Criticism of Holocaust
criticizes claims to the effect that the
World War II
—usually referred to as
—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
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
). The Nizkor Project
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
. 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
"Take away the Holocaust and what do you have
Without their precious Holocaust, what are the
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
right to freedom of expression during the Faurisson Affair
"...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
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
That suffices to establish the point at
He also stated that scholars and political groups have denied or
continue to deny other atrocities and massacres, such as the
, 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.
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
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
journalist at the time):
On 21 January 1939 Hitler spoke with Frantisek Chvalkovsky
On 30 January at the Sports Palace in Berlin, Hitler told the
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
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
sued Deborah Lipstadt
, 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
this was a double standard.
Historian Peter Longerich
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
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
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
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
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
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".
by Peter Longerich, Gestapo 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".
Report to Hitler detailing the
executions of prisoners.
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
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
Poznań, where the
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
. 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.
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 Kraków, redid the
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
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
The physical evidence shows unmistakably that the
Zyklon holes were cast into the concrete when the building was
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
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
person is about a shoebox full, if done in a proper crematorium.
eyewitness testomonies documented by Hilberg's The Destruction of the
European Jews describe the burning process used in Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec 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
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
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?
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
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.
- 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
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 Auschwitz and Treblinka).
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
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.
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 Center.
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
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 Service 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
The ICRC considers this misrepresentation as
"propaganda", and because these claims regarding the ICRC were used
for the defense of Ernst Zündel
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
Arolsen) responding to such misrepresentation can be found
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
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. 
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
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
, Appendix III
, in 1946.
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
In fact, the Nazis methodically recorded
the ongoing reduction of the Jewish population, as in the Korherr Report
, which gave the status of the
1942. Nazis themselves documented many of their crimes. The
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 Einsatzgruppen. The complete status reports of the Einsatzgruppen 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.
surviving Nazi documentation spells out their plans to murder the
Jews of Europe (see the Wannsee Conference), recorded the trains arriving at various death
camps, and included photographs and films of many
voluminous amounts of testimony from thousands of survivors of the
Holocaust, as well as the testimony of captured Nazi officers at
Trials 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
) 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
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,
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.
- 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)
- Richard J. Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust,
and the David Irving Trial, Basic Books, 2002 (ISBN
- Raul Hilberg. The Destruction
of the European Jews (Yale Univ. Press, 2003, c1961).
Resources rebutting Holocaust deniers