The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 17:13:09 +0200 (CES)
From: Nele Abels-Ludwig 
Subject: Open letter to CODOH
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Open Letter to CODOH                              11. August, 1997


   I have discovered in your web-pages a review of Deborah Lipstadt's
_Denying the Holocaust_ by Charles E. Weber, Ph. D. Dr. Weber's review
leaves some questions open and raises some points which need more
discussion, namely he seems to miss the point of Lipstadt's book more than
marginally. Since your committee outspokenly encourages intellectual freedom
and a controverse discussion, may I kindly ask you to contact Dr. Weber
so that he has the opportunity to answer my critical review of his essay,
which is attached below.

Thank you very much,

Nele Abels-Ludwig  

Cc to: alt.revisionism, Michael (, Ken McVay OBC

A "Revisionist" Case Study: Charles E. Weber, Ph. D. on Deborah Lipstadt:
_Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory_, New York:
Free Press, 1993.

Nele Abels-Ludwig

Deborah Lipstadt's work "Denying the Holocaust" is one of the first studies
on Holocaust- "revisionism", and perhaps the first comprehensive
documentation of its history, its methods, and background. The clear
position of the author against any discussion with Holocaust-deniers about
the historical fact of the Holocaust has made a hostile reaction from this
side inevitable. Such an answer is available in a review of _Denying the
Holocaust_ by Charles E. Weber, Ph. D., by his own statement historian and
member of the "Committee for the Reexamination of the History of the Second
World War". Weber's review is in several ways significant for the nature of
Holocaust-"revisionism" and demands a careful analysis. This essay will show
on the model of Weber's review that Lipstadt's theses describe down to the
last detail the methods of the Holocaust-deniers. To this end, the central
points of _Denying the Holocaust_ should be re-called:

   In the first chapter of her book, 1) Deborah Lipstadt points out that
over the last couple of years the denial of the Holocaust has become more
threatening on a world-wide scale.  It is mainly connected to groups of the
extreme right and to nationalists, and, following the break-down of the
communist regimes, also to advancing ultra-right groups in the former
Eastern bloc. In these circles, the production of anti-semitic propaganda
hardly bears any surprise, but according to Lipstadt, Holocaust-
"revisionism" has its own, special qualities which differ from the usual
anti-semitic and neo-fascist utterances.

   First, the deniers of the Holocaust utilise a range of  cunning tactics
to hide their true goals. They claim to be commited to historical truth in
general, and to subject the entire area of historiography to a continuuous
critical revision. The Holocaust, so they argue, is therefore a natural
object of their scrutiny in the course of this revision. Because they call
themselves "revisionists", they place themselves in the vicinity of serious
historiography because no respectable historian would speak out against
honest revision of a historical question. Also, the Holocaust-deniers
skilfully imitate the academic discourse: the pseudo- academic Californian
_Institute for Historical Review_, to which the whole chapter 8 is
dedicated, publishes an own periodical, the _Journal of Historical Review_.
This title reminds of the titles of reputable historiographical periodicals
and the articles published in this magazine imitate the language and the
stylistic form of academic publications very closely. 3) Contents and
methods of these writings obviously do not stand up to the critical eye of
the professional. Reputable academics do not accept such articles as
contributions to the historical discussion, but this is not their purpose
anyway; in contrary, they are intended to spread uncertainty amongst those
who are not experienced in the principles and methods of academic discourse
and who let themselves be persuaded by the empty forms of the "revisionist"
writings that the deniers hold a valid position in the academic discussion.
Lipstadt mentions the case of a student of history in Yale who sent his exam
thesis to the _Journal of Historical Review_, wrongly considering it a
serious periodical. 4)

   Lipstadt is worried about the prospect that US-American colleges are
perhaps a very fertile ground for the activities of Holocaust-deniers. This
is indeed disturbing since the principles of reason and academic honesty are
entirely alien to Holocaust-"revisionism". In contrary, the
Holocaust-deniers utilise obvious falsehood as well as they either ignore
all facts which contradict their position or denounce such facts themselves
as "lies". As a matter of fact, the expositon of such methods is one of the
central points of Lipstadt's book and she dedicates the greater part of her
work to the documentation of "revisionist" manipulations. According to her,
this is the only way to deal with the productions of Holocaust-denial:
although its conclusions cannot be taken seriously as research results,
Holocaust-denial must be studied, especially because of the obligation of
historiography to the ideals of the Enlightenment and rationality. This
means not that the Holocaust-denier should become the opponent in a face to
face discussion, nor that the attempt should be made to disprove his
"arguments". This would be a Sisyphean work and a waste of time, which
should better be invested in destroying the illusion of a rational
"revisionist" research and in uncovering its true motivation. 6)

