Holocaust Denial and Holocaust Tourism 40


Gordon Brown had the kind of Auschwitz photo-call this week that I have always found in dubious taste. I say that with consideration because I have attended and even set up a lot of Auschwitz photo-calls, as I will explain.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/gordon-brown/5237879/Gordon-Brown-pledges-funds-for-Holocaust-memorial-during-tour-of-Auschwitz.html

Two days before Brown’s photocall, Gerd Honsik, an Austrian author, had been jailed for five years for holocaust denial.

In 1994 I was studying Polish language and culture at the Catholic University of Lublin. With a small group of other students I went one day to the Majdanek concentration camp. There is much less to see than at Auschwitz, but Majdanek has a bleak starkness.

When we first arrived, there were only the eight of us and our guide in the place. I was overcome by the horror of it and withdrew to sit by myself on a bank and think. Then a couple of tourist buses drew up. One was full of American seniors and one of French children, but both were the same in terms of happy chatter and clicking of lenses. It just felt deeply wrong.

After I had learnt some Polish and started work in the British Embassy in Warsaw, I found that my duties frequently involved escorting official visitors to the camps, particularly but not always Auschwitz. When they were politicians, I also had to oversee the organisation of press-calls for them. That never felt right. Nor did familiarity ever make me feel any better about walking around these places. I seemed to pick up on the evil in them – I know that sounds stupid.

I was involved in the events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camps. One of the things that did, was to bring me into contact with survivors, and also with eye witnesses to the liberation, from a variety of countries. In this and in other ways I received first hand information on the camps. I understood that the Jews were only the largest of the groups subject to mass murder – over a million Poles, other Slavs, gypsies, gays, communists.

There was (and remains) a peculiar tension over the running of Auschwitz, with frequent arguments over the emphasis of commemoration between its Polish and Jewish victims.

The German administration at Auschwitz was based in Oswiecim castle. When the camp was liberated, many of the surviving gypsies were settled locally by the Communist authorities. I once had a meeting with the seven Romany Kings of Poland, in their headquarters which is actually inside Oswiecim castle. I was meeting them because of Home Office fears that, once Poland joined the EU, the UK would be inundated with Polish gypsies.

The layers of irony were extraordinary – that the meeting was in that place, and that it was motivated (in my view) by continuing racial prejudice in the UK Home Office, though obviously of a less vicious kind. I learnt a lot from them about the problems of gypsies, and was able to give them some realistic information on the UK.

I have met people who were in the death camps, and people who liberated them. I view people who deny that the industrialised murder happened as cranky, and I don’t think disputes over precise numbers are of much importance.

But neither do I think holocaust denial should be a crime. It should be met with ridicule and social sanction, not with prison. From reports Honsik seems a nasty bit of work, whose holocaust denial is motivated by Nazi sympathy. But he is given a spurious glamour by his imprisonment, and more attention than he deserves.

Politicians like Brown should avoid being seen to milk the holocaust. Mass muder is not a photo-op. If people want to go and pay their respects, they should do so quietly, with reverence and without publicity.

There is nothing to be gained by Holocaust tourism if we view it as a crime perpetrated by evil cartoon Nazis unconnected to ourselves. Did Brown reflect that he too had the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands for his part of the attack on Iraq? Did he think about the widespread policy of torture in which the UK and US are complicit?

No. He was too busy thinking about his photo-call.


40 thoughts on “Holocaust Denial and Holocaust Tourism

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  • SupporterOfZola

    Good post, Mr Murray, and the net has lots of support for your views.

    http://tinyurl.com/defcyg

    ‘What you do not do is to go to one of these places in order to be seen on Tee Vee’

    As usual, Bodwyn Wook has it right.

  • subrosa

    Craig what an eloquent post. Your insight is touching and I agree wholeheartedly with it.

    ‘I seemed to pick up on the evil in them – I know that sounds stupid.’

    Not in the least stupid I assure you. Many years ago now I visited Belsen purely because I was in the vicinity and I was curious. My German friends weren’t too happy to accompany me as they said it was an evil place, but they did. I felt every nerve in my body shiver when I stood looking out onto the vast expanse of nothing (the whole area had been flattened), except a few people way over in a corner obviously holding a private ceremony of some kind. That was before these camps became tourist attractions. I have been very anti school children visiting Auschwitz as part of their curriculum because I definitely think it should be a decision made in adult life. Thankfully the SNP have stopped these funded visits.

