We live in a world where everything is at our fingertips. We can wire money across the globe, do our online shop, speak to relatives abroad and order gadgets and gizmos for instant delivery.
But this progress and convenience bring with them a darker side. Today, 75 years on from the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camps, Nazi propaganda can be ordered online and delivered to your door in a matter of hours.
Last week, the Holocaust Educational Trust wrote to Amazon about the sale of The Poisonous Mushroom, a virulently antisemitic book used in schools by the Nazis to brainwash an entire generation of children to believe that Jews were inherently evil. The front cover alone draws on longstanding and deeply offensive image of hooked nosed Jews, characterised as a toxic substance.
To put this in context, The Poisonous Mushroom is one of the books for sale on Amazon that were first published by Julius Streicher, founder and editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer. Streicher was executed at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity.
Ensuring free speech is hugely important but promoting hatred and offensive material that incites hatred against our community crosses a line. Nazi propaganda has no place on the electronic bookshelves of our country.
To be clear, we are not arguing that these books, which have caused so much harm and pain throughout history, should be destroyed.
Shockingly, it has even been claimed on social media that by raising this issue we are promoting book-banning and even, in a gross distortion of history, book-burning.
Nobody is suggesting that history’s record should be wiped clean – in fact, at the Holocaust Educational Trust our purpose is to ensure that this antisemitism is understood by our nation.
Rather, we would argue that an educational framework needs to be created to ensure that when these books are read, it is not for macabre gain or inspiration, but to learn about, and commemorate, the darkest period of European history. The Poisonous Mushroom absolutely has a place on the shelves of museum and specialised educational institutions.
It’s time for Amazon to show moral leadership, to step up and do what is right.
Removing some of these grotesque books is a starting point, and we are pleased that our calls were heeded. It’s now time for Amazon to audit what it currently has on sale and review their policies to safeguard our shared future. Experts such as the Holocaust Educational Trust can and will work with institutions such as Amazon to develop sensitive and practical policies that hold up in a globalised world.
As eyewitnesses grow fewer and frailer, and the Holocaust moves from living history to history, antisemitism and Holocaust denial still exist, and in far too many places are moving from the radical fringes to the mainstream of modern society.
Now, more than ever, it’s time for us all to defend the truth of the Holocaust, to take a stand.