Holocaust revisionism has been around for quite some time, and it is quite in line with any historical inquiry or historical revisionism. It is not some kind of side issue that has no historical merit at all. If historical revisionism is a serious intellectual pursuit, then why should we exclude historical events such as Nazi Germany? For example, Jewish professor Tim Cole of the University of Bristol wrote in his book Selling the Holocaust: From Auschwitz to Schindler: How History is Bought, Packaged, and Sold:
“At the end of the twentieth century, the ‘Holocaust’ is being bought and sold…In short, ‘Shoah [Hebrew word for Holocaust] business’ is big business.”
Is Cole right? If the Holocaust is big business, is it then possible that people are profiting from it? More importantly, what is Holocaust revisionism? Are Holocaust revisionists saying that not a single Jew ever suffered in Nazi Germany? Are they perpetuating that there were no Nazi camps? Do they acknowledge that Jews in general did suffer in Nazi Germany?
Holocaust revisionists acknowledge terrible things happened to Jews in Nazi Germany. What they are saying is that the Holocaust establishment has deliberately made a political football game out of what happened in Nazi Germany. In fact, some of the claims that the establishment has perpetuated for years were demonstrably false. Moreover, the six-million figure has been shown to be incorrect. (I have addressed some of these questions in Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism,Vol. II.)
Going back to historical revisionism. Almost every serious historian or thinker is involved in it. When Norman Finkelstein wrote The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering in 2000, he argues that Holocaust “hoaxers” and “hucksters”—namely Jewish organizations—have exploited what happened in Nazi Germany in order to get millions of dollars from Swiss banks. Finkelstein calls those Jewish leaders a “repellent gang of plutocrats, hoodlums, and hucksters.”
Indeed, there is a Holocaust culture that needs to be dealt with. But the fundamental question again is simply this: is revisionism itself a historical inquiry?
For example, only recently was it revealed that popular historian Stephen Ambrose’s work on Dwight D. Eisenhower was built on fabrications and fake interviews.
On October 7, 1965, when Ambrose claimed that he was interviewing Eisenhower at Gettysburg, Ike was travelling from Abilene to Kansas City. On December 7, 1965, another of the purported interview dates, Eisenhower was at Walter Reed Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., and saw only General Arthur Nevins, his neighbor and farm manager; George Allen, a golf and bridge pal; and Gordon Moore, his brother-in-law…
On October 5, 1967, rather than hobnobbing with his young biographer, Eisenhower met with General Lucius D. Clay, the former military governor of occupied Germany and a close friend, and, after Clay left, he talked politics over the phone with Walter Cronkite and called his attorney to discuss a trust fund for his grandchildren…John Eisenhower, [son of President Eisenhower] who is now eighty-seven, liked Ambrose, and he recalled, too, Ambrose’s fondness for embellishment and his tendency to sacrifice fact to narrative panache.
Ambrose said that he had conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with the former president, but Tim Rives, “the deputy director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, in Abilene, Kansas,” said that Ambrose’s entire interviews with the president lasted less than five hours. “Rives, who still considers himself an Ambrose fan in spite of these discoveries and the various brushes with plagiarism that Ambrose had later in his career, said, ‘The discussion of so many diverse subjects in less than three hours strains credulity.’”
Ambrose struggled with this issue even during his early years, when he was accused of plagiarism for his book The Wild Blue. Ambrose responded, “I tell stories. I don’t discuss my documents. I discuss the story. It almost gets to the point where, how much is the reader going to take? I am not writing a Ph.D. dissertation.”
If Ambrose only wants to tell stories, he should write novels. But he has no business applying his opinions to historical events if he does not have evidence. Ambrose cannot be trusted as a reliable historian. The sad part is that Michael Shermer heavily relies on Ambrose’s and Albert Cowdrey’s expertise in denouncing James Bacque’s book The Other Losses.
