Holocaust survivor Peter Kubicek takes Amazon to task for selling Nazi denialist books

 Peter KubicekFor Holocaust survivor Peter Kubicek, 83, the thought of Amazon selling Nazi-denialist books makes him sick to this stomach. He’s taking his protest straight to the top at Amazon, and he was recently interviewed on Canadian television about his protest. A resident of Queens, N.Y., Kubicek is an active Internet reader and news surfer.

When we exchanged emails recently about a British newspaper report about Amazon selling Holocaust denial and white supremacist books online, he told me: “Look at this filth being peddled on Amazon. I am actually trying to do something about it and have had correspondence with  people of influence to try and shame Amazon into dropping this.”

And he is. He has written letters to Amazon and several New York area newspapers. When a Canadian news reporter noticed a comment Peter left on a website, he contacted him by email and asked if he would be willing to appear on camera via Skype. Peter appeared and spoke his mind.

“I posted a comment on Amazon’s review pages for one of those books mentioned in the British tabloid,” Peter told me by email. “As a result, I received a phone call on October 22 from a reporter from a Canadian TV station. He set up an interview with me via my FaceTime capability on my Mac computer. It was an interesting experience, but I don’t know whether it lead to anything.”

I have known a Peter for several years now, and we often correspond by email, forwarding news links about all kinds of subjects, mostly on current events, from one Internet mail box to the other. Kubricek is 83 now and was born in Czechoslavkia in 1930. He was in six labor camps as a teenage boy, and after liberation in 1945 he made his way to America with his mother to join his father who had gone to New York before the war.

In the 1980s, Kubicek started writing his memories down, mostly for his children, twin daughters born in New York. Later, he expanded his memoir into a book, and he has re-issued it in new edition that has been further expanded, including many black-and-white photos of him and his relatives, before and after the war. Told as he remembers what happened to him as a boy, the book resonates in a way that many more famous and well-known Holocaust books do not. Which is why I would recommend this book — available on Kindle and in paperback via the very same Amazon he is angry at — to readers here.

The book, a memoir, is titled [easyazon-link asin=”1480163201″ locale=”us”]Memories of Evil: A World War II Childhood[/easyazon-link] because it’s about his life as a young boy before he was taken away from his home and put in the camps and his life in the camps on a day to day basis. He survived, against the odds, as he says in the book, and he says he owes it all to pure luck. In some many personal instances he experienced in a heightened reality inside the camps, as the memoir tells, things could have gone wrong and he would not have been here today.

Check out Peter’s appearance on Canadian television here. His protest continues, and others are joining him now as well.

Will Amazon back down? This story has legs.

Editor’s Note: We have previously covered this story from the perspective of media frenzy following the eBook porn purge. Dan’s story covers the other side, the personal impact of certain types of books. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts in the comments.

24 Comments on Holocaust survivor Peter Kubicek takes Amazon to task for selling Nazi denialist books

  1. Banning books is never a good idea regardless of how reprehensible the content. Sure here we are only talking about getting a retailer to stop selling it, but the result is the same. We start with works that nearly everyone agrees with, and then after the precedent is set, others will attack other books. And sooner or later, only uncontroversial, mind numbing pablum will be left to read.

  2. I have no support for Nazis or neo-Nazis or Holocaust denialists, but I also don’t favor the book banners like Kubicek.

    The suppression of any point of view opens the door to a worse crime, in which any view can be suppressed because someone disagrees with it. For example, global warming advocates would love to use this argument to suppress books by skeptics.

    It is far better to let these idiots publish their views, because it makes them better targets for mockery and rebuttal.

  3. Maryland Bill and Bill Peschel both miss my point, which the above article does not make quite clear. If you would read what I advocate, it is not suppression of this offensive filth. Freedom of the press is fine. But free speech should not serve as an excuse for Amazon to make money with the sale of hate literature. Millions of people in this country, as well as millions in other countries, find those books offensive and objectionable. So, in the view of most people, there is a MORAL responsibility not to profit from these obscene books.

    And check out the gleeful 5-star reviews given to these books by members of the lunatic anti-Semitic fringe. These are the only customers for these books.

    I trust you will find this clarification useful.