    I found Gordon Brown’s photo call distasteful to say the least.

  • Edgar

    I sympathize with the Holocaust victims and I think it is important that there is global awareness about the tragic event. There are, however, two things I find disturbing:

    (1) the fact that Holocaust is made so political, including the fact that people get imprisoned for its denial. But equally for the fact that it is for some reason thought to be more important event than any other equally horrible events of the history. Which leads me to the second point

    (2) I hate the fact that literary everyone, including Mr Murray, talk about Holocaust, yet never talk about the Soviet atrocities. The fact that there were thousands of people put in cattle train carts and sent to the wilderness of Siberia, and killed or starved to death or simply made into morally disabled human beings. That, for some reason, is of nobody’s interest. You get imprisoned for saying that Holocaust never happened, yet you can say that the Soviet occupation never happened and nothing will happen to you. Indeed, I bet most of the world doesn’t know about the horrible atrocities that happened in Soviet Union, yet everyone talks about Holocaust.

  • Jaded

    I think ‘any murder’ of ‘any human being’ is dreadful. I have to disagree with your point of view on the numbers issue though. I am saying this with the eyes of a historian. I think it is important if history has the numbers that were murdered way off. I haven’t researched it myself so can’t offer a figure. However, it seems to me that any opnminded person isn’t permitted to examine this period of history and come to any other conclusion than the one set in stone. If anyone does challenge the dominant discourse, then they are immediately branded a Holocaust denier. It’s completely polarised and ridiculous. Of all the mass murder events in history, of which there are many i’m sure, this one seems to have a monopoly on our conscience. I think it has been used and manipulated. This dominant discourse has been ritually ingrained in all our psyches from a very young age and is terribly hard to escape – we have all seen some of the dreadful video images i’m sure – and analyse with a free mind. That in itself makes me a little suspicious of the ‘facts’ I have been fed. To sum up, I would say many Jews were undoubtedly murdered, some sytematically, and the race endured great and horrible suffering. I’m not going to parrot the ‘systematic murder of 6 million’ mantra though and I will think for myself. Saying that, I still can’t definitively say it didn’t happen that way. Does this make me a ‘Holocaust denier’? I would say no, it makes me a ‘Holocaust questioner’. Does this make me a ‘no Jews were murdered lunatic’? I would say no, it certainly doesn’t. I don’t seek to offend anyone and will not be drawn into any arguments. I think I have made my position pretty clear. If anyone does have a polite question on my view I will attempt to answer it as best I can.

  • ken

    Brown’s Auschwitz photo-call wasn’t in dubious taste, it was in absolutely appalling taste. Typical of him.

    Craig, things might have changed at Majdanek after your visit, or maybe it was just the weather. I visited in the summer of 1999, during a 3-month stay in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic to visit Nazi concentration camps, on my own. I don’t know why, it was just something I always wanted to do.

    Anyway, the two days I spent in Lublin were warm and sunny, and Majdanek was full of people picnicking on the lawns enjoying the weather. It was like Lublin’s Hyde Park. And the criss-cross of tarmac tracks in the camp were being well used by learner-drivers practicing their pulling-away-from-the-kerbsides and reversing-round-corners. There were also a few visitors there, like me, but much outnumbered by the locals.

    In a far corner, beyond the huge concrete memorial that shelters the equally huge pile of human ash, there’s a huge earth cairn which marks the site of about the biggest single massacre of prisoners that occured in the camps. I don’t remember the number now, about 18,000 murdered in a single day I believe. It’s a large cairn and I just stood by it for a while, between it and the mausoleum of ashes, pondering. After a while I was aware of noises coming from the other side of the cairn. I slowly walked round it and found that the other side was south-facing and in the sunshine. There, a number of local families picnicked at the bottom of the cairn’s slopes, in the sun, and children played and ran on the slopes and along the top of the cairn. Where fifty-five years before 18,000 prisoners had been killed in a single day.

