Institute for Historical Review

Institute for Historical Review

The Faurisson Affair

  • VÉRITÉ HISTORIQUE OU VÉRITÉ POLITIQUE? by Serge Thion. 347pp, La Vieille Taupe, Paris, 1980. Distributed by Labyrinthe, 22 rue Rambuteau, 75003 Paris.

In October 1978 l'Express, a French weekly comparable to Newsweek, published an interview with Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, who had been commissioner for Jewish affairs in the Vichy Government during the German occupation, and who has lived in Spain since the war. Darquier's generally unrepentant attitude, plus his claim that the only creatures gassed at Auschwitz had been lice, set off an uproar with two foci, first, the allegedly outrageous, irresponsible and perhaps even illegal character of the act of publishing such an interview and, second, the regrettable fact that Darquier's Spanish exile made it impossible to "get" him.

Under such circumstances it was inevitable that the fury of the professionally enlightened would turn on Dr. Robert Faurisson for it was known, although almost forgotten, that he held similar views on the "gas chambers" and he was, moreover, situated on French soil and possibly "gettable." Thus against a background of shrieking publicists, a mob of thugs, mostly Jews posing as students, descended on the University of Lyon-2, where Faurisson is Associate Professor of French Literature (with a specialty in criticism of texts and documents), and on account of its disorders the University suspended Faurisson from his teaching duties.

The campaign against Faurisson was not however without its. positive aspects for as a result of all the public attention paid to his allegedly wicked views, Le Monde, the French equivalent of the NY Times, felt itself obliged -- much against its wishes -- to give Faurisson a bit of space in which to express his views. Although it gave the other side much more space, an important barrier had been broken and it appears to this reviewer that the France-based defenders of the received "extermination" legend have not bothered to try to conceal

their panic. This is shown not only by the explicit expressions of panic in, e.g., the periodical Le Monde Juif, but also in the fact that they, acting through their "LICA" (League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism), brought suit against Faurisson for "damages" on account of "falsification of history, " a litigation that is still active at this writing.

Faurisson's relations with his University have also not yet been satisfactorily resolved. Although he still formally holds his position there, since Fall 1979 he has in fact been assigned to a correspondence school in Paris for duties clearly beneath his qualifications.

Serge Thion's book consists principally of a thorough exposition of this affair, but we are also treated to some discussion of earlier public controversies that surrounded Faurisson, of which the earliest did not concern Jews or World War II at all. It was in 1961 that he published his booklet A-t-on lu Rimbaud? (Has anybody read Rimbaud?) The booklet demonstrated erotic interpretations, where none had been seen before, of the French poet's "Voyelles." The ensuing controversy was carried out in the major French literary periodicals. A measure of the reception given to Faurisson's thesis can be gained from the fact that as a consequence the major French publisher Hachette deleted "Voyelles" from its school textbook line. The booklet was reissued in 1962 and 1971, with the addition of a summary of reactions to the original booklet. In 1972 Faurisson published a long book presenting novel interpretations of Lautr6amont, entitled At-on lu Lautréamont? Nothing in all of this prefigured his later public involvement with the "Holocaust," but in retrospect a certain common ground is clear, for the Holocaust literature merely has to be read, rather than gazed at in a semi-stupor, in order to be exposed for what it is. Faurisson could have, but unfortunately has not, entitled part of the book under review as A-t-on lu "le journal d'Anne Frank"?

Although Faurisson had maintained an interest in the "Holocaust" subject ever since reading Rassinier around 1960, his public role as a Revisionist commenced only in 1974. In April he sent letters to several dozen known "historians and specialists," in each case asking "do the Hitlerian gas chambers seem to you to have been a myth or a reality?" and briefly giving reasons for legitimate doubts regarding their reality. It was not known to Faurisson at the time that one of the addressees, Dr. Kubovy, Director of the Jewish Documentation Center in Tel-Aviv, was deceased. However the letter to Kubovy reached an Israeli newspaper, which commented on it, was then picked up by a Jewish weekly in France, and agitated some faculty members at the Censier branch of the Sorbonne (where Faurisson was then teaching) to the extent that they took it up with the University President, who then took the matter to the University Senate, which declared as a consequence that

The President has been confronted, by colleagues, with the appearance in the weekly Tribune juive of an article signed by Mr. Faurisson, which contains inadmissible doubts concerning the existence of the Nazi concentration camps. Now this article was written on the letterhead of our University (Censier branch). As a consequence the President requests that the Senate invite him to address, in its name, a total disavowal of the allegations of our colleague to the newspaper in question. The Senate approves this undertaking unanimously.

