The war ended in 1945. Rassinier wrote
in the fifties and sixties. We are in the eighties. Perspectives
have changed. Nobody thinks any longer that the world war was
to give birth to universal peace. All the great powers are actively
preparing for the next, which promises to be bloodier. While the
image of Nazism became darker, the horror grew and proliferated
in colonial wars, particularly ours, but also those of the British,
the Portuguese, the Americans. We have seen Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia,
Cyprus, Biafra, Rhodesia, Bangladesh, the Horn of Africa, Timor,
the convoy of bloody dictatorships blessed on all continents,
the flourishing of apartheid, Budapest and Poznan in 1956, the
almost immediate halt of destalinization, the supposed cultural
revolution in China, the massacres of Pol Pot, the famines of
the Sahil and elsewhere, largely provoked by the extension of
our modes of production and the irruption of wages in the most
backward corners of the planet. We are a few who have not lived
through the Spanish War and the resistance, and for a good reason,
but we were to be sent to Algeria to do exactly what the Germans
did in Europe: to occupy it. We refused.
We had to know what was going on there and elsewhere. Like a few others, I wanted to stick my nose in some of these witches brew: From Panmunjon to Johannesburg, from Beirut to Phnom Penh, from Dacca to Mogadisco, from Amman to Saigon, from Maputo to Borneo, from Algier to Luang Prabang, passing, as one has to, through Moscow, Tokyo and Washington. Everywhere cops, torturers, concentration camps, official lies, psychological and heavy artillery wars, stifling bureaucracies and occasional massacres. A lot of horror and sadness. And life, survival, which ends up everywhere to be that of the stronger.
Travel broadens the mind. We have been enlightened. There is nothing more to learn about human nature, about savagery in all its forms, including the state capitalism of bureaucracies called socialist. How can one put Nazism on one side, make it a phenomenon with no precedent or sequel without being restricted to a metaphysical view of politics? Such metaphysics may be anchored in a dogmatism such as Judaism, whose history is made out to be the relationship of the Jewish "people" with a terrible divinity who elects or punishes them. The line often drawn between all forms of tyranny and Nazism proceeds from the idea that the persecution of Jews is a completely specific and unique phenomenon. This specificity of the victim would thus be implicitly reflected on the executioner. This affirmation is refuted by the facts. On the one hand, many other categories of human beings were perceived and treated by the Nazis as inferior: Slavs, gypsies, blacks, orientals, etc. There were Buddhist victims, too, at Auschwitz. . . . On the other hand, the treatment of minorities (religious, cultural, linguistic) by totalitarian tyrannies varies but often leads to their more or less complete destruction as entities: Armenians, Kurds, Tatars of Crimea, Germans of the Volga, Chams of Cambodia, not to mention innumerable small peoples who have disappeared during the last two or three centuries during the inauguration period of the modern states. They could be drawn up in a list that would occupy several pages and would send readers to their dictionaries, which they would doubtless find fairly incomplete, so much so that these peoples have disappeared from memory. See, for a single example, the article Guanche. The systematic extermination, by hand, of these Berber speaking natives of the Canary Islands, prelude to that of the Arawaks and the Caribs, inaugurates the era of grand navigations and colonial expansion(1). Who mourns today the tragic fate of the Guanche?
Auschwitz is only a stage; not long ago, the Indonesian army "was methodically slaughtering the insurgent population of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor that it had invaded: half of the population, estimated at about 360,000 people, rotted in concentration camps. Since 1975, military operations caused over 100,000 deaths, almost all civilians."(2) The weapons are, of course, supplied to Indonesia by the Americans and, incidentally, with full knowledge of the facts, by France (heavy helicopters). I look in the press, I search the publications of the Jewish community, the dispatches from Israel: not a word on this genocide. A new shame for the West. Is it cruel to have to say to the massacred people of Timor that it is their fault not to have been Jewish? This is precisely what the specificity of Nazism is used for: closed eyes and deafened ears on the product of the same inhuman inspiration, of the same contempt for the other, because this voluntary silence and blindness bring the West political, diplomatic, economic, military and oil dividends. It is better to get thick with the junta in power in Jakarta, already responsible for at least 500,000 political assassinations in 1965-66 (communists . . . ), some anti-Chinese pogroms, thousands of deaths in its own ill- acquired province of New Guinea (Irian Barat), and an attempted genocide in Timor, because this pays. And the lukewarm Muslim Suharto does not give antisemitic speeches. Mr. Claude Cheysson, ambassador in Jakarta, covered in his 1969 dispatches the travesty of a referendum used by the Indonesians to take over Irian. I was going through there and I read them. . . . I am telling you: a shame.
I feel that I could write thousands of pages detailing the swindles, expropriations, massacres and tortures of all sorts of political regimes, and, in particular, of the French government (these pages are, in fact, already written, they can be read in existing books), and yet some people do not see what all this has to do with Nazism. Based on facts, I could spend hours showing them that religious or cultural minorities, more or less immigrant, more or less dealing in commerce, like the Chinese in South-East Asia, the Greek or the Lebanese in Africa, the Indians in the East or South of Africa, have at times been subjected to persecutions very similar to those that befell the Jewish communities of Europe during the 1930's and 1940's. They would say that it is not the same thing.
I could then limit the problem, deal strictly with Nazi behavior in the occupied territories, mention that they detained and deported huge quantities of diverse peoples, political and religious opponents, military and civilians, Russians, Poles and Yugoslavs, that the Jews, as such, were doubtless a minority (but we are far from having precise figures); that the same holds for the Sonderkommandos, the commandos chasing partisans in Soviet territories.
They will dismiss everything, no comparison of the present, no matter how sinister, or of other victims of Nazism with the fate of the Jews. The dividing line is the gas chamber. This is the blind spot at the center of all evaluations, of all judgments. That is why it is absolutely inevitable that the question of the historical status of this homicidal device be investigated at some point in time. The history of the guillotine is known. I had a close up look at a model of it in a museum in Saigon. It is a legitimate subject of historical and philosophical reflection. Why would it not be the same for the gas chamber?
The writing of Verite historique ou verite politique ? (Historical Truth or Political Truth ?) was completed in 1979. The book was released at the end of April, 1980. During the winter, Nadine Fresco took advantage of my absence and, using a ploy, got a hold of a copy of the manuscript, and circulated it among the beacons of thought at le Nouvel Observateur and les Temps Modernes. Two months prior to the release of the book, I was denounced in a "Warning to readers" of the March 1980 issue of les Temps Modernes:
In our January issue, devoted to Indochina, we have published two articles by Serge Thion, a former occasional contributor to the magazine. The issue had just come out when we learned that concerning the extermination of the Jews, the same Thion defends the sinister views of Faurisson, who denies, as we know, the reality of the extermination of the Jews and the existence of gas chambers. This obviously leads us to warn our readers that they should have reservations concerning the information given by Thion about Indochina.
The truth is that the editorial committee even though ignorant at the time of Thion's position on the Jewish question was widely divided as to the appropriateness to publish at least one of his articles (Despote a vendre) and that this was done only after some wrangling.
This was a surprise to our good faith: Les Temps Modernes have never knowingly been a platform for antisemites of either the right or the left or for falsifiers. As an editor of the magazine, I insist on warning the readers and apologizing to them.
The tone was set. If I dwell for a moment on this text, it is because it already contains the impulse behind the reactions to the Faurisson affair. As the reading of the 1980 book makes clear, what seems to me the most interesting is that these reactions shed a light on the ideological cage we live in. First of all, we have to realize that this text was not written by Sartre. Blind, sick, exhausted and in agony, Sartre died three weeks later. Had he even given his verbal approval of this text? It is not known. Hiding behind Sartre's signature was the intrepid Claude Lanzmann, one of the stars of the Parisian Holocaust hysteria(3). As a contribution to the ethnography of the Parisian intelligentsia, I would like to expand here on the circumstances which preceded the elaboration of this ridiculous excommunication bubble .
THROUGH THE SARTRIAN HAZINESS
"The future will refute many of my affirmations"
In March of 1979, I was approached by one of those young individuals that the Sartrian old guard recruited from time to time to the staff of les Temps Modernes in order to inject some new blood and mainly to find a work force likely to fill its pages. It has been known for ages that the old guard no longer wrote almost anything. So I met a certain Rigoulot, the exact opposite of his namesake, the one who in my youth filled the newspapers that depicted him as "the strongest man in the world."
It was about a special issue on Indochina. Anybody could and still can write in les Temps Modernes. The proof: haven't I myself done it several times(5)? There or elsewhere, the thing seemed to me possible and I proposed to gather some articles from people who were friends and competent, neither of which qualifications applied to the individual who approached me. In no time, I collected some contributions and passed them on to Rigoulot and they were to fill 120 out of 220 pages of that issue. Among them was a translation of an excellent text by Michael Vickery, an American historian of Cambodia, who, having lived in the country in the fifties sixties, gave an analysis of the internal politics of this era and blamed the Sihanouk authoritarian rule for a good part of the responsibility for the failure that degenerated into catastrophe.
The manufacturing of the issue dragged on for months. During this time, I was working on the Faurisson affair. Toward the end of November 1979, I was summoned by Jean Pouillon and Claude Lanzmann, the guardians of the sepulcher. It seems that the "Beaver," meaning Simone de Beauvoir, had read the Vickery article after six months and did not like it. Pouillon and Lanzmann had to convince me to pull it out. As they were too cowardly to engage in a discussion about the content of the article on a subject rather exotic for them but who were reluctant to criticize Prince Sihanouk, at a time when the Socialist Party, aligning itself with Washington and Peking, was supporting him, they at one time pleaded that the Vickery article was badly written, and at another time said that the translation was bad. All this doesn't hold water. I finally accepted to pull out the Vickery article on the condition that I could replace it with another, expressing an identical point of view but "well written." As there remained four days to put the paper to bed, the two accomplices thought that their trick had worked. But in three days, I dashed off an article called "Despote a vendre" (a despot for sale), which was not devoid of some alacrity(6). Since it would have been ridiculous for the editors to intervene in questions of interpretation of the history of Cambodia, and since they had given me their approval, the article was published. That was the "wrangling."
The issue contained, in addition, some mediocre articles, one of which was about the "guerre des gaz" (gas war) in Laos, a vulgar byproduct of American propaganda. I followed closely this affair of "yellow rain" and I can easily dismantle this story. On the Cambodian border, I personally asked American civilians sent into the Khmer Rouge zone by a CIA agent, and a physician at the American Embassy in Bangkok (and later in Moscow), to find with the help of Khmer Rouge cadres, samples of mycotoxins, the last incarnation of the myths of biological warfare. On the scientific level, it was a real farce, and American labs in charge of the analysis have, in general, refused to lend their support to what is obviously a poor disinformation campaign. The aim of the operation was to prepare American public opinion for the resumption of production of biological weapons, the new composite gases called "binary." After that, nobody heard anything anymore about this famous "yellow rain." It is not surprising that the idiots of les Temps Modernes fell for it(7).
My introduction to the Faurisson affair, the "How of the Why," was circulating since the month of September. Many people around les Temps Modernes and even a number of the editors knew of it. I obviously had nothing to hide and I was circulating the text in order to elicit reactions to it. These people carefully hushed up the existence of my text to Lanzmann, who had been busy for years in the fabrication of his film, Shoah. I even invited them to look at my text, knowing that the explosive violence of Lanzmann might sooner or later compromise the publication of the text on Indochina. This seemed to me quite appropriate and with no direct relation with the former text.
The Indochinese issue having come out and the manuscript on the Faurisson affair being in the printer's hands, I took off for other lands to take care of other business. However, the exuberant Nadine Fresco, afflicted by the double disgrace of being one of my friends at the same time as of those of Lanzmann, and of many other disreputable people, went to Edgar Morin to whom I had given a manuscript of the book for his personal edification. He took hold of it and carried it straight to les Temps Modernes . I can imagine the scene.
So it was under the palm trees of the island of Tahiti that I received a billet-doux, warning me that I was no longer welcome in the Sartrian sanctuary. Possessed by a tropical lyricism, I answered the five lines with a definitely longer letter on March 3, 1980:
It was with great surprise that I received your brief memo dated February 21, stating: The board of directors of the magazine no longer welcomes your presence in its offices," with a stamp and illegible signature.
I don't believe, for the life of me having spent a lot of time in these editorial offices, except recently on the occasion of a special issue on Indochina, due to the enormous delays understandable only if one realizes that it takes at least six months for some editors to read a manuscript. It would be an understatement to tell you, since I have the opportunity to do it, that I was disappointed by the weak general level of this issue and the whining incoherence of the short introduction. And I skip the little treacheries hurled at my two articles. Should I believe that you are so ashamed of your mediocre exploit that you wish to disappear from my sight? Unfortunately, you don't have a reputation for such humility.
To my knowledge, I have no other business with les Temps Modernes . I would've certainly rushed to the magazine offices to find out the reasons for this farcical ostracism, had I not presently had some business on the other side of the world. Here I ponder on a sequel to "Supplement au Voyage de M. de Bougainville ."
As the local proverb says, 'o tei tapo'i te rira ra, 'e vaha ha'avare tona ' (he has deceiving lips, he who spreads hate)(8). In fact, highly indicative or not indicative enough of the editorial committee's decree. If I am reproached for something, the most elementary honesty would have been to mention it. But if you think that an anonymous excommunication is quiet enough so that no word of it would get out, you have picked the wrong person.
Let us talk clearly, if that is at all possible. I have written several critical and even polemical short articles during the past few months. I posed some questions on several aspects of contemporary political history that, rightly or wrongly, I think should be considered. The point being to wonder whether the formulation of judgment should be based on facts. I have no doubt that they may sometimes be annoying, but after all, the main role of any criticism is to annoy the "sleeping dogmas." If les Temps Modernes has any comments on this issue, I will be glad to read them. On the other hand, if the magazine chooses to bury its head in the sand, it may be desirable to bring into the open its incapacity to intervene in an already ongoing debate.
I ended my letter with a remark that
if the magazine published a list of the board of directors, nowhere
was there a mention of a "board of directors." This
phantom institution was a thin cover for Lanzmann alone, as will
be shown later.
Issue 404 of March, 1980 ended with the above mentioned "warning to readers" on p. 1765. Sartre passed away a few days later. At the time that he was supposed to have written and signed the last page of this copious work, he was, as we know, blind and very ill. It was physically impossible for him to have written this text. It is therefore highly unlikely that it was written by other than the fanatic Lanzmann, the only one for whom my book came as a direct shock affecting the fabrication of his film. He would delay its release for several years. Lanzmann had to get around the questions raised by Faurisson's work by finally resigning himself to avoid any presentation or analysis of historical documents, with the exception of a rather fragmentary one. He restricted himself to more or less rigged interviews. Nadine Fresco, who had stolen my manuscript and who, in order to soothe her own anxieties, had written a piece that Lanzmann published in les Temps Modernes of June 1980, under the incredibly macabre heading of "Les redresseurs des morts " (the justifiers of death), was not completely forgiven for her compromising friendships: her name is no longer on the credits of Shoah in spite of her personal contribution to the filming in Poland and elsewhere. She takes her revenge in publishing, from time to time, some empty texts(9), by pretending to be a "historian," while she is a professional psychologist. What trifles!
