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Who Are The Holocaust Revisionists?
Deborah Lipstadt’s 1993 history of the early revisionist movement is enlightening and I refer the reader to it for a more detailed narrative than space allows here. Since revisionists argue vehemently against Lipstadt’s claim that they are neo-Nazis, neo-Fascists, and anti- Semites, and in my last editorial (Vol. 2, #3) I stated we would “avoid ad hominem attacks,” I met and interviewed them personally in order to allow them to present their claims in their own words. In general, I found them quite pleasant and willing to talk about the movement and its members, as well as supply me with a large sampling of their published literature. In history, however, as in all scientific endeavors, the facts never just speak for themselves. They are interpreted through colored lenses, and thus it is constructive to know something about the backgrounds and motivations of the revisionists in order to understand how their bias has influenced their interpretation of the historical data.
The present Holocaust revisionist movement primarily centers around the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) its Journal for Historical Review (JHR), and a handful of eccentric personalities, including IHR Director Tom Marcellus, JHR Editor Mark Weber, author and biographer David Irving, pro-Nazi publisher Ernst Zuendel, and, curiously, Jewish revisionist David Cole.
The IHR. In 1978 the IHR was founded and primarily supported by Willis Carto, who published the virulently anti-Jewish newsletters Right and American Mercury, and runs Noontide Press, all part of the ultra- right-wing organization, Liberty Lobby. In 1980, the IHR made headlines with its $50,000 challenge for proof that Jews were gassed at Auschwitz. When Mel Mermelstein attempted to meet this challenge, headlines (and a television movie) also detailed his collection of the award and an additional $40,000 for “personal suffering.” The IHR’s first director, William McCalden (AKA Lewis Brandon, Sondra Ross, David Berg, Julius Finkelstein, and David Stanford), resigned in 1981 due to conflicts with Carto, and was followed by Tom Marcellus, a Field Staff Member for the Church of Scientology who had been an editor for one of its publications. According to David Cole, if the IHR ever folded, “there would be jobs aplenty waiting for him at the Church of Scientology” (1994).
Mark Weber. The editor of the JHR since 1991 and, with the possible exception of David Irving, the most knowledgeable of history (he has a Master’s degree in Modern European history from Indiana University), Mark Weber arrived on the revisionist scene with his appearance as a defense witness at Ernst Zuendel’s “free speech” Holocaust trial. Weber denied to me any racial or anti-Semitic feelings, and claimed that “I don’t know anything more about the neo-Nazi movement in Germany than what I read in the papers” (1994b). Weber was once the news editor of the National Vanguard, the voice of William Pierce’s neo-Nazi, anti- Semitic organization, the National Alliance. Weber also does not deny his comments in a 1989 interview for the University of Nebraska Sower, regarding his fear that the U.S. was becoming “a sort of Mexicanized, Puerto Ricanized country” due to the failure of “white Americans” to reproduce adequately. And on February 27, 1993, Weber was the victim of a Wiesenthal Center sting operation when researcher Yaron Svoray, calling himself Ron Furey, met with Weber in a cafe to discuss The Right Way, a bogus magazine created to trick neo-Nazis. The meeting was secretly filmed by CBS but Weber quickly figured out that Svoray “was an agent for someone” and “was obviously lying.” Weber left not realizing that the Wiesenthal Center would make an ordeal out of this event.
Such deceitful actions are certainly questionable, but one must wonder why Weber, if he is trying to distance himself from the neo-Nazi fringe of revisionism (as he claims), would even agree to such a meeting. Even David Cole, who is his friend, confesses that “Weber doesn’t really see any problems with a society that is not only disciplined by fear and violence, but also where a government feeds its people lies in order to keep them well-ordered.” Ironically, says Cole, “revisionists criticize the Jews for lying to its people or the world, and yet a lot of these same revisionists will speak very complimentarily of what the Nazis did in feeding their people lies and falsehoods in order to keep morale up and to keep this notion of the master race” (1994). Too bad, since Weber is extremely bright and very personable, and one could believe that he might be capable of good historical scholarship if he ended his fixation on the Jews and the Holocaust. This, I suspect, is not likely to happen.
