What constitutes Holocaust denial?

137 posts in this topic

Yesterday in Munich I was touting for some business - I hoped to maybe give a history tour to some tourists.

 

A German bloke comes up and asks about the tour. I reply "Well it's a bit of ancient archaeology, a lot of Medieval stuff and we finish in the 20th century".

 

His reply, in perfect English but with a face like thunder - "You should go back to London or America and do a tour on your crimes against people like the Indians....why do you people come here and just concentrate on the crimes of the National Socialist regime"

 

With that he about turned and stomped off, not wanting to argue his case.

 

Jesus, I didn't know that people like Henry the Lion, Graf von Tilly and Kaiser Bill were dirty Nazi swine.

 

I am of the opinion that not talking about the NS regime (what sticks in my craw is that I never even mentioned it - it was a general history tour I was selling) is the same as denying the camps and all that that entails. What does everybody else think?

 

I have had a few punters who have denied certain facts but they were from other parts of the world - not saying where from - and I have had to put them straight. I have also had a few Germans - not enough to be vets but old enough generally to have been in the HJ - telling me that I should stop telling lies. It is starting to p me off :angry:

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I can fully understand Germans being bloody sick of hearing about "that" over and over and over and over again... I come from the South in the US, and it's not totally dissimilar to the deal with slavery. My great-grandparents never owned slaves either..

 

My - (small, cute, with big brown eyes..) wife was in London on an English course once, and some Polish girl called her a "Nazi".. Her freakin' parents were born in the 60's, AND grew up in the communist DDR..

 

I disagree that being sick of hearing about(especially if there are in fact inaccuracies involved.., which there are bound to be..) /not wanting to talk anymore about WWII constitutes denial. At some point, we as a civilization have to get past it and move on.

 

Now people saying it never happened is just whacky and in left field. But resentment and irritation and anger and disgust at the whole WWII info-tainment industry which does often entail demonization of Germans is thoroughly understandable IMO.

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Agree to some degree with HerrDinksbumps. In many discussions about "censorship", I find myself invoking the example of Viz magazine.

 

Is Viz sexist? Is Viz racist? Is Viz homophobic? Et cetera...

 

Well, in intent, I'm guessing to a 95-99% degree it isn't (the remainder being latent and - I hesitate to say harmless exactly - old-fashioned humour based on a changing world and its demographics). It is intended to be ironic and we are invited to laugh at the stupidity of the characters and their sexist/racist/whateverist ways.

 

But then you have to consider: regardless of intent or delivery, how is the content being received? Does the audience have the necessary critical faculties to process the irony? Or do they simply laugh at lines like "How pet, do you like fruit? Then suck my knob, it's a peach!" because (1) it uses the word "knob" and (2) because it echoes how they speak to women (or how they would like to if they actually spoke to women)?!

 

So - back on topic. Taff, you know what the "intent" of your tour is. And good on you, you're providing a wide base of info spanning centuries and hence including the good times along with the bad. Sounds balanced. So, like Viz, you're providing (I'm guessing; we've never met) 95-99% objective history (i.e. the bits that generally most historians agree about), and the remainder is your / "our" spin on events based upon British / Anglo-Saxon teachings.

 

But now you do your tour and your info is filtered through the audience. 25-50% will remember that Munich was founded in 186 AD by an order of dwarf monks, and hence the name (never done a tour of Munich, can you guess? ;) ). 50-75% will remember that King Ludwig, he was a bit bonkers, wasn't he? Splashed all that cash on Disney castles and then fell off his boat. Or was pushed by some typically frugal locals. We may never know.

 

But 75-100% will remember the bits about the beer hall putsch (sp?) and the persecution of the Jews and that funny little Austrian bloke with the Charlie Chaplin moustache. And of those 75-100%, your facts will be filtered through their own upbringing and prejudices and processed to whatever degree of success by their Weizen addled brains.

 

Result? "Hey, we went on a great tour of Munich. Lovely Welsh fella, they're great singers you know? Anyway, told us all about them Nazi bastards..."

 

Long story short ("too late for that now"):

Keep doing what you're doing, because it's important (not least for your bank balance). But your hit rate with your audience will be less than 100% (due to their failings far more than yours). And as long as the ignorant foreigners are "only" talking about the Nazis, then the ignorant locals will be pissed off that the ignorant foreigners are "only" taught about the Nazis.

 

Still reading? Phew! Award yourselves a mini Mars bar!

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A lot of tourists want to see and hear about this stuff. Perhaps they should stay at home and not spend their money in places like the Eagles Nest.

 

As for inaccuracies...you have only to read a selection of modern newspapers that cover the same story and you will find that each has their version of the "truth". Research something 60,70, 80 years ago and you will come up against the same thing. My adoptive Granny in Berlin watched the heroic Red Army rape her 10 year old sister...speak to someone of that period from Koln or Munich and the chances are that they have a different experience.

