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The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory



The First Stirrings of Denial in America

Holocaust denial found a receptive welcome in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s -- particularly among individuals known to have strong connections with antisemitic publications and extremist groups. Their Holocaust denial was preceded by their antisemitism. (1) Until the beginning of the 1970s Holocaust denial in the United States was primarily the province of these fringe, extremist, and racist groups, though they found unexpected support in a number of seemingly respectable circles.

The earliest deniers in the United States were extremely receptive to Paul Rassinier's arguments that the Holocaust had been created by Jewish leaders in order to control the world's finances and increase support for Israel. Like Rassinier they tried to demonstrate that it was statistically impossible for millions of Jews to have died. Their arguments were unsophisticated, crude, and often lacking in any attempt to prove their point. In 1952 W. D. Herrstrom, an American antisemite, declared in Bible News Flashes that there were five million illegal aliens in the United States, most of whom were Jews. These were the Jews who were supposed to have died in the Holocaust. "No use looking in


Shickelgruber's [Hitler's] ovens for them. Walk down the streets of any American city. There they are." (2) In 1959 James Madole, who published the racist National Renaissance Bulletin, wrote: "Although the World Almanac attests to the fact that fewer than 600,000 Jews ever lived in Germany the Jews persisted in their monstrous lie that Nazi Germany had cremated six million of their co-racials." (3) Madole's chicanery is easily exposed. While it is true that Germany's Jewish population was less than six hundred thousand in 1933, most of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust were not German Jews. Benjamin H. Freedman, who provided the financial support for the antisemitic publication Common Sense, argued in 1959 that there were many million more Jews in the United States than Jews were willing to admit. These were the six million "allegedly put to death in furnaces and in gas chambers between 1939 and 1945." (4) Offering an argument that would be echoed in the 1970s by a number of Holocaust deniers, including Arthur Butz of Northwestern University, Freedman contended that the American Jewish community was opposed to a question about religious affiliation on the census because it would reveal that the Jews who had "allegedly" died were actually in the United States. *

The well-known American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell called the Holocaust "a monstrous and profitable fraud." He echoed Freedman's notion that the six million "later died happily and richly in the Bronx, New York." In June 1959, in an article entitled "Into the Valley of Death Rode the Six Million. Or Did They?" American antisemite Gerald L. K. Smith's Cross and the Flag informed its readers that the six million Jews were in the United States. (5)

Such blatant attempts to confuse readers were typical of deniers' behavior during the first two decades after the war. Ultimately most of these people had little impact because they could so easily be dismissed as extremists and right-wingers. Nonetheless their arguments eventually worked their way into the mainstream of Holocaust denial. In subsequent years their statistical claims would become if not more sophisticated then certainly more complicated. (6) Flagrant falsehoods would be entwined in complex arguments, confusing those who did not know the facts.

Not all the early deniers had overt associations with extremist groups. Consequently they were able to make some of their accusations in more mainstream publications. In the June 14, 1959, issue of the


widely circulated Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor a letter writer claimed: "I was able to determine during six post-war years in Germany and Austria, there were a number of Jews killed, but the figure of a million was certainly never reached." (7) Newspaper editors who received denial material from Boniface Press, the publishing outlet run by App turned to the Anti-Defamation League to ask for clarification. One editor requested documentation demonstrating that Jews had really died. (8)

Harry Elmer Barnes was the most direct link between the two generations of American revisionists and the Holocaust deniers. (9) Some of his numerous books and articles, particularly those on Western civilization, were used as required texts through the 1960s at prestigious American universities, including Harvard and Columbia. Barnes also lectured widely at other universities throughout the United States, his arguments about needless American participation in World War I winning the admiration of many people in the United States and abroad including the publisher of the Nation, Oswald Garrison Villard, the Socialist leader Norman Thomas; the journalist H. L. Mencken; and the historian Charles Beard. At one time he served as bibliographic editor of Foreign Affairs. (10)

But from the outset Barnes's career was not without controversy. During World War I he had been an ardent advocate of the Allied cause. The material he submitted to the National Board for Historical Service, the principal vehicle for dissemination of pro-Allied propaganda by historians, was deemed "too violent to be acceptable," and those involved in the effort described him as "one of the most violent sort of shoot-them-at-sunrise Chauvinists.'' (11) But his views changed dramatically after the war. With the zeal of a convert, he moved to the isolationist, pro-German end of the political spectrum and stayed there for the rest of his life. Much of his work relied on polemics and flamboyant tactics. He so savaged advocates of the "orthodox" view of the war that even those who agreed with him recoiled from his reliance on ad hominem attacks. (12) When he publicly accused Bernadotte Schmitt, a prominent and well-respected historian at the University of Chicago, of adjusting his historical conclusions in order to advance his academic career, he evoked the ire of numerous academics, including revisionists. According to Barnes, Schmitt concluded that Germany was responsible for precipitating the war in order to obtain his prestigious university post. This kind of attack typified Barnes's subsequent attacks on those who disagreed with him. He was convinced that his beliefs constituted objective truth; consequently anyone who took a different view was neither objective nor honest.


Barnes's work won a broad popular audience in the United States and abroad. In 1926 he visited Germany to deliver a series of lectures that argued that Germany was not guilty for World War I. Barnes waxed euphoric about his reception there, which he described as a "fairy tale." He was particularly impressed by the "great interest and energy" shown by Weimar scholars and officials in "seeking to clear Germany of the dishonor and fraud of the war-guilt clause of the Treaty of Versailles.'' (13) While in Europe he even met with the exiled kaiser, Wilhelm II, a considerable honor for a relatively young scholar. According to Barnes the kaiser "was happy to know that I did not blame him for starting the war in 1914." But, Barnes recalled, they were not in complete accord: "He disagreed with my view that Russia and France were chiefly responsible. He held that the villains of 1914 were the international Jews and Free Masons, who, he alleged, desired to destroy national states and the Christian religion.'' (14) Barnes did not fully agree with the kaiser on this point, preferring to point at England and France as the primary perpetrators.