La Vieille Taupe published the text signed by Sartre with the title, "Le Testament politique du roi des cons " (The Political Testament of the King of Idiots).
Back in Paris, I sent this to Jean Pouillon on May 14, 1980:
I understand political attacks coming from adversaries in panic. I am not surprised that they include excesses and untruths. Of course, I deplore that they reach to the point of slander.
But you could have acted in such a way as to prevent its use to propagate a lie. My article, "despote a Vendre " (despot for sale) was not published due to wrangling, but as a result of a verbal agreement with you in the presence of Rigoulot, Lanzmann and Etcherelli. The fact that the editors were divided changes nothing. It is you, who took it upon yourself that if Vickery's article were rejected by Simone de Beauvoir, my text would essentially say the same thing. (It was rather Lanzmann who substituted for Beauvoir.)
You promised, too, to write to Vickery to explain the thing to him. You failed to keep your promise. Vickery tells me that he likes my article and that he received no word from you.
Not only did the brave Pouillon publish
no correction, but another publication, L'Homme , an anthropology
magazine, for which he is something like a general secretary,
and which used to regularly solicit some South African ethnology
articles from me, ceased to do so(10). Knowledgeable people about
South Africa are not legion, but little acts of clannish revenge
are more important than other things.
At the same time, I wrote a "Reply to les Temps Modernes ," which I started by saying that readers of the magazine had the right to know that Lanzmann was hiding behind Sartre:
I am far from sharing Mr. Lanzmann's opinions (T.M. No. 395) on the "Holocaust." I maintain that this event and this period are much less known than it seems, and that a historical and critical approach is absolutely necessary. This history is currently shielded with taboos which seem to me to be harmful to everybody.
In defense of his ideas, Mr. Lanzmann does not hesitate to distort the truth. It is not true to say that I "defend" Faurisson's theses; I maintain that they deserve to be examined and that historians must answer Faurisson, and not ignore or insult him. Besides, I never took any "position," in writing, on the "Jewish question," but I would, if I were asked to do it. Moreover, readers are cautioned to "approach with reservation" my articles on Indochina, and I am blamed for the negligence of editors who do not read the articles they publish on subjects that they clearly do not know.
In the end, it is more of a hindrance than a help: the good old big slander that will terrorize and reduce the victim to silence: "Come on, antisemite!" Lanzmann is quite funny.
This inextricable mixture of half-truths and half-lies, livened up with threats against heretics, has covered with sediment the atrocious events of the Hitlerian period. Lanzmann's panic intimidation attempts to justify all suspicions.
Needless to say that this reply was not published. Like a fool, I still believed that the right to reply existed. The proof is that, following the June article of the refreshing Fresco, I still wrote a word, the last, on 10 July, to Mme. de Beauvoir:
Les Temps Modernes , of which you are henceforth the chief executive officer, has not published my reply to the harmful attacks against me in the March issue, despite the unambiguous legal and moral obligation in this regard.
Your June issue contains a long article, of a remarkably uplifting spirit, which turns in a strangely playful mode around a book I recently published.
This, in turn, put me under the obligation as well as the duty to rectify the distortion of my views. . . .
Wasted effort. I still lacked experience
on the subject of slander. It was a novelty for me. I had a hard
time understanding that that could come from people who knew me
well and for a long time. I soon got a good lesson, thanks to
Nouvel Observateur , many of whose contributors entertained
quasi filial ties with Sartre and his entourage.
The first issue of this Observateur was new because it was taken over by a team of journalists from L'Express, with the financial help of a bidet manufacturer. They threw out the few leftist journalists who had transformed it from a militant weekly during the dark Algerian period into a respectable paper. The first issue was placed under the emblematic figure of Sartre, who fascinated the post war generation that faithfully followed the political transgressions of the one who inspired Celine's immortal article, "L'Agite du bocal " (Agitated Head). (Recall that this extremely violent short text was a reaction to blatant slander by Sartre, who claimed that Celine was paid by the Germans.)
It is hard to imagine, after a long time, the degree of shaky love and shady maneuvers among the entourage of the most famous couple of the French intelligentsia. We also have to recall the stream of exclusions and excommunications pronounced by the one who only cafe waiters had the right to call "master" and his entourage who were unable to form a group intent on terrorizing such self righteous people as the surrealists of that time. I knew one of them, Marcel Peju. Acquisitions, like exclusions of the entourage, were really done over the head of the client and for reasons that were not at all philosophical. Thus, one of the obscure editors of France-Dimanche, Claude Lanzmann, achieved fame by initiating Simone de Beauvoir into new trances that were not of a strictly philosophical nature. This was sufficient o quickly make up for his misdemeanor, such as having been taken by Lucien Bodard's book on Indochina. Lanzmann published a call for the "rehabilitation" of Bodard, this old nostalgic of colonial times, in the Nouvel Observateur, a sort of weekly annex of les Temps Modernes, but especially a new intellectual fashion magazine. I am not saying that Bodard's books were bad or that it would be unpleasant to read them, but that the virtuous Sartre entourage got thick with this old remnant of the empire, which had something deeply grotesque about it (11).
This grotesque quality, an indisputable Lanzmann specialty (anecdotes about him abound), can be found in his preface to Filip Muller's book published in "document of the week" by Nouvel Observateur of April 28, 1980. He launched attacks against revisionists, but without citing names or precise texts. The work would certainly deserves a comment, at least to place it where it belongs in contemporary context. I wasn't the only one to react, and with my friend Gaby Cohn-Bendit, we wrote a review of the book prefaced by Lanzmann. As we had done some times before, my friend Pierre Guillaume and I had a long conversation with Jean-Francois Kahn, who was then the editor of Nouvelles litteraires. He had shown a certain disposition to admit that there could be some viewpoints other than his. He was vaguely involved with reissuing Rassinier's books. His staff had at least one former student of Faurisson who would not buy stories about his former professor. And especially, in every one of his editorials, Kahn fulminated against censorship and pretended to fight for a true freedom of expression. We sent him our "judgment" of Lanzmann-Muller. Needless to say that the great defender of freedom threw it quickly in the waste basket, thus showing his true nature as a swaggerer. Pulled out of my archives, here is the text written in 1980:
Here is a book with the sensational
title, "Trois ans dans une chambre a gaz d'Auschwitz"
(Three Years in an Auschwitz Gas Chamber) and a subtitle that
describes it as "temoignage de l'un des seuls rescapes
des commandos speciaux." (Testimony of one of the only
survivors of the special commandos.) This title is surely an
innocent blunder, because according to official historiography,
the longest functioning gas chamber in Auschwitz-Birkenau would
have been in operation for twenty months, from March, 1943 to
November, 1944. The title is the more eye-catching as the witness,
Filip Muller, worked in fact at the crematoria and did not stay
"in" a gas chamber. There is a play here on the usual
confusion in peoples' minds between the "gas chambers,"
an instrument of death, and the "crematoria," which
served to incinerate bodies, irrespective of the cause of death.
Hindus, Buddhists and still others have a marked preference for
cremation. Sartre was cremated, at his request, in the "crematorium"
of Pere Lachaise.
Why this false and unrealistic title?
Why now? Claude Lanzmann's preface is very revealing: "At
the moment when living history is changing to dead history, when
truth is disguised in legend if it is not simply falsified and
denied, the appearance of this book takes on an essential importance.
It is an answer to those who, hiding behind their ignorance,
their refusal to get informed, their bad faith and their antisemitism
masked by motives of "revisionist" caution, ask the
funny question of the "how" and the "why,"
in other words, of the technical possibility of such a mass murder."
This question of the "how" and the "why" is now asked publicly. Lanzmann is therefore addressing us and is proposing that Muller's book is an ultimate proof of our transgressions. Hence the care needed to examine this testimony.
AN INCOHERENT DESCRIPTION
First of all, Muller works at crematorium I, in the first Auschwitz camp. It is a relatively small installation, partially reconstructed for tourists. The work is hard and painful, but obviously necessary from a sanitary point of view. What is horrible is the camp not the furnace. The text is quite imprecise and stuffed with contradictions. The translation, which seems at first sight to take a few liberties with the German text, doubtless contributes to multiply these contradictions.
The first part suffers from common lapses
of memory, which recalls only paroxysms of violence and pain,
selective memory, desire to prove: this is well known. It is
regrettable that a "document" of this importance does
not give a clearer image of daily life. Much better sources exist.
The few passages which mention the gas
chamber of Auschwitz I are classic but incoherent in the details.
It had doors (p. 67) or one "heavy iron door with
rubber gaskets"(p. 73) strangely manufactured by carpenters
(p. 76). These carpenters were necessary because one of the walls
of this room was . . . in wood (p. 81). There
are many other incomprehensible details, such as the affirmation
that the chimney was reconstructed without interrupting the functioning
of the furnaces (pp. 83-84). Here, some questions are in order,
but let's see what comes next.
AN IMPRESSION OF UNREALITY
The next installment takes place at Birkenau, the big extension of the Auschwitz camp, where four big crematoria were finished between March and June, 1943. We are told that they were equipped with gas chambers and that they formed a real death factory. We are given even approximate maps (by inverting the legends) but without a scale to convert to real measurement. No photos.
The questions posed by those conventionally
called revisionist historians about the practical possibilities
of an industry such as it is usually described, receive no
answers in Muller's book because he completely ignores these
questions. According to him, Zyklon B is no longer dangerous
right after it has killed. Muller thus pretends that he was able
to enter a gas chamber where there were still crystals (of cyanide
acid), where "corpses had not yet stiffened," where
ventilators were roaring, and where he found food, obviously
saturated with cyanide acid, that he avidly consumed (p.
39). He wore no mask. Such a totally unlikely story makes Muller's
joke rather macabre.
He repeats the traditional figures about
gassing rates: how can two to three thousand people go through
two doors less than six feet wide (see the plans)? How can they
be evacuated as corpses, hoisted to the furnace level by a minuscule
elevator, all in two to three hours, even oblivious to the dangers
of the gas, even by considerably cheating, as he does, about
the real incineration time? His description of the open air incinerations
is quite extravagant.
His story about Birkenau has a rather
different tone: it is very impersonal. It is not exactly known
what Muller was doing there, but he was everywhere, knew everything.
He moved surreptitiously from the witness mode to the ubiquity
of the novelist. Entire scenes give the curious impression of
"old hat," The description of the functioning of the
"gas chamber" at Krema II is obviously borrowed from
Miklos Nyisli's book, "Medecin a Auschwitz "(cf.
pp. 17-71) and purged of its most unlikely tales, such as the
four invented big elevators. Excerpts from this rather suspect
book had already been published in les Temps Modernes
The story of the beautiful woman who
stripped off and emotionally paralyzed an S.S. took him by surprise
and killed him, is an already old myth. It can be found, for
example, in books by Aaroneanu (she was Belgian), by Kogon (she
was Italian), and by Karl Bartel (she was French). In Muller's
book, she comes from the East. Just like the strange Kurt Gerstein
(12), Filip Muller wants to enter the gas chamber, but he gives
up the idea because he must testify. Here, young nude beauties
"in the prime of youth" push him out of the gas chamber
in front of the dumbfounded S.S. The same theme is treated by
Gideon Haussner, the prosecutor in the Eichmann trial, with the
The bulk of the book, these scenes that
were supposed to have been lived, is quickly unmasked by anyone
familiar with the literature on this subject, as a montage of
texts, a juxtaposition of "high points," with no chronology
at all. Why? The editors tell us in a "warning" that
this text is a "historical document" that they have
respected "to the letter" and that: "any manipulation
for esthetic or literary reasons would, in our opinion, have
totally eliminated the meaning and the impact." This admirable
probity has only one defect:: it is a pure lie. It can only fool
French readers to the extent that the editors carefully avoid
to mention that the book was not written by Muller himself but
by a ghost writer. The German edition mentions a deutsche
Bearbeitung by Helmut Freitag, which leads one to believe
that Muller, who is Slovak, either taped or wrote a draft that
was given to a "rewriter." The American edition has
the elementary honesty of stating the "literary collaboration"
of Freitag. The French editors and Mr. Lanzmann did not only
forget this detail, but swore by their great gods that the document
is a "draft." If Mr. Freitag's name appears in Germany,
it is because he was paid for "literary manipulations,"
which does not necessary mean that the meaning or the impact
of this text have been "totally eliminated." But it
is the conclusion that the editors would soon turn to their own
This childish practice of hiding Freitag's
role in order to give the book greater "credibility"
may have resulted from an unfortunate precedent sparked by the
memories of Martin Gray. It seems that the higher the unlikelihood,
the better is the guarantee for the veracity of the text.
NO NEW INFORMATION
The impression of unreality given by Muller's book comes also from the fact that he is extremely discreet about the material privileges he enjoyed by belonging to these special commandos, about the part he played in gold and currency traffic and in the black market, and about the multiple contacts he had with other prisoners in several sections of Auschwitz, despite the isolation to which he says he was condemned. He is very evasive about his relations with the prisoners' political organization. But his insistence on talking about "our chiefs" and "our leaders," without the least precision, leads one to think that he was a part (but at what level?) of the Stalinist apparatus, or of one of the groups affiliated with it. Is it useful to insist on the primary role the communists have played in the "production" and dissemination of testimony about Auschwitz ever since the liberation of this camp?
If we compare this book to the mass
of already published texts, it is hard to understand Lanzmann's
elation, for Muller's book contributes no new information
(except, maybe, that prior to dying, gypsies screwed, while Jews
didn't, p. 206). It is clear, even though not explicitly, that
there were no systematic liquidations of the Sonderkommandos,
unlike what is written everywhere. (The critic at l'Humanite
has even seen in his crystal ball what the book never said, namely,
that Muller had escaped "five selections.") Muller,
who was part of a Sonderkommando for three years, did
not have to escape liquidation because, to his surprise, nobody
tried to liquidate him. He survived because he was young, strong
and lucky to work at the crematoria, which allowed him to be
properly fed. He was also lucky not to have participated in the
Sonderkommando revolt at the end of 1944.
Les Temps Modernes had already given their support to Nyizli's
book. In 1966, Simone de Beauvoir wrote a preface in support
of Treblinka of J.F. Steiner, stating that he described
"exactly how things happened." However, this book had
been considered everywhere as a bad fiction which blithely mixed
the true and the false.
