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BACKGROUND
HISTORICAL REVISIONISM

The phrase "Holocaust revisionism" is viewed by Holocaust
revisionist/denialists as one of several categories of
historical revisionism, that branch of learning which claims
its purpose is to put the historical record in line with the
facts. The term _revisionist_ has been around for a long
time with a varied number of uses. In the late 19th Century
the term was directed to Eduard Berstein for his revamping
of Marxist theory. More recently, the old Soviet Communists
have applied the term to old Yugoslavian Communist thinking,
and the Chinese have applied it to the old Soviet Communist
thinking. Zionism has its revisionists: Vladimir Jabotinsky,
the early Zionist founder of the _Ha'ganah_, set up the
World Union of Zionist Revisionism in 1925, and the New
Zionist Organization in 1935.

"Revisionist" has come to be applied to any person or group
that proposes a different historical fact pattern or
interpretation of the facts than is normally accepted.
Revisionism, as such, is not necessarily a disreputable
thing. Often history gets tangled up with political
necessities and the version that is written is frequently
tainted by the needs of the time. One should not place the
two types of revisionism, Holocaust and historical, in the
same pot. Doing so invites confusion and, in some instances,
furthers the goals of Holocaust revisionism, which rides on
the coattails of legitimate historical revisionism. As the
historian Deborah Lipstadt explains in `Denying the
Holocaust':

     The deniers consider themselves heirs of a group of
     influential American historians who were deeply
     disturbed by American involvement in World War I. These
     respected scholars, who called themselves revisionists,
     would have been appalled to learn of the purpose to
     which their arguments were put. In contrast to the
     Holocaust deniers, who make no distinction between fact
     and fiction, the World War I revisionists engaged in
     serious research and relied upon established canons of
     evidence. Despite these differences, deniers have tried
     to link the two traditions, arguing that each has
     sought to create an alternative history for major
     events of the twentieth century. (10:31-32)
     
Ms. Lipstadt makes reference to a movement in which, at the
end of World War I, many historians attacked the presumption
of total German responsibility for the outbreak of the war.
By the nature of the Versailles Treaty provisions, it was
obvious that the victors of the "war to end all wars" had
decided Germany was solely responsible for the war and must
pay for it, both financially and morally. This was a clear-
cut issue in the years following the war, and, as happens
with such a one-dimensional approach, an opposing side
developed. This opposing view sought to distribute the guilt
among all the war's participants, absolving Germany of
exclusive responsibility for the war.

With the end of World War II, revisionism, as practiced by
Holocaust revisionists, has taken on a broader meaning, not
only concerning itself with World War I but encompassing any
historical topic it deems falsely presented. Presently, the
history that the Holocaust revisionist now addresses covers
a diversity of perceived historical wrongs, which include
the suppression of the Dead Sea scrolls, activity of the
CIA, problems in South Africa, the validity of the PLO and
the Palestinian cause, the Kennedy assassination, Israel,
Josef Stalin's politically motivated murders, the "surprise"
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and life under the
Communists. The reason for this intentional diversity in
coverage of historical issues, as Deborah Lipstadt sees it,
is "to maintain their facade as a group whose only objective
is the pursuit of truth." (10:21)

The bulk of this modern revisionism, however, concerns
itself with World War II: its causes, relevant history,
allied (as opposed to German) atrocities, and, of course,
the Holocaust. Revisionists advocate the ostensibly
reasonable position that, unless history is free of all
prejudices and lies, wars are fated to be repeated. Since
one of the first casualties of war is truth, any history
written about a war , especially by either the victors or
the victims, is bound to be filled with lies and propaganda.
One of the biggest lies or myths of World War II, according
to Holocaust revisionist's/denier's thinking, is the
Holocaust story. This is the best example, in their view, of
just how successful war propaganda can get.

