Holocaust distortion: a case study


We've been warning of the dangers of Holocaust inversion and universalization for years. 

This ignorance is what happens when you continuously compare things to the Holocaust that just aren't the Holocaust. 

This ignorance is what happens when you strip the Holocaust of its specifically antisemitic elements. 



Holocaust inversion is the act of depicting Jews and/or Israelis as Nazis, crypto-Nazis, or “worse than Nazis.”

Holocaust inversion is a rhetorical tool used to portray Jews as morally equivalent — or worse — than Nazis. It’s often employed in discussions about Israel-Palestine and is frequently used by anti-Zionists. Holocaust inversion is a form of Holocaust revisionism, and, as such, is inherently a form of Holocaust denial.

Holocaust denial takes many forms. Its most common iteration comes through the distortion of established facts about the Holocaust. 

Holocaust inversion is revisionist because (1) Jews inherently cannot be Nazis or morally equivalent to Nazis, because Nazis considered all Jews, regardless of their political views, to be the inferior race; (2) Holocaust inversion inherently minimizes the Holocaust; (3) the vast majority of Holocaust survivors have been supportive of Jewish self-determination (i.e. Zionism), and equating Holocaust survivors with their oppressors is repugnant and antisemitic; (4) the Nazis were ardently anti-Zionist; (5) the Nazis persecuted all Jews, regardless of their political views; and (6) the Arab leadership in Palestine actively collaborated with the Nazi regime during the Holocaust, which fundamentally shaped the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as it exists today.



It’s important to understand that Holocaust inversion actually predates the end of the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, the 1947-1949 Palestine Civil War and Israeli War of Independence, and the Nakba.

Holocaust inversion has its roots in the British Foreign Office during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. In March of 1945 — about two months before the Nazis even surrendered — the High Commissioner of Palestine, Lord Gort, told the Colonial Secretary in London that “the establishment of any Jewish State in Palestine…will almost inevitably mean the rebirth of National Socialism [i.e. Nazism] in some guise.”

Sir John Bagot Glubb, who later became the British Commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion during the 1948 war, wrote in a 1946 memorandum to the British government that the “new Jews” (i.e. Jewish refugees) had copied Nazi techniques and adopted Hitler’s master race theory. Unsurprisingly, Glubb was a virulent antisemite who considered Jews “unlikeable, aggressive, stiff-necked, vengeful, and imbued with the idea of [being] a superior race.”

Other British officials that engaged in Holocaust inversion included Lord Altrincham, who stated that Zionist youth groups were “a copy of the Hitler Youth,” and Sir Harold MacMichael and Sir Edward Grigg, both of whom equated Zionism with Nazism even while Jews were being slaughtered by the millions in Europe.

Following the end of the war, renowned British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee disseminated Holocaust inversion to a wide audience, claiming in “A Study of History” that the Zionists in Palestine were “disciples of the Nazis” but were much worse than “their Nazi teachers.”



Holocaust universalization is the tendency to treat the Holocaust as “public property,” stripping Jews of their unique experience. Instead, the Holocaust is treated as a tragedy that befell onto mankind, rather than a genocide that specifically and intentionally targeted Jews. It’s the tendency to use the Holocaust as a rhetorical tool, a tool of comparison, or political football. Some in the right says vaccines are just like the Holocaust. Some in the left says Israelis are Nazis. And then the right and the left denounce each other, accusing the other of exploiting the memory of the Holocaust. Meanwhile, Jews are silenced when we actually try to speak for ourselves. 

According to Holocaust historian Dr. Elana Heidenman, Holocaust universalization turns the Holocaust into “a joke, a mere moment in history that is no longer relevant unless through an exaggerated comparison, [and] terms of reference that have lost all depth and all substance.”

The universalization of the Holocaust erases Jews’ “right” to the memory and understanding of the Holocaust. The world largely treats the Holocaust as a “lesson to be learned,” rather than a genocide that decimated the Jewish community, which I will address in a later slide. How many people who invoke the Holocaust actually care about the plight of Holocaust survivors today? How many people who invoke the Holocaust are committed to unlearning their own antisemitic biases?



