Experience also tells me that one shouldn't praise a book after reading its introduction and the first one or two chapters, for what comes later may fall short of what the beginning makes you hope for.
But does one go wrong in dismissing a book as thinly disguised propaganda, written by an author with an obvious un-confessed agenda, when its introduction and first chapter strongly point in this direction already?
I don’t think so.
The book Debating the Holocaust: A New Look At Both Sides, by someone who calls himself Thomas Dalton, Ph.D. (the author apparently thinks much of the academic title he claims and/or the impression it may make on the book’s readers) is one such case. The Introduction and Chapter 1, which are available online, are enough to tell me what I can expect to find in the book, and it's nothing that would make me feel like spending money to acquire it.
In the Introduction the author, purportedly an academic who has "taught humanities at a prominent American university for several years now", claims to take "an impartial look" at the "clash of views" regarding the series of historical events commonly known as the Holocaust, between the people I call "Revisionists" (quote marks indicating that revisionists is not what I consider them to be) and those he refers to as "traditionalists". He claims that he is "not concerned with befriending either camp", that he is "not a revisionist", and that he does not "endorse their claims".
This is obviously false, to put it plainly.
First of all, the claim of being or trying to be impartial in a discussion of this nature is bound to be hypocritical, at least if one understands impartiality as not taking sides and conceding that both parties have equally valid arguments and positions. For it is impossible, ethical considerations aside, to reasonably hold such an attitude once one has taken a closer look at the arguments for and against the essential accuracy of the historical record in question, and realized that there is an abysmal difference between historiography and "Revisionism" as concerns both the quantity and the quality of evidence and arguments supporting them, a difference that makes "Revisionism" compare to historiography like creationism compares to the theory of evolution or the flat earth theory compares to established geography. One can either reasonably conclude that the historical record is essentially accurate and adequately considers and explains all evidence whereas "Revisionist" theses do not, or one can block out this reasonable conclusion in support of preconceived notions and/or the perceived glamour of being "politically incorrect", a "renegade" or a "rebel" or a supporter of such characters, and thus convince oneself that there is something to "Revisionism".
I have done the former and in this sense I am not impartial, though I can claim to be impartial in that I base my conclusions on evidence and common sense alone. Dalton, notwithstanding his express protestations to the contrary, has done the latter. The Introduction and Chapter I of his book can be roughly characterized as a eulogy to "Revisionism", which despite some alibi criticism is on the whole shown in a most favorable light, whereas the "traditional, orthodox view" is, despite some feeble alibi praise, presented as problematic at best, influential yet insecure, and accordingly both reluctant and repressive – a "story" with dubious rationale and justification, protected for the benefit of "political and economic power structures" by "the coercive abilities of the State". The following excerpts from the Introduction shall illustrate this assessment; emphases are mine:
[…]Traditional historians have thousands of surviving witnesses and the weight of history on their side. On the other hand there is a small, renegade band of writers and researchers who refuse to accept large parts of this story. These "revisionists," as they call themselves, present counter-evidence and ask tough questions.[…] It [the debate] is about history, of course, but it also speaks to fundamental issues of our time: freedom of speech and press, the operation of mass media, manipulation of public opinion, political and economic power structures, and the coercive abilities of the State.[…] Everyone knows that "six million Jews were killed by the Nazis," and that gas chambers were used in the killing. But few have any idea about the origins of this story, its rationale, and its justification. Fewer still know that serious questions have been raised against the traditional view; if they have heard of such questions, it is in the context of "a few right-wing neo-Nazi anti-Semites" who are trying to attack the Jews by questioning the Holocaust. And not more than a handful of people know about the serious issues raised by the revisionists, and the attempts by certain traditionalists to respond.[…] Revisionists challenge not only orthodoxy; they challenge the power of the State. Advocates for the conventional view are in positions of great influence. They are wealthy. They have many supporters, and virtually unlimited resources. They are able to turn the power of the State, and public opinion, against revisionism. The revisionists, few in number and poor in means, have only ideas. But, as the masked man once said, ideas are bulletproof. They have a power of their own, unmatched by money, military, or government. Ideas can penetrate to the heart of truth. This is the promise of revisionism. Whether it succeeds, time shall tell.[…] Revisionists have strong arguments in their favor, and, despite book burnings and jail terms, they are not going away. Traditionalists seem of late to have lost their momentum. Perhaps they have no more counterarguments. Perhaps they have tired of defending the conflicting stories of survivors and witnesses. Perhaps they have reached the limit of their ability to fashion a comprehensible picture of those tragic events of sixty years ago.
