Book Reviews

New Books Seek to Discredit 'Growing Threat' of 'Holocaust Denial'

  • Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, by Deborah Lipstadt. New York: Free Press, 1993. Hardcover. 278 pages. Notes. Index. ISBN: 0-02-919235-8.
  • Holocaust Denial by Kenneth S. Stern. New York: American Jewish Committee, 1993. Softcover. 193 pages. Notes. Index. ISBN: 0-87495-102-X.
  • Hitler's Apologists: The Anti-Semitic Propaganda of Holocaust "Revisionism" edited by Alan M. Schwartz. New York: The Anti-Defamation League, 1993. Softcover. 86 pages. Notes.

Reviewed by Theodore J. O'Keefe

The earlier method of opposing Holocaust Revisionism was to ignore it entirely as a scholarly, historiographical phenomenon (except for a few dismissive phrases about "flat earthers") in favor of attacking it as a political threat, branding it as "neo-Nazi," "anti-Semitic," etc. With the exception of Bradley Smith's radio talk show appearances and college newspaper advertisements, Revisionism's opponents have been able to impose an effective blackout on Revisionist challenges to the Holocaust. The result? In the United States, some 16 years after the title of Professor Arthur Butz's Hoax of the Twentieth Century was mistakenly reported by The New York Times in its first notice of Holocaust Revisionism, there are scores of millions who know that there is a determined movement that challenges the factuality of the alleged World-War-II genocide of the Jews, and tens of millions of Americans who, according to the latest polls, question it themselves.

Whether the growth of this opposition occurred so much in spite of the blackout of what the Holocaust Revisionists say and have written, or rather because of an increasing aversion to the spread of what one Jewish writer has called "Holocaustomania" is unclear, but obviously the blackout hasn't worked to its proponents' satisfaction. Thus, the powerful lobby which propagates (obligatory) reverence for the "Holocaust" has decided to mount an elaborate propaganda campaign against the Revisionists. This time, as the Holocausters march into the fray, some of them are proclaiming a new theme: confronting and defeating Revisionist scholarship.

Generous Help

Two of the three books here under review advertise themselves as setting off on this new demarche; the third, ADL's Hitler's Apologists, sticks unabashedly to the tried and true tactics of what might be called "McCarthyism."

Chief among these three intellectually slight works is Deborah Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust, a labored exposé that has been years in the gestation (the New York Times devoted a major fanfare to Lipstadt's lucubrations on the Revisionists as far back as June 20, 1988), yet manages to give off telltale signs of desperate, last-minute suturing and low-voltage jolts of stylistic electricity, by a crew of editorial Igors in New York City.

The book that shambles forth from the Free Press (a division of Macmillan in Manhattan) is, as author Lipstadt herself acknowledges, heavily dependent on the assistance of professional character assassins from Jewish so-called "defense organizations": operatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress' Institute for Jewish Affairs in London, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center all receive thanks in the preface.

Denying the Holocaust is copyrighted by something called the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (as a perquisite of which the author may have received the stylish haircut pictured on the dust jacket).

What's actually new about Lipstadt's approach? Not much, despite the author's all-but breathless intimations that she's the first researcher who has dared to look Holocaust Revisionism in the face, and despite the hosannas which have poured forth from the book review sections of the New York Times, Washington Post, and other newspapers. Although the author, proudly enthroned on something called the "Dorot Chair in Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies" at Emory University, makes much of the need to analyze the Revisionist case against the Holocaust, in sum her promised "exposure" of the Revisionists has little to do with confronting Revisionist scholarship.

Ineptitude and Deceit

While Professor Lipstadt is less than honest elsewhere in her book, she is disarmingly frank about her dogmas and purposes at the outset: "The existence of the Holocaust [is] not a matter of debate" (p. 1); Revisionists are "extremist antisemites" who "camouflage their hateful ideology" "under the guise of scholarship ..." (p. 3).

But how to expose them, other than by proclaiming that the Holocaust is beyond question (which comes perilously close to relegating it to the realm of religion) and calling the Revisionists names, particularly when she has haughtily announced her refusal to be "sucked into a debate that is no debate and an argument that is no argument"?

In fact, her promised "analysis" and "exposure" is in large measure derived from the tried-and-true methods of the ADL and its junior partners at the Wiesenthal Center and elsewhere. Lipstadt parades the same labeling and smear techniques as the slick dossiers churned out by the "watchdog groups": antisemite/neoNazi/fascist/pofessional-hatemonger/bigot/Hitlerian/Holocaust-denier. As you flip through the pages of Denying the Holocaust, the epithets all seem to run together into a single quavering wail.

