How Erasing History Can Get You into Prison

A right-wing British historian goes on trial Monday on charges of denying the Holocaust occurred â?? a crime punishable by up to  10 years’ imprisonment in this country once run by the Nazis.

The trial of David Irving opens amid fresh â?? and fierce â?? debate over freedom of expression in Europe, where the printing and reprinting of unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad has triggered violent protests worldwide.

Irving, 67, has been in custody since his arrest in November on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis’ extermination of 6 million Jews

…Irving was arrested Nov. 11 in the southern Austrian province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989 and charged under a federal law that makes it a crime to publicly diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust.

…In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent of $6,000 for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz were a hoax. [source]

A lot of things are happening these days to test the limitations of freedom of speech and expression. Notice that the cartoon issue which has nothing to do with this story was printed in the second paragraph. I suppose one should always put the fate of a holocaust denier in the context of insulting the Prophet of Muslims. Strange.

What makes me wonder is that these are actually federal laws which make it illegal for you to declare publically that you believe the holocaust never happened. I can count at least 5 other genocides in the past century that don’t get the same recognition; starting with Sabra and Shatilla, to Deir Yassin to Rwanda to Armenia.

We live in a time when people are currently as we live and breathe denying the existance of Palestine as a country and therefore as a People. They were never there, they never happened. But to deny the holocaust can get you 10 years in prison. Bruno, your prison cell-mate who killed his family, would be proud.

Perhaps it should be an International Law which bans the denying of any historic event. We’d save a lot of trouble. There would be no need to debate the most debatable subject in the world: history.

Ineed, History is written by the victors…but should everyone be allowed to own an eraser?

UPDATE:
He got 3 years

18 thoughts on “How Erasing History Can Get You into Prison

  1. Nice post as always Nas.

    I would like to comment on The Rambiling Taoist answer:

    First i loved what you said in your last post:”Let’s try to bridge the government-created chasm between people and countries, one blogger at a time”

    Regarding your comment on Nas post, I know that you answered his question by yes, but i think you missed the point, it’s not about proving if this happend or not, i think it about why other events like the 5 genocides nas mentiond is irrelaveant and not important compared to the holocoast.

    Why is a country, a whole country even denied to use its name with its nomanitied picture at the oscare, saying that cvountry does not exist ??

  2. Okay — you pose an excellent question, which is tough to get around.

    Regarding jail charges and fines in Germany and Austria to anyone who denies the halocaust happened: I think folks that deny the holocaust are flipping nuts — many older Americans and Europeans had relatives that fought in WW2, and saw the camps. The evidence at the Nuremberg trials was convincing. Also, there are still a few aging halocaust camp survivors. However — if one believes in free speech, then one has to support the rights of the holocaust deniers to tout their theories, distasteful as they are.

    In the case of Germany and Austria — there’s still a sort of horrible national guilt over what happened; I know a couple of Germans who feel that it is a stain on their soul (although they were too young to have had anything to do with it.) I think that the governments of those countries bend over backwards to make amends, which is the only thing that makes the laws understandable. Understandable, not necessarily correct.

    The events in Rwanda are gaining more publicity. Most recently, in the US, there was a movie “Hotel Rwanda,” which millions of people went to see. The ongoing genocide in Darfur is getting more and more publicity — thank God! — in the US as well.

    I have read about Shabra and Shatilla, I’ll have to confess ignorance, though as an American. From what I understand, the massacre was perpetuated directly by the Christian Phalangists, but permitted by Sharon who was in command of Israeli troops. Then, depending on the source you read from any Middle Eastern viewpoint, the event turns into head-spinning bias; i.e., either Sharon planned the whole thing, or Syrian plants in the Phalagists were the masterminds (huh?). The pathos, and the human tragedy, however, cannot be ignored, and should not be forgotten.

    There is not much international attention to Dier Yassin, but I’m not sure there’s deliberate attempts to suppress it, either.

