Responses to common Holocaust-denial claims
The following are summaries of five (5) major claims frequently made by Holocaust-denial
propagandists. Click on each to read a brief factual response. The footnoted sources are listed at the bottom of the page.
1) The Holocaust Did Not Occur Because There Is No Single "Master Plan"
for Jewish Annihilation
2) There Were No Gas Chambers Used for Mass Murder at Auschwitz and Other Camps
3) Holocaust Scholars Rely on the Testimony of Survivors Because There Is No Objective Documentation Proving the Nazi Genocide
4) There Was No Net Loss of Jewish Lives Between 1941 and 1945
5) The Nuremberg Trials Were a "Farce of Justice" Staged for the Benefit of the Jews
The Holocaust Did Not Occur Because There Is No Single "Master Plan"
for Jewish Annihilation
There is no single Nazi
document that expressly enumerates a "master plan" for the annihilation
of European Jewry. Holocaust-denial propagandists misrepresent this
fact as an exposure of the Holocaust "hoax"; in doing so, they reveal
a fundamentally misleading approach to the history of the era. That
there was no single document does not mean there was no plan. The
"Final Solution" — the Nazis' comprehensive plan to murder all European
Jews — was, as the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust observes,
"the culmination of a long evolution of Nazi Jewish policy."
The destruction process was shaped gradually: it was borne of many
thousands of directives.2
The development and implementation
of this process was overseen and directed by the highest tier of
Nazi leadership, including Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich,
Adolf Eichmann, Hermann Goering and Adolf Hitler himself. For the
previous two decades, Hitler had relentlessly pondered Jewish annihilation.3
In a September 16, 1919, letter he wrote that while "the Jewish
problem" demanded an "anti-Semitism of reason" -- comprising systematic
legal and political sanctions -- "the final goal, however, must
steadfastly remain the removal of the Jews altogether."4
Throughout the 1920s, Hitler
maintained that "the Jewish question" was the "pivotal question"
for his Party and would be solved "with well-known German thoroughness
to the final consequence."5
With his assumption to power in 1933,
Hitler's racial notions were implemented by measures that increasingly
excluded Jews from German society.
On January 30, 1939, Hitler
warned that if Jewish financiers and Bolsheviks initiated war, "The
result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the
victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe."6
On, September 21, 1939, after the Germans invaded Poland, SD chief
Heydrich ordered the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units
operating in German-occupied territory) to forcibly concentrate
Polish Jews into ghettos, alluding to an unspecified "final aim."
In the summer of 1941, with
preparations underway for invading Russia, large-scale mass murder
initiatives -- already practiced domestically upon the mentally
ill and deformed -- were broadly enacted against Jews. Heydrich,
acting on Hitler's orders, directed the Einsatzgruppen to
implement the "special tasks" of annihilation in the Soviet Union
of Jews and Soviet commissars.8
On July 31, Heydrich received orders from Goering to prepare plans
"for the implementation of the aspired final solution of the Jewish
question" in all German-occupied areas.9
Eichmann, while awaiting trial in Israel in 1960, related that Heydrich
had told him in August 1941 that "the Führer has ordered the physical
extermination of the Jews."10
Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz, wrote in 1946 that
"In the summer of 1941... Himmler said to me, 'The Führer has ordered
the Final Solution to the Jewish Question... I have chosen the Auschwitz
camp for this purpose.' "11
On January 20, 1942, Heydrich
convened the Wannsee Conference to discuss and coordinate implementation
of the Final Solution. Eichmann later testified at his trial:
were discussing the subject quite bluntly, quite differently from
the language that I had to use later in the record. During the conversation
they minced no words about it at all... they spoke about methods
of killing, about liquidation, about extermination.12
Ten days after the conference,
while delivering a speech at the Sports Palace in Berlin that was
recorded by the Allied monitoring service, Hitler declared: "The result
of this war will be the complete annihilation of the Jews. . . the
hour will come when the most evil universal enemy of all time will
be finished, at least or a thousand years."13
On February 24, 1943, he stated: "This struggle will not end with
the annihilation of Aryan mankind, but with the extermination of the
Jewish people in Europe.14
Approximately 6 million
Jews were killed in the course of Hitler's Final Solution.
