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Wisconsin Hillel Fights Holocaust Denial

by Hillel News |Mar 10, 2010|Comments


Wisconsin students remember the Holocaust.
Wisconsin students remember the Holocaust, protest denial ad. Daily Cardinal.

When Holocaust denier Bradley Smith placed an advertisement in the University of Wisconsin-Madison school newspaper, Hillel responded immediately. The result is a campus-wide discussion of free speech, journalism and the evil of the Holocaust.

Smith's ad in the online Badger Herald — one of UW's two student dailies — came against the backdrop of anti-Semitic comments posted in response to a story on the historically Jewish Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. The Holocaust denial ad added fuel to the fire.

Hillel Executive Director Greg Steinberger responded immediately, denouncing the ad and demanding its retraction.

Herald Editor Jason Smathers defended his decision, writing in a column: "This paper did not want to give Smith or his foolish ideas any legitimacy, nor did it want to benefit financially from such a reprehensible idea. However, at the same time, I did not want to serve a paternalistic role, telling this campus that these thoughts are so painful and wrong that to even discuss them would be dangerous."

Hillel worked with the university administration to organize a rally commemorating the Holocaust. University Chancellor Biddy Martin, a scholar of German Studies, addressed the rally, saying, "We're here today because of remembrance, and remembrance of the Holocaust in particular. Memory is a way of honoring the victims, the innocent victims of this criminal murder. A murder about which there can be absolutely no doubt."

The next day, a public roundtable on ethics organized by Hillel called "Journalism, Ethics and Sensitivity" featured the campus newspaper editors, the dean of students, and faculty from the university's journalism school.

This is not the first time Smith has bought advertising space in a college newspaper. Last fall, the Harvard Crimson ran an advertisement, but the Crimson editor quickly apologized for its publication and called it "a result of miscommunication and oversight."

Hillel continues to demand that the newspaper reverse its decision to publish the ad. "The Badger Herald exercised very poor judgment," says Steinberger. "There can be no justification for giving aid and comfort to Holocaust deniers. We can only hope that our outcry will sensitize other student journalists on this campus and elsewhere and they will not make the same mistake."

Other links:

Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League have prepared a guide to understanding and combating Holocaust denial ads.

University of Wisconsin statement.

Chancellor Biddy Martin responds in the Badger Herald.

The UW journalism school also has a blog post on the subject.

(With reporting by David Meyer, communications intern and University of Maryland student.)


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