This reaction of a supposedly responsible University Senate was a harbinger of the controversies to come. A letter by Faurisson, not intended for publication, and reported second hand, became "an article signed by Mr. Faurisson." Mere questions concerning the existence of the gas chambers became a denial ("doubts," then "allegations") of the existence of the camps. People who had never investigated the subject declared Faurisson's doubts "inadmissible." Faurisson was not invited to present any defense in the course of the Senate's deliberations. The stupidity (to employ the most charitable description) involved was even exceeded two years later by the President of the University of Lyon-2 who, to Faurisson's request for an explanation why promotion was being denied to him, replied that Faurisson, "by his own admission," had never published anything in his life! Since Faurisson's writings on Rimbaud had rocked the French literary establishment, any person with a healthy desire to savor the intellectually outlandish would be most eager to learn the nature of the evidence that led the President to such a bizarre declaration. It was this. Reacting to claims that he was a "Nazi," Faurisson had on 12 December 1975 addressed a letter to the President pointing out inter alia that he had never published anything that could support such a classification. By lifting this remark out of context, the "evidence" of Faurisson's barren intellectual output was produced!

The second furor over Faurisson as Revisionist came in the Fall of 1978 in the circumstances already mentioned. It attained a critical point with the appearance in Le Monde (29 December 1978) of a short article by him. The significance of this development may be appreciated if it is noted that, although Le Monde had on 17-18 July 1977 published a long attack on the Harwood booklet, and although all canons of journalistic ethics decreed that Le Monde must therefore open its columns to controversy on the subject, Faurisson's repeated efforts to get into print there were frustrated. I also wrote a letter to Le Monde when I was in Paris in late July 1977; it was not published.

To appreciate some developments of early 1979 it is necessary to go back in time somewhat to a seemingly irrelevant episode. In May 1968 Paris was the scene of uproarious "student" demonstrations that achieved worldwide publicity. The specific issues involved are of no interest here. Suffice it to say that the demonstrators' cause, in the context of the time, was of a "leftist" nature and that the issues were substantial enough to arouse much controversy and division into various camps. As intellectuals, especially the leftist type, are often wont to hang around bookshops where people of compatible inclinations are apt to be found, there existed a group associated with the bookshop La Vieille Taupe (The Old Mole); it is referred to here as the "Guillaume group," after Pierre Guillaume, the proprietor of the bookshop. The group first became prominent for its support of the demonstrators, and includes Serge Thion, author of the volume under review, and Jean-Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, brother of "Danny-the-Red," the leader of the demonstrations.

The Guillaume group maintained both its cohesion and its prominence in the years after 1968. The members published frequent articles in the daily newspaper Libération, and La Vieille Taupe has evolved into a publishing house.

Unknown to Faurisson, Pierre Guillaume had also, on account of reading Rassinier, maintained an interest in the "Holocaust" legend. Hence when the controversy arose in late 1978, with-Faurisson an obvious victim of hysteria, the Guillaume group had good reasons to support him. However the ground was quite strange for the members of the group, and more often associated with the Right than with the Left. On the other hand they knew Faurisson by reputation as a man of benevolent character and keen intellect, whose views could not be trifled with.

The key development in shattering any remaining reticence of the Guillaume group seems to have been a two page piece of foolishness that appeared in Le Monde on 21 February 1979, an article affirming the extermination legend, signed by 34 historians.

