Holocaust denial and extremism

Today is International Holocaust Memorial Day. It is a day when we remember the victims of the Holocaust, and where words of hate can ultimately lead. As the Ontario Court of Appeal in Canada said in 1989, “The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers. It began with words, with racial incitement”[1]. This warning came post-Holocaust but before the internet went mainstream and began to entered our homes.

The internet has supercharged hate propaganda including Holocaust denial and radicalisation to violent extremism. These two forms of hate propaganda are in fact strongly linked and in 2021 their danger is growing. The Online Hate Prevention Institute continues to work at the cutting edge of the emerging threat and thankfully and our impact is significant.

The threat we face

At the Online Hate Prevention Institute we tackle those words of hate and extremism. We do so in a climate where the elderly survivors with their eye witness accounts are fewer each year. We do so in an environment when Holocaust denial is not only rising, but it being actively used as a tool to radicalize white supremacists.

This year we face a new phenomena. Major platforms which have for the last year or two have been de-platformed white nationalists in an increasingly effective manner, are closing the account of QAnon. This leaves QAnon moving to fringe platforms where Holocaust denial, antisemitism and white nationalism are accepted as part of the norm.

As the American Jewish Congress argues in a new report released today, these conspiracy supporting QAnon supporters are now fodder for the Holocaust deniers who seek further to get them on board accepting the Holocaust as another of their conspiracy theories, then to convert those that accept it towards white supremacy and violent extremism. The QAnon supporters, the report notes, are in turn encouraging die hard Trump supporters, the MAGA crowd, to join them in an exodus from Twitter towards this radicalizing fringe. This is the new threat we face as the hate concentrates and Holocaust denial serves as the bridge to radicalization.

We need impact not just outrage

At the Online Hate Prevention Institute we don’t just warn of the danger and monitor its growth, we take action on Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and violent extremism. That action has a real world impact.

Our efforts in recent weeks saw the closure of a white supremacist Twitter account that was using automation to pollute discussion of Australian politics (see our briefing). First the automation company, If This Then That, suspended the automation account being used, then Twitter itself closed the account. Our thanks go to The Advocate for an article highlighting our work and the need for Twitter to take action.

One of the automated posts from this (now suspended) account

This follows work over the past year removing terrorist manifestos that call for the killing of Jews and our recommendations for governments, technology companies and civil society to increase the effectiveness of global efforts against hate and extremism. Our invitations in recent months to address the United Nations, the Italian Government, an inter-Parliamentary task force on online antisemitism and the annual conference of the World Union of Jewish Students highlight just how important our impact and expert advice is on the global stage.

Our work is critical, in the last financial year we released over 50 briefings, reached almost 450,000 people through Facebook, appeared in the media 31 times, and released multiple submissions and reports. Despite the impact we have in Australia and globally, we are significantly under resources. Last year our total income only covered 60% of our costs. A significant part of that was due to lack of government support – a point we have raised with both federal and state governments where we keep being told how much they value our work, while they failing to find the funds to support it. In response to the urgent need, exacerbated by COVID-19 and a rise in white supremacy, we dipped heavily into our reserves.

This work urgently needs to continue, but another loss like last year will wipe us out. To avoid the need to cut back on this critical work we’ve recently launched a series of fundraisers that allows supporters to focus resources on the most critical parts of our work. By supporting OHPI in any of these areas, you can make a real impact and help shape what work we can do in 2021. Dedicated fundraisers are on our pages on Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and combatting violent extremism. These appeals are just getting started, so please join us in getting the ball rolling with a donation and in asking others to join this critical and impactful work. The urgency is only going to grow as we head further into 2021, and now is not the time to stand idly by or to let our capacity to respond start to fade away.

Tonight’s Commemoration

As we tackle the threats of today and tomorrow we must also remember the past and learn all we can about it. As a member of Australia’s Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), we welcome tonight’s first Australian National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.

The event will occur online at 7pm AEDT tonight. Speakers include:

  • Holocaust Survivor Olga Horak OAM
  • Leading Human Rights Activist and former Justice of the High Court of Australia, The Hon. Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG
  • Prime Minister the Hon. Scott Morrison MP
  • The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
  • Senator The Hon. Penny Wong
  • CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim AM

You can book now to join. This is a free public event open to all. It is a chance to hear a Holocaust survivor give their testimony. We encourage as many people as possible to join.

Update (January 27th)

Comments can be left on this article in this Facebook thread.

As happens every year, some of the comments have been problematic. We have moderated them, removing a number of posts and banning a couple of users. You can see the removed posts and our commentary on the sorts of trolling and problematic posts we see on Holocaust Memorial Day in our new briefing.


[1] R v. Andrews and Smith (1989) 65 O.R. (2d) 161 (Ont.CA) at 179. This is cited here, and here, and referenced here. While later attributed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which expressed similar sentiments on the danger of hate propaganda in R v. Keegstra [1990] 3 SCR 697 (well worth reading), the actual quote is from the Ontario Court of Appeal.