Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Crazy World of Walter Sanning (Part 1)

One way to tell the difference between a scholar and a Holocaust denier is to examine how they select and treat their sources. A researcher who willfully limited his range of sources, made no attempt to check their veracity, and exercised a lack of critical judgment, would not get pass first base if he had to submit his work for peer review in the academic community. He would thus be a non-scholar, or even, as it were, an anti-scholar. It is our contention that all Holocaust deniers routinely commit these sins of anti-scholarship. Furthermore, these anti-scholars are also prone to lying and deceit to cover up their shoddy use of sources.

To illustrate this point, we have put together a six-part study of the methods used by the denier Walter Sanning in his The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry. In this first part, we discuss the claim made by Sanning (p.33) that the number of Jews in Poland at the end of September 1939 was 2,633,000, a reduction of nearly 500,000 from the 1931 census figure of 3,113,933. A study of his sources and arguments reveals a number of deliberate omissions, distortions, and perverse interpretations of data.

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Firstly, to justify his choice of sources, Sanning (p.44) makes a false claim about Nazi population data by asserting that “their figures were not based on a census, not even on estimates". This is a blatant lie because, as Sanning must have known, every Jewish ghetto in Poland was forced to conduct a census. This had been mandated by Heydrich on September 21st, 1939:
(3) The Jewish councils are to take an improvised census of the Jews in their local areas - broken down if possible by sex (age groups): a) up to 16 years of age, b) from 16 to 20 years of age, and c) over, as well as by principal occupation groups - and are to report the results in the shortest possible time.
Sanning contradicts his own lie when he discusses Nazi demographic figures for Soviet cities (p.74). Suddenly, we discover that:
…the German authorities began to initiate detailed counts of the remaining population. Obviously, the German occupiers had to obtain some information on the available stock of the working population.
Sanning’s Soviet chapter thus, with rank hypocrisy, leans on Nazi demographics that he ignores in his Polish chapter. This flagrant dishonesty is damning because it reveals his true motives: evasion and obfuscation of the true historical record.

Secondly, Sanning claims that Jewish natural population growth (births over
deaths) between 1931 and 1939 was only 0.2% per annum. This figure is refuted by a Polish government survey, published originally in 1936, with which any demographer of Poland should be familiar: "The Accuracy of the Registration of Births and Deaths" (Statistics, Series C. Pt. 41). A team of demographers examined rabbinical records dating back to 1927 and found that the number of births among the Jewish population in Poland was at least 50% larger than that given in the official birth tables. Joseph Marcus’s The Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939 (1983, p.173) discusses these data in depth and concludes that the natural growth rate was 1.32% per annum for 1931-1935 and 1.29% per annum for 1936-1938. Sanning (p.26-27) claims that, in 1931, there were 52,305 births and 40,000 deaths, but the Polish data indicate a birth rate of 2.7% (84,076) and a death rate of 1.38% (42,972). Sanning is therefore understating Jewish natural growth by 30,000 per year.

Thirdly, Sanning prints a graph (p.28) showing that, as of 1931, the percentage of Jews to non-Jews was falling in proportion with age, i.e. there were proportionally far more old Jews than young ones in the overall population. He claims that this proves that the Jewish birth rate was far lower than for non-Jews. However, Sanning fails to mention the obvious explanation of these data, namely that, as he himself notes (p.30), 294,139 Jews emigrated between the 1921 and 1931 censuses, and most of these were young families with children.

Fourthly, Sanning claims that 100,000 Jews left Poland annually from 1933. As Roberto Muehlencamp has demonstrated, Sanning obtained this figure from an article by Hermann Graml that was based on the flawed assumption that his source document referred to emigration from Poland when it actually referred to emigration from the whole of Eastern Europe, including the USSR, not just Poland. Sanning makes no attempt to check Graml’s source.

