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Dr. Matthew Feldman on Holocaust Denial

Holocaust Denial: An unavoidable introduction?


Guest Publication by

Matthew Feldman

[photos added to enhance the text]


Deborah Lipstadt

This essay touches upon a subject that is no laughing matter, even if most of the proponents of Holocaust denial today are, upon inspection, pretty risible characters. At the same time, this is a highly sensitive issue and, it must be said, quite serious matter that has become increasingly visible in the public sphere – and nowhere more so than online.

In considering some of the motives of those who are, to quote the important study from 2000, Denying History: Who says the Holocaust didn’t Happen and Why do they say it?, Michael Sherman and Alex Grobman concluded that motivations for Holocaust denial are overwhelmingly advanced ‘for present political or ideological reasons’ (238), especially anti-Semitism and fascism.

For Richard Evans, a historian who testified at David Irving’s unsuccessful libel trial against Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, such deniers typically held the ‘minimum following beliefs’:

  1. The number of Jews killed by the Nazis was far less than 6 million; it amounted to only a few hundred thousands, and was thus similar to, or less than, the number of German civilians killed in Allied bombing raids.

  2. Gas chambers were not used to kill large numbers of Jews at any time.

  3. Neither Hitler nor the Nazi leadership in general had a program of exterminating Europe’s Jews; all they wished to do was to deport them to Eastern Europe.

  4. “The Holocaust” was a myth invented by Allied propaganda during the war and sustained since then by Jews who wishes to use it to gain political and financial support for the state of Israel or for themselves. The supposed evidence for the Nazis’ wartime mass murder of millions of Jews by gassing and other means was fabricated after the war. (Telling Lies about Hitler, 110).

Given the above, understandably, many feel passionately that there is no debate to have with deniers: the Holocaust took place; and therefore, spending even a moment on the subject of Holocaust denial is simply a waste of time. I agree with these first two points: there is indeed no benefit in debating whether the Holocaust ‘happened’ with those who think, against the mountains of evidence, that it did not. Yet it does not follow, for me at least, that simply ignoring this phenomenon altogether is the best way forward. While arguing with deniers themselves may be pointless, trying to understand their motives and arguments is not.

For either way, this needs to be recognized: Holocaust denial exists, it is growing exponentially, and ignoring the subject has, it seems, only allowed for Holocaust denial to grow unchecked – until the intervention less notably by historians and social scientists than by lawyers and judges in the 1990s, particularly in the cases of Holocaust deniers Ernst Zündel and later, more infamously, Irving.

It bears noting that the first to systematically deny the existence of this policy of genocide – the extermination of all of Europe’s Jews – was, in fact, Nazi Germany itself. Leading Third Reich functionaries and henchmen destroyed evidence ranging from documents to crematoria; they exhumed and burned already-desecrated corpses; they kept the existence of their so-called ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ as great a secret as possible during the Second World War.

In tandem with the development of the historical Holocaust itself, then, Holocaust denial was employed by Holocaust perpetrators – that is, the Nazis and their collaborators during the Second World War – and was done for self-serving, ideological and anti-Semitic reasons.

Nazism’s attempt to murder every European Jew under their control, and more relevantly here, their systematic attempt to conceal this unparalleled crime, were to be ultimately unsuccessful: millions of Jews survived the occupation of the Third Reich, and the Holocaust has since become the best-documented genocide – indeed perhaps the best documented series of causally-linked events – in the annals of history. Neither seems good enough, however, for Holocaust deniers.

In short, Holocaust deniers must contend with thousands of corresponding testimonies by perpetrators and victims alike; they must ignore literally tens of millions of pages of contemporaneous documents; and they must argue that both general understandings of history and generations of academic historians are deluded, deceitful or conspiratorial in their scholarship on the Holocaust.

Read more here: www.holocaustresearchproject.org/essays&editorials/holocaustdenial.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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