Where Professor Lipstadt can't believably pin one of her slanderous labels on her subjects, or has perhaps temporarily tired of impugning their supposed motives, she is forced to attempt, as best she can, historical analysis and scholarly argument. However, she gives scant evidence of any grasp of historical knowledge or method, and more than a little indication of scholarly indolence and a timidity about confronting the masters of Holocaust Revisionism in their areas of expertise. Her analytic efforts are further vitiated by errors, big and small; omissions, deliberate or in ignorance; and distortions and misstatements, that, coming from any real scholar, can only be called deceitful. Lipstadt's ineptitude, after years of ballyhooed toil amid Revisionist writings, is only underscored by her pitiful efforts to take refuge in her own academic credentials (by the way, all the evidence indicates that is unable to read Revisionist works in the original French or German) and those of the numerous professional historian-hacks whose authority she invokes. These she brandishes, like Medusa shaking her snaky locks, at the Revisionists in hopes of petrifying these alleged amateurs. But this tactic will impress only other amateurs.

To catalogue the slanders and mistakes of Denying the Holocaust, let alone refute them, would require almost a book itself, and despite all the media trumpet blasts, this book isn't worth the effort. Still, a look at some of the more important techniques that serve Lipstadt, as well as the rest of the now sweating wardens of Holocaust orthodoxy, is perhaps of some merit.

Word Wizards

Chief among these is one surprisingly simple: a reliance on the emotive and minatory power of the Word. For Lipstadt and her fellows, words such as "antisemite" (her spelling), "neo-Nazi," "denier," "Holocaust," "memory" and the like aren't so much (if they are at all) labels for independent realities as they are weapons, first for controlling discourse, then for anathematizing opponents, and finally for striking directly at the central nervous systems of the population at large. Thanks to the Holocaust lobby's ready access to the international media, efforts by Revisionists to reverse the process by labeling the other side "Exterminationists" and the like tend to strike even sympathizers as odd, labored, and reeking of reactive, tu quoque ("you too").

Nevertheless, it is indispensable for Revisionists untiringly to confront and mercilessly to dissect the shibboleths of the word wizards: as in this book, deceptive labels are 90 percent of their case. "What is the Holocaust?" Revisionists must ask, and why does "denying" it sound so direr and more unreasonable than merely questioning whether the Germans had a policy to exterminate the Jews, resulting in the deaths of around six million of them, largely in gas chambers?

What is an "antisemite"? If the word denotes merely someone who opposes the Jews, what's wrong with using a term that says so? [1] (And why don't we hear more of "anti-Hamitism" and "anti-Japhetism"?)

Was Robert Faurisson correct when he suggested, in a 1989 article, that the Jewish "memory" that professional Holocausters so often invoke might more accurately be defined as the "beliefs" and "legends" of the Jews?

Historical Revisionism

For those who doubt that Lipstadt's long tussle with Holocaust revisionism is based largely on her manipulation of a handful of empty words, a more specific analysis of her use of the terms "Holocaust" and "Holocaust denial" is in order.

After decreeing that the "Holocaust" is not subject to debate, it is the author's ploy to equate the word with the facts supposed to underlie it. She approvingly quotes (p. 198) the following pontification emanating from the Duke University history department shortly after the appearance of Bradley Smith's full-page advertisement challenging several well-known tales of the Holocaust:

That historians are constantly engaged in historical revision is certainly correct; however, what historians do is very different from this advertisement. 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.

Sorry, profs, but that sophomoric stance wouldn't fool many college freshmen -- at least not in the days when a demonstrated ability to think critically was a prerequisite for college admission, let alone this or that professorship. In this reviewer's freshman days, students learned quickly that many alleged "major events" -- such as "the fall of the Roman Empire," "the Middle Ages," and "the Renaissance" -- are in large measure names and interpretations coined by historians based on their evaluation of a large, but still painfully limited, amount of evidence. Although perhaps various proponents of this or that historical interpretation might have welcomed anathemas aimed at their opponents, this reviewer doesn't recall any of them attempting to turn logic on its head by invoking the "reality" of the "Dorian invasion" or the "Ottonian renaissance" to validate each component of the theory, as Lipstadt and her colleagues have tried to do to save the lampshades, shrunken heads, Jewish soap bars, and spectral gas chambers attacked by Smith in his campus ads. Nor, outside of the flacks from the Holocaust lobby, has he ever encountered the cheap trick of representing a historian who doubted the applicability of the name "Dark Ages" for a period in European as arguing that the centuries in question "never happened."

Exercise in Evasion

Having conjured the "Holocaust" into existence without worrying about such inconsequential matters as the documents ordering, planning, and budgeting it, or the forensic tests establishing the murder weapons, or the autopsies showing deaths by gassing, Lip-stadt performs her next sleight-of-hand trick. This is to impose her own name for Revisionism, "denial" -- with all its shopworn Freudian implications -- on her targets. Focusing on "denial" and "deniers" as on some pathological syndrome allows her to "analyze" them without reference to the full body of Revisionist scholarship, of which she seems woefully uninformed, even after more than half a decade's study.

In fact, most of her book is an exercise in evasion of precisely that body of Revisionist findings that would seem to have made her work necessary. Conversely, an inordinate amount of Denying the Holocaust is devoted to tracing the antecedents of contemporary Holocaust Revisionist scholarship.

