Red herrings in Holocaust denial
- This is an appendix to the Holocaust denial article.
A red herring is essentially an argument without relevance. Holocaust deniers or revisionists frequently use these kinds of arguments to divert attention from evidence for the Holocaust (or the absence of evidence against it). These are so diverse that they are difficult to sort out.
Most of the red herrings in this list are from 66 questions about the Holocaust by the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) and Ernst Zündel, which are rebutted by the Nizkor Project. They are an example of the "Just asking questions" rhetoric to avoid explicit statements.
- 1 Claimed media, government and academic bias against Holocaust denial
- 2 The claim that the Jews were not literally "exterminated"
- 3 A claimed agenda
- 4 General conspiracy theory/pseudo-history components
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Claimed media, government and academic bias against Holocaust denial
- Argument: "The international community has a pro-Jewish bias"
Holocaust deniers might claim that national governments all over the world and (Jewish) mass media use the Holocaust as propaganda, and oppress "revisionist" views. First, this is irrelevant to the reality of the Holocaust.
Second, the Holocaust deniers also have their endorsements. Several governments in the Middle East have supported Holocaust denial (as of 2010, current situation is uncertain), and Iran even held an international conference dedicated to Holocaust denial. Holocaust deniers have managed to spread their word in many countries through books, radio and the Internet.
The claim that the Jews were not literally "exterminated"
Fortunately, the Germans lost the war before they killed all the Jews in Europe. Some Holocaust deniers use this fact in the reasoning "the Jews were not exterminated, therefore it was not a real genocide". This of course overlooks the legal definition of genocide, which does not require the successful implementation of a plan. It also ignores the fact that very few (if any) recorded genocides have ever succeeded in killing all members of the targeted group. To apply such strict criteria is to essentially argue that no genocide has ever happened — which would make the concept useless.
A similar narrative is to feign suspicion at the fact that only Holocaust "survivors" have spoken about their experiences under the Holocaust. This "What a surprise, another Holocaust survivor" narrative is intended to engender suspicion that these narratives are fabricated, and to suggest indirectly that Holocaust survivors are evidence that the event never occurred. This falls apart quickly when examined: obviously those who were killed in the Holocaust are by definition unable to talk about their experiences now. Furthermore, the great number of Holocaust survivors is in fact evidence for the event.
A claimed agenda
Holocaust deniers might claim that the Holocaust was set up as a global Jewish plan to gain money, land, and financial and political support from the Western nations.
Jewish "war" against Germany
Revisionists such as the IHR claim that the global Jewish community "declared war" on Germany in 1933. Their main "evidence" for this argument is a headline in the London Daily Express on March 24, 1933, saying "Judea Declares War on Germany". This was a sensationalistic headline for an article that described a proposed Jewish boycott of German goods in response to Adolf Hitler's election, i.e. a purely rhetorical "war", like the War on Poverty, or War on Christmas. Additional note: the Daily Express was literally the only newspaper printing the headline. No other newspaper reported on it. And given the tabloid nature of the Daily Express, already present back then, this can be used as an indicator of how serious contemporaries took this "news".
Claimed profit from the Holocaust
Holocaust deniers might claim that the Holocaust was made up to "blackmail" Western governments and German corporations for economic aid and reparations. There is legitimate debate about whether these compensations are legitimate, but they are irrelevant to the reality of the Holocaust.
There are also some objections:
First, Israel does not receive extraordinary economic aid from other countries. The United States has handed more money to other countries (notably Egypt — a country with which Israel has a somewhat problematic relationship) than Israel.
Second, no reparations have ever been paid by anyone to anyone for people killed in the Holocaust. Reparations have been paid to survivors. Exaggerating the death toll would not give any Jew more money.
Deniers also have to explain what side the United States government takes. The US is claimed to be part of the conspiracy, and still among the "losers" who give money to Israel.
Deniers might also complain about survivors' profiteering on books and lectures, which in some cases are sponsored by public schools or other government institutions. This is irrelevant as well, and their earnings are unnoticeable on a government financial scale. One should also remember that many Nazis, including war criminals such as Karl Dönitz and Albert Speer, also earned royalties from books after the war (although, this last statement is in itself a 'red herring', as it is irrelevant to the point of survivors profiting from books and lectures).
Israeli sovereignty as compensation for the Holocaust
In 1947, the United Nations adopted Resolution 181, supporting the division of the British Mandate of Palestine into Israeli and Palestinian/Arab states. Holocaust deniers such as the IHR claim that the Holocaust was staged to create sympathy for the foundation of Israel.
