The Holocaust Historiography Project

Context and Perspective in the 'Holocaust' Controversy

Arthur R. Butz

  • Presented at the IHR’s 1982 Revisionist Conference.


When in the discussion of some subject we criticize somebody because “he can’t see the forest for the trees,” we refer to a special sort of intellectual failing. We do not mean that the object of our criticism is incompetent or that his views on the subject of interest are erroneous or irrelevant. His views may, on the contrary, be buttressed by investigations of depth and power that would be a credit to any intellect. We mean that he is so focused on details that he fails to see the subject in proper and larger context, especially from the higher perspective which, if adopted and pursued, would solve many of the problems that excited general curiosity in the subject in the first place.

When I first addressed an IHR conference three years ago I explicitly made reference to this problem by pointing out that on p. 10 of the Hoax of the Twentieth Century I had mentioned the consideration that, if appreciated adequately, would have made much of my study superfluous:

The simplest valid reason for being skeptical about the extermination claim is also the simplest conceivable reason; at the end of the war they were still there.

Through all of the controversy on the “Holocaust” my thoughts have continually returned to this point. That so much controversy could have raged, with only rare occurrences of this observation, raises questions that are worth exploring.

On the one hand my making of the above and similar general historical observations in my book shows that I did not myopically see only the trees and not the forest. On the other hand in some parts of the book my focus may seem to be on obscure details and to suggest myopia. This bifocalism is the topic of this paper. For one thing, I want to develop the “forest” side of the subject further, i.e. I want to place the “Holocaust” subject more firmly in the context of the higher history of the twentieth century. On the other hand, I want to consider the fact that so much of the investigation that has been conducted in recent years, certainly including my own, has presupposed and sought to satisfy myopic demands. I will argue, partly from historical analogy, that as a practical matter this great emphasis on detail seems justified and even necessary in the times we are in, but that it is important, even to avoid getting tripped up on points of detail, that we keep the larger context in mind.

Gitta Sereny

Gitta Sereny’s article in the New Statesman of 2 November 1979 furnishes a useful illustration. She attempted to encounter my arguments in only one respect. In the course of writing Into That Darkness she had interviewed, in a German prison, Franz Stangl, former commandant of Treblinka (a facility in central Poland that served as a transit camp for deportations of Warsaw Jews). She wrote:

I talked with Stangl for weeks in prison; I talked to others who worked under him, and to their families. I talked to people who, otherwise uninvolved, witnessed these events in Poland. And I talked to a few of those very few who survived.

Butz claims in his Hoax that those (hundreds) who admitted taking part in extermination were doing so as plea-bargaining, in order to get lighter sentences. But those I talked to had been tried. Many had served their sentences, and none of them had anything to gain-except shame-by what they told me. Stangl himself wanted only to talk, and them to die. And Stangl is dead. But if … Butz … were really interested in the truth, Stangl’s wife, and many other witnesses are still able to testify.

Although the point is not of major importance, I note that Sereny has misleadingly reported Stangl’s hopes during her interview. According to her Into That Darkness Stangl was awaiting the decision on his appeal against a life sentence, so he presumably wanted to get out of jail before he died.

Anybody who has taken even a brief look at the details of the Treblinka legend (e.g. the claim that the exhausts of captured Russian tanks and trucks were used in the “gassings") would understand that history was not being served by Sereny’s remarks on her interviews with Stangl. However I am afraid that in the typical case such healthy skepticism might be accompanied by some myopia in offering an explanation for Sereny’s account. The most obvious myopic reaction would be to say or suggest that Sereny was lying, that Stangl never said anything like what she has attributed to him. Other possibilities might be to suggest that such remarks by Stangl were produced by bribery or torture. That such reactions quite miss the mark is easily seen by first considering the context, rather than the content, of Stangl’s remarks. He was by then an old man. He had heard the tales of what was supposed to have happened at Treblinka for twenty five years. Of course he privately scoffed at them at first. Then he got accustomed to living in a culture in which such tales were never publicly challenged. He may (as sometimes happens in such circumstances) have started to believe them himself, or perhaps he privately cultivated his knowledge that the tales were almost pure invention. It is most unlikely that we shall ever know, but we do know that in his confrontation with the journalist Sereny, the hapless old man could scarcely have reasoned that he could help himself by denying the legend as it applies to Treblinka. I am confident that Stangl told Sereny something like she reports. Of course Stangl sought to excuse himself personally, but what possible self-serving reason could he have found for telling Sereny that the “gassings” are a myth?

Accordingly I wrote in my letter of reply to the New Statesman, which was not published there but was published in this journal:[1]

The key point is that the objective served by such statements should be presumed to be personal interest rather than historical truth. At a “trial” some specific thing is to be tried, i.e. the court is supposed to start by treating that thing as an open question.

The “extermination” allegation has never been a-i question in any practical sense in any of the relevant trials, and in some it has not been open to question in a formal legal sense. The question was always only personal responsibility in a context in which the extermination allegation was unquestionable. Thus the “confessions” of Germans, which in all cases sought to deny or mitigate personal responsibility, were merely the only defenses they could present in their circumstances.

This is not exactly “plea-bargaining,” where there is negotiation between prosecution and defense, but it is related. All it amounts to is presenting a story that it was possible for the court to accept. The logical dilemma is inescapable once the defendant resolves to take the “trial” seriously. To deny the legend was not the way to stay out of jail.

Moreover it is not true, as Sereny implicitly asserts, that this logical dilemma no longer holds when the defendant is serving a life sentence. If he is seeking pardon or parole, he would not try to overturn what has already been decided in court; that is not the way pardon or parole works. For example, at the Frankfurt “Auschwitz trial” of 1963-1965, so monstrous were the supposed deeds of Robert Mulka that many thought his sentence to 14 years at hard labor unduly light. Then, in a denouement that would amaze all who have not studied this subject closely, Mulka was quietly released less than four months later. However, if Mulka had claimed in any plea (as he could have truthfully), either at his trial or afterwards, that there were no exterminations at Auschwitz and that he was in a position to know, then he would have served a full life sentence in the former case and the full fourteen years in the latter, if he lived that long.

It is not widely known, but there have been many such instances -the subject is hard to investigate.[2] In no instance would it have made any sense, in terms of immediate self interest, to deny the exterminations. That was not the way to get out of jail.

If one accepts, as the terms of the debate, the purely defensive attitude of responding to the specific points made by the other side, then I still believe this to be the correct way to answer Sereny. I was satisfied as I wrote those lines but, in the course of so doing, the madness of the immediate context struck me. It was 1979, not 1942, and Sereny was trying to explain to readers of the New Statesman, via her account of a lone old man’s remarks, that they should believe the “extermination” tales. Continuing the letter, then, I wrote:

We do not need “confessions” or “trials” to determine that the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, or the reprisals at Lidice following Heydrich’s assassination, really took place. Now, the extermination legend does not claim a few instances of homicide, but alleges events continental in geographical scope, of three years in temporal scope, and of several million in scope of victims. How ludicrous, then, is the position of the bearers of the legend, who in the last analysis will attempt to “prove” such events on the basis of “confessions” delivered under the fabric of hysteria, censorship, intimidation, persecution and blatant illegality that has been shrouding this subject for 35 years.

To put it another way, Sereny in her 1979 article was arguing the reality of the colossal events alleged by reporting what a tired old man recently told her in prison. One might as well argue that the gypsies burned down New York City in 1950, on the basis of confessions of gypsies who were living there at the time. Of course Sereny would argue that I am seizing on only one remark of hers and making it appear to be her whole argument. However, while I concede that she has a great deal more to say on this subject, the basic observation still stands. She was taking a great deal of space in a prominent journal in presenting arguments that in 1979 were wildly incommensurate with the allegation in question. If the Jews of Europe really had been exterminated, such arguments would not be offered.

When I saw Robert Faurisson in 1980 he congratulated me on this point, i.e. for pointing out that we do not need “trials” in order to believe in real historical events (Hiroshima, Lidice, etc.), and said he wished he had thought of it. I knew how he felt for, at about the time of Sereny’s article a man I had never heard of before telephoned me and raised a point I wished I had thought of, namely, why didn’t those Jewish bodies outside the Axis sphere, who had so much to say about “extermination” and “murder,” undertake to warn the Jews under Hitler what supposedly lay in store for them in the German resettlement programs? In all accounts we are told that the Jews packed up for the deportations and entered camps later without imagining that they were to be killed. This feature of the legend is of course necessary for it is well known that violent resistance to the deportations was very rare (I implicitly touched this point on p. 109 of Hoax, but nowhere nearly as strong as I should have).

The general lesson suggested by these two incidents is the subject of this paper. We see that what was involved in both incidents was temporary myopia, not merely of the bearers of the received legend, but more importantly of the revisionists, who were so busy analyzing the trees that it took some fortuitous prodding to make them notice some important features of the forest. This is not a failing of individuals. It is a consequence of the historical circumstances in which we find ourselves. I shall try to describe those circumstances and show how we should handle them today. This is done partly by presenting my approximation of posterity’s outlook on these matters, and partly by offering several suggestions on the conduct of practical controversy.

