from the pages of October 1996

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Assaults on Truth and Memory: Holocaust Denial in Context

 by Ward Churchill

 

 Where scholars deny genocide, in the face of decisive evidence that it has occurred, they contribute to a false consciousness that can have the most dire reverberations. Their message in effect is: [genocide] requires no confrontation, no reflection, but should be ignored, glossed over. In this way scholars lend their considerable authority to the acceptance of this ultimate human crime. More than that, they encourage--indeed invite--a repetition of that crime from virtually any source in the ate or distant future. By closing their minds to the truth, that is, scholars contribute to the deadly psycho-historical dynamic in which unopposed genocide begets new genocides.

 -Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen and Robert Jay Lifton "Professional Ethics and Denial of the Armenian Genocide" 1995

Of all the intellectual monstrosities arising during the course of the late 20th century, one of the most vicious and factually indefensible has been that 'school of historical revisionism" known as "Holocaust denial." Its proponents purport to have "proven" that the systematic nazi extermination of somewhere between five and six million Jews did not occur. Such genocidal dimensions were never really part of the nazi character, they argue. Rather, the whole idea of a Holocaust perpetrated by the Third Reich is instead a colossal and sustained "propaganda myth" contrived for purposes of gaining moral advantage by Germany's politicomilitary adversaries, in combination with an amorphous "International Jewish Conspiracy," during and after the Second World War.

Probably the first purveyor of such tripe was Paul Rassinier, a former French communist party member turned virulent anticommunism cum nazi apologist, who published his seminal work on the topic, Le Passage de la Ligne (Crossing the Line), in 1948. In the main, his position can be reduced to a simple duality: first, that much of that for the nazis are accused accrues from "the natural tendency of its victims to exaggerate"; second, that to the extent atrocities happened at all in the nazi death camps, they were more the responsibility of the victims themselves--who, Rassinier claimed, had been placed "in charge" by their SS keepers--than of the SS or nazism more generally. 

Rassinier's themes were quickly picked up by pro-Nazi/anti-Semitic figures in the United States, men such as the evangelical "Christian" publicist W.D. Herrstrom (Bible News Flashes), white supremacist publisher James Madole (National Renaissance Bulletin), open national socialists like George Lincoln Rockwell and Gerald L.K. Smith (The Cross and the Flag), and eminent Smith College historian Harry Elmer Barnes. The latter, with release of his The Struggle Against Historical Blackout in 1947, can be said to have set down the ideological/theoretical framework within which Rassinier, Smith, Herrstrom and their ilk could pretend to at least marginal "scholarly" credibility.

By the late 1950s, the emerging "field" of Holocaust denial in the U.S. had produced its first genuine "academic specialist," Austin J. App, a professor of English literature at the University of Scranton and, later, at LaSalle College. App's tactic was to place Rassinier's form of "logical" denial on a tentatively "scientific" footing, developing an obfuscatory "statistical profile" of pre- and postwar European demography through which conventional estimates of six million Jewish victims of nazi exterminators might be challenged as "grossly inflated." This, in turn, was linked to a polemic against German indemnification of surviving Jews in which Germany rather than Judaica was presented as the "real victim" of the "Myth of the Final Solution."

@g the second half of the 1960s, and throughout the '70s, App's sort of "scholarship" began to take hold on North America's extreme right, and, increasingly, to cross-pollinate with European strains of itself. In the U.S., 1969 saw the anonymous release of The Myth of the Six Million, a book actually written by a Harvard-trained history professor named David Leslie Hoggan, published by Willis Carto, founder of the neo-Nazi Liberty Lobby and owner of the openly fascist Noontide Press, and introduced by E.L. Anderson, a contributing editor for what was then Carto's main periodical publication, American Mercury. In England, Richard Verrall (a.k.a., Richard Harwood), leader of the British National Front and publisher of a neo-Nazi tabloid, Spearhead, followed suit with the of 1974 publication of a booklet entitled, Did Six Million Really Die?

A couple of years later in the U.S., an MIT/University of Minnesota graduate named Arthur R. Butz, employed at the time as a professor of electrical engineering at Northwestern University, moved things forward by publishing The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry. In this book, it is argued on a supposedly technical basis that the mass gassings and cremations of Jews and others documented during the Nuremberg Trial as having taken place at locations like Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Treblinka "simply could not have occurred," given "the rather obvious technological limitations" of the equipment used. At this point, it is fair to say that all the cornerstones for a comprehensive "rebuttal" of the Holocaust as an historical fact had been laid.

 

Advent of the Institute for Historical Review

In 1978, the various international strands of Holocaust denial began to be consolidated under the rubric of a Los Angeles-based entity called the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), funded by Willis Carto and headed by a former British National Front officer named William David McCalden.9 In addition to unrestricted access to what had become Carto's own primary periodical publication, The Spotlight, and Noontide Press, his book-publishing concern, the IHR quickly established its own "academic" organ, The Journal of Historical Review, and a book publishing operation under its own imprimatur. Moreover, in 1979, it initiated a series of "scholarly conferences'’ known as International Revisionist Conventions-to bring together and coordinate the activities of deniers the world over.

One of the IHR's first moves was to utilize the mass media to place Holocaust denial squarely before the public by issuing an "open challenge to peddlers of the Holocaust hoax." A $50,000 reward was offered to "anyone able to prove, through the offering of tangible evidence, that a single Jew was ever gassed by the government of the Third Reich."" Although it was later established that the challenge constituted fraud--it having been demonstrated to a court's satisfaction that the IHR never seriously intended to pay the proffered award--it had accomplished its objective: seemingly serious questions concerning the historical fact of nazi genocide had been raised in the public consciousness.

These were concretized to a considerable extent during the 1980s via the case of Ernst Zundel, a German immigrant to Canada and ardent Nazi, who was charged by Crown Counsel with instigating social and racial intolerance through his publishing house, Samisdat Press. During his first trial, in which the IHR arranged for him to be represented by attorney Douglas Christie and otherwise assisted by an "expert" witness, French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, Zundel was convicted and sentenced to serve 15 months in prison. He was then able to win an appeal on procedural grounds and was retried in 1988.

During the second trial, Christie and Faurisson brought in yet another expert, prominent British denier David Irving. Between the three, a strategy was hatched-presumably under a variation of the theory that it could be established that "the truth is the best defense" wherein the thesis advanced by Arthur Butz would be "scientifically" corroborated. For this purpose, they retained the services of Fred A. Leuchter, reputedly "an engineer, skilled in the functioning of gas chambers," who, as a consultant to prison administrations across the U.S., "specialized in constructing and installing execution apparatus." Shortly, having been dispatched to Auschwitz/Birkenau and Majdanek on "site visits," Leuchter submitted a detailed report holding that it was "chemically and physically impossible for the Germans to have conducted gassings" in those camps.

Although it was quickly established in court that Leuchter lacked even the most rudimentary engineering credentials--his sole degree turned out to be a BA in history from Boston University--his "findings" had already caused something of an international media sensations

Although these were debunked almost as rapidly as their author, with the result that Zundel was convicted and sentenced to serve nine months in jail, the IHR immediately launched an intensive campaign to capitalize on the popular first impression it had achieved.

