[AAARGH in English ] [AAARGH en francais ] [Thion]



by Serge Thion





The How of the Why

Following part

"As far as truth is concerned, there are no impure sources."

Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Bulletin d'information sur le Cambodge, Juin 1978, no. 3, page 12.

Here is an individual who asserts that the gas chambers in German concentration camps have never existed, that they are essentially a myth born of the horrors of war. Scandal. It is said that this man is either mad or nostalgic for Nazism. That madmen go off their rockers or that Nazis try to whitewash Hitlerian Germany is quite normal. The opposite, even, would be surprising. On the one hand, there are more and more mad people because, it is said, of modern life. On the other hand, Nazis and other empty heads of the extreme right have never ceased dreaming of a millenarian Reich. If I trust my memory, their influence has seriously declined since the end of the Algerian war and the dismantling of the O.A.S. Therefore, no matter how this individual and his provocative assertions are classified, his case seems clear and devoid of the least interest.

But the strange thing is that this event spreads, takes unexpected proportions, and invades the press, despite the repeated desire to stop talking about it. Ministers comment on it, members of parliament question the government, one of them, from Giscard's block uses it to demand the ushering into France of Berufsverbot, the exclusion of "extremists" from professional ranks. Since October 1978, the press is no longer able to practice self-censorship, because of troubles at Lyons University, because, despite being showered with insults, the interested party puts up a struggle and bombards the newspapers asserting his right to reply, because of indictment by the press, because the affair has spilled over to the foreign media, and finally, because the antiracist movements, led by L.I.C.A. decide to crush the boor by bringing against him the charge -- quite original under French law -- of having "deliberately falsified the presentation of History."(1) Notice this capital H, and wait to see how justice will sort out this hypostasis.

When it is not printed in black and white, rumor is going around that the ideas of this Mr. Faurisson are unacceptable because they are the deeds of a Nazi, or a pro-Nazi, or an antisemite. The fact that he challenged these qualifiers and won a libel suit against le Matin de Paris did not change his detractors' convictions, which are based not so much on what he says as on the more or less shady intentions attributed to him. It must be said that these trials of intention are not a credit to the censors, but this is not the question. It may certainly be said that Mr. Faurisson is a man of the right, and to be more precise, a kind of anarchist of the right. Nonetheless, it must also be stated that his students and many of his colleagues, until the outbreak of this affair, took him to be of the left. In any case, he stands alone. As to his political leanings, I don't find them particularly attractive except for the refusal of intellectual taboos and of a certain propensity, that I share, to take the side of the downtrodden, those who once and again find themselves on the losing side. This is not quite sufficient, in my opinion, to build moral politics, but it is a rather good vaccination against the illusions of power.

What must be challenged very strongly is the idea that any argument made by a political enemy be automatically considered false, null and void. I know people on the right who are, sometimes, capable of saying fairly sensible things, and people on the left who are likely to make such outrageous statements as to make one's blood curdle. Neither one has ever led me, or anybody else, to a change of political opinion. But they could tell me something, or change my opinion about a particular point; it is up to me to integrate it into my interpretation.

It is not enough to be contented with demanding freedom of expression for our enemies, were they even enemies of freedom, which is as essential as ours and from which it is indivisible; but we must further insist on the right to understand what they are saying, without being stupidly treated as their accomplices. Some of my friends and I realized, at a certain time, that struggles took place in the Algerian F.L.N. and that they were accompanied by bloody purges, assassinations, arbitrary measures, torture, etc. This was mainly reported in detail in the press of the extreme right, but from our side, we could only pick up some of their muffled echoes. This, however deplorable we may have found it, did not prevent us from pursuing our solidarity with the Algerian fighters because we wanted Algeria returned to the Algerians. Would it have been better to delude ourselves with a ridiculous illusion or, recognizing the validity of the fascist press, lucidly continue the struggle, while knowing full well that it had limits?

Conversely, did we have to accept, some years later, the Maoist rantings because they offered guarantees of the left? And, in retrospect, don't we want to see that even before the end of the war in Cambodia in 1975, only the American secret services said that the Khmer Rouge deported the population, ruled certain areas with extreme brutality and had military clashes with the Vietcong? To admit that the C.I.A. was right about these facts and that we were wrong at that time in not seeing in them other than propaganda -- would that lead us to justify the American intervention and its trail of massacres, triggering a chain of atrocities? There are thousands of other examples.

Admitting that a mistake was made does not imply shedding tears of scorned innocence in the columns of the adversary press and selling cheaply one pitiful tale of naivete after another. There are gangsters who become cops, Stalinists who become Chirac supporters and Maoists who dine with Giscard. There are even false renegades, like those who claim falsely they have had a sympathy for the Khmer Rouge, in order to go around in sackcloth and ashes. All these people swap one mistake for another.

In my opinion, Faurisson is a man of the right. His thinking about the political significance of his assertions is of no particular interest to us. We have no reason to discuss his intentions. But he puts forward assertions concerning facts and realities of the recent past. That a more or less qualified individual writes anything about any subject is a statement of overwhelming platitude. It is enough to know something about some question by studying it closely, or to know some situation by having lived through it, to then realize that newspapers and library shelves are cluttered with ravings that cannot be distinguished from more serious works worthy of our esteem. The frightening tragedy of the deportation turns out to be a favorable subject of these fabrications, that only former deportees can identify at a glance. For us, it is more difficult.

To maintain that the gas chambers did not exist makes one think about this "whatever," the universal and tasteless ketchup that these times spice all our meals of the mind. The appearance of this scandalous person came in the wake of another clearly farcical affair: the interview of Darquier de Pellepoix, an old remnant of Vichy and an authentic antisemite with whom it was easy to lump our troublesome scribe. Most newspapers did not resist taking part.

A touching national unanimity arose to the forefront of these puny adversaries, effusive in their contempt for reality. Ministers, parliamentarians, all sorts of editorialists suspected the new generations of forgetting the past, and maybe not giving a damn about it. The broadcast of the American fiction-drama, Holocaust, was a hasty decision. "Le Monde" brought out the big guns with a solemn declaration signed by thirty-four of our best known historians(2). Following a reminder of Hitler's extermination policies, as they are usually known to us, the declaration ends with the following paragraph:

This is where I clinched: Hic jacet lepus. ("Here lies the hare," one of Marx favorite Latin phrases.) Professional historians say that we should not wonder how an event could have happened, for being convinced of its existence, the historians have no desire to reassess its reality. This is an unbearable limit on their own proper domain of historical research. The thought of it makes me dizzy: What reason could I give for any historical event, of whatever nature it may be (first economic, but also military, cultural, social, psychological, etc.) without wondering, at one moment or another, about its technical mode of existence, of the "how" of the "why"? I understand why so many distinguished historians signed this text. (I do not wonder why other equally distinguished historians did not sign it, nor why most genuine specialists in the subject refrained from signing it.) They did it for political and intellectual solidarity rather than because of real competence because, in general, they work in very different fields. They signed on trust. What seems to me to be the most striking aspect is exactly the fact that in order to make a political gesture, ban any debate about the existence of gas chambers, historians have lent their support to a text that expressly prohibits the research field from advancing beyond the previous generation. To a research professional like me, this is an unacceptable diktat.