The Donation Of Constantine

The “Donation of Constantine” is the most famous forgery in European history. It first appeared somewhere around the year 800. It is a document allegedly in the “hands” (sic) of Emperor Constantine 1 (288?-337), which recounts the long standing and false legend of Constantine’s conversion and baptism by Pope Sylvester I. Its principal feature is its grant to the Pope of temporal authority over “the city of Rome and all the provinces, places and states of Italy, and the western regions.” It also decrees that the Pope “shall have the supremacy as well over the four principal (holy) sees, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople,” and makes various additional specific grants. To make it clear that the Donation is in earnest, the document then has Constantine declare his intention to transfer his own capital to “the province of Byzantia (where) a city should be built in our name … for where the primate of priests and the head of the Christian religion is established by the Heavenly Emperor, it is not right that an earthly Emperor shall have authority there.”

What is of the greatest interest here is that the authenticity of this document was rarely questioned before the fifteenth century, despite the facts that (1) according to legends and histories widely available throughout the Middle Ages and to the document itself, the city that Constantine founded on the ancient site of Byzantium, and which was later called “Constantinople,” had not yet been founded, much less made the site of a principal holy see and (2) more conclusively, and in analogy with our “they were still there” observation on the “Holocaust,” according to records and histories available throughout the Middle Ages, imperial rule continued in Italy during the times of Constantine, Sylvester, and their immediate successors.

It was certainly not lack of interest or relevance that explains the long failure to see the Donation as a fraud. Much of the political life of the Middle Ages revolved around the controversy over the relative power of Pope and Holy Roman (i.e. German) Emperor, and able intellects participated in circumstances in which the Donation was considered one of the arguments on the side of the Pope. Even Dante (1265-1321), an outspoken enemy of papal temporal power, touched on the Donation in his Inferno only to deplore Constantine’s granting of it:

O Constantine, what great evil had as its mother
Not your conversion, but that dowry
Which the first rich father got from you!

Thus a wildly ahistoric forgery, approximately in the class of a letter bearing the alleged signature of George Washington, granting the Methodist Episcopal Church “authority to rule over Washington, D.C. and subject territories of North America,” went almost unchallenged throughout centuries of relevant controversy.

The first challenges were typically silly, off the mark, tendentious, or circumlocutory, and often, with Dante, challenged only the desirability of the Donation and not its historicity. In the middle of the twelfth century the reform movement of Arnold of Brescia attacked the whole legend of Sylvester and the Donation by arguing that Constantine was already a Christian when he met Sylvester. Among the anti-papal Ghibellines of Germany there arose around 1200 the legend that, when Constantine made the Donation, the angels cried audibly “Alas, alas, this day has poison been dropped into the Church of God.” The partisans of the Pope retorted that, sure, the weeping was heard, but it was just the Devil in disguise, trying to deceive us. Others argued that the Donation was not valid because Constantine was tainted with Arian heresy, or because the consent of the people had not been obtained, or because the grant was supposed to apply only to Constantine’s reign. Others turned the Donation into a back handed blow at the papacy by arguing that it showed papal primacy to be derived not from God, but from the Emperor. Indeed the last argument became, until the middle of the fifteenth century, a standard attitude toward the Donation on the part of anti-papal spokesmen. Around 1200 two writers had pointed to the fact of the continuity of imperial rule in Italy after the alleged Donation, but their presentations were circumlocutory and did not reveal their personal conclusions on the matter, and they had no evident influence on future controversy.

What should have been a conclusive critique of the Donation came in 1433, not from an anti-papal source, but from somebody we might characterize as a liberal reformer within the Church. Cusanus, Deacon of St. Florinus of Coblenz, presented for the use of the Council of Basle a critique of the Donation which emphasized the overwhelming historical evidence against any transfer of sovereignty from Emperor to Pope in or just after the time of Sylvester and Constantine.

Cusanus' De concordantia catholica had little direct impact, partly because of its dry and dispassionate tone, and partly because it was eclipsed by the 1440 treatise of Lorenzo Valla, De falso credita et ementita Constantini. It is Valla’s name that is most closely associated with the overthrow of the hoax, partly because his own considerable talents were supplemented by Cusanus' work, partly because of the oratorical and passionate nature of his treatise, and partly because the quickly succeeding developments of printing and the Reformation movement gave the treatise a massive distribution in various translations.

Valla’s basic approach was to subject the Donation to criticism from every perspective that was available to him. For example he starts by trying to look at the matter from the perspective of Constantine, “a man who through thirst for dominion had waged war against nations, and attacking friends and relatives in civil strife had taken the government from them,” who then allegedly would “set about giving to another out of pure generosity the city of Rome, his fatherland, the head of the world, the queen of states … betaking himself thence to an humble little town, Byzantium.” After reading only a few pages of Valla the Donation seems incredible, but the treatise runs to about 80 pages in English translation and is a classic case of “overkill.” Valla supported Cusanus' argument, that the alleged transfer of sovereignty had not taken place, with the evidence of the Roman coins of the period, which were issued in the names of Emperors, not Popes. Valla analyzed the language and vocabulary of the Donation document, and showed they could not have represented the sort of Latin used by Constantine. Such methods were novel for the times.

Valla was not a disinterested scholar. At the time he wrote the treatise he was employed as secretary to Alfonso of Aragon, who was contesting the rule of Naples with the Pope. Valla left his reader in no doubt of his view that temporal power of the Pope is bad and ought to be abolished. Nevertheless Valla’s treatise is a landmark in the rise of historical criticism, and I believe it can profitably be studied today by those engaged in “debunking the genocide myth.”

Although somebody was burned at the stake in Strassburg in 1458 for denying the Donation, Valla’s thesis was at first quite well received among educated people, although the treatise remained in manuscript. By 1500 it seemed the legend was finished; the relative quiescence of fundamental controversy on the character of the papacy was probably helpful. However the development of the Reformation movement, and the wide use of Valla’s treatise as a weapon against the papacy, had the ironic effect of reviving the defense of the legend. On the one hand Martin Luther declared in 1537 that Valla’s treatise had convinced him that the Pope was the embodiment of the Antichrist. On the other hand Steuchus, librarian of the Vatican, produced in 1547 a rather able attack on Valla’s treatise, which was put on the Index shortly later. The process of overthrowing the legend could only be considered completed around 1600 when the great Catholic historian Baronius declared that the falsity of the Donation had been proved.

This short sketch begs at least two fundamental questions. First, we have observed that the fraudulence of the Donation seems obvious, on the grounds that the transfer of sovereignty alleged did not in fact take place. Why then did it take so long to expose it?

I believe that the reason is fundamentally that it would have been impolitic, earlier than the Renaissance, to have drawn the obvious conclusions about the Donation. Important political and economic interests are difficult to oppose with mere observations, regardless of how factual and relevant. The two explanations that come most readily to mind, for the overthrowing of the legend at the time it was done, are, first, that the Renaissance introduced a new higher level of scholarship to Europe and, second, that the Reformation assisted anti-papal developments. I believe this interpretation is valid provided it is not thereby implied that the Middle Ages did not have the intellectual acumen to see through the fraud. The political developments of the post-medieval period were decisive in making it safe and even opportune to see the obvious.

We can elaborate on this basically political explanation by noting the old problem; we see the trees, not the forest, unless we make unusual efforts to do otherwise. To see the obvious, it must first be presented somehow. What people heard in the Donation controversy were the claims of Popes to temporal authority, references to the relevant document, and all sorts of arguments from quarters hostile to the Pope. Roman history, while known to a good extent, was not normally ably presented. For this perhaps amazing omission there are simple explanations. For one thing the Popes represented the entrenched position and called the tune on what was to be discussed; they could hardly be expected to encourage examination on historical grounds. For another thing spokesmen against the Donation, on account of their dissident position, had to address familiar subjects in order to accomplish the practical objective of being heard. Moreover as they typically represented political or religious interests rather than historical studies, they often did not know the relevant history anyway. On the other hand the professional scholars were largely dependent on ecclesiastic authorities for their livelihoods. Thus the field was suitable for a reign of politically founded stupidity.

To ask a second fundamental question, if the fraudulence of the Donation should have been obvious to the unintimidated and inquiring intellect, and if political developments weakened and even removed the intimidation, then why was a lengthy treatise such a Valla’s necessary to overthrow it?

The question as posed is loaded, mainly in the sense of presupposing cause and effect relationships. We cannot separate causes and effects in complex events which saw (a) the shattering of the power of the papacy in the Reformation and (b) the overthrowing of one of the impostures which supported that power and (c) the wide circulation of a book exposing that imposture.

At best we can ask what role Valla’s treatise played in these events and a good conjecture can be made on the basis of the contents of the treatise, which were far more extensive, and far more detailed, than what was required to prove the thesis. It contained intellectual material of such quantity and diversity that the spread of its influence was all but irresistible. Old coin buffs got something to talk about; the specialists in Latin grammar and language were invited into the controversy; the historians of Rome saw something for them, ditto the historians of the Church. In short, articulate tongues were set wagging against a background of colossal political development.

In my Convention paper three years ago I stressed that extra-academic controversy should not be underrated as a means of nudging the scholars along on controversial subjects. That is to say, and here I am speaking from direct experience as a member of academe, the typical attitude toward “hot” subjects, on the part of the basically honest but all-too-human scholar, is evasion. To be sure there is a small minority, the hirelings of the profiteers of the reigning thesis, who consciously lie and obfuscate. Eventually there is a small minority that assaults the entrenched position, and whose dissident utterances have the temporary effect of allying a larger minority with the conscious liars, in denunciation of the heretics. However the typical honest scholar, who tries to maintain self respect while paying his bills, evades the hot issue.

This evasion is made difficult or impossible if diverse members of the populace abound with challenging questions. If the popular expression goes far enough, it can transform itself from a factor making evasion impossible, into a factor making heresy relatively safe. Thus do not underrate popularization of hot subjects as a means of nudging or even propelling those who ought to handle them.

The main points I want to make in this section are as follows. Simple and decisive arguments against the Donation of Constantine which, it seems to us, should have been obvious to the Middle Ages, were smothered by the politics of the times. Valla’s treatise, going into far more detail than seems necessary to our historical sense, played a crucial practical role in bringing down the legend of the Donation, but this process was inseparably linked to political developments favorable to Valla’s thesis and its unintimidated consideration.

The Analogies

The analogies to our own “Holocaust” legend may seem almost too obvious to belabor. The academics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance who would not see the simple stand in painful and embarrassing analogy to academics of today. However it is worthwhile to expand on a few points.

We have seen that the legend of the Donation was overthrown in a period of political development highly unfavorable to the papacy, and this suggests another obvious analogy and expectation: that the Holocaust legend will be overthrown in this period of political development highly unfavorable to Zionism. This anticipated confluence is above all inevitable and inescapable, but it is useful to note its dangerous aspects. It will introduce dangerous pressures, political and intellectual, into the revisionist camp.

For example as this is written the Israeli invasion of Lebanon has made Menachem Begin the most unpopular man, and Israel the most unpopular state, in the world. It can plausibly be argued that the invasion has been brutally negligent of the welfare of innocent Lebanese civilians who have died in shocking numbers or suffered the privations attendant to the Israeli attempt to destroy the PLO forces. It can plausibly be argued that Americans have been dopes or dupes for giving Israel almost everything it wanted in the past. However I have read, even in publications friendly to revisionism,[3] that the Israeli policy amounts to “genocide,” which it does not, either in intent or (thus far) in effect, at least not in my understanding of the meaning of the word, which is somewhat close to “extermination.” While such ill conceived cussing may be the norm for the popular press, it is upsetting to see revisionist oriented circles do it for they, above all, should be able to make the distinctions among the various inhumanities that are necessary to keep the historical record straight.

A recognition of real danger comes with the understanding that such confusion of issues may have an explanation in terms of politics as well as in terms of normal human inexactitude. In the coming years there will be strong pressures on many, including revisionists, to be “for” the Arabs as distinct from fair to them. The pressure will arise partly from the fact that it will be precisely the Middle East developments that will create opportunities for the revisionists to be heard. Thus the revisionists will have to walk a tightrope, on the one hand resisting dangerous pressures, on the other hand exploiting such openings, as political developments may make, for the expression of legitimate historical observations. We should dearly love to consider the Hoax in an ivory tower, but it is not going to happen that way.

As history never repeats itself, the Donation-Holocaust analogy does not hold on all salient points. However there is another important point of similarity worth noting, namely, the excessive attention to detail in both Valla’s treatise and in contemporary revisionist investigations: overkill in both cases. The people of the Renaissance would not observe that the alleged transfer of sovereignty did not take place, and let go at that, and we will not observe that the Jews were still there, and let it go at that. Apparently we must pursue the subject into areas of detail that may seem fantastic to posterity. For example we are not satisfied that the Zyklon, allegedly used in the “gassings,” was an insecticide; we need to exhaustively analyze the technical aspects of the claim.

This preoccupation with detail is both desirable and necessary. That it is desirable has been suggested in the discussion of the Donation. A preoccupation with detail entails a great diversity and quantity of thought on the legend which, even if it might seem myopic to posterity will, indeed has, set tongues wagging in the practical and urgent present to the extent that those formally charged with such concerns will no longer be able to avoid them. Indeed that this point “has” been reached is essentially admitted by Raul Hilberg, author of The Destruction of the European Jews, in a recent interview in a French weekly:[4]

I will say that, in a certain manner, Faurisson and others, without having wished it, have done us a service. They have raised questions which have had as effect to engage the historians in new research. They have forced the gathering of more information, the re-examination of documents, and going further into the understanding of what happened.

That our preoccupation with detail is also necessary in the present circumstances follows from the propaganda strategy of the promoters and defenders of the established legend. one aspect of that strategy is to evade the real and simple question of whether or not the Jews of Europe were in fact physically exterminated by the Germans, and concentrate instead on the superficially similar and (provided enough confusion is generated) speciously equivalent question of whether or not “gas chambers” were operated by the Germans.

This is one basic trick of the hoaxers (there are others I shall mention) and too many of the revisionist camp or bent fall for it. To anticipate any misunderstanding on the point, let me give my assurance that I hold the answers to both questions to be “no"; there was no extermination program and there were no gas chambers. However the former is the real bone of contention and the latter is of only subsidiary importance to the Holocaust revisionist school as I understand its implicit tenets. For example, if it turned out that, one day in 1942, ten adult male Jews were marched into Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia, placed in Hitler’s shower (with suitable hasty mechanical modifications) and there gassed before the approving eyes of the Führer, I would have many reasons, historical and technical, for being astonished, but I would not be forced to change or withdraw any major conclusion on the “Extermination” matter. The discovery would rock the revisionists for whom Hitler is of central interest, e.g. David Irving, but that is irrelevant.

By various tricks, e.g. focusing on certain types of testimonies or discussing “Zyklon” out of context, the defenders of the legend are often able to arrange the quiet substitution, in public controversy, of the “gas chamber” question for the “extermination” question, not because they confuse the two, but because by so doing they are able to take advantage of certain routine reservations that apply to nearly every historical subject.

For example until a short time ago, if I were asked if the Japanese had gassed prisoners during World War II, I would have answered that I was unaware of any such gassings. Now I have very recently read a credible report that they gassed 404 “human guinea pigs” in connection with “research on biological warfare."[5] However I continue to be certain that the Japanese did not “exterminate” any populations.

As another example, I am certain that during World War II the Allied powers did not exterminate any significant portion of the Eskimo population, and I am also confident that no individual communities of Eskimos were gassed by them, but note that I am “certain” in the former case and only “confident” in the latter. The difference arises from the fact that, while one can show that there was no extermination program for Eskimos (e.g. no significant absences were noted after the war), one cannot show that no Eskimos were gassed. Of course, one can cite the lack of an evident motivation for gassing Eskimos, the lack of subsequent charges of Eskimo gassings, etc., and one can be “confident” no communities of Eskimos were gassed (of course individual Eskimos might have been gassed for specific offenses in California). However one must e.g. allow the possibility that some isolated Eskimo community, perhaps posing a security menace to some highly secret Allied military operation, was gassed in great secrecy. This is just routine historical reserve, applying to all phases of history, whose potential relevance to every historical subject is so taken for granted that it is rarely mentioned.

We can prove that the Eskimos were not exterminated, but we cannot prove that no communities of Eskimos were gassed. Likewise, and at the risk of giving the opposition words which can be lifted out of context and used dishonestly, I can prove that there was no German program of physical extermination of the Jews, but I cannot prove that no Jews were gassed, although after living long with the evidence I am confident that no Jews were gassed.

If one examines closely the arguments that are offered when the tact is to argue that Jews were gassed, it is clear that the allegation is of the “isolated Eskimo community” sort. In place of geographical isolation, there is substituted the claim of administrative isolation, i.e. that no written records were kept of the design of the gas chambers or of their construction, or of the gassings themselves, that in order to conceal the deeds the bodies were burned and not a trace was left, and that in order to keep the number of witnesses to a minimum Jewish work parties were used in the operations, these Jews later being killed also. Why such secrecy should have been considered necessary or relevant, given rallies in Madison Square Garden against the alleged slaughter, official Allied and Presidential declarations in condemnation, etc.,[6]is never explained, as few will ask such questions. The important thing is that the whole thing can then be “proved” via declarations of a few “witnesses,” upheld in court, and then used to support a preposterous allegation of a very different and even incommensurate sort, namely, the physical extermination of the Jews of Europe.

