A Short Introduction to the Study of Holocaust Revisionism
By Arthur R. Butz
1. I see three principal reasons for the widespread but erroneous belief in the legend of millions of Jews killed by the Germans during World War II: US and British troops found horrible piles of corpses in the west German camps they captured in 1945 (e.g. Dachau and Belsen), there are no longer large communities of Jews in Poland, and historians generally support the legend.
I see one principal reason why the murder of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany is accepted as an indisputable historical fact: systematic mass murder is the only explanation for the fate of Europe's Jews during World War II that takes all known documentary, demographic, eyewitness and physical evidence into account and requires no additional suppositions unsupported by evidence, whereas the alternative scenarios of Butz et al are not supported by evidence, at odds with all known evidence and dependent on baseless and fantastic conjectures about wholly implausible conspiracies of evidence manipulation.
2. During both world wars Germany was forced to fight typhus, carried by lice in the constant traffic with the east. That is why all accounts of entry into the German concentration camps speak of shaving of hair and showering and other delousing procedures, such as treatment of quarters with the pesticide Zyklon. That was also the main reason for a high death rate in the camps, and the crematoria that existed in all.
Not all accounts of entry into German concentration camps describe large numbers of deportees being herded into closed rooms, the introduction of Zyklon B into such rooms, the victims' screams in death panic, the aspect of their dead bodies, their laborious removal from such rooms and their subsequent cremation. But a great many accounts related to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp, emanating from various categories of eyewitnesses (camp inmates including those who had the task of extracting and cremating the bodies, members of the SS staff and German visitors to the camp), provided independently of each other and assessed by historians and criminal justice authorities often unconnected to each other, coincide in such details and are moreover corroborated by documentary evidence such as the "Vergasungskeller" document that "Revisionists" (including Mr. Butz himself, IIRC) have vainly tried to explain away through rather amusing mental gymnastics, and by the physical evidence of the killing installations as assessed, for instance, in the report 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, besides the documentary and demographic evidence whereby hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from various countries and mostly vanished for good behind the gates of that place.
Typhus actually accounted for only a relatively small part of the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau, as pointed out by John Zimmerman, on hand of camp records, in his article Body Disposal at Auschwitz: The End of Holocaust Denial. It is also nonsensical to claim that Auschwitz-Birkenau installed a cremation capacity far exceeding that of any other concentration camps just to cope with its "normal" mortality which, though very high, was not nearly as out of proportion to that of other concentration camps as its cremation capacity. Mr. Zimmerman points out this fact:
Gusen was a camp in the Mauthausen concentration camp complex. Mauthausen and Gusen are located in Austria. Gusen was comprised of three camps. In February 1941, Gusen had a Topf double muffle furnace, two ovens, installed in order to handle the deaths there. No additional ovens were added during the remainder of Gusen's existence.  Prior to March 1943, Auschwitz had three Topf double muffle ovens, or three times the cremation capacity of Gusen. In 1942 there were 7410 deaths in Gusen.  In 1942 there were 44,000 deaths of registered prisoners and an additional 1100 Soviet POWs recorded in the morgue registries. These deaths are not in dispute.  Non-registered prisoners who were killed upon arrival are not included in these numbers Therefore, in 1942 there were six times as many deaths in Auschwitz as Gusen and three times the cremation capacity. Also revealing is an examination of the highest three consecutive months of deaths in both camps. The highest three months of deaths of registered prisoners in Auschwitz was 21,900 for the period from August through October 1942. The highest three month period for Gusen was from December 1942 through February 1943 when 3851 prisoners died. Thus, in the highest three month period Auschwitz death totals for registered prisoners were six times the Gusen amount.
A comparison of these death statistics suggests that Auschwitz could have accommodated the excess death rate over that of Gusen by doubling its cremation capacity from 6 to 12 ovens. If Auschwitz really needed 46 additional ovens, a nearly ninefold expansion of its existing capacity, then Gusen needed to expand to at least 12 ovens. Yet, no such expansion was ever undertaken.
3. When Germany collapsed in chaos then of course all such defenses ceased, and typhus and other diseases became rampant in the camps, which quartered mainly political prisoners, ordinary criminals, homosexuals, conscientious objectors, and Jews conscripted for labor. Hence the horrible scenes, which however had nothing to do with "extermination" or any deliberate policy. Moreover the west German camps involved were not the alleged "extermination camps", which were all in Poland (e.g. Auschwitz and Treblinka) and which were all evacuated or shut down before capture by the Soviets, who found no such scenes.
Butz doesn't mention that most inmates of Nazi concentration camps were non-Germans, as is pointed out by Richard Overy (The Dictators, excerpt quoted in my RODOH post of 15-Jan-2006 22:04):
The German camps were overwhelmingly populated by non-Germans for more than half their life. During the war years an estimated 90-95 per cent of camp prisoners were drawn from the rest of Europe. The great majority of those who died or were killed in all the camps were drawn from their non-German populations. The SS sub-camps at Gusen contained only 4.9 per cent ethnic Germans in 1942 (half the prisoners were Spanish republicans, over a quarter Russians). At Natzweiler only 4 per cent of the political prisoners by 1944 were Germans; at Buchenwald only 11 per cent were German in May 1944. By 1944 there were more Soviet citizens in captivity in Germany than in the USSR. In the Soviet camps the proportions were almost entirely the other way round. In 1939 fewer than half a per cent of prisoners came from ethnic groups outside the Soviet Union. Most prisoners were ethnic Russians or Ukrainians, who comprised 77 per cent of inmates. The proportion of foreigners rose during and after the war, when Poles and Germans were taken to work in camps and special settlements. But in the main the Soviet state incarcerated its own people, while German camps held the citizens of other states.
Apart from that, Butz is telling nothing new when pointing out that the Nazis’ "plain" concentration camps were not extermination camps. They were never considered to be, as far I know. The Soviets found many dead lying around and emaciated survivors when they liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, by the way. What they found at Majdanek (mass graves, cremation ovens with skeletons lying around them, bones and skulls and heaps of human ashes) is recorded in photographs of which some are included in my collection Photographic documentation of Nazi crimes. Regarding the aspect of the Treblinka extermination camp site when investigated by the Soviets and later by the Poles, see the Treblinka section of the blog Mass Graves at Nazi Extermination Camps.
4. The "Final Solution" spoken of in the German documents was a program of evacuation, resettlement and deportation of Jews with the ultimate objective of expulsion from Europe. During the war Jews of various nationalities were being moved east, as one stage in this Final Solution. The legend claims that the motion was mainly for extermination purposes.
If the "Final Solution" had been a mere resettlement program, if the Jews deported to Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Lublin-Majdanek had been moved further east from these places and resettled somewhere in the Nazi-occupied territories of the Soviet Union, the deportation and resettlement of many hundreds of thousands of Jews would have created a huge paper trail, which it would have been in the interest of Nazis involved in this deportation not to destroy but to carefully preserve as evidence in their defense. What is more, it would have produced thousands upon thousands of eyewitnesses, from among the organizers and executors of the deportation, from among German officials and the local population at the places of destination, and especially from among the deportees themselves. Yet even the most able of "Revisionist" writers, Carlo Mattogno, has admitted that he can produce no documents, and he cannot even produce a single one out of the thousands upon thousands of eyewitnesses who should be able to confirm so massive a resettlement operation (almost 1.3 million people in 1942 alone, according to the Höfle report). All he can provide are "indications" as feeble as a necessarily ill-informed demographer's 1943 writings and an obvious propaganda claim from Radio Moscow (see the blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (5,2)). The resettlement scenario that Butz tries to sell obviously has no basis other than willful blindness and wishful thinking blocking out any logic – if one is to give Butz the benefit of assuming that he really believes what he wrote.
5. The great majority of the millions allegedly exterminated were east European, not German or west European, Jews. For that reason study of the problem via population statistics has been difficult to impossible, but it is a fact that there are no longer large communities of Jews in Poland. However the Germans were only one of several parties involved in moving Jews around. The Soviets deported virtually all of the Jews of eastern Poland to their interior in 1940. After the war, with Polish and other Jews pouring out of the east into occupied west Germany, the Zionists moved large numbers to Palestine, and the US and other countries absorbed many Jews, in most cases under conditions making impossible a numerical accounting. Moreover the Polish borders were changed drastically at the end of the war; the country was literally moved west.