In this, the institute has relied primarily on the talents of a California-based publicist named Bradley Smith who packaged and promoted Leuchter's discredited material as if were the very essence of 'scientific research"-or at least a tenable "point of view," intrinsically worthy of inclusion in the academic agenda-while concentrating his energy on obtaining ad space trumpeting this notion in campus newspapers across the country. Hence, by 1992, it was observable that the IHR had managed to shift the sordid fabrications comprising Holocaust denial from the outermost lunatic fringe of social discourse into the vastly more legitimate arenas of First Amendment debate and scholarly dialogue.

Although there is a marked tendency in mainstream circles to scoff at the potential public impact of the "progress" made by the IHR and its cohorts since 1978 in their increasingly sophisticated marketing of "bad history," numerous indicators suggest the effect has already been substantial. A spring 1993 Newsweek poll, for example, indicated that nearly forty percent of adult Americans expressed "doubts" as to whether a European Holocaust of the magnitude depicted in standard histories occurred during World War II; a substantial portion questioned whether anything truly definable as genocide happened at all. This, among a population which, in 1950, evidenced nearly universal acceptance of the historical realities involved.

In Italy, a similar poll conducted during 1992 revealed that close to ten percent of the adult population had become "convinced" that the Holocaust is a myth; another quarter the matter was "overstated." In a 1991 Gallup poll conducted in Austria, more than half of all adults expressed one degree or another of "reservations" about conventional historiography on the nazi genocide. Similar circumstances seem to prevail in England, France, Germany and Canada. In most cases, the extent and degree of societal skepticism expressed regarding the Holocaust can be correlated fairly well to a marked resurgence of nazi-style extreme right-wing racism over the past fifteen years, all of it acted out with mounting fervor in the "real world."

 

A Firm Rebuttal

Comes now Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Chair in Modem Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, with what is probably the first comprehensive public effort at rejoining the rising tide of Holocaust denial. Her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: The Free Press, 1993), is thus a milestone of sorts, trying as it does not only to rebut the deniers' arguments point-by-point, but to place their activities in the broader sociopolitical panorama which gives them potency.

Of necessity, the weight of Lipstadt's presentation rests on providing the information th at thoroughly debunks the sort of intentional misinformation by which deniers have adorned themselves with a veneer of superficial plausibility. For example, with regard to Paul Rassinier's contention, subsequently developed by Barnes and App, that the number of Jewish victims of nazi genocide was deliberately inflated by Zionists in order to "swindle" an insupportably high level of reparations from the post-war West Germany govermnent, she goes directly to the 1951 source documents in which Israeli officials pressed their claims.

The government of Israel is not in a position to obtain and present a complete statement of all Jewish property taken or looted by the Germans, and said to total more than $6 thousand million. It can only compute its claim on the basis of total expenditures already made and the expenditure still needed for the integration of Jewish immigrants from Nazi-dominated countries. The dumber of these immigrants is estimated at some 500,000, which means a total expenditure of $1.5 thousand million.

The author then proceeds to state the obvious: "It hardly seems necessary to point out that the money the state received was based on the cost of resettling survivors, had Israel wanted to increase the amount of reparations it obtained from Germany it would have been in its interest to argue that fewer than six million had been killed and managed to flee to Israel." From there, she is positioned to expose the assorted pontifications of Barnes as the uninterrupted string of lies and obfuscations they actually are. Turning next to App, she demolishes the tautological and statistical sleights-of-hand by which he purportedly demonstrated that genocide was never part of the nazi agenda.

With these mainly polemical opponents out of the way, Lipstadt trains her guns on the more recent pseudoscientific postulations of others, such as Butz, Faurisson and Leuchter. Here, largely because of the sheer extent and solidity of the base of technical literature available to her in formulating her refutation, she is devastating. By the time she is finished, the author has utterly dismembered every known variation of such shopworn revisionist themes as Zyklon-B being a chemical appropriate only for delousing rather than extermination of human beings, the gas chambers at Auschwitz and elsewhere being "ill designed" to serve the purpose ascribed to them, and the crematoria at such facilities being "inadequate" to handle the volume of corpses "allegedly" run through them.

In framing her responses, Lipstadt does a further great service by setting out a sort of typology of Holocaust revisionism. Not everyone involved, she maintains, is as crude as the outright deniers like Butz, Faurisson, Leuchter, Carto, Irving and Zundel. Others, like Rassinier, Barnes, Hoggan and App, might be better understood as "minimizers"; that is, those who engage in a range of sophistries designed to make the magnitude of the Holocaust appear less than it was. From there, by carefully mixing known facts with their fictions, the latter group advances false sets of moral comparisons--e.g., the nazi extermination center at Auschwitz was "really no different" than the concentration camps at Dauchau (false); and Dauchau wasn't all that different from the camp at Manzanar in which Japanese Americans were interned by the U.S. government during the war (true). Therefore the nazi treatment of untermenschen was "no worse than" that accorded by the U.S. to its "Jap" minority (false)--which the author rightly describes as being "immoral equivalencies."

The trick to a proper understanding of Holocaust revisionism, Lipstadt points out, is in seeing how these three somewhat different elements interact in a mutually supportive fashion. This consideration leads her to examine not only the main flow of Holocaust denial and minimization, but its antecedents and certain of its contemporary counterparts. The former brings about an exploration of post-World War I "Germanofilic" revisionism, not only an the part of the young Harry Elmer Barnes, but also a number of other academic luminaries like Sidney B. Fay and Charles A. Beard.44 These are treated in combination with such anti-Semitic/pro-Nazi champions of interwar isolationism as North Dakota Republican Senator Gerald P. Nye, Washington's Democratic Senator Homer T. Bone, California Republican Senator Hiram W. Johnson, Mississippi's Democratic Congressman John E. Rankin, aviation hero Charles A. Lindberg, and industrialist Henry Ford.

Barnes's work [in particular won a broad popular audience in the United States and abroad ... [He] used his World War I revisionism to propound the isolationist cause. Even before World War II had ended he was challenging the official -version of its history. He was part of a small group of isolationists who tried to resurrect the movement’s reputation and to sully Roosevelt's. They were funded by prewar isolationists, including Charles Lindberg and Henry Ford.

This context was as indispensable to the birth and eventual maturation of Holocaust minimization and denial, Lipstadt contends, as the actions and pronouncements of more than a few established and highly visible political figures are to its increasing acceptability. Salient in this regard was U.S. President Ronald Reagan's 1986 official "gesture of reconciliation" with Germany's nazi past, laying a commemorative wreath near the graves of SS troops in Bitburg. At the same time, Reagan informed the press that he would be unwilling to make a similar gesture at the site of a death camp because Germans "have a guilt feeling that's been imposed upon them and I just don't think it's necessary." This, taken in combination with syndicated columns questioning orthodox Holocaust historiography by former Reagan press chief cum presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan,49 should remove any mystery as to how an unabashed white supremacist and outright denier like David Duke might have been deemed a reasonable addition to the state legislature by Louisiana voters in the late 1980s.

