Newsgroups: alt.revisionism Subject: Holocaust Almanac: David Irving's Hitler (Forward) Summary: Robert Fulford's introduction to the 1993 book, "David Irving's Hitler," which contains the translated essays of the German historian Eberhard Ja"ckel. Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Followup-To: alt.revisionism Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA Keywords: Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/jackel/fulford.intro Last-Modified: 1996/02/25 [Archived and published with permission.] FOREWORD by Robert Fulford When David Irving's work first began to appear, it seemed no more than a journalist's attempt to re-work a few major themes of the Second World War and its background. Today we understand his project as something larger and more sinister: a kind of retrospective moral upgrading of the Third Reich and its leader, with all that implies for contemporary politics in Germany and elsewhere. We also know that his writings have been flowing into the swelling river of Holocaust denial, refreshing it with bits of near-fact and pseudo-fact, all intended to move a few more readers toward the acceptance of an absurdity: the relative innocence of the Nazis, or at least, the moral equivalence of the Nazis and their enemies in the Second World War. This context makes Eberhard Jackel's two essays on Irving's methods even more valuable and fascinating than they were when Jackel wrote them, some years before Irving became notorious. Jackel demonstrates, with a scholar's precision, the ingenious ways in which Irving manipulates evidence, collecting whatever fits his preconceptions, misinterpreting as he chooses, and ignoring whatever fails to support his views. Over the years Irving has persuaded many readers in the English-speaking countries that he provides an understanding of the contents of certain German archives, but it will be hard for anyone, after reading Jackel, to think of Irving as anything but a propagandist. At another time, in a different moral atmosphere, Irving's work would not deserve such detailed scrutiny; his nimble deceptions would be of interest only to specialists. In the present climate, however, he is a dangerous man to ignore. He plays to a section of the public that wants to believe him, a section largely created by the entrepreneurs of Holocaust denial. When Holocaust denial first made itself heard in public, its claims seemed so absurd that historians and journalists dismissed it as a temporary aberration, an eccentricity on the lunatic fringes of opinion. It wasn't until the early 1980s that we ceased to shrug it off, began to see it for the historical phenomenon that it is, and began trying to understand both its roots in traditional antisemitism and its peculiar appeal in the present age. It can be best understood not only as a branch of standard antisemitism but also as a specific product of its own time, roughly the period 1970 to the present. Holocaust denial, like the Holocaust itself, is without precedent: no one, not even Joseph Goebbels, has ever before produced so large and imaginative a lie. Conspiracy theories have frequently appeared during the last two hundred years, but all of them have been, by comparison, modest. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in its many versions, asks us to believe merely that a small group of men secretly agreed to take coordinated action to destroy civilization, in order to benefit themselves and their race. This much-reprinted fiction seemed monstrous when it first went into wide circulation, early in the 20th century, but it looks insignificant when placed besides the Holocaust denial thesis. The deniers (I avoid calling them "revisionists," since I think historical revision is honest and important work, practised by all good historians) ask us to believe in a conspiracy that involves hundreds of thousands of Iying witnesses and at least an equal number of falsified documents, all of them accepted by thousands of otherwise sensible historians. Magically, no one connected with this conspiracy has ever broken ranks and told the truth, or even accidentally revealed the plot in a letter or overheard phone conversation. The deniers therefore imply that "the facts" can be learned only by inference, teased out of obscure documents uncovered by Irving and others. This is obviously unbelievable, but what makes it exceptional is the extent to which it is unbelievable. It would be far easier to believe in, say, the witches of Salem, whose activities were blamed on magical powers from the underworld. The Holocaust deniers claim no such intervention from other- worldly sources: they claim that this astounding project, convincing the world that six million died when they didn't, was carried out by more or less ordinary human beings. That the Jews are said to have done it for practical gain (to acquire both money and political support for Israel) isn't particularly notable; that idea fits into ordinary antsemitic rhetoric. What must make us stand back in wonder, at both those who conceived the idea and those who claim to believe it, is the titanic scale of the lie. Who, after more than a moment's thought, would believe it? A fair number of people, apparently, and not all of them certified antisemites. In the spring of 1993 the Roper Organization announced that 22 per cent of the American adults it polled said that it seemed possible the Holocaust had never happened; an additional 12 per cent said they did not know if it was possible . Even those who are skeptical about opinion polling, believing that results often reflect only half-hearted views, must acknowledge that Holocaust denial has found an audience of considerable size. Why? One reason is that our historical period distrusts authority of any kind, believing (unless persuaded otherwise) that statements issued by those in authority are likely to be self-interested and routinely untruthful. In this case, possibly, some people have decided that the standard account given in history books and the media represents the view of authority; Holocaust denial, on the other hand, may be seen as the unofficial, outsider's view, which is automatically more credible in many eyes. The popularity of Holocaust denial rnay be one fruit of a whole generation's shared belief that any statement endorsed by power should be distrusted and that there is always a "real" truth, hidden from all but a few. Holocaust denial probably also profits from a widely held view that if an idea is repeated often enough, and insisted on vehemently enough, then it is probably entitled to "a fair hearing." Of course, anything like a fair hearing (such as the publication of unedited defense "evidence" by the Canadian newspapers in the first of Ernst Zundel's trials in 1985) amounts to a wonderful gift to the deniers, who are allowed to spread their poisonous ideas further. Even if eight out of ten readers decide that they are fools or scoundrels, the deniers still gain. Simply allowing them into the forum of public discussion (as many schools are now being pressured to do) gives their ideas a certain validity. Perhaps a general change in our culture's view of history has done even more to create a kind of welcome for the deniers. One of the most striking characteristics of this period is the waning of history as a subject of study, contemplation, and discussion. During the last thirty or so years, our civilization has grown steadily less concerned with the past and more concerned with the present and the future. Those who believe that a knowledge of the past is crucial to all human enterprises have become a minority (consider how infrequently politicians and other leaders invoke historical precedent or tradition). In this vacuum, when a large part of the population has lost any sense of history and how it is written, a bizarre thesis like Holocaust denial can flourish. Perhaps the most pressing and painful of the lessons forced upon us by Irving and the Holocaust deniers is that we need to renew our relationship with history. If we are not attentive to the past, if we carelessly forget it or regard it as only marginally important, then the past can become a playground for evil. 1. Robert Fulford, a Toronto journalist, writes a weekly column for The Globe and Mail. He has written frequently on Holocaust denial and related issues. 2. Quoted by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, 30 April 1993. Work Cited Robert Fulford, Irving's Hitler (Introduction), Port Angeles, Washington: Ben-Simon Publications, 1993. pp 2-3)
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