Dr. MacDonald's Testimony in the Irving-Lipstadt Trial
An American Professor Responds to a 'Jewish Activist'
On Monday, January 31, 2000, American professor Kevin MacDonald took the stand at an expert witness in the London libel case of David Irving vs. Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books. (Irving, a prominent British historian, had sued Lipstadt, and her British publisher, for hostile statements made about him in her book, Denying the Holocaust. For more on the case, see the Sept.-Dec. 1999 Journal, pp. 16-17, including Irving's Opening Statement in the trial.) MacDonald, the only witness to testify voluntarily on Irving's behalf, was not in the stand for long because the defense declined to question him on cross-examination.
Not surprisingly, MacDonald quickly came under fire for his testimony in the case. In addition to carping from the Jewish weekly Forward and the influential German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, probably the most detailed and vehement broadside came from Judith Shulevitz in the online magazine Slate.
Here is the text of Prof. MacDonald's statement on his trial testimony, submitted to the court before his appearance, and then considerably revised and expanded for public distribution. It is adapted slightly for publication here. Following that is "My Decision to Testify for Irving," which is excerpted from a statement MacDonald posted online in response to criticisms of his decision to testify.
-- The Editor
Statement on Trial Testimony
Irving in the Context of Jewish Intellectual and Political Activism
I am not a historian. Although the history of Judaism is important to my work, I can offer no expert opinion on the work of David Irving except to the extent that I have noted that his work has been favorably reviewed by a considerable number of academic experts on World War II, including Gordon Craig, A. J. P. Taylor, and Hugh Trevor-Roper.
I believe that my background as an evolutionary psychologist and my research into Jewish-gentile relations equips me to describe to the court some competitive features of those relations. Anti-Jewish tactics are widely known, and it is widely accepted that active anti-Semites have and still do exist. But competitive behavior on the part of Jewish organizations is not as widely known. In my research I have reviewed the writings and activities of both Jews and their opponents, and I think I can help place the actions of Dr. Lipstadt and some Jewish organizations against Mr. Irving into a wider context.
The main point of my testimony is that the attacks made on David Irving by Deborah Lipstadt and Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) should be viewed in the long-term context of Jewish-gentile interactions. As indicated by the summaries of my books, my training as an evolutionist as well as the evidence compiled by historians leads me to conceptualize Judaism as self-interested groups whose interests often conflict with segments of the gentile community. Anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior have been a pervasive feature of the Jewish experience since the beginnings of the Diaspora well over 2000 years ago. While anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior have undoubtedly often been colored by myths and fantasies about Jews, there is a great deal of anti-Jewish writing that reflects, just as an evolutionist would expect, the reality of between-group competition. Particularly important have been the themes of separatism: (1) Jewish groups have typically existed as recognizably distinct groups, and have been unwilling to assimilate either culturally or through marriage; (2) the theme of economic, political, and cultural domination; (3) the theme of disloyalty.
Because anti-Jewish attitudes and behavior have been such a common response to Jews as a Diaspora group, Jewish groups have developed a wide variety of strategies to cope with their enemies. Separation and Its Discontents discusses a great many of these strategies, including a very long history of apologia dating to the ancient world. In the last century there have been a great many intellectual activities, most notably many examples of Jewish historiography which present Jews and Judaism in a positive light and their enemies in a negative light, often with little regard for historical accuracy.
Most importantly for the situation of David Irving, Jewish groups have engaged in a wide range of political activities to further their interests. In general, Jews have been active agents rather than passive martyrs; they have been highly flexible strategists in the political arena. The effectiveness of Jewish strategizing has been facilitated by several key features of Judaism as group evolutionary strategy -- particularly that the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is at least one standard deviation above the Caucasian mean. In all historical eras, Jews as a group have been highly organized, highly intelligent, and politically astute, and they have been able to command a high level of financial, political, and intellectual resources in pursuing their group goals.
For example, Jews engaged in a very wide range of activities to combat anti-Semitism in Germany in the period from 1870 to 1914, including the formation of self-defense committees, lobbying the government, utilizing and influencing the legal system (for example, taking advantage of libel and slander laws to force anti-Jewish organizations into bankruptcy), writing apologias and tracts for distribution to the masses of gentile Germans, and funding organizations opposed to anti-Semitism composed mainly of sympathetic gentiles. Jewish organizations commissioned writings in opposition to "scientific anti-Semitism," as exemplified by academically respectable publications that portrayed Judaism in negative terms. Academic works were monitored for such material, and Jewish organizations sometimes succeeded in banning offending books and getting publishers to alter offensive passages. The result was to render such ideas academically and intellectually disreputable. (See: R.S. Levy, The Downfall of the Anti-Semitic Political Parties in Imperial Germany , and, S. Ragins, Jewish Responses to Anti-Semitism in Germany .)