Muller's book comes out today as a prologue
to Lanzmann's film on the "Holocaust." People will
certainly go the movie. Mr. Lanzmann is obviously a first rate
historian: he is the only one in the world to have found "the
intact archives of the Nazi bureaucracy" (p. 11). It wasn't
too long ago, in the midst of the Vietnam war, he wanted, in
the Nouvel Observateur, to rehabilitate Lucien Bodard
as a historian of the first Indochina war.
Bodard's book was funny. But the work
of Muller and Freitag is not. We know of people who massacred
other people in order to save their own skin, but they didn't
dare claim to be heroes. Filip Muller pretends that he participated
in a gigantic massacre and makes the excuse that he had to do
it and survive in order to testify. But if this is true,
why would this man wait more than thirty years to give his testimony?
Lanzmann attempts to answer this obvious question in l'Arche
(June 1980, p. 38). It turned out that, contrary to what is said
in the preface by the same Lanzmann, Muller had already testified.
That was in 1964 in the Frankfurt trial. And it was then that
he got the idea to write a book. It doesn't look like this occurred
to him when he was in Auschwitz. It's strange that it took him
fifteen years to act on his idea. . . . This
muddle becomes grotesque.
We are sorry to have to rank this book as a fake. We would have liked it to have shed some new light, to have once and for all answered the nagging question of what exactly took place in Auschwitz. Some do not want to know what exactly happened. This is their right. Ours is not to think that the moon is made of green cheese.
(June 1, 1980) (13)
It must be added that Lanzmann seems to have ignored that Muller had already recalled his memories in 1946, in a Czech book, later published in East Berlin in 1958 as Die Todesfabrik, of Ota Kraus and Erich Kulka. It was translated into English in 1966 with the title, The Death Factory. And finally, his testimony in Frankfurt in 1965 was deemed not very clear by a court that was not lacking in sympathy for the incoherence of the accusation. Needless to add that the testimony of 1966 is quite different from that of 1980.
Soon afterwards, in its issue of June 2, 1980, le Nouvel Observateur attacked Faurisson. Under his right to reply, the latter sent a response which was not published. He sued and the court ruled in favor of those who refused his right to reply. This confirms the fact that in France, the right to reply is play acting. On June 21, Le Nouvel Observateur published under the rubric of "document of the week" a so called "great debate: Chomsky-Claude Roy" entitled "Le gauchisme, maladie senile du communisme" (Leftism, a Senile sickness of Communism?), an amusing paraphrasing of a famous pamphlet by Lenin, who talked about infantile sickness. In it, Claude Roy refers several times to my book without mentioning the title or the author, an old trick aimed at avoiding an eventual right to reply. Le Nouvel Observateur published 412,664 copies of this issue. I wrote and disseminated 200 copies of a vigorous refutation of Roy, with a letter to Chomsky commenting on Claude Roy's manipulations in his "document of the week" (14). It took six months, a paper in Esprit (15) on Cambodia and the press where I publicly brought up this affair (pp. 109-110), for Claude Roy to react with a postscript to an article in le Nouvel Observateur (No. 843, January 5, 1981). Here it is:
Moving rapidly rightward (which anybody can see), Serge Thion reproaches me for veering leftward when the Nazis occupied France (which everybody knows). He has the nerve to write in Esprit that I published there a letter by Chomsky "amputated of about half its length in a dozen places. A rare carelessness." Rare carelessness, in fact, that of Thion. I asked Chomsky for a reply. He wrote a letter that would have occupied four pages in this magazine and I requested from him that he shorten it himself, which he did. He wrote me on February 15, 1980: "Thank you for sending me the translation. I realize the problems involved in its full publication [. . .]. I will try to reduce it by half [. . .]. Thank you for the trouble you took in doing the translation." Mr. Thion knows this as well as he knows that I have not "falsified" or "truncated" any astounding citations by his friend, Faurisson.
Yet, it was Roy who had said and written that the reply would be published in its entirety. The record is there and Roy's reply is remarkably weak. What is more amusing to learn is that Roy "was veering leftward," which really means that he had moved from the royalists and friendship with Brasillach to Stalinism and the abandonment of Brasillach. I wouldn't like to be in the shoes of somebody who has to try to give some coherence to this kind of thing. A few weeks later, he wrote his canard that I am in good standing in the Reagan entourage. This idea seemed funny to me and I sent a short missive to its author:
Claude Roy (Nouvel Observateur, No. 843) said that I am moving "rapidly rightward." He sees me today (Nouvel Observateur, No. 849) as an advisor to President Reagan on "moderate repression." Mr. Roy is very funny. At the beginning of January, I was still moving rightward. Having come from the extreme left, I was then at the same position with him. But it would seem that his motion had landed me in February at some place fixed by C. Roy. So here I am, arrived at the White House, well established in an office all to myself, located between Chomsky's, advisor on repressive linguistics and that of Faurisson, advisor on repressive falsification. It is with great pleasure that I invite Claude Roy to Washington. I will show him in the third sub-basement our intellectual torture rooms, and as a souvenir of his visit, I will give him the charming little present of a portable Procuste's Bed on which any text can be made to say the contrary of what it says. But maybe Claude Roy is already equipped with this vital work tool.
If I had gotten rid of this aging idol
of Parisian salons, I had not paid for my sins as far as the people
at Le Nouvel Observateur were concerned, even though I
never wrote a line for this paper. This is not quite exact. When
my friend, Breytenbach, was arrested in South Africa during the
summer of '75, I was ready to write anywhere even in the devil's
agenda. Breytenbach was at that time abandoned by everybody on
the left, because his trial lacked the appeal of a hero's role.
Blame was all he got from the hardened purists of the Parisian
left, sitting comfortably on their buffs. Two or three of us thought
that the most important thing was to get him out of there by any
means possible. We even sought the help of Dominique de Roux,
who, prior to his sudden death, had promised to bring up the matter
with his friend, Botha, the then defense minister of Pretoria.
At that time, I proposed to K.S. Karol, whom I had met by chance,
a paper, which he accepted. I wrote it fast since I was traveling.
When I came back months later, I found out that the paper was
not published, that it was lost by the innocent Kenize
Mourad, and that it was "too late," the opportunity
having passed. But Breytenbach was still in jail (16).
Fresco's article was reviewed by Kathleen Evin, the daughter of a socialist deputy of the Rocard faction. Sudden fame. The lady talked about "pseudo-scientists" linked to a "black international." She referred to me as a "researcher" in quotes, and a "former leftist" (Le Nouvel Observateur, No. 823, August 16, 1980). This irritated me, the rest is ridiculous. "Former leftist" smelled of Maoism, or of the Krevine type of fellow travelers, all the things that I have always fought, before, during and after May, '68. I wrote a short letter stating that "I have never dipped into Leninist absurdities, where others got compromised. All this goes back to old Stalinist methods. Would I be the last of the Hitler- Trotskyists, as far as your paper is concerned?" I circulated this letter among twenty or so people that I knew and who knew me and who wrote in this canard. Lost cause. The subtle Evin told me over the phone that the paper did not want to print my reply, because as far as Les Temps Modernes was concerned, I was not "implicated."
Bypassing this lady's ignorance of the most elementary rules on the right to reply, I thought it not entirely useless to reply. I consulted an attorney specifying that I did not want to sue, given the freedom of press, but only to negotiate the execution of my right to reply. There were protracted negotiations with the president of the Bar Couturon and the paper's attorney. My attorney proposed a compromise where he said: "As long as it remains loyal, the debate about gas chambers can only clarify and reinforce the struggle against Nazism and racism, for in order to prove its permanence and current relevance, we must neither owe nor concede anything to mythical history, but must always rely on historical truth."
That was too steep. Things could have dragged on still longer, hadn't my protest met with a response in the form of some soothing words by Jacques Julliard. In issue No. 831 of October 13, 1980, he devoted an article to the affair, clearly taking sides against Faurisson's affirmations. He did that only by remaining calm, trying to remain rational, and trying to see what lessons could be drawn from it; in short, a disagreement not only devoid of hysterics but critical of hysterics (18). Jacques Julliard's paper was one of the very rare articles that came from an honest and loyal adversary during all those years. There are hundreds of others full of striking ignorance and aggressive stupidity that I will not even mention here because that would quadruple the size of this book and because stating their arguments would be deadly boring. They copied from each other and had only one thing to say: "ugly Nazis." It's rather short. The reason is simple: every time this affair resurfaces because of some event or other, the thing is entrusted to some young journalist, who obviously knows nothing about it, has neither the time nor especially the desire to read anything on the subject. He has to deal with and relies on "press files" where he finds previous articles written under the same conditions of haste and ignorance, and that he reproduces under a more or less sloppy form, so that next time around, he will serve as a reference to a future colleague who will have to deal with the subject under the same conditions of improvisation and prejudice. This is how the journalist functions in closed circuit, repeating simplistically and eternally his predecessors' rubbish. I have made this observation about many other subjects which, from time to time, make the headlines in the press, and with which I could fill a book or two.
To conclude with the specifically Sartrian galaxy, I would like to mention a correspondence with a satellite of his "outer entourage," so to speak, Dr. Norbert Bensaid, who writes in Le Nouvel Observateur, possibly because the editor is his cousin. It is known that "Jean Daniel" is the pen name of Mr. Bensaid. This gentleman, a physician who later became a psychoanalyst, had visited with me. We broke bread together. I thought it normal to send him my book. Here is his reply to me, on May 12, 1980:
Sir, you thought it good to send me your book. What a strange idea! Did you really believe that I could take any interest in it?
I don't share your contempt for "politics." Except when it is concealed and disguised as morality. Those who think that they are innocent of the motives and consequences of their actions and who proclaim themselves the zealous and disinterested servants of the Truth, inspire in me disbelief, fear and suspicion. Certainly, not respect.
I can't bring myself to believe, either, that the jealous concern for historical truth could not be expressed through means other than the all-out ostentatious dissemination of aggressive doubts, harmful suspicion and malicious insinuations.
As for me, it's enough to know that a large number of innocent human beings had been humiliated, mistreated and destroyed.
Yet, I can understand that a scrupulous historical account would lead one to want precise figures, detailed techniques, and an evaluation of the circumstances. This doesn't really change anything. The horror remains the horror. The unacceptable remains unacceptable. And when these historians look for accuracy and not for Truth, for exact facts and not for Justice, wouldn't they lay themselves open to suspicion? One wonders if their zeal was not directed towards exonerating the guilty party and denouncing those who want to pass as victims.
You deliberately attribute to others the dirtiest work, the crassest lies and the most repugnant bad faith. This is contagious. You should expect to be yourself subject of such suspicion. You will never convince anybody that you are driven only by the desire to rescue the poor Faurisson and the Truth. I don't even feel like I want to know more about your intentions. Curiosity is quickly overcome by nausea. And this is your problem. Not ours.
I really think that my being Jewish is a secondary matter. But you are free to think the opposite and keep intact the comfortable certitude that only Jews can be appalled by your enterprise. They are blinded by the passion and the desire to remain victims. And by making the world feel guilty, they will dominate it. It's a stupid but commonplace idea.
You also think that you are alone against
everybody. Don't worry. You will be heard. But by whom? It was
obviously unwise to muzzle a feeling as enduring as antisemitism
often through the use of the "camps." It was inevitable
that one day, it would reemerge. There we have it. And it would
not be in your interest not to take some credit for it. It's
to the credit of the "bloody idiot" to have refused
you, before his death, the moral guarantee of Les Temps
I replied on May 29:
Dear Norbert (Mr? or Dr?)
It is a little frightening to think that there could be any connection between the letter you sent me and the book I just published. It's difficult for me to imagine that you really read it, but I can see that you must have scanned it with an accusatory mind.
You draw the picture of antisemitism and you fantastically project it on me. Well, I defy you to find any sentence I wrote or any idea that could reasonably be characterized as antisemitic. Lacking such proof as others could find convincing, I would have to charge you for insults and defamation. If you don't know me enough, please look around you. It will be my way of sending you my witnesses.
One more word. You say that "it was obviously unwise to muzzle a feeling as enduring as antisemitism often through the use of the "camps." You, whose profession is psychology (subtitled a book with the word, "dialogue"!), should know that feelings can't be muzzled. The famous "return of the repressed"! The camps, suffering and death should certainly not have been "used." We should rather have tried to understand all that took place. It is this understanding, and not some political religion, that will allow us to not accept all the unacceptables that we can see today all over the world. I was not in Warsaw (you, neither), but I was in Teheran, I was in Kwangju (South Korea, the place of enormous massacres) a few years ago. Do you understand why I "understand" what is happening there? The horror remains the horror, as you say.
But why go on? You haven't given me
the impression that you want to hear much. I am a little concerned
for people, more or less close to me, that your role is to "listen
THE GREAT CONTROVERSY
The same reaction came from Le Monde Diplomatique, for which I stopped writing after 1975, subsequent to a difference of opinion with its editor about an article I wrote on Indonesia, which, irony of fate, ended up at Les Temps Modernes. "We will obviously not take the trouble to mention this book, had it not been one of the manifestations of this currently raging obscurantist offensive: a thinly disguised rehabilitation of Nazism, a resurgence of mysticism and of irrational thought, a genetic reductionism, and a "biologisation of social phenomena" . . . (Maurice Maschino, a veteran of Sartrism in the July, 1980 issue.)
It would be hard to find in the pages of this book any genetic or biological consideration whatsoever. Maschino read another book. But never mind for these people. It's a war where they have no projectile other than mud to throw at "enemies" they invent.
One of the most incredible commentaries in the register of sanctification was that of Max Gallo, a well known leftist writer and regular contributor to a rightist weekly. He wrote in L'Expresse: "It is, in fact, a question of rehabilitation of Nazism." His main argument (issue of October 18, 1980) deserves a prize: "Counting corpses during the television broadcast of Holocaust, a magazine was thus able to show that Stalinism was deadlier than Nazism and that the bombardments of Dresden and Hiroshima by the British and the Americans were equally barbaric actions. The aim was clear: trivialize evil. Highlight the virtues of Nazism by revealing the guilt of its enemies. In the name of historical truth, make Nazism a globally positive regime like all other regimes."
Here is a gentleman who pretends to be a historian, who states facts that he himself qualifies to be historically true, and therefore he does not deny them, but he is up in arms against the fact that others cite them because these facts may lead to conclusions that he doesn't like, and which are morally neutral. Here is the most superb proof of the bad faith of a self-righteous crowd: It's true, but it must not be said because it might benefit the enemy. The thing is the more so comical that this Gallo is known as a falsifier: already actively mixed up in the literary fake known as Papillon. He was hired as a ghost writer for the autobiography of Martin Gray, a supposed survivor of the Warsaw ghetto, where he invented all kinds of hallucinating scenes.
