Auschwitz survivor blasts FB boss over Holocaust denial
Polish Auschwitz survivor Marian Turski has written a letter to social media giant Mark Zuckerberg urging him not to allow Holocaust denial on Facebook.
In a letter published in Germany’s centre-right newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the 94-year-old wrote: “I appeal to you, not against democracy, but for the sake of democracy, not to allow the Holocaust denials to appear on Facebook.”
Turski, who is a long-standing journalist in Poland and the deputy chairperson of the International Auschwitz Committee, moved the world in January this year on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz when he warned that Auschwitz did not come from nowhere and that it could happen again.
Now he has placed Zuckerberg in his sights in what is part of a wider campaign by prominent Holocaust survivors who, under the hashtag #NoDenyingIt, are urging the Facebook boss to remove Holocaust-denying groups, pages and posts as hate speech.
Zuckerberg outraged Holocaust groups in 2018 when he said that that posts denying the German annihilation of six million Jews would not necessarily be removed. He said he did not think Holocaust deniers were “intentionally” getting it wrong, and that as long as posts were not calling for harm or violence, even offensive content should be protected.
In his letter, Turski describes his experiences of having to deal with Holocaust denial after having himself being a victim of the Holocaust.
Turski was sent to Auschwitz from the Łódź ghetto in 1944. His father and brother were murdered after selection. Turski survived the Death March in January 1945 and survived later incarceration in Buchenwald.
He describes a time two decades after the war when he was asked by a filmmaker to meet Holocaust deniers from the UK, France, Germany and Austria at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum.
“These young leaders were known for their denial that the Holocaust had happened at all, and one of them publicly declared that he would not shake hands with a Jew. However, I considered it my duty - believe me very difficult for a survivor - to confront the neo-Nazis, he wrote.
“At one point one of them, a 30-year-old German, otherwise very well-read and well-educated, says to me: ‘And what evidence do you have that one million Jews died in Auschwitz and that this is not a number you invented to claim compensation? The Germans are very meticulous, if that were the case, there would certainly be records’.
To which he said ‘And how do you explain the fact that after the selection, my father and my brother were sent to the gas chambers and crematoria and the next day no one saw them again?’ To which he said: ‘What proof is that? Maybe they escaped, but you don't know their further fate?’” he added.
In his letter in Wednesday's edition of the German newspaper Turski reminded Zuckerberg that freedom of speech has limitations when it threatens the freedom or existence of individuals or groups.
“Freedom and the right to express one's views, even if they hurt an individual, are part of a democratic system. But... does the democratic system have any restrictions? It does when the actions of an individual or group threaten the freedom or existence of other individuals or groups,” he wrote.
Turski went on to remind Zuckerberg of the responsibility that comes with his position at the head of the largest social media in the world.
"Mr. Zuckerberg, you are a very powerful person of the fourth estate, because Facebook is part of the fourth estate. If someone on Facebook incited me to kill Marian Turski, I believe you would certainly find it unacceptable. And people today who deny the Holocaust continue and pass on to today's younger generation the ideology that caused the death of 6 million Marian Turskis,” he wrote.
The #NoDenyingIt campaign is coordinated by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which negotiates compensation payments from Germany for Holocaust victims.
The campaign gets Holocaust survivors to urge Facebook to remove Holocaust-denying groups, pages and posts by classifying them as hate speech.
One of the campaign’s goals is for Zuckerberg to meet with Holocaust survivors and listen to their stories and their reasons for saying that Holocaust denial violates Facebook’s hate speech standards and should be removed.