General Question

RareDenver's avatar

How do you feel about anti-Holocaust Denial laws?

Asked by RareDenver (13163points) June 22nd, 2009

Holocaust denial is illegal in 13 countries, including France, Germany and Israel.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and the United Kingdom have all rejected Holocaust denial legislation.

In Europe, citizens are covered by the European Convention on Human Rights which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.”

Don’t get me wrong, I personally think that Holocaust Deniers are complete idiots and generally xenophobic ignoramuses. However, I hold freedom of speech and expression very highly and because of that I have to accept there are people who have unpleasant opinions as I’m sure there are people who find some of my opinions to be unpleasant.

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64 Answers

MrKnowItAll's avatar

If it’s against the law, how will we identify the deniers?

Ivan's avatar

Doesn’t make much sense to make an opinion illegal.

joooon's avatar

I seen a thread about this a few weeks ago.
I’m for freedom of speech.

Darwin's avatar

It’s one thing to start a flame war in an online forum, but something else entirely to start one in the real world. Unfortunately, Holocaust denial seems to lead to anti-Semitism, which seems to lead to fisticuffs, and thence to the injury and death of innocent strangers.

However, making an opinion illegal is very difficult.

Somehow, it would be better to make those who deny the Holocaust toothless, much as the Ku Klux Klan now is in the United States. It still exists, but mostly as the butt of jokes. Their opinons are not illegal, but any actions derived from those opinions are illegal.

Qingu's avatar

Legality/freedom of speech issues aside, I think they are clearly counterproductive to their intended purpose. For that reason alone they should be overturned.

marinelife's avatar

I do not think legislation is helpful. We do not have thought police after all.

That said, the Holocaust is not a matter of opinion. It is historical fact.

People who persist in denying the Holocaust are being willfully ignorant. I just don’t want to see this discussed as if it was a debatable issue.

Ivan's avatar


Is it up to the government to decide what is a debatable issue?

marinelife's avatar

@Ivan Did you read my answer? “I do not think legislation is helpful. We do not have thought police after all.”

Qingu's avatar

@Marina, there’s a lot of factual stuff that isn’t debatable, but is nevertheless debated.

The catch is that, like most conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers don’t actually engage in an honest debate. Their entire position consists of trying to poke holes in a mainstream worldview, but they never bother to even begin to support an alternate worldview. Most conspiracy theorists—including Holocaust deniers—don’t even have a remotely consistent alternate theory to begin with, let alone any evidence to support one. The “evidence” for alternate theories comes from poking holes in a mainstream theory. It’s very similar to the “God of the gaps” argument put forth by creationists.

Anyway, debating is probably not going to change deniers’ minds (though I do feel it’s important to debate if people want to go there, so as not to cede an appearance of rationality). But outlawing questioning the Holocaust is not only going to fail to change anyone’s minds, it’s going to be held up as evidence that there is a conspiracy. Outlawing Holocaust denial simply fuels Holocaust denial.

Ivan's avatar


Fair enough, but I still take issue with the notion that something should be a taboo subject that should never be debated.

tyrantxseries's avatar

Holy Shit!
I thought this was a joke thread using the terms like “Holocaust Deniers” and “anti-Holocaust Denial laws” but I just googled it and…..Holy Shit!…...WTF?
I don’t know what else to say…

Lightlyseared's avatar

I think it is sad we need them.

Girl_Powered's avatar

Holocaust deniers can’t be really non-believers in the holocaust as it is documented well photographed fact, their motivation must be purely racist/political. They are trying to prevent empathy for the victims based on their racism. As such it is merely an extension of many existing hate crime laws. Yes, we should have hate crime laws, freedom of speech does not mean freedom to use speech to harm an entire race.

Ivan's avatar

I didn’t imagine I would be defending holocaust deniers today, but some of these arguments are pretty hollow.

I’ve only had experience with one holocaust denier, and his argument was that, yes, Jews were being exterminated, but that the actual number of Jews killed was far less than what is traditionally claimed. He says that the Jews had beefed up this number to gain sympathy and use it for political power.

dalepetrie's avatar

I like @Darwin‘s answer. Better to show what fools they are so their hateful rhetoric will not be appealing to anyone. Basically I think you should be able to say whatever you want unless

a) it is a lie that damages a person in some way…aka libel or slander, or
b) it actually incites someone to violence against another, aka hate speech

Personally, I think denying the Holocaust could a) fall on deaf ears and be meaningless, in which case we don’t need a law, b) lead to damages on the part of a third party…say in the example of a holocaust scholar whose reputation is intentionally besmirched by Holocaust deniers, in which case he could sue under slander/libel statutes, or c) it could cause hate crimes against Jews by people who are incited to anger by Holocaust deniers over the so called “special place” Jews now hold in our society, in which case it could be prosecuted under hate crimes statutes. Having another law is redundant. The only case I see for it is that it IS an emotionally charged issue, and in the long run it may be better to appease a large sector of a nation’s population rather than have one’s government regarded as anti-Semitic, when in reality the government is just protecting free speech.

