The Journal of Historical Review

John Sack’s Defective Esquire Article

Mark Weber

An important sign that Holocaust revisionism is having a greater impact on society at large is the seemingly more respectful coverage that revisionists are receiving in the mainstream media. One example is the detailed, objectively written report on the May 2000 Institute for Historical Review Conference that appeared in the Los Angeles Times (May 30), one of America’s most influential daily papers. Written by a veteran journalist who attended the entire three-day gathering, the 40-column-inch article enraged Jewish community figures. (See the detailed report, “Thirteenth IHR Conference: A Resounding Success,” in the May–June 2000 Journal.)

A more recent example of such coverage is an eleven-page article in the February 2001 issue of Esquire, a slick, literate and prestigious monthly magazine with a national circulation of some 600,000. Written by seasoned journalist and author John Sack, “Inside the Bunker” is based largely on the Jewish author’s observations and role as a speaker at the May 2000 IHR Conference in Irvine, California.

Opinion within the revisionist community about this first-person article has ranged from joyful approval to disgust. Among its positive features, Sack contrasts the open-mindedness of revisionists with the bigotry and hatred he’s found at Jewish gatherings, deftly deflating such sanctimonious icons as Elie Wiesel and Edgar Bronfman:

Despite their take on the Holocaust, they [revisionists] were affable, open-minded, intelligent, intellectual. Their eyes weren’t fires of unapproachable certitude and their lips weren’t lemon twists of astringent hate. Nazis and neo-Nazis they didn’t seem to be. Nor did they seem anti-Semites ...

... I wanted to say something therapeutic [at the IHR Conference], to say something about hate. At the hotel [where the Conference took place], I’d seen none of it, certainly less than I’d seen when Jews were speaking of Germans. No one had ever said anything remotely like Elie Wiesel, “Every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set aside a zone of hate – healthy, virile hate – for what persists in the Germans,” and no one had said anything like Edgar Bronfman, the president of the World Jewish Congress. A shocked professor told Bronfman once, “You’re teaching a whole generation to hate thousands of Germans,” and Bronfman replied, “No, I’m teaching a whole generation to hate millions of Germans.” Jew hatred like that German hatred, or like the German hatred I saw on every page of [Daniel Goldhagen’s] Hitler’s Willing Executioners, I saw absolutely none of...

Sack also acknowledges that many specific points made over the years by revisionists (“deniers”) are, indeed, true:

... The Holocaust deniers say – and they’re right – that one Auschwitz commandant [Rudolf Höss] confessed after he was tortured and that the other [Holocaust] reports are full of bias, rumors, exaggerations and other preposterous matters, to quote the editor of a Jewish magazine five years after the war. The deniers say, and again they’re right, that the commandants, doctors, SS, and Jews at Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and whole alphabet of camps testified after the war that there were cyanide chambers at those camps that all historians today refute.

Sack takes note of the way in which the Holocaust campaign has skewed our historical perspective:

Americans who don’t know if one hundred thousand, two hundred thousand or one million of our own soldiers died (and certainly don’t know that fifty million people died in China) know exactly how many Jews died in World War II. Once, said Michael Berenbaum, the former research director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, “the Holocaust was a side story of World War II. Now one thinks of World War II as a background story [to] the Holocaust.” Among many ways Jewish leaders accomplished this was to tap out an SOS, an all-points alarm, whenever in any dark corner they spotted a knavish denier.