Jewish organizations have used their power to make the discussion of Jewish interests off limits. Individuals who have made remarks critical of Jews have been forced to make public apologies and suffered professional difficulties as a result. Quite often the opinions in question are quite reasonable -- statements that are empirically verifiable, and the sort of thing that may permissibly be said about other groups or members of other groups.
The main point of my testimony is to discuss Mr. Irving's difficulties which he argues have been brought about by Jewish organizations and with the defendant, Deborah Lipstadt who has contributed to the effort to ban Mr. Irving from publishing his work with reputable publishers. This is a major part of Irving's complaint. As evidence I call your attention to Lipstadt's comments, quoted in The Washington Post of April 3, 1996:
In the Passover Haggadah, it says in every generation there are those who rise up to destroy us. David Irving is not physically destroying us, but is trying to destroy the memory of those who have already perished at the hands of tyrants.
They say they don't publish reputations, they publish books ... But would they publish a book by Jeffrey Dahmer on man-boy relationships? Of course the reputation of the author counts. And no legitimate historian takes David Irving's work seriously.
These remarks were made in reaction to the decision by St. Martin's Press to cancel publication of Irving's book, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich, and were clearly intended to support that decision. Irving himself decided to sue Lipstadt only after St. Martin's Press had rescinded publication of the book, and only after Lipstadt's public support for that decision. (See D. D. Guttenplan, "The Holocaust on Trial," The Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 2000, p. 53.)
Moreover, as Mr. Irving noted in his Opening Statement [Sept.-Dec. 1999 Journal, pp. 16-35], the intense pressure brought to bear by certain Jewish groups against him goes far beyond preventing publishers from issuing his work. Mr. Irving has been prevented from traveling to certain countries, his speaking engagements have been disrupted and canceled, his contracts with other publishers have been voided, and he has been subjected to physical intimidation.
While David Irving has to my knowledge been a target of these organizations far more than any other author, Jewish organizations in the United States, and particularly the Anti-Defamation League, have also attempted to censor books critical of Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in the US. These books include Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out (L. Wilcox, 1996, p. 82), dealing with the activities of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, Victor Ostrovsky's By Way of Deception which deals with Israeli intelligence operations, including recruitment of Jews in foreign lands to act as spies for Israel, and Assault on the Liberty by James Ennes on the role of Israel in the attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war (recounted in They Dare to Speak Out by Paul Findley). For example, an ADL official claimed that Findley's book "is a work of Holocaust revisionism seeking to spread the claim that the Nazi slaughter of Jews was a hoax," although in fact it made no such claim (L. Wilcox, 1996, p. 82). The ADL is also actively trying to censor the internet (Boston Globe, March 25, 1999).
Moreover, the ADL has flouted the law by engaging in "espionage, disinformation and destabilization operations, not only against neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen, but against leftist and progressive groups as well." These activities include illegal penetration of confidential police files in San Francisco and elsewhere. (This story broke in early 1993. See: L. Wilcox, Crying Wolf, 1996, p. 7.)
Another example of behavior by Jewish organizations that tends to chill free expression involved the Canadian teacher Luba Fedorkiw. Running for the Canadian Parliament in 1984, she "discovered to her utter amazement that B'nai B'rith Canada ... had circulated an internal memo which accused her of 'Jew-baiting!'" (L. Wilcox, 1996, pp. 81-82). The allegation was repeated in the Winnipeg Sun along with the assertion that she was being investigated by B'nai B'rith on suspicion of anti-Semitism. The resulting defamation cost her the election to David Orlikow, and subjected her to malicious harassment. According to Ms. Fedorkiw, when the investigation was publicized, she received obscene and harassing telephone calls, a swastika was spray-painted on her campaign office, and a number of her political supporters withdrew their backing. She sued for libel and won a $400,000 judgment on the basis that a claim that she had said her opponent was "controlled by the Jews" was not true.
In my book, Separation and Its Discontents, I discuss several other examples of Jewish activism aimed at suppressing criticism of Jews, Judaism, or Israel. Media critic William Cash, writing in the British magazine The Spectator (Oct. 29, 1994), described the Jewish media elite as "culturally nihilist," suggesting that he believed Jewish media influence reflects a Jewish lack of concern for traditional cultural values. Kevin Myers, a columnist for the British Sunday Telegraph (Jan. 5, 1997), wrote that
we should really be able to discuss Jews and their Jewishness, their virtues or their vices, as one can any other identifiable group, without being called anti-Semitic. Frankness does not feed anti-Semitism; secrecy, however, does. The silence of sympathetic discretion can easily be misunderstood as a conspiracy. It is time to be frank about Jews.
Myers went on to note that The Spectator was accused of anti-Semitism when it published the 1994 article by William Cash (mentioned above). Myers emphasized the point that Cash's offense was that he had written that the cultural leaders of the United States were Jews whose Jewishness had effectively been beyond public discussion.
