Book Reviews

Three Revisionist Classics

By Eric Janson

Germar Rudolf, The Rudolf Report. Expert Report on Chemical and Technical Aspects of the ‘Gas Chambers’ of Auschwitz, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2003, 456 pp., paperback, $30.- / hardcover, $45.-.

Germar Rudolf (ed.), Dissecting The Holocaust. The Growing Critique of ‘Truth’ and ‘Memory’, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2003, 616 pp., paperback, $30.

Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry, 3rd revised edition, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2003, 506 pp., paperback, $25.

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One could argue that Holocaust Revisionism passed a watershed about fifteen years ago, for a number of reasons. First, the second Zündel trial, in 1988, provided the basis for a thorough exposition of revisionist work to that point. Second, the same trial spawned, at the suggestion of Robert Faurisson, the well-known Leuchter Report, a landmark as well as a challenge for all subsequent Holocaust forensics. Finally, the decline and ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in the following few years resulted not only in the liberation of Eastern Europe and East Germany but also in the gradual opening of access to wartime German documents seized by the Soviets in 1945.

If the Leuchter Report, even with its defects, has set the tone for all subsequent forensic studies, the opening of the Soviet archives has provided the raw data for many other studies. These two themes – forensics and documentary analysis – have dominated all serious analytic work in Holocaust studies since then, and, given the nature of the problem, all such serious analytic work has been performed by Holocaust revisionists.

Two of the most outstanding works in these categories are The Rudolf Report by the German chemist Germar Rudolf, and Dissecting the Holocaust, a compilation edited by Rudolf. Undergirding both is the seminal synthesis of Arthur Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, first published in 1976. All three have recently been (re-)published by Theses and Dissertations Press. Together, they might be considered the three essential long works of Holocaust revisionism, the classics in their field.

The Rudolf Report

In its original form, The Rudolf Report was meant to be a more thorough and professional analysis of the method Fred Leuchter had used in his 1988 report. In that study, Leuchter, a non-chemist but expert in execution systems, had, i.a., attempted to compare quantifiable cyanide traces of the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz with the same traces – often visible as blue stains – in a known delousing chamber in the same camp. The chemical results indicated that the cyanide traces of the delousing chambers were many times higher than the very small traces found in the mortar and concrete of the buildings usually identified as gas chambers.

The entirety of Holocaust forensics as it pertains to Auschwitz has depended on this somewhat surprising lack of cyanide traces in the supposed gas chamber sites. Rudolf, a trained chemist and a PhD candidate at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Solid Sate Research in Stuttgart between 1990 and 1993, carried Leuchter’s analysis much farther, incorporating all the relevant chemical literature, explicating the method of blue stain formation, and demonstrating, to a high degree of probability, that the minute traces existing in the gas chamber sites were within the range of error for such analyses.

Though there have been many attempted refutations of both Leuchter and Rudolf – some of them truly ridiculous, as in the attempt to dismiss the blue stains as being of unknown origin – none have been successful, and all have been seriously hurt by the high-flown moralizing and frankly political posturing of their authors.

The newest version of The Rudolf Report retains all of the original authoritative analysis but also contains much more. In his original report, Leuchter tended to make a number of statements regarding the adequacy of certain sites for gassing based on his lengthy experience, but which, precisely for that reason, was hard to systematize and quantify. Rudolf, however, who clearly is a very competent researcher as well as a brilliant chemist, has gone much farther. Nearly every brick or fixture, nearly every unexplained or suspicious documentary reference or "criminal trace" in any of the crematoria at Auschwitz and Birkenau – the traditional sites, in which over half a million people are supposed to have been murdered with the pesticide Zyklon B – is thoroughly explained in terms of an enormous German architectural and building construction literature, including sanitation, delousing and disinfection, and even civil air defense.

Besides such enormous erudition, Rudolf has taken pains to construct his report so that it reads almost like a crime novel: the Report now begins with a breathtaking analysis of a gas chamber execution in the United States, before leading into a detailed discussion of the perils of cyanide usage and handling. Yet, even while Rudolf carries the reader along on a voyage of discovery and understanding, one’s feet never leaves the ground, thanks to Rudolf’s detailed references and always thorough and logical argumentation.

