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What is Holocaust Denial?

This article is adapted from an essay originally distributed in 1992 by The
Canadian Free Speech League (P.O. Box 40143, Victoria, B.C. V8W 3N3), a
federally incorporated, not-for-profit association that has helped with the
legal defense of Ernst Zuendel, among others.

In recent years, more and more attention has been devoted to the supposed
danger of "Holocaust denial." Politicians, newspapers and television warn
about the growing influence of those who reject the Holocaust story that
some six million European Jews were systematically exterminated during the
Second World War, most of them in gas chambers.

In several countries, including Israel, France, Germany and Austria,
"Holocaust denial" is against the law, and "deniers" have been punished with
stiff fines and prison sentences. Some frantic Jewish community leaders are
calling for similar government measures in North America against so-called
"deniers." In Canada, David Matas, Senior Counsel for the "League for Human
Rights" of the Zionist B'nai B'rith organization, says: (note 1)

The Holocaust was the murder of six million Jews, including two million
children. Holocaust denial is a second murder of those same six million.
First their lives were extinguished; then their deaths. A person who denies
the Holocaust becomes part of the crime of the Holocaust itself.

Often overlooked in this controversy is the crucial question: Just what
constitutes "Holocaust denial"?

Six Million?

Should someone be considered a "Holocaust denier" because he does not
believe -- as Matas and others insist -- that six million Jews were killed
during World War II? This figure was cited by the International Military
Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-1946. It found that "the policy pursued [by
the German government] resulted in the killing of six million Jews, of which
four million were killed in the extermination institutions." (note 2)

Yet if that is so, then several of the most prominent Holocaust historians
could be regarded as "deniers." Professor Raul Hilberg, author of the
standard reference work, The Destruction of the European Jews, does not
accept that six million Jews died. He puts the total of deaths (from all
causes) at 5.1 million. Gerald Reitlinger, author of The Final Solution,
likewise did not accept the six million figure. He estimated the figure of
Jewish wartime dead might be as high as 4.6 million, but admitted that this
was conjectural due to a lack of reliable information.

Human Soap?

Is someone a "Holocaust denier" if he says that the Nazis didn't use Jewish
fat to make soap? After examining all the evidence (including an actual bar
of soap supplied by the Soviets), the Nuremberg Tribunal declared in its
Judgment that "in some instances attempts were made to utilize the fat from
the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap." (note 3)=

In 1990, though, Israel's official "Yad Vashem" Holocaust memorial agency
"rewrote history" by admitting that the soap story was not true. "Historians
have concluded that soap was not made from human fat. When so many people
deny the Holocaust ever happened, why give them something to use against the
truth?," said Yad Vashem official Shmuel Krakowski. (note 4)

Wannsee Conference?

Is someone a "Holocaust denier" if he does not accept that the January 1942
"Wannsee conference" of German bureaucrats was held to set or coordinate a
program of systematic mass murder of Europe's Jews? If so, Israeli Holocaust
historian Yehuda Bauer must be wrong -- and a "Holocaust denier" -- because
he recently declared: "The public still repeats, time after time, the silly
story that at Wannsee the extermination of the Jews was arrived at." In
Bauer's opinion, Wannsee was a meeting but "hardly a conference" and "little
of what was said there was executed in detail." (note 5)

Extermination Policy?

Is someone a "Holocaust denier" if he says that there was no order by Hitler
to exterminate Europe's Jews? There was a time when the answer would have
been yes. Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, for example, wrote in the 1961
edition of his study, The Destruction of the European Jews, that there were
two Hitler orders for the destruction of Europe's Jews: the first given in
the spring of 1941, and the second shortly thereafter. But Hilberg removed
mention of any such order from the revised, three-volume edition of his book
published in 1985. (note 6) As Holocaust historian Christopher Browning has
noted: (note 7)

In the new edition, all references in the text to a Hitler decision or
Hitler order for the "Final Solution" have been systematically excised.
Buried at the bottom of a single footnote stands the solitary reference:
"Chronology and circumstances point to a Hitler decision before the summer
ended." In the new edition, decisions were not made and orders were not=

A lack of hard evidence for an extermination order by Hitler has contributed
to a controversy that divides Holocaust historians into "intentionalists"
and "functionalists." The former contend that there was a premeditated
extermination policy ordered by Hitler, while the latter hold that Germany's
wartime "final solution" Jewish policy evolved at lower levels in response
to circumstances. But the crucial point here is this: notwithstanding the
capture of literally tons of German documents after the war, no one can
point to documentary evidence of a wartime extermination order, plan or
program. This was admitted by Professor Hilberg during his testimony in the
1985 trial in Toronto of German-Canadian publisher Ernst Zuendel. (note 8)=


