The Wiesenthal Center's Misguided Struggle

Published: 1999-11-01

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) which prides itself as being in the "forefront of the battle against hate" has unwittingly launched a campaign based on the very principles that they claim to oppose. In August the SWC began protesting the sale of what they deemed, "Nazi Hate Propaganda" on the Internet. Specifically, the campaign was launched at America's two largest Internet booksellers, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. The principle cause of the protest turned out to be the open sale of Adolf Hitler's autobiographical and political treatise Mein Kampf.

The SWC arranged to have its supporters in Germany order copies of Mein Kampf from the two Internet companies. Under German law, books espousing Nazi philosophy are banned from public display or sale. Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison. With evidence in hand, the center launched a complaint to the German-based Bertelsmann Company which owns 50 percent of Barnesandnoble.com, and to Amazon.com, urging them to take steps to see than neither company "inadvertently emerges as a major purveyor of hate in Germany."

One wonders about the SWC's incessant campaign to ban books and censor ideas. The very concepts are totalitarian and strike against the cherished democratic values of freedom of speech and of the press. Mein Kampf has been available in the United States almost since its original publication in the 1920's and remains a hot seller even today. Surely many, if not the majority of the buyers of this volume are not even remotely neo-Nazi in their political thinking. Mein Kampf is an important work by one of the most important figures in twentieth century history. Banning this work because its ideas are deemed dangerous is a blow against history and historians as well as free speech advocates around the world.

Although the SWC is correct to point out that this work is in fact banned in Germany, they, like any organization or individual that prides themselves on the ideas of democracy and freedom should condemn rather than uphold this antiquated German law. The SWC's protest however identifies something more sinister than simply upholding a totalitarian German law, it strikes at their fear of the work being sold to Germans.

Make no mistake, it is Germany and the German people who are being singled out in this discriminatory campaign. The SWC's fear of Germans reading this volume suggests some mythic power to this volume which could only result in swastikaed masses goose-stepping across Europe. Are we to believe that the German people are so retarded in their moral development that they are incapable of reading this work without a violent reaction?

It is worth noting that the SWC has not launched any such campaign to ban The Communist Manifesto in Russia. Soviet Communism is much more recent in the memory of the Russian people and by all accounts was responsible for a higher toll in human misery. Does this suggest the moral superiority of the Russian people over the German?

Although Barnes and Noble appear to be buckling from this un-American campaign, it appears that Amazon.com is holding its ground. Ingrid Rimland, creator of the famed Zundelsite on the World Wide Web, reports in one of her daily Zgrams that Amazon.com has responded to inquiries about the book banning campaign as follows:

"Let me assure we have no intention of stopping the sales of any books at this time. We have great respect for your concerns and one of our goals as a retailer is to offer our customers access to every item in print, as well as to many out-of-print items. With 4.7 million books, videos, and CDs in our catalog, it is unfortunate but inevitable that a few titles may offend some of our customers.

"We have checked with our legal counsel both in the U.S. and in Germany, and determined that we are not violating any laws by selling these titles to customers in Germany. German laws against Nazi memorabilia prohibit the distribution of German-language editions of Mein Kampf. The only editions of this title available from Amazon.com are in English."

"I'm glad to hear that you understand that our goal of universal access makes it impossible for us to remove items from our catalog—including of course any items which we as individuals dislike. I am also pleased to inform you that Mein Kampf will remain for sale at Amazon.com."

The SWC claims to stand for justice and tolerance but their activities like their current one strikes of intolerance. It is popular today to complain of the excesses of the McCarthy period, but few have voiced opposition to this new "politically correct" form of McCarthyism. We have entered a new period of intolerance, blacklisting, and even physical violence against the political and ideological opponents of Liberalism and Zionism. J.S. Mill commented in On Liberty "the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation - those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it."

The SWC's latest struggle certainly typifies this "peculiar evil."


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Author(s): Richard A. Widmann
Title: The Wiesenthal Center's Misguided Struggle
Sources: The Revisionist # 1, Nov. 1999, Codoh series
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Published: 1999-11-01
First posted on CODOH: Oct. 30, 1999, 7 p.m.
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