As the largest and most recent coordinated genocidal attack against Jewry in world history, the Holocaust has been the topic of intense analysis. The genocide did not start spontaneously with bullets or gas chambers at its peak in the 1940s, but rather with a carefully sculpted campaign of escalating lies and bigotry in the 1930s. What is most remarkable today, however, is that the poison of the Holocaust did not end its toxic rampage with the death of its victims or its chief perpetrator, Adolph Hitler, generations ago. The toxicity continues today in various potencies, through carefully sculpted contemporary rhetoric and pseudo analysis by powerful figures such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Oliver Stone who distort history.
Stone's statement in London's Sunday Times is already on major Anti-Semitic websites around the world:
Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? The Jewish domination of the media. There's a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.
Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m.
There will be those who contend that the partly Jewish Stone states some seemingly truthful though inartfully articulated points in his offensive screed -- namely that Jewish Americans lobby effectively, others aided Hitler and the Russians suffered horrible losses at the hands of the Fuhrer.
They miss some crucial points of their own. The facts of the Holocaust are important for us to internalize as a society, not because some influential minority says they are. Meaningful introspection and analysis about the Holocaust is important today beyond merely that of his conveniently, though irrelevant, posited themes of aggrandizing Jews or promoting Israeli interests. Meaningful analysis is important because the world today faces the increasing dissemination of weapons of mass destruction, brutally violent state and non-state actors, as well as bigoted conspiracy theories masquerading as historical facts on a wide open Internet.
Stone's Holocaust comments come at a time when a denial movement and some world leaders seek to deny or diminish its historical existence, just as many of the last survivors and witnesses are perishing. Prior efforts led The American Historical Association (AHA) to issue this statement in 1991: " [The AHA] deplores the publicly reported attempts to deny the fact of the Holocaust. No serious historian questions that the Holocaust took place."
Meaningful introspection is important because we are still beset by debilitating complacency that results in the media's near complete avoidance of this month's criminal charges involving the Sudanese genocide as well as the coordinated well financed obstruction of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Even in the United States there are a subset that continually deny the atrocities of not only the Holocaust, but of slavery and the near elimination of our Native Americans.
There is something else disturbing about Stone's insensitivity. For one, he employs the same "Jewish domination" theme -- in this case of the media to explain why we focus on the Holocaust. The same kind of Jew-baiting that Hitler used to execute his atrocities. If American Jews keep up their media domination, America may very well have to employ the same censorship and takeover measures that his buddy Hugo Chavez has employed so benevolently against dissenters in Venezuela.
Second, World War II was indeed an epic tragedy that killed, injured or scarred hundreds of millions including the Russians he mentions, as well as American hero soldiers like my father who never set foot in a concentration camp. For someone who seizes on the importance of context, he seems oblivious to many aspects of it. Two of the most important missed contextual points are these:
- While to be sure other groups faced horrifying massive losses, the extent on the European Jewish community in key countries was virtual elimination. In Poland, home for centuries of the largest Jewish population on the continent, three million or 90% of the Jewish population was slaughtered, in the Ukraine it was 900,000 or 90%. Almost 6 million or about 2/3 of European Jews vanished in the most terrible and systematic manner imaginable. Unlike many other devastated groups Jewish communal life in much of Europe was simply purged, never to return.
- The other lesson of the Holocaust is that the poisonous effects of sustained unraveled hatred and violence rarely if ever stay confined to limited targets. It is not for Jews alone that people of moral rigor and good will must disseminate the lessons of the Holocaust. It is an obligation any just and educated society must heed.
Prof. Levin researched the Holocaust at a program at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and authored an article on Holocaust Denial in American Behavioral Scientist called "History As A Weapon."