The Töben Affair, Seen by Voltaire
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This essay is adapted from Robert Faurisson’s foreword to Fredrick Töben’s forthcoming book, When Truth is No Defence: I Want to Break Free
For the historian, the sociologist, or the jurist, the case of Australian revisionist Fredrick Töben is one of the simplest and most instructive. It is also both appalling and amusing.
One day, moved by curiosity, this German-born Australian departed the antipodes for France, to confer with a revisionist who had coined the phrase “No holes, no ‘Holocaust.’” Next, he journeyed to Poland, to Auschwitz, where with his own eyes he observed the absence of any “holes” in the collapsed roof of an alleged homicidal gas chamber, and concluded that there was cause to doubt whether such chemical slaughterhouses had ever existed at that spot, the veritable center of the “Holocaust.” Finally, on a pilgrimage to the Germanic lands, he shared his doubts and asked for explanations, conduct that, forthwith, earned him a stay in prison.
Voltaire would have liked this “affaire Calas” (of a less tragic sort). From it he could have drawn inspiration for a tale entitled: “The Emperor’s New Clothes, or the Imposture.” It seems right to imagine that, as in a classical French play, the story should evolve in five acts.
In the first of these acts, our hero from the southern hemisphere hears tell that a certain European emperor, dear to the Jews, and thus also to today’s Germans, is, in the eyes of his court, bedecked in the most resplendent attire, while in reality he is quite simply naked. It is said that certain ingenious rascals had pretended to create for the emperor garments of an exceedingly rare cloth, costing a fortune. In the next act, our Australian, a modern-day Huron after Voltaire’s tale Le Huron ou l’Ingénu, armed with advice on how to pursue his inquiry, arrives in Europe and prepares to see for himself. At the imperial court, he forms the impression that this emperor could well be naked. In the third act, he makes inquiries at the court, even whispering to the courtiers: “Is it possible that your emperor is naked?”
For want of a fitting reply, he resolves to go to the German realms and consult a man of the craft. This man, certainly a German, perhaps a Jew as well, has a reputation the world over for so good a grasp of the solution to the riddle that he will abide no answer but his own. A prosecutor of lugubrious mien, he invites the skeptic to return the next day to receive his answer. This our Australian does not fail to do. In the prosecutor’s office, with a stranger present, he is asked to repeat his question. He does. And so it is that, in the fifth and final act, the curious traveler finds himself behind the bars of a German jail.
In the real-life Töben case, the prosecutor was one Heiko Klein, the stranger was a policeman, and Töben spent seven months in the Mannheim jail.
Voltaire would have been no less inspired by what came next. The treatment Töben received in court throws a stark light on how the German justice system operates today, and on the behavior of many Western democracies whenever the most hallowed of their taboos, that of the “Holocaust,” appears to be in peril.
Fredrick Töben, guarded and in handcuffs, was led from his jail cell into a courtroom. Given the gravity of his case, however, he was only allowed a mock trial. He was, of course, provided with counsel, but his attorney was made to understand that he would do well to keep quiet if he did not want to join his client in prison. The lawyer kept quiet, and Töben was found guilty, sentenced to time served and a heavy fine, and then released.
On October 13, 1761, Jean Calas, a Protestant textile dealer in Toulouse, and his wife discovered the body of their 29-year-old son, Marc-Antoine, who had hanged himself. When Calas attempted to conceal Marc-Antoine's suicide, Toulouse was soon rife with innuendo that the father had killed his son because he was about to convert to Catholicism. Voltaire became involved only after the city authorities had executed Calas on March 9, 1762; the philosophe, then 67 years old, was able to mobilize Prussia's Frederick II and Catherine of Russia, as well as much of Europe's republic of letters, to induce France's Louis XV to pardon the late Calas and to order his wife and daughters released from confinement.
The Australian authorities were careful not to intervene in favor of the victim. Indeed they fell little short of applauding the judges’ decision, most likely envying the German magistrates’ freedom of action.
