[back] Deborah Lipstadt Holocaust revisionism
Denying the Revisionists: The Errors and Falsifications of Deborah Lipstadt
By Richard A. Widmann
In a style reminiscent of the most vile Nazi rhetoric, Deborah Lipstadt writes in the preface to her Denying the Holocaust,
"In the 1930s Nazi rats spread a virulent form of antisemitism that resulted in the destruction of millions. Today the bacillus carried by these rats threatens to 'kill' those who already died at the hands of the Nazis for a second time by destroying the world's memory of them."1Most people today comprehend that such dehumanizing language is a potential danger. When we compare human beings to rodents in such virulent terms, so the argument goes, the next step may be violation of that group's civil and human rights and perhaps even their extermination.
Thus it becomes apparent that, for Lipstadt, "deniers" are not those who express doubts about some element of the Holocaust story but those who actually believe the orthodox story in all its gruesome details. The "deniers" purposefully distort materials and even "lie" in order to support their ideology. At various times Lipstadt defines that ideology in varying terms but the net result is always the same, "they are fascists and antisemites with a specific ideological and political agenda."4Lipstadt is bold but very simplistic in her thinking. Her only explanation for the phenomenon of Holocaust revisionism is to explain it away through her term "denial." Several revisionists have already pointed out the fallacies of Lipstadt's claims.5
Lipstadt's ellipse excludes the important words, "But, sad to say" which alters the sentences meaning thusly: "But, sad to say, they have also in wartime subverted much of the public to frenzy of prejudice."12
In fact as Rassinier explored the realities of the Holocaust story, he
mused, "[...]there probably were exterminations by gas, but not as many as has
been claimed. The number, of course, does not in the least diminish the nature
of the horror, but the fact that the practice might have been a measure that was
decreed by a State order in the name of a political doctrine would singularly
add to the horrible nature of it. Was that the case?" 14
It is very deceptive to suggest that Rassinier said "people may have been killed." This is no question whatsoever for Rassinier. The question for Rassinier is whether or not the Nazi state ordered the exterminations. This is a matter that he researches further throughout his book.
This is not what Rassinier argues. Rassinier is discussing the change in policy of the administration of the concentration camps from one in which the SS administered the camps directly, to one in which the prisoners acted as intermediaries. He writes of the system and not the SS, "All of the old hands who have experienced both systems are unanimous in recognizing that the former was in principle the better and the more humane." 16
The comment comes from Jirczah, a fellow prisoner. Jirczah was a Czech
lawyer who had been assistant to the Mayor of Prague. Rassinier recounts meeting
Jirczah while in Buchenwald. It is Jirczah who says, "When the National
Socialists came to power, they decided, in a gesture of compassion, to put all
of their adversaries in a place where they could not hurt the new regime and
where they could be protected from public anger." 18
Here Lipstadt was especially deceptive. Her summarization is followed in what is the typical quotation style (indent with smaller point size) that is used throughout the book. However what appears to be a very damning and anti-Semitic quote by Rassinier was actually not written by Rassinier at all, but rather by Lipstadt herself. Not only is the paragraph not a quote of Rassinier, Lipstadt does not even offer a citation where such ideas are to be found.
In fact Rassinier was discussing the "migration of European Jews between
1933 and 1945." He writes, "Because this movement has not been studied in any
detail by any of the authors who we have been discussing, it is full of question
marks and is suspectible [sic] to all kinds of manipulation." 21
Here Lipstadt has deceptively put these words into Hoggan's mouth. Hoggan is
actually reporting on the opinion of Joseph Goebbels. He writes, "Hitler was
persuaded by Goebbels, after the demonstrations, to levy a 1-billion Mark (250
million dollar) fine on the wealthy and moderately wealthy Jews of Germany.