The message could not be clearer: on one side, we have the immensely influential and wealthy "advocates of the conventional view", with many supporters and access to "virtually unlimited resources" (is that supposed to include the contributors of this blog, Mr. Dalton?), who despite all their manipulative and repressive power are losing their grip. On the other side, there are the heroic "Revisionist" underdogs, who are armed with nothing but their "ideas" and who, undaunted by "book burnings and jail terms", are nevertheless winning the day. Apart from revealing that he has a very mistaken idea of (or is lying about) who the opposition to "Revisionism" largely consists of – modest private citizens like this writer, who have no connection to any "political and economic power structures", who have never seen a cent in exchange for what they are doing, and who are motivated by nothing other than their aversion to what they reasonably see as ideologically motivated hate propaganda – Dalton’s juxtaposition of the repressive "traditionalist" giant with feet of clay and the courageous and nimble "Revisionist" leaves no room for doubt that the author is either a "Revisionist" himself or a fervent admirer of "Revisionism", who under the transparent guise of "impartiality" tries to enlist sympathy and support for "Revisionism" with his "Robin Hood vs. Prince John & the Sheriff of Nottingham" – rhetoric.
Dalton’s objective is not only to enlist sympathy and support for "Revisionism", but also to promote its "teachings", which is what he starts doing in Chapter 1.
The introduction to this chapter is quite revealing as to where the author stands and comes from, for he refers to World War II as one "greater Holocaust" with "many lesser" holocausts in it, the latter, as his list suggests, having been perpetrated by the Allies on German or Japanese civilians or prisoners of war except for the "Jewish Holocaust of Nazi Germany". Apparently the author hasn't heard of the holocausts perpetrated by Nazi Germany against non-Jews, which are addressed in my articles One might think that … and 5 million non-Jewish victims? (Part 2). Or then he is denying these as well. The criminal siege of Leningrad alone, for example, killed more civilians than the area bombardment of German cities during World War II.
Dalton then quotes and briefly discusses some "widely accepted" definitions of "this Holocaust", and lists seven "challenging and troubling claims" made by "Revisionists", which supposedly "threaten to overturn many aspects" of the Holocaust "story". These "challenging and troubling claims", which someone who has debated "Revisionists" for a while knows to be nothing other than classic "Revisionist" straw-men and red herrings, I skip for now because they will be discussed one by one in future blogs of this series, in which the "merits" of the theses presented by Dalton as the "core of revisionism" will also be addressed.
I also skip Dalton’s complaint about there being no cordial communication between "Revisionists" and those he calls "traditionalists" – he might as well complain about there being no cordial communication between creationists and those who accept the theory of evolution, between flat earth theorists and geographers, or between moon hoaxers or 911 truthers and their respective opponents in the real world – and move on to the classic and inevitable "there is no such thing as denial" – mantra.
Dalton rhetorically asks how much of the "conventional view" one has to "reject" to be considered a "denier", ignoring that what matters to the concept of denial is not only what one "rejects" but also what such rejection is based on, how it is expressed and what it is motivated by. Consider, for instance, the definitions of the terms "Holocaust" and "Holocaust denial" that were accepted in the Irving-Lipstadt lawsuit's judgment. Emphases in the following quote are mine:
Evans argued that the term is generally understood to denote "the attempt by Nazi Germany, led by Hitler, to exterminate the Jewish population in Europe, which attempt succeeded to the extent of murdering between 5 and 6 million Jews in a variety of ways, including mass gassings in camps built for the purpose". It follows that a "Holocaust denier" is someone who, for one reason or another or for a combination of reasons, repudiates the notion that the above definition of the Holocaust is apt to describe what was sought to be done to the European Jews by the Nazis during World War 2. Evans testified that a characteristic of Holocaust denial is that it involves a politically motivated falsification of history.
The falsification of history through manipulative use or omission of evidence was pointed out as a key characteristic of denial, in fact as the reason why the phenomenon must be called denial and not revisionism, in a series of articles on this blog headed That's why it is denial, not revisionism.
