Eye on the Middle East Aug/Sep 1997

French ultranationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen recently referred to the Holocaust of World War II as “a detail of history.” According to Le Pen’s version of revisionist thinking, “The gas chambers have nothing to do with anti-Semitism…When I say that the gas chambers are a detail of history of the Second World War, it’s obvious. If you take a book on the Second World War of a thousand pages, you will have four pages on deportation, and on these four pages you will have six lines on the gas chambers.”

The statements of the leader of the radical National Front demonstrate a tactic as serious as the outright denial that the Holocaust ever occurred. It is perhaps even more dangerous because out-and-out denial can be refuted by the grim visual and documented facts of history. Le Pen is trivializing history and relegating the horrors of the Holocaust—which incinerated six million Jews and five million other assorted enemies of the state—to a minor incident.

His ploy is as obvious as Adolf Hitler’s covering barbaric brutality with pageantry, bread, cars for the people, and promises to restore Germany’s national pride. Le Pen’s quest for the presidency of France seeks to build an image devoid of memories of dark days and bad times. “I’m interested in the future,” he says. “I’m not interested in what happened fifty years ago.” He goes on to set forth his vision for the future, built on a “Europe of fatherlands” with “a common body of doctrine, which includes the love of the fatherland of the past, of the earth, traditional values.”

Sort out all of this and you will find a philosophy akin to the one that drove Hitler to power and Europe into degradation and poverty. But don’t underestimate the potential danger posed by men of Le Pen’s stripe. They prowl the Middle East and, increasingly, the Western world. Their quarry is found in historically illiterate people who have already fallen prey to the “everything for me” philosophy of life. The very fact that men like France’s Le Pen, Russia’s Zhirinovsky, neo-Nazi leaders, and glowering terrorists, lauded by some as “freedom fighters,” are tolerated in otherwise civilized countries should be warning enough for all of us.

We had better remember the Holocaust, along with the men and mindset that caused it to happen. With anti-Semitism afoot in the Middle East and Western nations, and with Christian minorities suffering intense persecution in many countries as the world looks the other way, it can happen again. And with men like Mr. Le Pen on the loose, the potential for national disaster is a constant, if unwelcome, companion.

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