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The Holocaust As Myth

by Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) by RDFollendoreIII

December 14, 2005

Of course I believe that the Holocaust happened.  But if one is to live their life believing the premise that over six million people died at the hands of Nazi Germany, and that these people did not simply disappear from the face of the earth because of aliens, then we have to consider the 'mythical' proportions of these numbers. 

Six million of anything is a very large number to contemplate. If you were to count one person each second, twenty four hours a day, it would take you sixty nine and a half days to count six million bodies. (The next time that you are a passenger in a car, watch the stripes in the road go by, or the fence posts, then after a few minutes, try to remember the image of just one.)  A million individual people are too many to adequately represent in a human mind because the simple logic of numbers can't express them.  Six million people does not mean that there were twelve million feet, hands and eyes, just as there were not sixty million fingers or toes because every one of these people were individually different.

Theoretically is difficult for many people to grasp the fact that human beings are capable of liquidating the lives of their fellow man in such numbers. I personally believe that this horrific number is reasonably correct but as a student of human communication I also understand why statistical truth is culturally becoming so difficult to maintain.  All of the European laws that forbid the denial of the Holocaust do little to make the maintenance of the historical facts easier.  Maintenance is by definition a continual process and each year there are fewer individuals who were direct witnesses to the events of the Holocaust.  It is this creeping silence, the unsaid denial of Holocaust that eventually invades the culture of societies and is the true problem in maintaining the true relationship between historical fact and fiction. Notions of truth are constantly being reborn through the error of fact and fiction.

One undeniable truth is that human society has always had terrible things perpetrated upon it. The social process of denying such a terrible event as the Holocaust is not simply part of an attempt to support the values and actions of mass murderers.  Mass murders occur when cultures justify the systematic use of genocide as a weapon.  From a anthropological view,  the denial of truth has been a fundamental way in which societies are able to begin to reunite. Whether we like it or not, the fact is that people literally bury the dead and when they do they begin the process of burying the memory of the dead. The shear magnitude of the Holocaust forces it to be considered as one single thing and that is what makes vulnerable.  Every human life represents both a miracle and a tragedy.  In terms of shear proportions, miracles and tragedies occur every single day.  The truth is that because of our information age modern man recognizes that there are as many terrible events that happen to people every day. Morally information should not reduce the tragedy and truth of the Holocaust but a reasoned argument can legitimately be made that effectively it does, particularly if you recognize that for better or worse, man has just such a comparative mind.

The transaction that takes place when historical events are transposed from fact to myth is unfortunately a part of this comparative thinking. But before you jump to any conclusions you should do a little academic research. It is important to understand that there are many contradictory definitions to the specification of the term "myth."  In a positive way, the term myth means a "traditional story accepted as history," "a legendary narrative that expresses the ideology of a culture," and "a common or shared historical experience."  Humanity should not deny the positive implications of these definitions. In a negative way however,  the term 'myth' can also mean an "untrue story based on fiction and falsehood," and "a popular belief that is false or unsupported by facts."  ( definemyth - Google Search )

The definitive fact is that the Holocaust can rightfully as well as wrongfully be defined in terms of a myth. The Holocaust was and remains a shared historical experience. Regardless of whether an individual is an extremist considering the Holocaust in terms of Hitler's 'means to an end' or a simply rational person attempting to weigh the enormous negative impacts on humanity, the Holocaust does in fact express the the essential ideologies of several different cultures in our time. The notion of the Holocaust is symptomatic of something that runs far deeper than simply right and wrong and perhaps the shear fact that some people still feel that the Holocaust was justifiable while others deny its existence proves that. Historically, the more recent systematic executions that took place in Asia, Europe and South America are examples of the negative ideologies that continue to evolve with this myth as a model.  To contrast this, the simple fact that the Holocaust is and continues to remain a pivotal point in understanding the implications of weak human rights programs is a testament to the positive aspect of considering the Holocaust as myth.  It is doubtful that man will be able to prevent the Holocaust from either being or becoming a myth of titanic proportions.  Perhaps as with all myths we should concentrate on the moral.    


As an academic of human communication I don't presume to understand the reasoning of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,  the President of Iran, in calling the Holocaust a myth and on the face of what we westerners understand to be true we certainly certainly should  not a fan of him or his administration.  What we should also know is that we should be very careful in our analysis of a political leader in such a different cultures. The President of Iran is essentially a tribal leader of a religious sect who is walking a precarious philosophical tightrope.  He is obviously choosing to do this for a reason, and we are being asked to presume that it is because he is building up a nuclear weapons program. We should keep in mind that we are apparently witnessing an amazing series of errors in judgment through the unique filter of a provably biased system of journalism. (It remains far to easy to Americans to mistake the third estate as independent in spite of the fact that INFOWAR is defined by the DOD as a legitimate part of the battlefield. In it's own right, the idea of unbiased mainstream reporting also a cultural myth.)  From the face of it, one may be justifiable in suspecting that something is happening in Iran that is not being accurately reported.  Intellectually there is a lot more wrong with what we are being presented than the fact that the President of Iran is provoking Israel and the United States by calling the Holocaust a myth.   We should remain skeptical of least we too begin to define solutions to the problems of other cultures in 'holocaustic' terms. 

 

  

 

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