They came for the union leaders, and I did not speak up because I wasn?t a union leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn?t speak up because I wasn?t a Jew.
-Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984
Hitler and the Nazi Party gained power in Germany and lost power in 1945- a mere 12 years. Yet, by the end of the Hitler reign, the world had been forced into a world war, Europe was broken, and nearly 30 million people had died. Among the dead were over six million Jews, who were systematically and efficiently massacred for no other reason than of their religion. This event has come to be called the Holocaust.
The Holocaust stands alone as the greatest example of ?man?s inhumanity to man? for several reasons. First of all, the motivations for the Holocaust were entirely racial. There was no economic net gain, in fact, many people believe that the Holocaust brought economic loss to Germany. The victims presented no threat to the German nation, or to the Nazi regime. National security and territorial expansion gained nothing by it, although Hitler used anti-Semitism as a rationale for both. Second, the rational nature of its methodology; it?s effectiveness, calculated coldness, foreseeability, and control; are unparalleled in history. And third, it?s ferocious intensity. The slaughter of the Jews did not begin until late 1938, and ended in 1945.
The unanswered questions of the Holocaust greatly outnumber those that we can answer. The facts are easy to obtain- millions of documents, much of it unanalyzed, have produced a flood of scholarly historical works documenting every aspect of the Holocaust. But the more is known about it, the more incomprehensible it becomes. We wish to find an answer to the most important questions. Why did it happen? How could it have happened? How could it happen in an advanced, civilized modern nation? Can it happen again? How can its recurrence be prevented?
One of the most notable anti-Semitic propaganda movements to develop over the past two decades has been the organized effort to deny or minimize the established history of Nazi genocide against the Jews. In the United States, the movement has been known primarily through the publishing of editorial-style advertisements in college newspapers. The first of these ads called for ?open debate on the Holocaust?; it questioned not the fact of Nazi anti-Semitism, but merely whether this hatred resulted in organized killing. A recent advertisement questioned the authenticity of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. These ads have been published in several dozen student newspapers on campuses across the country. These paid advertisements and Internet activities have been a national phenomenon since 1991. Although there is no evidence that they have persuaded large numbers of students to doubt the record of events which encompass the Holocaust, their appearance has generated unpleasantness and has caused a great deal of friction between Jewish and non-Jewish students. The intent of Holocaust deniers is to attack the facts of the Holocaust, frame the attack as merely an unorthodox point of view. The propaganda subtly mentions hateful anti-Semitic beliefs of Jews. These beliefs, in fact, bear comparison to the teachings that brought Hitler to power in prewar Germany. It is highly unlikely that any arguments, no matter how logical or valid, will dissuade the Holocaust deniers from their deceptive and hateful crusade. But the following information should provide any interested party with the facts to make informed decisions and potent responses to these bigoted lies.
Some may still wonder what exactly Holocaust denial is. Holocaust denial is a propaganda movement, active in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. It looks to deny the brutal reality of the Nazis? systematic mass murder of six million Jews in Europe during World War II. The roots of Holocaust denial can be found in the language of the Nazi policy itself, which attempted to hide the genocidal intent of what the Nazis called the ?Final Solution to the Jewish Question.? After the war, Nazis and Nazi sympathizers dismissed the overwhelming proof of the Holocaust established at the Nuremburg war trials. Similarly, a group of post-war French Trotskyists and anarchists led by Paul Rassinier, seeking to advance their own political agenda, denounced evidence of the genocide as ?Stalinist atrocity propaganda.? An organized propaganda movement, Holocaust ?revisionism,? took root in 1979 when Willis Carto established the Institute for Historical Review (IHR). The IHR is a ?pseudo-academic enterprise in which professors with no credentials in history (for example, the late Revilo P. Oliver was a retired University of Illinois Classics teacher; Robert Faurisson earned a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Lyon; Arthur Butz is an engineer at Northwestern University), writers without formal academic certification (such as David Irving, Henri Roques, and Bradley Smith), and career anti-Semites (such as Mark Weber, Ernst Zundel, and the late David McCalden) convene to develop new outlets for their anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and, for some, pro, Nazi beliefs.?
