‘Keeper of the Flame’

Published in Issue 3 (May/June 2019), Letters, Volume 27

Sir,—Thank you for publishing my letter (HI 27.2, March/April 2019). As regards your comments on my letter and the article itself, I took your advice and re-read the article (‘Keeper of the Flame’ by Patrick Maume, HI 27.1, Jan./Feb. 2019), especially the section headed ‘Holocaust denial’. I can see from re-reading that, as you say yourself, O’Higgins was ‘sceptical’ [my emphasis] of what he considered fabricated newsreel footage [my emphasis] of the concentration camps. However, the heading on the section you advert to is a very definite ‘Holocaust denial’. A few lines down it is stated that O’Higgins’s view that ‘Britain was Ireland’s only enemy’ led him to Holocaust denial. And there it is: a dedicated Irish nationalist who was sceptical of what was depicted in newsreel footage is a Holocaust denier—the corollary of which is that he was a Jew-hater, anti-Semitic and a racist. Scepticism is not denial; being in possession of the full facts and choosing to reject or ignore them is denial. Therefore the despicable abuse of the Holocaust to posthumously label, and defame, O’Higgins is unacceptable, because it also besmirches the victims of that unspeakable crime against humanity. Not having a Dictionary of Irish Biography to hand, I am unable to check whether O’Higgins is labelled a Holocaust denier in its illustrious pages, but I am sure he is. I note that you disregarded the article’s assertion that O’Higgins was a monomaniac. Re-reading the article, I was struck by the fact that a lot of what passes for historical inquiry nowadays is not to help with an understanding of the past but rather to manipulate the present. I stand by my remarks in my original letter to you.—Yours etc.,

E. HANDLEY

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