Her book is front-loaded with Revisionists and Revisionist arguments which have been long since been incorporated, superseded, and in some cases corrected by later Revisionists. Indeed, Lip-stadt devotes five chapters, spanning 91 pages, to the predecessors of Arthur Butz, whereas Butz and his contemporaries and successors, including Robert Faurisson, Fred Leuchter, and the Institute for Historical Review, get a measly three chapters and an appendix comprising a comparatively modest 64 pages. (It should be noted that much of this text, particularly that concerning the IHR, is rife with the sort of irrelevancies that fill the pages of ADL's "exposés": the life and times of Willis Cartoand David McCalden, headlines from The Spotlight, and the like.) Other chapters virtually devoid of analysis of Revisionist argument include her Chapter One, largely devoted to lamenting an alleged tolerance for Holocaust Revisionism in the mass media (that is, agonizing that a good number of radio and television talk shows have not blacklisted revisionists), and a speedy, superficial tour of "denial" abroad. In Chapters Ten she marshals such arguments as she can to support the banning of Revisionist advertisements and articles from college newspapers in the wake of Bradley Smith's remarkably successful campaign of two years ago. Chapter Eleven, called "Watchers on the Rhine," is her attempt to chart "the future course of Holocaust denial," and to prescribe what must be done to thwart the Revisionism and an evidently looming rise of the Fourth Reich.

Paul Rassinier

Characteristic of her technique is the way she handles the work of two courageous pioneers of Revisionism, Paul Rassinier and Austin App. Each of these is accorded considerable space in Denying the Holocaust, largely to focus on flaws and errors, many of them minor, in their work.

Most readers won't know that where both men genuinely erred, Revisionists have long since corrected them. Rassinier's mistakes on Jewish population statistics, avidly cited by the author (pp. 58-62) were set right by Journal editor Mark Weber in testimony at the second (1988) trial of Ernst Zündel, a trial with which Lip-stadt should be familiar since she dwells on it at some length and has had access to the transcript. If that weren't enough, however, Weber summarized his corrective testimony in the Journal ("My Role in the Zündel Trial," Winter 1989-90, pp. 391, 415-416), and included three pages of specific corrections in an "afterword" to the IHR's most recent edition of Rassinier's key Revisionist writings, The Holocaust Story and the Lies of Ulysses (pp. 414-416).

Although Lipstadt states rather murkily that what she calls Rassinier's "use of the numbers game ... established a pattern followed by all deniers who try to prove that the death tolls are not valid" (p. 58), the knowledgeable reader searches in vain for evidence of this: she has omitted any and all mention of Walter Sanning's key book The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry; the posthumous article "How Many Jews Were Eliminated by the Nazis?" in the Spring 1983 Journal (pp. 61-81) by Professor Frank Hankins, a longtime demographer and former president of the American Sociological Society; and Swedish demographer Carl Nordling's two Journal studies, "The Jewish Establishment under Nazi Threat and Domination" Summer 1990 (pp. 195-209) and "How Many Jews Died in the German Concentration Camps," Fall 1991 (pp. 335-344).

Austin App

Similarly, Lipstadt has chosen to give Austin App an entire chapter, eighteen pages long, subtitled "The World of Immoral Equivalency," by which she means to say that App dared to compare such genuine, but comparatively unpublicized and certainly unpunished Allied atrocities as the mass expulsion of millions of Germans from their ancestral homelands, or the mass rapes carried out especially by conquering Soviet troops, to those alleged German atrocities of which we never cease to hear and for which the United States and other governments still dog innocent men, such as John Demjanjuk, to the present day.

While Dr. App, a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of this Journal from its founding until his death in 1984, deserves the highest praise for his indomitable courage, his unflagging loyalty to his German roots, and his dedication to propagating the case for the German nation and people during and after the Second World War, only a writer less than familiar with the progress of revisionist research could claim that App "played a central role in the development of Holocaust denial" (p. 85), or that "his major contribution was to formulate eight axioms that have come to serve as the founding principles of the California-based Institute for Historical Review and as the basic postulates of Holocaust denial" (p. 86). In fact, a survey of the more than 50 issues of The Journal of Historical Review published to date reveals only a single article by Dr. App ("The Holocaust Put in Perspective," Vol. 1, no. 1 [Spring 1980]), an obituary tribute to him (Winter 1984, pp. 446-450), and a handful of mentions of his incisive but not always meticulous pamphlets.

It should not be necessary, by the way, to point out that Dr. App, a life-long Catholic who never wrote a word against the republican form of government its founding fathers bequeathed his native America, was by no stretch of the imagination a "fascist," as Lip-stadt terms him (p. 87).

