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Holocaust denial

The mass extermination of the Jews and other “undesirables” at the hands of the Nazis during World War II is referred to as the Holocaust. It has become a symbol of evil in our time. Like many symbols, the Holocaust has become sacrosanct. To many people, both Jews and non-Jews, the Holocaust symbolizes the horror of genocide against the Jews. Some modern anti-Semites have found that attacking the Holocaust causes as much suffering to some Jews as attacking Jews themselves. “Holocaust denial” refers to attacking the accuracy of any aspect of the symbology or history of the Holocaust.

Holocaust denial seems to be the main motivation of the Institute for Historical Review and its Journal of Historical Review. Since 1980 this journal has been publishing articles attacking the accuracy of various claims about the Holocaust. There is clearly an agenda when a journal is devoted almost exclusively to the single issue of making the Holocaust seem like an exaggeration of biased historians. If truth and historical accuracy were the only goals of this group, it would be praised rather than despised. However, it seems that its promoters are more concerned with hatred than with truth. Thus, even the inaccuracies that they correctly identify are met with scorn and derision. For they never once deal with the central question of the Holocaust. They deal with details and technical issues: Were there six million or four million Jews who died or were killed? Could this particular shower have been used as a gas chamber? Were these deaths due to natural causes or not? Did Hitler issue a Final Solution order or not? If so, where is it? These are legitimate historical issues. However, the Holocaust deniers do not deal with the questions of racial laws that led to the arrest and imprisonment of millions of Jews in several countries for the “crime” of race. They do not concern themselves with the policy of herding people like animals and transporting them to “camps” where millions died of disease or malnutrition, or were murdered. They don’t address the moral issues of medical experimentation on humans or of persecution of homosexuals and the infirm. Why not?

Michael Shermer devotes two chapters of Why People Believe Weird Things (1997) to the arguments of the Holocaust deniers. (In Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? [2000] Shermer and coauthor Alex Grobman devote nine chapters to the subject.) Shermer takes up many of the deniers’ arguments and refutes them one by one. For example, one of the favorite appeals of the Holocaust deniers is to demand some proof that Hitler gave the order for the extermination of the Jews (or the mentally retarded, mentally ill, and physically handicapped). Holocaust deniers point to Himmler’s telephone notes of November 30, 1941, as proof that there was to be no liquidation of the Jews. The actual note says: “Jewish transport from Berlin. No liquidation.” Whatever the note meant, it did not mean that Hitler did not want the Jews liquidated. The transport in question, by the way, was liquidated that evening. In any case, if Hitler ordered no liquidation of the Berlin transport, then liquidation was going on and he knew about it. Hitler’s intentions were made public in his earliest speeches. Even as his regime was being destroyed, Hitler proclaimed: “Against the Jews I fought open-eyed and in view of the whole world. . . . I made it plain that they, this parasitic vermin in Europe, will be finally exterminated.” Hitler at one time compared the Jews to the tuberculosis bacilli that had infected Europe. It was not cruel to shoot them if they would not or could not work. He said: “This is not cruel if one remembers that even innocent creatures of nature, such as hares and deer when infected, have to be killed so that they cannot damage others. Why should the beasts who wanted to bring Bolshevism be spared more than these innocents?”

See also Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


reader comments

further reading

books and articles

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race (University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Online version.

Lipstadt, Deborah. Denying the Holocaust: the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (Plumsock MesoAmerican Studies, 1994).

Segel, B. W. A Lie and a Libel: the History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Richard S. Levy, translator & editor, (Lincoln, NE : University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

Shermer, Michael and Alex Grobman. Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?  (University of California Press, 2000).

Shermer, Michael. Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. 2nd rev. ed (Owl Books: 2002).

websites

Wikipedia article

Jewish Virtual Library article

The Holocaust History Project

The Nizkor Project "Nizkor" is a Hebrew word meaning "we will remember."

The Anti-Defamation League page

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Giving the Devil His Due: Holocaust Revisionism as a Test Case for Free Speech and the Skeptical Ethic by Frank Miele

Mass Media Funk: the David Irving libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt

More Mass Media Funk: the David Irving libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt

Reporting Revisionism by Eric Umansky

The Nazi Expedition by Robin Cross

The Journal of Historical Review

news stories

new Student assignment on Holocaust denial sparks appropriate public outrage by Sharon Hill [/new]

Holocaust History Project offices burned

British historian David Irving  found guilty in Vienna of denying the Holocaust;  sentenced to three years in prison

Harvard to Post Nuremberg Trial Documents

Pork dinner cancelled, highlight of a weekend of historical revisionism by Holocaust deniers, white nationalists, and apologists for Adolf Hitler in Sacramento

Last updated 08-May-2014

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