Continued remembrance: Calling for an end to “softcore” Holocause denial

My original draft of this op-ed read something like this:  Stop softcore denying the Holocaust. Stop softcore denying the Holocaust. To conclude, stop softcore denying the Holocaust.

The staff of the Record, unfortunately, told me that I would need to include some other words in this article, not least of all because I borrowed the concept of “softcore Holocaust denial” from Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. She is a leader in her field, a pioneer in the fight against Holocaust denial, and the inspiration for the 2016 film Denial.

There is always good reason to talk about the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, but recent comments by Press Secretary and douche potato Sean Spicer give added urgency to the topic. In describing the atrocities of the Assad regime in Syria, Spicer suggested that Adolf Hitler, unlike Assad, “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” and that Jewish prisoners were interned in “Holocaust centers.” Spicer’s flawed memory is disturbing, but he does not sound like an outright Holocaust denier: like many of the skim-milk fascistic aspects of our time – such as the “alt- right” and their pussyfooting bigotry – the banal quality of Spicer’s comments conceals something very dangerous.

Writing for the Atlantic, Lipstadt defined softcore denial, in part, as the “de-Judaization of the Holocaust,” or the omission of Jews from the history of World War II. Expunging the explicit role of anti-Semitism from Nazi ideology is one form of de-Judaization. Nazis are not just racists, much less literary villains against which American heroism can stand in shining contrast. Yes, the Nazis targeted many groups – including gays, the disabled, Roma, communists and the otherwise “undesirable” – and the experience of those populations can and should receive more popular attention. But to cast the Jews as just one among many victims overlooks key facts. First, the Jews were central to the civilizational clash at the heart of Nazi ideology. Second, and most importantly, the systematic extermination of the Jews is so integral to the definition of the Holocaust that it would be ludicrous to talk about one without mentioning the other.

For Sean Spicer to forget that Hitler gassed the Jews is a form of denial. Not only is it mind-blowingly asinine to forget Hitler’s gas chambers, but this omission does real harm to a world still grappling with the waves of xenophobia and disgust that caused the Holocaust in the first place. Spicer’s reference to “Holocaust centers,” furthermore, makes the annihilation of an entire people sound like a luxury vacation.

Comparing things to the Holocaust that should not be compared to the Holocaust is a form of softcore denial. These false analogies drain the event of its meaning and undermine its potential to teach and heal. Assad needs no comparison, and the tragedies in Syria are horrifying in their own right. Do your research, and don’t bury Assad’s victims under an added layer of historical inaccuracy.

Labeling people who are not actually Nazis as Nazis is a form of softcore denial. Don’t get me wrong – racists and the so-called “alt-right” are absolutely assholes – but the meaning of Nazism is fixed in a place and time, even if its legacy has far-reaching implications. And I can understand the impulse to label the alt-right as Nazis, but “feminazi?” “Grammar Nazi?” Stop. Tempted to describe your strict professor as a “total Nazi?” Don’t.

This last Passover, as is the case on every Passover, we Jews remembered slavery and oppression. We choose to remember because it is the right thing to do. Even though I am discouraged when I hear the Holocaust being thrown around as a rhetorical device, or catch news of another moral degenerate from the Trump White House blowing disingenuous and historically inaccurate [eulogies] out of his ass, I still hope that that one day our society will not only remember but remember properly.

Sarah Weiser ’17 is a history and Russian double major. She lives in West.

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