Holocaust Denial as a Form of Hate Speech
In April of 2018, at Spanish River Community High School, emails were exchanged between the principal and a parent regarding the curriculum on the Holocaust. A parent was offended by the fact that the Holocaust was taught in school as a historical fact. This parent stated that not everyone believes the Holocaust to be a historical fact, and the school should be respectful of these parents (Golgowski). William Latson, the principal, defended this parent, and told them that he understands that they do not share the same beliefs with the school curriculum. Latson also stated that he could not confirm whether or not the Holocaust is a factual, historical event (Golgowski). The principal even did not force the students to participate in the Holocaust curriculum if the parents were Holocaust deniers (Golgowski). Latson stated that the Holocaust is a belief rather than a factual, historical event (Chiu). After the exchanges were released, the principal has been removed from his position. Even Senator Rick Scott in Florida stated that anti-Semitism will not be allowed in our communities and schools (Golgowski). Since then the principal has apologized for his actions.
Holocaust denial is a pressing issue, and it is where many people do not believe the Holocaust occurred. They do not see the Holocaust as a factual, historical event even though we have personal accounts from survivors, museums that teach us about this event, and much more. Holocaust deniers are bringing it up even in our education system and curriculum at schools saying they do not believe students should be taught about the Holocaust as a fact. People are outraged by this, saying any teacher or principal who supports this should be fired, and we should not allow for this anti-Semitism in our communities, schools, or even our country. Teachers have an influence on the students they teach, so if these teachers are Holocaust deniers, there would be a big impact on how these students would view the Holocaust. In this paper, we will discuss how Holocaust deniers promote hate speech, and use a study about how educators who are Holocaust deniers can influence and intimidate students. Next, we will discuss how the ten stages of genocide relate and apply to this. Finally, we will discuss how we can combat Holocaust denial.
Holocaust denial assumes many different theories that deny the Holocaust occurred. It depicts that the Jews are the criminals, and not the Nazis or Germany (Cohen-Almagor 216). It is a conspiracy that the Jews created so they could gain national support, money, and even be able to form their own country (Cohen-Almagor 216). This is a form of hate speech. This hate speech is attacking the Jews and is directed at them to make them feel inferior (Cohen-Almagor 215). If this is promoted in our schools through educators, this could place a negative influence on students who may believe this and promote it elsewhere. Or it will affect students who are Jewish by making them feel uncomfortable and unable to speak up for themselves. We will examine a case study of two educators from Canada who are Holocaust deniers.
James Keegstra is an educator who was fired from his school after 14 years of teaching since he failed to follow the social studies curriculum (Cohen-Almagor 221). He did not review the Holocaust as a historical truth (Cohen-Almagor 221). Keegstra was a Holocaust denier and believed in the conspiracy about the Jews. He expected his students to use this information in his classes and on his exams and they could not reject his ideas or there would be consequences (Cohen-Almagor 221). There is evidence that shows that Keegstra taught a generation of students and they accept most of his views about the Jewish conspiracy which was that Jews were responsible for almost every atrocity since they wanted to achieve world power (Cohen-Almagor 222-223). These students were influenced by their teacher Keegstra and he is the source for where the students learned about Holocaust denial. The school states that Keegstra betrayed their trust and respect, but mostly he betrayed the hope for a better future (Cohen-Almagor 222). Educators have an important job to teach the next generation of students, but Keegstra took advantage of that by teaching a generation of student’s hate speech through this Holocaust denial. He influenced many of these students into believing a conspiracy instead of the factual truth that the Holocaust occurred. Educators must teach their students factual truth so they can prepare them for a better future but Keegstra failed to do that. He created more hate speech, hate propaganda, and anti-Semitism in the community. They replaced Keegstra with another educator named Dick Hoeksema, he taught the Holocaust, but many students and some teachers still defended Keegstra’s beliefs (Cohen-Almagor 225). Through Keegstra, we see that educators can have a huge influence on students and how they can teach them to believe in things.
The next educator in the case study is named Malcolm Ross. He did not directly teach about Holocaust denial in his class, but he did publicly express his views (Cohen-Almagor 226). People complained to the school board about Ross and said if they do not take appropriate action, it means they condoned his racist and discriminatory statements (Cohen-Almagor 226-227). There was some discriminatory in his classroom to Jewish students through name-calling, drawing of swastikas, and intimidation (Cohen-Almagor 227). Jewish students felt intimidated by the presence of their teacher Ross, and he made them feel uncomfortable. The Jewish students did not feel like they could approach him. Even though Ross did not directly teach about Holocaust denial, but there was lack of equality in the classroom to Jewish students (Cohen-Almagor 229). It was not a free environment for the Jewish students. The educator created an unwelcoming environment so not all students felt safe. Many Jewish students would skip school or avoid going to class if Ross was in charge. When an educator is a Holocaust denier, they can create an atmosphere where Jewish students would feel intimidated and unwelcomed through this hate speech. Through Ross, we can see that an educator can intimidate students, so they do not feel comfortable or safe in the classroom through this hate speech.
