International Campaign for Real History

Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs Inc.

No. 20 February, 1994.



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AIJA Briefings, produced by the Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs in Melbourne, are intended to provide academics, journalists and policy-makers with up-to-date and authoritative reports and analyses on vital issues in the Jewish world, Israel and the Middle East which might not otherwise be accessible.



Deborah Lipstadt


HOLOCAUST DENIAL is an attack on history and knowledge. Though Currently practised by a small group, it has the potential to alter dramatically the way truth is transmitted from generation to generation.

Holocaust denial should not be seen as an assault on the history of one particular group: at its core, it threatens all those who believe that knowledge and scholarship are among the corner-stones of our civilisation. Just as the Holocaust was not a tragedy for the Jews but rather a tragedy for the whole civilisation in which the victims were Jews, so too, denial of the Holocaust is not a threat only to Jews and Jewish history, but rather to all those who believe in the ultimate power of truth and reason. It repudiates rational discussion just as the Holocaust itself repudiates civilised values.

Denial of the Holocaust is certainly a form of antisemitism. And, like antisemitism or any other form of prejudice, it is irrational and cannot be countered with the normal and natural forces of investigation, argument and debate. The deniers' pseudo-historical arguments are not only antisemitic and anti-intellectual but, in the words of the historian Charles Maier, 'blatantly racist anthropology'.(1)

The attempt to deny the Holocaust enlists many strategies. Truth is mixed with blatant falsehood. Readers who are unfamiliar with the tactics of the deniers are easily confused. Half-truths - portions of stories which conveniently delete critical information- leave the reader with a distorted impression of what really happened .(2) Documents and testimonies which confirm the Holocaust are dismissed as contrived, as being the result of coercion or as bold-faced lies.

What claims do the deniers make? They begin with the relatively innocuous assumption that war is evil. Though they speak of war in general, they are actually talking about the Second World War. Assigning blame to one side is, they contend, ultimately a meaningless enterprise; for, even in the case of the Second World War, there really is no difference between victor and vanquished.(3) Still, they assert, if guilt is to be assigned, it is not the Germans who can be accused of war-time aggression and atrocities. The real crimes against civilisation were committed by the Americans, the Russians, the British and the French against Germany. The destructive violence inflicted on the Germans by the Allies was, in the words of Harry Elmer Barnes - one of the seminal figures in the history of North American Holocaust denial - more brutal and painful than the alleged exterminations in the gas chambers.'(4)

For some deniers, Hitler was a man of peace, pushed into war by aggressive allies. He was a man whose only fault was that he was 'too soft, generous and honourable'.(5) The Germans were the true victims of the war. They suffered through the bombing of Dresden, war-time starvation, invasions, post-war population transfers and brutal mistreatment by Soviet and Allied occupiers. According to the deniers, Germans were subjected to additional vengeance, which masqueraded as justice, in the form of the Nuremberg trials. Because Germany was portrayed after the war by western historians as criminal, it became a victim of much of the

world's emotional and scholarly aggression. The portrayal - by historians, politicians and journalists - of Nazi Germany as an aggressive, threatening nation which had committed outrageous savageries was motivated, in the view of the deniers, by ideological, scholarly and political concerns.

But it is the 'myth' of the Holocaust that evokes the deniers' greatest passions. The allegation that Germans committed the most heinous crime in human history constitutes, for them, the ultimate injustice. The world-wide acceptance of this charge and the consequent post-war venom towards Germany has been so extreme that it is impossible for the Germans to defend themselves. In the aftermath of the Second World War, as this Holocaust 'myth' gained international credence, the Germans faced a 'moral' conflict. In order to be re-admitted to the 'family of nations', Germans had to confess their wrong-doing, even though they knew the charges to be false. The defendants at Nuremberg recognised that it was futile to try to convince the world that it had been deceived, and that the Holocaust was a myth. To have tried to demonstrate that the charges were false would have incurred even greater wrath. Consequently, the Nuremberg defendants chose to defend themselves by claiming that they were not personally guilty. As the latest example of what deniers regard as a wholesale charade, the East Germans felt compelled in February 1990 to extend a mea maxima culpa to the Jews before embarking on plans for unification with West Germany.

