Misguided Youth

Question:

I have been in the unenviable position of working with a young man who is a denier. I never read that word until I read your site, Essays. It is so difficult for me to understand why one would believe the lies perpetrated by those who hate. I do not understand the motives of a denier. I have tried many approaches, museum information, simple explanations of how people can state facts that are lies and I am now attempting, gently to keep communication open when I feel despair at what feels like a crime in itself, the actual fact that someone would say the Holocaust did not happen the way it did or to diminish the crime and los in any way. Are there any examples of people who have been successful in diverting the wrong thinking and possible harm that one of these deniers could do? I appreciate your site and the tremendous effort and heart that went into the research.

Sara Salzman Responds:

I'm Sara Salzman, one of the people who respond to questions at the Holocaust History Project.

I want to be as helpful as possible, but I think we need a bit more information. What is the age of this young man? Is he a student? In the justice system? Is he involved with any "hate groups"? What "information" does he base him denial on?

In some cases, especially with young people, Holocaust denial is not the problem, it's is only a symptom of a deeper anti-Semitism (or basic hatred for everything different), and a feeling of inferiority. In some cases, rather than working on specific facts of the Holocaust, it's more important to educate the person on the general problems of hatred.

However, I'm guessing here. I think with a little more information, we can offer more specific suggestions.

The motives of a denier can vary. However, one of the more "public" deniers has said," The real purpose of holocaust revisionism [denial] is to make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again."

I look forward to hearing more from you. Sara Salzman

Questioner responds:

Dear Sara, thank you for responding and taking my inquiry seriously. What I do know about this young man is that he has spent a great deal of time on the internet and has become a fan of different theories proposed on various sites He has been printing material and distributing it to anyone he can and he made a huge box of material and delivered it to me, because I asked him what he was studying. I read the material and was appalled at the article from a particular website with the title the "truth about the Talmud"... insidious l I called a Rabbi I know and asked him how I could find information and he suggested I have this young man call him. I was afraid to give him the Rabbi's phone number because I have no idea what the underpinnings of this interest are and would not want anything negative to happen in connection with the Rabbi.

I do not know why someone is attracted to the idea that the Holocaust did not occur or at the very least, disputing numbers and the veracity of personal accounts. It hurts me as a human being that anyone spends any energy on this. I may not be able to do anything to help him, or stop him from spreading this information. He copied this same material and sent it to a young woman I know and she destroyed it before throwing it out because she was afraid someone would find it in a box with her name on it. I know how she feels.

Simply put, I want to try to understand this and to find resources for education as you said regarding the concept of hate and intolerance. We have done a good job with our own children who are now grown, to instill in them a sense of tolerance and service and truth seeking, perhaps this is something I could do for someone who is not my child.

Thank you. His age is 21, he is a student and all I know is that he feels that sharing this information is his way of educating people who are "duped" by traditional history.

Sara Salzman Responds:

Since he is getting his information via the Internet, I suggest you take him to:

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Cyprus/8815/

This site was put together by Professor David Maddison, and "debunks" all those faked quotes and fabrications from the Talmud.

It also contains other information about anti-Semitism that you might find valuable. In addition, I recommend you read:

http://www.york.cuny.edu/~drobnick/maddison.html

which is another article about dealing with hate on the Internet.

I don't think I could explain why people hate. (I wish I could!) One attempt to do so is "Why The Jews?" at http://www.aish.com/seminars/whythejews/ It starts out a bit simplistically, but goes into a great deal of detail and could be helpful. Unfortunately, the conclusion it comes to is NOT one I endorse. Aish HaTorah believes that Jews must not assimilate into other societies. (sigh). You might want to read this one and "edit" it for your young man.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has an educational program called "Teaching Tolerance" that might be useful: http://www.tolerance.org/teach/index.jsp

There are some videos and books available for him to see and read, most of which are listed there. One I recommend is "Not in our town," a video about the town of Billings, Montana, and how they responded to anti-Semitic acts in their own backyard.

I am also copying the other members of the Holocaust History Project, to see if they have other suggestions for you. Good luck. You've taken on a very difficult task, but certainly a very necessary one. I'm hoping other members of THHP can offer you additional ideas and support.

Best wishes,

Sara

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