IHRA agrees on new definition of Holocaust denial
International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is a consensus-based intergovernmental body comprised of experts from 31 countries. Its mandate is to promote Holocaust education, remembrance and research, and reaffirm humanity’s common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.
“If you say that only two million Jews were killed that is Holocaust denial according to this definition.”
Group photo of the Holocaust Educational Trust teachers at Yad Vashem in August, 2013.
Photo: Courtesy of Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Education
The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday praised the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an association of 31 democratic countries dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the Nazi genocide, for promulgating a new working definition of Holocaust denial.
The working definition is not legally binding, but has significant moral authority due to the composition of the IHRA. It includes many of the world’s leading democracies as members and the United Nations among its official observers.
On October 21st theMinister for Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announces the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has reached a consensus on a working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion at a Canada-led meeting in Toronto.
“I’m very pleased with the progress made at the IHRA meetings, which demonstrates the Government of Canada’s dedication to Holocaust remembrance, research and education,” said Minister Kenney. “Canada’s goals as Chair of IHRA were ambitious, and I’m thrilled that we have been able to move such important issues forward.”
At the IHRA meeting in Toronto, great strides were made toward a working definition of Holocaust denial and distortionn, which refer to any attempt to claim the Holocaust did not take place, and may include publicly denying or calling into doubt the use of principal mechanisms of destruction or the intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people. The definition also states that Holocaust denial in its various forms is an expression of anti-Semitism.
Gideon Behar, the Foreign Ministry’s point man on anti- Semitism and one of two Israeli delegates to the body, told The Jerusalem Post the definition was important because it was the first such document detailing what is considered acceptable by Western democracies and ratified by an international body.
“It is important because finally [we can refer] to it and say, yes there is a definition of Holocaust denial,” he explained. “If you say that only two million Jews were killed that is Holocaust denial according to this definition.”
What is Holocaust denial?
“A Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion” – The present definition is an expression of the awareness that Holocaust denial and distortion have to be challenged and denounced nationally and internationally and need examination at a global level. IHRA adopted the following working definition of holocaust denial and distortion:
Holocaust denial is discourse and propaganda that deny the historical reality and the extent of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis and their accomplices during World War II, known as the Holocaust or the Shoah. Holocaust denial refers specifically to any attempt to claim that the Holocaust or Shoah did not take place.
Holocaust denial may include publicly denying or calling into doubt the use of principal mechanisms of destruction (such as gas chambers, mass shooting, starvation and torture) or the intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people.
Holocaust denial in its various forms is an expression of anti-Semitism. The attempt to deny the genocide of the Jews is an effort to exonerate National Socialism and anti-Semitism from guilt or responsibility in the genocide of the Jewish people. Forms of Holocaust denial also include blaming the Jews for either exaggerating or creating the Shoah for political or financial gain as if the Shoah itself was the result of a conspiracy plotted by the Jews. In this, the goal is to make the Jews culpable and anti-Semitism once again legitimate.
The goals of Holocaust denial often are the rehabilitation of an explicit anti-Semitism and the promotion of political ideologies and conditions suitable for the advent of the very type of event it denies.
If the president of Iran were to speak about the Holocaust, he continued, Western nations could point to this document in their rebuttals.
According to the IHRA, distortion of the Holocaust refers to:
- Intentional efforts to excuse or minimize the impact of the Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany;
- Gross minimization of the number of the victims of the Holocaust in contradiction to reliable sources;
- Attempts to blame the Jews for causing their own genocide;
- Statements that cast the Holocaust as a positive historical event. Those statements are not Holocaust denial but are closely connected to it as a radical form of anti-Semitism. They may suggest that the Holocaust did not go far enough in accomplishing its goal of “the Final Solution of the Jewish Question”;
- Attempts to blur the responsibility for the establishment of concentration and death camps devised and operated by Nazi Germany by putting blame on other nations or ethnic groups.
“This is excellent, this is extremely important, because it focuses on Holocaust distortion which is something that has developed rapidly in the last few years and is posing a serious threat the Jewish narrative of the Holocaust, especially in Eastern Europe,” Dr. Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which contributed to the definition, told the Post.
However, Zuroff said that “doesn’t specifically identify the efforts to equate communism to Nazism as a form of Holocaust distortion,” an oversight that he believes is problematic.
Other Notable decisions included:
Advancement of the Multi-Year Work Plan with additional funding for research into killing sites outside of the death camps, access to Holocaust archives and to develop capacity for memorial day activities;
Establishment of a Yehuda Bauer Grant to recognize one outstanding proposal submitted through the IHRA Grant Program each year.
However, Zuroff says because the definition, ‘doesn’t specifically identify the efforts to equate Communism to Nazism as a form of Holocaust distortion’ is a problematic oversight.
Comment from Michael Mazur: We can assume that this means they know perfectly well the crimes eleven-fold of their forefathers, fearing it’s seeping into the public consciousness, and so would prefer to frame it as grappling with the non-issue of the equating of one -ism with the other as being problematic, hoping thereby it goes away, rather than to prosecute, leaving themselves open to the broadside in court of 66,000,000 innocents murdered by Jews in the Soviet Union.