The bumbling “demographer” makes a similar error when discussing Polish Jewish emigration to the USA. Sanning (p.31) makes the fatuous claim that:
Of the 4.3 million Jews in the geographic area encompassed by Poland, the Baltic Countries, Rumania and Czechoslovakia before the war, approximately two thirds lived in Poland. Therefore, the largest contingent of Jewish immigrants in North America between 1933 and 1943 must have come from that country.
The sheer absurdity of this position can be shown by examining any American Jewish Yearbook from this period. For example, the Yearbook for 1937-38 (p.765, Table XVII) lists all Jewish immigrants into the USA by country of last residence. The total from all countries for the year up to June 30th, 1936 is 6,252. The number of these emanating from Poland is just 528.

Sanning displays further ignorance about the United States when he deals specifically with that country in Chapter Seven, pp. 160-166. Sanning cites an article from the American Jewish Yearbook (1976, Vol 77, p.268) which he claims shows that the Jewish population of the USA rose from 4,228,029 in 1927 to 4,770,000 in 1937. Sanning argues that the rise between these figures cannot be explained by natural increase but can only be due to illegal immigration. Had Sanning consulted the original source of the 1937 figures (1940-41 Yearbook, p.215-256), he would have discovered two facts that debunked that assumption. Firstly, the author, H.S. Binfield of the US Census Bureau, explicitly states that the growth was not due to immigration. Secondly, the data were collected from a Census of Religious Bodies, i.e. the figures were self-reported by the Jews. It is therefore absurd to claim that these Jews entered the USA illegally, as their census returns would thus have been self-incriminating. A clandestine population would not reveal its whereabouts to a government survey.

Sanning's lack of basic knowledge is further exposed when he discusses the possibility of Jewish emigration from Poland to France. He assumes (p.31) that Jews arriving in France must have emigrated either from Germany or from “countries to the east and south east of Germany”. He then narrows this area down to one country: Poland! Anyone with even the scantest knowledge of French Jewish history would have known that France had an empire in North Africa, which contained many Jews, and these were allowed to enter France freely. France also had a strong reputation, prior to 1939, for Jewish immigration from Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia, due to her historical role as a recipient of Jewish refugees fleeing from the Ottoman Empire, a role that continued after the Ottoman period into the 1930’s.

In addition to this ignorance, Sanning’s thesis contains glaring inconsistencies. His claim that there was high illegal emigration from Poland in the 1918-1939 period contradicts his earlier claim that natural Jewish population growth was very low. If high illegal emigration occurred during the 1920’s, there would have needed to be an extraordinarily high surplus of births over deaths between 1921 and 1931 to replace the departed population, otherwise the Jewish population would have plummeted between the 1921 and 1931 censuses, instead of actually increasing.

However, merely to accuse Sanning of ignorance and hypocrisy is to overlook glaring examples of flagrant dishonesty. We saw above that Sanning lied about Nazi population data and discussed Polish births and deaths data without making any mention of the 1936 government study that forms the cornerstone of all Polish academic demography of the period. This dishonesty appears again in his discussion of the USA when Sanning quotes the claim of US Assistant Secretary of State, Breckenridge Long, made in 1943, that the US had admitted 580,000 refugees in the previous ten years. Sanning neglects to mention a fact that he must have known: shortly after Long’s testimony, Congressman Emanuel Celler demonstrated that Long’s claim was deceitful because the 580,000 figure was concocted from the maximum quota limit of immigrants (not just refugees), not the number of refugees that were granted visas.

Once again therefore, we find that Sanning is has written a deceitful and fraudulent piece of work.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Jonathan,
    The 'read more' link is trying to lead me to an edit page. Needless to say I don't seem to have edit privileges on your blog.

  3. Mike, my apologies. I posted a broken link. This has now been fixed and you can read the full post by either clicking "Read More!" or the time stamp at the foot of the entry above.

  4. I have a principal question: Do we in this blog really need, in debunking HD bogus science, to use a language that, if used by an antisemite or a Holocaust denier, would qualify as "hate speech"? Shouldn't we avoid to be seen from outside as the Pharisee in the Gospel, who thanks G-d that he is not someone like the sinners and tax collectors, to whom he points with his finger? Who would throw the first stone? Are mainstream historians always free of the sins committed by HDers?