  4. PLS NOTE: ”Despite the claim of Amazon’s customer service representative, the company does have a policy on content.”
    ”The policy states that [“Amazon.com reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of items sold on our site. Also, be aware of cultural differences and sensitivities. Some items may be acceptable in one country, but unacceptable in another. Please keep in mind our global community of customers.]”
    [Amazon refused to comment to CTV News.”]
    [With a report from CTV News’ Peter Akman in Canada]

  5. I’m not likely to read or buy the books in question, but from a philosophical and sociogical view I think it’s important not to drive offensive books underground. It’s what some people think and feel. I’d rather keep a gage in the open than have these ideas fester in the dark.

    As to the point of not turning profit from offensive books, I’m sympathetic but also pragmatic. I don’t think Amazon is in a place to pick and choose what books are offensive enough to accept a profit from selling. While most people would agree that Holocaust denial is about as idiotic and offenise as it gets.

    That said, I’d find it amussing if Amazon (or some one else) were to donate a dollar for each book sold to the Holocaust Museum then stick a note on the website. It would be like poking a bear with a stick.

  6. To Greg M.

    Thank you for agreeing that “Holocaust denial is about as idiotic and offensive as it gets.”
    But the lunatic fringe that propagates these ideas has been around the Internet for years. They used to bother me greatly until I decided not to dignify them with my answers and just ignore them. But if their ideas are now disseminated on Amazon, who makes profit on these objectionable books, that makes it a whole ‘nother story.

    To repeat, I think Amazon has a moral responsibility not to profit from the sale of such books.

  7. @ Peter Kubicek, I fail to see how profit from books that are objectionable is a relevant criterion. Surely, you would object as strenuously if not more strenuously if Amazon would elect to forgo profit on these titles.
    Once we start down the road of censorship, there is no telling where we will end up but my intuition is that none of us will be satisfied. We must suffer objectionable speech in order to preserve the freedom to speak our own minds. Faith in human reason under these circumstances is our best and only solace.

  8. To: Frank Lowney

    1. Where did you see anything about “censorship?”

    2. Your faith in human reason is admirable. Just try and find human reason among anti-Semites
    and Holocaust-deniers.

  9. To: Peter Kubicek,
    To respond to your questions:
    “1. Where did you see anything about ‘censorship?’”
    The following quote was attributed to you:
    “Look at this filth being peddled on Amazon. I am actually trying to do something about it and have had correspondence with people of influence to try and shame Amazon into dropping this.”
    My interpretation of this is that you wish to make this material unavailable via Amazon and **presumably** all other venues, commercial and otherwise, as well. My presumption could be wrong. It may be that you are OK with this stuff circulating as long as it does so in ways that can be characterized as “underground” or “illicit.” You might want to clarify just what outcomes you are wishing for.
    2. Your faith in human reason is admirable. Just try and find human reason among anti-Semites and Holocaust-deniers.
    The implied question here, I think, asks how human reason might prevail in the face of such vitriol. My faith in human reason is vested in all of humanity, not just a few miscreants. In short, I think that humanity in toto will form a defensible consensus despite the availability of these hateful and unfounded assertions.
    Suppressing that speech, except where it directly and immediately causes injury (yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre) is a cure more harmful than the illness it seeks to mitigate. When suppressing speech becomes the norm, the things that trigger it can shift. Before you know it, we’re all mumbling “newspeak.”
    So, while I applaud your contradicting this nonsense as vigorously as you do, that does not convince me that freedom of expression is a bad idea. The end, however laudable, does not justify such means.

  10. Frank,

    Your long verbiage is difficult to follow.

    There is a difference between “censorship” and shaming Amazon to drop material which is offensive to millions of people in the U.S. and millions in other countries. Amazon knows exactly what it is doing when it is peddling such filth since it was already forced to drop this material from its site in other countries.

    We would like them to drop it in this country voluntarily, as a question of morality. Is their conduct legal? Yes. Is it moral? You answer this for yourself.

  11. If some of the above correspondents wish to see what the rabid anti-Semitic press is posting, and how they are exploiting the Amazon conundrum, just Google “The Fuerza Persperctive.”

    You will find enough “free speech” material there to keep you up all night.

  12. What if someone is researching the subject, or someone mentioned parenthetically, and needs access to these books, new or used? Mr. Kubicek, I object to any books being banned. Your argument that they can’t make money from it is nonsense, since Amazon represents used booksellers who need money to stay in business.