There is nothing really that can come out of these people for whom literature is a business and the simple truth is an ingredient controlled by the needs of the market. The honest Max Gallo had no problems getting elected a deputy in 1981. His "trade" in pure fabrication was a particularly useful asset in his rather unsavory position as government "spokesman." Preening his feathers on his golden perch, he even thought it good to launch an appeal to the "intellectuals" to show more clearly their enthusiasm for the new socialist government.
As for the article published by Nadine Fresco in Les Temps Modernes, I simply note that its main substance comes from my book, livened up with some thin files of the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation. The rest can be summarized as: great indignation, a lot of cheap irony and especially, fairly fragile psychological considerations. As is, this article is not worth much, but it would serve many people who don't want to take the risk to judge for themselves and who found in the ironic tone of Fresco a protection against the doubts that may have beset her. This article has even found its way, under a fairly manipulated form, into an American magazine with which I had collaborated (19).
It's worth mentioning that, in this affair, the Americans have practically no experts and that they have to resort to the rather mediocre production of French writers, who are not experts either, but who have written under the influence of motives that are at the same time personal (their former relationships with me, for example) and political (their ambiguous relations with political Judaism), such as Nadine Fresco and Pierre Vidal-Naquet (20).
It is worth stopping to look at a short text by Pierre Vidal-Naquet. It is the only attempt at a response, of a rational appearance, to Faurisson's argument (21). We could also mention the book by G. Wellers (22). But unfortunately, not understanding the question posed by Faurisson, it's difficult for its author to supply answers, so he is content with bringing up the usual documents, already known for a long time, without ever seeing that their interpretation may occasionally be subject to discussion. To him, the German word "Sonderbehandlung" (special treatment) means "extermination of the Jews." That's all.
Yet he harbors no illusions. In his introduction, he states that he is not addressing "the instigators of this campaign, for there is no hope of persuading them of anything," for these are those who want to rehabilitate Nazism and those for whom "the taste for truth" has been pushed to such extremes that the starting point got lost." Wellers is right to admit it; he quickly drops the thread. He prefers to address "men and women of good faith, ignorant of real facts." This is quite clear (23).
But going back to Vidal-Naquet, a man very well known in France, not for his works as a historian of ancient Greece, which have remained confidential, but for his political interventions, especially during the Algerian war. He led the Audin Committee that played an essential role in the denunciation of torture practiced by the French army. Since then, he has often participated in anything having to do with human rights, by writing articles and signing all kinds of petitions. An eager polemicist, he projects the image of honesty and moral rectitude: all in all, the conscience of the left.
He launched a crusade. He put himself at the head of those who want to destroy Faurisson's views. He fired all his artillery in an article where he brags of having succeeded in completely demolishing Faurisson's arguments. Yet, he keeps fighting, conferences here, conferences there. He is behind several lawsuits against Faurisson, even though he pretends to disapprove of them. He uses portions of the wording in the lawsuit before the trial, without citing the source, since he can't do that without admitting that he is part of the plaintiff side. He came to court to show his personal hatred for Faurisson, his former fellow student, to the point of getting booed by the audience. He attacks ferociously in le Monde, meticulously avoiding to cite names so that those he insults have no way to respond. In his devouring passion, he is not even reluctant to use flatly racist arguments: Serge Thion can't be antisemite, he says because "he has a Jewish wife" ("Quando le idee sono omicide," Il Messagero, October 18, 1980) (24).
I met Pierre Vidal-Naquet in 1963, if I recall, at the time when I was trying, with some friend, to form a committee against apartheid. This is not because I found some particular charm in this kind of action, but because some South-African comrades in exile in London had requested us to establish such a committee in order, according to them, to create a movement of solidarity with the ANC, to collect a little money, to publicize the atrocious situation of Blacks under South-African rule, and to possibly have some influence with the French government, which, under General De Gaulle, had a powerful and discreet complicity with the Pretoria government, particularly in the military and atomic spheres.
So we had to heroically jump into the Parisian quagmire in order to get signatures on a petition, set up a committee, collect some money, give press conferences, and conduct discussions with representatives of political parties, unions, churches, and other high society types.
The thing was boring to death. Go to the Socialist Party (SFIO), talk with Robert Pontillon back from Moscow, where he accompanied a party delegation led by Guy Mollet, tell him sad stories of maltreated blacks deep in Africa, see him raise an eyelid to filter through an icy look, all this had something frightening about it that took the shape of irrepressible weariness. All these people didn't give a damn about what we came to tell them. Inside the holy of holies of these political or union bureaucracies, big or small, we felt a coldness, an inhumanity typical of people in power who look in a certain way towards the great currents of history, and in another way towards the cheapest intrigues of those who want to keep their positions and who calculate the exact tone of voice they will use in greeting a colleague or a rival. It is the more so striking that those people were no longer in power, but had exercised it a few years earlier, and the self-importance stayed with them. As they had joyfully broken many fellagha, our little stories of tortured Negroes did not have much interest for them.
This was a bogus committee because the cause of abolishing Apartheid did not mobilize many people. It does not usually arouse people's interest in a country like France unless blood is shed. Unfortunately for the cause of their liberation and for the delight of the press, not enough blacks were dying in South Africa. They didn't succeed in making the headlines except every four or five years, thanks to a little well organized massacre. The rest of the time, they suffered in silence, and this does not have much interest for the managers of our conscience (25).
We gathered some well-known intellectuals. Pierre Vidal- Naquet shared with me the secretariat of the committee, Paul Thibaud, the then editorial secretary of Esprit, Claude Lanzmann, the hired hand delegated by Sartre. The latter agreed to speak at the inaugural press conference. Sartre was a valuable asset and the French and international press were there. An hour before the conference, I gave him a quick briefing on South Africa, about which he obviously knew nothing. Facing journalists as ignorant as himself, he did remarkably well, an old stager who gave the impression of being a gold mine of information on a subject that he had always known.
The committee meetings, cheered up by Lanzmann's outbursts and grumbling, did not last very long. Little by little, the "personalities" slipped away and I was left to cope with the "organizations," especially the PCF, the CGT, and the MRAP that were interested in our action mainly in order to swallow and stifle it. After some time, I passed the torch to a group of dynamic protesters, gathered around the tireless Mme. de Felice.
For lack of space, we will only give a brief sample of Vidal-Naquet's analysis. If I had to respond, point by point, to each contributor, I would fill a thick volume, something that I have neither the desire nor the time to write. Some selected pieces will be enough.
The article starts with a reminiscence, that he sets as a model, of a discussion among anthropologists about cannibalism. It was mainly about a book by W. Arens, The Man-eating Myth, where the author indicates that anthropoligcal facts told by western travelers were second hand. They did not see a cannibal meal. Vidal-Naquet concludes that this is essentially "an invention of the anthropologists based on inconsistent testimonies," and he adds: "That this theory is purely grotesque can be demonstrated in a few lines." Vidal-Naquet cites in a footnote a report by somebody better placed than he is to give an opinion, the anthropologist Rodney Needham, in the Times Literary Supplement of January 25, 1980.
Certainly, the thing seems surprising. I don't think that we can call into question the ritual anthropophagy of the Aztecs, for example, which was massive and based on ideological considerations of the highest importance for their political system (26). At the Suva Museum, in Fiji, I saw, not without smiling, the sandals of the last missionary who might have been eaten by the Fijians around the beginning of the century. But I also know that for some populations, like the Batak of Sumatra, there is already a fairly ancient controversy about the real or supposed existence of a ritual anthropophagy. And the Batak themselves are today divided over this question that has become historical. Could Arens be a fool? The answer is simple. Vidal- Naquet did not read it. Me neither, but I have Needham's report, which tells me that we are dealing with a "provocative, consistently interesting book, and that it bears consequences in certain respects," that it is a "courageous exploration, and that it should "be taken seriously." Vidal-Naquet deforms completely Arens' argument, for the sake of the future polemic. Needham says that Arens "has avoided suggesting that customary cannibalism, under one form or another, had never existed." (This is a sentence of Arens himself.) And Arens, quoted by Nedham, adds: "But if custom prevailed among some groups, this is not sufficient to account for the general tendency to qualify others as cannibals." Arens states "that it is not possible to conclusively show that a certain practice did not exist."
The work has therefore a completely different dimension: it calls into question ready made ideas (27), numerous accusations of cannibalism leveled by XIXth century explorers against peoples who never practiced it. And if I wanted to pull the cover, I would say that this book poses the question of knowing how we think that we know. But the purpose of this simple anecdote is to show how Vidal-Naquet is capable of writing about a book he never read and to draw from it absurd conclusions. This lightness or bad faith I don't know yet which lead to the evidence of a visceral desire to put an end to Faurisson's thesis.
Let's see how Pierre Vidal-Naquet fuels my argument. In a section entitled, "Of history and its revision," he explains that "like all historical narratives, this history needs obviously to be critiqued (yet this is not so obvious for many people). The critique may and must be conducted at several levels." His timid attempts on this subject lead him to reject some documents and testimonies deemed crucial by others, for example, the testimony of SS Pery Broad reprinted by G. Wellers in his book against Faurisson (28). Like me, Pierre Vidal-Naquet would like that research and investigative work be conducted. He realizes that this will not happen without wondering why. He blames Faurisson for stating that "the findings of the Committee of History of WW II on the number of French deportees are inaccessible" (p. 17, No. 23). "They were published in 1979." But Faurisson complained in 1978 that these findings had not been published since 1973. So Faurisson was right to complain and Vidal-Naquet, once again, showed fickleness or bad faith.
Later on, he states the obvious by saying that "an ideology that gets hold of fact does not eliminate the latter's existence" but by gently attributing to me the ambition to prove the opposite. It's as though he doesn't know that part of the historian's job is to establish facts. And as a strong argument, he adds: "Why couldn't LICRA state the truth about Auschwitz and at the same time use the services of a racist juggler like Paul Giniewski?" Here we sink in confusion, for it's not clear exactly what makes LICRA the holder of historical truth. It is an organization that calls itself antiracist. But I have shown that it holds racist opinions about Arabs and Blacks. So it is not antiracist, which is its only raison d'être. In the same argument, Vidal-Naquet deems it unbelievable to consider Vincent Monteil "simply as an outspoken man," while he sees him as a "passionate supporter, almost paranoid, of the most extreme Arab views on Israel and the Jews." Yet, I had stated that Monteil was "outspoken" about the army when he was in the military and about Gaullism when he was a Gaullist. But Pierre Vidal-Naquet does not like Arab views on Israel and obviously forgets that Monteil was in Palestine with Count Bernadette when the latter was assassinated by the Zionists. In order to please him, we should have eliminated "outspoken" and written "paranoid." A wonderful technique. But to paraphrase our censor, couldn't a paranoid tell the truth about Israel? (And in particular, about the murders committed by the Israeli secret services in France?) and be outspoken too, and possibly even about the Arabs? Is Monteil honest? Vidal-Naquet seems to have doubts that one can honestly support causes that he considers revulsive (29). Pierre Vidal-Naquet doesn't like to hear about a school of revisionist historians, because this might give the impression that there is truth on one side and a lie on the other. He puts me on the lying side. But he simply forgets to say what I lied about. Fickleness or bad faith? Maybe simply oblivion.
Subsequently, Vidal-Naquet reconstructs what he calls the "revisionist method." This consists in a hodgepodge of procedures borrowed from several sources and attributed to everybody. Then he declares sanctimoniously: "As anybody can see by going back to the sources, I didn't invent anything." True, he does not invent anything, but he manufactures a composite, a fantasy that exists only for the needs of his cause. Yet, I anticipated this type of procedure. Sensing this deficiency, Vidal-Naquet responds without the least justification: No, "there is really no hodgepodge, no polemic," just at the moment, he achieves a hodgepodge dedicated to polemical ends. Blindness or bad faith?
This is nonetheless an opportunity to focus on some points. According to him, this method is based on six simple principles:
1) "There was no genocide and its instrument, the gas chamber, has never existed." First, let's talk about the word, "genocide." As I wrote elsewhere, "if words have a meaning, there was certainly no genocide in Cambodia." (30) But many people died. This is the problem with new words. Their meaning changes rapidly, before they either get established or disappear. Like others, this one is a casualty of inflation. If there is fighting in Ireland, it's genocide. The Occitans screams against cultural genocide. Traffic accidents are our weekly genocide. If we take the word at its current market value, there is no doubt that the Nazis caused the genocide of the Jews, and by the same yardstick, practiced the genocide of Poles, Russians, etc. The word extermination was previously used. If the word "genocide" is to keep its original meaning of "murder of a whole people," then it can be said that the Nazis engaged in the process of genocide of all those people they deported. In Cambodia, where human losses of the 1975-78 period reached around 20% of the population, the term remains questionable, especially when Lacouture, who did not set foot in the country in the last 20 years, coins the word "auto genocide." After all, there still remain a Khmer people, 6.5 to 7 million, around 1981. The same holds for Jews in general, even if it is true that entire communities have disappeared.
The use of the term poses implicitly the question of the number of those who disappeared and the proportion they represent in the whole community prior to the catastrophe. There will obviously be no agreement about a percentage above which a massacre becomes a genocide: 10%, 50%, 90%? All this is meaningless, for the main reason for these neologisms (genocide, Holocaust, Auschwitz, taken as a universal reference) is to stir up emotion not knowledge. Incidentally, it may not be useless to note that, strictly speaking, the word "genocide" refers to "race" (genos) and not people (demos) and that it belongs therefore to a mental universe with racist tone. The real ideological key in the use of the word is found in its justification role of the occupation of Palestine by the Jews as a "compensation" for the genocide. This is seen in the sometimes bloody struggle, waged by some nationalist Armenian groups, to get the West to call "genocide" what was known until then as a "massacre" of the Armenians in 1915, in order to use it as a basis for their irredentist territorial claim on Turkish territory populated until then by Armenians (and many other ethnic groups).
Basically, Vidal-Naquet has to admit that the figures are not known. He runs some risks in saying that "the six million figure that comes from Nuremberg is neither sacred nor definitive." (31) Let's say that it has a symbolic value, and that it is precisely this value that renders it unquestionable except, with thousands of precautions, inside a discreet inner circle of "respectable" historians, meaning those with solid political loyalties. Vidal-Naquet himself told me that Leon Poliakov did not want to include the classical study by Reitlinger (The Final Solution) in the bibliography of the petition by thirty-four historians (Le Monde, February 21, 1979) because this study comes up with a figure of around four million. This shows that the six million figure is sacred. For me, there is no doubt that Jews perished by the millions, that this was a direct result of decisions made by the Nazis, who wanted to purify (Jedenrein) the territories they occupied. The deportation and the concentration are extremely deadly practices, as is well known in this century, from the Boer War to Pol Pot policies in Cambodia. And Jews were only a minority among those who perished in this death machine, carried away by the war and its apocalypse.