According to the deniers, the charge of genocide is a Jewish invention. Initially the deniers and their cohorts tried to present Germany as not truly antisemitic. In recent years, however, more sophisticated deniers - including Arthur Butz, a professor or electrical engineering at Northwestern University - have admitted that the Nazis were 'guilty' of having expressed antisemitic sentiments. Some even acknowledge that the Nazis committed certain antisemitic actions. However, they also argue that antisemitism was justified in the light of Jewish control over Weimar Germany. But Nazi antisemitism was not particularly significant, the deniers contend, since the Germans, irrespective of what they said, had no intention of annihilating the Jews. It was simply rhetoric designed to reassure the home audience. Citing Nazi propaganda almost verbatim., they contend that the Germans executed population 'transfers' (i.e. deportations) to resolve social, economic and labour problems. Deniers acknowledge that some Jews were incarcerated in places such as Auschwitz which, they maintain, was equipped with a swimming pool, dance hall and recreational facilities. The Jews interned there used these amenities to make their stay palatable and comfortable.(6) Of course some Jews did die but, they argue, this was the natural consequence of war-time deprivations.

For the deniers, what happened to the Jews is beside the point. The central factor for them is that Jews are not victims but victimizers. They 'stole' billions in reparations; they destroyed Germany's good name by spreading the 'myth' of the Holocaust; they duped the world and won international sympathy because of what they claimed had been done to them. In an unparalleled miscarriage of justice, they used this deception and the world's sympathy 'to displace' another people so that the State of Israel could be established.(7)

This assault on the Holocaust is not a new phenomenon. For many years Holocaust denial was an enterprise engaged in by a small group of political extremists and radical-fringe pseudo-historians. Their arguments tended to appear in poorly printed pamphlets, right-wing publications and in neo-Nazi newspapers such as Spotlight.

At first sight, it seems impossible that anyone could or would take them seriously. Their arguments lie so far beyond the accepted pale of scholarly discourse and historical argument that it initially seems ludicrous to devote much, if any, mental energy to them. Given the preponderance of evidence from victims, bystanders and perpetrators, why waste time worry ing about them? No rational thinker would pay them the least attention.

Besides, what possible impact could such people have? Since they are a group that is motivated by a strange conglomeration of conspiracy theories, antisemitic ravings and neo-Nazi tendencies, the natural impulse of many rational people - including historians and social scientists - is to summarily dismiss them as an irrelevant fringe political group. Some have equated them with the 'flat earth' theorists, worthy, at best, of bemused attention but not of proper analysis or concern.

There are, however, a number of compelling reasons for taking them seriously. First, their modus operandi has changed in the past decade, and they have dedicated themselves to convincing the world that they are engaged in a serious historical enterprise. Their books and journals have been given an academic format and they have worked hard to find ways to insinuate themselves into the arena of serious historical debate and deliberation. They have taken great pains to disguise their 'political positions', and they 'masquerade themselves as [engaged in] genuine scholarly efforts' .(8) Currently they are concentrating their activities on the college campuses where they are trying to stimulate debate on the 'existence' of the Holocaust. Ironically it is there that they may find their most fertile field as is evident from the success they have had in placing advertisements denying the Holocaust in college newspapers.

But it is not only their chosen strategies but rather their arguments which have changed. They have strengthened their ties with functioning political groups in both the United States and Europe. Although these groups are small, their political influence and power seem to be increasing relatively swiftly. In many cases the extremist groups with which they have aligned themselves add Holocaust denial to the melange of extremist, racist and nativist sentiments that they espouse.(9) In certain instances, established politicians have engaged in forms of Holocaust denial. One of the most recent examples is that of Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, who recently wrote of the 'emotional, biased testimonies and exaggerated data' used to estimate the number of victims of the Holocaust. He also made a point in his book, Wastelands -Historical Truth, by putting the word Holocaust in quotation marks throughout.(10) It is likely, as Eastern Europe is beset increasingly by nationalism and ethnic rivalries, that groups -both ethnic and political - which have been accused of collaborating with the Nazis in the annihilation of the Jews, will fall back on Tudjman's strategy of playing down what happened. In March 1991, at a rally in Slovakia, a crowd of approximately 7,000 protesters chanted antisemitic and anti-Czech slogans, and waved portraits of Nazi war criminal Josef Tiso who was directly involved in the deportation and annihilation of Jews. (They also, incidentally, physically assaulted President Havel.) During the rally, recordings of Tiso's speeches were broadcast as part of an effort to whitewash his role during the Second World War and to resurrect him as a national hero, his wanton antisemitic activities having been either minimised or completely forgotten.

