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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holocaust denial and the need to know about history

It may or may not be true that history repeats itself. What is certainly true is that the world is a much dangerous place when it is led by men and women who do not understand the past and are unable to draw lessons from it. Even worse is those who try to make historical comparisons without actually knowing or understanding the events they are alluding to.

Trump's spokesperson, Sean Spicer really put his foot in it yesterday when he claimed that unlike Assad, Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons:

Comparing the Nazi leader with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Spicer told journalists during his regular press briefing at the White House: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in world war two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

Asked to clarify the remarks, he added: “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”

A reporter in the room shouted that Jews had been targeted. Stuttering and gesticulating, Spicer stumbled on: “Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the – he brought them into the Holocaust centres – I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down into the middle of towns.

“So, the use of it, I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent.”

It was not just the failure to understand the use of gas in concentration camps but also the claim that Hitler was not gassing his own people. In fact many of those who died in this way were Germans.

Accused of Holocaust denial Spicer was forced to make a humiliating apology but even then he put his foot in it:

Spicer tried to clarify his comments. “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” he said in an emailed statement. “I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”

It was not just the victims of the chemical attack in Syria who were innocent but those who died and suffered in the holocaust were also innocents.

If you don't understand history, then not only do you cause offense in this way but you are in danger of blundering into catastrophic mistakes that could cost thousands of lives.  It is worrying that the Trump White House is so ignorant of the past.
to be fair I think its clear what he meant and it really was not holocaust denial, merely an extremely clumsy use of language.
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