    President Clinton ordered the bombings to stop genocide in Bosnia. I’m still not sure about the logic of bombing people to stop them from killing other people — but it did stop. And, now, of course, there are claims that that never happened as well. Go figure.

    I wish that the publicity given to these horribly sad events would just be straightforward. They are an unflattering testament to parts of the human heart that I think we’d all like to ignore. But we need to be soberly reminded of them from time to time. And — I wish there were some way of just presenting the bald facts; the problem with holocaust defenders and deniers is that they use human tragedy to score political points. Ugh!

    So much genocide, so little time. (I know. Bad taste. Apologies)

  3. I like your choice for “ayah of the day” and indeed the enitre Quran is a great read

    Say: ‘Come, I will tell you what your Lord has really forbidden you from: That you do not associate anything with Him; that you be kind to your parents; that you do not kill your children when you fear poverty, We provide for you and them; do not commit indecencies, whether in open or in secret; and do not take a life which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice. This is what He has commanded you, in order for you to understand.’

    -Quran (6:151)

  4. Bashar,
    You are correct that I only handled one part of the equation. So, to answer your question, “Why is a country, a whole country even denied to use its name with its nomanitied picture at the oscare, saying that cvountry does not exist ??”

    My response: ethnocentrism and religion. The other genocides mentioned involve Arabs, Blacks or people who lived in a formally-communist area (as well as American Indians and the slaughter in East Timor). In the all too typical White Angle Saxon Protestant world view, these groups don’t count.

    The Jewish holocaust wouldn’t count either except that it intersects with Christianity. Because the Christian religion is built on the foundation of Judaism, the Jewish people hold a special, if not altogether inconsistent, position in capitalist Western eyes.

  5. one good post, I must say,
    being arabic, frees me from being anti-semitic, cuz hello! I’m semitic, so, let me say somthing to Caren, first I realized that you’re american by reading your first paragraph! attacking anyone who denies the holocaust is just shallow, if you want a well studied facts try to read “The Founding Myths of Modern Israel” by the french Roger Garoudi. Nuremburg convincing evidences were so convincing to the point were they don’t exist in the first place! the number of Jews by the way is not 6 millions, and this is not my opinion, revise the new numbers, as they decrease every once in a while by an unquestionable facts, they are now almost 1.2 million and still counting (down!)…

    The most shameful face of double standerds by the west is that law! only today the Danish foreign minister declared that he blames those savage extremist muslims for protesting!

    the holocaust was the trigger for establishing Israel, and the trigger for our misery, and it’s not even confirmed! don’t blame those who try to seek some truth…

  6. Omar — Whatever I think of the people who deny the holocaust, I also think they’ve got a right to express their opinion without harassment.

    There should not be a law in Germany, or anywhere else, that imprisons people who want to say the holocaust never happened. It’s their right, if they live in a free society — however much I disagree with what they’re saying.

    (For the record, there are alot of families here in America who had grandfathers and uncles who served in Germany — and some of them brought home stories, and photographs they took of the camps, which they related to their friends and families. For this reason alone, I tend to believe that something horrible happened to a huge number of people, that was directed at Jews, along with gypsies, cripples, and political enemies of Hitler. It’s also something that must never happen again, to anyone.)

    Anyway, not every country in the West has the same free speech laws. Here in America, there’s a couple of wacky groups that routinely protray our Founding Fathers as savage barbarians and babykillers. One of those groups protested the Danish cartoons here in Washington over the weekend; they were peaceful about it. I really, really don’t agree with them, either, but they’ve got the right to make their opinion known, and I’ve got the right to call them wacky.

    I will pick up the book by Roger Garoudi, and take a look through it. I cannot help being skeptical, but I’ll see what he has to say.

    Regarding Israel — yes. I agree that it was guilt to a large extent that prompted the UN to support the establishment of Israel, and it has led to horrific problems in the present; wish somebody had thought about that back then. Hindsight’s 20/20.

