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The holocaust is an emotive subject for many. It still has the power to shock and cause controversy like few other things across the 20th century. It marked one of the darkest spots in human history, some may say the darkest, but it is, sadly, by no means the only example of man’s inhumanity to man.

I have always found a strange curious interest in those like ‘historian’ David Irving who deny the holocaust, more out of a certain incredulity than anything else.  Having been to Auschwitz and Dachau myself I wonder what these people make of what was otherwise going on here.  What is their explanation for the vast tanks filled with human hair or spectacles or children’s toys or shoes?  And the sheer scale of buildings with their evidence of dense human habitation, how could this have happened across the country using the national railways and all if not part of a concerted, co-ordinated policy?  What could those involved on the German side have to gain from admitting that it took place, surely they should all seek to deny it, furthermore, if extreme right-wing Hitler sympathisers deny it, do they claim that it was never on the agenda at all? I am interested in what the arguments are for such a denial of what appears to be an unequivocal event. 
 
Is it a matter of personnel, a question of who knew and how systematic was the policy of death?  Here the Wannsee Conference would appear to suggest that it was both fairly widespread and went up to the top.  Furthermore the promotion of Auschwitz commandant SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höß would appear to corroborate this, Höß was no ordinary Wehrmacht pawn, an associate of Heinrich Himmler, member of the Waffen-SS and recipient of both the SS Honour Ring and SS Honour Sword. He was also the first commandant to use Zyklon-B as a method of mass extermination following extensive trials on Soviet PoWs in the Auschwitz camp. 
 
I am however also interested in why this episode of genocide is afforded such particular historical significance.  It will doubtless remain a major part of 20th century historical teaching for many decades, even centuries to come, which I do not necessarily see as a bad thing, just an inconsistent one if taken in comparison to other such events and their legacy.  It is estimated that 6 million Jews were killed in the Nazi death camps and there are memorials around the world to their memory, as there indeed should be.  But what of the 3 million Soviet PoWs were also murdered along with 500,000 gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically handicapped and countless tens of thousands of trade unionists, communists, socialists, homosexuals and other ‘undesirable elements’.  These groups are given scant mention and are certainly not commemorated widely outside their own communities.  Where is their monument, where is the recognition that under a tyrannical regime whatever guise it choses to hide under the fine line between what constitutes a state normality and what constitutes a threat to security is arbitrary and changeable?  
 
The denial of the holocaust though is in some countries a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and I am deeply uncomfortable with this because it smacks of the zenith of political correctness.  Any such brushing under the carpet of views is to give them an ill-deserved credence in the consequent interest it generates.  Yet no other event in history is afforded such protection, it would be unthinkable for legislation to exist to prevent historical revisionism for other dark events in human history such as a denial of the Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Stalin’s purges, the Crusades, the Irish Potato Famine even the pogroms against the Jews across Europe through the centuries, the systematic extermination of the indigenous populations of North and South America; Australia and many parts of colonial Africa. 
 
The fact is that this is a case of history viewed from the victor’s perspective.  Whilst I agree it smacks of poor taste to classify the Jews as in any way victors in the Second World War, I mean it in contrast to the German position and the ideals that the Nazis stood for.  Directly after the defeat of Germany the Soviet Union went from friend to enemy and the groups of the handicapped and the gypsies have been for a long time too marginalised and disenfranchised to wield any real influence. 
 
If one takes Russia under Stalin’s reign from 1924-1953 estimates vary widely as to how many died as a result of the regime ranging at the lower end from 6.5 million right up to estimates of 60 million by people like Solzhenitsyn.  The general consensus is settling at around a staggering 20 million deaths around 3-4 times more than Jews killed under the Nazis.  In fact it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million Soviets died as a result of the Second World War and undisputed that the Soviet Union suffered multiple times more casualties as a result of WWII than any other nation. In fact the 20 million figure would mean that the Soviet Union suffered as many casualties as all the other nations combined. 
 
The Soviet Union is but one example, directly comparable because it was at the same time in history, I could choose to look at Rwanda where between 500 000 and 1 million were slaughtered in 100 days in 1994 by the Interahamwe. This is systematic extermination far in excess of even what the Nazis or Stalin were able to achieve. And yet in the example of the Soviet Union and the Interahamwe in Rwanda we have not seen worldwide searches to bring the perpetrators to justice, we have not had the International Criminal Court being able to use figures of the nature of Simon Wiesenthal and the like.  And yet the US mounted a widespread manhunt to bring Osama Bin Laden in a man responsible for a fraction of the deaths that say Henry Kissinger directly caused due to the acquiescence to a criminally interventionist foreign policy in Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc.  Far from hiding in the mountains somewhere in the Middle East Kissinger tours the lecture circuit earning money and respect.  Presumably because to have got away with such assassination squad diplomacy one must admire his sheer audacity and ability to still be able to sleep at night.
 
On the flip side we hear a great deal of the genocide attributable to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia’s killing fields and yet far less of the deaths attributable to US foreign policy in the years preceding the Khmer take-over.  The US media had in fact already started decribing the genocide before it had even taken place as Chomsky has shown in Manufacturing Consent.
 
The number of casualties of the September the 11th disaster stands at 2,752 and this event will be taught across the Western world at least as an event of extreme historical significance, and yet how many people know of the Armenian Genocide (Death toll 1-1.5 million), the Assyrian Genocide (Death toll 500,000-750,000), the Burundi Genocide (Death Toll 50,000-100,000), or the Pontic Greek Genocide (Death Toll 300,000-360,000)? How much about the Bosnian ethnic cleansing is likely to be taught in the decades to come? Outside Ireland how much of the English culpability is looked at regarding the “Great” Potato Famine (Death Toll approximately 1 million +, or 20% of Ireland’s population)?  As John Mitchell wrote, “The Almighty sent the potato blight… but the English created the famine.” 
 
Obviously it would be true to say that the number of deaths in these events was not numerically as high as the Holocaust, however “Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.” – Jean-Paul Satre, and as a proportion of the population or when measured as an impact study on the demographics and subsequent effect on populations it could be argued that, at the very least for the communities concerned, these events were equally catastrophic and in all cases without question the international reaction to these events has been one of relative ambivalence.  It would be as dangerous precedent a if we merely based somethings newsworthiness or impact for history on the number of casualties alone as it would were we not to look at all such events in an effort to learn from them.  After all the Bosnian conflict and the Rwandan genocide would appear to suggest that far from learning the lessons of history so as not to repeat them humans have in fact learnt the lessons of history so as to hone and perfect the means of further atrocity.
 
Song Of The Day ~ Joe Jackson – It’s Different For Girls
 
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