The Spectre Haunting Holocaust Revisionism

Published: 1989-01-03

A spectre is haunting the small but articulate holocaust revisionist movement in America: the spectre of Nazism! The simple fact is that a substantial percentage of holocaust revisionists—perhaps as much as 25%—are Hitler and Nazi apologists. This is not another ritual defamation from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith or the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It's simply a fact that has to be faced; pretending otherwise only compounds the problem.

The Nazi issue eats at the integrity of the non-Nazi revisionists, it provides a ready issue for powerful interests who want to silence or persecute anyone who deviates from the Hollywood view of the holocaust, and it renders general acceptance of revisionist views impossible, even where they may be correct. Not all of the problems revisionism has had to face are the fault of its external enemies. Its most powerful adversaries are within its own ranks.

Even if every claim made by revisionists is correct, there remain massive grounds to condemn Adolf Hitler and the totalitarian Nazi system. The Nazis were responsible for massive human rights and civil liberties violations long before the beginning of World War II. Moreover, the roots of Nazi beliefs lie largely in mysticism, not in rational and objective considerations. Without giving credence to the comic exaggerations and bizarre Hollywood parodies of Nazi Germany, any reasonable analysis of the Nazi system demonstrates its inhuman and totalitarian nature.

The presence of Nazi apologists in holocaust revisionist circles absolutely precludes participation by a powerful potential source of supporters-the radical left! Leftist disillusionment with Israel and Zionism is growing rapidly. As I write this letter, Israel Defense Forces have executed their 250th rock-throwing teenager! Indeed, there has been a small but significant Jewish exodus from leftist groups over the Palestinian issue as they feel the invisible strings of ethnic loyalty pull them back into the Zionist fold.

The left contains a number of individuals, among them Jews, whose backgrounds and credentials would give revisionism substantial credibility. I'm not talking about large numbers of people on the left, obviously, but the mavericks who do exist will never come forth if they bump into neo-Nazis, Jew-haters and drooling right-wing ideologues at every turn. Why does the ADL and SWC play up the "Nazi connection" in defaming revisionists? Because it's devastatingly effective, that's why, and because there's just enough truth to it to give the charge credibility.

The best possible situation is, of course, the development of a revisionist movement among Jews themselves. I don't think this is absolutely impossible. Without the intimidation and group-think propaganda of so much of organized Jewry, I think it would have happened by now. The mission of the ADL isn't only to stamp out dissent among the goyim, but also to police the Jewish community for troublemakers and "self-haters," especially on this issue! It may take a revisionist book by a Jewish writer to break the taboo and open revisionism up for genuine debate.

The holocaust revisionist movement is so closely associated with right-wing politics that it's prone to all of their problems. There are not, and I don't think there can be, right-wing "organizations" in the sense that there are left-wing "organizations." Right-wingers have built-in disadvantages when it comes to political organization, not least of which is rampant, mad dog individualism (in contrast to the herd mentality of leftist organizations). The groups that exist on the right are usually involved in some sort of contention or rivalry, they don't cooperate well, and the "competition for the believer's buck" as one wag put it, is intense and often vicious.

What you see in revisionism (with the exception of the Institute for Historical Review) is several little one-man or kitchen table operations. It's amazing that they put out as much material as they do and that the quality of it is sometimes as high as it is. If nothing else, the revisionist movement is blessed with some very good writers, who, when they're not feuding with one another, occasionally produce some credible scholarship. Systematic harassment of the revisionist movement has kept it small. I would estimate that the total readership of all revisionist publications at between 5,000 to 8,000, or perhaps twice that if one includes right-wing publications like Instauration. Circulation of the Journal of the IHR has remained around 2,000 for years. Not quite the makings of a national movement, is it? Moreover, the exterminationists have out-spent the revisionists by perhaps a thousand to one!

Another problem is that revisionist literature often fails to make as strong a case as some revisionists claim. Primarily it casts doubt upon exterminationist claims, which is not the same as proving its own case. Some revisionist points are quite strong and obviously have exterminationists worried, but many are just quibbling. And there's the problem of double standards. I have heard revisionists demand absolute proof for every assertion of fact made by exterminationists while believing every fragment of evidence produced to support their own case. Understanding the weak points in one's own positions is the beginning of wisdom, and if revisionists are to gain any substantial influence over the holocaust debate, they must acquire some sense of self-criticism and objectivity.

One of the tragedies of the holocaust controversy is that fanatic dogmatists among the exterminationists have painted the establishment historians into an impossible corner. To concede that there are no proofs that six million Jews died, or that they were not murdered largely in gas chambers, is unthinkable. All the elements of a closed paranoid belief system are evident, including the projection of their own hostility onto "unbelievers" and skeptics, and to experience that disbelief and skepticism as hatred for Jews.

