Florent Brayard, Comment l'idée vint à M. Rassinier. Naissance du révisionnisme. Préface by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Paris, Fayard, 1996, 464 p., ISBN : 2-213-59507-0, 160 F ttc.
Mr. Brayard is a lucky student. After his Master's degree dissertation at the University of Nancy II, he was awarded a prize at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Science in Paris. On his jury committee sat, among others, Pierre Nora and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. Thus was opened to him the royal path to the bookstore Fayard (collection: History of the 20th Century) where his book entitled, Comment l'idée vint à M. Rassinier (How the Idea Came to Mr. Rassinier) was published in February, 1996.
The author had as his ambition to brilliantly show how Paul Rassinier's intellectual and political revelation led him to be recognized worldwide as the founding father of revisionism.
Florent Brayard is a very conformist, nice young man, heavily influenced by the textbooks of his time. It is obviously impossible for him to understand the approach of a Rassinier libertarian and pacifist of the left, liberated of any preconceived ideas.
The politically correct student of Pierre Vidal-Naquet is very shocked by Rassinier's warm relations with Albert Paraz, who is also libertarian and pacifist but also a contributor to the weekly Rivarol, with Maurice Bardeche, and with Henry Coston, both fiendish and committed to the counter-current of ideas prevailing immediately after the war. Brayard considers these relations abnormal. He is crazy about moral lessons. He delivers them eruditely to those who contest the historic dogma of the Second World War. Things are simple to him. All those who reinforce, even at the cost of absurdity, the official history elaborated after 1945, are on the side of the truth, with some alterations, sometimes. As for the dissidents, the invalidity of their work is flagrant; furthermore, they are liars.
Florent Brayard has the stomach of an ostrich. He swallows all the supporting testimonies about the Hitler era concentration camps; he does not give the impression of having digested them.
We will give three examples:
- A mysterious Hungarian doctor that nobody, at least to my knowledge, has ever seen, Dr. Miklos Niysli, wrote a book, "Medecin a Auschwitz (published in 1953 in Jean-Paul Sartre's Review, Les Temps Modernes). After a harsh critique by Paul Rassinier, nobody (or almost nobody) dares mention anymore this incredible testimony. The "Encyclopedia Judaica" (1971) does not mention it and the "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust" (1990) refers to him as a vague subordinate of Doctor Mengele, who is the center of a vast mythological efflorescence\.
With the support of his masters, Mr. Brayard is trying very hard to restore some credibility to the rantings of the strange doctor.
- The confessions of Rudolf Höss, Commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, have been contested for a long time. It has been known, since 1983, that they were obtained under torture. The torturers have detailed at length the treatments they inflicted on Rudolf Höss\.
This latter, who left his post the first of December, 1943, admitted having put to death, as of this date, 3 million deportees. He also cited an extermination camp called Wolzek which never existed. Could it have been confused with Belzec? Impossible, since Höss cited also Belzec as an extermination camp.
As for Brayard, he does not care about the macabre counting. We will not learn from his book that since 1995, the Birkenau monument mentions one and a half million dead instead of 4 million. Also, we will not learn that, according to Jean-Claude Pressac, the total number of victims is between 630,000 and 710,000 (German Edition: Die Krematorien von Auschwitz/Die Technik des Massenmordes, Munich, 1994).
Unsurprisingly, we notice that Brayard is silent about the much lower estimates of some critical historians.
He does not reveal to his readers either that, according to the American antirevisionist historian Christopher Browning, Höss was always weak and confused. To this statement made in l993, he added that revisionists use these dubious testimonies of Höss to their own advantage.