Cash wrote that there is a double standard operating, by which a Jewish writer like Neal Gabler may refer to a "Jewish cabal," while his own use of the phrase is described as anti-Semitic. He also noted that while movies regularly present negative, stereotyped portrayals of other ethnic groups, Cash's description of Jews as "fiercely competitive" was regarded as anti-Semitic. As another example, actor Marlon Brando repeated in 1996 statements (originally made in 1979) on a nationally televised interview program to the effect that "Hollywood is run by Jews. It's owned by Jews." The focus of the complaint was that Hollywood regularly portrays negative stereotypes of other ethnic groups but not of Jews. Brando's remarks were viewed as anti-Semitic by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) and the Jewish Defense League (Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1996, p. F4).
These claims regarding the Jewish role in Hollywood are empirically verifiable, but the response of major Jewish organizations has been to label such claims "anti-Semitic," and to try to ruin the careers of those who make them. Both Cash and Brando apologized for their remarks and, as part of their public contrition, visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles (Forward, April 26, 1996). (Cash's apology came some two years after publication of his remarks.) The Forward article suggests that Cash has had trouble publishing his work in the wake of the incident. Moreover, the same Forward issue reported that the publisher of Cash's comments, Dominic Lawson, editor of the London Spectator, was prevented from publishing an article on the birth of his Down Syndrome daughter in The New Republic when Martin Peretz, the owner, and Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor, complained about Lawson's publishing of Cash's article. There is abundant evidence that Peretz strongly identifies as a Jew, and that he has an unabashed policy of slanting his journal toward positions favorable to Israel.
Noam Chomsky, the famous MIT linguist, describes (in his 1988 book, Language and Politics, pp. 642-3), his own, similar experience with the ADL:
In the United States a rather effective system of intimidation has been developed to silence critique ... Take the Anti-Defamation League... It's actually an organization devoted to trying to defame and intimidate and silence people who criticize current Israeli policies, whatever they may be. For example, I myself, through a leak in the new England office of the Anti-Defamation League, was able to obtain a copy of my file there. It's 150 pages, just like an FBI file, [consisting of] interoffice memos warning that I'm going to show up here and there, surveillance of talks that I give, comments and alleged transcripts of talks ... [T]his material has been circulated [and] ... would be sent to some local group which would use it to extract defamatory material which would then be circulated, usually in unsigned pamphlets outside the place where I'd be speaking ... If there's any comment in the press which they regard as insufficiently subservient to the party line, there'll be a flood of letters, delegations, protests, threats to withdraw advertising, etc. The politicians of course are directly subjected to this, and they are also subjected to substantial financial penalties if they don't go along... This totally one-sided pressure and this, by now, very effective system of vilification, lying, defamation, and judicious use of funds in the political system ... has created a highly biased approach to the whole matter.
Consider also the comments (from a 1995 essay) of columnist Joseph Sobran, who was forced out of his position as senior editor at National Review for remarks critical of Israel:
The full story of [Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential] campaign is impossible to tell as long as it's taboo to discuss Jewish interests as freely as we discuss those of the Christian Right. Talking about American politics without mentioning the Jews is a little like talking about the NBA without mentioning the Chicago Bulls. Not that the Jews are all-powerful, let alone all bad. But they are successful, and therefore powerful enough: and their power is unique in being off-limits to normal criticism even when it's highly visible. They themselves behave as if their success were a guilty secret, and they panic, and resort to accusations, as soon as the subject is raised. Jewish control of the major media in the media age makes the enforced silence both paradoxical and paralyzing. Survival in public life requires that you know all about it, but never refer to it. A hypocritical etiquette forces us to pretend that the Jews are powerless victims; and if you don't respect their victimhood, they'll destroy you. It's a phenomenal display not of wickedness, really, but of fierce ethnocentrism, a sort of furtive racial superpatriotism.
Deborah Lipstadt as a Jewish Activist
I regard Deborah Lipstadt more as an ethnic activist than a scholar. It is highly significant that Lipstadt's book Denying the Holocaust was written with extensive aid from various Jewish activist organizations, including the ADL. Lipstadt's book was commissioned and published by The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism [sic] of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In her acknowledgments, she credits the research department of the ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Institute for Jewish Affairs (London), the Canadian Jewish Congress, and the American Jewish Committee -- all activist organizations.
Lipstadt is the Chair of the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University. Historian Jacob Katz finds that academic departments of Jewish studies are often linked to Jewish nationalism: "The inhibitions of traditionalism, on the one hand, and a tendency toward apologetics, on the other, can function as deterrents to scholarly objectivity." The work of Jewish historians, he continues, exhibits "a defensiveness that continues to haunt so much of contemporary Jewish activity" (J. Katz, 1986, pp. 84-85).
Similarly the preeminent scholar of the Jewish religion, Jacob Neusner, notes that "scholars drawn to the subject by ethnic affiliation -- Jews studying and teaching Jewish things to Jews -- turn themselves into ethnic cheer-leaders. The Jewish Studies classroom is a place where Jews tell Jews why they should be Jewish (stressing "the Holocaust" as a powerful reason) or rehearse the self-evident virtue of being Jewish." (Times Literary Supplement, March 5, 1999).