The population movements adduced by Butz (which contrary to his claim are recorded well enough to allow for numerical accounting) are known and have been duly taken into account by historians and demographers when establishing the fate of Europe’s Jews during World War II, the result of their research being that there are between 5 and 6 million European Jews whose disappearance cannot be accounted for by ether Soviets deportations, movements of Polish and other Jews into the western parts of Germany or emigration to Palestine, to the US or to other countries. A "Revisionist" propagandist writing as W.N. Sanning has tried to make believe otherwise by manipulations that include selectively using information of dubious accuracy while ignoring official emigration and immigration data. However, these manipulations have been exposed as what they are in the first three chapters of John Zimmerman’s Holocaust Denial (available on this Russian site, though apparently without Mr. Zimmerman’s permission) and in the blog series The Crazy World of Walter Sanning, by my fellow blogger Jonathan Harrison.
6. Historians generally support the legend, but there are precedents for nearly incomprehensible blindness on the part of scholars. For example throughout the Middle Ages even the Pope's political enemies conceded his false claim that the 4th century Emperor Constantine had ceded rule of the west to the Pope, although all knew very well that Constantine had been succeeded by more emperors. Near unanimity among the academics is especially suspect when there exist great political pressures; in some countries Holocaust revisionists have been prosecuted.
Butz’s attempt to present historians of the Nazi genocide of the Jews as court historians bowing to "political pressures" ignores two simple facts.
One is that the historical record of what is commonly known as the Holocaust had long been established, through criminal investigation and the research of historians like Reitlinger and Hilberg (both in a country that allows unrestricted free speech) by the time certain countries started prosecuting "Revisionists" as disseminators of hate speech. As late as the Majdanek trial in West Germany between 1975 and 1981, defense attorneys could freely deny the Nazi genocide of the Jews in a West German courtroom (see the blog Jürgen Graf on Criminal Justice and Nazi Crimes).
The other is that what Butz calls "near unanimity among the academics" is warranted by all known evidence and called in question by none, unlike in the Roman and medieval examples he brings up, where said unanimity was obviously at odds with the evidence.
If "near unanimity among the academics" regarding a given historical record is suspect (if not necessarily "especially suspect"), then this applies to the record of just about any historical event or chain of events including the American Civil War and the Second World War. The only incomprehensible blindness here is that of Mr. Butz and other "Revisionist" writers, assuming they really believe their own BS.
7. It is easy to show that the extermination legend merits skepticism. Even the casual reader of the Holocaust literature knows that during the war virtually nobody acted as though it was happening. Thus it is common to berate the Vatican, the Red Cross and the Allies (especially the intelligence agencies) for their ignorance and inaction, and to explain that the Jews generally did not resist deportation because they did not know what was in store for them. If you add all this up you have the strange claim that for almost three years German trains, operating on a continental scale in densely civilized regions of Europe, were regularly and systematically moving millions of Jews to their deaths, and nobody noticed except for a few of our Jewish leaders who were making public "extermination" claims.
So nobody "acted as though it was happening", in Mr. Butz’s book. I guess that includes, for instance, the Polish resistance, which started transmitting information about Nazi extermination camps as early as April 1942 (see the excerpt from Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, pages 349-359 , on the RODOH thread Some early reports of the Aktion Reinhard camps). Or the Polish government in its Note to the Governments of the United Nations dd. 10 December 1942, concerning the mass extermination of Jews in the Polish territories occupied by Germany. Or the United Nations in their Declaration of 17 December 1942, presented to the House of Commons on that date by British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. Or the Western governments, the Red Cross, the king of Sweden and the Vatican when they pressured Hungarian regent Miklos Horthy into stopping the deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. Or the Allied leaders and military commanders who at least considered bombing Auschwitz-Birkenau or the railway connections to that place. What the Allies could have done at what time, and whether and why they did less than they could have done, is a controversial issue addressed in, among other sources, an interview with historian Yehuda Bauer on 18 January 1988. Perhaps Mr. Butz can explain how he expects "everyone" to have acted in the face of the ongoing genocide, and what his expectations are based on.
8. On closer examination even those few Jewish leaders were not acting as though it was happening. Ordinary communications between the occupied and neutral countries were open, and they were in contact with the Jews whom the Germans were deporting, who thus could not have been in ignorance of "extermination" if those claims had any validity.
