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Lessons for Policymakers and Government Officials


2. Impact of Holocaust distortion

Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.

Simone Weil

Learning Objectives

  • To raise awareness about the ways in which Holocaust distortion is spread online and offline
  • To empathize with different groups of people impacted by Holocaust distortion
  • To recognize the value of countering Holocaust distortion

Learning Activities

  1. Critical Analysis of Holocaust Distortion
  2. Holocaust Distortion and Antisemitism
  3. Further Resources

Suggestions for Trainers

The activities in this unit are designed to engage participants in processes of critical analysis and reflection upon reasons, contexts and means for promoting Holocaust distortion, as well as to understand the impact of Holocaust distortion.

In 2022, the UN and UNESCO published the report of a study of Holocaust manifestations on social media. The study analyzed messages posted on five platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, TikTok and Twitter that celebrated, mocked and distorted the history of the Holocaust. Out of these five platforms, only one is not monitored (Telegram). The results show that Holocaust denial and distortion were present on all platforms and were often accompanied by racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of intolerance.
The data of this study is used in the first activity, in order to raise awareness about the prevalence of Holocaust distortion on social media and to stimulate reflection upon the need to take action against it.

After an overview of the spread of Holocaust denial and distortion on social media, the participants are invited to analyze a few case studies. The case studies used in this activity are examples of Holocaust distortion that either mock the Holocaust, use it for commercial gain, or draw irresponsible comparisons between the Holocaust and current events with disregard to historical facts and context in ways that downplay the systematic murder of the Jewish people in Europe or glorify the Roma genocide.1

The trainer should explain to the participants that comparing the Holocaust with other issues is a legitimate endeavor, as long as it is done in a meaningful way. This means that it uses correct historical tools with the aim to better understand similarities, concepts and mechanism that lead to genocide, and serve to learn from the past in a way that is meaningful in the present. The concern is not about meaningful comparisons, but about drawing equivalences in ways that diminish the magnitude and relevance of the Holocaust, that infringe upon the human dignity of its victims and survivors, or that trivialize or misappropriate the history of the Holocaust for a political or ideological agenda.

The UN and UNESCO found that Holocaust distortion is often present alongside racism, homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia on social media. Holocaust distortion can be considered as part of a broader pattern of radical online counterculture. These prejudices, attitudes and ideologies help to explain, for example, why some mock, deride and celebrate the Holocaust. Hateful ideas such as homophobia and misogyny fuel antisemitism when Jews are held to be the source of any manner of perceived “problems” and “threats”.2

With the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, there is a growing concern that malicious actors may use AI-powered tools to generate and disseminate false narratives about the Holocaust, deny and distort historical facts, and promote hateful ideologies. AI algorithms could amplify and accelerate the spread of such harmful content, reaching a wide audience across various platforms and influencing public perception. The anonymous nature of online platforms can further enable the proliferation of such messages without accountability. Additionally, AI-generated deepfakes could be employed to manipulate historical footage, potentially erasing the reality of the Holocaust or portraying false events. These risks underscore the critical need for proactive measures, including AI ethics guidelines, content moderation, and digital literacy education, to combat Holocaust distortion and antisemitism in the digital realm and protect the accuracy of historical memory.

In the second activity, the focus is on the impact of Holocaust distortion upon different members of society. This activity will help participants understand the fact that Holocaust distortion has a strong negative impact upon people with different backgrounds and different professions, an impact that extends to society as a whole.


1 Glorifying the Roma genocide is only one form of distorting the persecution of Roma. A comprehensive overview of the different forms of manifestation is presented in the study The Roma Holocaust/Roma Genocide in Southeastern Europe published by The Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and the Roma Program at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University in 2022

2 History under attack: Holocaust denial and distortion on social media, published by the UN and UNESCO in 2022, p.53

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