Perhaps the best expression of Lipstadt's activism is in her work as Senior Editorial Contributor of the Jewish Spectator, a periodical for conservative, religiously observant Jews. Her column, "Tomer Devorah" (Hebrew: "Under Deborah's Palm Tree"), appears in every issue, and touches on a wide range of Jewish issues, including anti-Semitism, relations among Jews, and interpreting religious holidays. In her column she has advocated greater understanding and usage of Hebrew to promote Jewish identification, and, like many Jewish ethnic activists, she is strongly opposed to intermarriage. "We must say to young people 'intermarriage is something that poses a dire threat to the future of the Jewish community'." She also writes that Conservative Rabbi Jack Moline was "very brave" for saying that number one on a list of ten things Jewish parents should say to their children is "I expect you to marry a Jew." Lipstadt suggests a number of strategies to prevent intermarriage, including trips to Israel for teenagers and subsidizing tuition at Jewish day schools. (Jewish Spectator, Fall 1991, p. 63).
In his recent book, The Holocaust in American Life, Peter Novick clearly thinks of Lipstadt as an activist, although not as extreme as some. He repeatedly cites her as an example of a Holocaust propagandizer. He notes that in her book Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-1945, Lipstadt says Allied Policy "bordered on complicity" motivated by "deep antipathy" toward "contemptible Jews." Novick says (p. 48) that while there is no scholarly consensus on the subject, "most professional historians agree that "the comfortable morality tale... is simply bad history: estimates of the number of those who might have been saved have been greatly inflated, and the moralistic version ignores real constraints at the time." Also, Novick goes on to note (p. 65), Lipstadt attributes the failure of the American press to emphasize Jewish suffering as motivated by "willful blindness, the result of inexcusable ignorance -- or malice," despite the fact that the concentration camp survivors encountered by Western journalists (Dachau, Buchenwald) were 80 percent non-Jewish.
Lipstadt is described (Novick, 1999, p. 229) as an implacable pursuer of Nazi war criminals, stating that she would "prosecute them if they had to be wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher." In a discussion of the well-recognized unreliability of eye-witness testimony, Novick writes: "When evidence emerged that one Holocaust memoir [Fragments, by Binjamin Wilkomirski], highly praised for its authenticity, might have been completely invented, Deborah Lipstadt, who used the memoir in her teaching of the Holocaust, acknowledged that if this turned out to be the case, it 'might complicate matters somewhat,' but insisted that it would still be 'powerful as a novel'." [See: "Holocaust Memoir Exposed as Fraud," Sept.-Oct. 1998 Journal, pp. 15-16.] Truth is less important than the effectiveness of the message.
The intrusion of ethnocentrism into historical scholarship is a well-recognized problem in Jewish historiography, discussed at length in Separation and Its Discontents. Historians such as Jacob Katz (1986) and Albert Lindemann (1997) have noted that this type of behavior is commonplace in Jewish historiography. A central theme of Katz's analysis -- massively corroborated by Albert Lindemann's recent work, Esau's Tears -- is that historians of Judaism have often falsely portrayed the beliefs of gentiles as irrational fantasies while portraying the behavior of Jews as irrelevant to anti-Semitism. To quote the well-known political scientist Michael Walzer: "Living so long in exile and so often in danger, we have cultivated a defensive and apologetic account, a censored story, of Jewish religion and culture" (Walzer, 1994, p. 6).
The salient point for me is that Jewish historians who have been reasonably accused of bringing an ethnocentric bias to their writing nevertheless are able to publish their work with prestigious mainstream academic and commercial publishers, and they often obtain jobs at prestigious academic institutions. A good example is Daniel Goldhagen. In his written submission to the court on behalf of Deborah Lipstadt, historian Richard Evans describes Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, as a book that argues
in a crude and dogmatic fashion that virtually all Germans had been murderous antisemites since the Middle Ages, had been longing to exterminate the Jews for decades before Hitler came to power, and actively enjoyed participating in the extermination when it began. The book has since been exposed as a tissue of misrepresentation and misinterpretation, written in shocking ignorance of the huge historical literature on the topic and making numerous elementary mistakes in its interpretation of the documents.
These are exactly the types of accusations that Lipstadt levels at Irving. Yet Goldhagen maintains a position at Harvard university, he is lionized in many quarters, and his work has been massively promoted in the media -- while his critics have come under pressure from Jewish activist organizations. (See: D.D. Guttenplan in The Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 2000)
In this regard, historian Ruth Bettina Birn comments -- in an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel (Nov. 17, 1997) -- on the "unparalleled campaign since 1995 to promote the Goldhagen book. A literary first effort becomes a world sensation, and immediately the newspapers start hinting that there's a Harvard professorship waiting for the views his book propagates." She also comments on "the attempts to stifle the criticism voiced by me and [her co-author, Norman] Finkelstein," including efforts to pressure her publisher to rescind publication of a book critical of Goldhagen. The contrast between the treatment of Goldhagen and the persecution of David Irving speaks volumes.
