The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book review

Why Did The Heavens Not Darken? The 'Final Solution' In History

  • by Arno J. Mayer. New York: Pantheon, 1988, Hb., 492 pages, $27.95, ISBN 0-394-57154-1.

Reviewed by Arthur R. Butz

In May of this year the general public learned, through an article by Tamar Jacoby in Newsweek, of the “venom of the accusations” being made over Professor Arno Mayer’s new book. A few days later Jacoby’s husband, Eric Breindel, made it clear in his New York Post column what the occasion for the venom was: “The cranks who argue that there were no gas chambers — and that the Jews who died fell victim to poor conditions in ghettos and labor camps-have found a serious scholar who at least agrees with some of what they say. Thus, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? is a dangerous and ugly book.”

I had heard that Mayer listed my Hoax of the Twentieth Century in his bibliography, so as I sat waiting to receive a copy of the book I was hoping to see a worthy effort perceptibly influenced by my work. Now that I have read it, I see no such influence, and I am relieved. It is a bad book on several grounds, and on the allegation of mass gassings in the camps it expresses not the author’s conviction but his confusion.

Arno J. Mayer is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of European History at Princeton University and has specialized in twentieth-century diplomatic history. He offers considerable personal information as presumably relevant. He was born into a Luxembourg Jewish family in 1926; his father was a Zionist. Fleeing their home in May 1940, the family managed to stay a step ahead of the invading Germans, reaching North Africa, then Lisbon, and finally the United States. His maternal grandparents, not so mobile, were sent to Theresienstadt; the grandfather died there but the grandmother survived, never having heard anything about the “killing sites.”

He served in the U.S. Army in 1944-1946, in an intelligence unit that interrogated captured German generals and processed German scientists being “recruited to help America’s postwar military buildup against the Soviets.” In 1950 he spent the summer in Israel “on a kibbutz of the Marxist Hashomer Hatzair.”

The reader of Mayer’s book who has seen the reviews in advance will be puzzled as to what the fuss is about until he reaches the last chapters. Early chapters seem to place Mayer in the so-called “functionalist” (as opposed to “intentionalist") camp, which denies that extermination of the Jews took place according to a long-standing plan centrally ordered and directed, but developed on its own out of the exigencies of events and the internal logic of the Nazi system. [1] Until late in the book the reader perceives no equivocation, explicit or implicit, on the historical reality of the physical extermination of the Jews.

Mayer’s purpose is to place the persecution of the Jews “in the historical context of its time” which is that of what he calls the “Thirty Years War of the twentieth century,” 1914-1945. He is unusually diligent in making terminological distinctions relevant to his subject, e.g. among “Judeophobia,” “anti Semitism” and “anti-Judaism.” He does not like “the religiously freighted word concept 'the Holocaust,' [the basis of an] embryonic creed … which … has taken the reflective and transparent remembrances of survivors and woven them into a collective prescriptive 'memory' unconducive to critical and contextual thinking about the Jewish calamity.” He complains that “this cult of remembrance has become overly sectarian [and] has helped to disconnect the Jewish catastrophe from its secular historical setting, while placing it within the providential history of the Jewish people to be commemorated, lamented, and restrictively interpreted.” In place of “Holocaust” Mayer uses “Judeocide.”

This striving for precision is admirable. For purposes of this review I will use the term 'Judeocide,” but I will indicate below why “Holocaust” is preferred.

The field has suffered from considerable abuse of terminology. The term “Exterminationists” has been used to designate those who defend the Judeocide legend, e.g. Raul Hilberg, Yehuda Bauer, etc. I notice that Mayer uses that term in the different and, in my judgment, more correct sense of one who is involved in exterminating. Here I shall call people like Hilberg and Bauer “Holoscribes.”

We who essentially deny this Judeocide have been calling ourselves “Revisionists,” appropriating a word of wide application to a very narrow one (all historical writing that is worth anything is “revisionist” in some sense). For lack of a better term at hand, however, I shall use it in that sense here.

Mayer’s extreme anti-German and pro-Soviet biases are rare among contemporary issues from serious publishing houses. I thought this most evident when he briefly departed from the role of historian to declare that, although the Soviets had never signed the Geneva conventions, “as a signatory, Germany was bound by them” nevertheless in its war with the Soviet Union. While this bias applies generally I shall focus here only on an instance of it that crucially concerns our subject.

