Wednesday 31 August 2022

A Force for Bad


There are times when you only realise your mistake four decades later. My mistake happened in 1985 or perhaps in 1986. I used to regularly attend the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. You could watch films there in the afternoon for something like 50 pence. I saw a poster with a man looking out of a train advertising a film using a word I had never seen before “Shoah”. It was a documentary lasting around 9 and half hours in two parts. I decided not to go and see it. That was my mistake.

Over the years that passed at various times I contemplated buying the DVD. I’m something of an amateur film enthusiast and have seen most important films, but somehow, I put off seeing Shoah. I had the idea that it would be like reading one of those great novels that you really ought to read, but which turn out to be a chore and a struggle to finish. How many such novels do we put off reading forever?

It might have been because I am practicing listening to Polish at the moment and quite a bit of Shoah takes place in Poland with many interviews in Polish, it might have been for some other reason, but immediately on watching I realised that I was watching something special and by the end was convinced that I had watched the greatest documentary of all time and one of the truly great films.

The greatness of Shoah consists in this. The witness testimony to the Holocaust is so convincing that it is enough on its own to convince the viewer of the historical accuracy of what we know about the murder of 6 million Jews.

Of course, we have much more evidence than witness testimony. There are documents. There is the existence of the sites of the death camps. There are piles of clothes, glasses and suitcases with Jewish names on them. There is the absence in 1945 of the majority of the Jewish population of Europe that lived there in 1939. Where did they go? There is more historical evidence for the Holocaust than almost any other event in history.

We have far less evidence for what happened at the Battle of Hastings or even the Battle of Waterloo than we have about what happened at Treblinka let alone Auschwitz. To deny the historical record of the Holocaust is madder than denying the Norman Conquest and badder too because the denial is grounded in Anti-Semitism and sympathy with the Nazis.

Why deny the Holocaust, why say there were no gas chambers unless you want to say the Nazis were not as bad as all that and in fact, they did the world a service.

The people who deny the Holocaust don’t deny that in Rwanda there was genocide or that around 1.7 million people died in the Soviet Gulag. They don’t deny that around 16 million Soviet civilians died in World War II. They only deny the deaths of Jews.

There is room for disagreement in the history of the Holocaust just like every other history. But it must be grounded in evidence and genuine scholarship rather than pseudoscience and the misuse of archives motivated by hatred of Jews and love of Nazis.

Shoah gives us first hand testimony from people who were in the camps and also from some of the Germans who worked in the camps. We hear how Czech Jews from Theresienstadt sang the Czech national anthem and then the Hatikvah (Israel’s present national anthem). “Our hope is not yet lost” they sing knowing that they are about to die in the gas chamber and that they won’t see the hope of two thousand years, a free nation in the land of Zion. The sonderkommando who witnessed this and who wanted die with them Filip Müller, a Slovak Jew must be a liar if Alistair McConnachie is right, because he, as reported by Stephen Daisley, thought there were no gas chambers.

There are some extraordinary moments in Shoah. They are the most convincing witness statements I have ever seen. To suppose that these people are liars is to suppose an acting ability that defies belief. Watch for yourself Shoah and find yourself astonished, moved and in the end shattered by “the sorrow and the pity” of it all. Anyone who denies this happened as these people describe it lacks humanity also. He is on the side of the monsters who tried to hide their crime against humanity. He is complicit in the act of hiding as if his hands too destroyed the buildings in Treblinka. 

It matters that someone on the Pro UK side of the debate in Scotland is reported as having abhorrent views. Such a person is not merely useless as a campaigner he is positively harmful.

Everything a holocaust denier writes or does is discredited by association and everyone who associates with a holocaust denier is discredited too.

Our Scottish nationalist opponents can use the existence of a holocaust denier to make our side look foolish and extreme. Unfortunately, it is no use denying you are a holocaust denier once you have been judged by public opinion to be one. All of your excuses become like the Nazis in Shoah, who tell us that they did not know. They were just responsible for running the trains and had no idea what happened when they reached at their destination.

I don’t want to give McConnachie any publicity, which is why I have not written about him before. I know little about him. Some Scottish nationalists many years ago pointed out the accusation of Holocaust denial. I googled and discovered some newspaper articles. I blocked him. I urge all Pro UK people to do likewise. I don’t read anything written by him, I do my best to ignore everything that he does and indeed his existence. 

 It had been good for that man if he had not been born.

Imagine if we discovered that a prominent Scottish nationalist campaigner had been accused of Holocaust denial. We would naturally believe that this person harmed the Scottish nationalist argument. Scottish nationalists would be dismayed by this person even if they otherwise agreed with what he wrote and did.

Holocaust denial is a taint. It is like the mark of Cain. It infects everything else. Never ever associate in any way with Holocaust deniers.

The anti-Semitism of the Far Left helped to defeat Labour at the last election. The anti-Semitism of the Far Right is expressed most commonly by Holocaust denial. Idiots waving Union Flags and making Nazi salutes do not help the Pro UK argument. They help the SNP. So does McConnachie.