List of atrocities cited by Holocaust deniers
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The Holocaust is neither the largest mass murder in history, nor even of the 20th century, nor the only crime against humanity during World War II. But this fact is a tu quoque argument, not, in any way, relevant to the reality of the Holocaust.
Dresden, Hiroshima and other atrocities by Western Allies
Revisionists such as the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) bring up American and British war crimes in World War I. No Allies were tried for war crimes, and the Allied governments have paid no reparations for these atrocities. Holocaust deniers might compare atrocities of these Western Allies to Nazi atrocities because:
- Allied war crimes would make the Holocaust less extraordinary.
- However, the millions of Holocaust victims are still an order of magnitude greater than the number of civilians killed by the Western allies (while the Soviets were more destructive, see below). The total number of German civilian casualties is very uncertain, and ranges from 1 to 2.5 million (excluding Austria and other annexed territories); up to 3.5% of the total population. Most of these came after the D-Day in June 1944, when the outcome of the war was apparent, and several Nazi commanders wanted to surrender. Yet Hitler fought on, applying a self-destructive strategy. Therefore, many German deaths could be attributed to Hitler.
- The fire-bombing of Dresden killed many civilians, and might be compared to Nazi atrocities.
- However, as Dresden was bombed by the Western Allies but became part of East Germany, the communist regime exaggerated the death toll to numbers around 250,000, a claim still used by Holocaust deniers such as David Irving. However, current scholarship (as of 2010) estimates a minimum of 22,700 and a maximum of 25,000 deaths. While still a human tragedy, it has no relevance to the Holocaust.
- The fire-bombing of Tokyo, and smaller cities in Japan.
- Often used in discussions as something of a red herring, usually pointed to as being an atrocity due to the numbers of dead. Wartime estimates put the total number of Japanese civilians dead at 50,000, though some more modern estimates put the total death toll of the fire-bombing campaign at over 250,000 due to the number of small Japanese villages wiped off the Earth.
- It implies that the Allied atrocities were denied or censored after the Second World War, and that somehow this would make Holocaust denial more legitimate.
- Since Allied politicians, officials, commanders and combatants were never tried or sentenced for war crimes, as German leaders were in the Nuremberg trials, and Japanese leaders in the Tokyo trials, Holocaust deniers might imply that the Nuremberg trials were unfair.
- However, most of the 24 defendants of the main Nuremberg trial were tried for four different crimes (conspiracy for crime against peace, crime against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity). The 12 defendants who were sentenced to death had all been found guilty of crimes against humanity. None was tried or sentenced only for war crimes, as Western Allied commanders would have been if they had faced a similar trial. The Allies considered charging the defendants at Nuremberg with crimes relating to the fire-bombing of Coventry and other UK cities, as well as the policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, but decided against this due to the fact that the Allies had carried out similar policies. Lastly, it is worth remembering that Nuremberg was entirely without precedent — no international treaty required Allies to carry out a trial of Nazi war criminals at all. Many Allied leaders argued that suspects should simply be executed after a summary trial, or without trial at all, once their identities had been confirmed. Holding a trial at all was a step in the right direction.
Japanese-American detention camps
The Allies imprisoned many civilians in their home territories — most notably 110,000 Japanese living in the United States. The IHR brings them up in comparison to the Holocaust. Though shameful, this is a completely different case from the Holocaust, because Japanese American prisoners did not suffer from mass starvation, epidemics or slave labor. Even Holocaust deniers admit that this was the case for European Jews, as well as Chinese and other Allied prisoners in Japanese-occupied territories. Also, Japanese Americans were not executed.
Atrocities by the Soviet Union
Revisionists such as the IHR mention that the Soviet Union invaded neutral countries, used forced labor, and deported and murdered myriads of civilians, before, during and after the war. The death toll of just one of these Soviet campaigns, the Holodomor, was much higher than that of the Holocaust. Neither Stalin nor any other Soviet leaders who ordered crimes against peace or against humanity, were ever brought to justice. "Stalin murdered more people than Hitler" is a common red herring, which doubly serves their purpose as the USSR under Stalin was one of the Allied nations — but again, how does this disprove the Holocaust?
The Holocaust might be compared to the Soviet Gulag system of prison camps. With a total of 14 million prisoners and 1.6 million deaths (exact numbers uncertain), the Gulags were indeed horrible, but at a death rate at 10-15% (during war time), it was no extermination campaign. For comparison, death rates among some Jewish national populations, and in some Nazi concentration camps located in Poland, were more than 90%.
Many Nazi sympathizers and Neo-Nazis make exaggerated claims about the Red Army's acts of revenge in eastern Germany, as a way of trying to claim that the Allies were just as bad. While there were many murders committed by Red Army soldiers in eastern Germany, there was no extermination policy or encouragement by the officers; such actions were carried out by individual soldiers. The worst atrocities were only committed in the easternmost regions, where the Red Army first made contact.
