June 15th, 2010
09:05 AM ET

Israel's Holocaust museum grapples with Holocaust diminishment

CNN's Izzy Lemberg sent this report on a major Holocaust conference in Jerusalem:

Yad Vashem, Israel’s main museum and research facility for preserving the memory of the Holocaust–including concentration camps like Auschwitz, above–devoted much of its annual conference on Monday to grappling with the challenges of Holocaust denial and diminishment.

“The time is moving ahead and on the one hand we are losing many of the survivors who are the driving force of many of the activities," Avner Shalev, the museum's chairman, told CNN. "But we have to look at the future with the absence of survivors."

"What is important is the context in which the teaching of the Holocaust is taking place: new anti-Semitism, new phenomenon of revisionism, trying to bring new different narratives to the Shoah (Holocaust) and all kinds of twisted comparisons," Shalev said. "This is the context that the teachers are struggling with right now.”

The conference drew 200 educators from 40 countries, along with philosophers, historians, human rights activists, politicians, ambassadors, and directors of various government ministries.

In one conference workshop, participants concluded that outright Holocaust denial is less of a serious threat because it is mostly confined to the extremist fringe and is not acceptable in polite society.

What worried the educators more are new attempts at what they called “diminishing the Holocaust" or “Holocaust inversion.” These refer to anti-Israel activists ascribing Nazi symbols like the swastika to Israel’s army and comparing the siege of Gaza to Auschwitz.

Israel’s Minister of Education Gideon Saar drew a line between current criticisms of Israel and anti-Semitism.

Other scholars expressed concern that the world was not applying the "never again" refrain that grew out of the Holocaust.

"The fact is that incitement to genocide is continuing," said Yehuda Bauer, considered Israel’s foremost Holocaust historian. "Things not the same, but in a way similar things are happening in Darfur, Congo and elsewhere."

Alain Finkielkraut, a prominent French philosopher, keynoted the event, arguing that “Post-Nazi Europe knows that neither culture nor progress is a safeguard against ferocity."

"It knows that modernity does not necessarily overcome cruelty," he said of Europe, "and that the most egregious evil is produced by a combination of unleashed violence and methodical, sophisticated and civilized coldness."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Holocaust • Israel • Judaism

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soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. melvin bretthauer

    lie and lie and lie, then make a law ,to protect that lie. but the truth will come out, ihr.org does a great job getting to the truth

    June 21, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  2. guy

    live by the sword; die by the sword.

    June 21, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  3. Bubba

    History is written by the winners.

    June 21, 2010 at 9:15 am |
  4. micrbu

    For all you muslim sympathizers just remember that the Mufti of Jerusalem was directly responsible for the Armenian genocide and Hitler used the Mufti's model of extermination based on his writings. Today in Turkey we have demonstrations against Israel with Turks carrying the swastika as a banner of national pride!!! So, when Iran attacks Israel which will be soon! What will you doleful idiots say then that the millions of men, women and children deserved to die simply because the are Jewish!?

    June 21, 2010 at 8:53 am |
  5. Jason

    Lets say Mexico declared a holy war on the United States, demanded that California be returned to Mexico, instructed their men women and children to suicide bomb U.S. nightclubs/restaraunts and started launching rockets into San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    Would these anti-Israel idiots side with Mexico in the above situation?

    June 21, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  6. Henry Miller

    "The fact is that incitement to genocide is continuing," said Yehuda Bauer, considered Israel’s foremost Holocaust historian. "Things not the same, but in a way similar things are happening in Darfur, Congo and elsewhere."

    They're also happening in Gaza. The Israeli's seemed to have learned their lessons well–from the Gestapo.

    June 21, 2010 at 6:49 am |
  7. Len

    I take objection to any religion, ideology, race, ethnicity, or country that believes or professes they are the "chosen ones".
    "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

    June 20, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  8. Watusi

    The rail-thin prisoners and the piles of emaciated bodies were for the most part victims of disease and hunger, which were common in the later states of the war. Those destined for execution would have been dispatched soon after arrival.

    Proof may lie elsewhere, but those famous photos aren't it.

    June 20, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  9. Lori

    I read a book called "Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany" by Marthe Cohen. She was a blonde Jew who grew up on the German/French border, so she spoke both languages fluently. She joined the French Army as a spy and was able to pass as a German officer. She knew when attacks were going to happen and where but she had no idea the concentration camps even existed. When she saw people walking around, thin as rails, wearing these striped pajamas she was completely blown away learning that so many had been put in camps and murdered. So if she, an insider, did not know about them, it is very likely many other SS officers (lower ranking) had no idea of their existence either. I think that is where some of the shock and denial comes from. Still... it is astounding people still deny it exists. Where do they think the photos come from? Some elaborate movie or play? I think what we have to learn from WW2 and the Holocaust is to never believe in a leader so blindly as the Germans believed in Hitler. That we have think for ourselves sometimes and that we have to choose right over wrong, even when the consequences could be very serious.

    June 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  10. OmegaMann

    Holoco$t... I don't buy it...

    June 20, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  11. Brian

    Where is the Roma holacaust museum?

    June 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  12. SomeoneElse

    This happens over time. Also, how about the Nanjing massacre, which happened at the same time? In the end, the diminishment is a good thing, as you can't stay focused on something if you want to move on. We must not forget or rewrite history, but this is a normal part of civilisation, which as hard as it may be to see, has been steadily evolving over time (albeit slowly).

    June 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  13. Bob, NH

    As long as people identify more with their religion or ideology than their humanity there will be violence, planned and unplanned killings. It is still happening all over the world and in many forms. The holocaust teaches us the extent of this killing is only limited by a groups ability to organize.

    June 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.