Because I am not a historian, I am reluctant to pass judgment on the competence and integrity of Mr. Irving as a historian. However, as indicated by my written statement to the court, I have taken notice of the fact that some well-known historians have praised his work, and have been dismayed at the efforts to censor him -- that it is simply false that, as Lipstadt claims, "no legitimate historian takes David Irving's work seriously." Indeed, based on my own reading of Irving, I would venture the opinion that whatever the faults of books like Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich or Hitler's War in dealing with certain issues, such as the role of Hitler in the Holocaust, there is no question in my mind that any student of World War II would benefit from reading this work -- that, quite simply, it is an indispensable resource for scholars.
What I find deeply distressing as a scholar is that the pressure on St. Martin's Press exerted by Lipstadt and Jewish organizations like the ADL occurred independently of the content of the volume. The same Washington Post article referred to earlier (April 3, 1996) in quoting Lipstadt's support for the actions of St. Martin's Press noted that several other companies had rejected the manuscript without having read it. The effort to pressure St. Martin's press was spearheaded by Jewish ethnic activist organizations and by newspaper columnists, such as Frank Rich of the New York Times [especially his April 3, 1996, column], who are not professional historians, and by people like Deborah Lipstadt who do not have the expertise to evaluate a manuscript on Goebbels. In other words, the effort occurred independently of the analytic content of the manuscript and was therefore an illegitimate intrusion on free speech.
Therefore, even if the court comes to believe that the scholarly objections raised, for example, in Richard Evans's report are valid, the fact remains that this book was rescinded because of who Irving is -- because his ideology conflicts with that of some Jewish activist organizations, not because of its scholarship. I find that utterly appalling.
Besides promoting Goldhagen and attempting to censor his opponents, the ADL has also condemned responsible scholarship that deviates from its version of the Holocaust. The ADL condemned Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem as an "evil book", presumably because, as Peter Novick notes (p. 137), her depiction of Eichmann "could be read as trivializing the Israeli accomplishment and undermining the claim that he was an appropriate symbol of eternal anti-Semitism." Similarly, the ADL included Arno Mayer, author of Why Did the Heavens Not Darken, as a "Hitler apologist" because of his view that Hitler was motivated more by anti-Bolshevism than anti-Semitism. The ADL claimed that Mayer's was an example of "legitimate scholarship which relativizes the genocide of the Jews." Clearly Holocaust scholarship has been politicized to the point that there are received dogmas whose truth is jealously defended by Jewish activist organizations.
Lipstadt and the Uniqueness of the Holocaust
One such politicized dogma is that the Holocaust is unique. In his 1995 book, Why Should Jews Survive?, (p. 48), Jewish scholar and rabbi Michael Goldberg writes:
Civil Judaism's belief in the Holocaust's uniqueness as being ultimately significant per se ... thus epitomizes the type of belief for which religious faith is both famous and infamous -- a dogma. And like all such dogmatic beliefs, the more it is challenged, the fiercer the faithful become in its defense. For them, the first of the Ten Commandments has been revised [quoting Lapote, p. 56]: "The Holocaust is a jealous God; thou shalt draw no parallels to it."
American Jewish scholar Peter Novick (p. 195) similarly writes:
The most commonly expressed grievance was the use of the words "Holocaust" and "genocide" to describe other catastrophes. This sense of grievance was rooted in the conviction, axiomatic in at least "official" Jewish discourse, that the Holocaust was unique. Since Jews recognized the Holocaust's uniqueness -- that it was "incomparable," beyond any analogy -- they had no occasion to compete with others; there could be no contest over the incontestable.
As Novick notes, one can always find ways in which any historical event is unique. However, in Lipstadt's eyes, any comparison of the Holocaust with other genocidal actions is not only factually wrong but also morally impermissible, and therefore an appropriate target of censorship. Lipstadt clearly places herself among those who would not merely criticize, but censor scholarship that places the Holocaust in a comparative framework -- that is, scholarship that questions the uniqueness of the Holocaust (Novick, 1999, pp. 196, 259).
Novick (p. 330, n. 107) quotes Lipstadt as follows: Denial of the uniqueness of the Holocaust is "far more insidious than outright denial. It nurtures and is nurtured by Holocaust-denial." In Denying the Holocaust (p. 211), Lipstadt castigates Ernst Nolte and other historians who have "compared the Holocaust to a variety of other 20th-century outrages, including the Armenian massacres that began in 1915, Stalin's gulags, US policies in Vietnam, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and the Pol Pot atrocities in the former Kampuchea." Lipstadt calls these "historians' attempt[s] to create such immoral equivalencies." In the section on the uniqueness of the Holocaust, she cites (p. 212) approvingly the claim that "the Nazis' annihilation of the Jews... was 'a gratuitous [that is, without cause or justification] act carried out by a prosperous, advanced industrial nation at the height of its power'." (The inner quote here is from In Hitler's Shadow, a book by Richard Evans, who was also an expert witness for Lipstadt in the Irving-Lipstadt trial.)