 

If the guy (and his ilk) had come on one of those themed tours and didn't like it - fair enough. But just to pass judgement like that...I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. As an historian, I try and be unbiased in my presentation of the facts/"facts"/history/what happened/whatever you want to call it - but sometimes when I get this aggro I just want to say something like "Well the Germans should not have voted for him then". I know that this is very puerile and I never have voiced it...but it IS history. I shouldn't be so surprised though...this is the country that couldn't wave it's flag without sh*tting it's pants until the recent world cup and even then some elements were worried about the upsurge in national pride.

 

Perhaps I should also cut out things like the Reformation and the 30 Years War in case someone gets upset? Best not mention the various presecutions against Jews and witches in the Medival period as well.The past was not a particularly rosy place to live in and is full of outrages. Perhaps I should just stay at home, sign on the dole, drink beer and wallow in my own filth. That way no-one can be offended :)

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The problem is, the whole issue is just too "loaded" in Germany.. If you want to talk about Jewish persecution, you should for ex talk about its history in Russia and elsewhere as well, giving it a context broader than just the German one..

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Herr Dinksbumps,

 

when I worked in the Dachau Memorial Site that is exactly what I did, often made references to the Soviet system, how they were similar, how they were different. When I talk about the Räterepublik in Munich I always mention that the Communists were also pretty handy when it came to dishing out beatings and worse. We hear about what great men Eisner and Landauer were but the inconvenient truth about some of the activities of the glorious workers tend to forgotten about - it's easier to talk about Nazi crimes that those of the "goodies"*

 

(* And I don't mean Bill Odie, Tim tayler and the other guy either)

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(* And I don't mean Bill Odie, Tim tayler and the other guy either)

Dr Graham Graden?

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I can imagine guided tours through London about the "Horrors of Empire" would grate a few people.. Again, understandably so...

 

I admit, I personally am interested in a lot of this stuff, and have gone and will continue to go see the sites - cuz I grew up hearing and reading about and then studying it..

 

A "The Horrors of European Communism" tour, with accompanying infotainment-industry attention would sure do a lot to balance things out... Naziism is just such an irrestistable shiny sellable product though...

 

Right?.. <_<

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sometimes when I get this aggro I just want to say something like "Well the Germans should not have voted for him then".

 

 

Well, as historian you should know that Hitler never had a majority in the Reichstag. He did not came to power by democratic means. In the last democratic elections (Nov ´32) Hitler received 33.09% or some 11 Mio. Votes. That´s 1/8 of the population, or 1/4 of those eligible to vote.

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I come from the South in the US, and it's not totally dissimilar to the deal with slavery.

 

 

Good example of how errorous even serious historians are when it come to the American Civil War. You always read it was fought about slavery, but if you take a closer look then you´ll find out that the exmancipation proclaim was in 1863. That´s how history is rewritten by the winners.

 

"If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission, and offer my sword to the other side." (Union Gen. Grant)

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The problem is, the whole issue is just too "loaded" in Germany.. If you want to talk about Jewish persecution, you should for ex talk about its history in Russia and elsewhere as well, giving it a context broader than just the German one..

 

 

The problem with that is it is absolving or lessening the Nazi State's responsability for the full horror of what they did by implying that other governments had similar ideas but were simply less organised.

 

Yes anti-semitism was present government policies in most of Europe to greater or lesser degrees but it was only with Hitler that it became one a core government policies.

 

I don't buy the argument some have made that the germans as a people were any worse than anyone else in this respect, but they were the country that ended up with a madman in charge, and they have to accept that.

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They do, and they've been accepting it every day for three generations.. Eventually enough is enough..

 

You can only be sorry about something so long.. Then it's time to move on..

 

There are hardly any freakin' Nazis from that time around anymore anyway!.. Now it's Muslims committing the gruesome atrocities..

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Holocaust denial is not someone not wanting to talk about the holocaust, it is someone saying the holocaust never happened. Sounds like the guy just was annoyed with/tired of it being part of your tour. Nowhere did I get from what you quoted him saying that he denied the holocaust actually happening. So he was just being defensive. However seeing as you didn't even explicitly mention it, he seems like a bit of a touchy guy.

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They do, and they've been accepting it every day for three generations.. Eventually enough is enough..

 

 

Many do, alot don't. Worse some try to get into quibbling over numbers. Some try to gain moral equivilence with the 'my poor granny got kicked out of Danzig' stories like its the same thing.

 

 

You can only be sorry about something so long.. Then it's time to move on..

