This year’s Day of Remembrance speaker says distortion is more dangerous than denial
Generations ago, the Nazis were accused of murdering millions of Jews in the 1940s who had been rounded up and taken to extermination camps in German-occupied Poland.
It had been widely accepted after World War II the Nazis were responsible for the reprehensible atrocities that swept through the camps until 2011 when a Polish historian published an account accusing the Poles of hunting down and murdering their Jewish neighbors.
Dr. Jan Grabowksi, a professor at the University of Ottawa (Canada), published his account 12 years ago stating many of the 3 million Jews murdered in the concentration camps were actually killed by the Poles, not the Nazis. The Polish League Against Defamation, in turn, accused Grabowski for exaggerating his facts. What ensued, however, has been a long running legal battle.
In an article written by journalist Orlando Crowcroft, the attempt to rewrite history as “Holocaust distortion” is, according to Grabowski, more dangerous than calling it Holocaust denial.
Grabowski is this year’s featured speaker at Tuesday’s annual Day of Remembrance program at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno. His presentation focuses on his revelations and writings of “Denial: How activists, politicians and educators are trying to rewrite the history of the Holocaust.”
The event, which is sponsored by the Atlantis, the Nevada Governor’s Advisory Council on Education Relating to the Holocaust and the University of Nevada, Reno’s School of Medicine and Osher Life Learning Institute, begins at 7 p.m. Limited seating is available, and the public should RSVP at https://bit.ly/holocaust23.
Grabowski said in a recent interview with the Nevada News Group he will discuss Holocaust distortion, which he calls a particularly insidious and dangerous form of Holocaust denial. According to Grabowski, this has recently become a clear threat to the educators, researchers and all those interested in the history of the Shoah.
“Holocaust distortion does not deny the factuality of the Jewish tragedy (distortionists admit that the event took place) but people and institutions involved in distortion claim that their nation, people, group had nothing to do with it,” he said. “They circulate tired anti-Jewish stereotypes and they try to whitewash some of the more disturbing proofs of wide-spread European complicity with the Germans and with the German genocidal project.”
What makes Holocaust distortion so dangerous, Grabowksi said, is the support of various states and state-funded institutions. As the distortion of the Holocaust grows in Poland, Grabowski said the Polish government as well as the people and various group, said they had nothing to do with the extermination or imprisonment of Jews.
In 2018, the Polish government passed a law that makes it a crime to blame the Polish government for the German atrocities committed during World War II. That’s where the story turned on Grabowksi when co-author Barbara Engelking and he were sued in civil court because they wrote about a small-town Polish mayor who led the Nazis to murder 22 Jews.
Poland is not the only country that’s minimizing the effects of the Holocaust.
“The ‘Polish way’ of attacking the history of the Holocaust is echoed in Lithuania and, more and more so, in Hungary, to a lesser extent in other mentioned counties,” Grabowski explained. “But politicians in Eastern Europe are clearly delighted with the possibility to re-write history in order to justify their much-beloved national myths.”
During the past year, this passing the blame game has been a narrative in Eastern Europe, and Crowcroft said historians like Ruta Vanagaitė, Jan T. Gross and Grabowski have had their work complicated by Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the Poles were responsible for World War II and helped the Nazis deport the Jews.
“Anyone who writes anything critical is accused of being a Russian agent,” Grabowski said in the article.
Judith Schumer, chairperson of the Nevada Governor’s Advisory Council on Education Relating to the Holocaust, said trends are showing anti-Semitism is on the rise.
“The Anti-Defamation League said 2021 had the biggest rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and in the world … and then when (rapper) Kanye West or Ye indicates this news happened, you’ll see him in the video where he says he loves Hitler,” Schumer said.
Every year Schumer selects a theme that will interest the community and does not duplicate previous programs. After reading about the anti-Semitic incidences that occurred two years ago, Schumer began to think about misinformation.
“So many people are misinformed,” Schumer said. “People say it (Holocaust) never happened or if it happened, only a handful of people died.”
Now, she said, it’s countries trying to change historical events.
“In Poland, the government wants to rewrite history,” Schumer said, adding there’s also information revealing the Lithuanians were complicit with the Nazis in rounding up the Jews.
Schumer said a woman once told her the Nazis were rounding up the Jews, whom she called Christ killers. Yet, the attacks are expanding against other races.
In the 21st century, Schumer said more incidences of denial and misinformation have been increasing, and she’s seeing more racism against Asians who have been physically attacked or called racist names such as U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel’s wife, Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan.
Schumer said anti-Semitism and misinformation have also affected middle school students in Reno where one student saluted and said Heil Hitler to a Jewish student in December and another drew a swastika on his paper. Schumer said one of the antagonists told the boy, “Jews hate Christmas because they killed Jesus.”
Schumer said in Reno a Jewish high-school student she described as very bright and wonderful was harassed by others who anonymously called school officials numerous times reporting the boy was carrying a gun. Every time school officials received a call, they searched the student.
“These are the only ones we have heard about,” Schumer said about the local incidents.