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Institute for Historical Review

Once a leading voice in the international movement to deny the Holocaust and vindicate Hitler and the Nazi regime, the Institute for Historical Review has been in decline for several years. It has been unable to convene a major international conference or publish its Holocaust-denying Journal of Historical Review since 2002. Currently its activities have been limited to hosting minor extremist gatherings -- usually featuring a speech by IHR director Mark Weber and occasionally another Holocaust denier such as David Irving -- and operating its Web site and its e-mail list. Weber is also a supporter of embattled Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. IHR's most significant recent activity was a conference it conducted together with the neo-Nazi National Alliance in Sacramento, California, in April 2004.

Director: Mark Weber
Notable Staff: Greg Raven (until 2003), Theodore J. O'Keefe (until 2002), Bradley Smith (until 1993), Keith Stimely (until 1984), Tom Marcellus (until 1984), David McCalden (aka Lewis Brandon; until 1981)
Founded: 1978 by Willis Carto
Publications: IHR Update (online only), IHR Newsletter (Defunct), Journal of Historical Review (Defunct)
Affiliates: Legion for the Survival of Freedom (corporate name), Noontide Press (publishing division)
Notable speakers and writers (past and present): Ibrahim Alloush, Said Arikat, Friedrich Paul Berg, Arthur R. Butz, Robert H. Countess, Samuel Crowell, Richard H. Curtiss, Robert Faurisson, Ditlieb Felderer, Jürgen Graf, William Grimstad, Paul Grubach, Michael A. Hoffman II, David Irving, Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., Carlo Mattogno, Issah Nakhleh, Revilo P. Oliver, Oleg Platonov, Charles Provan, Henri Roques, Germar Rudolf, John Sack, Joe Sobran, Wilhelm Stäglich, Tomislav Sunic, Fredrick Töben, Phillip F. Tourney, Charles E. Weber, Richard A. Widmann, Glayde Whitney, Ernst Zündel


Founding and Early Years

The Institute for Historical Review and its publishing arm, the Noontide Press, were founded in 1978 by the leading organizer of modern American anti-Semitism, Willis Carto, and his wife Elisabeth. Based near Los Angeles in Torrance, California, the group pioneered organizing efforts among Holocaust deniers, who had heretofore labored mostly in isolation and obscurity. The group's first "Revisionist Convention" in September 1979 featured speakers from the U.S., France, Germany, England and Sweden, many of whom subsequently contributed articles to the inaugural issue of IHR's Journal of Historical Review the following spring. With the Noontide Press offering a means for the sale and distribution of their writings, professional deniers had found something of a rainmaker in Carto.

In a misguided bid to enlist mainstream historians to its cause, IHR obtained the 12,000-member mailing list of the Organization of American Historians, to which it sent copies of the Journal of Historical Review. The group also sent mailings to members of the American Historical Association and to subscribers of the scholarly journals Central European History and German Quarterly. Unsurprisingly, these efforts backfired: all of the organizations and journals repudiated IHR and promised to keep the group away from their mailing lists in the future. The Organization of American Historians went further, commissioning a study of IHR's materials. The results were damning, with a panel finding that the Journal of Historical Review was "nothing but a masquerade of scholarship." [See box: "OAH Responds"]

The Ideology of Holocaust Denial

The core of IHR's mission was (and remains) propagating the contention that the Holocaust, in which approximately six million European Jews were murdered, many by poison gas, by the Nazi regime during World War II, did not occur. IHR strenuously objects to the term "Holocaust denial," and its staff and contributors cast themselves as legitimate historians engaged in revising and reevaluating historical events. But the consistent thrust of its "research," its espousal of lies, half-truths and methodologically flawed arguments demonstrates that, far from dispassionately revisiting the historical evidence, it aims to deny that what has become known as the Holocaust ever occurred.