The same sort of dynamic is evident in France, where President Francois Mitterand ostentatiously conducted a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Marshal Philippe Petain, head of the collaborationist World War II Vichy government which, among many other offenses--he was convicted of treason by a French court in 1945-assisted the nazis in rounding up Jews for deportation and extermination. Mitterand's symbolic but official forgiveness of Petain's criminality is reflected far more concretely in an across-the-board refusal of French lower courts to accept indictments of former Vichy officials charged with complicity and/or direct participation in all manner of wartime German atrocities. To date, despite an abundant record in this regard, no French citizen has ever been tried, much less convicted or punished, for perpetrating crimes against humanity.

A similar phenomenon has been manifested in Germany, as is evidenced in the quasi-official renderings of such reactionary nationalist historians as Hellmut Diwald, Andreas Hillgruber and Michael Sturmer. Diwald, in his 1978 Geshichte der Deutschen (History of the Germans), attempted to establish a genuinely immoral equivalency when he argued that the displacement of Germans from eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War constituted a crime "on par with" those perpetrated by the nazis against the Jews, Poles, Slovenes, Ukrainians and many others. Hillgruber followed up in 1986 with Zweierlei Untergang: Die Zerschlagung des deitschen Reiches und das Ende des europdischen Judentums (Two Kinds of Downfall: The Shattering of the German Reich and the End of European Jewry), a narrower but more refined argument to much the same effect. Such "interpretations" underpinned open calls by Sturmer-Chancellor Helmut Kohl's historical adviser at the time of Bitburg-for a more general rewriting of history to "alleviate Germany's obsessive guilt" over the Holocaust, thereby facilitating "a rebirth of German pride and patriotism."

It is to these much more diffuse, institutionalized and ubiquitous symptomologies of denial, rather than the blatant crudities of Rassinier and Butz, that we must address ourselves, Lipstadt contends, if we are ever to rid ourselves of the hideous implications represented by the deniers themselves. "If Holocaust denial has demonstrated anything," she observes, "it is the fragility of memory, truth, reason, and history." The object, of course, is to affirm and reinforce each of these as natural societal barriers against repetition of that which is being denied and forgotten. "When we witness assaults on truth," she says, "our response must be strong, though neither polemical nor emotional. We must educate the broader public and academe about this threat and its historical and ideological roots. We must expose these people for what they are," most especially when they-like Reagan, Mitterand, Kohl and the intellectuals in their service-occupy positions of elite authority.

 

Degeneration

Had Denying the Holocaust ended there, or, more accurately, had it been constrained to encompass only the material summarized above, it would be an altogether good and useful book, one which might be recommended to the broadest possible readership. Unfortunately, Lipstadt incorporates a subtext into her final chapter which undoes quite a lot of the good she might otherwise have accomplished. Moreover, she does so with a heavy overload of precisely the distortions, polemicism and emotion-laden prose she herself condemns.

The problem emerges most clearly when, in conjunction with her rebuttal of German conservatives historians, she takes up the work of Ernst Nolte, a neoliberal known mainly for his masterly historical/philosophical analysis of fascism, published during the early 1960s. At issue is the evolution of Nolte's handling of the Holocaust in and since the 1976 publication of his Deutschland und der kalte Krieg (Germany and the Cold War), in which he has shown himself to be increasingly prone to an "historicization" of nazi genocide by way of contrasting and comparing it to other phenomena, including the Turkish extermination of Armenians in 1918, the Stalinist program against Ukrainians during the 1930s, the American performance in Vietnam during the 1960s and early 1970s, and the Khmer Rouge "autogenocide" of the mid70s.

Although there is much that is problematic in what appears to have motivated Nolte to bring his usual methodology to bear with respect to the Holocaust-as well as in his attribution of motivations to some of the historical figures he treats (e.g., Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot)-this has been critiqued rather severely by the prominent left social philosopher Jurgen Habermas, in a series of essays which ushered in the so-called Historikerstreit ("Historians' controversy") of 1986 in Germany. It is telling that Lipstadt offers not so much as an oblique reference to Ha bermas or his arguments. This is because she not especially concerned in Nolte's case with debunking a minimization or denial of the Holocaust at all. Indeed, she acknowledges that he not only affirms its occurrence, but that it occurred in its full dimensions What she has in n-dnd instead is to use Nolte as a vehicle upon which to attack comparative methods per se.

This is accomplished via an uninterrupted transition from Lipstadt's solid denunciations of Diwald's, Hillgruber's and Sturmer’s spurious attempts to equate German suffering under the Soviets with that of the Jews under nazism, to her purported rebuttal of Nolte's much broader sets of comparisons, all four of which are thereby lumped together as a unified whole. As the first three men's comparisons are not only inaccurate but immoral, so too are Nolte's and, by extension, comparison by anyone of any phenomenon to the Holocaust. All efforts to contextualize the latter- "relativizing" it-are by definition at least as reprehensible as denial itself in Lipstadt's scheme of things.

These historians are not crypto-deniers, but the results of the work are the same: the blurring of boundaries between fact and fiction... Ultimately the relativists contribute to the fostering of what I call the "Yes, but" syndrome... Yes, there was a Holocaust, but it was essentially no different than an array of other conflagrations in which innocents were massacred. The question that logically follows from this is, Why, -then, do we "only" hear about the Holocaust? For the deniers and many others who are "not yet" deniers, the answer to this final question is obvious: because of the power of the Jews. "Yes, but" is a response that falls into the gray area between outright denial and relativism. In certain respects it is more insidious than outright denial because it nurtures a form of pseudo-history whose motives are difficult to identify. It is the equivalent of David Duke without his robes (emphasis added).

This, from a woman who claims to reject "immoral equivalencies." The wild sweep of her brush not only smears Nolte with the same tar as Hillgruber and Diwald-or Paul Rassinier and David Irving, for that matter-but also such decisively anti-nazi historians as Joachim Fest, who have defended Nolte's comparativist methods while disagreeing with many of his conclusions. By the same token, the splatters extend without nuance or distinction to a host of emphatically progressive scholars like David Stannard, Ian Hancock and Vahakn Dadrian, each of whom has argued the case that one or more other peoples has suffered a genocide comparable to that experienced by the Jews without attempting to diminish the gravity and significance of the Holocaust in the least (if anything, they endeavor to reinforce its importance as an historical benchmark). Even Jewish scholars like Israel Chamey and Richard Rubinstein, and nazi-hunter Simon Weisenthal, who acknowledge similarities between the nazi genocide and those undergone by Armenians, Poles, Gypsies, American Indians and others, are necessarily encompassed within Lipstadt's astonishing definition of neo-Nazi scholarships.

What has happened is that, in her project's final pages, the author has subtly-one might say deceptively-substituted one agenda for another. Without pause or notification, she shifts from the entirely worthy objective of systematically exposing, confronting and repudiating those who deny the existence of the Holocaust as an historical reality to a far more dubious attempt to confirm the nazi genocide of European Jewry as something absolutely singular, a process without parallel in all of human history.69 There is a tremendous difference between the two propositions, yet Lipstadt bends every effort to make them appear synonymous. In effect, any and all "failures" to concede the intrinsic "phenomenological uniqueness" of the Holocaust is to be guilty of denying it altogether.

