By Travis Gettys
CRESTVIEW HILLS - A conference held last year at a Northern Kentucky hotel featured T-shirts for sale reading, "No holes, No Holocaust," said a Canadian professor who helped defeat the event's sponsor in British court.
The shirts refer to a theory that the Holocaust, responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews, could not have happened because gas chambers were not outfitted with ventilation holes to deliver deadly cyanide gas.
Robert Jan van Pelt, a professor of cultural history and architecture at University of Waterloo, Canada, said Friday that argument misses the point, because the gas used was in pellet form.
"It's not piped into the room, it's thrown into a room," said van Pelt, who spoke to 100-150 people Friday at Thomas More College as part of Holocaust Awareness Weeks, an event sponsored by the Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education.
Van Pelt served as an expert witness in a libel trial brought by British historian David Irving, who has organized the "Real History" conference at Cincinnati Airport Marriott in Hebron since 1999.
Irving sued American historian Deborah Lipstadt, whom he said damaged his reputation by labeling him a Holocaust denier. Under British law, Lipstadt had to prove that her accusations were accurate, and a judge agreed with her in a 2000 ruling.
"(Irving says) it was more like a series of individual crimes instead of state-sponsored genocide, which makes quite a difference," van Pelt said.
The "Real History" conference, which van Pelt said is one of only two such events held in North America, has featured a lecture on the origins of the African slave trade and a display of toy trains owned by Hermann Goering, head of the Nazis' secret police.
Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education, said the location of the conference is troubling to her.
"There must be enough supporters to welcome them," she said.
Weiman said Holocaust denial literature has flourished in the United States, which does not have laws against its publication, as most European nations and Canada do. "Holocaust denial is the newest form of anti-Semitism," she said.
Opponents have been reluctant to organize a protest for fear of giving the event publicity, but Weiman said she hopes area officials will urge the hotel to drop the event, scheduled this year for Sept. 3-6. A hotel spokesman did not return Enquirer phone calls.
"This is not just idle intellectual discussion," Weiman said. "If you deny history and say it never happened, it makes it easier for it to happen again."
Van Pelt speaks again today at 7:30 p.m. at Alter Hall, Xavier University, 3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati. In that lecture, he will examine the participation of architects, engineers and urban planners in the construction of the Nazi system of ghettos and death camps.
Holocaust Awareness events
Today 8:30 p.m. The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra pays homage to the souls and the survivors with the regional premiere of Symphony No. 3 by Gorecki, sung with prayers found written on a Nazi prison wall, and Survivor from Warsaw by Schoenberg. Tickets: $20-$23. Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, 1140 Madison Ave., Covington.
2 p.m. Community wide Public Commemoration and Observance: Yom Hashanah: Day of Holocaust Remembrance. Yawned Day School Gymnasium, 8401 Montgomery Rd., Cincinnati.
Monday 11 a.m. Yom Hashanah Interfaith Memorial Service. Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Schemer Chapel, 3101 Clifton Ave., Cincinnati.
Friday 7 p.m. "Manipulating History: Nazi Racist Propaganda Films" by Prof. David Culbert. Lecture and Film Presentation at Otto Budig Theater, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.
For a complete list: www.holocaustandhumanity.org
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