To this end IHR and its associates seek to erode the underpinnings of what they call the "Holocaust story." From the institute's inception, speakers at its conferences and writers in its journal or published by its press have labored to build a case that the Auschwitz gas chambers were either used only for delousing clothing or were merely bomb shelters; that the confessions of SS personnel, including Adolf Eichmann and Rudolf Höss, must be disregarded; that there was no policy of murdering Jews in places such as Treblinka, Majdanek and Belzec. IHR continually works to discredit the testimony of survivors and the reliability of wartime documents; several articles and speeches have been devoted to proving that Anne Frank's diary is a "fraud" fabricated after the war. One article has even suggested that the infamous German pogrom known as Kristallnacht was directed by the Jews themselves.1

Mark Weber
 Mark Weber

IHR speakers and writers contend that the Holocaust "hoax" (or "Holohoax," as they often call it) was perpetrated by Jews on a gullible public in order to create and support the State of Israel, and to defraud Western countries of billions of dollars in reparations payments to survivors. Some, including current IHR director Mark Weber (right), believe that Jews impose the guilt-inducing Holocaust "myth" on the West out of "contempt for non-Jewish humanity." Others, including Jurgen Graf, propose that the universal acceptance of the "gas chamber lie" is actually the first step in a plot by "shadowy, hidden forces" to "destroy all sovereign nations and establish a world government."

Institute of Nazism, Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism

While IHR is not characterized by the more explicit and recognizable features of neo-Nazi groups -- like tattoos and shaved heads, the use of vulgar racial epithets and calls to violence -- its political philosophy is premised on the adulation of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime and the belief that modern life is a struggle between Christians of European descent and Jews. Its affiliated Noontide Press publishes and disseminates Nazi and anti-Semitic classics such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf, and The Myth of the Twentieth Century, along with contemporary titles like The Turner Diaries and David Duke's My Awakening. On audio tape, its offerings include Luftwaffe Songs and Stormtrooper Marches. Noontide Press's Web site now also offers full text versions of Mein Kampf and The International Jew, and an almost-complete reproduction in English of Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher's 1934 German children's book, The Poisonous Mushroom, including its caricatured illustrations of Jews and its obscene nursery rhymes.

The Poisonous Mushroom
"Here, kids, I have some candy for you. But you both have to come with me."
From The Poisonous Mushroom (1934)

A devil goes through the land,
The Jew he is, known to us all
As murderer of the peoples and polluter of the races,
The terror of children in every country!
He wants to ruin the youth.
He wants all peoples to die.

IHR has also maintained relationships with Nazi officers from World War II. When he died in 1994, the Belgian Nazi Leon Degrelle, who commanded an SS Division during World War II, was memorialized as a "friend of IHR" by Mark Weber. Indeed, until he died, the unrepentant Degrelle published long essays lauding Hitler in the Journal of Historical Review. The Journal also published articles admiring Hitler by Nazi General Otto Ernst Remer, who was instrumental in keeping der Führer in power after the failed assassination attempt against him in 1944, and who was a featured speaker at the eighth IHR conference in 1987. The Journal has featured articles by other, lesser-known Nazis as well.

These efforts, and many others, at justifying Hitler's actions, turn moral and historical judgments inside out. IHR portrays Hitler as a man of peace who was attacked by Allied powers jealous of the new nation he was building; it recasts Hitler's racism as a justified response to the purported hostility Jews and other minorities felt towards Germany; it glorifies Nazi war actions while decrying Allied operations as barbarous and criminal. It is as if Hitler's propaganda war was being re-fought; the speeches at IHR conferences, in fact, have often been larded with Goebbels' slogans.

Given its support for Nazism, IHR's hatred of Jews is hardly suprising.2 Speakers at conferences and writers in the Journal have alleged that Jews and Zionists, in de facto control of the U.S. government, dragged the U.S. into World War II against Germany and ever since have sought to enrich themselves and strengthen Israel at the expense of their gentile hosts. A 1982 JHR article attempted to persuade President Ronald Reagan that Judaism was a religion of "fanaticism, prejudice and discrimination."

An important component of JHR writings -- before the journal ceased publication in 2002 -- was anti-Israel propaganda. A common topic for JHR articles, for instance, was the mistaken Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the Six Day War: IHR authors frequently alleged that the attack was deliberate, and concocted a variety of conspiracy theories to explain why Israel would have purposely attacked its American ally and patron.