It is a cheap trick. It relies on a massive dropping of context and shift of perspective, wherein the rubes are not expected to follow the simple shell game. Unfortunately it has been successful, and this is why a preoccupation with detail, on the part of revisionists, is necessary as well as desirable. The bearers of the legend do not want to confront the “extermination” allegation directly, as easily available information makes it clear the Jews were not exterminated. However, no easily available information makes clear what happened at every location in eastern Europe during the war, especially in view of the political character of the postwar exploitation of documents, and this is where the hoaxers go to work. They offer to fill in such gaps, usually not via written records, but via alleged reconstruction on the basis of their “trials.” As they represent the entrenched position, they effectively call the tune on what is to be debated, and that is why the revisionists, in the minority of instances in which their opponents engage them in superficially scholarly debate, will find themselves confronted with details assembled for mendacious ends. The hoaxers dare not focus on the real question, as it is too simple.

Context And Perspective

While the present interest in detail is desirable from the revisionist point of view, it is also necessary because the defenders of the legend have decided that, for the sake of their contrary purposes, a focus on detail can also be desirable, when there is to be anything like a debate. This odd harmony of the two camps is of course superficial.

That the focus on detail contains dangers for the revisionists is seen by noting that the defenders of the legend take this tact because they have thereby substituted more malleable questions for the real one. Specifically, they trick their audiences into losing context and perspective. What Stangl said to Sereny in jail cannot be understood without the perspective gained by noting Stangl’s hapless position in the postwar world, particularly in postwar Germany, which has a political system imposed by the foreign conquerors who made possible the establishment of the legend in the first place. The claim, that the lack of ordinary historical evidence for “exterminations” is explained by a German policy of utmost secrecy, cannot be easily demolished except via some observation on the historical context of the alleged episode, such as made above. Therefore while it is fine to focus on detail in these times, we risk losing battles, if not the war, if we forget the historical context and lose perspective.

Context and perspective constitute the theme of this paper, but it was necessary to discuss at length the nature of the need.

Posterity will see this “Holocaust,” this curious imposture that enthralled us for two or three decades, as a transient phenomenon involving what will appear to be utterly audacious distortions of the historical record, which we should have seen more easily than we did, as the relevant episodes will seem to have simpler interpretations than we see or at any rate emphasize. While of course we cannot see things as posterity will, we can at least attempt to see the subject from a higher perspective. This will not only help our future reputation, but will also help us avoid getting tripped up on details in current controversy.

We can start by asking just what will draw posterity’s attention as extraordinary. It will not be “exterminations” of Jews, as there were none. It will also not be the German program of expulsion of the Jews. There will of course be some interest in that program, just as today there is interest on the part of the historians in all sorts of past episodes. However that German program was in its essentials far from unique, the Jews having been expelled from the Jerusalem area in the second century and from Spain in the fifteenth, to mention only the most famous two of many expulsions. The German program may seem deplorable, but it will not seem extraordinary.

What will seem unique is the establishment in Western society of the “Holocaust” legend, its exploitation past the point of sanity, its challenge from unconventional quarters a few decades later, and its subsequent overthrow. One implication of this, perhaps for the revisionists at once instructive and deflating, is that the revisionists will themselves be objects of historical scrutiny, i.e. we are part of the historical process that posterity will see, not merely its pioneering investigators.

I believe they will see us that way mainly because of our tendency, explanations for which have already been given, of getting entangled in details while bypassing or downplaying the observations that, it will seem, should have been both obvious and conclusive.

A specific illustration. In order for something to be “obvious” it ought to be figuratively before our very noses. Let us look at two of the recently published and widely discussed books in support of the extermination legend, namely Auschwitz and the Allies by Martin Gilbert (biographer of Winston Churchill) and The Terrible Secret by Walter Laqueur (Director of the Institute of Contemporary History, London, and editor of the Journal of Contemporary History). The two books look at the subject from similar perspectives and cover much of the same ground.

At the end of his long and copiously annotated study, Gilbert writes:[7]

Between May 1942 and June 1944, almost none of the messages reaching the west had referred to Auschwitz as the destination of Jewish deportees, or as a killing centre. Nor had the name of Auschwitz made any impression on those who were building up what they believed to be an increasingly comprehensive picture of the fate of the Jews.

On the other hand early in his shorter but also copiously annotated study Laqueur explains that mass exterminations at Auschwitz could not have been concealed, noting that Auschwitz was “a veritable archipelago,” that “Auschwitz inmates … were, in fact, dispersed all over Silesia, and … met with thousands of people,” that “hundreds of civilian employees … worked at Auschwitz,” and that “journalists travelled in the General Government and were bound to hear,” etc.[8]

I have no quarrel with such observations, as I made them myself, on the basis of essentially the same considerations.[9] Now the reader of Gilbert, Laqueur, and Butz can make a very simple determination. He is being told that (a) in the period May 1942 to June 1944, those interested in such matters had no information of mass exterminations at Auschwitz and (b) mass exterminations at Auschwitz could not have been concealed from the world for any significant length of time. Since he is hearing the same story from both sides then, by a process of inference necessary to those who want to form an opinion but do not have the time or means to become historians, he should assume both claims true. There was no information of mass exterminations at Auschwitz during the relevant period, and mass exterminations at Auschwitz would not have been kept secret. Therefore, there were no mass exterminations at Auschwitz.

The conclusion is inescapable and requires only elementary logic. It is comparable to the syllogism: “I see no elephant in my basement; an elephant could not be concealed from sight in my basement; therefore, there is no elephant in my basement.”

Logic tells us that this observation should be conclusive, and yet I know that in controversies to come it will often be lost sight of. It is a good example of a point on which we shall puzzle posterity for our myopia, since it will wonder why it was so seldom raised in a heated controversy. It is not the sole example of its type. The literature of the defenders of the legend is overflowing with concessions that will make posterity wonder how the legend ever could have been believed in the first place, and why a revisionist literature was necessary at all. Let us be specific.

The principal actors in the historical episode are the governments of the various powers at war, Jewish organizations operating in Allied and neutral countries, Jewish organizations operating openly under the German occupation, clandestine resistance organizations in German-occupied Europe, Jewish or otherwise, the Catholic Church (on account of its twin attributes of ubiquity and centralization), and the International Red Cross.

Prominent among the Jewish organizations were the JDC (American Jewish joint Distribution Committee), closely associated with the American Jewish Committee, the “political organization of the non-Zionist elite of American Jewry.[10] The JDC was primary in extending material assistance to Jews. In Europe an important representative was Joseph J. Schwartz in Lisbon.[11]

More important from our point of view was Saly Mayer, the sometimes unofficial but always principal representative of the JDC in Switzerland. Mayer was in constant contact with the JDC in Lisbon and New York, and also with Jews in occupied Europe, eastern and western.[12]

Also prominent among the Jewish organizations were the JA (Jewish Agency), the unofficial Israeli government of the time, whose guiding light was Chaim Weizmann, and which was represented in Geneva by Richard Lichtheim and Abraham Silbershein. Zionism was also represented by the WJC (World Jewish Congress), whose guiding lights were Nahum Goldman and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and whose principal representative in Switzerland was Gerhart Riegner. The Swiss representatives of these and other Jewish organizations were in constant contact with both Jews of occupied Europe and with Jewish and other representatives in the Allied countries. For example, postal and telephone communications between Jews in occupied countries and those in neutral countries such as Switzerland and Turkey were easily established.[13]

As made abundantly clear by many books in addition to my own (e.g. Gilbert’s book), it is from the WJC, supplemented by the JA, the Polish exile government in London, and occasionally more obscure groups, that the early extermination propaganda emanated.

Here are eight simple observations, all drawn from the literature of the defenders of the legend (sometimes via the intermediary of my book), which establish the non-historicity of the “Holocaust” or, more precisely, a program of mass physical extermination of Europe’s Jews.

The postwar claims had their origin in the wartime extermination claims. However the differences between the two are such that it is implied that the wartime claims were not based on fact

There are two principal sorts of differences between the wartime and postwar claims. First, much of what was claimed during the war was dropped afterwards, only a fraction being retained. Second, the centerpiece of the postwar claims, Auschwitz, was not claimed at all until the very end of the relevant period.

Both observations were made in Chapter 3 of my book, and the second was made above, and both are confirmed by more recent publications. The first is shown by listing specific examples, and those given in Hoax can be supplemented with some taken from the recent literature, particularly the Gilbert book, which gives numerous such examples.[14]

To discuss a specific example, it is well to focus on one Jan Karski, a non-Jewish member of the Polish resistance, who is said to have been sent from Poland by the underground, in November 1942, to report to the Polish exile government in London. His report described Polish Jews being sent to Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor in railway cars packed with “lime and chlorine sprinkled with water.” On the trip half die from suffocation, poisonous fumes, and lack of food and water. These are burned. The remainder are put to death by firing squads, in “lethal gas chambers” and, at Belzec, in an “electrocuting station"; this remainder was buried. This report was widely publicized and circulated.[15]

Of course the present story is that almost all the Jews were killed in gas chambers, their bodies later being burned. Also there is nothing about Auschwitz as an extermination camp in this report of the Polish underground which, in this instance, cannot be accused of ignoring the plight of the Jews.