    I could give you a fine example of a quite prominent mainstream Holocaust scholar, who was exposed by a colleague of mine to have selectively used his sources (to say it politely) to be able to "prove" a thesis in one of his latest books. A cornerstone of his reasoning is material from a German archives that, interestingly, denies access to critics of his point of view, which makes his thesis unfalsifiable, according to Sir Karl Raimund Popper the crucial criterion for bogus science. Or another example: I recently reviewed a book written by another established Holocaust scholar, full of errors of fact, misinterpretations, blatant ignorance of the relevant literature, and uncritical use of survivor reports. Of course without any results for the scholar's reputation. So we should be careful in condemning others, and if we have good arguments to criticize their work, we should, IMO, do it in a way that complies with the - maybe old-fashioned - standards of politeness.

    But I have still another point to remark. Jonathan writes:
    "Sanning's lack of basic knowledge is further exposed when he discusses the possibility of Jewish emigration from Poland to France. He assumes (p.31) that Jews arriving in France must have emigrated either from Germany or from “countries to the east and south east of Germany”. He then narrows this area down to one country: Poland! Anyone with even the scantest knowledge of French Jewish history would have known that France had an empire in North Africa, which contained many Jews, and these were allowed to enter France freely. France also had a strong reputation, prior to 1939, for Jewish immigration from Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia, due to her historical role as a recipient of Jewish refugees fleeing from the Ottoman Empire, a role that continued after the Ottoman period into the 1930’s."

    There was in fact a great wave of prewar Jewish immigration from Poland to France, considered by interwar Poland as the European country most sympathetic to her. We know very well which Jews were deported from France, as the deportation lists have survived, and we also know that the great majority of deportees from France were not "genuine French" Jews, but immigrants or recently naturalized persons, who the Vichy authorities were eager to get completely rid of.

    Serge Klarsfeld (Le Mémorial de la Déportation de Juifs de France, Paris 1978) has made a breakdown of the deportees from France according to nationality. Among the total of 74,000 he counted "environ 26,300 Polonais," that alone makes over one third of the whole. Samples taken among the nearly 8,000 "naturalisés" of French citizenship lead to the assumption that at least half of them were recent immigrants of Polish origin. This makes about 30,000 Jews of Polish origin, two fifths of the whole. In comparison: Klarsfeld counted 1,500 from Greece and 1,300 from Turkey, no Yugoslavs. So we have less than one tenth of the Polish number from "the former Ottoman Empire."

    I will not doubt that Sanning has made grave errors (I didn't read his book), but in this special case I would have formulated my criticism much more carefully.

  5. Joachim, with respect, you need to read Sanning's book if you're going to compare his methodology to those of serious historians. With regard to France, your own sources refute Sanning. Your sources give a proportion of two-fifths of French Jewish deportees as having been Polish. Sanning says (p.31):

    "by far the largest part of these Jewish immigrants in France and the Benelux countries must have come from countries to east and southeast of Germany, and again there is only one country in eastern Europe qualifying as the main source of Jewish immigration, namely, Poland."

    I believe Sanning clearly formulated this paragraph to mislead his readers by implying that the proportion of Poles was far larger than two-fifths. Moreover, Klarsfeld's work was written before Sanning wrote his own book. Why did Sanning not cite the source?

  6. Jonathan, after having read what you wrote about Sanning's book, I feel I could use my time better than reading it. Thank you, too, that you pointed to the root of the problem:
    "Klarsfeld's work was written before Sanning wrote his own book. Why did Sanning not cite the source?"

    Either Sanning did not read Klarsfeld at all, a professional error when writing about the deportation of Jews from France, or he did (what I, regretfully, also found in a mainstream Holocaust historian's book) use only that which fits into his thesis. In either case, it's bad history.

  7. Joachim,

    when a rational person reads revisionist literature, it is one of the unfortunate side effects that cursing becomes very likely. One might wish to be simon-pure in one's dealings with these people, but the indisputable fact is they are all fucking assholes, and often also fucking idiots.

