Roger Hallam’s insult to Holocaust victims

The Extinction Rebellion founder joins other misanthropes in demeaning the memory of the Holocaust.

Frank Furedi


No doubt many people were appalled when they heard that Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, had told the German weekly die Zeit that there was nothing special about the Holocaust. He said genocides happen all the time. ‘In fact’, he said, ‘you might say it is like a regular event’. As far as Hallam is concerned, the Holocaust is ‘just another fuckery in history’. He’s effectively saying the Holocaust is no big deal – it is ‘almost a normal event’.

In recent years, numerous commentators have sought to empty the Holocaust of its unique historical significance. But Hallam’s attempt to normalise the Holocaust marks a new low in the trivialisation of this unique crime. His remarks are not only insensitive – they are self-consciously insulting to the memory of the millions of victims who suffered unprecedented degradation and terror in the Nazi death camps.

Hallam is by no means the first political activist to usurp the memory of the Holocaust for the purpose of promoting vile propaganda. Animal-rights activists in Canada refer have talked about a holocaust of seals. Anti-abortion campaigners in the US have denounced a holocaust of fetuses. In Australia, there is talk about a holocaust against Aborigines. The word ‘holocaust’ has been appropriated and manipulated to attack just about any target, from the erosion of biodiversity to the loss of jobs.

When the Holocaust becomes an overused metaphor for evil, it starts to get detached from its historical significance. Far too often the Holocaust has become Disneyfied, turned into an entertainment spectacle. Others have developed the unfortunate habit of using the Holocaust to make a rhetorical point. For Hallam, it seems the shock value of the Holocaust proved so irresistible that it outweighed other considerations, such as whether it is appropriate to treat such an event as just another outburst of ‘fuckery’.

Many will view Hallam’s words as a slip of the tongue or a simple error of judgment. However, it is important to realise that his contempt for the memory of the Holocaust is underpinned by today’s broader anti-humanist sensibility and sense of loathing for the legacy of human achievement. Its youthful and idealistic image notwithstanding, Extinction Rebellion is fuelled by an age-old misanthropic impulse. If you genuinely believe that the generations of the past have systematically destroyed the planet, then it makes a warped kind of sense to portray the Holocaust as just a footnote to thousands of years of ceaseless human depravity and ecocide.

The ideology of Extinction Rebellion is founded on the conviction that the development of human civilisation, particularly the advance of science and technology and the subordination of the natural order to the needs of human society, is the source of all of today’s problems. The idea that civilisation bears responsibility for the perils of extinction implicitly assigns a low status to the human species. In fact, it expresses a sense of loathing for the human species. In numerous ecological treatises, people are regularly portrayed as loathsome parasites who threaten the existence of the Earth. That kind of sentiment is not a million miles away from the way the Nazis regarded the Jews. Of course, Hallam is no Nazi – but he is fixated with the project of saving the planet from people, to the point where he seems to have become desensitised to human suffering itself. That is why he can dismiss the Holocaust as just another ‘fuckery’.

The best response to people like Hallam is to take very seriously the unique significance of the Holocaust. And the best way of making sure that something like the Holocaust never happens again is to restore confidence in humanity and develop a robust 21st-century alternative to the depressing politics peddled by misanthropes.

Frank Furedi’s How Fear Works: the Culture of Fear in the 21st Century is published by Bloomsbury Press.

Picture by: Steve Eason, published under a creative commons licence.

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farkennel smith

24th November 2019 at 10:30 pm

It`s always amusing to see the aborigines claim they are victims of a hol0caust.Their numbers are growing every year and billions are spent on them along with a constant stream of grovelling apologies.They are like Al Sharpton,the only man in history who grew to obesity while on a hunger strike.

