Some of the more than 6,100 gravestones at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 massacre (Image by Michael Büker via Wikimedia Commons)

The Weisenthal Centre's "Mr Holocaust" would seem to be undermining the very Holocaust history he claims to support, writes Branko Miletic.

In Yiddish, the term "prostak" denotes a wilfully ignorant person, while in the various interconnected Slavic languages, the word takes on a wider meaning of being uncouth or rude.

Historically, going back to the Ninth Century, Yiddish as a language was all but annihilated by the unmitigated evil that was the Holocaust.

And for almost as long as there has been the Holocaust, there has been Holocaust denial.

No-one is more aware of this than the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Yiddish-speaking and Jerusalem-based director Efraim Zuroff — a man who has given himself the nickname of "Mr Holocaust".

Since taking up his post in 1998, "Mr Holocaust" has guided the Wiesenthal Centre into a growing list of controversies, ranging from victim-shaming in the Balkans, to alienating his allies across the world, and now to threatening the very Holocaust history he claims to support.

Denial, it seems, can be a two-way street.

Take, for example, his repeated comments on the July 1995 massacre of 8,372 Bosnians by Serb forces in Srebrenica.

Despite the U.N., EU, U.S. and most governments around the world declaring it an “act of a genocide”, Zuroff claimed it could not have been so “as only men were killed”.

His remarks earned sharp rebukes from many quarters, including from Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

While Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, who teaches the law of genocide at Columbia and Cornell universities, called Zuroffs opinion, “wrong from a legal point of view”.

Nor was his the first time Zuroffs’ miscalculations have caused mayhem, however the attempt to downplay the gravity of the Srebrenica massacre also goes to the heart of the issue here.

As Marko Attila Hoare, associate professor of economics, politics, and history at Kingston University, said in 2011 about the denial of the genocide at Srebrenica in July 1995:

"It tends to go hand-in-hand with the denial of the genocidal crimes carried out by Serbian Nazi quislings and collaborators during World War II."

As if to underline that he is an equal-opportunity offender, in 2011, Zuroff’s carelessness led to the acquittal of a suspected Nazi war criminal in Hungary, causing much consternation for both Holocaust survivors and their families.

In the ensuing aftermath, László Karsai, the central European country’s leading Holocaust historian and himself the son of a Holocaust survivor, labelled him an “hysterical, narcissistic Nazi-hunter, working only to earn a good living”. He went on to say the Wiesenthal Centre used publicity in order to “justify its own existence before its sponsors”.

Moving his attention back to the former Yugoslavia, Zuroff’s downplaying of Serbia’s World War Two "Judenfrei" history has assisted for now in keeping this fact out of the media spotlight.

Then there is his silence over the former Yugoslav State erecting statues to Nazi collaborators and the rehabilitation of its own collaborationist history — a process that goes on to this day unabated.

Any attempt to publicly challenge Zuroff over such anomalies to his public pronouncements in relation to World War Two Balkan history elicits instant condemnation from the man himself, his organisation and his fellow travellers in the media — most of whose idea of journalism often more closely resembles bullying rather than objective reporting.

Even when simple arithmetics highlights the unexplained holes in the "accepted" conclusions, those that have dared to cross this apparent verboten Rubicon find themselves in the crosshairs of a well-oiled and, apparently, well-funded media campaign of character assassination.

In 1996, American historian Dr Philip Cohen discovered this the hard way after publishing his book: Serbia’s Secret War, which used Yugoslav, U.S., British, German and Russian archives to disprove many of Yugoslavia’s inflated World War Two death tolls.

Cohen’s work demolished the "victimology" that for decades has characterised just about everything that has been written about Yugoslavia’s role in World War Two.

Despite being lauded by former British PM Margaret Thatcher for his extensive research and despite being Jewish himself, Cohen discovered what happens when you challenge the status quo, courtesy of a tsunami of vilification, threats of physical violence — even being labelled a "Nazi sympathiser" by both the global Left and the Wiesenthal Centre.

But in many ways, Philip Cohen was a trailblazer, as one of the first historians to actually use simple, primary school arithmetic on decades-old publicly available data to pry open the floodgates of truth in relation to parts of Balkan World War Two history.

For example, between 1931 and 1948, according to Dr. Cohen (and the Holocaust Encyclopaedia), Europe’s Jewish population fell from 9.5 million in 1931 to 3.5 million in 1948 — meaning a net loss of some 6 million people, mostly courtesy of the Nazi death camps.

Over the exact same period of time, according to Belgrade’s official and publicly available population statistics, the number of people in Yugoslavia increased by over 1.3 million people, with 700,000 of those newly born citizens being Serbs, according to the same figures.

Delving further into the statistics, as Cohen and others found, the population of Yugoslavia, according to its published last census just prior to the outbreak of War in 1939, was almost 15.4 million.

In 1948, in the country’s first post-World War Two census, which was published by its new Communist government and then republished by the United Nations, showed a population of over 15.8 million — a growth of some 400,000 people. This made Yugoslavia the only European country actively militarily involved in World War Two to have its population increase during the period of the war.

Although these figures have been publicly available for at least 70 years, Zuroff and other commentators have consistently claimed that the decrease of 6 million people during the Holocaust is somehow comparable to the increase of Yugoslavia’s wartime population by some 400,000 people.

This odd analogy has been repeated by historians far and wide – including prominent Australian ones, such as self-styled "Nazi-hunter" Mark Aarons – as somehow being equal in "monstrosity".

While Yugoslavia’s role in World War Two is a typical Balkan mix of myth, propaganda and bravado, the fact that such obvious errors, most of which contravene even the basic rules of addition and subtraction, can enter the annals of standard and accepted history, and go unchallenged for decades simply beggars belief.

One excuse for this mathematical incongruity is the consistent failure to check simple raw data, such as publicly-available population figures, while at the same time blindly republishing and rehashing numbers that were little more than Communist propaganda.

The other reason is a fear of public abuse from those that wish to keep their "crimes of miscalculation" covered up.

Were they to become common knowledge, they could potentially provide a massive shot in the arm to those that crave for even a whiff of "scientific credibility" to disprove the Holocaust and who wish to wipe the history of this awful event from the collective memory of mankind.

Perhaps the Yiddish term prostak is applicable to a few more people, including all those so-called "historians", for whom the use of a calculator stretches their already seemingly limited skill set.

Branko Miletic is a journalist, editor, historian and author who has written extensively on the wars in the Balkans and post-Yugoslavia politics for the past 20 years. 

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