Intellectual dishonesty and falsehood as a key characteristic of denial also show in the "Revisionist" claim that they are not denying the Holocaust or claiming that it never happened because, after all, they accept that Jews suffered a lot and as many as 500,000 (according to Dalton's characterization of what he calls the "core" of "Revisionism") may have died. To realize that this is but a feeble alibi meant to avoid the indictment of denial, one only has to look at how "Revisionists" substantiate their "version" of events. What evidence do they present as proof that the Nazis "only" meant to forcibly resettle the Jews, and that the death toll was the one they are prepared to "accept"? Even the "Revisionist" who tries more than others to explain away incriminating evidence rather than simply ignore it, Carlo Mattogno, is notably vague when it comes to presenting a "Revisionist" narrative of events. The reasons for this are obvious: putting together such narrative requires picking out some parts of the body of evidence and ignoring most others. It requires, for instance, cherry-picking evidence on which the "accepted" half-a-million death toll can be based, and this will immediately lead to the question how this "accepted" evidence differs from the evidence that is not "accepted", on what basis other than convenience certain statistics, reports or testimonies are considered reliable and others not. As they would be in no conditions to answer this question about their selection criteria, "Revisionists" avoid specifying what evidence they "accept" and essentially limit themselves to haggling about the evidence they "reject", when they do not ignore it altogether.
This unscholarly, unscientific and dishonest approach – making a big fuss about what they claim the Nazis did not do while avoiding any precise, substantiated narrative of what they claim the Nazis actually did – is what I consider the essence of what the term "denial" refers to. It is also one of the reasons why there can be no cordial and equitable debate between "Revisionists" and who accepts established historiography, any more than there can be such debate betweeen creationists and who accepts the theory of evolution, or between flat earth theorists and who goes by geography.
The political motivation underlying Holocaust denial, which is also mentioned in the above quote from the Irving-Lipstadt judgment, takes us to the laws against Holocaust denial that are enforced in a number of countries, an issue to which Dalton dedicates five paragraphs of Chapter 1.
While such laws should in my opinion be avoided, or revoked where they are in place – also because they give "Revisionists" a pretext for claiming persecution and hinting that they are subject to such because they convey an inconvenient truth, as Dalton does – the fuss that Dalton makes about these laws is further evidence to where he comes from, as he clamors about a "flamboyant publisher and promoter of right-wing literature in Canada" (Ernst Zündel), a "one-time doctoral student in chemistry in Germany" (Germar Rudolf) and a "noted British writer and historian" (David Irving) having been subject to legal procedures that he refers to, in what concerns the alleged burning of Rudolf's books, as "a throwback to the Middle Ages". Here we have again the same idealizing image of the heroic "Revisionist" individual against the repressive "traditionalist" establishment that pervades the Introduction, as was demonstrated above.
More significant, however, is Dalton’s insinuation that the reasons he claims are invoked to justify such legislation ("The presumption is that revisionist writings or speeches will inflame violent extremists, or will 'corrupt the youth' (Germany), or will somehow bring unacceptable pain to Jewish people or others sympathetic to their suffering.") are window-dressing meant to cover up un-confessed ulterior motives ("Why are they able to draw the attention of national legislators? Whom do they threaten? And perhaps most important—Are they on to something? Do they in fact have a case to make, that the Holocaust story is fundamentally deficient? The State does not attack those who argue for a flat Earth, or warn against some imminent alien invasion. Those who are irrational, or cannot make a coherent case, pose no threat, and thus are left alone. Apparently the "deniers" are not in this category.").
The evidence and arguments that Dalton offers in support of this insinuation are meager at best. He doesn't even try explaining what's supposed to be wrong with the notion that denying genocide is highly offensive to and painful for members of a people that suffered such genocide, and he also doesn't seem to have realized that its offensive, defaming nature is what distinguishes "Revisionism" from innocuous fringe lunacies like the flat earth theory or alien invasion fantasies, and thus the obvious reason why the latter are "left alone" but the former is not. And his argument against the notion that "Revisionist" writings or speeches may inflame violent extremists is limited to the lame remark that he knows of no "anti-Semitic violence" that "Revisionism" can be shown to have contributed to, as if that were the specific concern of legislators like the German, who bans Holocaust denial as a form of "Agitation of the People" in the context of the Criminal Code's provisions about Crimes Against Public Order.
The German legislator's concern is not so much that skinheads may brutalize Jewish citizens or devastate a Jewish cemetery after reading a book by Rudolf or Mattogno or listening to a speech by David Irving, but rather that "Revisionism" is part of the ideological foundation of potentially violent racist and/or xenophobic groups, and that the ideological backing such groups receive through "Revisionism" may augment not only their resentful preconceived notions but also their belief in being "right" and their self-confidence as well as their unity, thus making them a more influential and thus more threatening risk to the public order. The German state sees Holocaust denial as the binding kit between extremist groups, and in this sense considers it's banning a means of confronting political extremism. The following quote is my translation from the article MIT DEM STRAFRECHT GEGEN DIE „AUSCHWITZ-LÜGE”: Ein halbes Jahrhundert § 130 Strafgesetzbuch „Volksverhetzung“, written by our guest blogger, German historian Dr. Joachim Neander. Emphases in the translation are mine:
When taking a look into the German Criminal Code, the impartial observer notices that the range of penalties for Holocaust denial – imprisonment up to five years or a fine – lies in the upper area of the illegal acts defined as "misdemeanors".22 For a multitude of other offenses, which are considered criminal acts also by juridical laymen, the law foresees a similar range of penalties, for instance for falsification of election papers (§ 107a), bribery of members of parliament (§ 108e), sexual abuse of youths (§ 182), bodily injury (§ 223), theft (§ 242), receiving stolen property (§ 259) or endangering road traffic (§ 315c). Obviously the legislator considered Holocaust denial a threat to social life comparable to these offenses. For Holocaust denial is generally considered the smallest common denominator – and thus an integrating factor – for all right-wing radical, racist and anti-Semitic movements, which otherwise fiercely compete with each other.23 Fighting Holocaust denial, in the opinion of all political parties represented in the Bundestag, thus plays a key role in the offensive confrontation with political right-wing extremism.
Dr. Neander’s analysis suggests that the German state indeed sees Holocaust denial as a threat – but not because it thinks that there’s "something to it". The threat is rather seen in its potential for unifying and thus making more dangerous various otherwise disparaged extremist groups in the political spectrum.
It follows from the above that, whatever one may think of the appropriateness of confronting Holocaust denial by means of criminal legislation, there’s no basis for claiming or insinuating that such legislation points to "Revisionists" being "on to something". That insinuation belongs to the realm of "Revisionist" wishful thinking at best.
Following his presentation of what he considers the current "core of revisionism", Dalton proceeds to debunking four actual or supposed myths.
The first myth, he tells us, is that Revisionists believe that the Holocaust "never happened." . He claims that there is no "functional definition" of the term "Holocaust" and that because of this, and because "No serious revisionist doubts" that "extensive killing of Jews occurred, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, at least", one cannot say that "Revisionists" claim the Holocaust "never happened", and who so does is being "disingenuous at best".
Actually the one who is being disingenuous here is Mr. Dalton, or then he is just unable to see the forest because of the many trees (a German saying). For if there is one thing that all common definitions of the Holocaust coincide in, it is that the Holocaust was a genocidal undertaking, a series of systematic killings aimed at wiping out the Jewish population of Europe. And whatever it is of the historical record that "Revisionists" profess to accept, there is not one (at least to my knowledge) who acknowledges that the Nazis intended to wipe out the Jewish population of Europe. The "core of revisionism", as presented by Mr, Dalton, portrays Nazi anti-Jewish measures as brutal ethnic cleansing, not as genocide. And Dalton even spells this out when he writes that the Nazis' primary goal, according to "Revisionists", was "ethnic cleansing, not genocide" (italics are Dalton's). One wonders how Dalton could have failed to notice how blatantly this characterization contradicts his subsequent claim that "Revisionists" don’t believe the Holocaust never happened.
The second supposed myth is that "Photographs of corpses prove the Holocaust happened". They do not, Dalton explains, because it is not known if "the gruesome pictures of bodies stacked up outside some crematorium, or unceremoniously dumped into pits" show Jews, or Polish internees, or Russian POWs, or German inmates, and nobody tried to "actually identify, or autopsy, any of those bodies" (why Dalton thinks an autopsy would have revealed whether or not the bodies were Jewish he doesn’t tell). They also do not because they were taken not at extermination camps but at "the camps liberated by the British and Americans—primarily Bergen-Belsen", and at these camps "there were rampant outbreaks of typhus and other diseases that claimed thousands of lives", so if it is "implied" that the bodies photographed were of gassing victims, this is false. From the extermination camps, Dalton tells us, there are "no corpse photos at all", which alone "should give us reason to consider whether certain aspects of the traditional story might be suspect". Last but not least, he adds, "the photos show at most several hundred corpses", which is "so far from ‘six million’ that the vaunted photos are almost meaningless as proof of the Holocaust".
It's quite a feat to pack into one paragraph as much nonsense and falsehood as Dalton does into the one dedicated to "Myth # 2".
