22 February 1996
Living Marxism Accused of 'Holocaust Denial'
The article 'massacring the truth
in Rwanda', published in the December issue of Living Marxism caused
something of a storm. We received a stream of outraged letters complaining
about our suggestion that it is misguided and dangerous to define the 1994
killings in Rwanda as a campaign of genocide - from the Rwandan government,
from the London-based Africa Rights group and from the Simon Wiesenthal
centre amongst others. As we told them all, we stand by our story.
In the March edition of Living Marxism
magazine, Helen Searls and Barry Crawford
spell out the case against those who claim that the 1994 massacres in
Rwanda were 'the third genocide in history'.
In the same issue Linda Ryan unearths
a hidden agenda in the mass graves allegedly discovered in Bosnia.
Below we publish our correspondence on the question of genocide with the
Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Simon Wiesenthal Center
January 2, 1996
I cannot imagine a more one-sided and distorted portrayal of the recent
events in Rwanda than the one presented by Fiona Foster
in the December 1995 issue of Living Magazine.
Invariably, one of the most horrifying and painful phenomenon associated
with genocide is the attempts of the perpetrators and their supporters to
deny that the atrocities took place. This has been well-documented in the
case of the Holocaust and is also true regarding the mass murders of the
Armenians by the Turks. Now Living Marxism has joined the ranks of the deniers
vis-a-vis the mass annihilation of civilians which took place in Rwanda
in 1994. To question the validity of the use of the term genocide to describe
the mass murders in Rwanda is to lend credence to the lies being disseminated
by the perpetrators and to pave the way for their exculpation. And to virtually
mock the justified call for the prosecution of the murderers is to help
pave the way for a recurrence of those terrible events.
For years Marxists refused to acknowledge the true nature of the Holocaust,
presently self-serving explanations for the rise of Nazism. They also refused
to identify the Jews as the primary victims of Hitler's genocidal program
(the Final Solution). Now once again you choose to ignore the true causes
for the murder, and seek to shift the blame to those who ultimately stopped
the genocide. I think that the readers of your magazine, not to mention
the people of Rwanda, deserve a far more honest appraisal of the calamity
which befell that country.
Simon Wiesenthal Center
16 January 1996
Dear Efreim Zuroff,
Thank you for your letter dated 2 January 1996, in response to our article
"Massacring the Truth in Rwanda" (Living Marxism, December 1995).
We were disappointed that a prestigious institution like the Simon Wiesenthal
Center should make such ill-informed criticisms of Living Marxism, and deeply
resentful of the inference that we are guilty of some kind of Holocaust
denial. We do not know who you get your information from, but can only assume
that the attack was motivated either by malice or ignorance.
Our magazine has consistently fought to expose those who seek to rewrite
history in order to deny the truth about the Holocaust. See, for example,
"Croatia: rewriting the Second World War" (Living Marxism, November
1991); "Cleansing the Holocaust" and "The Holocaust: Never
Again?" (Living Marxism, October 1992) to name but a few articles on
this theme. Some of those who write for Living Marxism themselves lost relatives
during the Nazi Holocaust. We suggest in future that you make sure you know
who you are talking to before making such poisonous accusations.
You have also missed the point about our approach to Rwanda. Nobody is denying
that atrocities took place there; the article in question makes clear that
"government militia massacred civilians in terrible circumstances"
in 1994. Our point is, however, that using emotive and exceptional terms
like "genocide" and "Holocaust" to describe a civil
war of a kind that is all-too-prevalent in Africa only serves to mystify
the real causes of the Rwandan conflict (particularly the role of outside
powers), and to distract from the crimes committed by the new Rwandan government.
It is precisely because of our concern to ensure that the Nazi Holocaust
is not forgotten that we object to the casual use of the word "Holocaust"
in relation to Rwanda or indeed Bosnia today. As we have often pointed out,
the consequence of equating the "Final Solution" with these local
conflicts can only be to diminish the significance of the real Holocaust,
and so help to sanitise the great international atrocity of the century.
I hope future correspondence between us will be more constructive.
Discuss the truth behind the genocide
debate online: 27 February, 11.00pm GMT in the Chat Room
Join a discussion on this commentary