The news that Wilhelm Stäglich has died at the age of ninety, which was reported via the Adelaide Institute and which Sergey posted about below, should remind us of one perhaps surprising feature of Holocaust Denial: its major proponents are increasingly aged. Much like members of the British Conservative Party, the average age of Holocaust Deniers is trending rapidly towards deceased.
So why is Holocaust Denial such a hoary, creaking movement? Perhaps because its exponents almost exclusively date their vintage to the years before the collapse of Communism. Like McCarthyism, Holocaust Denial is a Cold War Moonbat Thing... and the younger generation doesn't really want to play along with Grandpa.
As Deborah Lipstadt so admirably laid bare in Denying the Holocaust, the roots of US 'Historical Revisionism' go back before the Second World War to a coterie of isolationists and First World War revisionists. For many on the extreme right, Holocaust Denial became increasingly attractive after 1945 in a climate of intense hostility towards the Communist Menace, a bugaboo that had deep connections with earlier antisemitic linkages between Jews and Bolshevism. While the mainstream right ditched its earlier antisemitic suspicion of East European immigrants, an attitude ably documented by Joseph Bendersky in The 'Jewish Threat', the far right persisted in making the supposed 'link' between Jews and Communists.
That this 'link' simply did not exist by the 1940s is apparent to anyone with the slightest understanding of Eastern Bloc societies as they actually were: Poland hounded out almost all of her surviving Jews in an antisemitic purge during the 1960s, and Soviet Jews were increasingly repressed and excluded from positions of authority, while at the same time, the USSR kept up a steady barrage of 'anti-Zionist' propaganda.
Yet Holocaust Deniers ignored all that. They preferred to hark back to the simpler days of equating Judaism and Bolshevism. To them, the Holocaust was 'Made In Russia', as Carlos Porter canonically defined it. For it was Soviet participation in Nuremberg trials, and the fact that the worst crimes of the Holocaust were committed behind the Iron Curtain, that gave Holocaust Denial the opening it needed to push its theories on a small but extremely gullible audience during the Cold War. Given Soviet show trials in the 1930s, and the attempt to pin the Katyn tail on the German donkey at Nuremberg, they even had a superficially plausible case, if they could somehow ignore the contradictions in their own theory.
Alas for Holocaust Denial, detente in the 1970s and the 1980s gave increasing access to Western scholars to the East European archives, large chunks of which soon found their way on microfilm to Yad Vashem and, later on, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Pioneering researchers such as Gerald Fleming and Jean-Claude Pressac even managed to secure early access to the archives on the spot. West German prosecutors had gradually received more and more information from the East European archives and war crimes investigations beginning in the 1960s, but now it was possible to see these same documents in their original files and original context. Soviet Jewish emigres brought with them personal knowledge and family histories which stimulated greater and greater interest in the Holocaust in the Soviet Union itself, a subject which had been essentially taboo, smothered by the rhetorical cliche of 'peaceful Soviet citizens and victims of German-fascist aggression'.
In Sovietology and East European history, too, the generation that had espoused 'totalitarianism' theory gave way to a younger cohort of scholars, ironically also labelled revisionists (with a small r), that rejected the black and white judgements of the 1950s in favour of a more nuanced understanding of what made Soviet and East European society.
And then it all ended, in the few short years between 1989 and 1991. The collapse of Communism lifted the last remaining taboos in East European society, allowing a generation of scholars such as Franciszek Piper to revise official dogma and present accurate facts on the fate of the Auschwitz inmates. Western scholars trooped en masse to the Osobyi Akhiv in Moscow, to the AGK in Warsaw and to the killing sites of the east, sometimes for purely historical research, sometimes as official historians of war crimes investigation units. Mass graves were excavated and uncovered, camp sites surveyed, books written and published, and soon enough websites spawned on the internet, detailing the evidence for the Holocaust in an apparently endless torrent.
To be fair, some Holocaust Deniers tried to keep pace with these developments, even venturing out to the Moscow archives themselves (Irving, Graf, Mattogno). Yet it remains the case that the overwhelming majority of deniers are stuck in a 1940s, Nuremberg-fixated time-warp. Even the best 'scholars' on the denial side are usually two methodological generations behind contemporary practice of history, and generally only dimly aware of the latest research. Encounter a denier today on an internet forum, and dollars to doughnuts, they will bring up ancient cliches such as the 1945 Soviet estimated death toll at Auschwitz, unaware that the rest of the world has quite simply, moved on.