    No, mainstream historians are not free of error, far from it; but the very fact that you and our many colleagues can justifiably criticise a Goldhagen or a Goetz Aly when they make unwarranted generalisations or dubious use of source evidence is part of what makes mainstream historiography, for all its failings, proper historical science.

    There is no such systematic self-criticism or review process within the revisionist school. Sanning published in 1983, yet not a single revisionist author has attempted to revise this utter shambles of statistical hocus-pocus, despite the wealth of new evidence since that date on this very subject. Instead every name revisionist - Germar Rudolf, Juergen Graf, Carlo Mattogno, and others - cites Sanning as if he had written one of the Gospels, and is, I kid you now, even supposedly 'irrefutable' (according to Graf). This is the behaviour of a cult, not of a rational school of thought, it's as simple as that.

    One can multiply this with other examples; my favourite is the Knud Baecker fiasco in VffG, when Germar Rudolf allowed a piece of Krema Denial (that there ever were any crematoria at Auschwitz at all) to be published, which provoked Mattogno and Graf into paroxysms of anguish as this would 'bring revisionism into discredit'.

    It is akin to the 9/11 Truth Movement criticising those who espouse Star Wars beam theories of the WTC collapse in an effort to look 'reasonable'.

  8. Nick,
    I fully agree with you about the definition of "science" and "non-science" in history, and I hope nobody has misunderstood me in a sense that I would side with HDers, when calling for a moderate speech in debunking their BS. But for me, dealing with them is also a matter of conduct. Let them be f*** idiots etc., but they are human beings. Fifteen years of intense studying the concentration camps and the Holocaust have strengthened my conviction that you never shall treat a human being contemptuously. I'm convinced that my arguments of fact are better then theirs. I need not rely on arguments ad hominem - and cursing, belittling etc. aim at the person, not at the matter. Do you feel I'm too naive, too old-fashioned?

  9. Joachim, thank you for your comments. I do not believe that our attacks on Holocaust Deniers treat them as subhuman or non-persons in the way that anti-Semites treat Jews. It is, however, our belief that Holocaust Denial, as a genre, requires its adherents to use dishonest methods. It is therefore impossible to avoid stating, at various points: "this author has lied", or words to that effect. It is the the nature of the genre that generates an angry response from us.

  10. Joachim,

    my understanding of what constitutes an ad hominem is that it attacks the person not the argument. Calling Sanning an antisemite, while undoubtedly true, is no refutation. Calling Sanning a liar is not actually an ad hominem if it can be demonstrated, as indeed it can be.

    The same would apply to other characterisations of the person's *argument* such as dishonesty, deceitfulness etc. These cannot be regarded as ad hominem unless they are posited as a priori premises. THat is not the case here. 'We intend to prove that person x is a liar' is a simple statement of prosecutorial intent. (People are called liars all the time in courts across Britain and America; that's just how the adversarial system works.)

    One should however be relatively sparing with some of these terms, as some imply a knowledge of the person's mental state. This was actually a serious issue in both the Zundel and Irving libel trials, since one possibility raised at various points was that Zundel and Irving might sincerely believe their BS.

  11. Nick:
    "One should however be relatively sparing with some of these terms, as some imply a knowledge of the person's mental state."
    I feel you brought it to the point. Can we really know, what the motives of a person are, do we know her/him so well that we can say it without doubt, do we know her/him personally well enough, and have we the necessary professional training and experience, to judge her/his mental state?

    As a year-long teacher, I am very reluctant in making statements about motives and the mental state of a person. All too often such statements reveal more about those who make them than about those who they should concern. I also know well that, at court, often such statements are made, that the adversaries call one another names, claim that they know the other's motives (always bad, of course). And I can understand that it is tempting for someone who reads a BS text to feel anger and to shout at the f**** guy.

    But isn't it sufficient for us, as scholars of history, to say, "This and that, what Mr. X says, is false, here Mr. X makes this mistake, here he misreads/misquotes his source, here he makes an error in calculation, etc."? If we have good arguments of fact, then they should be sufficient to expose Mr. X's opus as BS. In physics, chemistry, or mathematics, this will be fully sufficient to exclude Mr. X from the scientific community. Do we, in history, need, in addition, to speculate about Mr. X's motives or mental state?

