The Holocaust Industry

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The Holocaust Industry
The Holocaust Industry, first edition.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorNorman G. Finkelstein
CountryUnited States
SubjectHolocaust studies
PublisherVerso Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)
ISBN1-85984-488-X (Newest edition, paperback)
940.53/18 22
LC ClassD804.3 .F567 2003
Preceded byA Nation on Trial 
Followed byBeyond Chutzpah 

The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering is a 2000 book by Norman Finkelstein, in which the author argues that the American Jewish establishment exploits the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for political and financial gain, as well as to further the interests of Israel.[1] According to Finkelstein, this "Holocaust industry" has corrupted Jewish culture and the authentic memory of the Holocaust.


The book begun as a review of The Holocaust in American Life, by Peter Novick.[2]

Finkelstein on the book[edit]

Finkelstein states that his consciousness of "the Nazi holocaust" is rooted in his parents' experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto; with the exception of his parents themselves, "every family member on both sides was exterminated by the Nazis".[3] Nonetheless, during his childhood, no one ever asked any questions about what his mother and father had suffered. He suggests, "This was not a respectful silence. It was indifference."[3] It was only after the establishment of "the Holocaust industry", he suggests, that outpourings of anguish over the plight of the Jews in World War II began. This ideology in turn served to endow Israel with a status as "'victim' state" despite its "horrendous" human rights record.[3]

According to Finkelstein, his book is "an anatomy and an indictment of the Holocaust industry". He argues that "'The Holocaust' is an ideological representation of the Nazi holocaust".[4]

In the foreword to the first paperback edition, Finkelstein notes that the first hardback edition had been a considerable hit in several European countries and many languages, but had been largely ignored in the United States. He sees The New York Times as the main promotional vehicle of the "Holocaust industry", and says that the 1999 Index listed 273 entries for the Holocaust and just 32 entries for the entire continent of Africa.


  • Chapter 1: Capitalizing The Holocaust - by the 1980s, Finkelstein states, the "War against the Jews" had become more important to American cultural life than the "War Between the States". (p. 11)
  • Chapter 2: Hoaxers, Hucksters and History - in 1967, Finkelstein claims that two concepts appeared in public discourse: The uniqueness of the Holocaust, and the concept of the Holocaust as climax of a historical irrational anti-Semitic tendency in Europe. Finkelstein asserts that these concepts became central to the "Holocaust Industry", but that neither figures in scholarship of the Nazi Holocaust. (p. 13)
  • Chapter 3: The Double Shakedown - in this chapter, Finkelstein claims that the number of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust recognized by relief groups increased from c. 100,000 in 1945[5] to nearly 1 million[6] owing to definitional changes in who was considered to be a survivor. Because of this, Finkelstein repeatedly asserts that fraudulent claims were made on Switzerland, while accounts and assets in the US and Israel were ignored. Payments were made to the wrong people and real survivors lost out.

The second (2003) edition contained 100 pages of new material, primarily in chapter 3 on the World Jewish Congress lawsuit against Swiss banks. Finkelstein set out to provide a guide to the relevant sections of the case. He feels that the presiding judge elected not to docket crucial documents, and that the Claims Resolution Tribunal could no longer be trusted. Finkelstein claims the CRT was on course to vindicate the Swiss banks before it changed tack in order to "protect the blackmailers' reputation".


Fraudulent writings on the Holocaust[edit]

Finkelstein claims that there are two known frauds connected to the Holocaust, that of The Painted Bird by Polish writer Jerzy Kosinski – which was published as fiction – and Fragments by Binjamin Wilkomirski. He claims that Kosinski and Wilkomirski were defended even after their supposed frauds had been exposed. He identifies some of the defenders as members of the "Holocaust Industry", and writes that they also support each other. Elie Wiesel supported Kosinski; Israel Gutman and Daniel Goldhagen (see below) supported Wilkomirski; Wiesel and Gutman support Goldhagen.[7]

Armenian genocide[edit]

Finkelstein compares the media treatment of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide, particularly by members of what he calls "The Holocaust Industry". One to 1.5 million Armenians died in the years between 1915 and 1917/1923 - denial includes the claim that they were the result of a civil war within World War I, or refusal to accept there were deaths. In 2001, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres went so far as to dismiss it as "allegations". However, by this time historical consensus was changing, and, according to Finkelstein, he was "angrily compared ... to a holocaust denier" by Israel Charny, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem.[8]

Forms of Holocaust denial[edit]