An objection might be that the text is not intended to ban anything, that its wording is somewhat clumsy, and even ambiguous and that I chose to understand it in the least indulgent manner. It simply states that facts such as the extermination policies and the massive use of gas chambers are well known, that several perfectly convincing proofs are available to the public, and that it is absurd to want to deny the evidence. Writings that cast doubt on the physical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, Joan of Arc and Napoleon, etc., are recalled. I find this analogy amusing. I am told that I should not be worried, and that in the midst of a debate on the existence of gas chambers, "there should not be any debate." This is no small contradiction. Had I written that General De Gaulle never existed, I doubt whether Le Monde would have devoted several pages to refuting me. So if I am told that there are limits to a historical debate, I would agree. There certainly are assertions that are not worthy of being discussed. Memoirs claiming to demonstrate the quadrature of the circle are often submitted to the Academy of Sciences, which, quite rightly, has decided to dismiss them without examination.

However, basic facts must be clear to everybody, they must be more or less exhaustively studied, and the discussion on establishing the facts must be seen through to completion. Only then, the interpretations game can take place. What is a discussion here? It is the examination of arguments, their evaluation, their acceptance or rejection, according to explicit criteria: e.g., the analysis of their compatibility within the context of the existing situation.

The debate that took place in Le Monde is not a discussion in this sense (except partially in two articles by G. Wellers). The historians' "Declaration" shows its true colors: here is our interpretation of the facts; reality cannot be discussed since it has been excluded from our interpretation. The difficulty of responding to Faurisson (expected by some readers) is thus avoided because there is no reason to respond (which is expected by some other readers). It is not surprising that the conclusion of this declaration is clumsy and ambiguous. Had it not been so, it would have had to choose between two equally brutal positions: either "all this is silly because it does not square with our interpretation," or "for personal reasons, this is disturbing and moving to us, it touches the unspeakable, we cannot bear such a debate, which offends what we feel is the most sacred."

I will come back to this first implicit conclusion and will submit it to a critical appraisal. As for the second, it would be insulting to me to believe that I am not aware of the perfectly understandable emotions this would stir up. I would mention, however, that the deepest emotion is felt by those who were not deported. The deportees that I know are aware that they only knew patchy aspects of the deportation and they are not always found in deportation literature. I would like to come back to the second implicit conclusion of the declaration because it puts the authors in the difficult situation of having to explain at length what they did not want to talk about, at least in a manner that deviates from orthodoxy. They would have preferred silence, dealing with this affair with contempt; and I am sure this attitude exists. I understand it and I can even approve of it. I do not see why one has to submit to fashionable reappraisals. It is possible to be ensconced in unshakeable convictions and politely refuse a debate deemed to be useless and painful. But if you decide to intervene, if you are tormented by the anxiety to convince, then you should be ready to talk through everything, to bear stinging critique, to be made mincemeat.

Summarizing his feelings about the meaning of this affair, one of the signatories told me: "Those who target what Jews consider the most sacred are antisemites," an allusion to the what is now called the H olocaust, a word borrowed from religious rites (3). Clearly, this assertion is totally unacceptable. Let everyone put the sacred wherever he sees fit. To require others to respect it as an article of faith, no. To a materialist, the sacred is nothing but a mental category among others, with a particular historical evolution. No one can pretend to be deferential to all the sacred proteans generated by the totality of human beliefs. It would not be wise to sort these out, either. To me, it is enough to respect individuals in flesh and blood and their material and moral freedom. At a time when the latest fashion is the return to religion and where ayatollahs and "Judeo-Christian" clearance sales are blithely blended, it may not be pointless to reassert that no belief is inherently respectable. Everyone has to make do with his and those of others. Neither god nor master. This is the least that can be required in a secular society. Let the idol worshippers be free not to listen to those who despise the idols. Some might say that from the lack of respect for someone's sacred idols to the act of banning some beliefs, there is only a thin line that can easily be crossed. In reality, idols are brought down only to be replaced by fetishes. And revolutions are expert at fulfilling, to their advantage, religious functions that they had previously tried to rid themselves of. Everywhere, it is said that man is a believer and maybe I am too, for I believe that he should not be.

There is another more contingent but definite reason for maintaining the aura of the sacred around the Nazi phenomenon. It is the passage of time. To those who reach adulthood now, the Algerian war is almost as distant as that of 1914. Yet, in front of our sad monuments to the dead, we see every November 11th those young former fighters quiver with the desire to emulate their predecessors. A second reason is also relegated to these antediluvian times. Sensibilities are no longer the same and reiteration of postwar discourse falls on deaf ears. The effect of broadcasting the <italic>Holocaust series seems to have been ambiguous. Multiple signals point in this direction (4).

I picked up an article in the press which reports on a recent German book about Hitler: "Young Germans born after the war have mixed feelings about Nazi politics. Their moving incomprehension when faced with the scope of Nazi horrors brought back to light by the broadcasting of the Holocaust series, combines with impatience and less and less dissimulated annoyance with their elders' silent and suppressed guilt. They want neither to accept nor to assume this guilt, which triggers a kind of remote and cold curiosity free of the complexes of a historical period they often know quite inadequately, but with which they cannot avoid being confronted. This is a curiosity for history."

"Condemnation is not enough except for a tiny minority of incorrigibles. It is an open and shut case. But it is necessary to be kept informed and to analyse in order to understand what happened, and especially how it could have happened."

This new type of questioning by our young neighbors does not calm the fears of those who worry about a surreptitious movement toward rehabilitation:

"The overall condemnation of Hitler is not affected by this tendency toward indifference and nonconformity. On the contrary, it makes the charges more convincing. It is not the result of some theory but of an analysis and an evaluation that firstly, erase none of the contradictory aspects, none of the incoherences and none of the apparent breakdowns that punctuate Hitler's life and his public actions and secondly, propose clarifying interpretations of what remains in many aspects fairly enigmatic".

I keep in store "all that remains enigmatic" and recall the title of the article: "To take Hitler seriously."(5) This work, which takes Hitler seriously, does not certainly come from the revisionist school that is home to Faurisson. But it seems to be related to it through its concern for the time that marks the birth of this period in history. This is precisely what is meant by "history will judge." It is because they are confused by the treatment of a past that is ultimately theirs, that so many intellectuals and politicians are up in arms against an evolution that overwhelms them. The temporality of their initiative and that of their surviving or disappeared relatives still reverberates in the collective consciousness long after the dust has settled on their tracks, imperceptible to those caught up in the future. Personally, I am amazed when I gauge the flood of changes since the high time of my participation in what made the news. And the souvenir reduces and distorts.

This digression will not be complete without dealing with another secondary objection: the specificity of the fate of the Jews, and mainly as it unfolded during the Nazi period. Maybe whatever applies to the fate of others does not apply to that of the Jews, because that was a unique phenomenon that the rest of humanity owes to the Jewish people. It must be said here that there is no fate for people or groups of people except as human beings. As for me, my only homeland is the archipelago of friendships and encounters which I have made on several continents, a human being is worth a human being. What they have in common is minor and is not worth much. Only the rich, tangled, juxtaposed and barely transmissible singularities form the fabric of our restless wandering. Speaking from experience, I don't think that there is more glory or misfortune in being Jewish, or Zulu, or Melanesian, or Mnong. I do not like these generalizations that are launched like missiles. It is a shady business to put up any longer with these old wild dreams: You are this, I am that...

It is only through the price of a theological recourse, whether acknowledged or not, that a group can be singled out and assigned a distinctive role. This is how an ideology based on the notion of election predisposes to an affirmation of irreducible specificity. But every group of people is free to play out a theophany made out from an inner view which is not resembling any other. One may choose one or none.

Nobody denies that there is a kind of hesitation, even censorship, in any discussion about the Jews, or some Jews, or Zionism, or Israel, if it has not been in some sort or another authorized. To be listened to, it has to be known, so to speak, where one is coming from. Lacking appropriate sanction, a mark of legitimization, any discourse on this topic is subject to suspicion. It often happens that criticism of Zionism or of the behavior of some Jewish institutions is acceptable if made by a Jew, but is unacceptable if made by a gentile. This is agreed upon by Jews and non-Jews alike. Even the term "Jewish" is avoided in the vocabulary of the left. Authorization to deal with any aspect of Judaism requires an elaborate procedure of guilt deflection. This is done by transferring culpability from the guilty party (Nazis, their followers, and antisemites) to those who are not guilty but who nonetheless must bear the responsibility because they are part of the collectivity that generated the guilty party. The universal reference point is Auschwitz. It is the password, the symbol of redemption. Open any newspaper, any day, and you will find Auschwitz mentioned in relation to anything. It says everything.

And, of course, it says nothing. Suppose, as is usual and customary for me, I begin to question the conventional wisdom, I try to delve into the reality of what had been this dreary expanse. I attempt to understand the structure of what historically had been a gigantic industrial and political enterprise. Suppose that I am tempted to apply the usual methods of reasoning to facts concealed behind the symbol. Would I be a cold monster if I want to continue to think in the face of unbearable horror?

I know that for some things, there are no words. I saw one day in Danang, in Vietnam, some brave G.I.'s line up about two hundred corpses of villagers that had been napalmed the previous night. I was with the Vietnamese crowd, looking at this, and stupefied. The Americans were having fun taking pictures to send home. What is there to say? How to say it? Let these visions disappear in the mist of bygone passions. The painful work of the reasoning process is left to those who want to know the HOW and the WHY. Others may not have the power to separate their painful emotions from a chilling, reasoned analysis: I understand them, respect their peace, and I do not expect to hear from them. In fact, to use a modern phrase, it is necessary to "trivialize," if trivializing means applying the same standards of judgment onto all sorts of events. But the historian invariably shocks the witness because he trivializes the unique experience of someone who has gone through it.

If the aim is to let the young generations know what had happened so that it will "never happen again," it is imperative to present the truth as closely as possible, to rid the deportation image of all the cumbersome myths, and to answer all questions as clearly as possible. This is the respect owed to those who have suffered. Indignation that is not exclusively motivated by the pursuit of the truth -- with all the doubts this entails -- would certainly have a political aspect aiming at the present rather than the past, and would lead to a debate that abuses the suffering of others. For the moment, this political and, like it or not, polemical aspects of the debate run the risk of prevailing. In order to be somewhat methodical, I request that political judgment be suspended for the time being, so that we may wonder if there is the slightest reason to pose the problem of gas chambers in terms of historical facts.


I. -- The Historical Aspect

In my view, there is a very simple reason that nobody will reject: There existed and there still exist basic discrepancies among witness, among deportees, among Nazis brought before Allied courts, and among historians who attempted several syntheses of the history of the deportation, on the subject of the location, the functioning, and even the existence of certain gas chambers.

This is apparent from reading three pages (out of 667) that Olga Wormser-Migot devotes to "the problem of gas chambers" in her thesis on Le Systeme concentrationnaire nazi, 1933-1945. (6) She only discusses Mauthausen and Ravensbrueck. She points out that testimonies contradict each other, that many are crammed with unlikely tales, and that the camp commanders "seem to have added to the horror" (p. 540) during the trial where their "confessions" seemed "very odd" (pp. 543-4). Concerning testimonies about gas chambers at Mauthausen and Oranienburg, she writes, "these assertions seem to us of the order of myth." As for Ravensbrueck, where the gas chamber would have been a "wooden shack," (according to Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier), "it is pointed out that statements about the Ravensbrueck gas chamber date it to February, 1945, which is the arrival date of the Auschwitz evacuees" (p. 544). However, this latter statement is contested.

These passages from a book written by a historian who devoted many years to research had a painful effect on the reputed ethnologist Germaine Tillion, herself deported to Ravensbrueck for resistance activities . From the beginning of her stay at the camp and until after the liberation, she gathered whatever she could about the deportees and the functioning of the camp. Through meticulous work and cautious method, she reconstructed a good part of the history of this women's camp. (7) She shows, for example, that some specific memories were completely false or displaced in time and space. Several cross-checks are necessary in order to establish even a minimal fact. It is quite remarkable that she could prove that there was no doubt about the existence of the gas chamber -- surely none for the camp SS during their trial -- without even giving any indisputable proof, to the point of not showing this gas chamber on a rather detailed map of the camp (pp. 272-3). Reading this grave and moving book makes it perfectly understandable that she could not have imagined to provide proofs of what seemed to her obviously and necessarily true.

