The Techniques of Holocaust Denial: Professor Arno Mayer & the “Mayer Gambit” 

Research: Holocaust Research Mailing List
Writer: Mike Stein

The Mayer Gambit is often employed when deniers find themselves confronted with testimony which supports historical facts surrounding the Holocaust. One reason is because Mayer himself is Jewish – a Jew who questions the Holocaust surely cannot be called an antisemite, and so people will be more likely to accept Mayer’s word. An equally large reason, though, is because they are hoping that most folks haven’t read Mayer’s book, and will not be able to check the honesty of their reference to it.

Greg Raven provided an example during an exchange with Dr. Keren, on April 26, 1994, when he offered:

Second, these citations are from testimony, and as such present many of the problems one would normally expect with testimony under similar conditions. As Professor Arno Mayer has written, “Most of what is known [on homicidal gassings] is based on the depositions of Nazi officials and executioners at postwar trials and on the memory of survivors and bystanders. This testimony must be screened carefully, since it can be influenced by subjective factors of great complexity.” [1]

Raven has also posted a pamphlet published by the IHR:

So just what constitutes “Holocaust denial”? Surely a claim that most Auschwitz inmates died from disease and not systematic extermination in gas chambers would be “denial.” But perhaps not. Jewish historian Arno J. Mayer, a Princeton University professor, wrote in his 1988 study Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?: The “Final Solution” in History: “… From 1942 to 1945, certainly at Auschwitz, but probably overall, more Jews were killed by so-called ‘natural’ causes than by ‘unnatural’ ones.” [2]

In his review of Deborah Lipstadt‘s recent book on Holocaust denial, O’Keefe provides another example of the gambit when he writes:

… And, despite the fact that she makes use of the English translation of Pierre Vidal-Naquet’s Assassins of Memory, she omits all reference to world-class Jewish historian Arno Mayer’s Why Did the Heavens Not Darken, with its two crushing observations: “Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable” and “There is no denying the many contradictions, ambiguities, and errors in the existing sources.”[3]

Mark Weber also employs one of these snippets in his JHR review of Vidal-Naquet’s “Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust:”

Another early retort to Faurisson was an article in Le Monde, fittingly headlined “An Abundance of Evidence,” that claimed that proofs of execution gas chambers are plentiful. As Mehlman notes, even leading Holocaust historians must now admit that there is no such “abundance” — merely tortured interpretations of documentary evidence.

Even once widely quoted “testimonies” of “survivors” and famed postwar “confessions” of German officials are being abandoned. As Mehlman goes on to inform the reader, even Princeton University professor Arno Mayer (himself Jewish) in his 1989 book, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?: The “Final Solution” in History, acknowledged that “Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable,” and that more Jews perished at Auschwitz as victims of disease than were put to death — a view at odds with the “official” Auschwitz extermination story. [4]

The deniers would like the reader to confuse “sources for the gas chambers” – that is, the testimony for their existence, which is plentiful – with “sources for their study” – i.e., the design and construction plans and the discussions and orders involved in their adoption, which are indeed hard to come by.

The deniers make much of the fact that there is no written order. However, there is testimony from Rudolph Höss that he received some orders verbally, and the Nazis destroyed much of the evidence of their crimes. (For example, the Auschwitz crematoria containing gas chambers – except for the first one, whose gas chamber had been converted to an air-raid shelter – were dynamited.) As Mayer himself tells us:

To date there is no certainty about who gave the order, and when, to install the gas chambers used for the murder of Jews at Auschwitz. As no written command has been located, there is a strong presumption that the order was issued and received orally. [5]

Mayer, quite clearly, does not question the existence of the gas chambers, nor that they were employed for extermination. His words were taken out of context.

During his review of the ADL‘s “Hitler’s Apologists: The Anti-Semitic Propaganda of Holocaust Revisionism,” O’Keefe once again recruits Mayer to his cause:

Once the ADL‘s smear apparatus has been turned on and has sputtered to life, it takes on a demonic existence of its own, like some odd carnival amusement, ultimately repellent whatever its attraction.

Amid stomach-turning odors, to the manic burbling of a cranky calliope, the centrifugal pump that is Hitler’s Apologists whirls faster and faster, spewing filth and falsehood about Revisionists, great and small, into the faces of the American public. Fred Leuchter! David McCalden! Jack WikoffHans SchmidtErnst ZundelPat BuchananArno MayerKeegstraFaurisson! Roques! Le Pen! The Germans! Faster and faster! Eastern Europe! Lithuania! The Muslims! Saddam Hussein! The Intifada!

And on and on it spins and stinks, this latest ADL hatchet job, shooting half-truths and lies, irrelevancies and mistakes, to the point where it becomes idle to track down and refute them one by one. A production like this is of a piece — either one great truth or one great lie. The big lie of _Hitler’s Apologists_ — that all revisionists are simply Nazis — is wearing ever thinner. Thus the insane energy of the liars and sneaks who basted it together. [6]

– thus apparently including Arno Mayer, a professor of European history at Princeton, within the ranks of those the ADL labels “the revisonists!”