© 2009, T. Dalton
This is a book about the Holocaust, and about two competing views of that event.
On the one hand we have the traditional, orthodox view: the six million Jewish casualties, the gas chambers, the cremation ovens and mass graves. Traditional historians have thousands of surviving witnesses and the weight of history on their side.
On the other hand there is a small, renegade band of writers and researchers who refuse to accept large parts of this story. These revisionists, as they call themselves, present counter-evidence and ask tough questions. They are beginning to outline a new and different narrative.
Thus there has emerged something of a debate -- a debate of historic significance.
This is no peripheral clash between two arcane schools of thought, regarding some obscure details of World War II. It is about history, of course, but it also speaks to fundamental issues of our time: freedom of speech and press, the operation of mass media, manipulation of public opinion, political and economic power structures, and the coercive abilities of the State. It is an astonishingly rancorous and controversial debate, with far-reaching implications.
PART I – SITUATING THE HOLOCAUST DEBATE
Chapter 1: The Great Debate
- The Core of Revisionism
- Four Myths
- Who’s Who in the Debate
Chapter 2: Truth versus Lies
- The Traditional Story
- A Question of Evidence
- The Nuremberg Trials
Chapter 3: On the Origin, and Future, of the “Six Million”
- The Prescient Times
- Revisionist Death Figures
- World Jewish Population
Chapter 4: Breaking It Down: The Death Matrix
- The Hilberg Matrix
- Life (and Death) in the Ghettos
- The Einsatzgruppen
PART II – DEATH CAMPS IN FOCUS
Chapter 5: Chelmno and the Nazi Camp System
- The Alleged Onset of Mass Murder—and the Missing Hitler Order
- Gas Chambers Galore
- Death Camp Chelmno
- Disposing of the Bodies
- Traditionalist Replies
Chapter 6: The Reinhardt Camps (I): Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka
- Estimated Fatalities
- The Death Matrices
- Electrocution, Steam, Diesels, Chlorine…
Chapter 7: Reinhardt (II): The Diesel Story
- Gerstein, Reder, and the Diesel Exhaust
- Traditionalist Replies
Chapter 8: Reinhardt (III): The Vanishing Bodies
- Excavations (Part I)—Belzec: The Polish Excavations of 1997–1999
- Excavations (Part II)—Treblinka: Soviet-Polish Diggings of 1944 and 1945
- Excavations (Part III)—Sobibor: 2001–2008
- Burying the Bodies
- Exhuming and Burning
- Traditionalist Replies
- Revisionist Death Estimates
- The End of the Line
Chapter 9: Majdanek
- The Death Matrix
- The Seven Chambers of Majdanek
Chapter 10: Auschwitz
- The Essentials of the Auschwitz Story—The Main Camp
- Birkenau—Alleged Extermination Camp
- Estimated Fatalities
- The Death Matrix
- Death Matrix (Part I): The Gas Chambers
- The Mechanics of Gassing
- No Holes?
- The Leuchter Report
- Death Matrix (Part II): Body Disposal
- Ovens and Capacity
- The Hungarian Operation
- Air Photo Evidence
- A Revisionist Auschwitz
PART III – THE FUTURE OF THE DEBATE
Chapter 11: “Storytellers Supreme”
- The Problem of the Witnesses
- Moving Ahead: A Revisionist Holocaust
Chapter 12: Hoax? Fraud? Conspiracy?
- A “Jewish Conspiracy”?
- Covering All the Bases
- Exploiting the Holocaust
Appendix A: Calculation Assumptions
Appendix B: Major Death Camp Witnesses—Pro and Con
This is a book about the Holocaust, and about two competing views of that event. On the one hand we have the traditional, orthodox view: the six million Jewish casualties, the gas chambers, the cremation ovens and mass graves. Traditional historians have thousands of surviving witnesses and the weight of history on their side. On the other hand there is a small, renegade band of writers and researchers who refuse to accept large parts of this story. These “revisionists,” as they call themselves, present counter-evidence and ask tough questions. They are beginning to outline a new and different narrative.
Thus there has emerged something of a debate—a debate of historic significance. This is no peripheral clash between two arcane schools of thought, regarding some minutiae of World War II. It is about history, of course, but it also speaks to fundamental issues of our time: freedom of speech and press, the operation of mass media, manipulation of public opinion, political and economic power structures, and the coercive abilities of the State. It is an astonishingly rancorous and controversial debate, with far-reaching implications.
Most of the reading public is only dimly aware of this debate, if at all. Everyone knows that “six million Jews were killed by the Nazis,” and that gas chambers were used in the killing. But few have any idea about the origins of this story, its rationale, and its justification. Fewer still know that serious questions have been raised against the traditional view; if they have heard of such questions, it is in the context of “a few right-wing neo-Nazi anti-Semites” who are trying to attack the Jews by questioning the Holocaust. And not more than a handful of people know about the serious issues raised by the revisionists, and the attempts by certain traditionalists to respond.
The fact that so few are aware of what may be called the “Great Holocaust Debate” is perhaps not surprising. Much has been invested in the conventional story. Textbooks and encyclopedias have been written about it. Historians have staked their personal reputations on it. Politicians have passed laws defending it. And wealthy and powerful interests have good reason to sustain it. In short, very few of those in positions of influence want to acknowledge any kind of legitimate debate. There is no incentive to publicize it, and strong disincentive. Those in the public eye know that, should they broach this subject, they will suffer the consequences. Advertisers will drop out. Financial backers will disappear. They may be sued. They will lose access. They will be shunned. And it will all be legal.
Only a dramatic turn of events can force this debate into the public realm. Such a turn occurred in early 2006, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that there would be a Holocaust conference in Teheran. The purpose would be to examine its scientific and technical basis with an eye to reinterpreting the facts. Reaction was rapid and fierce. Most called it a “Holocaust denial” conference, dismissing it as so much anti-Semitic raving. But Ahmadinejad followed through, and the conference was held in December of that year. The sky did not fall, and hoards of crazed lunatics did not rise up and slaughter Jews around the world. But the topic broke through the wall of silence; and more people now than ever suspect that all is not well with the traditional story—hence the need for a book such as this.
* * * * *
The Great Debate is marked by a striking partisanship. The traditional story is defended primarily by survivors, Jewish writers and researchers, and those who suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany—in other words, by people with a self-interest in sustaining the dominant view of a genocidal Nazi regime and an innocent and victimized Jewish people. Of the thousands of books on the subject, the vast majority are by Jewish authors. The revisionist perspective is promoted by a very small number of people, primarily Germans, people of German origins, and those who are ideologically inclined to be pro-German or anti-Jewish—again, not an unbiased group.1 Charges of “lies,” “conspiracy,” and “hoax” are frequently launched by both sides. This leaves the vast majority of the public in a quandary: the average person is faced with partisan advocates on both sides, and rarely, if ever, gets a complete and balanced picture.