   Holocaust-deniers interprete this denial of discussion as an attempt of
censorship, an accusation which has much weight in the US-American
tradition. Yet, Lipstadt takes a clear position against censoring
"revisionist" ideas: she concedes their right to state their opinion in
public, to publish their writings and to have meetings. But she does not
grant their right to be taken seriously as partners in a justified
discussion. 7) Therefore, Lipstadts argument is not a plea for an
intervening government, but an urgent advise to rational thinking
individuals and institutions not to be drawn into a discussion with
"revisionists", because _each and every_ public exchange over their
arguments, would attribute these with an undeserved appearence of validity
and conceivability. 8) On the other hand Lipstadt mentions favourably the
dismissal of a college lecturer who made use of a seminar on the Napoleonic
wars to denounce the Holocaust as a propaganda trick. Lipstadt argues
convincingly that a college teacher is obliged to the principle of truth and
that a dismissal is justified if he spreads obvious falsehood under the
guise of free speech. 9) A university has the right to dismiss a lecturer
who denies the existence of the Holocaust as well as it would have the right
to dismiss a teacher who seriously claims that the Earth is a flat disc
which is circled by the sun. In both cases, the lecturer would have exposed
himself as being unwilling or unable to adhere to the laws of reason and
science, and therefore would have disqualified himself for the profession of
a teacher.

   In the following, the Lipstadt's method is to be applied to the review of
Charles E.  Weber. It will be shown which tricks and manipulations Weber
uses to blur the central points of Lipstadt's book and how he feigns a
discussion of her theses to create a platform for "revisionist" propaganda.
It is not task of this essay to disprove this propaganda, or even to discuss
it. This has been done exhaustively elsewhere. The only point of this essay
is to make use of the "revisionist" writing as a source for a text-analysis,
with the purpose to expose and to document the thinking of the
Holocaust-deniers as well as their dishonesty.

   The outer form of Weber's review 11) is similar to the reviews which can
be found in academic journals. It is usual for such reviews to put the
discussed book into a research context, and Weber's review pretends as well
to depict the actual state of discussion of Holocaust historiography in a
neutral and objective fashion. He mentions that "the death records of
Auschwitz have been released", that now "detailed analyses have been
published of the American aerial photographs made of Auschwitz during 1944",
that an "expert on penal execution" has made a "forensic analysis" on
location. According to Weber, the supreme court of Israel has discredited
the testimony of witnesses in the trial against John Demjanjuk, and an
advertisement campaign in the newspaper of important US-American
universities has shown the general need of a public reconsideration of the
Holocaust. This developement has led to a "reevaluation of the "Holocaust"
claims in broad sections of the American public and even in academic

   This presentation is intended to create the impression that indeed new
facts about the Holocaust have been uncovered, which have convinced even
real historians that the history of the Holocaust needs a fundamental
revision. This is not the case. There is a consensus about the existence of
the Holocaust in historiography. Weber only manages to maintain his illusion
by omitting deliberately the broad criticism on "revisionist theses". 12)
That this omission is deliberate must be assumed, because Weber claims an
academic degree, calls himself a historian and is a member of one of the
central organisations of Holocaust-denial.  His close knowledge of the
literature of Holocaust historiography must thus be presupposed. Even more
telling than Weber's silence about the real results of historiographical
discussion is that he does not tell the reader that the "advertisement
campaign", which he mentions in a casual and neutral tone, was initated
exactly by the very same small group - the Committee for the Open Debate of
the Holocaust - who publish his own review. This omission is surprising,
since Lipstadt dedicates the whole chapter 10 to these proceedings. The same
is true for the dubious "gas chamber expert" Leuchter, who is discussed
exhaustively by Lipstadt. 13)

   It can normally be expected from a review as long as Dr. Weber's text
that it points out and comments the central theses of the discussed book.
Weber avoids with an astonishing skill to mention Lipstadt's arguments. What
he mentions is that Lipstadts expresses worries about Holocaust-denial in
the first chapter of her book. But he remains silent about the fact the
Lipstadt explains clearly that she is worried about the increasing
instrumentalisation of Holocaust-denial for the purposes of the extreme
right and about the skillful demagogic strategies of misrepresentation which
are used to spread doubt amongst those who know little about the history of
the Holocaust. 14) By no means can it be said that Lipstadt is in "panic"
about new "facts", as it is implicetely claimed by Weber. 15)

