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Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david//jackel/foreward-fulford

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: David Irving's Hitler (Forward)
Summary: Robert Fulford's introduction to the 1993 book, "David
         Irving's Hitler," which contains the translated essays of
         the German historian Eberhard Ja"ckel.
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/jackel/fulford.intro
Last-Modified: 1996/02/25

[Archived and published with permission.]

                      by Robert Fulford

When David Irving's work first began to appear, it seemed no
more  than  a  journalist's attempt to re-work a  few  major
themes of the Second World War and its background. Today  we
understand  his  project  as  something  larger   and   more
sinister:  a  kind of retrospective moral upgrading  of  the
Third  Reich  and  its  leader, with all  that  implies  for
contemporary politics in Germany and elsewhere. We also know
that  his writings have been flowing into the swelling river
of  Holocaust  denial, refreshing it with bits of  near-fact
and  pseudo-fact,  all intended to move a few  more  readers
toward   the  acceptance  of  an  absurdity:  the   relative
innocence  of the Nazis, or at least, the moral  equivalence
of the Nazis and their enemies in the Second World War.

This  context makes Eberhard Jackel's two essays on Irving's
methods  even more valuable and fascinating than  they  were
when  Jackel  wrote  them, some years before  Irving  became
notorious.  Jackel demonstrates, with a scholar's precision,
the  ingenious  ways  in which Irving manipulates  evidence,
collecting whatever fits his preconceptions, misinterpreting
as  he  chooses, and ignoring whatever fails to support  his
views.  Over the years Irving has persuaded many readers  in
the   English-speaking  countries  that   he   provides   an
understanding  of  the contents of certain German  archives,
but  it  will be hard for anyone, after reading  Jackel,  to
think of Irving as anything but a propagandist.

At  another time, in a different moral atmosphere,  Irving's
work  would  not deserve such detailed scrutiny; his  nimble
deceptions would be of interest only to specialists. In  the
present  climate, however, he is a dangerous man to  ignore.
He  plays  to a section of the public that wants to  believe
him,  a  section  largely created by  the  entrepreneurs  of
Holocaust denial.

When Holocaust denial first made itself heard in public, its
claims  seemed  so  absurd that historians  and  journalists
dismissed it as a temporary aberration, an eccentricity  on
the  lunatic fringes of opinion. It wasn't until  the  early
1980s  that we ceased to shrug it off, began to see  it  for
the  historical phenomenon that it is, and began  trying  to
understand  both its roots in traditional antisemitism  and
its peculiar appeal in the present age.

It  can  be best understood not only as a branch of standard
antisemitism but also as a specific product of its own time,
roughly  the  period 1970 to the present. Holocaust  denial,
like the Holocaust itself, is without precedent: no one, not
even Joseph Goebbels, has ever before produced so large  and
imaginative  a  lie.  Conspiracy  theories  have  frequently
appeared during the last two hundred years, but all of  them
have  been,  by  comparison, modest. The  Protocols  of  the
Elders  of  Zion, in its many versions, asks us  to  believe
merely  that  a small group of men secretly agreed  to  take
coordinated  action  to destroy civilization,  in  order  to
benefit  themselves  and  their  race.  This  much-reprinted
fiction  seemed  monstrous when  it  first  went  into  wide
circulation,  early  in  the  20th  century,  but  it  looks
insignificant  when  placed  besides  the  Holocaust  denial

The  deniers (I avoid calling them "revisionists,"  since  I
think  historical  revision is honest  and  important  work,
practised  by  all good historians) ask us to believe  in  a
conspiracy  that  involves hundreds of  thousands  of  Iying
witnesses   and  at  least  an  equal  number  of  falsified
documents,  all of them accepted by thousands  of  otherwise
sensible historians. Magically, no  one connected with  this
conspiracy has ever broken ranks and told the truth, or even
accidentally  revealed  the plot in a  letter  or  overheard
phone  conversation. The deniers therefore imply  that  "the
facts"  can  be  learned only by inference,  teased  out  of
obscure documents uncovered by Irving and others.