Mayer makes no mention of the interwar (1918-1939) atrocities of the Bolsheviks and affiliated movements generally and of Stalin in particular. These are not irrelevant to the subject because it is clear that the German policy of disregarding the rules in the war with the Soviet Union, one consequence of which were the bloody activities of the Einsatzgruppen, was largely motivated by an assessment in which this past record weighed heavily. Indeed as the Germans swept into former Soviet controlled territory this past seemed very much alive. Mayer makes brief mention of Ukrainian massacres of Jews in the city of Lwow in early July 1941, after the Soviets withdrew and as the Germans started to arrive. The motivation for the masacres was indeed, as Mayer reports, that the Jews “were traduced for having been, and continuing to be, among the major carriers of communism and collaborators of Soviet Russia,” but Mayer does not hint at the specifics. The Soviets left Lwow in such great haste that the Germans and Ukrainians were able to learn what had been going on in the NKVD prisons. The ghastly scenes they found made deep impressions on them, and are not for the delicate or fragile readers. [2] Since the local NKVD informer had been a Jew, the Ukrainians indulged a common human fallacy (all NKVD informers were Jews; therefore all Jews were NKVD informers) and conducted anti-Jewish pogroms. For the Germans, encountering such scenes scarcely more than a week into their invasion, it must have seemed that the Nazi anti-Bolshevik propaganda of the period before the Hitler-Stalin pact, doubtless assumed by many of them to have been the usual hyperbole of a movement given to rhetorical extravagance, had been restrained. In any case the Lwow revelations would have dispelled any German qualms about carrying out the ruthless resolutions made before the invasion. It is interesting that the facts about the background of the Lwow massacres became available to the postwar general public only indirectly and unexpectedly as a consequence of an international brouhaha over a minister in Konrad Adenauer’s government, accused of atrocities in Lwow by the Soviets, and over a Soviet agent who defected to West Germany in 1961 and confessed to carrying out two political assassinations of Ukrainian exiles in Munich.

Mayer’s aim, as stated, is to place the alleged Judeocide “in the historical context of its time” and interpret it accordingly. His thesis is clear. The failure to take Moscow, and the entry of the U.S.A. into the war (even if only in an economic role), made ultimate defeat plain to Hitler in December 1941, rather than a year later after Stalingrad. Thus according to Mayer “the Nazi fundamentalists and their accomplices … turned to venting their rage on the Jews.” At this point in the book there is no doubt in the readers' mind what this “rage” would have consisted in. It was “a decision to exterminate the Jews [although no] written document containing or reporting an explicit command to exterminate the Jews has come to light … the presumption must be that the order or informal injunction to mass-murder Jews was transmitted orally (probably by Hitler himself).” This idea is repeated throughout and is the ostensible thesis of the book (although we shall see that Mayer ought to have made another of his conclusions the thesis). The stalling of the invasion of the Soviet Union, implying ultimate defeat, made the Germans so angry that they took it out on the Jews, although originally there had been no intention to exterminate them. Mayer manages to make this “Judeocide” seem almost erratic; just another Hitler tantrum. There are even analogies to random massacres of Jews carried out by eleventh century crusaders.

Mayer’s thesis accounts for certain peculiarities of his book. Although the Einsatzgruppen activities in the early phases of the Russian campaign certainly liquidated many Jews, Mayer claims, contradicting both the Holoscribes and the alleged written reports of the Einsatzgruppen, that their “methodical mass slaughters of Jews … did not start until the fall of 1941, after the Red Army had slowed the German advance [and] the eastern campaign had begun to run aground.”

It is implausible that the Germans could have viewed the Einsatzgruppen as the means of “extermination” of the Jews of the Soviet Union. For one thing, a great many Jews were evacuated by the Soviets before the Germans arrived. Numbers are of course difficult to arrive at. Mayer throws out, with no particular support, a guess of 1.5 million evacuated out of 4 million originally resident in territories occupied by the Germans and allies. Sanning [3] believes that more than 80% of those Jews were evacuated. In any case, “extermination” could not under the circumstances have been achieved. For another thing, the personnel of the Einsatzgruppen numbered only 3,000 men (as Mayer notes), a force that must have been quite strained in performing only its primary security and counterinsurgency functions and could not possibly have contemplated performing “extermination” activities in such a vast theater, if the Jews were there to exterminate. Mayer pauses briefly over this point, but does not demur.

As for Soviet behavior, it is hazardous to say that they literally did not until 1943 charge the Germans with attempting to exterminate the Soviet Jews, since they charged the Germans with virtually every crime they could think of, but I think that is a fair statement.

