Curious about the Holocaust? This is the place to start!
2016 edition, from Castle Hill Publishers (120 pp., paperback)
The best short introduction to the Holocaust story. Covers all basic aspects of the event, and addresses many relevant questions.
On the standard view, six million Jews died in the Holocaust, by gassing, shooting, and deprivation. Much has been written about this crime, and yet much remains a mystery. Even some basic question have no clear answers. For example, we would like to know:
Where did the 6 million figure come from?
How, exactly, did the gas chambers work?
Why do we have so little physical evidence from major death camps?
Why haven't we found even a fraction of the 6 million bodies, or their ashes?
Why has there been so much media suppression and governmental censorship on this topic?
In a sense, the Holocaust is the greatest murder mystery in history. Not only is it a fascinating story in its own right, but it can point us to deeper truths about our contemporary society. It is a topic of greatest importance for the present day.
Let's explore the evidence, and see where it leads.
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History Reexamined 9
The Big Picture 14
Origins of the "6 Million" 20
The Mystery Deepens 30
The Run-up to the War 37
The Mechanism of Mass Murder 40
--Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka
--A Better Account...
The Experts Respond 102
Closing Thoughts 113
Index of Names
The Holocaust is the greatest murder-mystery of the 20th century. Six million Jews, we are told, perished at the hands of the Nazis—in gas chambers, ghettos, and concentration camps. They were starved, suffocated, and shot. Their bodies were buried in mass graves, or burned in the ovens of Auschwitz, or on open flames. And all simply because they were Jews. It was the embodiment of evil, the greatest crime ever perpetrated.
Traditional historians claim to know about this crime in great detail. They have documents, photographs, and hard evidence. They have incriminating testimony from key Nazis. Some of the gas chambers have survived. And they have innumerable Jewish eyewitnesses. According to some, it is the “most well-documented event in history.”
And yet, when we ask detailed and pointed questions, our historians fall short. They don’t really know when, where, or how the Jews died. They have no technical explanation of how it was possible, for example, to gas thousands of people per day in a single room, and then to dispose of their bodies—such that not a trace remains. They cannot find the mass graves that allegedly held thousands of bodies. They cannot explain wartime aerial photographs that show a disturbingly calm Auschwitz camp. And they refuse to even consider a raft of contradictory evidence. In fact, many aspects of the traditional story simply don’t add up. The deeper we look, the more puzzling the picture becomes—and hence the great mystery.
As with any murder, we, as investigators, would like to examine several aspects of the crime; these would include the motive, the means by which it was conducted, and the bodies of the victims. We would furthermore like to consider all ancillary and related evidence that might support, or refute, the traditional story. As we will see, all these areas are problematic, from the conventional standpoint.
In the past few decades, a group of tenacious investigators has emerged, one that challenges the conventional view of history. Researchers who do this are generally known as revisionists; they seek to revise the orthodox account of some past event. Holocaust revisionists, however, are a special breed. They challenge not simply fellow historians, but an entire superstructure dedicated to maintaining and promoting the standard view. The conventional Holocaust story is sustained by hundreds, if not thousands of individuals: authors, scholars, filmmakers, publishers, and academics. These traditionalists are well-paid; they have large budgets at their disposal, and they enjoy the patronage of media, government, and the corporate world.
Holocaust revisionists, by contrast, are few in number—not more than two or three dozen, worldwide. They have no budgets and no sponsors. They receive no compensation for their work. On the contrary—they are continually threatened, defamed, sued, and otherwise harassed. Their books are confiscated, and they are even occasionally thrown in jail. And yet, under the most difficult of circumstances, revisionists persevere in the task of exposing the shortcomings of the traditional view, and in turning a harsh light on some uncomfortable aspects of the Holocaust story. They do this not out of spite, nor meanness, and certainly not for financial gain—but simply in pursuit of the truth. They seek the truth of the greatest crime of the past century.
The debate between traditionalism and revisionism is no mere trifle of history. It is a matter of great importance. The conventional Holocaust story is so widely accepted as self-evidently true, and as the epitome of evil, that most people cannot conceive of it being wrong to any substantial degree. If, therefore, it is shown to be wrong, or at least deeply flawed, then a central pillar of our understanding of history is destroyed. Our simplistic notions of good and evil will have to be reexamined. Those who sustain and promote the traditional story today—primarily prominent and wealthy Jews, their paid assistants, and the dwindling number of Jewish survivors—will suffer a serious erosion of credibility. And we may begin to question other received truths promoted by the powers that be. These facts have huge implications in many areas of contemporary life.
