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Last-Modified: 1994/07/29

                     Copyright 1993 The Washington Post    
                              The Washington Post 
                      July 11, 1993, Sunday, Final Edition 
LENGTH: 1272 words   
HEADLINE: Antisemitic History: The Fate of the 6 Million   
SERIES: Occasional   
BYLINE: Paul Johnson   
BODY:    DENYING THE HOLOCAUST The Growing Assault on Truth and
   By Deborah E. Lipstadt Free Press. 278 pp. $ 22.95   
   ANTISEMITISM is one of the oldest and most persistent of human
delusions. Some Jews resignedly believe it is ineradicable. It is
protean and takes countless different forms, so that it is peculiarly
resistant to empirical disproof: Nailed in one shape, it instantly
reappears in another, often contradictory one. The fact of the
Holocaust ought to have ended antisemitism everywhere, forever. The
characteristic response of the antisemites has been to deny that it
happened, and to posit the existence of yet another secret Jewish
conspiracy to foist onto a gullible world the myth that six million
Jews were killed by the Nazis.     
   In fact, Holocaust-denial is now the fastest-growing and probably
the commonest form of antisemitism. In the United States, where it
appears regularly on the campus and in innumerable extremist
publications of both Left and Right, it is easily given a current
political context. Thus: "Each year a foreign government literally
steals millions of dollars from you and other U.S. taxpayers. The
thief is the corrupt, bankrupt government of Israel . . . And the
theft is perpetrated primarily through the clever use of the Greatest
Lie in all history -- the lie of the 'Holocaust.' "    This
particular statement was put out by an organization called the
Institute for Historical Research, a pseudo-academic body that has
been one of the most energetic exponents of Holocaust-denial. In 1979
it held the first "Revisionist Convention" in Los Angeles. The IHR
had been founded the year before by Lewis Brandon, who was born in
1951 in Northern Ireland and has a long record of fascist activities
on both sides of the Atlantic. His real name was William David
McCalden, though he also operated as David Stanford, David Berg,
Sonda Ross and David Finkelstein. Behind McCalden was an older man
called Willis Carto, identified by the Anti-Defamation League as the
most important and professional antisemite in the United States. Born
in 1926 in Indiana, Carto was a member of the John Birch Society
until he quarreled with its founder, Robert Welch. He then set up his
own organization, which eventually emerged as the Liberty Lobby and
by the 1980s had an annual income of close to $ 4 million. This
financed the IHR and its publication, Spotlight, which by the early
1980s claimed a circulation of 330,000 and was connected with other
antisemitic outlets such as the American Mercury, Washington Observer
Newsletter and Noontide press. All assiduously propagate
   The U.S. is not the only country where this form of antisemitism
flourishes. It is to be found all over Europe, particularly in France
and in former Communist states, in Latin America and even in Japan,
where Jews are rare but extremist groups plentiful. It takes many
forms. Some deniers say that the Holocaust was a complete fabrication
from start to finish. Others, such as President Tudjman of Croatia,
claim that the numbers of Jews killed has been hugely and
deliberately exaggerated: Tudjman insists that only 900,000 Jews
died. Another approach is to produce "scientific evidence" that Jews
who died in the death-camps could not have been killed in the way
historians and war-crimes tribunals have asserted. In particular,
deniers claim that Zyklon-B gas was totally inappropriate as a
homicidal agent. A Boston engineer called Fred A. Leuchter, who
specialised in constructing execution apparatus, was sent out to
Auschwitz and Majdanek to collect "forensic samples" and on his
return produced a report that concluded there had never been
homicidal gassings at these sites. Yet another common tactic is to
attack the authenticity of The Diary of Anne Frank, which has sold
over 20 million copies in scores of countries as well as being made
into a prize-winning play and movie. For countless people, it
personifies the tragedy and horror of the Holocaust. But deniers
claim that the Diary is a post-war invention, written by a
professional New York playwright in collaboration with Anne Frank's
   Deborah Lipstadt, who teaches religious studies at Emory
University and who has already written a useful work on the
presentation of the original Holocaust story in the American media,
has now produced a documented history of the rise and spread of
Holocaust-denial. Her object was two-fold. First, she wanted to
establish -- and does so beyond any doubt -- that denial activities
in no case spring from genuine efforts to question or revise
established history or from any concern for the truth, but are
conducted by convinced fanatics whose antisemitism long antedated any
"scientific" interest in Holocaust studies. A few gullible fish, like
Noam Chomsky, may have been hooked, but the vast majority of explicit
deniers are motivated simply by hatred of Jews. Second, Lipstadt
fears that in today's intellectual climate of deconstruction, where
it is a campus game to overturn established truth and values,
Holocaust-denial is finding a receptive audience among young people. 

   If the second point is valid, and I fear that it is, Lipstadt has
produced an effective antidote. By simply tracing the origins and
spread of denial-theory and its endless manifestations, she provides
the best possible refutation of its conclusions by demonstrating,
with names, dates and quotations, that it has from start to finish
been inextricably associated with extremists of the vilest kind. She
shows that the arguments of the deniers, when they are specifically
formulated, have no scientific or historical basis. The book is
particularly useful in demolishing the Zyklon-B and Anne Frank
versions of the slander. It is, in fact, an essential text that
journalists and teachers ought to have handy whenever this form of
antisemitism makes its appearance.   
   Some will question Lipstadt's wisdom in dealing with the subject
at such length, thereby giving it further publicity. They are
mistaken. There are really only two effective ways of dealing with
blatant antisemitism. One is the use of the law: Lipstadt shows that
specific statutes have been employed both in Europe and Canada to
expose and combat Holocaust-deniers, and that even in the United
States, where freedom of speech, however outrageous, is zealously
protected by the First Amendment, litigation was successfully
conducted against the IHR. These court cases are most instructive.
Although, as Lipstadt says, a law court is not the ideal arena for
establishing historical truth, it is an objective forum whose
findings are generally accepted by the public, and in every case
where the reality of the Holocaust has been tested there, it has
eventually been vindicated.   
    Moreover, the fact that evidence of the Holocaust has been
successfully validated in the courts makes it easier to pursue the
second method of dealing with the plague: to destroy its intellectual
respectability. In the long run, the only way to eradicate
antisemitism is to make it impossible for any politician, journalist,
writer or academic who holds antisemitic views, including
Holocaust-denial, to be taken seriously. We have come a long way
since 1945 in attaining this objective, and in the end we shall get
there. Lipstadt's book is an important step forward because it means
that, henceforth, any opinion-former who tries to deal in this
particular antisemitic coin can easily be shown to be using false
   Paul Johnson is a British historian whose books include "A History
of the Jews" and "Modern Times: The World from the 1920s to the
LOAD-DATE-MDC: October 14, 1993    

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