The Detail

by Robert Faurisson

On the subject of the Nazi gas chambers, Jean-Marie Le Pen recently stated: "If you take a thousand-page book on the Second World War, the concentration camps occupy two pages and the gas chambers ten or fifteen lines, and that's called a detail."

He might have brought up some even harder hitting and more precise arguments, and referred to Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle, Elie Wiesel, René Rémond, Daniel Goldhagen, and even the text of the Nuremberg Tribunal judgment.

Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle

Three of the best known works on the Second World War are General Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe (New York: Doubleday [Country Life Press], 1948), Winston Churchill's The Second World War (London: Cassell, 6 vols., 1948-1954), and the Mémoires de guerre of General de Gaulle (Paris: Plon, 3 vols., 1954-1959). In these three works not the least mention of Nazi gas chambers is to be found.

Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe is a book of 559 pages; the six volumes of Churchill's Second World War total 4,448 pages; and de Gaulle's three-volume Mémoires de guerre is 2,054 pages. In this mass of writing, which altogether totals 7,061 pages (not including the introductory parts), published from 1948 to 1959, one will find no mention either of Nazi "gas chambers," a "genocide" of the Jews, or of "six million" Jewish victims of the war.

Elie Wiesel

The same goes for the autobiographical account, Night (New York: Hill and Wang, 1960), in which Elie Wiesel relates his experience of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Moreover, in the first volume of his memoirs, All Rivers Run to the Sea (New York: Random House/Knopf, 1995, p. 74), he writes, "Let the gas chambers remain closed to prying eyes, and to imagination."

René Rémond

In the third volume of his Introduction à l'histoire de notre temps ("Introduction to the History of Our Times"), René Rémond, who was then president of the commission on the history of the deportation within the Comité d'histoire de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale (Committee on the History of the Second World War), made no mention whatsoever of these gas chambers (Le XXe siècle de 1914 à nos jours ["The 20th Century from 1914 to the Present"], Le Seuil, 1974). Fourteen years later, when he had become president of the Institut d'histoire du temps présent (Institute of Contemporary History), once again he made no mention of them in a 1,013-page work entitled Notre Siècle de 1918 à 1988 ("Our Century from 1916 to 1988," Paris: Fayard, 1988).

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

Since March 1996, the Jewish-American historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has been treated as the darling of the media the world over, thanks to his book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York: Knopf, 1996, xiv-634 pp.). While he does mention Nazi gas chambers, it is for little more than to note that "their efficiency has been greatly overstated" (p. 10), and that they have always been, and wrongly, "the overwhelming focus of popular and even scholarly attention" (p. 165). Goldhagen goes as far as to declare that "gassing was really epiphenomenal to the Germans' slaughter of the Jews" (p. 533, n. 81) and that "the imbalance of attention devoted to the gas chambers needs to be corrected" (p. 535).

The Nuremberg Judgment

France's Fabius-Gayssot law of 1990 specifically forbids the "challenging" or "contesting" of the portions of the judgment of the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg (September 30 and October 1, 1946) relating to "crimes against humanity," including the use of execution gas chambers. But it is noteworthy that, of the 84,000 words of the judgment's text (in the French version), only 520, extremely vague, are devoted to gas chambers. This is 1/160th of the entire text, or 0.62 percent. In other words, 99.38 percent of the judgment does not deal with these gas chambers.

Why Such Reticence?

Why were Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle, Elie Wiesel, René Rémond, Daniel Goldhagen, and the Nuremberg Tribunal so reserved on the subject of the Nazi gas chambers? Of course, revisionists have explanations for this reticence that, however, the Fabius-Gayssot law forbids us to make public in France.

My own explanations, which cannot be published in France without committing a crime, would include the following:

  1. The Nazi extermination gas chambers never existed.
  2. Eisenhower, Churchill, and de Gaulle knew or suspected that their own governments' propaganda about gas chambers was not true. (Thus, on August 30, 1943, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote to Standley, US Ambassador in Moscow: "... there is insufficient evidence to justify the statement regarding execution in gas chambers" [Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers 1943. US Government Printing Office, 1963, vol. 1, p. 416])
  3. Elie Wiesel probably now regrets that he did not mention gas chambers in his autobiographical work, Night.
  4. René Rémond revealed to me in November 1978 that he was "ready to follow [me] on the gas chamber matter."
  5. Goldhagen probably realizes that the gas chamber story is fishy, and, anyway, prefers to insist on killing methods that permit him to accuse millions of Germans of complicity in crimes, rather than emphasize a specific killing method that implies only a handful of German criminals.
  6. The Nuremberg Tribunal judges had nothing substantive to say about the gas chambers because they understood that no investigation had been conducted as to the specifics of the "murder weapon," and because neither the "witnesses" nor former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss had been asked hard specific questions about the gas chambers.

From The Journal of Historical Review, March-April 1998 (Vol. 17, No. 2), pages 19-20.

About the Author

Robert Faurisson is Europe's leading Holocaust revisionist scholar. He was educated at the Paris Sorbonne, and served as a professor at the University of Lyon in France from 1974 until 1990. His writings on the Holocaust issue have appeared in several books and numerous scholarly articles. This essay, less the final section headed "Why Such Reticence?," was published in the New Year's Day, 1998, editions of the French periodicals Rivarol ("Avez-vous des textes?"), and, with some slight modifications, in National Hebdo ("Précisions sur le détail").