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UN moves to stop ‘epidemic of disinformation’

Children behind barbed wire in a German concentration camp in World War II

Should Holocaust denial be a crime? Last week the UN passed an Israeli measure condemning any suggestion that the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis never happened. Seventy-seven years ago this week, soldiers invading Germany discovered a horrible scene. “A ghastly sight arose before our eyes,” wrote an observer: “skeletons clad in skin, with vacant gazes.” This was the remains of Auschwitz concentration camp, where the Nazis had murdered a million Jews. This was the part of the Holocaust, an attempt to kill all of the Jews in Europe. Six million died altogether. This Thursday is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It is dedicated to remembering the victims of the Holocaust. But there is a rise in fake news claiming that the Holocaust never happened or that it was exaggerated. So the United Nations has passed a motion rejecting Holocaust denial. We know that the Holocaust happened because survivors and witnesses described what happened. Other evidence includes government documents, photos and videos and physical remains. Even the people responsible admitted it was true. The Nazis were anti-semitic: they hated Jewish people and wrongly thought that they controlled the world. Anti-semitism still exists, which is why a lot of people say that the Holocaust is a lie. Anti-semitism causes many terrible crimes. This month a man with a gun attacked a synagogue and captured the rabbi and three other Jewish people. In some countries, it is a crime to say that the Holocaust didn't happen. Some people say it should be illegal everywhere. “We should not wait until it comes to deeds,” said German politician Brigitte Zypries. But other people think that this is against free speech. They say that those found guilty get more sympathy because they can claim to be victims. "We need not more repressive laws, but more free speech," says the Indian lawyer Soli Surabjee. Should Holocaust denial be a crime? Free speech or hate speech? Yes: People who deny historical atrocities lay the groundwork for it happening again. Allowing people to question the Holocaust encourages anti-semitism, with tragic and violent results. No: Free speech includes the freedom to say things that are provocative and even false. Holocaust denial is wrong, but it should be defeated in open debate, not in the courts. Or... Outright lies and racism have no place in a free and fair society. But neither do bans on questioning official historical narratives. We must be careful to distinguish between legitimate questioning and malicious misinformation.   KeywordsConcentration camp - A large prison for people held without legal justification, such as political prisoners or persecuted minorities. The first concentration camps were built by British colonial rulers in South Africa, but the term is most associated with Nazi camps, some of which were used to execute Jewish and other inmates as well as to imprison them.

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