misrepresenting the Holocaust, Nazis, Hitler and the Gestapo and using these historical references flippantly for shock value has expanded.

Emhoff at antisemitism roundtable
Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff (center), husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks during a roundtable about the rise of antisemitism in the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Dec. 7, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Jewish leaders and members of the Biden Administration discussed the recent rise in antisemitic threats and violence and what the White House is doing to combat it. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Holocaust deniers and antisemites who disingenuously stylize themselves as “historical revisionists” focus their efforts on denying or revising the Holocaust’s reality. These groups actively produce books, articles and online content promoting their disingenuous beliefs. Often positioning themselves as seekers of truth, they distort and manipulate evidence to propagate falsehoods.

Such entities as the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH) – a hate group that stylizes itself as full of “free thinkers” and “truth seekers” in order to obfuscate their hate speech and antisemitism – persist in disseminating such misleading information despite being debunked by credible sources. Under the current leadership of Michael Santomauro (also associated with Clemens and Blair, an antisemitic and Holocaust revisionist online book shop), their literature has become more disturbing with its deceptive presentation as genuine historical inquiry and academic rigor. Santomauro, responsible for publishing and promoting various Holocaust-revisionist books and articles via antisemitic publishers, has recently amplified his stance by propagating conspiracy theories regarding Jewish power. His assertions echo centuries-old tropes, particularly the notion that Jewish people control society. In a Facebook post on Jan. 2, he asserted, “Europe, for the most part, is today a Zionist continent.”

This concept of Jewish control of American sociopolitical life has been a consistent theme in Santomauro’s rhetoric for nearly two decades, notably concerning the Holocaust. Back in 2005, he declared: “We’ve been bombarded with Holocaust narratives, all to induce guilt and excuse the Zionist actions in Israel. That’s the underlying motive.” Moreover, in 2023, under his guidance, CODOH produced its own free online “Holocaust Encyclopedia.” This publication peddles falsehoods and half-truths, while also elevating deniers and revisionist writers as purportedly beleaguered intellectuals and valiant truth-seekers.

E. Michael Jones, a self-proclaimed academic and founder of Fidelity Press and Culture Wars magazine, is among the most vociferous in promoting Holocaust revisionism and antisemitism. Jones argues that the Holocaust narrative is a tool for Jewish manipulation and control over the Western world. He supports this assertion by highlighting perceived inconsistencies and inexplicable elements within the historical events. On Nov. 16, 2023, via a post on X (formerly Twitter), he argued that “As soon as the Jew loses the argument, he claims his opponent is guilty of Holocaust denial.”

Throughout his self-published book, The Holocaust Narrative, released in 2023, Jones repeatedly emphasizes the notion that the Holocaust is merely a narrative Jewish individuals exploit to gain an advantage in debates. Jones misleadingly portrays revisionism as a legitimate academic discipline, asserting: “Questioning certain aspects of the Holocaust does not equate to denying its existence. What is necessary is an acknowledgment of human fallibility, coupled with an understanding that objective scrutiny of empirical evidence can uncover the truth. This principle applies universally to historical events, including the Holocaust.” This representation underscores the perilous nature of Holocaust and historical revisionism. To the untrained eye, Jones’ argument may appear reasonable or even desirable for historical study. A thorough examination of the narrative, however, also demands scrutiny of its author. Jones explicitly identifies his perspective by quoting the Holocaust-denier mantra that cynically references the infamous Auschwitz gate sign with the statement “Wahrheit Macht Frei,” or “The truth will make us free.”

For Jones or Santomauro’s narratives to make any semblance of sense, the antisemitic myth of Jewish control is necessary. These groups aim to perpetuate centuries-old stereotypes, long promoted by extremists, of a “hidden hand,” “deep state” or “international Jew.” They propagate the idea of Jewish power and control over global events, and they aim to discredit and downplay the immense suffering of millions, lacking both substantial evidence and empathy.

Revisionism is prevalent, particularly in the online space where evidence becomes optional, and false flags thrive – and are already manifesting around Oct. 7. The Washington Post reports that “a small but growing group denies the basic facts of the attacks, pushing a spectrum of falsehoods and misleading narratives that minimize the violence or dispute its origins.” These individuals follow the patterns of previous deniers and revisionists, blaming victims, accusing Jews of controlling media and the narrative, and adopting the tactic of “just asking questions.”

Unfortunately, there exists a ready-made audience in the U.S. that is, at the very least, suspicious of Jewish people and open to the idea that they are the fundamental force, particularly financially, behind the “deep state” – and not all of them are extremists. Organizations and individuals mentioned in this article are savvy enough to present their work as plausible or academic-looking enough to be believed. While Holocaust denialism aligns with extremist beliefs, revisionism can be just as insidious. In both instances – whether dealing with Hamas or the Nazis – revisionists acknowledge that something did happen. However, the “evidence” they produce and the narrative they construct revolve around their fundamental interpretation that “the Jews deserved it.”

Nonetheless, revisionism remains revisionism, regardless of its guise. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is crucial to remain vigilant against such efforts – not only concerning the Holocaust but also regarding attempts to distort both recent and historical events contrary to established evidence. Commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day is a testament to the importance of preserving truth, confronting bigotry, and honoring the memory of the victims and survivors of one of history’s darkest chapters.

Banner photo of Hall of Names, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem, Israel, via Alamy.

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