Professional historians, however, take the opposite side and consider th is particular Ravensbrueck gas chamber as a myth. This is very disturbing. Looking a little further, we notice that there are testimonies on gas chambers recorded at Nuremberg and elsewhere, that most historians who were hostile to the idea of gas chambers have now discredited. The director of the very official Institut fur Zeitgeschichte of Munich, wrote in 1960 that there was no "massive annihilation of Jews by gas" in the "Old Reich" (Germany) but that there was such an annihilation in the occupied territories of Poland, mainly in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno, and Belzec. (8) I think that this is the consensus of historians. Some will object that this statement does not exclude "nonmassive" gassings of non-Jews, such as at Dachau where, it seems, that the proportion of Jews was small. But a letter from Broszat in response to a previously published article was published under the heading: "Keine Vergasung in Dachau." (No gassing in Dachau.)

If we accept the thesis that gas chambers functioned only in Poland, we have to eliminate them from the Nazi catalogue of infamies where they are mentioned and even attested to, in Dachau, Struthof (in Alsace), Ravensbruck, Mauthausen-Hartheim, (9) and many other places. In the first pages of his remarkable book, Les jours de notre mort, David Rousset talks about a gas chamber at Buchenwald that nobody pretends existed. (10) In the Dachau camp, the authorities had to belatedly add a sign on a supposed gas chamber to specify that it was never used. However, Germaine Tillion cites the report of Mr. Albert Fribourg, the chemical engineer, captain and member of the French military mission in the U.S., who visited Dachau six days after the liberation of the camp in April, 1945 (pp. 249-251). He says that it was used.

What is to be believed? How can the layman extricate himself from all these documents, all convincing at first sight, and whose claims are completely contradictory? Can one trust these "second hand books that require of their authors a great deal of patience, time and merit? For in order not to be lost in this bloody blaze, one has to decipher innumerable and incredibly fastidious documents, the most important of which had been tempered with." (11) What a labyrinth! All the authors admit that these falsifications exist, but they do not agree on their identification. To assess our knowledge of this so near and yet so distant frightening period, we will refer to Leon Poliakov, one of those who did most of the work on this question. In his forward to the 1974 reissue of his classic, "Breviaire de la Haine." (12)

"We notice a surprising state of affairs. On the one hand, the Hitlerian genocide has become one of the great myths of the contemporary world. Even today, it remains inseparable from any ethical or political stand involving the Jews. It is cited in very many different ways by churches, heads of State, Parisian students in revolt, and by moralists and novelists from every country. On the other hand, despite the steady public interest in the history of WWII, despite the Eichmann trial, and despite recent new historical works about Hitler himself, academic and other historians are still indifferent to its most specific aspect, whose mere mention is an insult. Consequently, in the past twenty years, our knowledge about the final solution of the Jewish question has progressed less than that about Saint Bartholomey [massacre of Protestants in 1572 France] or ancient Egypt.

"Why does this reticence of researchers have to complement public oblivion? Would not that be because of a vague sense of guilt that since 1945 has banned antisemitism or hidden beneath other terms? The same fear would make it censor the truth (for the psychologist, a symbol of repression) and advise against knowing what really happened to the Jews or how their executioners functioned, or why they became such. [May I underline this "how" and this "why"?] Such seems to be the link between the unpopularity of the subject and the proscription of the word, if not of the thing. Thus, the tendency not to dwell too much on this "bad side" of history, which was the suffering of the Jews, must be attributed to a reticence and censorship concerning the past."

It is quite surprising to see this same Leon Poliakov -- who seems to hope and pray for new and deeper research free from this "vague sense of guilt" and ready to deal with the how and why -- among the signatories of a Declaration of the Thirty-four, and even one of its promoters. With all due respect for this newly found harmony, a bitter dispute exists among authors who profess very similar principles. These are people whose job is to expose legends, false witnesses and "falsifications" which obscure factual questions. M. Planchais, who writes the cover of the historians' Declaration, says glibly: "Specialists and direct witnesses agree that there were no gas chambers in all the concentration camps, even in those where tourists and pilgrims are told that there were." That is false; either M. Planchais is not informed about the existence of dissensions, or he passes over them in silence.

If the contemporary research trend, ratified by the Thirty-four who ignore the above-mentioned debate, consists in pushing toward the East these symbols of mass murder through a distinction -- which never existed in the German administration -- between "extermination" camps and "concentration" camps (the only term historically testified to), is it then totally illegitimate to want to make sure that documents are not falsified, that witnesses did not make mistakes, that testimonies in court are in good faith? Is it excessive to require first, the order and seriousness necessary in the documentation of a seemingly elusive truth and, secondly, a method to distinguish between the false proofs concerning the existence of gas chambers in camps of the West and those, often of identical origins, concerning camps of the East? How can one be prevented from questioning the mode of operation of the Nuremberg Tribunal (13), whose statutes state that it "will require no proofs of facts of common knowledge, but it will take them for granted." (14) How can one avoid questioning the value of documentation produced by the Soviet side? "After the liberation of Auschwitz, the extraordinary State Commission of the Soviet Union for the Investigation of German Crimes, presided over by General Dimitri J. Koudriavtcev, went to work immediately." (15) In that period, the pinnacle of Stalinism, the best claim to fame for Soviet judges were the Moscow Trials. The same Soviet judges nearly succeeded in passing to the Nazis the responsibility for the massacre of Polish officers at Katyn, whose mass graves were discovered by the advancing German Army. Strangely enough on this point, even well warned people seemed predisposed to trust the Soviets and the Poles, whose well known antisemitism would guarantee their honesty, while the Nazis' antisemitism guaranteed the opposite. Is this serious?

And beyond these questions of act, isn't there ground for a fresh look? According to Paul Veyne: "Any historiography depends, on the one hand, on the problematic it sets out to deal with, and on the other hand, on available documents. And if a historiography is blocked, it is because there is either lack of documents or the problematic is fossilized. But experience shows that fossilization of the problematic always occurs before all the documents are exhausted: even when documentation is poor, there are always questions that we fail to ask." (16)

It seems to me that in the above-cited passage, Poliakov describes a phenomenon similar to a "blocked historiography." (17) We might agree on the -- historical -- reasons for this blockage or rather its immobilization at what it had been in the immediate postwar period, of material as well as ideological reconstruction. We have to talk about the climate of this period, the monopoly claimed by the communists and their fellow travelers on everything that had to do with the war and the Resistance, the terrors and infamies that follow under the cover of purification. Read or reread "De la paille et du grain" and "Lettre aux directeurs de la Resistance" by Jean Paulhan, who was in the Resistance, but who was, above all, a critical mind. (18)