There is a danger, moreover, in assuming that, because these arguments are so outlandish, they can simply be ignored. As Colin Holmes observed in his analysis of Holocaust denial in Britain, Holocaust 'revisionist views of the world are no more bizarre than those enshrined in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a pamphlet claiming to present evidence of a secret plan to establish Jewish world supremacy.(11) In fact the revisionists draw a great deal of inspiration from The Protocols, a work which has enjoyed a sustained and vibrant life despite having long ago been proved a forgery.

Many years ago, the German historian Theodor Mommsen warned that it would be a mistake to believe that 'reason' alone was enough to prevent people from believing such falsehoods. If this were the case, then there would be no room for racism, antisemitism and other forms of prejudice. In despair Mommsen wrote: 'You are mistaken if you believe that anything at all could be achieved by reason. In years past I thought so myself and kept protesting against the monstrous infamy that is antisemitism. But it is useless, completely useless.'(12)

To expect reason, rationality, dialogue and discourse to constitute the sole barriers against the pernicious attempts to deny the fact of the Nazi annihilation of European Jewry would be to ignore one of the ultimate lessons of the event itself. Reasoned dialogue cannot withstand an assault by the magical power of falsehood indefinitely. There was no rational basis for the Nazi atrocities. There was, however, the irrational appeal of antisemitism. Hitler and the Nazis understood this and used it to gain power. Mythical thinking and the force of the irrational have a strange and compelling allure. Intellectuals in Nazi Germany were not immune to irrational, mystical thinking. Today, intellectuals in the West have shown themselves less likely to succumb to such falsehoods. But they have fallen prey in another fashion: some have supported Holocaust denial in the name of 'free speech', 'free inquiry' or 'intellectual freedom'.(13) There is, of course, a significant difference between reasoned dialogue and anti-intellectual pseudo-scientific arguments.

It is this commitment to 'free inquiry' and the power of irrational mythical thinking which may well explain, at least in part, how the revisionists have managed to ally themselves with various establishment figures and institutions. Noam Chomsky[*] is probably the best known among them. Chomsky wrote the introduction to one of Robert Faurisson's books and, in it, he argued that scholars' ideas, however distasteful, cannot be censored. Though Chomsky - whom Alfred Kazin described as a 'dupe of intellectual pride so overweening that he is incapable of making distinctions between totalitarian and democratic societies, between oppressors and victims' - is a unique case, his argument that the revisionists should be heard because theirs is a legitimate point of view shocked many people, including those who thought they were inured to Chomsky's antics.(14) Chomsky's arguments have recently been voiced by student leaders on various college campuses and, in certain cases, by college presidents.

Chomsky's example illustrates why the dangers of the 'free inquiry' argument should be taken seriously, Even the supposed protectors of the western liberal ideal of reasoned dialogue can fall prey to the convoluted notion that all arguments are equally entitled to a fair hearing fail to recognise that the deniers are not searching for truth. The deniers' arguments are composed of pseudo-reasoned contentions which are motivated by a variety of 'isms' including racism, extremism and virulent antisemitism.

While the precise impact of the deniers is difficult to assess, there is no doubt that in the past decade their productivity has increased, their style has changed and, consequently, their impact has intensified. Their publications, including the Journal of Historical Review, imitate legitimate scholarly publications, and thus confuse those who do not immediately understand the journal's intention.

[Website note: for the ADL's persecution of the Jewish author Noam Chomsky, see: 1 | 2 • | 3 • ]

Such confusion has already occurred in the highest circles of the American educational establishment. In 1986, a history student at Yale University submitted his thesis on the German Luftwaffe in the Spanish Civil War to the Journal of Historical Review which happily published it and paid him $250. Most academic journals offer no compensation, especially to students seeking to publish student essays. The student acknowledged that he did not look at the journal prior to submitting his essay. He simply found it listed among other historical journals and assumed, based on its description and title, that it was a legitimate publication.