Especially in recent years, however, some IHR writers and speakers, apparently no longer satisfied limiting their attacks to rhetorically sanitized "Zionists," have begun using the more "racial" and insinuating "Jewish-Zionist" in their writings. Director Mark Weber, for example, has written of the "Jewish-Zionist domination of the U.S. political system" and the "Jewish-Zionist hegemony over the American media," and warns that "Jewish-Zionist ambitions" clash with "American interests, and basic justice and humanity."

The Mermelstein Trials

As the distribution of the Journal of Historical Review to actual academics underscored, IHR's ambition to establish a broader audience for its brand of history was not likely to be satisfied. Another early publicity gimmick soon backfired even more spectacularly than the JHR distribution.

At IHR's first conference in 1979, the group offered $50,000 to anyone "who could prove that the Nazis operated gas-chambers to exterminate Jews during World War II." Not content with announcing the "reward" among its own ranks, IHR also notified well-known Holocaust survivors and Jewish organizations. A California businessman, Mel Mermelstein, who was 17 when he was interned with his family at Auschwitz in 1944 (his mother and two sisters did not survive), and who later founded the Auschwitz Study Foundation, received the notice, signed by Lewis Brandon -- one of the pseudonyms used by David McCalden, IHR's first director. Mermelstein remitted a notarized statement describing his internment at Auschwitz and his own observation, on May 22, 1944, of his mother and two sisters being driven by Nazi guards toward what he later learned was gas chamber number five. He received no clear response to either his initial or follow-up inquiries, but started getting Holocaust-denying hate literature in his mail and was described as a "racist" in leaflets that were distributed in his neighborhood. He filed suit against IHR for breach of contract, libel, and intentional infliction of emotional distress early in 1981.

In a pre-trial determination, the court took judicial notice -- i.e., accepted as a well-known and indisputable fact -- that Jews were gassed at Auschwitz [See box: "Judicial Notice"], and in July 1985 the lawsuit was settled in Mermelstein's favor. IHR was forced to pay the $50,000 reward as well as an additional $40,000 for pain and suffering. Under the terms of their agreement, IHR also issued Mermelstein a letter of apology.

The legal battles between IHR and Mermelstein were not over, however. On August 6, 1986, IHR and Willis Carto sued Mermelstein, claiming that he libeled them during an interview on a New York City radio station. On February 29, 1988, they voluntarily dropped the charges. Mermelstein in turn sued IHR for libel, citing an issue of the IHR Newsletter (edited by Bradley Smith) that exposed the purported flaws and inconsistencies in his testimony in the original trial. Mermelstein dropped the suit in 1991.

The Carto Trials

In September 1993, the Institute's editorial staff and board of directors voted to terminate its association with Willis Carto, its founder. On October 4, 1993, Carto received a letter announcing that he had been "fired." According to court documents, the falling-out stemmed from finance-related matters, including the purchase of a new Cadillac by Carto's wife using IHR funds, Carto's purchase of an insufficient insurance policy prior to a 1984 arson that destroyed IHR's warehouse and offices, his skimping on pay and health benefits and his "launching and subsequent mishandling of the reward offer" in the Mel Mermelstein affair. IHR's director at the time, Tom Marcellus, also alleged that Carto planned to redesign the Journal of Historical Reviewinto a more straightforwardly racist publication.

The most significant stake in this controversy was control of as much as $10 million in stock certificates bequeathed to IHR's parent corporation, The Legion for the Survival of Freedom, by Jean Farrel, an heir of Thomas Edison. The summer before Carto's "dismissal," Marcellus reportedly discovered a $100,000 bank order for Carto's Liberty Lobby drawn from the Farrel bequest. According to Marcellus, Carto had directed his wife to set up a corporation for the sole purpose of controlling Farrel's money and loaning it back to the Legion -- thus making the Legion a less attractive target for potential lawsuits. Because the IHR defined itself as the Legion, the senior staffers demanded control of the money bequeathed to the parent company. Marcellus discovered that while Carto had long claimed to be merely the corporation's "agent," the Legion in fact listed as a corporate director a person who had been dead for five years, the board had never met and Carto was the sole and controlling voice. Marcellus and his colleagues and lawyer were able to assemble a new board that terminated all association with Carto.

