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Criticism of Holocaust denial criticizes claims to the effect that the genocide of Jews during World War II—usually referred to as the Holocaust—did not occur in the manner or to the extent described by current scholarship. Key elements of such claims are the rejection of any of the following: that the Nazi government had a policy of deliberately targeting Jews and people of Jewish ancestry for extermination as a people; that between five and seven million Jews were systematically killed by the Nazis and their allies; and that genocide was carried out at extermination camps using tools of mass murder, such as gas chambers. The methodologies of Holocaust deniers are criticized as based on a predetermined conclusion that ignores extensive historical evidence to the contrary.

Criticism of methods used by Holocaust deniers

A number of parties have challenged Holocaust denial claims as being based upon flawed research, biased statements, and deliberately falsified evidence. Courts of law have also rejected Holocaust denial claims (see Fred A. Leuchter and David Irving). The Nizkor Project, a group opposed to Holocaust denial claims, analyze these claims for instances where the evidence used by Holocaust deniers have been altered or manufactured.

Denial as antisemitism

Critics maintain that Holocaust denial is a manifestation of antisemitism. Harold Covington (the leader of the National Socialist White People's Party) sent a letter on July 24, 1996 via email to a number of neo-Nazi supporters (many of whom were Holocaust deniers). In this message, Covington explained Holocaust denial in a manner that has been used by its opponents and critics as a definitive answer to the question, "Why do people deny the Holocaust?"
"Take away the Holocaust and what do you have left?
Without their precious Holocaust, what are the Jews?
Just a grubby little bunch of international bandits and assassins and squatters who have perpetrated the most massive, cynical fraud in human history...I recall seeing a television program on revisionism a few years ago which closed with Deborah Lipstadt making some statement to the effect that: the real purpose of Holocaust revisionism is to make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again.
I normally don't agree with anything a Jew says, but I recall exclaiming, 'Bingo!
Got it in one!
Give that lady a cigar!'" -- "On Revisionism" by Harold Covington (writing under the pseudonym Winston Smith), NSNet Bulletin #5, July 24, 1996
Noam Chomsky, however, answering his critics after defending Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson's right to freedom of expression during the Faurisson Affair, argued
"...even denial of the Holocaust would not prove that a person is an anti-Semite.
I presume that that point too is not subject to contention.
Thus if a person ignorant of modern history were told of the Holocaust and refused to believe that humans are capable of such monstrous acts, we would not conclude that he is an anti-Semite.
That suffices to establish the point at issue."
He also stated that scholars and political groups have denied or continue to deny other atrocities and massacres, such as the Armenian Genocide, the Native American genocide, and the number of Vietnamese casualties in the Vietnam War, yet have not received similar rebukes as "racists" like the Holocaust deniers have.

Hitler's involvement

Policy

Critics of Holocaust denial assert that there is much material which shows that it is unreasonable to claim that the absence of a written order means there was no policy of genocide. These include sources which reveal Hitler's desire to eradicate Jewry, and that the order to do this when he attained power did indeed originate from him.

In a letter dated 1919 Hitler mentions that part of the ultimate aim of a strong national government must "unshakably be the removal of the Jews".

In 1922 Hitler told Major Joseph Hell (a journalist at the time):

On 21 January 1939 Hitler spoke with Frantisek Chvalkovsky and said:

On 30 January at the Sports Palace in Berlin, Hitler told the crowd:

In Mein Kampf, Hitler argued that a war against Jews would have saved Germany from losing World War 1:

In the following widely cited speech made on January 30, 1939, Hitler says to the Reichstag:

 Hitler's choice of language in German in the final phrase of this passage is "die Vernichtung der jüdischen Rasse in Europa" - unambiguously meaning "the extermination [or annihilation] of the Jewish race in Europe."


Order and responsibility

In contrast to the T4 euthanasia program, no document written or signed by Hitler ordering the Holocaust has ever been found. Deniers have claimed that this lack of order shows genocide was not Nazi policy. When David Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt for libel, he considered that a document signed by Hitler ordering the 'Final Solution' would be the only convincing proof of Hitler's responsibility, yet was to content to accuse Winston Churchill responsible for ordering the assassination of General Sikorski, despite having no documentary evidence to support this claim. Mr Justice Gray concluded that this was a double standard.

Historian Peter Longerich states that Hitler "...avoided giving a clear written order to exterminate Jewish civilians." Wide protest was evoked when Hitler's authorisation of the T4 program became public knowledge in Germany, and he was forced to put a halt to it as a result (nonetheless it still continued discreetly). This made Hitler realise that such undertakings must be done secretly in order to avoid criticism. Critics also point out that if Hitler did sign such an order in the first place, it would have been one of the first documents to be destroyed."