Also here, perhaps for the first time ever, a nationally-circulated American magazine disapprovingly informs readers that in a number of countries individuals are routinely fined, jailed, and driven into exile for expressing views on Second World War history that, in at least some cases, are demonstrably true. Writes Sack:

Sixteen ... [revisionist] speakers spoke ... [at the IHR Conference] and I’d counted six who’d run afoul of the law because of their disbelief in the Holocaust and the death apparatus in Auschwitz. To profess this in anyone’s earshot is illegal not just in Germany but in Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Poland and Israel, where denying the Holocaust can get you five years, while denying God can get you just one. One speaker, David Irving, had been fined $18,000 for saying aloud in Germany that one of the cyanide chambers at Auschwitz is a replica built by the Poles after the war. A replica it truly is, but truth in these matters is no defense in Germany. Another speaker, a Frenchman, had been fined in France, and another speaker, a German, had been sentenced to fourteen months in Germany ... but had fled to England. Another speaker, an Australian, had come from seven months in a German jail for writing in Australia (alas, on the Internet, which Germans in Germany can read) that there were no cyanide chambers in Auschwitz... The fifth speaker was a Swiss, a man ... who’ll go to jail for three months in Switzerland for questioning the Auschwitz cyanide chambers.

On the debit side, Sack’s Esquire article contains such errors or distortions of reality that it amounts to deceit. Already in the opening sentences, which set the tone of the entire piece, he takes a gratuitous and untrue swipe at the IHR, calling it “the central asylum for the delusion that the Germans didn’t kill any Jews and that the Holocaust is, quote unquote, the Hoax of the Twentieth Century...” Throughout his patronizing piece, Sack uses the epithet “deniers” to refer to Holocaust revisionists or skeptics.

Sack’s half-humorously mentions the IHR’s conference security measures as if they were an expression of groundless paranoia. In fact, Jewish thugs – most notably, the band of Zionist misfits who call themselves the Jewish Defense League – have threatened, harassed, and intimidated several hotels into canceling IHR meetings. Similarly unmentioned by Sack is the July 4, 1984, arson attack that devastated the IHR’s offices and warehouse.

Sack refers to several revisionist scholars who addressed the IHR Conference – Robert Faurisson, Germar Rudolf, Jürgen Graf and Fredrick Töben – but without mentioning their names. Similarly, none of the three IHR staff members who addressed the Conference is mentioned by name. Also ignored is former Congressman Pete McCloskey, who in his banquet address spoke in detail about Jewish-Zionist censorship, lies and underhanded manipulations.

Instead, Sack devotes considerable attention to Charles Provan, a forthright and diligent part-time historical researcher who runs a printing business in a small town in western Pennsylvania. Contrary to the impression given by Sack, Provan is actually a peripheral figure in the Holocaust debate.

Misleading Photographs

For many people, perhaps most, the first and strongest impression of any magazine article is made by the accompanying pictures. In this case the four large color photographs that illustrate Sack’s article are about as misleading as pictures can be. While Sack describes revisionists as “affable, open-minded, intelligent, intellectual,” the photographs portray them as odd, unfriendly and vaguely sinister. Everyone looks grim. No one is smiling.

Leading off the article is a full-page photograph of Charles Provan with his wife and seven of their ten children. They look like a poverty-stricken, intellectually challenged clan from the “Deliverance” backwoods of Georgia. Even the youngsters are frowning, and two are barefoot.

Whereas Sack describes Ernst Zündel, accurately, as “eternally jolly,” a large photograph shows him scowling and hostile, seated in a sinisterly lighted car next to an equally unsmiling Ingrid Rimland. This may well be the most unrepresentative picture of Zündel ever to appear in print.

Probably the greatest failing of Sack’s article is to portray Holocaust revisionism as a semi-cultic fellowship of belief. Even though, as already noted, he grants that many specific revisionist arguments or points are valid, Sack simply ignores the impressive body of well-researched scholarship that girds revisionist skepticism. He compares reasoned, well-grounded skepticism of fantastic Holocaust claims to his own frivolous belief that living dinosaurs today roam hidden valleys somewhere in central Africa.

In the years to come, there will doubtless be more articles and books similar to Sack’s Esquire contribution – a piece that, in spite of its errors and defects, is another basically positive landmark in a protracted struggle.


Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 19, no. 6, p. 26.


Published with permission, courtesy of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR).

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