During the interwar years Barnes used his World War I revisionism to propound the isolationist cause. Even before World War II had ended he was challenging the official version of its history. He was part of a small group of isolationists who tried to resurrect the movement's reputation and to sully Roosevelt's. They were funded by prewar isolationists, including Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. Barnes repeated his World War I arguments and attacked politicians, journalists, and historians who failed to acknowledge Allied responsibility for the war. He assaulted Roosevelt's policies and defended Hitler's, contending that virtually all Hitler's political and military moves, including the invasion of Czechoslovakia, were necessary to "rectify" the injustices of the Versailles treaty. (15) But it was not just the Versailles treaty that was at fault; the real problem was the Allies' fundamental failure to understand Hitler himself. In a 1950 letter to fellow revisionist Charles Tansill, Barnes described Hitler's demands in 1939 as the "most reasonable of all," and in his articles and essays he continuously sought to exonerate Hitler. (16) Barnes did not perceive Hitler as a megalomanic leader who was defeated because he was intent on controlling Europe. It was not the German führer's ferocity but his humanity that caused his military demise. According to Barnes Hitler's downfall resulted from his "unwillingness to use his full military power" against innocent English civilians. (17) Contrary to the prevailing consensus, Hitler did not "precipitously launch" an aggressive attack on Poland. In fact, Barnes argued, Hitler made a greater effort to avoid war in 1939 than the


kaiser had in 1914. Barnes not only vindicated Hitler but held the British "almost solely responsible" for the outbreak of war on both the Eastern and Western fronts. Hitler did not wantonly stick "a dagger in the back of France" in June 1940 but was "forced" into war by British "acts of economic strangulation.'' (18)

In 1952 in a letter to Harvard historian William Langer, who had authored a two-volume defense of America's prewar policies, Barnes wrote that he considered Roosevelt's foreign policy "the greatest public crime in human history.'' (19) Barnes pursued this argument throughout his career, arguing in 1958 that Roosevelt "lied the United States into war," and, had he not been able "to incite the Japanese" to attack Pearl Harbor, the tragedies of the war and the even "greater calamities" that resulted from it could well have been avoided. (20) (Barnes had made precisely the same arguments about Wilson and World War I.) Barnes not only believed Hitler "reasonable" and Britain, France, and the United States responsible for the war, he also argued that a pervasive historical "blackout" silenced anyone who might question the notion of German guilt. The blackout was the keystone of a plan to prevent the truth about World War II from emerging. Barnes's initial assault on this "conspiracy" was contained in a lengthy pamphlet, The Struggle Against Historical Blackout, which appeared in 1947 and which had gone through nine printings by 1952. According to Barnes Western liberals allowed their hatred of Hitler. and Mussolini to blind them to France's aggressiveness, Britain's duplicity, and Roosevelt's deception. "Court historians" kept the truth from emerging by quashing any information that might tarnish Roosevelt's image and silencing critics who questioned American "intervention" in World War II. Scholars suspected of revisionist views were denied access to public documents. Publishers who wished to issue books or periodicals dealing with the topic were intimidated. Material that embodied revisionist facts or arguments was ignored or obscured. Revisionist authors were smeared. (21) This was not simply a case of obtuseness; this was willful deceit. The "court historians" were not just blind or unaware of the facts; they lied, ignored contradictory information, and created new truths. In subsequent years Holocaust deniers would claim that they faced precisely the same situation. (22) According to Barnes, politicians', diplomats', and historians' vindictiveness toward Germany was completely out of proportion to reality, and they knew it. Consequently they needed a rationale to justify their enmity. Thus they accused Germany of starting the war and of unparalleled atrocities.

Barnes claimed that only ten years after the war had he concluded


that Germany was not responsible for the outbreak of war or for the atrocities of which it was accused. He wrote in 1962: "For a decade following 1945 I was convinced that the best thing which could have happened to Germany and the world in pre-war days would have been the assassination of Hitler, say around 1938 or early 1939, if not much earlier." (23) He claimed that it was only with great reluctance that he was weaned from this view of an evil Nazi Germany and forced by the evidence to accept a new truth. This assertion is disingenuous in light of what he wrote in 1947, in The Struggle Against the Historical Blackout, as well as the opinions he expressed in private correspondence. Indeed, the war had barely ended when Barnes began to blame the Allies and exonerate Hitler.

More significantly his protestations that he reluctantly revised his notion of the truth when he came into contact with revisionist literature are reminiscent of the tactics adopted by many conspiracy theorists and by Holocaust deniers in particular. Virtually all of them claim to have been enligy the evidence to abandon their previously mistaken beliefs. On being confronted with a preponderance of "information" contradicting their original conclusion that there was a Holocaust, they ashamedly acknowledge that they have been victims of a hoax. They apparently think that this contention adds plausibility to their new beliefs. It also prevents them from being accused of having harbored hostile attitudes toward Jews or having had fascist sympathies.