Goebbels had argued that otherwise the Jews would be able to pocket vast amounts
of money from the German insurance companies because the assets damaged or
destroyed on November 10, 1938, had been heavily insured." 23
In fact, Barnes is not discussing nor deflecting charges of German atrocities
but is rather discussing William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third
Reich. Barnes writes, "...even the colossal Shirer slander was bought in
great quantities in Germany and only sporadically attacked and exposed for what
it really is; the failure to point out that the atrocities of the Allies were
more brutal, painful, mortal and numerous than most extreme allegations made
against Germans..." 25
It is important to note that Lipstadt has added an importantly placed "the" in her quotation. For Barnes, Shirer's work fails because it doesn't point out that atrocities of the Allies were more brutal than most extreme allegations made against Germans. For Lipstadt it becomes "the most extreme allegations." Lipstadt's alteration makes Barnes appear all the more extreme.
Here too Lipstadt has taken Barnes out of context and makes the circular argument by italicizing the word "alleged" that even skepticism about any claims of German crimes is akin to 'explicit denial.' Barnes, ever the historiographer of revisionism was actually discussing the book The Other Side of the Coin by Alfred Lilienthal whom he calls a 'courageous Jewish publicist." Barnes tells his readers that Lilienthal has shown in his book that "this trial revealed and demonstrated an almost adolescent gullibility and excitability on the part of Americans relative to German wartime crimes, real or alleged, and the equally apparent passionate determination of every type of American communication agency to exploit the opportunity for financial profit by placing every shred of both fact and rubbish connected with them before American readers, hourly and daily, for months, if not years on end. 27
Here Lipstadt italicizes "unproved assumptions" in order to suggest that
Barnes is saying that the crimes of Nazi Germany are "unproved." This is not at
all what Barnes has actually written. Barnes actually wrote, "This revamped
historical blackout, now become the historical 'smotherout' is based chiefly on
the fundamental but unproved assumption that what Hitler and the National
Socialists did in the years after Britain and the United States entered the war
revealed that they were such vile, debased, brutal, and bloodthirsty gangsters
that Great Britain had been under an overwhelmingly moral obligation to plan a
war to exterminate them." 29
For Barnes the "unproved assumption" is not the crimes of Nazi Germany but that Britain entered the war with a moral obligation to exterminate the German people because of such crimes. There is no doubt about Barnes meaning. He follows up the above quote by explaining that "it was asserted that the United States was compelled to enter this conflict to aid and abet the British crusade as a moral imperative..." 30 A review of the contemporary opinion pieces in various newspapers and magazines shows quickly that such opinions were quite widespread.
Lipstadt goes on to complain in a footnote that "the editor of the Journal of Historical Review was clearly distressed by the ambiguity of this statement, which could be interpreted to suggest that Barnes believed that there might have actually been "gas ovens" in Auschwitz." The JHR added a footnote to the above quotation which reads in part, "Of course Barnes is confused here by the difference between a 'gas chamber' and a 'gas oven.'" First one must be struck by the oddity that Lipstadt is using the Barnes passage to show that he was very close to "denying the existence of gas chambers" but also takes a jab at the JHR for being distressed that this passage suggest that Barnes believes in the "gas chambers" of Auschwitz. Either he does or he doesn't. Lipstadt also betrays her lack of understanding of the subject by criticizing the JHR footnote. Clearly Barnes was confused over the difference between 'gas chamber' and 'gas oven.' We see the term 'gas oven' used frequently in the contemporary reports. Even George Orwell makes reference to the 'gas ovens' of Auschwitz. One of the contemporary horror stories of Auschwitz was that people were burned alive in huge gas ovens. Of course there were no 'gas ovens' in Auschwitz. The debate is over 'gas chambers.' There were of course coke-fired Crematorium at Auschwitz. The design and function of a Crematorium is not the same as an 'oven.'