Holocaust revisionists are adamant that the Holocaust is a
myth created by the allies in collaboration with
"international" Jewish organizations to help the war effort
against the Nazis. After the war, it was used to "repay"
Germany and the Nazis for their "bad" attitude towards the
Jews. One revisionist camp proposes a second or alternative
reason for the Holocaust myth centered around an imagined
Moscow-Tel Aviv axis. Since, in their view, Communism was a
Jewish creation, it was in the best interest of the Jews and
Communists to have a weak Germany; a strong Germany would
stop Communist expansion westward. They feel that one of the
perpetrators of this myth was the "court historian," someone
either on the conqueror's payroll or reaping some other
benefit from writing skewered history. In this way, as
Lipstadt puts it, "The deniers aim to undermine readers'
faith in `orthodox' historians' commitment to transmitting
the truth. They argue that this tactic of distortion by
`court historians' for political means reached its zenith in
the Holocaust `myth.'" (10:21)

They do not deny that many Jews died during the war. The
Jewish deaths during the war are, however, just in keeping
with "normal" deaths during such a tumultuous period. The
number of Jewish deaths during the war years is put by some
holocaust revisionists at under three million, by others as
low as two hundred thousand. Most agree that the majority of
Jewish deaths were due to epidemics, non-Nazi pogroms, air
raids, or execution by partisans.

HOLOCAUST REVISIONISTS OR HOLOCAUST DENIERS

There are currently two labels that historians or writers
use in writing about the phenomenon under discussion. One is
"Holocaust revisionist," or "revisionist" for short, and the
other is "Holocaust denier" or "denier" for short. Both
names have pros and cons. Some historians prefer to use the
name deniers believing that this will prevent the usurpation
of the legitimacy of accredited revisionists, who base their
work on fact and proven methods of research.

Other writers such as Pierre Vidal-Naquet, author of
`Assassins of Memory: Essays on the Denial of the
Holocaust,' use both deniers and revisionists
interchangeably. One reason that such writers use the term
revisionist is to help educate the unwitting readers of
their material who only know the Holocaust deniers as
revisionists, not deniers. (7:19) The revisionists
themselves are very quick to point out that they do not deny
the Holocaust. They readily admit that Jewish suffering
occurred. Mark Weber, a revisionist and editor of the well-
known revisionist journal, `The Journal of Historical
Review,' explaining their position, writes,

     They do not dispute the fact that large numbers of Jews
     were deported to concentration camps and ghettos, or
     that many Jews died or were killed during the Second
     World War. Revisionist scholars have, however,
     presented considerable evidence to show that there was
     no German program to exterminate Europe's Jews, that
     numerous claims of mass killings in "gas chambers" are
     false, and that the estimate of six million Jewish
     wartime dead is an irresponsible exaggeration. (20:1)
     
In short, revisionists do not deny the Holocaust, they just
want to redefine it. What is important is not what they are
called but what they are saying. They advertise themselves
as "revisionists." The common reader, knowing them only as
that, should be afforded maximal opportunity to understand
the untenability of the revisionist's position; all
sophistry aside, revisionists deny major facts of the
historical event known as the Holocaust. In this paper we
shall use both terms, revisionists and deniers, in keeping
with the current literature.

FATHER OF HOLOCAUST REVISIONISM

Holocaust revisionism has its roots in the works of Paul
Rassinier, credited by present Holocaust revisionists as
being the "father" of Holocaust revisionism. It would be
comforting to think of such a person as a pro-Nazi or Nazi
collaborator, a rabid foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Semite, but
the record speaks quite differently.

Born in March 18, 1906 in a small town in east-central
France, Rassinier received his education from local schools
and colleges and was qualified as a geography and history
teacher. He joined the Socialist Party in 1934, was an
active member and eventually became head of the Belfort
chapter in 1939. When the Germans invaded France he helped
establish the Libre-Nord resistance movement, which
allegedly helped smuggle Jews into Switzerland. The movement
was pacifist and did not follow the French Communist party
line. (15:Vi)