In addition to neo-Nazi groups, such as the National Alliance , which promote denial of the Holocaust as part of a complete racist and anti-Semitic agenda, one of the most active Holocaust deniers on the Internet is the German-born Canadian Ernst Zundel. Zundel, whose anti-Semitic activities extend back to the mid-70s, and include associations with the IHR and the neo-Nazi publication, Liberty Bell, as well as the authorship of books, such as The Hitler We Loved and Why has established perhaps the most extensive Holocaust-denial Web site on the Internet. Zundel?s home page published materials in English, French, and German and includes audio recordings of Zundel?s own speeches.
In Canada and Western Europe, Holocaust deniers have been successfully prosecuted under racial defamation or hate crimes laws. In the United States, however, the First Amendment guarantees the right for free speech, regardless of political content. Nevertheless, though the First Amendment guarantees Holocaust deniers the right to produce and distribute their propaganda, it in no way obligates newspapers or other media outlets to provide them with a forum for their views.
The History Department at Duke University unanimously adopted and published a statement noting:
?That historians are constantly engaged in historical revision is certainly correct; however, what historians do is very different from this advertisement [referring to propaganda]. Historical revision of major events? is not concerned with the actuality of these events; rather, it concerns their historical interpretation- their causes and consequences generally. There is no debate among historians about the actuality of the Holocaust? there can be no doubt that the Nazi state systematically put to death millions of Jews, Gypsies, political radicals and other people.?
David Oshinsky and Michael Curtis of Rutgers University have written,
?If one group advertises that the Holocaust never happened, another can buy space to insist that American Blacks were never enslaved. The stakes are high because college newspapers may soon be flooded with ads that present discredited assertions as if they were part of normal historical debate. If the Holocaust is not a fact, then nothing is a fact??
The major assertions employed by Holocaust denial propagandists can be dissuaded with brief factual responses.
The Holocaust Did Not Occur Because There is No Single ?Master Plan? for Jewish Annihilation.
Although it is true that there is no single Nazi document that expressly enumerates a ?master plan? for the annihilation of European Jewry, Holocaust denial propagandists misrepresent this fact as an exposure of the Holocaust ?hoax?; in doing this, they reveal a misleading approach to the history of the era. That there was no single document does not mean there was no solid plan. The ?Final Solution?, the Nazis? comprehensive plan to murder all European Jews- was, as the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust observes, ?the culmination of a long evolution of Nazi Jewish policy.? The destruction process was shaped gradually. For the previous two decades, Hitler had relentlessly pondered Jewish annihilation. On September 16, 1919, he wrote a letter that said while ?the Jewish problem? demanded an ?anti-Semitism of reason?- compromising systematic legal and political sanctions- ?The final goal, however, must steadfastly remain the removal of the Jews altogether.? Throughout the 1920s, Hitler referred to ?the Jewish question? as a pivotal question for his Party. With his assumption to power in 1933, Hitler?s racial notions were implemented by measures that increasingly excluded Jewry from German life. In 1941, large scale mass-murder initiatives that were already practiced on the mentally ill and deformed, were enacted against the Jews. SD chief Heydrich, acting on Hitler?s orders, forcibly concentrated the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units operating in German-occupied territory) to push Polish Jews into ghettos. Finally, on July 31, he received orders to prepare plans ?for the implementation of the aspired final solution of the Jewish question? in all German-occupied areas.? Finally, he passed on a command to Himmler:
Approximately six million Jews were killed in the course of Hitler?s Final Solution.
There Were No Gas Chambers Used for Mass Murder at Auschwitz and Other Camps.
Death camp gas chambers were the primary means of execution used against the Jews during the Holocaust. The Nazis issued a directive implementing large-scale gas chambers in the fall of 1941. By then, procedures facilitating mass murder, including the usage of smaller gas chambers, were already in practice. Between January 1940 and August 1941, 70,273 Germans- most of them physically handicapped or mentally ill- were gassed, 20-30 at a time, in closed chambers disguised as shower rooms. Meanwhile, mass shooting of Jews had been extensively practiced in Germany?s Eastern campaign. But these actions by murder squads had become an increasingly unmanageable process by October 1941. Soon the construction of mass gas chambers began, designed by physicians who had previously implemented the euthanasia program.
Mobile gassing vans, using the exhaust fumes of diesel engines to kill passengers, were used to kill Jews at Chelmno and Treblinka- as well as other sites, not all of them concentration camps- starting in November 1944. Deniers of the Holocaust testify that van gassings could not have been achieved because of the long amounts of time it would have taken to kill the Jews using fumes from a diesel engine. However, the following quote by Erich Gnewuch is a testimonial about the gassings in Nazi- occupied USSR.