    I understand your disgust, but it doesn’t trump the First Amendment, and you don’t get to dictate why someone shouldn’t have access to a book you find repellant. I assume you came to this country because of its freedoms, not in spite of them. Therefore, let us have ours.

  13. To: MRW

    You attribute positions to me which I never took. I never advocated banning books. I never wanted to dictate to anyone. You always had and should definitely continue to have the right to read any anti-Semitic literature that pleases you. Such literature has been around since the existence of the Internet. Just look up “The Fuerza Perspective” (note correct spelling) as I suggested above. It is one of many sites which have always offended me, but under our laws have a right of free speech. I have no quarrel with that. Do you want to read and purchase “The Protocols of Zion?” It is a 19th century anti-Semitic concoction, but it still readily available.

    This is getting very tiresome, but I repeat. Is Amazon’s conduct legal? Yes. But free speech should not serve as an excuse for Amazon to make money with the sale of hate literature which millions of people in this country and in others find offensive and objectionable. It is simply a question of morality.

    I herewith resolve not to answer any more comments, whether stupid or intelligent.

  14. Mr. Kubicek,

    I have no desire or need to look up “The Fuerza Perspective” or the “The Protocols of Zion.” I wouldn’t even give the sites a hit for the purposes of this discussion. That’s not what I’m talking about.

    There are people who do need access to these pubs or books for serious research. Libraries are getting rid of a lot of source material. Amazon’s used book section serves a valuable service. I’ve located UN docs that are 30 years old using it that I didn’t have a prayer of finding otherwise. Those docs were documenting atrocities with names that could have been banned under your proposal because of a parenthetical reference.

  15. I’m against the haters and the fascists. But The Turner Diaries and the infamous propaganda The Protocols … are both for sale on Amazon. I don’t think these books should be banned, once some books get banned, no matter how evil we may see them as, the banning of some leads to the legitimacy of banning many books. I realize the proponent here is not talking abt banning anything, but call it what you may.

  16. Amazon promises not to sell products that disseminate hatred “against a protected group.” As a religion, Jews represent such a protected group. Most of the books that deny the Holocaust also spew anti-Semitic hatred. In violating their own policy, Amazon has become a platform for the dissemination of hate against a protected group.

    As a published author, I despise censorship. This is a slippery slope in which it can become increasingly difficult to justify censorship of books that might damage the public welfare. However, I also understand how it feels when some idiot writes a published book that denies the circumstances in which my family members were murdered. But that doesn’t justify censorship.

    Whenever someone’s Holocaust denying book is published, young, impressionable readers will buy those lies and become the next generation of Anti-Semites. They, in turn, will teach their progeny to hate. This is the never-ending stream of bigotry and racism that led to European hatred of Jews over past centuries. It’s also largely why few lifted a finger to help their Jewish neighbors under Nazi occupation. Therefore, do we as a society, or does Amazon as a retailer, have an obligation to do whatever is possible to put a stop to such blatant prejudice. And will people learning those lies about Jews take up arms or commit genocide in the future? By then, it will be too late to censor those books.

    This is a terribly difficult situation to unravel without resorting to censorship. Just as censorship has a negative connotation, so does doing nothing to stop the dissemination of such dangerous propaganda. We saw what happened to European Jews when no one from 1939 to 1945 stood up to Nazi Germany when they carried out the destruction of the Jewish population. It began with Nazi propaganda, the like of which remains in current Holocaust denying books. It would be senseless to think it can’t or won’t happen again.

    At the very least, Amazon should donate every penny of profit to Holocaust museums or restitution programs. It won’t wash the blood off their hands if readers who purchase these books take fatal action against Jews. Nor would it prevent the next generation from believing these lies. But it would be a step in the right direction.

    Charles S. Weinblatt
    Author, “Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story”

  17. UPDATE: and agree / disagree open topic: for those following this story, Peter and others have started a petition online that reads like this, in part: AKE ACTION
    Join the WJC Campaign – Urge Amazon.com to Remove Hate Books

    Recently, Amazon.com was exposed. It carries many titles denying the Holocaust and insulting Jews.

    Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. But that should not serve as an excuse for big corporations like Amazon.com to make money from selling hate literature.

    IT IS DEEPLY OFFENSIVE that the world’s largest online retailer is making money from selling such material.

    Nobody wants to restrict free speech. Nobody wants to ban books.

    We just ask Amazon.com to be a responsible corporate citizen and not to profit from distributing hateful filth.

