The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Journal of Historical Review, A Look Back

by Greg Raven

Perhaps ten years ago, surely twenty years ago, one could justifiably argue that there was no need to teach Holocaust revisionism in Holocaust courses, as revisionism was nothing more than a smattering of articles by unknown and scattered people. The story today is quite different.

Dr. Carlos Huerta, Touro College, Jerusalem, writing in Martyrdom and Resistance, October 1991.

In 1978 while President Jimmy Carter was hosting the Camp David peace talks to great fanfare, the Institute of Historical Review was being founded in almost total silence. Yet the purpose of the Institute was not much different from that of the Camp David confab, that being world peace, albeit from a radically different approach — bringing history into accord with the facts to identify the true roots of conflicts and thus the possibilities for their peaceable resolutions.

Inspired by revisionist historians such as Harry Elmer Barnes and James Martin, the Institute began its existence with modest plans. To further revisionist history, the Institute would hold conferences, later publishing the papers presented at such conferences along with any other writings deemed sufficiently interesting and scholarly.

Thus it was that over Labor Day weekend of 1979, a small group gathered at the first-ever revisionist Conference at Northrup University in Los Angeles, California. Speakers spoke. Papers were presented. And virtually no one outside a small circle took any note whatsoever.

That was soon to change. By the Spring of 1980, the first issue of the quarterly Journal of Historical Review was in the mail, containing six of the papers presented at the Conference, a book review, and a list of some 40 books for sale. With no more than 94 pages — 9 inches by 5-3/4 inches in size — softbound in gray stock, volume one, number one did not look like the spark that would ignite a worldwide controversy.

It was not the physical appearance of the Journal that was to inflame passions on a global scale, but the contents. Inside were addresses about the “Holocaust” by Dr. Arthur R. Butz, Robert Faurisson, Austin J. App, and Ditlieb Felderer. The first issue also contained Louis FitzGibbon's views on the Katyn Massacre, and an article by Udo Walendy about fake atrocity photographs. The Letters section of the issues that followed showed the intensity of feelings those in the “establishment” hold against revisionism.

Of course the material contained in the Journal did not spring up overnight. Many of the books offered had been available for some time, slowly making the rounds. Bradley Smith tells in his book, Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist, Part I, of being introduced to Holocaust revisionism in 1979 when a stranger handed him a photocopy of an article by Robert Faurisson that originally appeared in Le Monde. Arthur Butz' pathbreaking book, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, had already been published in 1976. And articles in dissident periodicals such as The Spotlight made many aware that there was another side to history as taught.

The new Institute served to focus all the previously scattered work in this area. People interested in the work of App, Barnes, Butz, Faurisson, Felderer, Greaves, Irving, Larson, Martin, Rassinier, and others now found them readily available, and the appearance of a body of revisionist works all in one place proved synergistic.

Revisionists not only wrote about history, they were making it as well. News about the activities of the IHR and revisionists around the world was covered in the IHR Newsletter, which Journal subscribers received automatically. Newsy where the Journal was studious, and irreverent where the Journal was serious, the IHR Newsletter provided revisionist information in a more timely manner than the quarterly Journal schedule allowed.

The Journal's first editor was David McCalden, a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, who played a decisive role in the founding of the IHR, and wrote under the name of “Lewis Brandon.” Longer on enthusiasm than on attention to detail, from 1978 until his departure in 1981, he was instrumental in the genesis of the revisionist movement.

From McCalden’s departure in 1981 until 1982, J. Marcellus served as editor. Marcellus started at the bottom at the IHR and worked his way up to become director, a position he assumed in 1981 and holds today.

From 1982 through 1984, the Journal was edited by Keith Stimely, a gifted young writer who was astonishingly well-read, as can be seen by the number of book reviews he wrote during his tenure.

In 1986, the helm was assumed by Robert Berkel, a dedicated revisionist who served until publication of the Journal was suspended in 1987.

In 1988 it returned with the brilliant Theodore J. O’Keefe as editor. For the next four years, O’Keefe was virtually the voice of the IHR.

