Holocaust denial is dead, but no one knows it. Worse, it appears as though no one wants to know. Not the media, not Jews, and especially not Jew-haters. But it’s true. Denial has gone the way of the woolly mammoth. It exists these days as a bogeyman, a bugbear, an illusion in the minds of hardcore anti-Semites and harder-core Semites. It’s a scarecrow that Jew-haters erect to frighten Jews and that Jews maintain to frighten themselves.
But let’s ease into that point. Better to begin at the cinema, where fantasies come alive…
On Friday, September 30th, the world will be treated to the premiere of the new motion picture Denial, which tells the story of how Deborah Lipstadt, the heroically plucky (or pluckily heroic) college professor and Holocaust scholar, prevailed in court after being sued for libel by the villainous, evil Holocaust denier David Irving. Lipstadt is played by Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weisz, and Irving is portrayed by renowned bridge troll Timothy Spall. The director is Mick Jackson, the Brit responsible for Volcano (you remember that one, don’t you? About the volcano that sprouts up in the middle of L.A. to harass Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche. We all saw that one, right?).
The film is based on true events. In the mid-1990s, Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in an English court after she labeled him (among other things) a Holocaust denier, a racist and an anti-Semite, and a falsifier of history. Irving eventually lost the case, which had been argued before a judge rather than a jury (by mutual agreement of the plaintiff and defendant). The judge conceded that although Lipstadt had made several false accusations against Irving, the more serious of her claims—that he was a denier, a hater, an associate of haters, and a falsifier—were provable enough to excuse her from the charge of libel.
Although I was out of revisionism by the time the judgment was rendered (April 2000), I was keenly aware that, among revisionists, Irving’s defeat was seen as a major, potentially fatal setback, not just for Irving but for Holocaust revisionism in general. Revisionists had always been on the side of the defendant, the prosecuted, the persecuted. The victims of the legal system. There is a certain nobility in being the one dragged before the bench merely for speech. But this time, it was a revisionist who had instigated the proceedings. The defendant was a Jewish Holocaust author, and the “crime” was her words. On Irving’s part, it was a Barbarossa-level gambit—the kind of campaign a man should undertake only if he is absolutely, positively certain of victory, because the consequences of defeat would be devastating. And for Irving, they certainly were. He could now legally be called a denier and an anti-Semite with impunity. The fact is, I’m surprised as hell that it took Hollywood sixteen years to finally turn the trial into a movie.
I asked Irving, who I’ve known since 1992, for his thoughts on the film. He told me that no one from the production ever contacted him for his side of the story (no surprise there). He added:
Ridley Scott was directing the original version, but the newspapers say he quit when HBO asked him to include fictional elements. I have not seen anything of ‘Denial’ but bits of trailers: the opening scene, of my first confrontation with Lipstadt in Atlanta in November 1994, is fictional; it happened, but my actual challenge, waving $1,000 in notes in the air, was: “If you will now show this audience the actual blueprint you just told this audience that you have, I will give you these notes.” See our video of the scene, posted on YouTube. They have changed that wording materially.
I asked Irving if, in hindsight, he stands by his decision to sue Lipstadt:
I would do it again—she is ignorant beyond words. Her ongoing astonishment at finding that in England libel law requires that you can prove what you claim says it all. The fact is that the judge despite all found her guilty of the other easy libels she uttered. She stayed out of the witness box, on no doubt good advice. She wrote that I spoke to extremists like Hezbollah in Sweden: I had never been in that country and that is still true, and have never dealt with Hezbollah. She wrote that I stole the Goebbels diaries from the Moscow archives in 1992, a very wounding allegation, which a simple query to me or Moscow would have shown to be untrue: she wrote that I had a large painting of Hitler in my study, untrue. Ditto. And so on. What should I do? If I leave the small lies uncontested, the big liars win. The judgment agreed that these were libels, but…
I sued after her lies were published, not before. That is the difference. My lawsuit asked for token damages from her and her UK publisher, the amount being only five hundred pounds, to be paid to a charity for limbless amputees in memory of my oldest daughter. The publishers showed themselves willing to settle on that basis—and were threatened then with legal action by their joint tortfeasor, Lipstadt. These are all unknown facts.
Even though it is absolutely true that the presiding judge did in fact find that Lipstadt had lied about the Goebbels diaries allegation and the “Hitler portrait,” it remains that the judge agreed that Irving is a “denier.” Although, it should be noted, the judge added that Irving has “substantially modified his position” over time on various aspects of the Holocaust. And, I will add, he’s further modified them since. Which is as good an entry point as any to the fact that Holocaust denial is dead.
What is Holocaust denial? It’s what you hear when ignorant goobers shout “Holohoax.” In essence, Holocaust denial is the belief that the worst the Nazis were guilty of was second-degree murder. Sure, Jews were rounded up and put into camps, and sure, some Jews died there, but from typhus and other diseases—not premeditated murder. That is denial. And when I say it’s dead, I don’t mean that no one subscribes to that factually bereft take on history. What I mean is that the three people most likely to be cited as the top experts in the “field” of denial completely dismiss the views of the deniers.
David Irving is no longer a denier, if he ever was one. He accepts the fact that Jews were slaughtered en masse by mobile Einsatzgruppen units in the months following the invasion of Russia, he accepts the liquidation of the Jews in the Ostland (Eastern territory) ghettos, and he accepts that the “Reinhard” camps (Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor) were extermination centers. Mark Weber, whose Institute for Historical Review defined Holocaust revisionism (and denial) in the 1990s, believes the same. And me? The “Jewish revisionist”? I never denied the Reinhard camps, the Ostland liquidations, or the Einsatzgruppen killings, and as early as 1995 I chided my fellow revisionists for rejecting the notion of a Nazi extermination program.
Sure, there are still deniers posting YouTube videos and calling them “documentaries,” most notably the (in the words of his own attorney) “mentally ill” Eric Hunt, but the only thing these cranks are capable of doing is recycling my 25-year-old work regarding Auschwitz and falsely labeling it denial.
Ah, Auschwitz. Yes, here’s where we still have a problem. Auschwitz is why Irving, Weber, and I are unlikely to be invited to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s fall cotillion. If the Einsatzgruppen killings and the Reinhard extermination program are parts 1 and 2, respectively, of the Holocaust, there are genuine problems with what is commonly claimed to be part 3—that in 1943 Auschwitz-Birkenau was “renovated” to become an ultra-super be-all end-all extermination facility. To me, the evidence just isn’t there, and the evidence that does exist calls that claim into question. But I’m not here to argue that point (I wrote a book to do that). What I’m here to argue is that Auschwitz is not the totality of the Holocaust. Most standard Holocaust histories agree that two-thirds of the Jews who were killed in the Holocaust were killed prior to the 1943 Auschwitz “renovations.” If one accepts the Einsatzgruppen killings, the Ostland liquidations, and the Reinhard extermination program (and there are other provable instances of premeditated mass murder, but I’m painting with a broad brush for the sake of space), one is not a denier.
Except that one is, by the standards set by the deniers and the Deborah Lipstadts of the world. Because both “sides” purposely push the nonsense that Auschwitz is the totality of the Holocaust. The deniers do so because they want to deflect attention from the premeditated killing periods and programs for which the evidence is by and large incontrovertible. The Lipstadts do so because, well, they’ve backed themselves into a corner by putting Auschwitz, with its phony, postwar tourist-attraction “gas chamber” and its complete lack of documentary evidence supporting a killing program, front and center as the heart of the Holocaust. They’re in so deep at this point that they can’t back off.
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