My goal is to remedy this shortcoming. I intend to present an objective, impartial look at this debate. I will discuss the latest and strongest arguments on both sides, examine the replies, and offer an unbiased assessment. This is a challenging task, to say the least, but I believe that I am reasonably well suited for it. Unlike the vast majority of writers on the Holocaust, I am not Jewish—either by religion or ethnicity; nor are any of my family members. I am not of German descent. No one in my immediate family suffered or died in World War II. I am neither Muslim nor fundamentalist Christian, so I have no religious bias. My background is as a scholar and academic, having taught humanities at a prominent American university for several years now. I have a long-standing interest in World War II, and in the present conflict in the Middle East. In the end, whether I have succeeded in offering an objective analysis of this debate will be for the reader to judge.
This book is targeted at the general educated reader, but holds to a high standard of scholarship. Hence it is as suited for university use as for general readership. In examining the writings of the two opponents, I have taken nothing for granted. To the extent possible, I have verified all quotations, checked all calculations, and noted errors—though I must say that the level of scholarship on both sides has been laudably high. I have attempted to use commonly available sources, should the reader wish to confirm any statements or quotations I offer here.2 I have concentrated on English language sources; this has its drawbacks, but fortunately most of the important sources are in English, so the problem is not too great. Where relevant, I have cited essential non-English writings as well.
I have also shown a preference for hard-copy publications—books and journal articles—over Internet publications. Web-based material is always questionable. It can change from one day to another, and disappear the next. Such sources are typically less well researched, and often rely on other, equally unreliable, Web-based sources for their arguments. On the other hand, there are certain obvious advantages. Much controversial material can be publishedonly on the Web, and this point must be noted. Also, it is very convenient, for example, that several complete revisionist texts are available free online. (This very fact should mitigate the notion of a profit motive of the revisionists.) And the rise of YouTube and online video services allows access to audio-visual material that can have a greater impact than printed works. Thus, as appropriate, I have included relevant Web page information.
Finally, I use terminology indicating the provisional nature of claims about the Holocaust. My use of “alleged,” “so-called,” scare quotes, and similar devices simply is meant to indicate that I am withholding assent until the case is fully examined. I tend to be skeptical of most things told to me by those in positions of power and influence, and this subject is no different. I recommend that the reader do the same. As for my occasional quips, jabs, and weak attempts at humor, I can only say that this is not intended as insult or dismissal. I aim to take a sometimes plodding and tedious debate and make it interesting and readable. But when one makes outrageous claims, or puts forth obvious nonsense, and then expects to be taken seriously…then a sarcastic jab may be entirely appropriate.
* * * * *
Some might question the relevance of this whole topic. They might point out that the event under discussion happened over sixty years ago, that most who experienced it are dead, and that the enmities of the war are long gone. America and the European nations are friends, and at peace (with each other, at least!). Japan is an important trading partner, and poses no military threat. So why bother with the Holocaust? What’s the big deal? “Yes, the Jews suffered,” some may say. “So just leave them alone. Let them have their ol’ Holocaust.”
I think it does matter, and not only to those who have a vested interest. First, there is the straightforward question of history. Regardless of what one may think, the Holocaust was an event of major historical importance. As with any historical event, it is important to get the facts straight, and to develop consistent and coherent views about what happened. To understand what did, or did not, happen is important for understanding the world of the twentieth century, and by extension, the world of today.
Second, we are not allowed to forget about it, even if we wanted to. Coverage of the Holocaust is standard fare in every school curriculum.3 Children the world over read The Diary of Anne Frank, Number the Stars, Waiting for Anya, and Butterfly. Students learn about the gas chambers and the six million, about the Nazi atrocities.4 We watch Holocaust miniseries on television,Schindler’s List, and documentaries like Night and Fog. We celebrate “Holocaust Education Week,” and we acknowledge January 27 each year as the “International Day of Commemoration” of Holocaust victims, as declared by the UN in 2005. School children collect six million pencils, or six million paperclips.5 We visit Holocaust museums. We take college courses from endowed chairs in Holocaust studies. This is not by accident. It is a deliberate plan, to make sure we “never forget.” And if we can never forget, then we should at least get the story straight.
Third, there is the drama of the debate itself. It is unlike anything else—the name-calling, the suppression of ideas, the jailing of dissenters, the burning of books. It is a debate that can scarcely be mentioned in polite company. It is, in a real sense, one of the last taboos in Western civilization. But as we know, taboos never last. They are the product of a given era, of specific social and political forces. When those forces shift, as they inevitably do, the taboo is lifted. Now is perhaps such a time.
Fourth, we have the underlying issue of free speech. I take a position in support of radical free speech. Speech is an (almost) absolute right. There is virtually no topic that should be out of bounds. Barring only such obscure cases as an immediate threat to human life (one thinks of the contrived example of “crying fire in a crowded theater”), no words or ideas should be beyond discussion. I support vigorous and open debate on every conceivable topic, the Holocaust included. Suppressing speech only drives it underground, and can only lead to unethical and reprehensible manipulation of the public’s ability tothink for itself. Those in power always have reason to fear free speech—all the more reason to defend it.
Fifth is the monetary angle. Billions of dollars have been given as restitution, to Israel, to individual survivors, and to Jewish organizations. These are tax dollars, provided by the workers of the affected nations—primarily Germanyand Switzerland (to date). Restitution claims have not ended, and will likely not end in the foreseeable future; as recently as March 2008, the Belgian government agreed to pay $170 million to survivors, their families, and the “Jewish community.” This is rather astonishing, given that Belgium was avictim of the war, not an aggressor! (The official reason: Belgium “failed to resist hard enough” against Nazi deportation of Jews.) Compensation money, arising directly from the conventional Holocaust story, in turn flows back to sustain it. Restitution money buys political clout, where—in the U.S. at least—it ends up as campaign contributions and issue ads. It encourages lawmakers to legislate in support of Israel and against revisionism—and they do.
Sixth, there are the far-reaching conflicts in the Middle East that stem, in large part, from the Holocaust—in a number of important ways. First, the state of Israel itself is due largely to the persecution of Jews in the war (Israel was created in 1948).6 Its creation sparked the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs, which led to several wars and ultimately to the present Israeli occupation of the West Bank and other Palestinian lands. This occupation in turn is a crucial factor in the global “war on terror,” and in the present bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, it is a crucial factor in the United States’ giving $6 billion per year, every year, to Israel in the form of military, economic, and indirect aid. Third, if there is a future conflict with Iran, it too will stem in part from conflicting views of the Holocaust;7 Ahmadinejad knows this, hence his willingness to challenge the traditional account. And finally, the influential group of people who promote and defend the Holocaust are by and large the same people who supported the wars in the Middle East. The same ideology—militant right-wing Zionism—is a major factor in both. Thus by better understanding their thinking and actions we may perhaps head off future wars.
Seventh: If we can be misled—or fooled, or deceived, or lied to—about the Holocaust, what other events might we be misled about? The same social forces that could give rise to, and sustain, a deficient Holocaust story could produce countless other stories that might be exaggerated, embellished, distorted, or falsified.
Finally, the Great Debate tells us something important about the power structure of Western nations. Revisionists challenge not only orthodoxy; they challenge the power of the State. Advocates for the conventional view are in positions of great influence. They are wealthy. They have many supporters, and virtually unlimited resources. They are able to turn the power of the State, and public opinion, against revisionism. The revisionists, few in number and poor in means, have only ideas. But, as the masked man once said, ideas are bulletproof. They have a power of their own, unmatched by money, military, or government. Ideas can penetrate to the heart of truth. This is the promise of revisionism. Whether it succeeds, time shall tell.
* * * * *
To repeat, I attempt here to take an impartial look at this clash of views. Arguably this is doomed to failure. I can be sure that both sides will accuse me of biased thinking, of disregarding important points, of undervaluing critical issues. Trying to remain neutral in this cantankerous debate is rather like taking a stroll through no-man’s-land amidst trench warfare. I am guaranteed to be shot at by both sides.
Nevertheless, I am not concerned with befriending either camp. The hardcore partisans of both sides are few in number, even if one side wields disproportionate power. My concern is the vast middle ground of people, neither Jew nor Muslim nor German, who are directly and indirectly affected by the Holocaust, and who deserve to hear all perspectives on the matter. I stand with that group.
I am not a revisionist, and I do not endorse their claims. I am a bystander in this debate, observing and commenting on a collision of ideas. This book is not a book of revisionism. It is a book about revisionism, and about two competing views of the truth. It addresses the ability of each side to marshal evidence, and to create a clear and consistent picture of the past.
The revisionist view of events is so shocking, so far from what we have been told, that we have a hard time comprehending its possibility. A colleague once told me that he would be no more shocked to find no Eiffel Tower in Paris than he would to learn that the revisionists were right. Yet we can scarcely avoid asking ourselves this question: Is it really possible that the traditional Holocaust story is wrong? And not merely a little wrong, but significantly and fundamentally flawed? This is for each reader to decide. My objective is not to impose an overall conclusion, but rather to illuminate and articulate the main points, and to comment on their validity. The reader must decide.
I sense a turning point in the debate. It seems to be moving out of the shadows and into the realm of serious and legitimate discourse. Revisionists have strong arguments in their favor, and, despite book burnings and jail terms, they are not going away. Traditionalists seem of late to have lost their momentum. Perhaps they have no more counterarguments. Perhaps they have tired of defending the conflicting stories of survivors and witnesses. Perhaps they have reached the limit of their ability to fashion a comprehensible picture of those tragic events of sixty years ago. The debate will reach a new resolution, and I suspect that the result will be something different than we presume today.
1. Of course there are other revisionists not among these groups. Prominent revisionist Germar Rudolf has argued that, proportionately, the French are the most represented group.
2. Wherever possible, quotations include in-text citations. For example, (Hilberg 2003: 29) refers to page 29 of Hilberg’s 2003 publication (The Destruction of the European Jews), which can be found in the bibliography at the rear. Such citations both let the reader know the time frame of the quotation, and avoid an excessive multiplication of footnotes. (Recent scholarship, especially by the revisionists, is footnote-crazy. This is useful from a scholarly perspective, but can make for awkward reading.) The end objective, after all, is to clearly cite reliable and verifiable sources, and I think I have achieved this goal. And, unlike most books on the subject (of either side), I have included a full and complete index and bibliography.
3. One example: On November 7, 2008, the British Times Online reported that “every secondary school [in the UK] is to get a Holocaust specialist to ensure that the subject is taught comprehensively and sensitively.” Ten percent of these specialists will receive a master’s degree in “Holocaust education.” “The scheme is part of a wider Holocaust education project funded by the Government” and a national charity. The project will also “send two sixth-formers [ages 16 and 17] from every school to Auschwitz” each year.
4. In February 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed strengthening an existing mandate to teach the Holocaust; his idea was that “every fifth grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 [Jewish] French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.” (New York Times, February 16) The proposal was rejected by the Education Ministry five months later. Yet we should ask what might have compelled Sarkozy to attempt this. One factor could be his family background; his grandfather was Jewish, and he clearly views himself as a “friend of Israel.” Another might be the strong Jewish minority in France; the country has the third-highest percentage of Jews outside Israel (though small—just under one percent—it is nonetheless very influential; see Chapter 12).
Furthermore, we should consider the numbers involved. The standard definition of a “child victim” is anyone under age sixteen. Most traditionalists claim that children represented about one third of all victims. So 11,000 child deaths implies about 30,000 French Jews in total. (Of course, we don’t know if Sarkozy is using a different definition of “child”—perhaps only those of middle-school age.) But a figure of 30,000 is far less than that mentioned by, for example, Gilbert (1988: 244), who claims 83,000 French Jewish deaths. As so often happens in the Debate, ill-defined numbers are thrown around that are rife with contradiction.
If the total was 30,000, French Jews accounted for just 0.5 percent of the six million victims—virtually insignificant in the overall picture. (If 83,000, then 1.4 percent.) And they would represent only 6 percent of all 500,000 French war casualties.
5. On September 20, 2004, the AP reported on a middle school in Tennessee, where, back in 1998, “students hoped to collect 6 million paper clips—one to remember each person killed in the Holocaust.” Thanks to global publicity, they had collected 30 million clips by 2004. In that same year Paper Clips, an “award-winning” Miramax documentary, was released. Regarding the pencils, a Texas junior high school issued a press release on May 15, 2007: “Six million pencils for Holocaust project.” They hope to get 167,000 per month, achieving their total by 2010.
6. It is true, however, that the Zionist push for a Jewish homeland had begun in earnest as early as 1900; the Balfour Declaration of 1917 declared British support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The process was thus in motion several decades before the end of World War II, but it was the Holocaust that was the last straw, inducing the UN to create the state of Israel in 1948.
