PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE Editorial: The Holocaust in court http://www.post-gazette.com:80/forum/20000224edirving3.asp A revisionist historian sues his critics for libel Thursday, February 24, 2000 In recent years the Holocaust has embedded itself more deeply into the world's consciousness. Yet atop the mountain of factual material that confirms Nazi Germany's inhumanity to man still stand a few individuals who deny that the Holocaust ever took place or seek to equate it with the horrors that befall civilians in any war. In London this winter, one of the less disreputable of the disbelievers is having his own version of truth tested. British historian David Irving is in court, suing Penguin Books and professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University for libel for accusing him of denying the Holocaust. The conventional and almost universally accepted view was that Germany systematically plotted the destruction of Jews, especially as evidenced by a decision reached at a conference in July 1942. Mr. Irving says the mass extermination was not official policy and that Hitler knew nothing about it until October 1943. Forget the huge extermination camps; forget the mass destruction of Jews; Mr. Irving doesn't accept it or the use of gas chambers at Auschwitz (they were a post-war tourist invention, he said). Hitler was a weak leader under whom all kinds of bad things happened without his intervention. To put it charitably, this is a minority view. Hundreds of historians blame the power-mad Hitler as the man who orchestrated the Holocaust. The Nazi leader allowed no dissent from his attempts at world supremacy and his attempts to annihilate all races and groups whom he viewed as anathema. And yet, Mr. Irving is about the best of those who challenge conventional World War II history. A biography he wrote of Josef Goebbels has drawn praise from respectable historians. Where Mr. Irving finds his audience is among the small cadre of right-wing scholars and neo-Nazi followers. Because Hitler was adept at covering up some of his plans, it creates a loophole through which men like Mr. Irving can crawl. Win or lose, Mr. Irving has found a forum for himself in a London courthouse. It can only be hoped that, as the mountains of documents and truth pile up, his view of World War II history will look like a molehill by comparison. ### == Copyright 2000 Scottish Media Newspapers Limited The Herald (Glasgow) http://www.theherald.co.uk/ February 24, 2000 Faustian pacts without end BY: Frank Mclynn THE NAZI TERROR: Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans AS THE current David Irving case shows, the Holocaust remains a battlefield for historians. At the extreme ends of the spectrum are the Holocaust deniers and those such as Daniel Goldhagen who posit an entire nation of frenzied anti -Semitic Germans. Other related issues debated by historians include: was Nazi Germany a totalitarian state in the same way Stalin's Russia was?; and was the decision to exterminate the Jews a decision taken late in his career by Hitler, as seems most plausible, or was it a design he had been nurturing a full 15 years before he came to power? David Irving, of course, denies that Hitler knew about the Final Solution at all and claims it was carried out by a cabal headed by Himmler and Heydrich. Eric Johnson's scholarly study - a "microhistory" based on Gestapo papers, denazification reports, and police records in the Rhineland areas of Cologne, Krefled, and Bergheim - sheds important light on these debates. To begin with, he questions the model of Nazi Germany as a "totalitarian" state, a smoothly functioning monument to Teutonic efficiency, at whose centre was an omnipotent, omniscient, and ubiquitous Gestapo. Contrary to myth, Hitler did not run a tight ship and his grip on German society was more tenuous than in the legend of totalitarianism. The Nazi leadership was divided, both over goals and issues of personal empire-building, and the German population was not monolithic, with many sectors always jaundiced about Hitler and his acolytes. Most Germans were not positively anti-Semitic but simply indifferent to the fate of the Jews, and the Gestapo had less manpower and fewer resources, agents and spies than was previously thought. Again, contrary to myth, Nazi "totalitarianism" did not destroy the judiciary. To be sure, in Roland Freisler's ''People's Court" in Berlin the accused was virtually assured of a death sentence, but in the rest of the system law courts acted in the lenient, arbitrary, and often irrational manner that so infuriates citizens of the UK in year 2000. Overwhelmingly, ordinary people found ways to make personal Faustian pacts with the Nazis: they looked the other way or schemed to turn the system to their advantage, financially or otherwise. Meanwhile, the Gestapo targeted certain groups - Jews, Communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, the physically and mentally handicapped - and left ordinary Germans well alone, even when they were known to be laughing at the Fuhrer or listening to the forbidden BBC. Johnson argues that we have gone wrong in thinking of a monolithic Gestapo. The top brass were committed Nazis, but the middle echelons of the secret police were largely "jobsworth" policemen or pen pushers in the local office. The Gestapo may have been more like an ordinary police force than we care to admit, and in this context Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" has extra force. Denouncing fellow Germans to the secret police to settle personal scores did not work; the Gestapo were wise to that tactic. Even for such crimes as personal abuse of the Fuhrer, the penalty was mild, provided the accused was a non-Jewish German. But Johnson is insistent that millions of ordinary Germans did know about the Holocaust despite their post-war denials. He dissents strongly from Goldhagen, however, in denying that the average Fritz and Willi were Jew-haters. Even in the case of those who took part in the Final Solution and thus could be tagged as "Hitler's willing executioners", the motives were rarely anti-Semitism but more often cowardice, apathy, and a slavish obedience to authority. Johnson, it seems to me, effectively torpedoes the stance of such academics as Goldhagen and Dawidowicz by demonstrating that the Final Solution was a late decision by Hitler. He argues convincingly that if the entire German people really was anti-Semitic, the Jews would have left in droves in the 1930s when it was still Nazi policy to force them to emigrate. It was precisely because anti-Semitism did not loom large among ordinary Germans, as opposed to the Nazis, that the Jews foolishly (though understandably) thought it was safe to stay on. Johnson reveals the many ways the Nazi leadership had to tread carefully in their attempts to keep the truth of genocide from the German people, the many ideological sacrifices they had to make, the many shoddy compromises and turnings of blind eyes by the local Gestapo. His nuanced picture is highly persuasive, and his revisionism is such that at times he raises the question whether Nazi Germany even was a police state in the true sense. This is a brilliant examination of an evil empire, all the more timely as Irving attempts to prove the absurd in his libel suit against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt. ###
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and
to combat hatred.
Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.
As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may
include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and
provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist
and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012