Now, there are certainly circumstances where it is appropriate that a great number of people sign some public statement. An example is the short statement (reproduced in Thion's book), in support of Faurisson's right to research the legend and condemning the campaign against him, that was signed by a great diversity of people, including the anti-Zionist author Alfred Lilienthal, the MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, the Melbourne civil liberties lawyer John Bennett, and myself. In such an instance significance is to be found not primarily in the text involved, but in the number and stature of the people who subscribe to it. However a lengthy purported historical argumentation, whose text is represented as conveying enlightenment on some subject, is something else; it should not require the signatures of any but those who wrote it. One wonders why 34 signers were provided for the Le Monde article. I can offer only one hypothesis for the logic involved, best expressed by simile: if it is found that one broadsword is not adequate to eliminate the annoying fly that has gotten into the room, then perhaps 34 broadswords will do the job.

If the 34 signers had caused the discerning reader to anticipate stupidity in the text, the expectation was confirmed. With all the enlightening effect of Pope Pius IX announcing the Syllabus of Errors, the 34 historians announced that

It is not necessary to wonder how, technically, such mass murder was possible. It was technically possible because it took place. That is the compulsory poirit of departure for all historical inquiry on this subject. It is fitting for us to simply repeat this truth; there is not and cannot be any debate on the existence of the gas chambers.

Such blazing stupidity (denounced as "absurd logic" by Cohn-Bendit) was probably, for the Guillaume group, a final conviction of the import of Faurisson's position. Guillaume appeared with Faurisson on Italian language Swiss TV, and La Vieille Taupe issued new editions of Rassinier's Le Mensonge d'Ulysse and Ulysse Trahi par les Siens; both had last been issued in 1961 by a different publisher.

There followed the volume under review, of which half consists of Thion's summary of the controversies that have surrounded Faurisson, with an emphasis on the major one that started in late 1978. The second half consists of contributions by Faurisson, of which the most interesting is his study of the Diary of Anne Frank.

A few words outlining the received Anne Frank legend are in order. She was born to a family of German Jews on 12 June 1929. In 1933 the family moved to the Netherlands and Otto Frank, Anne's father, took a business position in Amsterdam. The Germans occupied the Netherlands in 1940. Early in 1941 Otto Frank allegedly started to move the family belongings, piece by piece, to a location not disclosed to the rest of the family, although they were informed that the process was for the purpose of enabling them to "disappear" at the right time. The disappearance supposedly took place on 9 July 1942.

The hiding place is said to have been the Amsterdam building (263 Prinsengracht) in which Otto Frank's business was quartered. On the first or ground floor there was a combination store-warehouse. On what we would call the second floor there were offices, used by business associates of Frank who were privy to his project. The hiding place consisted of the rear portions of the third and fourth floors; access to the hiding place was through a door, disguised as a cupboard, on the third floor. Here the Franks allegedly lived for over two years, with supplies being brought by trusted friends. Anne had supposedly started keeping a diary about a month before the move to the hiding place, and continued to keep it after the move. On 4 August 1944, the hiding place having been discovered, the Franks were deported to concentration camps. The diary is said to have been overlooked by the police who searched the quarters and picked up later by friends. Anne is said to have died in the typhus epidemic that raged at Belsen shortly before the end of the war.

Otto Frank survived and returned to Amsterdam via Odessa and Marseilles. The Diary was allegedly returned to him by the friends, and was published in Dutch in 1947. Translations soon followed; an English translation was published in 1952.

It is important to understand what is, and what is not, contested in the Anne Frank legend. That Jews were being deported from the Netherlands, and consequently had a motivation for eluding the Germans, is not contested. Faurisson states his impressions:

... this Anne Frank really existed; she was a small young girl without great character, without strong personality, without scholarly precocity (even the contrary), and nobody suspected her of writing talent; this unfortunate child knew the horrors of war; she was arrested by the Germans ... ; her mother died in the Birkenau infirmary on 6 January 1945; her sister and she were, around October 1944, transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp; Margot died of typhus; then Anne, in turn, alone in the world, also died of typhus, in March 1945.

