United Nations member states are being urged this week to support the draft UN General Assembly resolution condemning Holocaust denial. A vote is expected on Friday 26 January 2007. The move is being supported by human rights and faith groups, as well as the American Jewish Congress.
Rejecting Holocaust denial and encouraging the nations of the world to develop educational programmes to ensure that future generations properly learn the lessons of the Holocaust was part of the UN resolution adopted in 2005, which designating 27 January as an international day of Holocaust remembrance.
"Regrettably, these universal lessons are rejected in certain countries where the press, the educational system, and even spiritual and religious leaders continue to deny the Holocaust," wrote AJC President E. Robert Goodkind and Executive Director David A. Harris to the United Nations Secretary General and its ambassadors this week.
In a reference to Iran and its position over Israel they continued: "In one instance, a leader of a country has repeatedly called for the destruction of another member state, called into question well-documented historical facts about the Holocaust and sponsored a Holocaust-denial conference in his capital city."
The growth of the far right in Europe and a globally publicized Austrian court case involving Holocaust denial and the imprisonment of revisionist historian David Irving have thrown the issue into the spotlight, as have opinion surveys showing that a significant minority of young people are not convinced of the veracity of the Nazi genocide. The draft resolution on Holocaust denial was conceived against this backdrop.
In Britain, Holocaust Memorial Day has remained controversial because of the refusal of some Muslim organizations to participate. They say they want HMD broadened to include other genocides. Those who disagree say that there is something historically unique in the Shoah, and the attempt to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth.
Holocaust Memorial Day organizers say they are sensitive to the concerns, and while the key focus on the Nazi Holocaust will remain other genocides are remembered too.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has not been participating, but says it will put the matter to its members for a vote.
"The United Nations bears a special responsibility to assure that the Holocaust and its lessons are never forgotten, and that this tragedy serves as a warning to all people of the profound dangers of hatred, bigotry, and racism," wrote the American Jewish Congress to the UN ambassadors.
In some countries, including Germany and Austria, Holocaust Denial is a crime. Some advocate extending such provisions to other nations. But civil rights and political advocates argue that suppressing such ideas is not as effective as confronting them, and may even be counter-productive.
They point to the alarming growth of neo-Nazi ideas in eastern Germany, which when it was the GDR was formally and ‚Äúanti-fascist state‚Äù. Pushing evil underground can allow it to flourish in different ways, critics suggest.
According to a recent poll, 41% of us believe a Holocaust could happen in Britain, yet 36% think most people would stand by and do nothing.