David Irving. The author of World War II histories on The Destruction of Dresden and The German Atomic Bomb, as well as biographies on The Trail of the Fox (Rommel), Goering, Churchill’s War, and his most controversial, Hitler’s War, Irving is arguably the most historically sophisticated of the revisionists. He has just completed revisions on a biography of Goebbels, but, he claims, because of his recent revisionist leanings his publisher is trying to back out of the contract and retrieve the “six-figure advance.” Irving has no professional training in history, but it would be hard to find a comparable expert on the primary documents of the major Nazi figures. This is his greatest strength; it is also his greatest weakness, as we shall see later. Though Irving disclaims any official affiliation with the IHR (“you will see that my name isn’t on the masthead”), he is a regular speaker at IHR conventions, frequently lectures to revisionist groups around the world, and testified on behalf of Ernst Zuendel. His revisionism has evolved, beginning with his 1977 $1000 challenge to provide proof that Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews. After reading The Leuchter Report, which denies the homicidal use of gas chambers, Irving began to deny the Holocaust altogether, not just Hitler’s involvement. (Though he often waivers, such as after reading the Eichmann memoirs: “It makes me glad I have not adopted the narrow-minded approach that there was no Holocaust.”) He currently claims 500,000 to 600,000 Jews died as the unfortunate victims of war–a moral equivalency with the bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima. Though his attentions have spanned the scope of the Second World War, his interest in the Holocaust is growing ever stronger. “I think that the Holocaust is going to be revised. I have to take my hat off to my adversaries and the strategies they have employed. The marketing of the very word Holocaust–I half expect to see the little ‘TM’ after it” (1994). For Irving, revisionism has become a war, which he describes in military language: “I’m presently in a fight for survival. My intention is to survive until five minutes past D-Day rather than to go down heroically five minutes before the flag is finally raised. I’m convinced this is a battle we are winning.”
Ernst Zuendel. Among the least subtle of all revisionists is the pro- German propagandist and publisher Ernst Zuendel, whose “basic thing is the rehabilitation of the German people. There are certain aspects of the Third Reich that are very admirable and I want to call people’s attention to these,” such as the eugenics and euthanasia programs (1994). To do so, Zuendel publishes and distributes books, flyers, and video and audio tapes through his Toronto-based Samisdat Publishers, Ltd. A small donation will net you an assortment of Zuendelmania paraphernalia, including transcriptions of his trial court proceedings, copies of his publication Power: Zuendelists vs. Zionists with articles like “Is Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’ a ‘Schwindler’?,” video clips of his many media appearances, a video tour of Auschwitz with David Cole, and stickers that proclaim “Germans! Stop Apologizing for the Things You Did Not Do!” and “Tired of the Holocaust? Now You Can Stop It!”
Like other revisionists, it bothers Zuendel to no end that the Jews are the focus of so much attention:
Frankly, I don’t think Jews should be so egotistical and think they are the navel of the universe. They’re not. Only a people like them could think themselves so important that the whole world revolves around them. I tend to go with Hitler–the last thing that he was really worried about was what the Jews thought. To me Jews are just like any other person. That already will hurt them. They will be shrieking “Oy vey, that Ernst Zuendel said Jews are just like normal people.” Well, goddamnit, they are.
What the Holocaust has done to National Socialism, says Zuendel, is to “bar so many thinkers from re-looking at the options that National Socialism German style offers.” As a revisionist Zuendel is aware of his shortcomings, but in that he knows where his strengths lie:
I know my ideas might be half-baked–I’m not exactly Einstein, and I know that. I’m not Kant. I’m not Goethe. I’m not Schiller. As a writer I’m not Hemmingway. But goddamnit I’m Ernst Zuendel. I walk on my hind legs and I have a right to express my viewpoints. I do the best I can in a kind way. My long term goal is to ring the bell of freedom and maybe in my lifetime I will achieve no more than I have achieved so far, which is not too bad.