- At last, Gerstein appeared (!). If Brayard does not call him, like Pierre Joffroy, God's spy, he nevertheless accepts most of the testimony of the extravagant SS ex-officer. Brayard does not get around obstacles; he confronts them and strives to render plausible that which is incredible to any person with common sense. Can 700 to 800 people be stacked in a 25 sq. meter and 45 cubic meter room? Why not, says Brayard, because Georges Wellers, director of the magazine, "Le Monde Juif" had the happy idea of correcting a little bit some of Gerstein's estimation errors? Through some not very explicit trick, the area was increased to 34 sq. meters and the number of victims reduced to about 500. Thus, the trick works: it comes to 15 people per sq. meter and it would be indecent to quibble further\.
But Brayard is insistent. To his credit, he does not leave anything in the dark.
In a version of his confessions, Gerstein wrote that he made 25,250 kg. of people enter into a space of 25 sq. meters and 43 cubic meters. Why not admit, once and for all, that the SS guards' whip lashes could perform miracles?
For skeptics, Brayard has another explanation. It is mathematical: he resorts to a double equation that involves the weights of adults and of children, for it seems that there were many children. Baffled by this algebra problem, he calls on the help of a mathematics professor. The result was that the 750 victims must be made up of less than 10% adults and more than 90% children. For his part, Brayard announces triumphantly: there were 1/3 adults and 2/3 children. He failed his math. Maybe one has to take into consideration the station chief's age. It does not matter, for no reader — except myself — will make the effort to solve the double equation.
After pontificating in fancy Latin, the reluctant Doctor Sganarelle concluded sententiously in front of Géronte, dazzled by so much science: "This is exactly what makes your daughter mute."
Why Everyone Lies?
This is the title Brayard gives one of the subchapters of his book. Who lies? Obviously, some of those who question the dogmatic history.
Professor Faurisson has the right to a special treatment (what the Germans called, without decoding, Sonderbehandlung); he is not crudely described as a liar.
Nonetheless, Brayard wonders about the professor's motives. Supporting iconoclastic theories in the literary domain, couldn't he have simply mystified his historic world?
In other words, wouldn't he have practiced an elegant way of lying? One had to think of that and Brayard does not suffer from lack of imagination.
Then, Brayard moves to the liars without elegance: they are successively Paul Rassinier, Professor Doctor W. Pfannenstiel and the writer of the present article.
The first two are deceased; I will therefore reply for them first, and then for myself.
By the way, what have we lied about? Once more, the unusable Gerstein comes up with his mysterious companion at Belzec camp in August, 1942. In his book, "Le Drame des juifs européens ," published in 1964, Rassinier recounted a strange visit a German paid him in June, 1963 at his home in Asnières. This unknown visitor pretended that he was with Gerstein in the Belzec camp. First, he said that events did not take place as Gerstein described. He reduced to reasonable quantities the number of Jewish deportees stacked in the train cars that transported them. He specifically stated that according to camp managers, the arrivals of such convoys were quite rare. He reduced to 40 or 50 the number of Jews in a space of 20 to 25 sq. meters; he stated that all the work was done by other Jews, who were in the camp earlier and were in charge of running the operation. Then he confirmed that there was a gassing execution by exhaust from a diesel engine or carbon dioxide (CO2); thus, there would have been death by asphyxiation.
At this moment in the story, Rassinier, who had consulted eminent toxicologists on the subject, tried to pose some simple technical question to his visitor. It was in vain. The latter was evasive and refused to recognize that it is impossible to asphyxiate 40 to 50 people in 15 to 20 minutes, as he was asserting. He kept repeating: I had been there, I saw. The discussion was cut short.
Rassinier reported the meeting honestly. Under these conditions, why does Brayard accuse Rassinier of lying? The latter would have lied by omission if he had remained silent; but he didn't, despite his skepticism concerning some assertions of his visitor.
Rassinier died in July, 1967; his book was published in 1964 and, during three years, none of the adversaries of the former deportee alluded to the presumed identity of the visitor of AsniËres in June, 1963. Rassinier could have answered.