Just to show how dishonest Ambrose can be, Ambrose read the final manuscript of Other Losses in 1988 and declared to its author, “You have a sensational if appalling story and it can no longer be suppressed, and I suppose (in truth, I know) it must be published.” Yet three years later he attacked the book in the New York Times, contradicting his previous statements. Clearly Ambrose was trying to protect his reputation. He told Colonel Ernest F. Fisher, a senior historian at the US Army Center for Military History, “This book [Other Losses] destroys my life’s work.”
In order to protect his standing as a historian, he does not discount Bacque’s findings with counter evidence, but made blanket statements like “Mr. Bacque is wrong on every major charge and nearly all his minor ones” and accused Bacque of misusing data—“he misreads documents; he ignores contrary evidence; his statistical methodology is hopelessly compromised; he makes no attempt to look at comparative contexts; he puts words into the mouth of his principal source; he ignores a readily available and absolutely critical source that decisively deals with his central accusation; and, as a consequence of these and other shortcomings, he reaches conclusions and makes charges that are demonstrably absurd.”
Those accusations could be justified if Ambrose provided evidence for them. And the only way to do that would be to double check the sources Bacque used throughout the book. But Ambrose did not want to do that, since the evidence may have led him to disturbing conclusions, nor did he provide any evidence of his own to justify denouncing Bacque’s book. The closest he came was when he stated that he and a number of historians like himself had a conference to talk about Bacque’s book and came to the conclusion that the book had to be denounced.
But gathering experts to denounce a book is a far-cry from presenting evidence, no matter who the experts are. Even then, Ambrose stated plainly that he did not have any evidence at the moment. Listen to this: “Our second conclusion [at the conference which was held at the University of New Orleans] was that when scholars do the necessary research, they will find Mr. Bacque’s work to be worse than worthless. It is seriously—nay, spectacularly—flawed in its most fundamental aspects.” Yet when the “necessary research” was done, it was Ambrose, not Bacque, who was uncovered as a fraud.
Though Ambrose quotes Eisenhower, that is not reliable enough evidence. Ambrose also cites Albert Cowdrey as saying that “overall death rate among German prisoners was 1 percent.” At the end of World War II, about eight million German soldiers were captured, excluding those soldiers who were captured before May 1945. “Western Allies captured some 7.6 million, while the rest fell into the hands of the Red Army. About five of the eleven million were released within a year. A million and a half, however, never came home.”
This figure is not controversial among reputable historians, and it is ridiculous to assert that death rate was just one percent. Most of those prisoners of war who returned were trained in the anti-fascist and communist school camps. The consensus was that those who made some improvements in committing themselves to anti-fascists and pro-communist propaganda were sent “back to the zone to work in the administration.”
British historian Giles MacDonogh writes that in the American zone, “any attempt to feed the prisoners by the German civilian population was punishable by death.” Bacque recounted the same thing, making the point that the order was given by General Eisenhower; that order was discovered in the 1990s, reading in part, “Under no circumstances may food supplies be assembled among the local inhabitants in order to deliver them to the prisoners of war. Those who violate this command and nevertheless try to circumvent this blockade to allow something to come to the prisoners place themselves in danger of being shot.”
The best way for Ambrose to refute the Eisenhower letter is to go to the archives and check for himself whether Bacque was telling the truth. Instead, he relies on peer consensus. By doing so, Ambrose and others like him are rewriting history based on what they wished had happened, not on what one will find in the archives.
We see the same pattern in the work of former Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. His book, The Age of Jackson, made him a celebrity. The book “was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 because reviewers found Schlesinger’s explanation of Jackson’s huge appeal to the ‘common man’ so convincing.” Yet historian Richard P. McCormick proved that Schlesinger’s book was grossly erroneous even before it came out. Rodney Stark states that “Schlesinger never recanted,” and his blatant errors continued to be used in textbooks for decades.
The serious question is this: if we all took Ambrose’s works as final “truth” and never bothered to check his facts, how would we ever discover what really happened? How, then, can people honestly think that those who question the exploitation of the Holocaust be Holocaust deniers or anti-Semites? How, in good conscience, could we put those people to prison because they voice their opinions? And how can we know the nature of anything if people aren’t allowed to voice their views, if only one view is being presented when in fact there are many others that need to be discussed—and refuted—using rational historical scholarship?