In the rest of the Western world, everyone, by and large, fell into line with Germany and Australia. The “elites” in place either approved, or kept silent. It occurred to none of them to decry the outrage. There were no petitions in support of the heretic, and no demonstrations. “Amnesty International” considered it natural and normal that an intellectual, an academic, should be treated thus. Indeed, precisely because Töben is a professor, many must think that he ought surely to know that some questions simply outrage decency.
Twenty Years Earlier
Twenty years previously, I myself lived through an experience comparable to that of my Australian colleague. In the columns of Le Monde (Feb. 21, 1979), thirty-four French historians – some of whom, like Fernand Braudel, enjoyed international renown – issued a joint declaration rebuking me for having put a question that propriety should have forbidden me even to conceive.
I had discovered that the existence and operation of the alleged Nazi gas chambers was, for physical and chemical reasons understandable to a child of eight, fundamentally impossible. In the late seventies I had therefore asked Germany’s accusers how, for them, such mass murder by gassing had been technically possible. The answer took some time in coming, then gushed forth:
It must not be asked how, technically, such a mass murder was possible. It was technically possible given that it took place. That is the requisite point of departure of any historical inquiry on this subject. It is incumbent upon us to simply state this truth: there is not, there cannot be, any debate about the existence of the gas chambers.
I was awkward enough to think that I had just brought off a decisive victory. My adversaries were taking flight. They showed themselves unable to reply to my arguments except by nimbly evading them. For me, the myth of the gas chambers had just breathed its last.
Pressac’s Surrender, Spielberg’s Triumph
Of course, from a scientific standpoint, gas chambers had fallen into nothingness. The following years confirmed this. From 1979 to 1995, every attempt to demonstrate their existence would abort: the Rückerls and Langbeins, the Hilbergs and Brownings, the Klarfelds and Pressacs would all suffer the most humiliating failures. It is not I who say this but rather one of their most fervent disciples, the historian Jacques Baynac. In 1996, in two lengthy and particularly well-informed articles, this fierce opponent of the revisionists drafted, with a heavy heart, an assessment of the vain efforts to establish the existence of the Nazi gas chambers (Le Nouveau Quotidien, Lausanne, Sept. 2 and 3, 1996). [See the July-August 1998 Journal, pp. 24–28.] Baynac’s conclusion: the historians had failed totally and, as a result, recourse was had to the judiciary in order to silence the revisionists.
What would Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet, 1694-1778) make of today's Holocaust cult, with its spectral "gas chambers" and incorporeal martyrs, its survivor saints and sham miracles, its museum-shrines, its shabby dogmas that contravene physical reality, the state inquisition that shields it from investigation? Would he not cry, "Ecrasez l'infame!" (or, "Crush the monster!")?
In March 2000, the renegade revisionist Jean-Claude Pressac was, in a way, to announce his own surrender. On this point one may read an interview with him published by the French scholar and historian (and staunch anti-revisionist) Valérie Igounet, in her book Histoire du négationnisme en France (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2000, pp. 613–652). The last two pages of the interview are stunning: Pressac states that the “rubbish bins of history” await the official story of the concentration camps! This text of a recorded talk, supposedly on June 15, 1995, must have been somewhat modified afterwards.
As is well known, however, the sphere of science, on the one hand, and that of the mass media, on the other, are plainly different in nature. In the latter sphere, while the Nazi gas chambers have had a very rough time of it, the adjoining myths of the genocide and the six million have prospered, thanks to thunderous promotion. Hilberg and his like may have failed in their work as historians, but Spielberg, the master of special effects cinema, triumphs with his “Holocaust” epics. Today, the official version of Second World War history has the force of law and of custom to such a degree that the nasty “deniers” seem annihilated.
The Particular Case of Fredrick Töben
Nevertheless, a number of these rebels called revisionists remain alive, and very much so, to the despair of the thought police and their servitors among prosecutors, the judiciary, and the media. One of these revisionists, Fredrick Töben, upon leaving prison, had not the decency to show the least contrition or, as is said today, repentance. It may be feared that, for him, the Emperor (of the Jews) will remain indisputably naked, and that he will continue to go about repeating “No holes, no ‘Holocaust,’” or, in an allusion to the non-existent fabric, “No clothes, no ‘Holocaust.’”
