Soap and Lampshades: The Lies Persist

Published: 1997-01-06

In his recently published book, Why People Believe Weird Things, Skeptic editor Michael Shermer recounts an exchange from the Phil Donahue show. On that particular episode, CODOH director Bradley Smith stated, "It [is] a lie that Germans cooked Jews to make soap from them." Shermer, who is skeptical of many things, but generally a believer in the Holocaust story, replied, "No, not a lie. It's a mistake."

For some the tales of vicious Germans manufacturing Jews into bars of soap and lampshades are indeed a lie, for others, like Shermer, they are the products of innocent mistakes; for still others, the stories remain an unassailable truth. In fact, these propaganda lies have been dispelled many times, but continue to be repeated frequently in establishment sources. It is no wonder that many people still believe these horror stories.

General Lucius Clay, the military governor of the US zone of occupied Germany, explained the lampshade story, "Well, it turned out actually that it was goat flesh [sic —clearly the general meant skin]. But at the trial [of Ilse Koch] it was still human flesh." (Interview with Lucius Clay, 1976, Official Proceeding of the George C. Marshall Research Foundation Quoted in M. Weber, "Buchenwald: Legend and Reality," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1986-87 7(4), pp. 406-407.)

In regard to the human soap story, darling of the establishment media and virulent anti-revisionist Deborah Lipstadt noted in 1981 "The fact is that the Nazis never used the bodies of Jews, or for that matter anyone else, for the production of soap." ("Nazi Soap Rumor During World War II," Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1981, p II/2.) Michael Berenbaum, former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, now supervising Steven Spielberg's taxpayer-funded Holocaust remembrance project, admitted in 1994, "there is no evidence, despite widespread reports, that human fat was used for soap. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tested several bars of soap reported to be composed of human fat but no such fat was found." (Y. Gutman, M. Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1994, p.80.) One would clearly think that the case is closed, and that further repetition of these propaganda stories would constitute nothing more (and nothing less!) than arrant anti-German bigotry.

Still, the lies persist. On May 10, 1997 the New York Times ran an article entitled, "Holocaust Collection Is Educator for Young." The story concerns Milton Kohn, the owner of the world's "largest private collection of Holocaust memorabilia." Kohn wanders the world repeating anti-German hate stories to children. Part of his traveling collection includes an alleged "bar of soap rendered from human fat [which] was bought from a third party in Eastern Europe in 1968." Surely the New York Times, which prides itself on reporting "all the news that's fit to print," is aware that the soap story has been discredited.

The month of May also saw a revival of the hateful story of human lampshades. In a mailing from Time-Life Video designed to hawk their "World at War" series of videos, the advertisement reads: "More than 60 million people were shot, hanged, bombed, starved, gassed, frozen or drowned. Nazis turned humans into lampshades... Now you can see what hell is really like in the most definitive war footage you can find today!"

Obviously, anti-German hatred still sells. Those who profit from spreading these hateful lies should be called to account. It's up to those with a sense of justice and respect for the truth to let the offenders know that countenancing, let alone spreading, such lies can't and won't be tolerated.

New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036
Time Life Video
1450 E. Parham Road
Richmond, VA 23286-4257

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Richard A. Widmann
Title: Soap and Lampshades: The Lies Persist
Published: 1997-01-06
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1997, 7 p.m.
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