Hence, a Joachim Fest is to be seen as the "moral equivalent" of a Paul Rassinier, an Ian Hancock as equaling a Richard Verrall, an Israel Chamey equating to an Arthur Butz. All of them being "cut of the same moral cloth," all are to be equally vilified and discredited. Ultimately, only the Truth of the exclusivity of the Holocaust remains unscathed. The fundamental and deliberate distortions of Lipstadt's formulation speaks for itself. It is a lie, or complex of lies, consciously and maliciously uttered, lies of a type which readily conform in their magnitude and intent to those of the very deniers Lipstadt has devoted the bulk of her text to combating. In the end, Denying the Holocaust is thereby reduced by its author to an exercise in holocaust denial.

 

Uniqueness as Denial

Nowhere is Lipstadt's allegiance to the kind of duplicitous argumentation deployed by deniers more obvious than when, during her polemic against Ernst Nolte, she "explains" why the mass internment of Japanese-Americans by the United States in 1942 is different in kind, not just from outright extermination programs, but from nazism's policy as a whole: "In [an] attempt at immoral equivalence, Nolte contends that just as the American internment of Japanese Americans was justified by the attack on Pearl Harbor, so too was the Nazi "internment' of European Jews. In making this comparison Nolte ignores the fact that, however wrong, racist, and unconstitutional the U.S. internment of the Japanese (emphasis added), the Jews had not bombed Nazi cities or attacked German forces in 1939. Even his use of the term internment to describe what the Germans did to the Jews whitewashes historical reality."

Actually, what Nolte argues is that neither example is more justified than the other, a very different position from that of which he is accused. Secondly, Lipstadt's conversion of Japanese-Americans into 'Japanese" within the space of a single sentence is illuminating. Plainly, the misrepresentation-magically transforming a racially-defined group of American citizens into subjects of a hostile foreign power-is vital to her position. Equally plainly, an identical notion-that the Jews comprised a foreign and racially-hostile element within German society-was a crux of Hitlerian ideology. The nazis held, falsely, that Jews thus comprised an inherent "Fifth Column" within German-held territory, a myth duly adopted by David Irving and other deniers to justify Jewish internment (but not extermination, since they claim it did not occur). The U.S., for exactly similar reasons, contended that Americans of Japanese extent constituted a comparably subversive element, a glaring untruth Lipstadt seconds without hesitancy or equivocation.76 In any event, "internment" is a word which sanitizes the experiences of both the Japanese-Americans and the Jews.

Whatever Nolte's shortcomings, and they are many, it is Lipstadt, not him, who is ignoring facts here, forming a methodological symmetry with the deniers. The same may be said with respect to her cavalier dismissals of any possibility for legitimate comparison between the Jewish experience under the nazis and that of other peoples slaughtered as a matter of state policy during the twentieth century. Take "the brutal Armenian tragedy" of 1918, in which well upwards of a million people were killed and millions more subjected to a "ruthless Turkish policy of expulsion and resettlement." This was "horrendous," Lipstadt informs us, "but it was not part of a process of total annihilation of an entire people," so it is not comparable to the Holocaust.

This "yes, but" conclusion is immediately followed by others. The "barbaric" Khmer Rouge extermination campaign in Cambodia? It was "conducted as part of a brutalizing war" in which "imagined collaborators"-a million of them?-were "subdued and eliminated. "What the Nazis did to the Jews, unlike what the Khmer Rouge did to the Cambodians, was "gratuitous." Besides, Cambodia is a backwards kind of place, not "a prosperous, advanced, industrial nation at the height of its power" like Germany, so the fate of its population apparently doesn't count as much as the fate of more advanced mortals." Hence, it is obviously "immoral" to compare the Khmer Rouge genocide to that perpetrated by nazism.

The Soviet "collectivization" of the 1930s, in which millions of people were deliberately starved to death as a matter of developmental economic policy, is depicted as being "arbitrary" rather than "targeted [on] a particular group.""' This will undoubtedly come as a great surprise and comfort to the Ukrainians who have seen themselves as having been very much targeted by the Soviets, about five of the seven million estimated deaths by starvation during the winter of 1931-32 alone having accrued from their ranks." It will likely prove even more startling to the Kazakhs, who were totally obliterated.113 And, since "no citizen of the Soviet Union assumed that deportation and death were inevitable consequences of his or her ethnic origins," no legitimate comparison of Stalinist "terror" to the Holocaust is possible. To suggest otherwise, much less to argue the point, is to become 'David Duke without his robes" or, at best, guilty of Ilan unconscious reflection of anti-Semitic attitudes."

Such historical misrepresentations of other peoples' suffering aside, the essential claim to uniqueness for the Holocaust put forth by Lipstadt and those sharing her view, is lodged in a double fallacy concerning the experience of their own. The first half of this duality is the assertion that, under the nazis, "every single one of millions of targeted Jews was to be murdered. Eradication was to be total (emphasis in the original) ." This was true, according to senior Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, not just with respect to German or even European Jewry, but worldwide, because nazism set out in a "pseudo-religious" and "pseudo-messianic" fashion to extirpate Jews an a "global, universal, even cosmic" scale (emphasis in the original) .17 As Cornell University professor Steven T. Katz frames things, "the Nazi racial imperative [was] that all Jews must die, and that they must die here and now." And, Bauer concludes elsewhere, "total physical annihilation ... is what happened to the Jews (emphasis added)."119

These characterizations of nazi intent and its impact upon its victims couples readily to the second part of the dualism: nothing meeting this description of the Holocaust has ever happened to anyone else, anywhere, at any time. "To date," says Bauer, "this has happened once, to the Jews under Nazism."90 "The fate of the Jews under National Socialism was [therefore] unique," historian Lucy Dawidowicz continues.91 This is because, as Michael Man-us puts it his book, The Holocaust in History, in cases like that of the Armenians, the "killing was far from universal.1192 Or, as Yehuda Bauer is wont to wrap things up, in every other recorded instance of wholesale and systematic population eradication, "the destruction was not complete.1193

The problem is that neither half of this tidy whole is true. Rhetoric notwithstanding, there is no evidence at all that any nazi leader, Hitler included, ever manifested a serious belief that it would actually be possible to liquidate every Jew on the planet .94 Indeed, there is considerable ambiguity in the record as to whether the total physical annihilation of European Jewry itself was actually a fixed policy objectives What is revealed instead is a rather erratic and contradictory hodgepodge of anti-Jewish policies which, as late as mid-1944, included an apparently genuine offer by the SS to trade a million Jews to the Western allies in exchange for 10,000 trucks to be used Germany's war against the Soviets.15 Contrary to Bauer's irrational contention of a "cosmic" and unparalleled total extermination, approximately two-thirds of the global Jewish population survived the Holocaust, as did about a third of the Jews of Europe.16

This in no way diminishes nazi culpability. There can be no question but that nazism's program for creating a judenrein lebensraum (Jew-free living space) for "Aryans" entailed a substantial reduction in the size of the European Jewish population, thoroughgoing dislocation/expulsion of survivors, and a virtually total elimination of Jewish cultural existence within the German sphere of influence . Nor can there be any serious question as to whether the nazis were willing in the end to kill every Jew who came within their grasp, if that's what was required to achieve the goal. All of this, beyond doubt, qualifies as genocide," but it is a far cry from the uniquely totalizing and obsessive drive to achieve a complete biological liquidation of Jewry attributed to the Holocaust by "scholars" like Yehuda Bauer, Steven Katz and Deborah Lipstadt.