While there are different meanings one might attribute to this statement by Evans, I take it as an attempt to make the actions of the Nazis completely independent of the behavior of Jews. In my view, such a position is untenable, and is part of a common tendency among Jewish historians of Judaism to ignore, minimize, or rationalize the role of Jewish behavior in producing anti-Semitism. This is a major theme of my book, Separation and Its Discontents.
From my perspective as an evolutionist, bloody and violent ethnic conflict has been a recurrent theme throughout history. The attempt to say that the Holocaust is unique is an attempt to remove it from the sphere of scholarly research, interpretation and debate, and instead remove it to the realm of religious dogma, much as the resurrection of Jesus is an article of faith for Christians. By accepting the type of censorship promoted by Lipstadt's writings, we are literally entering a new period of the Inquisition wherein religious dogma rather than open scientific debate is the criterion of truth.
Peter Novick presents (pp. 211-212) much interesting material on the political campaign for the uniqueness of the Holocaust. In the same discussion in where he comments on Lipstadt's statements on the uniqueness of the Holocaust, he notes Elie Wiesel's idea of the Holocaust
as a sacred mystery, whose secrets were confined to a priesthood of survivors. In a diffuse way, however, the assertion that the Holocaust was a holy event that resisted profane representation, that it was uniquely inaccessible to explanation or understanding, that survivors had privileged interpretive authority -- all these themes [have] continued to resonate.
Novick also describes a massive campaign to make the Holocaust a specifically Jewish event, and to play down the victim status of other groups. To speak of 11 million victims, Novick writes (p. 219),
was clearly unacceptable to [Elie] Wiesel and others for whom the "big truth" about the Holocaust was its Jewish specificity. They responded to the expansion of the victims of the Holocaust to eleven million the way devout Christians would respond to the expansion of the victims of the Crucifixion to three -- the Son of God and two thieves. Wiesel's forces mobilized, both inside and outside the Holocaust Council, to ensure that, despite the executive order, their definition would prevail. Though Jewish survivors of the Holocaust had no role in the initiative that created the museum, they came, under the leadership of Wiesel, to dominate the council -- morally, if not numerically. When one survivor, Sigmund Strochlitz, was sworn in as a Council member, he announced that it was "unreasonable and inappropriate to ask survivors to share the term Holocaust ... to equate our suffering ... with others." At one Council meeting, another survivor, Kalman Sultanik, was asked whether Daniel Trocme, murdered at Majdanek for rescuing Jews and honored at Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile, could be remembered in the museum's Hall of Remembrance. "No," said Sultanik, because "he didn't die as a Jew ... The six million Jews ... died differently."
Jewish activists have insisted on the "incomprehensibility and inexplicability of the Holocaust," Novick writes (p. 178). He continues (p. 200):
Even many observant Jews are often willing to discuss the founding myths of Judaism naturalistically -- subject them to rational, scholarly analysis. But they're unwilling to adopt this mode of thought when it comes to the "inexplicable mystery" of the Holocaust, where rational analysis is seen as inappropriate or sacrilegious.
Elie Wiesel "sees the Holocaust as 'equal to the revelation at Sinai' in its religious significance; attempts to 'desanctify' or 'demystify' the Holocaust are, he says, a subtle form of anti-Semitism" (Novick, p. 201). A 1998 survey showed that Jews regarded "remembrance of the Holocaust" as "extremely important" or "very important" to Jewish identity -- far more often than synagogue attendance, travel to Israel, or anything else.
Reflecting this insistence on the uniqueness of the Holocaust, Jewish organizations and Israeli diplomats cooperated to block the US Congress from commemorating the Armenian genocide. "Since Jews recognized the Holocaust's uniqueness -- that it was 'incomparable,' beyond any analogy -- they had no occasion to compete with others; there could be no contest over the incontestable." Abraham Foxman, head of the ADL, has written that Holocaust is "not simply one example of genocide but a near successful attempt on the life of God's chosen children and, thus, on God himself" (Novick, pp. 195, 199).
Novick also shows how the Holocaust successfully serves Jewish political interests. As he points out (p. 155), the Holocaust was originally promoted to rally support for Israel following the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars:
Jewish organizations ... [portrayed] Israel's difficulties as stemming from the world's having forgotten the Holocaust. The Holocaust framework allowed one to put aside as irrelevant any legitimate ground for criticizing Israel, to avoid even considering the possibility that the rights and wrongs were complex.
