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Should Germany and Austria Tolerate Holocaust Revisionism?
In recent times three major figures of the Holocaust revisionist movement, Ernst Zündel, Germar Rudolf, and David Irving, were arrested and are going to be put on trial for denying the Holocaust. Zündel and Rudolf in Germany, and Irving in Austria. Germany and Austria both have harsh laws that proscribe Holocaust revisionist viewpoints.
In the early part of 2005, the bitter critic of the revisionist movement, Jewish professor Deborah Lipstadt, published her widely hailed book, History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving. It is her version of the famous Irving/Lipstadt libel trial that took place in London in 2000. Sections of the book touch upon the justification for the laws that ban Holocaust revisionism in Germany.
One of those that testified on behalf of Lipstadt's defense team at the London trial was the German intellectual, Hajo Funke, described in History on Trial as one of Germany's leading experts on the sociological and political roots of Germany's hate scene. In a conversation with Lipstadt, Funke railed against foreigners, such as Irving, who come to Germany to forge common ground with the haters. Funke insisted that men like David Irving, and the Holocaust revisionist ideas that he purveys, are a threat to democracy in Germany: They wreak havoc with German democracy. We have to deal with their aftermath. Germany serves as their political playground.
Since Funke's line of reasoning has important consequences for the concept of freedom of speech in Germany and Austria, let us analyze it in great detail. After all, his views are simply a mirror image of the current German and Austrian governments' official policy, and they offer an ideological justification as to why Holocaust revisionists should be censored and persecuted.
According to Funke, Irving's public espousal of Holocaust revisionist viewpoints in Germany coincided with violent extremist attacks upon foreigners and guest workers. Lipstadt then makes this statement: This extremism, which was rooted in a loose alliance between national conservatives and radical extremists, was hostile to multiracial societies and depicted ethnic minorities as criminals and parasites. Holocaust denial was useful to this alliance because it rehabilitated the Third Reich's reputation, rendered Nazism a viable political alternative, and inculcated anger toward Jews. Extremists believed that if the Holocaust, which was being used to cast an indelible stain on Nazism, could be exposed as a sham, Nazism could be resurrected.
In other words, the open promulgation of Holocaust revisionist viewpoints in Germany would cause the masses to view National Socialism as a better form of government than that of democracy. This in turn would lead to the violent end of the current German democratic system, and the development of another totalitarian National Socialist form of government. Once again, in Funk's own words: People like David Irving do not throw firebombs. They throw the words that can cause others to throw firebombs.
First of all, the current government of Germany is not truly democratic. A true democracy is tolerant of minority opinion. In Germany today, anyone who publicly disagrees with the state sponsored view of the Holocaust is persecuted and prosecuted. This is the behavior of a totalitarian government, not that of a democracy. It is this open contradiction on the one hand, the claim that the government is democratic, and on the other hand, the ruthless persecution of anyone who offers a dissenting view on the Holocaust that causes suspicion and hostility among the German masses for the so-called German democracy.
If the current German government wants to show the German people that it is a superior form of government to that of totalitarian National Socialism, then they would be tolerant of Holocaust revisionists and sponsor a national, democratic debate in which Holocaust revisionists are pitted against believers in the traditional view of the Holocaust. They would then live up to the true meaning of democracy granting freedom of speech to minority opinions.
In History on Trial afterward, the famous Harvard Law School attorney, Alan Dershowitz, declares: Freedom of speech includes the right to expose lies, as Lipstadt did. It does not grant immunity from criticism to bigots like Irving. The marketplace of ideas must be open to all, not just neo-Nazis. Indeed, one reason why false and offensive speech is permitted in most liberal democracies is precisely because the best answer to bad speech is good speech, rather than censorship. Further on, Dershowitz adds: [Lipstadt] has proved that the best response to Holocaust denial is not futile attempts at censorship, but rather active exposure of the falsehoods of these bigoted claims. Lipstadt herself has written: Deniers, I argued, should be stopped with reasoned inquiry, not with the blunt edge of the law.
A similar logic applies to Germany. If the German government wants to tell its citizens that contemporary Germany is a liberal democracy, then it is going to have to behave like one. They will have to cease their censorship of Holocaust revisionist ideas, and rather, allow Holocaust revisionists the right to air their viewpoint, and then to attempt to refute them. Putting it in the language of Dershowitz, the best response of the German government to the bad speech of Holocaust revisionism would be the "good speech" of the traditional view of the Holocaust, rather than the banning of Holocaust revisionism.
Undoubtedly though, the ideologues who are trying to maintain the current political status quo (like Funke) will use Dershowitz's Orwellian claim: Truth and Justice are sometimes served only by compromising freedom of speech, as when nations ban Holocaust denial speech, racist speech, sexist speech, or other forms of bigoted falsehoods.