First of all, no historian or criminal investigator in his right mind has to my knowledge claimed that the gruesome photos taken by the British and Americans in liberated Nazi concentration camps at the end of the war "prove the Holocaust happened". This because photographs alone don't usually prove anything – they are just part of the mosaic of various elements of evidence that historians laboriously piece together into a factual narrative of events, the only thing that sets them apart from other evidence being their capacity to visualize, illustrate and thus make it easier for the observer to get a mental picture of what becomes apparent from eyewitness accounts and documentary evidence. The photographs in question are presented by historians as what they are, part of the evidence to the abysmal conditions in German concentration camps in the last months of the war as they were overcrowded with evacuated inmates from camps further east that had been overrun by the Red Army and this overcrowding, together with a lack of food and sanitation that those who ordered the evacuations to camps like Bergen Belsen knew about and the camp administrators on site were indifferent to, led to epidemics from which the weakened inmates died like flies. These conditions were not the Holocaust and are neither presented as such; as concerns the Jewish evacuees from eastern camps – who were by no means the only ones to perish in large numbers in the camps liberated by the Western Allies – they can at most be considered a final consequence of the genocidal program, which had been stopped in late 1944, as testified before the IMT by Ohlendorf ("The third period was the so called "final solution" of the Jewish question, that is, the planned extermination and destruction of the Jewish race; this period lasted until October 1944, when Himmler gave the order to stop their destruction.") and Wisliceny ("This order was in force until October 1944. At that time Himmler gave a counter order which forbade the annihilation of the Jews."). Who the victims of these liberated camps were and where they came from is largely known from documentary evidence and testimonies of survivors. Thus the Belsen Memorial Site has, after intensive archival research, published a Memorial Book containing the names of about 50,000 of the camp’s inmates.
Second, who is supposed to have "implied" that the dead bodies photographed at Belsen and other liberated concentration camps were of gassing victims? There may be one or the other popular account, or one or the other emotional website of dubious reliability, where pictures of Belsen are presented in a text about Auschwitz-Birkenau in a manner suggesting that the pictures show Auschwitz gassing victims. But such accounts and websites do not represent historiography, and I don’t think that Mr. Dalton could, if required, show a single work of serious historical scholarship in which photos from Belsen and other concentration camps are stated to be anything other than what they are, photos of inmates who succumbed to starvation and disease mainly due to a criminal indifference to their fate on the part of those responsible for them. Dalton is obviously dishing up another straw-man here.
Third, while it is not quite true that there are no corpse photos from the extermination camps – there is at least one Treblinka photo from camp times showing an open mass grave (the stated source is Bundesarchiv No. 183-F0918-0201-011; the Bundesarchiv is the German Federal Archive in Koblenz, Germany), and there are several post-liberation photos of human remains on the sites of the Treblinka and Belzec camps, which are included in my collection of Photographic documentation of Nazi crimes – the scarcity of such photos and of other photos of these camps (like the excavator photos taken by Treblinka's second-in-command Kurt Franz) is due to two facts conveniently omitted by Dalton: the lengths to which the SS went to destroy the corpses and other evidence of the extermination camps, which they were able to do at their leisure long before the Red Army got close to the respective areas, and an express prohibition to take photographs included in a secrecy undertaking that every SS-man detached to one of the Einsatz Reinhard(t) camps had to sign ("I have been thoroughly informed and instructed by SS Hauptstuermfuhrer Hoefle, as Commander of the main division of 'Einsatz Reinhard' of the SS and Police Leader in the District of Lublin: ... that there is an absolute prohibition on photography in the camps of 'Einsatz Reinhard'"). Kurt Franz may have violated this undertaking, but the contents of his private album apprehended when Franz was arrested (some of the photos had been torn out and their captions erased, see Manfred Blank, "Zum Beispiel: Die Ermordung der Juden im 'Generalgouvernement' Polen", in: Adalbert Rückerl, NS-Prozesse. Nach 25 Jahren Strafverfolgung: Möglichkeiten – Grenzen – Ergebnisse, 1971 Verlag C.F. Müller, Karlsruhe, pages 46/47) suggest that he avoided taking photos that clearly showed the nature of the Treblinka extermination camp, perhaps in order to avoid getting into too much trouble in case his illicit activities were discovered. So we can see that there's no reason to consider that anything might be suspect here, except perhaps Mr. Dalton’s qualities as a researcher and/or his intellectual honesty.
Last but not least, Dalton's arguing that the photos taken in liberated concentration camps show "at most several hundred" corpses is easily the silliest thing he wrote in all of Chapter 1, and I hope for him that he produced no worse howlers later in his book. Due to the very nature of the medium, photos of mass catastrophes like that encountered by the British at Bergen-Belsen tend to show only a few relatively small parts of such catastrophes, as a ten-year-old should be able to understand. If the British had photographed and published photos of all of the thousands of bodies they found on the camp site plus the thousands who died after liberation, these photos alone would probably fill one or more thick books, and nobody obviously saw a point in filling thick books with photographs of mangled dead bodies, which is why only as many photos as deemed necessary to visualize and illustrate the conditions found at Belsen were taken. I submit that, if one were to put together all known World War II photos showing dead bodies, the number of dead bodies shown on these photos would add up to several thousand at most – so far from the roughly 50 to 60 million worldwide deaths of the conflict, mentioned by Dalton as an indisputable fact at the start of this chapter, that the vaunted "impartial" analyst of "both sides" comes across as either a mentally challenged person or a charlatan who expects his readers to be mentally challenged.
Dalton shows a little more sense, at least at the beginning, as he proceeds to debunking "Myth # 3", the notion that the historical record of the Holocaust is the result of a monumental hoax, a massive, immensely powerful and influential conspiracy of evidence manipulation. He points out that "Revisionists risk looking foolish" by claiming massive fraud without a "solid basis" of "hard evidence" to support this claim – the utter improbability and lack of precedent for the massive fraud in question doesn’t seem to bother him. But the brief moment of lucidity soon ends, as Dalton offers an alternative scenario to the "hoax" that is at least as improbable and unsupported by evidence as the "hoax" theory: the hypothesis that the historical record of the Holocaust resulted from "something like a fish tale, in which one catches a trout but claims it was a shark". Dalton claims that one can "well imagine" how this fish tale kept being repeated and growing until it became "the basis for trials, billions of dollars in reparations, even death sentences" in a step-by-step process "over the course of sixty years".
If Dalton can indeed imagine
• thousands of survivor eyewitnesses to numerous massacres, deportations and other unpleasantness at several thousand places throughout Europe making up "fish tales" independently of each other,
• such "fish tales" being corroborated by documents, by physical evidence and/or by the depositions of accused perpetrators at hundreds of trials before German courts, where the supposed tellers of "fish tales" were subject to hostile cross-examination by the defendant’s attorneys,
• such "fish tales" being uncritically accepted by administrative authorities eager to waste billions of Deutschmarks of taxpayer's money, and
• millions of former European Jews throughout the world or their descendants concealing their origin and their identity in order not to spoil the game of all those telepathic fish tale tellers,
among other necessary ingredients of his "fish tale" theory, then I must wonder if he lives in this world or in some lunatic cloud-cuckoo-land even further removed from reality than that of "Revisionists" who postulate a gigantic, all-encompassing conspiracy of evidence manipulation. Better don’t lecture your coreligionists and let them stick with the "hoax" theory, Mr. Dalton. It’s not quite as fantastic as what you are proposing.
How is the "fish tale" supposed to have developed "over the course of sixty years", by the way? Essential aspects of the Nazi genocide of the Jews – the extermination plan, the mass shootings by Einsatzgruppen and other mobile formations, the extermination camps – were already described in the sub-section Persecution of the Jews of the section War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity of the International Military Tribunal’s Judgment at the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals. What historical research (largely by German scholars) and criminal investigation (mostly by the German Federal Republic’s criminal justice authorities) have done since is to further detail and expand historical knowledge about a genocide that was known in its essential aspects back in 1945/46 already, by finding and assessing a wealth of documents and eyewitness testimonies that were not yet available at that time, and correcting some mistaken initial conclusions in the process (e.g. the number of Jewish deaths in Nazi concentration and extermination camps, which was closer to three than to four million, and the notion that "in some instances attempts were made to utilise the fat from the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap").
Unlike the "fish tale" howler, what Dalton writes as concerns "Myth # 4: Revisionists are right-wing neo-Nazi anti-Semites" is not an expression of a fantasy-prone mind, but another collection of falsehoods.
It is true that "Revisionists" do not necessarily adhere to the ideology of Nazi Germany, and it is also a fact that "Revisionists" do not necessarily harbor the obsessive scorn/hatred and/or fear of and/or contempt for Jews that is known as anti-Semitism. My experience with "Revisionism" tells me that "Revisionists" can be broadly divided into the following categories:
1. "Revisionists" who are anti-Semites and also adhere to Nazi ideology or idealize Nazi Germany;
2. "Revisionists" who are anti-Semites but indifferent to or even critical of Nazi ideology or Nazi Germany;
3. "Revisionists" who adhere to Nazi ideology or idealize Nazi Germany, but have no animus against Jews;
4. "Revisionists" who have neither anti-Semitic nor Nazi leanings but refuse to accept that "the Germans" did something so awful and/or think that it is cool to be "politically incorrect" or against the "establishment".
