Facebook’s shame

Survivors at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne protesting against Facebook. From left: Joseph De Haan, David Prince, Abe Goldberg and Lusia Haberfeld. Photo: Peter Haskin

FACEBOOK chief Mark Zuckerberg has been sharply criticised by Australian Shoah survivors after saying Holocaust denial should not be barred on the social media giant.

The US social media pioneer, still grappling with reports of false news planted on Facebook from Russia, told US technology website Recode last week that although he is Jewish and finds it “deeply offensive” to deny the Shoah, “I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.

“I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” he remarked, seemingly ignoring the global Holocaust denial industry’s anti-Semitic agenda.

Zuckerberg’s remarks set off a firestorm, and on Australian talkback radio, a caller supporting his view spoke of both “believers” and “deniers” of the Holocaust needing access to social media.

However, American history academic Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who won a landmark court case against Holocaust denier David Irving, famously argued, “There are not two sides to every issue. You can argue why the Holocaust happened, but not that it happened” – and four elderly Melburnians needed no reminding of that.

The volunteer guides at the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre have thrown their support behind a campaign launched by the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) demanding Zuckerberg reverse his policy.

David Prince and his family were sent to Auschwitz. He and his twin brother Henry and their father were separated from their mother and never saw her again.

“It’s a shame for Zuckerberg forever,” he told The AJN. “How does he dare? How can he live with it? He and his family weren’t there. But we have been.”

Imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto, Abe Goldberg lost over 40 members of his family. His father was murdered in Chelmno, his mother gassed on arrival in Auschwitz. “Deniers are after publication, exposure, and we shouldn’t give them exposure,” he said. “Everything started with words and ended with gas chambers. I feel betrayed by Zuckerberg.”

Joseph De Haan was hidden in Dutch farmhouses but his father and stepmother perished in Auschwitz. He lost almost 70 family members. “What [Zuckerberg] is doing is wrong … When I heard about it, I was disgusted.”

In the Warsaw Ghetto, Lusia Haberfeld was separated from her father and brother and never saw them again. “Six million people have perished and they are killing them again by denying the Holocaust,” she said.

Meanwhile, Francine Lazarus of Sydney, a child survivor from Belgium whose father died in Auschwitz, said, “Zuckerberg is Jewish, and of all people, he should understand that Holocaust deniers are the ultimate fake news … it’s perverse.

he Nazis documented everything they did. I use Facebook but I don’t think I’m going to use it much after this.”

ADC chair Dvir Abramovich said the organisation’s “Kick Holocaust Deniers Out of Facebook” campaign plans to contact Zuckerberg and major international Holocaust museums, including Yad Vashem and the US Holocaust Museum.

Addressing Zuckerberg, Abramovich said, “Providing a voice and a hangout on Facebook to anti-Semites, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who want to finish Hitler’s work and murder every Jew on earth, including you and your family, is an affront to all those who escaped the monstrosities of the Holocaust.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said, “Given that the Holocaust was the most thoroughly documented genocide in history – documented by the perpetrators themselves – for Mr Zuckerberg to suggest that Holocaust denial is not motivated by wicked intent is naïve at best, ignorant at worst. Facebook has a responsibility to uphold community standards, which means not giving a platform to those who spread lies and bigotry.”

Sydney Jewish Museum chief executive Norman Seligman said the Holocaust “is well documented and there’s no debate at all that it happened. To choose to deny it is racist and anti-Semitic”.

PETER KOHN