I think much Jewish identity is built upon persecution fantasies surrounding the holocaust theme, and perhaps to doubt the extent of the persecution is to doubt the moral legitimacy of Judaism itself? And perhaps more importantly, what will be their revenge?

Exterminationists illustrate the "falsibility" thesis of Karl Popper. In order for an empirical system to be valid, it must be able to be refuted by experience. This is, if there is no reasonable evidence that would convince exterminationists to abandon even part of their view of the holocaust, then what we are dealing with here is experienced by exterminationists as a "belief," not a body of historical facts where casualty figures are subject to reinterpretation and revision on the basis of new evidence. The admissions that less than six million Jews died, and that there were fewer gas chambers than originally thought, wouldn't jeopardize their claim that Hitler's Nazi regime was inhuman toward Jews. If holocaust claims were reduced by 90%, for example, the tragedy experienced by Jewish victims would remain intact.

A revisionist trait and one that reasonably infuriates most Jews, is the implication that anyone who promotes the popular account of the holocaust is a "liar" or "fraud." Revisionists fail to accommodate the possibility that their opponents may merely be mistaken (and vice versa come to think of it). The fact that many Jewish families did lose relatives in World War II, whatever the cause, makes the popular account of the holocaust believable. Even Arthur Butz, the premier American revisionist author, estimates that perhaps as many as one million Jews lost their lives from 1939 to 1945, along with many, many millions of Russians, Germans, Poles, and others. The input from the mass culture-TV, movies, books, newspapers, etc.-is that six million Jews were gassed in World War II, and nobody can be "blamed" for believing it. Holocaust propaganda complies with the first laws of propaganda: it must be repetitious, permeate the environment, have some basis in fact and it must be taboo to question or challenge it, whatever its merits might or might not be.

Revisionists have not adequately exploited the censorship and open-inquiry issues. This is dynamite, especially in appealing to honest liberals who, to their credit, are obsessed with fair play and view the intellectual thuggery of the ADL and SWC with disdain. I don't think the ADL and SWC really fool many people. What they do is scare them or buy them off, in a manner of speaking. Most of my friends are intellectual liberals and nearly every one of them can see through the issue of censorship and repression. But they also have careers to protect and families to feed, and they know what the ADL and SWC can do once they pounce on a dissenter. As a faculty friend said, the social cost can be enormous. Even a hint of anti-Semitism compromises friendships and it doesn't matter much if the charge is true or not; that it's been said! In spite of all this there are still brave souls out there whose judgment is respected and whom it would be impossible to smear with any kind of hateful motive. If the revisionist cause is right and intends to prevail, it will have to acquire their support.

Holocaust revisionism, however, can hardly cry "foul" over suppression of free speech and open debate when there's a substantial element in its own ranks that doesn't believe in it, except for themselves. The existence of Hitler and Nazi apologists among revisionists compromises their best hand. Until this issue is resolved, all revisionists will be sitting ducks for those who attack them, and that part of their scholarship that is true will never receive a fair hearing.

Revisionism cannot go anywhere in this country by whitewashing authoritarianism and dictatorship. In this age, when the quasi-fascist nature of Zionism is becoming more and more apparent, and when Jewish chauvinism is gaining acceptance in the Jewish community in a manner that would have been unthinkable ten years ago, the contrast between a non-ideological holocaust revisionism and the dogmatic, bullying, self-serving holocaust orthodoxy would be self-evident.

I am not a revisionist. I remain a skeptic, in the sense defined by Miguel de Unamuno. The skeptic is not he who doubts, but he who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks he has found. The private motives of both the authoritarian revisionists and dogmatic exterminationists have clouded their judgment. The revisionist camp can never match the financial resources and propaganda opportunities of the exterminationists; it must rely upon superior research and analysis, upon better evidence, and upon exposing and documenting the fallacies, distortions and the repressive and dogmatic character of its opponents, if it is there to be exposed.

I'm not emotionally attached to either side in this debate, but I would like to throw truth on the matter.

The greatest service revisionists can perform is to be scrupulously observant of the principles of scholarship and the scientific method. If revisionist claims are valid the evidence will support them, assuming it hasn't been tampered with. Along these lines the 1988 Leuchter Report prepared by civil engineer Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., which analyzed the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek in Poland, is invaluable evidence on behalf of revisionist claims that there either were no gas chambers in those camps or that structures claimed to be gas chambers were impossible or impractical for that purpose. If this approach is taken and revisionists are proven correct, then exterminationists will have to admit that their claims are not a matter of evidence but rather of belief-a devastating confession!

Until revisionism can establish itself as a moral force, and clean its house of wishful thinkers, authoritarians and fanatics, it future is foreordained, and the responsibility for it will lie in its own ranks.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Laird Wilcox
Title: The Spectre Haunting Holocaust Revisionism
Sources: Revisionist Letters, Volume 1, No. 1, Spring 89, p. 8
Published: 1989-01-03
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1995, 7 p.m.
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