Another peculiarity of Mayer’s book is that it has more military history than any other book on this subject. The reason is Mayer’s thesis, which claims that the physical extermination of the Jews was decided in “rage” over specific military reverses on the eastern front. I believe that most will agree that there is far too much military history here than is required, even for his thesis. It does not take long, e.g., to explain the military conditions of January 1942 or February 1943, as seen by the Germans. It is strange that, in a book dedicated to placing the alleged Judeocide in “context,” there is really so little historical context. What Mayer means by context are events as seen by the Nazis in terms of their own ideas. This context is primarily the military context but Mayer’s conception of Nazi ideology ("an apocalyptic movement against modern times … an essentially syncretic ideology … a religion in a secular guise … intrinsically irrational and impulsive … Hitler, determined to provide the Nazi movement with a single enemy, seized upon “the Jew” as best suited") also plays a role. The conservatives who disdained Hitler’s populist movement but reconciled themselves with and served it also play an important role in Mayer’s account.

In any case, Mayer’s “context” is purely German. I believe the proper context of this alleged Judeocide would put in significant roles the other actors of the World War II period, viz. the western Allies, the Soviets, the Vatican, the Red Cross, the German resistance to Hitler (to which Mayer makes only brief passing mention) and of course the Jews themselves. If Mayer had considered this context then he could have answered the unanswered question which is the title of his book. Mayer explains that the title is a quote from a Jewish chronicler of an eleventh century massacre of Jews in Mainz by transient crusaders. The contemporary interpretation of the question ("Why did the heavens not darken?") is “Why did not somebody act as though the Jews were being exterminated?” I have amplified elsewhere [4] on this utter lack of contemporaneous evidence for Judeocide, and the total dependence of the legend on postwar declarations, made mainly in trials, and on a few apocryphal and/or ambiguous documents, also mainly produced in postwar trials. If the “Judeocide” were real, it would be the only complex of European events of its scale to transpire in recent millennia without generating contemporaneous evidence. If Mayer had considered his own question, he might have seen that the legend is funny history, something like a war between Illnois and Indiana, whose historicity is proved by later confessions of the National Guard commanders.

In Mayer’s book Jewry does not appear as an international power at all. I was first jolted by this perspective when I read that in the aftermath of World War I the Jews of eastern Europe “were without a potential external protector.” Continuing while wondering if the diplomatic historian knew what he was talking about at all, I was relieved to read on the next page that “Jewish notables rushed to the Paris Peace Conference to help convince the Big Four to design international instruments to require the governments of the new and newly recreated nations to respect the human rights of their large ethnic and religious minorities.” In Mayer’s account these Jewish notables are not presented as doing more than rushing to the Conference. In fact Woodrow Wilson’s advisors included Walter Lippman, Bernard Baruch, and other leading Jews. The observer E.J. Dillon wrote of the tremendous influence that Jews from many countries exercised at the Conference in behalf of Jewish causes, in particular the status of east European Jews, and that “a considerable number of delegates believed that the real influences behind the Anglo-Saxon peoples were Semitic.” [5]

The one place where Mayer hints at an international Jewish power is in his account of the boycott of Jewish businesses that was called by the Nazis for one day only, 1 April 1933. This was in retaliation for a campaign in the U.S. and elsewhere, via rallies and pressures on governments, then being waged by Stephen S. Wise and other Jewish leaders for an unlimited trade boycott of Germany

It is, however, the late chapter on Auschwitz that provoked the vehemence against Mayer, e.g. Daniel J. Goldhagen’s angry review in the New Republic. Starting early in the book Mayer states, unequivocally and repeatedly, that the Jewish calamity consisted in physical extermination at the hands of the Nazis. The Auschwitz chapter begins with the usual classification of Auschwitz as one of six “centers of mass killing.” It goes on to describe the high “normal” death rate at Auschwitz due to unhealthy conditions, primarily typhus. To a great extent these conditions are depicted as somehow singularly Nazi. It would have helped the “context” a lot, especially in view of Mayer’s “Thirty Years War of the twentieth century” construct, to have noted that the Germans had essentially the same typhus problems during World War I in their camps that quartered Russian POW's. Well into his Auschwitz chapter, Mayer perks up the reader (perhaps as bored by the book as I was at this point) by conceding that:

Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable … there is no denying the many contradictions, ambiguities, and errors in the existing sources. These cannot be ignored, although it must be emphasized strongly that such defects are altogether insufficient to put in question the use of gas chambers in the mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz.

