Update on the arson at the Holocaust History Project

Last week, I reported about arson at the offices of The Holocaust History Project (THHP), posted one update, and was gratified to see how many bloggers responded to my call to link to THHP as a big “screw you!” to whoever did this.

An article about the arson at the Holocaust History Project has appeared in the San Antonio Express News, including an interview with Sara Salzman, who acted as spokesperson for THHP because Harry Mazal was out of town.

It appears that the police and fire department do not believe that this was a hate crime for reasons that I have to question:

But the fire, set in an area “very remote from the books,” destroyed medical equipment and only singed some of the books, said Arson Capt. Art Villarreal.

“The books were not the target of the attack,” Villarreal said, noting a lack of markings on the warehouse connecting it to the project.

It gets worse:

Arson officials also discounted the notion of a hate crime because the arsonists left behind no markings to indicate why they set fire to the building. Perpetrators of hate crimes usually feel compelled to communicate a clear message, Villarreal said.

Say what?

Investigators are discounting the possibility that THHP was targeted for its activities because the warehouse didn’t have a big sign that said “Holocaust History Project” out front, because the fire wasn’t started near where the books were stored (the exact location of which in the building an attacker would be unlikely to know), and because arsonists didn’t leave a note or some other statement that that’s why they burned down the offices? That seems to be what Villarreal is saying. After all, even white power rangers aren’t so stupid that they don’t realize that leaving such calling cards behind would provide clues that might lead the police to the perpetrators.

I realize that it’s entirely possible that this arson was not intentionally targeted by groups who do not like the work that THHP is doing, but, given the circumstances, I consider such other possibilities far less likely than the obvious. And, of course, Holocaust deniers are making the obvious accusation (cut and pasted exactly as it appeared, misspellings are left intact):

This is such utter bullshit itz not even funny. First of all, no one’s ever heard of this place. Second of all, if it exists and has a warehouse, it probably burned it down itself, or hired someone. Third, the whole thing represents a truly monstrous, echt jewish attempt to gain sympathy for precisely the sorts of behaviors that jews carry out themselves around the clock against truth sites such as VNN.

Sara correctly addressed Villarreal’s comments:

Salzman countered that the address of the warehouse is widely distributed on the Internet as the mailing address of The Holocaust History Project.

“My personal belief is that Mr. Mazal’s business was targeted because the person who did it believed that that’s where our library and computer are,” she said.

She also pointed out:

Since the organization went online in 1998, it has received some anti-Semitic phone calls but never has had to contend with violent manifestations of hate, Salzman said.

“The reason we’re so concerned, more than anything else, is that, if in fact this is a hate crime, it is a major escalation to violence from these guys,” she said.

Indeed.

Given that the address of Harry’s business offices has been circulated on white power ranger discussion boards and on Usenet as the address of The Holocaust History Project, it’s obvious that a lot of scary people who did not like THHP at all knew this address. It’s also likely that many of them think that that is the address where THHP’s servers and library were housed.

Sadly, it seems to be increasingly more likely that, regardless of whether it was Holocaust deniers or vandals, we’re never going to find out who torched Harry’s offices. But the work goes on–at an undisclosed location. Just because we’ve become a bit paranoid does not necessarily mean that they aren’t out to get us.

On the other hand, it would almost be more reassuring to me if this turned out not to be a hate crime. Unfortunately, the truly unsettling thing about this attack is that I’m beginning to think that we’ll never know one way or the other for sure whether it was Holocaust deniers who were responsible.