2. There Were No Gas Chambers Used for Mass Murder at Auschwitz
and Other Camps
Death camp gas chambers
were the primary means of execution used against the Jews during
the Holocaust. The Nazis issued a directive implementing large-scale
gas chambers in the fall of 1941 but, by then, procedures facilitating
mass murder, including the utilization of smaller gas chambers,
were already in practice. Before their use in death camps, gas chambers
were central to Hitler's "eugenics" program. Between January 1940
and August 1941, 70,273 Germans -- most of them physically handicapped
or mentally ill -- were gassed, 20-30 at a time, in hermetically
shut chambers disguised as shower rooms.15
Meanwhile, mass shooting of Jews had been extensively
practiced on the heels of Germany's Eastern campaign. But these
actions by murder squads had become an increasingly unwieldy process
by October 1941. Three directors of the genocide, Erhard Wetzel,
head of the Racial-Policy Office, Alfred Rosenberg, consultant on
Jewish affairs for the Occupied Eastern Territories, and Victor
Brack, deputy director of the Chancellery, met at the time with
Adolf Eichmann to discuss the use of gas chambers in the genocide
Thereafter, two technical advisors for the euthanasia gas chambers,
Kriminalkommissar Christian Wirth and a Dr. Kallmeyer, were sent
to the East to begin construction of mass gas chambers.17
Physicians who had implemented the euthanasia program were also
Mobile gassing vans, using
the exhaust fumes of diesel engines to kill passengers, were used
to kill Jews at Chelmno and Treblinka -- as well as other sites,
not all of them concentration camps -- starting in November 1941.18
At least 320,000 Chelmno prisoners, most of them Jews, were killed
by this method; a total of 870,000 Jews were murdered at Treblinka
using gas vans and diesel-powered gas chambers.19
Gas chambers were installed
and operated at Belzec, Lublin, Sobibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau
from September 3, 1941, when the first experimental gassing of a
group of Soviet prisoners-of-war took place at Auschwitz, until
Working with chambers measuring an average 225 square feet, the
Nazis forced to their deaths 700 to 800 men, women and children
at a time.21 Two-thirds of this program was completed in 1943-44, and at
its height it accounted for as many as 20,000 victims per day.22
Authorities have estimated that these gas chambers accounted for
the deaths of approximately 2½ to 3 million Jews.
Holocaust-denial attacks on this record of mass murder
intensified following the end of the Cold War when it was reported
that the memorial at Auschwitz was changed in 1991 to read that
1 million had died there, instead of 4 million as previously recorded.
For Holocaust deniers, this change appeared to confirm arguments
that historical estimates of Holocaust deaths had been deliberately
exaggerated, and that scholars were beginning to "retreat" in the
face of "revisionist" assertions. Thus, for example, Willis Carto
wrote in the February 6, 1995, issue of The Spotlight, the
weekly tabloid of his organization, Liberty Lobby, that "All 'experts'
until 1991 claimed that 4 million Jews were killed at Auschwitz.
This impossible figure was reduced in 1991. . . to I.I million.
. . . The facts about deaths at Auschwitz, however. . , are still
wrong. The Germans kept detailed records of Auschwitz deaths. .
. These show that no more than 120,000 persons of all religions
and ethnicity died at Auschwitz during the war.
. . ."
In fact, Western scholars
have never supported the figure of 4 million deaths at Auschwitz;
the basis of this Soviet estimate — an analysis of the capacity
of crematoria at Auschwitz and Birkenau — has long been discredited.