That Holocaust Denial has largely been a Cold War phenomenon is amply indicated by the vintages of the most prominent published deniers. Judging by the listings on revisionists.com, IDGR Lexicon and good ol' Wiki, and taking the entries as indicative of their status in the movement, there are 8 prominent deniers who are under the age of 60, versus 26 over 60, and 19 who are dead. Another 8 cannot be identified by age, but from their photos mostly look like they're signed up for their bus passes and pensions.
Even one of the youngest deniers, Germar Rudolf, now 42 years old, was already twenty-five by the time the Berlin Wall came down, had long done his stint in the Luftwaffe, acquired most of his higher education and, evidently, his political beliefs and outlook. This was the man who was hailed as a 'young scholar', the Great White Hope of 'Revisionism', yet even Rudolf is essentially rooted in a pre-1989 mentality and outlook that looks fairly irrelevant to the concerns of 2006.
So where are the 'revisionists of the second generation', to turn AAARGH's lame criticism of this blog back at them? So far as we can see, they're nowhere. Even at The Cesspit, it's very quickly clear from off-the-cuff remarks they make about life in the 1960s or 1970s, that the majority of regular posters are well into middle age. Nor are more than one or two seemingly capable of stringing so much as a paragraph together: where, then, will the next generation of revisionist 'scholars' come from when the current cohort die off?
The fact is, Holocaust Denial has always been founded on the blind adulation of prophets, gurus and lone-wolf writers. While that might strengthen its coherence in the short term, it now looks increasingly like a drawback in the long run. Holocaust Denial resembles a bizarre cult, whose high priests are entering their twilight years while their adoring audience is in turn passing into middle-aged pig-headedness.
Perhaps, then, this is why Holocaust Deniers are always predicting the imminent collapse of the 'Hoax': because their time is running out. Otherwise, they will go to their graves knowing their conspiracy theories have failed.
Those Denier Vintages in Full
In their Thirties
Jan van Helsing, b. 1967, now 39
In their Forties
Germar Rudolf, b. 1964, now 42
In their Fifties
Jürgen Graf, b. 1951, now 55
Carlo Mattogno, b. 1951, now 55
Mark Weber, b. 1951, now 55
Ted O'Keefe, b. 1949, now 57
Carlos Porter, b. 1947, now 59
Jürgen Rieger, b. 1947, now 59
In their Sixties
Ahmed Rami, b. 1946, now 60
Arthur Butz, b. 1945, now 61
Friedrich Töben, b. 1944, now 62
Fred Leuchter, b. 1943, now 63
Ditlieb Felderer, b. 1942, now 64
Siegfried Verbeke, b. 1942, now 64
Gerd Honsik, b. 1941, now 65
Günter Deckert, b. 1940, now 66
Ernst Zündel, b. 1939, now 67
Costas Zaverdinos, b. 1938, now 68
David Irving, b. 1938, now 68
In their Seventies
Horst Mahler, b. 1936, now 70
Walter Sanning, b. 1936, now 70
Ingrid Rimland, b. 1936, now 70
Bradley Smith, b, 1930, now 76
Robert Faurisson, b. 1929, now 77
Emil Lachout, b. 1928, now 78
Jean Marie Le Pen, b. 1928, now 78
Ingrid Weckert, b. 1927, now 79
Udo Walendy, b. 1927, now 79
In their Eighties and Nineties
Henri Roques, b. 1924, now 82
Hans Schmidt, b. 1924, now 82
Gaston-Armand Amaudruz, b. 1920, now 86
Carl O. Nordling, b. 1919, now 87
Roger Garaudy, b. 1913, now 93
Tjudar Rudolph, b. 1911, now 95
Wilhelm Stäglich, b. 1916, d. 2006
Robert Countess, b, 1937, d. 2005
James J. Martin, b. 1916, d. 2004
Johannes Ney, b. 1922, d. 2004
Samuel Konkin, b. 1947, d. 2004
Russ Granata, d. 2004
Doug Collins, b. 1920, d. 2001
Thes Christopherson, b. 1918, d. 1997
Otto Ernst Remer, b. 1912, d. 1997
Keith Stimely, b. 1957, d. 1992
Joseph Burg, b. 1908, d. 1990
David McCalden, b. 1951, d. 1990
David Hoggan, b. 1923, d. 1988
Austin App, b. 1902, d. 1984
François Duprat, b. 1940, d. 1978
Harry Elmer Barnes, b. 1889, d. 1968
Paul Rassinier, b. 1906, d. 1967
Francis Parker Yockey, b. 1917, d. 1960
John Bennett, Jerome Brentar, Doug Christie, Ivan Lagace, Walter Lüftl, Greg Raven, Michael Santomauro, Frank Walus