So imploring both US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill to bomb the rail lines or the gas chambers in order to put a stop to the killing was not "acting as though it was happening" according to Mr. Butz, who may also want to explain what "contact with the Jews whom the Germans were deporting" he is talking about. To be sure, the deportees themselves, unlike the Jewish groups imploring Allied leaders to stop the killing, were mostly ignorant of what fate awaited them – if only because human beings tend to refrain from accepting the worst and to hope for the best even in the face of evidence to the contrary, a presumable depressive fatalism among many deportees aside. The Jewish victims’ reactions Nazi persecution have been analyzed by Raul Hilberg, who quoted among others the German Anti-Partisan Chief and Higher SS and Police Leader Russia Center, as follows:
Thus the misfortune came about I am the only living witness but I must say the truth. Contrary to the opinion of the National Socialists that the Jews were a highly organized group, the appalling fact was that they had no organization whatsoever. The mass of the Jewish people were taken completely by surprise. They did not know at all what to do; they had no directives or slogans as to how they should act. That is the greatest lie of anti-Semitism because it gives the lie to the slogan that the Jews are conspiring to dominate the world and that they are so highly organized. In reality they had no organization of their own at all, not even an information service. If they had had some sort of organization, these people could have been saved by the millions; but instead they were taken completely by surprise. Never before has a people gone as unsuspectingly to its disaster. Nothing was prepared. Absolutely nothing. It was not so, as the anti-Semites say, that they were friendly to the Soviets. That is the most appalling misconception of all. The Jews in the old Poland, who were never communistic in their sympathies, were, throughout the area of the Bug eastward, more afraid of Bolshevism than of the Nazis. This was insanity. They could have been saved. There were people among them who had much to lose, business people; they didnt want to leave. In addition there was love of home and their experience with pogroms in Russia. After the first anti-Jewish actions of the Germans, they thought now the wave was over and so they walked back to their undoing.
9. This incredible ignorance must also be attributed to Hans Oster's department in German military intelligence, correctly labeled "the veritable general staff of the opposition to Hitler" in a recent review.
What "incredible ignorance" is Mr. Butz talking about here, other than his own (assuming in his benefit that he is unaware of Allied and Jewish knowledge and reactions such as mentioned above)?
10. What we are offered in evidence was gathered after the war, in trials. The evidence is almost all oral testimony and "confessions". Without the evidence of these trials there would be no significant evidence of "extermination". One must pause and ponder this carefully. Were trials needed to determine that the Battle of Waterloo happened? The bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The slaughter in Cambodia? Yet this three year program, of continental scope, claiming millions of victims, requires trials to argue its reality. I am not arguing that the trials were illegal or unfair; I am arguing that such historical logic as the legend rests on must not be countenanced. Such events cannot happen without generating commensurate and contemporaneous evidence for their reality, just as a great forest fire cannot take place without producing smoke. One may as well believe that New York City was burned down, if confessions to the deed can be produced.
This point ends with a notoriously false analogy. No, one may not believe that New York was burned down on the basis of confessions to the deed, because there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Not so in the case of the many testimonies and confessions regarding the Nazi mass murder of the Jews, which are corroborated by all documentary, demographic and physical evidence available (I guess even Butz will have to accept at least two of these categories of evidence as "commensurate and contemporaneous"), with no evidence supporting another scenario.
As to trials, whence does Butz derive the notion that they were needed to determine that the Nazi genocide of the Jews happened? Are historical researchers like Reitlinger and Hilberg supposed to have relied only on the records of criminal trials? Butz is also ignorant or disingenuous in claiming that the evidence produced at trials was «almost all oral testimony and "confessions"». Actually much if not most of the evidence used at the IMT and NMT trials was documentary evidence produced by the Nazis themselves, i.e. contemporaneous evidence. Physical evidence was abundantly assessed by Soviet and Polish investigation commissions, whose findings were largely corroborated by evidence on which neither the Poles nor the Soviets could have had any influence (see the HC blogs labeled "graves", especially the blogs Mass Graves in the Polesie, Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies …, Drobitski Yar and Mass Graves at Nazi Extermination Camps, and the photographic material shown in the blogs Photographic documentation of Nazi crimes and Photos from the German East).
