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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman displays his number tattoo. (photo: Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman displays his number tattoo. (photo: Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

Denying the Holocaust: What Would Hitler Do?

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

26 January 14

 

erhaps Hitler did not kill enough,” lamented the deputy mayor, castigating Gypsies in his town last summer. If, in America, a local official said the same – whether about Gypsies, gays, Jews, or immigrants – decent people would condemn him, and the whole nasty business would quickly fade away. Not here in France, where the law makes it a crime to deny, minimize, or defend the Holocaust. So, Libération has now reported that the court found Gilles Bourdeleix guilty of “a crime against Humanity.”

This sounds really big, I know, but do not be fooled. The Frenchman’s punishment was a €3000 ($4,180) fine, which the court suspended, as seems par for the course. Even if the judges come down harder, an 8-time repeat offender like the openly anti-Semitic and Nazi-miming comic Dieudonné still has not paid a cent or served time in prison.

As an expatriate American who lives by free speech, I find all this bizarre. But prevailing French attitudes also offend the country’s older values. Remember learning about the eighteenth century Voltaire, who vowed to defend to the death the right to express ideas he detested? Not here. Not now. Too many of his countrymen no longer grasp the distinction between defending someone’s rights and promoting their views.

Drawing this all-important line can be tricky – and nowhere more painful than with the organized campaign to deny the Holocaust. Though few remember, this was a political movement in part “Made in America,” where die-hard defenders of Adolph Hitler used their First Amendment freedoms to pollute American politics and peddle their poison across the Atlantic and into the Middle East.

“Hitler’s defeat was the defeat of Europe. And of America,” wrote the organizer and conspiracist Willis Carto in a purloined letter that journalist Drew Pearson quoted in his syndicated column in February 1967­. “How could we have been so blind? The blame, it seems, must be laid at the door of the international Jews. It was their propaganda, lies and demands which blinded the West to what Germany was doing.”

Unabashed in his enthusiasm for the Nazis, Carto became “undoubtedly the central figure in the post-World War II American far right,” explains his biographer, the anti-extremist academic George Michael. In 1958, Carto founded the Liberty Lobby and made it “a big tent” for everyone from Ku Klux Klansman David Duke to the libertarian Ron Paul, who used the group’s mailing list to sell subscriptions to his own racist newsletters.

Believing that Jews were “Public Enemy No. 1,” Carto railed incessantly against “the Jew-Zionist international banker’s conspiracy.” Warning of “the inevitable niggerification of America,” he backed the segregationist Citizens’ Councils in the South and helped organize George Wallace’s 1968 campaign for president. Then, after the election, he joined with the long-time American Nazi William Pierce to create what became the more out-of-the-closet National Alliance. Carto soon broke with the group, while Pierce went on to write “The Turner Diaries,” which inspired The Order, the Aryan Republican Army, and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

For years, Carto has remained a non-stop propagandist and purveyor of right-wing conspiracy theories, which would-be progressives too often buy. Carto’s hate sheet “The Spotlight” was “the most influential medium of the far right.” His Noontide Press peddled such classics as “The Protocols of the Learned Sages of Zion” and his mentor Frances Parker Yockey’s “Imperium,” which became the Mein Kampf of the postwar “Fascist International.” At various times, Carto sponsored the nationally syndicated daily talk show Radio Free America and had his hand in a string of unsavory publications, including “Western Destiny,” “American Mercury,” “Washington Observer Newsletter,” “Barnes Review,” and “American Free Press.” As far as I know, only the last two are still going, and both have continued to feature the fellow-traveling Ron Paul.

Carto’s most lasting legacy lives on in the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), which he created in 1979 to shepherd his fellow Hitler fans, both open and covert, into a concerted campaign to deny that the Führer ever set out to eliminate European Jews. Most of IHR’s arguments had circulated for years, often in Carto’s “Spotlight.” With his new institute, Carto tried to give them an academic gloss and a multi-national thrust.

