Introduction: Denial as Anti-Semitism
Holocaust denial, which
coyly refers to itself as Holocaust revisionism, has emerged after
over two decades of propagandizing as an important "cutting edge"
ideological cement of the diverse hate movement in the 1990s. While
appearing on the surface as a rather arcane pseudo-scholarly challenge
to the well-established record of Nazi genocide during the Second
World War, Holocaust denial serves as a powerful conspiracy theory
uniting otherwise disparate fringe groups (e.g., Liberty Lobby,
various Klan factions, neo-Nazis, the Aryan Nations and other Identity
groups, racist skinheads, etc.).
On the surface, Holocaust deniers
portray themselves as individuals and groups engaged in a legitimate,
dispassionate quest for historical knowledge and "truth."
Holocaust denial is a contemporary form of the classic anti-Semitic doctrine
of the evil, manipulative and threatening world Jewish conspiracy.
Dressing themselves in pseudo-academic
garb, they have adopted the term "revisionism" in order to mask and
legitimate their enterprise. After all, the ongoing challenge to and
revision of previously accepted historical interpretation is one of
the hallmarks of the professional historian's craft.
These so-called revisionists have
appropriated the name of the post-World War I historical revisionists
of the 1920s and 1930s who challenged successfully the previously
dominant view of exclusive German guilt for causing the Great War.
They assert that the accepted premise that Nazi Germany engaged
in a premeditated campaign of systematic genocide against the Jews
of Europe during the period of the Second World War is one that
does not stand honest scholarly scrutiny.
They do not deny that Hitler's government
engaged in persecution of and discrimination against Jews in Germany
and German controlled countries. They even admit the existence of
concentration camps. They assert, however, that the anti-Semitic
actions of the Nazi government were in large part a legitimate response
to Jewish misdeeds and disloyalty during wartime. As such, the measures
taken and the use of concentration camps was not qualitatively different
from similar wartime and post-war actions of the western allies
and the Soviet Union. Only Germany is singled out for special condemnation,
they argue, because it lost the war. What they deny is the existence
of any German plan or program to subject the Jews of Europe to genocide.
Holocaust deniers seek to plant seeds
of questioning and doubt about the Holocaust in their mass audiences.
While Holocaust denial has become an article of faith among the
militants and followers of the contemporary hate movement, its success
does not depend upon conversion to that faith among the general
public. The spread of skepticism about the scope and historicity
of the Holocaust among a critical mass of public opinion would be
considered to be a significant ideological triumph in and of itself.
Holocaust denial has been widely
embraced within the otherwise disparate contemporary hate movement
because it serves as an ideological cement that meets a very contemporary
political need. In particular, it provides a sanitized envelope
for latter-day would-be Hitlers by seeking to show that the heinous
crimes ascribed to the original never took place. As such, much
of the barrier preventing politicians and movements of the ultra
right from making a strategic breakthrough by appealing to a more
mainstream audience would be removed. Accordingly, Holocaust denial
provides contemporary legitimation through posthumous rehabilitation.
It is no accident that David Duke is an avid propagator of Holocaust
denial ideology and materials. William Pierce and other neo-Nazis
who once embraced the reality of the Holocaust as the essence of
the National Socialist mission (only bemoaning the fact that it
did not fully succeed in eliminating Jews from the face of the earth)
now find it politically expedient to promote Holocaust denial.
The core message of the Holocaust
deniers is even more insidious. They recognize the fact that most
people believe that the Holocaust actually occurred. How can it
be, they ask, that the great majority have come to accept as truth
an historical assertion which is in actuality a gigantic falsehood?
They answer that most people have
come to accept uncritically the story of the Holocaust because they
have been systematically propagandized with deliberate lies for
over fifty years. These lies include materials inserted into the
educational curriculum at all levels of instruction; the content
of Holocaust-related dramatic and documentary theatrical film and
television programming; a vast Holocaust literature; public rituals
of Holocaust remembrance; and, most of all, a federally supported
museum built in the shadow of the Washington Monument in the nation's
capital. They picture a vast shadowy conspiracy that controls and
manipulates the institutions of education, culture, the media and
government in order to disseminate a pernicious mythology.
The purpose of this Holocaust mythology,
they assert, is the inculcation of a sense of guilt in the white,Western
Christian world. Those who can make others feel guilty have power
over them and can make them do their bidding. This power is used
to advance an international Jewish agenda centered in the Zionist
enterprise of the State of Israel.
Deniers argue that the manufactured
guilt and shame over a mythological Holocaust led to Western, specifically
United States, support for the establishment and sustenance of the
Israeli state — a sustenance that costs the American taxpayer over
three billion dollars per year. They assert that American taxpayers
have been and continue to be swindled as well as misled and imagine
that by showing the American and other Western peoples how and why
they have been victimized can the power of this conspiracy be broken.
Once they have been shown the "truth," that there was never any
legitimate basis for their feeling of guilt, deniers postulate that
these good people will rise up in righteous anger and treat the
Holocaust myth conspirators in an appropriate manner.
Holocaust denial is a contemporary
form of the classic anti-Semitic doctrine of the evil, manipulative
and threatening world Jewish conspiracy. It was this doctrine that
was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Holocaust. What
is on the surface a denial of the reality of genocide is, at its
core, an appeal to genocidal hatred.
This article is
excerpted from a presentation made at the 1995 Symposium of the
Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. It was subsequently
published in Conspiracies: Real Grievances, Paranoia and Mass
Movements,1996. The excerpt is used with permission of the Northwest
Coalition Against Malicious Harassment.
Next: Origins of Denial