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Holocaust denial refers to the claims of a minority group of self-proclaimed historians who argue that the Holocaust, as known to history, is either highly exaggerated or otherwise completely falsified. Such claims have led a number of experts, historians, and even first-hand witnesses to forcefully debunk them and their authors.
Critics have been vociferous in denouncing those who espouse such "reinterpretations" of history as falsifiers of the historical record. While the term "deniers" is objected to by the people to whom it is applied, it is nevertheless the one commonly used to refer to those espousing such views, to distinguish these from true historical "revisionists", who may intelligently argue certain points of fact.
Holocaust denial and Holocaust revisionism
While those espousing views that contradict much of history may prefer to be called "Holocaust revisionists," most contend that the latter term is deliberately misleading. While historical revisionism is the reexamination of accepted history, with an eye towards updating it with newly discovered, more accurate, and less-biased information, "deniers" typically seek evidence to support a preconcieved theory, omitting substantial fact.
Broadly, true revisionism is the approach that history as it has been traditionally told, may not be entirely accurate and should hence be revised accordingly. Historical revisionism in this sense is a well-accepted and mainstream part of history studies, is often applied to the study of the Holocaust, as new facts emerge and change our understanding of its events.
Holocaust "deniers" maintain that they apply proper revisionist principles to Holocaust history, and therefore the term Holocaust revisionism is appropriate for their point of view. However, their critics disagree and prefer the term Holocaust denial. As Gordon McFee wrote in his essay Why Revisionism isn't':
- "Revisionists" depart from the conclusion that the Holocaust did not occur and work backwards through the facts to adapt them to that preordained conclusion. Put another way, they reverse the proper methodology […], thus turning the proper historical method of investigation and analysis on its head." 
In general, the term Holocaust denial fits the description at the beginning of this article, while Holocaust revisionism ranges from holocaust denial through the belief that only minor corrections are required to Holocaust history. However, because the latter term has become associated with Holocaust deniers, mainstream historians today generally avoid using it to describe themselves. Thus Holocaust revisionism has come to be understood as revisionist history, rather than historical revisionism.
Beliefs of Holocaust deniers and revisionists
Holocaust deniers make all or most of the following claims:
- There was no specific order by Adolf Hitler or other top Nazi officials to exterminate the Jews.
- Nazis did not use gas chambers to mass murder Jews. Small chambers did exist for delousing and Zyklon-B was used in this process.
- The figure of 5 to 6 million Jewish deaths is an irresponsible exaggeration, and many Jews who actually emigrated to Russia, Britain, Israel and the United States are included in the number.
- Many photos and lots of film footage shown after World War II was specially manufactured as propaganda against the Nazis by the Allied forces. For example, one film, shown to Germans after the war, of supposed Holocaust victims were in fact German civilians being treated after Allied bombing of Dresden. Pictures we commonly see show victims of starvation or Typhus, not of gassing.
- Claims of what the Nazis supposedly did to the Jews were all intended to facilitate the Allies in their intention to enable the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and are currently used to garner support for the policies of the state of Israel, especially in its dealings with the Palestinians.
- Although crimes were committed, they were not centrally orchestrated and thus the Nazi leadership bore no responsibility for the implementation of such a policy.
- Historical proof for the Holocaust is falsified or deliberately misinterpreted.
- There is an American, British or Jewish conspiracy to make Jews look like victims and to demonize Germans. Also, it was in the Soviet interest to propagate wild stories about Germany in order to frighten related nations into accepting Soviet rule (Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc.). The amount of money pumped into Israel and reparations from Germany alone give Israel a strong incentive to maintain this conspiracy.
- The overwhelming number of biased academics and historians are too afraid to actually admit that the Holocaust was a fiction; they know they will lose their jobs if they speak up.
- In any event, the Holocaust pales in comparison to the number of dissidents and Christians killed in Soviet gulags, which Holocaust deniers usually attribute to Jews.
Most Holocaust deniers also stress that, contrary to popular belief, they do not deny the following:
- Jews were persecuted under the Third Reich.
- Jews were deprived of civil rights.
- Jews were deported.
- There were Jewish ghettos.
- There were concentration camps.
- There were crematoriums in concentration camps.
