NEW YORK POST http://www.nypost.com/commentary/1705.htm FETTMANN: HOLOCAUST CAN'T BE DENIED By ERIC FETTMANN LAST Friday, testimony ended in a London courtroom in author David Irving's libel suit against Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University and her publisher, Penguin Books. The issue is whether Lipstadt was correct when she labeled Irving -- who has been denounced as "Hitler's spin artist" -- as a Holocaust denier. Although the evidence of Irving's decades-long historical distortions is overwhelming, he may yet prevail in court, thanks to the complexities of British libel law and his own clever wordplay. That would be a devastating blow -- for Irving has been in the forefront of a sinister and dangerous campaign that has allowed Holocaust denial to slowly, but surely, creep into otherwise respectable institutions. Irving, to be sure, has his admirers -- and from people who cannot be called neo-Nazis or Holocaust revisionists. Although not a trained historian, he has immersed himself in the facts and details of the Hitler era. Few question the breadth of his factual knowledge -- it's what he does with it that's open to question. For Irving is the living embodiment of Shakespeare's line that "the Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." Indeed, his reputation is what makes him so dangerous -- because it means that people who otherwise wouldn't dream of crediting his outrageous theories are willing at least to listen to his arguments. And there's no mistaking what those arguments are: The Holocaust, he says, was not a systematic attempt by Nazi Germany to annihilate European Jewry -- only a few hundred thousand Jews died in German camps, mostly through disease and overwork. There were no gassings at Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps -- says Irving, "More people died in the back seat of Sen. Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz," which he claims were built by Polish communists after the war as a "Disneyland" tourist attraction. Because he admits that there was a Holocaust -- although he maintains that the number of victims and the manner of their deaths has been vastly exaggerated by "Zionists" -- Irving insists he cannot rightly be called a Holocaust denier. Indeed, he and his supporters wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech -- claiming that those who attack his work are engaged in censorship and a refusal to accept legitimate historical reappraisal. That, at least, was the way St. Martin's Press initially responded when it came under fire for publishing Irving's 1996 biography of Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels (the book was later canceled; Irving published it himself). Goebbels himself must be "laughing in hell," said St. Martin's editor Thomas Dunne in an obscene analogy, since "he loved nothing better than burning books." Irving's ability to win such support is what makes him threatening. Despite his penchant for pro-Hitler remarks (he claims the Nazi leader was totally ignorant of the Holocaust) and his frequent appearances before neo-Nazi and far-right-wing groups (he describes himself as a "moderate fascist"), Irving is not your run-of-the-mill, foam-at-the-mouth Holocaust denier. Which is why Lipstadt, who wrote a highly praised book about contemporary U.S. press coverage of the Holocaust, chose to confront the growing success of the revisionist movement in her 1994 book, "Denying the Holocaust." In it, she accused Irving of distorting historical data to serve his own ideological interests. There's no denying that Irving doesn't approach the subject like the dispassionate historian he claims to be. "It's baloney, it's a legend," he tells audiences. "Once we admit the fact that [Auschwitz] was a brutal slave-labor camp and large numbers of people did die -- as large numbers of innocent people died elsewhere in the war -- why believe the rest of the baloney?" That is precisely what worries Lipstadt and others opposed to Irving. As Holocaust survivors and those who liberated the camps die out -- ending the availability of first-person testimony -- "it's going to be much easier to deny it," Lipstadt told the Los Angeles Times last January. Or at least to minimize the uniqueness and systematic nature of the Nazis' nefarious genocide of the Jews. Which is what Irving hopes will happen. "The Jewish community is trying to make out that their suffering is unique in its grandeur and the methods applied to achieve it," he says. "It was just one of the many barbarisms committed under the cloak of war." In fact, he says, the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves by provoking Hitler. As Lipstadt warns, Irving has opened up a dangerous door that must be slammed firmly shut: The notion that there is "another side" to the Holocaust. Yes, over the past 50 years, historians have revised some of their understanding of what took place in the Holocaust thanks to intensive research. But the fact that there was a campaign of genocide that systematically took millions of Jewish lives is not a subject for debate. To attack his ideologically driven crackpot theories