David Cole. The most paradoxical of all the revisionists is the 25- year old Jew (his mother “was raised as a secular Jew” and his father “was raised Orthodox in London during the Blitz”) who proudly displays his heritage while simultaneously denying its most significant modern historical event. As he says (1994), he is “damned if I do and damned if I don’t. That is, if I don’t mention the Judaism I will be accused of being ashamed. If I mention it up front I will be accused of exploiting it.” For his views he was physically beaten at UCLA in a debate on the Holocaust; he has received regular death threats from “a small group of people that genuinely hate me with a passion;” and the JDL, the ADL, and Jewish organizations in general “are a little harder on me because I am Jewish.” He has been called a self-hating Jew, anti-Semitic, a race traitor, and compared to Hitler, Hussein, and Arafat in an editorial in The Jewish News. Though Cole’s personality is affable and his attitude sanguine, he sees himself as a rebel in search of a cause. Where the other revisionists are political and/or racial ideologues, Cole’s interests run at a deeper level. He is a meta-ideologue–an existentialist on a quest to understand how ideologues invent their realities. In the process, Cole has joined every conceivable organization, including the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Workers World Party, the John Birchers, Lyndon LaRouchers, the Libertarians, the atheists, the humanists, and yes, even the Skeptics Society. Revisionism, then, is just one in a long line of ideologies that has fascinated Cole since he was expelled from Hamilton High.
With no college background, and a parental stipend for self- education, Cole’s personal library houses thousands of volumes, including a considerable Holocaust section. He knows his subject and, as he says, can “debate the facts until the cows come home.” Where other fringe claims only held his attention for a few months to a year, the Holocaust “is more about real physical things than some abstract concept that requires faith. We are talking about something for which much of the evidence still exists.” And much of that physical evidence has been filmed by Cole on a fact-finding mission over the summer of 1992, financed by revisionist Bradley Smith. “I figured I needed $15,000 to $20,000, and Bradley set to work–it took him about a month and a half to raise that amount.” Cole’s stated goal in his research (discussed in detail later) “is to try to move revisionism away from the fringe and into the mainstream.” To do so he has tried to reach professional historians, but has shot himself in the foot by associating so closely with revisionists, despite his claim to the contrary:
I want to get people who are not right-wingers or neo-Nazis. Right now it is in a very dangerous position because there is a vacuum created by mainstream historians denouncing revisionism. The vacuum has been filled with the likes of Ernst Zuendel. Zuendel is a very likable human being, but he is a fascist and he is not the person I would like to see recognized as the world’s leading Holocaust revisionist.
But there is another side to Cole that goes beyond intellectual curiosity. He likes to stir things up, and not just for historians. Cole, for example, might attend a revisionist social event where white supremacists will be present, with an African-American date, “just to watch them squirm and stare.” Even though he disagrees mightily with many revisionists’ beliefs and most of their politics, he will introduce himself to the media as a “revisionist” knowing it will draw scorn and sometimes physical abuse. He wants his video footage to be studied by professional scholars (and he has offered it to his Israeli contact), but will probably end up editing it down to a marketable product to be sold through the IHR and their right-wing mailing list, as he did his first video of Auschwitz, which sold over 30,000 copies.
What is an outsider like Cole to do? He is angry that he has been locked out by historians who, he says, “are not gods, are not religious figures, and are not priests. We have a right to ask them for further explanations. I am not ashamed to ask the questions I am asking.” One wonders, however, why such questions are being asked?
Shermer, Michael. “Proving the Holocaust: The Refutation of Revisionism & the Restoration of History,” Skeptic, Vol. 2, No. 4, Altadena, California, June, 1994. Published by the Skeptics Society, 2761 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena, CA 91001, (818) 794-3119.