    We ask Amazon.com to live up to its own standards. It does not sell pornography or books promoting incest. Why does it believe that Holocaust denying books are any less offensive?

    Join our campaign and urge Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos to remove hate books.

    Sign our petition now!

    We owe it to the Holocaust victims!

    Petition to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

    Dear Mr. Bezos,

    It has come to my attention that Amazon.com is selling books that deny the Holocaust and promote anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

    Amazon’s own policy on offensive materials states: “What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.”

    I ask Amazon.com to be a responsible corporate citizen and not to profit from distributing hateful filth. I urge you to live up to your own standards. You do not sell pornography or books promoting incest. Why do you believe that Holocaust denying books are any less offensive?

    No one should profit from the sale of vile and offensive hate literature. It is deeply offensive that the world’s largest online retailer is making money from selling such material. We are shocked and disgusted that Amazon.com has not yet removed these items.

    I kindly urge you to do so forthwith.

    – See more at: http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/amazon-campaign/take-action#sthash.vXa0rPLD.dpuf

  18. @Dan, sorry. You got caught in the Spam filter.

  19. Danny,

    Your post worked fine for me. Thanks.

    Peter

  20. UPDATE, via PW, related: ”The nonfiction bestseller list is traditionally peppered with controversial figures and provocative subject matter. But among the current crop of hot authors, you still might not expect to find the EBOOKS of the most notorious figure of the 20th century. Meet Adolf Hitler, Nazi mastermind and unlikely e-book champion.”

    As Chris Faraone first noted earlier this week on vocativ.com, “Mein Kampf,” Hitler’s 1925 quasi memoir and manifesto,” has become a full-fledged e-book chart-topper. Across platforms like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes, the book, whose English translation copyright holder Houghton Mifflin hasn’t even released in paperback in 16 years, is wiping up the floor with more contemporary political authors. Farone writes, “All seven of [Glenn] Beck’s books trail Herr Hitler’s nearly century-old tell-all, which consistently holds its own against new e-blockbusters like ‘Game Change’ by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, ‘This Town’ by Mark Leibovich and Nate Silver’s ‘The Signal and the Noise.’”

  21. Interesting that people will pay for this title when there are so many versions in so many languages that are free to download.
    The Internet Archive even provides an online eReader.
    Listing: : https://archive.org/search.php?query=mein%20kampf%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts&page=1
    eReader: https://archive.org/stream/MeinKampf_472/MeinKampf#page/n7/mode/2up

  22. Yes, several sites have pointed out that Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is suddenly selling like hotcakes.

    Actually, this is a pretty obsolete book and why anybody would be interested in it in this day and age is hard to understand.

    On the other hand — coming back to my pet peeve — the fact that Amazon offers current anti-Semitic books has not been reported in any U.S. publication — whether pro or con.

    Let me give you another relevant example. Some weeks ago the auction house e-Bay offered for sale some Holocaust-related memorabilia. When this was brought to their attention, they immediately removed some 30 items from their site and issued a prompt public apology. The management of e-Bay recognized this as an ethical issue and acted accordingly. They did not holler about their right to sell whatever they please, nor about constitutional freedom, nor about censorship.

    Will Amazon ever arrive at the same conclusion? I don’t know, but a few of us are keeping the pressure on.

  23. Kevin Spak, of the Newser Staff, says ”ONLINE ANONYMITY, CURIOSITY, DRIVING HITLER’S E-BOOK SALES” — ca[s his — and he might have a point here! — writing at newswer site:
    ”If you look at the politics and current events section on iTunes’ book store you will, as of this writing, see Hitler’s face staring back at you out of the 3 and 4 spots. Mein Kampf has been a nothing short of an e-book blockbuster, on both iTunes and Amazon, even though the physical edition is a rarity that hasn’t made the New York Times bestseller list since its US release in 1939. The phenomenon isn’t exactly new, but it’s getting talked about thanks to an in-depth post from Chris Faraone at Vocativ.
    Faraone’s theory is that Hitler’s polemic is benefiting from what he terms the “50 Shades phenomenon.” People might not want to be caught reading 50 Shades of Grey on the subway, or buying it in person, he reasons, but they’re curious about the content—which is why the Romance Writers of America says its genre sells a disproportionate number of eBooks. User reviews suggest similar motives are at work for Hitler readers. ”

Leave a Reply

wordpress analytics