Chapter 1 The Great Debate
There can be no denying the Holocaust of the mid-twentieth century: it was called World War II. Roughly 50 to 60 million people died worldwide - about 70 percent of whom were civilians.1 They died from a variety of causes including guns, bombs, fire, disease, exposure, starvation, and chemical toxins. Within this greater Holocaust existed many lesser holocausts: the Allied fire-bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, and Cologne; the killing of hundreds of thousands of German soldiers and civilians, by the victorious Allies, after the formal end of the war; the U.S. nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which incinerated 170,000 women, children, and elderly; and the Jewish Holocaust of Nazi Germany. It is this last Holocaust which has been the topic of heated debate over the years, and it is this Holocaust which I address in this book.
Of the millions that died in the war, about 10 percent, or six million, are claimed to have been Jews killed by the Nazi regime, both in Germany and in its occupied territories. This Jewish Holocaustthe Holocaust, many would sayhas been the subject of intense study for more than sixty years, ever since the postwar Nuremberg Trials of 1945 and 1946. According to some, it is the most well-documented event in history.
The basic outline of the conventional story has been mapped out for several decades now, and there is a rough consensus on what the Holocaust was. Here is one widely accepted definition:
When historians talk about the Holocaust, what they mean on the most general level is that about six million Jews were killed in an intentional and systematic fashion by the Nazis using a number of different means, including gas chambers. (Shermer and Grobman, 2000: xv)
Here is another, from an official sourceMichael Berenbaum, former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.:
[The Holocaust is] the systematic state-sponsored murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War 2. (1993: 1)
These definitions imply three key components that are essential to the orthodox view: (1) the killing of six million; (2) gas chambers; and (3) intentionality. Lacking any one of these three, according to this view, we have no Holocaust. The conventional story ends with bodies buried in mass graves, and burnedeither in open pits or crematoria. This heinous act, it is claimed, was a singular pinnacle of human evil.
There remain, however, many open issues and many unanswered questions. Some researchers make challenging and troubling claims, which threaten to overturn major aspects of the Holocaust story:
- Key witnesses to the Holocaust have either falsified or greatly exaggerated important aspects of their stories.
- The figure of six million has little basis in fact. This number, which theoretically could only have been known after the war, actually traces back decades before.
- Major death camps, like Belzec, Sobibor, Chelmno, and Treblinka, have vanished without a traceas have most of their alleged victims. Such a thing is not possible.
- Both of the alleged means of gassing victimsZyklon-B (cyanide) and carbon monoxide from diesel exhaustare impractical, unworkable, and simply ridiculous.
- No Holocaust order from Hitler exists; nor was there any budget or any plan. How, then, could the Nazis have pulled off their perfect crime?
- Wartime air photos do not substantiate the traditional account of events.
- Why are there, even today, so many survivors?
It seems that no two writers on the Holocaust have the same opinion on these matters.
The disputants fall into two clearly defined groups: traditionalists andrevisionists. Were this any other matter of historical dispute, the two camps would typically engage in cordial, lively, and fact-based argumentation. They might attend joint conferences, praise the others ingenuity, share lunch, and even grant a deferential respect to one another. But not the Holocaust. Here, none of the usual rules apply. A kind of argumentative chaos reigns. Ad hominem attacks fly. Reputations are impugned, and basic intelligence is challenged.2 Strategic confusion and targeted obfuscation are the norms.
For starters, consider the names of the two groups: Holocaust revisionists3 are often called Holocaust deniers by mainstream writers. This appellation is both derogatory and, technically, almost meaningless. What does it mean to deny the Holocaust? How much of the conventional view does one have to reject in order to be a denier? Take the three pillars of the Holocaust story: What does it mean to deny the six million figure? Is five million denial? (If so, then we can start burning Raul Hilbergs books.) Three million? One million?4 What about intentionality? Does this refer to Hitler, or the likes of Himmler, Eichmann, Goering, or Goebbels? And how are we to judge intention? There is no ready answer to these questions; hence, a denier is rather like an anti-Semiteessentially in the eye of the beholder.
Revisionists in turn often refer to their opponents as exterminationistsas in, those who believe that the Nazis were on their way to eliminating the Jewish people from the face of the Earth (as if such a thing were possible!). Traditionalists reject not only this label, but any label at all; any group designation implies that they are simply one school of thought, to be held on equal footing with the revisionists. The notion of a competition between schools of thought is anathema to them. In their eyes, there is only one basic truth about the Holocaust, and they are its guardians.5 Anyone pretending to claim that there are alternative truths is either a liar or a fool. In this sense, most traditionalists are themselves deniers: they deny that there is anything to debate at all.
Most serious, we now have a situation where the power of the State has been brought to bear against revisionism. In 1982 two influential Jewish groups, theInstitute of Jewish Affairs and the World Jewish Congress, created a plan to combat the growth of revisionist publications. They issued a report, Making the Denial of the Holocaust a Crime in Law, calling for widespread legislation against revisionism. Israel passed such a law in 1986, and France and other countries followed in the 1990s. Today there are fourteen countries (thirteen in Europe, plus Israel)6 that have enacted or expanded anti-Holocaustdenial laws, ostensibly to combat racist hate crimes against Jews or other minorities. Penalties ranging from severe fines to imprisonment can now be levied against those who openly challenge the conventional Holocaust story. The presumption is that revisionist writings or speeches will inflame violent extremists, or will corrupt the youth (Germany), or will somehow bring unacceptable pain to Jewish people or others sympathetic to their suffering. I am unaware of any cases in which revisionist writings have been shown to be a contributing factor to anti-Semitic violencebut perhaps this is beside the point.
In the past few years three prominent revisionists have been arrested for challenging the traditional Holocaust account: Ernst Zundel, Germar Rudolf, and David Irving. Zundel, a flamboyant publisher and promoter of right-wing literature in Canada, was arrested in February 2003 in Tennessee, for violatingUnited States immigration statutes. He was quickly deported to Canada and held in prison for two years as a national security threat. In March 2005 Zundel was deported once again, this time to his native Germany, where he was charged with distributing hate literature, and with maintaining a U.S.-based revisionist Web site. In February 2007 he was sentenced to five years in prison, the maximum allowable under current German law. Revisionists are evidentlya dangerous lot; no leniency shall be granted.
Germar Rudolf, a one-time doctoral student in chemistry in Germany, published the influential revisionist works Vorlesungen ber Zeitgeschichte(Lectures on Contemporary History, 1993) and Grundlagen zur Zeitgeschichte(Foundations of Contemporary History, 1994). In a throwback to the Middle Ages, his books were not only confiscated, they were burned. Tried in 1996, he was sentenced to fourteen months in prison. Rudolf fled to the U.S. but was arrested on immigration charges in late 2005 and deported to Germany. In March 2007, just one month after salting away Zundel, the German legal system sentenced Rudolf to two and a half years in jail.