There remains the question of the gas chambers. As Vidal- Naquet ingeniously says, it symbolizes the genocide. It is the evidence itself, and since this question functions as a symbol with all the charge of the sacred that accompanies the evocation of death and of ancestors, Faurisson takes the form of a sacrilege, we appear as iconoclasts, and the Vidal-Naquets of this world set themselves up as guardians of the temple.
We can probably clarify further this aspect of the reaction to the Faurisson affair by relating the ideas of Dan Sperber (32) on the general functioning of symbolism. Pierre Vidal- Naquet likes Sperber's ideas (33). "The symbolic device is a mental device coupled with a conceptual device ," writes the latter (p. 152). The conceptual device constructs representations based on external information, on its memory and on its system of categories. But, says Sperber, "the conceptual representations that could not be regularly constructed and evaluated make up the input of the symbolic device." In other words, the latter is fed ideas that the mind was not able to integrate in a logical representation. Then, Sperber says, there are two stages: first, the symbolic device focuses on whatever made the representation defective, on what prevented the intellection. "Secondly, he explores the passive memory in search of information likely to reestablish the unmet condition. When this evocation process succeeds, the information thus arrived at is subjected to the conceptual device which uses it together with the previously unmet condition, to reconstruct a new conceptual representation. This last one is the interpretation of the initial symbolic representation." There is a feedback between the conceptual and the symbolic.
What derails the conceptual in the German camps is obviously the fact that a great uncountable, quasi-unthinkable mass of people perished there. For lack of a complete intellection, definitely difficult because it requires an enormous quantity of information on a very complex reality, the problem is transferred to the symbolic level where the data are simplified and put into a representation that is vague and schematic but conceptually digestible. This takes place very often in the domain of political representation. We can't escape this alternating conceptual-symbolic motion without great effort of information gathering and analysis and an acceptance of the complex character of conceptual construction. The symbolic is beyond the true and the false.
The first lawsuits against Faurisson generated tens of kilos of documents presented by the plaintiffs, who sent emissaries to Warsaw and Tel Aviv to collect definitive documentation. But, curiously, the attorneys used almost none of it in court. The piece that was pushed most was a report written in 1945 in Cracow about ventilation holes in the supposed gas chamber of Birkenau and a bundle of hair. Faurisson had said in January 1979, that no report existed. "A lie, pure and simple," says Vidal-Naquet who produces a hitherto unknown text, photocopied from the Polish archives on June 13, 1979, translated into French and presented to the court in 1980 (34). Vidal-Naquet did not look at the dates. Bad faith? Fickleness? Furthermore, the report is not about the place under litigation.
Chemical analysis shows traces of cyanide acid components. Since Zyklon B is basically cyanide acid (HCN), a powerful insecticide used for the past sixty years, such report is subject to several interpretations. This piece, an annex to the Hoess case, was not considered crucial because it was not published prior to the Faurisson case. As for the remaining documents assembled by his adversaries, none amounted to much and most owed their appearance to Faurisson.
This may be the place to answer again the question: have there been gas chambers? In these matters, we become so demanding, so precise and so committed to accept only absolutely irrefutable proofs that I am not able to reach a conclusion. Faurisson's argument has not convinced me. Those of his adversaries don't seem to be decisive. Everywhere, there are troubling elements and unanswered questions. I see every reason to discount the most current versions of "death machines." But I don't see any reason to exclude completely the fact that many people were killed in this manner, but not in a regular massive manner, which would have been impossible. In any case, many people died in many ways and, morally, the result is the same. I leave it to others to settle these questions, if at all possible, in an exclusively rational manner, for this is how history is written (35).
Finally, I don't know if a direct proof can be elaborated. Vidal-Naquet did not read Faurisson's best critique. It is the one that Rodney Needham addresses to W. Arens. I quote it and leave it for anyone to transpose: "There is a more serious error in his procedure: he does not stipulate clearly what constitutes a proof [of the existence of cannibalism]. In the beginning, he talks about "first hand satisfactory tales" and seems to claim that the practice in question was observed. But at the end, he talks about a "complete, valuable first hand tale by an anthropologist," and these conditions are much more restrictive. Basically, in his assessment, Arens does not seem to take into consideration the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence. He seems to insist on direct evidence, but he should have listened to A. M. Hocart (36): "A common error, no matter how natural, consists in believing that direct testimonies are necessarily more valuable than indirect (circumstantial) testimonies," but "indirect testimonies are not a substitute of lesser value than seen and heard testimonies: they are the foundation of all knowledge" (37). I quote Hocart from the translation published by Seuil (1978) of Rois et courti sans(Kings and Councillors, Un. of Chicago, 1970) (pp. 87 and 102) with a remarkable introduction by the same Needham.
Like the whole book, this chapter makes for an invigorating reading. At the end of this chapter, Hocart again says: "Nothing is proved, nothing could be if, by proof is meant seeing things happen or knowing somebody who has seen them. But seeing is not proving. To prove is to provide such a complete explanation of disjointed testimonies that no satisfactory alternative be conceivable. Maybe some day an alternative can be found. In the meantime, had our hypothesis had any value, it would have helped us make some discoveries and this is what is really important" (38). Now, on the one hand, Faurisson asks for authentic testimonies, direct valid evidence, but, on the other hand, he also proposes a complete explanation of the use of the places in question. I would like that there be an alternative, but it should be stated that the "Faurisson hypothesis" would contribute to deeper thinking, research of documents and a more refined understanding. As to his adversaries, they present "disjointed testimonies" in such an incoherent and contradictory explanation that easily calls for an alternative. How many correct hypotheses have been forgotten over the years, like that of the continental drift? How many false hypotheses have led to real advancement of knowledge? All this noise and fury. . . .
We might think that this first point of Vidal-Naquet sums up all the others. No, because a "method" is needed. Let's move on.
2) "The 'final solution' has never been [for revisionists] other than the expulsion of Jews to Eastern Europe." Vidal- Naquet tells a crude joke in comparing this to the French government's pushing the Algerians, during the wars, to their "place of origin." Grotesque. The final solution is openly described in several German documents as the deportation of European Jews to the Ostgebiet, the "new" Eastern territories. This policy deserves an analysis. It is stated, if we want to read it, in the famous protocol of the Wannsee Conference, for administrative internal use. We have to really tamper with the text, as is done in some textbooks, to make it say that the Jews were going to be assassinated. They were going to be deported and subjected to forced labor, and that resulted in heavy losses. Labor in the East was perceived as a kind of natural selection that would "regenerate" a "race" of useless parasites: I am paraphrasing the underlying idea of this protocol, which tells us nothing about what the Nazis thought of Jews. But in Wannsee, anyway, in 1942, and in this internal conference of the Nazi authorities, nowhere was there a question of systematically killing them. Vidal-Naquet and other weekend historians who are interested in these questions should have the honesty to admit that if this policy had effectively become massively murderous, it is attested to only by its outcome, and that there are no documents, unless completely deformed, that would decisively clarify the real intention behind it. The "final solution" for Nazis is the absence of Jews. For them, the means to induce this absence are numerous: internments, deportation, emigration (massive before and during the war), expulsion, massacres on the spot, deferred massacres, etc. Assassination is but one way, and not the first, among others that war has rendered less practical. In the symbolic constellation called Auschwitz, the term "final solution" serves mainly as a trigger. Only political authorities would wish to make history a series of conditioned reflexes.
3) "The number of Jewish victims of Nazism is less than what it is said to be." I believe that some revisionists were mistaken in tossing figures, especially ridiculously lower figures than those given by Vidal-Naquet. But, all options taken together, be it Poliakov, Wellers, Rassinier, Butz or others, they all use doubtful, possibly far-fetched, data. It doesn't make any sense, for example, to use, without serious analysis such Soviet demographic sources for which the term "Jewish" does not mean the same thing as for the Germans at that time or for the Israelis today or for French or American sociologists. "Nationality" in the USSR is primarily a matter of native language, which is quite far from Mosaic law. Over the years, individual or family needs of more or less multilingual groups or individuals, and not only Jews, have the power to change their "nationality" when a census is taken (not counting that some nationalities have, at times, been eliminated by decree). This individual latitude is the explanation of important variations from one census to another. This, in addition to variations in government policy towards minorities directly affected by global conflicts, such as the Ukrainians and Germans of the Volga, should prompt the researcher to exercise prudence in the study of Soviet census data, which is not the case of amateur demographers. There is also the question of the division of Poland in 1939, and the number of Polish Jews who remained on the Soviet side and of the number of those among them that were deported to the Gulag. There is the question of the number of survivors who emigrated at the end of the war, in particular to the United States where, at that time, the new immigrant's religion was no longer recorded. Certainly, all estimates are possible but if, as Vidal-Naquet says, many historians lean towards figures lower than six million, we should conclude that "many historians" are revisionists. In reality, everybody knows very well that the real figure, carefully suppressed, is much lower than these "six million." But Vidal-Naquet prefers to wiggle around a "symbolic figure" in order to not simply admit that it is imaginary and false (39).
4) "Hitler's Germany does not carry the major responsibility of the Second World War. It shares this responsibility, for example, with the Jews. . ." The quotation, truncated by Vidal-Naquet, is by Faurisson, talking about "Allies and Jews" while referring to a Zionist leader.
These statements cost Faurisson violent attacks, and Vidal- Naquet takes up the question again later, pp. 36-40. He is unquestionably mistaken, like Faurisson, in saying that Chaim Weizmann was the president of the World Jewish Congress in 1939. He was the president of the Jewish Agency, which changes radically everything. He did not have the power to rally Jews all over the world against Germany, as Vidal-Naquet says. But this was not Weizmann's opinion when he wrote to the British prime minister that "the Jews support Great Britain and fight on the side of democracies." Yet, this was a permanent feature of Zionists, to speak in the name of all Jews, and it is for this reason that many Jews fought them vigorously.
In other words, Vidal-Naquet confirms the substance of Faurisson's statements: a prominent Zionist leader promised the commitment of the Jews (which ? is another question; with what authority? is yet another question) on the side of the British. Faurisson, who made a mistake about Weizmann's title, made another mistake about the date. The same mistake was made by the English neo-Nazi, Harwood, in his famous pamphlet, which is probably Faurisson's source. But Vidal-Naquet did not wonder where Harwood's error came from, for he doubtlessly thinks that a neo-Nazi is an idiot. But these errors can be traced directly to Hitler's table talks, Hitler's Tischgespraechen, certainly read by Harwood and mentioned by Faurisson. These considerations about the involvement of the "Jews" in the war, or at least of the authorized or not Jewish Agency, are of no value for explaining the causes of the war, but they take on a completely different dimension if we take into consideration Hitler's thinking. In this context, Weizmann's declarations may very well have played a role in the decisions of the Reich's chancellor. All this is therefore far from being benign and ridiculous, as Vidal-Naquet seems to think, having neglected to push his inquiry far enough to the source. Fickleness? Bad faith?
As for me, I would add that Faurisson's considerations about certain aspects of the war are very incomplete, that they are almost worthless out of the context that only a historical study would provide for them, and that it is not up to Faurisson to write history, but it's rather up to historians to integrate in their vision of that time the essential material elements uncovered by Faurisson.
5) "The main enemy of humankind during the Thirties and Forties is not Nazi Germany but Stalin's USSR." This type of reasoning, which is doubtless that of some revisionists, seems to be shared by Vidal-Naquet, because he seems to only want to reverse the propositions. For me, and for many others, Hitler, Stalin, and a whole string of bastards, less harmful because less powerful, deserve the rarely awarded title of "enemy of the human race".
6) "The genocide is an invention of the mainly Jewish and particularly Zionist Allied propaganda." This is a vast domain. For my part, I reject the terms of "invention", of "conspiracy", of "lie", that are used by both sides. The question of war propaganda has just begun to be studied, but there's a lot more work to be cut out (40). It comes out that Allied propaganda never ignored what was taking place in Poland. Directives of the British Political Warfare Executive mention, for example, on December 10, 1942, a so-called "Hitler plan to exterminate the Jews in Europe." At the same time, a white book was published in London about German war crimes, with mainly Polish sources. Among the documents published by the PWE and bound for Germany, especially through radio, figure information about the "extermination camps" of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor (December 24, 1942), about the construction in Auschwitz of a crematorium capable, it was said, of burning 3000 bodies per day (April 8, 1943), about the liquidation of Jews in Poland (April 13, 1944), etc. An overview of the Anglo-Saxon press shows that information was plentiful. It is a complete mystification to make believe today that the Allies did not know what was happening in the camps in Poland, or worse, that they remained silent. They spoke at great length, to each other and to the Germans.
What the mystified view blames them for is that they didn't make it the main focus of their propaganda. They never made of this affair one of the main goals of the war. (Let's add parenthetically, that had they done that, they would have justified the above mentioned Hitler suspicions, about a war waged against Germany for and by the Jews, which would allow the same hacks today to blame the Allies for falling into Hitler's propaganda trap.) Those who today think that the war comes down to the extermination of a part of European Jewry, assuming probably that other victims are less important or have less "meaning" as though death had a meaning should be reminded that much more was at stake, it was the fate of all of Europe, and incidentally, of the future of the planet. At least, this was what people on all sides, including the Jews, believed then. Besides, many Zionists were not displeased by the rise of Nazism, for by separating the wheat from the chaff (to each his viewpoint), it favored the immigration of Jews to Palestine (41).
It's quite unpleasant to have to recall that the terror and the massacres caused by the German occupation affected very many communities in Europe, and that the fate of the Jews, however horrible it was, doesn't make that of others more enviable, especially on the Eastern front. And it is somewhat chauvinistic of some like Vidal-Naquet (Esprit, p. 49) to wince when Polish historians say that Auschwitz was used to exterminate Slavs (Polish, Russians, etc.) and Jews, or "Polish victims of Fascism," as though it was improper to call "Polish Jews" Polish. To them, dead Jews are more sacred than dead Slavs, who are probably thought of as anti-Semites, since all other populations of the East are thought to be such.
T o my knowledge, the first person to conduct a systematic inquiry on the manner in which information reached from Poland to the Allies and on what they did with it, is Arthur Butz. It is remarkable that the elements he provides on the subject are confirmed and amplified by a writer with opposite convictions: Walter Laqueur in The Terrible Secret, recently translated into French (42).
This remarkable book has many titles. This brilliant specialist of international politics, who was the Director of the Center of International Strategic Studies in Washington, one of the Reaganist temples, was at one time highly connected with Zionism and the Intelligence Service at the time of the British Mandate in Palestine. Remember his Nationalism and Communism in the Middle East, published in the fifties, drawing heavily on British intelligence sources and outrageously stolen by Lacouture and others in their Egypte en mouvement. His investigation is wide-ranging and covers several countries, except, curiously, the United States. The subtitle is explicit: "The first and troubling story of the manner in which the announcement of Hitler's 'Final Solution' was first hidden and finally revealed."