As the military threat to Israel subsided, the Holocaust was promoted as the main source of Jewish identity, and as part of the effort to combat assimilation and intermarriage among Jews. It was also promoted among gentiles as an antidote to anti-Semitism. In recent years this campaign has involved a large scale educational effort (including mandated courses in the public schools of several states) spearheaded by Jewish organizations and manned by thousands of Holocaust professionals aimed at conveying the lesson that "tolerance and diversity [are] good; hate [is] bad, the overall rubric [is] 'man's inhumanity to man'" (Novick, pp. 258-259). The Holocaust has thus become an instrument of Jewish ethnic interests as a symbol intended to create moral revulsion at violence directed at minority ethnic groups -- prototypically the Jews.
A Plea for Tolerance of Heterodoxy
Irving, like many historians, may indeed see events through a filter of personal political and intellectual convictions, and this may even lead him, perhaps unconsciously, to interpret his data in a particular way. This is a commonly acknowledged difficulty that afflicts all of the social sciences, and Jewish social scientists have certainly not been immune from these tendencies. I have already commented on the many examples of clear apologetic tendencies by Jewish historians in writing about Jewish history -- tendencies to view the Jewish in-group in a favorable manner, and to pathologize anti-Semitism as irrational and completely unrelated to the actual behavior of Jews. These works have been published by the most prestigious academic and commercial presses.
It is noteworthy that among the examples of biased historical research cited by Albert Lindemann in his study Esau's Tears, he includes the work of Jewish Holocaust historians Lucy Dawidowicz and Daniel J. Goldhagen -- a clear indication that the area of Holocaust studies remains politically charged. Moreover, in The Culture of Critique I describe several highly influential intellectual movements (Boasian anthropology, Freudian psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School of Social Research) that presented themselves as science but were strongly influenced the Jewish ethnic agendas of their founders, particularly combating anti-Semitism.
Intellectual blinders and political agendas are a fact of academic life. However, even were it to be proved that David Irving does indeed bring a certain set of biases to his work, even the most biased researchers may well contribute invaluable scholarship. Science emerges when the work of all investigators becomes part of the marketplace of ideas and when scholars are not vilified and their scholarship censored simply because their conclusions fly in the face of contemporary orthodoxy.
My Decision to Testify for Irving
The decision to testify for David Irving was an agonizing one for me, and I want to make clear exactly why I did so. Irving approached me to testify in the trial because I had included the suppression of his Goebbels biography as an example of Jewish tactics for combating anti-Semitism in Separation and Its Discontents. Actually the suppression of Irving goes far beyond what I included in my book. Irving has been prevented from publishing his original archival research, from traveling to several countries, and even from giving lectures.
The second defendant in the case, Deborah Lipstadt, has contributed to this effort at censorship. My statement to the court and my entire testimony in court involved this issue, not the Holocaust or the culpability of Hitler. Irving's book on Goebbels was rescinded by St. Martin's Press not because of its scientific merit. (It had passed their review process.) The effort to pressure St. Martin's press was spearheaded by certain Jewish ethnic activist organizations, especially the Anti-Defamation League, and by newspaper columnists, such as Frank Rich of The New York Times ...
This is part of a pattern in which certain Jewish activist organizations have attempted to prevent the publication of writings conflicting with their constructions of reality, including books critical of Israel (see L. Wilcox, 1996, and, Separation and Its Discontents, Chaps. 2 and 6), and they have condemned books, such as those by Hannah Arendt, Arno Mayer, and even Raul Hilberg, that take disapproved positions on certain aspects of the Holocaust (see D.D. Guttenplan in The Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 2000). I am completely unpersuaded by the argument that free speech issues only relate to government actions, not private corporations like St. Martin's Press. Killing books by private organizations, while not government censorship, is blacklisting. This is exactly what McCarthyite groups did during the anti-Communist hysteria following World War II.
Despite the fact that David Irving contacted me because I had discussed the suppression of his book, I continued to be concerned that this issue might not really be central to Irving's case, and that my purported expertise on Judaism might be irrelevant. The link to the case was that Deborah Lipstadt had joined the effort at suppression despite her lack of scholarly expertise on Goebbels.
In the trial, the defense argued that my testimony was irrelevant, and the judge at first seemed to agree. However, he changed his mind when the link with Lipstadt was made clear. Irving's complaint goes beyond simple libel against him to the assertion of an organized campaign of suppression. Evolutionary theory did not enter into my testimony, and it only entered my written statement to the court in a general way -- that I saw in Jewish-gentile relations examples of competition between ethnic groups.
David Irving is in many ways not an ideal person. There is no doubt in my mind that he has strongly held political views -- although the extent to which this is a reaction to his demonization by Jewish activist organizations is at least open to conjecture. Whenever a person has strong political views, it is reasonable to assume that these views may color one's perception of reality. Since I am not a professional historian, I am in no position to judge the validity of his archival research. I am very impressed by the fact that Irving is a recognized expert on certain aspects of World War II -- recognized by several noted authorities, none of whom are Holocaust deniers or revisionists, for having made original contributions to knowledge in the field. These include Gordon Craig, A. J. P. Taylor, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and John Keegan.
