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.


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 murder 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.

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40 thoughts on “Holocaust Denial and Holocaust Tourism

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  • Polo

    Been to Dachau. Mindblowing experience.

    Precise numbers are a distraction.

    I don’t devalue the Russian sacrifice. Dachau just happened to be in the vacinity.

  • nobody

    Hullo Craig,

    You missed the point mate. It was WWI that had the numbers six million being bandied about. The Great War 1914-18. That one.

    And why would you wonder at those poster’s authenticity? A curious thing to do. But whatever, I put variations of ‘greater new york non sectarian fund forgery’ into google and got nothing.

    Mind you the chairman of the committee was Felix M Warburg (he put his name on all the posters) and his wikipedia page has a later quote from 1919 – “The successive blows of contending armies have all but broken the back of European Jewry, and have reduced to tragically unbelievable poverty, starvation and disease about 6,000,000 souls, or half the Jewish population of the earth.”

    There’s that spooky number again! Go figure! Two wars and each with identical number of victims.

    And then there’s the amount of money to be raised – “In Heaven’s Name Arouse the Jews of America! New York’s Quota $6,000,000. United Jewish Campaign of New York. Felix M Warburg Hon Chairman.”

    Two wars thirty years apart but the six million figure is good for both, regardless of the impossibility of discerning any numbers during and immediately after WWI, and regardless of the obvious, and jaw-dropping, maths problems with WWII.

    Anyway, best to think nothing of it. As for nuts – precisely. I figure I’m either mad in a sane world or vice versa. This world is sane isn’t it? Surely it must be…

  • nobody

    Well, I’m all upset now anticant. There I was doing my level best to think nothing of it, and you’ve ruined it.

    Now I’m not going to invite you to my Pollyanna and Pangloss dress-up Party. You can sit at home by yourself while we all have a lovely time with lemonade, sticky buns, and lots of hip hip hoorays.

  • Swiss Bob

    You’re not alone as this excellent post from ‘Call me Ishmael’ demonstrates:

    “Dictator of England, Adolf Brown, with his companion, Mrs Eva Beard at his latest photo opportunity. . .”

    Also to be found as a guest writer on my blog The Daily Politics.

  • Gerard Mulholland

    Jaded – On 1 May at 12:50 you wrote:

    “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.”

    Craig didn’t invent that, Jaded.

    The no longer schismatic Bishop Williamson, the historian David Irving and the French Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, have all said precisely that.

    However, Le Pen shouldn’t have been fined and Irving shouldn’t have been imprisoned.

    Doing so made them martyrs for free speech and created sympathy for them.

    Pope Benedict was wise not to re-excommunicate Williamson. Better for him to be seen as a fool than as a martyr.

    However, as to testimony of the reality of the Shoa, I am retired after 30 years as a Tour Guide and Tour Manager and I’ve travelled all over the world on other peoples’ holidays.

    I have some remarkable memories among which are these:

    I have three times taken former Dachau concentration camp inmates back to the scene of their nightmare and once a former SS translator.

    Dachau, for the interest of those readers who’ve not been there, is only 12 miles from Munich.

    The former inmates all dreaded going in and, on leaving, all displayed something that I had not at all expected before.

    Their faces and entire body posture -which I had anticipated would be suffused with grief- were instead radiating triumph.

    It was an astonishing, indeed revealing, moment when I looked into their souls.

    They had beaten the bastards.

    They’d won.

    The former SS translator surprised me.

    At the end of our visit we were standing on the former parade ground when he suddenly asked me “What did they do with the lights?”

    I replied that until he mentioned it I had had no idea that there had once been lights but, of course, in period films one does see the bright lights -and searchlights- at night.

    I asked him why he had thought of that and he said he’d tell me after dinner one night over a drink.

    Several nights later, after dinner in the garden of a Vienna Woods Wine Tavern, he suddenly volunteered that he had a story to tell me.

    He was Latvian by birth.

    He’d been very good at languages at school and spoke Latvian, Polish, Russian, Swedish, German and English.

    At age 16?

    Well, that’s what he said.