This book is absolutely paradoxical: it shows that the Allies could not have not known what was going on in Germany and in the occupied territories. Laqueur reviews the sources: diplomats of neutral countries, resistance movements, especially in Poland, churches, Red Cross, travelers, traders, engineers, persons liberated from the camps or escapees, etc., without counting that radios were listened to and that the main German codes had been decrypted. In short, Hitler's Germany, without being a house of glass, discharged daily an enormous mass of information that the Allied Services had to only receive and analyze. More precisely, Laqueur shows that the information about the persecution and massacres of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe reached London and Washington through many channels. He radically destroys the widespread myth which pretends that "everything was hidden" and that "nobody knew." And even the general public, for, he says:
there was a lot of information in the daily press. A report published in October 1941 (my underlining, ST) in a German language newspaper published in London [Die Zeitung], with the headline, L'Apocalypse, said that Jews deported from Germany were killed in one way or another. It was based on a report published in the Swedish Social-Democraten of October 22 and said expressis verbis that "it was most probably a premeditated mass murder." The article also mentioned Adolf Eichmann was "chief of the operation" (p. 67) .
This appeared in the October 24, 1941
Sunday Times. From then on, such information never stopped
appearing in the press, and pages and pages can be filled with
simple references. But, and this is the question today, all this
did not change the course of the war. What Laqueur and the current
dominant ideology reproach the Allied leaders of that time for,
is not to have given since 1941 a sense and vision of the conflict
that started to be elaborated at Nuremberg after the war. It was
the Jewish centrality of the war, and it did not flourish until
the sixties. According to this view, the Nazis' main aim in the
war was the extermination of the Jews, and the Allies (including
the USSR) should have had as their main mission an early intervention
to save the Jews. Political and military leaders of the "free
world" might have resisted pressure by Zionists to adopt
this vision. (Laqueur confirms Butz's view to such a point as
to be himself accused of antisemitism.) This quickly led to the
accusation that they wanted to hide the truth and that they insidiously
gave in to a subtle antisemitism.
All this erudite discussion in well documented books, such as that of Laqueur, and in editorials in the mass media, is the outcome of another revisionism. This one has no shore. To reach it, one has to bury most roots of the conflict, gum up most of the issues, in short, look at contemporary world history from a judeocentric angle, the crown jewel of which today is the political behavior of the State of Israel.
This is why it is fascinating to see Laqueur at work. He systematically selects and pulls out of context all the information about Nazi politics. The Einsatzgruppen in Russia killed so many Jews. We wouldn't know that they also killed a larger number of Russians, Ukrainians, Balts, political commissars, partisans, peasants, Buddhist Mongols, etc. This is not pertinent, and so it is not mentioned. Carried away by his unilateral thinking, Laqueur is totally unable to understand the explanation of the historian Balfour: while mentioning Nazi atrocities everywhere in occupied Europe, Allied propaganda should not exaggerate them, first in order to be more credible than in 1914-18, and especially in order not to frighten and discourage the resistance and support movements in the occupied territories, and eventually, in Germany, where it was hoped that developments in leading circles were going to hasten the end of the war.
Laqueur was surprised by the incredulity with which some totally or partially false information was received. He shows, for example, that Zionist leaders in Palestine refused for a long time to believe alarming reports and that they changed their opinion when a few dozen Jews arrived from Poland in November, 1941. "Paradoxically says Laqueur the inaccurate details [provided by the arrivals] had greater influence on public opinion than the preceding more exact reports." The false being truer than the true. . . . We see this everyday in the newspapers! Yet, it is understandable. There were so many noises, rumors and testimonies, more or less worthy of belief, that in any case some had to be discounted. The book teems with information that Laqueur decrees false or inexact. But he sorts out without justifying himself or giving any reference. He probably had a grid that allows him to tell, at first sight, what is true and what is false. He gives the bearers of information good or bad grades, according to the criterion of whether or not they support his thesis. History would be easy to write if one could uncritically pick and choose in this manner from the available information of the time. That is how so many people fatten their paychecks.
A detailed analysis would show how Laqueur forgets facts that do not support his thesis. This book is a gold mine for revisionism insofar as it succeeds in completely destroying its own argument.
But let's return once more, after this diversion, to the amusing Vidal-Naquet, suddenly transformed into an epistemologist:
1) "Every direct testimony given by a Jew is a tale or a lie." Pure hysteria on his part. The argument will allow him to lump together revisionism and antisemitic writings.
2) "Every testimony, every document prior to liberation is a fake or is entirely ignored or is treated as rumor." Example: documents written by Sonderkommando members and buried in Auschwitz.
These documents were found after the liberation at the time when Auschwitz was closed due to construction work to transform it into a museum (43). Everybody talks about these documents as though they contained revelations, but they have not been seen. They are so important that they are not translated into French. Three of them are apparently written in Yiddish. Vidal-Naquet mentions translations which appeared in Poland about twenty years after their discovery. This is quite strange. I found the complete text of the fourth document, the one which was written in French only in the book of Andy Brille published by the FNDIRP, an organization of deportees very close to the PCF. This book contains excerpts of a book known as pure and simple fakes (M. Gray, V. Grossman) or others, altered or apocryphal (Hoess, Nyizli, etc.) Never mind.
What does this document say? It was written a few weeks prior to the liberation of the camp by somebody, a certain Bermann, who spent twenty months in the Sonderkommando. Vidal- Naquet says that it gives a "precise description corroborating what we already know about gas chambers" (p. 23). Nothing. Not a single word on gas chambers, except to repeat, as rumor had it, that on arrival in Auschwitz, "a hundred people were selected to go down to the camp and I was among them, then the rest went to the gas in the furnaces." He describes his work there as an undertaker. He says later that he has a clear conscience. If I understand him well (his French is very faulty), he apologizes to his family for having had to do such shameful work, but he says he did it with humanity, hence with respect for the dead. He has certainly not participated in any murder. He totally contradicts before the liberation his colleague, the liar Filip Mueller. When he mentions the disappearance of his Kommando comrades, he talks about "transport to Lublin," and certainly to gassing on the spot. He thinks that he will be liquidated but he doesn't talk about gas. If the document is authentic, it is perfectly Faurissionian. If Vidal-Naquet chose it as a proof, there is only one alternative: either he has not read it or he is a hidden partisan of Faurisson, for there has to be a high degree of imagination to find in it a "precise description" of totally absent gas chambers. Fickleness or bad faith.
3) "Every document, in general, with first hand information on Nazi methods is either a fake or tampered with." And to blame Faurisson for having classified the chronicle of the Warsaw ghetto by Emmanuel Ringelblum among the "fake, apocryphal or suspect" works. It is, in my opinion, a very remarkable document, highly instructive, written by an admirable man, whose content can be found in a very beautiful novel, La Muraille, written by John Hersey. "This chronicle has been effectively amputated, especially in the Polish edition," piously adds Vidal- Naquet, who never thought of checking. So it is ("effectively") thanks to Faurisson that our censor realizes that his bedside book has been censored. And this is a little stupid because the translations were necessarily made from the Polish text. I have an American edition of 1974 (Schacken Paperback), which is a reprint from that of McGraw Hill of 1958. It contains the warning: "This English version of the Notes du Ghetto de Varsovie is based on the selection published in the Bleter Far Gezichte, Warsaw, March 1948, and the volume published by the Jewish Historical Commission of Warsaw in 1952.. Unfortunately, it has been impossible to obtain the complete text, either the original of Warsaw or the copy in Israel." There was no need for Faurisson to find "suspicious" a censorship exercised at the same time in Poland and in Israel. So this is the place to pose the question of why so many documents like this one, or the Theodore Herzl archives, or even some Dead Sea Scrolls are locked up in Israel. As to Vidal-Naquet, he once more exhibited fickleness. Or is it bad faith? (45)
And since we have this document, assuming that the censored parts are of no concern to us, let's see what it tells us. The index has fourteen Oswiecim (Polish for Auschwitz) entries, but we easily see that there is no single entry for gas chamber. It rather mentions internments, often individual deaths and even the liberation of a Jewish gangster. There are eight references to the "penal camp" of Treblinka. In July of 1942, families some of whose members had been deported to Treblinka, sent a Bundist to Warsaw to check on the spot rumors that were circulating about a real extermination. The man never reaches the camp but meets on the way Esrael Wallach, who escaped and "who confirmed the worst tales," Ringelblum records (pp. 320-1), the tales of prisoners who say they escaped from Treblinka: "Method of killing: gas, vapor, electricity."
Here is a typical situation. Ringelblum, a marvelous scribe, records everything and fast because of the rush of events. On Treblinka, which is not very far from Warsaw, rumors abound. They will keep going after the war. Soviet journalist Vassili Grossman arrives on the heels of the Red Army and collects testimonies thirty-five years before Lanzmann. He talks about three million killed in Treblinka and mentions the use of "vacuum pomps." Ringelblum notes the source as hearsay, testimony of the existence of a rumor. It is now incumbent upon historians of the Vidal-Naquet style to explain why and how they abandoned the contemporary "vapor," "electricity" and "vacuum pomps" explanations, why they lowered the 45 figures following what material investigation and what critique of testimonies. They must justify their revisionism with the same rules they want to apply to Faurisson. And in the end, they must answer to the same courts.
4) "Every Nazi document supplying direct evidence is taken at face value if it is written in coded language but ignored (or undervalued) if it is written in direct language." And to quote Himmler and Goebbels. It is in fact complicated to interpret texts and speeches of diverse nature issued in very different conditions. It would be ridiculous to apply to them all the same decoding standards. Some speeches may have been coded, others only allusive, and still others pure boasting propaganda. If Vidal-Naquet, historian of antiquities, possesses all the codes to read all the German texts of the period, we will be reassured. He has to only publish them and explain to us, in passing, why we have recorded "secret speeches" of Himmler.
5) "Every piece of postwar Nazi evidence brought by a court either in the East or in the West . . . is considered as having been obtained by torture or intimidation." And to maintain that no S.S. leader denied the existence of gas chambers. This is absolutely wrong, as shown by the minutes of German trials. As to court confessions, one must at least wonder what they are worth, and try to find under what conditions they were obtained. This is an activity the young Vidal-Naquet engaged in during the Algerian war, but he seems to have forgotten its usefulness. Finally, it should be noted that, in German trials, a conviction is generally the result of a simple participation in "selection," this term being interpreted by the courts as synonymous with "murder" by simple reference to the Hoess "confessions" (46). Through this evasion, the courts spare themselves the trouble of producing a proof.
6) "Every pseudo-technical arsenal is mobilized to show the physical impossibility of massive gassing." Vidal-Naquet hides his incapacity to understand technical problems by baptizing them "pseudo-technical." He thinks that he can provide answers in this domain by appending to his article an opinion of the chemist Pitch Bloch. Unfortunately, instead of giving technical arguments in support of his Hellenist friend, the chemist copies a report, well known since war time and full of serious improbabilities. This chemist's work must be in cosmetics.
In this profusion of technical arguments, we better refer to Wellers rather than to the specialist of the myth of Atlantis. This is not a debate for laymen. What criteria can be used to determine the exhaustibility of a gas? What gas mixture is needed in a furnace for the combustion of a body? It is obvious that anyone talking about an industrial operation can't avoid looking at the technical side. Unless this someone is the Holy Spirit or Mao Tse-tung or Vidal-Naquet.
7) "The ontological proof": "The gas chambers don't exist because inexistence is one of their attributes." This is a cultivated joke. For example, he cites the German word Vergas ung, understood by Faurisson as gassing in one case and carbonization in another. This good joke hides a stupidity that our scholar could have spared himself by opening any dictionary, for example, the little Weis/Mattutat (47): "Vergasung: tech. gazeification; mot. carburation; (Von Menschen) gazage." In other words, it's a matter of context, my dear Watson.
8) "Finally and especially, anything that can make this terrible history conceivable or believable, mark the evolution, or provide terms for political comparison, is ignored or falsified." And to be blamed for not talking about the atrocities of the German special forces in Soviet territory or euthanasia of mental patients in 39-41 in Germany.
True, there are so many things not talked about. Questions should be posed about so many things, we should look closer, remove the deformations and the exaggerations. There too, there are probably atrocities on a large scale, but there too, the documentation seems to be incomplete, and very easily reconstructed or completed by some writers. The trial of General Von Manstein, commander of the German Army on the Russian front is revealing because the prosecution ended up abandoning the question of the Sonderkommandos (48). And the gypsies, whose interests have recently been taken up by Simon Wiesenthal (whose past in Western Ukraine during the war is still intriguing), and the homosexuals. . . . There would be things to say. The "rose triangles," Vidal-Naquet says nothing about them either. We can think of many things that are not in the encyclopedia! So we should recommend the reading of the diary of Heinz Heger, a deported homosexual with a preface by Guy Hocquenghem (49). You will see what the camps were, seen by more untermensch than the Jews! We are told in the preface that this book should be read "so that the hypocritical mask of the cold and censoring humanisms be removed from the face of those who, still today, lie to us about the camps." There would still be a lot to say about all this. . . . If one would not be quickly attacked by a pack of memorial guards and museum curators. . . . How much time is wasted. . . .
A long time could be spent going through more and more. After all, Vidal-Naquet has a strange attitude. When Faurisson makes a critical study of documents (S.S. confessions, Nuremberg or Jerusalem trials, etc.), our Hellenist finds that unbearable, stupid and blind. And then he admits that there have to be nuances, that some confessions are not good, that some parts of the trials are not all of good quality, that there has to be a "selection." And then, having formulated his critique, or more exactly the rhetorical clause which opens the eventuality of a critique, having been formally elaborated, he ends up accepting everything. The technique of the soft concrete: Obviously, we have to sort out, but I will not do it myself. Since Faurisson has no right to do it, things will remain as they are. And in order to flatter his accomplice, Leon Poliakov, who typically never sorted out anything in the documentation, the only final expert he could find is Adolf Eichmann (50), locked up for a year before his trial, with revenge literature as his only fare. Eichmann advises us to read Poliakov, but somehow Vidal-Naquet is careful not to advise us to read Eichmann's "final declaration." It's total madness.