?On orders from my department, I too drove a gas van from Berlin to Minsk. These vans had been constructed with a lockable cargo compartment, like a moving van? I was detailed with the gas van to about twelve convoys of arriving Jews. It was in 1942. There were about a thousand Jews in each convoy. With each arrival I made five or six trips with my van. Some of the Jews were shot. I myself shot a single Jew; I only gassed them? A ghetto operation took place in the autumn of 1943. I was put into action only once with the gas van. I made three trips with it to the execution site. I gassed about 150 to 180 people.?
Gas chambers were installed and operated at Belzec, Lublin, Soninor, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau from September 3, 1941, when the first experimental gassing took place at Auschwitz, until November 1944. Working with chambers measuring an average 225 square feet; the Nazis forced to their deaths 700 and 800 people at a time. Two-thirds of this program was completed in 1943-1944, and at it?s peak accounted for as many as 20,000 victims per day. Authorities have estimated that these gas chambers could have accounted for the deaths of 2 to 3 million Jews.
The Holocaust deniers attack this record of mass murder intensively, following the end of the Cold War. In 1991, it was reported that the memorial at Auschwitz to read that 1 million had died there, instead of 4 million as previously recorded. For the deniers, this changed ?confirmed? their arguments that historical estimates of Holocaust deaths had been deliberately exaggerated, and that scholars were beginning to ?retreat? in the face of ?revisionist? assertions. Thus, for example. Willis Carto wrote in the February 6, 1995 issue of The Spotlight, the weekly tabloid of his organization, ?All ?experts? until 1991 claimed that 4 million Jews were killed at Auschwitz. This impossible figure was reduced in 1991? to 1.1 million? The facts about deaths at Auschwitz, however? are still wrong. The Germans kept detailed records of Auschwitz deaths? These show that no more than 120,000 persons of all religions and ethnicity died at Auschwitz during the war?? In fact, Western scholars have never supported the figure of 4 million deaths at Auschwitz; the basis of this Soviet estimate- an analysis of the capacity of the crematoria at Auschwitz and Birkenau- has long since been discredited. As early as 1952, Gerald Reitlinger, a British historian, had convincingly challenged this method of calculation. Using statistics compiled in registers for Himmler, he asserted that approximately 1 million people had died at Auschwitz; Raul Hilberg in 1961, and Yehuda Bauer in 1989, confirmed Reitlinger?s estimate of Auschwitz victims. Each of these scholars, nonetheless, has recognized that nearly 6 million Jews were killed overall during the Holocaust. Polish authorities were therefore responding to long-accepted Western scholarship, further confirmed subsequently by documents released in post-Soviet Russia; the cynical allegations of ?Holocaust revisionism? played no part in their decision.
Holocaust Scholars Rely on the Testimony of Survivors Because There Is No Objective Documentation Proving the Nazi Genocide.
Another claim by the deniers concerns what they describe as the lack of objective documentation proving the facts of the Holocaust, and the reliance by scholars on biased testimonies of survivors. However, the Germans themselves left no shortage of documentation and testimony to these events. No serious scholar has ever relied solely on survivor testimony as the conclusive word on Holocaust history. Lucy Dawidowicz, in the preface to her authoritative work, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, wrote, ?The German documents captured by the Allied armies at the war?s end have provided an incomparable historical record, which, with regard to volume and accessibility, has been unique in the annals of scholarship? The National Archives and the American Historical Association jointly have published 67 volumes of Guides to German Records Microfilmed at Alexandria, VA. For my work I have limited myself mainly to published German documents.? Dawidowicz then proceeds to list 303 published sources- excluding periodicals- documenting the conclusions of her research. Among these sources are the writings of Nazi policy makers such as Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hoess and Alfred Rosenburg. Similarly, between 1933 and 1945 the public offices and corporate existences of Nazi Germany generated a large amount of controversy. A number of these documents were destroyed in Allied bombings, and many more were burned in the course of retreats or in the anticipation of surrender. Still, the accumulated paper work of the German world was expansive enough to survive in significant quantities, and even some classified folders remained. It is from such primary sources that the history of the Holocaust has been compiled. A new factor is the sudden availability of countless records from the former Soviet Union, many of which had been overlooked or suppressed since their capture at war?s end by the Red Army. Needless to say, the modification of specific details in this history is certain to continue for many years to come, considering the complexity of events which comprise the Holocaust. However, it is equally certain that these modifications will only conform to the Holocaust?s enormity, rather than- as the ?revisionists? would- call it into question.