It is only in 1977, ten years after his death, that Georges Wellers published a brochure entitled "La Solution finale de la question juive et la mythomanie néo-nazie ." In this brochure, he wonders about the identity of the mysterious Rassinier visitor and concludes with the question: Couldn't he have been the professor doctor Pfannenstiel mentioned by Gerstein when they were together in Belzec?
Later, Vidal-Naquet became more assertive, writing that Georges Wellers had categorically identified Professor Pfannenstiel.
Then came the commentaries. Pfannenstiel, obersturmbannf¸hrer SS in the health service (lieutenant-colonel) must have lied in minimizing the gassings of Belzec. Thus, what Gerstein said was essentially true. Are we going to trust anymore the declarations of a Nazi trying to launder the crimes of Hitler's regime?
It seems necessary to look at things more closely. Pfannenstiel was a member of the NSDAP; Gerstein was too (he joined May 2, 1933). Pfannenstiel was a civil servant in higher education in the Third Reich. He occupied a chair in the health field at the University of Marburg. Following the example of Heidegger, he could have avoided joining the party.
Gerstein was still a student in 1933. He later entered medical school. Nothing compelled him to join the NSDAP. He was in trouble, went through some religious crises, then returned to the party and chose to serve as an officer at the Health Institute of the Waffen SS.
Pfannenstiel, whose political convictions are unknown to us, just as they are unknown to Mr. Wellers and to Mr. Vidal-Naquet, lost his chair at the University of Marburg after the war. He then had a good career in balneology in the Federal Republic.
Gerstein was found guilty by a denazification court, which refused to rehabilitate him posthumously in 1950. It wasn't until 1965 that, at the recommendation of Chancellor Kiesinger (the Nazi who publicly slapped Beate Klarsfeld), Gerstein was rehabilitated prior to becoming, thanks to hagiography, the lost saint of the century.
Conclusion: Between Pfannenstiel and Gerstein, the more Nazi of the two may not be the one thought to be so. More precisely, according to all those who knew him, Gerstein was a confirmed psychopath, while Pfannenstiel gave the impression of a very balanced man.
Pfannenstiel actually met Rassinier somewhere other than AsniËres and at a date other than June, 1963. We will come back to this later in this review.
Pfannenstiel may have distorted the truth. We believe that if this were the case, it was in admitting gassings at Belzec. Bound by confessions that allowed him to be liberated on July 12, 1950 after five years of captivity, this father of five children, four of whom were very young in l945, could not subsequently preserve his peace of mind, as a member of the West German bourgeoisie, unless he stood by the declarations he made June 6, 1950, five weeks prior to his liberation.
Pfannenstiel died at 92 in 1982. I wrote to his widow in l986 to try to clarify the remaining shady areas. It was pure loss. She sent me a short note, saying that there were no documents left by her husband and that she did not wish to be disturbed by the history of the so-called Gerstein Report (sogenannte Gerstein Bericht ). Because of him, her life and that of her husband had been shattered during long years.
In summary, Rassinier did not lie. If Pfannenstiel lied, it was about a different matter.
As for the third presumed liar, it remains to be seen whether he is guilty.
In the course of my research, I discovered two letters from Pfannenstiel to Rassinier, one dated August 3, 1963, the other September 18, 1963. They prove that the two men met for the first time in Marburg on September 25, 1963.
Brayard does not challenge the authenticity of these two letters. He admits that Pfannenstiel and Rassinier did meet at the train station in Marburg on September 25, 1963. However, Brayard makes up his own explanation, since he is someone who will not consider anybody else's. He says that Rassinier wished to remain anonymous and to transpose the meeting in time and in place.
So for Brayard, the Marburg meeting of September 1963 is real, while the visit to AsniËres in June of the same year is an invention by Rassinier.
Henceforth, everything is clear. With M. Brayard, knowledge does not regress, it progresses.
The drawback for him is that there was a witness to the visit in Asnières: Madame Rassinier herself. In l986, I asked the historian's widow about this subject. Basically, our conversation went as follows:
H.R.: Do you remember a visit to Asnières by a German in 1963? He confirmed to your husband a gassing at Belzec camp, where he was with Gerstein in 1942.
