Who Will be Left to Stand Up?

Published: 1997-12-05

In the twenty years or so that the Gas Chamber Controversy has received a definite shape, largely due to the path breaking work of Arthur Butz and Robert Faurisson, there have been many attempts to suppress and control discussion of its themes, which are central to our understanding of the Holocaust and Modern European history.

In recent years, however, this suppression has taken an alarming turn, as nation after nation has passed laws to criminalize the public expression of doubt about any aspect of Holocaust Revisionism. Thus, according to German Law, books that broach revisionist themes are routinely banned and burned, and their authors are threatened with imprisonment: Carlos Porter is the most recent victim. The situation in France is worse in its own way: there, according to the Fabius-Gayssot law of 1990, no one can challenge any portion of the International Military Tribunal's record at Nuremberg. This means not only that one cannot doubt the gas chambers, but also, as David Irving has pointed out, one cannot question such obvious canards as the Russian attempt to pin their own Katyn Forest massacre on the Germans, or the spurious "human soap" evidence. Just last month, Robert Faurisson again fell victim to this bizarre suppressive law.

The response to all of this by the historical and intellectual community has been a deafening silence. Perhaps people feel that acceptance of the gas chamber tales is a small price to pay for peace and quiet and tenure. But think again. Because now we are witnessing an extension of the orthodox interpretation of the Holocaust so that in a few years any free expression on German History will be, in effect, against the law.

The proof lies in a defamation suit that Daniel Goldhagen is pursuing against Ruth Bettina Birn. Ms. Birn, a Holocaust authority in Canada, has published a highly critical review of Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners in Historical Journal 40, 1 (1997). Ms. Birn, who introduced Goldhagen to some of his primary sources, took Mr. Goldhagen to task not merely for the contents of his book but for his use and abuse of sources.

Apparently, Mr. Goldhagen cannot tolerate such substantive abuse of his work, whose central thesis appears to be that Hitler was merely carrying out the wishes of 80 million Germans when he allegedly ordered atrocities against the Jewish people. As a result, Goldhagen is pursuing legal remedies for defamation in England, where Historical Journal is published, and where such charges are almost always brought to court, at the expense of thousands of dollars in legal costs to the defendant. All too many observers can see in this stratagem a naked and cynical attempt to intimidate scholars into silence, and render unassailable the orthodox interpretation of sole and unique German guilt and "war crimes" behavior in the 20th Century.

There are some interesting historical parallels to this ongoing systematic suppression of free speech about the Holocaust. In early 19th Century Germany, the fight concerned whether or not philosophers should be allowed to teach philosophical systems that contradicted Christianity. As one establishment professor put it, in 1840, "If a philosophy contradicts the fundamental ideas of Christianity, then either it is false, or, even if true, it is of no use." The idea was that since Christianity formed the underpinning of the established order, it could not be questioned. After enumerating several cases of academic firings and harassment, Arthur Schopenhauer would wryly observe "hence the solution is: 'lap up thy pudding, slave, and give out as philosophy Jewish mythology!'" by which he meant the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition. And he would go on to say, with grim irony, "the State must protect its own people and should, therefore, pass a law forbidding anyone to make fun of professors of philosophy."

What Schopenhauer wrote about, almost as a bitter jest, would seem to be on the verge of coming true. And here we are reminded of the famous remarks of Pastor Niemoller, in the spirit of which we now conclude:

When they went after the gas chamber skeptics, many didn't mind, because it wasn't their affair. And when they went after those who denied the soap, the skin, and the lampshade stories, most kept silent because they didn't want to start a fuss. And, after that, when they went after those who questioned the legacy of the Nuremberg Trials, most preferred to look the other way. And now we see a case where objections to the thesis of unique and exclusive German guilt and criminality are being attacked through legal means.

How long will it be before any questioning of any aspect of the established order will be made immune to criticism, either by censorship or legal proceedings? And when that happens, will there be anyone left to stand up?

Published in the University of Delaware, Review, 5 December 1997

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Author(s): Martin Henry
Title: Who Will be Left to Stand Up?
Sources: Review, University of Delaware, 05/12/1997
Published: 1997-12-05
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 3, 1997, 6 p.m.
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