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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Local nonprofit takes a stand against online Holocaust deniers

With more than 120,000 signatures and growing, an online petition from the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect and Association of Holocaust Organizations is asking Facebook to remove pages that deny the Holocaust.

“The Holocaust happened. This cannot be disputed. Period,” the petition stated.

Among those signing the petition is The Holocaust Commission of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, a nonprofit that brings Holocaust awareness to the Tidewater area through educational programs and materials for local educators.

A recent statement from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed that the social media platform will not remove content deemed to hold misinformation or untruths, including pages denying the Holocaust.

“I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” Zuckerberg said.

Holocaust Commission Director Elena Barr Baum said she believes it is not that simple or innocent.

“It is people who have an agenda, it is people who are anti-semitic, it is people who are propagating hatred which consequently does promote harm,” Baum said.

In a recent post addressing the removal of InfoWars host Alex Jones from the platform, Facebook stated their effort to “limit the distribution of inaccurate information” as well as their hope to strike the balance between “giving people a voice” and ensuring the safety of their users.

Baum said Facebook can be a powerful tool, and she wouldn’t see the removal of Holocaust denial pages as a breach of anybody’s rights.

“You can not stand up in a crowded theater and yell fire…there is a difference between freedom of expression and expression with intent to harm,” Baum said.

Moving forward, Baum said the Commission will continue to inform people about the terrors of the Holocaust through education. One learning program, “What We Carry,” has reached more than 36,000 people since 2012. It blends documentary film and replica artifacts to tell the story of both a Holocaust survivor and liberator.

The organization also hosts an annual writing and visual arts competition.

Baum said an aspect taught in their many programs is the importance of not being a bystander when encountering prejudice in the world.

“If we don’t stand up, who is going to stand up?” Baum asked.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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