    Regarding the Danish cartoons. The protests against the cartoons are not wrong. Pressuring the Danish government to punish the newspaper by violent protests is very wrong. Burning embassies, killing people (like they’re doing in Nigeria) is wrong. Death threats which have been seen written on the signs are freedom of speech — but they’re also death threats. Promising to pay somebody a million dollars in reward for killing a cartoonists is really, really screwed up.

    Of course, here in America, the protests that make the news are the violent ones. I linked Naseem’s article on the Jordanian protests to as many sites as I could think of; but it is like a drop in the ocean.

    I don’t think there’s going to be much we agree on politically, but I appreciate the time you took to respond to my comment.

  7. it’s obviouse Caren that we will not agree on the Holocaust issue(at least only about that issue i hope), but thank you for showing such an open mind as most americans are..

    Now, one thing i must say, about the camps you talked about, if we assume tht somthing huge happened, you just said it; it wasn’t only Jews! for God’s sake, Hitler directly killed 20 million russains, and europe puts laws for those who doubt an already doubted number of Jews,, it’s an insult for those who died in WW2, don’t you think? and I dare you (no offence) to prove any of the so-called gas chambers, or the huge ovens! it’s impossible, and by the way no body did that…

    and for the rest of your comment, I agree with it totally, but you must know that those who offered the prizes are Talban movement leaders = al- Qaida, which most muslims now despise, and for me I can’t beleive what they do, though, I do understand why they do it, those cartoons mocked the only respectable and true thing in their lives, and they already consider themselves warriors!

    I hope that I wasn’t too offensive, and wish you forgive me if so Caren..

  8. OmAr,
    Another American jumping in. The Jewish holocaust happened, though as Caren pointed out, it also include gypsies, socialists and anyone who looked cockeyed at Hitler. The slaughter of East Timor happened. The ongoing slaughter in Darfur, Iraq and Palestine is happening right now.

    There will be people who will say and argue that one or none of these cases of slaughter is in fact true. It’s their right to deny documented reality. It’s your right and my right too. But that doesn’t change the fact that all of these ugly things did happen.

    The numbers involved are less important simply because no one can know what the true numbers are. Numbers become a sideshow in which people argue for higher or lower estimates based on their perspective of the events.

    For me, what matters most is that as a species we need to figure out a way to live together in harmony, while understanding there will always be religious, ethnic, national and cultural differences. War is outmoded. We MUST learn ways to NONVIOLENTLY settle differences of opinions. This is true of Americans, Arabs, Israelis, Christians, Muslims, Jews and even Taoists.

  9. While I do understand the significance surrounding the Holocaust (my grandparents moved here from Germany to avoid the Nazi’s) I also understand your frustration with all the other genocides in the world not being given the same recognation. What is happening in Palestine/Isreal is completely ridiculous and I have been trying to wrap my head around that for a while. I am an African Studies major so it really does anger me how Rwanda was not taken into account and right now what is going on in the Sudan isnt even being noticed. I do not understand why things that happen to certain racial groups are held with more inmportance than others (well I guess I understnad… just dont agree with)… anyway I am new to your blog and just checking you out… I also sent you an email… have a good day!

  10. Omar — again, thank you taking the time to answer my comments, and no offense taken.

    But — here’s an important thing you said “, but you must know that those who offered the prizes are Talban movement leaders = al- Qaida, which most muslims now despise, and for me I canâ??t beleive what they do, though, I do understand why they do it, those cartoons mocked the only respectable and true thing in their lives, and they already consider themselves warriors”

    Common ground there indeed. I see the Taliban, Al Quada, and radical Islamists as a common enemy to all people who might cherish free speech. I’ll have to think about your explanation as to why they do it; that is a difficult view point for me.

    If we can agree to dispise the Taliban/Al Quada, then how can I disrespect other political opinions I might not agree with?

