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Key forms of manifestation of Holocaust distortion

  1. Intentional efforts to excuse or minimize the impact of the Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany:
    • Asserting that the Holocaust is not relevant to a nation’s history because it was a Nazi Germany-organized crime, while ignoring the role played by local collaborators or members of the Axis in the crimes of the Holocaust.
    • Suggesting that the Holocaust did not influence postwar international norms and institutions or that it is relevant only for Jews.
    • Drawing equivalence between the Holocaust and other state sponsored crimes, as a way to de-emphasize the Holocaust.
  1. Attempts to blur the responsibility for Nazi Germany’s establishment of concentration and death camps by blaming other nations or ethnic groups:
    • Shifting the sole blame for the Holocaust onto local collaborators while ignoring Nazi Germany’s responsibility for the genocide.
  1. Gross minimization of the number of victims of the Holocaust, in contradiction to reliable sources:
    • Asserting that the number of victims was several millions less than the accepted figure of approximately six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices. (Scholarly estimates have ranged from 5.3–6.2 million victims, with 5.7 million as the figure accepted by most experts in the field.1]
  1. Use of the term “Holocaust” in relation with current events with disregard to historical facts and context, in ways that downplay the systematic murder of Jews in Europe. Irresponsible comparisons can distort the understanding of both contemporary phenomena and the Holocaust:
    • Appropriating the emotional and rhetorical force of the Holocaust in the service of a political, social or moral agenda by equating the Holocaust to another event, without regard for the integrity of the historical past or the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust.
    • Claiming equivalence between the Holocaust and unrelated contemporary events, genocides, and/or mass atrocities.
  1. Attempts to blame Jewish people for causing their own genocide:
    • Claiming that Jewish people somehow deserved or provoked their fate through their behavior.
    • Claiming that Jewish people were actively complicit in the Holocaust, in order to use it to gain a national state.
  1. State-sponsored manipulation of Holocaust history:
    • State-sponsored pronouncements against other countries’ actions during the Holocaust, in order to sow political discord. [This was common during Cold War propaganda and continues through to the present day. It instills defensive responses and threatens honest engagement with this history.]
    • Attempts to limit academic and public discourse on Holocaust history by means of legislation and penalties.
    • Promoting narratives of national suffering or protecting the reputations of national heroes who contributed to the persecution of Jews or overemphasizing/exaggerating the attempts of the local population to rescue Jews.
    • Efforts to rehabilitate the reputation of persons, organizations or ideologies associated with Holocaust-era crimes. [Such actions can also glorify collaboration with the Nazis or legitimize Nazi ideology.]
    • Obscuring the roles played by religious institutions, political parties, educational institutions or prominent figures in the arts and sciences in Holocaust-era crimes. [This may result from comparing atrocity crimes without careful contextualization.]
  1. Statements that cast the Holocaust as a positive historical event suggesting that it did not go far enough:
    • Claiming that the Nazis were justified in their drive to exterminate the Jewish or Roma people.
  1. Accusing Jews of seeking benefit from the Holocaust:
    • Claiming that Jewish people “use” the Holocaust for purposes of financial gain or to justify the establishment of the State of Israel.
    • Claiming that the Holocaust is given more importance than it deserves
    • Claiming that Jewish people use the Holocaust to manipulate others
  1. Use of imagery and language associated with the Holocaust for political, ideological or commercial purposes, disconnected from the historical context:
    • Use of language and images associated with the Holocaust in an attempt to cast negative aspersions on others or in order to attract public attention.
    • Overusing the word “Holocaust” in ways divorced from discussion on the history or its relevance.
  1. De-Judaization of the Holocaust:
    • Deliberately omitting the fact that it was a genocide perpetrated against Jews.
    • Ignoring or trying to diminish the role of antisemitism in the Holocaust, such as antisemitic propaganda and legislation against Jews passed by the Nazi regime, its allies and collaborators.
    • Silencing the history of the Holocaust.

1 Understanding Holocaust Distortion: Contexts, Influences and Examples, page 17