 

 

Not being sorry is not the same as trying to whitewash history by saying everyone else did it too. All nations have their myths and all nations gloss over inconvenient facts, history is about creating nation states not about fact. The problem is german history has this singularity of evil in it which fascinates and appalls.

 

 

There are hardly any freakin' Nazis from that time around anymore anyway!..

 

 

No many of them managed to avoid the sticky ends they so richly deserved.

 

 

Now it's Muslims committing the gruesome atrocities..

 

 

Oh the irony...

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At some point Western Civ needs to get over the notion of the Holocaust as this big bad "singularity".. The Holocaust IMO is THE epicenter of our whole moral universe.. Nothing could be worse.. There is Godwin's internet law.. There is Adorno's quote "No poetry after Auschwitz.." - and indeed, after Auschwitz, culturally, we've had the cultural death/masturbation that is post-modernism.. Part of this no doubt is the result of the "Holocaust-lobby" - i.e. Israel and it's supporters in the US, forever keeping the Holocaust "alive", as a kind of cultural capital to achieve its ends..

 

But sigh.. All that is another story.. I don't deny the Holocaust happened.. I just deny that it should continue to occupy such a central role in our whole moral/ethical, cultural, tourism, and infotainment universe...

 

Crazy as it might sound, where I'm going with this is that so long as we view the Holocaust this way, or are unable to overcome seeing it this way..., I don't think we as a species will be able to deal with the big problems on the horizon - overpopluation, global warming, diminishing resources, religious fanatacism(maybe armed with nukes..), nuklear proliferation, etc.. I am not saying we need to have a bunch of new holocausts to deal with those things.. But those things are going to require drastic measures to solve.. Because of the Holocaust we take a laissez-faire approach to our fate as a species. And this has to end..

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I don't buy the argument some have made that the germans as a people were any worse than anyone else in this respect, but they were the country that ended up with a madman in charge, and they have to accept that.

Correction: but they were the country that ended up with a madman in charge, and lost the war.

You know, Stalin wasn't a sane fellow either: the millions killed in Ukraine by starvation, the millions shot in the head for threatening the regime, the millions sent to Syberia because they didn't have the right heritage...

 

There are a lot of documentaries and information about the Nazi crimes but everybody seems to forget the communists. So I think that this guy didn't try deny anything, he was just being defensive. You know, it might come to a shock to some, but the Russian army didn't exactly eliberate Eastern Europe.

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His reply, in perfect English but with a face like thunder - "You should go back to London or America and do a tour on your crimes against people like the Indians....why do you people come here and just concentrate on the crimes of the National Socialist regime"

 

Obviously, the equivalent would be for HIM to go to America and do tours about slavery in, say, Atlanta, or Indian oppression at Little Big Horn. Or maybe you could have invited him to tag along on the tour for free, and offer his insights.

 

Anyway, I can understand how some Germans get frustrated about what they think is an emphasis on Third Reich sites on tours of Munich. But most of the tours I participated in were pretty neutral as far as opinions on what the Nazis did. It's easy enough to show the sites and photos and let the evidence stand for itself. I think Dachau does this very well.

 

 

I don't deny the Holocaust happened.. I just deny that it should continue to occupy such a central role in our whole moral/ethical, cultural, tourism, and infotainment universe...

 

Especially with books and movies, it's all getting rather tedious, I agree. Especially since it all has to include some kind of redemption component whereas the people who suffer are made better people thereby, or there are heartwarming (usually fictional) stories of people who step up to help. This does nothing but encourage people to somehow feel good about themselves when closing the book/leaving the theater. We all want to believe we'd be the ones risking our lives to do what's right and be the heroes.

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Well, as historian you should know that Hitler never had a majority in the Reichstag.

 

I never said he did. The fact is though is that they were part of the democratic process. That they destroyed the system after January 30th is no secret. Even after consolidation they passed the Enabling Act again and again just as it was due to expire. (This does seem a bit odd with hindsight but I guess that this was done to appease those voices who might have dared to question the legality of the regime). In any event, when someone is in my face, being quite aggressive and not letting me get a single word in, trying to flatter them with numbers is not the first thing that comes to mind.

 

I had a German couple yesterday. Younger people. I don't push this in German's faces - they cover it quite well in school (and the Bundeswehr if they do WD)... I test the water first...but they were comfortable with it. Very different to the guy the day before.

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You have to be historically accurate. It would be very strange to do a historic tour of a place where something major happened and not mention it.

 

My two cents on the holocaust infotainment industry: Hollywood will never let the Nazis go. It's not just the nice, neat good versus evil nature of the conflict, it's also that the Nazis looked so photogenic with their well cut hair and Hugo Boss uniforms. There's a sort of evil glamour about it all.

 

Can't say the same about the Russians or Mao's lot.

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