Polish president Andrzej Duda made headlines two weeks ago when he signed a legislation “which makes it a crime — punishable by a fine or up to three years in prison — to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities.” For a country that housed the gruesomely famous Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, to deny taking part in the Holocaust is a huge problem. It is a blatant example of a government forcing revisionist history down people’s throats. Poland is not the only country to have that problem, however, as the U.S. has struggled with revisionist history as well.
Some countries have taken the opposite stance on this by passing “Holocaust Denial” laws and regulations, including war participants like France, Austria, and, most importantly, Germany, Poland’s direct neighbor and primary culprit of the WWII atrocities.
Germany either outlawed or destroyed Nazi propaganda and Nazi symbolism after World War II. That doesn’t mean, however, that the country shies away from its past, as the reality of the war and the Holocaust is still taught in schools. In order to prevent anything like WWII from happening again, Germany evolved into what is called a “defensive democracy.” According to news website Vox, “the idea is that democracies might need a boost from some illiberal policies — such as limits on free speech and the display of imagery, in this case, connected to the Holocaust and the Second World War — in order to keep everyone free.”
A name is notoriously missing from the list of countries with laws banning holocaust denial, however. The U.S. is not part of the flock of countries to have such laws, which leads a country that fought the Nazis to end up tolerating them.
This past year, white supremacist and nationalist demonstrations have popped up all over the country, shining a new light on the complicated history that the U.S. has with who are essentially Nazis. Fringe hate groups that were once on the periphery now occupy screen time across all major news sources in a country that fought against bigotry and anti-Semitism during World War II.
Although the percentage of Americans who admit to holding anti-Semitic views has been steadily decreasing, the number of news, opinion, or feature articles containing the subject of holocaust denial has continually increased. Holocaust denial and white nationalist views are generally in vogue in this country, but you wouldn’t dare bring this up for fear of crossing the “freedom of speech” line. Now, America’s refusal to confront its issues with racism and anti-Semitism is allowing neo-Nazis and white nationalists to move from their niche corners of the political spectrum into the spotlight.
Most European countries like Germany have learned from their past, and are now equipped to detect and control hate-filled neo-nazi demonstrations. They had to, considering they were still licking the wounds of the horror of WWII. We are now in 2018, and between Germany and the U.S., the only one allows for neo-Nazi demonstration. America was on the right side of history during WWII, but this country will continue to lose its moral high ground if it refuses to confront its hate groups.