is not censorship but a necessary defense of historical truth. Make no mistake: Students in the not-too-distant future will take Irving's work seriously because some legitimate publishers and academics remain willing to lend him credibility. If he wins in court -- and the legal onus is on Lipstadt and Penguin to prove their accusations -- Irving and his revisionist soulmates will have been handed a license to rewrite history and distort the truth. E-mail: email@example.com Washington post 03.08.00 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000-03/08/021l-030800-idx.html The Holocaust's Witnesses Must Be Heard Menachem Z. Rosensaft Now that the government of Israel has released Adolf Eichmann's memoirs, they are certain to become an essential resource. He was, after all, one of the masterminds of the Holocaust. Together with the autobiographies and diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Albert Speer and other Nazi leaders, Eichmann's opus will soon be required reading at colleges and universities throughout the United States. At the same time, Holocaust historians routinely ignore the memoirs of its survivors, preferring instead to rely primarily on German sources. While the personalities of Hitler, Himmler and Eichmann are studied in depth, their victims are commonly depicted as two-dimensional figures whose sole purpose on earth was to be marched into gas chambers. Peter Novick, a retired professor of history at the University of Chicago, has gone so far as to dismiss the survivors' memoirs as "not a very useful historical source." As far as he is concerned, the survivors' memories serve only for "evoking the Holocaust experience," rather than as reliable testimonies. "What many scholars have in common," novelist Thane Rosenbaum has observed, "is an open and unapologetic disdain for those who were direct witnesses to the atrocity." Having developed often facile theories about the Holocaust, these self-anointed experts do not want inconvenient facts to get in their way. European Jews during the Holocaust were far more than anonymous victims. In Bergen-Belsen, my mother and a handful of other inmates of that concentration camp kept 149 Jewish children alive from December 1944 until their liberation by British troops on April 15, 1945. My father-in-law survived as a partisan in the forests of Lithuania and Belarus, saving the lives of his widowed mother and 8-year-old brother. Their experiences are not recorded anywhere in German documents or Nazi autobiographies. In September 1945 my mother was one of the principal witnesses for the prosecution at the first trial of Nazi war criminals. In her testimony, my mother told the British military tribunal at Lueneburg, Germany, how countless Jews, including her parents, husband, sister and child, had been sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and she described in detail the Nazis' brutality and sadism. For the first time, the world was faced with one who had been there, with a survivor. On her second day on the witness stand, one of the court-appointed defense attorneys suggested, according to a report published in the New York Times on Sept. 23, 1945, that my mother's statement that she had seen Josef Kramer, the commandant of Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, kick and beat the camp inmates was "pure fabrication." "I would like to point out," my mother replied, "I was present and not the defending counsel during those conditions that I have described." This incident might be dismissed as one lawyer's overzealous trial tactic were it not for another news item published on the same page as the report of my mother's testimony. There, Gen. George Patton, head of the U.S. military government of Bavaria, is quoted as saying that "this Nazi thing is just like a Democratic and Republican election fight." Fast-forward to Patrick Buchanan, who wrote in his March 17, 1990, syndicated column that it would have been impossible for Jews to perish in the gas chambers of the Treblinka death camp. Most survivors' memoirs are rejected out of hand as not commercially viable. While some, such as Elie Wiesel's powerful "Night" and Alexander Donat's "The Holocaust Kingdom," are recognized as classics, thousands remain unpublished and, consequently, unread. These first-person testimonies must be preserved, catalogued and made accessible to scholars and others. While most will never be bestsellers, they are nevertheless critical elements of Holocaust historiography. The survivors deserve the dignity of a permanent historical presence not as faceless objects but as individual protagonists with names and voices. The collective body of their testimonies constitutes one of the most potent antidotes to contemporary and future Holocaust deniers. A way must be found to collect and publish as many of them as possible to ensure that the darkest period in civilization will not be chronicled primarily through the words and perspectives of Adolf Eichmann and his fellow murderers. The writer, a lawyer, is the founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
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