Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassador Blog

Holocaust Distortion and Denial – what’s the difference and how can we combat them?

Holocaust distortion and denial are both a huge threat to the memory of the Holocaust, but they are very different in how and why they present themselves. In order to fully understand distortion and denial and the dangers they pose, it’s important to differentiate their meanings. Holocaust denial tries to erase the Holocaust from history e.g., by claiming the Holocaust never happened. Distortion doesn't question whether the Holocaust happened; instead it excuses, misrepresents or minimises the history.

"Distortion of the Holocaust is found in all kinds of places. From facts twisted on the internet, to opportunistic statements by politicians… Each of these forms must be challenged, and strategies for countering them must be developed, for societies and individuals to fulfil their responsibility to commemorate the victims."

- Former Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Ambassador Michaela Küchler



Holocaust Denial

At this year’s Ambassador Conference, we were very lucky to hear from Dr. Robert Williams, the Chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial at IHRA. He explains Denial as:

"The eventual goal of Holocaust denial is to recast history to erase the legacy and reality of the genocide of the Jews and related atrocities by the Nazis and their collaborators."

- Dr. Robert Williams

Arguably, one of the most well-known and most public examples of Holocaust Denial (especially in the UK) was shown through the court case of David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt in 2000.

In her book 'Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory', Lipstadt refers to Irving as a Holocaust denier for deliberately misrepresenting evidence of the Holocaust. Irving then sued Lipstadt for libel, disputing that he deliberately distorted evidence and asserting that Hitler had not ordered the extermination of the Jews of Europe, was ignorant of the Holocaust and was a friend of the Jews.

The court ruled against Irving as Lipstadt’s claim that he had deliberately distorted evidence was shown to be substantially true. However, though Irving and his views were discredited, denial of the Holocaust took place on a public stage, presented by Irving himself as an alternative academic viewpoint.

Holocaust Distortion

Where denial is seen as an extreme view and is therefore relatively easy to spot, distortion can be much harder to spot.

In its 2013 ‘Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion’, the IHRA initially identified 10 forms of Holocaust Distortion:

  1. Intentional efforts to excuse or minimise the impact of the Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany.
  2. Gross minimisation of the number of victims of the Holocaust in contradiction to reliable sources.
  3. Attempts to blame the Jews for causing their own genocide.
  4. Statements that cast the Holocaust as a positive historical event suggesting that it did not go far enough in accomplishing its goal of “the Final Solution of the Jewish Question”.
  5. Attempts to blur the responsibility for Nazi Germany’s establishment of concentration and death camps by blaming other nations or ethnic groups.
  6. Accusing Jews of “using” the Holocaust for some manner of gain.
  7. Use of the term “Holocaust” to reference events or concepts that are not related in any meaningful way to the genocide of European and North African Jewry by Nazi Germany and its accomplices between 1941 and 1945.
  8. State-sponsored manipulation of Holocaust history in order to sow political discord within or outside a nation’s borders.
  9. Trivialising or honouring the historical legacies of persons or organisations that were complicit in the crimes of the Holocaust.
  10. The use of imagery and language associated with the Holocaust for political, ideological, or commercial purposes unrelated to this history in online and offline forum.

For more information visit - https://www.againstholocaustdistortion.org/.

Case study: Inappropriate comparisons

Because it is thought of as the ultimate evil, comparisons between the Holocaust and unrelated contemporary events, individuals, and other genocides or mass atrocities have become relatively common. Irresponsible comparisons can distort understanding of both these contemporary events and of the Holocaust. Drawing inappropriate comparisons degrades the understanding of the implications and significance of the Holocaust.

Example: In both the UK and other parts of Europe, protesters wore Yellow Stars of David, comparing mask mandates and vaccination programmes to the Nuremberg laws.


Both denial and distortion of the Holocaust undermine the facts of the Holocaust. Where denial may be easy to spot and is seen as a radical view, distortion is much harder to identify and is becoming more entrenched in society. As the Holocaust moves from living memory to purely history, it is incredibly important for us to act now to combat this dangerous assault on memory.

Graphics from the Global Campaign #ProtectTheFacts, a joint initiative of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, European Commission, UNESCO and the United Nations.