The casualty of the ongoing culture wars raging in the United States today is a decrease in the public’s trust in media, political figures and the historical record. Leaders exploit this uncertainty using a combination of fear mongering and plausible deniability to mould public opinion. If you can simply wipe away the historical record by calling it “fake”, then collectively we are in a lot of trouble indeed. Specifically, for any civilization to cohere, move forward, or even endure, its people must share a historical sensibility in common. When memory itself is under assault, as is the case with Holocaust denialism, then all of us placed into greater jeopardy because scrupulous and powerful individuals will exploit the subsequent weakness; and with every such attack democracy and the democratic impulse becomes just a little weaker. Democracy dies the death of a thousand such wounds.
Perspectives on Antisemitism
Racism affects every single society on the planet shaping politics, economics, social policy, culture, art, music and everything in between. Racism is not a rational viewpoint to hold; it is an emotional response of a person to the strange and unknown. Racism reflects the fact human beings are not particularly rational by nature. We tend to make decisions from the hip based on incomplete information. In the process we risk mistaking our assumptions about people for facts. Since 2015 antisemitism (or hatred of Jewish people) has risen significantly in democratic countries like France, Britain, Germany, Canada and the United States.
Antisemitism’s rise correlates with the significant economic problems following the Great Recession in 2009 and a subsequent rise in populism. Mark Twain reputedly observed history doesn’t repeat though it rhymes. With Twain’s observation in mind, the 1920s and the early 2000s “sound” eerily similar: during these two decades both Germany and the United States experienced existential crises where economic collapse fell fast upon the heels of military failure, e.g. Germany losing the Great War and the United States being chastened in both Afghanistan and Iraq. These crises contributed to, and exacerbated feelings of, desperation and a sense of rootlessness in German and American political life; and in both situations, for good or for ill, the type of leaders benefiting most weren’t democratic-minded ones but reactionary men promising radical solutions.
Economic or politic crisis doesn’t always mean a rise in the popularity of right-wing movements. However, at the risk of sounding fatalistic, authoritarianism does hold a certain attraction for those of us—especially in times of uncertainty—who look at the world in black and white terms as opposed to grey. In this context, the fear felt by white Americans, and expressed in their support for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, seems understandable, even predictable. There really is no historical precedent of a majority (white men) going quietly accepting their fate, i.e. sitting back while women grow in influence and immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East radically change America’s demographics. The average person really isn’t motivated by principles like pluralism, tolerance or even democracy. Instead, what motivates them more are things reflecting some of the cognitive (“thinking”) problems affecting to human nature: tribalism, the distrust of strangers, and the jealous guarding of privilege.
One of the oldest and most common forms of racism is antisemitism. For centuries Jews have experienced violence and discrimination at the hands of Christian groups and governments. This hatred isn’t confined to the past: in 2017 white supremacists, and members of the so-called “alt-right” (otherwise known as reactionary conservatives), marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were protesting the removal of statues depicting “heroic figures” who fought defending the South during the American Civil War. The majority of these statues were erected in the 1960s, 70s and 80s—in reaction to the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—making many African Americans feel insecure and understandably upset, i.e. these statues are justifiably perceived as symbols celebrating racism. The Charlottesville white supremacists marched at night carrying torches shouting “Jews will not replace us” over and over and over again. The protest reminded me of similar actions taken by National Socialists in Germany during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Eventually, during a counter-protest white supremacists and their opponents clashed in street battles. One counter-protester was killed when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd. On October 27th, 2018, a white supremacist walked into a Jewish place of worship in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania opening fire killing eleven Jews.
Actions are the products of thoughts and thoughtlessness: in April 2018 an article broke revealing how four out of even ten millennial had never heard of the Holocaust. Ignorance of the Holocaust didn’t necessarily contribute to either the Charlottesville or Pittsburgh events; however, when we forget or ignore our collective history we seem to be doomed to repeat past mistakes. The world has changed a lot over the past seven decades since the end of World War II. Human rights are more broadly respected. In Western countries like Canada, America, France, Germany and Britain, minorities enjoy greater security and opportunities than ever before. Governments and courts actively protect vulnerable people from exploitation and discrimination. Yet, despite this progress some people remain unwilling to tolerate others different than themselves. Jews, and other minorities, are still targeted by hate groups, e.g. Jewish gravestones are frequently marred by spray painted Swastikas, synagogues are broken in to and burned, and the people themselves are likewise attacked.
As bad as the marches by torch wielding white nationalists, and the physical attacks on Jews themselves, I’d argue one of the greater threats to Jewish people comes in the form of Holocaust denialism. In an insult to the memory of millions of people who suffered and died under the Nazis, deniers claim the Holocaust never even happened. If deniers convince us 6.5 million people didn’t die in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Dachau, or Treblinka, etc. then they might be able to convince us to reconsider other things like respect for human rights or tolerance of minorities generally; it is important to fight Holocaust denial if only to preserve and remember the voices of a million children silenced by jack booted, educated men.
Elie Wiesel, author of the novel Night, is only one of many people who actively worked to preserve the memory of those who died in the camps. Historian and author, Deborah Lipstadt, likewise worked opposing Holocaust denial and antisemitism. She publishes books, gives lectures, takes the deniers on directly through court cases, educates people, and generates awareness of the problem of denialism by working closely with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
 Populism is a political approach where leaders of a movement appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups. Populist leaders were elected in the United States, Italy, Turkey, and Brazil. The growth of populism reflects the growing discontent among the average person with politicians who appear to be beholden to corporate interests. Regrettably, in the Western context the growth of populism correlates strongly with a growth in intolerance.
 Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, Authoritarianism & Polarization in American Politics, p.18.
 Jews were not allowed to hold certain types of jobs or participate as full members of society; they were forced to live in ghettos apart from surrounding Christian communities. In addition to being socially and economically marginalized, Jews experienced violent persecutions (called pogroms) in every country, e.g. they were thrown in to holes upside down and buried, they were drowned, and beaten to death. Although the Jewish People have suffered persecution for centuries, the term anti-Semitism is actually a relatively new word: it is based on a 19th century German term, e.g. Judenhass literally meaning “Jew-hatred.”
 The Holocaust was the product of the Nazi’s so-called “Final Solution” the “Judenfuge” (translated to “Jewish problem in Europe”). Two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe was gassed, starved, shot, etc. from 1941 to 1945. This equates to approximately 6.5 million people (an estimated 1.5 million were children). The article can be accessed here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/holocaust-study-millennials/.
 The German philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831 CE) observed “the only lesson history teaches is we don’t learn from history.”