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Northwestern Hillel Confronts Holocaust Denier

by Hillel News |Feb 07, 2006|Comments

After a Northwestern University professor discussed his denial of the Holocaust and support for the Iranian president in the Chicago Tribune over the weekend, the Louis and Saerree Fiedler Hillel Center at Northwestern University is helping channel the students' outrage into positive action. Rather than engaging in a debate about the Holocaust's existence, the Fiedler Hillel Center is convening a community forum tonight to discuss how to use the lessons learned from the Holocaust to prevent further genocide.

"There are two ways to respond: ignore it or convert it into something positive," Executive Director Adam Simon told the Chicago Tribune. "Engaging in a conversation about whether the Holocaust happened is a waste of time. ... We are setting a different tone. We are going to talk about why it is important to remember the Holocaust."

According to the Chicago Tribune, Arthur Butz, a tenured professor who has taught electrical engineering at Northwestern for more than 30 years, is known for denying the Holocaust via his university-affiliated Web site and his book, "The Hoax of the 20th Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry," which was published in 1976. Though Northwestern President Henry Bienen yesterday called Butz an "embarrassment" to the school whose views are not representative of university, he said in statement that Butz is free to express his personal views and the administration will not take action as long as he keeps his positions out of his classes and curriculum.

"There is no question that the Holocaust is a well-documented historical fact," Bienen said. "[But] we cannot take action based on the content of what Butz says regarding the Holocaust – however odious it may be – without undermining the vital principle of intellectual freedom that all academic institutions serve to protect."

Simon has heard from many upset students, faculty and alumni since Saturday and quickly sent an e-mail to the 2,000 people on the Fiedler Hillel Center's listserv to express the center's similar feelings of outrage and frustration and inviting them all to tonight's forum. The Fiedler Hillel Center also took out a full-page ad in today's Daily Northwestern echoing these sentiments and encouraging the entire campus to attend the forum.

"We're frustrated because we feel forced to take action, but we don't want to dignify his lunacy with a response. So rather than dignify absurdity with a debate over facts that cannot be denied, we ask: Why does the Holocaust matter? How do we ensure that 'Never Again Again' means Never Again?" the ad reads.

The community forum will be held from 8 to 9:30 p.m. tonight in room 212 of the Fiedler Hillel Center, 629 Foster St., Evanston, Ill. For directions or more information, call 847-467-4455 or visit www.nuhillel.org.

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