I have always wondered why some people deny the Holocaust. The record is so self-evident that no one should have any series doubts. But Holocaust deniers are real. We were all reminded of this fact by the recent controversy that touched the Vatican when renegade British Bishop Richard Williamson was restored to the Roman Church by Pope Benedict XVI.
Williamson, as you probably now know, dismissed the “so-called Holocaust” as “lies, lies, lies.” Iran’s dangerous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejab, has called the Holocaust a “myth” while Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah says, “Jews invented the legend of the Holocaust.” Hutton Gibson, the father of actor Mel Gibson, is an ultra-conservative critic of the modern Catholic Church and argues that after World War II there were more Jews in Europe than before the War. And an engineering professor at prestigious Northwestern University, Arthur Butz, wrote a book titled: The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jews. What is it with people like these?
There are extremes on both the right and the left, as there always are, but most such individuals reject the historical consensus that Nazi Germany slaughtered 6 million Jews during the 1930s and 40s. Some suggest the figure is as low as 200,000. They argue that some Jews were singled out, but much in the way some homosexuals and some who deemed mentally disturbed were also singled out. They often admit that there were concentration camps but these were not death camps. They further claim that the majority of deaths were due to disease and not the ovens. Most of these deaths, some detractors insist, were caused by the way the Allies treated the Germans. Their term for themselves is not “Holocaust deniers” bur rather “Holocaust revisionists.”
These revisionist historical accounts began shortly after the end of World War II. The source of much of this came from France, where writers blamed the communists for much of the suffering. An American leftist historian by the name of Harry Elmer Barnes argued that the Holocaust was used as propaganda to get the United States to enter World War II. Other wealthy anti-Semites followed this thinking. One pseudo-scholarly think tank, founded as late as 1978, offered $50,000 to anyone who could prove that Jews has been gassed at Auschwitz. A Holocaust survivor took the challenge and proved his case in a court of law forcing the man who offered the money to pay up. (He was also forced to pay another $40,000 for the personal suffering he caused!) The judge in this case ruled, “It is not reasonably subject to dispute. It is simply a fact” But this didn’t stop the deniers, who seem to have made a recovery in recent years.
How does this nonsense work? By planting small seeds of doubt. Writers Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, in the book Denying History (2000), say, “There is an assumption by deniers that if they can just find one tiny crack in the Holocaust structure the entire edifice will come tumbling down.” This is how Fred Leuchter argues when he says that Zyklon-B is insufficiently powerful to have been effective in gassing camp victims. And author David Irving has sought to absolve Adolph Hitler by laying the blame entirely on Joseph Goebbels.
The primary reason for all of this is anti-Semitism. Walter Reich, former director of the U. S. Holocaust Museum (which I strongly urge everyone to visit if they go to Washington, D.C.), writes: “What better way, in short, to make the world safe for anti-Semitism than by denying the Holocaust.”
Thankfully this denial is not widespread in the United States, according to those who study this phenomenon. Less than 2% of Americans seriously doubt the Holocaust happened. (That is still amazing when you consider it at all but then there is a lot of anti-Semitism in various pockets of our culture, both among neo-Nazis and radical Muslims.) In the Middle East Holocaust denial is high. A 2007 survey made by the University of Haifa found that 28% of Israeli Arabs denied the Holocaust. (I am surprised the number is not higher actually.) But thankfully extremely courageous leaders like Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab and the deputy speaker of the Knesset, says he considers Holocaust denial “immoral.” He suggests, however, that the denial remains believable because of the political way some use it within Israel.
How should we respond to deniers of the Holocaust? First, we should acknowledge that most of us likely personally know anyone in this category. Second, it seems to engage these people seriously is to lend credibility to their arguments. These people want us to debate history with them and by doing so we feed their arguments. While this argument has some merit Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University is likely correct when she says, “The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth.”
Denying the Holocaust has been made a crime in Israel and twelve European countries. This approach is one Americans would never tolerate and thankfully should not. You do not fight errors by making errors. A law of this type only feeds conspiracy in my view. Criminalizing speech is not the way to freedom. It only lends a particular credence to the Holocaust deniers, a credence none of us should desire to give them even in the smallest possible way. Making martyrs of such foolish people will promote their hatred in certain circles.
The best way to remember the Holocaust is to visit places like the U. S. Holocaust Museum, to read good history and to meet and, or, listen to the stories of survivors. A few are still alive and good movies abound. In fact, good movies are a veritable Hollywood industry on this subject. Several more such movies in 2008 were superb challenges to the Holocaust deniers (e.g., Valkyrie, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Reader, etc.).
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When I was 10 we lived in Germany as my dad was on sabbatical at one of the German Universities. We did much traveling and one of our visits was to Dachau. To this day I have very vivid memories of the “showers” where mothers and children were gassed. I can plainly see the huge ovens and close quarter barracks. Even at 10 I had the sense that this was an awful place where atrocities were committed. It is sickening to me that so many can believe this never happened. I recently finished reading Sarah’s Key, which was wonderful but incredibly sad.
