From Hobson's Choice
This article is under construction
There are a surprising number of genocides or (more properly) democides in history. While this website is not directly connected to the study of mass murder, an understanding of imperialism requires considerable discussion of genocide and subsequent denials of it. This page is (in its current state) a stub for a longer article on genocide denial.
Why "Holocaust Denial?"
The canonical example of a genocide is the Holocaust, which is actually a group of many genocides carried out in many different ways by the Nazi Third Reich beginning with the 1939 invasion of Poland and ending some time after the collapse of the Reich (8 May 1945). Even as the Holocaust was underway, extraordinary efforts were made to obscure the mass murder of "unfit life." The story of Holocaust denial is extremely complicated and involves a huge menu of denials: that the Holocaust occurred at all, that it was as bad as commonly thought, that it was a genocide (as opposed to an internment gone wrong), that it was carried out by the Third Reich, that it was a gratuitous act by the Nazis, and so on. A common fallacy is that the Holocaust consisted exclusively of the genocide of Europeans B'nei Yisrael (Jews); it actually included the mass murder of uncertain numbers of Rroma, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish intellectuals, Communists of any nationality, mental patients, and people suffering various types of disabilities.
So afterwards, one form of Holocaust denial was to insist that there was only one genocide in the Holocaust, viz., the Shoah or massacre of six million B'nei Yisrael. Another is to insist that the Nazi genocide was unique in history, either for reasons of its professional execution, scale, precise choice of victims (viz., by race rather than class), thoroughness, use of mass killing apparati (such as gas chambers), or bureaucratic volition.
At the same time, "conventional" Holocaust deniers like David Irving and Robert Faurisson have operated by attacking the contention that the Holocaust was exceptional; Irving, inter alia have argued that the Nazi concentration camps were used to detain a genuine threat to Germany, viz., a group with a stake in the destruction of the Nazi regime; and they suffered "an unfortunately high death rate." Faurisson and the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) have argued that the "alleged" death camps could not have been intended for mass murder since (a) the "alleged" gas chambers were technically unsatisfactory and (b) it would not have been in the interests of the Third Reich to kill a valuable labor force. Such arguments are known as a quis est beneficium? fallacy and are a cover for nearly all abuses of power.
The question is therefore, "Why 'Holocaust denial'?" instead of "Genocide denial," which is what this page is about; and the answer is, that Holocaust denial is instructive in understanding genocide denial as a general phenomenon. The concept of the Holocaust is closely wound up in the idea of genocide, yet a fierce controversy rages as to whether other genocides in history are authentically comparable to the Nazi Holocaust. This site takes the position that the Holocaust is indeed comparable to other genocides, and further, that genocides need to be understood as a generic component of ecological redemption and colonialism.
Why Holocaust Denial
There are numerous reasons for denying the Holocaust. In many cases, Deniers do not state any motive beyond an interest in the truth (e.g., Faurisson). Other motives are:
- Ethnic pride, such as German nationalism or Ukrainian nationalism;
- Extreme judeophobia; some far-right groups, for example, blame Communism on "the Jews," and naturally believed the USSR, being dominated by Jews (it wasn't, by the way) had an interest in propagating a "black legend" of a genocide;
- An affinity for Nazi ideology, including those who do not self-identify as judeophobic or racist;
- Loathing of Nazi adversaries, viz., Communists (or Russians, Poles, Czechs, Serbs...), the British/English (or Britain/England), Usonians (or the USA), the West generally, etc.;
- Self-identified pacifists (a rare case; examples usually include fringe anarchist tendencies whose views are borderline solipsistic).
The majority of well-known "deniers" are not actually strict deniers, since they typically acknowledge that something bad occurred; however, some quibble over the term "holocaust," which implies a total destruction (about half the B'nei Yisrael population of Europe was actually killed). These are minor cases I will ignore. Others likewise quibble over the use of the word "genocide," which is silly, and implies a made-up definition of the word that effectively excludes it from any use whatever. Again, such people are invited to use the word "democide," which is a better word anyway. Some have argued the scale of the Holocaust was far smaller than that commonly cited. The German Ernst Nolte was a relativizer, who began by pointing out the Stalinist precursor and (in Nolte's view) provocation for the Holocaust, and gradually wound up arguing that it was a reasonable reaction.