- Jews died for a great number of reasons (although they claim there were no mass murders).
- Some Soviet Jews were shot (but only because they were "guerrillas").
- Other minorities were also persecuted such as Poles, Roma ("gypsies"), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and political dissenters.
- All or some of the things mentioned above were unjust.
Holocaust denial examined
- For a detailed treatment of arguments used against Holocaust deniers, see Holocaust denial examined .
Much of the controversy surrounding the claims of Holocaust deniers centres upon the methods used to present arguments that the Holocaust allegedly never happened. Numerous accounts have been given (including evidence presented in court cases) of claimed "facts" and "evidence"; however, independent research has shown these claims to be based upon flawed research, biased statements, and even deliberately falsified evidence. Opponents of Holocaust denial have compiled detailed accounts of numerous instances where this evidence has been altered or manufactured (see Nizkor Project and David Irving). Evidence presented by Holocaust deniers has also failed to stand up to scrutiny in courts of law (see Fred A. Leuchter), further questioning its veracity.
The arguments over the legitimacy of Holocaust denial and its historical accuracy (or lack thereof) have led to the deniers' arguments being examined and, in many instances, debunked. The advocacy or defense of Holocaust denial is considered to be intellectually dishonest by almost all academics. This has not stopped the deniers from promoting their beliefs as historical fact in the face of what they believe is a vast conspiracy.
History of Holocaust denial
Research into Holocaust revisionism has revealed that anti-Semitism has been an important part of the revisionist philosophy since the very beginnings of the movement. With few exceptions, charges of anti-Jewish bias have been leveled against many revisionists over the years – charges that they have rarely denied.
Scholars credit the very first Holocaust deniers as the Nazis themselves. Historians have documented evidence that Himmler instructed his camp commandants to destroy records, crematoria and other signs of mass extermination of human beings, as Germany's defeat became imminent and the Nazi leaders realized they would most likely be captured and brought to trial. Following the end of World War II, many of the former leaders of the SS left Germany and began using their propaganda skills to defend their actions (or, their critics contended, to rewrite history). Shortly after the war, denial materials began to appear. One of the first published revisionist screeds (though the word "revisionist" was not used to describe it) was Friedrich Meinecke's The German Catastrophe (1950), in which he offered a brief defense for the German people by blaming industrialists, bureaucrats and the Pan-German League for the outbreak of World War I and Hitler's rise to power. Meinecke was openly anti-Semitic; nonetheless, he was a respected historian.
The beginnings of modern-day Holocaust revisionism are shrouded in obscurity. Public challenges to the accepted factual accounts of the holocaust first began to appear in the 1960s, with French historian Paul Rassinier publishing The Drama of the European Jews in 1964. Rassinier was himself a Holocaust survivor (he was imprisoned in Buchenwald for his socialist beliefs), and modern-day revisionists continue to cite his works as scholarly research that questions the accepted facts of the Holocaust. Critics and opponents of revisionism, however, note that Rassinier's own anti-Semitic views influenced his viewpoint; more importantly, he was arrested in Germany in 1943, and had long since been transferred to Poland by the time the extermination was fully in progress.
The Holocaust revisionist movement grew into full strength in the 1970s with the publication of Arthur Butz ' The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The case against the presumed extermination of European Jewry in 1976 and David Irving's Hitler's War in 1977. These books, seen as the basis of much of the revisionists' arguments, brought other similarly inclined individuals into the fold.
In 1979 the Institute for Historical Review was founded as an organization dedicated to publicly challenging the "myth" of the Holocaust.
The Zündel trials
Former Canadian resident Ernst Zündel operated a small-press publishing house called Samisdat Publishing, which published and distributed Holocaust-denial material such as Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Harwood (a/k/a Richard Verrall - a British neo-Nazi leader). In 1985, he was tried and convicted under a "false news" law and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by an Ontario court for "disseminating and publishing material denying the Holocaust." Zündel gained considerable notoriety after this conviction, and a number of free-speech activists stepped forward to defend his right to publish his opinion. His conviction was overturned in 1992 when the Supreme Court of Canada declared the "false news" law unconstitutional.