The fact is, however, that Barnes did not have to be convinced to adopt this view, nor did he wait ten years to espouse it. In a letter to Villard dated June 1948, Barnes said that Roosevelt and Churchill, "backed by certain pressure groups," were more responsible than Hitler for the war. That same year he argued that throughout history France had repeatedly invaded Germany without provocation. "Offhand," he wrote in a private communique, "I cannot recall a really unprovoked German invasion of France in modern times." (24) To buttress his point he prepared a list of all the French invasions of Germany, beginning in 1552 and concluding his list with two twentieth-century entries:

l918 -- French invade Germany with American aid

1944-5 -- French again ride into Germany on backs of Americans (25)

He failed to acknowledge that both of these "invasions" were in response to massive German attacks.

Despite this evidence to the contrary, Barnes continued to assert


that it was only in 1955, when he came upon a dissertation completed at Harvard by David Leslie Hoggan, that he realized that "Hitler had not desired war" and that Britain was almost "exclusively responsible." (26) Hoggan, then teaching in the History Department of the University of California at Berkeley, convinced Barnes that Hitler had not desired war in 1939. Hoggan argued that Hitler "had made more moderate demands on Poland than many leading American and British publicists had recommended in the years after Versailles. Moreover, Hitler had offered in return an amazing concession to Poland that the Weimar Republic would never even remotely countenance." (27)

Barnes was instrumental in helping Hoggan publish his book -- The Forced War (Der erzwungene Krieg) -- which is based on, but quite different from, the dissertation. According to one of Hoggan's advisers at Harvard, his dissertation had been "a solid, conscientious piece of work, critical of Polish and British policies in 1939, but not beyond what the evidence would tolerate." But when it was published in Germany in 1961 by Herbert Grabert, it was a very different book. (28) Hoggan portrayed the English and the Poles as having willfully provoked the war and the Germans as innocent victims who tried every means to avert a confrontation. This was a war that had been imposed on Hitler.

Though it was not his main focus, Hoggan also addressed the question of Germany's treatment of the Jews. In an attempt to rehabilitate Germany's reputation and relieve Hitler and the Nazis of any particular onus, he argued that Poland's treatment of its Jewish population was far more brutal than Germany's. In fact, he asserted, most of Germany's antisemitic measures were taken in order to preempt Poland from expelling its Jewish population into the Reich. (29) Hoggan continually represented Nazi Germany's Jewish policies as benign or, at the very least, as better than Poland's. Hoggan suggested that the fine levied on German Jews in the wake of Kristallnacht was simply an equitable way to keep Jews from getting rich from the destruction by "pocket[ing] vast amounts of money from the German insurance companies." (30) He failed to note that the moneys were payments reimbursing Jews for property that had been destroyed. In fact the fine was designed not to keep Jews from obtaining insurance payments but to confiscate virtually all of the Jewish population's remaining liquid assets. (3l) And contrary to all reports, Hoggan also claimed that no Jews had been killed either during the pogrom or in its immediate aftermath.

In an attempt to demonstrate that the Jews had not really been discriminated against and were in quite a secure position as late as 1938, Hoggan noted that in early 1938 Jewish doctors and dentists were still


participating in the German national compulsory insurance program. This "guaranteed them a sufficient number of patients." (32) Hoggan failed to cite the many obstacles that were put in the way of Jewish medical personnel, including that by 1938 it had become a radical if not illegal act for a German to use a Jewish doctor. Furthermore, in July 1938 a decree was enacted withdrawing licenses from Jewish physicians. Again, ignoring the host of laws and regulations that severely limited Jews' ability to function in German society, he argued that Jewish lawyers had been free to practice as late as 1938. Citing information contained in a letter to the State Department from the American ambassador in Germany, Hoggan noted that, as of 1938, 10 percent of German attorneys were Jews. If this was indeed correct, how could it be argued that they were being persecuted? The ambassador did mention that 10 percent of the lawyers were Jews, but in a context quite different from the one in which Hoggan presented it. The ambassador had written to Washington to report that the situation of Jewish lawyers, which had been deplorable for a long time, was growing worse. "As early as 1933 pressure was exerted to oust Jews from the legal profession," the ambassador told the State Department. Jews faced exceptional obstacles in seeking admission to the bar, and Jewish attorneys were prevented from serving as notaries -- a measure, according to the ambassador, which, "in view of the wide requirements and high charges for notarial services in Germany, constituted a considerable handicap to the Jewish legal profession." (33) Thus, although as late as 1938, 10 percent of all lawyers may well have been Jews, since they were barely able to function they were lawyers in name only. They were barred from court and prevented from performing an array of tasks fundamental to their profession. Moreover, Hoggan neglected to say why the ambassador was reporting on the situation of Jewish lawyers. On September 27, 1938, Nazi Germany completely banned Jews from the practice of law.

Hoggan also totally distorted the implications of the Nazi decision to end the Jewish community's status as an officially sanctioned religious body. For many years the German government had collected a religion tax, which was turned over to the individual's designated religious community, from every German resident. Essentially the government served as a transfer agency, collecting funds from German citizens and transmitting them to their religious community. The American ambassador reported that because the Jewish community was no longer an officially sanctioned entity, it would no longer receive the "taxes levied upon [its] members by the State for the meeting of community ex-


penses." In other words, Jews would continue to pay the tax, but the government would not give it to their community. Hoggan gave an entirely different -- and dishonest -- slant to this decision. Making it sound as though the Jewish community was supported by the state, he wrote that the new law "meant that German public tax receipts would go no longer to the Jewish church." Then, in an effort to diminish further the impact of the decree, Hoggan falsely claimed that it had simply brought German practice into "conformity with current English practice." (34) He failed to note that the same was not done to other religious communities and ignored the ambassador's comment that the new law constituted "discriminatory" legislation that would greatly hamper "the social and welfare world of the already seriously harassed Jewish Gemeinde [community]." (35)