Felix Kersten wrote in his memoirs that after a discussion with Himmler, the SS-Reichsführer revealed that the extermination of the Jews was Hitler's express order and had indeed been delegated to him by the Führer.

According to Nazis

In his personal diary, Joseph Goebbels writes:

This diary contains numerous other references to the mass extermination of Jews, including how "tens of thousands of them are liquidated" in eastern occupied territory, and that "the greater the number of Jews liquidated, the more consolidated will the situation in Europe be after this war." When speaking about this document under oath, David Irving is quoted as saying "There is no explicit reference...to the liquidation of Jews" and critics of Holocaust denial consequently state that it is dishonest to say such a thing when it is entirely contradicted by the diary of one of Hitler's closest associates. David Cole has previously stated that those who consider themselves revisionists have yet to provide an adequate explanation of this document.

When questioned by interrogaters if orders for the extermination of Jews were delegated in writing by Himmler, Adolf Eichmann states:

Critics state that Eichmann gives a virtually identical account of this in his memoirs, and state that it is also asserted that Eichmann never even asked for a written order, on the basis that "Hitler's wish as expressed through Himmler and Heydrich was good enough for him". Eichmann's memoirs were recorded by Willem Sassen before he was captured, and Eichmann's lawyer tried to prevent them from being presented as evidence to avoid any detriment against his case.

In a speech, David Irving states that Heydrich told Eichmann, "The Führer has given the order for the physical destruction of the Jews". Irving admits that this contradicts his view that "Hitler wasn't involved", but explains it by suggesting that a completely different meaning can be construed, i.e. "the extirpation of Judaism" as opposed to the physical destruction of Jews if one changes "just one or two words". Critics of this view state that historians shouldn't change words if their documents contradict their claims, and consequently point out five instances where Eichmann unambiguously states "physical extermination" during his interrogation.

Awareness

Congruent with the evidence that shows Hitler was responsible for the order to kill Jews, there is also evidence that shows he was made aware of the process. In December 1942 Hitler received a document entitled "Report to the Führer on Combating Partisans" from Himmler stating that 363,211 Jews had been killed by the Einsatzgruppen in August-November 1942. This document was marked "Shown to the Führer".

Report to Hitler detailing the executions of prisoners.


As noted by Peter Longerich, Gestapomarker Chief Heinrich Müller sent a telegram on August 2, 1941, ordering that "especially interesting illustrative" material should be sent to Berlin because "the Führer should be presented with continuous reports on the work of the Einsatzgruppen in the east from here". Because of this, critics of Holocaust denial reject the suggestion that Hitler lost interest in antisemitism after attaining power in 1933, finding it "hard to believe that a man who had lost his antisemitism was so interested in situational reports on the killings of Jewish men, women and children while engaged in a war."

Himmler's speeches & Ausrottung

Critics of Holocaust denial state that the claim by deniers of no Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews is completely discredited by Himmler in a speech made on October 4, 1943 to a gathering of SS officers in Poznańmarker, where the Reichsführer says:

Original Translated


Use of gas chambers

Argument: Nazis did not use gas chambers to mass murder Jews. Small chambers did exist for delousing and Zyklon-B was used in this process.


Detail of a photograph taken at Auschwitz between February 9 and 11, 1943, showing the gas chamber at Crematorium Complex II, then under construction.
Some of the apertures through which Zyklon B was inserted into the gas chamber are visible.


There have been claims by Holocaust deniers that the gas chambers which mainstream historians believe were for the massacre of civilians never existed, but rather that the structures identified as gas chambers actually served other purposes. These other purposes include delousing and disinfection. A similar argument is sometimes used that claims gas was not used to murder Jews and other victims, and that many gas chambers were also built after the war just for show. A document advancing this theory is the Leuchter report by Fred A. Leuchter, a paper stating that only traces of cyanide were found when he examined samples taken from one of the Auschwitz gas chambers in 1988. This is often cited as evidence that gas was not used in the chambers, as no trace amounts remain. Despite the difficulty of finding traces of this material 50 years later, in February, 1990, Professor Jan Markiewicz, Director of the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakówmarker, redid the analysis. Markiewicz and his team used microdiffusion techniques to test for cyanide in samples from the suspected gas chambers, from delousing chambers, and from control areas elsewhere within Auschwitz. The control samples tested negative, while cyanide residue was found in high concentrations in the delousing chambers, and lower concentrations in the homicidal gas chambers. This is consistent with the amounts required to kill lice and humans.

