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The Context of Neo-Nazism: Holocaust Denials
The Holocaust was a horrible event that showcased the worst of humanity. The event led to millions of death due to discrimination and Nazi ideologies. Even decades after the Holocaust, its impact on society remains evident. The relatives of victims still mourn the passing of their loved ones while the Nazi Party and their sympathizers face scrutiny for their actions. The Holocaust became an undoubtedly grim historical event that illustrated the threats of discrimination. However, despite the defeat of the Nazi Party, Nazi ideologies persist. These ideologies and the individuals that have them–the Neo-Nazis, take various forms. One of these forms is the denial of the holocaust. Some neo-Nazis claim that the historical narrative surrounding the Holocaust is false and that the event is a Jewish-made hoax.
Defining Holocaust Denial
The Holocaust denials are arguments and rationalizations that deny the publicly-accepted narrative behind the event. Most individuals who deny the event either claim that the Jewish genocide never occurred or that the intensity was not as history books describe (Holocaust Denial, n.d.). The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance stated that the deniers aim to erase the Holocaust from history to promote and legitimize Nazi ideologies (cited in Monsen, 2022). Individuals who deny the Holocaust tend to be Nazi sympathizers and neo-Nazis. They agree and believe in the Nazi ideology, promoting antisemitism and the superiority of the Aryans. The denial of the Holocaust is one of their ways to separate Nazism from the worst event in human history.
Since Holocaust denial can come from any media, it is easy for the ideas to reach the public. Today, neo-Nazis can use social media, websites, and other digital platforms as a way to spread their messages. This can have serious effects since Holocaust denial can act as a “gateway drug” to various forms of discrimination (Williams, n.d., cited in Monsen, 2022). When an individual interacts with a Holocaust denial message, they may develop questions about the reality of the event. This can confuse them and lead to a distorted perception of the Holocaust. For others, it may intensify their discriminatory behaviors which can lead to more serious and dangerous forms of antisemitism.
History of Holocaust Denial
In 1945, the Nazi Party lost leading to the end of World War II. However, the Nazi ideology survived despite the efforts to eradicate all forms of Nazism. The surviving Nazis became the neo-Nazi, post-war idealists that retained the Nazi ideology or developed similar ideas. One of these ideas is Holocaust denial. In 1978, Willis Carto formed The Institute For Historical Reviews. This group became the first denial group that influenced other organizations and incited more Holocaust denial groups to form (Holocaust Denial, n.d.). The different Holocaust denial groups conducted their own “research” and even published texts to promote Nazism and their denials. Since then, more individuals became open with their Holocaust denial and published materials that attempted to deny the facts about the Holocaust.
Premises of Holocaust Deniers
1. There Was No Attempt to Wipe Out the Jews
One of the most common claims of Holocaust deniers is that there was never any attempt to wipe out the Jews. Deniers claim that the Third Reich never attempted this nor was Hitler aware of any systematic extermination (Lipstadt, 2018; Holocaust Denial, n.d.). Some claims also involved the message that the deaths of Jews during the time were all war-related (Lipstadt, 2018). Deniers argue that since there was an ongoing war, Jews and other groups became war casualties. The Jews may have died because of diseases, starvation, air raids, and other war-related casualties. Through this premise, the deniers attempt to eliminate other claims regarding the Holocaust. If there was never an attempt for a systematic extermination, then the Holocaust could not have happened.
2. The Gas Chambers Did Not Exist
The Holocaust involved the use of gas chambers to kill hundreds of Jews in a short amount of time. The terms “Holocaust” and “gas chambers” have a connotation with each other, almost becoming abstractly synonymous. Holocaust deniers attempt to change this through the argument that the gas chambers did not exist. They claim that it is scientifically impossible to build gas chambers and that Zyklon B gas was only for fumigation and not for killing Jews (Lipstadt, 2018). Other denier arguments claim that the Jews created the gas chambers after the war to extract reparations from Germany (Holocaust Denial, n.d.). With these arguments, the Holocaust deniers reject the plausibility of gas chambers and rationalize that Zyklon B gas is only for fumigation and so the Nazis could not have used it for genocide.
4. Jews Created the Holocaust Myth
Another common Holocaust denier argument is that the event is a Jew-made hoax. The deniers claim that Jews created the Holocaust myth to extract money from the Germans after World War II (Lipstadt, 2018). This argument involves downplaying the experiences of Jewish victims during the event. Deniers claim that the “six million Jews” who died during the Holocaust was an exaggeration and that all the deaths were war-related. They perceive documents, such as The Diary of Anne Frank, as made-up papers that the Jewish wrote after the war. Additionally, they claim that the Germans placed Jews in concentration camps to protect them from hostile Germans. This reimagines the concentration camps not as horrible places but as a way that the Germans helped the Jews.
5. The Special Document
Lastly, Holocaust deniers claim that there should be a “special document” that can prove that Hitler authorized the Holocaust. They demand that Holocaust historians should show this document to prove that the event occurred. For them, without the document or Hitler’s authorization; the Holocaust most likely did not exist. According to Lipstadt (2018), most historians agree that this document does not exist since Hitler did not want to put his signature with that type of order. It is a damning document and the Nazi Party may not want to have the authorization on paper. Holocaust deniers may be aware of this and so they demand the document to prove their point.
Neo-Nazism in the form of Holocaust denial poses a threat to the memory of Holocaust victims and established history. While most of the public knows that the Holocaust was real, the constant and widespread messaging of deniers can lead to historical distortion. Facts about the gas chambers and concentration camps may become twisted and lead to the manifestation of false information. Vilifying the Jews as creators of hoaxes and falsified documents endangers the lives of its members. It can also be a tool for individuals to support and promote their discriminatory and antisemitic ideas.
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Lipstadt, D. (2018). Holocaust Denial: A Prototype for Scientific Denialism. Freedomofresearch.org. Available at https://www.freedomofresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Brussels-talk-4.2018.doc.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2022.
Monsen, L. (2022). Holocaust Denial and Distortion Must Stop. U.S. Embassy in Georgia. Available at https://ge.usembassy.gov/holocaust-denial-and-distortion-must-stop/. Accessed June 29, 2022.
Schonfeld, G. (2010). Holocaust Denial. Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917150/. Accessed June 29, 2022.
Splcenter.org. (n.d.) Holocaust Denial. Southern Poverty Law Center. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/holocaust-denial . Accessed June 29, 2022.