Within a few weeks my fourth published work will hit the shelves. My latest monograph is entitled The Auschwitz Concentration Camp: History, Biographies, Remembrance, and is to be published by ibidem-verlag in Stuttgart on 24 April 2018. The book covers the history of the camp from its beginning as a Security Police prison for Polish Resistance fighters, to its development into the industrialised mass murder facility between 1942 and 1944. Auschwitz-Birkenau ultimately became the biggest gravesite in the history of mankind, where more than 1 million European Jews and others were murdered by the Third Reich.
I have previously written three books on the Aktion Reinhardt Camps in Nazi-occupied Poland: that on Treblinka was published in 2014; Belzec in 2016; and Sobibor in 2017. I have worked on the subject for several decades, including through my websites, the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team, and more recently, the Holocaust Historical Society. My interest in the Holocaust was sparked in 1971, when my late father bought me the book The Final Solution, by Gerald Reitlinger.
I end the book with the recollections and thoughts of some of the students from Teesside University, for whom I acted as their guide to the Auschwitz concentration camp complexes in 2016 and 2017. Nearly all the students say, in the appendix to my forthcoming book, that what happened at Auschwitz-Birkenau in particular, and the Holocaust in general, is something we must learn from in order to ensure that it never happens again. What happened in the Holocaust was truly the darkest event in modern history, and unlike previous genocides, there are photographs, testimony by survivors, and perpetrators, and written accounts by those who perished at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. Yet it seems we are not heeding the lessons of the past.
Given all this evidence, why would anyone want to deny the Holocaust?
For instance, It is difficult to understand why, in 2018, a Labour Party politician should want to debate Holocaust denial by using an altered image of the main gate at Auschwitz Main Camp, the infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work Brings Freedom). This is an insult to all the victims of Nazi brutality and simply has no place in a modern and tolerant Britain.
In the past I have held the view that I would never debate with Holocaust Deniers, as to engage with them gives oxygen and credence to their warped belief. This is, of course, in spite of the massive documentation and evidence that I have already mentioned. But I have to question whether this stance is the right one today, with ‘revisionism’ seeming to become more mainstream with each passing day.
This is also relates to the move by the Polish government earlier this year to legislate against Polish involvement in the Holocaust, in an attempt to re-write history – which in itself could be viewed as akin to Holocaust Denial. The relates to my current working toward my next book about the Chelmno Death Camp, which was the first death camp in Poland to systematically murder Jews, by means of satic tgas-vans from December 1941. As part of the camp garrison, the Germans made use of a Polish Arbeitskommando to assist with the herding of the Jews into the gas-vans, and the searching of the dead for valuables.
Similarly, a few local Polish tradesmen in the Belzec area helped construct the primitive gas chambers in the Belzec death camp, in south-eastern Poland, druing the winter of 1941-1942. There is a number of written testimonies which provide detailed accounts of what these early gas chambers looked like, as well as their role in the construction. On the other hand, the vast majority of the Polish people did not assist the Nazis in their goal of destroying the Jewish Race in Europe, and many thousands died resisting the Nazis, in what became commonly known as ‘Europe’s Land of Suffering.’ Their torment should never be forgotten.
Yet in 2018 you cannot re-write history, nor deny it, and the Polish Government are wrong to pursue that particular course of action – as are those that preach Holocaust Denial. It was Professor Feldman, CARR’s Director, who pointed out to me that it was the Nazis who first practised Holocaust Denial, by claiming that ‘you first need to be disinfected before going on to work camps in the east’ – before sending the innocent Jewish men, women, and children to be gassed – and by trying to cover up the enormity of their genocidal crimes.
Bearing this in mind, Holocaust Denial and the re-writing of history needs to be challenged. It is important for groups such as the newly launched Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right to carry on with that particular fight, through their website and their wider activities. Even if it brings scorn and personal attacks on social media platforms, and on denier promoting websites, that just comes with the territory. I speak from personal experience on this. Sometimes you have to stand and be counted: the Holocaust happened, and we must ensure that the victims and the survivors are never forgotten.
Mr Chris Webb is a Senior Fellow at CARR, and Founder of the Holocaust Historical Society. See his profile here.
© Chris Webb. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors’ and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).