Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
– George Santayana
Yesterday I read that some German neo-Nazis want to join their untermenschen brethren on their march in Plzeň in West Bohemia this coming Saturday. That march “coincides” with the anniversary of the first transport of the Jews of Plzeň to the concentration camp at Terezín in 1942.
Czech neo-Nazis had tried to march in Prague last November, but they were unsuccessful due to the actions of ordinary people who do not tolerate fascism.
Anyway, still yesterday, I was curious to see if the European Jewish Press had picked up on the Plzeň story so I looked at their website. There was nothing on Plzeň, but I was surprised to see two stories on Holocaust deniers being sentenced to prison for their crimes.
I have already written about my thoughts on free speech and Holocaust denial. I have also spoken on the radio about it. Basically, free speech is sacred and no one should be jailed for saying what they believe.
But there are certain questions that need to be addressed:
How can people actually believe that the Holocaust never happened? Or that we have exaggerated its magnitude?
Why do these deniers have an audience? Who would be ignorant enough to believe them in the face of overwhelming proof that the Holocaust did happen and the Nazis did kill 6 million Jews as well as millions of other victims?
A former right-wing city councillor in Austria was sentenced to prison after having been convicted of Holocaust denial for the third time.
The German who was convicted is a 44-year old lawyer. I found that shocking – someone who is of a younger and more enlightened generation, and highly educated. How can she deny history like that?
Perhaps the most famous Holocaust denier is David Irving, who is now also known for his unsuccessful lawsuit against the historian Deborah Lipstadt. Irving sued Dr Lipstadt for libel after she had named him as a Holocaust denier in her book Denying the Holocaust.
Due to the nature of English defamation law and process, Dr Lipstadt had to prove that what she had written about Irving was true. Her legal team therefore had to show in an English court of law that the Holocaust had really happened. It was an absurd situation on one level, but entirely fascinating on another. And most importantly – it demonstrated that truth always prevails in the end. Dr Lipstadt wrote an excellent book about the case, History on Trial.
So don’t send the Holocaust deniers to jail. They should be allowed to make complete arseholes of themselves. At the same time, however, we need to shout over them, drown them out and make sure people know how ridiculous they are.
No one should be ignorant of history. It has always happened again.