Denying the Holocaust
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Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth & Memory is a 1993 book by Deborah Lipstadt giving a history and analysis of the Holocaust denial movement. It named writer David Irving as a holocaust denier, leading him to sue her unsuccessfully for libel (see Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt). The book gives a detailed explanation of how people came to deny the Holocaust or claim that it was vastly exaggerated by the Jews.
Lipstadt sees Holocaust denial as "purely anti-Semitic diatribe" and a form of pseudo-history; she outlines the history of Holocaust denial, claims that it is increasing and should not be disregarded. Holocaust deniers were originally a "lunatic fringe" and could be seen as harmless cranks but are now more numerous and influential than before as some radical racist groups have adopted it, and that the trend could increase as Holocaust witnesses die of age.
The book claims that after World War II in France Maurice Bardèche and Paul Rassinier denied outright that the Holocaust ever happened, as did various Nazi sympathizers in America. According to Lipstadt, Austin App, a professor of English at La Salle College and the University of Scranton first put out several notions that later Holocaust deniers followed. App and others denied that the Nazis had any genocidal intent, that gas chambers existed, that innocent Jews were killed by the millions, and they claimed that defeated Germany was compelled to admit false crimes by the Allies. From these beginnings, she details how these charges were picked up and became "a tool of the radical right."
Lipstadt gives many examples of allegations that six million Jews were not systematically exterminated, but, rather, 300,000 to 1.5 million Jews died of disease and other causes. This has been widely refuted; for example, Lipstadt writing for the English BBC stated that "Holocaust denial is a tissue of lies". Lipstadt shows that tens of thousands of witnesses of the Holocaust are still alive and there is conclusive documentary evidence for it. Lipstadt claims that distorting history in this way risks undermining the western tradition of objective scholarship i.e. the scientific method and make distorting history for political purposes appear legitimate.
She accuses groups like the Institute for Historical Review and people like David Duke of spreading lies about the Holocaust. Lipstadt claims this is now an international movement where Holocaust deniers call themselves 'research centres', for example, and produce what they say are independent publications to make themselves look more scientific than they are. In Lipstadt’s opinion current value relativism helps Holocaust denial to thrive.
Among those described as Holocaust deniers in Denying the Holocaust are:
- Paul Rassinier
- Austin App
- Arthur Butz
- David Hoggan
- Richard Verrall
- Ernst Zündel and Fred A. Leuchter
- Bradley R. Smith
- David Irving
- Robert Faurisson
- Lipstadt, Deborah (17 February 2011). "Denying the Holocaust". BBC History. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
Holocaust denial is a form of virulent anti-Semitism. But it is not only that. It is also an attack on reasoned inquiry and inconvenient history. If this history can be denied any history can be denied. Holocaust deniers have, thus far, been decidedly unsuccessful in convincing the broader public of their claims - although many people worry that after the last of the Holocaust survivors has died (most are now in their 80s) deniers will achieve greater success. However, historians, carefully relying on a broad array of documentary and material evidence, a small sample of which is mentioned in this article, can and already have demonstrated that Holocaust denial is a tissue of lies.