Common mortals believe, as I did for a long time, that we have a vast quantity of documents and verifiable information on the subject of the Nazi extermination policy. "Abundance of proofs" is the title of an article by Georges Wellers, an expert on the subject. (19) Francois Delpech, who simplistically exhibits "The truth about 'the final solution'" (20) talks about the "multiplicity of testimonies, documents, and works of all sorts." This is not the opinion of another expert, Leon Poliakov: "Only the campaign of extermination of the Jews, in its conception and in many of its essential aspects, remains in the dark. Inferences, psychological considerations, and third and fourth hand accounts enable us to reconstitute its development with considerable plausibility. However, some details will remain forever unknown. Regarding the real conception of a plan of total extermination, the three or four main actors committed suicide in 1945. No document remains, maybe ever existed. However boastful and cynical the masters of the Third Reich had been on other occasions, they shrouded their major crime in secrecy." (21) On what other subject will we be satisfied with psychological considerations and third and fourth hand accounts to qualify the reconstitution as plausible? Don't we even see a psychological implausibility in the last quoted sentence? I cannot be satisfied with this kind of assertion. It rests on sand: I do not say that Mr. Poliakov is wrong, or that he is right, but that he gives us all the reasons to consider as hypotheses what he later describes as conclusions. Since we are told that there are no documents, these hypotheses would have to be verified by other means -- however difficult that may be -- if they shed some light on the functioning of the German administrative machine.

However, another school that calls itself revisionist grew on the periphery of official institutions. It is a rather eclectic group whose common trait is the insistence on the fact that part of the image we have of Nazi Germany comes straight from the Allied war propaganda, which was not much more concerned about the truth than was the enemy it was fighting. Yet nobody will deny that this propaganda existed or that it could have had a misleading aspect. The "free world" has gotten us used to its very efficient disinformation campaigns during its imperial wars, the war in Algeria, the C.I.A. in Indochina, etc. Examples can be multiplied ad nauseam. (22) Everybody knows this , but may not be conscious that the effects of such propaganda may not always completely disappear with the event that brought it about. For a long time, I spread the idea that the Algerian war was the cause of one million deaths. Recently, some better informed friends told me that serious research put the number between one third and one half of that which I took, in good faith, from Algerian propaganda. As far as Nazi Germany is concerned, nobody seems to have taken the trouble to separate propaganda, inventions of witnesses, and official fabrications from provable facts. And yet, this work has been done for WWI and may serve as a model.(23)

This is not the place for an in depth discussion of this subject. I am not a historian of Germany, but the problem is that this current is not recognized, its existence is silenced by the press. The Faurisson Affair appears precisely as a sort of breakthrough of the revisionist school, all the more sudden and unexpected as it was suppressed for a long time. One needs to know it a bit in order to understand historian Francois Delpech's critique of it.

"All 'revisionists' use hypercritique, an old polemical method of proven efficiency. It consists in scouring the immense, necessarily unequal literature on Nazi persecution for errors or exaggerations, blowing them out of proportion and then trotting them out indefinitely to throw suspicion on the whole and denying it outright.

"Historians have repeatedly denounced exaggerated critique and consider true or probable any fact attested to by two independent and well informed sources, subject to subsequent verification. They gladly accept and even hope for objections and questioning, provided the questioning is reasonable and based on serious arguments. This is not currently the case in the campaign to spread doubt about the reality of the Holocaust. It is, however, delicate to respond to hypercritique for there is a risk of drowning in the details and losing sight of the overall picture."

In principle, it can be said that the hypercritique method is rarely used because it is unstable and is even, in some ways, contradictory. If it is, according to the dictionary, a "meticulous criticism, a systematic exercise in doubt," there is nothing reprehensible about it. Descartes used it. If what is meant is that criticism is no longer criticism, and doubt is no longer doubt, because to deny the evidence is not a doubt but a certainty, the word has hardly any meaning.

It is amusing to see the naive image of journalistic ethics attributed to historians, with the story of the two independent sources that tie in together. Nobody works in this manner. There are good sources and bad ones, the trick is to size them up, for it is almost impossible to be sure that two sources are independent of each other. But I particularly like the "subject to subsequent verification." Subsequent to what? Isn't that an open door to questioning if, by chance, verification is a long time in coming, or proves to be impossible? Notice also the honesty that consists in hoping for "objections and questioning," based on "serious arguments." One might think that, in his eagerness to dispel any doubt, the historian will show that Faurisson's arguments are not serious, that they do not stand up to the test. But he states emphatically "that is not the case," because in doing that, he would run the risk of "drowning in the details." A good number of his colleagues found themselves unemployed for having made the mistake of going after the details. Thus, the hypercritique turns out to be a very valuable buoy, while the fish is condemned to drowning without the slightest hesitation.

To those concerned with the enormity of the facts and the generality of their presentation, the most incredible problem is the paucity of sources, when the crowd of witnesses who have not seen but who have heard, is removed. It is absolutely frightening to realize that the key document is the set of testimonies given in Allied Courts by the German managers of the camps. Imagine for a moment the situation of these defeated men at the mercy of their jailers, trying to save their skin, engaging in a little game where truths and lies are the basic elements of a survival tactic. Are we supposed to take their depositions at face value? But what is to be taken and what is to be rejected? There is no exhaustive study of the Nazi leaders trials in Germany, Poland, USSR, France, etc. Not everybody can go to the archives, but everybody with a critical mind will shudder while reading the confessions of Ho e ss, one of the Auschwitz commanders. Oddities and incoherences become comprehensible if we keep in mind that he wrote in jail with the help of the Polish examining magistrate before his trial, and at the end of the tunnel, he faced the rope . Here is a little healthy exercise that anybody can do. (24)

Other documents emanate from unwitting or occasional witnesses: the best known are Gerstein, Kremer, Nyiszli, etc. It is not for me to go straight to the point. I would only say that mysteries abound, that they are certainly known to those who based their theses on these testimonies, and that their supporting explanations are, in my view, arguable. So we must be able to discuss them. This is an important part of the debate which has not really taken place.(25)

New elements from documentary sources are rare. Yet, as predicted by the American revisionist, A rthur R. Butz, (26) low level aerial photographs of the Auschwitz complex taken in 1944 are kept in the archives of the American intelligence services. C.I.A. analysts published a series of these photographs that they tried to check against historiographic elements provided by the Polish commissions of inquiry. (27) The negatives are dated April 4, June 26, July 26, and September 25. According to Leon Poliakov, (28) this is the period when the incinerations reached their highest levels: 12,000 to 15,000 per day in May-June, and even 22,000 according to Dr. Robert Levy. (29) The photographs show the areas around the crematoria deserted. No crowd, no visible agitation, not even any activity. We see once a group of inmates near a train, not far from the crematoria. The text states: "Even though survivors remember that smoke and flames came continuously out of the chimneys of crematoria and that they were visible several kilometers away, the photograph that we have examined offers no positive proof thereof." (p. 11) With the Polish text in hand, the two analysts did not evidently think of raising any doubts. They try to locate the items of information they have on the photographs, but curiously enough, the photographs show nothing. Furthermore, it can also be said that they do not confirm what is written about the use of the crematoria. Without being obsessive about hypercritique, one may wish that such contradictions be not left untouched .

