The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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From: (Jamie McCarthy)
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Re: That Lipstadt quote on Nizkor's home page...
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996 16:35:03 -0400
Organization: Absence Software
Lines: 112
NNTP-Posting-Host: (Rich Graves) wrote:

> | "...truth is far more fragile than fiction 
> |  ...reason alone cannot protect it."
> | 
> | Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust

> I was wondering if you (Nizkor) folks could explain to
> me what the above means to you. The obvious (mis?)interpretation is that
> force or censorship needs to be used against the Nazi apologists and fans,
> but this interpretation is in conflict with Nizkor's stated objectives, 

I'm the one who put that quote up there, so I'll field this one.

Here's what it means to me.  Reason allows one to take in false
information and reach false conclusions.  Reason alone does not suffice
when one is dealing with dishonest people: pseudoscholars, researchers
of lies.  Reason is in a fair fight against an opponent who fights
dirty, and, by itself, it's going to lose.  In the scholarly community,
both sides present their evidence fairly and invite the reader to
evaluate it.  But deniers twist their evidence and distort it with lies
and half-truths;  they bluff;  they ignore their weak points;  they play
semantic games.

All that is necessary to allow the deniers to win is to start thinking
on their terms.  "Well, this evidence about the gas chambers looks very
impressive.  I can't find anything wrong with it.  I guess they might
have a point, especially since those academics in their ivory towers
aren't doing forensic tests of their own."

Only when one realizes that the objective of Holocaust-denial is to
fool the unsuspecting reader can one break free.

It's still difficult to reach that conclusion on one's own.  I mean
apart from the usual obvious realization that anyone who denies the
Holocaust is a little out-there;  I'm talking about figuring out what is
wrong with their claims.  How could one suspect, from reading the
Leuchter Report, or Berg's essay on diesel engines, what the fatal flaws
were?  How could one know, after reading the Leuchter Report, that
forensic tests proving him wrong were performed in 1946?  That Leuchter
ignored all the physical evidence which contradicted his claims?  How
could one know that Berg cooked the figures to invent a problem where
there was none?

It's a tedious process -- to discern each assumption made, to question
those assumptions, and to do research to decide those questions.

I consider this process, this debunking of pseudoscholarship, to fall
outside the bounds of what is normally meant by "reason."  It's the
difference between science and a game.  It is for that reason that
Lipstadt's quote carries great meaning to me. Reasoning with these
people won't prove them wrong.  Not by itself.  It takes hard work,
long memories, and an extensive library.

However, looking again at _Denying the Holocaust_ and wearing my
censorship-sensitive glasses, I find myself wondering if Lipstadt
intended it the same way I'm taking it.  Here is the section from which
the quote was excerpted (pp. 181-2):

   The impact of Leuchter's work is difficult to access.  Rationally
   one would like to assume that, since Leuchter has been exposed as
   a man without the qualifications necessary to perform this
   analysis, and since his work had been demonstrated to be
   scientifiically and methodologically fallacious, the destiny of
   the _Leuchter Report_ would be the dustbin of history.  But the
   Holocaust and, to only a slightly lesser degree, Holocaust denial
   itself remind us that the irrational has a fatal attraction even
   to people of goodwill.  It can overwhelm masses of evidence and
   persuade people to regard even the most outrageous and untenable
   notions as fact.  This is easier to accomplish when the public
   does not have the historical and technical knowledge necessary to
   refute these irrational and inherently fantastic claims. 
   Ultimately the deniers' ability to keep repeating Leuchter's
   conclusions even though they have been discredited is another
   indication that truth is far more fragile than fiction and that
   reason alone cannot protect it.

Lipstadt may be implying that, since the public is unarmed against these
lies, the lies should be kept from the public.  I don't know.  I can't
presume to speak for Lipstadt.

I do know that _my_ attitude is that, if the public is ill-equipped to
handle the fantastic claims, someone ought to do something about that --
someone ought to equip the public.  Someone ought to catalog the lies.
Someone ought to put together a means to examine, research, and explain
deniers' arguments.  Someone ought to archive the deniers' arguments,
and the refutations of those arguments, and make it easy for the public
to access them, to educate themselves, and to draw their own conclusions
about their validity.

Hence, Nizkor.  Fiction is durable, but a website even moreso.

> I gotta ask, because I can hear the bad guys snickering.

Strangely, none of the bad guys have ever pinned us down on this one.
Raven mentioned once how we had a quote from Lipstadt on our home page
and he felt free to imply that we therefore were in agreement with her
about everything.  (Go on, someone ask him what the link to the F.A.E.M.
on _his_ home page means! )  But no one
has tried to argue that we meant that censorship was good.

 Jamie McCarthy        Co-Webmaster of
 Hate mail will be posted.

From: rjg@d31rz0.Stanford.EDU (Richard J. Green)
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Re: That Lipstadt quote on Nizkor's home page...
Date: 30 Jul 1996 19:12:50 -0700
Organization: Stanford University, CA 94305, USA
Lines: 24
Message-ID: <4tmff2$n65@d31rz0.Stanford.EDU>

In article ,
Jamie McCarthy  wrote:

>Lipstadt may be implying that, since the public is unarmed against these
>lies, the lies should be kept from the public.  I don't know.  I can't
>presume to speak for Lipstadt.

To my knowlege Lipstadt has never argued for censorship in the 1st
amendment sense.  She has pointed out, correctly, that college
newspapers are under no obligation to print advertisements they know to
be untrue.


Rich Green

Richard J. Green                                Dept. of Chemistry
rjg@lyman.Stanford.EDU                          Stanford University     
http://www-leland.Stanford.EDU/~redcloud        Stanford, CA 94305-5080
        "Remember the days of yore,
        "Learn the lessons of the generation that came before you."
                -Deuteronomy 32:7

From: (Mark Van Alstine)
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Re: That Lipstadt quote on Nizkor's home page...
Date: 31 Jul 1996 22:35:53 GMT
Organization: rbi software systems
Lines: 206
References:   <4tmff2$n65@d31rz0.Stanford.EDU>
X-Newsreader: Yet Another NewsWatcher 2.0.5b5

In article <4tmff2$n65@d31rz0.Stanford.EDU>, rjg@d31rz0.Stanford.EDU
(Richard J. Green) wrote:

> In article ,
> Jamie McCarthy  wrote:
> >Lipstadt may be implying that, since the public is unarmed against these
> >lies, the lies should be kept from the public. I don't know.  I can't
> >presume to speak for Lipstadt.

No, Lipstadt most definely does NOT advocate this. (See below.)

> To my knowlege Lipstadt has never argued for censorship in the 1st
> amendment sense.  She has pointed out, correctly, that college
> newspapers are under no obligation to print advertisements they know to
> be untrue.

Indeed. Lipstadt also points out the problems in attempting to muzzle
Holocust deniers with "legal maneuvers." (See below.) 

Perhaps it is best to let Lipstadt's words speak for her on what she does
and does not advocate? To wit, from her book _Denying the Holocaust_
(1994); pp. xvii, 219-22:

“...Given that the Holocaust itself beggars the imagination, it is predictable 
that the deniers will find good-hearted but uneducated people who will succumb 
to these mental gyrations.

“More important, we must remember that we are dealing with an irrational
phenomenon that is rooted in one of the oldest hatreds, antisemitism.
Antisemitism, like every other form of prejudice, is not responsive to
We may battle against contemporary manifestations of it and hope that we
are successful, but none of us should be deluded into thinking that any
particular battle will be the last. Deniers may have been dealt a blow by
major developments such as the opening of the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum and the film _Schindler's List_. But a museum and film
alone will not vanquish them. Either
the deniers or the next genre of antisemites will eventually surface in some 
other form. As Albert Camus reminds us in the final paragraphs of The Plague:

 “He knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. 
  It could  be  only the record of what had had to be done and what assuredly  
  would have to be done again in the never--ending fight against terror and
  its relentless onslaughts.... And indeed, as he listened to the cries of 
  joy rising from the town Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. 
  He knew what  those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned 
  from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; 
  that it can lie dormant for- years and years in furniture and linen-chests;
  that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks and bookshelves; and 
  that perhaps the day would come when ... it roused up its rats again and 
  sent them forth to die in a happy city.

“In the 1930s Nazi rats spread a virulent form of antisemitism that resulted 
in the destruction of millions. Today the bacillus carried by these rats 
threatens to "kill" those who already died at the hands of the Nazis for a 
second time by destroying the world's memory of them. One can only speculate 
about the form of the bacillus' next mutation. All those who value truth,
particularly truths that are subject to attack by the plague of hatred,
must remain ever vigilant. The bacillus of prejudice is exceedingly
tenacious and 
truth and memory exceedingly fragile.

“...What, then, are the most efficacious strategies for countering these
attacks? Much of the onus is on academe, portions,of which have already
miserably failed the test. Educators, historians, sociologists, and
political scientists hold one of the keys to a defense of the truth. What
those who cannot be beguiled by diversionary arguments and soft reasoning
know to be fact must be made accessible to the general public.

“The establishment of Holocaust museums may play an important role in this
effort. These institutions, and all who teach about the Holocaust, must be
scrupulously careful about the information they impart so as not
inadvertently to provide the deniers with room to maneuver. They must also
be careful about "invoking" the Holocaust as a means of justifying certain
policies and actions.

“This is particularly true for the Jewish community. The purveyors of
popular culture-television and radio talk-show hosts prominent among
them-must understand that by Living denial a forum they become pawns in a
dangerous war. As in individuals who help shape public opinion, they must
recognize that this struggle is not about ignorance but about hate.

“There are those who believe that the courtroom is the place to fight the
deniers. This is where Austria, Germany, France, and Canada have mounted
their efforts. The legislation that has been adopted takes different
forms. Some bills criminalize incitement to hatred; discrimination; or
violence on racial, ethnic, or religious grounds. Others ban the
dissemination of views based on racial superiority for one sector of the
population and expression of contempt toward a group implying its racial

The problem with such legal maneuvers is that they are often difficult to
sustain or carry through. In August 1992 the Canadian Supreme Court threw
out Zundel's conviction when they ruled that the prohibition against
spreading false news likely to harm a recognizable group was too vague and
possibly restricted legitimate forms of speech . An even greater
difficulty arises when the court is asked to render a decision not on a
point of law, as happened in the Mermelstein case, but on a point of
history, as happened in the Zundel trial, in which the judge took
historical notice of the Holocaust. It transforms the legal arena into a
historical forum, something the courtroom was never designed to be. When
historical disputes become lawsuits, the outcome is unpredictable.

“The main shortcoming of legal restraints is that they transform the
deniers into martyrs on the altar of freedom of speech. This, to some
measure, has happened to Faurisson, who in March 1991 was convicted of
proclaiming the Holocaust a "lie of history." The same court that found
him guilty denounced the law under which he was tried and convicted. The
free-speech controversy can obscure the deniers' antisemitism and turn the
hate monger into a victim.  A recent National Public, Radio report on
controlling neofascist activities in Europe took exactly this approach
toward, Faurisson's conviction. Rather than dwell on what he has said and
done, it focused on his loss of freedom of speech. When the publisher of
the Austrian magazine Halt was convicted of "neo-Nazi activities" for his
Holocaust-denial statements, _Spotlight_ published the news under a
headline that read, NO FREE SPEECH.  A disturbing reversal of the
free-speech argument has recently been used by deniers to penalize those
who oppose them. In 1984 David McCalden, the former director of the IHR,
contracted to rent exhibit space at the California Library Association's
annual conference. The subject of his exhibit was the Holocaust "hoax."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Jewish Committee (AJC)
protested to both city and association officials. The Wiesenthal Center
rented a room near McCalden's exhibit space to set up its own exhibit, and
the AJC threatened to conduct demonstrations outside the hotel in which
the meeting was to be held. When the association cancelled McCalden's
contract he sued the Wiesenthal Center and the AJC, arguing that they had
conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights to free speech.
Though the court dismissed his complaint, the U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals reversed that decision in 1992. The case constitutes the first
time that the First Amendment has been used to attempt to still the voices
of those who oppose Nazi bigotry. 