Arthur Butz

Bad as is her work on Rassinier, App, and other precursors of contemporary Holocaust Revisionism such as David Hoggan or "Richard Harwood" (Richard Verrall), Lipstadt's real inadequacies as a scholar begin to shine when at length she attempts to analyze and expose the work of Dr. Arthur R. Butz and the Revisionist scholars who have followed him.

Her tack on Professor Butz and his epoch-making Hoax of the Twentieth-Century is represent Butz as a master of trompe-l'oeil, assuming "a veneer of scholarship and the impression of seriousness and objectivity" (p. 123) to fool the unwary. To that end, she claims, he provided The Hoax with what Lipstadt calls "the hallmarks of scholarly works," that is, "the requisite myriad notes and large bibliography" (p. 124), and criticized the work of earlier Revisionists as well as "German wartime behavior" -- a ploy "that was clearly designed to disarm innocent readers and enhance Butz's aura of scholarly objectivity" (p. 124).

Lipstadt's efforts to unmask Butz's pseudo-scholarly trumpery and hidden "agenda" are vitiated by both her ineptitude and her dishonesty. She bypasses both the central issues of The Hoax and Butz's often complex argumentation to reduce its theses to caricatures. Thus, her chapter makes no reference either to Butz's key (and as yet unanswered) question as to how the mass gassings at the huge, comparatively open, and closely monitored Auschwitz complex could go unnoticed and unreported for more than two years, or to the dual interpretations of German public-health measures at Auschwitz (brilliantly summarized on page 131 of The Hoax). Instead, Lipstadt would rather dog Butz for his appearance at a meeting sponsored by Minister Louis Farrakhan, or for the fact that "his books [sic] are promoted and distributed by the Ku Klux Klan and other [sic] neo-Nazi organizations" (p. 126).

Where Lipstadt does lay hands on what Butz actually writes, she almost invariably misrepresents, misstates, or otherwise garbles his positions. Butz does not argue that "the key to perpetrating the hoax was the forging of massive numbers of documents" (p. 127). As the discerning reader will discover by checking the citation from The Hoax that Lipstadt cites here, Butz in fact wrote of "a fabrication constructed of perjury, forgery, distortion of fact and misrepresentation of documents" (Hoax, p. 173).

Lipstadt similarly badly misconstrues (or misstates) Butz's thesis on why so many postwar German defendants refused to challenge the extermination allegations. The vast majority of them did not "plead guilty" to the Holocaust, as she clearly implies (p. 130). Rather than argue (to their extreme peril in the context of the show-trial hysteria) that it hadn't taken place, the defendants usually argued that they had had nothing to do with it.

Lipstadt is either unable or unwilling to follow Butz when he argues closely. For example, she badly misrepresents his argument regarding Oswald Pohl's testimony at Nuremberg. Butz's point is that it is absurd to imagine that Pohl, the head of the SS agency (the WVHA) that supervised the construction and operation of all the concentration camps, including Auschwitz, would only have learned of the alleged exterminations through a speech of Heinrich Himmler at Posen in October 1943, as Pohl claimed (Hoax, p. 195). Lipstadt is silent regarding this claim, stating only that Pohl testified "that he had heard Himmler deliver his famous 1943 speech to the SS leaders at Posen" (p. 131). Elsewhere she cites the word "ludicrous," with which Butz characterizes Pohl's claim about his first knowledge of the supposed genocide, as evidence of Butz's dismissal of "anything that disagreed with [his] foregone conclusion and the thesis of his book" (p. 124).

This reviewer defies anyone to compare Lipstadt's criticisms of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century with what its author actually writes, both in those passages Lipstadt cites as well as the far more numerous aspects of Butz's book she has chosen to ignore, and come away convinced that the would-be confounder of the deniers has made so much as a dent in his thesis, even where it is perhaps most vulnerable.

Mistakes and Irrelevancies

Aside from the intellectual dishonesty that members of the professional Holocaust orthodoxy share (which can only grow as Revisionist researchers gain access to more evidence), Lipstadt seems to suffer from an intellectual incapacity crippling in a scholar bent upon penetrating veneers and veils of supposedly false scholarship through rigorous criticism. She excels at mistaking a point or fixing on an irrelevancy, then dwelling on it for half a page or more, as when, for example, she taxes Richard Verrall ("Harwood"), author of Did Six Million Really Die?, for quoting Hitler biographer Colin Cross to the effect that "murdering [the Jews] in a time of desperate war emergency was useless from any rational point of view" (pp. 113-114). She reproaches Verrall for the better part of a page for having tried to represent Cross as challenging the "Holocaust." Checking the passage in question (Did Six Million Really Die?, p. 20), reveals no such intent to co-opt Cross.

Then again, the fact that Revisionists have paid close attention to Exterminationist writers, and cited such authors as Raul Hilberg, Gerald Reitlinger, and J.-C. Pressac to bolster their case either by referencing otherwise unobtainable evidence or by employing the valid controversial tactic of admission against interest, brings forth an anguished yelp from our author: "They [the "deniers"] rely on books that directly contradict their arguments, quoting in a manner that completely distorts the authors' objectives (p. 111)." Well, what's sauce for the Gentile goose... but we understand perfectly, Debbie, that you and your colleagues would much prefer that we ignore your works -- and we understand why.