Through this case study, I could relate parts of the ten stages of genocide to these educators. To start with, I believe we could identify classification within the two educators. Keegstra would always blame the Jews for atrocity in the world. It was the us and the world versus the Jews. Keegstra created this classification as a Holocaust denier and educator. Keegstra and Ross created this classification between us and the Jews, but it was more evident with Keegstra. Symbolization is the stage that is most evident in these case studies. For one, they all reference to the Jews, so they give them a name. They paint the Jews to be the enemy in this picture instead of Germany since they deny that the Holocaust occurred. With the Holocaust denial, hate symbols, and hate speech came along with the name. Specifically, with Ross, he would draw swastikas on the board to intimidate the Jewish students in his classroom, and even other students in the class would draw them on the desks of the Jewish students. The hate symbols appeared in this educator’s classroom. Keegstra created more hate speech with the future generation of students he taught. These students he taught carry this belief that the Holocaust is a hoax. Ross carried this hate speech with how open he was about being a Holocaust denier. He carried these beliefs with him in his classroom and did not have equality for the Jews in his classroom. Educators who are Holocaust deniers do have influence and can intimidate their students. Finally, there is evidence of the last stage, Denial, seen in these case studies. This is a worldwide denial; it is not only with the perpetrators who caused the harm. With this denial, it comes from all over the world with conspiracy theories created by the Holocaust deniers. They deny direct historical evidence and attack history and the knowledge of it (McNamara 383). There is no scholarly or validity in their conspiracies they created, and this allows for it to be unchallenged, and accepted as an idea instead of it being seen as the bigotry it is (McNamara 383). Keegstra and Ross accept these theories and deny the facts even though their conspiracies has no real evidence to back it up besides that people are accepting it as an idea. These two educators could be referred as negationists since they deny this historical crime and the established facts of the Holocaust (Lechtholz-Zey 3). Instead, Keegstra and Ross stay in this stage of denial with their conspiracies and influence and intimidated students through their hate speech.
Finally, we see that there are Holocaust deniers all over the world, even in the United States and Canada. Some of these Holocaust deniers are educators, and the teachers who are influencing our next generation of students. The question is, how do we combat Holocaust denial? How we stop it or reduce its impact on society? It can be difficult to convince Holocaust deniers otherwise. They will not believe any rational argument and they will not be dissuaded because of how much hate they have towards the Jews (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). The deniers will debate the existence of the Holocaust and not believe the scholars who have much evidence of the Holocaust (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum combats the denial of the Holocaust with the resources and information they have on their website with documents, photographs, films, perpetrators’ testimonies, survivors’ testimonies, and much documentation that cannot be denied that the Holocaust existed. This is one way we can help to combat Holocaust denial by teaching about this documentation so we can reduce the impact of Holocaust denial on society. Also, sixteen countries have been trying to stop Holocaust denial by creating laws that criminalize or prosecute individual who deny the Holocaust occurred (Lechtholz-Zey 3). These countries are trying to stop or reduce its impact by making it illegal for Holocaust deniers to share their beliefs.
This is what scholars have said about combatting Holocaust denial. We can work on it to be stopped or at least reduce its impact on society. Stanton would recommend that Holocaust deniers should find the common ground between them and Jews to help out with the classification stage. Holocaust deniers should find similarities between them and the Jews like a common language. This may help for Holocaust deniers to see how Jews may not be so different from them, and they can try to better understand the history of the Jews. This could be a first step towards stopping this behavior if Holocaust deniers tried to understand the Jews and their history better. Stanton would also say that hate symbols should be banned, and also hate speech. It seems that sixteen countries have banned the hate speech about Holocaust denial, so they are following what Stanton would have suggested. For example, the swastika could be banned so Ross would not be allowed to draw it on the board to intimidate the students or other students would not be able to draw in on the Jewish students’ desk. Finally, Stanton would also say to combat the denial stage by bringing the evidence up front and punishing the perpetrators. We can look through documentation of the Holocaust to prove that it was not a hoax. In these sixteen countries, some can prosecute these Holocaust deniers. These are some small ways that scholars and Stanton would say that we could combat or stop Holocaust deniers or at least reduce their impact on society.
In conclusion, Holocaust deniers should be put to a stop on their beliefs. They should be tried to retaught about the Holocaust with this historical documentation. Educators who are Holocaust deniers should not be able to teach their beliefs in schools or able to teach at all if they refuse to not teach the Holocaust as a fact. Educators are to be trusted to teach our next generation of students and want to teach our students to create a better future. We cannot create a better future if we teach Holocaust denial. We are only promoting hate speech to be taught in the schools since there is no evidence that can back up the Holocaust deniers’ conspiracies. Most Holocaust deniers deny the Holocaust because of their prejudices and discrimination towards the Jews. Holocaust denial is hate speech and it has no place to be taught in a school.
If the educators are Holocaust deniers, they should follow the curriculum and teach the Holocaust as a factual, historical event. After reading about the principal in Florida, and the two educators in Canada, it is good they were taken out of their positions since they allowed for this hate speech to be taught in their school or in their classrooms. If they do not teach the Holocaust as a fact, they should be removed as an educator immediately. We should take steps to stop Holocaust denial in people by reeducating or putting an end to hate speech. As a future educator, I know I want to influence in my students in a positive way, and I would not want them to be intimidated by me. I would want to create a welcoming environment where all students feel safe. By educators who deny the Holocaust, they do influence the students in a negative way by teaching them Holocaust denial. Some may even intimidate the Jewish students in their classroom. It needs to be realized that educators have a huge influence on the students they teach so we need to be keep an eye out for those educators who are teaching hate speech. What they teach their students is what that generation of students will carry with them in the future. We want to bring a better future for our world, so we need to teach students in a positive way and in a welcoming environment. As educators, we help teach the future generation and hope for a better future.
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