The thread about Weleda’s and Wala’s sponsoring of a smear campaign against academics and critics turned into a thread about anthroposophical holocaust denial. This angle was first introduced by Floris Shreve, who mentioned that Demeter — the organisation certifying biodynamic products — sponsors a Dutch anthroposophical publication, Driegonaal, that has published and promoted holocaust revisionists/deniers and/or proponents of anti-semitic ideas (Jos Verhulst and Gennadij Bondarew). Jan Luiten, a Dutch anthroposophist, whom many of us have encountered in previous discussions online, particularly on racism andn anthroposophy, and who at one point in time was an editor of the publication in question, was asked questions he either wouldn’t or couldn’t answer.
Thanks to Diana for an excellent summary of the topic of a thread so long it’s epic; I think it’s the longest thread on the blog, actually, so her summary, written late in the thread, is very helpful:
Driegonaal is a Dutch anthroposophical publication focusing on Steiner’s concept of social “three-folding.” The magazine has published the work of the well known anthroposophist Holocaust denier Jos Verhulst and openly supports the work of Gennady Bondarew, another infamous anthroposophist Holocaust denier.
Jan’s remarks regarding Driegonaal (August 10), after this was brought to his attention (assuming, that is, that he was not already aware of this; he is not only a contributor to the magazine but was in the 1980′s one of the editors):
“Indeed I am a sympathizer of Driegonaal. I love this magazine … Driegonaal is a decent magazine.”
There is no question about the Holocaust denial content in the publication. Here is a link to the article we’ve been discussing, published by Driegonaal (a sort of special thematic series of pamphlets):
It accuses Eli Wiesel of lying about the gas chambers at Auschwitz, among other things.
Jan is upset because, apparently, it seems unreasonable to him that people might suggest he disassociate himself from such a publication.
It’s worth reading the thread, although it is very long. After Floris’s comment — and comments by others, including Ramon, Diana and myself challenging Jan in various ways — the thread turned for a while (in Jan’s absence) to 9/11 conspiracy, which, if you’re only interested in the anthroposophical holocaust revisionism angle, you might want to skip. The topic was resumed somewhere around this comment. Topics ran parallel for a while, but here Jan is back with a response.
By this point figures like Bondarew are fairly well-known within the international anthroposophist scene (one of several factors that make Jan Luiten’s protestations of ignorance all the sadder), and Bondarew’s holocaust denial and antisemitism have been publically condemned by less blinkered anthroposophists willing to address the issue directly. The same is not yet the case for Jos Verhulst, a right-wing Belgian anthroposophist and proponent of ‘social threefolding’, who is not nearly as infamous as Bondarew. Among other venues, Verhulst writes frequently for the ‘Brussels Journal,’ which bills itself as “the voice of conservatism in Europe” (a look at its website will give a clearer picture of what ‘conservative’ means for them).
Verhulst’s texts on the holocaust, published by the anthroposophist periodical Driegonaal, rehearse the standard holocaust denier repertoire: he doubts the existence of the gas chambers because of discrepancies between the French and Yiddish versions of Elie Wiesel’s memoir “Night” and because of the way in which buildings at Auschwitz were reconstructed after WWII (the SS tried to erase their tracks by blowing up the gas chambers and crematoria before the camp was liberated by the Red Army). He conjectures that the “holocaust fraud” continues to be perpetrated in order to get more money from Swiss banks. His article “Was Rudolf Steiner an Antisemite?” promotes a variety of well-worn antisemitic cliches, such as “the traditional Jewish obsession with racial purity,” a notion that is particularly popular among some anthroposophists both past and present.
These are common themes for holocaust deniers.
As for Jan’s contributions to the discussion I must say, now that all else seems to have been said and done, that I basically agree with what Diana says in this comment:
Reviewing some of Jan’s comments throughout this thread, it’s really rather appalling. The pattern is always of denial and deflection. At all costs, avoid the point and think of something – anything, no matter how trivial and desperate and irrelevant – that you can accuse other people of, as a way to appear to keep talking and yet say nothing, about the actual topic. Never answer any question directly, and reply only in non sequiturs.
If someone points out that you are defending a magazine that is publishing Holocaust denial, make a big case out of the fact that one of the commenters doesn’t speak the language the magazine is published in. Yes, THAT will make Holocaust denial go away!
Pretty much every one of his replies is like this – content-free regarding the issues that other people are discussing.
Although I have often thought of Jan as stubborn and not rarely a bit difficult to discuss with (difficult to get relevant replies from), I really didn’t suspect anything like this to happen; I didn’t think he’d be so careless and obfuscatory around a topic like this one. I draw the conclusion that Jan has been aware of the content of Driegonaal for a long time, which is obviously why our attempts to find out whether he distanced himself from it or not completely failed — in fact, when he said that he ‘loved’ the magazine and thought it ‘decent’ he can’t have been unaware of what it had contained. Jan seemed quite upset that people judged him, but, in fact, several of us, first not knowing enough about the previous debate in Dutch, gave him the benefit of doubt, hoping he would clear it up, explain his viewpoints.
Hundreds of comments later, the only conclusion is that Jan doesn’t think that holocaust revisionism published and promoted by an anthroposophical publication is a serious matter. All these comments later, I’m not sure how to interpret him saying that holocaust deniers have a right to express their views (a right which nobody in the thread contested, but on the other hand, nobody saw, I think, any particularly good reason for an anthroposophical publication to provide space for this freedom of expression) but ‘they will not find me on their side’. In light of what happened later, in many, many comments, that remark seems quite obscure.
As marginal as this phenomenon seems to be — I assume there are many anthroposophists who simply don’t know much about this at all — it won’t go away unless anthroposophists like Jan Luiten stops calling a magazine, directly involved in publishing and promoting this kind of stuff, ‘decent’ and refuses to reject these actions. It also matters what anthroposophical companies and organisations choose to support. Driegonaal may be a fringe publication for all I know, but according to Floris Shreve it receives support from Demeter. Bondarew was expelled from the Anthroposophical Society, that’s true, but he was extreme. How does organized anthroposophy handle the more toned-down and sophisticated holocaust deniers, racists and, for that matter (and to return to original topic of the original thread), people who behave unethically in other ways. Do they pay them, support them, spread their ideas — or reject them? Perhaps there are too many Jan Luitens and perhaps there are also too many people who don’t want to be sufficiently clear about things. In none of all the comments has Jan taken a stand specifically against the questionable holocaust related material published and promoted by Driegonaal — in fact, he’s done the opposite. You would assume that the opinions of other anthroposophists might count — if they made them heard. Or, were this not to help and Driegonaal wouldn’t change its direction, perhaps decent Dutch anthroposophists should start their own social threefolding magazine. Why Demeter would wish to be seen supporting this publication, is beyond my ability to grasp.