    He said that when the Nazis arrived in 1941 he, aged 16, was “invited” to be an official translator for them.

    He continued that this had sounded like a good and harmless way to avoid battle or slave labour so he agreed.

    Instead, he found himself translating for SS Doctors on the platforms of concentration camp stations and quite quickly realised that certain answers led to the queue for the barracks and the work details while other answers led to the queue for the waterless showers.

    He claimed that eventually he tried to lie in his translations so as to save about 1 in 10 but anything more than that would have put him straight under suspicion and in the death queue himself.

    He said he had done his best.

    He had never served in either Dachau or Auschwitz but in four or five others.

    When the Russians approached -in 1945- he was a life-hardened 20 year old.

    He was in north Germany and succeeded in escaping westwards towards the advancing British Army.

    Having been stupid enough to keep his SS uniform on he wasn’t made welcome but was promptly locked up, questioned and beaten up.

    He realised that his future didn’t look good and accepted the help offered by another Latvian who was working for the Brits.

    He was found some civilian clothes and just walked out of the camp (somewhere near Lubeck) with his rescuer who led him down to the port and handed him over to a Swedish sailor who lent him a Shore Pass so as to board a neutral Swedish ship.

    In Sweden he was housed in a displaced persons camp where he heard that there was a consular official from the Australian Embassy looking for skilled workers who’d like free passage down under to start a new life.

    He asked if being an experienced translator would count as a skill and three months later began his training as an Australian Immigration Officer!

    He had passed the rest of his working life in the Australian Immigration Service and was now newly retired and doing a tour of the bits of Europe he felt safe abouit visiting.

    This was before the Iron Curtain came down and he had absolutely no intention of going to the East.

    So I have no doubts whatsoever that all that horror happened.

    But I do find the rabid insistence on persecuting holocaust-denying nutters to be worse than weird.

    I can think of no rational explanation for those laws other than that something -and I have no idea what- is being hidden.

    Is it some sort of guilty complicity by somebody or by some organisation in the events that led to that horror?

    Is it some fear that if the real figures are ever calculated an inaccuracy would lead to untold political or social consequences?

    In the absence of serious academic research to painstakingly catalogue the entire crime of the century, we can never know.

    It is a serious disservice to -indeed dishouring of- the memory of those uncounted millions that such academic research is forbidden and that the whole monstrous crime is buried under what often feels to be little better than Disneyfied propaganda.

  • DaveW

    The exact numbers and facts do matter when they could reduce the effectiveness of the holocaust as a Zionist political weapon.

    1 million doesn’t sound as good as 6 million when used as a ‘Get out of Jail free card’ in justifing the continued oppression of the Palestinians.

    Funny how the oppressed become the oppressors.

  • Michael Santomauro

    Dear Craig,

    Sample Chapters and Contents for New Book:


    DEBATING THE HOLOCAUST: A New Look At Both Sides by Thomas Dalton, PhD

    Publisher’s Note: This is a non-Revisionist title for Theses & Dissertations Press. It will be the first book on the Holocaust, in publishing history, that will not take a Traditionalist or a Revisionist point of view.


    Founded in 2000 the publishing company Theses & Dissertations Press is at the center of a worldwide network of scholars and activists who are working — often at great personal sacrifice — to separate historical fact from propaganda fiction. The founder of Theses & Dissertations Press is Germar Rudolf. Who is currently serving prison time for his published works and will be released on July 4, 2009. He will no longer be associated with Holocaust studies upon his release.

    As the new director of TADP.org, I wish to express my outrage that the Holocaust, unlike any other historical event, is not subject to critical examination. Furthermore I deplore the fact that many so-called democratic states have laws that criminalize an examination and understanding of the Holocaust. It is my position that the veracity of Holocaust assertions should be determined in the marketplace of scholarly discourse and not in our legislatures bodies and courthouses.


    Michael Santomauro

    Editorial Director

    Call: 917-974-6367

    [email protected]

  • Bradley Smith

    I agree with those of you here who say numbers do count. With regard to the numbers at Auschwitz:

    Can anyone here provide, with proof, the name of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?

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