Girl_Powered's avatar

@Ivan “He says that the Jews had beefed up this number to gain sympathy and use it for political power.”

That isn’t denial, that is dispute about record keeping. There are many claims that the number killed exceeded the number recorded in the last census, but the answer, the obvious answer, is that many failed to describe themselves as Jews during a census at a time when violence and hostility to Jews was increasing. Would you have ticked the box that made you and your family a target?

Ivan's avatar


Well, I don’t mean to misrepresent his argument, but I believe he said that the actual number was significantly lower than the touted one. He also claimed that, considering other groups were attacked, such as Blacks, Homosexuals, and the mentally handicapped, it’s not valid to say that the holocaust was simply a Jewish extermination.

Girl_Powered's avatar

@Ivan “Well, I don’t mean to misrepresent his argument, but I believe he said that the actual number was significantly lower than the touted one.”


mammal's avatar

apparently in Germany, Holocaust deniers are made to wear a big gold letter H at all times and are obliged to honour a daily curfew, they are spat at and beaten by members of the public, (with impunity) hounded, rounded up, generally persecuted, finally, stuffed into cattle trucks (with other Holocaust deniers) and carted off to Lord knows where… lol

shilolo's avatar

@mammal Wow, what a funny joke. Comparing holocaust deniers to the actual victims of the Holocaust. You are such a hoot!

Qingu's avatar

@Girl_Powered, hate crime laws do not deal with “trying to prevent empathy towards victims of the Holocaust” at all. In no sense is banning Holocaust denial an extension of existing hate crime laws.

To put it another way, hate crime laws punish violent action more severely based on the motive of that action. The legality of such laws isn’t really that different than punishing criminals more severely for after establishing murderous intent, as opposed to manslaughter.

Holocaust-denial bans do not punish violent action at all; they punish speech irregardless of the motive of that speech. Yes, the motive of Holocaust denial is very often deluded anti-Semitism, but not always, and in any case the motive is not considered. It’s just censorship, regardless of motive.

shilolo's avatar

@Ivan The Germans kept meticulous records (they are German, after all). There is little to debate regarding the numbers. More importantly, the mass murder machine was used to kill lots of so-called “undesirables” (gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped, political prisoners, priests, etc.), but no one argues that Hitler’s obsession was with the Jews. Thus, the focus is on the historical evil that was the German policy of exterminating the Jews. Thus, your “friend” is, to put it kindly, an idiot.

Qingu's avatar

Also, if Ivan is referring to the same delightful gentleman I interacted with here a while ago, he would very probably be classified as a “Holocaust denier.” He did say that some Jews were killed, but argued that they weren’t specifically targeted and that some kind of conspiracy made up the story and setting of gas chambers and death camps.

Which, incidentally, is another reason why I oppose laws banning Holocaust denial. The line between Holocaust denial and not-Holocaust denial seems arbitrary. Like all censorship laws, there is a problem of definition, and who governs that definition.

Qingu's avatar

@shilolo… pretty sure Ivan isn’t agreeing with the guy, just restating his stupid argument. Chill!

shilolo's avatar

@Qingu I’m pretty sure that he is doing it because he loves to be argumentative. I any event, my point is that giving these people any sort of credibility is the real problem. By justifying the person’s arguments, even slightly, he is saying “Well, these are possibly credible points that deserve a meritorious discussion”, when the reality is that the rationalizations behind Holocaust denial have been discredited, again, and again, and again.

tinyfaery's avatar

The way I see it, no one is saying you cannot believe the holocaust was a lie, you just cannot avow the point in any way. I don’t see how this is censorship of thoughts.

Qingu's avatar

@shilolo, frankly, accusing Ivan of countenancing Holocaust denial “just to be argumentative” is basically a slur. If I were Ivan, I’d be pissed.

