No freedom for Holocaust deniers

The infamous Holocaust denier David Irwing might have to do hard time in Austria. It was, and is, perfectly illegal in Austria to publicly state that the Holocaust was only a figment of the imagination of six million Jews, three million Soviet POWs, and millions of Poles, Roma, French, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gays, handicapped people, and some brave Germans who resisted the Nazis. According to the likes of Irving, the Jews made it all up, and the gas chambers were just recreational facilities.

As stupid and offensive as these opinions are, locking Irving up for three years for uttering such nonsense may seem harsh, even to people otherwise thoroughly offended by his views. One might think in a “free marketplace of ideas,” such nonsense will easily fall by the wayside, when faced with the overwhelming, gruesome evidence of what really happened in the Nazi death camps. Even Irving eventually had to acknowledge “I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz.” Ooops! Now he’s oh-so-sorry that he insulted the intelligence of half the world, soiled the memory of millions of innocent victims and trampled on the honor of the Jewish people. I think he’s getting off way too easy.

In Austria and in Germany Holocaust denial is not just a free-speech issue, or an academic debate. After World War II, when Austria and Germany rose from the rubble of the former Axis-powers, much of the identity of both states was founded on the shame and humiliation of having been perpetrators of some of the worst crimes against humanity in Europe’s history. In Britain, the question whether the gas chambers were used for de-lousing or mass-murder may be an academic argument. In Austria and in Germany it rips open still-fresh wounds. Neither Austria nor Germany are in a moral position to give Holocaust deniers a stage or an audience. Not only are these symbols and opinions too painful to be tolerated, but sadly the ground is still also way too fertile in Germany and Austria for the blame-the-Jews message.

Never again! Never forget!

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