Carto's immediate response was to arrange a meeting with the IHR principals and their lawyer. On October 15, 1993, while they waited for Carto at the lawyer's office, he went instead to IHR headquarters with his wife and three others and began disconnecting telephones, changing locks and tampering with computers; he also faxed the IHR attorney, stating that he was "now in control of the IHR office." A scuffle ensued, and he was ultimately dragged from the premises by police as he screamed, "You're killing me."

As the dispute entered a long and complicated litigation that would involve several lawsuits -- and prompt a relentless campaign of vituperation and false rumor by Carto -- Carto's magazine The Spotlightannounced in August 1994 that Liberty Lobby was launching a new publication devoted to historical revisionism called The Barnes Review (after the 20th century revisionist historian Harry Elmer Barnes).

On November 15, 1996, a California court ruled in favor of IHR, saying Carto owed the group and the Legion for the Survival of Freedom $6.43 million bequeathed by Farrel. The legal proceedings continued through November 2000, when the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling. To date IHR has not received the full amount from Carto, who declared bankruptcy in 2001.3

IHR in Decline

The Carto lawsuits significantly detracted from the programming capabilities of IHR; especially during the mid-to-late 1990s, IHR was unable to publish its Journal of Historical Review on a consistent basis, and revisionist conferences were suspended from 1993 to 2000. Even with the lawsuits settled, however, IHR has been unable to regain its vitality of the 1980s.

The Carto lawsuits significantly detracted from the programming capabilities of IHR; especially during the mid-to-late 1990s, IHR was unable to publish its Journal of Historical Review on a consistent basis, and revisionist conferences were suspended from 1993 to 2000. Even with the lawsuits settled, however, IHR has been unable to regain its vitality of the 1980s.

For a time it looked like IHR was rebuilding momentum. In May 2000 the thirteenth IHR conference convened in Orange County, California, featuring old-timers like Arthur Butz, Robert Faurisson and Ernst Zündel, as well as a new generation of Holocaust deniers like Fredrick Töben, Germar Rudolf and Jürgen Graf. Another notable attendee was Holocaust denier David Irving, whose credibility had been demolished and anti-Semitism exposed in an unsuccessful libel suit against American professor Deborah Lipstadt a month earlier. The conference was one of the largest IHR had ever held, with about 150 people in attendance.

The group suffered a serious setback the following year, however, when it sought to host a conference on "Revisionism and Zionism" in Beirut, Lebanon, in cooperation with a Swiss Holocaust-denial organization, Vérité et Justice. The anti-Israel sentiment suggested in the conference title had always been an important part of IHR's output, but as parts of the Arab world demonstrated an affinity for Holocaust denial it became more central to the group's outreach; Mark Weber has even given interviews on Iranian radio.

The conference did not take place, however. Soon after it was announced, several Jewish organizations warned that it might lead to increased anti-Semitism in the region. According to reports in the Arab press, the U.S. State Department urged the Lebanese government to ban the conference. Fourteen independent Arab intellectuals also denounced the conference, including Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Lebanese writer Elias Khoury and Palestinian-American professor Edward Said.

In late March 2001, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri announced that his government would not permit the conference. "Lebanon has more important things to do than holding conferences that hurt its international standing and smear its name," al-Hariri said. While some free-speech advocates decried the decision, news of the ban was largely applauded by politicians and writers in the West. On March 30, IHR and Vérité et Justice officially announced that the conference was called off.