This claim has no relevance for the truth of the Holocaust.
The UN decision to found Israel had, as any other political decision, been subject to debate. However, there had been international support for some form of formal Israeli entity in Palestine at least since the 1917 Balfour Declaration (note, however, that it had used the vague term "homeland", not "state", probably because the British had already set their eyes on the area as a future part of the British Empire as it de facto became the case between 1918 and 1948). Also, most Jews who lived in Israel when it was founded had arrived before World War II.
General conspiracy theory/pseudo-history components
False confessions in witchcraft trials etc
However, the Holocaust is backed by several testimonies and plenty of technical evidence. Also, not a single one of the thousands of guards and officers has withdrawn their confessions, or provided a dissenting testimony. In fact, Rudolf Hoess, a favorite of Holocaust deniers, most likely received some punches during his interrogation. However, after he was sentenced to death, he wrote his memoirs in prison during the months awaiting his execution - when there was no pressure anymore and he had nothing left to lose - in which he repeated his confession and freely admitted what had happened during his time in Auschwitz.
"Victors write history"
Holocaust deniers frequently repeat the cliché that victors write history. On a literal plane, this is completely false. Karl Dönitz, Albert Speer, and several other high-ranked Nazis wrote and published their memoirs. Re-telling the events of the war is a strong tradition in Germany. The only relevant Nazi work that has been out of print since the war is Hitler's Mein Kampf, as the German state of Bavaria held the copyright until the end of 2015; this was, at best, a de facto ban on publication (and not reading or ownership — scholarly editions were also available prior to 2015). As of 2016, Mein Kampf is in the public domain.
"It is not in my history book"
The history of the world is an enormous topic. World War II was extremely eventful, and a world history textbook, an encyclopedia or any other general reference book must omit many important facts. Some of these books might only tell that Jews were deported to concentration camps, without mentioning the gas chambers or the death toll. Some do not use the term "Holocaust".
However, a book is nothing more than the words of its author. So, if a textbook omits the Holocaust, we should go ask the author, who is probably a graduate historian, and ask them why they did not mention the Holocaust. The most probable answer would be "lack of space". If any of them answers "I don't believe it happened", the deniers would have gained a "powerful" ally. Apparently this has never been the case.
An analogy: Some history books might describe the space race, but not the details of each moon landing. Does that prove that they did not happen?
"But that word has also a different meaning!"
Any random German can tell you that the word ausrotten means to exterminate, kill off, to destroy and that the word is almost exclusively used in the meaning of to make something dead. Or to use the official German dictionary:
“”1. vollständig, bis zum letzten Exemplar vernichten, vertilgen 2.beseitigen, aus der Welt schaffen
In English, "1. to destroy, exterminate completely up until the very last one; 2. removal, to remove from the face of the Earth." Holocaust deniers like to point out that it is also used in the meaning of uprooting/removal (as in removal of tree stumps including roots) and that this was the common meaning of the word at the time. Therefore the Nazis, when speaking of ausrottung in fact merely meant the removal of Jews (to the East of Madagascar or to where Santa Claus lives).
However, they ignore the fact that it is only very rarely used in a metaphorical botanic way and that even in the end of the 18th and in the 19th century, the word ausrotten meant the worst possible option:
“”Frühe Antisemiten etablierten parallel zur allmählichen rechtlichen Gleichstellung der Juden ein Vokabular vom „Ausmerzen“, „Ausschalten“, „Beseitigen“, „Entfernen“, „Unschädlichmachen“, „Vertilgen“ oder sogar „Ausrotten“
The Nazis had only one meaning in mind when mentioning the word ausrotten. Let alone they basically undermine their own reasoning: the Nazis uprooted the Jews to transfer them to concentration camps where they were to be ausgerottet.
Compare: "Gay" also means happy. How many people say anymore, "I am very gay today" when they mean "I am very happy today"?
- http://www.nizkor.org/features/qar/qar11.html Nizkor's response to IHR question 11
- Zehn Jahre, Zwanzig Tage by Karl Dönitz (1964) Boun.
- Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days by Karl Dönitz (1990) Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870217801.
- Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer (1970) The MacMillan Company.
- ausrotten Duden.
- Die Nachtseite der Judenemanzipation. Der Widerstand gegen die Integration der Juden in Deutschland 1780–1860 by Rainer Erb & Werner Bergmann (1989). Metropol Verlag. ISBN 3-926893-77-X.