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We can all agree that the Holocaust happened, right? Wrong. Millions of people disagree.

How do you prove the Holocaust happened? And should you have to?

We can all agree that the Holocaust happened, right? Wrong. Millions of people disagree.
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Participant Media Denial

In 1996, Deborah Lipstadt was tasked with proving the Holocaust happened in a trial that's the focus of the new film, "Denial."

Yep, you read that right. Holocaust denial is actually a thing.

Many of us know that from 1933 to 1945 up to 6 million Jewish people lost their lives during the Holocaust, and more than 11 million people were killed altogether. We have photographs of the concentration camps, the ruins of which are still around today and can be visited. We have testimony from Nazi officials. There are survivors with arm tattoos and eyewitness accounts of the tragedy.


‌Image via Dale Cruse/Flickr. ‌

But for some people, that evidence doesn't seem to be enough. In fact, apparently only 54% of the world’s population has heard about the Holocaust, and of those who have heard about it, about one-third believes that the genocide has not been accurately described. Shocking, right?

In 1993, Lipstadt wrote a book about the phenomenon of Holocaust denial called "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" because she felt she had to draw attention to the absurdity of deniers' claims.

In the book, Lipstadt dedicated just a few paragraphs — 500 words — to a man named David Irving, a Holocaust denier.

Irving not only distorts the historic records of the Holocaust, but also discounts the stories of people who witnessed and experienced the horrors or who have loved ones who did. Since the late 1980s, Irving has vehemently stated that the Holocaust was a hoax.

‌Dachau Concentration Camp prisoners. Image via Dale Cruse/Flickr.‌

"More women died in the backseat of Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz," Lipstadt quoted Irving as saying in her book.

Three years later, Irving sued Lipstadt for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier in her book. That trial is what "Denial" focuses on.

The film follows Lipstadt, who found herself center stage in a lawsuit, tasked with proving that Irving was lying when he said the Holocaust didn't happen.

"You can lie. You can say whatever you want, but you can be held accountable for it. And you can't then say 'well my opinion is equal to fact,'" Lipstadt said, explaining why it was so important to hold Irving accountable for his words.

‌Deborah Lipstadt. Image via Participant Media.‌

Irving brought his suit against Lipstadt in the U.K., where the law puts the burden of proof on the accused — meaning that instead of Irving being required to prove Lipstadt guilty, Lipstadt and her team of lawyers had to prove that Irving was actually a Holocaust denier. To do this, they'd have to prove that the Holocaust did in fact happen, and that Irving explicitly misrepresented that fact.

If Lipstadt lost the case, it would basically mean no one in the U.K. could ever call Irving a Holocaust denier, and it would allow for the continued denial of one of history's most significant and tragic events.

Fortunately, Lipstadt won — a victory that had repercussions beyond the case and beyond Irving.

It was a decisive win for truth.

‌Image via Dale Cruse/Flickr.‌

Fast forward to the current political climate, where elevating the truth is as crucial as ever.

We have a presidential candidate who regularly makes inaccurate and harmful statements regarding Muslims. Donald Trump claimed to have seen "thousands and thousands" of Muslims cheering as the buildings fell on 9/11 and used that story to justify his desire to create a Muslim database that's been compared to the Jewish database that was implemented in Nazi Germany.  

Since 9/11, hate crimes against Muslims have been up, and researchers are seeing a renewed spike lately. While a direct connection can't be assumed, analysts can't help but note the timing and wonder if the hateful rhetoric of the 2016 campaign is a contributing factor. Now, promoting intolerance is not the same thing as mass genocide. But when people in positions of power use patriotism and false statements to justify hate and gain a following in doing so, people get hurt.

There are also people in places of power claiming the climate change isn't real — ignoring scientists as well as the pleas and warnings of people in regions that are already feeling climate change's devastating effects.

And we have leaders brushing off systemic racism that directly effects the way black lives are viewed and valued and denouncing the activists who call attention to the injustices.

"There aren't always two sides to every story," said Lipstadt. "Certain things are true. Certain things happened. You can debate why they happened, you can debate why there was a Holocaust. You can debate who made the decision. But you can’t debate whether it happened."

Movies like "Denial" are a reminder that there will always be people out there who ignore the truth in an attempt to deny people their history.

For every person who denies history, there are even more people out there standing up for truth. Lipstadt's story is one of fact triumphing over opinion, of truth winning out over lies.

We could use more of that.

There will always be people like Irving in the world, but what we can do is work to ensure that the truth is told, no matter how ugly, because it’s important. Because it’s our duty to seek the truth.

Check out more of Lipstadt's story, which is featured in the upcoming movie "Denial," now playing in select theaters/everywhere Oct. 21:‌‌

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."