Karski published his story in 1944 as a silly book, Story of a Secret State, which sold well. At present he is a Professor of Government at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Although the wild disagreement between his wartime tall tales and the postwar tall tales is not novel to a student of this subject, I thought it useful to select Karski for mention because in recent years, in the deluge of “Holocaust” propaganda, he has been rediscovered and feted as something of a hero. He wrote a new and sanitized version of his story in 1979, no doubt for the benefit of those of his friends embarrassed by his book.[16] Then in 1981 he was a participant in a conference held at the State Department and sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Council whose chairman, author Elie Wiesel, “organized the event in part to build a bulwark against a rising tide of revisionist history.” I have no evidence that anybody at the conference sought to get Karski to explain the discrepancies between his and today’s received accounts of “exterminations."[17]

I am sometimes asked why I ignore Elie Wiesel, so here I shall give him one paragraph. I ignore him because, unlike authors I usually discuss, he is frankly a novelist and there is next to nothing in his declarations that could be considered historical argument. Even his allegedly autobiographical Night is too histrionic to be entertained as a purported primary source. This does not mean that there is absolutely nothing to be gained from noticing him. That a novelist was chosen to be Director of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, a plum for which there must have been a lot of behind the scenes jostling, is tremendously revealing of the forces at work today. As for a short judgment of Wiesel’s various writings on the “Holocaust,” I think it is fair to characterize them as reaching the heights that most of us can reach only with the help of the sorts of magic potions that are made out of gin and vermouth and comparable ingredients; Wiesel does not need such help.[18]

To return to the point, namely, “that the wartime claims were not based on fact,” the logic goes as follows. The defenders of the legend could explain the retention of only a fraction of the wartime reports only by claiming that wartime exigencies made corroboration of information impracticable and that as a consequence many inaccurate stories were passed along for public consumption. The result was a set of reports which, although originally inspired by fact, exaggerated the real situation. However such an explanation cannot be reconciled with the fact of the absence of Auschwitz from the extermination claims. The Auschwitz aspect would be consistent with the proffered explanation only if some story exaggerated in relation to the postwar claims had been presented during the war, e.g. exterminations of Jews by means in addition to gas chambers. The logic thus leads to the conclusion that the wartime claims were not inspired by fact.

Both the wartime records and behavior of the Jews in occupied Europe show that they had no information of an extermination program

That resistance to deportation was rare, and that Jews went to the various camps with no suspicion that they were to be killed, has been well known for many years and recently published material has only reinforced this observation. However its implications are usually not appreciated. Note that the observation holds for the Jewish leadership in the various occupied countries as well as for the general Jewish population.

To give some examples, late in 1942 Slovakian Jewish leaders, negotiating with the Germans, took seriously the Germans' offers to cease deportations of Slovakian Jews from Auschwitz. In the French Jewish records “we find a wealth of documentation that tends to deny” exterminations. French Jewish leaders saw “Auschwitz as a place of work” and in November 1944 (after the Germans had been driven out of France) were thinking, in regard to the deportees, mainly of reuniting families. We are told that “Jews in Holland never really knew what was going on in Poland” and that the records of the Amsterdam Jewish Council of 22 January 1943 show that the possibility of “extermination” was not even being entertained as an explanation for the breaking up of families. Jewish leaders in Rome were unaware of any extermination program and feared deportations only in connection with such things as “the rigors of winter and the fragile health of many deportees.” Under such conditions it is not at all surprising that there was only one derailment of an Auschwitz deportation train engineered by Jewish/resistance activities (in Belgium).[19]

To focus on a man who should certainly have been well informed, Rabbi Leo Baeck, “venerated head of German Jewry,” showed via a letter he wrote in November 1942 that he had no suspicion that Jewish deportees were being killed, and by his own postwar admission told no other Jews of “exterminations” during his stay at Theresienstadt, from which there were many deportations.[20]

By the spring of 1944, right after the German occupation of Hungary, the Hungarian Jewish leaders had heard the extermination claims, including (finally) the Auschwitz claims. However they “gave no publicity whatsoever to” such claims. “Not urgent warnings to their fellow Jews to resist deportation, but secret negotiations with the SS aimed at averting deportation altogether, had become the avenue of hope chosen by the Hungarian Zionist leaders."[21]

As for Poland, there was a famous rebellion of the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943. However this came only after almost all the Jews of Warsaw had been deported east. The claim is that “by March 1943 the destruction of Polish Jewry was almost complete.” During the period that they were supposedly being destroyed there was no significant resistance to deportations.[22]

Moreover Jewish record keeping in Poland was diligent and extensive, so that “many posthumous records have come down to us.” Yet there is an “absence of vital subjects from the records.” [23]

Thus the Jews were not cognizant of an extermination program in the only senses that would be convincing, in the senses of resisting deportations or at least recording the “Holocaust” in their confidential records.

Jewish bodies outside occupied Europe, such as the JDC, the WJC, the JA and others did not act as though they believed their own claims of 'extermination'

There are quite a few senses in which this is the case but the most important relates directly to the point discussed above. The Jews who, we are told, boarded deportation trains with no inkling that they were to be killed, were as was noted above in close contact with Jewish bodies outside occupied Europe. Indeed many of the records that show their ignorance of an extermination program are among their communications with there Jews outside Europe. Yet the Jews outside Europe did not undertake to impress on those inside what the deportations were allegedly all about, if one were to believe the remarks they were making for the consumption of others. Otherwise the alleged ignorance would not have existed.

This is enough to prove the point but it is useful to give some good examples of the real behavior of the Jewish bodies outside Europe during their supposed “Holocaust.”

Chaim Weizmann used the extermination claims when he thought them useful. However in May 1943 Weizmann complained to Churchill’s secretariat that if “an Allied press release reporting the fact that Jewish scientists were among those involved in the Allied scientific war effort … were repeated, the Germans would carry out further anti-Jewish reprisals."[24] Just what reprisals could be graver than physical extermination of all is not apparent.

It was noted above that the legend claims that by March 1943 almost all Polish Jews had been killed. However throughout the alleged period of killing, and even into 1944, Jewish relief organizations in the west sent food parcels to Jews in Poland, particularly through the JUS (Jüdische Unterstützungsstelle or Jewish Aid Office), with the permission and cooperation of the German authorities. Money was also sent to Jewish organizations in Poland through the London Polish exile government, again with the permission of the German authorities.[25]

By 1944 Poland had become a battlefield. Accordingly on 14 March 1944 the WJC reminded the British, as Soviet forces were approaching Lvov, that there were “still a considerable number of Jews” in the Lvov area, and we should issue “a fresh and emphatic warning to the Germans” and also speed up the work of rescuing Jews from Nazi occupied territory (obviously to proceed to Palestine, as the WJC made clear by its wartime statements).[26] In the opinion of the WJC, the murdered Jews were still there.

Jewish newspapers in the west, while occasionally publishing massacre claims, clearly thought the claims exaggerated greatly and tended to contradict themselves in their statements. For example the allegedly well informed leftist Jewish “Bund,” in its publication The Ghetto Speaks for October 1943, spoke of the “struggle linking the Polish and Jewish masses.” In their opinion, too, the murdered Jews were still there. However even apart from such specific incidents, it is admitted that even after the Allied declaration of 17 December 1942, the first official claim of “extermination,” “there was no forceful, unequivocal response by American Jewry, including the JDC.” As a rule, “the Jews themselves did not really press very hard for rescue, and their propaganda for Palestine often seemed stronger than their concern for immediate steps to save their brethren."[27]

The historical record thus shows that, apart from their occasional public claims of “extermination,” the Jewish bodies outside occupied Europe conducted themselves as if there were no exterminations, as is most clearly shown by their failure to undertake to warn the European Jews, and by the nature of their real efforts (e.g. in connection with Palestine).

Allied governments and their officials did not act as though they believed the extermination claims, and their intelligence services never produced any information corroborative of the claims

In connection with the actions of Allied governments and their officials we can say that (a) the declarations of the governments, in relation to “extermination,” were inconsistent, equivocal, and unconvincingly timed, (b) no concrete measures were taken to interfere with deportations of Jews or with whatever was happening in the camps and c) incidents involving leading officials show that they did not believe the claims.

