ON NOVEMBER 10, 1998 I attended "The Holocaust: Discussion of the controversies of various historians including Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen." The discussion was led by Marion Deshmukh, Associate Professor of History, George Mason University.
The discussion was held at the Pohick Regional Library in Fairfax County, Virginia and was scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm. I did not tape the presentation, so will attempt to reproduce what was said from memory.
Eighteen people attended, including the librarian/hostess. Because the lecturer was late, the librarian/hostess filled in the time by going around the table and asking each person why they were interested in the holocaust. One man said he was a holocaust survivor. Several others said they had lost relatives in the holocaust. Other people offered generalized reasons for their interests. I mentioned Waco.
Professor Deshmukh arrived at about 7:45 pm and introduced herself by saying she was a specialist in German and Third Reich history at GMU.
During her opening remarks she held up a piece of paper that seemed to represent the cover of a journal: "Institute for Historical Review" was clearly visible. She said this journal denied the holocaust, and said that there was no Hitler order for the holocaust and no 6 million Jews killed.
Deshmukh said IHR had offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who could find such a Hitler order for the extermination of the Jews.
Moving right along, she said the Holocaust controversy revolved around such issues as: when did it begin and why didn't other people help and when did Washington know.
She said the people who denied the holocaust were called revisionists, and they were wrong because Hitler actually said he was going to destroy the Jews, but that there was controversy as to whether he meant elimination or resettling or evacuation.
She said there was the intentionalists school -- those people who thought Hitler always intended to exterminate the Jews, vs. the functionalist school, those people who thought Hitler wanted to get rid of them, considered sending them to Madagascar or selling them for ransom. These people thought the road to extermination was twisted.
One attendee asked about conditions in Germany when Hitler came to power, and after some back and forth discussion, Prof. Deshmukh admitted that France had invaded Germany in the 1920s, and that the peace conditions imposed upon Germany were onerous. She said the French printed money and were responsible for some of the inflation in Germany. She also quote some British peer saying that they intended to squeeze the orange until the pip squeeks."
She went on to describe a thesis by Christopher Browning who wrote "Police Battalion 101." Browning said the Einsatzgruppen were motivated to kill Jews due to peer pressure, whereas Goldhagen said the Germans were eliminationists/anti-semites.
She mentioned the Enabling Act and the Nuremberg Laws and the issue of who was a Jew. If you had a Jewish grandparent, you were not a German.
She said that anti-Jewish laws "materialized" -- for example, a sign saying that no Jews were to own bicycles might pop up somewhere, and because the Germans were followers, this sign was taken as law.
She did not go into specifics about how the Jews were exterminated in the camps, or what happened to the bodies. But she said that holocaust deniers were not historians.
I brought up David Irving, she said he was a special case, that she and he had been members of a panel discussion recently. She said he had been "co-opted" by the revisionists. I pointed out Irving's ten years of research of the Hitler archives and the archives of the German High Command yielded no Hitler extermination orders nor any references to such orders. I marveled that the Germans could conduct a massive extermination program without ever committing anything to paper. Professor Deshmukh said there were lots of such documents in the National Archives, including a Himmler document.
Later on I asked if the case for the holocaust was so strong, why the holocaust people were trying to silence discussion of the subject. I mentioned the criminalization of holocaust denial in Germany and the Zundel trial in Canada where officials said truth was not a defense. Deshmukh said Germany was different because they were afraid there would be another outbreak of Nazism. She said Zundel had not been silenced because he had been on 60 Minutes.
Another man kept on asking what Zundel was saying that was so bad, and why such a big deal was being made of 6 million--"Zundel is being called a criminal because he says fewer than 6 million were killed?" he asked incredulously.
The librarian closed the meeting at this point--it was about 8:50 pm. As the people rose from their chairs getting ready to leave, the holocaust survivor started to loudly proclaim that those who denied the holocaust were anti-semites.
For me, the most memorable aspect of the presentation was the vagueness of holocaust assertion. Almost nothing Deshmukh said could be directly challenged. It was also evident that the holocaust people were attempting to neutralize the most devastating Revisionist critiques by co-opting and trying to incorporating the points into "holocaust" orthodoxy.