So this line of reasoning proceeds; Germany is a special case. Considering Germany's Nazi past, it has to censor its citizens in order to make sure that Nazism will never rise again. In order to prevent the violent destruction of German democracy and the development of a totalitarian, National Socialist government in Germany (as already happened) truth and justice are best served by compromising freedom of speech, as when the German government bans Holocaust denial and racist speech.
In effect, proponents of this viewpoint are arguing that an antidemocratic, autocratic, oppressive, and totalitarian measure may be used to prevent the development of an antidemocratic, autocratic, oppressive and totalitarian society. This is an example of the political fallacy called the-end-justifies-the-means. As logician Alex C. Michalos points out, any sort of deception or mistake in an argument that has political significance is a political fallacy.
First of all, truth is never served by banning opposing viewpoints. If hard evidence for the German government's view of the Holocaust is overwhelming and the claims of Holocaust revisionists are ridiculous, to engage the latter in debate would not lend them credibility and respect. Quite the contrary! Crossing swords with these revisionist cranks would be a golden opportunity for the German government to expose their quackery and stupidity. Only if Holocaust revisionism has intrinsic validity will it gain stature by a public hearing in Germany. The German government's refusal to tolerate Holocaust revisionist viewpoints carries with it the implicit recognition that revisionism has more legitimacy than they care to admit
Even if Revisionism is pure falsity and balderdash, the public interest in Germany would still be served if it was given serious attention in the national media. The truth of the German government's official version of the Holocaust could be proven anew. If the German government is truly interested in the truth, then a more complete perception of the truth would be gained in a public debate where their Holocaust fact clashed with Revisionist fiction.
Furthermore, the German government's refusal to tolerate the Holocaust revisionist viewpoint is actually an injustice that breeds hostility toward German democracy rather than quelling it. One of the standard principles of legal justice in a democracy is that the accused has the inherent right to defend himself. As Revisionist scholar Faurisson has pointed out: In Germany, no exonerating evidence may be introduced [when a person is on trial for denying the Holocaust, since that same evidence would constitute "denial" as well and would merely lead to another criminal indictment of the defendant and his lawyer.
By refusing to allow German people to defend the German nation against charges of genocide against the Jewish people, the German government is actually engaging in injustice, because they are denying the accused the right to defend himself. They are denying the German people the right to attempt to clear their people and nation of the charge of industrial genocide in German concentration camps by gassing. This alone breeds hostility and dislike towards the current German democracy. It is this refusal to tolerate Holocaust revisionist viewpoints that causes suspicion and hostility among the masses of Germans towards the current German "democracy." If they want to alleviate this "antidemocratic" hostility, they will tolerate Holocaust revisionist opinion instead of persecuting it.
What is argued here is this: it is not the promulgation of Holocaust revisionist viewpoints that causes the majority of people to view National Socialism as a viable alternative. It is the censoring of Holocaust revisionist viewpoints, by a so-called German democracy, that makes the majority of people loose faith in democracy and then turn to the totalitarian alternative of National Socialism. (Undoubtedly, there is a highly visible minority that will use Holocaust revisionism as a means to rehabilitate National Socialism. But a truly democratic society even tolerates those groups that reject democracy, as long as they don't violate other people's rights, and don't engage in violence.)
As anti-National Socialist historian Allan Bullock pointed out, most Germans in 1919-1924 strongly disliked the contemporaneous democratic German government because it was associated with the Treaty of Versailles: In 1919 the Republican Government signed a Peace Treaty the terms of which were universally resented in Germany; this was looked upon as a fresh act of betrayal, and the Government was henceforward branded as the agent of the Allies in despoiling and humiliating Germany.
As anti-National Socialist American historian John Toland insinuates, the terms of the Treaty the German government accepted were biased and unjust: On June 28, 1919, the victorious Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles. With little delay the German government ratified its terms. These were harsh. Germany was forced to accept sole responsibility for causing the war and required to pay all civilian damage caused by the conflict. Great chunks of territory were wrested from the Reich: Alsace-Lorraine went to France, the Malmedy area to Belgium, most of Posen and West Prussia to Poland. Germany also lost her colonies. Danzig was to be a free state; and plebiscites would be held in the Saar, Schleswig and East Prussia. Further, the Allies would occupy the Rhineland for at least fifteen years and a belt of thirty miles wide on the right bank of the Rhine was to be demilitarized. The humiliation was made complete by a regulation forbidding the Germans to have submarines or military aircraft and limiting her army to 100,000 men.
