Flyers calling the Holocaust a hoax were recently posted in a number buildings at the University of Wyoming, coinciding with the school's remembrance week for the estimated 6 million Jews who were systematically killed by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ‘40s.
The incident has been reported to the Anti-Defamation League in Denver, but the school can't do much more than remove the flyers, said Chad Baldwin, a university spokesman.
“The content of the handbills, while reprehensible, is in fact protected by the First Amendment,” he said.
Littering, however, is not.
Posting handbills violates a city ordinance, so the campus police are investigating, Baldwin said.
Other academic campuses are also reporting a similar suite of handbills denying the Holocaust on their campuses, he said.
The flyers showed up last year during remembrance week as well, Baldwin said.
Thursday is the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, a regime-organized night of widespread violence against Jews, their homes and businesses in Germany in 1938.
Holocaust survivor Estelle Nadel is speaking at the university Friday.
A call to the Laramie Jewish Community Center, which is hosting Nadel’s visit, was not returned by press time.
The flyers call the Holocaust a “criminally fraudulent” claim and direct readers to an outdated website peppered with adverbs like “wizardly,” claiming to be an organization of forensic historians.
The Anti-Defamation League is aware of the website and its founder, a single individual, said Sue Parker Gerson, associate regional director for the group's mountain state region.
"This is 2017, you can put anything up on the internet," she said. "Somebody, somewhere is going to believe it. It seems that somebody in Laramie decided to put up flyers."
Though the content of the flyers may seem too ridiculous to take seriously, the intent is not, she said.
The league has noted a spike of anti-Semitic incidents in the last year, both in the Rocky Mountain Region and nationally, she said.
"Anti-Semitism is present, and one manifestation is Holocaust denial, saying that the murder of 6 million Jews, and 5 million others, didn’t happen," she said. "The way we deal with that is education to the contrary."
Holocaust denial attempts are repeatedly refuted by organizations like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., which cites the proliferation of German records, photographs and videos as well as survivor, soldier and refugee testimony.
Dr. Stephanie Anderson, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming, said Holocaust denial was disheartening for academics and teachers.
“It’s been proven beyond a doubt, so it shows that we have to reinvent the wheel if you will, to reestablish things that have already been established.”
After the Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany was liberated by the Allies, locals from the nearby towns were forced to tour the camps and see the bodies of hundreds of people imprisoned there strewn about like waste. It was an attempt to destroy the possibility of denial, a role the U.S. has taken on ever since, the professor said.
“That people deny that work, that effort that the U.S. has been at the forefront of documenting, is difficult,” Anderson said.
The denial rhetoric, so close to Veterans Day, is an insult to the American soldiers who fought and died in that war, she added.
“The difficult thing is that many of the eyewitnesses are dying, simply because of age,” she said. “All the more reason to record them and make sure that their testimony lives on.”