Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
My name is Marian Turski and I have survived the ghetto in Łódź (Litzmannstadt ghetto), Auschwitz and two death marches – from Auschwitz to Buchenwald and from Buchenwald to Theresienstadt.
I want to tell you an episode of my life. No, not from the Holocaust period. It happened two decades later. A British director made a documentary about the journey of four young neo-Nazi leaders from Great Britain, France, Austria and Germany to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial. He asked me if I didn’t want to go with her. These young neo-Nazis were known to deny that the Holocaust took place at all, and one of them had publicly declared that they would not shake hands with Jews. Still, I thought it was my duty – please believe me: a very difficult one for a survivor – to face the neo-Nazis. Precisely because they were young people.
At some point, one of my interviewees, an – otherwise very well-read and well-educated – thirty-year-old German said to me: “And what evidence do you have that a million Jews died in Auschwitz and that this is not a number that you invented for compensation to promote? The Germans are very conscientious if it were so – there would be registers. “I replied:” And how do you explain the fact that after the selection my father and my little brother were driven in the direction of the gas chambers and crematoriums and the next day nobody ever saw her again? “Then he:” What does that prove? Maybe they fled, only you don’t know their fate … “
You can imagine, dear Mr. Zuckerberg, how much such a brazen denial of the Holocaust can offend, hurt, even hurt a survivor like me. But should insulting myself, my pain, be enough to call for a ban on the dissemination of opinions on Holocaust denial? No, freedom and freedom of expression, even if it hurts an individual, are part of the democratic system. But: are there no restrictions in the democratic system? It does! Precisely when the actions of an individual or a group endanger the freedom or the existence of other individuals or groups.
Auschwitz did not fall from the sky. Auschwitz has crept in step by step, from small discriminatory regulations to mass genocide. Auschwitz could happen under which people were dumbfounded and accustomed to lying after lie, flooded with hate speech after hate speech. At the end of this advance of lies and hate speech there was incitement to murder. That is why the denial of the Holocaust is so deadly for the democratic system.
The Romans used to say: Caveant consules! Which meant: May those who exercise power be particularly vigilant and sensitive. You, Mr. Zuckerberg, are one of the potentates of power, the so-called fourth power, because Facebook is part of the fourth power. If someone on Facebook instigated me to kill Marian Turski, I think you would think that would be inadmissible. But people who deny the Holocaust today pursue an ideology that caused the death of six million Marian Turskis and pass it on to today’s younger generation.
That is why I appeal to you today – not against democracy, but for the sake of democracy – not to allow Holocaust deniers to appear on Facebook.
The author, Born in 1926, is Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee. He supports the Claims Conference campaign #NoDenyingIt.
Editor’s note: In an earlier version, a sentence in the second to last paragraph of the article could be misunderstood. We have changed the sentence.