As early as 1952, Gerald Reitlinger, a British historian, had convincingly
challenged this method of calculation. Using statistics compiled
in registers for Himmler, he asserted that approximately 1 million
people had died at Auschwitz; Raul Hilberg in 1961, and Yehuda Bauer
In 1989, confirmed Reitlinger's estimate of Auschwitz victims. Each
of these scholars, nonetheless, has recognized that nearly 6 million
Jews were killed overall during the Holocaust.23
Polish authorities were therefore
responding to long-accepted Western scholarship, further confirmed
subsequently by documents released in post-Soviet Russia; the cynical
allegations of "Holocaust revisionism" played no part in their decision.
Holocaust Scholars Rely on the Testimony of Survivors Because There
Is No Objective Documentation Proving the Nazi Genocide.
Another frequent claim of
Holocaust "revisionists" concerns what they describe as the lack
of objective documentation proving the facts of the Holocaust, and
the reliance by scholars on biased and poorly recollected testimonies
of survivors. However, the Germans themselves left no shortage of
documentation and testimony to these events, and no serious scholar
has relied solely on survivor testimony as the conclusive word on
Holocaust history. Lucy Dawidowicz, in the preface to her authoritative
work, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, wrote,
"The German documents
captured by the Allied armies at the war's end have provided an
incomparable historical record, which, with regard to volume and
accessibility, has been unique in the annals of scholarship....
The National Archives and the American Historical Association jointly
have published 67 volumes of Guides to German Records Microfilmed at Alexandria, VA. For my work I
limited myself mainly to published German documents."24
The author then proceeds to
list 303 published sources — excluding periodicals — documenting the
conclusions of her research. Among these sources are the writings
of recognizable Nazi policy makers such as Adolf Hitler, Heinrich
Himmler, Rudolf Hoess and Alfred Rosenberg.
Similarly, Raul Hilberg
in his three-volume edition of The Destruction of the European
Jews, wrote, "Between 1933 and 1945 the public offices and corporate
entities of Nazi Germany generated a large volume of correspondence.
Some of these documents were destroyed in Allied bombings, and many
more were systematically burned in the course of retreats or in
anticipation of surrender. Nevertheless, the accumulated paper work
of the German bureaucracy was vast enough to survive in significant
quantities, and even sensitive folders remained.25
It is thus largely from
these primary sources that the history of the Holocaust has been
compiled. A new factor in this process is the sudden availability
of countless records from the former Soviet Union, many of which
had been overlooked or suppressed since their capture at war's end
by the Red Army. Needless to say, the modification of specific details
in this history is certain to continue for a number of years to
come, considering the vastness and complexity of the events which
comprise the Holocaust. However, it is equally certain that these
modifications will only confirm the Holocaust's enormity, rather
than -- as the "revisionists" would -- call it into question.
There Was No Net Loss of Jewish Lives Between 1941 and 1945
Another frequent "revisionist" assertion calls into
question the generally accepted estimates of Jewish victims of the
Holocaust. In attempting to portray the deaths of millions of Jews
as an exaggeration or a fabrication, Holocaust deniers wildly manipulate
reference works, almanac statistics, geopolitical data, bedrock
historical facts and other sources of information and reportage.
For example, "revisionists"
commonly cite various almanac or atlas figures -- typically compiled
before comprehensive accounts on the Holocaust were available --
that appear to indicate that the worldwide Jewish population before
and after World War II remained essentially stable, thereby "proving"
that 6 million Jews could not have died during this period.
The widely cited "6 million"
figure is derived from the initial 1945 Nuremberg trial estimate
of 5.7 million deaths; subsequent censuses, statistical analyses,
and other demographic studies of European Jewry have consistently
demonstrated the essential accuracy of this first tally.26
After nearly 50 years of study, historians agree that approximately
6 million Jews perished during the course of the Nazi genocide.27
In The War Against the
Jews, Lucy Dawidowicz offers a country-by-country accounting
of Jewish deaths.
NUMBER OF JEWS KILLED IN THE FINAL SOLUTION
Pre-Final Solution Population
Jewish Population Annihilated
|SSR White Russia
Germans did not occupy all the territory in this republic
The Nuremberg Trials Were a "Farce of Justice" Staged for the Benefit
of the Jews
Yet another centerpiece
of "revisionist" propaganda attacks the objectivity and legal validity
of the postwar Nuremberg Trials, where much information about the
Holocaust first became public, and where the general history of
the genocide was first established.