Of what follows a long attack against Rassinier I shall not discuss the demographic computations, which seem to me to have as shaky a foundation as those of his adversaries, especially Hilberg. I will only pick up one aspect of the "method" of Vidal-Naquet. He quotes Rassinier in order to show that he was prey to antisemitism. Let me make myself very clear: Rassinier, who, during the war had helped many Jews take refuge in Switzerland, while he was up against real persecution towards the end of his life, made some ambiguous statements that are open to criticism. How is his antisemitism proved? By choosing some sentences, taken from among the many writings of Rassinier, such as this one, in the Vidal-Naquet version: "If tomorrow, the International Zionist movement gets 'a hold of Wall Street' and the Israeli home base of the Diaspora will become not only the commercial roof of the Atlantic world, but (thanks to oil) also the command post of all its industry" (51). But it happens that these statements are not at all Rassinier's. They can be found in Drame des Juifs Europeens (The Drama of European Jews) where Rassinier discusses L'Etat d'lsraël (The State of Israel) published by Kra in 1930, whose author's name is Kadmi Cohen (the father of J.F. Steiner, author of a fiction novel entitled Treblinka). The statements of Rassinier considered to be antisemitic are in fact the Zionist statements of K. Cohen. I am not surprised at all by this confusion, but that of Vidal-Naquet shows lack of thinking, if not even open bias.
There is also a long discussion of the physician Johann Paul Kremer's diary. The thing was predictable because at that time the charges brought by LICRA and other groups against Faurisson dealt only with the fact that the latter had falsified the said diary. Kremer was a German physician who had worked at Auschwitz and had kept a personal diary. The falsification accusation was itself grotesque because Faurisson was not the publisher of this German text.
Owing to this lawsuit, Faurisson took up completely the question of this document a question which seems to me for the time being devoid of any interest, because Kramer does not clarify anywhere in his personal diary the meaning of words he employs only for his own personal use which resulted in a book published in 1980 with the title Memoire en defense, contre ceux qui m'accusent de falsifier l'histoire (La Vieille Taupe). It was supplemented by an article by Jean-Gabriel Cohen-Bendit: Mon analyze du "Journal de Kremer," 17 pp. (1980)(52).
Further in-depth investigations produced nothing new. Attention then shifted to Vidal-Naquet's practices. He devoted about a page (pp. 45-46) to discuss Faurisson's interpretation of an expression of Kremer. He concludes his philosophical remarks by saying that Faurisson " was duped by a translation of the Polish publisher"; then he discusses the type of disease Kremer suffers from. In conclusion, he states that: "It is true that when Kremer talks about the camp of devastation, he is not referring to a legal administrative concept, which did not yet exist on the official tablets of the Third Reich. He was simply talking about what he saw. On the level that he held dear, that of philological exactness and of correct translation, what Faurisson did is a misinterpretation."
Certainly, a misinterpretation is very annoying, very unpleasant. In reality, this affair is rationally debatable, as Vidal-Naquet has just done. A good part of academic life consists in chasing after misinterpretations that slipped by erudite colleagues who committed an error of interpretation that can be used to doom them to disgrace, and stand on the dead bodies to claim the prize. Misinterpretation! In school, we give a bad grade, we correct, we move on. Vidal-Naquet's statement does not stop there, he goes on to say: "On the level of intellectual morality and scientific probity, it's a falsehood." This is absolutely astounding. How can a simple misinterpretation be a "falsehood"? It may be an error, a mistake, the outcome of bad reasoning, an illusion, ignorance or it may even be wrong. But a falsehood? There is a logical impossibility (an apple is not a pear) that Vidal-Naquet resolves by semantic brute force (an apple is a pear) highlighted by his formulation in cauda venenum: "This is a falsehood." This wrangling would seem simply ridiculous, had Vidal-Naquet not been shouting from the rooftops that he had proved that Faurisson is a falsifier. He said it to everybody, he repeated it in the press. He is the Saint George who slew the dragon by the unique force of his logic, and he is acclaimed as such by the ignoramuses and the cautious types who preferred not to get involved in this affair and to delegate instead a champion. But this proof, in reality, is based only on verbal fraud. For the ideological needs of the lawsuit and the manipulation of public opinion, the concepts of "falsehood" and "falsification" had to be found somewhere in order to associate them with revisionism. It's no longer simple fickleness on the part of Vidal-Naquet. Such verbal contortion can only result from passion and its companion, bad faith.
An assessment of the blunders, contradictions and signs of bad faith of Vidal-Naquet shows the staggering mediocrity of his performance. It is perfectly understandable and acceptable that he is carried away by the passion of his family's painful history. But this doesn't justify his role of a spiritual adviser and a professor of scientific morality. I repeat what I already said in my first book about this question: nobody is expected to participate in this discussion because it is painful for everybody. Vidal-Naquet thought he had taken the lead in order to defend what he considered to be the left's position and also the official (State) position in this affair. All the respectable left got in line behind him, as it does behind any low level ideologue. So, let's examine what he has to say. It turns out that he joined this discussion with tools so incomplete and competence so deficient that he squandered the illusion of his reliability. In an introductory note to the publication of his article in a book, he says that it was fairly easy to get acquainted with these questions in a few months. This is really presumptuous. That Vidal-Naquet flounders around in this manner is not in itself a proof that Faurisson is right, but it would have been desirable to generate more knowledge from a true confrontation.
THE BOILING POINT
Vidal-Naquet's article triggered a cowardly relief in the Parisian left circles. They congratulated each other in sidewalk cafes. The revisionists were screwed. From now on, we can rest easy. Thion had barely opened a sacred Pandora's box, but by sitting on it, Vidal-Naquet had saved civilization. We were given friendly advice to let go, to get lost.
But some people and small groups from the extreme left decided that the controversy lacked a political framework something that I had abstained from giving it in my book so that the reader would first look at the facts, rather than reject them because of personal political disagreements. They drafted a statement and started the distribution of twenty thousand copies of it in October, 1980. I was not party to it, but I approved of its tenor. Here it is.
A class society has to offer its oppressed people false enemies and false horrors instead of the true ones. Religion played this role of distraction and unification of society across its antagonisms. Social opposition was displaced from earth to heaven: God and the Devil. The unequal sharing of wealth in society was transformed into a just sharing of rewards and punishments according to merit. Terrifying visions of hell and of eternal flames made it easier for the exploited to accept their misery. Extreme mythical horrors are concocted in order to render poverty and daily suffering bearable.
Today, religion and morality are losing their strength, but class society and its basic needs remain. Politics and ideology come to the fore. People have to find some unifying basis, to gather against the same enemies, the same terrors. False political oppositions are substituted for real social oppositions. Exaggerated or invented horrors must allow the proletarians to better appreciate their present "comfort" hiding the true nature of their real misery. The madness born of this social malformation is every bit as bad as that of religious obscurantism.
In contemporary political thought, fascism, more than any other ideology, plays the role of the devil. The Nazi concentration universe provides the most convenient hell. The anti-fascist ideology intends to save democracy with all means against fascism and state dictatorships more or less assimilated to it. But, in reality, this ideology is first of all the means to drown in confusion the perspectives of the proletariat and to integrate the latter in the defense of the capitalist world.
The opposition between fascism and antifascism, which was made into an absolute, has, first of all, been a bad joke that the exploiters and politicians have sold to the proletariat. What a cover for hypocrisy! Before declaring war against fascism, democratic states, such as Stalin's, and left ist parties in Italy, Germany and Spain, tried to compromise, to sign pacts. After the war,a the cops or officials who had served Mussolini or Hitler were put back in the service of the democratized State. As for France's regime, it was naturally integrated into the new Western order. The mythology of antifascism, liberal or Stalinist, rewrites history and conceals the profound unity of the democratic and dictatorial forms of the State. Democracy is always ready to transform itself into a dictatorship, and vice versa, in order to save the State! It's by attacking the State and the wage system at their root, and not by preserving them in order to avoid the worst, that we can really struggle against dictatorships or dictatorial measures (restrictions of the freedom of expression, movement, employment . . . all prerogatives of every State).
Italian fascism and German Nazism were defeated by Western and Stalinist armies. This does not preclude that today's antifascist States be the heirs of fascism. Fascism was a trial run for modern capitalism: state intervention in the market economy, a car for everybody . . . permanent brainwashing; fictitious unity beyond classes, "perversion" and appropriation of proletarian and socialist ideals.
Hitler had succeeded in unifying and leading the Germans by channeling their resentment towards a false enemy: the Jews. That was a terrible intellectual and popular hypocrisy. Weakened by the 1914-1918 war, German capitalism made cynical use of antisemitism to politically unify heterogeneous classes and rally them in support of the State. Antifascism has the same political function and pulls the same psychological strings, even if the target has changed. We must end this antisemitism. We must end this antifascism. They are both the "socialism of fools."
Antifascism is a more advanced, more subtle form of antisemitism, but no less counter-revolutionary. It creates an attitude and reflexes of hate. Faced with fascism, we no longer think: we must not think it's taboo. Faced with fascism, everything is allowed dirty tricks, lies, lynching, a call for the State. Antisemitism works just as well against a rival grocer as against "Judeo-Bolshevism," or "Judeo-capitalism. . . ." The assimilation capacity of the term fascism will become even greater. Whatever disturbs or whatever we don't want to understand becomes "fascism."
Since the 19th century, the left has played the guard dog of the state. It barks at the least provocation by the proletariat or any social unrest, joining the right in an atmosphere of racial attack: in Berlin (1919-1923), in Barcelona (May 1937) or in Setif (8 May, 1945). It is the left which denounces and disarms rebel movements by appealing for popular support against the enemies of the established order. In Italy today, it assumes the concrete form of a united front around the State.
But how dare we compare a racist behavior and ideology with antifascism which likes to think of itself as antiracist? In fact, antifascism is used as a cover and a justification for a good many dirty tricks against such and such group. First, it served to cover a repugnant anti-German racism. But also colonial repression: Algerian rioters butchered in Setif they were "Hitlerians." In general, antifascism has made antiracism hollow. Everybody is against racism and everybody puts up with all kinds of anonymous racisms. So behavior which is not racist is attacked as such.
But how dare we compare those who put the Jews in "gas chambers" and those who came to stop the "genocide"? There is a big difference: fascists and Nazis assassinated deliberately, our democratic and "socialist" world makes do with letting die of hunger every year tens of millions of people who could be saved by a better distribution of available food.
It's not the will of its leaders which made fascism murderous. Like its enemies, it was caught in war, and like them, it wanted to win by all means, including the most horrible. If it had the atom bomb, it would have certainly used it. Deportation and concentration of millions of people can't be reduced to a Nazi infernal idea, it was the result of the lack of labor necessary for the war industry. With diminishing control of the situation, the continuation of the war, and the gathering of much superior forces against it, fascism could not sufficiently feed the deportees or dispatch food adequately. The individual was reduced to a number, the concentration camps with their dehumanization, their internal bureaucracies, their devastating epidemics, malnutrition and mad rumors are no more than an exacerbated expression of the world we live in. Not a hell which would be outside of it.
These "gas chambers" (about which they go on and on and which would have been the instrument of the most horrible crime in history and where in several concentration camps, SS "confessed" and deportees "testified" to their existence, and which continue to be shown to tourists, it is officially recognized that they did not exist), these "gas chambers" are the horror that allowed the avoidance to confront the real horror of Nazi or other deportation and concentration camps. The "gas chambers" rumor, made official by the Nuremberg Tribunal, allowed the avoidance of a real profound critique of Nazism. It is this mythical horror which allowed the concealment of the real and actual causes of the camps and of the war!
Deportees who did not return died because of the war. Their deaths are exploited in order to relegate to a secondary level the tens of millions who died during the Second World War. And if this little world is not shaken up by a social revolution, a few years from now, we will certainly see intellectuals do a mea culpa and seriously wonder about the causes of their transgressions. Others will explain that the lie was provisionally necessary.
After the 1914-1918 War, the disgust with such gigantic killings was general. Pacifism had an echo among wide strata of the population. The 1939-1945 War was a clear victory for capital. The return to peace was quiet, with little proletarian turmoil. This war, much deadlier than the previous one, seemed a justifiable enterprise. Hitler had to be beaten, the devil had to be crushed. Never again the absurdity of Verdun! But Stalingrad, the landing, the Resistance, it's different, think some people who pretend to be revolutionaries.
In factories, we're ready to rally under the leadership of responsible unions, we're ready to go back to the front, if we're given to believe that we are struggling for Freedom, for Socialism, and for Human Rights. Never before had so many weapons and such murderous weapons ever been produced. All over the world, people are dying in conflicts fueled by imperialist powers. But War ministries have become Defense ministries, and as in George Orwell's 1984, they may become Peace ministries. Belligerent nationalist ranting of the past have been replaced by pacifist speeches of modern heads of State. Make war, yes, but in order to better preserve peace. Modern war propaganda is no longer limited to one nationalism against another. It needs to stage produce monsters and to cultivate horror. In this way, it makes people forget or it justifies its own barbarism.
Recently, in Cambodia, the number of deaths increases and the real causes of a catastrophic situation are blamed on a gang of murders, Pol Pot style -- new Hitlers! The figures were inflated in Hanoi and taken up by the rightist press in the U.S.A. Everybody used them for their own purposes: Vietnam found in them a pretext to justify its intervention; the Americans used them to fuel their anti-communism and to blot out the harmful role they played in the region. When a lot of noise was being made in the West about Cambodia, massacres of the same magnitude were taking place in Timor, which was being taken over by Indonesia the weapons used were French and American made. In France and in the U.S., we were, therefore, more involved and we had the possibility of acting. But the press, both of the right and of the left, was silent.
The only possible revolutionary attitude is not to exaggerate antifascism, to see fascism everywhere, like the leftists. It can't be other than the subversion of all war propaganda. Our enemies are social relations, even if we have to confront men who defend them. It is by attacking money and the State that humanity could, not reach an impossible paradise but be formed as a community. Fascism was a social movement designed to strengthen the power of the State, which no longer maintains order and unifies society. Antifascism remains the means of avoiding the critique of the State: participation of the left in the State in order to prevent it from becoming fascist, support of and appeal to the State to struggle against real or imaginary fascisms.
1936 marked the repudiation by Spanish Anarcho-syndicalism of its anti-state principles after the Franco putsch: antifascism and workers' blood were put in the service of the republican State. In Italy, today, antifascism allied to anti- "red terrorism" serves to rally the people around the State, which is supposed to protect them. But here, too, it's madness. The cops of this antifascist State themselves organize massacres or a kidnappings like that of Aldo Moro. Then some extreme right or extreme left elements are flaunted as the criminals. And the mass media whips up so much hype that none other than the State version can be heard (cf. Gianfranco Sanguinetti, Du Terrorisme et de l'Etat).
Yet, while skepticism about official declarations is widespread, this lie works. People don't really believe it, but it's good enough to keep them disinterested true, false? What's the difference! Isolation and passivity have led to a frightening intelligence failure. Far from being a society of freedom in which to think, democracy is that of supreme sweet- talk with the greatest respect for individual stupidity.