Beginning with the indomitable Paul Rassinier, numerous other revisionists besides our Australian have endured, or still endure, a thousand travails. A few months ago, one of them, in Germany, was driven to suicide. Werner Pfeifenberger, a professor in Münster, killed himself on May 13, 2000, after years of exhausting struggle against his persecutors. [See the May-June 2000 Journal, pp. 24-25.] On April 25, 1995, in a Munich square, Reinhold Elstner immolated himself by fire. [See the September–October 1995 Journal, pp. 23–24.]
What distinguishes Töben’s case from those of other revisionists is its simple and swift unwinding, and therefore its illustrative value. One might call it a synopsis, even a précis. It is nothing but the story of a man who, for having made a prosaic remark about a material fact, finds himself in prison. To whoever cared to listen, he declared: “At Auschwitz-Birkenau, they tell us a lethal poison was poured through four openings cut into a reinforced concrete roof, killing, day after day, thousands of people locked in the room below. Well, just looking at the roof today you can see that none of those four holes ever existed! Yes, the roof is in ruins, but there is not a trace of such an opening, either above ground or, if you go down into the ruins, on the ceiling below. How do you explain that?” He received no answer. He then sought out a man who, by definition, would certainly know the answer to his query (and the answer to several others of the same type, i.e. material, basic). The sole reply that wise man could make was to throw the questioner in jail. But, out of jail again, what did our impertinent friend do? He repeated his question, but this time “urbi et orbi,” to the whole world, and with renewed vigor.
A story edifying by its brevity, and not without spice.
Töben in an Ingénu Role Out of a Tale by Voltaire
I shall say it again: a Frenchman familiar with Voltaire is tempted to see in this antipodean a reincarnation, in his own mode, of Candide or the Huron (the original ingénu). Under Voltaire’s pen, the ingenuousness, real or feigned, of those two heroes, wholly of his imagining, ended up putting them through numerous ordeals – but it also helped them overcome adversity, not without providing interesting perspectives on the beliefs and superstitions underpinning our society and institutions. The story of Fredrick Töben (a German, as was, in fact, Candide) would probably have appealed to Voltaire on another score, that of the execrable intolerance of the Jews and their high priests. (See: Henri Labroue, Voltaire antijuif [Paris: Les Documents contemporains, 1942].)
Today, in France, new editions of certain works of the “patriarch of Ferney” are expurgated, for fear of displeasing the Jews. No one can doubt that, if he came back to this world, Voltaire, following Töben’s example, would be locked up for his disrespectful questions. Today even Switzerland, where in his time Voltaire knew he could find refuge, would surely put him in jail.
* * *
A note to the reader: Voltaire (1694–1778) was notably the author of Candide ou l’Optimisme (philosophical tale, 1759) and Le Huron ou l’Ingénu (satirical tale, 1767) as well as the Dictionnaire philosophique ou la Raison par alphabet (1764). He intervened in a series of court cases, such as that of the Calvinist Jean Calas, to speak out against what he called the crimes of intolerance or of superstition. He spent his last twenty years at Ferney, near the Swiss border.
Note on a falsely attributed statement: the following remark is mistakenly attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” sometimes with the adjunct “Monsieur l’abbé …” In reality, a London author, in a book published in 1906, wrote of Voltaire’s attitude in cases of intense disagreement with his adversarsies: “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it was his attitude now.” The author called himself Stephen G. Tallentyre (real name: Evelyn B. Hall), and the book was entitled The Friends of Voltaire. Source: Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (New York and Oxford: O.U.P., 1989, pp. 124–126). Such, anyway, is the information I have from an article in L’Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux (Nov. 1993, p. 1157), kindly sent to me seven years ago by the Belgian revisionist Pierre Moreau, to whom I had confided my failure to find the remark in any of Voltaire’s writings.
– August 22, 2000
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Additional information about this document
|Title:||The Töben Affair, Seen by Voltaire|
|Sources:||The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 20, no. 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 37-40|
|First posted on CODOH:||April 19, 2013, 7 p.m.|