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Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory by Deborah Lipstadt Critical Essay

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2019

History scholars have always favored orthodox ideas over the unorthodox ones. This means there is a likelihood that scholars who front unorthodox ideas can easily be ignored regardless of whether those ideas are valid or not. Over the years, there have been unorthodox books that have managed to infiltrate the mainstream scholarly world and achieve some recognition.

Examples of books that lean towards unorthodox research, claims, and findings are the books written by revisionists or deniers of the Holocaust. Deborah Lipstadt’s book “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory” is written as a response to these unorthodox claims.

Lipstadt, a university professor offers a rebuttal to the Holocaust deniers by providing credible research in her book. Throughout the book, the author refrains from treating her work as sacred history but presents facts that are devoid of emotions. Her attack on deniers is well researched and presented in a coherent manner.

Lipstadt’s book presents opposition to the deniers’ fascist-apologist propaganda. Lipstadt’s book focuses its attack on the research methodologies that most scholarly Holocaust deniers use. The book exposes how deniers participated in the fabrication of historical materials and twisted various truths to further their denial agendas1. According to the author, the lies that are often used by deniers have the capacity to bring down nations if they are accepted2.

Lipstadt’s analysis focuses on the patterns and methods that are employed by Holocaust deniers. The book is divided into chapters that focus on the history and methods that are used to distort the truth and the memory of the Holocaust. The term ‘historical revisionism’ is used to refer to the objectives of Holocaust deniers.

There are chapters that are dedicated to the statements, activities, and literary works of various deniers. Some of the Holocaust deniers whose work is explored in the book include Arthur Butz, Austin App, and Mark Weber. In addition, the author extends her criticism to the “Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust” and the “Institute for Historical Review”3.

The author does not waste time in launching her attack on revisionists and deniers of the Holocaust history. This helps the readers to understand the author’s stand right from the start. However, the author is able to use valid points in her work. For instance, the author uses the case of one of the experts whose opinion is usually cited by the deniers’ literature. Engineer Fred Leuchter is one of the people whose expert opinion was sought to ascertain the presence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps.

The author reckons that Leuchter’s services were sought and paid for by a neo-fascist group. Luechter’s final report indicated that gas chambers did not exist in concentration camps4. However, after being investigated Leuchter was found to be a fraud. He did not possess any engineering degree and his earlier attempts to work with the United States government had been denied. Even though this has been proven, revisionists and deniers still cite the report he compiled denying the existence of gas chambers.

The lack of credibility in the research that is usually cited by Holocaust deniers poses a great obstacle to their claims. The revisionists are desperate to cling to any resemblance of research in spite of its questionable credibility. This is one of the author’s chief claims. “Denying the Holocaust” calls the reader’s attention to the misleading research that is often used by revisionists and deniers.

One of the most interesting angles in this book is the investigation as to what was the deniers’ agenda. According to the author, the deniers sought to whitewash the activities of Hitler and his Nazi administration by blaming the Allies and their ‘Jewish advisors’5. The book claims that deniers often group the latter groups for pressing Japan to attack Pearl Harbor and Hitler to invade France and Poland. These claims seem to justify the activities that took place during the Holocaust including the mass murders6.

In addition, this argument is structurally weak and it is only perpetuated because it suits the deniers’ agenda. By agreeing to such an argument, it would be possible to legitimize the existence and operations of the Nazi. While it might be remotely possible to downplay the Holocaust, appropriating Nazi’s activities is almost impossible. The author seeks to highlight the ridiculousness of revisionists’ claims using this angle. The argument is also strong enough to draw the reader’s attention to the ineptitude of the deniers of the Holocaust.

Modern scholarship is more tolerant of unorthodox research. However, due to this fact most people are continuously getting involved in the fabrication of research findings as long as the end result looks scholarly7. The deniers of the Holocaust usually employ such tactics according to Lipstadt. The author reckons that holocaust deniers are able to lace lies with scholarly jargon managing to make the lies look like truth.

Nevertheless, the author is not against all unorthodox research. Instead, she requests history scholars to be vigilant when navigating through some of this unorthodox research. The author specifically takes issue with the popular revisionist view that the victims of the Holocaust were “aggressive conspirators”8. The author mentions both Daniel Irving and David Dukes as the chief deniers of the Holocaust and Hitler admirers.

By mentioning specific people in her book, the author manages to give her readers faces and views that they can associate with the Holocaust denial. The readers are able to explore the standpoints of the mentioned individuals and contrast them with their own views. Most writers often refrain from mentioning specific names of their detractors, as they fear that their work might look like a personal attack.