Stripped of the veneer of falsehood and invention with which such propagandists have larded it, the experience of the Jewish people under nazism is revealed as being unique only in the sense that all such phenomena exhibit ur-dque characteristics. Genocide, as the nazis practiced it, was never something suffered exclusively by Jews, nor were the nazis singularly guilty of its practice." In attempting to make it appear otherwise-and thus to claim the privileged status attending and "unparalleled" victimization peddled as being transcendently their own ("accumulating moral capital," as exclusivist Edward Alexander has unabashedly put it) proponents of uniqueness have engaged in holocaust denial on the grand scale, not only with respect to the Armenians, Ukrainians and Cambodians, but as regards scores of other instances of genocide, both historical and contemporary.

By doing so, they have contributed, heavily and often with an altogether squalid enthusiasm, to the invisibility of the victims of this hideous multiplicity of processes in exactly the same way the Jewish victims of nazism have often been rendered invisible even by those whose work falls well short of outright Holocaust denial."' To this extent, Lipstadt and her colleagues have greatly surpassed anything attempted by Rassinier and his ilk. Those who would deny the Holocaust, after all, focus their distortions upon one target. Those who deny all holocausts other than that of the Jews have the same effect upon many. Certainly, the latter is not an ethical or moral posture superior to the former.

 

Reclaiming the Invisible Victims

The costs of these systematic assaults on truth and memory by those who argue the uniqueness of Jewish victimization have often been high for those whose suffering is correspondingly downgraded or shunted into historical oblivion. This concerns not only the victims of the many genocides occurring outside the framework of nazism, but non-Jews targeted for elimination within the Holocaust itself. Consider, for example, the example of the Sinti and Roma peoples (Gypsies, also called "Romani"), whom Lipstadt doesn't deign to accord so much as mention in her book- Her omission is no doubt due to an across-the-board and steadfast refusal of the Jewish scholarly, social and political establishments over the past fifty years to even admit the Gypsies were part of the Holocaust, a circumstance manifested most strikingly in their virtual exclusion from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

In their zeal to prevent what they call a "dilution" or "de-judaization" of the Holocaust, Jewish exclusivists have habitually employed every device known to deniers to depict the Parramjos (as the Holocaust is known in the Romani language; the Hebrew equivalent is Sho'ah) as having been something "fundamentally different" from the Holocaust itself. The first technique has been to consistently minimize Gypsy fatalities. Lucy Dawidowicz, for instance, when she mentions them at all, is prone to repeating the standard mythology that, "of about one million Gypsies in the countries that fell under German control, nearly a quarter of them were murdered." The point being made is that, while Gypsy suffering was no doubt "unendurable," it was proportionately far less than that of the Jews."

Actually, as more accurate-or honest-demographic studies reveal, the Gypsy population of German-occupied Europe likely came to somewhere around two minion in 1939. Of these, it was known at least thirty years ago that between 500,000 and 750,000 died in camps such as Buchenwald, Neuengamme, Bergen-Belsen, Belzec, Chehmo, Majdanek, Sobib6r and Auschwitz. More recent research shows that there have been as many as a million more Gypsies exterminated when the tolls taken by the Einsatzgruppen, antipartisan operations in eastern Europe and actions by nazi satellite forces are factored in. One reason for this ambiguity in terms of how many Gypsies died at the hands of the nazis, leaving aside the gross undercounting of their initial population, is that their executioners not infrequently tallied their dead in with the numbers of Jews killed (thus somewhat inflating estimations of the Jewish count while diminishing that of the Sinti and Roma). In sum, it is plain that the proportional loss of the Gypsies during the Holocaust was at least as great as that of the Jews, and quite probably greater.

Be that as it may, exclusivists still contend that the Gypsies stand apart from the Holocaust because, unlike the Jews, they were "not marked for complete annihilation.""' According to Richard Breitman, "The Nazis are not known to have spoken of the Final Solution of the Polish problem or the gypsy problem." Or, as Yehuda Bauer had the audacity to put it in his three-page entry on "Gypsies" in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust--that's all the space the Sinti and Roma are accorded in this 2,000 page work, the editor of which lacked the decency even to have a Gypsy write the material filling it- "[The] fate of the Gypsies was in line with Nazi thought as a whole; Gypsies were not Jews, and therefore there was no need to kill them all.

Keeping in n-mind the likelihood that there was always a less than perfect mesh between the rhetoric and realities of nazi exterminations in all cases, including that of the Jews, the distinctions drawn here bear scrutiny. As we shall see with respect to the Poles, such claims are of dubious validity. As concerns the Gypsies, they amount to a boldfaced lie. This is readily evidenced by Himmler’s "Decree for Basic Regulations to Resolve the Gypsy Question as Required by the Nature of Race" of December 8, 1938, which initiated preparations for the Oicomplete extermination of the Sinti and Roma (emphasis added)." Shortly after this, in February 1939, a brief was circulated by Johannes Behrendt of the nazi Office of Racial Hygiene in which it was stated that "all Gypsies should be treated as hereditarily sick; the only solution is elimination. The aim should be the elimination without hesitation of this defective population.""' Hitler himself is reported to have verbally ordered "the liquidation of all Jews, gypsies and communist political functionaries in the entire Soviet Union" as early as June 1940. A year later, Obergruppenfiihrer Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Main Security Office, followed up by instructing his Einsatzcommandos to "kill all Jews, Gypsies and mental patients" in the conquered areas of the East.

Heydrich, who had been entrusted with the "final solution of the Jewish question" on 31st July 1941, shortly after the German invasion of the USSR, also included the Gypsies in his "final solution... The senior SS officer and Chief of Police for the East, Dr. Landgraf, in Riga, informed Rosenberg's Reich Commissioner for the East, Lohse, of the inclusion of the Gypsies in-the "final solution." Thereupon, Lohse gave the order, on 24th December 1941, that the Gypsies "should be given the same treatment as the Jews."

At about the same time, "Adolf Eichmann made the recommendation that the 'Gypsy Question' be solved simultaneously with the 'Jewish Question'... Himmler signed the order dispatching Germany's Sinti and Roma to Auschwitz on 16 December 1942. The 'Final Solution' of 'Gypsy Question' had begun" at virtually the same moment it can be said to have really gotten underway for the Jews."' Indeed, Gypsies were automatically subject to whatever policies applied to Jews during the entire period of the Final Solution, pursuant to a directive issued by Himmler on December 24,1941 (i.e., four months prior to the Wannsee Conference which set the full-fledged extermination program in motion). Hence, there is no defensible way the fate of the Gypsies can be distinguished from that of the Jews.

One of the more disgusting means by which Jewish exclusivists have nonetheless attempted to do so, however, concerns their verbatim regurgitation of the nazi fable that, again contra the Jews, Gypsies were killed en mass, not on specifically racial grounds, but because as a group they were "asocials" (criminals) . And, as if this blatantly racist derogation weren't bad enough, the Rabbi Seymour Siegel, a former professor of ethics at the Jewish Theological Seminary and at the time executive director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, compounded the affront by using the pages of the Washington Post to publicly cast doubt as to whether Gypsies can even make a legitimate claim to comprising a distinct people .

