Journalist Rod Liddle has defended comments he made about Auschwitz in an online forum which contains virulently antisemitic jokes.
Mr Liddle, the former editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, said his remarks needed to be viewed in context and that he had been attempting to show the Nazi death camp has been “rendered politically correct…something much less than it should be”.
Around 200 comments about the Nazi death camp were posted on the Millwall Online website — an unofficial fans’ site not linked to the club — in November last year when a fan wrote about his visit to Auschwitz.
The man — “Gaz from MK” — said he had found the experience moving and claimed “Poland maintains Auschwitz with no commercial exploitation.”
In response, Mr Liddle, widely tipped to be the next editor of the Independent, wrote: “I went a year or so back. F***ing outrageous that you can’t smoke in Auschwitz. I had to sneak round the back of the gas chambers for a crafty snout.”
In further comments he states that guides who showed him round the camp played down Jewish links to the site. He said “modern Auschwitz” does not truly reflect what happened during the Holocaust.
He also apologised to “Gaz” for any offence he had caused, but added: “To tell you the truth I thought the ‘Auschwitz Experience’ had been devalued by the people who run it to the point where I think it deserves taking the p*** out of… it’s set up as a politically correct tourist attraction, sort of Hitlerworld.”
Further comments added by other users included obscene antisemitic jokes about gas chambers and ovens, as well as racist remarks about Muslims, Poles and Asians.
The remarks led to lengthy arguments between those posting comments over whether it is acceptable to joke about genocide.
One fan wrote: “I still believe nothing is a no-go area when it comes to humour on here. That’s the great thing about Millwall Online.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Anyone who would make insulting and offensive ‘jokes’ about the horrors of the Holocaust must understand how grossly insulting their comments are.
“It is remarks such as these which make it even more necessary for us to educate future generations about the Holocaust and the fundamental lessons it holds for today.”