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Archive/File: holocaust/reviews evidence.evil
Last-Modified: 1993/12/28

Magazine: The New Yorker 
Issue:  November 15, 1993 
Title: Evidence  of Evil 
Author: Timothy W. Ryback


     The Nazis tried to destroy their death camps so that there would be no
evidenc of their atrocities.  Fifty years later, Auschwitz and the terrible
relics it holds are  disintegrating, and historians  and survivors are  now
faced with unprecedented questions about how to preserve the memory of  the


     Today, half a century after the  Second World War, as time and  nature
conspire against the remaining physical  evidence for the Holocaust,  other
equally corrosive forces are at work on that most crucial of all  Holocaust
legacies--human memory.  In Europe and  North America, a growing number  of
revisionist "historians" claim  that many assumptions  about the  Holocaust
are based on  faulty or insufficient  evidence--that, in the  words of  one
revisionist, "a hank of hair  and a jar full  of ashes" are not  sufficient
proof that the Germans exterminated an estimated 12 million people.

     All though Holocaust revisionism  has lurked on  the fringe of  public
consciousness since the  nineteen-fifties (in  Germany, revisionists  refer
the Holocaust  as the  Auschwitz-Luge, or  Auchscwitz lie),  over the  past
decade the  revisionist  have  popularized  their  cause  in  a  series  of
spectacular courtroon  cases in  Germany, France,  Canada, and  the  United
States.     In  France,   the  Conseil   d'Etat,  the   country's   highest
administrative court, has  repeatedly ruled against  the revisionists.   In
some cases banning their writing and imposing stiff fines.  "Such  writings
are not only a perverse expression of anti-Semitism, but also an  aggression
against the dead, the  survivors, and society at  large, " Roger Errera,  a
member of  the  Conseil  d'Etat  has written  in  defense  of  his  court's
decisions.  "Their aim is the destruction of the dead's only 'grave,'  that
is, our memory, and the erosion of all awareness of the crime itself.  Such
an agression is not to be tolerated." The eminent French literary historian
Pierre Vidal-Naquet  has denounced  the revisionists  as "assassins  de  la

     Despite their setbacks  in courtrooms, however,  the revisionist  have
made dramatic inroads into the public consciousness in recent years.   Last
spring, a Roper poll published in  the Boston Globe indicated that one  out
of three  Americans believes  it  possible that  the Holocaust  never  took
place.  The revisionist  pressure has become so  great that two years  ago,
Auschwitz museum officials, in order they  said, "to counter claims in  the
West that the Holocaust  did not take place"  retested samples of hair  and
portions of the gas  chamber walls for Zyklon  B. The wall fragments  still
revealed the presence of  the poisonous gas, but  the hair, after years  of
washing and treatment, had been leached of all cyanide residues.

     The revisionists  plaint is  deceptively  simple.   They ask  for  one
incontrovertible piece of evidence --  the proverbial "smoking gun"  --that
can prove  that the  Nazis devised  and executed  a policy  of genocide  in
Europe.   Revisionists it  must be  stated,  do not  deny the  presence  of
crematoriums in the  camps, or the  fact that millions  of people may  have
died in the  camps from exhaustion,  hunger, or disease,  or the fact  that
Zyklon B was used in gas  chambers to delouse clothing, but they  adamantly
reject the  notion  that  human loves  were  deliberately,  systematically,
destroyed.  And  they challenge at  every turn the  veracity of  eyewitness
testimony, whether from Holocaust  survivors, including inmates who  manned
the gas  chambers and  ovens, or  from  S.S.   guards and  camp  officials.
Revisionists claim that  this testimony, including  the dramtic memoirs  of
Rudolph Hess  is often  biased or  distorted and  has been  elicited  under
duress.  According to  Mark Weber, who  is the editor  of the Journal  for
Historical Review, a prominent revisionist  publication issued six times  a
year  by  the  California-based   Institute  for  Historical  Review,   the
over-turning of the conviction  of John Demjanjuk  in an Israeli  courtroon
this past summer further  advances the revisionist claim.   "Here you  have
five individulas who swore  under oath in  court, sometimes shouting,  that
this man was Ivan the Terrible," Weber said to me shortly after the trial.
"This turned  out not  to  be true.   One  should  be skeptical  about  the
testimony of Holocaust survivors."

     This is exactly the point that revisionists have been making for  over
a decade.

     ---end of excerpt---

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