With some regularity we read about an individual who claims that the Jewish Holocaust never happened. When such denials occur, many others rise up to deny the denial. This argument is obviously much more than a debate over historical authenticity. It involves a struggle over the appropriate impact of that event on the man’s consciousness. What were the proper lessons of this atrocity and how should the world now react as a consequence? These, I believe, are the real issues.
Generally, the Holocaust is held up as a lesson in the importance of being ever watchful of evil people who might bring on the next atrocity. Thus, we have those who quickly denounce the perpetrators of Holocaust Denial and attempt to silence them. This “lesson” of the Holocaust involves nothing new at all. It is an application of what man has attempted in response to perceived evil throughout human history.
I would suggest that anyone or any group which sees another group as unworthy to live, for whatever reason, is in a state of “holocaust denial”. In that respect, most of us are deniers, even some of those who grow indignant over the individuals who claim that the Nazi initiated Holocaust never happened. That Holocaust was the direct result of seeing a group of people as subhuman and the associated feeling that the world would be better off if they were all eliminated. Unfortunately that kind of thinking is frequently seen in our own midst with what is considered to be perfect justification. This attitude is a form of holocaust denial because the ability to mentally justify an atrocity is a de facto denial that it would even be one. In other words, the holocaust could never happen in that mind because it wasn’t one by definition. Instead it was an act of self preservation.
When viewed in this way, the lesson of the Holocaust is not so much the need to constantly search for those outside ourselves who harbor racial or ethnic hatreds in order to identify and “neutralize” them. Instead it becomes an introspective awareness that we all are subject to the egocentric denial that breeds separation, discrimination, and even elimination.