According to Finkelstein, Elie Wiesel characterized any suggestion that he has profited from the "Holocaust Industry", or even any criticism at all, as Holocaust denial.[9] Questioning a survivor's testimony, denouncing the role of Jewish collaborators, suggesting that Germans suffered during the bombing of Dresden or that any state except Germany committed crimes in World War II are all evidence of Holocaust denial – according to Deborah Lipstadt[10] – and Finkelstein says the most "insidious" forms of Holocaust denial are "immoral equivalencies", denying the uniqueness of The Holocaust.[11] Finkelstein examines the implications of applying this standard to another member of the "Holocaust Industry", Daniel Goldhagen, who argued that Serbian actions in Kosovo "are, in their essence, different from those of Nazi Germany only in scale".[12]

Holocaust deniers in real life[edit]

According to Finkelstein, Deborah Lipstadt claims there is widespread Holocaust denial, though he says her prime example in Denying the Holocaust (1993) is Arthur Butz, author of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. The chapter on him is entitled "Entering the Mainstream" - but Finkelstein considers that, were it not for the likes of Lipstadt, no one would ever have heard of Arthur Butz. Finkelstein claims that Holocaust deniers have as much influence in the US as the Flat Earth Society (p. 69).

Reviews and critiques[edit]

The book has been controversial, receiving a number of both positive and negative reviews.[2][13] In addition to support from individuals such as Noam Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn,[citation needed] the Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg praised Finkelstein's book:

I refer now to the part of the book that deals with the claims against the Swiss banks, and the other claims pertaining to forced labor. I would now say in retrospect that he was actually conservative, moderate and that his conclusions are trustworthy. He is a well-trained political scientist, has the ability to do the research, did it carefully, and has come up with the right results. I am by no means the only one who, in the coming months or years, will totally agree with Finkelstein's breakthrough.[14]

Isreali historian Moshe Zuckermann welcomed his book as an "irreplaceable critique of the ‘instrumentalisation of the past’ and underlined its ‘liberating potential’".[2]

Oren Baruch Stier reviewing the book for the journal Prooftexts summarized the book as a "small and pungent manifesto" and concluded his review by writing that "there are worthwhile arguments here, if one can stomach the bile in which they float".[15]

Enzo Traverso reviewing the book for the journal Historical Materialism wrote that the book has proven controversial, concluding that it "contains a core of truth that must be recognised, but it lends itself, due to its style and several of its main arguments, to the worst uses and instrumentalisations." He suggested that the book should be seen as an opportunity for stimulating public debates about difficult topics related to "n the politics of memory and on the public uses of history"[2]

Donald D. Denton reviewing the book for Terrorism and Political Violence journal noted that it "will be valuable as an historical piece of research and of interest to those who now attempt to deal with the contemporary genocides and the subsequent generations of children of those who endured such horrors".[13]

According to Israeli journalist Yair Sheleg, in August 2000, German historian Hans Mommsen called it "a most trivial book, which appeals to easily aroused anti-Semitic prejudices."[16][failed verification] Wolfgang Benz stated to Le Monde: "It is impossible to learn anything from Finkelstein's book. At best, it is interesting for a psychotherapist."[17] The reviewer of this daily added that Norman Finkelstein "hardly cares about nuance"[18] and Rony Brauman wrote in the preface to the French edition (L'Industrie de l'Holocauste, Paris, La Fabrique, 2001) that some assertions of Finkelstein (especially on the impact of the Six-days war) are wrong, others being pieces of "propaganda". Historian Peter Novick, whose work Finkelstein described as providing the "initial stimulus" for The Holocaust Industry,[19] asserted in the July 28, 2000 issue of The Jewish Chronicle (London) that the book is replete with "false accusations", "egregious misrepresentations", "absurd claims" and "repeated mis-statements" ("A charge into darkness that sheds no light"). Finkelstein replied to the allegations by Novick on his homepage.[20] Hasia Diner has accused Peter Novick and Finkelstein of being "harsh critics of American Jewry from the left," and challenges the notion reflected in their books that American Jews did not begin to commemorate the Holocaust until after 1967.[21] Wolfgang Wippermann criticized Finkelstein as "‘a useful idiot’ for all kinds of anti-semites."[2]

Andrew Ross, reviewing the book for Salon, wrote:

On the issue of reparations, he barely acknowledges the wrongs committed by the Swiss and German institutions — the burying of Jewish bank accounts, the use of slave labor — that gave rise to the recent reparations drive. The fear that the reparations will not wind up in the hands of those who need and deserve them most is a legitimate concern. But the idea that survivors have been routinely swindled by Jewish institutions is a gross distortion. The chief reason why survivors have so far seen nothing of the $1.25 billion Swiss settlement, reached in 1998, is that U.S. courts have yet to rule on a method of distribution. On other reparations and compensation settlements, the Claims Conference, a particular bete noire of Finkelstein, says that it distributed approximately $220 million to individual survivors in 1999 alone.[22]