Nolte's positions on the Holocaust posed a philosophical dilemma, which is why they provoked rejoinders by Jürgen Habermas. Nolte appears to have been stuck in a philosophical jackknife: on the one hand, he wanted to claim that the Germans who embraced Naziism were making a defensible decision, based on available conditions; but on the other hand, he wanted to absolve the Third Reich of its instrumental culpability in mass murder by making a case for its rationality. As a totalitarian system, the Third Reich employed massive efforts to terrorize and deceive Germans, thereby sharply restricting their agency. Hence, Nolte is stuck talking out of both sides of his mouth.
It's difficult to draw the line where scholarly inquiry ends and becomes "minimization." The chief scholarly work on the Holocaust is Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews (first published 1961), which estimated 5.1 million victims. On the other hand, if we use the word "Holocaust" to refer to all victims of Nazi genocide, then that figure rises to nearly 11 million, of which the 2nd largest cohort was Soviet POWs. Additionally, there are civilians killed en masse in the Soviet theater that probably exceeded 20 million.
- ↑ Elie Wiesel, "Report to the President: President's Commission on the Holocaust," Washington: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council (1979): "The Jews were Hitler's primary victims against whom the total fury of the Holocaust was unleashed: to dilute or deny this reality would be to falsify it in the name of misguided universalism"; the Holocaust was "essentially a Jewish event ... the Jewish people alone were destined to be totally annihilated, they alone were totally alone..." "The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators." Special thanks to Ian Hancock, who cites this in "The Pariah Syndrome," Patrin Web Journal (26 Sept 1999)
- ↑ For example, Deborah E. Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, New York: Free Press, (1993). Lipstadt mars her work by including an insistence on the qualitative uniqueness of the Shoah, as, for example, in Chapter 11 where she argues for the uniqueness of the Holocaust as a specimen of genocide. Those citing the genocide of Native Americans or Ukrainians are said to be "relativizing" the Holocaust. This is a particularly dangerous position to take, since Lipstadt is basically saying one has to deny all other genocides in order to avoid being a Holocaust denier. Discussed in the sardonically titled "Confessions of a Holocaust Denier," by Prof. Jacob Lubliner (2000).
- ↑ Sources for the above are based on Wikipedia articles for David Irving, Robert Faurisson, Ernst Zündel, and Fred A Leuchter. Additionally, I have read many works by Holocaust deniers, partly to familiarize myself with their MO. Zündel is not terribly interesting, except that, usually, German neo-Nazis are not enthusiastic self-promoters. It is the policy of this site to not link to online hate sites, including those promoting Holocaust denial.
- ↑ Only a tiny minority of Germans ex post facto look favorably on the genocidal endeavor of the Nazi regime, and the same is true for Ukraine. However, a small group of Ukrainian nationalists are rabidly pro-Nazi because of an effort by Germany in WW1 and WW2 to liberate Ukraine from Russian domination. Former Communist countries do not have the same laws barring pro-Nazi statements or organizations as in the West, and some nationalists regarded the B'nei Yisrael population of Russia as responsible for Bolshevism.
- ↑ Paul Rassinier is an example of the pacificist-minimizer; detained as a Communist in a concentration camp, he nevertheless sought to counter the demonization of Germany after the War by arguing that the number of B'nei Yisrael killed could not possibly have been as large as six million (or the more rigorous estimate of Raul Hilberg of 5.1 million). The Allies were as bad, he claimed. Cited in Lubliner (2000).
- ↑ A brief introduction to Nolte's views and their evolution may be found at Wikipedia.
- ↑ Cited in Gendercide Watch; estimates 3.5 million Russian POW's died in Nazi captivity.
- Sardonically titled "Confessions of a Holocaust Denier," by Prof. Jacob Lubliner (2000). Lubliner demonstrates that the complexity of opinion on what precisely Holocaust denial is, ensures that literally everyone is a Holocaust denier. (Lubliner was an inmate at Bergen-Belsen, and of course is not a Holocaust denier).