Zündel established his own Web site to publicize his viewpoints. In January 2002, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal delivered a ruling in a complaint involving his website, found contravening the Canadian Human Rights Act. The court ordered Zündel to cease communicating hate messages. In February 2003, the INS arrested him in Tennessee on an immigration violations matter, and few days later, Zündel was sent back to Canada, where he had refugee status. Zündel remained in prison until March 1, 2005, when he was deported to Germany; under whose laws he could be prosecuted for disseminating hate propaganda.
Ken McVay and alt.revisionism
In the mid-1990s, the popularity of the Internet brought new international exposure to many organizations, including Holocaust deniers and other groups. A number of authority figures stated publicly that the Internet allowed hate groups to introduce their messages to a widespread audience, and it was feared that Holocaust denial would gain in popularity as a result. But this was not the case, largely due to the efforts of Ken McVay and the participants in the Usenet newsgroup alt.revisionism.
McVay, a Canadian resident, was disturbed by the efforts of organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center to suppress the speech of the Holocaust deniers. On alt.revisionism he began a campaign of "truth, fact, and evidence," working with other participants on the newsgroup to uncover factual information about the Holocaust and counter the arguments of the deniers by proving them to be based upon misleading evidence, false statements, and outright lies. He founded the Nizkor Project to expose the activities of the Holocaust deniers, who responded to McVay with personal attacks and slander. McVay received a number of death threats, and the Nizkor Project soon became the number-one online foe of many Holocaust deniers, some of whom were neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The Irving affair
In 1998, the best-selling British historian David Irving filed suit against American author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books, claiming that Lipstadt had libeled him in her book Denying the Holocaust. The statements made by Lipstadt included the accusation that Irving deliberately twisted and misrepresented evidence to conform to his ideological viewpoint. Under British libel law, which seeks primarily to protect the reputation of an individual, Lipstadt and her publisher bore the full burden of demonstrating not only that they had not shown "reckless disregard" for the truth (as would be the case in America), but also that the statements made were true.
Lipstadt and Penguin hired British lawyer Anthony Julius and Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans to present her case. Evans spent two years examining Irving's work, and presented evidence of Irving's misrepresentations, including that Irving had knowingly used forged documents as a source. One of the few witnesses called on Irving's behalf was American evolutionary psychology professor Kevin B. MacDonald. The presiding judge, Charles Gray, was persuaded by the evidence presented by Evans and others and wrote a long and decisive verdict in favor of Lipstadt, calling Irving a "right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist," and confirming the accusations of Lipstadt and Evans.
Some journalists called the verdict a blow to free speech, although others pointed out that it was Irving who had initiated legal action for damages from the publication of Lipstadt's work, and hence no one's speech was restricted.
Public reactions to Holocaust denial
Seven European Union member countries including France and Germany have passed laws making the denial or minimization of the Holocaust a crime. Some people who do not deny that the Holocaust occurred nevertheless oppose such restrictions of free speech, including Noam Chomsky. An uproar resulted when Serge Thion used one of Chomsky's essays as a foreword to a book of holocaust denial essays. Many Holocaust deniers claim their work falls under a "universal right to free speech", and see these laws as a confirmation of their own beliefs, arguing that the truth does not need to be legally enforced.
At times, Holocaust deniers seek to rely on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression, when faced with criminal sanctions against their statements or publications. The European Court of Human Rights however consistently declares their complaints inadmissible. According to Article 17 of the Convention, nothing in the Convention may be construed so as to justify acts that are aimed at destroying any of the very rights and freedoms contained therein. Invoking free speech to propagate denial of crimes against humanity is, according to the Court's case-law, contrary to the spirit in which the Convention was adopted in the first place. Reliance on free speech in such cases would thus constitute an abuse of a fundamental right.
In the Middle East, the Syrian government, as well as the Palestinian Authority regularly publish and promote Holocaust denial literature. These works are best sellers in many Arab nations. Denials of the Holocaust have been regularly promoted by various Arab leaders and in various media throughout the Middle East. In August 2002 the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, an Arab League think-tank whose Chairman, Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, served as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, promoted a Holocaust denial symposium in Abu Dhabi.  Hamas leaders have also been promoters of Holocaust denial; Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi held that the Holocaust never occurred, that Zionists were behind the action of Nazis, and that Zionists funded Nazism. A press release by Hamas in April 2000 decried "the so-called Holocaust, which is an alleged and invented story with no basis" 
Many Neo-Nazi groups and people associated with them believe that the Holocaust never occurred.