So, despite his explicit words, Mayer has implicitly said to the typical reader that “the use of gas chambers” is indeed a “question.”

Since on the matter of the gas chambers, as on virtually all other features of the received legend, it is only necessary for one to admit the possibility of reevaluation in fundamental respects in order to become very skeptical in those respects. Mayer’s critics were justified in suspecting him of being just a little bit pregnant in writing thus, but a later claim by Mayer perhaps made them view him as six months along: “from 1942 to 1945, certainly at Auschwitz, but probably overall, more Jews were killed by so-called 'natural' causes than by 'unnatural' ones” (Mayer means mainly typhus in the former category and gassing in the latter).

The “probably overall” would of course apply to the other five alleged extermination via gassing sites, which are treated in the following chapter. Again, that chapter starts with several unequivocal statements about extermination. By this time, however, the reader has been told that even when the gassings in those places are taken into account they “probably” accounted for fewer victims than natural causes, so the reader is prepared for statements to come along having the effect of nullifying or rendering enigmatic all of Mayer’s previous unequivocal remarks. Indeed they come: “Because of sparse evidence, there are some uncertainties about the fiery ordeal at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.” As for “1,274,166 Jews of the General Government … There is a strong presumption that most … were slaughtered in Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka,” whose alleged gas chambers he is very vague about. On cremation he is more than vague. He does not remark on the fact that for Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka we do not have conclusive and detailed evidence of the contstruction of great cremation facilities, as we have for Auschwitz (of course not; those places were transit camps, not concentration camps). Rather, he mutters that the exterminated at Belzec were first burned but later dug up “for the corpses to be burned in the open.” Mayer notes that the Jews in the Polish ghettos did not believe the rumors of extermination in the camps, and kept cooperating with both the war production demands and resettlement policies of the Germans.

Mayer’s critics have complained that he does not document his assertions. There are no footnotes but it is too pedantic to require that all be documented. When documentary sources are well understood, there is no need to document. Most of Mayer’s book is devoted to reviewing well-known events, so references and documentation are unnecessary. When there is a thests based on a new interpretation of known sources, rather than on new sources (most Revisionist literature is necessarily of that sort), then the reasoning must be set forth, and the specific documents and records that are being reinterpreted should be specified. Mayer fails to do any of this on his most provocative points about Auschwitz, which should have formed his thesis.

This lapse is especially grave in view of Mayer’s insistence early on that “historians are expected to … invite critics, both friendly and hostile, to verify the authenticity and reliability of their evidence as well as to debate the logic of their constructions and the coherence of their explanations.” Mayer perversely ignores his own precept in his book. Moreover, according to the Newsweek story, Mayer refuses to respond to his critics.

It is what Mayer does not say that is so vexing. Why is it that, despite the deficiencies in the evidence for gassings at Auschwitz, there is no question of them? That is, what is the evidence for gassings at Auschwitz? What specific faults did Mayer find in the testimonies? No hint from Mayer. If more died of natural causes than gassing, what were the numbers involved? No numbers, precise or otherwise, from Mayer, although his claim is specifically quantitative. Indeed he offers no overall numerical estimate for the number of Jews who perished in German occupied territories. This is not because the historian feels himself incompetent with numbers; the book is replete with numerical data or estimates, even where such estimates are difficult to make.

The failure to provide numbers is astonishing in that some decent idea of the numbers that perished in the concentration camps from natural causes, and in particular at Auschwitz, can be formulated. The surviving concentration camp records are held by the International Tracing Service (ITS), administered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and quartered in Arolsen, West Germany. In April 1977 the ITS published a report entitled “The Number of Victims of the National Socialist Persecution.” The report says that as of the end of 1976 the ITS had 357,190 specific names of people who had died in the German camps. The report added, however, that no records were kept of the millions gassed and that even in some cases where records were kept they are missing today. For example, a “number of death cases certified” of 50,923 is given for Auschwitz, but is it stipulated that “the documentation of this camp is very incomplete.” When I visited the ITS in the summer of 1977 the official I spoke to, and who gave me a copy of the ITS report, added that some analysis subsequent to the writing of the report allows us to say that there were “at least” 45,575 certified deaths at Auschwitz in 1942 and 36,960 in 1943, but the death books for 1940, 1941, 1944 and January 1945 (when Auschwitz was evacuated) are missing. The ITS has not been as free with such estimates in more recent years, but I think that Mayer could have formulated a fairly good idea of the numbers of natural deaths at Auschwitz if he had wanted to, and perhaps the ITS would have opened up for him. I feel reasonably secure in placing the total in the range 100,000-150,000, probably closer to the former, since the camp population was small in 1940-1941 and by 1944 the Germans had made some progress against typhus. Of these victims a large number would have been Jews since Auschwitz quartered proportionately more Jews than the other German concentration camps, apart from Majdanek. The number of Jewish dead of natural causes at Auschwitz seems less than 100,000. If “certainly at Auschwitz” there were fewer gassed, Mayer must be talking about less than 50,000 gassed.