Picked up in October 1943 by the Gestapo for his underground
activities, Rassinier was sent to Buchenwald. Because of the
friction created between the pacifist Rassinier and the
local Communist resistance, Rassinier said that if he had
not been arrested by the Gestapo he would have been killed
by the Communists. He did not spend much time at Buchenwald,
but was quickly processed out to its subsidiary, Camp Dora.
He spent the years 1943-1945 at Buchenwald/Dora, and as a
consequence of this experience he became an "expert" on what
occurred or did not occur in the Nazi death/extermination
camps. He was liberated in 1945, extremely physically
debilitated like most surviving camp inmates. In the
overzealous purges by the French after the war Rassinier not
only came out unscathed, but was awarded a decoration by
France for his resistance activities; he also received a
small pension. He successfully ran as a Socialist candidate
for the National Assembly and served as a deputy. His health
could not sustain public life, and after approximately a
year in office he stepped down. (15:Vi)

Though he is called the father of Holocaust revisionism,
Rassinier would not recognize modern Holocaust denial. He
set into motion many of the foundations of what modern
deniers believe, but differed from them in one respect. He
believed gas chambers existed, though there was no official
Nazi plan of extermination. In his work `Le Mensonge
d'Ulysse' Rassinier states, "My view on the gas chambers?
Some probably did exist, but not as many as is believed.
Moreover, there probably were exterminations by gas, but not
as many as claimed. The number, of course, does not in the
least diminish the nature of the horror...there appears to
have been no official Nazi policy of gas
exterminations....(15:164)

This statement by their acclaimed founder has caused those
who deny the existence of homicidal gas chambers much
embarrassment. They try to explain his statement in
different ways. Mark Weber, editor of the revisionist
journal, writes,

     Readers may be surprised by what Rassinier
     wrote...about the gassing story. Although he never
     believed that there was any German program or policy to
     gas Jews, for a time he took the view that gassings
     were carried out on a small scale by a tiny number of
     sadistic SS men, who acted contrary to orders. I have
     been reliably informed that in the final years of his
     life, Rassinier became increasingly skeptical that even
     small numbers of unauthorized gassings ever took place.
     (15:432)
     
One of the things that revisionists are most critical about
is the misuse of or no use of documents by historians to
establish a claim. Weber here commits the very act he claims
"court historians" do when they deal with the Holocaust --
not using appropriate sources. He wants us to ignore what
Rassinier himself has written and believe Weber's "reliable"
source. This is a common method of operation for many
revisionists.

In studying Rassinier's writings, we quickly see that he
sets the stage for the future revisionists to follow. Many
of the areas that he challenged or denied have been expanded
by those who have come after him:

     * He challenged the use of any document or source he
     felt unreliable or tampered with. On the surface this
     seems reasonable, but modern revisionists have often
     deemed any document unreliable that does not support
     their position.
     
     * He believed that the diary of Anne Frank was a
     possible forgery and should be exposed. (15:234)
     
     * He challenged the use of Zyklon-B as a homicidal gas
     capable of gassing millions of people. (15:263-265)
     
     * He challenged the validity of the testimony given by
     Nazi and SS leaders such as Rudolf Hoess, the Auschwitz
     commandant, and Kurt Gerstein, an enlisted man in the
     SS who was an eyewitness to gassings using the Zyklon-B
     he delivered to extermination camps. (15:235-243,250-
     270)
     
     * He challenged the works and methods of reliable
     Holocaust historians. In particular he challenged Raul
     Hilberg's  fundamental work `The Destruction of the
     European Jews." Professor Hilberg, using established
     historical methods, calculates that at least 5.1
     million Jews died as a direct result of the Nazis.
     (4:82-83) Rassinier, using his own pseudo-scientific
     methods of demographics, calculated that Jewish deaths
     during World War II range from 987,592 to 1,589,492.
     (15:391)
     
     * He conjectured that the reason for the Holocaust myth
     was to have Germany pay tremendous illegal sums of
     money to the State of Israel. Part of the plot was to
     weaken Germany so that she could not be a strong
     deterrent to the westward expansion of communism.
     (15:214)
     
As if he were conducting the orchestra, modern revisionists
have taken Rassinier's cues and expanded many of the areas
he questioned. We will now look at some modern players and
see how they are spreading the Holocaust myth and how this
lie is used by various anti-Semitic and hate groups to
supplement their message.


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