The only way to examine history fully is to examine it within the historical backdrop, presenting all sides, and people of the truth will ally themselves with the truth. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, arguably one of the rarest minds of the twentieth century, points out that embracing the truth and rejecting lies may bring bad consequences—including lost jobs or even threats on one’s life. Yet this is the path that valiant and courageous men and women ought to take.
A statement or theory or hypothesis must be judged against rational historical evidence. If a historian claims that a certain event happened in history, then he should not be upset if he is asked to provide evidence for the claim. If he cannot, or if the historical data fail to corroborate his claim, then people are justified in rejecting the claim. This is plain and simple, and does not require any academic expertise. In fact, this has been one of the pillars of the western intellectual and historical tradition. From Plato to Kant and beyond, we see ideas discussed freely and examined within context.
I have briefly interacted with people like Deborah Lipstadt, Richard Evans, and Michael Shermer on similar issues. Now we come to Kevin MacDonald. When the question was asked, “What are your thoughts about holocaust revisionism?”, MacDonald responded:
“Yeah, um, I guess I’m not, uh, I’ve never had any sympathy really, before – I, I haven’t seen, I haven’t seen anything that I would really, you know, convince me. And I have – frankly, I haven’t dealt into it very much. My view is that it’s not important for what I’m doing and I don’t think it’s really important – I, I think what’s really important is the culture of the holocaust, you know how it’s taught in school, how it’s used to defend Israel, and it’s used as a weapon against people who oppose immigration, and all those things – ah I think those are very important things to discuss. So whether it actually happened, exactly (… slurs some words] and all that is something that I don’t think uh is possible to even go there anymore, is just … just uh … third rail.”
Holocaust revisionism is not that important? This is certainly a categorical error. MacDonald hasn’t delved into the issue very much, but he is making what seems to be authoritative statement about the same issue—statements like “it is not that important.” As I have argued in my recent book, Kevin MacDonald’s Metaphysical Failure: A Philosophical, Historical, and Moral Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, and Identity Politics, there is more to MacDonald’s ideological foundation and intellectual inconsistency than meets the eye.
-  See for example Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014); Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 004); The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (West Conshohocken: 2016); Reformation Myths: Five Centuries of Misconceptions and (Some) Misfortunes (London: SPCK Publishing, 2017).
-  Tim Cole, Selling the Holocaust: From Auschwitz to Schindler: How History is Bought, Packaged, and Sold (New York: Routledge, 1999), 1.
-  Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (New York: Verso, 2000).
-  Quoted in Ben Harris, “Beached,” New York Magazine, December 8, 2007.
-  See Richard Rayner, “Channeling Ike,” New Yorker, April 26, 2010; Paul Harris, “Band of Brothers Author Accused of Fabrication for Eisenhower Biography,” Guardian, April 25, 2010
-  Rayner, “Channeling Ike,” New Yorker.
-  Rayner, “Channeling Ike,” New Yorker.
-  Wikipedia.
-  Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 83-84.
-  James Bacque, Crimes and Mercies: The Fate of German Civilians under Allied Occupation, 1944- 1950 (Canada: Talonbooks, 2007), xi-xii.
-  Stephen E. Ambrose, “Ike and the Disappearing Atrocities,” NY Times Books Review, February 24, 1991
-  Ibid.
-  Ibid.
-  MacDonogh, After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 392.
-  Norman Naimark, The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone, 1945-1949 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 42-43.
-  MacDonogh, After the Reich, 395.
-  Bacque, Crimes and Mercies, 40-41
- Rodney Stark, Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome (New York: HarperOne, 2007), 211.
-  Ibid.
-  Ibid.
-  Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Solzhenitsyn Reader (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2006), 559.
-  https://carolynyeager.net/kevin-macdonald-record-saying-whether-holocaust-actually-happened-%E2%80%9Cnot-important%E2%80%9D.
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the new book, Kevin MacDonald’s Metaphysical Failure: A Philosophical, Historical, and Moral Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, and Identity Politics. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.