In early August 1985, Melvin Mermelstein struck a powerful blow against bogus history and historical hoaxes. Mel won a decision in a California court, in a contract case.
A group of Holocaust deniers had offered a $50,000 reward for anyone who could prove that the Holocaust actually happened. Mermelstein had watched his family marched to the gas chambers, and could testify. He offered his evidence. The Holocaust deniers, of course, had no intention of paying up. They dismissed any evidence offered as inadequate, and continued to claim no one could prove that the Holocaust actually occurred.
Mermelstein, however, was a businessman. He knew that the offer of the reward was a sweepstakes, a form of contract. He knew it was enforceable in court. And he sued to collect. The issue in court would be, was Mermelstein’s evidence sufficient?
Mermelstein’s lawyer had a brilliant idea. He petitioned the court to take “judicial note” of the fact of the Holocaust. Judicial note means that a fact is so well established that it doesn’t need to be evidenced when it is introduced in court — such as, 2+2=4, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Celsius, etc.
The court ruled that the evidence presented overwhelmingly established that the Holocaust had occurred — the court made judicial note of the Holocaust. That ruling meant that, by operation of law, Mermelstein won the case. The only thing for the judge to do beyond that was award the money, and expenses and damages.
You can read the case and other materials at the Nizkor Holocaust remembrance site.
Appalachian State University takes the Holocaust seriously — there is a program of study on the issue, recently reported by the Mountain Times (the school is in Boone, North Carolina — not sure where the newspaper is).
Mountain Times, August 17, 2006
As co-directors of Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies, Rennie Brantz and Zohara Boyd are always eager to expand and improve the center’s methods of education. Seldom, though, does this involve airfare.
Brantz and Boyd recently visited Israel to participate in the Fifth International Conference for Education: Teaching the Holocaust to Future Generations. The four-day conference was held in late June at Yad Vashem, an institute and museum in Jerusalem that specializes in the Nazi Holocaust.
“Yad Vashem is an incredible institute,” Brantz said. “It was founded in the ’50s to remember and commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust, and has been the premier international research institute dealing with the Holocaust.”
As Santayana advises, we remember the past in order to prevent its recurring. Clearly, this is a past we need to work harder at remembering.