Outside academic circles, the deniers' arguments have found a comfortable and ready acceptance among increasingly vocal and hostile extremist antisemitic elements in both North America and Europe. Neo-Nazi extremist groups have adopted their theories, as have groups of more recent vintage, such as skinheads.

These extremists have become increasingly dangerous as they have infiltrated legitimate political circles, without genuinely abandoning any of their political or racial prejudices. David Duke's recent political achievements are evidence of this. The neo-Nazi Duke, a former Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and a Holocaust denier, was elected to the Louisiana state legislature and won 40 per cent of the vote in his attempt to win the Republican nomination for the United States Senate. He won 60 per cent of the white vote and, although he was defeated in November 1991 in his bid for the Governor's office, he garnered close to 700,000 votes. He then entered the campaign for President. Identified simply as a Klansman, he had little public appeal. Today, however, the situation has changed. He has shed his sheet and donned a three-piece suit, winning him, if not adherents, at least a respectable audience, despite the fact that as recently as two years ago he was apparently selling antisemitic and Holocaust denial literature from his legislative office.

Similar trends are evident elsewhere - in France, for example, where Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the extreme right-wing Front National, declared, in an overt attempt to encourage those who deny the Holocaust, that the Nazi gas chambers are 'a point of detail' in history.(15)

Many people regard the arguments of Holocaust denial as a test of free speech. A few years ago, shortly after the publication of my book on the coverage of the Holocaust by the American press,(16) I participated in a number of radio interviews and phone-in shows. On several occasions I was asked by the host whether I would appear with or 'debate' a revisionist.(17) When I refused, the producers were generally incredulous, unable to comprehend why I was unwilling to do so. One producer, unwilling to accept my 'no' as final said: 'I don't agree with them at all, but isn't this simply another "side" which our listeners should hear?'

No one has been able to measure accurately or scientifically the impact of Holocaust denial on high school and college students. At the moment it is probably quite limited. On a number of college campuses, revisionist incidents have occurred, including most recently one at Indiana University where an instructor in the History Department told his students that the Holocaust was a propaganda hoax designed to make the Germans look evil. Though the University promptly dismissed him for failing to teach the set course material, some of his students complained that he had been unfairly treated. During my visit to that campus in the aftermath of the incident, one student argued that the instructor had brought materials to class which 'proved his point'.

In a number of informal conversations with those who help train history and social studies teachers to give lessons on the Holocaust, I have learned of various instances where teachers have felt that the revisionist view should, at the very least, be mentioned briefly as a 'controversial' but somewhat valid view of the Holocaust. College professors have also been confronted with students who have complained that their course on the Holocaust did not include a presentation of the 'other side'.

Those who are committed to the liberal idea of dialogue may fail to recognise that certain views cannot be discussed rationally, particularly when those views - as in the case of Holocaust denial - are not based on rational or genuine enquiry. Thomas Jefferson long ago argued that in a setting committed to the honest pursuit of truth all ideas and opinions must be tolerated. But he added a caveat, one which is particularly applicable to our investigation:

'We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.'(18)

In the case of Holocaust denial, reason becomes hostage to a particularly odious ideology. We are not, of course, suggesting that the deniers should be muzzled: they have the right to free speech, however odious their speech may be. But there is a qualitative difference between barring someone's right to speech and providing them with a platform from which to deliver their message. Chomsky did not provide them with the platform but he 'stood next to them' and, by so doing, commended their message to the public.

The impact of this message on young people is a valid concern since they often seem to be the most willing to listen to revisionist claims. Walter Reich observed in the Washington Post a number of years ago that for young people 'everything is debatable and nothing should be accepted as true that was not personally seen and experienced.'(19)

Though instances of outright denial are cause for concern, there is another less tangible, but potentially more insidious consequence of Holocaust denial. Extremists, in any debate, have a tendency to pull the centre of that debate to a more radical position. For example, those who argue that any form of abortion should be outlawed make those who would permit abortion only when the mother is a young girl and the victim of incest seem more reasonable. To some degree this is what the deniers have done and continue to do to the legitimate debate about various aspects of the Holocaust.