One striking fact is this: Most people have no idea that there is a Holocaust mystery at all. This in itself testifies to the power and influence of the traditionalists. They work hard to ensure that most of the public never hears from the other side—nor even that there is another side. When the topic does slip out, as it does from time to time, it is always cast in the most denigrating and insulting of terms. Revisionists are invariably called “Holocaust deniers,” “neo-Nazis,” or “anti-Semites.” They are slandered and impugned from the start. But their arguments are never discussed, never challenged, and never refuted. This, of course, is the classic ad hominem fallacy: to attack your opponent’s character or motives, rather than addressing the substance of his arguments. This is a standard tactic of those who have weak counterarguments, or who wish to avoid discussing the topic at all.
Consider the term ‘Holocaust denier.’ This is, in fact, a nearly meaningless phrase. What, after all, can it mean to ‘deny’ the Holocaust? In order to deny something, we first need to know what it is. By general consensus, this event has three central pillars: (1) roughly 6 million Jewish deaths, (2) homicidal gas chambers, and (3) systematic intentionality on the part of the Nazis. Therefore, we require all three conditions to exist, if we are to have a “Holocaust.” In theory, if someone were to refute any one of these three points, he would be a “Holocaust denier.”
But what does it mean to deny, for example, 6 million Jewish deaths? Is a claim of 5 million “denial”? Hardly, since that figure has been long supported by prominent Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg. What about 4 million? Doubtful; Gerald Reitlinger (1987) argued for 4.2 million Jewish deaths, and no one has called him a denier. 3 million? 1 million? We can see the difficulty here.
What about the homicidal gas chambers? Note: Any windowless room, in any building anywhere, could in theory serve as a homicidal gas chamber. All one needs to do is force people into that room, throw in some pellets of Zyklon-B (a granular form of cyanide gas, used by the Germans to disinfest clothing and personal items), and then wait 20 or 30 minutes. Of course, this would be hugely impractical, for obvious reasons: (a) it’s very hard to force people into an enclosed space against their will, (b) it’s tricky to get the pellets into the room without poisoning yourself, and (c) it’s very dangerous to extract the dead bodies without again poisoning yourself—they are soaked in cyanide gas, after all, and the pellets themselves would continue to slowly release the gas for hours afterwards. You would somehow have to carefully aerate the whole room, over a period of several hours, and then cautiously remove the bodies and the pellets. And then, if you were to be “systematic” about the process, you would have to thoroughly clean out the entire room, top to bottom, to prepare it for the next batch of victims.
This is no mere hypothetical description. It is, in fact, how most of the Auschwitz chambers allegedly operated. If one then takes the obvious stance—that such a procedure is utterly impractical and ridiculous in the extreme—are you then a denier? Perhaps so; but certainly a rational one! To deny the ridiculous or the absurd is simply common sense. One wishes there were more such deniers in the world today, not less.
What about intentionality? On the traditional view, Hitler and the top Nazis desperately wanted to kill every Jew they could lay their hands on. Aronsfeld (1985: 49), for example, states that “the German Nazi plan to murder every single Jew they could is beyond doubt.” In fact, it is often claimed that the Germans put this objective above all others, even to the detriment of the war itself. As evidence, traditionalists cite various anti-Jewish statements by Hitler, Goebbels, and other Germans. But most such statements, including nearly all those by the leading Nazis, are highly ambiguous—as we will see. What is certain is that Hitler and others wanted to remove the Jews from Germany and the greater Reich. But it is far less clear that they wanted them killed.
Thus, if one claims that many thousands of Jews died—not in gas chambers, but in other incidental and ancillary ways—is this ‘denial’? Every revisionist agrees that the Nazis wanted the Jews out, and that this was a deliberate and intentional, and even central policy of National Socialism. Many Jews undoubtedly died in the process of ethnically cleansing the Reich. And it is true the Hitler and the others were largely unbothered by this fact. But is this to deny the intentionality of the Holocaust?
We can see, then, how difficult and how meaningless it is to declare someone a “Holocaust denier.” Doing so would require a much fuller elaboration of the facts. Traditionalists, however, never provide these facts. They prefer to slander their opponents, and leave it at that.
Let us, then, investigate this great crime ourselves. Let us examine the central elements of the Holocaust story, ask tough questions, and see where the evidence leads.