Red Army soldiers "only" killed some tens of thousands of Germans, far less than Nazi atrocities. Deniers often also point to the mass rapes committed by the Red Army, frequently describing them to give the impression that all women were raped, without actually mentioning numbers. The actual number is "only" around 1.5 million. In every case, Holocaust deniers fail to mention any contributing factors for the actions by the Red Army, which is considered profoundly ahistorical for any discussions of atrocities. One day American soldiers showed up and shot several Germans sounds like a much more pro-Nazi version of the Dachau Massacre.
Another red herring used by Holocaust deniers and Holocaust relativists, is the policies and violent acts by the modern state of Israel, especially against Palestinians. Indeed these should be subject to debate (which they are in Israel, as well as in the international community), but Israel's acts since its establishment in 1948 does not make the Holocaust (which, obviously, ended numerous years earlier) more legitimate or less true.
Israel's armed forces have killed some tens of thousands of people — including combatants and civilians in all wars and confrontations involving Israel from 1948 to present day. This claim fails to distinguish between deaths which were armed enemies killed in combat with Israel, collateral damage, and actual atrocities (a minority). Although large, this number is dwarfed by the Holocaust's death toll, and dwarfed tremendously by the death toll in neighboring countries of their fellow citizens of all backgrounds, by their own governments and internal strife such as in Lebanon and Syria. It is also even an order of magnitude fewer than the 300,000 Holocaust victims claimed by hard-line Holocaust deniers such as the IHR. Another red herring in the argument is that the number of Israelis killed by neighboring attacks is ignored, and the number of Israelis at risk of being killed if Israel didn't respond is also ignored. Plus, there has been no attempt by Israel to murder an entire people (such as the Palestinians).
The IHR also compares the Nuremberg Laws to present-day laws of Israel. First — most of these claims are lies. Holocaust deniers tend to point out the lack of interfaith marriage in Israel. Normally, only religious institutions can issue marriage in Israel, and civil marriage is very limited. This could be an issue for debate, but it does not get close to the Nuremberg laws, where Jews had no civil rights at all. Israel does not restrict marriage by race (allowing black Jews to marry white Jews and Muslims of any race to marry each other) and recognizes all marriages performed abroad (as long as they're recognized by the country in which they were performed) regardless of criteria such as race, religion or gender.
Segregation laws in the Southern United States
The IHR says that the Nuremberg Laws made in 1935 were not worse than the "Jim Crow laws" or other segregation laws that were enforced in some southern states of the USA at the same time. First, this has no relevance; the American segregation of the first half of the 20th century is well-known, and nearly universally condemned. Second, the Nazis went further than the Southern governments ever did, even before the war; the Nazis practically bereaved the Jews of their citizenship, and the typical punishment for violating the Nuremberg laws, was death.
Before and during the war, Nazi propaganda brought up British colonialism as a tu quoque argument. Germany had colonies too, until the 1919 Treaty of Versailles transferred them to other countries. Ironically, it was German colonialism that made the foundation of the eugenics which was applied by the Nazis.
Holocaust deniers have brought up colonial atrocities that were contemporary with the Holocaust, such as the Great Bengal Famine of 1943. Just like other atrocities, colonial oppression is nearly universally condemned today, and does not affect the truth of the Holocaust.
Does the Holocaust get too much attention?
Based on the aftermath of these and other atrocities (Armenian Genocide, Rwandan Genocide, etc.), Holocaust deniers such as the IHR claim that the Holocaust gets more attention than it deserves, with media coverage, school curricula, etc. Commemoration of other atrocities is not forbidden. If Holocaust deniers are to be taken seriously, they are welcome to bring attention to all these other atrocities, too. And decide how to handle people who deny them. More specifically, the Holocaust was unprecedented because it involved multiple groups compared to other genocides.
The argument also seems to ignore that the number of victims is not the most horrifying part of the Holocaust. One can argue that it is rather the cold-blooded, organized manner of execution which was never surpassed in the history of genocide. Or, from a European (especially German) point of view, that it happened here.
- http://www.nizkor.org/features/qar/qar13.html Nizkor's reply to IHR question 13
- XI: Justification: The bombing of Dresden Nizkor project.
- Shortnews staff (14 April 2010). "Alliierte Bombenangriffe auf Dresden 1945: Zahl der Todesopfer korrigiert" (in de).
- Müller, Rolf-Dieter; Schönherr, Nicole; Widera, Thomas, eds (2010). "Die Zerstörung Dresdens: 13. bis 15. Februar 1945. Gutachten und Ergebnisse der Dresdner Historikerkommission zur Ermittlung der Opferzahlen." (in de). V&R Unipress. pp. 48. ISBN 3899717732.
- http://www.nizkor.org/features/qar/qar08.html Nizkor's response to IHR question 8
- http://www.nizkor.org/features/qar/qar24.html Nizkor reply to IHR question 24
- http://www.nizkor.org/features/qar/qar49.html Nizkor reply to IHR question 49
- http://www.nizkor.org/features/qar/qar50.html Nizkor's reply to IHR question 50