Dissecting the Holocaust

In 1994, Germar Rudolf published a book in Germany containing articles by all of the contemporary leading Holocaust revisionists. Although the volume received testimonials from some leading German historians for its scholarly tone – not necessarily endorsements of its contents – the German government intervened in order to ban and ultimately destroyed all copies of the book it could obtain. The present book is a revision and expansion of that original work.

The twenty articles and several appendices the work comprises run the gamut from studies of single war crimes to analyses of alleged mass murder sites. To categorize them further, we must first remind ourselves of the issues regarding the Holocaust and its revision. The basic Holocaust claim, which was generated in postwar trials and is enforced to this day in courts, is that National Socialist Germany, while fighting World War Two, sought to kill every Jewish individual in its sphere of influence.

According to this basic claim, some six million Jews were murdered, usually in gas chambers or gas vans by hydrogen cyanide gas from a pesticide or diesel-generated carbon monoxide. Anyone who deviates from any of these claims is subject to the anathematizing epithet ‘Holocaust denier,’ exposed to harassment, attack, and personal destruction, and subject to legal sanctions in many European countries.

One group of articles in Dissecting focuses on disputing the number of Jewish deaths, either cumulative or at certain sites: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Babi Yar. Closely related to the number of victims is, of course, the question of how the numerous bodies alleged were disposed, in this case cremation, and hence there is a detailed discussion of cremation capacities at Auschwitz. Another subject, which bears on overall deaths and body disposal, is the evidence of World War Two aerial intelligence photography, which is the subject of another article in the book.

A second group of articles concerns the alleged murder weapon – poison gas of one kind of another. This leads to discussions of diesel engines, the likelihood of faked gas van documents, and several discussions of the supposed gas chambers at Auschwitz, Majdanek, and elsewhere. A part of the Holocaust claim – not essentially disputed by most revisionists – is that sizable numbers of Jews were simply shot. This raises issues of why they were shot – whether in reprisal for guerrilla attacks or as part of an anti-Jewish policy – and this in turn leads to studies not only of the shooting literature but also of the concentration camp system as a whole, in which Europe’s Jews were confined and forced to work for the National Socialist war effort.

A third group of articles concerns the way, in which postwar trials were used to establish the legal factuality of the various Holocaust claims, as well as the way, in which the legal system, particularly in Germany, has subsequently been used to enforce silence on the subject. This gives rise in Dissecting to contributions on the nature of the Holocaust and case studies of judicial suppression and intimidation. A smaller group of miscellaneous articles rounds out the volume.

The articles in this book are of variable quality, as one would expect in a volume with more than two dozen authors. Generally, the articles are persuasive but somewhat repetitive. Since, however, the volume’s repetitiveness is a function of the deep-seatedness of Holocaust belief, which these authors seek to overthrow, the reader is reminded of how obvious revisionist claims appear, once one allows common sense to govern one’s thinking on the subject instead of dogma.

For example, it is a truism of crematory operation that it takes about an hour – more or less – to cremate a human body, and this under optimum conditions. Yet Carlo Mattogno, in his discussion of the Auschwitz crematoria, and Arnulf Neumaier, in his contribution on Treblinka, belabor this fact in order to establish that the alleged murder rates at these camps could never have been achieved.

Pointing this out does not diminish these contributions. For example, Mattogno provides extensive data in support of his argument that the Auschwitz Birkenau crematoria lacked the capacity to have cremated many more than 100,000 victims. At some point the objective reader will be convinced and will not need extensive calculations of the impossibility of, say, burying 800,000 bodies in a few acres of ground at Treblinka. Nor, aside from its rhetorical impact, do we need a discussion of spontaneous human combustion like that in the famous children’s book of Biedermeier Germany, Struwwelpeter.

