Survivor recounts battle he won with revisionists
Published: 1994-04-29

Holocaust survivor Mel Marmelstein believes that it was his profound ability to deny reality that saved his life in the face of Nazi aggression.

During a gruesome year spent in Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald concentration camps, he forced himself to believe that he would not die, that he would defy the odds and live to tell his personal story of the Holocaust.

In a certain ironic twist, today the 67-year-old Long Beach resident is waging a crusade against those who attempt to deny that the Holocaust ever happened.

The story of his court battle against one so-called revisionist group, the Institute for Historical Review, is portrayed in the 1993 television movie Never Again. The film, starring Leonard Nimoy as Marmelstein, will be shown Monday at San Francisco State University. Marmelstein, who is traveling through the Bay Area this week, will speak at the screening and make appearances at Sonoma State University and at the Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos.

Marmelstein, whose parents, sisters and brother all died in the Holocaust, was drawn into a battle with the Institute for Historical Review after writing a letter to several newspapers denouncing Holocaust revisionism. In the letter, he offered to provide proof that Jews were gassed in the concentration camps.

After his letters appeared, the Institute for Holocaust Review wrote back and offered to pay him $50,000 if he could "prove that Jews were gassed in gas chambers at Auschwitz." He decided to accept the challenge, although it worried him that he might be setting himself up for trouble.

"I could have just as well thrown away the letter, but they threatened to expose me to the media as a liar if I didn't come forth," Marmelstein related in a recent telephone interview from his home.

Despite his willingness to participate, the group never followed up on its offer. With the help of a lawyer named William Cox, Marmelstein challenged the organization for breach of contract. His case went to district court in Los Angeles in 1981, where a judge ruled that the Holocaust was an indisputable fact.

It was the first judicial notice taken by a U.S. court that the atrocity occurred, an acknowledgment that came 36 years after World War II ended.

Marmelstein received $90,000 and a written apology from the Institute for Historical Review as compensation for damages.

The survivor, who operates a lumber byproduct business in Southern California, initially ran into trouble finding legal counsel for his case. He claims that several Jewish institutions turned down his requests for help.

"There was outside pressure from Jewish groups to stay quiet," he said. "They feared that I was going to stir up anti-Semitism.

"Once I won judicial notice," he added, "they all became friends of mine."

For Marmelstein, the legal battle was the logical extension of a promise he made to his father at Auschwitz in 1944. After being separated from him earlier that year, he and his brother found their father sitting on the grounds of the camp, looking dejected.

"He was shocked to find we were together, the three of us," Marmelstein recalled. "He kept saying that this is a place we cannot be together. He said we must separate.

"'If any one of you survives this inferno,' he told us, 'don't forget to tell what you have learned.' I am carrying out his last will and testament."

Years later, Marmelstein met Nimoy, who expressed an interest in bringing his story to a television audience. Although his family resisted the idea of putting themselves in the public spotlight, Marmelstein remembered the promise he made to his father. He went ahead with the project.

In view of the growing tide of anti-Semitism and nationalism in many countries, he believes that such stories should be told and retold. He is particularly pleased to have exposed a group like the Institute for Historical Review.

"At least now, people will know who these people are and what they're all about," he said. "You call them revisionists and deniers. I call them professional Jewhaters."

Copyright © 1994, Jewish Bulletin.

Copyright © 1994, SoftLine Information Inc., all right reserved.

Title: Survivor recounts battle he won with revisionists
Summary: Holocaust survivor Mel Marmelstein believes that it was his profound ability to deny reality that saved his life in the face of Nazi aggression.
Source: Jewish Bulletin; Ethnic News Watch
Date: 29-APR-1994
Regular Price: $3.00
Subscriber's Price: $3.00
Document Size: Short (up to 2 pages)
Document ID: GG19970827020010120
Citation Information: V.143; N.17; p. 4
Author(s): Miller, David
Document Type: Article

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): David Miller
Title: Survivor recounts battle he won with revisionists
Sources: Jewish Bulletin, 29-APR-1994, V.143; N.17; p. 4
Published: 1994-04-29
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1996, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
Appears In: