This is infinitely more than ‘vandalism’ or ‘stereotyping.’ It must be refuted and resisted.
It has been said before: First they take your lives, then your memories. First they persecute you, then deny that it happened. First they erase your bodies, then your survivors’ souls.
Nonetheless, there is something new about the latest incarnation of Holocaust denial. “The Holocaust is fake history!” was found spray-painted on a wall of a 1,500-member temple in Seattle, March 10. Perhaps we should be perversely encouraged, since the credibility of “fake news” is very low, such that if the Holocaust is deemed “fake history,” the credibility of the claim is likewise very low.
But of course we know this is not the case. We know that the line between truth and fact is increasingly blurred in our increasingly incomprehensible reality today. The charge that the Holocaust is “fake history” must be faced; it may not be safely ignored. It may not be allowed to slide into myth. It must be refuted. Shock, anger, disappointment, sadness, nausea are not enough. Refutation is required. Refutation is indispensable.
In theory this should hardly be difficult, since the Holocaust is likely the most extensively documented event in human history, in trials of perpetrators, in histories of Nazism and of concentration camps, in videos of survivors, in courses in universities, in memorial museums around the world; all of the above in some 50 languages.
Still, all this is not enough; otherwise, no one would be saying things like the Holocaust is fake history, not to mention, no one would be sponsoring Holocaust cartoon contests, as does Iran. The burden of defending the truth falls to us.
The language of the Holocaust has returned: the big lie. Yet, it has returned in a new way. To call the Holocaust fake history is a big lie, and also a reflection of the year 2017. To claim that Israel, in providing a haven for Holocaust survivors, is intrinsically a persecutor of Palestinians, is a new and unique combination of falsehood and callousness. To speak openly about the destruction of Israel, as does Iran, is a tight corollary, not heard in the aftermath of the Holocaust but only in the last decade or so. Even as the “flavor” of Holocaust denial mutates, the response must be the same: refutation.
Not giving in.
Not giving up.
Not sufficing with astonishment.
Not lapsing into paralysis.
Not taking refuge in euphemisms such as “vandalism,” “stereotyping” or even “hate.” To paint “The Holocaust is fake history” on a Jewish temple is qualitatively different from and worse than vandalism; is reflective of infinitely more than stereotyping. These words pale before the reality. To paint “fake history” is not even to be subsumed under the extremely broad rubric of hate.
Hate is visceral. Nazism of course included haters, but mostly Nazism was cool, detached, analytical, ideological, systematic, calculated, clinical — not mainly a paroxysm of hate. Nazism was a battle against “germs.” That is very different from and, as the Holocaust proved, far more dangerous than “hate.” Blatant Holocaust denial is an attack on Jews and their right to be considered human beings.
We feel for the Jews of Seattle and for the members of Temple de Hirsch Sinai. But we do not kid ourselves. If this is happening in Seattle, and if threats against JCCs are happening around the country, we in the intermountain West are just as much the targets as the specifically targeted institutions. Not to mention, in Boulder and Salt Lake City we have already been targeted.
We would be pleased some day to look back on this as a passing phase. But we dare not act that way now.
Copyright © 2017 by the Intermountain Jewish News