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Similarly, Mattogno on Majdanek, Rudolf on Auschwitz, and Friedrich Berg on the alleged diesel gas chambers at the "Operation Reinhardt" camps (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka) are thoroughly convincing in their analysis of the inadequacy of various spaces or various devices for gassing masses of human beings. Yet these analyses must inevitably fall short of establishing conclusive proof, since one cannot prove a negative. As a result the authors seem compelled to discuss virtually every trace of evidence with pedantic thoroughness. As a means of persuading the skeptical reader, such detail might be required, but most readers will be convinced of the basic rightness of the revisionist perspective long before then.

Since much of Holocaust revisionism involves skepticism about the scope or scale of Jewish deaths, it is perhaps inevitable that a certain scoffing tone will enter into the discussion. Manfred Köhler’s discussion of Holocaust testimonies concludes with a priceless and quite ridiculous litany of absurd Holocaust claims, but such scoffing could easily be considered disrespectful by someone raised on the prevailing Holocaust account of World War Two. Likewise, Herbert Tiedemann’s analysis of Babi Yar, a ravine outside Kiev where tens of thousands of Jews are alleged to have been massacred, is rarely able to suppress a derisive tone that is not likely to be persuasive.

Smaller set pieces seem more valuable. Although only a piece of the puzzle, Udo Walendy’s analysis of atrocity photographs does succeed in showing clear cases of miscaptioning and photo retouching. The same goes for John Ball’s analysis of aerial photography for most of the concentration camps and Babi Yar as well: the analyses seem quite convincing, although limited in what can be proved about the facts on the ground from a height of 10,000 feet or more.

Ingrid Weckert’s analysis of a couple of critical gas van documents is thoroughly convincing as to the retrofitted forgery of one key document, however, her analysis of the gas van phenomenon is not as convincing as it could have been, since there are numerous other documents in the same collection that merited discussion.

Another piece, by Hans Nowak and Wilhelm Rademacher, provides a synoptic review of the documents of the Auschwitz Construction Office, which were only made available in 1989. Many points in support of revisionist interpretations of Auschwitz are indicated in passing as the documentary pile is traversed: This is one area, in which much more work can and should be done.

Two pieces – by Claus Jordan and Rademacher – describe the current juridical situation in Germany and Austria today. One deals with the case of an alleged Holocaust perpetrator, while the other recounts the ordeal of Holocaust revisionist Walter Lüftl. These two articles are not really relevant to a discussion of the Holocaust claims per se, but they are eye-opening accounts of the manner, in which a historical account articulated in political trials in 1945-1947 is enforced today.

Robert Faurisson – the leading European revisionist – provides two articles, which give the reader an overview of the Holocaust controversy as well as the nature of Holocaust witnesses. As is typical, the learned doctor of classical and modern languages and documentary analysis wears his learning lightly, writing clear and concise commentaries punctuated with telling revelations.

The best offerings in Dissecting, however, are those of its editor Germar Rudolf. His article on Auschwitz is a persuasive summary of the arguments presented in The Rudolf Report, and his article on Holocaust death statistics, based on a comparative analysis of several statistical studies, is balanced and fair, even though it may project a Jewish death toll that many will regard as on the low side. Yet it is in his gracious introductory essay, in which Rudolf argues for the necessity of revisionism, while, at the same time, making clear his desire neither to diminish the nature of Jewish suffering nor to marginalize Jews in any way, that Rudolf scores perhaps his greatest triumph.

Beautifully presented and cleanly produced, Dissecting the Holocaust is the most complete, synoptic, and detailed study of what Robert Faurisson might call "the great intellectual adventure of the twenty-first century."

The Hoax of the Twentieth Century

The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, first published in 1976 by Arthur R. Butz, a professor of electronic engineering at Northwestern University, was initially ignored. Within a year or two, however, the book was widely publicized by Jewish groups who accused Professor Butz’s book of arguing that ‘the Holocaust never happened.’ Yet aside from venom, inaccurate characterizations, and complaints of Butz’s supposed insensitivity to Jewish claims and Jewish suffering under the National Socialists, no critic has ever even attempted a refutation of Butz’s arguments. Even here, however, appearances are deceiving.