Noted British writer and historian David Irving came slowly and hesitantly to revisionism, over a period of several years.7 He had been sympathetic to the German side at least since his 1977 book Hitlers War, but did not start to seriously question the Holocaust until the mid-1980s. It was not so much his writings as his speeches and interviews that got Irving into trouble. In 1993 Deborah Lipstadt labeled him a denier and neo-Nazi sympathizer in her bookDenying the Holocaust. Irving sued for libel, losing in 2000. He was then arrested in Austria in November 2005 for an act of denial committed sixteen years earlier, back in 1989. A Viennese court sentenced him to three years in prison in February 2006, though he was granted early release in November of that year.
Such attacks, in addition to significantly raising the stakes of the debate, have a stifling effect on free speech and academic freedom in general. Many groups and individuals have strongly opposed such heavy-handed acts of state censorship, even though they may disagree with the revisionists. Notable intellectuals such as Noam Chomskyhimself no revisionisthave spoken out on their behalf. One must wonder: How serious a threat can these people be? Why are they able to draw the attention of national legislators? Whom do they threaten? And perhaps most importantAre they on to something? Do they in fact have a case to make, that the Holocaust story is fundamentally deficient? The State does not attack those who argue for a flat Earth, or warn against some imminent alien invasion. Those who are irrational, or cannot make a coherent case, pose no threat, and thus are left alone. Apparently the deniers are not in this category. This fact alone should make the average person wonderCould they be right?
THE CORE OF REVISIONISM
Unlike the traditionalist view, revisionism resists a general characterization. The alternate depiction of events that revisionism promises is only dimly outlined at present, and opinions are too disparate and too variable to form a truly cohesive view. Nonetheless, there are certain points of broad agreement among a majority of serious revisionists; these constitute a kind of core of revisionism today.
Among the general points of agreement are the following:
- Hitler did indeed dislike the Jews, and strongly desired to rid Germany of them. This desire was shared by most of the top Nazi leadership. It was rooted in Jewish domination of certain sectors of German finance and industry,8 and, more important, the prominent Jewish role in Soviet Bolshevism, which was seen by most Germans as a mortal threat.
- To achieve this end, the Nazis implemented various means including evacuations, deportations, and forced resettlement. Their main objective was to remove the Jews, not kill them. Hence their primary goal was one of ethnic cleansing, not genocide. This is why no one has ever found a Hitler order to exterminate the Jews.
- Of course, many Jews would likely die in the process, but this was an unavoidable consequence.
- The initial plan was to forcibly acquire the island of Madagascar from France, and to ship the Jews there (for a good account of this episode, see Mattogno and Graf 2005: 179193).
- By mid-1941, due to speedy victories in the Soviet Union, large areas of territory came under German control, and hence the plan changedthe Jews would be shipped to the east.
- By mid-1943, things were turning bad for the Germans. Soon shipments to the east were no longer viable (due to the Soviets regaining their land), and furthermore all available manpower was needed to support the war effort. Thus deportations became subordinated to forced laborand hence the heavy reliance on Auschwitz, which was first and foremost a labor camp.
- A major problem with deporting and interning large numbers of Jews was disease, especially typhus. Therefore a major effort was needed to kill the disease-bearing lice that clung to bodies and clothing. All Nazi camps were thus equipped to delouse and disinfest thousands of people.
- The primary means for killing lice was in gas chambers, in which clothing, bedding, and personal items were exposed to hot air, steam, or cyanide gas (Zyklon-B). The gas chambers described by witnesses really did existbut every one was built and operated as a disinfesting chamber,not as a homicidal gas chamber.
- The larger part of witness testimoniesboth from former (Jewish) inmates and from captured Germansconsists of rumor, hearsay, exaggeration, or outright falsehood. This does not mean that entire testimonies are invalid, only that specific claims must be verified by scientific methods before we should accept them. In particular, claims about casualty figures, mass burials and burnings, and murder with diesel exhaust are largely discredited.
- The total number of Jewish deaths at the hands of the Nazisthe six million numberhas been highly exaggerated. The actual death toll was perhaps 10 percent of this figure: on the order of 500,000.
An inquiry into the Great Debate of Holocaust revisionism cannot even begin unless a few prominent myths are dismissed at the outset. Four are of particular importance:
Myth #1: Revisionists believe that the Holocaust never happened. This is a common caricature of the revisionist position. It implies a belief that there was no widespread killing of Jews, that they suffered no persecution, that there were no homicidal gas chambers of any kind, and perhaps even that no Jews actually died at the hands of the Nazis. Those traditionalists who make this claim are being disingenuous at best. They seem to want the reader to believe that revisionism is so far out of touch with reality, and so extreme in its views, that it can be safely disregarded.9
No serious revisionist doubts that extensive killing of Jews occurred, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, at least. No serious revisionist doubts that a catastrophe happened to the Jewswhether they call it a holocaust or not is incidental. Revisionists do dispute that the number of deaths was anything like five or six million. All accept that gas chambers existed in most or all of the German concentration camps; but they dispute the purpose of those chambers. And revisionists dispute that any German camps were ever built and operated as extermination camps.
In one sense, the very statement of this myth is loaded. In order to know whether one accepts or denies that the Holocaust happened, one must have a functional definition of what the Holocaust is. We know the rough outline, but that does not allow us to decide whether a given version is acceptable or not. For example, if one accepts all traditional aspects of the story, but believes that only three million Jews died instead of six million, is this denial? What if one accepts the six million figure, but argues that very few died in gas chambers? Or accepts the six million and the gas chambers, but rejects that Hitler and the Nazi leadership deliberately planned and executed the killings? The inability of the traditionalists to answer such questions only further highlights the irrelevant nature of the first myth about the revisionists. Hence any such statement, by either side, to the effect that the Holocaust never happened is pure propaganda.10
Myth #2: Photographs of corpses prove the Holocaust happened. We all have seen the gruesome pictures of bodies stacked up outside some crematorium, or unceremoniously dumped into pits. These are offered as proof of Nazi barbarity, and of the slaughter of the Jews. Yet many things about such photos are misleading. For one, we do not know, or at least are not told, whose bodies those are. They could be Jewsor Polish internees, or Russian POWs, or German inmates. In fact little effort seems to have been made to actually identify, or autopsy, any of those bodies. Second, those famous photos came from the camps liberated by the British and Americansprimarily Bergen-Belsen. The problem is that these were not extermination camps. From the real extermination camps, we have no corpse photos at all.11 This fact alone should give us reason to consider whether certain aspects of the traditional story might be suspect. Third, there were rampant outbreaks of typhus and other diseases that claimed thousands of lives in all the camps; yet the photos are used to imply that these were gassing victims. And fourth, the photos show at most several hundred corpses. This is so far from six million that the vaunted photos are almost meaningless as proof of the Holocaust.