  12. D.D. Guttenplan's "The Holocaust On Trial" refers to this point. Justice Gray at one point said to Rampton (I paraphrase), "Yes, but is Irving an honest antisemite?" We would answer that the issue is not the sincerity of his antisemitism but, rather, whether he knows his methods are fraudulent. In this, there is no doubt. You cannot falsify data as often as HD's do without conscious intention. Sanning is proof of this because he has written an entire book full of misleading references and falsified data.

  13. Falsifying data, alas, is also quite common in the natural sciences, not least in fields where big money is involved, such as in biology or medicine. But since I've switched to history, I'm no more au courant in the natural sciences.The last big event I remember was the Pons-Fleischmann alleged cold fusion in the early 1990s and the Benveniste claims about "water memory" (to support homeopathy). And the Lyssenko "experiments" to prove inheritance of acquired traits made science history. In all cases, the manipulations were uncovered by colleagues in the field. But I don't remember that they speculated about the falsifiers' motives. They just said what was wrong, and that was sufficient. Maybe manners and customs are somewhat more detached from the person among natural scientists, than in the humanities?

  14. I would add the name Cyril Burt, who falsified twin studies in his IQ research. It is also probable that the data in Murray and Herrnstein's "The Bell Curve" was fraudulently presented.

  15. Joachim,

    there is something of a difference between falsifying data (numbers) and, for example, quote-mining or altering quotes wholesale. When such tactics - employed also by creationists and ID advocates - are used to twist things wholesale in support of a thesis that is not even vaguely substantiated by the distorted evidence, then one can objectively speak of dishonesty.

  16. Nick, you partially convinced me. Lyssenko e.g. manipulated his data (not only "numbers") to "prove" his theory. That was indeed dishonest. And one could say this so, and so far I fully agree with you.

    On the other hand, in the field of natural sciences, showing that the "researcher" manipulated her/his data implies the moral judgment by the scientific community "S/He is a defrauder." Since everybody in the field will think just the same, it is not necessary to say it explicitly. So why do it then?

  17. "Nick, you partially convinced me. Lyssenko e.g. manipulated his data (not only "numbers") to "prove" his theory. That was indeed dishonest. And one could say this so, and so far I fully agree with you."

    In the sciences, one can fudge data also, so it is not conclusive to presume that someone falsified numbers in order to prove their theory in a wish-fulfilment desire. Simply making an incorrect conclusion is not evidence of dishonesty.

    Lysenko is a good example of where, having been criticised on scientific grounds, the pseudoscientist then falls through the floor and becomes the subject of epithets and investigations into their motivation.

    "On the other hand, in the field of natural sciences, showing that the "researcher" manipulated her/his data implies the moral judgment by the scientific community "S/He is a defrauder." Since everybody in the field will think just the same, it is not necessary to say it explicitly. So why do it then?"

    Because in such instances, the falsifier may well have a relevant PhD in the field, and is thus part of the community of researchers.

    This doesn't apply to pseudoscientists. Crank physicists are regularly called cranks; but their rantings are usually thrown in the bin and ignored.

    Creationists and ID advocates are criticised as dishonest by biologists etc, so even within the natural sciences there is such a tradition.

    I think that the likelihood of such labels being applied increases the further away one gets from abstract maths and physics. The evolution debate is heated; and practictioners of orthodox medicine are *very* dismissive of what they call woo.

    In the sphere of human affairs, then one is beset by conspiracy theorists of all stripes. It is an empirical fact that most are incredibly dishonest intellectually, to the point of making up the rules as they go along. When confronted by such a level of dishonesty and violation of normal academic protocols, then eventually one cannot simply restrict oneself to pointing out the factual errors, omissions and logical fallacies. Those should come first.

    In the case of Sanning: whether he believed his argument or not is irrelevant; it has been simply superseded by new research, and was already faulty even judging by 1983's level of knowledge. I would not use the word deceitful of such a person, since this gives him too much credit. Sanning has no proven academic credentials, too. Sanning's work does not meet even the standard for a Magisterarbeit, and it is wrong. End of story.