The search for cyanide in the bricks of buildings said to be gas chambers was important, because the pesticide Zyklon B would generate such a residue. This was the gas most often cited as the instrument of death for prisoners in the gas chambers, supported by both testimony and evidence collected of Nazi policy.

Another claim made by Holocaust deniers is that there were no vents in the gas chambers through which Zyklon B could be inserted. The BBC offers a response showing that this requires disregard of much documentation:
Deniers have said for years that physical evidence is lacking because they have seen no holes in the roof of the Birkenau gas chamber where the Zyklon was poured in.
(In some of the gas chambers the Zyklon B was poured in through the roof, while in others it was thrown in through the windows.) The roof was dynamited at war's end, and today lies broken in pieces, but three of the four original holes were positively identified in a recent paper.
Their location in the concrete matches with eyewitness testimony, aerial photos from 1944, and a ground photo from 1943.
The physical evidence shows unmistakably that the Zyklon holes were cast into the concrete when the building was constructed.


Leuchter's comment that the camp was "untouched" is dismissed as nonsense by Holocaust scholar Robert Jan van Pelt, who explains that the absence of most of the would-be rubble from the crematoria is because the local Polish population returning to the area after the war rebuilt farmhouses to the west with bricks salvaged from rubble in the camp area including from the Birkenau crematoria. Near those crematoria is a pile of broken bricks thrown aside in the search for usable intact bricks.

Another piece of evidence Holocaust deniers frequently question is what happened to the ash after the bodies were cremated. The amount of ash produced in the cremation of a person is about a shoebox full, if done in a proper crematorium. However, eyewitness testomonies documented by Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews describe the burning process used in Treblinkamarker, Sobibormarker, and Belzecmarker to have carried out in multiple open-air grills where stacks of bodies were burned on top of metal bars. These grills were operated by burning piles of wood underneath. It has been questioned by holocaust deniers if it would have been possible to burn hundreds of thousands of corpses using the method as documented by Hilberg, especially when the low efficiency of such burning process, the high amounts of wood required and the often windy weather conditions of the camps are taken into account.

Aerial photographs of Auschwitz indicate that what appears to be ash produced in Auschwitz was piled into the nearby river and marsh, and there is well-documented evidence that other ash was used as fertilizer in nearby fields. Photographs of Treblinka taken by the camp commandant show what looks to be ash piles being distributed by steam shovels.

Another argument used by Holocaust deniers is that testimony on the gas chambers is unreliable. The Institute for Historical Review is one of the organizations which hold this assertion. In the words of the IHR:
"Hoss [Hoess] said in his confession that his men would smoke cigarettes as they pulled the dead Jews out of the gas chambers ten minutes after gassing.
Isn't Zyklon-B explosive?
Highly so.
The Hoss confession is obviously false."


The Nizkor Project and other sources have pointed out that the minimal concentration of Zyklon-B to be explosive is 56,000 parts per million, while the amount used to kill a human is 300 parts per million, as is evidenced in "The Merck Index" and the "CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics". In fact, the Nazi's own documentation stated "Danger of explosion: 75 grams of HCN in 1 cubic meter of air. Normal application approx. 8-10 grams per cubic meter, therefore not explosive." (Nuremberg document NI-9912) However, whether the Nazis who applied the Zyklon-B followed this guideline or not is uncertain.

The Institute for Historical Review publicly offered a reward of $50,000 for verifiable "proof that gas chambers for the purpose of killing human beings existed at or in Auschwitz." Mel Mermelstein, a survivor of Auschwitz, submitted his own testimony as proof but it was ignored. He then sued IHR in the United States and the case was subsequently settled for $50,000, plus $40,000 in damages for personal suffering. The court declared the statement that "that Jews were gassed to death at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland during the summer of 1944" was a fact.

Death toll

Argument: The figure of six million Jewish deaths is an irresponsible exaggeration, and many Jews who actually emigrated to Russia, Britain, Israel and the United States are included in the number.


Six million

The figure of "six million" (which refers only to Jewish victims, and is larger when counting the other ethnic, religious, and minority groups targeted for extinction) is often minimized by claims to a figure of only one million deaths, or only three hundred thousand casualties. Numerous documents archived and discovered after the war gave meticulous accounts of the exterminations that took place at the "death camps" (such as Auschwitzmarker and Treblinkamarker). Deniers claim that these documents are based on Soviet propaganda, primarily from Ilya Ehrenburg's Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, and are therefore unreliable.