Most "Revisionists" I have met belong to one of the first three categories, whereas "Revisionists" in the fourth category are a minority.
So I agree that it is an undue generalization to say that "Revisionists" are generally "right-wing neo-Nazi anti-Semites". But it an equally undue generalization to claim that "Revisionism" is not related to and strongly influenced by idealization of Nazi Germany and by anti-Semitism, which is obviously the idea that Dalton is trying to sell.
As concerns idealization of Nazi Germany, it is irrelevant in this respect whether or not any of the major "Revisionist" writers "openly admits to being a National Socialist", or whether or not Mr. Dalton thinks that they are concerned with "burnishing Hitler’s image". And that’s not only because "Revisionists" rarely if ever own up to their actual motives, but also and mainly because the general stance of "Revisionist" writings inevitably includes an "it wasn’t all that bad" – apology and whitewashing of Nazi Germany. It is hardly a coincidence that the events that "Revisionists" focus their denial efforts on are those that have contributed most to discrediting Nazi Germany and its ideology as a political alternative – crimes of Nazi Germany that are less well known than the genocide of the Jews, even though they claimed a higher number of victims in total, do not get an even remotely comparable attention, if any at all.
It is also no coincidence that "Revisionism" focuses on one specific group of Nazi victims and largely ignores other groups. While this can be partially attributed to the fact that the genocide of the Jews was Nazi Germany’s biggest and best known single crime, and that it is widely held to be "unique" and not to be compared with other mass crimes in history (a notion I personally disagree with), there is no denying an obvious connection to the anti-Jewish prejudices of some of the "major writers" and a large part of their public.
While it is evidently in the interest of "Revisionist" authors to be discrete about their agenda and bias in their books or other written or verbal communications, they at least sometimes cannot help being themselves and allow their own words to reveal what makes them tick. The following, for example, are statements made by two of the "Revisionists" eulogized by Dalton as writers of "serious, dedicated works":
As to the Jews, they condemn themselves with their hideous lies–and vindicate those who tried unsuccessfully to expel them from Europe forever. The enormous success Jews continue to have with their spectacular hoax proves that the fears HITLER, and many others, had regarding Jewish domination of the world's media was, and still is, entirely justified. Let us hope that as the current Mideast disaster worsens and spreads, the human race will finally revolt against the Jews. That revolt should include a revolution against Christianity as well. They are all outgrowths of the same primitive, racist lunacy–and should not dominate a world where science and technology have given us unlimited power to advance, and evolve–but also, to destroy everything.
(From Berg's website)
Israel doesn't have a right to exist. What to do with those Jews? We're cultured people, we can't exterminate them. What to do with them?.. I don't know.
(Sergey Romanov, Juergen Graf doesn't want to kill Jews)
Readers may judge for themselves in which of my four categories these utterances place the "serious" writers quoted above.
Dalton is right about only one thing, in this context: pointing out the somewhat-less-than-recommendable background and motivations of "Revisionist" writers is no substitute for debunking their claims and arguments. That's why the latter has been and will continue to be the priority of this blogspot.
As concerns the "traditionalist" side, Dalton lists Reitlinger, Hilberg, Dawidowicz, Arad, Gutman, Laqueur, Yad Vashem and the USHMM as the "leading architects of the orthodox view" (compare this terminology with the "careful, scientific examination of the circumstances of the Holocaust", "high-quality articles and books on their critiques" and "serious, dedicated works" that he credits "academic revisionists" with), then points out that "All of the above individuals and organizations are Jewish" and that "this Jewish predominance is a matter of concern" because (among other things) it "indicates a large potential for biased and self-interested reporting". In other words, Jews are likely to lie about the whole thing.
