In the same way that my first year students have a penchant for starting their papers with “For thousands of years philosophers have wondered …”, I like to start mine with “Of the things I care least about …” The problem is, that list keeps changing. It used to be the minutes of last night’s city council meeting and – just to piss one of my colleagues off – global warming. But now I want to expand my blast radius. I want to finish the sentence with “… Holocaust denial.”
Do I mean by this that I don’t care that some people deny the Holocaust, or do I mean by it that I don’t care whether the Holocaust happened or not? Both. “What hangs on it?”, I keep asking. And no one seems to understand the question, let alone have an answer to it.
I suppose that if, over a period of six year, six million people just up and disappeared – people for whom there were birth certificates, addresses, in some cases phone numbers, in almost every case people who knew them and saw them being taken from their homes, and if notwithstanding a first-rate telegraph and postal service not a single message arrived to say, “Having a great time. Wish you were here!” – we might be a tad curious about what happened to them. Especially if they were friends or loved ones, or the relatives one never knew but heard tell of; heard tell that they were, at least at the time, from this village or that block, but they just mysteriously seemed to have vanished into thin air. In a war the size of WW II, a couple thousand MIAs wouldn’t be all that remarkable. So neither would a couple thousand missing persons be amiss. But six million?!
The average German on the Wannsee omnibus claims she didn’t know. I’m not buying it!
To some, gas chambers and alien abduction seem equally implausible. But what if, there being no third and better explanation, some of us decided to go with gas chambers and some of us with alien abduction. Either way I have far fewer relatives than most of my gentile friends. And surely if half of our race had been abducted – and probably eaten – by aliens, we’d be as entitled to the world’s sympathy as had they’d been instead gassed by Earthling aliens called Nazis. So the justification for the State of Israel – assuming it needs one – would be secure in either case. So when I consider the mountains upon mountains of evidence and counter-evidence that have been compiled to settle the gas chambers vs alien abduction issue, I can’t help wondering what all the fuss is about.
Yes I know. I’m probably a Philistine that somehow got mistaken for a Jew. If I were a real Jew I’d care deeply about setting the record straight. And about heartfelt one-liners like “Never again!” Or my personal favourite: “We need to understand the Holocaust so it can never happen again!”
But wait a minute. It has happened again. And again. And then again … Nor is it a great mystery why. Herds sometimes have to be culled. When you’re culling a herd you don’t go after the strongest. They’ll take too many of you down with them. Rather you go after the most vulnerable. First you disarm them, then isolate them, then vilify them, and only then do you exterminate them. Happened before, happened since, and will happen again. And again. And again …
Sometimes it’s race, sometimes it’s religion, sometimes it’s the language you speak, sometimes it’s the relative grandeur of the house you live in. What’s to be learned is not not to let it happen again. That’s no more in your power than the weather. What’s to be learned is not to let yourselves become that most vulnerable.
The Israelis have certainly learned that lesson. They’re dealing with the Palestinians in Gaza pretty much the way the Nazi dealt with the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they learned it from the Nazis. Disarm, isolate, vilify, kill. It’s a formula. It works. Live with it. Move on.
Okay, that was harsh. But sometimes people need to have their heads pulled out of their asses. The historicity of the Holocaust, not unlike the facticity of global warming, is a self-perpetuating industry, giving plenty of people something to do, and some of them – let’s face it – a few shekels for doing it. The Holocaust industry is particularly sexy precisely because it’s so taboo, taboo in much the way that the historicity of the Alamo is not. If this be doubted, ask yourself what would happen to the proliferation and sales of Alamo-Truther literature if it were a criminal offense to deny the Alamo.
Do you really want to shut those Holocaust-deniers up? Then stop prosecuting them. The operative logic here is simple. If you’d made it illegal to say p, then chances are there’s some truth to p. Otherwise you’d have just ignored it. That’s why film producers head straight to the bank when their film is banned somewhere. Holocaust denial, along with any other banned material, just gets sent over to the dark side of the Internet. It becomes one of our guilty pleasures, like reading Conservapedia or – dare I confess this? – watching Friday Night Fights.
Did the Holocaust happen? I dunno. I wasn’t there. Were you?
Certainly something happened. If not gas chambers then alien abduction. Same thing with our missing socks. Either the dryer ate them or they were tractor-beamed. Either way I’m now holding a pair that don’t match. I was a single father. What did I tell my kid when he was holding a pair that didn’t match? “Either wear them or put on a pair that do. But hurry up. The school bus is coming.”