This is a unique claim. Up to now we have had on the one hand the Holoscribes, who claim victims of gassings at Auschwitz in the neighborhood of a million or even millions (since after all the purpose of the alleged gassings was mass extermination), and on the other hand the Revisionists, who claim that — there were no gassings. Both sides have explanations as to why the Germans would have conducted themselves thus. Mayer gives no explanation or hint why the Germans would conduct a gassing program of the magnitude he claims and I can’t imagine a motivation. I find it bewildering and appalling that a professionally trained historian could have thrown such unsupported claims out to the public and then could have so obdurately declined to defend them. As he evidently refuses to help dispel this confusion it is our task to attempt to account for it. (Since he is now presumably back from his sabbatical in France, I wonder how he will handle questions from students, if students at Princeton ask questions).

* * * * *

Mayer has troubles writing about the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz. For example mass gassings are supposed to have started in mid-1942 when “only the two improvised gas chambers … were functioning,” and not the carefully engineered ones said to have been integrated into the four large crematorium buildings. He does not, however, place those great gas chambers in the crematoria or anywhere else (he only says they started operating at the same time), and does not write that they operated by improvisation with the Zyklon B pesticide as did the improvised ones (the legend claims all gassings at Auschwitz used Zyklon B).

It is inviting to imagine that Mayer has balked at the ridiculous, but it is not that simple. For example, Mayer has no trouble believing that each of the 46 crematorium ovens which functioned at the Birkenau sub-camp from 1943 had a daily capacity of about 100 bodies. One would have thought that even without any technical training, and even without consulting any of the cremation literature, Mayer would have seen the impossibility of such a figure. Instead, after adding 340 per day from the old crematorium at the main camp he makes the sort of silly calculations I made [6] a long time ago (as an example of bad deduction) and comes up with a capacity of 1,712,160 per year. He does not say that the ovens were ever used at such a rate and, given his idea of the small numbers gassed, it is impossible to see why such capacities would have been provided (if each oven could dispose of 100 per day then two ovens would have served the whole Auschwitz complex of camps very well).

Mayer accepts the usual claim that “the SS operatives dutifully eliminated all traces of their murderous activities and instruments.” Indeed, it is true that the “traces” do not exist. Mayer continues that “care was taken to dipsose of the bones and ashes of the victims.” This illustrates what happens to professors who keep their noses buried in books and documents too much, not sitting back to think just a little bit about what they are reading and writing. Does anybody imagine, for example, that we could contemplate physically exterminating the Chinese minority in the U.S. while keeping the deed secret from our immediate successors (either fellow Americans or invaders with a penchant for telling atrocity stories), by not committing the Sinocide to writing and then hiding the ashes? Mayer calls for “excavations at the killing sites and in their immediate environs.” Since there were many thousands cremated at Auschwitz then, ashes may turn up, but one must assume that the ashes of millions of victims would have turned up long ago. In any case, the Germans would never have been so foolish as to imagine they could destroy evidence of genocide on a continental scale, consuming millions of civilian victims shuttled about on long journeys over a three-year period, by hiding the ashes. It is interesting to compare this legend of concealment with the loud publicity the Germans gave to their Lidice atrocity.

* * * * *

There is another matter which did, I believe, play a role for Mayer in reaching his conclusions. He is frankly and salutarily distrustful of postwar testimonies: “Most of what is known is based on the depositions of Nazi officials and executioners at postwar trials and on the memory of survivors and bystanders. This testimony must be screened carefully, since it can be influenced by subjective factors of great complexity.” Mayer makes no mention of the “confession” of Auschwitz commandant Höss, the homologue of the confessions of the National Guard commanders of Illinois and Indiana. In fact Mayer’s theory stands in stark contradiction to the Hoss confession: [7]

I … estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease … Included among the executed and burnt were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war … The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens, mostly Jewish from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone in the summer of 1944 … We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.