Predictably, Yehuda Bauer, no stranger to self-contradiction as he thrashes about, playing all ends against the middle in his interminable effort to "prove beyond all shadow of doubt" the uniqueness of Jewish suffering, presumes to have the last word not once, but twice, and in his usual mutually exclusive fashion. First, completely ignoring the 1935 Nuremburg Laws, which defined Gypsies in precisely the same racial terms as Jews, he baldly states that "the Gypsies were not murdered for racial reasons, but as so-called asocials ... nor was their destruction complete." Then, barely two pages later, he reverses field entirely, arguing that the Sinti and Romani were privileged over Jews-and were thus separate from the "true" Holocaust-because a tiny category of "racially safe" Gypsies were temporarily exempted from death. Besides trying to have it both ways, it is as if this leading champion of exclusivism were unaware of the roughly 6,000 Karait Jews who were permanently spared in accordance with nazism's bizarre racial logic.

To be fair, there are a few differences between the Jewish and Gypsy experiences under nazism. For instance, the Sinti and Roma have a noticeably better genetic claim to being "racially distinct" than do the Ashkenazic Jews of Europe. One upshot was that the racial classification of Gypsies was much more stringent and rigidly adhered to than that pertaining to Jews. By 1938, if any two of an individual's eight great-grandparents were proven to be Gypsy "by blood," even in part, he or she was formally categorized as such. This is twice as strict as the criteria used by the nazis to define Jewishness. Had the standards of "racial identity" applied to Jews been employed with regard to the Sinti and Roma, nine-tenths of Germany's 1939 Gypsy population would have survived the Holocaust.

All during the 1930s, while Gypsies as well as Jews were subjected to increasingly draconian racial oppression, first in Germany, then in Austria and Czechoslovakia, a certain amount of international outrage was expressed in behalf of the Jews. Foreign diplomatic and business pressure was exerted, resulting in an at least partial and transient alleviation in Jewish circumstances, and facilitating Jewish emigration to a degree (150,000 left by 1938). From then until the collapse of the Third Reich, the nazis displayed a periodic willingness to broker Jewish lives for a variety of reasons, and diplomats like Sweden's Count Folke Bernadotte made efforts to affect their rescue. None of this applies to the Sinti and Roma.

The Western democracies have been harshly-and properly-criticized for their failure to intervene more forcefully to prevent the genocide of the Jews, even to the extent of allowing greater non Jewish refugees to find sanctuary within their borders. The fact is, however, that nothing at all was done to save the Gypsies from their identical fate, and in this connection international Jewish organizations have no better record than do the governments of the United States, Great Britain and Canada. To the contrary, it was arguably the Jewish organizations themselves which served as the vanguard in obscuring what was happening to the Gypsies even as it happened, a posture they've never abandoned. As researcher Ian Hancock describes the results: "It is an eerie and disheartening feeling to pick [reference books like Encyclopedia of the Third Reich] and find the attempted genocide of one's people written completely out of the historical record. Perhaps worse, in the English-language translation of at least one book, that by Lujan Dobroszycki of The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, the entire reference to the liquidation of the gypsy camp there (entry number 22 for April 29 and 20, 1942, in the original work) has been deleted deliberately. I have been told, but have not yet verified, that translations of other works on the Holocaust have also had entries on the Roma and Sinti removed. Furthermore, I do not want to read references to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in the national press and learn only that it is a monument to "the plight of European Jews," as the New York Times-- told its readers on December 23, 1993. I want to be able to watch epics such as Schindler’s List and learn that Gypsies were a central part of the Holocaust, too; or other films, such as Escape from Sobib6r, a Polish camp where, according to Kommandant Franz Stangl in his memoirs, thousands of Roma and Sinti were murdered, and not hear the word "Gypsy" except once, and then only as the name of somebody's dog.

Or, to take an even more poignant another example: National Public Radio (NPR) in Washington, DC, covered extensively the fiftieth anniversary of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 26, 199t, but Gypsies were never once mentioned', despite being well represented at the commemoration. In its closing report on NPR's "Weekend Edition" on January 28; Michael Goldfarb described how "candles were-placed along the tracks that delivered Jews and Poles to their death." But it was little wonder the Gypsies were-n't mentioned; they were not allowed to participate in the candle ceremony. An article -on the Auschwitz commemoration that appeared not the C.S. press) included a group of Roma staring mournfully reading 'Colci-shouldered: "Gypsies, whose ancestors were to watch the ceremony from outside the compound." In a speech said that the Jewish people "were singled out for destruction during the Holocaust."

The attitudes underlying such gestures are manifested, not merely in Jewish exclusivism's sustained and concerted effort to expunge the Parrajmo from history, but, more concretely, through its ongoing silence concerning the present resurgence of nazi-like antigypsyism in Europe. In 1992, the government of the newly-unified German Republic negotiated a deal in which it paid more than a hundred million deutschmarks to Romania-notoriously hostile to Gypsies--in exchange for that cashpoor country's acceptance of the bulk of Germany's Sinti/Roma population (a smaller side deal is being arranged with Poland to receive the rest). Summary deportations began during the fall of 1993, with more than 20,000 people expelled to date, for no other reason than that they are Gypsies. Their reception upon arrival? A December 1993 news story sums it up very well.

An orgy of mob lynching and house-bun-dng with police collaboration has turned into something more sinister for- Roma-m'a's hated Gypsies: the beginnings of a nationwide campaign. of terror launch led by groups modeling themselves on the Ku Klux Klan... "We are many, and very determined. We % ill skin-the Gypsies soon. We will take their eyeballs out, smash their teeth, and cut off their noses. The first will be hanged."

The German government had every reason to know this would be the case well before it began deportations. The depth and virulence of Romania's antigypsy sentiment was hardly an historical mystery. Moreover, a leader of the Romanian fascist movement, directly descended from the Arrow Cross formations which avidly embraced nazi racial policies during World War II, had openly announced what would happen nearly six months earlier: "Our war against the Gypsies will start in the fall. Until them, preparations will be made to obtain arms; first we are going to acquire chemical sprays. We will not spare minors either."

No accurate count of how many Gypsies have been killed, tortured, maimed or otherwise physically abused in Romania is presently available (unconfirmed reports run into the hundreds). What is known is that there has been a veritable news blackout m the topic, and that reaction from those elements of the Jewish establishment which profess to serve as the "world's conscience" on such matters has been tepid at best. No serious protest arose from that quarter, not even when Romani leaders, hoping to avoid what they knew was in store, took a large delegation of their people during the spring of 1993 to seek sanctuary in the Neuenganune concentration camp where their fathers and mothers were murdered a generation earlier. Certainly, no Jewish human rights activists came forth to stand with them as an act of solidarity.

As usual, it was Yehuda Bauer who produced what was perhaps the best articulation of exclusivist sentiment on the matter. As early as 1990, he was publicly complaining that such desperate attempts by Gypsies to end the condition of invisibility he himself had been so instrumental in imposing upon them was coming into "competition" with the kind of undeviating focus on "radical anti-Semitism" he'd spent his life trying to engender. No better illustration of what the distinguished Princeton historian of the Holocaust Amo J. Mayer has described as the "exaggerated self-centeredness" of Jewish exclusivism and its "egregious forgetting of the larger whole and all of the other victims" can be imagined.

