In the wake of a CAMERA exposé, the Target Corporation has taken swift action to remove two dozen Holocaust-denial and anti-Semitic conspiracy books being sold on the company website. On discovering the publications, CAMERA contacted Target executives and alerted its membership to the egregious problem. Commendably, the company acted immediately in addition to apologizing for its “error in having these books available on Target.com.”
But, as it turns out, this was only one chapter in an ongoing story whose conclusion is not yet obvious.
The whole saga began when CAMERA Senior Analyst Dexter Van Zile tweeted about a book by Holocaust denier Carlos Whitlock Porter, entitled Not Guilty in Nuremberg. The book was being marketed not only by Target.com, but by Barnes & Noble, as well as by third party booksellers like AbeBooks, Thriftbooks, Alibris, Ebay, and other lesser-known platforms. Target and Barnes & Noble were quickly contacted by Jewish activists, including representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Both vendors immediately removed the Porter book from their online platform. But this was only the tip of the iceberg.
As one who lost family in the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the gas vans of Chelmno, and the killing ravine of Babi Yar, I felt compelled to investigate further. If a book defending Nazi murderers and condemning their prosecutors was being mainstreamed through the wholesome brand of Target, could it be that other Holocaust denial propaganda was being mainstreamed in the same way?
I discovered that aside from Porter’s book attacking the Nuremberg trials, there were almost two dozen similar or even worse books that were being sold on Target.com. Most were from the “Holocaust Handbook” series, put out by Castle Hill Publishers (CHP) a company whose raison d’être is to promote Holocaust denial. CHP was established by Germar Rudolf, who was convicted in his native Germany of Holocaust denial. To avoid serving time in prison, he fled to England where he started the publishing company in 1998. From England, he arrived in the U.S. where he joined forces with CODOH (Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust). CHP now serves as the book and video publishing outlet of CODOH (started by a former media director of the neo-Nazi-established Institute for Historical Review) in order to indoctrinate students and other unsuspecting victims in Holocaust denial.
That many of the books found on Target’s website appeared in German, complete with German-language synopses, made them easier to evade easy notice. Banned in Germany, these books were now being mainstreamed on Target’s popular U.S. shopping site.
While Target is to be commended for promptly removing all the books flagged by CAMERA, I have since discovered other books that apparently evaded notice on the online vending platforms of Target and Amazon, and Nazi propaganda books on the latter site despite the fact that Amazon apparently removed most of the Holocaust denial books from its site in 2017. But even as English-language books are removed from these platforms, German, French and Italian-language editions remain.
Who then is responsible for subverting these platforms to mainstream antisemitic propaganda?
It seems quite likely that CODOH and CHP are the main drivers, along with other smaller Holocaust denial, anti-Semitic outfits and self-publishers. It is relatively easy to market books on such platforms as AbeBooks, Alibris, Thriftbooks, Ebay and similar less popular sites. You simply fill out an application, pay a subscription fee and commission and market your books however you please. It is no wonder that Holocaust deniers and antisemites find these platforms a haven for selling their pernicious wares. But connecting themselves to the good name and sales opportunities of mainstream brands like Target and Amazon should presumably be much more difficult.
Despite the prompt action by Target to disassociate itself from Holocaust denial publications, the company has not been transparent about its book marketing process. Questions remain.
- Are books marketed on Target’s website vetted, and, if so, whose role is it to vet them?
- What criteria are used to determine whether a controversial book should or should not be marketed on Target’s website, or at least labelled appropriately?
- What safeguards have Target and other mainstream book vendors put in place to prevent such objectionable material as Holocaust denial from being mainstreamed by the Target brand?
At a time of rising antisemitism, dissemination of the evil lies of Holocaust deniers should be a concern of all people of good will, including those who head powerful corporations capable of either accelerating or diminishing anti-Jewish hatred. Holocaust deniers and Nazi propagandists may reach relatively few customers if relegated to their own websites, but latching onto respectable brand names is a strategy to reach beyond that audience. Respectable corporations that guard their brand names meticulously in many ways need to beware as well of being exploited and tainted by the ugliest of associations – with those who deny the Holocaust.
A slightly different version of this column was originally published in JNS on November 1, 2021.