Hoggan's book, on which Barnes heaped accolades, is full of such misrepresentations in relation to British and Polish foreign policy and concerning Germany's treatment of the Jews. His dissertation contains few such observations. Barnes read the dissertation before it was turned into a book and was in contact with Hoggan for a full six years before the book was published. Barnes helped get it published and provided a blurb for its jacket, obviously playing a significant role in turning this "solid conscientious piece of work" into a Nazi apologia. One German historian observed that "rarely have so many inane and unwarranted theses, allegations and 'conclusions'... been crammed into a volume written under the guise of history." (36) Gerhard Weinberg, in his review of the book in the American Historical Review, described it as full of fabrications, twisted evidence, and transpositions of the sequence of events. All public statements by Hitler that substantiated Hoggan's thesis were taken at face value, as when Hitler professed that he only wanted peace. All statements, public or private, which did not agree, were ignored. (37) Hoggan's contribution to Holocaust denial is significant. He buttressed the bogus notion that Germany was the victim, the Allies the victimizers, and the war easily preventable. In addition his Harvard credentials and his association with Berkeley, however tenuous, provided a measure of credibility to a movement that had thus far been relegated to the scholarly fringes.

Beginning in the 1960s Barnes began to pay increasing attention to the issue of German atrocities. He did not explicitly state that the atrocity stories were fabricated. Instead he suggested that they were inaccurate and politically motivated. In a 1962 publication, Revisionism and Brainwashing, he condemned the "lack of any serious opposition or concerted challenge to the atrocity stories and other modes of


defamation of German national character and conduct." Attempting to deflect the charges of German atrocities, Barnes relied on immoral equivalencies arguing that there was a "failure to point out that the atrocities of the Allies were more brutal, painful, mortal and numerous than the most extreme allegations made against the Germans." (38) This form of relativism was becoming a fundamental component of Holocaust denial.

During this period Barnes was exposed to Paul Rassinier's claims that the Holocaust was a hoax. Apparently it was Rassinier's work that prompted Barnes to contend that the atrocity stories were fabrications. Barnes described Rassinier as a "distinguished French historian" and applauded him for questioning the existence of gas chambers in concentration camps in Germany and for exposing the "exaggerations of the atrocity stories." (39) (See chapter 8.) In an essay entitled "Zionist Fraud," which originally appeared in the American Mercury, Barnes heaped lavish praise on Rassinier and expressed support for many of the Frenchman's accusations:

The courageous author [Rassinier] lays the chief blame for misrepresentation on those whom we must call the swindlers of the crematoria, the Israeli politicians who derive billions of marks from nonexistent, mythical and imaginary cadavers, whose numbers have been reckoned in an unusually distorted and dishonest manner. (40)

Still engaged in fighting both world wars, Barnes found that Rassinier's defense of Germany and his attempt to remove from its shoulders the blame for atrocities validated his most precious historical conviction: the Allies were the real culprits. For Barnes, Rassinier's denial constituted important historical ammunition and intellectual proof that World War II was just like World War I. Germany was the wonderful nation it had always been, and America had once again needlessly entered the conflagration. Why was this fact not generally known by most Americans? Barnes had a simple answer. There was a conspiracy to blame Germany for terrible atrocities and wildly exaggerate the wrongs it had committed.

These "allegations" and "exaggerations" against Germany were not just capricious, Barnes argued, but served an important purpose for historians and political leaders from the Allied nations. They were essential to protect the reputation of prominent American, English, and French leaders who had supported appeasement during the 1930s. The leaders displayed a benign attitude to Hitler and other Nazi leaders even after the "worst aspects of the Hitler regime had been in opera-


tion for some years," including the persecution of the Jews under the Nuremberg Laws. (41) In light of their positive assessments of Hitler and National Socialism during the prewar period, it was difficult for them to justify their subsequent condemnations of Hitler as a "pathological demon." How could he have been a reasonable leader in the 1930s and the epitome of evil ten years later? Something "different and dramatic" was needed to "make the thesis of diabolism sink in and stick." Without it these "eminent [prewar] eulogists" would appear to be "silly dupes." The allegations regarding the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the war were thus part of the plan to protect the reputations of Allied leaders who had previously sought to appease Hitler. Now they could portray him as a "madman," whose potential for evil was not known until the war itself.

But it was not only the prewar "eulogists" who needed to justify their war with Hitler. The postwar legacy of the "attempt to check 'the Nazi madman' " was "even more ominous than the war." From Barnes's isolationist perspective, the war had been a disaster for the Allies. Germany was divided. Stalin was stronger than before. The Soviet Union controlled much of Eastern Europe, including portions of Germany, and the United States had to spend billions to rebuild and arm Western Europe. All this resulted from an attempt to stop Hitler, who, Barnes contended, had no interest in going to war against the Allies. In order to justify the "horrors and evil results of the Second World War," those who had led the Allies into war also needed to justify their efforts. (42) There were two false dogmas that "met the need perfectly": Germany's diabolism in provoking the war and committing massive atrocities. Hitler and national socialism became the Allies' "scapegoat." (43) According to Barnes these two accusations were linked in a pernicious fashion:

Hitler's setting off the war was also deemed responsible for the wholesale extermination of Jews, for it was admitted that this did not begin until a considerable time after war broke out.

Though not yet willing to deny the Holocaust, he did cast doubt on it by declaring it a theory at best:

The size of the German reparations to Israel has been based on the theory that vast numbers of Jews were exterminated at the express order of Hitler, some six million being the most usually accepted number. (44)

A few years later Barnes again raised questions about the veracity of


the Holocaust in his article, "Revisionism: A Key to Peace." Apparently reluctant explicitly to deny the Holocaust, Barnes relativized the "alleged" atrocities of the Germans as he had previously done.

