Is the Holocaust Well Documented?

Bollinger's Outrageous Statement
Published: 2007-01-01

In late September Iran’s controversial President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke before the United Nations and at Columbia University’s school of international and public affairs. At the New York institution of higher learning, he was given a hostile reception by Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger. One issue that he castigated the intrepid Iranian leader about was the latter’s questioning and criticism of the orthodox view of the Holocaust.

Directing his barbs at Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust skepticism, Bollinger said that the "Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."[1] At the dawn of a more enlightened age, this statement will be looked upon as utterly outrageous and absurd.

For the purposes of this essay, I will ignore the mountain of Holocaust revisionist evidence, and simply concentrate upon what is said by some of the most important mainstream Holocaust historians and researchers who passionately believe in the orthodox view of the Holocaust. The whole point being will be this. By simply consulting mainstream, easily obtainable books and material on the subject, one will be able to see that—in direct contradiction to Bollinger–the orthodox view of the Holocaust is not well documented at all.

Perhaps Lee Bollinger believes the "Final Solution," the alleged Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe, is one of the most documented schemes in human history. If this is so, all he had to do is consult some standard works on the Holocaust to see how blatantly false this is.

Holocaust historian Leon Poliakov pointed out decades ago that there are no documents to prove that the Nazis ever had any plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe: "[T]he campaign to exterminate the Jews, as regards its conception as well as many other essential aspects, remains shrouded in darkness. Inferences, psychological considerations, and third- or fourth-hand reports enable us to reconstruct its development with considerable accuracy. Certain details, however, must remain forever unknown. The three or four people chiefly involved in the actual drawing up of the plan for total extermination are dead and no documents have survived; perhaps none ever existed."[2]

In short, the "evidence" that "proves" the existence of an alleged Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews is simply the guesswork of Holocaust historians. Hard documentary proof is missing.

This was further corroborated by the late Holocaust historian, Lucy Dawidowicz. In her widely acclaimed book, The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945, she (perhaps unwittingly) made it clear that the orthodox view of the "Final Solution" is not well documented at all. That is, there is no hard documentary evidence to prove that Adolf Hitler ever conceived of or knew of a Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

She wrote: "Though the abundant documents of the German dictatorship have yielded no written order by Hitler to murder the Jews, it appears from the events as we know them now, that the decision for the practical implementation of the plan to kill the Jews was probably reached after December 18, 1940–when Hitler issued the first directive for Operation Barbarossa–and before March 1, 1941."[3]

Elsewhere, she makes a similar admission: "If Mein Kampf is the terminus ad quem for the conception of the Final Solution, does its beginning indeed go back to November 1918, as Hitler himself claimed? It is a hazardous task to construct a chronology of the evolution of the idea [the alleged plan to exterminate the Jews] in Hitler's mind. The historical evidence is sparse and no doubt would be inadmissible as courtroom evidence. The very idea of the destruction of the Jews as a political goal demanded, when Hitler first began to advocate it, camouflage and concealment. Its later consummation demanded, within limits, secrecy. Consequently, there is a paucity of documents, and even those we have handicap the search for definitive evidence because of the problem of esoteric language."[4]

These two admissions by Holocaust historians Poliakov and Dawidowicz directly undermine Bollinger’s belief that the "Holocaust is the most documented event in human history." According to mainstream Holocaust historian Dawidowicz, the evidence that supports the traditional view of the "Final Solution" is "sparse" and "inadmissible as courtroom evidence."

Does Lee Bollinger believe the "homicidal gas chambers" in Nazi concentration camps are the most documented murder devices in human history? If he does, then he is guilty of another delusion. Let us consult mainstream Holocaust historians and researchers who firmly believe in the existence of these murder machines.

In his 1988 Holocaust study Why Did the Heavens Not Darken: The "Final Solution" in History, Princeton University historian Arno Mayer pointed out that: "Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable."[5] Bollinger should ask himself this: if the "gas chambers" are the most documented murder devices in human history, why are sources for their study both "rare and unreliable?"

One of the most important pieces of evidence traditionally adduced to "prove" the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz concentration camp has been the testimony of the former commandant, Rudolf Hoess. In a widely read 1993 article in the highbrow periodical, Vanity Fair, it was pointed out that Hoess’s following statement, specially mounted and reproduced, was an important exhibit and "proof" of the "Shoah" at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.: "I declare herewith under oath that in the years 1941 to 1943, during my tenure in office as commandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, 2 million Jews were put to death by gassing and ½ million by other means."[6]

Does Bollinger believe that the depositions of Hoess are impeccable and unassailable pieces of evidence that prove the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history? If he does, then he is guilty of another delusion.

In the same Vanity Fair article, prominent Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt and "Final Solution" expert Christopher Browning have admitted that Hoess’s confessions are unreliable, as he had been tortured by the British into confessing to a fantastic and unbelievable number of murders. "Hoess was always a very weak and confused witness," Professor Browning admitted. "The revisionists use him all the time for this reason, in order to discredit the memory of Auschwitz as a whole," he added.[7]

Lipstadt then chimed in about the value of Hoess’s testimony: "It’s the same with the soap story." (Previously, she admitted the propaganda stories that the Nazis made soap from the bodies of Jewish corpses are simply untrue.[8]) The Emory University Professor then added: "I get protests from [Holocaust] survivors, saying that I shouldn’t admit it’s not true, because it gives ammunition to the enemy. But I’m only interested in getting at the truth."[9]

The well known author of this article, Christopher Hitchens, then draws the appropriate conclusion, which delivers another blow to Lee Bollinger’s claim the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history: "Since Hoess was the commandant of [Auschwitz] for only part of its existence, this means that—according to the counter-revisionists—an important piece of evidence in the Holocaust Memorial is not reliable."[10]

So how about all of those "eyewitnesses" to the Holocaust? Do they prove the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history? If Bollinger believes this to be so, he should read, Assassins of Memory, which was written by French-Jewish historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet and was published by his own university’s academic press.

