Holocaust denialHolocaust, whereby Nazi Germany and its associates committed genocide against millions of Jews during World War II, according to the specific order of Adolf Hitler.
"Historical revisionism" is an academic term used by historians which refers to the reexamination and reviewing of the stories told as history; this is done with an eye to updating them with more recently discovered, more unbiased, or more accurate information. Mainstream historians are open to the possibility that history, as it has been traditionally told, may not be entirely accurate and it thus is subject to review. Historical revisionism in this sense is a well-accepted and mainstream part of history studies.
However, the term historical revisionism has relatively recently been appropriated by many Holocaust deniers. Their critics state that Holocaust deniers are not applying genuine historical revisionism. For example, Gordon McFee writes in his essay "Why Revisionism isn't" that:
- "Revisionists" depart from the conclusion that the Holocaust did not occur and work backwards through the facts to adapt them to that preordained conclusion. Put another way, they reverse the proper methodology [...], thus turning the proper historical method of investigation and analysis on its head." 
Beliefs of Holocaust revisionist
Holocaust deniers make some or all of the following claims
- There was no specific order by Adolf Hitler or other top Nazi officials to exterminate the Jews, although their incarceration in concentration camps and use as slave labor in factories had that effect.
- The Nazis did not use gas chambers to mass murder Jews.
- The figure of six million Jewish deaths is an irresponsible exaggeration.
- The film footage shown after the War was all specially manufactured as propaganda against the Nazis by the Allied forces;
- That the claims of what the Nazis supposedly did to the Jews were all intended to facilitate the Allies in their intention to enable the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine;
- That where crimes were committed, they were not centrally orchestrated and thus the Nazi leadership bore no responsibility for the implementation of such a policy.
- The historical proof for the Holocaust is falsified or deliberately misinterpreted
- There is an American, British or Jewish conspiracy to make Jews look like victims and to demonize Germans.
Evidence of the Holocaust
Evidence of the existence of the Holocaust was well documented by the German government itself. It was further well documented by the Allied forces who entered Germany and its associated Axis states towards the end of World War II. Among the evidence produced was film and stills of the existence of concentration camps, as well as the testimony of those freed when the camps were entered.
The Holocaust was a massive undertaking that lasted for years across several countries, with its own command and control infrastructure. Although the Nazis made attempts to destroy the evidence of the Holocaust when they could see that their defeat was imminent, they left many tons of documents relating to the Holocaust. Due to the extremely rapid collapse of the Nazi forces at the end of the war, attempts to destroy evidence in Germany were for the most part unsuccessful.
After their defeat, many tons of documents were recovered, and many thousands of bodies were found not yet completely decomposed, in mass graves near many concentration camps. The physical evidence and the documentary proof included records of train shipments of Jews to the camps, orders for tons of cyanide and other poisons, and the remaining concentration camp structures. Interviews with survivors completed the picture.
Evidence for Hitler's complicity in the Holocaust
Holocaust revisionists cite the fact that there was never a blatant, unquestionable order written or signed by Adolf Hitler that specifically ordered the death of the Jewish populations of Germany or Poland. Critics counter this argument by noting that very few Nazi documents used such obvious terms as "murder" or "death" when addressing their actions. Almost always, they spoke and wrote with suggestive phrases such as "the final solution to the Jewish question" rather than "the destruction of the Jewish people." The most often-cited quote from Hitler regarding the elimination of the Jews in Europe comes from a 1939 speech, where he is quoted as saying:
- "Today I want to be a prophet once more: If international finance Jewry inside and outside of Europe should succeed once more in plunging nations into another world war, the consequence will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe."
Historians have concluded that the overwhelming circumstantial evidence all but guarantees Hitler knew, and approved, of the wholesale extermination of millions of people.
Evidence that gas chambers were used for killing
There have been claims by Holocaust revisionists that the gas chambers built to massacre civilians never existed, and the structures identified as gas chambers actually served other purposes. However, the more common revisionist argument has been to claim that gas was not used to murder Jews and other victims. An often-quoted document advancing this theory is the "Leuchter Report" by Fred A. Leuchter, a scientific paper stating that no traces of cyanide were found when he examined samples taken from one of the Auschwitz gas chambers in 1999. This paper is used to further a common debating tactic used by revisionists, namely the suggestion that because no traces of cyanide were found in 1999, then no cyanide was ever used at all in Auschwitz, over fifty years earlier.
The cyanide used in Auschwitz and other extermination camps was created through activation of the pesticide Zyklon-B, which was used to exterminate prisoners by the thousands. Further investigation into the horrors of the death camps revealed that the most difficult part of the operation was the disposal of thousands of corpses after the executions had taken place; this required the construction of huge ovens to cremate the corpses. Revisionists have attempted to discount the existence of these ovens, asking questions including "What happened to the ash after the bodies were cremated?"
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." This reward was subsequently paid to an Auschwitz survivor who took the IHR to court.
- External Link: Gassing as a "remedy" for Jews
Evidence for the death toll
The figure "six million" (which is actually closer to eleven million, when counting the other ethnic, religious, and minority groups targeted for extinction) is often downgraded by revisionist 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).