Even if one were to accept the most extreme and exaggerated indictment of Hitler and the National Socialists for their activities after 1939 made by anybody fit to remain outside a mental hospital, it is almost alarmingly easy to demonstrate that the atrocities of the Allies in the same period were more numerous as to victims and were carried out for the most part by methods more brutal and painful than alleged extermination in gas ovens. (45)

In 1967, in "The Public Stake in Revisionism," Barnes charged that what had begun as a "blackout" had now become a "smotherout" as a result of the Eichmann trial. It provided an "unexpected but remarkably opportune moment and an effective springboard for stopping World War II revisionism dead in its track." Moving close to explicit denial, Barnes argued that the trial revealed

an almost adolescent gullibility and excitability on the part of Americans relative to German wartime crimes, real or alleged. (46)

The charges against Eichmann and Nazi Germany were based on

fundamental but unproved assumptions that what Hitler and the National Socialists did in the years after Britain and the United States entered the war revealed that they were... vile, debased, brutal and bloodthirsty gangsters. (47)

Barnes attacked popular American weekly and monthly journals for their "sensational articles" about "exaggerated National Socialist savagery." (48) He repeated what had become a consistent refrain in his articles: Allied atrocities surpassed those of the Germans. The Allied atrocities, to which Barnes made repeated reference, included the bombing of Hamburg, Tokyo, and Dresden and the postwar expulsion of the Sudeten Germans during which, he charged, "at least four millions of them perish[ed] in the process from butchery, starvation and disease." Using language that was purposely chosen to evoke a comparison to what the Jews "claimed" was done to them, Barnes described the population transfer as "the final solution" for defeated Germans.

In "The Public Stake in Revisionism," Barnes again stopped short of explicitly denying the existence of gas chambers:

The number of civilians exterminated by the Allies, before, during and after the second World war, equalled, if it did not far exceed those liquidated [77] by the Germans and the Allied liquidation program was often carried out by methods which were far more brutal and painful than whatever extermination actually took p1ke in German gas ovens. (49) **

Once again coming close to, but not quite crossing the boundary into denial, he complained in the same article that Allied atrocities are never "cogently and frankly placed over against the doings, real or alleged, at Auschwitz." (50)

Barnes tried to argue that the gas chambers were postwar inventions. Ignoring the fact that information on gas chambers in various death camps had been publicized long before the war ended, he falsely claimed that the charges had only been made afterward, when it was necessary to justify the war and its outcome. According to Barnes, when the "court historians" were forced by"revisionists" to admit reluctantly that there were only concentration camps and not death camps in Germany, they needed something else to maintain the evil image of the Nazi empire. It was then, he argued, that they contrived the existence of gas chambers at other camps. Once this allegation was placed in the public domain, the "smotherout" historians changed the focus of their attacks on Nazi Germany. No longer did they emphasize the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or Hitler's precipitation of the war. They found something far more potent:

What is deemed important today is not whether Hitler started war in 1939 or whether Roosevelt was responsible for Pearl Harbor but the number of prisoners who were allegedly done to death in the concentration camps operated by Germany during the war. These camps were first presented as those in Germany, such as Dachau, Belsen, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and Dora, but it was demonstrated that there had been no systematic extermination in those camps. Attention was then moved on to Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Chelmno, Jonowska [sic], Tarnow, Ravensbruck, Mauthausen, Brezeznia [sic], and Birkenau, which does not exhaust the list that appears to have been extended as needed. (51)

These new charges kept the public from becoming "bored" by hearing the same stories. To ensure public interest the details were "made


more unceasing, exaggerated and inflammatory." (52) Once again Barnes totally distorted the truth and reshaped the historical record. Information about Chelmno, Auschwitz, Birkenau, and other camps was well known long before the war ended; details about them had been published in the Western press on repeated occasions.

Moreover it was precisely those whom Barnes accused of being "court historians" who, in fact, were responsible for demonstrating that there had been no homicidal gas chambers in German concentration camps. After the war there had been persistent confusion about the difference between concentration camps and death camps. The latter, located outside Germany, had facilities for the express purpose of murdering people, primarily Jews. While there were no death camps in Germany, there were many concentration camps, in which multitudes died from overwork, disease, starvation, beatings, and severe mistreatment. Much of the confusion centered around the idea that there was a functioning homicidal gas chamber in Dachau. This was what historians were trying to clarify in 1962, when Professor Martin Broszat, who served for many years as the director of Munich's Institute for Contemporary History, wrote to the newspaper Die Zeit to "hammer home, once more, the persistently ignored or denied difference between concentration and extermination camps." Contrary to deniers' claims, he said, his letter did not constitute an "admission" on his part but an effort to "set the record straight." (53) This remains a consistent tactic of the deniers. Every time historians who study the Holocaust correct a mistake in the record, deniers immediately claim that they do so because their previous lies were about to be exposed.***

Barnes also tried to recast history by changing the nature of the assignment of the Einsatzgruppen that functioned as the mobile killing units. The Einsatzgruppen entered Soviet territory in July 1941. Between that date and the beginning of the retreat of German forces in the spring of 1943, it is estimated that they murdered well over one million Jews and hundreds of thousands of other Soviet nationals. Their brutal methods were eventually replaced by the more "efficient" gas chambers. Barnes transformed them from groups whose express task was to murder Jews in Soviet territory into units that were "battling


guerrilla warfare behind the lines." This profile is totally contradicted by reams of documents and the testimony of Einsatzgruppen leaders and members, as well as that of those who saw them massacre Jews. Barnes's transformation of their role was his means of trying to work around the truth. He did not have to deny that they may in fact have killed some Jews, but, according to his explanation, their actions were justified because their victims were anti-German guerrillas.