Mrs. Rassinier: I remember it very well. When this unknown entered, I felt as though evil vibrations spread throughout the apartment. Paul was troubled. He talked to me several times about this visit.
H.R.: Had your husband talked to you about a certain Professor Pfannenstiel, who, too, was in Belzec with Gerstein?
Mrs. Rassinier: Yes. Paul met him in Germany.
H.R.: Do you think that the Asnières visitor could have been Pfannenstiel?
Mrs. Rassinier: No. He was not Pfannenstiel; otherwise my husband would have said so.
Still today, it is possible to collect again the testimony of Mrs. Rassinier. However, M. Brayard's friends are so satisfied with their fictionalized version of the facts that, in line with Georges Wellers, they do not want to correct it.
In number 122 of "Le Monde Juif" (April-June, 1996), M. Wellers responds to remarks I made concerning my right to reply in the same newspaper. He simply wrote: The letters and testimony of the widow do not interest me at all. No comment!
Who chose to lie by omission? It is certainly not me. I published two letters signed by Pfannenstiel and addressed to Rassinier. I gave the testimony of Mrs. Rassinier. What more can I do?
I hinted that the mysterious Asnières visitor may have been an agent provocateur.
I do not maintain that I possess all the truth about this affair. On the other hand, I say all that I know.
As for Florent Brayard, I do not accuse him of lying. He only got trapped, for on p. 358 of his book (note 5), he repeats what I wrote: Still today, the historian's widow has a vivid memory of the visit that troubled her husband.
Paul Rassinier, alias Jean-Pierre Bermont, was born in Bermont (in Belfort)
To their adversaries, all revisionists are liars. To them, the greatest liar of all can't be other than Rassinier, the founding father of revisionism.
Rassinier used a pseudonym and, under this pseudonym, interviewed himself in the weekly, "Rivarol."
This time, the crime was signed. Pierre Vidal-Naquet writes with delight at the end of his preface to Brayard's book, that the limit was reached with this dual personality.
Yet, use of pseudonyms is very common in journalism. In addition, when a very particular subject is concerned and when nobody else is familiar with the subject, it is neither exceptional, nor dishonest for the knowledgeable journalist to write up both the questions and the answers of an interview.
However, Rassinier's innocence was transparent in his choice of pseudonym. He could have signed differently, but he lacked imagination. He chose for first name that of his son, Jean-Paul, and for last name that of his village, Bermont.
One may conclude that Rassinier is not a compulsive liar, which is an important quality for a revisionist. It is true that, in court, Rassinier tried to stick to the Bermont version of the "Rivarol" editor. This proves precisely that Rassinier was not used to lying.
In his teaching career, he had certainly met incorrigible liars and occasional liars. The former were never embarrassed when they were unmasked. The latter blush, are troubled, are clumsy in holding on to their little lie, and end up admitting it.
They are small liars. On some minor point, Rassinier behaved like them; it is revolting to hold this against him. His accusers are very crafty in camouflaging their big lies under the guise of pseudoscientific arguments that are difficult to flush out.
How did the idea come to Brayard?
Brayard's polemic is based on the fact that Rassinier is recognized worldwide as the founder of revisionism. He concludes that, by discrediting the works of the father, he can spread trouble in the minds of the spiritual sons, those fiendish revisionists. Had our lucky student lived at the time of the Apostles, he would wonder how the idea came to Saint Thomas to believe only what he could see or touch.
At any time, he could wonder how the idea came to prosecution judges not to believe that a crime was committed unless shown by an autopsy and an expert opinion of the crime weapon.
M. Brayard does not care for scientific questioning. He prefers to speak about the deportee Rassinier in Buchenwald and Dora. He resorts to the famous Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim adopts the side of his victimizer. What a discovery, this Stockholm Syndrome! The not very informed reader is requested not to confuse it with the Malmo Congress (also mentioned by Brayard), where, in 1950, some future neo-fascist friends of the extreme leftist bookseller, Paul Rassinier, met. This new invention shows that the creativity of Nordic mythologies is far from being exhausted.
