Hays Public Library hosts Holocaust denial and distortion presentation


Executive Director of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, Jessica Rockhold, spoke at the Hays Public Library on Tuesday regarding Holocaust denial and its history of misrepresentation. Rockhold explained the importance of being informed of the event and getting the full picture. 

“The Holocaust is such a cultural touch point,” Rockhold said. “When we don’t have a complete understanding or a nuance complex understanding, we are making inappropriate comparisons, and we are diminishing the truth of what happened in that event, and it is such a monumental event that its imperative that we get it right,”

FHSU Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Holocaust Remembrance Committee Amber Nickell, said K-12 students don’t receive a lot of Holocaust education and having an understanding of Nazi policies is essential for the future. 

“The Holocaust, and genocide in general, is often the result of complex historical processes,” Nickell said. “In order to prevent future genocides from occurring, we must think systemically about the Holocaust.”

Talking points used by Holocaust deniers throughout history were debunked during Rockholds’ presentation. Claims ranged from the existence of gas chambers to the authenticity of The Diary of Anne Frank. 

“I think one of the primary issues we see with denial is that it’s often tied not only to antisemitism but to other forms of racism,” Rockhold said, noting different tropes and stereotypes used against Jewish people. 

Rockhold emphasized that deniers would take a kernel of truth and use it to push the narrative of denial. One example Rockhold debunked is a gas chamber being shortly remodeled to be a bomb shelter while many other gas chambers continued operation. 

Rockhold said those individuals or groups who deny and distort the story of the Holocaust despite the evidence provided aren’t rational people. 

“There is a point though where we are dealing with people who are not looking to be logical, they are not looking to trade on fact, presenting them with a fact does not persuade them, they understood the fact and they are manipulating the fact, so that’s where we’re at with them,” Rockhold said.

Nickell’s recommendations for a better understanding of the Holocaust are to attend the annual Hays Holocaust Remembrance and Education events and to use FHSU resources. 

“Take classes on the topic. Several of the faculty at FHSU teach classes on or relating to the Holocaust and genocide,” Nickell said. “I always recommend the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s resources, which include archival materials, publications, and teaching guides.”

The final Holocaust Remembrance Month event takes place this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in the Forsyth Library South Study Area.