Do words have to mean something?

“Holocaust denier barred from leading tour at Auschwitz”. That was the headline over a short news item in the Washington Post on September 22. The story, in full, read: “British historian and Holocaust-denier David Irving will not be permitted to give tours at Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, museum officials said Tuesday after the controversial historian arrived in Poland to lead a tour of Nazi sites. Irving told the British Daily Mail on Friday that Treblinka was a genuine death camp but that Auschwitz was a ‘Disney-style tourist attraction’.”

So how can Irving be called a “Holocaust-denier” if he says that the Nazi concentration camp at Treblinka “was a genuine death camp”? I don’t know. Do you? Why don’t you ask the Post? They never reply to my letters. And while you’re at it, ask them why they and their columnists routinely refer to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a “Holocaust-denier”. You might even point out to them that Ahmadinejad said in a speech at Columbia University (September 24, 2007), in reply to a question about the Holocaust, “I’m not saying that it didn’t happen at all. This is not the judgment that I’m passing here.”

Indeed, I don’t know if any of the so-called “Holocaust-deniers” actually, ever, umm, y’know, umm … deny the Holocaust. They question certain aspects of the Holocaust history that’s been handed down to us, but they don’t explicitly say that what we know as the Holocaust never took place. Yes, I’m sure you can find at least one nut-case somewhere.

Speaking of nut-cases, two days after Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R.-CA) introduced legislation “To prohibit Federal grants to or contracts with Columbia University” (HR 3675, 110th Congress). I’m surprised he didn’t call for a Predator to fly over the campus and drop a few bombs. Don’t ya just love our Congressmembers? Soon to be joined it seems by a few Teaparty types who think that Barack Obama is a socialist. (If Obama is a socialist, what, I wonder, do they call Hugo Chávez? Or Karl Marx?) The new Madame Speaker of the House may be Alice in Wonderland.

William Blum

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William Blum
William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of numerous books, including "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II" and "Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower". 

3 Responses to "Do words have to mean something?"

  1. Ponderer  October 4, 2010 at 5:46 am

    The Affirmers vs. the deniers
    we all should be the affirmers not the deniers.
    We should affirm that 20 million Russians died fighting against the German War machine while the Western allies from 1941 till well into 1944 sat on the sideline wihtout opening the second front Stalin constatnly clamoured for.
    We sholuld affirm that half a million civilians died in the British-American fire bombings of Dresden in Feb. 1945, totally unnecessary given that Germany was on its kness and Dresden was a hospital town with no military value.
    We should affirm that 100000 Japanese civilians died in March 1945 in the firebombing of Tokyio was tragic indeed.
    We should affirm that quarter of million socialists and communists perished in Nazi concentration camps and for them there was no memorial, although they stood up to the Nazi bullies while the Jews packed up and fled Germany.
    We should affirm that all lives lost in the Second World War were EQUALLY tragic. To single out and memorialize the tragedy befallen one race and not the others is racism itself.

    Reply
  2. Dr. K R Bolton
    K R Bolton  October 4, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Until recently the official plaque at Auschwitz read that 4,000,000 perished there. It now reads that something over 1,000,000 died. Is that “holocaust denial”?

    Reply
  3. Deus X. Nihilo  October 8, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    “[So-called ‘holocaust deniers’] question certain aspects of the Holocaust history that’s been handed down to us, but they don’t explicitly say that what we know as the Holocaust never took place.”

    Yeah, that’s what I was surprised to find when I actually set about looking into “Holocaust denialist” literature myself. It was definitely a huge light bulb moment for me. Not a single one of the major “Holocaust denial” historians that I’ve read have ever denied that lots and lots of Jews were repressed, arrested and deported to camps where they received incredibly brutal treatment and died very brutal deaths. The man who is widely regarded as the granddaddy of these so-called “deniers”, Paul Rassinier, who wrote the first major works questioning popular claims about the Holocaust, was himself interred in two different Nazi concentration camps for attempting to smuggle Jews to safety.

    What the “deniers” question is certain details that they say have been greatly exaggerated, distorted or taken out of context in order to serve a dubious political agenda. The more accurate and far more honest popular label for them would be “Holocaust revisionists”, not the far more pejorative and blatantly dishonest “deniers.”

    Many of them also have the moral courage to point out what Ponderer pointed out, which is that Europe’s Jews weren’t the only civilian population to suffer from atrocities in World War II and the Nazis weren’t the only ones dealing out the atrocities. Such objective facts of history can never be dwelt on by America’s Joe Average for any considerable length of time, however, lest his skull explodes from the massive concentration of cognitive dissonance in such a tiny space.

    As for Obama being called socialist: It doesn’t bother me so much that he’s being called a socialist. He IS, essentially, though I would argue he’s not much more socialist than most of his predecessors, including George W. Bush–that’s what makes the Right’s name calling so unbelievably galling. It’s WHO is slapping him with that label that so annoys me, the McCains, the Palins and some of the Tea Party candidates and all the other military socialists of the right. What’s even more galling is that Obama has, in many respects, frequently met their endlessly increasing demands for more, and more, and yet even MORE militarist socialism–and they STILL say it’s not enough for their tastes!

    Reply

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