  11. The Rambling Taoist –
    americans are always welcomed- now let me try to summarize because we can argue for ever without any result, so, I say there was some sort of genocide towards Jews by Hitler, no doubt, the thing is, it wasn’t by gas chambers nor by huge ovens, these are the known facts-revise any source and you will find that. Describing what happened by the word “Holocaust” is intended to give the issue a sacred impression, and hence comes the argue, for me at least. WW2 was not about Jews, actually they might be the last ones intended, and the holocust keeps remind us of the opposite.
    and the numbers indeed matter, any number decreases by 80% gives one hell of an indication, it can show one important side of the hoax.

    Caren-
    I’m thankful again for your open mind,
    I’m afraid that I couldn’t understand your last question at all: “If we can agree to dispise the Taliban/Al Quada, then how can I disrespect other political opinions I might not agree with?” I’ll be thankful if you could rephrase it.

  12. i find it ironic that in response to nas’ post calling for the recognition of many different holocausts that have and are happening, OmAr is using that as an opportunity to argue we should minimize the numbers of the jewish holocaust perpetrated by the nazis, and calls that holocaust a “hoax.” it seems like OmAr’s comments are contrary to the spirit of the original post.

    it’s also irrelevant to the issue of israel. the problem with israeli policies towards the palestinians is israeli policy towards the palestinians. just because 6 million jews died during world war two doesn’t make what is going on now right. and current israeli policy wouldn’t be any better or worse if the number were “revised down” or revised up.

    frankly, OmAr’s insistence that the holocaust matters is what is ultimately harmful to the cause. the scope of the holocaust is well documented. i have a friend (a german) who when she was 19 worked as a translator for the nuremburg trials. the genocide that happened there was well documented. she herself had to accompany forensic evidence teams to visit the ovens. sure, there are a ton of books claiming to have evidence to the contrary, but largely they just cite one another and have very little weight with credible historians. they hold about as much water for me as books that claim there is no such thing as a palestinian people.

    if OmAr hinges his argument that israeli policy is wrong on the number of jews who were killed by the nazis, he will lose the argument. the numbers are simply too well documented. minimizing the scope of the holocaust is not only wrong, it is also counter-productive

  13. Omar: I think agreeing on despising Al Quada is more important than whether or not you also migh despise President Bush, or whether or not I voted for him.

    Agreeing that Al Quada is worthy of loathing is more important to me than disagreements over whether or not the holocaust happened.

    Hope that makes some sense.

    BTW, I featured your comment, and another link for Nas! here, on my blog: http://cuppapolitics.blogspot.com/2006/02/al-quada-wearing-out-welcome-in.html, apologies for the address.

  14. upyernoz- it’s very obvious that you got me wrong, I said “the holocaust was the trigger for establishing Israel, and the trigger for our misery” I can’t see why does that imply that I’m talking about current policies?! the Holocaust created a feel of guilt to the west, hence, Israel was established, and constantly recieves compensations from Germany, the Israeli policies are what they are regardless to the Holocaust, I want to make that clear..

    Again, you twisted my words, I didn’t talk about numbers because I wanted to hang my cause on it, I mentioned that any number decreases by 80%, and this is not my view, it’s offical, is very likely an indication of a hoax, you can read the book I recmonded â??The Founding Myths of Modern Israelâ? and you’ll find the most well-studied facts about nuremberg and the holocaust, by the way, the writer is French, and adores Jews,

    It will make no difference whether we prove the Holocaust or not, but it will not hurt to study, revise, and open our eyes to history to seek some truth…

    My apologies to Nas if I made any damage to the spirit of his post.

  15. Actually, jewish nationalism and WWI were the trigger for establishing a jewish homeland, which I would say was the trigger that established israel.

    Anyway, to answer nas question, the reason why Germany and Austria and Europe have Holocuast denial laws, is the same reason America has affirmitive action laws.

    Hitler came from Austria, and they followed him and allowed him to muder jews based on thier religion, so they don’t allow free speech.

    America screwed the blacks, and now we have affirmitive action, which, by definition is a racist policy.

Your Two Piasters: