Witness Statement of Deborah E. Lipstadt: Electronic Edition, by Deborah E. Lipstadt

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Deniers as an aspect of Holocaust historiography

97.Though not all deniers espouse the same argument, there are, certain themes that are commonly heard from many of them. Among those themes are:
98.Denial is not a coherent intellectual position. It is based on lies and half-truths. Deniers pick and choose between different claims, some of which have been enumerated above. Though most deniers offer a web of interlocking claims, the single claim, that will generally indicate that an individual has cast his lot with the deniers, is that there were no gas chambers.
99.Deniers also tend to depict the question of the number of Jewish victims as an issue upon which the existence of the Holocaust can rise or fall. There will never be a final rendering of the death toll for a number of reasons, many of which are self-evident, e.g. the indiscriminate nature of the murders, the chaotic conditions extant at the war front, and the deliberate destruction of records by the individuals involved in the murder process when it was evident to them that the war would be lost. The historians who estimate numbers - and, it should be noted, not all historians believe this to be a principal objective of their work -- place themselves at one or another place within a wide compass of somewhat under five million to more than six million. There is a principled difference between Holocaust deniers and Holocaust historians. Deniers base their numbers on spurious research and do not actively investigate records.
100.Deniers aim to turn Holocaust historiography on its head by rehabilitating the reputation and ideology of National Socialism. In contrast to neo-Nazis, rather than praise Nazism, many deniers begin with a relatively innocuous supposition: war is evil and during war all sorts of terrible things are done by both sides. Assigning blame to one side is a meaningless enterprise because all sides are guilty. By so doing, deniers are engaging in that which I describe in my book as a search for immoral equivalencies, i.e. for every terrible thing done by one side an equally terrible thing has been done by the other side. Deniers must contend with one persistent problem in this approach. There is no immoral equivalency to equate with the Holocaust. Therefore, strategically, the most efficacious approach is to deny it.
101.The use of immoral equivalencies together with denial of the Holocaust leads to the following conclusion: one cannot differentiate between victor and vanquished. Both sides are equally guilty. To single out one side is more than wrong. It is to impose unjustifiable guilt on an innocent country and its citizens. Still, deniers assert, if guilt is to be assigned, it is not the Germans who were guilty of aggression and atrocities during the war. The real crimes against civilization were committed by the Americans, Russians, English, and French. The Germans were the victims. The Germans suffered the bombing of Dresden, wartime starvation, invasions, postwar population transfer from areas of Germany incorporated into post-war Poland, victors' vengeance at Nuremberg, and brutal mistreatment by Soviet and Allied occupiers. The atrocities inflicted on the Germans by the Allies were--in the words of Harry Elmer Barnes, one of the seminal figures in the history of North American Holocaust denial-- "more brutal and painful than the alleged exterminations in the gas chambers."
102.Once we recognize that the Allies were the aggressors, we must turn to the Germans and, in the words of Austin App, a professor of English literature who became one of the major theoreticians of Holocaust denial, implore them "to forgive us the awful atrocities our policy caused to be inflicted upon them."
103.Deniers acknowledge that some Jews were incarcerated in places such as Auschwitz, but, they maintain, as difficult as life may have been in these places, there was never any attempt to annihilate them. Some Jews did die but only as a result of the natural consequence of wartime deprivations. For the deniers, Jews are not victims but victimizers. They "stole" billions in reparations, destroyed Germany's good name by spreading the "myth" of the Holocaust, and won international sympathy because of what they claimed had been done to them.
104.Germany's acceptance of responsibility for the Holocaust presents a potential problem for the deniers. How can they, who did not witness what happened, claim that the perpetrators are innocent while the perpetrators themselves, acknowledge their guilt? Deniers contend that Holocaust historiography has treated Germany most unfairly. Falsely portrayed as a criminal nation that had committed one of the most heinous crimes in human history, Germany became and remains a victim of the world's emotional and scholarly aggression. After World War II, the world's venom toward Germany was intense. Moreover, there was widespread acceptance of the "myth" of the Holocaust. According to the deniers, in 1945 Germany faced a strategic conflict. In order to be readmitted to the "family of nations," it had to confess to this heinous crime even though it knew that these charges were false. Consequently, Germany had no choice but to acknowledge its complicity.
105.Germans were not unlike a defendant who has been falsely accused of unspeakable crimes. If he admits guilt, even though he is innocent, then shows contrition and makes amends he may receive a more lenient sentence. But should he firmly refuse to do so, even after both the legal courts and the "court of public opinion" have found him guilty, he may well be subjected to harsher treatment.
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