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Defense Documents

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

Table of Contents

The Holocaust as a Historical Fact

110.In writing this book I approached the topic of the Holocaust in no different a fashion than if I had been writing a book about some other aspect of the war. The book is not, for the most part, a direct response to the deniers in which I disproved their falsified findings. I have long maintained the position that it is not only counterproductive to enter into a debate with deniers but intellectually dishonest to do so. It would be to suggest that this is a "debate" about which there are two sides.
111.My approach is akin to a scholar who writes about people who are flat earthers or "conspiracy theorists." That scholar would devote herself to trying to understand how they reach their "conclusions," assess whether they truly believe their arguments to be accurate, and analyze the public's reaction to them. She would not spend time proving the earth is round or disproving their conspiratorial claims. For example, such a scholar would not "prove" that, contrary to the conspiracy theorists' claims, there really was a moon landing and that it did not take place in a studio stage in Nevada. Similarly, historians who write about the invasion at Normandy may do one of the following. They may:
  • (a)laud it as technically brilliant;
  • (b)criticize it as poorly planned and costing a disproportionate high number of Allied lives;
  • (c)or acknowledge that it cost many lives but contend that those deaths could not be avoided.
The do not, however, feel it necessary to prove that it indeed happened and was not staged on some beach in Hawaii.
112.Accepted as a given: In the course of writing my book I did not believe it necessary to research or prove various aspects of the Holocaust. I accepted them as a "given." They included, among others:
113.Accepted as a given: The Third Reich devoted significant resources to the persecution and annihilation of European Jewry.
  • (a)Accepted as a given: Antisemitism was a central motivating factor of National Socialist ideology and for the Third Reich the war was, at least in part, a war against the Jews.
  • (b)Accepted as a given: Hitler knew about the annihilation of the Jews. This action would not have taken place without, at least, his approval if not on his explicit orders. Recent historiography agrees that this approval was probably never written down.
  • (c)Accepted as a given: The persecution of the Jews occurred in incremental steps beginning in 1933.
  • (d)Accepted as a given: The number of Jews killed was on the order of magnitude between 5-6 million.
  • (e)Accepted as a given: Along with the Jews an unspecified number of Gypsies were murdered.
  • (f)Accepted as a given: A portion of the Jews who were murdered were murdered by "mobile killing units" composed of German forces together with individuals from countries occupied by the Germans.
  • (g)Accepted as a given: A portion of the Jews were murdered in gas chambers located in death camps [most, though not all, of which were in Poland or areas formerly controlled by Poland]. These gas chambers were built or converted from existing buildings for the sole purpose of killing people.
  • (h)Accepted as a given: Many Jews were imprisoned or worked to death in concentration camps. They were used as slave labor in barbaric conditions. This resulted in their death. Jews were not the only ones to be used for this form of slave labor.
114.In writing my book I acknowledged that there is serious debate among historians over many aspects of the Holocaust, including the following:
  • (a)Debate concerning: The Origins of the Final Solution: Did the Third Reich intend from the very outset of its rule or from the outset of the war to engage in the annihilation of the Jews? Was the annihilation a function of the course of the war, i.e. as the Germans occupied territories with more Jews it became increasingly difficult to incarcerate them therefore murder was instituted?
  • (b)Debate Concerning Hitler's Role: What was Hitler's precise role in the conception and implementation of the Final Solution? Did he initiate the program and to what degree?
  • (c)Debate Concerning the Military Situation of the Third Reich in the Summer of 1941 and its Connection to the Final Solution: Was the Final Solution begun at a time of euphoria over military victories or resignation at military setbacks? And what connection, if any, did this military situation have with the genesis of the Final Solution?
  • (d)Debate Concerning: The Uniqueness of the Holocaust: Is the Holocaust the same as a variety of other acts of persecution and genocide, e.g., the massacre of Armenians by Turkey in 1915 or the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia? Or, as state-sponsored genocide against an entire people who lived in many different lands, does it stand as something unique and apart that is quite different from other forms of persecution?
  • (e)Debate Concerning: The Role of the Ordinary German: Historians differ on the degree to which ordinary Germans were aware of the killing and how many played ancillary roles in the killing process.
  • (f)Debate Concerning: Eliminationist Antisemitism- A Unique form of German Antisemitism: Historians differ on whether Germany was home to a long standing form of antisemitism which called for the elimination, i.e. killing, of Jews and that this antisemitism had been prevalent since the 19th century. This debate has been engendered by the publication of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners.
  • (g)Debate Concerning: The Response of the Jewish Victims: Could Jews have resisted the Nazis more effectively? Were the Judenrate, the Jewish councils installed by the Nazis in many ghettoes in order to supervise ghetto life, too compliant with Nazi demands? Was a Judenrat's refusal to alert the ghetto population to the fate awaiting it an act of betrayal or an attempt to ease the victims' mental anguish during their final days? Were these people complicit, however unwillingly, in the Jews' destruction or were they placed in such an untenable and unprecedented situations that ultimately there was little if anything they could have done to relieve Jewish suffering?
  • (h)Debate Concerning: The Response of the Bystanders: In this arena there are many matters which are vigorously debated including the role of the Allies and of NGOs such as the Red Cross.
  • (i)Debate Concerning: The Allies: What could the American and British governments have done, if anything, to stop the killing or warn the victims? Is it valid to have expected them to do anything other than wage a conventional war against Germany? Was it not in their best interests to leave all rescue initiatives until after the war? Were there actions that could have been taken -- and were taken for other captive peoples -- to help the Jews? Could Auschwitz have been bombed? If camps adjacent to it were bombed -- why were the gas chambers, which Allied reconnaissance planes had photographed, not bombed?
  • (j)Debate Concerning: The Response of American Jews: Could American Jewish organizations have had a significant impact on the course of the Holocaust if they had been more organized and less engaged in internecine warfare? Did they fail to heed the cries for help from their fellow Jews? Was American foreign policy so fixed on rescue through victory and were the bureaucrats determining the policy so entrenched in their view that nothing could be done to help the Jews that no organization, of Jews or any other people, could have rendered a change in those policies?
  • (k)Debate Concerning: The Vatican: What might the Vatican done, from both a strategic and a moral perspective, to assist Jews? Is there reason to assume that if the Pope had admonished Catholics against cooperating with the Germans in the killing process, more Jews might have survived?
115.Rejected as false: In my book I have treated the following claims as incontestably false. They do not require prior refutation before considering the motives of the people who advance them. In this case motive is the primary matter for investigation because facts are nowhere to be found.
  • (a)Rejected: The claims made by deniers about the numbers of Jews killed and the cause of their death. Though different deniers given different estimates, the numbers generally range from 600,000 to approximately 1 million and the contention is that they died only because of war related privations.
  • (b)Rejected: The claim that the Germans placed Jews in camps for their own protection.
  • (c)Rejected: The claim that the gas chamber facilities were morgues or delousing units for clothes.
  • (d)Rejected: The documents which discuss the number of victims and/or the means of killing those victims are forgeries or falsifications.
  • (e)Rejected: The claim that Jewish groups conspired after the war to forge documents and place them in the archives and files of different German army and SS units in order to create the impression that the Holocaust was a hoax..
  • (f)Rejected: The claim that The Diary of Anne Frank is a falsification written after the war.
  • (g)Rejected: The claim that the Holocaust was a myth invented to win support for the creation of the State of Israel and to extract financial reparations from the Germans after the war.
116.Because this book was concerned solely with the deniers' history and modus operandi, I did not explore the items that I accepted as a given or analyze the items that are currently being debated among scholars.