Sydney, Australia, January 18, 2000
[Click for index to verbatim trial transcripts]
Philosophy of hate has no room for truth
The Internet is an invaluable tool for Holocaust deniers spreading evil
writes Alan Gold
IN A SMALL oak-panelled courtroom in London, a quietly spoken middle-aged lady will be spending the next three months proving that the Holocaust actually happened.
While it might seem bizarre to question one of the most widely reported crimes in the annals of history, a British High Court judge, Mr Justice Gray, must sit and make a determination on events that occurred when he was little more than an infant.
He must hear evidence of whether Adolf Hitler knew the genocide of the Jews was taking place, and whether the concentration camps established by the Nazis were killing factories or merely forced labour establishments to benefit the German war effort.
Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who holds the Dorot Chair in Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in America, is the defendant in a libel case. She believes these are facts so well established they need no further justification, and that any critic contradicting them goes beyond the bounds of academic inquiry and becomes aligned with the forces of evil. She writes widely and savagely against Holocaust deniers and right-wing extremists.
David Irving, an English writer of history and biographies about the leading Nazis, is the plaintiff in the case, who claims that Lipstadt libelled him in her book Denying the Holocaust - The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.
But there are thousands of invisible defendants in the case. These are the survivors of the Holocaust, few in number now and increasingly frail, yet determined to stem the growing tide of denialism, which is gaining strength and threatening to wash away the crimes of Nazism.
These frail old people who survived Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews are accused by Holocaust deniers of participating in a massive conspiracy concerning events at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen and other concentration camps.
Irving denies Hitler knew anything of the Holocaust. So does Australia's Fred Toben. And Ernst Zundel in Canada. And Arthur Butz and Fred Leuchter in America. And Robert Faurisson in France. And lots of others.
Holocaust denialism is the rationalised manifestation of the growth of post war anti-Semitism. And the deniers have found a new outlet for their viewpoints. During the past five years, a global network has developed. Deniers like Irving, Toben and the rest are using the Internet to recruit and promote themselves to a vast audience.
But how can the most pre-eminently documented facts of World War II be denied half a century after Hitler's death? With all the film footage, the eyewitness statements, the admissions by the killers themselves, the legal and academic investigations, the books, the newspaper articles for the past half-century, the hundreds of millions of words written by victims and commentators, how can Hitler's complicity in the Holocaust be denied?
While no comment should be made about the David versus Deborah trial in England, the reality is that such a trial was bound to happen. As eyewitnesses die of old age, as the views of the deniers became increasingly popularised, and as they have said more and more outlandish things to make their voices heard, the mainstream media has given their pronouncements coverage. And there are few extremists with a more acute ability to manipulate media than Irving.
So what is the basis for the deniers' claims that the Holocaust never happened? Firstly they claim that the designs of the gas chambers made it impossible for 6 million Jews to have been killed during the period of the camps (there are no claims that 6 million were killed in the camps; millions were also deliberately killed elsewhere, for example by the death squads called the Einsatzgruppen); that prussic acid - Zyklon B - was never employed as a killing agent for humans, but was instead used to fumigate clothing; that most inmates of the so-called death camps died of typhus and other diseases of overcrowding.
And having set out to establish the impossibility of the Holocaust, the deniers then get down to the real reasons they pour scorn on the eyewitness accounts. According to them, the covert purpose of the Holocaust industry created by the Jews after the war was to steal billions of dollars in reparation from the Germans, to destroy Germany's good name and to win international sympathy for the establishment of the state of Israel.
Israel and Germany are two of a small number of nations most affected by the Holocaust which have made its denial and defamation of the dead into a criminal act. And there is little sympathy with deniers in courts in Britain, the United States, Canada and elsewhere.
But why should the statements of a handful of men denying a 20th-century genocide cause concern for us in the 21st century? Simply because Hitler's disciples are on the rise again. Neo-Nazism and fascism are among the fastest-growing political forces on Earth. As socialism declines, extreme right-wing reactionism is taking hold.
Extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi political groups have established themselves from Russia to South America, from Australia to Canada. They are using the Internet in the same way that Hitler used the stadium at Nuremberg.
Extremists on both sides of the political divide have adopted the Internet as their preferred medium of communication, but by far the largest number of Web sites propagating denialism and racial vilification are owned by the far right-wing.
The names of these Web sites read like a directory of evil: Adolf Hitler Free Corps, the Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Kamellia (sic), Aryan Preservation Society, Carolinian Lords of the Caucasus, Christian Brotherhood of Holy War, and many more.
Irving, Toben, Zundel and the others have their own sites.
The hate sites are all uniformly anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-Asian, anti-gay, anti-anything which diverges from their idiosyncratic view of what the world should be. But in most cases, it is the specious facts of the Holocaust deniers that give them their intellectual authority.
The Internet is a dream come true for today's historical revisionists. No longer do they have to find a mainstream publisher willing to print their words; nor do they have to rely on the limitations of handing out leaflets on street corners.
As a writer, I regularly visit schools and talk to students about the Internet as a source of research and entertainment. What surprises and concerns me is how many students have found their way into the thousand or so hate sites. They are attracted by the Gothic imagery, the images of Teutonic knights in shining armour, of swords and daggers and shields. The very imagery that Goebbels and Goring and Hitler used in their propaganda in the 1930s and '40s.
The trial of Lipstadt is more than an examination of her claims about Irving. It is a case that will test the facts upon which the deniers stake their claim to history.
But even if Irving loses, one thing is certain. The truth of history will not be the winner. Because truth never has been an issue in Holocaust denialism.
Alan Gold is a novelist whose latest book, Berlin Song, deals with issues of denialism and the Holocaust.
Tuesday, January 18, 2000