Among relevant declarations of governments, perhaps the best known is the Allied declaration of 17 December 1942; this was unequivocally worded although very much lacking in specific details. However it seems unconvincingly timed. According to the legend exterminations outside Russia are supposed to have been in progress for almost a year. Moreover this date also marked the first unequivocal Soviet charge of “extermination,” although such a program was allegedly in operation there since June 1941. This makes the belated Soviet statement particularly incredible, as “there is every reason to assume that the Soviet authorities were from the beginning well informed about all important events in the occupied (Soviet) territories."[28]

On the other hand the Allied “War Crimes Declaration” of 1 November 1943, condemning German atrocities, failed to mention Jews. During the drafting of the declaration, the British Foreign Office had deleted references to “gas chambers because the evidence was untrustworthy."[29]

In connection with Auschwitz, there was on 10 October 1944 a broadcast from London and Washington charging the Germans with “plans (for the) mass execution of the people in the concentration camps” Auschwitz and Birkenau (my emphasis). The German Telegraph Service replied immediately that “these reports are false from beginning to end."[30] The first high level Auschwitz claim by the Allies that resembled the legend of today came in late November 1944, after the claimed termination of the “exterminations,” in the form of the publication of the document I have called the “WRB Report” (as it was published by the War Refugee Board).[31] The Russians captured Auschwitz on 27 January 1945 and did not open it for inspection, even after curiosity was expressed, and even after the sensational publicity given to the captures of Belsen and Buchenwald gave the Soviets a motive to chime in. Instead the Russians merely declared in late April 1945 that 4,000,000 had been killed at Auschwitz, and on 7 May 1945 issued a more detailed “report."[32]

That the Allies undertook no concrete measure to warn the Jews in Europe or to interfere with the deportation or whatever was happening in the German camps is well known. This is most strikingly illustrated by the brief and mostly confidential controversy over bombing Auschwitz for the purpose of stopping exterminations there. Chaim Weizmann had proposed such measures in the summer of 1944 (somewhat half-heartedly, it appears). The strong impression gained is that the British and Americans, while pretending to consider Weizmann’s proposal seriously, were just engaged in verbal games. For example on 7 July 1944 Anthony Eden asked the Air Ministry to respond on the feasibility of the proposal. A response to Weizmann took a while; on 1 September 1944 Richard Law of the Foreign Office wrote Weizmann “that in view of the very great technical difficulties involved, we have no option but to refrain from pursuing the proposal in present circumstances.” This was despite the fact that at the time Weizmann’s proposals were allegedly being considered, the air forces were planning the bombing of Auschwitz as one of many oil targets, and bombed Auschwitz on 20 August 1944 and several times thereafter on those grounds. The obvious suggestion is that the Auschwitz claims were not taken seriously, and the suggestion is confirmed by the fact that the supposedly crucial “information” of what became the “WRB Report” was received in London and Washington in July 1944 but simply filed away by both Governments “until resurrected three and half months later."[33]

Incidents involving leading officials, which show that they did not believe the claims, are numerous. The “close association between the Jewish community and the Roosevelt Administration” is well known. In September 1942 this[34]

Administration was reluctant to accept the reports of murder centers and discounted the idea of an organized attempt to liquidate the Jews. Roosevelt explained the deportations to Frankfurter; the deported Jews were simply being employed on the Soviet frontier to build fortifications.

It should be assumed that Roosevelt based his remarks to Justice Frankfurter on information provided by his intelligence services. Frankfurter must have been convinced, for when Jan Karski (above) later reached Washington to tell his tales, Frankfurter told Karski “that he could not believe him."[35]

When the Auschwitz claims reached Washington, involved officials at the State Department privately commented that “Stuff like this has been coming from Bern ever since 1942 … Don’t forget, this is a Jew telling about the Jews … This is just a campaign by that Jew Morgenthau and his Jewish assistants."[36]

In Britain we find a comparable situation. In September 1942 Churchill spoke in Commons condemning “the mass deportation of Jews from France, with the pitiful horrors attendant upon the calculated and final scattering of families.” He said nothing about “extermination.” In the Foreign Office the extermination claims were generally not believed, and in the Colonial Office one official called them “Jewish Agency sob-stuff."[37]

In November 1942 Edward Benes, exiled President of Czechoslovakia in London, who was well informed on events in his homeland, wrote to the WJC that the claims coming from Riegner in Switzerland were false and that the Germans had no plans to exterminate the Jews.[38] The Swiss Government considered the Allied Declaration of 17 December 1942 “foreign rumor propaganda of the worst type."[39]

Of great importance to our subject is what Allied intelligence had to say on these matters. After quite a few years of living with the literature of this subject, I have not encountered an instance of corroboration of “extermination” by any wartime intelligence source. What we have from intelligence sources militates strongly against the legend. For example on 27 August 1943 “William Cavendish-Bentinck, Chairman of the joint Intelligence Committee (Britain), whose task it was to evaluate the truth or falsehood of all such reports from Nazi Europe,” declared confidentially that the stories being circulated “tend to exaggerate German atrocities in order to stoke us up."[40]

A U.S. counterpart, John Beaty, one of the two editors of the daily secret “G-2 Report,” which was issued each noon to give persons in high places the world picture as it existed four hours earlier, ridiculed the six million legend in a book published in the Fifties.[41]

The only really important data that we have from an intelligence source are the Auschwitz aerial reconnaissance photographs that were published by two CIA photo-interpreters in 1979. Many of the photographs examined were taken in the spring of 1944 when, according to the legend, about 10,000 Hungarian Jews entered the camp every day to be killed. Since it must be conceded that the crematoria at Auschwitz did not have such a massive capacity, the legend claims that “corpses were burned day and night” out-of-doors.[42] No evidence of this is to be found in the photographs and the photo-interpreters remark that even the crematoria chimneys appear inactive.[43]

Thus the Allies also did not take the extermination claims seriously enough to give them more than occasional lip service.

The Vatican did not believe the extermination claims

It is agreed that the far-flung nature of the operations of the Catholic Church guaranteed that the Vatican would have known what was happening to the Jews.[44] Nevertheless no unequivocal condemnation of exterminations of Jews ever came from the Vatican even after the Germans had been driven out of Rome or even after Germany’s defeat. This is despite strong pressures put on the Vatican, by the Allies, to issue such a declaration.

There was an equivocal statement in the Pope’s Christmas message of 1942, but it was issued only after the British had strongly suggested that the issuance of such a statement might help to dissuade the Allies from bombing Rome. However the Pope made it clear to the Allies, even as his declaration was issued, that he did not believe the stories: “he felt that there had been some exaggeration for the purposes of propaganda."[45]

That Vatican spokesmen of today support the legend in their public statements is irrelevant to the historical point.

The actions and reports of the International Red Cross [IRC] do not harmonize with the extermination claims

As with the Vatican, the statements of IRC spokesmen of today do support the legend, but that is irrelevant to the historical point. Also, general editorial remarks in books of documents published by the IRC right after the war do harmonize with the legend. However, all the historian should be interested in are the actual content of the reports and activities of the IRC during the war.

That the actions and reports of the IRC do not harmonize with the legend was discussed at length in my book and it seems pointless to repeat the material here.[46] A couple more points I noticed recently are worth mentioning.

On 14 April 1943, the IRC made it clear that it considered Auschwitz a labor camp for deportees, to whom parcels could be sent.[47]

There were two highly publicized visits of the IRC to Theresienstadt, the Jewish settlement in Czechoslovakia. The IRC reports were relatively favorable in both cases. What is seldom noted is that the IRC delegate in the second visit in the spring of 1945 was George Dunant, who described Theresienstadt “as an experiment by certain leaders of the Reich, who were apparently less hostile to the Jews than those responsible for the racial policy of the German Government.” Since Dunant was guided around Theresienstadt by Adolf Eichmann, he must have known that Theresienstadt was an operation of Himmler’s SS. Dunant, moreover, was evidently in close contact with Jewish representatives. For example early in 1945 he went to Bratislava, partly at the urging of Saly Mayer, in order to supply hiding Jews with funds.[48]

The German documents speak not of extermination, but basically of a program of expulsion and resettlement in the east. There is nothing about 'gas chambers' in the concentration camp or other German records

That the German documents do not speak of extermination is well known. For example, there exists no written order of Hitler to kill the Jews.[49] The documents speak of the “Final Solution” as the ultimate expulsion of all Jews from Europe and of a wartime process of resettling Jews in the occupied east.[50]

The defenders of the legend of course claim that the Germans merely exercised commonplace circumspection and evasion regarding what they committed to writing. This excuse fails on the grounds that such attempts at concealment would make sense only in regard to something it was possible to conceal. It would have been obvious that the physical extermination of Europe’s Jews, whatever the outcome of the war, would not have remained secret. Indeed for reasons discussed above it would have become widely known while it was happening. Even if we hypothesize incredible stupidity of the Germans on this point, we surely must grant that they were aware of the atrocity claims being made in the Allied countries and would have seen that documentary masquerade was of no avail..

There is also nothing about “gas chambers,” in the sense of the legend, in the German documents. What the legend does at this point is produce the insecticide Zyklon B or other fumigation means, show us pictures of quite ordinary looking showers (alleging extraordinary concealed features), make references to the use of exhausts of diesel engines (apparently unconscious that the exhaust of a diesel is mainly carbon dioxide, not carbon monoxide), or play games with the concept of a “gas oven” (crematoria ovens, like most kitchen ovens, are “gas ovens” and the crematoria in the German camps were no exception).

