Claims Conference brings Holocaust survivors online to counter denial, distortion

Organization launches new campaign, #CancelHate, ahead of next week's Holocaust Remembrance Day

As the last generation of Holocaust survivors ages, and with antisemitism and Holocaust denial and distortion spreading across social media, a new digital campaign, launched on Thursday by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, will spotlight survivor testimony that debunks misinformation.

The project comes ahead of Yom HaShoah —  Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day — which begins Sunday night. The day will resonate differently this year, as Jews worldwide are focused on the aftermath of a more recent crisis, the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel and the 133 hostages remaining in Hamas captivity. But Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told eJewishPhilanthropy that it was important that the monthlong campaign, called #CancelHate, centers on the Holocaust.

“There’s the spoken and the unspoken,” he continued. “The spoken is that we are witnesses to what happened in the 1930s and ’40s. You can survive, you can overcome, and people who say it’s not true are liars, they are wrong. [They will hear survivors say] ‘I was there.’”

At the same time, there is an overlap in the messages between the Holocaust and today’s antisemitism, Schneider said. 

“The underlying feeling is that we are in dark and dangerous times but we have a responsibility to stand up and tell the truth and not let hate go unchecked,” he said.

The campaign features video clips of Holocaust survivors reading Holocaust denial posts from across social media platforms. Each post illustrates how Holocaust denial and distortion can not only rewrite history but perpetuate antisemitic tropes and lead to hate, according to the organization.

Each video shows a Holocaust survivor introducing themselves; reading social media posts about Holocaust denial; and then addressing what they’ve read, debunking the lies, and speaking to the truth with their testimony of their experiences in the Holocaust. Every video ends with the tagline, “Words matter. Cancel hate.”

#CancelHate comes on the heels of a recent Claims Conference study which found that 49%  of American millennials or Gen Z over age 18 report having seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online. In the U.K., 29% of adults saw denial or distortion on social media. The group also found that in Canada, 22% of millennials and Gen Z were not sure if they had heard of the Holocaust, and in France, 25%  of millennials were unsure if they have ever heard of — or have not heard of — the Holocaust. 

A fifth of Americans ages 18-29 believe the Holocaust was a myth, according to a December poll from The Economist/YouGov.

Abe Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, is one of the #CancelHate participants. In a statement, Foxman said, “I survived the Holocaust, but 13 members of my immediate family were murdered because they were Jewish. Holocaust denial on social media isn’t just another post. These things we say matter. Posts that deny the Holocaust are hateful and deny the suffering of millions of people. We must take our words seriously. Our words matter.”

Herbert Rubinstein, a Holocaust survivor in Germany, said in a separate statement that he decided to participate after reading a Holocaust denial post on social media. 

“I lived through the Holocaust,” Rubinstein said. “Six million were murdered. Hate and Holocaust denial have returned to our society today. I am very, very, very sad about this and I am fighting it with all my might and strength. Words matter. Our words are our power.”