In order to understand the sometimes confrontational tone of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, one has to understand something of the period, in which it was written. Extravagant characterizations of the destruction of the Jews of Europe by the National Socialists – the word ‘Holocaust’ was not yet popularly employed – were common in the general literature, along with frequent attacks on any and all Germans whose fate it was to live in National Socialist Germany. As a result, Butz here and there makes remarks that might be considered insensitive or rude in the current climate, but that were actually rather moderate in the context of the time.

The body of the original book is largely unchanged, although there has been some improvement in the footnotes, which are now conveniently placed at the bottom of the page. In fact, this new edition, with a proper typeface and presentation, is something of a revelation.

Overall, Butz takes as his point of departure the fact that our knowledge of the alleged extermination of some six million Jews by the National Socialists was gleaned largely from postwar trials, following several years of Allied propaganda. Therefore he correctly takes the tack of describing first the nature of the postwar trials, with all that that entailed in terms of torture, witness intimidation, and hysterical atmosphere, and then providing a chronological accounting of the newspaper reports of the time, principally as published in the New York Times.

As far as the questionable nature of at least some of the postwar trials go, Butz largely repeats claims that had been made by many others in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, including F.J.P. Veale and Freda Utley. The real surprise concerns the revelations of wartime propaganda, which showed a strong correspondence between newspaper reports and postwar judicial ‘facts’ as well as a very early determination of the total number of approximately six million Jewish victims. What is remarkable about this part of Butz’s analysis is, first, that while the mass murders were supposedly done in secret, they are described in great detail in newspaper reports of the day, and second, the fact that anyone who has ever used newspapers for historical research knows that initial reports are invariably garbled and almost always seriously exaggerated.

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Having established the suspect nature of the postwar trials, and having provided a plausible narrative of the wartime propaganda, which then became the ‘common knowledge’ at those trials, Butz moves on to a more detailed discussion of the extermination claim, specifically at the Auschwitz Birkenau complex.

Its Auschwitz analysis, even today, remains the great triumph of The Hoax. Taking as his starting point the April 6, 1946, affidavit of former camp commandant Rudolf Höß, Butz describes the inaccuracies, implausibilities, and ambiguities of the proposed evidence, and in the process makes several startling contributions. He deduces from the evidence that the construction of the crematoria at Birkenau was due to the high death rate, and that Birkenau’s standing as a ‘death camp’ was largely due to the fact that typhus killed several thousand in the summer of 1942. This finding leads Butz to the discussion of the longstanding German method of dealing with the typhus threat: cleansing of inmates in communal showers while, nearby, their garments were fumigated with the widely used pesticide Zyklon B.

Many of Butz’s characterizations of Auschwitz have been accepted by establishment writers on the subject, including Jean-Claude Pressac and Robert Jan van Pelt, though they arrive at different conclusions. Other parts of Butz’s analysis, while not as detailed, have also stood the test of time. For example, in describing the crematoria at Auschwitz and writing at a time when mortality figures for that camp in the several millions were still widely quoted by historians camp, Butz simply pointed out that cremations normally took about an hour and there was no practical method to accelerate the process much farther. The point still holds: any death rate for Auschwitz, which moves into the hundreds of thousands, is unsustainable in terms of the actual facts of cremation.

Butz’s analysis demonstrated real prescience: he was the first to recognize that, if exterminations were happening at Auschwitz, the Allies must have known, and because of the critical importance of the synthetic rubber industry located there would have photographed the camp for intelligence purposes. Indeed, three years after this book was first published, the aerial photographs emerged, the only problem being that they did not show any evidence of mass killings or cremations..

There are points where Butz might in retrospect be criticized. Due to the lack of original documents available to skeptical readers, Butz on occasion includes lengthy documents and even summarizes dozens of cables concerning the Hungarian deportations, which would hardly seem necessary today.

A further problem concerns the Hungarian deportations themselves. After discerning what he perceived to be a pattern of misrepresentation and lying in the conduct of the postwar trials, Butz concludes that forgery must have been involved in the applicable documents. Yet current knowledge suggests that such a conclusion was probably hasty and is not corroborated by the emerging knowledge of an enormous influx of Hungarian Jews into the concentration camp system.