Myth #3: The Holocaust was a hoax. This idea rests in large part on the writings of Arthur Butz, above all his widely read book The Hoax of the Twentieth Century (1976). Butz continues to hold to this notion today, as do a handful of other revisionists (Faurisson and Berg come to mind.)
I explore this whole idea in more detail in Chapter 12, but briefly, what is a hoax? The term derives from the pseudo-Latin phrase hax pax max used by Renaissance-era conjurers and magicians to impress their audience. This same phrase is the source of the more benign magical incantation hocus pocus. A hocus pocus refers to a fabrication intended to entertain and amuse, whereas a hoax came to mean a fabrication intended to deceive, in a malicious sense. Both refer to entirely (or largely) contrived circumstances, carefully arranged to achieve a desired effect.
Now, it certainly is possible that the Holocaust storyespecially the mass murder in gas chambers, and the six millionwas a kind of fabrication to achieve a desired effect of deception. But, to my knowledge, no revisionist has offered any specific evidence to support this contention. Without solid evidence of deliberate falsification of at least large parts of the Holocaust story, we are unjustified in calling it a hoax. Individual lies, exaggerations, even gross exaggerations, do not qualify as hoaxes. Therefore, in my opinion, the Holocaust was not a hoax.12
However, this obviously does not mean that the story is true! It may still be rife with falsehoods, lies, and assorted absurdities. But there are many other ways in which untrue depictions of events can come to be widely believed, some of which are relatively innocent. Lacking hard evidence, we should give the benefit of the doubt to traditionalism. Revisionism should attack the story, not the motive. A hoax imputes a nefarious motive to certain persons, and this only inflames tensions rather than leading to the truth.
Traditionalists in turn leap on this hoax label and use it to their advantage.13They take it to mean a kind of global conspiracy, a large-scale collective effort to deceive the general public. They say, Those revisionist guys actually believe that the Jews could pull off this monumental fraud! They actually think that thousands of historians, writers, journalists, government leaderseveryone who supports the standard vieware in on the scam, all conspiring to assist the powerful Jews. How stupid can those revisionists be! And there is some weight to this. You cannot claim massive fraud without a solid basis for it. Revisionists risk looking foolish, and only hurt their cause, by arguing for a hoax.
There is, however, a small kernel of truth in this myth. It may be fair to say that certain parties took an undeniably tragic event and made the most of it. They assumed the worst possible outcome, the worst possible death tolls, and turned the worst rumors into truths. It may have been something like a fish tale, in which one catches a trout but claims it was a shark. Now, a fish tale is not a hoaxpresuming that one actually went fishing, and actually caught something! It is untruthful, deceitful, and devious, but not a hoax. The undeniably tragic deaths of many thousands, whose remains were utterly obliterated, can easily become millions. A falsehood, an exaggeration, a fish talebut not a hoax.
Unfortunately the situation goes from bad to worse. An exaggeration gets repeated over and over. It becomes the basis for trials, billions of dollars in reparations, even death sentences. Then it must be defended at all costs. We can well imagine how such a situation could come about, step by step, over the course of sixty years.
Myth #4: Revisionists are right-wing neo-Nazi anti-Semites. Again, a classic ploy: impugn your opponent so that the reader will be inclined to dismiss him. Unfortunately this occurs repeatedly in almost every traditionalist book that even touches on revisionism. Other, related charges usually follow. Zimmerman (2000: 119) writes, Everyone who has studied this [revisionist] movement realizes that the ultimate goal of denial is the rehabilitation of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Quite a claim! One wonders how Zimmerman knows such things, and what his evidence might be.
Are revisionists right-wing? Since being right-wing is no crime, their critics presumably mean far right, which, they imply, is an evil thing. Of course this is only evil from the perspective of the left, but more important, it implies that traditionalists are not themselves right-wingoften far from the truth! Hard-core traditionalists, by whom I mean the militant Zionists, are among the most right-wing activists aroundas are the evangelical Christians, who typically are strong supporters of the standard Holocaust story. So portraying all revisionists as right-wing is clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
When revisionist writings touch on political issues, they are most often neutral with respect to the political spectrum. More important, this point is irrelevant to the arguments at hand. Whether a given revisionist is right, left, or center has no bearing on his arguments or his critique. Rudolf (2004) has noted that revisionism is neither left nor right. Anyone from any point on the spectrum may see the need to challenge the traditional view. Two of the more prominent revisionists, Rassinier and Garaudy, were staunch leftists. Of late even some leftist peace activists and political activists have raised questions about the Holocaust. If the traditionalists dont like what the revisionists are saying, then they must counter their arguments, not slander someones character.14
Are revisionists neo-Nazis? None of the major writers openly admits to being a National Socialist, and few seem to care much about burnishing Hitlers image. And, as with the right-wing accusation, even if a revisionist were openly National Socialist, or an open admirer of Hitler, it would be irrelevant to the arguments presented.
Are the revisionists anti-Semites? An anti-Semite is, technically, one who displays hostility or discrimination against Jews as a religious or ethnic group. Thus it is either a form of racism or religious discrimination, against Jews as a whole. Yet again, one finds no such attacks in any serious revisionist work. The academic revisionists are, on the whole, passably respectful of Jews. If they target an ideology, it is frequently Zionism. Not all Zionists are Jews, and not all Jews are Zionists; thus, an anti-Zionist stance is neither racial nor religious discrimination. In fact, it is Zionism that is more inclined toward racism, in its oppressive and discriminatory attitude toward Palestinians, and Muslims in general. And it may even turn out that the traditionalists do more to foster anti-Semitism, if it happens that they are found to be promoting an unjustifiable myth of Jewish suffering.
Today, anti-Semitism has become a largely meaningless epithet, deployed to slander ones opponentsand to shut them up. It is used simply because one does not like what the other says, and has nothing more intelligent to offer.15
Whos Who in the Debate
I will close this first chapter with a quick look at the main players on each side of the debate. Consider first the orthodox historians. Given the fact that there are literally thousands of books on the Holocaust, one might guess that the traditional view is sustained by a comparable number of authors. But this is not the case. The vast majority of traditionalist writers rely on a very small number of leading authority figures for their information, which they then repeat as gospel truth. The leading architects of the orthodox view are:
- Gerald Reitlinger. His book, The Final Solution, first published in 1953, was perhaps the earliest detailed study. It covered all aspects of the Holocaust (from the Jewish perspective). But there was one small problem: Reitlinger counted far fewer than six million deaths. His estimated rangefrom 4.2 to 4.58 millionis the lowest of any major historian. Today such figures would border on heresy, but in 1953 there was no such tension. Even in the revisions to his book, in 1961, 1968, 1971, and 1987, he did not significantly alter his numbers. Consequently, Reitlinger tends to be rarely cited by traditionalists today.