    In the case of Germar Rudolf... well, someone who creates 30 pseudonyms to propagate his ideas deserves to be called dishonest.

    In the case of Faurisson, someone who manages to cite only 4 unpublished documents across 1 million words of writings between 1974 and 1998 is not someone you can call a historian.

  18. Joachim, remember that the whole HD argument boils down to: "the Holocaust is a fraud." Thus when a HD commits fraud, in my personal opinion, one has a duty to point out, "Hey, this guy is accusing others of fraud, yet his work is littered with frauds."

  19. Nick,

    I admit defeat. Things obviously are different in maths/physics than in the humanities. Where more is at stake than a proof in mathematics or a technical procedure, when the matter under consideration has direct effects on human beings (as in medicine or biology) or in politics (as understood in a broad sense), politeness has its limits, too. So let us call a liar a liar, and a defrauder a defrauder in combating HD. Okay?

  20. Joachim,

    your caution is however extremely welcome. It is best to be sparing with the epithets and insults, however hard it might be. In most cases, it is better to simply point out where one of them is wrong.

  21. It is in the very nature of the Jewish religion to lie, cheat and steal. Your Spin is a complete falsehood. You are trying to justify Jewish propaganda that just does not add up. The population of the world is turning against you, yet again. The cyclical nature of your politics, driven by you religion will always lead you to destruction. Christianity is the natural brother of Islam. Once again history proves that jews just sell out to the highest bidder.

  22. talmuds for everyone
    Many influential Jewish people have stated on the public record the number of holocaust dead is inflated by Jewish people to exact maximum leverage from the holocaust.
    Not one guilty Jewish person has been brought to trial for the murders committed by Jewish functionaries of the Soviet Union - or communist Poland - or in fact anywhere else that Jewish communism murdered Christians.

  23. @ the rest of the world
    Judaeism and Islam go together - semites all. Both are supremacist.
    Both treat non-adherents to their religion with utter contempt.

  24. Jonathan and Joacim come across as overly earnest - overly pompous and lacking in intellectual rigour.But guys youre serving our rulers so that makes it all right.

  25. @joachim neander
    about fleischmann&pons cold fusion...
    it is still officially fringe.
    however there are hundreds of replication, and 2-3 companies preparing industrial reactors.

    Evidence are blatant and ignored...
    Argument against are pathological, and absurds scientifically...
    it is a shame...
    but it will get sold in 1-2 years

    I cannot estimate the impact on your argumentation.
    Just be careful about groupthink and collective delusions in organization and markets, as explain Roland Benabou.

    question is which side of the aquarium one is sitting.

    best regards.
    AlainCo the tech-watcher of

  26. The source of the 100,000 figure used by Graml was an article on Jewish emigration in the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia published in 1942.

    A sub-section of that article, written by an Isaac L Asofsky, dealt with the assistance provided to Jewish emigrants by various Jewish organisations such as HICEM.

    Asofsky stated that between 1925 and 1939, an average of 100,000 Jewish emigrants annually left what he described as "the area of Jewish misery in Europe". However, he did not specify which countries were included in that description.

    Thus, the 100,000 average annual figure applied not only to emigrants from Poland, but to emigrants from all parts of Europe where Jews were suffering. It included some 500,000 Jews who left Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia after those countries came under National Socialist rule. It also included emigrants from other East European countries where Jews were discriminated against, such as Romania, Hungary and the Baltic States.

    Contrary to the assertion by Roberto Muehlencamp, there is no reason to believe that Asofsky's figure included any substantial number of Jewish emigrants from the USSR, since that was not a place of "Jewish misery", but rather a place where the Jewish population was doing rather well, recognised as a nationality, the majority of which had risen in the social scale from the status of down-trodden petty traders and artisans to become members of the bureaucracy and the professional classes.

    Furthermore, the Soviet Government in the 1930s did not permit any substantial emigration by any ethnic group.


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