This is a distortion of Barnes' point. Lipstadt's "unfair verdict" has to do with "responsibility for the war and atrocities." The original quote is written in light of and with consideration to A.J.P. Taylor's work The Origins of the Second World War, a work which Lipstadt omits mention of in her volume. Barnes writes, "So long as the German government and people admit, certainly by direct implication, that they deserved everything which happened to them as a result of military defeat, there is little solid foundation for any effort to emancipate themselves from these burdens, unite Germany, and restore the country to its proper position of unity, power and respect among the nations of the world." 33
Lipstadt cites "Revisionism and Brainwashing" pages 2 and 25. Barnes does not make such a statement on these pages. She has retrofitted the term "smotherout" from a 1967 article back to this 1963 article and has created these words. The closest sentence on these pages is as follows, "The Bonn Government, on the other hand, appears, even to many friendly outsiders, almost to vie with its former enemies in opposing the search for truth about the responsibility for the second World War and in refusing to accept the facts already established by scholars who have no national, personal, or party axes to grind."35
Unfortunately, Lipstadt does not give any citation for the above. She is
working and quoting widely from App's "A Straight Look at the Third Reich." We
find in that essay the following: "The Jewish Propaganda Minister Ilya Ehrenburg
kept broadcasting to the troops as they approached Germany: 'Kill. In Germany,
nothing is guiltless. Neither the living nor the yet unborn. .. Crush forever in
its den the fascist beast. Violently break the racial pride of the German woman.
Ravish them as booty. Kill, you gallant Red soldiers!'
It took a vindictive Jewish Communist to give the most beastly directive in history: 'Rape the German women as booty!'"37
Although App also does not offer a specific reference, he does include the citation from Ehrenburg as his "shred of evidence." Alfred M. de Zayas comments on the leaflet which has been widely attributed to Ehrenburg.38 De Zayas quotes the pertinent parts of the leaflet as, "Break the racial pride of the German woman. Take her as your legitimate booty. Kill, you brave Soldiers of the victorious Soviet Army." This also appears in the memoirs of Admiral Doenitz on p. 424. Ehrenburg himself disclaimed authorship in volume 5 of his memoirs.
Lipstadt cites Austin App, "A Straight Look" p.48. She makes interesting cuts in the text. App actually writes, "This they did with the legend of the six million Jews "gassed," four million in Auschwitz and two million elsewhere. This is a 95% fabrication and swindle.' App therefore allows for 300,000 gassed or otherwise murdered. Today the four million number at Auschwitz has been reduced by approximately 75% by official counts.40
Lipstadt again has taken a bit of license to cast doubt on Arthur Butz's scholarship. In fact the "American diplomats" that Lipstadt mentions turn out to be U.S. representative Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Butz wrote, "When in November 1975, an overwhelming majority at the United Nations... endorsed a resolution declaring Zionism to be a form of racism... the U.S. representative, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an otherwise impressive intellect, was reduced in astonishingly short order to hysterical yapping about the six million." 42
Butz does call the "gas chambers" wartime propaganda fantasies, he writes,
"The 'gas chambers' were wartime propaganda fantasies completely comparable to
the garbage that was shoveled out by Lord Bryce and associates in World War I.
43 Although Lipstadt takes offense at the word "garbage" in relation to the
atrocity tales of the First World War, interestingly she comments on such
stories, "The American public, unaware that a hoax was being perpetrated, proved
particularly susceptible to these stories." 44 It is odd that she should be so
comfortable with the word "hoax" to use it herself.
On the question of "tall tales," Lipstadt has distorted Butz who was commenting not on the gas chambers but on Pirro Scavizzi of the Catholic Church. Butz wrote, "Scavizzi was obviously a weaver of self-inflating tall tales designed to make him appear rather more important than his humble station in riding in hospital trains would have suggested." 45
Although Butz has written what Lipstadt has quoted he makes no reference to anything other than the media in the Western democracies. Butz does not specifically mention "mass media" and does not make any such "antisemitic" charges. 47
In fact Butz was making passing comment on the German media's treatment of the Allied propaganda claims. Butz writes, "Thus the German press treatment of the 'Greuelpropaganda' was on a higher level and, rather than concern itself with specific contents of the stories, it concerned itself with such questions as the nature of the political interests that were served by the propaganda and the extent and means of Jewish influence in the Allied press. (e.g. Das Reich for 20 December 1942.) 49 No where on the page cited by Lipstadt does Butz use the word "legitimate." Lipstadt specifically announces that due to the usage of the word "legitimate" that we have an indicator of Butz's "worldview." In fact Butz does nothing more than report what was being said at the time in the German press.
