Recognizing and Countering Holocaust Distortion

Recommendations For Policy and Decision-Makers

In many ways, attempts to distort the reality of the Holocaust began at the same time that Nazi Germany and its collaborators carried out the genocide of the Jews of Europe and North Africa.

After 1945, Holocaust distortion, as such, was not a subject of much discussion. Rather, at least in recent decades, the related phenomenon of Holocaust denial has warranted considerable attention. The dangers of outright denial of the Holocaust prompted policymakers, scholars, and educators to develop a series of responses that have included legislative efforts, enhanced educational outreach, and supporting and sustaining museums and memorials that inform and keep alive the memory of the Holocaust and related atrocities. These efforts led to a number of significant developments, but challenges remain.

Although denial is still a significant problem, Holocaust distortion has become in many ways a more pernicious threat. After all, Holocaust distortion does not necessarily suggest that the Holocaust did not occur. At the simplest level, distortion misrepresents the Holocaust and its relevance. Yet, distortion is much more complex than this. As outlined in these guidelines, it can appear in a variety of ways, including some that might seem innocent at first glance. Distortion is also a shared international challenge, in that it crosses cultural and national borders. This development is all the more acute due to the rise of post-truth politics and the proliferation of online hate.

It is notoriously difficult to ascertain the motives behind Holocaust distortion. Does distortion appear due to cynical or hateful reasons, or out of ignorance of the facts or sensitivities of the Holocaust? Regardless of the motive, excusing or making allowances for distortion erodes our understanding and respect for the Holocaust, and it is an insult to the memories of Holocaust victims and survivors.

This document represents a major step in shaping international responses to the challenge of Holocaust distortion. Like the work of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), these guidelines and the Global Task Force Against Holocaust Distortion are the products of dialogue and cooperation between a diverse and international group of subject matter experts, IHRA partner organizations, and policymakers. The Task Force would not have been possible without the support of the Federal Republic of Germany and its Presidency of the IHRA. The wider fields of Holocaust education, remembrance, and research owe a considerable debt of gratitude to German for its indefatigable support of the continued search for solutions to sustain honest engagement with the Holocaust as an historical subject that continues to resonate in the present day. Finally, these guidelines are the result of work that began generations ago, when the first Holocaust survivors shared their personal experiences with the world. It is our duty to uphold the memory of the victims and survivors. It is for them that we must continue to push back against all attempts to destroy, forget, or distort the past.