Had the Germans won, they probably would have eliminated millions of other peoples, including the Roma, homosexuals, dissidents of any kind, and other “useless eaters.” But it was only the Jews whose destruction could not wait until after the war. Only in the case of the Jews could war priorities be overridden. Germany was fighting two wars in tandem, a conventional war and a war against the Jews. It lost the first and, for all intents and purposes, nearly won the second.
The de-Judaization of the Holocaust, as exemplified by the White House statement, is what I term softcore Holocaust denial. 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. In his decision, Judge Charles Grey called Irving a liar and a manipulator of history. He did so, the judge ruled, deliberately and not as the result of mistakes.
Softcore denial uses different tactics but has the same end-goal. (I use hardcore and softcore deliberately because I see denial as a form of historiographic pornography.) It does not deny the facts, but it minimizes 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. In certain Eastern European countries today, those who fought the Nazis may be lauded, but if they did so with a communist resistance group they may be prosecuted. Softcore denial also includes Holocaust minimization, as when someone suggests it was not so bad. “Why are we hearing about that again?”
What we saw from the White House was classic softcore denial. The Holocaust was de-Judaized. It is possible that it all began with a mistake. Someone simply did not realize what they were doing. It is also possible that someone did this deliberately. The White House’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, boasted that while at Breitbart he created a platform for alt-right. Richard Spencer, the self-proclaimed leader of the alt-right, has invited overt Holocaust deniers to alt-right conferences, and his followers have engaged in outright denial. During the campaign, he was reportedly responsible for speeches and ads that many observers concluded trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes.
After Hicks’s defense of the statement, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus doubled down, insisting that they made no mistake. On Meet the Press Chuck Todd gave Priebus repeated chances to retract or rephrase the statement. Priebus refused and dug in deeper, declaring “everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust, including obviously, all of the Jewish people… [was] extraordinarily sad.”
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.