Mel Gibson’s Holocaust Problem

by Dr. Rafael Medoff

Hutton Gibson, the father of actor Mel Gibson, is lying about the Holocaust again. And now it turns out that Mel, too, has some disturbing views on the subject.

The elder Gibson told the New York Times last year that the annihilation of six million Jews must be a hoax, since it would have taken too long for the Germans to cremate that many bodies. In an interview with a New York radio show this week, Gibson said the Germans did not have enough gas to murder that many people. He added that many European Jews who were reportedly murdered by the Nazis in fact “fled to countries like Australia and the United States.”

Ordinarily such nonsense does not deserve to be dignified with a response. But because of the raging controversy over Mel Gibson’s forthcoming movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” his father’s statements are gaining international attention.

So, for the record: vast, underpopulated Australia took in just 8,200 Jewish refugees during the entire period from the rise of Hitler to power in 1933 until the end of the Holocaust, in 1945. Incredibly, these victims of Nazism were categorized by the Australian government as “enemy aliens” and subjected to a variety of restrictions, such as the need to obtain a special police pass for traveling outside a limited area. Some of them were even interned in detention camps.

As for the United States, its tight immigration quotas kept out all but a relative handful of Jewish refugees. Even those meager quota allotments were almost always under-filled, as zealous consular officials implemented the bureaucratic method proposed by senior State Department official Breckinridge Long–in his words, to “postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas.” During the period of the Nazi genocide, from late 1941 and until early 1945, only 10% of the already miniscule quotas from Axis-controlled European countries were actually used. That means almost 190,000 quota places were unused–almost 190,000 lives that could have been saved even under the existing immigration restrictions.

But Mel Gibson’s Holocaust problem extends far beyond his father’s lunatic-fringe opinions. In an interview in the forthcoming March issue of Reader’s Digest, Gibson had this to say about his father: “My dad taught me my faith and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life” –a curious remark, considering his father’s many lies about the Holocaust. Asked by the interviewer if he believed the Holocaust had happened, the actor replied: “Yes, of course. Atrocities happen. War is horrible. World War Two killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps.”

Mel Gibson may not have been denying the Holocaust, but he was certainly distorting and minimizing it. Instead of acknowledging that the Nazis carried out a deliberate strategy of genocide, he reduced the Jewish victims to the same kind of accidental and random casualties that take place in every war. In his view, the Jews were only “some” of the many people who died in World War Two.

Thanks to his new movie, Mel Gibson has been plunged into the arena of Jewish-Christian relations in a way he probably never expected. And thanks to the publicity over his father’s Holocaust-denial, Gibson now finds himself publicly commenting on the Nazi genocide. To do this in a responsible manner, he should take a little time to familiarize himself with the actual history of the Holocaust, and not rest on the assumption that his father would never lie to him. Clearly, that assumption is false.

February 2004