A small correction to what Sarah said above, which is not meant to diminish her point in any way. Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich, was the original concentration camp. It housed political and religious dissidents, including a large number of Catholic priests. It did not function as a place where Jews were exterminated in large numbers. But it was a horrific place and did have gas chambers and ovens that served as prototypes for those in other death camps. Visiting Dachau was a deeply moving experience for me, and not just because of the horrors of what went on. There were also many amazing stories of faith, hope and Christian love surviving and even thriving there. If you are ever in Munich, please consider taking a guided tour of Dachau. Ask lots of questions. And try to read some of the firsthand accounts of those who were imprisoned there. Your faith will be strengthened.
Mr. Armstrong, nothing you wrote doies anything to discredit the revisionists case. Fact is that there are no homicidal gas chambers. No gas chambers no deliberate holocaust. yes the camps existed, but the Jews were political dissidents and locking them up was the most practical thing to do with them. Just like we locked up the Japs.
Sorry but the burden of proof is on you people who are claiming that this Holocaust hoax is real. The evidence that it is a hoax are overwhelming. It is nothing more than political propaganda at best, and the foundation for a new religion at worse.
As Jesus said, “Know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” We have nothing to fear by understanding the truth, and th truth is that thier is no evidence that a deliberate genocide of the Jews ever took place in Germany during WWII. There is evidence provided by the Red Cross that the Jews were cared for during that time. That the Germans did have an outbreak of Typhus in th Camps, and they did build delousing chambers which used zyklonB as an insecticide.
The burden of Proof is on you people who say that the Holocaust happened. Thats how our legal system works.
John, thank you for posting the comment of Johnnyb. I agree that it’s best not to play their game by arguing with them, which only lends credibility to their cause. As a group, they should be marginalized. But as individuals, they should be respected and prayed for. Their motives are mysterious. Only God knows why they do this. But I pray that they may stop, because it is damaging in so many ways.
You start off by saying that the record is “self-evident.” If there were a self-evident record of the Holocaust, there would be no deniers. It is the lack of records of the 6 million “slaughtered” Jews that causes people like Bishop Williamson to be deniers.
You say that revisionism began in France. Yes, a French Communist named Paul Rassinier became the first revisionist when he wrote that there were no gas chambers in Buchenwald where he was a prisoner. Today no one claims there was a gas chamber in Buchenwald in spite of the fact that a couple of Catholic priests testified that there were.
You wrote: “They (the deniers) further claim that the majority of deaths were due to disease and not the ovens.” Are you saying that the Nazis killed people in ovens? Some believers do think that the Jews were killed in “gas ovens” instead of gas chambers.
You wrote: “… Fred Leuchter argues when he says that Zyklon-B is insufficiently powerful to have been effective in gassing camp victims.” Leuchter most certainly did not say anything like what you wrote. He did tests that revealed that there was insufficient residue of Zyklon-B on the walls of the gas chambers to prove that they had been used to gas people. He took control samples from the disinfection chambers where the clothing was deloused with Zyklon-B and compared the residue of Zyklon-B with that on the walls of the gas chambers where humans were allegedly gassed. There was not enough Zyklon-B residue on the walls to indicate that people had been gassed in the gas chambers.
Your article indicates that you are not familiar with revisionists arguments whatsoever and you don’t know much about the Holocaust either – if you think that Jews were killed in ovens.
To Sarah, who visited Dachau at the age of 10: Dachau was a camp for men. Mothers and children were not gassed in the “showers” because the mothers and their babies who were at Dachau did not arrive until the day after the camp was liberated. They were being transferred from one of the Dachau sub-camps and their train was delayed because it was hit by American bombs. American planes were bombing and strafing everything in sight, killing civilians and animals or anything that moved.
From 1965 to 2003, there was a sign in the “showers” which said that the room had never been used as a gas chamber. You must have visited after 2003 when the sign was removed.
i dont think anyone can really say what happened unless you were there… all you can go off of is what the survivor stories tha tare told and picture. so to argue that it did not happen or did is not really relavent.I personally believe that this did happen and it is heartbreaking. but to deny someone who has lived through this is just completely wrong.
The Truth of that the holocuast happened is overwhelming. To all holocuast deniers explain how 6 million Jews dissappeared during WW2. Do you think they flew to a diffrent planet? It is extremly illogical to even consider it as a hoax. There are thousnads of letters, bills, pictures and documents that prove this. Even some high ranking Nazi officials admitted that it happened. Do you think they are also lying? God bless al lwho died in the chambers and camps, and thank you Mr Armstrong for teaching some people to have some respect and get an education, and to stop listening to Nazi Propoganda