Letter to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee

Published: 2017-04-21

Clerk of the Home Affairs Committee,

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

[email protected].

Dear Clerk Oxborough,

 

I am writing to ask the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee (Committee) to reconsider its definition of Anti-Semitism.  I am specifically objecting to the language stating that, "Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust)" is, per se, an example of Antisemitism.

I ask that you please share my petition with the Committee members.  

At paragraph 4 of Conclusions and Recommendations of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Tenth Report on Antisemitism, (Report), the Committee recommend adopting a modified version of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. The IHRA definition is discussed at paragraph 17 of the Report and gives the above highlighted language as an example of contemporary antisemitism.   Although Prime Minister Theresa May announced in December the adoption of the modified IHRA working definition, I am writing to the Committee in the hope they will want to review the parts of such an influential definition which might be over-broad.  (1)

The Committee's modifications to the IHRA definition related to concepts of Free Speech in a relation to criticism of Israeli national policies.  I am asking the Committee to consider making similar modifications to discussions of Holocaust history in the interests of encouraging research, study and debate and out of respect for concepts of Free Speech as it relates to history.   Specifically, I ask the Committee to recognize that is it is not “Anti-Semitic” per se to debate Holocaust history, without additional evidence to suggest Anti-Semitic intent.

The evidence considered by the Committee related mainly to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and only the written testimony of  the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) touched on the question of Holocaust Revisionism, as it is correctly called. The views of Revisionists were not presented.

Although it was unreviewed by your Committee, “remembering the Holocaust” is obviously and justifiably very important to the Jewish community.  A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that “About three-quarters (73%) of American Jews say remembering the Holocaust is an essential part of being Jewish,” Those surveyed also were asked about whether other aspects of Jewish life (such as observing Jewish law or being part of a Jewish community) were important to their Jewish identity.  Only one of these eight other options, “leading an ethical life,” ranked almost as highly (69%) as “remembering the Holocaust.” (2)

But why good faith debating of history could be deemed "anti-Semitic" per se is unclear to me; it is said, "History is never gotten right the first time." and that “The first casualty of war is the Truth.” Regrettably the evidence submitted by HET merely repeated a “history” presented at the Nuremberg Military Tribunal without mentioning the profound revisions since 1946. The Committee appears to have acted without understanding that Holocaust history is in a state of flux.

IHRA's vague definition referred to “the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide as subjects beyond discussion.  But the understanding of three of these subjects has been greatly revised since 1946.

Intentionality

At Nuremberg, the Court found that there was a secret master plan of mass murder on the part of Adolf Hitler, the so-called "Intentionalist" view. But research by scholars like Martin Broszat, Christopher Browning and others have shown that there was never any order by Hitler, nor any planning, nor any direction coming from Berlin. As Broszat puts it, "the Holocaust began bit by bit as German officials stumbled into genocide." In simple terms, “Intentionalism” is dead while numerous new theories on the origin of German policies takes the collective name "Functionalism."  (3)

Mechanisms and Scope

"The Plan" as presented at Nuremberg, was to create secret industrial "Extermination Centers" at Auschwitz and Majdanek where the Jews of Europe were to be transported and murdered. Huge numbers of people were alleged to have been murdered in gas chambers at these two locations; 2,500,000 to 4,000,000 at Auschwitz and 1,400,000 at Majdanek. Again, this tale has been revised. The new official Auschwitz figure is approximately 1,000,000 and the Majdanek figure is now 78,000. While these figures represent a horrible tragedy, the Committee should understand that the scope of deaths has been reduced by millions at the camps that were once believed to be the center of the Holocaust.  (4)

The working definition specifically mentions "gas chambers" as the mechanism of industrial mass murder.  Yet tales of steam chambers and diesel exhaust killings have all been consigned to the Memory Hole while recognition of deaths caused by diseases, brutal conditions, and starvation have risen. At the same time, the Holocaust has moved East with the rise of belief in "The Holocaust by Bullets," generally based on Father Patrick Desbois 2009 book of the same name. If the so-called Operation Reinhardt Camps are excluded, gas chambers were the mechanism of less than 15% of the total alleged mass killings. While most mainstream historians vociferously assert that the Holocaust is a fact, the origin, the scope, the location, and the mechanism are all in dispute.

In light of current scholarship, I think it is extremely wrong of politicians to declare what story is “correct history” and what is “Anti-Semitic.” Respectfully, I have to wonder if you consider yourselves educated enough on Holocaust history to make such a determination.  If you are not aware of the research of Christopher Browning, Tomasz Kranz or Anna Tijsseling, you should be open to reconsidering your definition.

Since there is much confusion about Revisionism, mislabeled “Denial”, I quote the founder of Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, Bradley Smith,

Although it is standard practice to defame Revisionists as ‘anti-Semites who claim the Holocaust is just Jewish propaganda,’ that is not what we at CODOH argue. Briefly, we believe that much of that history that we are taught today has been influenced by Soviet, British and American wartime propaganda which exaggerated and exploited real tragedies for propaganda purposes. This concerns not just Jews but Slavs, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses and, in some versions, Gays.” Bradley went on to correctly state, "It can be argued that there is considerable research that supports this point of view."

Solid historical and scientific facts have vitiated much of Holocaust history given at Nuremberg; today not believing that a Steam Death Chamber operated at Treblinka or that factories produced human soap at Auschwitz is no more "Anti-Semitic" than not believing in the transubstantiation of the flesh is "anti-Christian." Unfortunately, the politicians who have rushed to include historical debate in the definition of Anti-Semitism are doing a grave disservice to the public generally and to historical research specifically. What is needed is more honest research and discussion, not political mandates as to what recounting of history is allowable. I hope that you will considering modifying the inclusion of Revisionism/Denial in the definition of Anti-Semitism.

Yours for free speech, honest scholarship, and accurate history.

 

David Merlin

Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust 

PO Box 20774

York  PA 17402

[email protected]

 

(1)https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/136/13602.htm

(2)http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/08/13/70-years-after-wwii-the-holocaust-is-still-very-important-to-american-jews/

(3) “Was there a master plan on the part of Adolf Hitler to launch the Holocaust? Intentionalists argue there was such a plan, while functionalists argue there was not.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functionalism_versus_intentionalism

Please excuse the cite to Wikipedia but it is simple and clear review of the topic.

(4)An example of the huge revision of deaths at Majdanek is given at http://auschwitz.org/en/museum/news/majdanek-victims-enumerated-changes-in-the-history-textbooks,44.html

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Author(s) David Merlin
Title Letter to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee
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Dates published: 2017-04-21, first posted on CODOH: April 21, 2017, 2 p.m., last revision: n/a
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