‘The Holocaust never happened’

David Pollina • Society needs the holocaust deniers. Not because they have a historically valid argument, but because they force the rest of us to remember, and if we fail to do so – if we let the horror slip into the distant memory of history – we might as well deny it ourselves.

3 February 2016, 7:33am
Three types of people will read this – those who believe the above headline, those who passionately object to it, and those who are simply curious or looking for some titillating controversy or entertainment.

As to the first group (and yes, they exist even in Malta), kindly stop reading here if you are among them. This message is for all the others...

This past week marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most infamous of the Nazi death camps. In total, about 11 million people were systematically murdered in the Holocaust, including more than 6 million Jews and at least 1.1 million children.

Today the world reacts in shock and colourful profile picture overlays when a hundred plus people are killed by terrorists in Paris, yet if the Paris attacks were repeated every single day of every year, even after 230 years they still would have killed fewer people than were killed in the Holocaust. That kind of scale just can’t be imagined. It makes one numb. Tens of millions more died defeating the madman.

Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany and many other European countries – a position I strongly disagree with. Society needs the deniers. Not because they have a historically valid argument, but because they force the rest of us to remember, and if we fail to do so – if we let the horror slip into the distant memory of history – we might as well deny it ourselves. So the purpose of this headline is to do just that... to remember.

Yet remembering is worthless if we do not learn the lessons history teaches and apply them towards improving and guarding the liberty we cherish – a liberty which is under more threat today than ever. Some of these threats are external – ISIS, rogue states developing nuclear weapons, etc. Others are internal, allowed to grow by ignorance and apathy.

It is often noted that Hitler was elected democratically, and while that is true of the two elections he won after becoming chancellor (even if these were not totally fair and free), his results from the two before were strong but not a majority (38% and 33%). Despite this, Hitler was appointed chancellor by Hindenburg through a series of back-room political dealings – all well within the ‘democratic’ system. Liberty was taken for granted and exchanged for a false sense of security. Then it was too late.

We see this same apathy today; a trust in government to protect liberty when history shows that it is often governments which erode the very liberty they are supposed to protect.

Take for example a basic human right, such as the right to have a lawyer present during police questioning. For the past decades it has been our own government which has actively denied this right, and even when forced to enact it into law, done everything in its power to illegally limit that right.

Such was only able to happen with the apathy of the common citizen who couldn’t be bothered with something that didn’t supposedly affect them. Now the ECHR has slammed the government over this, and even dented our own Constitutional Court, which is supposed to be the highest guardian of liberty in the land. Will they heed the correction? Will we ensure they do?

The silence in the comment section was deafening. My friend at The Times, Michela Spiteri, wrote an excellent article on the ECHR case, but commenters were voluminously more interested in how Ira Losco won the local Eurovision contest. It only proves that the citizenry is asleep at the wheel.

If we don’t wake up and value our liberty, actively and passionately, we can expect to have it taken away. Bit by bit, one illegal police interrogation, one NSA eavesdrop at a time, until we wake up one morning and realise that it’s too far gone to retrieve... just like Germany did.

As Martin Niemöller said of Germany – “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

So let the deniers of the Holocaust have their say. Let them cause us all to remember, and to ensure that the history we leave for our children is better than the one left for us – a history which values human rights for even the worst human being. 

David Pollina is a Jewish Rabbi