However, Lipstadt does not abide to this decorum. Nevertheless, her solid research is able to keep the book from looking like a personal attack. The author mentions particular individuals with the aim of attacking their individualistic standpoints. For instance, the author notes that none of the forefront revisionists is actively involved in anti-Semitic shenanigans9.

These personalities only act as inciters to their less informed counterparts. The continued exploration of the leading personalities in the revisionist movement helps the author prove her point. Readers are able to see how the personal traits of the revisionists are applied to the grand lie that is the denial of the Holocaust.

“Denying the Holocaust,” offers readers a rich and factual history of revisionism and Holocaust denial. The author highlights the earliest instances of Holocaust denial. One of the earliest cases of denial happened in the 1940s when Paul Rassinier refuted the number of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust10.

Rassinier’s denial attempts were mostly verbal, as he did not launch any major literary attack on the legitimacy of the Holocaust. Most of the other deniers who came after Rassinier continued perpetrating his brand of falsehoods using articles and pamphlets. Most of the Holocaust denial that happened before the 1970s was very similar to racism because of its anti-Semitic undertones.

However, revisionism was upgraded in the 1970s when the publication of revisionist literature began in earnest. Some of the most notable Holocaust denial materials include the 1973 pamphlet “The Six Million Swindle”, the 1974 pamphlet “Did Six Million Really Die?”, and the 1977 booklet “The Hoax of the Twentieth Century”11. The latter publications were structured in a scholarly manner and they managed to gain some recognition in the mainstream Holocaust history.

These publications also acted as trailblazers for the subsequent revisionist publications. The history of Holocaust denial reveals an interesting development. Initially, all revisionist publications were informal in nature12. However, this changed in the 1970s when the need to disguise revisionist literature as research arose.

This change in tactic warrants some investigation. One possible reason for this change was the fact that the challenge on revisionism was on the rise during the 1970s. The backlash against anti-Semitism was also increasing and the anti-Semitic revisionists sought refuge in their scholarly publications. The other possible reason why revisionism was on the rise was that many materials that supported the existence of the Holocaust were being discovered around this time.

A question that is common in the debate between Holocaust historians and revisionists is how revisionists are able to stand against such overwhelming evidence. There is a lot of evidence supporting the Holocaust and it is therefore prudent to assume that there is no way anyone can be able to deny its existence.

However, numerous revisionists, Holocaust deniers, Nazi apologists, and anti-Semites constantly challenge the authenticity of the Holocaust13. The author of “Denying the Holocaust” tries to solve this puzzle. The answer to this puzzle lies in the fanatical nature of the deniers. Deniers use a wide range of tricks and falsehoods to avoid getting off the fanatical revisionist bandwagon. Lipstadt gives examples of some of the tricks used by deniers.

For instance the author notes that deniers “simply discount Jewish testimony out of hand as lie or fantasy; exculpatory testimony from the Nazis themselves is said to have been coerced by the triumphant Allies”14. Any documents that are discovered as proof of the Holocaust are often dismissed as forgeries or paraphrased to suit the deniers’ agenda.

Sometimes the deniers’ attempts can be borderline ridiculous as exemplified by the claim that some of the remains that were discovered in Nazi’s concentration camps were victims of typhoid and cholera15. Nevertheless, the ridiculous nature of revisionists raises the question whether writing a full-length book disputing them is a worthwhile venture. It seems like the deniers are their own undoing and Lipstadt’s book just flatters their efforts.

Although Lipstadt’s book seems like an unnecessary engagement with racist propagandists, the book is a strong tool against the denial movement that seems to be on the rise. “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory” divulges the deniers’ intentions and tactics to the readers while maintaining its historical and scholarly stature.

There are several reasons why this book is a positive contribution to Holocaust history. While the book might seem pointless at first, it serves as an antidote to the increasing denial on the Holocaust.

Bibliography

Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust. New York: Hill & Wang, 2005.

Lipstadt, Deborah. Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. New York: Free Press, 1993.

Footnotes

1 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 42.

2 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 9.

3 Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 159.

4 Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 224.

5 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 84.

6 Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 226.

7 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 159.

8 Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 197.

9 Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 54.

10 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 187.

11 Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 102.

12 Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 21.

13 Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust. (New York: Hill & Wang, 2005), 67.

14 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 111.

15 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. (New York: Free Press, 1993), 205.

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