Another tactic (or failing) of Denying the Holocaust, is in the matter, already adverted to, of omission -- omission of all sorts of pertinent facts, arguments, writings, personages, and attainments of Revisionist scholars. Lipstadt seems only half aware of the compass of revisionist research and publication. Her book contains no mention of such key Revisionist authors as Wilhelm Stäglich, Fritz Berg, Carlo Mattogno and Enrique Aynat. And, despite the fact that she makes use of the English translation of Pierre Vidal-Naquet's Assassins of Memory, she omits all reference to world-class Jewish historian Arno Mayer's Why Did the Heavens Not Darken, with its two crushing observations: "Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable" and "There is no denying the many contradictions, ambiguities, and errors in the existing sources."

Lipstadt's understating of the achievements and credentials of Revisionists, despite their availability from the sources she cites, is too frequent to be anything but willful. James Martin, gets mention in a single footnote, which fails to mention his doctorate in history from the University of Michigan, his 25-year academic career, and his authorship of five well-received books and numerous articles: Lipstadt does credit him (p. 44) for being listed as "a contributor to the 1970 Encyclopaedia Britannica." Mark Weber, who studied history at four different universities, including Munich and Indiana University, obtaining a master's degree from the latter, is said (p. 186) only to have been "educated in a Jesuit high school in Portland, Oregon."

When Lipstadt refers (p. 67) to Stephen Pinter's famous letter published in the Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor (June 14, 1959), which challenged the gas chamber and extermination claims, she leaves out all reference to the fact that Pinter served as an attorney for the U.S. War Department during the postwar Dachau trials, and that he based his knowledge of the wartime treatment of the Jews on having "interviewed thousands of Jews, former inmates of concentration camps in Germany and Austria."

Fred Leuchter

Lipstadt's noisiest evocation of the "credentials" issue comes in her assault on the findings of Fred Leuchter regarding the purported gas chambers at Auschwitz. She takes considerable pains to show that: 1) Leuchter has only a B.A. in history; 2) he is not a certified engineer; 3) a Canadian judge deemed him unqualified to "serve as an expert witness on the construction and functioning of the gas chambers" (p. 164); and he is not America's leading authority on execution gas chambers.

Lipstadt presents a melange of truth and fiction to make her case that Leuchter's analysis of the feasibility of execution gassings at Auschwitz, Majdanek and elsewhere may mislead the uninformed or the unwary, but the essential facts and elementary common sense refute her.

Leuchter's formal educational credentials easily exceed those of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, or the Wright brothers; he holds numerous patents for inventions ranging from the first electronic sextant to a color stereo helicopter mapping system to various types of execution hardware (Lipstadt omits all mention of these). Even worse, she flagrantly misstates the truth by writing that Leuchter was not allowed to testify during the Second trial of Ernst Zündel as an expert on execution gas chambers: he certainly was, as the transcript makes perfectly clear.

As to Leuchter's pre-eminence as the American expert on gas chamber design, operation and maintenance, a recent book by journalist Stephen Trombley, The Execution Protocol, makes abundantly clear that Leuchter was all that in abundance, before his career was wrecked thanks to his steadfastness in standing by the conclusions he reached in his widely-circulated 1988 Report. Lipstadt is aware of The Execution Protocol, since she reproaches it for having "resurrected" Leuchter's reputation, but she has no specific criticisms to make of its massive confirmation, coming from an author unsympathetic to capital punishment, of Leuchter's expertise and authority. (Trombley's book also throws light on how Leuchter's ambiguous position as an inventor and technician dedicated to humane execution methods, and an ambitious businessman, made him vulnerable to unfair charges from state officials that his testimony against defective and inhumane equipment and procedures was prompted merely by venality.)

In any case, Lipstadt is unable to shake the most important aspect of the Leuchter affair: that, thanks to the enterprise of Ernst Zündel and the dedication of Robert Faurisson, the first-ever expert forensic examination of whether mass homicidal gassing was feasible in the Auschwitz crematoria, and the first quantitative investigation of the physico-chemical evidence of such gassings, was conducted by a leading, professional, court-certified expert in homicidal gas chambers. Needless to say, she fails to report the existence of three subsequent reports on the alleged homicidal gas chambers of Auschwitz -- carried out by a Polish forensic institute, a German chemist, and an Austrian engineer -- each of which corroborates Leuchter's 1988 report.

Jean-Claude Pressac

Aside from attempting to impugn Leuchter's credentials, Lipstadt makes a feeble effort to uphold the gas chamber myth by invoking the supposed findings and authority of Jean-Claude Pressac, the French pharmacist whose book Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers was published in 1989 by Beate and Serge Klarsfeld. Despite its labored attempts to substantiate the "gas chambers" of Auschwitz by revealing and discussing an unprecedented wealth of documents from Auschwitz, Pressac's book has to date received scant public notice from orthodox Holocaust scholars. It has, rather, been the Revisionists, above all in this Journal, who have analyzed this and other of Pressac's writings -- to the embarrassment of the Exterminationists and to the great profit of historical truth.