Complicating the matter is that various instances have been reported where the death tolls of particular death camps were claimed to be overstated. These claims vary in verifiability and objectivity.

A much-quoted instance of disputing the toll is the "Breitbard Document" (actually a paper by Aaron Breitbart), which describes a commemorative plaque at Auschwitz to the victims that died there, which read, Four million people suffered and died here at the hands of the Nazi murderers between the years 1940 and 1945. In 1990, a new plaque replaced the old one. It now says, May this place where the Nazis assassinated 1,500,000 men, women and children, a majority of them Jews from diverse European countries, be forever for mankind a cry of despair and of warning. The lower numbers are due to the fact that the Soviets "purposely overstated the number of non-Jewish casualties at Auschwitz-Birkenau," according to the Simon Wiesenthal Centermarker. Holocaust deniers insist that the number of Jews killed therefore be lowered by at least 2.5 million. However, the plaque had never been used as an accurate historical source by mainstream historians. As early as the 1950s, Raul Hillberg estimated 1.1 million Jewish deaths in Auschwitz.

International Committee of the Red Cross

Holocaust deniers misrepresent and omit information contained in ICRC reports that contradict their claims. Critics argue that Richard Harwood in his "Did Six Million Really Die?" pamphlet could only claim that the ICRC had found no evidence of a policy to exterminate Jews by ignoring key sections of the 1948 report, where the ICRC explicitly states that the systematic extermination of Jews was Nazi policy.Lipstadt, p. 114/115.

Harwood disputed the notion that homicidal gas chambers were disguised as shower facilities by citing references in the report where ICRC officials inspected bathing facilities. He used their responses to argue that showers functioned as showers and were not part of a killing installation. However this is considered misrepresentation by critics, as the passage Harwood cited is in reference to Allied camps for civilians in Egypt and thus had nothing to do with Nazi concentration camps.


Harwood also claimed that Die Tat, a Swiss tabloid newspaper, published statistics that concluded the amount of people who died in Nazi prisons and camps from 1939 to 1945 based on ICRC statistics was "300,000, not all of whom were Jews". The January 19 1955 edition of Die Tat did indeed give a 300,000 figure, but this was only in reference to "Germans and German Jews" and not nationals of other countries. In a 1979 response to this pamphlet, the ICRC said that they have "never tried to compile statistics on the victims of the war", nor "certified the accuracy of the statistics produced by a third party", and state that the authors of such material have "falsified" both claims that the document originates from the ICRC and refers exclusively to Jews.

As well as in personal correspondence, the ICRC has also addressed this misrepresentation by several other means. In 1975, the ICRC wrote to the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London regarding Harwood's citations, stating:

In the 1978 official bulletin, the agency stated that its mission was to "help victims not count them", and questioned how they would have even been able to obtain such statistics had they wanted to, given that they were "only able to enter only a few concentration camps...in the final days of the war". The agency states that the figures used are "the number of deaths recorded by the International Tracing Servicemarker on the basis of documents found when the camps were closed", and accordingly bear no relation to the total death tolls, since the Nazis destroyed much documentation, and that many deaths occurred in camps where prisoners were generally not registered. The ICRC considers this misrepresentation as "propaganda", and because these claims regarding the ICRC were used for the defense of Ernst Zündel at his trial in 1985, critics state that despite the agency's attempts to demonstrate the truth, Holocaust deniers have continued to rely on ICRC based disinformation. Archives of the International Tracing Service (located in Bad Arolsenmarker) responding to such misrepresentation can be found here.

Baseler Nachrichten

Similarly, Harwood wrote that the June 4, 1946 edition of Baseler Nachrichten, another Swiss newspaper, reported that “a maximum of only one and a half million Jews could be numbered as casualties. Harwood fails to mention that a later article in a later edition of the newspaper acknowledges that the previous article was incorrect, and 5,800,000 was an accurate number of victims. Critics cite this as an example of deniers using partial information to distort legitimate sources.