As on previous occasions, the liar here is Dalton himself – unless he is such a sloppy researcher as not to have noticed that Holocaust research is currently done largely by non-Jews, many of whom are Poles researching the Nazi death camps (Franciszek Piper, Tomasz Kranz, Robert Kuwalek, Andrzej Strzelecki, Henryk Swiebocki, Piotr Setkiewicz, Janina Kielbon) or Germans (Andrej Angrick, Götz Aly, Christian Gerlach, Peter Longerich, Dieter Pohl, Thomas Sandkühler and others that Dalton doesn’t seem to have heard of; also worth mentioning are Jacek Mlynarczyk and Bodgan Musial, two Polish scholars who studied in Germany and have done research about Aktion Reinhard(t)). Dalton may be forgiven for not knowing the Polish scholars other than Franciszek Piper (whose study about the number of victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau has been translated into English and is summarized in the Van Pelt Report), but the most prominent among the German scholars he should have heard of, and at the very least he should know Peter Longerich’s expert reports about Hitler's Role in the Persuection of the Jews by the Nazi Regime and The Systematic Character of the National Socialist Policy for the Extermination of the Jews, submitted for the defense at the Irving-Lipstadt trial (which, incidentally, ended with a detailed and devastating judgment about the fallacies of "Revisionism" that Dalton only mentions in passing as he refers to Robert van Pelt and Deborah Lipstadt – I hope for Dalton that there’s more about that trial later in his book). For who limits his research efforts to English-language scholarship, there are Tim Cole, Martin Dean, Donald Bloxham, Michael Thad Allen, Rebecca Wittmann, Robert Gellately as non-Jewish scholars specialized on Holocaust matters, besides historians like Ian Kershaw, Richard Evans, Richard Overy and Adam Tooze who have written on the Holocaust as part of their work on the Third Reich. And if someone who pretends to have looked up and assessed the writings of "both sides" omits Christopher Browning (author of the expert report Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution submitted at the Irving-Lipstadt trial, and of the books The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy September 1939-March 1942 and Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, among others) in his list of leading Holocaust scholars, that someone has at best failed to do his homework.
Robert van Pelt (author of a "hefty 2002 book"), John Zimmerman ("the first to seriously address, in detail, the revisionist arguments" and "an accountant at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas"), Deborah Lipstadt ("very little" of whose book Denying the Holocaust "addresses the actual arguments"), Pierre Vidal-Naquet ("An arrogant and polemical response to revisionism") and Jean-Claude Pressac (whose "very detailed study" of the Auschwitz gas chambers "raised as many questions as it answered", and who "died in 2003, having fallen out of favor with the traditionalist establishment") are five of the "traditionalist writers" listed by Dalton as having "taken it upon themselves to directly challenge" the "Revisionist" view. The list reads like a litany of failures, the best credits going to the "accountant" Zimmerman (who is actually an associate professor at the University of Nevada). And what is worse, anti-revisionist forces have been "notably quiet since 2002", no "new anti-revisionist books" having appeared, "and only a handful of journal articles" (this "handful", incidentally, includes the report on The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, by Daniel Keren, Jamie McCarthy, and Harry W. Mazal), in "marked contrast" with "the outpouring of books by revisionists in that same period—nearly a dozen in total".
I haven't heard of anti-"Revisionist" books since the works of Zimmerman and van Pelt indeed, and it's not surprising, given his apparent tendency for wishful thinking, that Dalton sees this as an indication that "traditionalists" are on the ropes (as he suggests in the Introduction, see above).
Outside the world of "Revisionist" wishful thinking, one possible reason for there having been no books specifically targeting "Revisionism" in the last years is that the potential authors of such books consider the job of debunking "Revisionism" to have been accomplished with the works of Zimmerman and van Pelt and the judgment at the Irving-Lipstadt trial, besides the many works of "traditionalist" historians whose supposed refusal to "take on the revisionist challenge" (solid research is one way of doing just that, whether or not it is meant for this purpose) Dalton eagerly chides as avoiding "a battle that you may well lose".
But the main reason, as I see it, is one that Dalton doesn’t mention, although a statement in his Introduction ("Much controversial material can be published only on the Web, and this point must be noted") suggests that he is well aware of it: the key medium through which "Revisionist" propaganda is disseminated is the Web (which is also why "several complete revisionist texts are available free online", as Dalton approvingly notes). It is therefore only logical that the Web, and not the book market, is the essential arena on which "Revisionism" is confronted, and that it is essentially on the Web that key anti-"Revisionist" material can be found.
Dalton lamely tries to avoid having to tackle Web opposition to "Revisionism" by giving a speech in the Introduction about the supposed general unreliability of Web sources (actually the Web's offer of information ranges from highly reliable to abysmally unreliable, just like the book market's) and playing down this blogspot and The Holocaust History Project as sites of "some minor Web-based activity" in footnote 16 to Chapter 1.
However, this "minor Web-based activity", as I already noted in my Amazon review of Dalton's book, seems to have worried him enough dedicate it some dishonest hand-waving remarks, of which Dalton’s publisher, Michael Santomauro, kindly provided an instructive example.
This worry is likely to grow as further parts of Dalton’s "new look at both sides" are dissected on this blogspot.
Thanks to my fellow blogger, Dr. Nick Terry, for information provided and especially for his constructive criticism.