Identifying and Countering Holocaust Distortion: Lessons for and from Southeast Asia

What do Holocaust deniers claim?

Holocaust denial (or negation) is considered the most extreme form of ‘historical revisionism’ that pertains to the Second World War.[1] Although it is widely accepted that Holocaust denial and revisionism are distinct practices, the term, ‘Holocaust revisionism’ is occasionally used in academic and public discourses. Deniers prefer to call themselves ‘revisionists’; in this way, they attempt to  legitimise themselves as genuine academics and historical researchers.

According to deniers, the Holocaust simply never occurred; it is a wholly fabricated story, which was invented in the interests of  the international Jewish conspiracy and/or the state of Israel. They deny the intentional extermination of Jews by the Nazis. Deniers minimise the number of victims, in addition to denying the existence of extermination plans and the use of the gas chambers at Auschwitz–Birkenau extermination centre to murder Jews in such large numbers. They also minimise the amount of suffering and destruction that resulted from Nazi policies in Europe, instead claiming that the causalities were merely result of armed conflict and disease. They also assert that the majority of Jews were allowed to emigrate to the USA and other countries and that the testimonies of survivors are false or exaggerated. For example, they claim that Anne Frank’s diary was fake.  

Deniers’ arguments can be easily discredited by the following evidence:
● The Holocaust was very well documented, and many of these documents were captured by Allied troops before the Nazis managed to destroy them. These include detailed reports of mass murders and gassings. Some were presented by the prosecution during the post-war Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders.
● The first-hand testimony of Holocaust survivors, including films and photographs of the killings, of which some were taken secretly; films and photos were also taken by the camps’ liberators.
● Nazi Germany and its collaborators exterminated not only Jews who lived in Germany, but also those who lived across Europe; this informs the estimate of six million exterminated Jews.
● The mass killing of Jews by gassing with Zyklon B in death camps was proved by the testimony of the perpetrators themselves, as well as of prisoners and members of the ‘Sonderkommando’ - groups of inmates who were forced to remove the dead from the gas chambers and dispose of their bodies. Evidence was also uncovered due to archaeological works conducted at the sites of the Nazi death and concentration camps.
● Forensic experts and archaeologists have also investigated the sites of mass executions of Jews in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union, where German Nazis often killed Jews on the spot (by bullets). This also happened while Jews were being transported to camps in Poland.

[1]  ‘Historical revisionism’ is the reinterpretation of already established views on motivation, evidence of certain historical events.  

Example of Holocaust Denier in Action

N. Pankowska: Irving leads death camps tour. „Searchlight” [Great Britain], 11.2010 – archive of NEVER AGAIN. PDF


Resources about Holocaust denial:

  1. Teachers resources 'What is Holocaust Denial' by Simon Wiesenthal Center
  2. Prof. Deborah Lipstadt's talk "Behind the Lies of Holocaust Denial" (video)
  3. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's materials about Holocaust denial
  4. What is Holocaust denial? by the Auschwitz- Birkenau Memorial Museum