Suffice it to say that Lipstadt (pp. 226-228) has merely listed (not always accurately) a few of the 39 allegedly criminal traces which Pressac claims to have discovered from documents relating to the Auschwitz crematoria: a gas-tight door here, a request for gas detectors there, an inventory listing shower heads, and so forth. Readers interested in ascertaining the perfectly banal usages of all these items are advised to turn to the Journal articles by Robert Faurisson (Spring 1991), Paul Grubach (Winter 1992-93), and Arthur Butz (May/June 1993). As for Lipstadt's own gross ignorance of the Auschwitz gas-chamber question, this reviewer is content to cite this sentence from Denying the Holocaust: "The delousing chambers were constructed in the same fashion as the homicidal gas chambers," and refer the reader to The Leuchter Report, Pressac, or any other source for blueprints and photographs he or she may choose.

Dread Portent?

Dr. Lipstadt seems to have begun unraveling in the course of her work on this book. In her preface (pp. vii-viii) she makes less than cryptic references to the growing stress she felt as she strove to confront and expose the increasingly powerful arguments of the Revisionists:

I had constantly to avoid being sucked into a debate that is no debate and an argument that is no argument. It has been a disconcerting and, at times, painful task that would have been impossible without the aid and support of a variety of people. Without them I would never have emerged from this morass.

In her final chapter, entitled "Watching on the Rhine: The Future Course of Holocaust Denial," Debbie becomes completely unglued. After sniffing suspiciously at the work of such orthodox, but dismayingly skeptical, modern German historians as Ernst Nolte, who has recently called for open debate on the gas chambers, and Michael Stürmer, who seems to think that the interpretation of his country's recent past should serve purposes other than a source for Hollywood horror scripts and fundraising gimmicks for the United Jewish Appeal, Lipstadt conjures up the looming horror of a Fourth, Revisionist Reich.

The "deniers," she tells her readers, are really no different from the Ku Klux Klan, the skinheads, the Neo-Nazis: "They hate the same things -- Jews, racial minorities, and democracy -- and have the same objectives, the destruction of truth and memory." And the deniers are cleverer: they don't run around in sheets or Nazi paraphernalia, but "...attempt to project the appearance of being committed to the very values that they in truth adamantly oppose: reason, critical, rules of evidence, and historical distinction. It is this that makes Holocaust denial such a threat."

And just what does this dire threat portend? What final horror threatens Jews, racial minorities, and democracy? Here's how Lipstadt evokes (p. 218) the coming tribulation:

A strategic change will also mark the activities of the racist, neo-Nazi, ultranationalist groups. So easily identifiable by their outer trappings, they will adopt the deniers' tactics, cast off the external attributes that mark them as extremists, and eschew whatever pigeonholes them as neofascists. They will cloak themselves and their arguments in a veneer of reason and in arguments [sic] that sound rational to the American people. The physical terror they perpetrate may cease, but the number of people beguiled by their arguments will grow.

As a portent of the terrors to come, and as a tactic analogous to those of the deniers, Professor Lipstadt cites an attempt by one of the many Klan groupuscules to erect a cross on city property in Cincinnati during Christmas. Horrors!

She's not done yet, however. After considering (p. 219) "the most efficacious strategies for countering these attacks" (she lukewarmly opposes legal censorship because it may turn revisionists into martyrs, and advocates that the population at large be stuffed, like so many Strasbourg geese, with more Holocaust education, museums, etc.), Lipstadt ends (pp. 221-222) with a final, quavering, self-pitying wail (a wail that begs for annotation):

Though we cannot directly engage them [in debate -- as to why not, the reader may decide], there is something we can do. Those who care not just about Jewish history or the history of the Holocaust but about truth in all its forms [comment supererogatory], must function as canaries in the mine [not cuckoos in the clock or bats in the belfry?], to guard against the spread of noxious fumes. ["Gas masks for sale! O-o-o-ld gas masks!"] We must vigilantly stand watch against an increasingly nimble enemy. [Tough work for increasingly sclerotic Holocaustomaniacs!] But unlike the canary, we must not sit silently by waiting to expire so that others will be warned of the danger. ["Good, heavens, Martha, it's raining canaries! What can it mean?"] When we witness assaults on the truth, our response must be strong, though neither polemical or emotional [like your book?] We must educate the broader public and academe about this threat and its historical and ideological roots [Oh, boy! More lavishly funded Chairs of Holocaust Studies!]. We must expose these people for what they are. [Is the ADL about to fold up?]

