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Posted Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Michael Hoffman

Mr. Death: A Revisionist Opportunity

On May 10, 2000 this writer editor was in Spokane, Washington where Gonzaga University sponsored a movie double-feature, with free admission, at the historic "Met" theatre in downtown Spokane. First up was a Disney production called "Anne Frank Remembered," then the Errol Morris documentary, "Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A Leuchter Jr." Both films were repeated throughout the evening.

Leuchter, sans autoI ARRIVED in time for "Mr. Death" and having read some downbeat revisionist notices about this biography of the execution equipment designer and "reluctant" gas chamber skeptic.

Being an uninhibited movie-goer with a sense of humor I laughed aloud where Morris cues the audience to laugh: at Fred [Leuchter]'s idea for the installation of paintings and a TV set in the lethal injection death room, at his fiance's statement that when she asked what Fred did for a living her friends told her, "He kills people," and at his stepson's description of the spectacle of an electric chair in Leuchter's front yard.

Since laughter is contagious, mine sparked it in other audience members, which unsettled the masochists who had girded themselves for yet another dreary "Holocaust" gorefest.

I applauded and shouted "Amen" when Fred spoke about freedom of speech, when David Irving praised Leuchter for his utter honesty and when Ernst Zundel, looking distinguished and avuncular, compared Fred with George Washington (Morris quite properly avoided inflammatory epithets and identified Irving as a "revisionist historian" and Zundel as a "publisher/broadcaster").

Leuchter's Jewish critics in the film contrast poorly with the revisionists. I was amused to see the obnoxious Shelley Shapiro absurdly blast Fred as an "anti-semite" when by this point in the movie it was clear that he had walked into revisionism with the guilelessness of a child. "Holocaust expert" Robert Jan Van Pelt comes off as a caustic zealot, referring to Auschwitz as the "Holy of Holies."

Van PeltVan Pelt (right) made several statements favorable to revisionism: that the extermination program is all "in code" and that the Nazis were "the first 'Holocaust' deniers." These assertions contradict the intentionalist school of Holocaustianity which holds that Hitler and the Nazis boasted of the extermination and that it is "the best documented event in history."

When Morris shows Zundel in front of a lurid banner held aloft by helmeted Zundelists and emblazoned with the slogan, "The Holocaust is Hate Propaganda," the audience seemed to take a collective breath, as if their subconscious had been involuntarily jolted -- like someone seated in a Leuchter electric chair -- by the sudden emergence of an axiomatic truth long buried.

"Mr. Death" is a pioneering cinematic humanization of revisionists. Neither the recanted testimony of the cowed chemist James Roth nor the melodramatically somber music which accompanies Van Pelt through the "Holy of Holies" (actually so cloying it amounts to a parody of "Holocaust" soundtracks), detract from this powerful impression.

"Mr. Death" showcases a quintessential Yankee tinkerer and individualist; an American innocent of the recurring type that made such great copy for writers from Frances Trollope to Mark Twain.

Fred Leuchter, who gets the last word in the film, both about his own Calvary and his lack of bitterness toward Jews, represents something transcendent in American life, a figure who is the antithesis of the true believer and the totalitarian automaton. If the world was peopled with nothing but Fred Leuchters, Orwell's 1984 could never arrive. His technological expertise and love of gadgetry has more in common with Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison than with the cloned simulacra of humanity running amok today, wired to the data hive.

I began distributing my leaflet, "Fred Leuchter and the Truth about Revisionism," which contains Internet URLs for three of revisionist Germar Rudolf's scientific essays, in the darkened theatre as soon as the narrative had ended and while the film's credits were still rolling. The audience of about 150 was simultaneously stunned, respectful or at least curious. Errol Morris had done his work. Receptivity was on high. His movie had bulldozed 20 years of hateful caricatures and left a door unhinged through which this revisionist sauntered as casually as I do through my own front door.

I continued my leafletting in the lobby and then outside, on the steps of the venerable old showplace. I got a couple of dirty looks and had a humorous encounter with an ardent liberal lady who, while waiting for "Mr. Death" to begin, had been lecturing her 8 year old son on the evils of the revisionists. "You coward!" she shouted at me. "You gave me this flier in the dark when I wasn't looking."

"Here," I replied in front of a small crowd of laid-back Spokaneites, as I reached for the leaflet which she waved at me, "Give it back to me and I'll hand it to you here in broad daylight in front of everyone." Her red-faced perorations drew smirks of derision as she stormed off.


 "ANNE Frank Remembered" was slated to screen in a half hour and I lingered on the theatre's steps passing out my fliers to the departing Leuchter audience. As the Anne Frank audience turned up, I switched fliers and drew from my backpack my bright yellow tract on "The Exploitation of Anne Frank for Cynical Political Reasons," and began disseminating that one. Since I was distributing it on the steps of the theatre, the arriving audience took it for an official playbill and I soon exhausted my entire supply!

I know that my encounters with the good people of Spokane are not exactly a Wagnerian feat on par with a David Irving libel trial or a Bradley Smith campus revisionist newspaper coup. I do have a magnum opus of my own (the book I take time off from writing in order to perform street activism). But there's something very satisfying about exhibiting my revisionist self in the street or in a public accommodation, going eyeball to eyeball with my fellow man, enlightening those who still have ears to hear and eyes to see, and spoiling the party for those who have shuttered their critical faculties, who imagine that they alone have the right to occupy public space, to prevail upon the people, to wear their Jewish-bequeathed moral superiority on their sleeves.

Some twenty years ago a Korean war vet, sometime playwright and full-time beatnik, encountered a lone revisionist tractarian. The leaflet he read changed his life. He would eventually become one of revisionism's most effective contemporary leaders. Yes, that's how Bradley Smith found the courage to doubt, by means of something so humble as a piece of paper proffered on a street-corner.

When I'm on the cold and rainy streets of Spokane with tracts in hand, I'm not trying to convert a throng. I'm searching for the next Bradley Smith.

The Anne Frank exhibit will be at Gonzaga University until May 24. School children are bussed in from all over the region between 9am and 3pm and the public is invited after that until 7 pm. I conduct my protest there intermittently. Many thanks to the handful of donors who have made this little project possible.

Michael A. Hoffman II

Hoffman is a former reporter for the New York bureau of the Associated Press and the former assistant director of the Institute for Historical Review. His 1995 account of Ernst Zundel's landmark court case, "The Great Holocaust Trial: The Landmark Battle for Freedom of Speech," is banned in Canada.
Copyright©2000 by Michael A. Hoffman II



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