If some are satisfied with the available elements, others seem to be convinced that there is still a lot to discover. We learn accidentally from Le Monde that President Carter has appointed a special commission "to assemble documentation on the genocide of the Jews during WW II." It was presided over by Elie Wiesel (formerly deported to Auschwitz). The commission sent a forty-four member delegation to Poland, the USSR and Israel. In Moscow, they met with the former Nuremberg prosecutor, who had bec o me general prosecutor of the USSR: "According to Elie Wiesel, the meeting with Attorney General Roman Rudenko presented the greatest interest, keeping in mind the objective of the visit. In fact, the Soviets hold the richest archives on the extermination camps (their troops liberated Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdaneck, etc.). Up until now, Western researchers had no access to these archives. As a result of these talks, members of the American commission hope that the Soviets will allow them access to these archives."(30) We [in 1979] entertain the same hope.


II. -- The Spirit of the Time

I must share with the reader some convictions I arrived at after a brief reading of this enormous file. One well established and firm opinion is that I doubt whether anything happened the way we are told it did . The version of the extermination history elevated to the rank of a universal principle suffers from very amazing weaknesses. It is based on the somewhat hasty work of the Allied Nuremberg Military Tribunal, which is not exempt from biases. It was taken up by Poliakov and innumerable other books, and from there, taken up again in Francois Delpech's article and the historians' Declaration. It has the appearance of a coherent hypothesis backed by selectively interpreted documents. Care was taken to leave the door open to other interpretations. But this version leaves too many questions unanswered, to be considered definitively acceptable by calm minds.

As far as the rest is concerned, I do not know. Were there gas chambers in Auschwitz and elsewhere? Faurisson and others do not think so. I know their arguments, I know those of the opposite side and I am incapable of reaching a conclusion. For even if we can make sure that it was impossible that event s took place as told by testimonies that are of doubtful value, something else may have happened at a slower rate on a smaller scale. Given the current state of research, I don't see how, in good conscience, I could come to a conclusion. I think it will be the task of the next generation of professional historians.

There were enormous quantities of deportations and deaths whose numbers are only estimates. These are the subject of important disagreements. Due to the certainty that a great majority of Jewish deportees were gassed, no serious research was done on a global scale to find out what became of the deportees after their departure. Even the numbers of deportations are extremely inaccurate. We know, for example, that an official French institute refuses to publish them. As for other countries, it is not even known whether they have been collated. There were maybe isolated gassings, but the question of industrial extermination methods is not dealt with in a way that would answer all the legitimate questions that we have the right to ask about the functioning of any industrial enterprise, in any other context. This is what I have called the how of the why (31). All this converges toward a set of nagging doubts, which includes but is not limited to the question of the existence of gas chambers. If I, as well as others, have the right to know, there better be no obstacles or prior conditions to inquiries that would some day dissipate the " fog " mentioned by Poliakov.

Many of my friends are scared. They tell me that whether we want it or not and with the noblest motivations, raising this kind of question amounts to calling into question the reality of the genocide, giving arguments to antisemites, and helping the Right. And those concerned about my well-being warn that I will be considered an antisemite.

In fact, these are heavy responsibilities and serious risks, if my friends are right. What can be done to avoid rumors or distortions, due sometimes to sincere indignation, sometimes to treachery with mixed feelings? I am not someone who resorts to courts. I would not want to fight. I am above engaging in an exchange of insults. I have no protection other than the common sense of others, the conviction that a misunderstanding can be cleared up with a little bit of good will, and especially, the assurance that it is possible to withstand disagreements, even with one's best friends. After all, there aren't many people of my political generation with whom I can always agree on everything. This is not very personal, but my writings speak for me (32). I also reject the idea that one can give arguments to the antisemites: these people don't need them. They have behind them a solid tradition of falsehoods, lies and slander. That is enough.

As for helping the Right, this is an objection worth examining. First of all, it is only an indirect aid. When the Faurisson Affair was in the headlines, Giscardian ministers and deputies were among the most aggressive. On the other side, all those who were at one time or another Gaullists probably consider that the present political legitimacy has its roots in the Liberation, when all guilt was dumped on Germany. It is not clear how they would react to an eventual revision. Farther right, there is a Petainist fringe that also accuses Germany of all kinds of sins, so as to highlight the benevolence of its Maréchal . There remains the fascist right and the conglomeration of what is called the "new right." I shall leave it to others to find out whether its instigators are wolves disguised as lambs, or simply some loosely regrouped old fascists. It seems that some of its roots go back to Hitlerism, but that its only chances of political success reside in a modernism that prevents it from appearing as a continuation of Nazism. Like the generals who are always ready to fight the last war, antifascism confronts only an extinct danger. What else is left? The veterans of Charlemagne division? A few admirers of the Fuehrer? They have no political significance. No aid can prevent these ghosts from finally disintegrat e .

So the crux of the matter is that removing a major crime from the Nazi catalogue of atrocities is equivalent to rehabilitating the Third Reich or "banalizing" it, making it comparable to other political regimes. This proceeds from the assumption that those who question the existence of gas chambers intend to question all other better attested to and known horrors. This is only polemical. All those who want to fight the brown plague have to decide on an effective method: either gather a huge number of horror stories and run the risk of exaggerations and even inventions, or determine a set of irrefutable truths that may be less striking to the imagination but that nobody can doubt.

I was surprised to find nowhere in the literature something I had heard thousands of times: the soap made from Jewish corpses. Yet, those bars of soap were seen. I was greatly relieved to find out that those repugnant objects are just as mythical as the nails on the cross, the hairs of the Prophet's beard, and the tooth of Buddha.

E. Le Roy Ladurie, one of the thirty-four signatories of the historians' Declaration, took up the figure of 17 million victims imputed to Stalin by a dissident Soviet demographer. It was a relief to learn that he discounted unreliable and unbelievable figures, such as those of Soljhenitsyn (60 million). By limiting the phenomenon to more realistic parameters, he makes it intelligible and thus lays a more probable foundation for a moral and political evaluation. It seems to me that nobody accused Le Roy Ladurie of wanting to "banalize" or rehabilitate Stalinism. It is rather known that he has recovered from it. On the contrary, what is involved here is the introduction of an indisputable piece of evidence in a case that has still to be made, for it was obstructed by Khruchev's successors.