In 1992, O’Keefe passed the torch to our current editor, Mark Weber, who over the years had established himself as one of the most prolific contributors to the Journal, and a major contributor to the IHR Newsletter as well.

Under the stewardship of these capable individuals, the Journal not only grew, it also evolved into a nearly unassailable source of historical information, by virtue of the increasingly rigorous treatment of topics covered. At the same time, the Journal contained many articles that were original not only in the sense that they had never appeared elsewhere before, but also original in concept. The English translation of Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States (Winter, 1988), the first English translation of Premier Tojo’s prison diary (Spring, 1992), aerial photos of Treblinka (Summer, 1992), and the Auschwitz camp death certificates (Fall, 1992) are examples of the former, while virtually everything by Arthur Butz and Robert Faurisson are examples of the latter.

As a result, the Journal came to be read by lay persons and academics around the world, and numerous Journal articles have been translated into other languages, and disseminated even more widely.

The maturation evident in the Journal from year to year is partially due to forces from within the revisionist community: the rest comes from responding to the inevitable criticism from the bulk of the historical community and others with a vested interest in preserving the status quo, in which political agendas determine what the accepted view of history will be.

Through all these attacks, whether physical, legal, personal, or (infrequently) scholarly, it can well and truly be said that critics have rarely been able to land any telling blows. Our most powerful enemies, armed with all their conventional historiography, are — when they deal with Journal articles at all — forced to misquote and mischaracterize our position to make their cases. More often, of course, they simply attack the author of the piece in hopes that others will not notice they are ignoring the facts.

Occasionally, as in the case of Jean-Claude Pressac or Kenneth Stern, an attempt is made to answer revisionist claims. In the case of Stern (whose book, Holocaust Denial, is reviewed elsewhere in this issue), revisionist claims are oversimplified and not directly answered.

In Pressac’s works, on the other hand, revisionists have found a wealth of information that bolsters the revisionist position. In any event, even the strongest attacks now include admissions, either expressed or implied, that certain portions of the revisionist position are correct.

The main front on which the revisionist battle is being fought is to correct the Holocaust story. Here, the years since the publication of the first Journal have seen remarkable retreats from the standard Holocaust story, which used to include soap made from Jewish corpses, gas chambers at Dachau, and all manner of fiendish methods of murder (including nuclear devices). Revisionists have convincingly demonstrated virtually every facet of the traditional Holocaust tale to be untrue, or at least wildly exaggerated, resulting in a inexorable whittling down of the “accepted” Holocaust story to a tiny fraction of what it once was. Even so, the “six million” figure remains, indicating that there is yet more work to be done.

As readers know, the Journal is not wholly consumed with the Holocaust issue. In addition to the stated goal of re-examining the period surrounding the Second World War (because of the important social-political role it has had, and continues to have), the Journal has also examined key aspects of United States history, politics, race, culture, religion, current events, and personalities from around the world.

By any standard, the Journal has been influential far beyond its circulation, its budget, and what could be expected of an otherwise nondescript publication devoted to history. What has made the Journal successful, we believe, is this: In every area of study — in revisionism no less than in chemistry or math — while each new generation of scholars in turn questions the generation before it, there must also be a knowledge and a certainty that that which has gone before presents a solid foundation upon which new studies can be based. Where this certainty is lacking, there can be little progress.

In the treatment of twentieth century history, though, establishment historians have utterly failed in their responsibility to present and future generations. By demonstrating more sensitivity for short-term social-political considerations than for truth and historical accuracy, they have made themselves vulnerable to telling critique.

Until our current flawed view of the recent past is corrected via historical revisionism, there can be no truth, and where there is no truth, there can be no peace.

This, then, is the purpose of the Journal. The transition from a plain-cover, academic format to color covers, more photographs, and a magazine format we hope will both reflect the prominence we have thus far achieved, as well as garner new readers. In any case, the Journal will continue to offer the same high quality of subject matter and content that has elevated us to our current position.