The Techniques of Holocaust Denial: Schindler’s List & “Revisionist Scholarship” 

Writers: Ken McVay & Mike Stein

The movie “Schindler’s List,” based on the book by Thomas Keneally, enjoyed great critical success and popularity. For this reason it was particularly upsetting to Holocaust deniers, who fear (rightly) that it vividly illustrates to people the nature of the Nazi regime and its campaign against the Jews. Therefore they have been trying to discredit the film.

The recipe employed is a standard one which might be described as “The half-truth, the distortion, and quite a lot besides the truth.” That is, there is usually some very tenuous factual basis for the claim, but something crucial is left out, or taken out of context. To that is added a generous helping of unsubstantiated assertion seasoned with outright falsehood. The attack on the film (and the book) provides many examples which will be discussed below.

The first attack attempted to “prove” that Plaszow labor camp commandant Amon Goeth could not have shot anyone in the quarry from the balcony of his villa, as depicted in the film.

In May of 1994, Dan Gannon published an article on the computer network entitled “Schindler’s List Exposed as Lies and Hate.”[1] The article included some comments about the movie, which we will address at the end of this section, and included material from self-styled “photo expert” John Ball which purported to demonstrate that portions of the movie (which showed Commander Goeth shooting inmates from the front balcony of his house) were complete fabrications – i.e. deliberate lies:


                 Air photos show Spielberg's movie fiction.
                        By John Ball - photo expert.
      PLASZOW CAMP (pronounced PLASH-OFF in Polish)
      EYE-WITNESSES, is surrounded by a steep hill so it is not
      visible from outside, where inmates are shot by Commander Goeth
      from the front balcony of his house on a hill above the
      barracks.  The movie version is surrounded by a steep hillside
      that prevented outsiders from seeing inmates.  Commander Goeth,
      on his front balcony, is seen shooting working and relaxing
      inmates beside the barracks in the inmates' camp.  [See
      file 1.GIF]
      1944 AIR PHOTOS SHOW the camp was visible through wire fences
      from 3 villages.  Goeth could not have shot inmates from his
      house balcony, as the house was at the bottom of a hill and he
      The camp was located next to Cracow city, beside a major
      roadway, and was visible from hundreds of houses in 3
      surrounding villages.  [See file 2.GIF] 

Mr. Gannon then offered a list of GIF files, which included photographs described by Mr. Ball as follows:

Photo 1. 1994: In the movie, Goeth’s balcony is above the camp and surrounded by a steep hill. Photo 2. 1943: Goeth on his balcony. His house is to the right and the hill is to the left of the photo. The hill blocked the view to the inmates’ camp, and the hill, trees, and house behind Goeth in the photo blocked the view to the guards’ camp. Photo 7. 1943: Taken from location number 18 on the map. Front left = limestone open cut in hillside with rail line entering. Goeth’s house (12) was left of photo at bottom of the hill around the corner. From Goeth’s balcony, none of the buildings in the photo were visible. …

A Samisdat pamphlet, showing some of the graphics in question, is available on the web at

Arguments put forward by one denier are quickly and uncritically accepted as fact by many of the rest. In June of 1994, the following article appeared on the network, in response to Mr. Gannon‘s attack upon the film:

It may be worth pointing out that the author of Schindler’s List (Thomas Keneally) says in his “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book:

The book “is based in the first place on interviews with 50 Schindler survivors from seven nations” as well as “documentary and other information supplied by those few wartime associates of Oscar’s who can still be reached”. Further on, he says that he has “attempted avoid all fiction” and that “most exchanges and conversations, and all events, are based on the detailed recollections of Schindler Jews, of Schindler himself and of other winesses”.[2]

Therefore, although the book is indentified as a “work of fiction” it is in all its substantive narrative based on facts. I hope this will clarify this discussion. [3]

Ross Vicksell, who, it became obvious, knew little or nothing about the book, which provided the basis for the movie, responded with the following comment, demonstrating his slavish devotion to Mr. Ball’s “expertise:”

So where did he get the nonsense about Goeth sniping at inmates from his front porch, a physically impossible act? I suppose from the photo of Goeth standing shirtless holding a rifle with a telescopic sight on it. [4]

Note that Mr. Vicksell, having done no research on his own (as we shall demonstrate conclusively by the end of this section), immediately responded to a verbatim quote from Keneally by regurgitating the Ball line. Once the gurus of denial create a “fact”, all within the cult assert that “fact,” regardless of scholastic challenge or refutation.