Double standard? I don't think so. The difference is that Le Roy Ladurie was expected to repeat the Soljhenitsyn pattern and add to the Soviet dissident figures. The fact that he reduced the current estimates was perceived as a proof of his concern for the truth. However, the revisionists' assertions concerning the gas chambers and the corresponding reduction in the number of deportation victims, are not generally attributed to a concern for the truth. They are assumed to be simple instruments, using documentation gaps in bad faith or exploiting the conjectural character of the generally advanced figures. (It is well known that the 6 million figure is a totally unscientific estimate, and it is disputed among advocates of the same historical tendency. Using an identical method, they arrive at appreciably higher and appreciably lower estimates. There is no reason to say, as some do, that we will never know, unless all the archives have been searched. This is far from being the case.) They are not trusted because lowering the number of victims seems to be politically advantageous to them, while the same thing seems to be a political liability for the Soviet dissident. It seems to me that this is unquestionable, if it concerns the right wing trying secretly to undermine the almost universal moral condemnation of Nazism. It is not only possible but even probable that some individuals or groups engage in this type of duplicity. Some revisionist writers (I have already mentioned that this "school" is heterogeneous) are ideologically Nazi. Others are not. But this is a secondary question if we make sure that the requirements of political profitability do not coincide with those of the truth of facts. To wrap up with this example, I would say that, obviously, Le Roy Ladurie does not have the means to verify by himself the Soviet demographer's figures, and he does not claim that he does. He only states them with the probability that they may be true, for neither he nor the dissident uses them to his own advantage. But as to the content, it is impossible to know if what is said is true. That we will change the current estimate and adopt that proposed by Le Roy Ladurie is obviously vague, because of the political advantage criterion of its author. But in the meantime, we will accept this figure only provisionally. However, we cannot rule out any statement unless we are sure that it is not motivated by political interest. This would amount to rejecting any statement that reenforces an established viewpoint. Reality is much too ambiguous without insisting on the fact that it is not always possible to measure how much other people understand their own political interest. In post-independence Algeria, I had some curious conversations with people who did not understand my severe criticism of De Gaulle's policies. To them, a Frenchman whose political interest was on the side of Algerian independence was a reprehensible traitor to France. He was to be condemned, just like traitors to Algeria.

Propaganda arouses counter-propaganda and we lose our soul (now called credibility) in committing ourselves to the former or the latter in the name of an interest that is by nature changing. For some, myself included, truth is the only weapon that cannot be turned against whoever uses it. Whether or not political interest happens to coincide with it is a matter of circumstances, choice and political ethics.

Some political myths are like snowballs: the more they roll, the bigger they get. We have a fresh example right in front of our eyes. Having closely followed the situation in Cambodia for about ten years, I thought I was qualified to write the following: "The figure of two million dead appeared around the beginning of 1977 in the rightist American press. If we examine the facts on which this is based, we realize that this is a total fabrication. The two million figure put out by the American press was taken up by Hanoi's propaganda and suddenly, without any explanation, jumped to three million, and went straight out to the Western press ( Antenne 2, Le Monde), which is usually not in such a hurry to repeat whatever Hanoi says. A myth is effective when it suits everybody."(33) And I added: "It does not seem unreasonable to say that since 1975, there were one million dead, maybe less, maybe more." I challenge the validity of all the Lacoutures and their absurd invention of "autogenocide," all the Andre Fontaine, who says that the three million figure is accepted by everybody, by prince Sihanouk, by the communist newspapers, etc. The next day, there was a small dispatch from A.F.P. in Le Monde at the bottom of the page, originating from those who possess the most ample means for information gathering: "According to the American State Department estimates, 1.2 million Cambodians have died from war and famine since 1975, which reduces the population of Kampuchea to about 5.7 million people." (34)

This simplistic estimate had no chance of making the headline of newspapers, despite the fact that it was the best in the eyes of some experts of the situation in Cambodia. It does not obviously affect any judgement that we can pass on such political regimes. One might think that it would put an end to inflation by the media. A few days later, on October 11, an Antenne 2 commentary in "Speciale Cambodge" stated that "two years ago, there were eight million Cambodians; there are 4 million today" without even noticing that this means there were no deaths prior to 1977. The next day, J.- M. Cavada beat s the record on FR 3 by stating that there were 3 million Cambodians left out of 7 million. For Liberation of the next day, there were 2 million left. For myself, who has spent months to obtain and scrutinize documents, to analyse interviews and try to painfully reconstruct barely intelligible facts, who knew the country, the people and the gravity of the situation, I was made to feel like an idiot bombarded by these outrageous figures. And if I protested in the name of what I believed to be the truth, I was regarded with suspicion: could it be that he has a hidden sympathies for Pol Pot?

Do we want a current example? Some little devils start the noise: "Bokassa cannibalistic." A careful reading of a few good newspapers quickly reveals that it is a canard. Never mind, the myth is launched: a smoke screen that will later serve to justify a French military intervention in the Central African Republic. Public opinion, especially African, had to be anesthetized.

The mechanism of all of this is very simple: add some more, spice it up with some details that are all the more true, that they could not have been thought up spontaneously. The Hitlerians excelled at this little game, but the communists and the western democracies are just as good at it. If the intellectuals have some responsibilities in this world, it is deconstruction and not reinforcement. A painful, often unpleasant, and sometimes impossible search for the truth will not help political forces which base their domination on ignorance and lies. And if there are some unpleasant truths to be discovered in the history of the forties, would it be preferable that the Right should take credit for it and use it as a weapon, or the Left? And if there is nothing to be found, if we drain the abscess, and if we come up with more or less the same currently accepted conclusions, what would we have lost?

Many will finally agree with what has just been said. They will raise a last objection that they deem unacceptable: Now is not the time to pose this kind of problem; antisemitism raises its ugly head. Look at all the books that appear, the pamphlets, the attacks. My answer would be to stay calm, that no more things are happening now than in the past. That a certain unease is surfacing in the Jewish community is possible, but unease is surfacing everywhere. The idea of antisemitism has constantly been taken up since the war: there has never been a period when it is said that it declined. So it is a false idea, a matter of perspective. If we have to wait until it disappears, then we have to postpone indefinitely. We must not have illusions: the question of the existence of gas chambers was already asked twenty years ago, the question will still be whether we deal with it or not. Articles and books pile up and the only answer we get is that the question does not exist. In Germany, they are banned and their writers are punished. This is a very shortsighted tactic which does not augur well. There should not be repression in this affair. Yet this is exactly what a part of the Left thought had to be done. Besides, I have the following propositions:

1) Stop all proceedings against Faurisson (and others). The courts are in no position to solve anything. Furthermore, I do not find it honorable to attack a lone man under the pretext of his shocking opinions. It is not only too easy but stupid to hide behind the law. I am thinking of laws that the Popular Front enacted in order to suppress fascist propaganda, and that the Right made use of during the Algerian war, and even now against those who criticize or simply embarrass its policies (for example, the Alata Affair, the Mongo Beti Affair, etc. Books are banned because they characterize as dictatorships African states that are "friends" of France);