Winston Stanley

24th November 2019 at 4:24 am

Inside China’s concentration camps holding up to three million Muslim prisoners subjected to a regime of modern surveillance and old-fashioned torture – as one survivor recounts how you can be executed for laughing

Former camp inmate Sayragul Sauytbay, inset, said she witnessed inmates of a Chinese concentration camp raped repeatedly in front of 200 men and women. Authorities insist young Muslim children are taught Chinese and learn the nation’s culture and history. If Muslims are suspected of not being patriotic enough, they risk being sent to a re-education camp, right, where they face torture.

Hugh Roper

23rd November 2019 at 10:04 pm

Frank writes: ‘The word ‘holocaust’ has been appropriated and manipulated to attack just about any target, from the erosion of biodiversity to the loss of jobs’. Probably so, but the Nazi Holocaust, even if abbreviated to ‘the Holocaust’ has no right to a monopoly on the use of the word without the ‘Nazi’ epithet. The bombings of Hamburg, Coventry and Nagasaki were all holocausts.

Lord Anubis

22nd November 2019 at 12:09 pm

To my mind, the uniqueness of the Holocaust is misinterpreted.

There is nothing at all new in the story of Human civilisation about the vanquished in any conflict being enslaved or slaughtered. If one was to do a “Bill and Teds” journey and bring a Roman Consul or Genghis Khan back for a guided tour of Auschwitz the reaction would likely to be “Damn, I wish we had had a place that. So much better than all that messy sword work”

Even in the 20th century, all across the globe, large numbers of defenceless people have been slaughtered for various reasons (Mostly politics, but control of land and resources was also a major factor) and indeed, frequently on a scale that made the Nazi death camps look like prototype pilot plants. So, the facts of the mass slaughter are not unique nor particularly special.

However. What does make the Holocaust special is who did it. All other examples of this sort of mass slaughter are either historic and lie in the past, sometimes the distant past. Or, and this is actually quite racist in a funny sort of way, were carried out by “Barbarians”.

IE (And this is the racist bit really) We take it for granted that Black people, Brown people, Yellow people, and even “Uncivilised ” white people (The Russians) will go around slaughtering each other on a whim.

But we are taken aback when a cultured, civilised, and technically sophisticated European nation does it. Because, you know, this sort of thing is only to be expected of the uncivilised inferior barbarians, “We” however are supposed to be better than that!

And this is where the big Holocaust “Myth” comes in.

The Myth is not regarding whether or not it happened, nor is it regarding the scale of the operation.

The myth is this “That the Holocaust was carried out in great secrecy by a small number of dedicated and evil fanatics” (And that they therefore they must be hunted down and tried for their actions)

This Myth is perpetrated to this day and reinforced through the farce of dragging out and trying in court 90-year-old “Boy Soldiers” in juvenile courts over alleged acts carried nearly 80 years ago when they were teenagers.

It was none of these things. It was a vast industrial scale operation that involved the active participation of hundreds of thousands of perfectly ordinary people who were simply given a job to do and then got on with it, and the passive participation and support of tens of millions (Who benefitted from being able to occupy the buildings and land that had become available because the Jewish former owners had been spirited away). Not just in Germany, but all over Europe (Occupied or not).

The reason why this myth is perpetrated has many possible explanations. But to my mind it is mainly maintained because many people simply cannot accept that perfectly ordinary people are capable of doing something like this simply because they are told to and by the same token, are unable to face the truth that there is no nation or society anywhere on the planet, no matter how wealthy, cultured or technically sophisticated, that is more than 5 years away from the death camps. All it takes is the right set of circumstances and a political leadership able to make the case.

William Murphy

22nd November 2019 at 9:42 am

Seeing how some eco enthusiasts want to reduce the human population to one billion or less….what happens to the inconvenient six billion plus? No wonder Roger Hallam is so indifferent to the Holocaust. Six million is a minor detail compared with the eco culling to come.

“Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, German architect of the masterplan, dubbed the Great Transformation, warned back in 2009 that unless the world heeds his message, 6 billion people would perish.”

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