   The passage in Weber's review which comes perhaps nearest to the contents
of Lipstadt's book is paragraph 6. Indeed, the "revisionists" mentioned in
this paragraph are discussed in Lipstadt's book. But Weber carefully avoids
to mention what Lipstadt uncovers about these paragons of Holocaust-denial,
as for example the proceedings of the Zuendel trial which has led to the
profound demolishion of Leuchter's reputation as an "expert" for capital
punishment. 16) Weber deems it appropriate to mention that Lipstadt calls
David Irving "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial"
This is true, but Weber does not tell the reader that only a few sentences
later Lipstadt delivers the reason for this: Irving knows the historical
facts in detail, but he distorts them until they yield to his ideological
preferences and his political intentions. He is skilful in twisting
authentical information to fit his own conclusions, as it has been shown in
a review of his latest book _Churchill's War_. 17) Here too, Weber falsely
reinterprets Lipstadt's worries about the demagogic and propagandistic
potential of Holocaust-denial by witholding her arguments and by wrongly
claiming that she is afraid of the uncovering of new "facts" which could
"damgage" the Holocaust. This tactic serves of course the purpose to
attribute the "great names" of Holocaust-denial with an undeserved polish of
respectibility. To achieve this, he places them also in one row with the
former US-president Ronald Reagan, who, according to Weber, is "reproached
for one of the most decent things he did while in office", namely to state
in a press conference that he would not visit a concentration camp, because
the Germans would have a feeling of guilt, which he as a matter of fact
deems unnecessary.  18) It can be discussed whether Germans in general still
feel guilt or whether feelings of guilt are today the best way to deal with
the Holocaust. But this is not the point. The important thing is that again
Weber only succeeds to establish a link between Reagan and Holocaust-denial
with the help of an omission. He witholds that Lipstadt gives also another
quotation by Reagen; that he was shocked when he was confronted with the
fact that there are people who deny the reality of the Holocaust. 19) On the
other hand, Weber's remodelling is hardly surprising because the _Institute
for Historical Review_ has used this very quotation in the past to document
that "revisionism" is blooming, as Lipstadt shows in the same paragraph.

   The remaining of Dr. Weber's review has very little to do with Lipstadt's
book. As discussed above, Weber carefully avoids to point out Lipstadt's
theses and the results of her study of Holocaust-"revisionism". In contrary,
he misunderstands deliberately - this is the only possible explanation for a
doctor of humanities - Lipstadt's book as a book on the Holocaust. Thus
Weber is able to abuse the text as a cue-giver that enables him to transform
his review into a platform for distributing the usual canon of "revisionist
claims.  Two examples will examplify this method.

  In paragraph seven Weber accuses Lipstadt of falsely representing the
Morgenthau plan:

      In no less than three places (pages 44, 86 and 97)
      Lipstadt claims that the genocidal Morgenthau Plan
      was never put into effect. This is not exactly true
      or true only to a limited extend, as anyone knows
      who lived in Germany during 1945-1948 [...]

   There is no need to discuss in depth that the incidents described in
Weber's review did not result from the proposals of the American Morgenthau,
but from the Soviet reparation demands. The German areas which were occupied
by the Western allies on the contrary had already received American help
summing up to 11.4 billion US-dollars, even before the Marshall Plan was put
into work. 20) Weber's presentation is therefore factually wrong, but again
this is not the point. Lipstadt shows in the criticised passage the
"revisionist" tendency to whitewash the Hitler-era and to depict the
measures of the NS-government as an act of self-defence against alleged
Jewish conspiracies. Therefore, Weber's remarks are not at all a criticism
of Lipstadt's book, but by exactly restating the Morgenthau myth he does
exactly what she describes.

   In a different paragraph, which is quoted entirely because of its
importance, Weber criticises:

      Especially damaging to Lipstadt's credibility is
      her mention (page 167) of a report supposedly filed
      in June 1943 which claimed that five crematories
      in Auschwitz would have a 24-hour capacity of 4,756
      bodies. Since there are 1440 minutes in a day,
      five units would be operating a total of 7,200
      minutes, even if in constant use. Less than two
      minutes would thus be allowd for each body.
      Since a crematory unit requires about two hours to
      reduce a body to ashes, Leuchter's estimate
      (mentioned by Lipstadt) of 156 bodies per diem
      seems quite reasonable. Such nonsense in the
      "Holocaust" literature has caused widespread doubts
      about its validity in the case of people capable of
      independent thought. 21)

