Embattled Bigots: Background IHR: Carto and the Holocaust Denial Movement

The Institute for Historical Review was founded by Willis Carto in 1979 and is currently based in Newport Beach, California. In 1980, Carto and his wife, Elisabeth, filed for IHR’s business license under the title “Legion for the Survival of Freedom, Inc.” doing business as “The Noontide Press/Institute for Historical Review.”

Three motivations animate the propaganda of the Holocaust denial movement: (1) the rehabilitation of Hitler and Nazi ideology; (2) the promotion of new formulations to express traditional anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, and (3) the undermining of the moral legitimacy of the State of Israel. IHR materials and activities clearly reflect these themes.

Willis Carto, 67, began peddling anti-Semitism and extremism more than two decades before the inception of IHR. Liberty Lobby, founded in 1955 and currently the nation’s largest anti-Jewish propaganda organization, was also the brainchild of Carto and continues to be his chief propaganda vehicle. Carto additionally founded the far-right Populist Party in 1983; in 1988, the party ran as its presidential candidate the former neo-Nazi and Klan leader David Duke. (Duke received 47,047 votes from eleven states in this campaign.) Since the 1988 election, the Populist Party, like IHR, has broken with Carto; it nonetheless continues to promote the same extremist agenda. Until the IHR/Carto schism in 1993, Liberty Lobby promoted IHR and Holocaust denial in its weekly newspaper, The Spotlight. Recent issues of The Spotlight – which has been estimated to have a circulation of nearly 100,000 — vilify IHR and refer to its leaders as “conspirators.”

The IHR, whose membership is comprised of pseudo-academics and veteran hate propagandists, attempts to operate under the guise of scholarship. It publishes a bi-monthly glossy magazine, The Journal of Historical Review, and holds annual conventions where self styled “revisionist historians” present papers on a variety of subjects — but the agenda caters on debunking the Holocaust. Regular speakers have included:

Robert Faurisson, a former University of Lyon (France) literature professor who was convicted and fined in French courts in July 1983 and April 1991 for promoting racism and denying the reality of the Holocaust.

Ditlieb Felderer of Sweden, who claims that Anne Frank‘s diary is a hoax and who was convicted in May 1983 by a Swedish court for distributing anti-Semitic hate mail, including locks of hair and pieces of fat which he alleged belonged to Holocaust victims.

* British author David Irving, who has described himself as a “mild fascist,” and who has commented, “Without Hitler, the State of Israel probably would not exist today, so to that extent he was probably the Jews’ greatest friend.”

Dr. Arthur Butz of Northwestern University, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science who wrote The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, one of the first Holocaust-denying books.

* The late Ivor Benson, a one-time politician in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and pro Apartheid activist.

The nature of the conventions and publications indicates that IHR is clearly less concerned with historical truth than it is with promoting anti-Semitism.

Holocaust denial depends on the embrace of a mass conspiracy theory — the allegation that Jews, academics, historians and others falsified or maliciously distorted all testimonies, reports and pictures of the Holocaust. Holocaust deniers explain Jewish motivation behind the “Zionist conspiracy” as a means to gain power and influence. In Carto’s opening speech to the 1981 IHR convention, he asserted that “Zionists” are “predators” who exploit the “guilt” of Western society and “offer us expiation for the sins of our fathers by giving us the magnificent opportunity to contribute to the building of God’s promised land for God’s chosen people with our tax money.” The IHR’s game plan is simple; by legitimizing “debate” over the settled historical veracity of the Holocaust, deniers hope to sow the seed of doubt, which in turn will foster anti-Semitism in the form of resentment against those who have promoted this “hoax”: the Jews.