A similar case concerns the shooting accusations in the East, most of them in the occupied Soviet Union. Butz’s analysis of the unlikelihood of the dual use of the Einsatzgruppen for killing all Jews as well as maintaining rearguard order still stands, but his suspicion of large scale forgery of Einsatzgruppen documents is not as well supported. The riddle of the shootings, since both revisionists and their opponents agree that shootings on some scale took place, is why to this day there have not been excavations of the murder sites commensurate with the claims of shootings – of the magnitude of the killings usually numbering well over one million – that are supposed to have taken place.

Another problem concerns the question of origin and responsibility for what Butz describes. In one place, Butz makes clear his opinion that the extermination story was concocted by Zionists. In context, this makes perfect sense, since it is inarguable that most of the people involved in disseminating rumors from Europe in the United States coupled their declarations with demands for unfettered Jewish emigration to Palestine. On the one hand, Butz’s statement seems to imply that the Zionists who were broadcasting the rumor knew full well the falsity of the claims they propagated, which need not be true. On the other hand, by focusing on the Zionists, Butz tends to ignore the fact that many parties – Poles in exile, the Soviet Union, and, of course, Britain and America – all had reasons for promoting such propaganda, not only for wartime purposes but also for the purpose of the postwar establishment of Europe they separately envisioned.

As indicated above, Butz has been criticized for ‘insensitivity’ to Jewish claims and Jewish losses. The charge, however much it might smack of the weak-kneed and hypocritical sensitivity issues of our own day, must still stand, if only for rhetorical and persuasive purposes. Wherever we stand on the facts, the Holocaust is essentially a Jewish story of their own tribulations. Its prominence in our cultural life will probably diminish over time, but the facts themselves will not be re-evaluated, much less changed, unless Jews can feel free to do so without threat of ridicule or reprisal from their own camp. As a result, it is unfortunately true that emotional and thin-skinned readers will take some of Butz’s comments the wrong way, and use their hurt feelings as a pretext for discarding the rest of Butz’s usually quite excellent analysis.

For all of its debatable defects, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century remains the indispensable synthesis of Holocaust revisionism. There are several reasons for this. The first is that, prior to Butz, revisionism had never risen above a level of personal reminiscence or accuracy that surpassed that of pamphleteering. Thus, Butz represented the first attempt to bring all of these threads together into one large over-arching concept, supported with accurate details and thorough references.

Second, as the first to articulate the revisionist position in full, Butz established the outer bounds of the revisionist position, one hundred and eighty degrees opposed to the traditional view. As a result, all subsequent analysis, whenever it rose above the ‘vertical’ analysis of a specific issue, must inevitably work toward the center, while being tethered to Butz as a point of orientation.

The third reason is that the book is path breaking in many respects. It is the first to describe typhus and its prevention with Zyklon B in any detail, the first to describe the wartime newspapers as the source of the subsequent propaganda, and the first to focus on the postwar trials as the source of the commonly accepted perspective on alleged National Socialist crimes.

As if this were not enough, the current edition includes a new foreward, written in 2003, as well as six supplements written over the past twenty years. All of these are completely free of any of the quibbles one might have with the original book, each being characterized by forceful exposition, and a knack for reducing the complexity of the subject to simple propositions that underline the accuracy and elegance of Butz’s original conclusions. Indeed, these latter contributions, written with restless intelligence, insight, and even wisdom, are alone worth the price of the volume and enhance the rest of the text as well.

We turn from Butz’s volume reminded of his observation that no other book has been written since his that attempts to provide a synoptic view of the Holocaust or its revision. This is undoubtedly true and probably always will be. The reason is that Holocaust revisionism is as time bound as its opposite in the Holocaust establishment. Over the last twenty-eight years, both sides have attempted to find some common ground with the ‘other side,’ although even today such gestures are minor and limited to footnote concessions.

Eventually the two sides will come closer together and other syntheses will be written. Coming from the Holocaust establishment, such books will be considered revisionist denial. Coming from the revisionist side, they will be considered establishment sellouts. But in reality, both types of books will represent a groping towards historical truth and accuracy, the demand for which was first clearly expressed in the book here reviewed.

Source: The Revisionist 2(1) (2004), pp. 91-95.

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