The Holocaust Historiography Project


by Mark Weber, of the Institute for Historical Review

It is difficult to imagine anyone better suited to be the great pioneer of what has become known as Holocaust Revisionism than Paul Rassinier. This French professor of history was a non-Communist Socialist who was arrested during the war for "passive resistance" activities, which included helping to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland. Rassinier was then sent to the Buchenwald and Dora camps in Germany, where he remained an inmate until the end of the war. When he returned to France, he was astonished by the stories that were being circulated about the camps, and he felt honor-bound to tell the truth as he knew it.

For example, a French priest who had also been an inmate at Buchenwald claimed to have seen "thousands and thousands of persons" going into gas chambers there. When Rassinier met with the priest and pointed out to him that no one was ever gassed at Buchenwald, he replied: "Right, but that's only a figure of speech … and since those things existed somewhere, it's not important." (pages 129-130 of this volume. See also: M. Weber, "Buchenwald: Legend and Reality," Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1986-87.)

Rassinier was a man of rare courage and conscientious devotion to historical truth. In spite of poor health he traveled many thousands of kilometers across Europe to meet with persons who claimed to have personal knowledge of mass killings. (p. 271). As he put it, "… A historian worthy of the name should not suppress anything that he knows which is relevant to the subject under discussion." (p. 282). His obvious intellectual honesty contrasts sharply with the deceitful spirit of "Exterminationist" historians such as Leon Poliakov, Lucy Dawidowicz, and William L. Shirer.

Rassinier's work has stood the test of time remarkably well. His basic thesis — that there was no German policy or program of extermination, and that the incessantly repeated figure of six million Jewish wartime dead is a gross exaggeration — has been abundantly confirmed by a tremendous amount of new evidence collected by the scholars who have followed in his path. All Revisionists owe a great debt to this man. Some of the more important of those who have built upon the foundation he laid are Dr. Arthur Butz of Northwestern University, Prof. Robert Faurisson of the University of Lyon (France) and Henri Roques, who knew Rassinier personally. (Incidentally, Dr. Butz provides a useful summary of Rassinier's work in his book The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, pp. 10-11.)

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the case for the revisionist view of the Holocaust story is immeasurably stronger today than it was when Rassinier died in 1967. Because Holocaust Revisionists challenge an official and prevailing view of history, they have a tremendous burden of proof. They are held to a much more rigorous standard of accuracy than most historians. This was dramatically demonstrated, for example, in the essentially political trials of Revisionists Robert Faurisson in France and Ernst Zündel in Canada.

Rassinier was in frail health when he wrote most of the works that have been brought together in this volume. And because he was a pioneer who worked virtually alone, a number of errors unfortunately found their way into his writings. These mostly minor errors are neither malicious nor deceitful, which is shown by the fact that they are not crucial to his central thesis. It may even be said that these mistakes underscore Rassinier's basic honesty. If he were alive today, he would be the first to revise his findings in the light of more complete and accurate information. Thus, in the spirit of historical accuracy that Rassinier himself vigorously supported, the following corrections and explanatory points are offered:

  1. Rassinier mistakenly maintained (page 288) that the first accusation that the Germans were exterminating the Jews was made in 1943 by the Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin in his book, Axis Rule In Occupied Europe. In an effort to discredit Rassinier and all Revisionists, the prosecution in the 1988 "Holocaust trial" of Ernst Zündel emphasized this point, although it is not at all crucial to the Revisionist thesis. Actually, the first extermination claims were made, and widely publicized, in the summer and fall of 1942 by the World Jewish Congress, and particularly by its president, Rabbi Stephen Wise, who was also head of the American Jewish Congress. The World Jewish Congress mounted a well-organized campaign to pressure the Allied governments to endorse its extermination claims. The result was the joint declaration of 17 December 1942 by the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and the other Allied governments, which charged that the Germans were putting into effect "Hitler's oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people," and that Jews were being "deliberately massacred in mass executions" in Poland. A few years after the war, the World Jewish Congress boasted in its official history, Unity in Dispersion, about its crucial role in bringing about this declaration. The declaration, which the Allies exploited for propaganda purposes, was issued in spite of warnings by the American and British officials responsible for European Jewish affairs, who stressed that there was no evidence for the Jewish extermination claims. (See: D. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews, esp. pp. 73-75; and the review by M. Weber, Journal of historical Review, Fall 1985, pp. 369-373.)
  2. Rassinier cannot be faulted for an editor's footnote on page 203, which erroneously alleges: 'It seems that the American Jewish writer Meyer Levin was hired by Otto Frank, the father of Anne, to write the Anne Frank Diary. Levin did not write the Diary, but rather an adaptation of it for the screen and stage. The Diary is nevertheless suspect for other reasons. (See: R. Faurisson, "Is the Diary of Anne Frank Genuine?," Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1982, pp. 147-209.)
  3. It is not true, as Rassinier wrote on pages 219 and 292, that Prof. Salo Baron of Columbia University claimed that there were 700,000 Jews in Poland at the end of the war. Baron actually claimed that there were 73,955.(New York Times, 25 April 1961, p. 21.)
  4. The enormous reparation payments by West Germany to Israel and world Jewry are not calculated on the basis of six million Jewish dead, as Rassinier asserted. (p. 214).
  5. Rassinier devoted considerable attention to the ambitious task of estimating the number of Jews who perished in Europe during the Second World War. (pages 288-399). Unfortunately, reliable and complete data on this point, especially for Poland and the occupied Soviet territories, are not available. As a result, it is difficult to estimate the number of Jews who perished during the war years with any precision. Regrettably, some of Rassinier's citations of figures from other sources, including those of Raul Hilberg, are not entirely accurate. Rassinier concluded that 'the number of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, in concentration camps or otherwise, should be placed at about one million, more or less, (p. 390) and he estimated that as many as 1.59 million Jews may have perished altogether (p.398). Given the lack of complete data, these estimates are about as reasonable as any that have been made. Interestingly, they closely match the estimate of 1 to 1. 5 million Jewish wartime dead reached independently by the respected Swiss daily Baseler Nachrichten (13 June 1946, p. 2)
  6. Readers may be surprised by what Rassinier wrote on pages 164 and 270-283 about the gassing story. Although he never believed that there was any German program or policy to gas Jews, for a time he took the view that gassings were carried out on a small scale by a tiny number of sadistic SS men, who acted contrary to orders. I have been reliably informed that in the final years of his fife, Rassinier became increasingly skeptical that even small numbers of unauthorized gassings ever took place.
  7. The abbreviation 'T' appears a number of times in this book (for example, on pages 232-34, 237, 239, 246, 251). This refers to a volume (Tome) in the French edition of the official 42-volume 'blue series' record of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Readers should keep in mind that the pagination is different, depending on which edition of the series is consulted.
  8. A minor mistake in editing appears on page 239, lines 13 and 15 from the bottom. The documents referred to here are actually Nuremberg documents NO-4401 and NO-4473. Similarly, the"document No. 4463" referred to on page 245, line 7, is actually Nuremberg document NO-4473. (See: A. Butz, Hoax, p. 116).

These corrections should not discourage the reader from digging into this important volume, which is a valuable memoir of concentration camp life, as well as an insightful and often brilliant critique of the Holocaust extermination story.