IHR never fully recovered from the Lebanon debacle. By 2003 it was clear that IHR had lost its preeminent status in the Holocaust denial movement. It suspended publication of its Journal of Historical Review and limited its conferences to small, single-day affairs usually featuring Mark Weber and one other Holocaust denier, such as former Croatian diplomat Tomislav Sunic or disgraced British historian David Irving. Irving's own annual "Real History USA" conferences and Willis Carto's "Authentic History" gatherings have both become more popular than IHR events, while Germar Rudolf, a relatively young German fugitive from justice, has replaced IHR as the major U.S. publisher of Holocaust denial. Rudolph has revitalized Bradley Smith's defunct journal The Revisionist and has also begun publishing a series of "Holocaust handbooks" denying salient aspects of Nazi history. IHR's recent activities have been limited to maintaining its Web site and distributing news compilations via e-mail. IHR Director Mark Weber has served as a media spokesperson for embattled Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel; Weber has given several radio interviews on far-right radio stations regarding the Zündel case, and has also spoken out against the war in Iraq and the influence that he alleges Jews and Israel exert on American policy.

IHR collaborates with the National Alliance

In early 2004, Holocaust deniers around the world were anticipating a two-day conference to be held in Sacramento, California. The organizer, a Hitler apologist named Walter Mueller, had enlisted more than a dozen international speakers for a Holocaust denial conference that would have rivaled IHR's 2000 event. At the last moment, however, the conference's intended venue refused to host the gathering. Mueller would not explore alternative venues, but with many attendees and speakers having already arrived in Sacramento, IHR Director Mark Weber and representatives of the neo-Nazi National Alliance cobbled together a one-day conference dedicated to embattled Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. Canadian Zündel advocate Paul Fromm addressed the conference, as did anti-Zionist activist Chuck Carlson, and Holocaust deniers Bradley Smith, Edgar J. Steele and Lady Michelle Renouf.

Weber gave the keynote address. Though he frequently writes dry, academic-sounding articles attempting to prove that the Holocaust never occurred, in his speech Weber dispelled any doubt that he is truly motivated by hatred of Jews and Judaism. Claiming that the Holocaust "story" is forced on society by "Jewish Zionist power," Weber went on to explain his views on Judaism, and described his vision of a "worldwide conflict" with Jews:

Many people have this idea [that] Judaism is sort of like Christianity or Islam or Buddhism. That's a tremendous fallacy…it's a religion unlike any other religion. Because [Judaism is] a religion without a universal ethic. It's a religion the purpose of which is almost the deification of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are the end and purpose of the religion….

In fact Jews are very vague when it comes to the question of what's the purpose of being a Jew. For Christians it's salvation or for a Muslim or it's nirvana for other religions. For a Jew the purpose of the Jewish religion is the maintenance, the furtherance, the increasing of power of the Jewish people….

Jewish Zionist power….manifests itself in our society, in our cultural life, and especially in how we learn history, across the board, in every way, it affects our lives and affects our understanding of the past….

[W]hat is happening is a worldwide conflict now, a global conflict that involves all of humanity….[W]hether you are a conservative, or a liberal, whether your primary loyalties are to your religion, to your ethnic group, to your country, to your heritage in whatever form, you will come up inevitably against this great Jewish Zionist power…[W]hat we are involved in, is a global struggle…and what is important is to come out of this conference today…not merely more aware, with greater understanding, but more determined to act, to do something, to be active, in a struggle that is not merely for…abstractions like justice or truth, but it's truly a struggle for the interests of us all and the interests of humanity.

-Mark Weber, April 24, 2004


1 http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v06/v06p183_Weckert.html
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2 Though many writers and speakers in connection with IHR claim that their criticisms are only directed at Zionism and not at Judaism, they betray themselves when , for example, they try to support anti-Zionist arguments by distorting Jewish religious texts, or cite examples whose only relevance to their subject is that they feature Jews. This is a common tactic and pitfall in JHR essays. One of the earliest examples is Lewis Brandon's (neé David McCalden) "The Mendacity of Zion" (JHR, Summer 1980), where in attempting to demonstrate his belief in the existence of a unique and sinister "Zionist ethics," he cites the Talmud and several cases of crimes committed by Jews-and offers no proof that the Jews who committed these crimes were Zionists or that the crimes benefited the State of Israel in any way.
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3 Despite Carto's disassociation with IHR, he continues his efforts to promulgate Holocaust denial, most notably through The Barnes Review.
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