Archive/File: orgs/american/united-states/department-of-defense/deomi/holocaust-revisionism.004 Last-Modified: 1997/07/12 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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