I also felt that Lipstadt exaggerated the extent to which Irving denied the Holocaust, since there are many places in his writings where Irving describes Nazis engaged in organized killing of Jews. I was also swayed by my knowledge that Irving's Goebbels biography had received a positive but critical review in The New York Review of Books (Sept. 19, 1996) by Stanford historian Gordon Craig, who cautioned against censoring people like Irving. And finally, after having read Goebbels myself, I decided that, whatever faults a close analysis might reveal, it was highly informative on many points -- an indispensable source of information on the man and the period. Obviously I would not trust only my own feelings on this issue, but I had satisfied myself that this is indeed a major contribution to the field.
I was also swayed by finding that Lipstadt is a Jewish ethnic activist whose own writings have been criticized by a well-recognized historian as exaggerating the role of anti-Semitism in the Western response to the Holocaust during World War II. Lipstadt is thus part of a pattern discussed extensively in Separation and Its Discontents, in which Jewish historians engage in ethnocentric interpretations of history.
I should mention that after I agreed to testify on behalf of Irving, I was horrified to read the report about Irving written by Cambridge University historian Richard Evans and several research associates. This massive report, written on behalf of the defense, is a scathing summary of alleged misrepresentations and misinterpretations by Irving spanning his entire career. I expressed my reservations to Irving and he assured me that he would be able to defend himself against these allegations. In his reply, he stated that "I have a clean conscience, but I am not sure how to bring that across," and then provided me with several detailed examples where the Evans report misrepresented his writings. As a result, I felt that he was playing by the rules of scholarly discourse.
Moreover, as indicated above, I was also aware of many examples in which the historiography of Jewish history has been influenced by the ethnic agendas of Jewish writers -- I devoted an entire chapter to this sort of thing. Goldhagen is only the tip of a very large iceberg. I reasoned that even if the Evans report was correct, these facts could not have been known by Lipstadt when she made her claims against Irving, and in any case she went way too far when she asserted that "no legitimate historian takes David Irving seriously" and when she claimed that he was not a historian at all. Finally, I developed a reason to distrust Richard Evans after reading sections of his book, In Hitler's Shadow: West German Historians and the Attempt to Escape the Nazi Past (Pantheon, 1989). In her book, Denying the Holocaust, Lipstadt cites Evans' claim that Nazi anti-Semitism was gratuitous. The relevant quote, from Evans' In Hitler's Shadow (p. 40) is:
Nazi anti-Semitism was gratuitous: It was not provoked by anything, it was not a response to anything. It was born out of a political fantasy, in which the Jews, without a shred of justification, were held responsible for all that the Nazis believed was wrong with the modern world.
This is not the sort of nuanced treatment of anti-Semitism that one would expect from a prominent historian but rather a dogmatic statement that takes the behavior of Jews completely outside of their own history. There is no attempt to determine the factual basis -- the truths, the half-truths and the pure fantasies -- that have always been characteristic of anti-Semitism over the ages. Seeing passages such as this in Evans and seeing Lipstadt cite Evans reinforced my decision to testify for Irving.
During the same period I received the following message about the Goebbels book from a prominent mainstream historian:
I just re-read my own notes to Irving's Goebbels, which strongly confirmed my memory that there is much more richness and less partisanship in that book than many would be willing to believe -- and that few of his detractors seem to recognize. I'll also have to say that Evans seems to be taking a strongly polemical position, whereas I would have preferred to see him recognize at least some of Irving's strong points as well as his weak. But I have not read enough of Evans yet to determine if there are things he later covers that explain why he is so strongly against Irving, so unwilling to recognize anything of merit.
Having read almost the entire Evans report, I was convinced that in fact Evans had nothing positive at all to say about Irving. Indeed, Evans reiterates Lipstadt's assertion that Irving is not a historian at all. Again, I was confirmed in my belief that testifying for Irving was entirely appropriate.
My view is that political, personal, and ethnic biases are ubiquitous in the social sciences. If the situation were reversed, I would be more than willing to testify on behalf of a Jewish historian suing an anti-Semite because there had been an analogous campaign of suppression against his work.
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Fisher, Marc. "The Publisher in a State of Denial: St. Martin's Defends Book by Historian Who Disputes Holocaust," The Washington Post, April 3, 1996, pp. D1, D3.
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MacDonald, Kevin. The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1998.
MacDonald, Kevin. Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1998. [Reviewed in the May-June 1998 Journal, pp. 28-37, "What Causes Anti-Semitism?".]
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Wilcox, Laird. Crying Wolf: Hate Crime Hoaxes in America. Olathe, Kansas: 1996.
From The Journal of Historical Review, January/February 2000 (Vol. 19, No. 1), page 56.
About the author
Kevin MacDonald, a Professor of Psychology at California State University-Long Beach. He is editor of the scholarly journal Population and Environment, and is a member of the Executive Board of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and several books, including A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy (1994), Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (1998), and, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1998).