‘Keeper of the Flame’

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2019), Letters, Volume 27

Sir,—Patrick Maume (HI 27.1, Jan./Feb. 2019) declares, using very sparse evidence indeed, that Brian O’Higgins was led into ‘holocaust denial’. This is a very strange accusation to make, considering that the excerpt quoted to bolster the assertion of ‘holocaust denial’ is from the Wolfe Tone Annual of 1948. Evidence for the holocaust was, in 1948, confined to very limited sources. It was not until the publication of Gerald Reitlinger’s The Final Solution in 1953, and Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews in 1961, that the true nature and extent of the Holocaust became widely known. At the end of the article there is a further attack on O’Higgins. While he is damned with faint praise, it is suggested that he displayed a ‘hatred shading into monomania’. So, now we know, from very little evidence and an opinion, that Brian O’Higgins was a holocaust denier and a monomaniac. It has been accepted that you can’t libel the dead. However, a reading of a report in the Irish Times of Monday 5 May 2014—‘Libel ruling has implications for freedom of expression’—outlining a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights might give pause for thought to some historians.—Yours etc.,

E. HANDLEY
Boyle
Co. Roscommon

If Mr Handley re-reads the lengthy quotation to which he refers from the 1948 Wolfe Tone Annual (p. 51, middle column) he will find reference to the ‘people of our day who since the conclusion of World War II, have rushed from cinema to cinema in search of the atrocity films manufactured [my emphasis] by certain “peace-loving nations”’, and at the end mention of ‘Belsen or some other “torture camp”’. These are explicit references by O’Higgins to newsreels of the liberation of Nazi death camps that were widely shown in Irish cinemas in 1945 and his scepticism concerning what was depicted. Readers can find the Irish Times report to which Mr Handley refers here: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/libel-ruling-has-implications-for-freedom-of-expression-1.1781571Ed.

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