The actual process of bringing
Nazi war criminals to justice was a lengthy and complicated effort
involving the differing legal traditions and political agendas of
the United States, England, France and the Soviet Union. As the
historical record shows, the allied victors, if anything, erred
on the side of leniency toward the accused Nazis.
Discussions concerning allied treatment of war criminals
had begun as early as October 1943.29
In the summer months following Germany's surrender in 1945, British,
American and Soviet representatives met in London to create the
charter for an international military tribunal to prosecute "major
criminals" whose offenses extended over the entire Reich, and who
therefore could be punished by joint decision of the Governments
of the Allies.30
By early autumn, the Allies
had resolved their debates over whom to prosecute and how to define
the crimes committed during the Holocaust; the first trials began
thereafter in Nuremberg, before an international military tribunal.
The chief defendant was Hermann Goering, but the prosecution also
selected 20 other leading officials from the Nazi party, German
government ministries, central bureaucracy, armament and labor specialists,
the military and territorial chiefs.31
These trials did not result
in either "rubber stamp" guilty verdicts or identical sentences.
In fact, of the 21 defendants, three were set free; one received
a 10-year sentence; one a 15-year sentence; two, 20-year sentences;
three, life sentences,
and 11 received the death penalty.32
The defendants, moreover,
had access to 206 attorneys, 136 of whom had been Nazi party members.33
Furthermore, as Raul Hilberg stated, "The judges in Nuremberg were
established American lawyers.
They had not come to exonerate or convict. They were impressed with
their task, and they approached it with much experience in the law
and Little anticipation of the facts."34
A second round of trials
resulted in 25 death sentences, 20 life sentences, 97 sentences
of 25 years or less, and 35 not-guilty verdicts.35
By 1951, following the recommendations of an American-run clemency
board, 77 the 142 convicted criminals had been released from prison.36
1. Israel Gutman (Editor
in Chief), Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, New York,
1990, p. 788.
2. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction
of the European Jews (Student Edition), New York, 1985, p. 263.
Lucy Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, New
York, 1975, pp. 150-166. 4. Encyclopedia
of the Holocaust, Volume 2, p. 489.
5. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, p. 489.
6. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, p. 490.
7. Holocaust, Jerusalem: Keter Books, 1974, p. 104
8. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, p. 657.
9. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, p. 492.
10. Ronnie Duggar, The Texas Observer, Austin, 1992, D. 48.
11. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, pp. 641-642.
12. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, p. 657.
13. Ronnie Duggar, The Texas Observer, Austin, 1992, D. 48.
14. Holocaust, pp. 105-106.
15. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2,
16. Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust, New York, 1985, p. 219.
17. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
3, New York, 1985, pp. 873-876.
18. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, pp. 541-544
19. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2,, p. 542; Volume
4, pp. 1483, 1486.
20. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume 2, pp. 113,
21. Holocaust, p. 86.
22. Holocaust, p. 87.
23 Reitlinger, who conducted his research before Hilberg and other
scholars, arrives at a more conservative figure of approximately
4.5 murder victims; he nonetheless estimates that one-third of the
internees at concentration camps died as a result of starvation,
overwork, disease, and other consequences of their captivity. Although
his murder count is somewhat lower than that of later scholars,
his overall death count remains consistent with subsequent research.
24. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, p. 437.
25. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
26. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, p. 402.
27. Peter Hayes, Associate Professor of German History at Northwestern
University, states, "After years of studying this matter, I know
of no authority who puts the number of Jews killed [emphasis
in original] by the Nazis at less than 5.1 or more than 5.9 million
men, women and children.
28. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, p. 403.
29. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
30. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume 3,
32. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
33. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
34 Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews,
35. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
36. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume
3,, p. 1079.
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