I also think you underestimate how important it is to understand the internal logic of stupid and dangerous ideas. I don’t buy into the idea that completely ignoring people is the best way to marginalize them. (Incidentally, that’s what Richard Dawkins says scientists should do about creationists—to not give them the “oxygen of respectability” by even acknowledging their arguments. I disagree.)

And in any case, I hope you realize that the question of whether or not to acknowledge a Holocaust denier’s arguments has nothing to do with the legitimacy of those arguments, but rather the strategy of how best to marginalize and possibly even convert these people to reason. I think what bothers me about your two posts here is your assumption of bad faith on Ivan’s part, which just seems completely unwarranted.

Blondesjon's avatar

@dalepetrie . . .Basically I think you should be able to say whatever you want unless

a) it is a lie that damages a person in some way…aka libel or slander, or
b) it actually incites someone to violence against another, aka hate speech

Who gets to make these distinctions?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

These places that or for this kind of laws are countries that had seen the cruelty of the nazis for years before the Americans even got involved. I see it as a “lest we forget” sort of mindset.

I’m not for the idea of making that talk a jailable offense, but I understand how the region could be so passionate about the issue.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

It’s sad to think anyone would deny this part of modern history and strange to have a law in place but… having been enlightened to the very real white power reality (they’re far from toothless or backwards or un educated btw) I am kind of glad if only for the reason people will be curious about the law and maybe read up a little bit on the Holocaust.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Blondesjon – since we have laws on the books, that’s for the courts to decide. I think the courts already have enough laws to work with. Just like if I said something disparaging about you online and you felt your reputation was hurt, you could sue me for libel.

Qingu's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence, I don’t think a white power person, upon encountering a Holocaust denial law, is going to become “curious” about the Holocaust and read up on the subject. The laws are only going to further enforce such people’s delusions, not help to dispel or prevent them.

Edit: and this is by no means limited to “white power people.” I’ve talked to Muslims who cite the laws against the Holocaust as evidence of the Jewish/Zionist conspiracy.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@Qingu: gak, so tired about the ZOG conspiracies. You say you know Muslims so you probably know how they feel about Muslim extremists who are a minority of world Muslims… world Jews feel similar.

Blondesjon's avatar

@dalepetrie . . .So a group of folks, that I didn’t choose, get to make the rules about what I can and cannot say?

Ivan's avatar

I am pissed, and thank you for saying something about this while I was gone, Qingu. It is greatly appreciated.

Jayne's avatar

The debate about the main facts of the Holocaust is not worth having, especially with people as boneheaded and ignorant as Holocaust deniers are wont to be. But since when is it the government’s job to decide what debates we are allowed to have? Feel free to ignore or ridicule the deniers as much as you want, or have the patience to convert them, if you can. Just don’t go crying to the government to make the problem go away. It is a fact of society that we must face, and not let it fester away in secret; and more importantly, it is a fact of society that we must accept as the bitter cost of our cherished right to live, think, and speak as we please.

Qingu's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence… not sure what your point is. I wasn’t saying all Muslims are Holocaust deniers. (Though there does appear to be a vibrant world community of them.)

Ivan's avatar

I believe that all debate is healthy, no matter how obvious the issue may seem to us.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Blondesjon – So, you don’t live in the same Democracy that all of us do? Not sure what your point is, exactly. Yes, if it’s against the law to kill someone, and you kill someone, even if you didn’t choose the judge that’s going to send your ass to jail, you still be goin’ to jail my friend.

I’m totally for free speech, I’m just saying that it is a fact that it is against the law to slander someone verbally or in print, and it is against the law to say something that will incite violence. Those laws are on our books, whether you agree with them or not.

I’m certainly not teling you or anyone what you can’t say, I’m all for free speech. I’m just saying that there are already laws on the books to deal with Holocaust deniers. Not sure what part of that you don’t agree with.

Blondesjon's avatar

@dalepetrie . . .I’m saying that you can’t call yourself a proponent of free speech and then turn around and make exceptions to the rule. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too.

mattbrowne's avatar

I support them. I’m for free speech, but against promoting ideologies of hatred and mass murder. In Germany it’s illegal to deny the holocaust, but legal to breastfeed a baby in public. Every country is slightly different.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Blondesjon – I don’t disagree with you. I’m not the one who created those laws, I’m just saying they exist.

dalepetrie's avatar

In case this is a legitimate misunderstanding of my position and not just @Blondesjon playing Devil’s Advocate for whatever reason, let me clarify 100% for the record, my posiiton on free speech.

Any person has the right to say anything, period, no exceptions.