Greater space has been given to those who espouse ideas that once would have dismissed as historically fallacious.(20) The current historians' struggle in Germany, in which the Holocaust is relativised, must be understood as a cousin - however distant - of Holocaust denial. While the historians involved do not deny the Holocaust, they proffer many similar arguments - that the Allies pushed Hitler into war, or the Nazis had the right to consider the Jews as a legitimate threat because of Chaim Weizmann's statement in 1939 that the Jews would fight alongside the British to defeat Germany. Exponents of these viewpoints may have different motives from the deniers, but the results are surprisingly similar: the blurring of boundaries between fact and fiction, and between persecuted and persecutor.

The relativists may have no sympathy for the deniers. But their combined efforts have fostered the creation of what might be called the 'yes-but' syndrome.(21) Yes, there was a Holocaust -but were there really six million Jews killed? Yes, there was a Holocaust - but were there really gas chambers? Yes, there was a Holocaust - but the Nazis were only trying to defend themselves against their enemies. Yes, there was a Holocaust - but most Jews died of starvation and disease (as is the case in every war). Yes, there was a Holocaust - but Jews brought it on themselves. Yes, there was a Holocaust - but it was essentially no different than many conflagrations in which innocent bystanders are killed. Yes, there was a Holocaust - but there have been so many horrible massacres in history. Why then do we only hear about the Holocaust? The answer to this final question is obvious to the deniers: because of the insidious power of the Jews: they have managed to use the 'myth' of the Holocaust to justify a wide range t)f post-war evils in which they have engaged.

Ultimately, given enough latitude, the 'yes-but' approach robs the Holocaust of its uniqueness and its capacity to offer the world ethical, moral or political lessons. I have found such an attitude present not only among the deniers but among students and others who feel no moral outrage about the Holocaust but rather see it simply as a matter to be placed in its appropriate cultural context. The Holocaust is thereby reduced to a merely relative evil.

This 'yes-but' approach is far more insidious than outright denial. It nurtures and is nurtured by Holocaust denial. This is not to suggest that relativists who endorse a form of the 'yes-but' approach - such as Ernst Nolte, the leading historian among the German relativists - are crypto-deniers. What is clear, however, is that Holocaust denial has given relativism a strange cloak of respectability; it has stretched the parameters of the debate so far to one side that opinions that would have been considered historically untenable now find acceptance simply because they are not denial. Since I began work on Holocaust denial, I have confronted this 'yes-but' attitude in both academic and popular settings in the form of questions which are prefaced by 'I am not a denier but isn't there real doubt about...?' That blank is generally filled with the existence of gas chambers, Hitler's knowledge of the Final Solution, the innocence of the Jews or some other fundamental aspect of the Holocaust.

Raising questions would be perfectly legitimate if distinctions were scrupulously drawn between fact and fiction in order to refine knowledge. The recent discussion by historians about the number of Jews who were actually killed at Auschwitz and the subsequent acknowledgement that the number of victims killed there is smaller than was originally claimed, is an example of that form of scholarly inquiry. But deniers are only interested in reshaping history in order to rehabilitate the persecutors and demonise the victims.

Although relatives do not show sympathy for deniers, deniers sometimes use the 'yes-but' approach in order to find their way into more legitimate circles. The most striking example of this is the Leuchter Report in which the author, Fred Leuchter, purports to prove that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz. But he is quick to argue that he is not a denier of the Holocaust(22); he simply believes that there were no gas chambers. This disclaimer notwithstanding, deniers have funded his work and disseminated his findings. But if there were no gas chambers, then what happened at Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka and Sachsenhausen? How did the people die there? From disease and food shortages? If there were no systematic means of destruction in place, how many could have died there? Denial of the existence of gas chambers places Leuchter at the heart of Holocaust denial itself.

The modus operandi of Holocaust denial is distortion of the truth. One examines the methods used with some hesitancy, since readers might wonder how inconsequential the deniers can be if serious historians do not simply dismiss them. Doesn't the fact that scholars accord them attention suggest that they are not merely falsifiers and racists? Doesn't research on them give them the publicity they crave? Indeed, revisionists are quick to pounce on any discussion of their work - including reports that demonstrate how they misquote and distort the findings of legitimate historical inquiry - as evidence of the serious consideration scholars are giving them.