...the Franks and, perhaps, other Jews effectively lived in the rear of 263 Prinsengracht. But they lived there quite differently than the Diary relates. For example, without doubt they lived a discreet life, but not as in a prison. They were able to live there like many other Jews who sought cover either in the city or in the country. They sought to achieve "cover without being covert." Their venture was woefully commonplace.

... truth obliges me to declare that the Diary of Anne Frank is but a simple literary hoax.

What are contested, therefore, are both the authenticity of the Diary and the authenticity of the life alleged for the two years in question. The "extermination" and "gas chamber" legends are not involved in any direct sense; such involvement is at best indirect in that the continued credence in the Diary depends on the same political and social factors which support the extermination legend.

It is useful to remark here that the widely circulated claim, that Meyer Levin authored the Diary, is false and based on misinterpretation of the fact that Levin was involved in propagating the Anne Frank legend in the English language, particularly in adaptation for the stage, and sued Otto Frank in this connection. However Levin never claimed to have anything to do with the original Dutch publication and it is virtually certain that he did not.

Readers interested in the Diary are probably already aware of Ditlieb Felderer's Anne Frank's Diary: a Hoax (IHR, 1980), and perhaps have already learned that the West German Bundeskriminalamt, having been permitted by Otto Frank a brief examination, under significant handicaps, of the supposed original manuscript, in 1980 in the town hall of a Swiss village, reported back to the relevant West German court inter alia that certain supposedly original notations were made with a ball point pen that was not on the market until 1951.

The 1951 date does not rule out publication in Dutch in 1947 for, as Faurisson notes, the texts of the various translations do not agree with each other and with the original anyway. Faurisson's study is roughly divisible into five phases: the internal criticism of the Diary, inspection of the Amsterdam building involved, interview with Otto Frank, examination of related literature, and interviews with related people. Of these five the first will probably interest the typically situated reader most, because the points involved can be easily confirmed. The emphasis in Faurisson's internal criticism is on the clear impossibility of maintaining the secrecy of the hiding place under the conditions described. According to the Diary many people not privy to the secret, and who cannot be trusted, enter the building continually. These include the charwoman, the men working in the storewarehouse on the ground floor, and visitors to the offices directly below the living quarters. The people in adjoining and neighboring buildings are likewise not to be trusted. Consequently the clandestines must take codeine tablets to avoid coughing, "have to whisper on ordinary days," and must avoid using the toilet when visitors are downstairs. That such a game could be played successfully for two years is incredible and at certain points the Diary gives details that make the whole thing preposterous, since we also learn e.g. that the vacuum cleaner was used in the middle of the day without objections from the other clandestines, and that "the radio ... goes on early in the morning and is listened to at all hours of the day, until nine, ten, and often eleven o'clock in the evening." we are also told that ownership of the building changed in February 1943, but that the new owner was permanently diverted from inspection of the living quarters, by one of Otto Frank's business associates, on the plea that the latter had forgotten the key!

Like an historical Sherlock Holmes asking the unexpected simple questions, Faurisson immerses himself and the reader in all this and lays bare the squalid hoax ("supercherie"). The Franks are presented as installing makeshift curtains shortly after arrival, so that the neighbors do not "see something going on." Faurisson asks, "Now, is not the installation of curtains, in windows which did not have any until then, the best way of signalling one's arrival? Is this not particularly the case if these curtains are made up of different pieces?" More basically, "If one has an entire year to choose a hiding place., does one choose his office? Does one take his family there? And a colleague? And this colleague's family? Does one choose thus a place full of 'enemies' where the police and the Germans would come automatically to look for you if they find you no longer at home?"

The Institute for Historical Review is to be thanked for its soon to be released English translation of Faurisson's "Anne Frank" analysis. I should like to make a couple of recommendations to those who intend to read it. The analysis is presented on the assumption that the reader has read the Diary; a good part would be incomprehensible to those who have not.