   Here, Weber twists the facts in a way which can only be called
flabberghasting. He tries to show from the Leuchter report that a
contemporary document from the files of an SS- office must be absurd and
therefore forged. The so-called Leuchter report was comissioned by Ernst
Zuendel and claims that it would be technically impossible to cremate the
large numbers of Holocaust-victims in the existing facilities, therefore the
non-existence of the Holocaust would be proofed. But in order to do this,
Leuchter starts speculating freely on the basis of the conditions and the
discretion which can be found in modern crematories, and which have indeed
the consequence that in such crematories only a limited number of corpses
can be cremated per day. Of course it is not possible to compare these
crematories with the conditions in the national-socialist concentration
camps. Lipstadt documents in the paragraph, which is allegedly so "damaging"
for her reputation, how profoundly the Leuchter report was demolished in the
Zuendel trial. In this trial, the documents which are denounced as
"nonsense" by Weber were shown to Leuchter and he had to admit that he had
no knowledge about them. As little did he know documents proving the
existence of powerful ventilators in the gas-chambers, thus another central
point of the Leuchter report was reduced to absurdity. 22) Therefore, while
Weber claims that the Leuchter report gives rise to an reasonable doubt on
the authenticity of already known documents, the contrary is true: the
Leuchter report is amateurish study which bases on speculation and
insufficient source-knowledge namely the lacking knowledge of the source
mentioning the number of 4,756 bodies.. The documents put forward in the
Zuendel trial clearly disprove the report, not the other way round. The
manner with which Weber not only mis-represents Lipstadt but also perverts
the historical method is breath-taking: because a document contradicts the
theory, it must be forged. Weber's assumption that such an argument could
spread doubt in the case of people capable of independent thought is
pathetic. 23)

  The rest of Weber's criticism against Lipstadt does not concern her point
in a single case.  If he does not deliberately distort as in the examples
discussed above, Weber complaints about details which are not relevant for
Lipstadt's argument. He criticises that she neglects in chapter 10, which
deals with the Bradley Smith's advertisement campaign, to quote the precise
contents of the advertisement. Weber claims that "the reader is left
puzzling as to just what the advertisement contained", 24) as if it were not
entirely clear from the context that it was the usual canon of "revisionist"
theses. Elsewhere he criticises that Lipstadt does not give the complete
bibliographical annotation for a book by Dwight Eisenhower and insinuates
that this is an important omission:

      Is this just one more secret which Lipstadt wants
      to keep from her readers? Is there anything improper
      about comparing known Allied war crimes with putative
      German war crimes? 25)

In the criticised paragraph, Lipstadt does not at all discuss any war crimes
of any nation, but describes the attempts of "revisionist" claqueurs to
influence the annual assembly of the _American Historical Association_ in
the context of the general advance of "revisionist" propagandists. She does
not discuss the claims of the deniers as regards contents, therefore an
annotation of Eisenhower's book is unnecessary here. Obviously, Weber's
points of criticism only serve the purpose to create by their sheer number
the impression in the impartial reader that Lipstadt's book is generally

   Weber counters generally known facts with simple contradictions, it is
not even possible to say that he attempts to disprove them. As an example he
claims, simply ignoring the consensus of reputable historiography, that the
protocol of the Wannsee conference does not contain any plans for the
extermination of the Jews. (para. 15) 27) He claims that Himmler's speech in
Posen of the 4th October 1943 contains inconsistency without being bothered
to point out any problematic passages. (para. 16) And he claims with an
stunningly abstruse logic that the picture of a door painted with a warning
of gas, coming from an unnamed "Jewish source", would disprove the existence
of gas-chambers for the killing of people in Auschwitz, because the victim
would have been able to read the writing.  In contrary, this would proof
that those gas-chambers were meant for disinfection, because "lice cannot
read". (para. 17) There is indeed nothing to add to such a logic.

   To conclude, the whole catalogue of "revisionist" techniques of
covering-up and propaganda can be demonstrated with Dr. Weber's "review":
the deliberate ignoring or misrepresentation of the opponent's argument (in
this case Lipstadt's) as well as of the results of research in general; the
prayer wheel-like repetition of the usual repertoire of "revisionist theses"
without mentioning any objections and corrections, and without even
considering whether they fit into context or not; hiding the factually and
methodologically contents of the "revisionist thesis" under an outer form
which is impressing to the academic layman and offering a precise imitation
of the academic ductus; and as culmination, the shameless assertion that the
only motivation of the "revisionist" is the discovery of historical truth.
Thus, Dr. Weber writes in paragraph 18:

   As an historian who has written many pages that
   express my doubts about the "Holocaust" claims, I
   welcome Prof. Lipstadt's book. Although she very
   stubbornly adheres to the usual versions of the
   Extermination Thesis in the face of mounting evidence
   against them, she does mention revisionists'
   arguments against the Extermination Thesis in a
   number of places in attempts to refute or deride them [...]