That said, let's assume that, as Butz incorrectly claims, all known evidence to the Nazi genocide of the Jews comes from postwar trials. Would this be a minus in regard to events that have been established on the basis of historical research alone? Hardly so, considering that a) criminal justice authorities have far more ample means of collecting and assessing evidence than historians and b) evidence is nowhere as thoroughly and critically scrutinized as at a fair trial according to the defendant-friendly procedural rules of a constitutional state, such as the 912 trials held in the German Federal Republic involving 1875 defendants accused of homicidal crimes committed during World War II in the service of National Socialism, which resulted in 14 death sentences, 150 life sentences and 842 timely sentences. Butz, who doesn't dispute the legality or fairness of the trials he refers to, thus shot himself in his own foot by bemoaning the importance of trials in establishing the historical record of the Holocaust.
11. Detailed consideration of the specific evidence put forward in support of the legend has been a focus of the revisionist literature and cannot be undertaken here, but I shall mention one point. The claim of the legend is that there were no technical means provided for the specific task of extermination, and that means originally provided for other purposes did double duty in improvised arrangements. Thus the Jews were allegedly gassed with the pesticide Zyklon, and their corpses disappeared into the crematoria along with the deaths from "ordinary" causes (the ashes or other remains of millions of victims never having been found).
This argument is based on the baseless postulation that mass extermination calls for "technical means provided for the specific task of extermination", as if such were necessary where improvised arrangements are sufficient to do the job, and as if there were such a thing as a state of the art or standard operating procedure in mass extermination. Maybe Mr. Butz can show us what mass killings in history, from among those he accepts as factual, were carried out with "technical means provided for the specific task of extermination" rather than "improvised arrangements". The Khmer Rouge often killed their victims by suffocating them with plastic bags, and the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 mostly hacked their victims to death with bush knives. The Soviet NKVD killed the victims of Stalin’s purges with a simple shot in the back of the head. The Nazis also shot their victims, until they realized that killing women and children day in day out was taking a heavy psychological toll on the executors, whereupon they started looking for depersonalized means of killing that would spare them the burden of face-to-face confrontation with their victims. In his memoirs Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss mentioned the concern that, rather than considerations of technical efficiency, had led to the use of gas chambers as an alternative to mass shooting (translation of Höss’ autobiography by Constantine FitzGibbon in Commandant of Auschwitz, p. 147f.):
The killing of Russian prisoners-of-war did not cause me much concern at the time. The order had been given, and I had to carry it out. I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain how these mass killings were to be carried out. It would be by gas, but we did not know which gas or how it was to be used. Now we had the gas, and we had established a procedure. I always shuddered at the prospect of carrying out exterminations by shooting, when I thought of the vast numbers concerned, and of the women and children. The shooting of hostages, and the group executions ordered by the Reichsführer SS or by the Reich Security Head Office had been enough for me. I was therefore relieved to think that we were to be spared all these blood baths, and that the victims too would be spared suffering until their last moment came. It was precisely this which had caused me the greatest concern when I had heard Eichmann’s description of Jews being mown down by the Special Squads armed with machine-guns and machine pistols. Many gruesome scenes are said to have taken place, people running away after being shot, the finishing off of the wounded and particularly of the women and children. Many members of the Einsatzkommandos, unable to endure wading through blood any longer, had committed suicide. Some had even gone mad. Most of the members of these Kommandos had to rely on alcohol when carrying out their horrible work. According to Höfle’s description, the men employed at Globocnik’s extermination centers consumed amazing quantities of alcohol.
As concerns the victims’ ashes or other remains, Mr. Butz is invited to do something about his woeful ignorance (assuming it is that and not intellectual dishonesty) by reading the HC blogs the blogs that carry the label "graves".
12. Surely any thoughtful person must be skeptical.
Indeed any thoughtful person must be highly skeptical of the ignorant and/or mendacious rubbish produced by Mr. Butz and others like him.
Arthur R. Butz is an associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern University.
What’s that, an appeal to authority?
I'm sure that Mr. Butz is good in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. But history is something he should not mess with.
This article was originally published in the Daily Northwestern of May 13, 1991, corrected May 14.
It should be pointed out in fairness that Butz didn't have the benefit of some of the sources referred to in my commentary back in 1991, as the respective publications only appeared later.
On the other hand, this only highlights the stupidly counterproductive approach of Mr. Töben in presenting this outdated pamphlet as a lecture on "what Revisionism is all about".