Denial and freedom

The Holocaust annihilation of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during WWII was an unprecedented crime. It was not one of those recurrent outbursts of anti-Semitic hysteria but an efficient and systematic attempt on an industrial scale to exterminate innocent victims. The eyes of Jewish children in that famous Auschwitz picture will forever haunt Europe’s collective conscience. Such a crime against humanity is rightly part of Greece’s school curriculum. In fact, teachers should know more about the fate of the Jewish populations in Thessaloniki and other cities. In Holocaust-sensitive Germany, Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries announced EU plans to make denial of the Holocaust a crime and to outlaw the public display of Nazi paraphernalia. The proposal is up for discussion at the meeting of EU justice ministers on April 19-20 in Luxembourg. On Tuesday, the USA introduced a UN resolution condemning denial of the Holocaust, which is expected to be voted on tomorrow with Russian and Chinese backing. Holocaust denial is already a crime in France, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Last week, Italian Justice Minister Clemente Mastella announced similar plans causing reactions from some 200 historians from all sides of the political spectrum, including renowned historian Carlo Ginzburg. Italian intellectuals oppose the plan, arguing that «a solution based on a threat is extremely dangerous.» It turns Holocaust deniers into fighters of free speech and establishes a single, official truth – typical of totalitarian regimes. The British historian Timothy Garton Ash has expressed similar concerns. This nation’s Parliament may soon have to face a similar dilemma. Then we too will have to answer the question of whether freedom is the ultimate good, even if it means giving some people the chance to mock or deny the Holocaust.

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