The danger that we might inadvertently make them seem more credible is not the only reason for trepidation. There is another more serious problem inherent in the process of refuting the deniers. Even if that refutation is limited to scholarly articles and essays, it is possible, as the French historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet has observed, that in the course of answering the deniers, an 'exterminationist' school will be created in opposition to the 'revisionist' school, as was the case when radio show producers wondered why I wouldn't 'talk to the other side'. This might elevate Holocaust denial to the level of a legitimate ideological enterprise.(23) In fact, deniers have recently taken to calling 'exterminationists' those who do research on the Holocaust, thereby locating denial in juxtaposition to truly serious inquiry - hence the significance of the name 'revisionism' which they have adopted for themselves.(24)

Another danger was described in the New York Review of Books a number of years ago by Marshall Sahlins, who expressed his impatience with social scientists who tried to disprove something which, due to the existence of overwhelming and incontrovertible proof, is universally accepted as fact. Such arguments, Sahlins observed, demonstrated a real indifference to historical sources and followed the familiar American pattern of enterprising social science journalism. Professor X puts out some outrageous theory, such as the Nazis didn't kill the Jews, human civilisation comes from another planet or there is no such thing as cannibalism. Since facts are plainly against him, X's main argument consists of the expression in highest moral tones of his own disregard for all available evidence to the contrary. He rises to the more elevated analytical plane of an ad hominem attack on the authors of the primary sources and those credulous enough to believe them. All of which provokes Y and Z to issue a rejoinder ... X now becomes 'the controversial Professor X' and his book is respectfully reviewed by non-professionals in Time, Newsweek and the New Yorker. There follows appearances on radio, television and in the columns of daily newspapers.(25)

In such cases, normal and accepted standards of scholarship, including the proper use of evidence and the quality of research, are discarded. What remains, in the words of this eminent anthropologist, is a 'scandal'.

It is doubtful that we shall witness in the near future a plethora of instances of outright denial. But subtle, and consequently more dangerous, theories continue to appear. The course of this development and the nature of the theories, however pseudo-scientific they may be, must be fully examined.

We need not waste time or effort answering each and every one t)f the deniers' contentions. It would be a never-ending effort to respond to arguments posed by those who freely falsify findings, quote out of context and simply dismiss reams of testimony because it counters their arguments. Unlike true scholars they have little if any respect for data or evidence. Their commitment is to an ideology and their 'findings' are shaped by it.

However, there is a critical difference between debate and analysis. To debate them is to give their theory the imprimatur of a legitimate historical opinion. It is far better to analyse who these people are and what it is they are trying to accomplish. Above all, it is essential to expose the illusion of reasoned inquiry that conceals extremist views. It is only when society - particularly that portion of society committed to intellectual debate -comprehends the full import of this group's intentions that we can be sure that history will not be reshaped and recreated to fit a variety of pernicious ulterior motives.

The speciousness of the deniers' arguments, rather than the arguments themselves, demands a response. The insidious way in which denial enters the mainstream debate - often disguised as relativism- must be fully exposed as it is crucial, ultimately, to an understanding of the deniers' influence. These are not simply arcane controversies between scholars or, in this case, pseudo-scholars. In the words of the historian Donald Kagan, the past and, more importantly, our perception of the past, have a powerful 'influence on the way we act in response to our problems today. What historians and others say happened and what they say it means. . .makes a great difference'.(26) Relativists and deniers are well aware of this. It is not by chance that one of the fathers of American Holocaust denial, Harry Elmer Barnes, believed that history could serve as a 'means for a deliberate and conscious instrument of social transformation'.(27)

History matters. Adolf Hitler's rise to power was facilitated by the artful way in which he advanced views of recent German history that appealed to the masses. It did not matter if it was a distorted view; it was one which appealed to many people and, more importantly, explained their current situation. David Duke has tried to modify his personal history as well as the history of the United States and his region. That which he has been unable to reshape, he and his followers have declared irrelevant. On the eve of the election for Governor of Louisiana, one of his supporters remarked in a television interview: 'What do his views on Jews and Blacks have to do with this election?' Though the interviewer did not respond, the answer was obvious: it was, simply put, 'everything'.