But even with all these attempts to twist information and misrepresent established historical fact, Barnes and other revisionists faced a fundamental challenge in their effort to exculpate Nazi Germany. It was difficult to argue that Germany had not committed these outrages when the postwar West German government accepted responsibility for the war and the atrocities. (54) Barnes castigated both the government and the academic community of the Federal Republic of Germany for failing to challenge this "unfair" verdict and the "false dogma[s]" propagated by the Allies and accepted by the Bonn government. (55) The government's approach to history prevented "the restoration of Germany to its proper position of unity, power and respect among the nations of the world." (56)

Barnes's ire at the Adenauer government for its "masochistic" behavior was heightened by his comparison of it with the Weimar government's attitude toward World War I. Barnes complained that none of the open-mindedness he had discovered during his trip to Germany in the Weimar period was evident in the Federal Republic. The Bonn government had "brainwashed" or "indoctrinated" the German people into accepting an "indictment of German responsibility for the war. According to Barnes the postwar German leadership did more than acquiesce in the charges brought against it. It furthered the "smotherout" by "oppos[ing] the discovery and publication of the truth." (57) Barnes claimed to be "deeply puzzled" about the Adenauer govemment's acceptance of responsibility for German precipitation of the war and its "downright disinclination to seek to refute the most outrageous charges of cruelty and barbadsm levelled against Germany by conscienceless atrocity mongers [and] the continuation to this very day of not-so-little Nuremberg trials." (58) Barnes did not, of course, consider the possibility that West Germany did not contest the accusations because they were true and West Germans, from Chancellor Konrad Adenauer on down, knew it. Instead he condemned German leaders for "smearing" people like Rassinier and for the "sheer lunacy" of paying reparations "based on atrocity stories." (59) This was a precise repetition of Barnes's behavior in relation to World War I revisionism.


Convinced that his view constituted objective truth, he dismissed any information that challenged his conclusion, treating it as the work of perverted minds.

Barnes found West Germany's relationship with the State of Israel particularly galling. He was nonplussed by a speech given by the president of the West German Bundestag in Israel in 1962 in which he acknowledged Germany's wrongdoings and asked for forgiveness for the Holocaust. Barnes characterized the speech as "subserviency" and "almost incredible grovelling." (60) He was appalled by the German decision to send a group of volunteers to work in Israel as a form of penance. Barnes's disgust, as a non-German, at the German leader's request from Israel for forgiveness and at German citizens' desire to work on Israeli kibbutzim, is noteworthy. Barnes and Rassinier helped set the tone for subsequent Holocaust denial with their particular contempt for the Jewish state, its supporters, and Jews in general.

The roots of Barnes's views about the Holocaust and his attitudes toward Israel go beyond his deep-seated Germanophilia and revisionist approach to history: They can be found in his antisemitism. While this animus did not generally pervade his articles until the late 1960s, privately he had given voice to it as early as the 1940s. In an article published immediately after the war he suggested that Lord Vansittart (Robert Gilbert Vansittart), who served as Britain's permanent under-secretary of the British Foreign Office until the beginning of 1938 and after that as chief diplomatic adviser to His Majesty's Government, should be tried along with the Nazis for having helped precipitate the war. Vansittart, who was an anti-Nazi, is often singled out by revisionists and deniers as one of those chiefly responsible for pushing England to adopt anti-German policies. In response to Barnes's attacks, Vansittart decided to sue for libel and asked the prominent American lawyer, Louis Nizer, to represent him. When the suit was announced in the Washington Post, Barnes complained to Oswald Garrison Villard. Both staunch isolationists, Villard and Barnes had regularly exchanged letters regarding America's "misguided" foreign policy. (However, despite his ardent conviction that American policy had been wrong, Villard did not share Barnes's views regarding atrocities or the victimization of Germany.) Barnes described the suit as a "plot of the Jews and the Anti-Defamation League to intimidate any American historians who propose to tell the truth about the causes of the war." He attacked Louis Nizer as an "Anti-Defamation League stooge," who had "needled [Vansittart]


into action," and bemoaned his inability to counter the inordinate power and financial resources of the other side:#

If I could raise money enough for a real defense we could make this an international cause celebre, but I cannot fight the thirty million dollars now in the coffers of the Anti-Defamation League to be used for character assassination on empty pockets. If we let them get away with this, we are licked from the start. [61] ##

Barnes's blaming his problems on a Jewish lawyer and a Jewish organization's success in needling a prominent British official into action is another indication of his antipathy toward Jews and the degree to which he subscribed to antisemitic stereotypes. It is also an example of Barnes's pattern of accusing others of conspiring against him. Peter Novick of the University of Chicago, who has closely examined Barnes's correspondence, describes it as constituting a "full clinical record" of his abusiveness toward those who disagreed with him and his conviction that he was the target of innumerable conspirators. When the New York World-Telegram dropped his column in 1940, he blamed British intelligence, the Morgan bank, and Jewish department store owners in New York City, who, Barnes claimed, threatened the publisher with "loss of all advertising if he kept me on any longer." (62)