The effort will not be pleasant. [You can count on that one, Debbie!] Those who take on this task will sometimes feel -- as I often did in the course of writing [Does she mean typing?] this work -- as if they are being forced to prove what they know to be a fact. [What an awful imposition!] Those of us who make scholarship our vocation and avocation dream of spending our time charting new paths, opening new vistas, and offering new perspectives on some aspect of the truth. [Us Revisionists have things so easy! But you're not getting tired of the Holocaust, are you, Debbie? What are you -- some kind of anti-Semite?] We seek to discover, not to defend. [Aww...] We did not train in our respective fields in order to stand like watchmen and watchwomen on the Rhine [100-1 she got this image only second-hand from prune-faced, lying old Stalinist Lillian Hellman, not from hearing the patriotic German song]. Yet this is what we must do. [What dedication!] We do so in order to expose falsehood and hate. ["But we don't l-i-i-ke mirrors!"] We will remain ever vigilant so that the most precious tools of our trade and our society -- truth and reason -- can prevail. The still, small voices of millions cry out to us from the ground demanding that we do no less. [Ugh!]

And with that last emetic cry, the Wicked Witch of the West (or is it the East?) dissolves into an oozing putrescence. Unwilling to confront the Revisionists, unable of answering their arguments, at best a second-rate mistress of the dossier and the exposé, she can only bequeath her formulas and her broom to the smear mongers at the defense agency.

As for Denying the Holocaust, to recall the German philologist Wilamowitz-Möllendorff's famous dismissal of a study of socialism in antiquity, "Dieses Buch existiert nicht für die Wissenschaft" ("This book doesn't exist for scholarship.") In a sane world, it would merit not a review, but an epitaph: "Here lies Deborah Lip-stadt."

Stern's Effort

Kenneth Stern, author of the American Jewish Committee's Holocaust Denial, is described therein as "Program Specialist, Anti-Semitism and Extremism" for that organization. Despite these ominous credentials, and endorsements from Deborah Lipstadt, Shelly Z. Shapiro (who tried to frame Fred Leuchter on orders from Beate Klarsfeld), and the irrepressible Mel Mermelstein, Stern's book is fairer than might be expected.

Why so? After all, his book contains many of the standard slurs and slanders: the IHR is "Carto's lie-tank" (p. 8), "Holocaust denial" is an "enterprise of professional anti-Semites" (p. 9) and "a dogma that provides ideological incentives to feel good about Jew-hatred" (p. 84). Stern relies heavily on slanted information provided by Gerry Gable, editor of the pro-Communist periodical Searchlight, Leonard Zeskind, research director of the Center for Democratic Renewal, and other Marxist flacks, and opines that "even if we do not agree with the complete agenda of the current Europe [sic] organizations that have a mission to fight fascism -- such as some of the mainstream left-wing 'antifascist' groups -- we should be more active in helping them." (p. 97)

Nevertheless, Stern takes Holocaust Revisionism seriously enough to provide nearly fifty pages of appendices with evidence -- from their own mouths and pens -- of Revisionist scholarly and polemical activity, including the full text of Brad Smith's first campus advertisement, "The Holocaust Controversy: The Case for Open Debate"; a complete transcript of Montel Williams's April 30, 1992, television show devoted to Holocaust Revisionism, during which Journal editor Weber and Revisionist filmmaker David Cole easily bested a gaggle of Holocausters, including a couple of survivors; and an 18-page listing of "Holocaust-denying" books, booklets, and pamphlets, and of articles from The Journal of Historical Review that should make even the hardiest true believer shiver at the evident industry and sophistication of the Revisionists.

Like Lipstadt (in her first chapter), Stern offers a world tour of Holocaust Revisionism. His Baedeker is rather more informative than hers, for all his errors, and even this reviewer, inundated as all IHR's editors are by Revisionist news from around the globe, read it with some profit.

Stern takes a stab at refuting selected Revisionist arguments, not very successfully, since he has either dodged major questions in favor of trivial ones ("[Revisionist] Claim: That neither Churchill nor Eisenhower, in their memoirs, mention either gas chambers or a genocide program" [p. 71]), or relied on empty pronouncements from Exterminationist authority figures, such as Professor Yehuda Bauer, who confutes the laws of physics by informing us that "the incinerators at Auschwitz were built to cremate nine corpses per hour" (p. 65), or put his faith, like Lipstadt, in J.-C. Pressac.

All in all, Revisionists will likely experience a warm feeling of satisfaction when they put down Holocaust Denial: we are on the march, and Stern makes clear that he and his fellow professional anti-anti-Semites don't know how to stop us.

ADL Hatchet Job

The second offering from the Jewish "defense agencies" under review is a rather less attractive effort. Hitler's Apologists lumbers along after Lipstadt's and Stern's books, its knuckles grazing already well-worn grooves of innuendo, smear, and what used to be called "guilt by association." Compiled by a cast of professional snoops, this 86-page booklet was edited by Alan Schwartz, who was dropped from the plaintiff's list of expert witnesses after he was mercilessly grilled by Mark Lane in deposition during the second Mermelstein case.