A featured speaker at IHR’s founding conference and a member of its advisory board was a French university professor, Robert Faurisson, who had just emerged from well-deserved obscurity with an article in Le Monde called “The Problem of the Gas Chambers or the Rumor of Auschwitz.” His argument – and that of the IHR and its “Journal of Historical Review” – was deceptively simple: that the Nazis never committed sys­tematic genocide against the Jews. No gas chambers, except to disinfect clothing and kill lice. No death camps. No Holocaust. Many Jews might have died from exhaustion, hunger, or disease, Faurisson admitted. But the Germans never set out to exterminate them.

“Hitler no more committed ‘genocide’ than did Napoleon, Stalin, Churchill or Mao,” he declared. “Hitler never ordered nor permitted that anyone should be killed on account of his race or his religion.”

Such stories, Faurisson argued, were one huge historic lie, the invention of Allied propaganda and continuing media-hype. “The principal beneficiaries of the operation have been the state of Israel and international Zionism. The principal victims have been the German people – but not its leaders – and the Palestinian people as a whole.”

On the surface, Faurisson wrote in measured tones, presenting himself as a humane, even-handed scholar in the tradition of earlier revisionist historians like Harry Elmer Barnes who had ques­tioned one-sided anti-German interpretations of World War I. But, on closer reading, Faurisson showed exactly where he was coming from. He too easily dismissed all eyewitness testimony about the gas chambers, especially from Jewish survivors, whom he unfailingly portrayed as false witnesses, telling either fantasies or lies. He dis­counted or misrepresented thousands of state­ments, documents, and other evidence that ran counter to the case he was making. He overlooked some 1.3 million Eastern European Jews that SS leader Heinrich Himmler’s mobile killing squads, the Einsatsgruppen, systematically shot or gassed in specially built vans. He offered bogus “technical proof” that the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other death camps could not have existed as survivors described them. And, he tried to explain away Nazi imprison­ing of the Jews largely as a response to some interna­tional Jewish decla­ration of war against Hitler’s Germany.

Had Faurisson never read the banned “Mein Kampf?” Did he not believe the Führer, who wrote as early as 1922 that his “first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews?”

Far from presenting the complexities of even-handed historical research, Faurisson put out simplistic propaganda of an obvious kind. As if to flaunt his ideological predi­lec­tions, he had aired an earlier version of his essay in Defense de l’Occident, a journal published by Maurice Bardèche, the country’s best-known Fascist intellectual and a founding father of French negationnisme, as critics here call it.

In his writing, Faurisson also celebrated his intellectual debt to another of the early deniers, Paul Rassinier, a veteran of the Resistance whom the Nazis had deported to Buchenwald. An ex-Stalinist, a Socialist, and an anti-Semite – a combination not unknown in France – Rassinier wrote several books that Bardèche published, first minimizing, then rejecting the existence of gas chambers, and denying the death of anywhere near six million Jews. Faurisson portrayed himself as a disciple of Rassinier.

Faurisson drew as well on other prominent anti-Semites. One was Arthur Butz, an American engineering professor whose “Hoax of the Twentieth Century” was pub­lished by Britain’s neo-Fascist National Front. Butz dismissed Auschwitz as just a rubber factory for the Nazi war effort. Another was an embittered German judge and ex-artillery officer, Wilhelm Stäglish, who wrote “The Auschwitz Myth.” He wrote it, he said, to free his fellow Germans from their “national guilt complex” and subservience to “international Jewry.”

All this came together in Willis Carto’s Institute for Historical Research, which became the world’s chief sponsor of Holocaust denial. Even after Carto lost control of IHR in 1993 in a very public, litigious feud, it has continued to promote the movement, while he has made his “Barnes Review” a competing revisionist journal.

One further note. In the U.S., denying the Holocaust has never won much of a popular following beyond the far-right fringe. In France and the rest of Europe, these neo-Nazi ideas have won a far broader base, encouraged in no small measure by restrictive speech laws and criminal prosecutions, which only give publicity to people like Faurisson and Dieudonné and turn them into anti-establishment martyrs. This is a lesson worth remembering on both sides of the Atlantic, especially today, the anniversary of the day Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz.


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, “Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold.”

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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