    The incredible incongruousness of the context that these death camps now find themselves in can be a shock at first. The fact that Majdanek is now a popular local park, well-used by local Lublin families, was slightly less of a shock to me because of what I had experienced during my visit to Sobibor the week before.

    That was a true death camp. Hardly any accommodation barracks, just a railway platform, a path to the gas chambers, and the crematoria. Neither the chambers nor the crematoria exist today, only a large mausoleum of ashes similar to Majdanek, but open to the sky, and with grass growing on it. Also a single remaining tall, gaunt, watchtower, and a small, intimate museum in a wooden cabin.

    The context of this place, right next to the platforms of Sobibor station which now serves the relatively modern commuter village of Sobibor, held me there for three days.

    In the morning local residents arrived at the station, waited on the same platforms used by the transport wagons full of prisoners, and took their train to Wlodawa. In the evening the trains brought the commuters back. I could only stand and watch and try to make some sense of this modern context.

    I was the only visitor. The curator of the museum spoke no English, I no Polish, but he would slowly walk around the exhibits with me, in silence, stopping where I stopped, using hand signs to try to convey his interpretation of whatever I was looking at. Then we would sit outside together under the porch in silence, him waiting for the next visitor, me trying to make sense of it all. It was amazing the amount of communication that flowed between us without the use of spoken words.

    That first day was dull and drizzly.

    The second day was sunny and warm. I walked along the path from the railway platform to the mausoleum. On the retaining wall of the mound of ashes sat a courting couple, enjoying the sunshine. Further along a young mother and father picnicked, their children playing on the grass that grows on the mound of human ash. I spent hours there, trying to acclimatise myself to the way such a place as this fits into the modern community in which it now exists. When the local school finished for the day, many of the children came in to the camp to play.

    The next day was also warm and sunny. I sat with the museum curator for a while in the sun again. Then went back to the railway station. There I saw something I just wanted to sit and observe. Two young mums, in conversation, pushed their prams from the village crossroads just outside the station, along the station road, along the platforms, past the camp entrance, and sat in the sun also. After a while they strolled up and down the platform again and returned to the village. I couldn’t grasp the fact that such fundamentally different human experiences could exist in exactly the same place separated by just fifty-five years of time. I spent the next week, in addition to visiting Treblinka, pondering what the passing of time really means, before arriving in Lublin.

    I spent a bit of time writing this, it’s difficult to find the words. I’ve made many attempts in the past and will probably make more.

    But it’s easy now to instantly look up modern information.

    Amazing.

    I’ve just learned on the internet that the one remaining watchtower collapsed in 2003. And in 1999 the train services ceased and Sobibor station closed. Trains certainly still ran in July 1999, carrying commuters, so I was probably lucky to witness it.

    I think it was at the first camp that I visited, Sztutowo, that I found it impossible to take photographs inside the camp. There was just something that prevented me doing so. I saw hardly any other visitors taking photos either. For the whole three months I only ever took photos outside the camps, and then never when they existed within residential communities like Sobibor and Majdanek.

    “I seemed to pick up on the evil in them – I know that sounds stupid.”

    No it doesn’t, it’s exactly what I felt.

    How politicians can bring themselves to use these places for photo opportunies beggars belief.

    Shame on Brown.

    And his wife.

  • Craig

    Edgar,

    I very often refer to Stalin’s crimes. They don’t make Hitler’s any better.

  • Craig

    ken,

    thanks – it’s interesting, because there weren’t any locals in Majdanek when I was there, and our visits were only five years apart. There was a gate, and I think (though I am not certain) that we had had to pay to enter – maybe they had removed that? Could be as simple as that I was there on a working day, not a weekday or public holiday?

  • anticant

    Your highly empathetic post and the comments following it are extremely moving. It is rare to find such sensitivity on a blog.

    I can remember the incredulous horror which greeted the first cinema newsreels of the concentration camps when they were liberated [There was no TV in those days]. People were sickened and traumatised. A friend’s father was with the British troops who entered Belsen, and he was profoundly affected by the experience for the rest of his life.