Lipstadt's own prejudices about revisionists do not allow her to believe
that film maker, David Cole was, and is in fact, Jewish.
Denying the Holocaust was received to glowing reviews from the nation's press immediately upon its release. Once again Deborah Lipstadt has become the darling of the media resulting from her win in the Irving v. Lipstadt case earlier this year. Lipstadt criticizes "deniers" for "enlist[ing] a basic strategy of distortion. Truth is mixed with absolute lies, confusing readers who are unfamiliar with the tactics of the deniers. Half-truths and story segments, which conveniently avoid critical information, leave the listener with a distorted impression of what really happened." 51 If we consider for a moment that Lipstadt is actually a "denier" of Holocaust revisionism then we can apply her warning to her own work. Attentive readers of Denying the Holocaust will immediately recognize Lipstadt's ideological strategy of deception.
1. Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on
Truth and Memory (New York, 1994) (hereafter referred to as Denying),
2. Ibid., p. 3.
3. Ibid., p. 2.
4. Ibid., p. 4.
5. One such example is Theodore J. O'Keefe, "New Books Seek to Discredit 'Growing Threat' of 'Holocaust Denial," Journal of Historical Review, vol. 13, no. 6 (November/ December 1993), pp. 28-35.
6. Harry Elmer Barnes, Barnes Against the Blackout: Essays Against Interventionism (Costa Mesa, California, 1991) p. 273.
7. Denying, p. 11.
8. Leon Degrelle, Letter to the Pope on His Visit to Auschwitz, (United Kingdom, 1979) p.5.
9. Ibid., p. 5.
10. Denying, p. 39.
11. Ibid., p. 46.
12. Austin App, No Time for Silence (Costa Mesa, 1987) p.35.
13. Denying, p. 52.
14. Paul Rassinier, The Holocaust Story and the Lies of Ulysses (Costa Mesa, California, 1978) (hereafter referred to as Holocaust Story) p. 164.
15. Denying, p. 55.
16. Holocaust Story, p. 53.
17. Denying, p. 54.
18. Holocaust Story, p. 36.
19. Denying, p. 63.
20. Denying, p. 63.
21. Holocaust Story, p. 306.
22. Denying, p. 71.
23. David L. Hoggan, The Forced War (Costa Mesa, California, 1989) p. 156.
24. Denying, p. 74.
25. Harry Elmer Barnes, "Revisionism and Brainwashing" The Barnes Trilogy: Three Revisionist Booklets (Torrance, CA 1979) p. 42.
26. Denying, p. 76.
27. Harry Elmer Barnes, "The Public Stake in Revisionism" Journal of Historical Review vol. 1, No. 3 (Fall 1980) pp. 217-18.
28. Denying, p. 76.
29. Public Stake p. 218.
31. Denying, pp. 76-77.
32. Denying, p. 79.
33. Brainwashing p. 34.
34. Denying, p. 79.
35. Brainwashing, p. 25.
36. Denying, p. 97.
37. Austin J. App, No Time for Silence (Costa Mesa, CA 1987) p.50.
38. Alfred M. de Zayas, Nemesis at Potsdam (Lincoln 1989) p. 201.
39. Denying, p. 98.
40. No Time for Silence, p. 68.
41. Denying, p. 125.
42. Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century (Torrance, CA 1985) (hereafter referred to as Hoax), p. 249.
43. Ibid., p.240.
44. Denying, p. 34.
45. Hoax, p. 287.
46. Denying, p. 132.
47. Hoax, p. 249.
48. Denying, p. 132.
49. Hoax, p. 89.
50. Denying, p. 203.
51. Denying, p. 2.