Under the ambitious headline “Lessons From the Holocaust,” the biweekly magazine of the John Birch Society recently tackled the emotion-laden Holocaust issue. Promoted as a front-cover feature, the nine-page article by senior editor William Norman Grigg is critical of Holocaust revisionism and the Institute for Historical Review.
In response to Grigg's broadside, The New American published four readers' letters in the December 7 issue, including a sharply critical one by Michael A. Hoffman II, a former IHR staff member. His letter was not permitted to speak for itself, however, but appeared along with an editorial rebuttal that was lengthier than Hoffman's published letter.
IHR Director Mark Weber responded with a letter that The New American declined to publish, even in part. The full text of Weber's letter follows:
November 25, 1998
William Norman Grigg
The New American
P.O. Box 8040
Appleton, WI 54913
Dear Mr. Grigg,
We have received several requests to respond to your article, “Lessons >From the Holocaust,” in the November 9 issue of The New American, especially because you take specific aim at the Institute for Historical Review and its work.
First of all, I want to express appreciation to you and The New American for consistently stressing the scope of Communism's crimes, which regrettably are played down in our media and by our public leaders. At the same time, I must take issue with a number of points made in your article.
While it is certainly true, as you point out, that Third Reich Germany was an authoritarian state, it is misleading if not deceitful to give the impression that it was comparable to Stalinist Russia. Private property ownership, for example, was not only permitted in Hitler's Germany, it was greatly encouraged. Unlike in the Soviet Union, farms, homes and businesses in National Socialist Germany were privately owned and managed, and there were no restrictions on travel inside the country, by either Germans or foreigners.
Also, religious life, in spite of various restrictions, remained vibrant — indeed Church attendance was much greater during the Third Reich era than it is in Germany today. The official 25-point National Socialist Party program specifically endorsed “positive Christianity.” And whereas the membership of Germany's ruling National Socialist Party was overwhelmingly Christian, the membership of Soviet Russia's ruling Communist Party was entirely atheist.
Moreover, to contend that Hitler's hostility to Communism was “purely tactical” is an grotesque distortion of the historical record. Throughout his life, Hitler remained fervently anti-Communist. And this was not mere sentiment. After taking power in 1933, he lost no time in smashing the German Communist Party — the largest in the world at the time outside of Russia. While it is quite true, as you point out, that Third Reich Germany and the Soviet Union concluded a non-aggression pact in August 1939, this was not a military alliance.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched his “Barbarossa” attack against the Soviet Union, the greatest military assault in history. His plan to quickly destroy Soviet Communism failed because he had greatly underestimated Stalin's military might. Although German troops reached the gates of Moscow, the Red Army ultimately prevailed. As Stalin's forces planted the Red Flag atop the Reichstag in Berlin in the spring of 1945, Hitler took his life in a nearby command center.
Revisionist scholars do not “deny” the Holocaust. They acknowledge that many hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed and otherwise perished during the Second World War as direct and indirect result of the brutally anti-Jewish policies of Germany and its allies.
At the same time, revisionists point out that numerous specific extermination claims have been quietly abandoned over the years as untrue. For instance, at the main Nuremberg trial of 1945-1946, Allied prosecutors cited seemingly substantial evidence to “prove” that prisoners had been gassed at Dachau, Buchenwald and other concentration camps in Germany proper. But already in August 1960 an official of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich acknowledged: “Neither in Dachau, nor in Bergen-Belsen, nor in Buchenwald were Jews or other inmates gassed.” Today historians now widely acknowledge that no one was ever gassed in any camp in Germany proper.
Much of the now discredited Holocaust “evidence” presented at Nuremberg is of Soviet Communist origin, including “proof” that the Germans killed four million people at Auschwitz and another one and a half million at Majdanek. (Today no reputable historian accepts these fantastic figures.)
As evidence of homicidal gassings at Auschwitz, you cite a postwar “confession” of SS Captain Josef Kramer, who served as commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau from mid-May 1944 until the end of November 1944 — that is, during the height of the supposed extermination period there. He had already served at other concentration camps, and he finished the war in command of the Belsen camp. He was arrested there by the British and, after a military trial, was hanged in December 1945.
During his trial, Kramer provided a valuable detailed statement about his wartime career, including his role as commandant of Birkenau and Belsen. He frankly acknowledged that as many as 500 Birkenau inmates died weekly during the period when he was in charge, but stressed that these deaths were due to illness and old age, and were not the result of any policy. In fact, every effort was made to keep sick inmates alive, he said, and reported that the camp's physicians normally worked ten or eleven hours daily. Some 25 or 30 barracks buildings were set aside as hospital or recuperation quarters.
Kramer forthrightly responded to the persistent charges of extermination and gassings:
I have heard of the allegations of former prisoners in Auschwitz referring to a gas chamber there, the mass executions and whippings, the cruelty of the guards employed, and that all that took place either in my presence or with my knowledge. All I can say to all this is that it is untrue from beginning to end.
Kramer later retreated from this unambiguous stand, perhaps in the hope that a “confession” might save his life. In a “supplementary” statement, he mentioned the existence of a single gas chamber in Birkenau, but added that it was not under his command.
In his 1949 study, Victor's Justice, historian Montgomery Belgion reported that Kramer and other “Belsen” trial defendants were tortured, sometimes to the point that they begged to be put to death.
In January 1995 the prestigious French weekly magazine L'Express acknowledged that the “gas chamber” in the Auschwitz main camp, which has been shown for decades to tourists in its “original” state, is actually a postwar reconstruction (built under Communist auspices), and that “everything is false” about it.
Several forensic examinations of the alleged “gas chambers” at Auschwitz — probably the most notorious wartime concentration camp — have established that these facilities could not possibly have been used to kill people as alleged, and in fact were never used to kill people as claimed.