    While reading your post I immediately thought of what my good friend Bodwyn Wook [Emmett R. Smith] had said, and am glad that someone else posted the link. Here is Emmett’s post in full [except for the odious picture]:

    “My dad told me what people saw at Belsen a week or ten days after the camp was opened. People in newly-cleaned clothes and just starting to be fed would nonetheless drop dead while thanking the RAF and Army personnel. What you do not do is to go to one of these places in order to be seen on Tee Vee. You do not go to one of these places and preen and ponce about for the camera. You do not. It is wrong. If there are cameras in one of these places it is the worst sort of pornography. You go to one of these places if at all in utter silence and alone and with a bag over your head. And if we are ever going to make any human progress whatever in this vale of terror and horror, everyone on Earth somehow all at once must decide for good and all to stop using the sufferings of their forebears to keep the misery and agony and despair going today. Otherwise there will be more of these places.”

  • JimmyGiro

    We are born vain-glorious, it’s part of the evolutionary drive to optimise our offspring. It is what drives a demarcation between me and you; we need to be the best at the expense of others.

    Politics and religion feeds on our natural vanity, and from nothing we create ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

  • Stuart

    I visited Auschwitz in the early nineties it was a cold miserable winters day and you could feel smell and taste the pure evil that happened there. I am not a great believer in the paranormal but I am sure something remains after so much evil against so many innocents. The outing was even more meaningful because the pretty young Polish girl that accompanied me would not have been there had her grandmother and mother not been able to bribe a train guard to turn a blind eye when they escaped a train en route to Auschwitz. These personal pilgrimages to camps by the affected or the curious are fine in the same way as you may visit a church or cathedral. Brown turning up with cameras clicking is distasteful and frankly sick. Let’s give these places the reverence and respect they deserve.

    I would also agree with Craig anyone who denies the Holocaust or similar despite overwhelming evidence deserves pity and contempt not jail. No matter how distasteful the thought everyone must be free to think it if we want to live in a truly free society. Actions should be punished not thoughts or views.

  • Edo

    “I don’t think disputes over precise numbers are of much importance.”

    You may not, but those cranky ‘deniers’ do. There’s a big difference between claiming 6M or 3M or 1M deaths. I agree wholeheartedly that even 1 death as a result of racism is a terrible crime. My question is, why, if Jews were such a victim of racial hatred, are they now the world’s No. racist state? (and the main antagonist in accusations of Holocaust denial)

  • dodoze

    Addressing the legacy of the Holocaust or Shoah strays into a minefield of taboos which serve to sustain both mythology and guilt. The mythology is not in any denial of the horror. The mythology is that the Shoah was and must forever be held as the greatest crime of all history. The calculated extermination of the Jewish peoples of occupied Europe, the guilt and the exploitation of guilt which have so informed and influenced the history of the past 60 years serve to perpetuate a legacy of unconscionable inhumanity.

    The selective emphasis of the Holocaust to which Craig draws attention bears examination. It is necessary to remember that the Poles, Slavs, Roma/Sinti, gays, communists, the disabled were as ruthlessly treated as were the Jews. If we do not, we might miss the clues to the exercise of atrocity in other forms but which remind us that the influence of the mind which sees other human beings as somehow of a lesser order and value must be resisted. Such an outlook populates the world, is particularly ironic in the policies of the State of Israel and remains integrated in the foreign and domestic policies of the West. As evidenced by the aggressive war on Iraq, the complicity in Gaza, the resort to torture and “rendition”, the state-sanctioned oppression of the Roma in Italy. (The growing plight of Roma people in Europe is not confined to Italy).

    But by comparison with the Holocaust, all other crimes have become the lesser. In that sense the terrible lesson is that the Holocaust has in some way made other and more recent atrocities somehow more acceptable.

    The resonance from those still unspeakable places of systematic murder is diminished when used to serve the self-aggrandisment of such as Brown. We should not be surprised: the man has already provided us with sufficient evidence to conclude that he is of those who see other human beings as of a lesser order. Whether they might have been the inhabitants of Fallujah. Or in more minor ways, the families at Campsfield House immigration removal centre.

  • nobody

    Hullo Craig,

    Numbers do matter. Not to me of course, but some people take these things very seriously. The six million figure seems significant in this respect.

