Holocaust Deniers on the Library Shelf

As I was walking out of the library, I saw two matching eye-catching books in the history section – Hitler’s War – authored by a David Irving.

I googled the name, yep, it was the same guy. Holocaust denier.

I dropped down to the librarian and asked if there is a policy on displaying books by holocaust deniers. The librarian seemed flustered. The chief librarian wasn’t around. What was the problem with the book?

He’s a holocaust denier.

So he’s some kind of Nazi?

Well, a disreputable historian, a Nazi sympathiser. You see, maybe the book is there for reasons of free speech. Maybe it’s there, not as a book on WWII, but a primary source for somebody studying holocaust deniers. Maybe it’s there because nobody remembered they put it there. It was the 1977 edition, maybe it hasn’t moved since.

The librarian was reduced to silence.

I’m not trying to make your job harder, or to complain. I’m just interested in knowing what the policy is.

She took my name and my membership number. She didn’t take my contact details and didn’t write down the name David Irving.

Maybe she thought I was being pedantic, it was one book in a library full of books about history, pets, geography, politics, pottery and pony-grooming. There were other ancient books in the history section about British colonial history, written by men who clearly believed that colonialism was a good thing. Was David Irving so out of place?

A month previously Professor Anthea Butler gave a speech in Trinity about Historical Myths and the Problems of Social Media. Professor Butler pointed out that in the clamour for attention between reputable historians and racist mythmakers, the racist mythmakers are winning on social media, where noise is more important than reputation and substance. While professional historians leave their work inaccessible behind paywalls and make little effort to promote it, mythmakers pollute the Twittersphere with myths, which metastasize rapidly across the internet.

Maybe printed books in the dusty section of the library are the least of our problems.

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