The upshot of my argument is this. It was the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles that was associated with the democratic Weimar Republic that prodded the German masses to dislike this contemporaneous German democracy and turn to totalitarian National Socialism. Likewise with the current German government's association with the censorship of Holocaust revisionism. It is the biased injustice of their policy "to censor and persecute Holocaust revisionism” that prods people to view German democracy with disdain, and to lean towards the totalitarian National Socialist alternative. Just as the Weimar Republic was associated with a treaty that was widely viewed as humiliating and degrading to Germany, so too is the current German democracy associated with the traditional view of the Holocaust, an ideology that degrades and humiliates the German people. And it is this that predisposes many Germans to turn toward the National Socialist alternative. The German government's endless promotion of the Holocaust ideology, and the persecution of those that reject it is what encourages Germans to look toward the National Socialist alternative.
Let us continue. Funke claims: [German] extremists believed that if the Holocaust, which was being used to cast an indelible stain on Nazism, could be exposed as a sham, Nazism could be resurrected. In other words, neo-Nazis would use Holocaust revisionism as an ideological justification for the violent overthrow of the current German regime and then replace it with the machinery of nationalist totalitarianism–a command state, with one-party control of society, censorship of the press and the open violation of the rights of minority groups.
First of all, there already is the machinery of totalitarianism in place in today's German democracy. There is open censorship of Holocaust revisionist ideas. The Holocaust revisionist minority group is openly persecuted.
Funke is arguing that the proliferation of Holocaust revisionism in Germany could lead to National Socialism. What is being argued here is just the opposite–the suppression and persecution of Holocaust revisionism could lead to totalitarian National Socialism. The toleration of Holocaust revisionism could lead to a real German democracy.
If Holocaust revisionist viewpoints are tolerated and debated in Germany, this will show the German people that it truly is a democratic society that tolerates minority opinion, while an intolerant National Socialist type of society disallows many alternative viewpoints. It will give the German people an opportunity to clean up their reputation and show the world that Germany is not a nation of murderers that builds homicidal gas chambers to exterminate whole populations. This will actually give democracy a good name in Germany, and it will show that a true democracy is indeed superior to totalitarian National Socialism that suppressed freedom of speech just as the current German regime does.
Recently, President Bush urged Chinese leaders to expand freedoms. Yet, under his administration he allows the stifling of freedom. Germar Rudolf and Ernst Zündel were denied asylum in the US and deported to German prisons, their sole crimes being that they rejected the Holocaust ideology.
Undoubtedly, many of those in the pro-Zionist camp will reject freedom of speech in regard to the Holocaust issue, and argue for strict censure of Holocaust revisionist viewpoints, a la Funke. This is not surprising. The censorship of Holocaust revisionism in Germany serves the sociopolitical interests of political Zionism and the non-Jewish elites that are allied with them, so as to maintain the current sociopolitical status quo. Let us see how this is so.
Angela Merkel, the new German chancellor, admitted in moralistic rhetoric, that the Holocaust ideology is what justifies Germany's subsidization of Israel. She told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that for Germans relations with Israel are a precious treasure that we must preserve. We and the coming generations must therefore be aware of our history and the responsibility it entails. We must take a clear and public stand about maintaining close relations with the Jewish community in Germany and of course, close relations with Israel, especially on the level of personal encounters.
The article goes on to discuss how Germany finances and subsidizes the Zionist military machine: Israel had requested financing for the construction of two more Dolphin submarines at an estimated cost of about $1 billion, in addition to the three it received at the beginning of the 90s, which, according to foreign reports, carry nuclear warheads. Israel took delivery of the subs in compensation for Iraqi missile attacks during the first Gulf War. With two-and-a-half subs already paid for by Germany, defense minister Peter Struck also expressed support for the deal.
So don't be surprised that many in the pro-Zionist camp will argue for strict censure of Holocaust revisionism in Germany and Austria. Political Zionism benefits enormously by the law enforced mass acceptance of the Holocaust ideology.
- Deborah E. Lipstadt, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving (HarperCollins Publishers, 2005).
- Ibid., p. 235.
- Ibid., p. 236.
- Ibid., p. 237.
- Ibid., p. 304.
- Ibid., p. 305.
- Ibid., p. xx.
- Ibid., p. 301.
- Alex C. Michalos, Improving Your Reasoning (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970), p. 92.
- Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., Robert Faurisson, Germar Rudolf, The Leuchter Reports: Critical Edition (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2005), p.19.
- Allan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (Harper & Brothers, 1952), p. 53.
- John Toland, Adolf Hitler (Double Day & Co., Inc., 1976), p. 82.
- Lipstadt, p. 236.
- Adar Primor, Would-be German chancellor promises to fight anti-Semitism, Haaretz, 14 September 2005. Online: http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/624512.html
Additional information about this document
|Title||Should Germany and Austria Tolerate Holocaust Revisionism?, Reflections on the Upcoming Irving, Zündel and Rudolf Trials|
|Dates||published: 2005-01-12, first posted on CODOH: Dec. 30, 2005, 6 p.m., last revision: n/a|