You might’ve heard that 11 million people — 6 million Jews and 5 million others — perished in the Holocaust. It’s a myth that has been repeated by a number of influential sources over the decades: Jimmy Carter, the Trump administration, even the Israeli Defense Forces. The problem is that the 11 million figure actually has no basis in reality.

So where does the 11 million figure come from? In the 1970s, Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal felt frustrated about the non-Jewish world’s lack of care about the Holocaust. So he created a figure to de-emphasize the Jewish nature of the genocide, knowing that the world would likely be more interested in the plight of others. Historians who knew him say that he chose the figure carefully: 5 million was a large number, but not a number large enough to obscure the 6 million Jewish victims.

35 million people died in World War II as a result of Nazi aggression. That said, no more than half a million non-Jews were exterminated in death camps. Unfortunately, the fictitious 11 million figure is now used by antisemites to minimize the Jewish-specific nature of the Holocaust.

Similarly, the Soviet Union infamously began distorting the history and the facts of the Holocaust even before the war was won. The Soviet propaganda machine never acknowledged the specifically antisemitic nature of the Holocaust, but instead, depicted all Soviets (as well as communism) as the main victims of the Nazis. An example of this is that when the Soviets built a memorial to the Babi Yar massacre, where 34,000 Jews were slaughtered over the span of two days, the Soviets did not recognize the antisemitic nature of the massacre and instead labeled it a massacre of “the peaceful Soviet people.”



A 2021 survey conducted by the University of Arkansas found that people with higher education are more likely to hold Jews to double standards. Something in the education system is very broken, and we need to do something about it before more Jews get hurt. 

Scholars who have dedicated their entire lives to studying how propaganda works have noticed one thing: propagandists keep terms loose or undefined; in other words, vagueness is a telltale sign of propaganda. When concepts are vague or loosely defined, they are essentially rendered meaningless. 

When terms like “Holocaust” are loosely defined, everything people dislike becomes “just like the Holocaust.” When terms like “Nazi” are loosely defined, anyone people dislike becomes a Nazi — even Jews. When the Holocaust is loosely defined, Holocaust education shockingly fails to educate students on antisemitism. This is how we end up with people who erroneously think there were aid trucks going into Auschwitz, just as there are now aid trucks going into Gaza. 

Holocaust miseducation is how we end up with Jonathan Glazer’s speech at the 2024 Academy Awards: though he won an Oscar for a Holocaust film, his speech not only completely ignored Jews, but also the current plights of Holocaust survivors, who surely could use influential people to raise awareness for their issues. Of course, Glazer got a standing ovation from the largely non-Jewish audience. On the other hand, a speech that actually centered Holocaust survivors and victims likely would’ve made the non-Jewish audience uncomfortable. 



As of 2023, 23 states have mandatory Holocaust education. These states include California, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Rhoda Island, Connecticut, Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Missouri. Of these 23 states, 17 of them passed laws regarding mandatory Holocaust education after 2016, in response to skyrocketing antisemitism. 

But there’s a problem: antisemitism continues to skyrocket to the highest levels since the Anti-Defamation League began recording antisemitic incidents in the 1970s. It’s pretty clear that we are not teaching the Holocaust effectively, considering prejudice against its primary victims — Jews — continues to surge. 

Unfortunately, Holocaust education largely universalizes the Holocaust. In Poland and Russia, for example, the education system centers Poles and Russians as the Nazis’ victims, respectively, and in many ways Jews are an afterthought. In Poland, Polish saviorism is overemphasized — and Polish collaboration is minimized or denied altogether. But you cannot effectively educate on the Holocaust without centering the issue of antisemitism. Everything the Nazis did — absolutely everything — was driven by antisemitism. In the Nazi hierarchy of race, Jews were situated at the very bottom. The Nazi persecution of other groups was also rooted in antisemitism. For example, the Nazis persecuted homosexuals because they associated homosexuality with the “perversions” and “vices” of the Jews. They persecuted communists because they believed communism was inherently Jewish. For centuries Germans even theorized that Roma came from “Jewish blood.”

The Holocaust shouldn’t be taught, at least exclusively, as a moral lesson for humanity. It should be taught as a cautionary tale on the dangers of unfettered antisemitism. 


This is what happens when you obfuscate the meaning of words. Words lose their meaning.

When everything is the Holocaust, nothing is the Holocaust.

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