This   is   obviously  unbelievable,  but  what   makes   it
exceptional  is  the extent to which it is unbelievable.  It
would  be  far  easier to believe in, say,  the  witches  of
Salem,  whose activities were blamed on magical powers  from
the underworld.

The Holocaust deniers claim no such intervention from other-
worldly  sources:  they claim that this astounding  project,
convincing the world that six million died when they didn't,
was  carried out by more or less ordinary human beings. That
the  Jews  are said to have done it for practical  gain  (to
acquire   both money and political support for Israel) isn't
particularly   notable;  that  idea   fits   into   ordinary
antsemitic rhetoric. What must make us stand back in wonder,
at  both those who conceived the idea and those who claim to
believe it, is the titanic scale of the lie.

Who, after more than a moment's thought, would believe it?

A  fair  number of people, apparently, and not all  of  them
certified  antisemites.  In the spring  of  1993  the  Roper
Organization  announced that 22 per cent of the     American
adults  it polled said that it seemed possible the Holocaust
had  never happened; an additional 12 per cent said they did
not  know  if  it  was  possible .[2]  Even  those  who  are
skeptical  about  opinion polling,  believing  that  results
often reflect only half-hearted views, must acknowledge that
Holocaust denial has found an audience of considerable size.

Why?  One  reason  is that our historical  period  distrusts
authority   of   any   kind,  believing  (unless   persuaded
otherwise) that statements issued by those in authority  are
likely  to  be self-interested and routinely untruthful.  In
this  case,  possibly,  some people have  decided  that  the
standard  account  given  in history  books  and  the  media
represents the view of authority; Holocaust denial,  on  the
other  hand, may be seen as the unofficial, outsider's view,
which  is  automatically more credible  in  many  eyes.  The
popularity of Holocaust denial rnay be one fruit of a  whole
generation's  shared belief that any statement  endorsed  by
power should be distrusted and that there is always a "real"
truth, hidden from all but a few.

Holocaust  denial probably also profits from a  widely  held
view  that if an idea is repeated often enough, and insisted
on  vehemently  enough, then it is probably entitled  to  "a
fair hearing." Of course, anything like a fair hearing (such
as  the  publication of unedited defense "evidence"  by  the
Canadian newspapers in the first of Ernst Zundel's trials in
1985) amounts to a wonderful gift to  the  deniers,  who are 
allowed to spread their  poisonous ideas further. Even if 
eight out of ten readers decide  that they are fools or 
scoundrels, the deniers still gain. Simply allowing  them into 
the forum of public discussion (as  many schools  are now being 
pressured to do) gives their ideas  a certain validity.

Perhaps  a  general change in our culture's view of  history
has  done  even  more to create a kind of  welcome  for  the
deniers.  One of the most striking characteristics  of  this
period  is  the  waning of history as a  subject  of  study,
contemplation, and   discussion. During the last  thirty  or
so years, our civilization has grown steadily less concerned
with  the past and more concerned with the present  and  the
future.  Those who believe that a knowledge of the  past  is
crucial  to  all  human enterprises have become  a  minority
(consider  how  infrequently politicians and  other  leaders
invoke historical precedent or tradition).

In this vacuum, when a large part of the population has lost
any sense of history and how it is written, a bizarre thesis
like   Holocaust  denial  can  flourish.  Perhaps  the  most
pressing and painful of the lessons forced upon us by Irving
and  the  Holocaust  deniers is that we need  to  renew  our
relationship  with history. If we are not attentive  to  the
past,  if  we  carelessly forget it or  regard  it  as  only
marginally  important, then the past can become a playground
for evil.

1.  Robert  Fulford, a Toronto journalist, writes  a  weekly
column for The Globe and Mail. He has written frequently  on
Holocaust denial and related issues.

2.  Quoted  by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times,  30
April 1993.

                      Work Cited

Robert Fulford, Irving's Hitler (Introduction), Port Angeles,
Washington: Ben-Simon Publications, 1993.  pp 2-3)

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