Holocaust denial: it's catching
Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna has written a fascinating post comparing Iran's President Ahmadinejad to Hitler.
Oh, I know; it's become downright fashionable these days to compare all sorts of world leaders to Hitler--particularly President Bush. But Ahmadinejad really does exhibit parallels with Hitler, at least in his rhetoric, if not in his ability to fulfill that rhetoric by acquiring the vast territory Hitler conquered.
But the sad--and very ironic--fact is that it's no longer necessary to have Hitler's reach to be able to threaten a great number of Jews, due to the establishment of the state of Israel and the relative ease of acquiring nuclear weapons these days. Iran, of course, is very well-positioned geographically and militarily to represent a credible threat--if not now, then very soon.
Hitler had to go to great lengths to gather the Jews from their respective countries in Europe to murder them, but he was more than willing to make the effort. Today, however, thanks in great part to that effort of his, the Jews are more or less gone from Europe. They are also more or less gone from the Arab world, and from some of those non-Arab Moslem countries (such as, for example, Iran) in which they previously had a significant presence. Although Hitler didn't accomplish this directly, he had an indirect effect, since the ending of the Jewish presence in some of these countries was a result of the establishment of the state of Israel, which probably would not have been approved by the UN but for his Holocaust.
The upshot of it all is that the Jewish population of the Old World is now largely concentrated within the tiny confines of Israel, and if Iran gains atomic weapons it would be far easier to exterminate those Jews than it was for Hitler, although the consequences could be even graver for the world, since Israel itself has a nuclear capacity.
It's difficult to get the full flavor of how very important the extermination of the Jews was to Hitler. If you want to read about it in his own words and those of his confederates, here's a good place to start. The following is a tiny sample:
I hope to see the very concept of Jewry completely obliterated. 
Europe cannot find peace until the Jewish question has been solved. …One thing I should like to say on this day [the sixth anniversary of his being appointed Chancellor of the Reich] which may be memorable for others as well as for us Germans. In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet and have usually been ridiculed for it. … Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshivization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe. 
Even though I was born not too long after World War II, statements such as these had always seemed to me to come from a far-off place and time--medieval and dark and very distant. Hitler was like some bogeyman or ogre in a fairy tale, shouting, "Fee fie foe fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!." In my lifetime, we already knew how WWII had ended--with Hitler vanquished, shamed and dead by his own hand, just as in the fairy tale the ogre perishes and the beautiful princess and prince (or, alternatively, the brave but humble peasant hero) are triumphant and live happily ever after.
But of course in recent years that happy delusion of mine that this was only "once upon a time," long ago and far away, has been revealed as just that: a delusion. Many theories have been advanced over the years for the strange and enduring phenomenon known as anti-Semitism, but the one constant is that it is relatively constant, cropping up over and over in varied guises and locations, waxing and waning rhythmically, but always reliably present.
So the words of Iran's President no longer surprise me with their resemblance to Hitlerian rantings. And it's no surprise, either, that one of Ahmadinejad's themes is Holocaust denial, although one would think it could just as easily be Holocaust approval.
Holocaust denial, always reprehensible, is somehow more understandable in Europeans than in someone such as Ahmadinejad. After all, Europe bears more of the guilt for the Holocaust; therefore it stand to reason that Europeans would have more motivation to want to wash their hands of any association with the Holocaust by declaring it a fabrication of those wily and nefarious Jews.
But Holocaust denial has spread to Arab countries, and of course to Iran. The reasons are not completely clear, but it seems to go with the territory of anti-Semitism itself. After all, if one desires to hate Jews and to blame them for all manner of evil, and at the same time one imagines there's a need to be sympathetic to victims (and to elevate the Palestinians as victims extraordinaire), then the Jews have to be discredited as victims. They must have no sympathy whatsoever in order to become the villains of the piece. And to do that one must deny that the Holocaust ever occurred--so that their re-victimhood may be safely contemplated, and with a clear conscience.
It's a sad and not-too-well-known fact that the development of virulent anti-Semitism in the Arab world, a 20th century phenomenon (which Iran now seems to have "caught"), was in fact a direct result of Nazi influence in the Middle East during the 30s (see this book by Bernard Lewis on the subject). So the resemblance noted by Baron Bodissey is not so strange, after all: Nazi propaganda is probably the underlying source of this sort of thing--both in the Arab world and, by a sort of contagious spread, in Iran.
Holocaust denial carries a special burden and irony for Holocaust survivors. The incredible Primo Levi, whose autobiographical book Survival in Auschwitz constitutes what I consider an indispensable work on the subject of the Holocaust, indicated as much. (By the way, if you haven't read it, I recommend it highly; his lucid and comprehensive essays read as though the most brilliant of sociologists had been sent to the death camps for the express purpose of studying them and writing about them with great clarity and insight.)
I don't have Levi's book in front of me as I write this, so I have to rely on my memory. But my recollection is that among the many nefarious Nazi mindgames that Levi chronicles was the following: those in charge would taunt the inmates of the camps by saying that none of them would survive to tell the tale, and that therefore the world would never know. Furthermore, they would add that, even if by some strange chance some did survive and tried to tell, they would not be believed.
So it seems that the Nazis may have understood about the possibilities of Holocaust denial. However, they still tried as best they could in the waning days of World War II to destroy the evidence of the camps as the Allied armies advanced. But they were unsuccessful; they ran out of time.
The Allies who liberated the camps made some documentary films of the horrors they found there, because they felt the need to prove what had happened. Some of these films were shown at the Nuremberg trial and some were shown in movie theaters of the time:
General Dwight D. Eisenhower anticipated that future generations might find it hard to believe the horror that they found when Nazi Germany was liberated by the Allies. He ordered that both the Ohrdruf camp and the Buchenwald camp be preserved for several weeks in the state in which they were found and German civilians in nearby towns were forced to visit the camps to view the piles of rotting bodies. American soldiers, newspaper reporters and Congressmen were also called in as witnesses to the Nazi atrocities. But it was the British who had the biggest impact on the public conscience when they released their newsreel film of Bergen-Belsen to movie theaters around the world in the last days of the war.
Of course, all that the liberating Allied soldiers saw was the end result of the death and work camps, not the functioning things themselves. Most of the Bergen-Belsen deaths they found were from a rampant typhus epidemic, for example; the death camp apparatus of most of the camps were no longer in operation by the time the Allies arrived, having been fairly recently abandoned. All that was left was whatever records the Germans themselves had kept, the physical evidence (the ovens, for example), and the stories of the survivors, who represented only an infinitesimal fraction of the number who had been killed outright.
Eishenhower was indeed prescient when he anticipated that future generations might find it hard to believe the horror of the Holocaust. He did what he could to document it. But the need to deny seems to be stronger for many people than the evidence (when I was Googling to find information about the films of the camps, for example, a plethora of Holocaust denial sites came up).
Some deny, I suppose, because they don't want to believe such horrors are possible. But many deniers have a different purpose for their denial, and it's a Hitlerian one, I'm afraid: to demonize the Jews once again, and to try to pick up where he left off in their annihilation.