All of this is so idiotic as to be torturing to discuss further. There is also no record of the design and construction of gas chambers. On the basis of my engineering experiences, it seems quite out of the question to suppress all normal historical records of engineering projects of the scope that could have produced the great “gas chambers.” Documents must not only be produced, but also distributed to the great number of individuals charged with specific details; there is no other way to achieve coordination. Even if major documents are closely controlled (as is supposed to happen with “classified” material in the USA) the various individuals would later be able, one way or another, to supply details that, taken together, would cohere credibly. We do not have such coherence with the “Holocaust.” Indeed we have incoherence at not one but two levels. On one level we have the mutual incoherence, in relation to “gas chambers,” of the authentic records dealing with crematoria and disinfection measures. On another level this attempt on the part of the hoaxers to supply specific technical details does not cohere with the feature of the legend according to which the “gas chambers” were improvised in a slapdash fashion by local. non-technical German personnel.[51]

It is of interest that two of Heinrich Himmler’s closest aides, SS Generals Gottlob Berger and Karl Wolff, both testified that they had known nothing of an extermination program during the war. It is of greater interest that toward the end of the war Himmler told a representative of the WJC that[52]

In order to put a stop to the epidemics, we were forced to burn the bodies of incalculable numbers of people who had been destroyed by disease. We were therefore forced to build crematoria, and on this account they are knotting a noose for us.

Are we to believe that the essential agreement between this attempt at self exculpation on the part of Himmler, on the one hand, and on the other hand the picture formed by the documents that Himmler’s enemies assembled in the three year period after his death, was either accidental or arranged by Himmler through superhuman diligence and prescience? Are we to believe likewise of the essential agreement between the German documents on Jewish policy, and the real wartime behavior of Germany’s enemies?

The German resistance to Hitler, including the substantial part that was lodged in German military intelligence, was not cognizant in any way of a program of exterminating Jews

Part of the German resistance was of course opposed to the Hitler regime for reasons related to its anti-Jewish stance. Moreover the Abwehr, German military intelligence, was headed until 1944 by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, a conscious traitor. Next in command in the Abwehr was Hans Oster, who handled financial and administrative matters and kept the central list of agents. Both Oster and one of his subordinates, Hans von Dohnanyi, an “Aryanized” part Jew, made it their “business to deal with an kinds of operations unconnected with their immediate tasks.” Among these operations were involvement in the anti-Hitler opposition and illegal assistance to various Jews. Both were executed for participation in the abortive coup of 20 July 1944.[53]

In the various accounts of the activities of the anti-Hitler resistance in Germany, for example The German Opposition to Hitler by Hans Rothfels, there is no evidence that this opposition was in any way cognizant of a program of exterminating the Jews or passed any such information on to the Allies. If there had been knowledge of such a program, it is a certainty that the information would have been passed on since the anti-Hitler opposition was in contact with the Allies and attempted, without success, to get promises of some sort of Allied support in the event they succeeded in removing Hitler.[54]

Even if we grant the possibility that some Germans involved in the anti-Hitler opposition could have been ignorant of a program of physical extermination of the Jews, even if one had existed, are we to believe this possible of high officials of the Abwehr?

This concludes the discussion of the “eight simple observations … which establish the non-historicity of … a program of mass physical extermination of Europe’s Jews.” The allegation fails every relevant historical test, and entails a level of audacity or “chutzpah” that would have staggered the imagination before the war. It is demanded that we believe that these “events continental in geographical scope, of three years in temporal scope, and of several million in scope of victims,” all transpired without one relevant party being cognizant of them. It is like telling me that, while I saw no elephant when I looked in my basement, he was there anyway. Also while I was sitting in my living room I did not notice that the elephant managed to come upstairs and romp about a while, relevant stairways, door openings, and floors having suddenly miraculously become compatible with such activities. Then the elephant dashed outside into a busy mid-day shopping district, and then walked several miles back to the zoo, but nobody noticed.

Rassinier said somewhere, in connection with the extermination claim, “this is not serious.” I am not in accord with that evaluation. This is mad. However that is not the point of this discussion. The point is that these observations can be considered to lie “figuratively before our very noses” because most have been made in books published recently, not by revisionists, but by the defenders of the legend, and the minority that were not made can be readily inferred from those books anyway. On account of the “Holocaustomania” of the past several years, their existence and general contents have been widely publicized. Perhaps these books have not served up the observations as succinctly and forthrightly as I have, but they have served them up. It would therefore be a case of myopia, of a sort posterity will find it hard to understand if, while pursuing “Holocaust” controversy, we allow ourselves to get so wrapped up with the little details that the defenders of the legend will raise that we allow ourselves to be diverted from taking into account the extraordinarily simple historical observations which really settle beyond doubt any question of the existence of a program of physical extermination of the Jews of Europe.

Concluding Remarks

In controversies to come the partisans of the received legend will try mightily to confuse and complicate the subject with all the tricks that we can anticipate and perhaps then some. We have the precedent of the Donation controversy showing that simple observations that establish the wildly ahistorical nature of a reigning legend can get smothered. Thus my most important advice to those who enter the controversy is that they not lose sight of the fact that the real bone of contention, the extermination allegation, has been laid to rest beyond peradventure by ordinary historical analysis.

It follows that the basic tactic of the defenders of the legend, in controversies to come, will be to attempt to make claims that cannot be tested by the normal method of placing them as hypotheses in appropriate historical context and seeing if they cohere. That this process is under way can be seen from the remarkable New Statesman article of Gitta Sereny that is discussed above. She makes it clear that she would rather discuss places like Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka rather than Auschwitz.

There are good reasons for this. Sereny puts it this way: “Auschwitz … combined enormous labour installations and nearby facilities for extermination. Auschwitz, because so many people survived it, has added most to our knowledge, but also most of our confusion as between the two types of camps.”

There is a valid distinction here. Auschwitz was a huge, multifaceted operation, while the other alleged extermination camps were obscure facilities that functioned only for short times for the virtually exclusive purpose of serving as transit camps for Jews. Thus we have a great deal of information about Auschwitz but much less about the others. For example there probably do not exist relevant aerial reconnaissance photographs of the others, nor were there any western prisoners of war at the others, nor were hundreds of ordinary civilians employed at the others, nor did inmates at the others come into contact with diverse people over a large territory, nor was there apparently any IRC cognizance of the others, nor were there nearly as many transports of west European Jews to the others (there were transports of Dutch Jews to Sobibor).

The consequence is that it is much easier to disprove the legend as it applies to Auschwitz than as it applies to the others, when we for the sake of discussion forego the general historical arguments against “extermination.” That is really why the defenders of the legend would rather discuss Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. There is much less directly contradicting their supposed “evidence,” which consists mainly of postwar testimony. That postwar testimony was mostly given before German courts and under the present legal and political conditions in Germany, revisionists cannot examine it anyway.[55] That is neat.

However the defenders of the legend are in an impossible position here. They cannot concede Auschwitz without conceding the whole issue, for the reason that there is no sort of evidence they offer for the others that is not also offered for Auschwitz. If the “confession” of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss is fanciful,[56] then who will believe the “confession” of Treblinka commandant Franz Stangl? If the Auschwitz accounts of Rudolf Vrba and Miklos Nyiszli are not credible, and their books sick jokes, then who will believe the equally sick Treblinka accounts of Jankiel Wiernik and other obscure people?[57] If the Nuremberg and postwar German trials have not established the truth about Auschwitz, then who will believe that they have established the truth about Treblinka? If the large numbers of Jews admittedly sent to Auschwitz were not killed there, then who will believe that the large numbers of Jews sent to Treblinka were killed at that camp? My advice, then, to those who would engage in controversy is to not permit the defenders of the legend to get away with ignoring Auschwitz. The fact is that it is very easy to bring down the legend as it applies to Auschwitz and Auschwitz in turn, on account of the nature of the evidence involved, brings down the rest of the legend with it.

There is another type of argument resorted to by the defenders of the legend. It was very recently offered by Hilberg in the remarkable interview referred to above, which I recommend to those who want to get a good idea of the contemporary line:[4]

… the critics (i.e. the revisionists) do not account for a quite simple fact: what then became of the people who were deported? The deportation was not a secret event. It was announced. Several million people were displaced to definite places. Where are those people? They are not hidden in China!

It may seem incredible, at a time when scarcely a day goes by that the press does not discover some hitherto obscure Jew who was deported from his home but survived, at a time when events in the Middle East cannot fail to remind people of the great Jewish exodus from Europe after the war (and even during it), and at a time when the revisionist literature is recalling the various ways Jews were moved around during and after the war,[58] that Hilberg would say such a thing. There seems to be no difficulty in accounting for the Jews. A reader’s first impulse might be to assume that Hilberg has been misquoted.

However while he does not elaborate on the point, I can think of two interpretations of Hilberg’s remarks. He has an argument here, but as usual its plausibility is only illusory and depends on myopia and a loss of context and perspective.

What Hilberg probably has in mind is the fact that, while there is available a great deal of documentation that proves that Jews were deported to the camps in Poland, such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, etc., there is not available comparable documentation that proves that they proceeded on through those camps to points further east. At least, I have not seen such German records. I would be astonished to see them today. Admitted that the legend was thrown together in a sloppy fashion, mainly because some continuity with wartime propaganda was desired, it is nevertheless the case that the people who came into control of the German documents after the war, and who put selections of them into evidence at the Nuremberg trials, were not operating under such handicaps. They could suppress very effectively.