The deniers hope to achieve their goals by winning recognition as a legitimate scholarly cadre and by planting seeds of doubt in the younger generation. Only by recognising the threat that denial poses to reason and the pursuit of truth, will we expose denial for what it truly is and ultimately refuse any shred of legitimacy to it and its purveyors.


1. Charles Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust and German National Identity (Cambridge, MA 1988), p. 64.

2. For an example, see how the revisionists have treated Anne Frank's diary in The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, ed David Barnouw and Gerrold van der Stroom, trans Arnold J Pomerans and B.M Mooyart-Doubleday (London, 1989), pp 91-101.

3. Conversation with Robert Faurisson, Vichy, France, June 1989.

4. Harry Elmer Barnes, 'Revisionism: a key to peace', Rampart Journal, vol. 2, 1966, p. 33.

5. Harry Elmer Barnes, Revisionism and Brainwashing: A Survey of the War-Guilt Question in German after Two World Wars (privately printed 1962), p. 33.

6. This was part of the defence testimony given at the trial of Ernst Zündel in Canada.

7. Conversation with Robert Faurisson, Vichy, France, June 1989.

8. Maier, The Unmasterable Past, p. 64.

9. Their entree into the academic sphere has not met with much success. Obviously, no serious or respected historian would give them any credence. The only historian who has associated himself with them, David Irving, has long been on the very fringes of scholarly circles and has, in fact, consistently been dismissed by many scholars for his strange theses.

10. Robert D. Kaplan, 'Croatianism: the latest Balkan ugliness', New Republic, 25 November 1991, p. 16.

11. Colin Holmes, 'Historical revisionism in Britain: the politics of history', in Trends in Historical Revisionism: History as a Political Device (London, 1985), p. 8.

12. Marvin Perry, 'Denying the Holocaust: history as myth and delusion', Encore American and Worldwide News, September 1981, p. 28-33.

13. Their behaviour brings to mind a statement attributed to Lionel Trilling: 'Their minds are so open that their brains feel out.'

14. Alfred Kazin, 'Americans right, left and indifferent: responses to the Holocaust', Dimensions, vol. 4, no. 1, 1988, p. 12.

15. US News and World Report, 28 May 1990, p. 42; Los Angeles Times, 29 May 1990. Hi, H7.

16. Deborah Lipstadt, Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933-1945 (New York, 1986).

17. Lucy Dawidowicz had a similar experience on the Larry King show; see Dawidowicz, 'Lies about the Holocaust', Commentary, December 1980, p. 36.

18. Dumas Malone, The Sage of Monticello: Jefferson and his Time (Boston, 1981), VI, 417-18; my thanks to David Ellenson for reminding me of the applicability of Jefferson's lines to this inquiry

19. Walter Reich, 'Denying the Holocaust: prelude to what?', Washington Post, 3 May 1981.

20. For the way this has functioned in German, see Maier, The Unmasterable Past.

21. For a discussion of how the 'yes-but' syndrome manifested itself during the Second World War and prevented many Americans, particularly publishers, editors and reporters, from grasping the implications of the reports they were receiving, see Lipstadt, Beyond Belief, p. 270.

22. Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report: The End of a Myth, An Engineering Report on the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek, Poland, with a forward by Dr Robert Faurisson (Samisdat Publishers, 1988).

23. Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Democracy, vol.1/2, April 1981.

24. Their decision to call themselves 'revisionists' was clearly a calculated one designed to align them with other legitimate schools of historical thought, e.g. World War I revisionism. The implication is, of course, that there are two schools of thought on this issue.

25. Marshall Sahlins, New York Review of Books, 22 March 1979.

26. Donald Kagan, 'The first revisionist historian', Commentary, May 1988, p. 44.

27. Justus D. Doenecke, 'Harry Elmer Barnes: prophet of a usable past', History Teacher, February 1975, p. 273.

DEBORAH E. LIPSTADT is Associate Professor of Religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., U.S.A. This article is based on research for her forthcoming book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (Free Press, 1993). This article first appeared in Patterns of Prejudice, Volume 26, Numbers 1&2, 1992, published by the Institute of Jewish Affairs in association with the World Jewish Congress.


Deborah E. Lipstadt will be visiting Australia in July 1994 as a guest of the Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs.

For additional information please contact the A.I.J.A. Office:

Tel: (03) 828 8570
Fax: (03) 828 8584


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