Florent Brayard benefited from good media coverage. His publisher took care of the distribution of his book. Yet Brayard must deal with the competition.
Already, after having found the book exciting, an editor of the daily "Le Monde " expresses some reservation. Is Brayard's proof convincing? He doesn't think so, but he carries his hope forward to a book that will be published in the Fall of 1996. It is a biography of Paul Rassinier, written by Nadine Fresco. The latter is not unknown. She has participated in attacks against revisionism since the beginning of the Faurisson Affair, and she is close to some "Le Monde" editors.
How much effort is wasted by politically correct historians to stem the inevitable progress of revisionist theses!
Some mistakes made by Florent Brayard
M. Brayard noted some errors in Rassinier's texts and those of his friends. No offense would have been taken, had they not been accompanied by venomous commentaries.
Here are some errors that punctuate Florent Brayard's book:
p. 112. In reproducing Höss's testimony, the author cites Wolzek as an extermination camp. This camp never existed. It is unknown to Brayard, who omits to point out its nonexistence.
p. 150. G.A. Amaudruz, director of the Lausanne "Courrier du Continent ," never belonged to any SS division. He only served in the Swiss Confederation Army.
p. 331. Brayard writes that Gerstein sent to Belzec camp 100 kg. of prussic acid, whose industrial name was Zyklon B. But in no version of his confessions did Gerstein talk about Zyklon B. He said that he transported 45 bottles of prussic acid, hence liquid. He specifically stated that he concealed these bottles prior to arriving at Belzec camp. Recall that he pretended having witnessed a homicidal gassing done by means of carbon dioxide gas (CO2). The Zyklon B insecticide, used in the German army since 1924, came either in pieces or in small cups made out of porous material impregnated with prussic acid. They were contained in metal boxes whose photos have been published several times.
p. 459 (index). Advertising executive Mennevée's first name was Roger, not Roland.
p. 459 (index). German historian Nolte's first name was Ernst, not Emil.
Finally, we point out an error that may only be a misprint. Note 5 on p. 107 reads: On this question, one may refer to, among others, Jean-Claude Pressac, Les Crématoires d'Auschwitz; the mass murder "machine." Paris CNRS Ed., 1994.
Machine? It must be read machinery. In his book, he repeatedly makes fun of slips he deems significant. What would he say of this one?
- This number was arbitrarily picked by Lech Walesa so as not to forget the Polish dead.
- Leon Poliakov became very careful and circumspect toward the convincing value of the Gerstein Report. In a collection of discussions with Georges Elia Serfati (L'envers du destion, Editions du Fallois, Paris, 1989, 299 p.), he relegates to a minor rank the testimony of the SS Kurt Gerstein. In fact, he told his interlocutor, there was, certainly, a number of errors in the Gerstein Report. He saw an extermination camp only once and from a distance. It was the Polish camp of Belzec. Yet, it is this testimony, among many others, that was chosen by Poliakov and Vidal-Naquet to be partially inserted into a Declaration of Historians signed by 34 (highly respected) academics. The newspaper, "Le Monde," published this text February 21, 1979, as a sharp reply to the arguments of Professor Faurisson, whose Affair had just burst.
- Rassinier learned from Pfannenstiel that many people were in Belzec with Gerstein. The former deportee may have constructed in his book an account where he mixes comments of June 1963 in Asnières with those of the Pfannenstiel he met in Marburg in September, 1963.
Additional information about this document
|Title:||Florent Brayard and the Liars, A Review|
|First posted on CODOH:||Aug. 30, 1996, 7 p.m.|
|Comments:||Review of "Comment l'idée vint à M. Rassinier. Naissance du révisionnisme," by Florent Brayard|