If a person says something that leads to the injury of another person (physical, financial, emotional whatever), the person who is damaged, DOES have the right to hold the speaker responsible (criminally, financially, emotionally) responsible for his words.

That’s not having one’s cake and eating it too. That is not exceptions to the free speech rule. That is accepting both 100% free will, and that there are consequences for our actions.

I’m not a fan of hate speech or hate crime legislation…I think any time you harm another person it’s a crime, no one crime is any worse than any other, you kill someone for $10 or because you don’t like the color of their skin, you should fry, period, your motivations are irrelevant.

I don’t see slander and libel laws as exceptions to free speech, only laws to protect the rights of people who are harmed by the free exercise of speech by someone else when that free exercise impinges on the rights and freedoms of another.

For example, if @Blondesjon were a real estate mogul about to close on a multi billion dollar deal that would make or break him, and I were to take out a full page ad in the New York Times saying he was a swindler, and what I said was not true, and that caused his deal to fall through, he could hold me liable. Doesn’t mean I didn’t have the “right” to do that, but he has the right also to hold me liable for the consequences of my actions (in this case speech being the action).

Or, for another example, if I were to get up on a pulpit and say, “God wants you to go out and kill a fag”...well, I’d be 100% wrong, but I’d have the right to say that if I believed something as stupid as that. But if someone in the crowd said, OK, then I’m gonna go kill one, and he goes out and murders a homosexual, then even though I had the right to say that, I should still be held liable for the consequences of my speech, if it can be demonstrated that the murderer would not have taken that action had I not incited him to do so by speaking those words. I have the right to say what I want, but that random homosexual who becomes a murder victim had a right to live.

Some times two parties have conflicting rights, but with any right we have comes an expectation in a civilized society that we do not exercise our rights carelessly, and that if we are careless in the exercise of our rights, we must expect to be held accountable for any consequences.

I ask you sincerely, @Blondesjon, does that position make sense? Do you agree with it? If not, what part of it do you disagree with?

I honestly am very much a champion for free speech, always have been, always will be, and it honestly troubles me that someone would pick THIS issue to hold my feet to the fire over. If I’m being inelegant in my choice of words to explain my position, I would sincerely like the opportunity to understand where in your view our beliefs diverge. I do feel as though I’m beating my head against a brick wall trying to defend a criticism where in reality you and I are actually likely in full agreement. If I’m wrong in my perception that we are in full agreement on this issue, then I need to know where it is that we diverge, otherwise you and I will continue to go around in circles. So, please enlighten me.

And so to tie this all back to this thread, if someone says, “The Holocaust was not real, the Jews made it all up for sympathy,” well, if that is his opinion, he has every right to express it, but if by his expressing it, it then causes someone to go out and murder a Jew to get back at the Jews for perpetrating this hoax, well then the person who said that should be held accountable for the consequences of his actions (in this case his exercise of his right to free speech). Since we have laws against the the types of things which could come of this type of speech, we don’t need a law against this particular type of speech…I would argue that this would violate the right to free speech.

Thank you.

marinelife's avatar

@Ivan What I mean about the isswue of the Holocaust being not debatable is that to give Holocaust deniers legitimacy through encouraging “debate” oabout a fact is not a good idea.

I would in no way abrogate free speech.

I am not saying that people do not have the right to be Holocaust deniers. There is no law against idiocy as is readily apparent.

What I am saying is that arguing with a Holocaust Denier, who is usually just one more stripe of conspiracy theorist is to give some legitimacy to their viewpoint.

Holocaust deniers:

1. Accept only data they feel supports their position.

2. Distort facts for their own ends.

3, Persist in their beliefs without regard to evidence.

4. Regard as automatically legitimate the most outre sources they can find.

5. regard as automatically suspect any official source.

Qingu's avatar

@Marina, I think your objection has more to do with the way the debate is framed, rather than actually engaging them in debate.

I agree that their “reasoning” is anything but (as I detailed above). And I agree that framing arguments between Holocaust deniers and mainstream historians by putting two people on facing podiums or two faces side by side on Newsweek—i.e. giving “equal time”—is certainly not a good idea. But that’s framing, not the debate itself.

Nimis's avatar

I think these laws have less to do with controlling freedom of speech than as a way to proclaim to the rest of the world their official stance on the matter. Most Germans I’ve met seem quite eager to shed their historical reputation. Supporting this type of legislation seems to be a way for them to symbolically move away from their past (and from how many people still view/associate with their country.)

