ICAN Campaign Targets Growing Prevalence of State-Sponsored Holocaust Denial and Distortion
Raising awareness of the danger of state-sponsored Holocaust denial and distortion, particularly in Eastern Europe, is the aim of a multi-year advocacy campaign being run by the Israeli-American Civil Action Network (ICAN).
The initial impetus behind the push was a 2018 law passed in Poland criminalizing certain aspects of Holocaust history research, ICAN CEO Dillon Hosier told the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM).
“Holocaust education needs to be a priority as we work to combat antisemitism,” Hosier said. “It’s a necessary tool in helping to explain the ultimate harm and damage that antisemitism can cause in society. So when a government like Poland takes this kind of action, it undermines all our efforts.”
But the main focus of the ICAN campaign, he noted, was in fact Lithuania, where similar legislation was proposed as part of what Hosier called an “ongoing effort to whitewash and erase the history of the country’s Holocaust perpetrators.”
“Lithuanians were killing Jews before the Nazis even arrived, and that’s a piece of history that’s not well understood,” he pointed out.
More than 95 percent of Lithuania’s pre-World War II Jewish population of around 160,000 were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
ICAN went into action and successfully lobbied the cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood to pass resolutions last year condemning any attempts by the Lithuanian government to deny involvement in the Holocaust.
“This started the ball rolling, and we have done over 20 streaming sessions educating people about the different aspects of this Lithuanian effort, which is driving the Holocaust revisionism and distortion efforts throughout Eastern Europe,” Hosier said. “The trend is definitely on the rise. As survivors are dying, as eyewitnesses are dying, there are extremist governments in Europe, on this issue, that see it as an opportunity to change their reputation and to wash their responsibility for what happened in the Holocaust.”
“The next generation is not keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive as much as we need to,” he added. “Governments are taking advantage of this, so we’re pushing back in a comprehensive way.”
Earlier this month, a video released by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) highlighted the growing Holocaust distortion and denial threat.
Looking ahead toward ICAN’s next step, Hosier said, “Our goal was to start at the local level and create momentum from the bottom up, starting with high-profile cities. Now we’re going now to Congress, where we are seeking to get a new bill introduced that will start tracking incidents of government-backed or state-sponsored Holocaust denial and distortion. This is important because it will require U.S. embassies and other diplomatic missions abroad to report annually on it.”
“This will give us a good baseline to see how this trend is growing, and to see where this information is being placed,” he continued. “With the free flow of information in today’s world, we don’t want false histories crafted by governments interested in whitewashing their Holocaust histories finding their way into our classrooms here in the U.S.”
Regarding the diplomatic sensitivities of criticizing American allies in Eastern Europe, particularly at a time of rising U.S.-Russia tensions, Hosier commented, “I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
“For us, victory is, Lithuania has a list of Holocaust perpetrators whose histories they have tried to rewrite, they’ve given awards and honors to, but yet these same people killed tens of thousands of Jews,” he said. “Our first goal is to get Lithuania to reverse these honors, and to acknowledge the true history that the record shows.”
“And we’re hoping that as we tackle Lithuania, and make it a case study, other countries will fall into place as well, and it will provide a roadmap for them to address this issue in a serious and meaningful way,” he added.
An ICAN petition demanding Lithuania stop Holocaust criminals can be viewed and signed here.
For more information on the Israeli-American Civil Action Network, which was founded in 2018, visit: israelusa.org