So just what constitutes "Holocaust denial"? Surely a claim that most
Auschwitz inmates died from disease and not systematic extermination in gas
chambers would be "denial." But perhaps not. Jewish historian Arno J. Mayer,
a Princeton University professor, wrote in his 1988 study Why Did the
Heavens Not Darken?: The "Final Solution" in History: " . . . From 1942 to
1945, certainly at Auschwitz, but probably overall, more Jews were killed by
so-called 'natural' causes than by 'unnatural' ones." (note 9)

Even estimates of the number of people who died at Auschwitz -- allegedly
the main extermination center -- are no longer clear cut. At the postwar
Nuremberg Tribunal, the Allies charged that the Germans exterminated four
million people at Auschwitz. (note 10) Until 1990, a memorial plaque at
Auschwitz read: "Four Million People Suffered and Died Here at the Hands of
the Nazi Murderers Between the Years 1940 and 1945." (note 11) During a 1979
visit to the camp, Pope John Paul II stood before this memorial and blessed
the four million victims.

Is it "Holocaust denial" to dispute these four million deaths? Not today. In
July 1990, the Polish government's Auschwitz State Museum, along with
Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center, conceded that the four million figure
was a gross exaggeration, and references to it were accordingly removed from
the Auschwitz monument. Israeli and Polish officials announced a tentative
revised toll of 1.1 million Auschwitz dead. (note 12) In 1993, French
Holocaust researcher Jean-Claude Pressac, in a much-discussed book about
Auschwitz, estimated that altogether about 775,000 died there during the war
years. (note 13)

Professor Mayer acknowledges that the question of how many really died in
Auschwitz remains open. In Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? he wrote (p.=

. . . Many questions remain open . . . All in all, how many bodies were
cremated in Auschwitz? How many died there all told? What was the national,
religious, and ethnic breakdown in this commonwealth of victims? How many of
them were condemned to die a 'natural' death and how many were deliberately
slaughtered? And what was the proportion of Jews among those murdered in
cold blood among these gassed? We have simply no answers to these questions
at this time.

Gas Chambers

What about denying the existence of extermination "gas chambers"? Here too,
Mayer makes a startling statement (on page 362 of his book): "Sources for
the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable." While Mayer
believes that such chambers did exist at Auschwitz, he points out that

most of what is known is based on the depositions of Nazi officials and
executioners at postwar trials and on the memory of survivors and
bystanders. This testimony must be screened carefully, since it can be
influenced by subjective factors of great complexity.

Hoess Testimony

One example of this might be the testimony of Rudolf Hoess, an SS officer
who served as commandant of Auschwitz. In its Judgment, the Nuremberg
International Military Tribunal quoted at length from his testimony to
support its findings of extermination. (note 14)

It is now well established that Hoess' crucial testimony, as well as his
so-called "confession" (which was also cited by the Nuremberg Tribunal), are
not only false, but were obtained by beating the former commandant nearly to
death. (note 15) Hoess' wife and children were also threatened with death
and deportation to Siberia. In his statement -- which would not be
admissible today in any United States court of law -- Hoess claimed the
existence of an extermination camp called "Wolzek." In fact, no such camp
ever existed. He further claimed that during the time that he was commandant
of Auschwitz, two and a half million people were exterminated there, and
that a further half million died of disease. (note 16) Today no reputable
historian upholds these figures. Hoess was obviously willing to say
anything, sign anything and do anything to stop the torture, and to try to
save himself and his family.

Forensic Investigations

In his 1988 book, Professor Mayer calls for "excavations at the killing
sites and in their immediate environs" to determine more about the gas
chambers. In fact, such forensic studies have been made. The first was
conducted in 1988 by American execution equipment consultant, Fred A.
Leuchter, Jr. He carried out an on-site forensic examination of the alleged
gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek to determine if they could
have been used to kill people as claimed. After a careful study of the
alleged killing facilities, Leuchter concluded that the sites were not used,
and could not have been used, as homicidal gas chambers. Furthermore, an
analysis of samples taken by Leuchter from the walls and floors of the
alleged gas chambers showed either no or minuscule traces of cyanide
compound, from the active ingredient of Zyklon B, the pesticide allegedly
used to murder Jews at Auschwitz. (note 17)

A confidential forensic examination (and subsequent report) commissioned by
the Auschwitz State Museum and conducted by Institute of Forensic Research
in Krakow has confirmed Leuchter's finding that minimal or no traces of
cyanide compound can be found in the sites alleged to have been gas
chambers. (note 18)

The significance of this is evident when the results of the forensic
examination of the alleged homicidal gas chambers are compared with the
results of the examination of the Auschwitz disinfestation facilities, where
Zyklon B was used to delouse mattresses and clothing. Whereas no or only
trace amounts of cyanide were found in the alleged homicidal gas chambers,
massive traces of cyanide were found in the walls and floor in the camp's
disinfestation delousing chambers.