Although the booklet's subtitle, "The Anti-Semitic Propaganda of Holocaust 'Revision-ism'," would seem to indicate a programmatic confrontation with the Revisionist case, the way Hitler's Apologists is organized belies that. Most sections are titled with the names of individual Revisionists, who are pilloried for all manner of associations and linkages, motives and agendas, positions and statements, some of them dating back decades, while their formal arguments are passed over or dismissed with ritualistic slurs.

For example, Mark Weber is falsely described as "a long-time neo-Nazi" (p. 10). (Question: How long does one have to be a "neo-Nazi" before he qualifies as a "paleo-Nazi"?) Bradley Smith, who has been earlier accused of falsifying credentials -- credentials he never claimed! -- by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, is taxed for being the co-director of a "pseudo-academic enterprise, the Committee for Open Debate of the Holocaust" (p. 12), although Smith has never represented CODOH as being in any way academic.

Once the ADL's smear apparatus has been turned on and has sputtered to life, it takes on a demonic existence of its own, like some odd carnival amusement, ultimately repellent whatever its attraction. Amid stomach-turning odors, to the manic burbling of a cranky calliope, the centrifugal pump that is Hitler's Apologists whirls faster and faster, spewing filth and falsehood about Revisionists, great and small, into the faces of the American public. Fred Leuchter! David McCalden! Jack Wikoff! Hans Schmidt! Ernst Zündel! Pat Buchanan! Arno Mayer! Keegstra! Faurisson! Roques! Le Pen! The Germans! Faster and faster! Eastern Europe! Lithuania! The Muslims! Saddam Hussein! The Intifada!

And on and on it spins and stinks, this latest ADL hatchet job, shooting half-truths and lies, irrelevancies and mistakes, to the point where it becomes idle to track down and refute them one by one. A production like this is of a piece -- either one great truth or one great lie. The big lie of Hitler's Apologists -- that all revisionists are simply Nazis -- is wearing ever thinner. Thus the insane energy of the liars and sneaks who basted it together.

Repression and Monopoly

Each of the books under examination here calls for or tolerates continued censorship of Revisionists -- if not through judicial or police measures, then by systematically refusing Revisionists the right of the effective public forum -- media, academia, advertising, and commercial distribution. Only grudgingly conceded is the right to assail the Holocaust hoax from a soapbox in a public park.

This intolerance of debate, this relish for repression, is the reverse of the counterfeit coin whose obverse is the gas chamber lie and the six million myth. Whatever the responsibilities of the wartime propagandists and the postwar survivors, the minters of the false currency of Holocaust history cannot be excused for temporary opportunity, hot-blooded vengeance, or passing confusion. Through their jealously guarded monopoly of historical discussion of the "Holocaust," the Second World War, and ultimately the entire modern era of the West, they mean to silence all dissent, from the rantings of the most repulsive race-baiter to the researches of the most meticulous scholar. And they aim, through their hypostatized Holocaust, to raise their own filthy calumnies -- of the Nazis, the Germans, the Axis, Europe, and ultimately America and the entire West throughout its history -- to an obligatory state cult.

That is why the work of Holocaust Revisionism -- including its sometimes peckish-seeming preoccupation with the innards of what Professor James J. Martin has called "Polish potato cellars," with the efficacy of insecticides, and the meaning of half-century old invoices for light bulbs or showerheads -- must continue. To use a military analogy, it is not enough that our scouts and our reconnaissance troops have won some skirmishes, not enough that General Rassinier's airborne troops have seized a bridgehead, not enough that Field Marshal Butz's panzer army has knifed deep into enemy territory. These victories must be confirmed and consolidated through further research and new findings, while the smallest and meanest of the Holocaust lies must be rooted out of the isolated intellectual bunkers in which they lurk, then destroyed.

Today, no matter how badly beleaguered by state censorship, by physical attacks, by economic pressure, Holocaust Revisionists are on the intellectual offensive. If the books reviewed above can't be much bettered by the Holocaust Lobby, both the lie and the lobby are in danger of definitive refutation and exposure before the decade is out.


This reviewer recalls reading a "scholarly" article -- author, title and source long forgotten -- on the elaborate punctilio that governs the orthography of this term so dear to anti-defamatory bigdomes. "Anti-Semite was eschewed as seeming to indicate a (possibly rational) opposition to "Semitism" and "Semites," whereas the unhyphenated, uncapitalized form points to the unconscious miasmas of unreasoned bigotry that lead "antisemites" to oppose US handouts to Israel, a Holocaust museum on every block, etc. There remain simpler Jewish souls, however, who favor the term "Jew-hater" for such creatures.

From The Journal of Historical Review, November/December 1993 (Vol. 13, No. 6), pages 28-36.

About the author

Theodore J. O'Keefe is an IHR editor. Educated at Harvard, he is the author of numerous published articles and reviews on historical and political subjects.