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March 20, 1995

An Open Letter to Holocaust Revisionists

In Response to W.D. Brockschmidt's "Open Letter to Michael Shermer" in
the Newsletter of the Adelaide Institute, 27 January, 1995. This letter
is for publication.

Dear Mr. Brockschmidt and Holocaust Revisionists:

1. A Rational Response. Although I have received hundreds of letters
from revisionists, Mr. Brockschmidt is the first person to produce a
point-by-point analysis of my essay. A few revisionists focused on one
point or another, but most of them just attacked me personally,
precisely what they claimed traditional historians were doing to them.
Ironic, uh? (See the letters sections of the subsequent issues of
Skeptic after Vol. 2, #4.) Revisionists claim to want an open debate
about the Holocaust, but I suspect otherwise. We gave revisionists an
open debate (the longest article ever published in Skeptic), and offered
virtually unlimited letters-to-the-editor space, but no one has taken us
up on the challenge. Before going to press I even went so far as to read
to Mark Weber what I wrote about him and the IHR so that there could be
no misunderstanding of their claims. Who has ever done that?

What revisionists want, I suspect, is not an open debate, but agreement
with their position. David Cole, one of the most knowledgeable and
brightest of all the revisionists I interviewed, had an entire lecture
at the last IHR conference in which he could have taken on my arguments
point-by-point. Instead, what did he do? He spent a full hour attacking
me personally, alleging that I was using the revisionists to sell
magazines; that I was filtering money from Skeptic magazine to support
my cycling activities; that I had no integrity; that I was dishonest;
and all manner of slanderous statements. Cole even foolishly confessed
to secretly recording a phone conversation we had (illegal in California
and subject to a $10,000 fine and six months in jail), threatening to
use it to "expose" me. Yet not one comment on my analysis. Mark Weber,
whose knowledge of the Holocaust far surpasses my own and whose
understanding of World War II is formidable, has been promising a proper
rebutal for 8 months now but has not produced. I made the same offer to
David Irving. (Like me, however, Weber has a magazine to get out and
Irving another book, so I do not read too much into this fact.)

2. David Irving. Irving's account of his surprise visit to a Deborah
Lipstadt lecture was somewhat amusing since I too have experienced the
sharp end of Lipstadt's rapier for my appearance on the Donahue show
with David Cole and Bradley Smith. She claimed (almost hysterically)
that one should not honor revisionists with a response. Three days later
she was on 60 Minutes with none other than Ernst Zundel and Mark Weber!

But I cannot support Irving's actions. He did not go to a Deborah
Lipstadt lecture for an intellectual discussion; he went there to stir
things up, something revisionists seem to be fond of doing (some would
call this Jew baiting). These are sophomoric actions unbecoming to a
historian of Irving's abilities. Having now ploughed my way through
Hitler's War and Goring (c. 1,200 pages), Irving is obviously a first
rate documentarian and narrative historian. But I think he is not a good
theoretician and does a lot of selective quoting to support his bias.
First it was Hitler who was unaware of the Holocaust. Then it was
Goring. Who's next, Himmler? I suspect it will be whomever it is Irving
is writing on, so his next tome on Goebbels should be interesting. If he
can exonerate Goebbels, Irving can take pride of place as the world's
greatest revisionist.

As I illustrated in my brief analysis in Skeptic (and as Irving also
demonstrated so thoroughly in Hitler's War and Goring in his exoneration
of these two on the Holocaust), we have Goebbels dead to rights on the
Holocaust. Thus, I am surprised he would hand out free copies of Goring
to Lipstadt's students so they could see "which of us is lying." What?
If there was no plan to exterminate the Jews, then what will these
students make of page 238, when Irving writes:

   Emigration was only one possibility that Goring foresaw. "The second
   is as follows," he said in November 1938, selecting his words with
   uncharacteristic care. "If at any foreseeable time in the future the
   German Reich finds itself in a foreign political conflict, then it
   is self-evident that we in Germany will address ourselves first and
   foremost to effecting a grand settling of scores against the Jews."

Since Irving told me that emigration is all the Nazis ever meant by
"ausrotten" and the Final Solution, then just what did Goring mean by
the second plan? And what will these students think when they get to
page 343, when Irving writes:

   History now teaches that a significant proportion of those
   deported-particularly those too young or infirm to work-were being
   brutally disposed of on arrival. The surviving documents provide no
   proof that these killings were systematic; they yield no explicit
   orders from "above," and the massacres themselves were carried out
   by the local Nazis (by no means all of them German) upon whom the
   deported Jews had been dumped. That they were ad hoc extermination
   operations is suggested by such exasperated outbursts as that of
   Governor-General Hans Frank at a Cracow conference on December 16,
   1941: "I have started negotiations with the aim of sweeping them
   [further] to the east. In January there is to be a big conference in
   Berlin on this problem . . . under SS Obergruppenfuhrer Heydrich
   [the "Wannsee Conference" of January 20, 1942]. At any rate a big
   Jewish exodus will begin . . . . But what's to become of the Jews?
   Do you imagine they're going to be housed in neat estates in the
   Baltic provinces? In Berlin they tell us: What's bugging you-we've
   got no use for them either, liquidate them yourselves!"

"Berlin," says Irving, "more likely meant the party-or Himmler,
Heydrich, and the SS." The above passage is Irving's translation and
interpretation, quoted verbatim from Goring, but I fail to see how this
can be interpreted to support an "ad hoc" interpretation of
nonsystematic killings with no order from above. This passage, in
conjunction with many others (reproduced in Skeptic), sounds to me like
the killings were very much systematic, the orders did come-directly or
tacitly-from above, and that the only thing ad hoc about the process was
the long term development of the Final Solution (I take the
functionalist theory on this count, not the intentionalist). This is
precisely what I mean by Irving's difficulties with theory. Finally,
what can "liquidate" possibly mean other than exactly what Holocaust
historians have always said that it means?

It is too bad about David Irving. As they say in boxing, he coulda' been
a contenda. Unfortunately, Irving has had to earn a living by lecturing
and selling books (a difficult challenge for any author), and the more
he revises the Holocaust the more books he sells and lecture invitations
he receives from revisionist and right-wing groups. He has been slipping
more and more into revisionism not, I believe, because the historical
evidence has taken him there, but because he has found a home. The
mainstream academy has rejected him so he has created a niche on the
margins. Lipstadt is wrong to say that Irving is "not really a
historian," or that he is "not a respectable historian" (if Irving is
quoting her correctly here). One must be more specific. By definition
Irving most certainly is a historian, more than many historians in the
academy. In my opinion, however, he is not a good theoretical historian
and this causes him to make many interpretive mistakes, some of which I
noted in my article, to which he has yet to respond.

3. Motives. In a section in the Adelaide publication entitled "From
Doubt to Scepticism," someone (no by-line) claims that I am "a deeply
religious person for whom the Holocaust has become an Ersatz-religion,
as is so often the case with self-professed disbelievers." This is a
very interesting psychological analysis but one that I do not think
quite applies since I have no vested interest in the status quo
Holocaust story as it is normally understood. I am not Jewish; I have no
Jewish relatives that I know of; and I do not know of anyone connected
to my family in any way who lost someone in the Holocaust. I'm not going
to lose my job at Skeptic, since I am the owner of the magazine. And I
am willing to change my beliefs about the Holocaust should the evidence
support such a change. Indeed, before I began to study the Holocaust in
order to test the claims of Holocaust revisionists, I believed in the
human soap and lampshade stories, that 4 million died at Auschwitz, that
Dachau was an extermination camp, that Hitler directly ordered the
genocide in writing, that 6 million was a firm number, etc. I have
already "revised" my beliefs about the Holocaust considerably and am
willing to continue to do so should the evidence compel me.

4. Associationist Fallacy. Regarding the violence of the Bolshevik
Revolution, agreed, it led to one of the greatest Holocausts in history
as Lenin and Stalin exterminated tens of millions of people. But it does
not matter if 545 out of 545 members of Lenin's Petrograd government
were Jewish, the Bolshevik Revolution was not about Judaism, it was
about Communism; it was not about a religious takeover of the world, but
a political takeover of the world. If you want to worry about a group
trying to dominate the world with their religion, the Jews are the least
of your worries, given their tiny numbers. The Muslims or Catholics
should be atop your list, if that is your criteria. And if it's unevenly
distributed money and power you are concerned about, you better look
closely at such groups as the Church of Scientology or the Christian
Fundamentalist Right.

5. Consilience of Inductions. As for aerial photographs, gas chamber
blueprints, Zyklon-B traces, crematoria figures, and total numbers
killed, I never claimed that any one of these by themselves "proves" the
Holocaust. In fact, the entire point of my essay was quite the opposite.
My essay was entitled "Proving the Holocaust" for an important reason.
The essay was really about historical "proof" and as such was a
theoretical analysis. I am really more of a theoretician and philosopher
of history than I am a narrative historian. For this analysis I borrowed
from the 19th-century British philosopher of science, William Whewell,
his idea of the "consilience of inductions," or the "convergence of
evidence." The study of evolution is a historical science. No single
fossil proves evolution. But there is a consilience or convergence of
evidence from paleontology, geology, botany, zoology, physiology,
anatomy, etc., all of which leads to a proof of evolution. The same is
true of the science of human history. No single "fossil" of evidence
proves a historical event, including the Holocaust. But there is a
consilience of eyewitness testimony, letters, speechs, memos, orders,
traces, blueprints, etc, that leads to a proof of the Holocaust. In my
analysis I demonstrated how these "fossils" converged to the conclusion
that the Holocaust happened.

I have not received a single phone call or letter from anyone,
revisionist or historian, that indicates an awareness of what I was
doing in this essay. I take this to mean that I did not make it clear
enough, which I am attempting to do in this letter. You are wasting your
time nitpicking at these various single pieces of evidence. I will grant
you that there are serious problems with some individual eyewitness
accounts; that there is no written order from Hitler; that there is no
blueprint that says "in this room we kill Jews;" that the crematoria
could never have burned so many bodies; that the 6 million figure is
symbolic and the real figure has been changing, etc. The reason that no
single piece of evidence can either prove or disprove the Holocaust is
that the Holocaust was not a single event. It was 10,000 events that
took place in 10,000 places that is proved through 10,000 bits of
evidence, no one of which stands alone. As Whewell stated in his The
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840): "Accordingly the cases in
which inductions from classes of facts altogether different have thus
jumped together, belong only to the best established theories which the
history of science contains" (p. 230). The Holocaust is a
well-established theory because of this consilience.

Through the theory of consilience I have not only demonstrated how the
Holocaust can be proved, but how any historical event can be proved. In
order to prove that the Holocaust did not happen, a revisionist (hint,
hint, Messrs. Weber, Cole, or Irving) will have to show that the
consilience of inductions method is either philosophically fallacious in
general, or misinterpreted in the case of the Holocaust in particular.
This will require revisionists to go beyond the limited scope of
narrative history, to become theoretical. I will be curious to see if
anyone is up to the challenge.

Case in point: Mr. Brockschmidt was "very surprised" that I "did not
mention the work of the 'Pope of Revisionism', Robert Faurisson." I met
Robert Faurisson at the IHR conference in Irvine. He invited me to his
room for a private discussion of my article. Since Faurisson's
speciality is linguistic analysis I thought that perhaps his mind might
take a philosophical turn. In his room Faurisson announced that he spent
less than one minute reading my article because he only had to look at
the pictures to see that I had not proven the Holocaust. Why? Because I
did not have a picture of a homicidal gas chamber. Then he alternated a
rhetorical demand that I show him "just one proof" of the Holocaust,
with the unpleasant gesture of leaning forward in his chair and jabbing
his finger toward my face, a tactic, I suspect, intended to provoke me,
as he had just done days before to the Director of Research at the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Of course, in order to offer "just one proof," one first must be able to
define what constitutes proof. So I turned his tactic against him by
asking: "Can you tell me how you define proof, or what constitutes proof
with regards to the Holocaust?" His response, over and over to my
inquiry, was, in his inimitable French accent: "No, no, I ask you for
proof." The more I asked him for his definition of proof, the more in my
face he got, repeating over and over, "No, no, I ask you for proof." He
didn't get it. A historical event is not proved through one artifact. I
was thoroughly unimpressed with Pope Faurisson. The bottom line is this:
if you really want "to go from political correctness to historical
correctness," as Mr. Brockschmidt claims, begin with this question: what
constitutes proof in history? The rest should follow.

6. Jewish Obsession. I say the rest should follow. Facts should follow
from theory unless one's bias is overwhelming. Which brings me to my
final point. What is it with you revisionists and the Jews? You all
proclaim that that you are not anti-Semitic and you scream bloody murder
whenever anyone accuses you of such a motive. Yet your collective
actions and words speak otherwise (okay, Mr. Cole, you are an exception
here). Just read the letters self-proclaimed revisionists have been
sending me in response to our analysis of Holocaust revisionism, the
fairest ever written about the movement: assuming I must be Jewish
because of my name; claiming we are part of a Jewish Cabal; saying
Skeptic is part of a Zionist Plot; calling Skeptic the "Jewish
Propaganda Quarterly;" cartoon characterizations of Jews; photos of
Schindler's List in a toilet; and these are just what revisionists have
sent me. Your own magazines, newsletters, flyers, and literature are
filled with diatribes against the Jews, featuring articles in every
revisionist publication about "the Jews," what "the Jews" are doing, how
"the Jews" are controlling the media, etc. You howl about the ADL and
JDL being obsessed with everything Jewish. What do you expect? They are
Jewish organizations. Or you cry about how defensive they are. Well, if
you had an organization like the IHR criticizing your every move and
publishing it, wouldn't you get a little defensive? And, I will point
out, since you are obsessed with the ADL and JDL and other Jewish
organizations, what does that make you? That's right, obsessed with
everything Jewish. You are no different from the ADL and JDL. Is this
how you want to be perceived?

Why don't you lay off the Jews? Give them a break. They have been
persecuted for thousands of years. Why don't you try doing something
different from what everyone else has been doing for millennia? Why not
admire the Jews for their accomplishments? No group in history can claim
greater persecution, yet has any group been so successful in pulling
themselves up by their bootstraps? "Oh," you say, "the Jews stick
together. They are a tribe." Well, if you were a minority persecuted for
thousands of years, would you not perhaps respond by "sticking
together?" What's wrong with that? It's no skin off your back. Let them
have their museums  and their businesses. So what? Instead of trying to
tear down what they build, why don't you try building something
yourself? If you cannot admire hard work, then why not try a little of
it yourself on something constructive? In other words, get a life.

Addendum to "Open Letter to Holocaust Revisionists" & Letter to the
Editor, Journal of Historical Review

For Publication

The Journal of Historical Review is to be congratulated for having the
courage to publish David Irving's essay on "Revelations From Goebbels'
Diary" (Vol. 15, #1), even though it provides incontrovertible evidence
to contradict the revisionists' conclusion that the Nazis did not
intentionally liquidate Jews. I quote from Irving's translation from
Goebbels diary, March 27, 1942 (pp. 16-17):

   Beginning with Lublin the Jews are now being deported eastward from
   the General Government. The procedure is pretty barbaric and one
   that beggars description, and there's not much left of the Jews.
   Broadly speaking one can probably say that 60 percent of them will
   have to be liquidated, while only 40 percent can be put to work.

Okay, let's do a simple calculation. According to Irving (p. 16), there
were 11 million Jews left in Europe at this time. 11 million Jews x 60%
liquidation = 6.6 million liquidated Jews. Um, where have I seen a
figure like this before?

This article provides additional data to my conclusion in my "Open
Letter to Holocaust Revisionists," that David Irving is an outstanding
documentarian and narrative historian, but leaves much to be desired as
a theoretical or interpretive historian. The article was interesting,
informative, and well-written, but Irving's interpretation of the above
passage is startling to say the least (p. 17):

   All he's actually saying here is that the Jews are having a pretty
   rigorous time. They're being deported, it's happening in a
   systematic way, and not many of them are going to survive it.

Say what?? A "rigorous time?" "Deported?" This has to be the most
conservative interpretation of the word "liquidate" I have ever read.
And what does Mr. Irving say about this Goebbels' entry two days later?:
So what if Jews are being machine-gunned into pits? They had it coming
to them. They declared war on us, and this is no time for sympathy and

Irving admits "that's the way he may well have looked at it," since the
British had just bombed Lubeck. Right. Goebbels looked at what? I
thought revisionists claimed that Jews only died of starvation and
disease? "Machine-gunned into pits" sounds rather intentional to me,
unless you think it was some sort of accident. I can hear the
revisionist interpretation now: "The pit was already there for a mass
latrine; Jews happened to be lined up in front of it relieving
themselves; a Nazi machine-gun set up to protect these Jews from Russian
snipers accidentally went off and into the pit they went."

Sorry to sound so sarcastic, but this is about the quality of many
revisionist interpretations. Again, it is too bad about David Irving.
The question this begs is: what else has he misinterpreted? Why does
Irving feel the need to so obviously misinterpret such passages? To
attract revisionists? To stir up controversy? I just cannot imagine he
really thinks this is what Goebbels meant. Please elaborate Mr. Irving
(or any other revisionists). I really am curious.

Final point: David Irving has apparently put up $1,000.00 to anyone who
can provide him proof of homicidal gas chambers. I believe I can do so
but I know how these things usually go: Once the proof is provided the
person says that does not count as proof. So . . . could Mr. Irving or
any other revisionist please tell me what constitutes proof of homicidal
gas chambers, short of a gas chamber with a large sign hanging on the
wall that says: "Here we gas Jews to death."

Michael Shermer,
Skeptic magazine.

(For a copy of the Skeptic magazine on Holocaust revisionism, and/or the
subsequent two issues featuring letters of response, send $5.95 + $6.00
shipping and handling for air mail to Australia, $3.00 in the U.S., to:
P.O. Box 338, Altadena, CA 91001. Visa or Mastercard accepted.)


Robert Faurisson presented an answer to this open letter, a year later.
It's currently only available in German at Bradley Smith's web site:

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