    Did you know that in the run-up to America’s joining the first world war that the ‘Greater New York Non-Sectarian Fund’ (who were actually mostly Jewish) put up flyers and advertised in newspapers that if the US didn’t join the war, six million Jews were sure to die. Spooky no? Why six million? It wasn’t based on anything. They just declared it so.

    If you want to see the posters, they’re on my blog. Just search for ‘burn in hell’ in the top left corner.

    And not forgetting that the inscription on the plaque at Auschwitz was changed from ‘Four million suffered and died here…’ to, ‘the nazis murdered one and a half million men, women, and children..’ Did you notice this in your travels? Anyway, that’s not quite half of the 6,000,000 but it’s no trifling percentage neither. But regardless, six million IS the number. Question it at your peril.

    Is there any other subject out there where inquiry into the subject is illegal? Tony Robinson could tramp all over Europe and dig wherever he likes, except in connection with this one subject. And in all those other imagined digs, a fig for the concerns of the relatives and descendants etc. Like that ever stopped archeologists before, ha ha.

    And how many times have you seen this six million number used as a cudgel to justify the extirpation of Palestinians? I lost count. That alone should be grounds enough to wonder at the nature of it all.

    Never mind jail, why should legitimate questions like ‘Where did the 2.5 million go?’ cop even ‘ridicule and social sanction’? Why don’t we just do what we always do and lay down the facts? Do we ridicule Tony Robinson? Or do we ask him over for dinner?

    Let’s go big-picture. Why is any given subject declared profane? How does this come about? I scratch my head and can only think of religions seeking to prevent their articles of faith from copping the hard light of reason.

    But the Holocaust is not a religion. The Holocaust memorials in all the major cities are not holy places. The people going to the camps are not on some sort of pilgrimage. And the courts putting people in jail for questioning it are not religious inquisitions. Any resemblance between the Holocaust and a religion is purely accidental.

    Anyway, six million, eh?

  • JimmyGiro

    Quite agree dodoze,

    If we shape our gods in our own image, we shape our devils in the image of our neighbours.

    What shape will the Poles make this £100M monument?

  • JimmyGiro

    I think the monument should be a giant spherical mirror, where each visitor can see themselves in the distorted image that others see them.

  • sabretache

    Precisely Craig – Spot on again. Pharisees and Publicans at prayer spring forcefully to mind.

    “…. He was too busy thinking about his photo-call.”

    … and making sure he had a suitably grave expression on his face of course

    Crass but seriously offensive puke inducing stuff given the context.

  • Craig

    I think some of you are in danger of being seriously nuts.

    I suspect that, if the leaflets “nobody” refers to are authentic, whoever said 6 million Jews may die was making an estimate of how many were at risk from Nazism. And if they were using that estimate to urge Jews in the US to push the US to stand against Hitler, a good thing too.

    Of course I don”t think academic research on the holocaust should be illegal. If somebody wishes genuinely to argue that actually it wasn’t six million, it was more like 4 milion, and the others were killed elsewhere than in he camps in the fog of war, and you have concrete research on which to base that, then that seems to me something a historian might legitimately argue about, and on which I don’t have precise information to take a firm view. But if you are saying that actually it was only a few thousand, and they weren’t extermination camps at all, and it is all Zionist propaganda, then frankly you have left the realm of rational argument and entered a world disconnected from fact.

    As I explained at some length, I met quite a few people from all kinds of different backgrounds who were actually there at the time.

    Is disproportionate publicity given to Nazi crimes versus Stalin’s crimes? Yes, I think it is. The Russian government’s recent seizing of the archives on Stalin’s crimes was a very serious and under-reported thing. The answer to that is not to downplay Nazi crimes.

  • Mentalogirl

    The Holocaust is a historical fact,and,as such,open to scrutiny.The numbers are totally relevant if you are a rigorous historian.

    “holocaust denier” is simply a smear to anyone who dares ask pertinent questions,but it can also be cartoon-Nazi agent provocateurs trying to discredit the former.

    Let me make my opinion clear:the Holocaust DID happen.It’s just that I have some nagging thoughts in my head:isn’t it interesting how the Zionists finally got Israel after trying for some many years before?Could there be someone else funding Hitler who would benefit from this?