 

Recovering the Holocaust

There should be no need to go into such detail in rejoining exclusivist denials of the genocides perpetrated against Slavic peoples within the overall framework of the Holocaust. However, a tracing of the general contours seems appropriate, beginning with the familiar assertion that "they were treated differently from the Jews, and none were marked out for total annihilation." As Lucy Dawidowicz puts it, "It has been said that the Germans ... planned to exterminate the Poles and Russians on racial grounds since, according to Hitler's racial doctrine, Slavs were believed to be subhumans (Untermenschen). But no evidence exists that a plan to murder the Slavs was ever contemplated or developed."

There is both a grain of truth and a bucketful of falsity imbedded in these statements. In other words, it is true that Slavs were not named in the Endlosung (Final Solution) sketched out for Gypsies and Jews during the 1942 Wannsee Conference. This clearly suggests that the last two groups were given a certain priority in terms of the completion of their "special handling," but it is not at all to say that Slavs weren't "marked out" to suffer essentially the same fate in the end. Presumably, the final phases of the nazis' antislavic campaigns) would have gotten underway once those directed against the much smaller Jewish and Gypsy populations had been wrapped Up. In any event, the idea that "no plan [for Slavic extermination] was ever contemplated or developed" is quite simply false.

As is abundantly documented, the Hitlerian vision of lebensraumpolitik-the conquest of vast expanses of Slavic territory in eastern Europe for "resettlement" by a tremendously enlarged Germanic population-entailed a carefully calculated policy of eliminating resident Slavs. In the USSR alone, this planned "depopulation" was expressly designed to reduce those’ within the intended area of German colonization from about 75 million to no more than thirty million. This sizable "residue" was to be maintained for an unspecified period to serve as an expendable slave labor pool to build the infrastructure required to support what the nazis deemed "Aryan" living standards.150 The 45 million human beings constituting the difference between the existing population and its projected diminishment were to be dispensed with through a combination of massive expulsion-"drive them eastward"-and a variety of killing programs."'

Plans for more westerly Slavic peoples like the Poles, Slovenes and Serbs were even worse (or at any rate set on a faster track). As early as Mein Kampf, Hitler unambiguously announced that they, like the Jews, were to be entirely exterminated. For the Poles at least, this was to be accomplished in a series of stages which seems likely to have been intended as a model for similarly phased eradication of the Ukrainians and other peoples to the east: immediately upon conquest, the Poles would be "decapitated" (i.e., their social, political and intellectual leadership would be annihilated, en toto); second, the mass of the population would be physically relocated in whatever configuration best served the interests of the German economy; third, the Poles would be placed on starvation rations and worked to death.153 Whether or not there would have been a fourth and "final" phase a la Auschwitz is irrelevant, since the results, both practical and intended, are identical.

Unlike the Gypsies and Jews, the Slavs were mostly organized in a way lending itself to military resistance.114 Consequently, planning for their decimation necessarily factored in attrition through military confrontational Insofar as German methods in the East, in sharp contrast to those employed against nonslavic western opponents, always devolved upon the concept of "a war of annihilation," the extraordinarily high death rates suffered by Soviet prisoners of war are not really separable from the extermination plan as a whole. Similarly, according to SS GruppenfWuer Eric von dern Bach-Zelewski, who commanded antipartisan operations in eastern Europe, the manner in which such warfare was waged was consciously aimed not just a t suppressing guerrilla activities, but to help "achieve Himmler's goal of reducing the Slavic population to 30 million."

Available evidence suggests that the principle victims in the partisan-Nazi confrontations were the civilian population. Thus, for example, when 9,902 partisans were killed or executed between August and November 1942, at the same time the Germans executed 14,257 civilians whom they suspected of aiding the partisans... A Polish scholar, Ryszard Torzecki, views the mass extern-d -nation of civilian population as the greatest drama of the Ukraine during World War II. According to him there were 250 sites of mass extermination of Ukrainian people-together with detention camps in which thousands of people perished .. En a great many cases, mass murder was related to partisan warfare. H. Kuhnrich estimated that as a result of the antipartisan war 5,909,225 people were killed. Since the Ukraine was the center of partisan activity, if was there that the greatest losses oc curred. According to Kuhnrich some 4.5 million people, both fighters and civilians, lost their lives in the Ukraine, as did 1,409,225 in Byelorussia.

Certainly, these slaughtered civilians should be included in the total of those taken by nazi extermination policies, not labeled as "war deaths." And, if the standard practice of lumping the deaths of Jewish partisan fighters into the total of six million Jews claimed by the Holocaust were applied equally to Slavs, then plainly the bodycount of partisans should be as well. And again, since the Jews killed by Bach-Zelewski's SS men during the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising are rightly included among the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, so too should the masses of civilian Slavs liquidated during the German seizures of cities like Kiev, Kharkov, Sebastopol and Mink be tallied . When the totals of those deliberately worked to death, who died of exposure during the process of being driven eastward under any and all conditions, who were intentionally starved to death, and who perished in epidemics which spread like wildfire because of a calculated nazi policy of denying vaccines, the true dimensions of the genocide of the Slavs begins to emerge.

'Between 1939 and 1945, Poland, the first Slavic nation to fall to the Germans, suffered 6,028,000 nonmilitary deaths, about ?? percent population reduction (three million of the Polish dead were Jews, and another 200,000 or so Gypsies, so the Slavic reduction would come to about fourteen percent). Virtually every member of the Polish intelligentsia was murdered.164 In Yugoslavia, some 1.2 million civilians, or nine percent of the population, were killed between 1941 and 1945 (this is aside from approximately 300,000 military casualties suffered by the Yugoslavs).165 Impacts in other non-Soviet areas of eastern Europe e.g., Slovakia and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia-were less substantial, although nonetheless severe.

The USSR suffered by far the highest number of fatalities. By May 10, 1943, the Germans had taken 5,405,616 Soviet military prisoners; of these, around 3.5 million were starved, frozen, shot, gassed, hanged, killed by unchecked epidemic or simply worked to death. Another five million people were deported to Germany as slave laborers--2.2 million from the Ukraine alone-where an estimated three million died as a result of the intentionally abysmal conditions to which they were subjected.168 By the time the Germans were finally driven completely out of the Ukraine in 1944, its prewar population of almost 42 million had been reduced to 27.4 million, a difference of 14.5 million. Of these, at least seven million were dead.169 Overall, the Soviet Union lost, at a minimum, eleven million civilians to nazi extermination measures. The real total may run as high as fifteen million, to which must be added the 3.5 million exterminated prisoners of war, and perhaps as many as a million troops who were simply executed by Wehrmacht and Waffen SS units rather than being taken prisoner in the first place. A gross estimate of the results of nazi genocide against the Slavs thus comes to somewhere between 15.5 and 19.5 million in the USSR, between 19.7 and 23.9 million when the Poles, Slovenes, Serbs and others are added in. As Simon Weisenthal, himself a survivor of Auschwitz, long ago observed, "the Holocaust was not only a matter of the killing of six million Jews. It involved the killing of eleven million people, six million of whom were Jews." Weisenthal spoke on the basis of what was then the best available evidence. Today, some fifty years later, the only correction to be made to his statement lies in the fact that we now know his estimate of eleven million was far too low. The true human costs of nazi genocide came to 26 million or more, six million of whom were Jews, a million or more of whom were Gypsies, and the rest mostly Slavs. Only with these facts clearly in mind can we say have apprehended the full scope of the Holocaust, and that we have thereby positioned ourselves to begin to appreciate its real implications.

