Apr. 20, 2006 10:40
Holocaust revisionism deconstructed

Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?
by Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman
University of California Press
330 pp, $17.95

To explain why the Holocaust never happened, here are some guidelines: Attack the perceived inconsistency of “exterminationist” rivals while remaining noncommittal about your own position. Declare that debate over a single issue – like whether Nazis always planned on genocide – calls into question whether genocide happened at all. Ignore facts. Speak only about what isn’t known. Disregard eyewitnesses and anyone with numbers tattooed on the arm.

Denying History dismembers the hidden world of Holocaust revisionism. The authors, Skeptic magazine founder Michael Shermer and historian Alex Grobman remind us the past is not entirely negotiable. Their book offers a crash course in dialectics, a rogue’s gallery of deniers, and refutation to claims the premeditated Nazi genocide of six million Jews is history’s greatest hoax.

Good historians can uncover and explain the past with provisional certainty – if they account for personal and cultural bias. Historical debates are won with converging evidence, logic, probability, peer review, and open discussion. Such methods consistently prove the Holocaust was real. Only details might be up for grabs, which deniers expertly manipulate to undermine entire events. Sherman and Grobman call this snapshot fallacy, a tool Holocaust revisionists use to sculpt death camps where genocide never took place.

Readers are led inside the Institute for Historical Review, the leading center for Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic publishing. It considers its enemies to be the Anti-Defamation League, Wiesenthal Center and Alan Dershowitz.

In 1980, the Institute for Historical Review offered $50,000 to anyone who could prove Jews were gassed at Auschwitz. When Holocaust survivor Mel Mermelstein succeeded, he had to bring the Institute to court for the money and was awarded an additional $40,000 for personal suffering.

Courtroom verdicts mean little to revisionists motivated by personal interest. The IHR Web site is still in business, calling Elie Wiesel a false witness to the Holocaust, warning of Israel’s impending attack on Iran, and highlighting articles by American congressmen Paul McClonskey and Pat Buchanan.

Nothing is more dangerous than turning one’s back on the world of deniers. Shermer and Grobman set the example by facing revisionists in the flesh. Mark Weber and David Irving are regulars at the Institute for Historical Review. Veteran denier Weber was found by the authors to be personable, bright and accepting of a society ordered through violence and deceit. He sees no double standard in holding these views while calling Jews “the traditional enemy of truth.”

More legendary is Irving, considered by the writers of Denying History to be the most sophisticated of revisionist historians. He has performed verbal acrobatics to prove the German word for extermination: Ausrotten, appearing in many Nazi reports, only meant “emigration.” The authors reveal that Irving, English by birth, worked in a German steel factory after the war. There he learned about the fire-bombing of Dresden, decided to write, and eventually fell in with the “magic circle” of Hitler’s former associates.

Donning psychologists’ robes, Sherman and Grobman posit Irving became overly sympathetic to the German subjects he met, letting Hitler’s war become his own. “Without Hitler, the State of Israel probably would not exist today,” says Irving. “To that extent he was probably the Jews’ greatest friend.”