2) Open a debate of historical technique. Undoubtedly, this has to start with the examination of Faurisson's arguments and those of revisionists, without hesitating to "be drowned in the details." It's the details that count. It would be desirable that a group of historians agree to get down to do this job. The place and format of the debate would be left to those who would want to participate;

3) Provide the means to widen the sources. Technical expert advice should be sought. In addition to this, there are archives that have not yet been explored, in particular, the German archives, that need to be inventoried in the United States, France, and, first and foremost, in the Soviet Union. It may be useful for governmental agencies to negotiate access with the Soviets in return for some coveted advantages;

4) Make the results of this research widely known but avoid giving them the character of official truth. It is important that these affairs remain in the hands of honest people, which means the noninterference of politicians, unionists and religious officials, etc.

I do not know if I am asking too much. It seems to me that this is the least that needs to be done.

October 14, 1979


(1) Text subpoenaed by L.I.C.A.

(2) La politique hitlerienne d'extermination: une declaration d'historiens, Le Monde, February 21, 1979.

(3) This term literally means "Sacrifice by fire offered by the Jews." The subsequent reversal of the meaning is based on a theological perspective.

(4) See the series of Gilbert Comte in Le Monde, May 29 and 30, 1979.

(5) Le Monde dimanche, October 7, 1979. Report by Erhard Friedberg of Sebastien Haffner's book, Anmerkungen zu Hitler, Munich, Kindler, 1978.

(6) P.U.F., Paris 1968, cf. pp. 541-4.

(7)Ravensbruck, Le Seuil, Paris 1973, 284 pp.

(8)Die Zeit, August 9, 1969.

(9) See reply of Serge Choumoff to O. Wormser-Migot in Le Monde of June 7, 1969 and also in a pamphlet, Les Chambres a gaz de Mauthausen, 96 pp., published in 1972 by l'Amicale des deportes de Mauthausen.

(10) Paris, Ed. du Pavois, 1947, 786 pp. Cf. p. 57. For this one, see the cited book of Germaine Tillion, p. 263. I am told that this book is a novel, which put in the same location, actions that in reality took place in several locations. Very well. But then this composite location should not have been called Buchenwald. It is a useless confusion.

(11) Germaine Tillion, op. cit., p. 7.

(12) Le livre de poche, 1974, pp. 12-13 (first ed. 1951).

(13) "Nuremberg had one defect: it was set up by the victors who judged the vanquished," said Jean-Paul Sartre in a report about the deliberations of the Russell Tribunal, Le Monde, May 10, 1975.
(14) Art. 19 and 21 of the statutes of the Allied Military Tribunal.

(15) Legend of a photograph inserted on pages 176 and 177 of Auschwitz, French ed., Interpress, Warsaw, 1978.

(16) L'Inventaire des differences, Le Seuil, 1976, p. 14.

(17) For a more general discussion, see Pierre Aycoberry, La Question nazie, les interpretations du national-socialisme, 1922-1975, Le Seuil, Points-Histoire, Paris 1979, 317 pp.

(18) Gallimard, Paris 1948 for De la paille et du grain, Editions de Minuit, Paris 1952; reissued by J.J. Pauvert, Paris, 1968 for Lettre aux directeurs de la Resistance.

(19)Le Monde, December 29, 1978.

(20) Le Monde, March 8, 1979.

(21)Breviaire de la Haine, p. 171, Calmann-Levy, Paris. This book has certainly been written in 1951, but in its preface of 1974, the author realizes that there has been nothing new in a quarter of a century and that "serious works are equally lacking on questions of detail," pp. 11-12.

(22) See the file assembled by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Hermann, The Political Economy of Human Rights, 2 volumes,South End Press, Boston, 1979.

(23) Jean Norton Cru, Temoins, 1929; Du Temoignage,1930. This latter text has been partially reissued by J.J. Pauvert in 1967. Cf. Marie Bonaparte, Mythes de guerre, P.U.F., 1950, 182 pp.

(24) Rudolf Hoess, Le Commandant d'Auschwitz parle..., Julliard, Paris, 1959, reissued by Petite Collection Maspero, Paris 1979, 290 pp.

(25) See the somewhat embarrassed little note of Leon Poliakov and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, "A propos du temoignage sur Kurt Gerstein," (should it be read "of" K. Gerstein?), Le Monde, March 8, 1979.

(26)The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Historical Review Press, Southam, 1976, p. 150.

(27) Dino A. Brugioni and Robert G. Poirier, The Holocaust Revisited: A Retrospective Analysis of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex, Central Intelligence Agency, National Technical Information Service, Washington, 1979, 19 pp.

(28) Op. cit., p. 304.

(29) In Temoignages strasbourgeois, Paris 1947, p. 433, quoted by Poliakov. On the same page, Poliakov states that according to a Polish source, the capacity of the crematories was 12,000 per day, and quotes Hoess who mentions a maximum capacity of 4,000. There is no comment on the complete incoherence of all these figures; it is as though he is not aware of any. It is up to the reader to manage.

(30) Le Monde, August 8, 1979.

(31) As pointed out by Faurisson, no court has ever ordered a technical report on the gas chambers. It does not seem either that an opinion has ever been solicited from engineers or chemists on the complex functioning of "crematories-gas chambers" and their technical constraints. The use of cyanide gas as a disinfectant is rather well known; there are directions on its use in several armies and civilian administrations since well before the Second World War.

(32) In order to satisfy some malcontents, I may have to parade some medals and drone on about some titles. So, I refer to two titles, Le Pouvoir pale, Seuil, Paris 1969, an essai on South Africa, and Des courtisans aux partisans, Gallimard, Paris 1971, an essai on the Cambodian crisis; and to articles in Le Monde, le Monde Dilomatique, Liberation, les Temps modernes, Aletheia, Esprit, and others in France and abroad. The list is available for the inquisitive minds.[See The <Archive Serge Thion> in progress at: <>]

(33) Liberation, October 4, 1979.

(34) October 6, 1979.


This text is the first part of the unpublished English translation of Verite historique ou verite politique / Le dossier de l'affaire Faurisson / La question des chambres à gaz, published in Paris in April 1980 by the publishing house La Vieille Taupe (= the Old Mole). ISBN 2-903279-02-0. Copyright © 1978 by La Vieille Taupe. The book is still on sale and may be ordered from the publisher, BP 98-05, 75224 Paris cedex 05, France. We believe it costs 150 F (around 30-35 US$)

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