- Raul Hilberg. Until his death in July 2007, Hilberg was considered the preeminent expert on the Holocaust. His primary work, The Destruction of the European Jews, first came out in 1961. (It contained no reference to Reitlinger.) In 1985 the book was expanded, as a second edition, to a three-volume set. A third edition came out in 2003, clocking in at nearly 1,400 pages. Like Reitlinger, Hilberg is notable for his low overall death toll; he consistently calculated 5.1 million victims, which has become the lower limit of the acceptable range.
- Lucy Dawidowicz. Her major works include The War against the Jews(1975; 2nd edition in 1986), and The Holocaust and the Historians(1981). She estimates a total of 5.9 million Jewish fatalities.
- Yitzhak Arad. His 1987 book Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka has become the standard source for those camps. Arad was a research director at the Israeli Holocaust center, Yad Vashem.
In addition to these individuals, we must also include the standard reference works Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (1990; I. Gutman, ed.) and, more recently, The Holocaust Encyclopedia (2001; W. Laqueur, ed.). Finally, we have the leading organizations, which would include the Israeli group Yad Vashem (www.yadvashem.org) and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (www.ushmm.org).
All of the above individuals and organizations are Jewish. From the Jewish perspective this is not only unproblematic, but even a virtue. Jewish researchers are most sensitive to the issues at hand, they think, and best able to piece together the fragile Holocaust tapestry. From the majority (non-Jewish) position, however, this Jewish predominance is a matter of concern. It indicates a large potential for biased and self-interested reporting, and for the emergence of peer pressure to reach certain foregone conclusions, and to ignore uncomfortable questions.
Since the rise of revisionism in the 1970s and 80s, a few traditionalist writers have taken it upon themselves to directly challenge that view:
- Yisrael Gutman. His Denying the Holocaust (1985) was one of the first books to tackle the revisionist arguments.
- Jean-Claude Pressac. First, and only, non-Jew to challenge revisionism. Pressacs work Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (1989) was a direct response to the writings of Faurisson. A very detailed study of the design and operation of the Auschwitz gas chambers, this work raised as many questions as it answered. Far from the definitive refutation of revisionism that was hoped for. Pressac was a pharmacist by training. He died in 2003, having fallen out of favor with the traditionalist establishment.
- Shelly Shapiro. Ms. Shapiro compiled an anthology of essays against revisionism, Truth Prevails: Demolishing Holocaust Denial (1990).
- Pierre Vidal-Naquet. Author of Assassins of Memory (1992). Originally published in French in 1987. Almost useless for assessing the validity of revisionist arguments since he addresses nothing in specifics. An arrogant and polemical response to revisionism.
- Ken Stern. Wrote Holocaust Denial (1993). Only a cursory response to the arguments.
- Deborah Lipstadt. Her Denying the Holocaust (1993) is perhaps the best-known anti-revisionist work. Unfortunately, very little of this book addresses the actual arguments. Lipstadt and her book became widely known after historian David Irving sued her for libel. She is a professor of theology at Emory University, in Atlanta.
- Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman. Co-writers of Denying History(2000)after Lipstadt, the next most popular anti-revisionist source.
- John Zimmerman. His book Holocaust Denial (2000) was the first to seriously address, in detail, the revisionist arguments. It is a technical, academic work, and plays a prominent role in the debate. Zimmerman is an accountant at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
- Robert van Pelt. His hefty 2002 book, The Case for Auschwitz, arose from his expert testimony for Lipstadt at the Irving trial. He is a professor of architecture at Waterloo University, Canada.
Anti-revisionist forces have been notably quiet since 2002. No new anti-revisionist books have appeared, and only a handful of journal articles.16 This is in marked contrast to the outpouring of books by revisionists in that same periodnearly a dozen in total. (Of course, thousands of traditionalist books and articles have appeared since then, but virtually none of these take on the revisionist challenge. Officially, revisionism is unworthy of response; unofficially, its good policy to avoid a battle that you may well lose.)
* * * * *
Early revisionism, as mentioned, was marked by as much polemics and inflammatory language as scholarship. Revisionists thus tend to fall into one of two subgroups: the agitators and the academics. I will not address the agitators here; this group of colorful personalities deserves its own book. It would include such people as Austin App, Richard Harwood (aka Richard Verral), David Cole, Ernst Zundel, Bradley Smith, Willis Carto, and Fredrick Toben. For the most part these individuals were (and are) more concerned with publicity and promotion than in careful research, and for this reason I will pass over them.
But I note here that a common tactic of anti-revisionists is to dwell on the more outrageous statements of this first group, and then paint them as typical, or even as the peak, of revisionism as a whole. This is a cheap tactic at best, and only points to their inability to address the far more serious arguments of the revisionist academics.
Here, the second group is of chief interest. Academic revisionists do careful, scientific examination of the circumstances of the Holocaust, and write high-quality articles and books on their critiques. They deserve to be taken seriously. Early academics would include such people as Franz Scheidel and Paul Rassinier, whose writings date from the late 1940s and early 1950s. But things did not really start heating up until the mid-1970s. From then on we find a growing number of serious, dedicated works:
- Arthur Butz. His 1976 book, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, marked the beginning of serious revisionism (revised edition 2003). A dense and hard-to-read book, but useful for scholarly research. Butz has a PhD in engineering, and is currently a tenured associate professor at Northwestern University, near Chicago, Illinois.
- Paul Rassinier. Further developed his ideas with the books Debunking the Genocide Myth (1978) and The Holocaust Story and the Lies of Ulysses (1990, 2nd ed.).
- Robert Faurisson. In the late 1970s he published some notorious revisionist articles in the French newspaper Le Monde. Since then he has been a leading figure in the movement, at once an academic and a promoter. His magnum opus is the four-volume French work Ecrits Revisionnistes (19741998). Faurisson is a retired professor of humanities from Lyon University.
- Wilhelm Stglich. A PhD and judge in Germany, he wrote The Auschwitz Myth in 1979 (English version 1986), causing an uproar.
- David Irving. Prominent historian and expert on the Third Reich. A borderline revisionist, the Holocaust is not really his area of expertise, but he seems to get drawn in time and again.
- Friedrich Berg. Specialist on the diesel exhaust issue. Berg is an engineer, and has been a leading advocate of scientific revisionism, based on objective data and scientifically verifiable facts.
- Samuel Crowell. A pseudonym for an American professor. Though not a major figure in revisionism, Crowell is (along with Faurisson) the most academic and well read. His monograph The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes (2000; available online) was, at the time, the best overview of the Holocaust debate; now a bit dated, but still useful.
