White House accused of anti-Semitism by Holocaust historian


Deborah Lipstadt, who exposed David Irving as a Holocaust denier, accuses White House of 'softcore anti-semitism'

The concrete columns of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, Germany
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Wednesday 1 February 2017 10:08 UTC

A leading historian has accused Donald Trump of holocaust denial for his failure to mention Jews as the primary victims of the Holocaust.

Deborah Lipstadt, who famously exposed historian David Irving as a holocaust denier, said: "Holocaust denial is alive and well in the highest offices of the United States."

"It is being spread by those in President Trump's innermost circle," she said in the article in the Atlantic magazine.

Her comments were made in response to a White House statement released to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, which has attracted controversy for failing to mention Jewish victims of the Nazis.

The statement said: "It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honour the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror."

Lipstadt said that the statement "did not mention Jews or anti-semitism" and that it "bemoaned the innocent victims".

She added that a defence of the statement issued by Hope Hicks, the White House's spokeswoman, was "clumsy".

"Hicks pointed those who inquired to an article which bemoaned the fact that, too often the 'other' victims of the Holocaust were forgotten. Underlying this claim is the contention that the Jews are 'stealing' the Holocaust for themselves. It is a calumny founded in anti-Semitism," she said.

Chorus of criticism

Lipstadt joins a growing chorus of criticism against the White House over the statement.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum on Tuesday put out a statement in which it said that Jews were central to the Holocaust.

"Nazi ideology cast the world as a racial struggle, and the singular focus on the total destruction of every Jewish person was at its racist core," the statement said.

"Millions of other innocent civilians were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, but the elimination of Jews was central to Nazi policy. As Elie Wiesel said, 'Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims'."

Senator Tim Kaine, Hilary Clinton's running mate, said in an interview with NBC: "The Final Solution was about the slaughter of Jews."

He said Holocaust denial was "either to deny that it happened, or many Holocaust deniers acknowledge, ‘Oh, yeah, people were killed. But it was a lot of innocent people. Jews weren't targeted."

He also linked the White House's stance on anti-Semitism to senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Bannon used to run Breitbart, a far-right website that has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past.

"I think all of these things are happening together," Kaine said, "when you have the chief political adviser in the White House, Steve Bannon, who is connected with a news organisation that traffics in white supremacy and anti-Semitism, and they put out a Holocaust statement that omits any mention of Jews."

But today the White house press secretary Sean Spicer praised Trump "for going out of his way to recognise the Holocaust" and labelled critics of the statement as "pathetic".

The White House's 'soft-core' denial

Lipstadt rose to prominence during a 10-week defamation trial she won against David Irving in 2000.

She had been sued by Irving after she wrote a book accusing him of Nazi denial. Irving lost the case, which is the subject of a new film called Denial.

"What we saw from the White House was classic softcore denial. The Holocaust was de-Judaised," Lipstadt said.

She added that "hardcore denial is the kind of thing I encountered in the courtroom. In an outright and forceful fashion, Irving denied the facts of the Holocaust."

"Softcore denial uses different tactics but has the same end-goal... It does not deny the facts, but it minimises them, arguing that Jews use the Holocaust to draw attention away from criticism of Israel. Softcore denial also makes all sorts of false comparisons to the Holocaust."

Lipstadt also linked the release of the statement to the order banning refugees, both of which took place on the same day.

"In the penultimate sentence of the president's statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House promised to ensure that 'the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good'.

"But the statement was issued on the same day as the order banning refugees. It is hard not to conclude that this is precisely what happened at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Holocaust Remembrance Day."

Prince Charles

Some have also linked comments Prince Charles is reported to have made to a prominent Jewish charity to the Trump presidency.

It was reported in the Guardian that Prince Charles said to a dinner held by World Jewish Relief: "In my own life, I have always tried to reach across the boundaries of faith and community; to extend a helping hand wherever one might be needed."

The charity's work was particularly needed "at a time when the horrific lessons of the last war seem to be in increasing danger of being forgotten", he added.

Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, also speaking at the dinner, condemned Trump for his stance on immigration.

"There are so many millions of refugees that are receiving no hope from countries closing their borders to them – and not much hope from the United States of America of all countries," he said. 

"President Trump has signed an executive order that seeks to discriminate based totally on religion or nationality."