Many Jews protest that Holocaust denial trivializes the suffering caused to victims of the Holocaust when it juxtaposes it with accounts of the millions of Germans (most popular estimate is 2.4 million, but some Holocaust deniers put the figure as high as 10 million) who died of starvation and from Russian pogroms immediately after WWII. They feel this is an attempt to make the Germans feel they don't deserve full blame for the war crimes of the Nazis, on the basis that the Soviets, British, and Americans committed similar war crimes without repercussions. This position is based on the work of James Bacque, Ernst Mayo , and others.
Recently the terms Holocaust industry and Shoah business, have come into vogue among those who believe Jewish leaders use the Holocaust for financial and political gain. The term Holocaust industry was coined by Norman Finkelstein, a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors. He fully accepts the fact that the Holocaust occurred, but believes that its memory is being dishonestly exploited. However, his term has also been picked up by Holocaust deniers who believe the Holocaust was faked for the purpose of financial and political gain, although that usage is much less frequent.
Spokespersons for Holocaust deniers and revisionists have claimed that the revisionists are often "persecuted" for their beliefs. This stems from the widespread negative reaction to holocaust revisionism in the general public. Holocaust revisionists have stated that they have received personal threats and even been assaulted, as happened in an incident known as the Faurisson affair.
Other genocide denials
Other acts of genocide and atrocity have met similar attempts to deny, to minimise or to hush up. The list of these acts is extensive and proof is often difficult to obtain, either because governments are involved in the denial or because there is debate on whether the occurred atrocities are genocide or not. The toll of the Great Chinese Famine caused by the government of Mao was higher than the toll of the Second World War but could only be proved some decades later with demographic evidence. Some other examples are:
- the Nanjing Massacre (1937) by the Japanese army, which many Japanese politicians, such as Ishihara Shintaro, have denied happened;
- Japanese concentration camps for Dutch and other Western citizens during the 1940s were well exposed in the West but are almost completely unknown within Japan;
- The Armenian Genocide by Turkey is denied by the Turkish government. Turkish writers are still persecuted if they report about the massacre on more than 1.5 million Christian Armenians.
- Katyn massacre is denied by some authors.
- The Sudanese governement is currently denying responsibility for masacring Christians in the south of Sudan over the last decades and African (but Muslim) Sudanese in the province of Darfur of the last year.
Genocide Watch  lists denial as the eighth and final stage of a genocide development. Sometimes the motivation for genocide denial is to avoid disturbing opinions, and sometimes it is strictly nationalist, or ideological. Ward Churchill, a scholar and activist in the area of Native American studies, asserts that the concept of holocaust denial applies to minimization of the significance of attempted extermination of other victims of the Nazi holocaust such as Gypsies and to marginalization of other "holocausts" such as the near elimination of Native Americans. (As it happens, Churchill's argument is one used by Holocaust deniers; namely, stressing others killed in the Holocaust as a way to minimize Jewish losses; ironically, Churchill claims this argument as an anti-denial one.)
The Holocaust Research Center director Dr. William Shulman described the denial "…as if these people were killed twice." 
About Holocaust deniers
- Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Plume (The Penguin Group), 1994. Debunking Holocaust revisionism.
- Richard J. Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, Basic Books, 2002 (ISBN 0465021530). As well as the story of the Irving case, this is an excellent case study on historical research.
- Sergio Troncoso, The Nature of Truth, Northwestern University Press, 2003. A philosophical novel about righteousness and evil, Yale and the Holocaust.
By Holocaust deniers
- Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Newport Beach: Institute for Historical Review, 1994. This is a standard work of Holocaust revisionism, but not a good place for beginners to start.
Audio testimony of Holocaust survivors
- Audio Testimony of Dr. Walter Ziffer, Recorded April 11, 2004 Dr. Walter Ziffer, the last Holocaust survivor in Asheville, North Carolina as of April 11, 2004, discusses his interment in several camps, as well as the idea of Holocaust revisionism.
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