    This really isn’t about Jewish people,it’s about getting to the truth of what really happened.Otherwise it’s all another day at the ranch,with twats like Brown posing for shmaltzy photo ops.

    Meanwhile,I don’t see Sarah Brown shedding any tears for the dead children of Gaza.

  • kathz

    An excellent post from Craig. We’re very selective on which concentration and extermination camps are remembered – how many people reading this blog (let alone members of the wider public) have heard of Lety u Pisku, for instance? If you don’t know it, do a websearch and perhaps also look for David Morley’s fine and unexploitative poem on the subject.

    Meanwhile, we should remember, as dodoze says, our own detention camps where even children are imprisoned. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/2009/04/the_arrest_and_detention_of_ch.html . British acceptance of hatred, violence, force and torture grows daily. Craig has done what he can to speak out against it but what can the rest of us do?

  • MJ

    “isn’t it interesting how the Zionists finally got Israel after trying for some many years before?”

    Oh dear, this is very murky territory. The collaboration between some Zionist leaders and the Nazi party is well documented. Also of interest is the case of I G Farben, the petro-chemical company on which Germany relied for the war effort. It produced synthetic oil (made from coal) and synthetic rubber for tyres etc. Its main plant was based near Auschwitz and used labour from the camp. That labour was therefore crucial to Germany’s war effort. Research into the identity of the principal stockholders of I G Farben produces some rather shocking results…

  • Jon

    On the bus-loads of noisy tourists – I’ve experienced the same thing. I visited Anne Frank’s house in Holland some years ago, and there too was a feeling of foreboding; like you, a picking up on a feeling that a remarkable evil had visited the place, or just a fraction of the terrifying fear of a terrible authoritarianism. But all around me were visiting schoolchildren, running and laughing. Compared to the sadness the place inspired, their ignorance was bliss, but it still felt wrong.

  • Jaded

    ‘But if you are saying that actually it was only a few thousand, and they weren’t extermination camps at all’

    Craig, I don’t think anyone has said anything like that. Really think about this comment you made. It illustrates well how this issue always goes from pole to pole pretty much. Just beginning to discuss ‘The Holocaust’ is a trap door to the dominant discourse pit. There are loads of sharp spikes at the bottom for people to fall on to.

    ‘I think some of you are in danger of being seriously nuts.’

    How can you say that? Maybe you haven’t broken your conditioning on this issue? We all have our blind spots. It’s very hard to separate theory and logic from emotion some times. Because you have visited some of these places and met some survivors it has possibly hardened the dominant discourse in your mind. That’s precisely because you are a decent individual. The feelings you get when seeing these places are probably just in your mind. I know you are a very intelligent and thoughtful man. I sincerely hope my comments don’t offend you personally.

    I did think twice about making this post, but I doubt you want folk to be silent. Please read what I wrote carefully.

  • Edo

    “I think some of you are in danger of being seriously nuts.”

    It’s throwaway comments like this that serve to marginalise people with a different opinion.

    Why not Craig? Why not do that academic research into whether it was 1, 4 or 6 million? Why not establish who funded WWII? Why not examine the the legalities of The Balfour Declaration? Why not? Because people are too afraid/indoctrinated, something that statements like yours help maintain.

    On a personal note, and for the record, I fully believe the Nazi’s to have had a programme of extermination. I am not at all convinced on the numbers or reasons. I am not a Nazi, a Neo Nazi, a racist or sexist. I am curious.

  • selma

    The following site makes as convincing a case as any teacher who ever told me that the holocaust happened. I cannot declare either way as I have not studied the subject. I have to say that I am automatically sceptical of anything that I am told I could be imprisoned for disaggreeing with, however. Make up your own mind.

    http://www.holocaustdenialvideos.com/

  • ken

    Craig, your note about having a memory of paying to enter Majdanek prompts another thought in the context of Brown’s photo-op.

    At the entrances of all the camps in Poland that I visited in 1999 there was a sign board in multiple languages, erected by the Polish government. The English was very good, they must have taken trouble with the translation.

    They said, roughly, that these places are cemeteries where the remains of many people rest. Therefore the Polish government will not charge any fee to any visitors.

