Thursday, May 14, 2009

What is Holocaust Denial?

April 12, 1945: Generals Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and George S. Patton inspect an improvised crematory pyre.
April 12, 1945: Generals Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and George S. Patton inspect, at Ohrdruf forced labor camp, an improvised crematory pyre.

Holocaust denial is the claim that the genocide of Jews during World War II—usually referred to as the Holocaust—did not occur at all, or in the manner or to the extent as historically recognized.

Key elements of this claim are the rejection of any of the following: that the Nazi government had a policy of deliberately targeting Jews and people of Jewish ancestry for extermination as a people; that over five million Jews were systematically killed by the Nazis and their allies; and that genocide was carried out at extermination camps using tools of mass murder, such as gas chambers.

Holocaust deniers do not accept the term "denial" as an appropriate description of their point of view, and use the term Holocaust revisionism instead. Scholars, however, prefer the term "denial" to differentiate Holocaust deniers from historical revisionists, who use established historical methodologies.

Most Holocaust denial claims imply, or openly state, that the Holocaust is a hoax arising out of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other peoples. For this reason, Holocaust denial is generally considered to be an antisemitic conspiracy theory. The methodologies of Holocaust deniers are criticized as based on a predetermined conclusion that ignores extensive historical evidence to the contrary.

There is a "convergence of evidence" that proves that the Holocaust happened. This evidence includes:

  • Written documents—hundreds of thousands of letters, memos, blueprints, orders, bills, speeches, articles, memoirs, and confessions.

  • Eyewitness testimony—accounts from survivors, Jewish Sonderkommandos (who were forced to help load bodies from the gas chambers into the crematoria in exchange for the promise of survival), SS guards, commandants, local townspeople, and even high-ranking Nazis who spoke openly about the mass murder of the Jews.

  • Photographs—including official military and press photographs, civilian photographs, secret photographs taken by survivors, aerial photographs, German and Allied film footage, unofficial photographs taken by the German military.

  • The camps themselves—concentration camps, work camps, and extermination camps that still exist in varying degrees of originality and reconstruction.

  • Inferential evidence—population demographics, reconstructed from the pre-World War II era; if six million Jews were not killed, what happened to them all?

  • The first Holocaust deniers were the Nazis themselves. Historians have documented evidence that Heinrich Himmler instructed his camp commandants to destroy records, crematoria, and other signs of mass extermination, as Germany's defeat became imminent and the Nazi leaders realized they would most likely be captured and brought to trial. As one of many examples, the bodies of the 25,000 mostly Latvian Jews whom Friedrich Jeckeln and his gang of killers had shot at Rumbula (near Riga) in late 1941 were dug up and burned in 1943. Similar operations were undertaken at Belzec, Treblinka and other death camps. In the infamous Posen speech on October 4, 1943, Himmler explicitly referred to the murder of the Jews of Europe and further stated that the murder must be permanently kept secret

    Eisenhower, upon finding the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead. He wrote the following to General Marshall after visiting a German internment camp near Gotha, Germany:

    The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and
    bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where
    they [there] were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation,
    George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so.
    I made the visit [to Gotha] deliberately, in order to be in a position to give
    first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a
    tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”

    - Dear General: Eisenhower’s Wartime Letters to Marshall, page 223

    After World War II, many of the former leaders of the SS left Germany and began using their propaganda skills to defend their actions Denial materials began to appear shortly after the war going on till this day.

    A few nototious examples:

    Ernst Zündel operated a small-press publishing house which published and distributed Holocaust-denial material such as Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Harwood (a British neo-Nazi leader). In 1985, Zündel was tried and convicted under a "false news" law and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by an Ontario court for "disseminating and publishing material denying the Holocaust." Zündel gained considerable notoriety after this conviction, and a number of free-speech activists stepped forward to defend his right to publish his opinion. His conviction was overturned in 1992 when the Supreme Court of Canada declared the "false news" law unconstitutional. On February 15, 2007, Zündel was convicted on 14 counts of incitement under Germany's Volksverhetzung law, which bans the incitement of hatred against a portion of the population, and given the maximum sentence of five years in prison.

    In 1998, the British author David Irving filed suit against American author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books, claiming that Lipstadt had libeled him in her book Denying the Holocaust. The statements made by Lipstadt included the accusation that Irving deliberately misrepresented evidence to conform to his ideological viewpoint. Lipstadt and Penguin hired British lawyer Anthony Julius and Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans to present her case. Evans spent two years examining Irving's work, and presented evidence of Irving's misrepresentations, including evidence that Irving had knowingly used forged documents as source material. The judge in the case, Mr Justice Gray, was ultimately persuaded by the evidence presented by Evans and others, and delivered a long and decisive verdict in favor of Lipstadt that referred to Irving as a "Holocaust denier" and "right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist," and confirmed the accusations of Lipstadt and Evans.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad frequently denies the Holocaust. In a December 2005 speech, Ahmadinejad said that a legend was fabricated and had been promoted to protect Israel. He said:

    "They have fabricated a legend, under the name Massacre of the Jews, and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves...If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody denies the myth of the massacre of Jews, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream."

    Bishop Richard Williamson is an English traditionalist Catholic that was declared to have incurred excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church in 1988. The Holy See lifted the excommunication in January 2009. However, after his controversial views on the Holocaust attracted widespread media coverage, the Vatican declared that "in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the Church, he will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah."

    Since the late 1980s, Williamson has been charged with anti-semitism and Holocaust denial. Williamson has denied the existence of gas chambers or that millions of Jews were murdered by the Nazis, and praised Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. During an interview on Swedish television recorded in November 2008, he stated "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against, is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler" and "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them in gas chambers."

    Other acts of genocide have met similar attempts to deny and minimize, most notably the Armenian Genocide and the Greek genocide, which is denied by the Turkish Government, but also the Rwanda genocide, Ustasha genocide, Srebrenica Genocide, and the Ukrainian famine.

    Gregory H. Stanton, formerly of the US State Department and the founder of Genocide Watch, lists denial as the final stage of a genocide development: "Denial is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims."

    Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)


    1. Great site, but there's one correction I feel compelled to make. The Eisenhower quotation is spurious, and is essentially only a paraphrase of a real statement made by Eisenhower to General Marshall.

      Full details are at .

    2. Loren,

      I've corrected the entry according to your remark since I think that you have a point.

    3. Julian,

      Nobody is claiming that Germans did not burn the bodies. Because crematories has been in many camps, even sub-camps around the Europe. They were used to eliminate the bodies of dead prisoners. According to official history there were no gas chambers in camps in Germany such as Ohrdruf, Dachau etc. Gas chambers has been in Aushwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor, Belzec, these are the camps in occupied Poland created by germans of course. If I am wrong, correct me.