The most telling evidence is the testimony of thousands of survivors of the Holocaust, including the testimony of captured Nazi officers at the Nuremberg Trials. These accounts are discounted by Holocaust revisionists. When asked to refute the numerous individual stories and official testimonies, the revisionist argument has been to construct an elaborate conspiracy theory involving a massive "Jewish plan" to plant forged documents across the continent of Europe, aided by the supposed torture and forced confession of every single captured Nazi officer, soldier, and worker who testified at the war crimes tribunal.
Holocaust revisionism examined
France and Germany have passed legislation making it illegal to make claims equivalent to those of Holocaust revisionism. Many people who do not deny that the Holocaust occurred nevertheless oppose such restrictions of free speech, including Noam Chomsky. Chomsky created an uproar when he contributed a foreword to a book of holocaust denial essays.
Many Neo-Nazi groups and people associated with them deny that the Holocaust ever occurred.
Many Jews protest that Holocaust revisionism trivializes the suffering caused to victims of the Holocaust when it juxtaposes it with accounts of the millions (most popular estimate is 2.4 million, but some Holocaust revisionists put the figure as high as 10 million) of Germans who died of starvation and from Russian pogroms immediately after WWII. They feel this is an attempt to make the Germans feel they don't deserve full blame for the war crimes of the Nazis, on the basis that the Soviets, British, and Americans committed similar war crimes without repercussions. This position is based on the work of James Bacque, Ernst Mayo, and others.
Recently the terms Holocaust Industry and Shoah Business have come into vogue among Holocaust revisionists to express their perception that Jewish leaders promote the official story about the Holocaust for financial and political gain.
The Zündel trial
Canadian resident Ernst Zündel operates a small-press publishing house called Samisdat Publishing, which publishes and distributes Holocaust revisionism material such as Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Harwood aka Richard Verrall (a British neo-Nazi leader). In 1985, he was tried and convicted under a "false news" law and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by an Ontario court for "disseminating and publishing material denying the Holocaust." Zündel gained considerable notoriety after this conviction, and a number of free-speech activists stepped forward to defend his right to publish his opinion. His conviction was overturned in 1992 when the Supreme Court of Canada declared the "false news" law unconstitutional.
Zündel established his own Web site to publicize his revisionist viewpoint.
Ken McVay and alt.revisionism
In the 1990s, the growth of the Internet produced many conspiracy theory sites. Claims that the Holocaust did not exist, or did not exist on the scale claimed have been widely made on some conspiracy theory websites, many of which have blamed Jewish conspiracies for a range of issues, including the attack on the World Trade Center, the communist revolution, and AIDS.
In the mid-1990s, the popularity of the Internet brought new international exposure to many fringe organizations, including Holocaust revisionists. A number of authority figures stated publicly that the Internet allowed hate groups to introduce their messages to a widespread audience, and it was feared that Holocaust revisionism would gain in popularity as a result. But this was not the case, largely due to the efforts of Ken McVay and the participants in the Usenet newsgroup alt.revisionism.
McVay, a Canadian resident, was disturbed by the efforts of organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center to suppress the speech of the Holocaust revisionists. On alt.revisionism he began a campaign of "truth, fact, and evidence," working with other participants on the newsgroup to uncover factual information about the Holocaust and counter the arguments of the revisionists by proving them to be based upon misleading evidence, false statements, and outright lies. He founded the Nizkor Project to expose the activities of the revisionists, who responded to McVay with personal attacks and slander. McVay received a number of death threats, and the Nizkor Project soon became the number-one online foe of many revisionists, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.
The Irving affair
In 1998 best-selling British historian David Irving filed suit against American author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books, claiming that Lipstadt had libeled him in her book Denying the Holocaust. The statements made by Lipstadt included the accusation that Irving deliberately twisted and misrepresented evidence to conform to his ideological viewpoint. Under British law, which seeks primarily to protect the reputation of an individual, Lipstadt and her publisher bore the full burden of demonstrating not only that they had not shown "reckless disregard" for the truth (as would be the case in America), but that the statements made were unarguably true.
Lipstadt and Penguin hired British lawyer Anthony Julius and Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans to present her case. Evans spent two years examining Irving's work, and soon discovered clear evidence of Irving's misrepresentations, including the fact that Irving had knowingly used forged documents as a source. The presiding judge, Charles Gray, was eventually so persuaded by the evidence presented by Evans, that he wrote a long, and decisive verdict in favor of Lipstadt, calling Irving a "right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist", and confirming the accusations of Lipstadt and Evans.
Some journalists called the verdict a blow to free speech, although it was Irving who had sought and failed to prevent publication of Lipstadt's work.
- Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Plume (The Penguin Group), 1994. Debunking Holocaust revisionism.
- Richard J. Evans, "Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial", Basic Books, 2002 (ISBN 0465021530). As well as the story of the Irving case, this is an excellent case study on historical research.
Works by Holocaust deniers
- Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Newport Beach: Institute for Historical Review, 1994. This is a standard work of Holocaust revisionism, but not a good place for beginners to start.
- Holocaust FAQs, some of which touch revisionism
- Joint Statement on Dealing with Holocaust Revisionism by The Synagogue Council of America And The National Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Jewish perspective on Holocaust denial
- The Nizkor project
Links to sites by Holocaust deniers