The Holocaust, known to Jews as the Shoah and to Roma as the Porajmos, was the extermination of 6 million Jews and 1-1.5 million* Roma at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators during WWII.
*though the murder of 500,000 Roma is the figure that is most often cited, Roma historians place the number between 1-1.5 million.
Holocaust denial is an antisemitic and antiziganist (anti-Roma) conspiracy that denies or distorts the established facts about the Nazi genocide of Jews and Roma.
In 1996, Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, wrote a briefing paper for the US Department of State titled “The 8 Stages of Genocide.” In 2012, the paper was amended to add two more stages. According to Genocide Watch, the tenth and final stage of genocide is denial.
In the context of the Holocaust, the Nazis prepared for the final stage before the end of the war; for example, they destroyed many of the concentration camps, such as Treblinka Extermination Camp, which was essentially fully destroyed. Thankfully they did not have time to cover up all of the evidence of the Holocaust before the Allied victory.
Another example of this final stage of genocide can be found in Poland, where the government has outlawed historians, journalists, and other academics from accusing Poland of collaboration and complicity.
Holocaust distortion, also known as Holocaust revisionism, is the distortion or denial of well-established historical facts about the Holocaust, without outright denying that the Holocaust took place.
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, “Distortion of the Holocaust is rhetoric, written work, or other media that excuse, minimize, or misrepresent the known historical record.” Whether this is done intentionally or unintentionally is irrelevant, as in the end the impact is just as harmful either way.
All Holocaust distortion is dangerous and feeds into antisemitic narratives that directly lead to violent antisemitism. For example, claiming that Jews “didn’t defend themselves” during the Holocaust is both ahistorical and Holocaust distortion, feeding into the antisemitic trope of the “weak European Jew.”
A danger of Holocaust distortion is that from the outside, it might appear more credible than outright Holocaust denial. According to the IHRA Honorary Chairman Yehuda Bauer, “A half truth is worse than a full lie.”
Claiming that Zionists are Nazis; this is not only historically completely incorrect, but Nazis persecuted all Jews, whether they identified as Zionist or not. Equating Jews with our biggest historical oppressors is antisemitic.
Claiming that Jews orchestrated the Holocaust in order to “get Israel;” once again, this is historically inaccurate.
Claiming that the Holocaust happened because Jews did not obey G-d or the Torah. Not only is this objectively not true, but it’s one of the reasons the extremist fringe Jewish group known as the Neturei Karta is considered antisemitic.
Claiming that any group other than Jews or Roma were targeted by the Nazis for the specific purpose of genocide. While the Nazis certainly oppressed other groups, only Jews and Roma were the targets of the Final Solution (the Jewish and Roma “final solutions” were different, but both genocidal nonetheless).
Absolving collaborators and bystanders of responsibility for the Holocaust; for instance, the government of Poland has made it illegal for historians, journalists, and academics to accuse Poland of collaboration and complicity.
Claiming that Jews and/or Roma were in any way responsible for the Holocaust; this is (1) ahistorical, and (2) victim-blaming.
IGNORANCE OR ANTISEMITISM/ANTIZIGANISM?
Oftentimes, like Holocaust denial, Holocaust distortion stems from antisemitism and antiziganism. Many times, however, it stems from ignorance about the Holocaust, Jews, and/or Roma.
Regardless, the intent doesn’t matter because the outcome is the same. Minimizing or distorting historical facts about the Holocaust always reinforces antisemitism and/or antiziganism and can more easily open the door for outright Holocaust denial. Holocaust distortion is also a lot more socially acceptable than Holocaust denial, which makes it all the more dangerous and insidious.
In fact, Holocaust distortion is sometimes even taught in American schools. For example, American history often depicts the United States as the saviors of the Jewish People from the Nazis, when in reality this wasn’t actually the case.
Holocaust inversion is the act of depicting Jews as Nazis, crypto-Nazis, or genocide perpetrators (e.g. the white supremacist conspiracy theory that Jews are insidiously perpetrating a “white genocide”).
Holocaust inversion is a rhetorical tool used to depict Jews as (or worse than) Nazis. It’s often employed by white supremacists and by antisemitic antizionists in discussions regarding Israel-Palestine.
Holocaust inversion is considered Holocaust distortion (and as such, denial) because Jews, no matter their political views or ideologies, could never be Nazis, as the Nazis persecuted all Jews (and today, neo-Nazis target all Jews, whether they identify as Zionists or not). Implying otherwise is a distortion and/or denial of well-established historical facts about the Holocaust.
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