- Germar Rudolf. Scientist (chemistry), writer, lecturer, and publisher, Rudolf is a leading figure in revisionism today. His Dissecting the Holocaust (2003) and Lectures on the Holocaust (2005) are essential reading for anyone serious about the subject. As mentioned, he is currently serving prison time in Germany for his views.
- Jrgen Graf. Swiss researcher, and author or coauthor of several important writings, including Auschwitz (1994), The Giant with Feet of Clay(2001), Concentration Camp Majdanek (2003; with C. Mattogno), andConcentration Camp Stutthof (2003).
- Carlo Mattogno. An Italian researcher, Mattogno is, along with Rudolf, a leading writer of serious works. He has written detailed texts on the gas chambers and crematories of Auschwitz, and the camps Belzec and Treblinka. His books include The Bunkers of Auschwitz (2004a), Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History(2004b), Treblinka (2005; with J. Graf), and Auschwitz: Open Air Incinerations (2005a).
With this short background in place, we can now begin to take a serious look at the traditional Holocaust story and analyze its strengths and weaknesses. Chapter 2 will recount this story and examine the troublesome nature of historical truthtroubles which are magnified with the Holocaust.
1. According to standard sources, about 17 million soldiers died on all sides (7.5 million in the Soviet Union, 3.5 million in Germany, 1.3 million in Japan, and about 4.7 million in all other countries combined). Civilian deaths are hard to determine, but the estimated losses in just the Soviet Union (19 million) andChina (10 million) were huge. If we add 6 million Jews and roughly 35 million civilians in all other countries, we arrive at a total close to 55 million.
2. Traditionalists hold the clear lead in the name-calling sweepstakes, though certain of the revisionist agitators are well known for this tactic. As might be expected, name-calling (on either side) is a fairly sure sign of a deficiency of arguments.
3. It should be noted that revisionism is a generic term that applies to most historical work, which consists of revising or reinterpreting history based on new insights or new facts. In the context of this book, however, my use of the term refers specifically to Holocaust revisionism.
4. The early traditionalist Gerald Reitlinger argued in 1953 (The Final Solution) that the death toll could be as low as 4.19 million. To my knowledge, no one has ever called him a Holocaust denier. In 1968 he increased the minimum figure slightly, to 4.204 million (p. 546). The modern minimum would be Hilbergs estimate of 5.1 million.
5. Certain traditionalists have shown an incredible arrogance when it comes to this. A good example is Vidal-Naquet (1992: xxiv):
It should be understood once and for all that I am not answering the accusers, and that in no way am I entering into a dialogue with them. [T]he contribution of the revisionists to our knowledge may be compared to the correction, in a long text, of a few typographical errors. That does not justify a dialogue [O]ne should not enter into debate with the revisionists. I have nothing to reply to them and will not do so. Such is the price to be paid for intellectual coherence.
Lipstadt mimics this stubbornness: she declares, I categorically decline to debate them (1993: xiii). Such a reluctance to engage in debate suggests a fear of losing. The leading revisionists rarely pass up an opportunity to debate; the leading traditionalists, to the best of my knowledge, have never accepted one.
6. The European countries are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France,Germany, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania,Spain, and Switzerland. It may strike one as odd that modern industrial nations like these, which claim to uphold the right of free speech and inquiry, could resort to the banning of certain books and ideas. And odd it ismore on this in Chapter 12.
7. It is debatable whether or not Irving truly counts as a Holocaust revisionist; his position continually shifts on this issue. Traditionalists almost uniformly portray him as such, but he himself apparently denies it, and other revisionists are reluctant to include him among their number. For the purposes of this book, however, I will classify him as a (soft) revisionist.
8. Traditionalist researcher Sarah Gordon (1984: 8-15) gives a good account of this dominance: The reader may be surprised to learn that Jews were never a large percentage of the total German population; at no time did they exceed 1.09 percent of the population during the years 1871 to 1933 [The Jews] were overrepresented in business, commerce, and public and private service Within the fields of business and commerce, Jewsrepresented 25 percent of all individuals employed in retail business and handled 25 percent of total sales; they owned 41 percent of iron and scrap iron firms and 57 percent of other metal businesses. Jews were [also] prominent in private banking under both Jewish and non-Jewish ownership or control. They were especially visible in private banking in Berlin, which in 1923 had 150 private (versus state) Jewish banks, as opposed to only 11 private non-Jewish banks. This trend held true as well in the academic and cultural spheres: Jews were overrepresented among university professors and students between 1870 and 1933. [A]lmost 19 percent of the instructors in Germany were of Jewish origin. Jews were also highly active in the theater, the arts, film, and journalism. For example, in 1931, 50 percent of the 234 theater directors in Germany were Jewish, and in Berlinthe number was 80 percent
9. This tactic was recently used during Iranian President Ahmadinejads 2007 trip to the US. American news agencies referred to his belief that the Holocaust was a theory, not a fact. This language again imposes a black-and-white cloak over the issue.
10. The continued invocation of this myth borders on the absurd. As a case in point, consider the 2005 BBC series Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution. After five hours of airtime (and zero discussion of revisionist challenges), they insert, at the very end, a statement by former SS officer Oskar Grning. As an elderly man, Grning now sees it as his task to oppose Holocaust deniers who claim that Auschwitz never happened. He adds, I have seen the crematoria. I have seen the burning pits. And I want you to believe me that these atrocities happened. I was there. Of course, no revisionist in his right mind denies the existence of crematoria, pits, or the Auschwitz camp. Hence Grnings statement is meaninglessadded for mere dramatic effect.
11. With one exception: a disputed (dubious) photo of Auschwitz shows a couple dozen corpses, possibly being burned. See Chapter 10.
12. Crowell (2000a: 10, 20, 53), for one revisionist, concurs.
13. For a good recent example, see Perry and Schweitzer (2002: 208211).
14. There seems to be a growing recognition by orthodoxy that name-calling is insufficient, and that counterarguments must be at least part of the response to revisionism. A recent op-ed in the British paper The Independent had this to say: In Britain, we value freedom of speech too highly to see it sacrificed because of the racist views of an oddball academic [namely, Frederick Toben]. Strength of argument, widespread outcry and ridicule will defeat the Holocaust-deniers. (C. Huhne; October 24, 2008) Whether strength of argument is sufficient or not, the reader will be able to judge from the chapters that follow. And the effectiveness of outcry and ridicule remains an open question.
15. A more recent definition was endorsed in an official U.S. government report, Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism (U.S. Department of State, 2008). Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. Specific forms of anti-Semitism thus include:
- Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g., gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
- Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
But again, one wonders what is meant by such words as denying or exaggerating. Such terms are so broad as to potentially include almost any criticism, questioning, or inquiry into the event. Hence my point that anti-Semitism is so ill-defined as to be almost meaningless.