In various passages and footnotes, Vidal-Naquet briefly discusses eyewitnesses who claimed they "saw gas chambers" where there were none.[11] He admits "…there were imaginary gas chambers."[12] That is to say, it was claimed there were "homicidal mass gassings" where it is now agreed that there were none. He cites the false testimony "of a Protestant theologian, Charles Hauter, who was deported to Buchenwald, never saw any gas chambers, and who went on to rave about them."[13]

In a paraphrase of Dr. Robert Faurisson’s Holocaust revisionist argument, Vidal-Naquet’s translator states the dilemma in the form of a question: "Moreover, since numerous eyewitness reports [about the "homicidal gas chambers"] had already been discredited, on what basis could anyone accept any such testimony?"[14]

Bollinger should ask himself this question. If eyewitness testimony proves that the "Hitler gas chambers" are among the most documented events in human history, then why did a book published by his own university’s academic press put forth reasons that leads the reader to believe this same eyewitness testimony is unreliable and questionable?

Perhaps Lee Bollinger believes the alleged mass murders of millions of Jews at Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec concentration camps are among the most documented events in human history. If so, he has fallen prey to another delusion, because the Dutch Holocaust historian Robert Jan van Pelt has conceded the evidence for mass murder at these camps is very sparse at best. In reference to these three camps, he wrote: "There are few eyewitnesses, no confession that can compare to that given by [Auschwitz commandant Rudolf] Hoess, no significant remains, and few archival sources."[15]

At the postwar Nuremberg Tribunal, the Allies alleged that the Germans exterminated four million people at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Until 1990, a memorial plaque at Auschwitz read: 'Four Million People Suffered and Died Here at the Hands of the Nazi Murderers Between the Years 1940 and 1945.'"[16]

In July 1990, the Polish government's Auschwitz State Museum, along with Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center, conceded that the four million figure was a gross exaggeration, and references to it were accordingly removed from the Auschwitz monument. Israeli and Polish officials announced a tentative revised toll of at least 1.1 million dead, about 90 percent being Jews from almost every country in Europe.[17]

Most importantly, Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer admitted the claim that the Germans exterminated four million people at Auschwitz was a deliberate myth.[18]

I ask Lee Bollinger: Are the number of victims killed at Auschwitz among the most documented events in human history? If the "four million murdered at Auschwitz" figure was a deliberate myth, couldn’t it also be true that the new figure of 1.1 million victims is also a concocted myth?

It must be emphasized that I quoted and referenced only mainstream Holocaust experts and sources who firmly believe in the traditional version of the Holocaust in order to show how wrongheaded Bollinger’s claim really is. I deliberately avoided all of the other Holocaust revisionist evidence and logic I could muster. This alone should drive home to the reader how truly questionable the orthodox view of the Holocaust really is.

The question now remains: If it is not true that "the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history," then why did President Bollinger say it? I believe he is expressing the Western intellectual elite’s current method of avoiding debate on the Holocaust. Think on this for a moment. If people can be forced to wrongly believe the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history, then it makes no sense whatsoever to question or debate it. After all, the so-called "evidence" is so overwhelming, only an alleged "idiot" would question it.

As one can see, a belief like this, if inculcated into the minds of the masses, releases the intellectual elite at Columbia University from actually debating and examining the evidence for the Holocaust. It forces students and faculty to accept the traditional view of the Holocaust, a priori, without question or dissent.

It is actually a favorable sign for the Revisionist movement that luminaries like Bollinger use rhetorical tactics like this. It is an indirect and implicit admission that the orthodox view of the Holocaust really is based upon weak and flimsy evidence, and its defenders will use underhanded tactics to avoid debate. Why? Because they realize that once the traditional Holocaust story is subject to open and free inquiry, reason and evidence will consign it to the garbage can of history.


copyright 2007

Sewell Chan, "Iranian Leader, Calling Introductory Remarks Insulting, Addresses Columbia," The New York Times, 24 September 2007. Online.
Leon Poliakov, The Harvest of Hate: The Nazi Program for the Destruction of the Jews of Europe (Holocaust Library, 1979), p.108.
Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945 (Bantam Books, 1976), p.162.
Ibid., p.202.
Arno Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?: The "Final Solution" in History (Pantheon, 1988), p.362.
Christopher Hitchens, "Whose History Is It?," Vanity Fair, December 1993, p.117.
Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (The Free Press, 1993), pp. 78, 188.
Quoted in Hitchens, p.117.
Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Assassins of Memory: Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust (Columbia University Press, 1992), pp.14, 181, footnote 44
Ibid, p. 181, footnote 44.
Ibid., p.14.
Ibid., p. xii.
Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 5.
Nuremberg document 008-USSR; IMT "blue series," Vol. 39, pp. 24-25. Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, eds., Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 61-62; Hitchens, p. 117; Lipstadt, p. 188, footnote.
Gutman and Berenbaum; Hitchens, p. 117; Lipstadt, p. 188, footnote.
Yehuda Bauer, "Auschwitz: The Dangers of Distortion," Jerusalem Post International Edition, week ending September 30, 1989, p. 7; Peter Steinfels, "Auschwitz Revisionism: An Israeli Scholar’s Case," New York Times, November 12, 1989. Robert Jan van Pelt makes a similar point, p. 109.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Paul Grubach
Title: Is the Holocaust Well Documented?, Bollinger's Outrageous Statement
Published: 2007-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 2007, 7 p.m.
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