Jewish population

One common Holocaust denial argument is the comparison of the population of Jews before and after the Holocaust. They claim that the 1940 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 15,319,359, while the 1948 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 15,713,638. In their view this makes it impossible that 6 million Jews died, even given an extremely high birth rate. They therefore claim that either the figures are wrong, or the Holocaust, meaning the deliberate extermination of millions of Jews, cannot have happened.[82231] [82232]However, the evidence presented by Holocaust deniers does not stand up to closer scrutiny. The World Almanac volumes from 1945 to 1948 makes clear they use figures from 1938, "the last available data". The 1949 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 11,266,600. Moreover, it revises its estimate of the world Jewish population in 1939 upwards, to 16,643,120. Thus, according to the 1949 World Almanac the difference between the pre and post war populations is over 5.4 million. Other sources confirm similar numbers—and earlier than the 1949 World Almanac—for the Jewish population before and after the war. The 1932 American Jewish Yearbook estimate the total number of Jews in the world at 15,192,218, of whom 9,418,248 resided in Europe. However, the 1947 yearbook states: "Estimates of the world Jewish population have been assembled by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (except for the United States and Canada) and are probably the most authentic available at the present time. The figures reveal that the total Jewish population of the world has decreased by one-third from about 16,600,000 in 1939 to about 11,000,000 in 1946 as the result of the annihilation by the Nazis of more than five and a half million European Jews. In Europe only an estimated 3,642,000 remain of the total Jewish pre-war population of approximately 9,740,000." These numbers are also consistent with the findings of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, Appendix III, in 1946.

Nazi documentation

The Höfle Telegram.
Holocaust deniers often ignore the documents produced by the Nazis themselves, who used figures of between 9 and 11 million for the Jewish population of Europe, as evidenced in the notes of the Wannsee Conferencemarker. In fact, the Nazis methodically recorded the ongoing reduction of the Jewish population, as in the Korherr Report, which gave the status of the Final Solution through December, 1942. Nazis themselves documented many of their crimes. The Höfle Telegram was sent by SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle on January 11, 1943 to SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann in Berlin and detailed the number of deaths of Jews in the concentration camps. In the year 1942 alone, the telegram lists 1,274,166 Jews were exterminated in the four camps of Aktion Reinhard.The Korherr Report compiled by an SS statistician, gave a conservative total of 2,454,000 Jews deported to extermination camps or killed by the Einsatzgruppenmarker. The complete status reports of the Einsatzgruppenmarker death squads were found in the archives of the Gestapo when it was searched by the U.S. Army, and the accuracy attested to by the former Einsatzgruppen members who testified during war crime trials and at other times. These reports alone list an additional 1,500,000 or so murders during mass shootings, the vast majority of these victims were Jews. Further, surviving Nazi documentation spells out their plans to murder the Jews of Europe (see the Wannsee Conferencemarker), recorded the trains arriving at various death camps, and included photographs and films of many atrocities.

Testimonies

There are voluminous amounts of testimony from thousands of survivors of the Holocaust, as well as the testimony of captured Nazi officers at the Nuremberg Trialsmarker and other times. Holocaust deniers discount the testimony of officers claiming that these witnesses were tortured, or that Rudolf Hoess allegedly signed a confession written in a language he did not understand (English) or that the Nuremberg Trial did not follow proper judicial procedures. However, Hoess's testimony did not consist of merely a signed confession; he also wrote two volumes of memoirs and gave extensive testimony outside of the Nuremberg proceedings. Further, his testimony agrees with that of other contemporary written accounts by Auschwitz officials, such as Pery Broad, an SS man stationed at Auschwitz while Hoess was the commandant and the diary kept by SS physician at Auschwitz Johann Kremer, as well as the testimony of hundreds of camp guards and victims. In addition, former SS personnel have criticised Holocaust denial. SS-Oberscharführer Josef Klehr has said that anyone who maintains that nobody was gassed at Auschwitz must be "crazy or on the wrong". SS-Unterscharführer Oswald Kaduk has stated that he does not consider those who maintain such a thing as normal people. Hearing about Holocaust denial compelled former SS-Rottenführer Oskar Gröning to publicly speak about what he witnessed at Auschwitz, and denounce Holocaust deniers, stating:

Sonderkommandos provide another key piece of testimony. There were Jewish prisoners who helped march Jews to the gas chambers, and later dragged the bodies to the crematoria. Since they witnessed the entire process, their testimony is vital in confirming that the gas chambers were used for murderous purposes and the scale to which they were used.

See also



Bibliography

  • Lipstadt, Deborah. Denying the Holocaust—The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. Free Press, 1993, ISBN 0-02-919235-8
  • Smith, Bradley, Peterson, Agnes F. (eds.): Himmler, Heinrich, Geheimreden 1933 bis 1945 und andere Ansprachen (Frankfurt a. M.,Berlin,Wien 1974)


References

Further reading

  • Richard J. Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, Basic Books, 2002 (ISBN 0-465-02153-0).
  • Raul Hilberg. The Destruction of the European Jews (Yale Univ. Press, 2003, c1961).


External links



Resources rebutting Holocaust deniers




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