One must certainly note who “the people who came into control of the German documents” were. There are many ways to make it clear by historical-political argument or by specific example. My favorite among the latter is that the David Marcus who was prominent in making the U.S. occupation policy in Germany during and immediately after the war, and who headed the. War Crimes Branch in Washington in 1946-1947, was the same David Marcus who commanded the Jewish forces in Palestine in the first (1948) war with the Arabs. One could go on.[59]

Hilberg’s point would have some weight if we were talking about virgin historical records but, what he is in effect saying (if I interpret him correctly) is that we should trust the architects of the Nuremberg trials, which presupposes more than he is trying to prove (I presume he would want to argue only that these architects were right in this instance). The attempt to drop context at this point stands logic on its head. All that is being noted is that the hoaxers have not handed over the materials that directly expose their hoax.

Hilberg might argue that such wholesale suppression is not possible and that traces of deportation of Jews further east would be left. That is true; moreover, there are such traces and scraps. If this is indeed Hilberg’s point, then he ought to answer the following question. Where are the German records that deal with the deportations to and administration of the settlement (not concentration camp) near Riga that is described in Jeanette Wolf’s article in Boehm’s book? I do not know. I am not saying that they will never turn up, but I know that they were not available to those who looked for such things at the Nuremberg trials.[60]

There is a second possible interpretation of Hilberg’s remark. While little weight can be given to postwar Jewish population figures claimed for eastern Europe, it must be conceded that the number of Jews in postwar Poland is only some fraction of the very large number (perhaps 3 million) that lived in prewar Poland (not quite the same territory). This is not because we must believe population figures that are offered. It is because Poland, unlike the Soviet Union, is not a large country and such large communities of Jews would certainly have been noticed if they were still there.

Thus, if one drops all historical context the argument seems simple. They are not in this territory we today call Poland; therefore they were killed. To those familiar with fairly commonplace history the conclusion is as much a non sequitur as would be the observation that since there were many millions of Germans and ethnic Germans living east of the Oder-Neisse before the war, and today almost none, then they were all killed. In fact the period was one of massive population movements, and the Jews were no exception. The Soviets deported many into the interior of the Soviet Union and in the period after the war the Polish Jews pouring into west Germany to proceed on to the U.S.A., Palestine — and other destinations became a widely publicized problem.[61]

I have little more advice at this time on prosecuting “Holocaust” controversy, and I cannot anticipate every trick. I cannot even promise that the Sereny and Hilberg expositions discussed here will be representative of what the reader might encounter as argument in support of the legend. Even today one runs into the argument that the American and British troops who captured Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau “saw it with their own eyes.” They saw dead bodies, and it has been relatively easily available knowledge since 1945 that the deaths were due to the privations entailed in Germany’s collapse, but the reigning confusion is so great that we still hear the argument anyway. All I can add is that one should keep current with the revisionist literature and the more important pieces of literature in support of the legend and, in controversy, be mindful above all of preserving historical context and perspective and not getting trapped with myopic historical vision.


Yehuda Bauer, American Jewry and the Holocaust, Wayne State Univ. Press, Detroit, 1981.

Eric H. Boehm, ed., We Survived, Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, 1949.

Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Institute for Historical Review, Torrance (first U.S. edition) or Historical Review Press, Brighton (second British edition), 1977.

Christopher Bush Coleman, Constantine the Great and Christianity, Columbia Univ. Press, NY, 1914.

Christopher Bush Coleman, The Treatise of Lorenzo Valla on the Donation of Constantine, Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, 1922.

Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1975.

Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1981.

Alexander Donat, ed., The Death Camp Treblinka, Holocaust Library, NY, 1979.

Josiah E. DuBois Jr., The Devil’s Chemists, Beacon Press, Boston, 1952.

Henry L. Feingold, The Politics of Rescue, Rutgers Univ. Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1970.

Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, NY, 1981.

Walter Laqueur, The Terrible Secret, Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1980.

Hans Rothfels, The German Opposition to Hitler, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1962.

Gitta Sereny, Into That Darkness, McGraw-Hill, NY, 1974.

Wolfram Setz, Lorenzo Vallas Schrift gegen die Konstantinische Schenkung, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen, 1975.

Wilhelm Stäglich, Der Auschwitz Mythos, Grabert-Verlag, Tübingen, 1979.


  1. Journal of Historical Review, vol. 2, no. 2, Summer 1980,153ff. The “Dr.” before my signature was added by the editor. I never sign that way.
  2. Los Angeles Herald Examiner (2 Sep 79), E2.
  3. e.g. The Spotlight (26 Jul 82), 10f.
  4. Le Nouvel Observateur (3-9 Jul 82), 70+.
  5. Chicago Tribune (5 Aug 82), section 1, 5.
  6. e.g. Butz, 75-86, 146f.
  7. Gilbert, 340.
  8. Laqueur, 22-25.
  9. Butz, 87f, 92ff.
  10. Bauer, 21f.
  11. Bauer, Ch. 8.
  12. Bauer, Ch. 9, 246, 264, 272, 274, 333, 366f, 371f.
  13. Laqueur, 4, 170f, 188.
  14. Gilbert, 31, 39f, 44, 170.
  15. Gilbert, 93ff-, Laqueur, 231.
  16. Laqueur, Appendix 5.
  17. Washington Post (28 Oct 81), A1; Los Angeles Times (29 Oct 81), pt. 1, 20.
  18. See e.g. his contribution to the booklet Dimensions of the Holocaust, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1977. This is the published version of a lecture Wiesel gave at Northwestern in the spring of 1977. An alternative is his article in the London Jewish Chronicle (4 Nov 77).
  19. Bauer, 264, 2719 274, 371; Gilbert, 121; Butz, 290.
  20. Bauer, 56, 58; Butz, 109.
  21. Gilbert, 204f.
  22. Bauer, 325fff, Gilbert, 121.
  23. Dawidowicz (1975), xvii; (1981), 125.
  24. Gilbert, 143.
  25. Bauer, 329-334.
  26. Gilbert, 181.
  27. Laqueur, 183-186; Bauer, 188-193, 403.
  28. Butz, 77, 202; Laqueur, 68-72.
  29. Laqueur, 121.
  30. Gilbert, 325.
  31. Butz, 89.
  32. Gilbert, 337f.
  33. Gilbert, 267-273, 2909 299-311, 341.
  34. Feingold, 9, 170; Laqueur, 94.
  35. Laqueur,3.
  36. DuBois, 184, 188; Butz, 67.
  37. Gilbert, 68, 95f, 99.
  38. Laqueur, 162ff.
  39. Bauer, 229.
  40. Laqueur, 83, 86; Gilbert, 150.
  41. Iron Curtain Over America, available from IHR.
  42. Butz, 149f, Gilbert, 231f.
  43. Dino A. Brugioni and Robert G. Poirier, “The Holocaust Revisited: a Retrospective Analysis of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex,” presumably still available from the Public Affairs Office; Central Intelligence Agency; Washington, DC 20505.
  44. Laqueur, 55-58.
  45. Butz, Appendix E; Gilbert, 104f.
  46. Butz, 76, 133-145.
  47. Gilbert, 129.
  48. Bauer, 430f.
  49. Laqueur, 152.
  50. e.g. Butz, 205-212.
  51. Butz, 101-108, 116, 120ff.
  52. Butz, 194, 240; Laqueur, 18.
  53. Laqueur, Appendix 1. The cases of the politician-journalist Lemmer and the economist Sommer, who are said to have passed information about exterminations to Swiss contacts, are of dubious import. Lemmer was not associated with the Abwehr and, as Laqueur notes, there is nothing in his autobiography about passing on information about extermination. Sommer was an army liason officer between the General Staff and the Abwehr and also travelled to Switzerland in connection with trade relations. One can infer from Gilbert, pp. 56ff, that Sommer’s association with a summer 1942 report that “camps are being prepared where all the Jews of Europe and a great part of the Russian prisoners-of-war will be exterminated by gas” has been claimed not by Sommer, who died in 1965, but by two Jewish intermediaries. It is also worth noting that neither Lemmer nor Sommer appear to have been seriously involved with the anti-Hitler opposition; both survived the war.
  54. Rothfels, 125-151.
  55. Under German law the records of a trial are not open to the public, Exceptions are granted to those who are somehow involved personally in the case or to those considered to have a scholarly interest in aspects of the trial. Dr. Wilhelm Stäglich, retired German judge and author of Der Auschwitz Mythos, was denied permission to consult trials testimonies. See his pp. 371fff. Dr. Robert Faurisson interprets remarks, made in a letter by justice Ministry official Dr. Hans de With to Die Realschule (Oct 81), as suggesting that if Faurisson sets foot in West Germany he will be arrested and sent back to France.
  56. Butz, Ch. 4. For the final solution of the Höss confession question, see Faurisson’s discussions in The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 1, no. 2 (Summer 1980),103+; vol. 2, no. 4 (Winter 1981), 311+, 319+.
  57. Donat.
  58. Butz, Ch. 7.
  59. Butz, 20-30.
  60. Butz, 219f.
  61. Butz, 14-17, 217-239.