In a few hours of surfing Amazon’s Books category, I noticed that this American giant of online sales is infested with Holocaust deniers. These are books that either deny the crime ― the genocide of the Jews ― or the weapon of the crime ― the gas chambers. Their writers imply that the Holocaust is nothing but a rumour propagated by (Jewish) historians, survivors, Allies and Israel or an exaggeration of the numbers of Jews killed. They also suggest that, as the Holocaust never existed, the gas chambers that are still in existence today were nothing more sinister than a method to disinfect the deportees in the concentration camps.
On a search of more than 20 international Holocaust-denying authors, deceased or living, there are more than 100 books and other Holocaust denial publications sold on Amazon.com. This virtual shop is a showcase for them, which allows them to convey their ideologies where anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are mixed. The American company defends itself, explaining that the European law forbids them to sell deniers’ books. Holocaust deniers writers, however, find themselves in large numbers on the Amazon sites of all the countries of the Union.
If, for example, we look for the name of Carlo Mattogno, a notorious Italian holocaust denier, we will find many books and articles listed on Amazon.com. This is also the case on the Italian site, Amazon.it, despite the fact that Holocaust denial is illegal in Italy, as in most European countries.
Calls for a boycott of the site have already been heard. Is this really the solution? Should we deny the Holocaust deniers on Amazon.com? While European law is clear, and should be respected, the First Amendment in the United States does not prohibit them from publishing, but leaves Amazon with the final decision whether to sell them or not. This was also the case with the American Holocaust denier Bradley Smith, who, in the 1990s wanted to publish in American campus newspapers. Some campuses accepted on the basis of the First Amendment, even though they could just as well have refused.
The CEO and executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, Robert R. Singer raised the issue last week: “this is not a 1st Amendment problem. Amazon cannot be legally prohibited from selling Holocaust-denying material, but it can and should choose not to. Bookstores have long refused to carry certain items, with pornography being a prime example. Holocaust denial is no different, legally speaking, from hardcore pornography.” (Cf.)
Contrary to Singer’s assertion, pornographic works are indeed on Amazon.com, but marked with the words “Adults Only.” That, perhaps, could be a first step: to notify which books are Holocaust deniers. Access to the works could be facilitated, but this would remove any ambiguity.
Last week, Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, sent an email to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, requesting that he immediately remove the books from the sites. Yad Vashem’s battle to ban Holocaust-denying books should be welcomed. A list of these books was sent to Amazon a few days ago. This has resulted in books from some authors, known to be notorious Holocaust deniers, whose titles in the books leave no doubt as to their intentions, being withdrawn from sale. For example, The myth of the 6 million David L. Hoggan, an American denier and historian, is no longer on Amazon.
But there are also newer, little-known works, the titles of which do not allow the authors to be identified as deniers, but which instill doubt about the reality of history. This is the case of Debating the Holocaust: a New Look at Both Sides, a so-called academic, Thomas Dalton (Doctor). By an ambiguous title, the publishing house seeks to hide the fact that it is headed by Germar Rudolf, a German neo-Nazi Holocaust denier. The emphasis on authors’ qualifications (a doctor, a judge, a former witness of the camps, etc.) on the cover of books is also a common practice among them, in order to provide additional credit for their works and to legitimize themselves. Amazon customers are likely to get caught up in this dangerous game. Thankfully, by March 8th, Amazon.com had removed the book (Cf.).
Another example of an unknown denier author who is no longer found since March 8th on Amazon: Nicholas Kollerstrom, PhD, Breaking the Spell, The Holocaust Myth and Reality (Cf.).
They were found in greater numbers (about a hundred) in the section “Holocaust Handbooks,” but since March 8, there are no more denial writers in this section. This is a decision from Amazon that we can only rejoice in.
However, other Holocaust deniers still appear on the site, categorized with the Holocaust literature (Cf.). They are still listed under the category “History, World” or “Literature, Fiction.” And this, without any distinction with the books of history on the Shoah despite the fact that it would be easy to separate these books from genuine historically accurate works concerning the Holocaust. The same can be said of the French Amazon.fr site, where the works of the famous French denier Robert Faurisson are categorized under the heading “Books, History, Great Periods of History”, whereas Holocaust denial is illegal in France.
And that’s not all. Holocaust deniers use the site for even more pernicious purposes: to create a commentary page for all books dealing with the Holocaust,”Holocaust History channel.” Thus, they can write reviews on books, praising Holocaust deniers and denigrating those of historians (Cf.).
One last observation: those who believe in conspiracies are often not very far away when Holocaust denial is present. Clients who bought Holocaust denial books also bought conspiracy books about the September 11 attacks and the origins of ISIS, which was set up by Israel and the United States.
The Holocaust deniers on Amazon are only the visible part of the iceberg. There are other sites, such as iBookstore, and other outlets, such as the large U.S. bookstore Barnes & Noble, where you can buy some Holocaust deniers.
Not to mention sites like Archive.org, used by Holocaust deniers to broadcast books and videos. Or, the American academic libraries. For example, in the library of the Department of History at Columbia University, the deniers authors are placed on the same shelves as the works of historians, whereas a simple classification difference would allow them to be separated geographically, and warn the reader of the intentions of the work.
This categorization problem is also found in the Library of Congress. Within the world’s largest library, some Holocaust deniers are not qualified as such. The work of the German denier, Thies Christophersen, is listed in American libraries not by the term “holocaust denial,” but by the key words “personal narratives, German, Holocaust, Jews (1939-1945)” because the author was an SS technician assigned to rubber work at the Auschwitz camp from January to December 1944, while he was also a neo-Nazi activist after the war. This is an appalling error, which would require all our attention.
This is an ongoing battle and it will never be possible to banish all works created by Holocaust deniers from American public spaces and from being sold on the internet but the fact that Amazon has withdrawn some books is a positive sign. In the name of freedom of expression, we have given too much publicity to Holocaust deniers, allowing an extremist danger and calling into question the accuracy of history in the minds of younger generations.