Holocaust deniers march at campus

Holocaust deniers march at campus

BY DAVID BAUGHER, EDITOR

Holding up signs saying “Holocaust or a Hoax?” and “Did Jews Rewrite History?” a small group of pickets marched along Schuetz Road Sunday afternoon in front of the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building.

According to witnesses, the group demonstrated holding their signs up to passing traffic for about an hour before leaving as St. Louis County police stood on patrol nearby.

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One of the protesters wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a swastika.

An e-mail later circulated by Barry Rosenberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, identified the group as belonging to the “National Socialist Movement, a white supremecist local branch of the National Alliance.” It said that while a few passers-by “engaged them briefly” there were no incidents and the protesters did not attempt to enter the building.

Interviewed after the fact, Rosenberg said that the Federation works closely with local law enforcement in order to be ready for events such as the one Sunday.

“We’re prepared when something like this comes up,” he said.

Rosenberg called any attempt to change the reality of the Holocaust troubling and linked the local event to the recent Holocaust deniers conference hosted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose purpose was to deny the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad has also made statements calling for the elimination of Israel.

“Continued efforts to delegitimize Israel fuels efforts like this,” Rosenberg said.

Karen Aroesty, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League for Missouri and Southern Illinois said she also saw a link with the recent conference.

“I think the motivation for today’s demonstration is the news coming out of Iran about the Holocaust denial events,” she said.

Aroesty said the best policy for dealing with demonstrations such as the one Sunday was to ignore them.

“This was the kind of demonstration that police appropriately spent most of their time encouraging individuals not to go up and engage them,” she said. “We call them extremists because they’re at the fringes of society and we want to marginalize them.”

Aroesty said that freedom of speech can work both ways.

“They get an opportunity to preach hate and bigotry and we get opportunities to teach peace and friendship,” she said.

The protesters refused to comment when approached by the Jewish Light.

Victoria Siegel contributed information to this article.

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