Alvin Hirsch Rosenfeld wrote that The Holocaust Industry "is representative of a polemical engagement with the Holocaust" that places it in line with a number of other works by "critics of Holocaust consciousness, all of whom stress the utilitarian function of memory", and who see many modern references to The Holocaust as "means of enhancing ethnic identity and advancing political agendas of one kind or another". Rosenfeld also noted that the book presents those ideas in a very "harsh and inflammatory way."[23]

Jonathan Freedland in a column for The Guardian wrote that unlike Novick's book, The Holocaust Industry does not share its "sensitivity or human empathy - surely prerequisites of any meaningful debate about the Holocaust". Freedland accused Finkelstein of having constructed "an elaborate conspiracy theory, in which the Jews were pushed from apathy to obsession about the Holocaust by a corrupt Jewish leadership bent on building international support for Israel".[24]

It has been suggested that the book "probably cost its author, Norman Finkelstein tenure at DePaul University".[13]

Finkelstein's response to critics[edit]

Finkelstein responded to his critics in the foreword to the second edition, writing "Mainstream critics allege that I conjured a 'conspiracy theory' while those on the Left ridicule the book as a defense of 'the banks'. None, so far as I can tell, question my actual findings."

Publishing history[edit]

Publishing history of The Holocaust Industry:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See article on Norman Finklestein's webpage Archived 2012-08-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e Traverso, Enzo (2003). "The Holocaust Industry. Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering NORMAN FINKELSTEIN". Historical Materialism. 11 (2): 215–225. doi:10.1163/156920603768311291. ISSN 1465-4466.
  3. ^ a b c The Holocaust Industry, p. 5-8.
  4. ^ The Holocaust Industry, p. 3.
  5. ^ Henry Friedlander, "Darkness and Dawn in 1945: The Nazis, the Allies, and the Survivors," in US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1945 - the Year of Liberation (Washington: 1995), 11-35. Cited in the 2003 edition of HI on p. 81.
  6. ^ 1997 study commissioned by the Israeli Prime Minister's office. (p. 67)
  7. ^ Zipperstein, Steven J. (September 24, 2000). "Profit and Loss". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  8. ^ Peres stands accused over denial of `meaningless' Armenian Holocaust". Findarticle archive of Independent 18 April 2001. Verified 22 Jun 2008.
  9. ^ Wiesel, All Rivers, 333, 336. Cited in the 2003 edition of HI on p.70.
  10. ^ Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust, 6, 12, 22, 89-90. Cited in the 2003 edition of HI on p.70.
  11. ^ Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust, chapter 11. Cited in the 2003 edition of HI on p.70.
  12. ^ "A New Serbia" in New Republic (17 May 1999). Cited in the 2003 edition of HI on p.70.
  13. ^ a b c Denton, Donald D. (2019-11-02). "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering: (second edition), by Norman G. Finkelstein, PCPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CRO 4YY, Princeton University Press, 2003, 286 pp., $24.59 (hardcover), $9.42 (Google Playbooks), ISBN-13: 978-1-78168-561-7 (PB), eISBN-13: 978-1-84467-478-9 (US)". Terrorism and Political Violence. 31 (6): 1366–1368. doi:10.1080/09546553.2019.1666573. ISSN 0954-6553.
  14. ^ Wiener, Jon (June 23, 2005). "Giving Chutzpah New Meaning". The Nation. Further statements made by Hilberg on the work are available at Raul Hilberg interviews on The Holocaust Industry & Finkelstein (2000/2001) Archived 2006-03-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2011-01-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Polémique et curiosité en Allemagne", Le Monde, 16 February 2001.
  18. ^ Jean Birnbaum, "Le débat s'ouvre autour du livre contesté « L'Industrie de l'Holocauste »", Le Monde, February 16, 2001.
  19. ^ Finkelstein, Norman G. (April 15, 2003). The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. Verso. ISBN 9781859844885 – via Google Books.
  20. ^
  21. ^ All Quiet; Were postwar American Jews really ‘silent’ about the Holocaust? BY ADAM KIRSCH | 7:00 am June 23, 2009, Tablet Magazine [1]
  22. ^ From Salon Magazine September 6, 2000 "REVIEW: 'THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY' ". Archived from the original on April 7, 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-02.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) by Andrew Ross
  23. ^ Rosenfeld, Alvin H. (2001). "The Assault on Holocaust Memory". The American Jewish Year Book. 101: 3–20. ISSN 0065-8987. JSTOR 23604504.
  24. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (July 14, 2000). "An enemy of the people". The Guardian. London. Retrieved June 26, 2020.

External links[edit]