Two of the countries that have this type of legislation (Israel and Germany) both played critical roles. And I think France may have a really large Jewish population?

Ivan's avatar


Couldn’t a discussion change some of those things?

Girl_Powered's avatar

I can readily see both issues here, the right to freedom of speech and expression, plus the right to protect society. We have a lot of what was previously considered basic freedoms taken away in recent years. It is sad, but the reality is that that some people will abuse some rights to freedom. If there had always been a ban on holocaust denial, do you think that we would have near as many white supremacists, neo nazis and anti-semitic attitudes? Where do many of the uneducated teenage thugs get their pro-nazi stance from? It isn’t taught in text books, but is by the sort of people who make a career of holocaust denying and write and lecture on the subject.

marinelife's avatar

@Ivan Not in my experience.

Blondesjon's avatar

@dalepetrie . . .The part that makes sense to me is the part where I can say what I want without fear of reprisal.

The part that doesn’t make sense to me is that I, after I say something, am then responsible for each and every zealot that might, or might not, take it to heart.

Ivan's avatar


Our experiences differ.

Jayne's avatar

I agree with both of the combatants here, @Blondesjon and @dalepetrie; I think there should be some liability for hate speech, but only if it can be demonstrated that the speaker intended for and took action to cause another party to commit violence; in which case, of course, they would be guilty of inciting violent action and therefore in violation of the law regardless of their racism. The only difference is a broadening of the definition of “inciting” (I’m not sure of the current definition, actually) to include general calls to violence as well as specific deeds. Again, it may already cover that, in which case hate crime legislation ought to be dispensed with entirely.

Ivan's avatar

Maybe I missed it, but how exactly does denying the holocaust incite violence against a particular race?

Jayne's avatar

@Ivan; We are not saying it does, necessarily; I believe the consensus is that there should be no ban on peaceful denial, and if in a certain case it does turn violent, then the punishment should be for the violence done rather than for the denial itself; the only debate, among us @Blondesjon, @dalepetrie, and I, at least, is over the degree to which the denier should be responsible for the violence he incites in others.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Blondesjon – I can see that, but that’s how it is, and I guess we kind of have to trust the courts to know the difference between just saying something and saying something in a way that will incite the lunatic fringe. I think there’s a pretty high bar to prove that your words incited violence. Again, that’s the law, and I don’t wholly disagree with it, I only ope that judges are sharp enough to know the difference between someone shooting off their mouth and someone calling for action. In other words, there’s a difference between, “I think fags should die” and “I want you to go out and kill some fags.”

DREW_R's avatar

Those laws are a bunch of crap as are most of the frigging modern socialist style laws on the books. Everyone knows it happened, though books, news reports and all that crap can be doctored to the point of fiction. Itr has happened before the Holocaust and after. It has happened on just about every continent in every era in history. What makes the Jews plight any worse than the Native Americans plight? Hum?

mattbrowne's avatar

@DREW_R – The Nazis’ plan was to murder every Jew. The organization of this was very meticulous. The plight of Native Americans was severe. Many were murdered, others were relocated, some were actually (temporary) allies in various endeavors. But there was no single centrally organized plan to send every Native American into gas chambers.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Like the Flat Earthers and the Fake Moon Landing set, Holocaust Deniers are insane.

Insanity itself isn’t criminal.

In the US we treat our mentally ill beter than that.

BBQsomeCows's avatar

“congress shall make no law…”

can you complete that sentence?

bootonthroat's avatar

It is disingenuous to believe that removal of freedom of expression and ideas will somehow result in a better society. If you cannot make up your mind freely one day it will be made for you in a way which you do not appreciate.

plethora's avatar

@Darwin …opinons are not illegal, but any actions derived from those opinions are illegal….

There is a difference between an opinion and action based on that opinion, as @Darwin notes. Holocaust Denial laws, I would think, would deal with actions based on that opinion.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Promoting the idea that the Holocaust was/is a hoax is designed to promote hatred or worst against Jews. It is the verbal equivalent to painting swastikas on synagogues, desecrating Jewish Cemeteries, or harassing Jewish people on their way to Synagogue (Temple).

It is not about “free speech!” Hate-mongers hide behind such worthy concepts as a ruse to deny what they are doing.

plethora's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence You’re right… do others hide behind worthy concepts as a ruse to deny what they are doing. But we won’t mention names since it is not the subject of this thread.

bootonthroat's avatar

The strongest piece of evidence the Holocaust deniers have is that governments attempt to silence them.

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