    Everyone is welcome to visit for any purpose. There’s a reminder that at any time relatives of the dead may be present amongst the visitors, so behaviour should be appropriate.

    Then, very carefully and tactfully worded, follows an explanation that the preservation of these camps costs more and more money as time goes on and the Polish government receives no external assistance to meet these costs. So donations are welcome.

    If Brown passed such a notice entering Birkenau it makes his photo-call even more inappropriate.

    Yes, my visit to Majdanek was at a weekend. I went back briefly on the Monday on the way to visit the adjacent cemetery where all the recovered bodies are interred, and it was much quieter. But still learner-drivers practising on the tarmac driveways.

    As I said, I’ve tried to write this stuff down many times before about what I’ve observed on these visits, and will do so again, and new words have just arrived, so I offer them here:

    When I visited Majdanek and Sobibor, which both now exist in the midst of established residential communities, I found it difficult to even rationalise my own thoughts in the first place. What I saw were those neighbours who live their lives next to the fences of these two places experiencing today’s existence of them in a way that nurtured new life, that celebrated new life, that protected and respected new life, and yet, outwardly, made no acknowledgment of the horror and evils of the past. In a way, I think, they were demonstrating their own absolute refusal to ever let those evils, that took place right under their feet, get the slightest foothold in their own day-to-day lives of the present. The way they did that was startlingly surprising to this visitor, using the camps as places of recreation. They have taken these places into their lives and transformed the evil into goodness.

    And that was, in a manner of speaking, sublime to see, and to be a part of for a short while. It’s the greatest possible contrast that could exist between the ‘now’ and the ‘then’, and is probably what held me at those places for three or four days at a time.

    … … … And now, Craig, I’ve just read your piece of today referring to the goings-on at Szczytno-Szymany. And the somewhat vituperative disagreements on this blog on how to approach issues of degree in the extent of the Holocaust. Well, it seems to me to be more important to expose the things that are happening now. And as much as I observed the Polish people turning old evil into new good, the US (and UK) are actively ensuring there will always be plenty of new evil to replace it. That’s where attention should be focussed I think.

  • Craig

    Well, to Jaded abd Edu in particular, I believe scholarship on the death-camps – and on everything – should be untramelled. You are quite free to believe what you like. And further research into just mow many millions died is perfectly respectable.

    But anyone who starts from a hypothesis that millions did not die, or that the Holocaust was instigated by Zionists, is holding intellectually untenable positions for motives I deeply suspect. And that is a truth that did not ought to be hidden either.

  • eddie

    Craig, your site does attract some nutballs you know. For any of you who deny it was 6 milllion or that the gas chambers did not exist read Primo Levi, go to the Holocaust museums in Washington, Berlin or the Imperial War museum. Go to the camps. I find it frightening that sane (?) people should now be questioning these self evident truths and claiming, most wickedly of all, that the Jews were somehow complicit in their fate. Craig is right that Stalin killed many more than Hitler. And Mao killed many more than Stalin (60 million according to one estimate) – but neither Stalin nor Mao killed people using industrial methods based purely on their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. That is what sets the Holocaust apart from all other horrors in the last century or any other.

  • paul

    “I think some of you are in danger of being seriously nuts.”

    And someone pulling a 6million figure out of their ass decades ago and getting millions of people to unshakingly believe that number based on faith ever since and actively join the haranguing of every logical person who dares question it despite the changing number on the Auschwitz plaque and the Red Cross camp records (that noone ever mentions because it puts the 6m number to the lie) is a pristine example of sanity?

    Sign me up to the nuts group if thats the case.

  • Anon

    Ken: new evil.

    Democracy has been used recently to protect our leaders from responsibility for their crimes. Draw a line under the past with a New Leader. What is sickening about Brown remembering the terrible Holocaust is his use of this new form of whitewash spin mechanism for our own crimes and times.

    Saddam Hussain’s chemicals came from us. 3 million Afghans fled to Pakistan refugee camps after our carpet bombing. Six million Iraqis are in exile from Iraq after we dissolved their civil order.

    Gordon Brown should follow his photoshoot about the Holocaust with a photoshoot of himself and all the other neo-cons falling into a mass grave.

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