“Another legal maneuver has been adopted by a growing number of countries.
They, have barred entry rights to known deniers. David Irving, for
example, has been barred from Germany, Austria, Italy, and Canada.
Australia is apparently also considering barring him.

“Others have argued that the best tactic is just to ignore the deniers
because what they crave is publicity, and attacks on them provide it. I
have encountered this view repeatedly while writing this book. I have been
asked if I am giving them what they want and enhancing their credibility
by deigning to respond to them. Deny them what they so desperately desire
and need, and, critics claim, they will wither on the vine. It is true
that publicity is what the deniers need to survive, hence their
media-sensitive tactics- such as ads in college papers, challenges to
debate  “exterminationists,” pseudoscientific reports, and truth tours of
death-camp sites. I once was an ardent advocate of ignoring them. In fact,
when I first began this book I was beset by the fear that I would
inadvertently enhance their credibility by responding to their fantasies.
But having immersed myself in their activities for too long a time, I am
now convinced that ignoring them is no longer an option. The time to hope
that of their own accord they will blow away like the dust is gone. Too
many of my students have come to me and asked, "How do we know there
really were gas chambers?" "Was the Diary of Anne Frank a hoax?" "Are
there actual documents attesting to a Nazi plan to annihilate the Jews?"
Some of these students are aware that their questions have been informed
by deniers. Others are not; they just know that they have heard these
charges. and are troubled by them.

“Not ignoring the deniers does not mean engaging them in discussion or
debate. In fact, it means not doing that. We cannot debate them for two
reasons, one strategic and the other tactical. As we have repeatedly seen,
the deniers long to be considered the "other" side. Engaging them in
discussion makes them exactly that. Second, they are contemptuous of the
very tools that shape any honest debate: truth and reason. Debating them
would be like trying to nail a glob of jelly to the wall.

“Though we cannot directly engage them, there is something we can do.
Those who care not just about Jewish history or the history of the
Holocaust but about truth in all its forms, must function as canaries in
the mine once did, to guard against the spread of noxious fumes. We must
vigilantly stand watch against an increasingly nimble enemy. But unlike
the canary, we must not sit silently by waiting to expire so that others
will be warned of the danger. When we witness assaults on truth, our
response must be strong, though neither polemical nor emotional. We must
educate the broader public and academe about this threat and its
historical and ideological roots. We must expose these people for what
they are.

“The effort will not be pleasant. Those who take on this task will
sometimes feel- as I often did in the course of writing this work -as if
they are being forced to _prove_ what they know to be fact. Those of us
who make scholarship our vocation and avocation dream of spending  our
time charting new paths, opening new vistas, and offering new perspectives
on some aspect of the truth. We seek to discover, not to defend.  We did
not train in our respective fields in order to stand like watchmen and
women on the Rhine. Yet this is what we must do. We do so in order to
expose falsehood and hate.  We will remain ever vigilant so that the most
precious tools of our trade and our society- truth and reason -can
prevail. The still, small voices of millions cry out to us from the ground
demanding that we do no less.



"Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes 
not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties--but
right through every human heart--and all human hearts." 

-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "The Gulag Archipelago"

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