Another forensic study has been carried out by German chemist Germar Rudolf.
On the basis of his on-site examination and analysis of samples, the
certified chemist and doctoral candidate concluded: "For chemical-technical
reasons, the claimed mass gassings with hydrocyanic acid in the alleged 'gas
chambers' in Auschwitz did not take place . . . The supposed facilities for
mass killing in Auschwitz and Birkenau were not suitable for this purpose .
. ." (note 19)

Finally, there is the study of Austrian engineer Walter Lueftl, a respected
expert witness in numerous court cases, and former president of Austria's
professional association of engineers. In a 1992 report he called the
alleged mass extermination of Jews in gas chambers "technically impossible."
(note 20)

Discredited Perspective

So just what constitutes "Holocaust denial"? Those who advocate criminal
persecution of "Holocaust deniers" seem to be still living in the world of
1946 where the Allied officials of the Nuremberg Tribunal have just
pronounced their verdict. But the Tribunal's findings can no longer be
assumed to be valid. Because it relied so heavily on such untrustworthy
evidence as the Hoess testimony, some of its most critical findings are now

For purposes of their own, powerful special interest groups desperately seek
to keep substantive discussion of the Holocaust story taboo. One of the ways
they do this is by purposely mischaracterizing revisionist scholars as
"deniers." But the truth can't be suppressed forever: There is a very real
and growing controversy about what actually happened to Europe's Jews during
World War II.

Let this issue be settled as all great historical controversies are
resolved: through free inquiry and open debate in our journals, newspapers
and classrooms.


1.Globe and Mail (Toronto), Jan. 22, 1992. 2.Trial of the Major War
Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (IMT "blue series"),
Vol. 22, p. 496. 3.IMT "blue series," Vol. 22, p. 496. 4.Globe and Mail
(Toronto), April 25, 1990; See also: M. Weber, "Jewish Soap," The Journal of
Historical Review, Summer 1991. 5.Canadian Jewish News (Toronto), Jan. 30,
1992. 6.See: Barbara Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die: Report of
the Evidence in the Canadian "False News" Trial of Ernst Zuendel (Toronto:
Samisdat, 1992), pp. 192, 300, 349. 7."The Revised Hilberg," Simon
Wiesenthal Annual, Vol. 3, 1986, p. 294. 8.B. Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million
Really Die (Toronto: 1992), pp. 24-25. 9.A. Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not
Darken?: The "Final Solution" in History (Pantheon, 1988), p. 365.
10.Nuremberg document 008-USSR.; IMT "blue series," Vol. 39, pp. 241, 261.
11.B. Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die (Toronto: 1992), p. 441.
12.Y. Bauer, "Fighting the Distortions," Jerusalem Post (Israel), Sept. 22,
1989; Auschwitz Deaths Reduced to a Million," Daily Telegraph (London), July
17, 1990; "Poland Reduces Auschwitz Death Toll Estimate to 1 Million," The
Washington Times, July 17, 1990. 13.J.-C. Pressac, Les Cr=E9metoires
d'Auschwitz: La machinerie du meurtre de masse (Paris: CNRS, 1993). See
also: R. Faurisson, "Jean-Claude Pressac's New Auschwitz Book," The Journal
of Historical Review, Jan.-Feb. 1994, p. 24. 14.IMT "blue series," Vol. 22,
p. 485; Nuremberg document 3868-PS (USA-819), in IMT "blue series," Vol. 33,
pp. 275-279. 15.Rupert Butler, Legions of Death (England: 1983), pp.
235-237; C. Hitchens, "Whose History is it?," Vanity Fair (New York), Dec.
1993, p. 117. 16.See: R. Faurisson, "How the British Obtained the Confession
of Rudolf Hoess," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1986-87, pp.
389-403. 17.A deluxe edition of The Leuchter Report is available from the
IHR for $20.00, plus $2.00 shipping. 18.The complete text of this report was
published in English in The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1991. 19.G.
Rudolf, Gutachten ueber die Bildung und Nachweisbarkeit von
Cyanidverbindungen in den "Gaskammern" von Auschwitz (London: 1993). See:
The Journal of Historical Review, Nov.-Dec. 1993, pp. 25-26. 20."The 'Lueftl
Report'," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1992-93.

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