There Was No Net Loss of Jewish Lives Between 1941 and 1945
Another frequent denier assertion calls into question the generally accepted estimates of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. In attempting to portray the deaths of millions of Jews as an exaggeration or a fabrication, Holocaust deniers wildly manipulate reference works, almanac statistics, geopolitical data, bedrock historical facts and other sources of information. For example, deniers of the cite almanac or atlas figures that were typically compliled before comprehensive accounts on the Holocaust were available. These ?facts? appear to indicate that the worldside Jewish population before and after World War II remained essentially the same, thereby ?proving? that six million Jews could not have died during this period. The widely cited 6 million figure is taken fromt eh initial 1945 Nuremburg trial estimate of 5.7 million deaths; subsequent censuses, statistical analyses, and other demographic studies of European Jewry have consistently demonstrated the accuracy of this first tally. After nearly 50 years, historians agree that approximately 6 million Jews perished during the course of the Nazi genocide. In The War Against the Jews, Lucy Dawidowicz offers a country-by-country accounting of Jewish deaths.
Another piece of denier propaganda attacks the legal validity of the postwar Nuremburg Trials, where much of the Holocaust information first became public, and where the general history of the genocide was first established. The process of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice was a lengthy and complicated effort involving the different legal traditions and policies of the United States, England, France and the Soviet union. As the historical record shows, the allied victors, if anything, failed on the side of leniency toward the accused Nazis. Discussions concerning allied treatment of war criminals had begun as early as October 1943. In the summer months following Germany?s surrender in 1945, British, American, and Soviet representatives met in London to create the charter for an international milirary tribunal to prosecute ?major criminals? whose whose offenses extended over the entire Reich, and who therefore could be punished by the joint decision of the Governments of the Allies. By early fall, the Allies had decided who to prosecute and how to define the crimes committed during the Holocaust; the first trials began in Nuremburg, before an international military court. The chief defendant was Hermann Goering, but the prosecution also selected other leading officials from the Nazi party, German government ministries, central bereaucracy, armament and labor specialists, the military and territorial chiefs. These trials did not result in either guilty verdicts or identical sentences. In fact, of the 21 defentdants, three were set free, one received a 10-year sentence, one a 15-year sentence, two 20-year sentences, three life sentences, and 11 received the death penalty. The defendants, moreover, had access to 206 attorneys, 136 of whom had been Nazi party members. As Raul Hilberg stated, ?The judges in Nuremburg were established American lawyers. They had not come to exonerate or convict. They were impressed with their task, and they approached it with much experience in the law and little anticipation of the facts.?
These five major claims of the deniers are easily refuted by current evidence. France, Belgium and Germany among other countries have laws that make denial of the Holocaust a criminal offense. The reason why we feel the need to remind the world of the Holocaust is exactly the same reason why it has become easy to deny it- the perpetrators have gotten away with it. Hardly any punishment was meted out to the German officials who carried out the extermination of European Jewry. Their defense has been that they were ?obeying superior orders, otherwise their lives would have been in danger.? To legislate against Holocaust denial in the face of freedom of speech is an uphill task and would hardly be adequate. Another objective in keeping the memorial fot he Holocaust alive is to ?prevent it from happening again.? This is a joke. As one diplomat put it recently: ?I can guarantee that the Holocaust will not happen again. Not enough Jews are left in Europe anyway.? The correct attitude to the Holocaust should be that it is not too late to deal out proper punishment to thosw who are in fact our enemies. Our enemies only those who deny that the Holocaust took place, and all who say that Hitler was right to kill the Jews. Denying the Holocaust is denying a historical truth- it is like saying that despite the discoveries, documentation and overwhelming proof, the world is still flat. Deniers and Holocaust supporters must be regarded as if he had taken part in the Holocaust himself. If these deniers could be made to experience the loss of six million people themselves, they would no longer claim that the Holocaust did not take place. Seeking to punish the deniers through the courts would give them platform to propagate their criminal ideas. The unanswered questions regarding this time outnumber those for which we have answers. The denial of the Holocaust has been one of the most notable propaganda movements to develop over the past two decades. It is time to end this propaganda movement. Although it is obvious that the above facts will not dissuade staunch deniers, it hopefully will provide a platform on which any of it?s readers can stand, refuting the arguments of the Holocaust deniers with cold facts.