The Diary should be read beforehand and in the course of the reading that which I consider the most obvious point of incredibility should be noted. Whoever wrote it had, and also intended it for the postwar reader with, a basically political and historical interest in what happened to the Jews. The Diary is not a diary, and it is not the work of a fourteen year old girl. Only the fact that strong evidence of this appears on virtually every page makes it difficult to select specific illustrations. In the entry for 9 July 1942, we read a very detailed description of the four story building involved. The description is supplemented by, and makes frequent reference to, a rather professionally drawn floor plan that is identical in various translations; I would consider the inclusion of the floor plan in a diary incredible even if it were the sort of thing a young girl might have drawn. More conclusively, the entries for the days prior to the family's supposed move to a hiding place, at a time when a thirteen year old girl could not possibly have had any inkling of experiences worth recording for posterity, are clearly written for the postwar book reader, e.g. the entry for 20 June 1942 presents a short history of the Frank family and a short summary of the anti-Jewish measures that followed the German occupation of the Netherlands.

There are a number of other Faurisson contributions to this volume. There is the corrected and annotated French translation of the Faurisson interview that appeared in the August 1979 issue of the important Italian monthly Storia Illustrata; this will soon be issued in English translation by the IHR. There are some highly interesting photos, relating to "gas chambers," that Faurisson acquired in visits to Auschwitz, as well as a short treatment of the gas chamber of the penitentiary in Baltimore, which makes clear that the gassing of only one person, not to mention the legend's hordes of thousands at a time, is a technically intricate process that cannot be effectively and insouciantly handled with improvisations involving commonplace resources intended and designed for other purposes. There are also short looks at miscellaneous other matters.

I shall close on the subject of "how many?" Faurisson (p197) is in accord with me (Hoax, pp237,239) in declaring that the number of Jews who perished

could be of the order of a million but, more likely, several hundred thousands if one does not count combattant Jews in Allied military uniforms. I insist on the fact that on my part this is a matter of an estimate lacking a properly scientific character ...

However he further states, after some intervening remarks that should have been more extended and more lucid,

that, if computers are used here, one could without doubt quickly know the real number of deaths. The deportees were recorded in numerous connections. They left numerous traces.

Faurisson gives the impression that he believes that an accurate estimate, of the number of civilian Jews who perished, is practically achievable; this impression is reinforced by material appearing on pp324f.

Since I am not in accord with such a view, I discussed this matter with Faurisson and learned that he had not been sufficiently clear on this point. What he means is that it would be possible to make an estimate for a restricted class, namely, those Jews who were noted, in written German records, as having died. This class excludes many Jewish deaths that should be considered relevant, e.g. deaths from epidemics in ghettos or occasional pogroms, particularly in the East during the period of German retreats.

Many of the demographic questions we would like to answer are not answerable in the forseeable future, even with the aid of computers. There is a saying among computer users: "garbage in, garbage out." What it means for the sorts of demographic problems of interest here is that, without a data base of adequate scope, accuracy and structure, no useful results can be obtained from a computer, regardless of the sophistication of the analytical and statistical methods employed. I have discussed the principal difficulties in obtaining an adequate data base (Hoax, pp13-17, 222-240). There is little that could be usefully added here except perhaps an indication of how futile even some sophistication, substantially funded, could be. A study of available records may, for example, show that it would not be prohibitively difficult to determine how many Goldsteins and Kaplans there have been in the U.S.A. at various times. These are distinctly East European Jewish names. It may also be found possible to determine the frequency of occurrence of such names among pre-war East European Jews. Perhaps some more analysis would seem to indicate a method of determining numbers of East European Jews who immigrated to the U.S. at various periods, but the whole project would be rendered futile, especially for the postwar period of central interest, by two considerations. First, Jews have always been frequent name changers; this frequency was greatly amplified in the postwar period. Second, a great deal of this name changing was not done formally in the U.S. courts, but informally and even illegally prior to the formal involvement with the U.S.A. For example we know that a great many Jews were given quite irregular and illegal South American passports, with the very active encouragement of the U.S. Government and other agencies that were attempting to help Jews during the war. This does not exhaust the irregularities that Jews resorted to in this period. The consequences are unmanageable demographic problems.

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