The Holocaust Historiography Project

A Note From The Editor

Keith Stimely

One of the first, most predictable reactions to be counted on by revisionist historians of World War II and of National Socialist Germany as they regale the uninitiated with their views is: “But what about the trials — Nuremberg, and the others? Have they not left a record of ample proof of German crime and barbarity — thus vindicating the Allied struggle as a moral one that had to be waged?”

The trials of the Germans have indeed left quite a record. And though real historians and historical thinkers (there remained a few even after the intellectual straightjacket descended on the West for the duration) have always expressed the most extreme skepticism at, even contempt for, the idea that the true history of an epoch can be established by the evidence generated in politically motivated, rigged and farcical show-trials of the conquered by those who had beaten them down and had to keep them down, nevertheless it would be wrong to dismiss the historical value of such trials out of hand. Above all these trials did indeed generate evidence — of whatever kind and quality. And the historian is interested in any evidence, For him nothing is out of bounds. Unlike the judge or jury in a legal proceeding, he cannot be foresworn or constrained to totally dismiss or ignore any point of evidence because it was not obtained by-the-book-properly, because the source is tainted or compromised, or even because it might have been manufactured out of whole cloth. The rules of evidence in matters of justice do vary — sometimes they reflect a traditional and independent legality which stands with scrupulously blind eye, sometimes they reflect nothing but politics and dominance in blatant disregard of any real legality. (In a political trial the judgers may even operate on the effectual premise that to be ignored is any evidence not tainted, coerced, or invented.) In any case rules of evidence for courts are different from rules of evidence for historians. A court wishes to determine guilt or innocence; a historian may or may not care about this, but if he does he is not so limited as a court — any court — in considering what evidences and factors are relevant. And he may be looking for a “whole truth” beyond the bounds of an indictment. Ultimately, he should want to know “what happened, “ not just “who is guilty.” In answering the one it is sometimes possible to answer the other; not always. There are causes for everything, but there is not always “guilt.” The historian looks beyond the lawyer and judge — and sometimes he looks at them. It can be a searching look, especially when the any and all that he must get his hands on in order to find out “what happened” includes unsubstantiated, coerced, doctored, or otherwise specious evidence from the records of political trials. This evidence will indeed be considered, but perhaps in a different light than that which its generators intended. Yes, even the kind of trial justice that hops and punches can be useful to the historian; reaching into its pouch he might withdraw many interesting things. He might do what no lawyer can do: judge the judges. Time and the record allow this to happen.

Unfortunate and despicable as were the trials of the Germans from the standpoints of traditional Western justice and humanity, their records and their verdicts nonetheless do help us to determine the history of an epoch. But this is true in spite of, not because of, the bold and foolish announcements by their conveners that a large part of the purpose of the trials was to establish a historical, not just legal, verdict — and one meant to stand for all time. By looking carefully at the verdicts of these trials and at the evidence used to secure them, we gain at the very least an idea of the temper and methods of the times. Far more important, we can also draw a critical eye on the very issues the trials were meant to “settle.” Have they been settled? In our lead article this issue we look at one case.

William B. Lindsey’s examination of the trial of Dr. Bruno Tesch is a milestone in revisionism as it relates to war crimes trials. Whereas cases in the famous IMT and NMT trials at Nuremberg have received abundant attention, the lesser-known series of British Military Tribunals which were convened with summary haste right after the war have not been so well plumbed. Because in many cases these were trials of technical specialists, not political or military figures, historians might have hesitated to delve into areas that would require technical competence in their details. Especially so revisionist historians, who have always believed in getting down to detail. It is no surprise, then, that the first critical study of the great Zyklon B trial — “ evidence” from which has been and is one of the prime props of the devolved “Holocaust” legend — should be made by a professional chemist. Dr. Lindsey’s sympathy with his erstwhile colleague is manifest and unapologetic. The story he tells is of a man doing his job, perfecting his science in all innocence and being caught up in the massive wave of hatred and sheer lunacy that swept over Europe after World War 11. Dr. Tesch paid with his life the price the victors demanded for the sanctification of their atrocity propaganda. Reading this account of his conviction before the bar of Allied “justice,” one will perhaps understand why the revisionist may, in answer to that eternal question of the uninformed: “What about the trials?,” smile while rolling up his sleeves, and say:

“The trials? I'm really glad you asked that question. You're absolutely right about their importance. Let’s do take a good look at those trials …