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Holocaust Denial Gets The Comic Treatment
Special To The Jewish Week
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Barry Levey satirizes Holocaust denial in “Hoaxocaust!” Dixie Sheridan
Barry Levey satirizes Holocaust denial in “Hoaxocaust!” Dixie Sheridan

Mel Brooks laughs at Hitler (“The Producers”), Roberto Benigni sends up the Fascists (“Life is Beautiful”) and Robin Williams uses humor to keep hope alive in a Polish ghetto (“Jakob the Liar”).

But a comedic look at the issue of Holocaust denial?

Barry Levey gives it a shot in his new one-man satire, “Hoaxocaust!” which premieres this month at the New York International Fringe Festival. Wanting to expose deniers to ridicule, Levey told The Jewish Week, “I want people to laugh at their claims but also to think about how much the Holocaust continues to shape modern Jewish life.”

The play comes as Hamas has continued to foment Holocaust denial as a public relations weapon in its war against Israel, and just a few months after a California school district asked eighth-grade students to evaluate Holocaust denial claims on an equal level as the actual history of the Shoah. It runs through Aug. 21 at Paradise Factory, 64 E. Fourth St. ($18,

Levey has worked with Holocaust themes before in his work; his 2005 play, “Critical Darling,” set in 1939, centered on a group of isolationist British ex-pats in Mexico whose worldview is shaken by the arrival of an Eastern European Jewish refugee. In “Hoaxocaust!” Levey uses the writings of deniers to pretend that he has traveled around the world to meet with them; they range from Arthur Butz, who claims that the six million Jews killed during the Shoah survived and ended up living in Brooklyn, to David Irving, who insists that Hitler had no intention to murder Jews, to former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In writing the play, Levey wrestled with the argument that giving Holocaust deniers exposure is dangerous in itself. “There’s a very wise consensus not to give them a platform in which to espouse any more of their nonsense. And what if someone doesn’t know that it’s satire? Some people didn’t know that Borat wasn’t real,” he said, referring to Sacha Baron Cohen’s character. But Levey felt that he “had to know their arguments in order to combat them.”

Deborah Lipstadt, the Emory University professor who bested Irving in a famous libel trial in Great Britain, told The Jewish Week that the battle against Holocaust denial is far from won. “I’m not usually an oy gevalter,” she said, “but we’re seeing a lot of what I call ‘soft-core’ denial, in which the Holocaust is trivialized and treated in an anti-Semitic way, as when the Israelis are accused of genocide in Gaza.”

As the Holocaust recedes in history, and as people become less aware of what really happened, she said, Holocaust deniers see an opening for their brand of hatred.

While she hasn’t seen “Hoaxocaust!” Lipstadt thought that its parodic approach, which reminded her of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” might be a useful one. As she pointed out, “When you make fun of someone, they go on living as a joke.”

Last Update:

09/16/2014 - 22:55

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The Holocaust denier Santomauro doesn't like being satirized, apparently. Here's why.

The whole problem with the holocaust is the way it has been used for gain. There is such a thing as the holocaust industry, and they have done grave damage to the memories of those lost.

Much has come out about the realities verus the stories lately. Quite frankly, some of it doesn't ad up. Most people still believe in the 6 million figure despite newer evidence that lowered it considerably.

There is no sin in adjusting figures in light of better evidence.

This comment is an example of anti-semitism. Norman Finkelstein is one such promoter reaffirming how throughout history Jews have been used to condemn Jews and Judaism. As is usual, statements are made without any verification ie "evidence":

The 6 million figure can be demonstrated by comparing Europe's Jewish population before and after the war. Even after making allowances for those who fled Europe and others who could be expected to die due to natural causes, there are nearly 6,000,000 people who cannot be accounted for.

Authentic German documents confirm the slaughter of Jews in the millions. The famous "Korherr Report,"(named after Richard Korherr, chief statistician for the SS) puts the number of Jewish losses at more than 2,454,000 by the end of 1942 alone. The war in Europe would not end until May, 1945.

The Anglo-American Commission of Enquiry, meeting in April 1946, put the total Jewish Holocaust losses at 5,721,500. On the basis of wartime statistical reports on ghettos, concentration camps and mass murder operations carried out by the Nazis, historian and international jurist, Jacob Robinson, arrived at a figure of 5,820,960. German historian, Helmut Krausnick, put the number of Jewish losses nearer to seven million. While the exact figure will never be known, scholars of the Holocaust find the rounded-off figure of six million to be in line with all the evidence.

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