Should we condemn historical revisionism?

Should we condemn historical revisionism?

The conference "Holocaust denial as a form of modern anti-Semitism: Russian realities" was held on June 30 at RSUH online. The reason was the acquittal of the journalist from Perm, who had openly stated that the number of Holocaust victims had been exaggerated for political purposes.

After the acquittal, the journalist demanded compensation of six million rubles for unlawful persecution, as he put it, “a ruble for every Jewish soul that was destroyed, according to the Holocaust mythology.”

“This process showed the unpreparedness of the Russian judicial system for such cases,” noted Dr. Andrey Kalikh, moderator of the Conference, an employee of the Institute of Regional Press. - In Russia, unlike other European countries, it is impossible to condemn a Holocaust denier. This means that we need other countermeasures, public ones, if the state fails. I would ask all of you today to think about how dangerous the denial of the Holocaust is in Russia is and what civil society can come up with to oppose this phenomenon.”

The denial of the Holocaust, that is, the non-recognition of the fact of the genocide of the Jews took place before and during World War II by the Nazi Germany and its accomplices and allies, by challenging the generally recognized number of victims towards a significant reduction and playing down the significance of the Holocaust as one of the most serious crimes against humanity in world history.  This denial is of the most common anti-Semitic practices in the world.

Claiming that there was no Holocaust (or else the number of Jewish victims is negligible, and the extermination of Jews was just another page in the history of World War II, certainly no more important than other similar tragedies), “deniers” blame researchers, Jewish organizations and Israel for “speculating on the Holocaust” . They call themselves historical revisionists.

Conference participants — historians, lawyers, public figures, journalists, and educators — discussed the trends and risks of the growing Holocaust denial, including the one that had taken place in the USSR.

The echo of the Holocaust swept the Soviet Union after the War.

— Dr. Alla Gerber, Co-Chair of the Holocaust Research and Education Center, President of the Holocaust Foundation

“The echo of the Holocaust swept the Soviet Union after the War,” said Dr. Alla Gerber, president of the Holocaust Foundation. - It all began gradually, with the campaign against the cosmopolitans. A trial was launched to persecute “the plotting engineers”, and my father had to go to prison. Then there was the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, the murder of Mikhoels and “Doctor’s plot”. The population of the country received the news joyfully saying "look at what those Jew bastards are doing with our dear Russian people." Moscow was filled with rumors of mass deportation of the Jews. When the archives were opened, this was confirmed.

Stalinist anti-Semitism is due to the fact that Hitler’s call for the extermination of Jewish Bolsheviks was tolerated by the local population in those areas where the Communists were not favored, in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and partially Ukraine. It was necessary for Stalin to ideologically separate the Communists from the Jews, to show that the communists had nothing to do with the Jewish Communists.

Then there came a thaw in the attitude to the Jews, but only in part. During the Cold War, they were declared foreign agents and envoys of international Zionism. Then the perestroika gave freedom to everyone, and even to the neo-Nazis. Yes, the Holocaust appears to have been recognized. But unfortunately, it has become part of government propaganda. January 27, which is recognized by the UN as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is still not marked on Russian calendars. And those jurors in Perm who voted in favor of the denier are representatives of 12% of anti-Semites identified by a recent opinion poll. I’m sure that these percentage is actually much higher.” The presentation of Dr. Gennady Kostyrchenko, leading researcher at the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was also devoted to the Holocaust denial in the USSR as a form of anti-Semitism.

We often reduce the problems of the Holocaust to extermination, to the genocide of an entire nation, but the policy of persecuting Jews by the Nazi government was no less indicative of this issue.

— Dr. Ilya Altman, Director of the Center for the History of the Holocaust and Genocides of RSUH

In turn, Dr. Ilya Altman, Director of the Center for the History of the Holocaust and Genocides of the RSUH, addressed the topic of historical revisionism. “According to the UN resolution of January 26, 2007, the Holocaust’s denial is also its full or partial understatement,” said Professor Altman. - We often reduce the problems of the Holocaust to extermination, to the genocide of an entire nation, but the policy of persecuting Jews by the Nazi government is no less indicative of the issue. Remember, the documents of the Nuremberg trials had a special section called “Persecution of Jews”. At one time, we were preparing for the Holocaust Museum on Poklonnaya Hill an exhibition of documents of the State Archives of the Russian Federation, and among them there were speeches by Mr. Rudenko, the Soviet prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, in which he said that 5,900,000 Jews had been killed. The US prosecutor Jackson in 1945 quoted a similar figure, 5.7 million. Therefore, six million is an established fact. But relying on the materials of one process, when we talk about denial, is illogical. The totality of facts should be considered and we need the collective efforts of historians to prove what the modern deniers reject: the existence of death camps, gas chambers and the general policy of destruction. The revisionists underestimate the figures by a whole order of magnitude, so it is very important to have relevant articles in our Criminal Code.”

Mr. Verkhovsky, Director of the Information and Analytical Center “Sova”, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, spoke about how criminal law operates in relation to deniers in Europe.

“In no European country there is criminal prosecution solely for denying the Holocaust, the wording is always wider. In Romania, Slovenia, Greece and Italy, the Holocaust is mentioned in the Criminal Code, in other countries it isn’t, even in Israel the corresponding law speaks of Nazi crimes against the Jewish people, and other Nazi crimes against humanity. Five countries of the European Union insist that separate norms are not needed, that these issues are fully covered by the existing hate speech standards in all countries. In Germany, for example, criminalization occurs only if the act of denial is committed in a way that could upset the peaceful state of society. So a question arises: can the denial of historical crimes be a criminal offense? This issue is still debatable. ”

The scale of Holocaust denial in the United States was examined in a presentation by Dr. Igor Kotler, researcher at Rutgers University (USA).

Organizers: Center for the History of the Holocaust and Genocides of RSUH, Institute of Regional Press (St. Petersburg), Higher School of Economics - Perm Campus (Perm).