 

 

Uncovering the Hidden Holocausts

University of Hawaii historian David Stannard has summed up the means by with exclusivists attempt to avert such understanding. "Uniqueness advocates begin by defining genocide (or the Holocaust or the Shoah) in terms of what they already believe to be experiences undergone only by Jews. After much laborious research it is then "discovered"-mirabile dictu--that the Jewish experience was unique. If, however, critics point out after a time that those experiences are not in fact unique, other allegedly unique experiences are invented and proclaimed. If not numbers killed, how about percentage of population destroyed? If not efficiency or method of killing, how about perpetrator intentionality (emphasis in original)?" It is as Stephen Jay Gould has said of another group of intellectual charlatans, "They began with conclusions, peered through their facts, and came back in a circle to the same conclusions." As Stannard has concluded, this is not scholarship, it is sophistry.

To put it another way, as Gould does, it is "advocacy masquerading as objectivity." The connection being made is important insofar as Gould is describing the academic edifice of nineteenth century scientific racism which provided the foundation for the very nazi racial theories under which the Jews of the Holocaust suffered and died. Given that Deborah Lipstadt, Yehuda Bauer, Steven Katz, Lucy Dawidowicz and other exclusivists are of a people which has recently experienced genocide, the natural inclination is to align with them against those like Paul Rassinier, Austin App, Robert Faurisson and Arthur Butz who would absolve the perpetrators. Yet, one cannot.

'One cannot, because it is no better for Lipstadt to "neglect" to mention that the Gypsies were subjected to the same mode of extermination as the Jews-or for Dawidowicz and Bauer to contrive arguments that they weren't-than it is for Rassinier to deliberately minimized the number of Jewish victims of nazism or for Butz to deny the Holocaust altogether. C)ne cannot, because there is nothing more redeeming about Katz's smug dismissal of the applicability of the term "genocide" to any group other than his own than there is about Robert Faurisson's contention that no Jews were ever gassed. One cannot, because Yehuda Bauer's The Holocaust in Historical Perspective, Steven Katz's The Holocaust in Historical Context and Lucy Dawidowicz's The Holocaust and the Historians are really only variations of Arthur Butz's The Hoax of the Twentieth Century written in reverse. All of them, equally, are conscious exercises in the destruction of truth and memory.

Deniers of the Holocaust must, of course, be confronted, exposed for what they are, and driven into the permanent oblivion they so richly deserve. But so too must those who choose to deny holocausts more generally, and who shape their work accordingly. Deborah Lipstadt rightly expresses outrage and concern that Holocaust deniers like Bradley Smith have begun to make inroads on college campuses during the 1990s. She remains absolutely silent, however, about the implications of the fact that she and scores of other holocaust deniers have held professorial positions for decades, increasingly branding anyone challenging their manipulations of logic and evidence an "anti-Semite" or a "neo-Nazi," and frequently positioning themselves to determine who is hired and tenured in the bargain. The situation is little different in principle than if, in the converse, members of the Institute for Historical Review were similarly ensconced (which they are not, and, with the exceptions of App and Harry Elmer Barnes early m, never have been)."

Viewed on balance, then, the holocaust deniers of Jewish exclusivism represent a proportionately greater and more insidious threat to understanding than do the Holocaust deniers of the IHR variety. This is all the more true insofar as the mythology peddled by exclusivists, unlike that put forth by a Faurisson or a Richard Verrall, dovetails perfectly with the long institutionalized denials of genocides in their own histories put forth by the governments of the United States, Great Britain, France, Turkey, Indonesia and many others. Indeed, Lucy Dawidowicz has sweepingly accused those suggesting that the U.S. transatlantic slave trade was genocidal--or, by extension, that U.S. extermination campaigns against American Indians were the same-not only of anti-Semitism but of "a vicious anti-Americanism." She is equally straightforward in her efforts to contain what Robert Jay Lifton and Robert Markusen have called "the genocidal mentality" within the framework of uniquely German characteristics."Steven Katz and James Axtell, the reigning dean of American historical apologism, have taken to virtually regurgitating one another's distortive polemics without attribution."

Plainly, if we are to recover the meaning of the Holocaust in all its dimensions, according i t the respect to which it is surely due and finding within it the explanatory power it can surely yield, it is vital that we confront, expose and dismiss these "dogmatists who seek to reify and sacralize" it, converting it into a shallow and sanctimonious parody of its own significance ." Only in this way can we hope arrive at the "universality" called for by Michael Berenbaum, executive director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, when he suggested that the "Holocaust can become a symbolic orienting event in human history that can prevent recurrence."",' Undoubtedly, this was what the executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, Israel Chamy, had in mind when he denounced "the leaders and 'high priests' of different cultures who insist on the uniqueness, primacy, superiority, or greater significance of the specific genocide of their people," elsewhere adding that:

I object very strongly to the efforts to name the genocide of any one people as the single, ultimate event, or as the most important event against which all other tragedies of genocidal mass-death are to be, tested and found wanting... For me, the passion to exclude this or that mass killing from the universe of genocide, as well as the intense competition to establish the exclusive "superiority" or unique form of any one genocide, ends up creating a fetishistic atmosphere in which !he masses of 9 bodies that are not to be qualified for the definition of genocide are dumped into a conceptual black hole, where they are forgotten.

In restoring the Gypsies and Slavic peoples to the Holocaust itself, where they've always belonged, we not only exhume them from the black hole into which they've been dumped in their millions by Jewish exclusivism and neo-Nazism alike, we establish ourselves both methodologically and psychologically to remember other things as well. Not only was the Armenian holocaust a "true" genocide, the marked lack of response to it by the Western democracies was used by Adolf Hitler to reassure his cabinet that there would be no undue consequences if Germany were to perpetrate its own genocide(s). Not only were Stalin's policies in the Ukrainians a genuine holocaust, the methods by which it was carried out were surely incorporate into Germany's General plan Ost just a few years later."' Not only was the Spanish policy of conscripting entire native populations into forced labor throughout the Caribbean as well as much of South and Central America holocaustal, it served as a prototype for nazi policies in eastern Europe. Not only were U.S. "clearing" operations directed against the indigenous peoples of North America genocidal in every sense, they unquestionably served as a conceptual/practical mooring to which the whole Hitlerian rendering of lebensraumpolitik was tied.

In every instance, the particularities of these prior genocides-each of them unique unto themselves-serves to inform our understanding of the Holocaust. Reciprocally, the actualities of the Holocaust serve to illuminate the nature of these earlier holocausts. No less does the procedure apply to the manner in which we approach genocides occurring since 1945, those in Katanga, Biafra, Bangladesh, Indochina, Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia, Rwanda, Bosnia and on and on.112 Our task is-must be-to fit all the various pieces together in such a way as to obtain at last a comprehension of the whole. There is no other means available to us. We must truly "think of the unthinkable," seriously and without proprietary interest, if ever we are to put an end to the "human cancer" which has spread increasingly throughout our collective organism over the past five centuries.191 To this end, denial in any form is anathema.