Yet Barnes apparently also understood that, like all deniers, he faced a fundamental obstacle. As long as they could be dismissed as antisemitic extremists, they would never make headway with the general public. If their work was perceived as simply a reworked expression of an age-old animus, it would have no credibility. Barnes tried to preempt this accusation by turning it back on those who made it: He accused those who charged that the deniers were antisemites of using this label as a means of silencing anyone who questioned the "official" version of history. According to Barnes, the keystone of this effort was the claim that Jews had been subjected to unique persecution and atroci-


ties. This aspect of the hoax was ingenious in that it enabled its architects to muzzle critics. Anyone who dared to question the official version of history was labeled an antisemite. Employing tactics that again reflected his personal hostility towards Jews, Barnes charged those behind the "smotherout" with believing that "it [was] far worse to exterminate Jews, even at the ratio of two Gentiles to one Jew, than to liquidate Gentiles." (63) When Barnes or like-minded people challenged this assertion in the name of "non-racial humanitarianism," they were accused of being antisemitic, which was considered "worse than parricide or necrophilia." (64)

Barnes's standing as a historian is a matter of some dispute. His early works on World War I won positive reviews, and for many years his was considered to be a serious though extreme historical voice. His personal attacks on those who disagreed with him and his writings about World War II alienated many of his earlier followers but did not totally cost him his credibility as a historian. In his later years, while he was writing pamphlets about a "smotherout" and a "theory" of the Holocaust, his books were being used as required texts in universitylevel Western Civilization courses. ### When "The Public Stake in Revisionism" -- in which he referred to the "doings real or alleged at Auschwitz" and described the Einsatzgruppen as "battling guerrillas" -- appeared in the journal of Rampart College, Robert LeFevre, the college dean, writing in the journal, demonstrated the academic community's willingness to regard Barnes's behavior as excusable excesses: "There are places where Dr. Barnes' understandable frustration is indicated by the use of emotive words and that may be unfortunate although it can be forgiven." (65)

Today Barnes's work is generally dismissed by scholars because of his obsession with a conspiracy theory related to America's entry into World War II. However, he remains something of a cult historian for members of the Libertarian party, who subscribe to Barnes's style of revisionist scholarship. They have kept his works in print and made his books widely available in their bookstores. While the Libertarians can still be considered a fringe group, more disturbing was the 1975 edition of History Teacher, a publication of the Society for History Education, which at the time was housed at California State University at Long Beach. History Teacher is designed to aid teachers in finding interesting ways to present historical information to their students. This edi-


tion, entitled "Harry Elmer Barnes: Prophet of a 'Usable' Past," identified Barnes as someone who practiced the "scholarship of commitment." Thus, notwithstanding his notions regarding the Holocaust and other aspects of World War II, Barnes's legacy was still at least somewhat intact. According to Justus Doenecke, author of the profile on Barnes, the causes Barnes "heralded resemble our own and the dilemmas he faced are hauntingly familiar." Barnes's views regarding Hitler, the power of the Jews, atrocities committed by the Allies, or the Holocaust were never mentioned in this lengthy essay. Instead Barnes was portrayed as a useful model for those who believed in the relevance of history. His conviction that Allied atrocities overshadowed those of the Germans was also ignored, although there is a passing reference to his tendency to present views that are only "partially digested." Having chosen to rely on Barnes's work, any teacher who came upon his views about the Holocaust might take them seriously. After all, would History Teacher have suggested Barnes as a role model if they were not valid? (66)


* American Jewish organizations have traditionally opposed such a question because they believe it would violate the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state.

** The editor of the Journa1 of Historical Review was clearly distressed by the ambiguity of this statement, which could be interpreted to suggest that Barnes believed that there might have actually been "gas ovens" in Auschwitz. When the Journal reprinted the article in 1980 the editor added a footnote to Barnes's comment about the gas ovens: "Of course Barnes is confused here by the difference between a 'gas chamber' and a 'gas oven.' Shortly after writing this article, he came to reject the entire holocaust myth, not just part of it."

*** This is what they have done in relation to the charge that Nazis used Jewish cadavers for the production of soap. When scholars of the Holocaust corrected this notion, the deniers were quick to charge they did so in order to avoid being exposed as willful liars. (See chapter 10.)

# The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was a favorite target of the revisionists. In a confidential report written in 1944 John Flynn cited the ADL as one of the groups responsible for a program to silence isolatonists and "destroy the[ir] reputations" by intimidating them and anyone who might be influenced by them. In 1947 the Chicago Tribune ran a series of five articles by Flynn making these allegations (Wayne S. Cole, Roosevelt and the Isolationists, 1932-1945 [Lincoln, Nebr.]).

## Villard admonished Barnes about making these claims: "I do not think for a moment that you need lay this to the Jews. [Vansittart] is a hard, aggressive fighter as his books have shown and when he chose Nizer as his counsel he picked the man who got a $100,000 verdict against Victor Ridder, which the judge cut to $50,000. Englishmen are very sensitive about libels... I don't believe he needed the slightest prodding from anybody."

### Students at Harvard and Columbia have told me that they had no idea he was writing in this fashion when they were using his books.

Chapter 4. The First Stirrings of Denial in America

1. Arnold Forster, "The Ultimate Cruelty,"ADL Bulletin (June 1959), pp. 1ff.

2. Ibid., p. 2.

3. Ibid.

4. Benjamin H. Freedman, "Six Million Jew Hoax," Common Sense (May 1, 1959).

5. Forster, "The Ultimate Cruelty," p. 2.

6. Arthur Butz, "The International 'Holocaust' Controversy," Journal of Histortcal Review (Spring 1980), p. 6.

7. Our Sunday Visitor, June 14, 1959; Forster, "The Ultimate Cruelty," p. 7.

8. Forster, "The Ultimate Cruelty," p. 7.

9. Peter Baldwin, "The Historikerstreit in Context," in Reworking the Past: Hitler, the Holocaust and the Historians' Debate, ed. Peter Baldwin (Boston, 1990), p. 24.