Mayer devotes more space to the nature of the unreliability of the testimonies of Jewish survivors, especially in his Prologue chapter. As mentioned, he is bothered by the contemporary status of the “Holocaust” as a “sectarian cult,” but he does not adequately describe just how sectarian it is, although I am sure he knows. He is very emphatic on this idea of the unreliability of Jewish testimonies and the historical error of ethnocentric Jewish formulations, and I believe it is the key to his problem. The 6 million legend is Talmud “providential history” refurbished for the twentieth century. The 4 billion Jews killed by the Romans under Hadrian, the ensuing tidal wave of blood that plunged down into the sea, carrying large boulders along with it and staining the sea a distance of four miles out, the 64 million Jewish school children of Bethar who were wrapped in their scrolls and burned alive by the Romans, the bodies of the martyred Jews used to build a fence around Hadrian’s huge vineyard, and the blood saved over from the tidal wave to fertilize vineyards, have become our 6 million gassed and burned, the flames reaching heaven (from modern crematorium ovens no less; how many times has Elie Wiesel evoked that image?), the stench of cremation hanging over large parts of Poland, with the hair, ashes and fat being used for sundry purposes, many children being thrown alive into the flames without benefit of prior gassing (another Talmudic yarn Wiesel is fond of) [8] When a man of Mayer’s ethnic and educational background reads the standard “Holocaust” tales, the Talmud must drop into his lap. The need to reformulate the subject is obvious.

Mayer is intent on offering an alternative to this “sectarian … Holocaust” that is somehow in the context of European history. Mayer’s confusion has its source in his effort to make part of European history that which is not properly part of it, and has however approached just “the providential history of the Jewish people” that he would set aside as a distorted representation of historical truth. Mayer purports to offer us a history relatively uncontaminated by unreliable testimonies, especially Jewish ones, but the reader with working knowledge of the sources sees that he is relying on the usual ones, even if only vicariously through other authors. He has, however, arbitrarily and without explanation or acknowledgment, chosen to reject only some of them, because there is in fact no “Judeocide” without the usual sources. For Mayer there is alas no escape from the sectarian “Holocaust,” and confusion is inevitable. Mayer’s problem is paralleled today by the problem of the many intellectuals who are fed up with Elie Wiesel but do not speak up. It is clear that Wiesel is the perfect spokesman for this “Holocaust,” which is the only alleged “Judeocide” we have. That is why the right word for anybody who claims physical extermination is “the religiously freighted word … Holocaust.”

Mayer’s book is a failure, not because he has not succeeded in establishing the “context” of what happened to the Jews, but because he has gotten whatever happened to them utterly confused. He started by trying to describe the precisely framed “Judeocide” and ended with something whose incompatibility with “critical and contextual thinking” equals that of the Holocaust,” since his context is wrong, he uses the same sources, and he does not reveal a factual and logical basis for his conclusions. That reversion was inevitable, for the reasons stated.

It is true that Mayer’s book has Revisionist implications. The worth of this work is only as a symptom of that which should not have been in doubt even forty years ago, namely that serious and professionally trained historians have trouble accepting the legend’s evidence. However, Mayer shows the confusion of a historian who will not draw the conclusions indicated by that apprehension, and the embarrassment he can suffer when he offers his confusion to the reading public. In terms of basic academic and scholarly criteria, this must be one of the worst history books published by a ranking academic historian in recent years.


  1. The intentionalist-functionalist (or structuralist) debate was aired at a conference in Stuttgart in 1984. See e.g. W. Carr, “Nazi policy towards the Jews,” in History Today, Nov. 1985. Also W. Stäglich, “Historians Wrangle Over the Destruction of European Jewry,” this journal, Summer 1986.
  2. Hermann Raschhofer, Political Assassination, Fritz Schlichtenmayer, Tubingen, 1964.
  3. Walter N. Sanning, The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry, Institute for Historical Review, Torrance, CA, 1983, pp. 103ff.
  4. Arthur R. Butz, “Context and perspective in the 'Holocausr controversy,” this journal, Winter 1982. Also reproduced in Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Institute for Historical Review, Torrance, CA, printing of 1983 or later.
  5. E. J. Dillon, The Inside Story of the Peace Conference. Harper, NY 1920, pp. 494-508.
  6. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, op. cit., p. 118.
  7. Ibid., p. 101.
  8. The relevant Talmud passages are reproduced in an appendix of Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba, Random House, NY and Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1971.

Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 361-374.