   It is difficult to understand how a doctor of humanities, who claims to
live up to the standards of academic work and therefore to the principles of
rational research and truth, can write the quoted paragraph with a calm
conscience. How can Weber pretend to assume a benevolent but critical
position towards a book whose contents he misrepresents consistently with
the help of every thinkable rhethorical trick? This passage was written by
Dr. Weber in the full knowledge that he has nothing in his hands against the
demolition of "revisionist" methods and positions. If any profound criticism
of Lipstadt would be possible, Weber would be intelligent enough to
recognise it and would without doubt have presented it in his review. That
he has not done so is telling and shows that the Lipstadt's analysis of
Holocaust "revisionism" is correct.

1) Unfortunately, I have only access to the German translation of this book:
Deborah E.  Lipstadt: _Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust_, trans. Gabriele
Kosack, Zuerich: Rio Verlag, 1994. In order to faciliate the task of
recovering the passages quoted in this essay, I will in the following not
only give page numbers of the quotation in my annotations, but also the page
numbers of the according chapter.
2) Cp. op. cit. p. 38f (Chapter 1,15-150).
3) Ibid. p. 44 (Chapter 1, 15-50).
4) Ibid. p. 18 (Chapter 1,15-50).
5) Ibid. p. 44 (Chapter 1, 15-50).
6) Ibid. p. 48f (Chapter 1,15-50).
7) Ibid. p. 34 (Chapter 1, 15-50).
8) Ibid. p. 47 (Chapter 1,15-50).
9) Ibid. p 18 (Chapter 1, 15-50).
10) For this dubious committee compare Lipstadt: _Betrifft: Leugnen des
Holocaust_, chapter 10, 221-252, especially p. 225. Valuable information can
be found in the Nizkor archive (http://www.nizkor.archive). The electronic
addresse of CODOH is, their postal addresse is Post
Office Box 3267, Visalia CA 93278.
11) The review is published in electronic form under Since electronic texts are
displayed in different formats on different data terminals, and since line
numbering therefore is not possible, I have numbered the paragraphs for the
annotations. With the exception of the first paragraph, every indented line
counts as new paragraph.
12) The internet offers many resources, but the main source of information
is without doubt the Nizkor archive ( Yet, it should
be mentioned that also reputable historians as Wolfgang Benz and Adalbert
Rueckerl write against the confused theories of Holocaust-"revisionists".
One German publication is _Wahrheit und Auschwitzluege: Zur Bek=E4mpfung
"revisionistischer" Propaganda_, eds. Brigitte Bailer- Galanda, Wolfgang
Benz and Wolfgang Neugebauer, Wien: Deuticke, 1995. I am not aware of an
English translation. 13) Lipstadt:
_Berifft: Leugnen des Holocaust_, p. 215ff (Chapter 9, 192-220)
14) Ibid. p.18ff (Chapter 1, 15-50).
15) Weber, paragraph 2.
16) Lipstadt: _Berifft: Leugnen des Holocaust_, p. 207ff (chapter 9, 192-220)
17) Ibid. p. 220 (Chapter 9, 192-220). The review mentioned by Lipstadt can
_be found in New York Review of Books_, 15. June 1989.
18) Ibid. p. 254 (Chapter 11, 253-269).
19) Ibid. p. 47 (Chapter 1, 15-50).
20) _Der Grosse Brockhaus_, vol. 7, Wiesbaden: Brockhaus, 17th edt., 1955.
21) Weber, paragraph 10.
22) Lipstadt: _Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust_, p. 203 (Chapter 9, 192-200)
23) For further details concerning the Leuchter report, compare the Nizkor 
    archive, but also _Wahrheit und Auschwitzluege_, p. 89f, _Legenden, 
    Luegen, Vorurteile: Ein Woerterbuch zur Zeitgeschichte_, ed. Wolfgang 
    Benz, Muenchen: DTV, 1992, p. 147f, and Georges Wellers:
"Der 'Leuchter-Bericht' ueber die Gaskammern von Auschwitz" in: _Dachauer Hefte_ 7
(1991), p. 230-241.
24) Weber, paragraph 11.
25) Ibid. paragraph 13.
26) Lipstadt: _Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust_, p. 247 (Chapter 10, 221-253).
27) For details on the Wannsee conference compare _Nationalsozialistische
Massentoetungen durch Giftgas: Eine Dokumentation_, eds. Eugen Kogon, Hermann
Langbein, Adalbert Rueckerl et al., Frankfurt/M.: Fischer, p. 146ff.

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