10. Paul L. Berman, "Gas Chamber Games: Crackpot History and the Right to Lie," Vil1age Voice, June 10-16, 1981, p. 40; Harry Elmer Barnes, The Court Historians Versus Revisionism, n.p., n. d., p. 3.

11. Novick, That Noble Dream, p. 208.

12. Charles A. Beard to Harry Elmer Barnes, June 28, 1924, Barnes Papers, Box 79, cited in Novick, That Noble Dream, p. 212.

13. His trip to Germany to expound on the Versailles treaty had a major impact on his subsequent historical views, Brainwashing, p. 24.

14. Brainwashing, pp. 13, 18.

15. Harry Elmer Barnes, "Revisionism and the Promotion of Peace," Journal of Historical Review (Spring 1982), p. 61. This article originally appeared in Liberation (Summer 1958) and was subsequently republished as a pamphlet.

16. H. E. Barnes to C. C. Tansill, Nov. 7, 1950, cited in Doenecke, Not to the Swift, p. 105.

17. Barnes, "Revisionism and the Promotion of Peace," p. 65.

18. Ibid., pp. 67-68.

19. H. E. Barnes to W. L. Neumann, Feb. 8, 1952, cited in Doeneeke, Not to the Swift, p. 104.

20. Barnes, "Revisionism and the Promotion of Peace," p. 68.

21. Harry Elmer Barnes, The Struggle Against the Historical Blackout (n.p., 1952), p. 11.

22. Barnes, "Revisionism and the Promotion of Peace," p. 72.

23. Brainwashing, p. 3.

24. Harry Elmer Barnes to Oswald Garrison Villard, October 28, 1948, Harvard University.

25. Harry Elmer Barnes to Oswald Garrison Villard, March 5, 1949, Harvard University.

26. Brainwashing, p. 5.

27. Ibid.

28. Lucy Dawidowicz, "Lies about the Holocaust," Commentary, Dec. 1980, p. 32.

29. David Leslie Hoggan, The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed (Torrance, Calif., 1989).

30. Hoggan, The Forced War, p. 156.

31. Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jews, p. 92.

32. Hoggan, The Forced War, p. 101.

33. U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1938, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C., 1938), pp. 391-92.

34. Hoggan, The Forced War, p. 101.

35. U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1938, vol.2, p. 361.

36. Helmut Krausnick, then director of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, charged that Hoggan had actually engaged in forgery in the preparation of the book. See Krausnick's foreword to Hermann Graml's critique of Hoggan, Geschichte in Wissenschaft and Unterricht, August 1963, cited in Dawidowiez, "Lies About the Holocaust," p. 32.

37. See Gerhard L. Weinberg's review in American Historical Review, vol. 68, no. 1 (October 1962), pp. 104-5.

38. Brainwashing, p. 42.

39. Ibid. Barnes translated some of Rassinier's works into English. See Lewis Brandon, "Introduction," The Barnes Tnlogy: Three Revisionist Booklets by Harry Elmer Barnes, Historian, Criminologist, Sociologist, Economist (Torrance, Calif., 1979). Brandon was the alias used by David McCalden, the first director of the Institute for Historical Review.

40. Harry Elmer Barnes, "Zionist Fraud", American Mercury, Fall 1968, reprinted in an appendix to The Myth of the Six Million (Los Angeles,1969), p. 117.

41. Brainwashing, p. 32.

42. Ibid., p. 33.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid., p. 37 (italics added).

45. Harry Elmer Barnes, "Revisionism: A Key to Peace," Rampart Journal (Spring 1966), quoted in Dawidowicz, "Lies About the Holocaust," p. 33 (italics added).

46. Harry Elmer Barnes, "The Public Stake in Revisionism," Rampart Journal (Summer 1967), pp. 19-41, republished in Journal of Historical Reriew (Fall 1980), p. 217 (italics added) (hereafter referred to as "The Public Stake").

47. "The Public Stake," p. 218 (italics added).

48. He specifically referred to Look, Mar. 21, 1967; Saturday Exening Post Oct. 22, 1965, and Feb. 25, 1967. "The Public Stake," pp. 205-30.

49. "The Public Stake," p. 219 (italics added).

50. Ibid., p. 225 (italics added).

51. Ibid., p. 223 (italics added). Barnes apparently thought Brzezinka and Birkenau were two separate camps. Birkenau is the German translation of Brzezinka. Jonowska is Janowska.

52. Ibid., p. 222.

53. Gitta Sereny, "The Men Who Whitewash Hitler," New Statesman, Nov. 1979, p. 670.

54. Even the former East Germany, which until 1990 did not accept responsibility for the Holocaust, acknowledged that it had occurred. It blamed the fascists, who persecuted the Communists.

55. "The Public Stake," p. 228; Brainwashing, p. 2.

56. Brainwashing, p. 34.

57. Ibid., pp. 2, 25.

58. Ibid., p. 39.

59. Ibid., p. 42.

60. Ibid., p. 43.

61. Harry Elmer Barnes to Oswald Garrison Villard, November 11, 1945; Oswald Garrison Villard to Harry Elmer Barnes, November 14, 1945, in the collection of Harvard University. Barnes originally met Villard in 1926 when Villard had come to lecture in Barnes's classes at Smith College. They both shared revisionist views regarding World War I and World War II, though Barnes was far more extreme about the latter.

62. Novick, That Noble Dream, p. 218.

63. "The Public Stake," p. 219.

64. Ibid.

65. Memo from Barry Youngerman to Jerry Bakst, June 27, 1967, archives of the Anti-Defamation League, New York.

66. Justus Doeneeke, "Harry Elmer Barnes: Prophet of a 'Usable' Past," History Teacher, vol. 8 (Feb. 1975).

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