To prove the severity of German measures against Jews, you quote from a directive on the “Handling of the Jewish Question.” Contrary to the impression you give, though, this directive is not from the 1930s, but from 1941, and applies not to Jews in Germany, but rather (as the text itself makes clear) to Jews in the newly occupied Soviet territories.
This official “Guidelines for the Handling of the Jewish Question” (Nuremberg document 212-PS) lays out German policy toward the Jews in the occupied Soviet territories. An interesting feature of this secret, internal document is that it is difficult, of not impossible, to reconcile with the orthodox Holocaust extermination story.
Although the measures ordered in this Security Police directive are certainly cruel and harsh, it makes no mention of killing or extermination, but instead stresses the importance of putting Jews to work. It specifically refers to the “peaceful solution of the Jewish question” and mentions “the creation of at least temporary reception possibilities for Jews from the [German] Reich” in the newly-acquired Soviet territories.
The only material issued or distributed by the IHR that you specifically cite is a flyer, “66 Questions and Answers on the Holocaust.” This decades-old, single sheet leaflet is inherently superficial, and anyway is in need of revision and updating. It is not at all indicative of the tremendous scope and depth of historical scholarship published by the IHR since its founding in 1978 in numerous books and in dozens of issues of the Institute's Journal of Historical Review.
Misleading is a charitable way to characterize your description of the IHR's drawn out legal dispute with Auschwitz survivor Mel Mermelstein. What your readers were not told is that his campaign against the IHR came to a dramatic end on September 19, 1991, when his $11 million lawsuit against the IHR was dismissed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Judge Steven Lachs granted the IHR's motion for dismissal of his malicious prosecution complaint, and soon afterwards Mermelstein himself dismissed his libel and conspiracy complaints. His appeal of the ruling was unanimously rejected by the California Court of Appeal. Furthermore, a careful look at Mermelstein's statements and writings over the years shows, contrary to his highly favorable media image, that he is a prevaricator and demonstrable fraud.
Revisionists are often accused of “rewriting history.” But the routine way we talk about “the Holocaust” is itself a good example of “rewriting history.” This term, as a reference to the World War II travails of European Jewry, was unknown in the decades following the end of the conflict, and did not come into widespread use until the late 1970s.
Just how drastically our perception of the past has been altered over the past 30-40 years has been acknowledged by Michael Berenbaum, Project Director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The Holocaust,” he has said, “was [once] regarded as a side story of the much larger story of World War II. Now one thinks of World War II as a background story and the Holocaust as a foreground story.” (Quoted in The Washington Times, Jan. 10, 1991.)
Along with much of the American media, many public officials have vigorously promoted the campaign that Jewish-American historian Alfred Lilienthal has aptly termed “Holocaustomania.” Accordingly, the federal government and all 50 state governments now routinely observe the annual “Holocaust Remembrance Day.”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Council — a taxpayer-funded federal government agency — operates an official US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, that commemorates (non-American) victims of a foreign regime. Non-Jewish victims just don't merit the same concern. There are no federal memorials or museums, or official annual observances, dedicated to the millions of victims of Soviet and Chinese Communism.
For many people, the Holocaust has become virtually a new civil religion, one that replaces traditional Judaism and Christianity as a moral guide. In his book Why Should Jews Survive?, Prof. Michael Goldberg, an eminent Rabbi, laments the rise of what he aptly calls a “Holocaust cult with its own tenets of faith, rites and shrines.”
This “cult” is even used to justify and support the “new world order.” This was made clear by Ian J. Kagedan, an official of the Zionist organization B'nai B'rith Canada, in an essay entitled “Memory of Holocaust Central to New World Order” (Toronto Star, Nov. 26, 1991). “In the moral reconstruction of Eastern Europe,” he wrote, “coming to terms with the Holocaust must figure prominently… The Holocaust stands as Western civilization's greatest failure… Achieving our quest of a 'new world order' depends on our learning the Holocaust's lessons.”
Those who question the “Holocaust cult” are subject to smears, bigoted social ostracism and, sometimes, terror and legal persecution. As you point out, in some countries it is a crime to distribute dissident writings on the Holocaust. In 1978 a teacher in France, François Duprat, was even murdered because of his revisionist views. Our Institute has been repeatedly attacked by the Jewish Defense League, a group that the FBI has identified as a terrorist organization. The IHR office-warehouse was destroyed in an arson attack on July 4, 1984.
Since its founding in 1978, the IHR has steadfastly opposed bigotry of all kinds in its efforts to promote greater public understanding of key chapters of history. Contributors to our Journal have included respected scholars from around the world. We are proud of the backing we have earned from people of the most diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, including Jewish.
The generally acknowledged founder of scholarly Holocaust revisionism was Paul Rassinier, whom you inaccurately call a Trotskyite. Actually, this French educator and underground Resistance activist was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and interned until the end of the war in the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps. Rassinier's courage and suffering were later recognized with France's highest decoration awarded for Resistance activities, and he was elected to the French National Assembly as a deputy of the Socialist party (SFIO).
If the revisionist view of the Holocaust were really as simplistic and mistaken as you suggest, it would not have gained the support of university professors such as Arthur Butz and Robert Faurisson, historians such as David Irving and Harry Elmer Barnes, and former concentration camp inmates such as Paul Rassinier. These individuals did not decide publicly to reject the orthodox Holocaust story — thereby risking public censure, and worse — because they are fools, or because their motives are evil, but rather on the basis of a sincere and thoughtful evaluation of the evidence.
Much more by and about the IHR can be obtained by writing us at P.O. Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, or “on line” through our Internet web site: http: //www.ihr.org
Mark Weber, Director