The most striking aspect in the history of official truths is the ease with which those who peddle them change sides when they no longer have a choice. During the "hot" period of reports on Cambodia, figures were modified every day without any explanation to justify the incoherence. A flood of contradictory information on recent events in Poland was dumped on us in the greatest confusion, without any answers to any precise questions How much? Where? When? As for the supporters of the existence of "gas chambers," they are giving in, step by step, admitting facts, but never admitting that what they pretended before was a lie.
Compared to the feudal world, the democratic universe of the bourgeoisie is unable to produce a unanimous monolithic religion. But it has its sacred truths and it pays those who protect them. For us, there is no point in correcting sacred truths, we have to undo them, to deconstruct them and to expose the liars. We may never have "scientific" proofs of the nonexistence of these "gas chambers" (whose existence is questioned by an increasing number of Jews) which resist criticism. It is by reversing the ideologies that we will, at the same time, understand their function and the reality they conceal. It is important, in practice, to impose another version of certain facts and especially, to insist on a different understanding of social reality, and to block the frightening production of tall stories that we are made to swallow.
This period produces the stubborn indifference of some and the strong hostility of those who are prisoners of the political reflexes and thinking; and we have to clash with this indifference and this hostility. But this period produces also people who are capable of understanding us and forces which are capable of subverting it.
Only the communist struggle of the proletarians and the destruction of the wage system, of commodities and of States will allow us to get rid of political madness and its parallel ideologies.
A few days later, a bomb explodes. Friday, October 3, 1980 , towards the end of the afternoon, at the time of religious services, a powerful bomb goes off in front of a synagogue, Copernic Street in a fancy neighborhood of Paris. Several passersby are killed or wounded. Nobody claims responsibility.
Immediately, the political circles are carried away by fever of excitement. Emotions, declarations, demonstrations, great hype in the media give to the event the aspect of a national crisis, yet barely felt by people in the street. Politicians, journalists and intellectuals are struck by growing hysteria. They unanimously point an accusing finger at the only monsters thought to be capable of such an attempt, not so much against human lives, but against the dominant ideology, the fascists, neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalists.
They are not so much taken by surprise, these pale heirs of ruined fascisms.For months, they are tracked down by the police and by a press which, here, feels free to say anything. Infiltrated by cops and by Zionist spies, divided in cliques implacably pit against each other, they were overcome by fear and powerlessness. Hence the attempt to take the dangerous jump and say that the spoilsports Faurisson and The Vieille Taupe and their friends are morally implicated in this kind of criminal activity. There remains only one step happily crossed by the political commissars of Nouvel Observateur: "From the New Right which, by its Indo-European vaticinations, has prepared the ground (for neo-Nazis), to the writings of those who, in doubting the existence of gas chambers, try to clear the Nazis from the Holocaust, all the barriers gave way," (October 6, 1980). Overcome by the Walkyrie of motherly love, Elizabeth Badinter: "Perverse questions . . . contagious questions . . . how not to notice the simultaneity of racist statements and actions that have increased as have the warnings in the past two years?" (Le Matin de Paris, October 8, 1980) And some rabbis too: "The outrage has reached the point of robbing us of the sacred memory of our martyrs." (Grand rabbi Sirat, ibidem) And everybody calls for more police, more repression, the ban on some group or on some doctrine. We know the story.
This great confusion culminated four days later in a big demonstration attended by all political and union (syndical) organizations and some others. All these people, who were used to be against each other, were quite uncomfortable marching for the first time together in a total political vacuum. The only new element was a small rightist group, very tied to Israel: "le Renouveau juif" (Jewish renewal). Its aim was to assemble French Jews in order to make them into a docile tool of political pressure. Close to twenty thousand people marched under its banners. Some passersby were beaten up, for their rather short haircut was enough evidence that they were anti-semites. During that time, the tract "Our Kingdom is a Prison" was being distributed like hot cakes, with no incident. There was such demand for it in Paris and elsewhere that two new runs had to be made for a total of sixty thousand.
It seemed appropriate to me to put some order into this absurd confusion. After all, we were singled out for popular vindictiveness by a pack of croaking hacks. This counter-attack took the following form.
The frozen bombs of a cold and calculating terrorism exploded in an anxious Europe. Milan, Belfast, Madrid, Bologna, Munich, Paris, knots of instability and latent conflicts in our provisionary republics. Any explanation that did not take into account the recent extension of terrorism would not be acceptable. The Irish, the Basques, the Bretons, the Corsicans, the Armenians, the Israelis, the Palestinians and others carry out or have carried out terrorist acts under well known conditions, with established references. They want to set up, manage, and defend a tool of exploitation which would be their own, a national State which will oppress them in a complete, intimate and definitive manner. There are bourgeoisies which never have enough. This crisis of nationalities has been going on since the beginning of modern capitalism and will end only with it. Those who have no homeland and no borders look at it with the detachment of a reflection about a legacy of the past.
But the bombs that explode are not wrapped with hypothetical national flags, are not directed at the cessession of any periphery, are claimed by nobody, even if rumor attributes them to anybody. They explode for no reason. They frighten without having any apparent significance. If we have to ask why the train station in Bologna, why Oktoberfestplatz in Munich, there is no reason for not asking why the synagogue of Copernic Street.
The oldest adage of our criminal code is cui prodest? Who profits from the crime? To answer this question and identify the authors of these terrible crimes, there is no need for rigged police investigations, special courts with proverbial servility or leaks by mysterious oracles for the great benefit of advertising executives. These questions get resolved by themselves with the observation of the social climate.
Set aside the phantasmagoria floating about everywhere. For obsessed Zionists, the guilty party is obviously Kadhafi, or the Palestinians, or the Arabs. For conservatives and the "new right," it's the KGB. For the center left, it's the extreme right and for the center right, it's the extreme left. All these projections come under mass psychoanalysis. Let's be clear: the question is not to determine the skin color or the convictions of the subordinates who handle guns or explosives. Those, certainly, do not know whose job they are doing. This is the least self-protection for those who figure out the charge and its political impact.
The possibility of an assassination attempt by the Israeli secret service, the Mossad, crossed everybody's mind, at least for a moment. The Mossad has never been reluctant to assassinate Arab militants in France, or to blow up a factory where an atomic reactor that was to be shipped to Iraq was being manufactured, or even to bomb it, taking advantage of the war between Iraq and Iran. It is known that the Israeli special services are driven by a tried and tested cynicism, and in view of the extent to which this is exploited in Jerusalem, it is not unreasonable to think that they wanted to frighten the French Jews to make them emigrate to Palestine. The only decent reason against this line of thought is that terrorism functions on a European scale and that's where it will be explained.
Let's quickly deal with the supposed neo-Nazi culpability, for whatever it's worth: These minuscule groups, with no following, led by nobodies, are clearly incapable of shaking a state, no matter how close it is to decomposition. For several months, they have been, in France, the target of a sterile and hypocritical police persecution. These people spend half of their time being interrogated in police stations in France as well as in Germany and Italy. The police, too, after spending their time, have to release them, unable to get them on anything other than some motives. And the hoary heads of the self- righteous left are indignant: How can we let the Nazis free to have Nazi thoughts? Listen to these demands that people who do not think like them be put in prison while they themselves well deserve it for their stupidity!
Do we want to take a closer look? FANE, a tiny group set up and blown out of proportion by cops, judges and journalists, is made up of twenty percent cops, according to the latter's information. The suckers are not surprised by this inversion of reality: if one out of five militants is a cop, it follows that fascists can join the police as easily as one can join a fishing club. Better still, this famous inspector Durand, member of FANE, lost his anonymity thanks only to the blunder of Italian investigators, who had a pressing need for young bodies. And what was the official job of these studded boots? The protection of our rabbi Kaplan, an honorable man who had a lot of sympathy for the Crosses of Fire in the thirties. Kaplan said nothing, showed neither surprise nor indignation when the press inadvertently revealed the interesting relations of his guardian angel. And Durand did not complain when he was kicked out of the cop shop as a vulgar criminal. One wonders who profited most from these charming events, the surly characters, FANE, or Kaplan.
What can a skeletal organization, infiltrated and harassed by assassination attempts (possibly by the left?) and finally banned by government decree, do in this mess? It serves as a screen, a cover for the real terrorists, who will make it endorse their crimes. Two days after the Copernic Street incident, a clumsy phone caller whose job is to claim responsibility for attacks, was not afraid to claim the responsibility for a booby-trapped car by a jealous husband, in the name of another impotent faction of the extreme right.
If we want to understand something of this hodgepodge, we have to go back to Italy, where the contemporary style of new- look terrorism took hold beginning in 1969. And its most profound and penetrating analysis comes to us consequently also from Italy, under the implacable pen of Gianfranco Sanguinetti, Du Terrorisme et de l'Etat, la theorie et la pratique du terrorisme divulguees pour la premiere fois. (Of Terrorism and the State. Theory and Practice Divulged for the First Time.) It would be wise to distribute this work to all elementary schoolers. In fact, Sanguinetti says so.
In this peninsula birthplace of modern capitalism, Papal Seat, the center of Christianity and Euro-Stalinism, a privileged place for counter-revolutionary experimentation, and the counter-Reformation of current secret services and of Stalinists passing through fascism, whose vestiges of past greatness attract so many foreign visitors converges today the putrid decomposition waste of all that has marked this millennium. Everybody is plagued by the repulsive miasma of Christianity, capitalism and Stalinism, which, having reached the ultimate stage of infection, support each other for a moment still in the face of a menacing imminence of the most menacing of revolutions. They all meet here to put together the most relentless and the most desperate of all repressions, debating the most efficient system to condemn history, which has condemned them (p. 27).
Sanguinetti first explains that :
Defensive State terrorism is practiced by them directly or indirectly, with their own weapons or with those of others. If States have recourse to direct terrorism, it must be directed against the population as what happened, for example, with the massacre of piazza Fontana, of Italicus, and of Brescia. If, on the contrary, the States decide to have recourse to indirect terrorism, this one must apparently be directed against them as, for example, the Moro affair.
Assassination attempts carried out directly
by independent units or their State parallel services, are usually
not claimed by anybody, but are imputed and attributed to such
and such convenient "guilty" party, such as Pinelli
or Valpreda. Experience shows that this is the weakest point of
such terrorism and the determining factor of its extreme fragility
in political usage. Based on results of this experience, the strategists
of parallel services of the State try henceforth to give their
actions more credibility, or at least less unlikelihood, by having
them claimed directly by such and such an acronym of a phantom
group, or even by an existing clandestine group whose militants
appear to be, and sometimes believe that they are not, involved
in the designs of the State apparatus (pp. 69-70).
Sanguinetti exposes the profound reasons for this state of affairs:
From the Piazza Fontana to the Moro kidnapping, the only changes were the contingent objectives realized by defensive terrorism. But the goal can never change in the defensive mode. And the goal, on December 12, 1969 and on March 16, 1978, and still today, has in fact always remained the same. This goal is to make the people who no longer support the State or are struggling against it, have at least a common enemy with the State, and that the State defend them against it on the condition that it won't be reappraised by anybody. The people, who are in general hostile to terrorism, and for good reason, have to admit that at least in this domain, they have a need for the State, to which they have to delegate the most widespread powers in order to be able to vigorously confront the arduous task of common defense against an obscure, mysterious, treacherous and merciless in a word, fanciful enemy. In the face of an ever present terrorism presented as the absolute evil, evil in itself and for itself, all other evil, however more real, is relegated to a second level, and must even be forgotten. For the struggle against terrorism coincides with the common interest. It is already the common good and the State that works for it generously, the good in itself and for itself. Without the viciousness of the devil, the infinite goodness of God could not be seen and appreciated as it should.
The State and its economy have been extremely weakened in the past ten years as a result of daily attacks by the proletariat, on the one hand, and on the other, by the incapacity of its managers. It can silence everybody by staging a spectacle of common sacrosanct defense against the terrorist monster. And in the name of this pious mission, it can demand from its subject an additional portion of their restricted freedom, which will reinforce police control over all the people (pp. 71-72).
Several similar quotations could serve as
food for thought to a number of "antifascists":
When the "red track" of Piazza Fontana collapsed miserably, and even though they never protested against the fact that Valpreda was jailed for three years, the Stalinists pulled out of their bag the "black track." And now our extra parliamentarians made the "black track" theirs, and ran behind the Stalinists shouting too that "fascism won't pass." Naturally, I don't rule out that some fascists participated in one or another "red" or "black" terrorist act. But this has no importance whatsoever because we know that just as our State uses well known fascists as generals, prefects, judges, and police commissioners, it just as well uses them as secret agents, infiltrated elements and terrorist workers and despite all this, the State and its terrorism are not defined as "fascist." (p. 87)
How true this is of Germany (of the two
Germanies, we should say), and of our beautiful country: How many
former Petain supporters are ministers or hold high administrative
positions, like Marcellin? How many former militants of French
Algeria, or of the OAS, are in the police or the army? And our
eminence, Piniatowski, who before occupying Beauveau Place, supplied
information to the OAS? And Giscard, who in 1974, recruited his
personnel from the extreme right?
In the unprecedented confusion which prevails today, the wreckage of leftist poverty does not shine here with any more lucidity than in Italy.
Due to their incurable inferiority complex
vis-a-vis the capacity to lie of the PCI, effectively superior
to theirs, the extra parliamentarians immediately accepted the
version of the facts accredited by the PCI. According to this
version, the bombs were of "fascist style" and hence,
could not be the work of the secret services of this "democratic"
State, so democratic that it never worries about what is said,
and that the only ones to be considered "dangerous"
in the show are underpaid but indispensable extras. This explanation
of the facts agreed however perfectly with the true ideology of
these small groups infatuated with Mao, Stalin and Lenin, as they
are today with Guattari, Toni Negri and Scalzon, or with their
miserable "private life" and their ridiculous "brothels."
Since all these alleged "extremists" did not want
to tell the truth and did not know how to openly accuse this
State of being terrorist, they did not know how to fight it with
any tangible results: because saying that this bomb was "fascist"
is as dishonest as saying that it was "anarchist" and
all lies, no matter how contradictory they may seem, are always
united in the sabotage of the truth. And only the truth
is revolutionary, only the truth is detrimental to power,
only the truth is capable of infuriating Stalinists and bourgeois
alike.[ . . .] Victims of their own false awareness
always expressed in ideological terms, the extra- parliamentarians
could no longer elude the questions raised by showy terrorism.
In 1970, they started to consider terrorism in itself, ideologically,
in a metaphysical manner, completely abstracted from reality.
And when the truth about the massacre of Piazza Fontana finally
came out, and all the lies about it collapsed one after another,
neither the good souls of the progressive intellectual bourgeoisie,
nor the scarecrow of "lofta continua" and their consorts
were capable of raising the real question, namely, the scandal:
that the democratic Republic did not hesitate to conduct a
massacre when this seemed to be useful, because when all the
laws of the State are in danger, "there exists for the State
only one inviolable law: the survival of the State" (Marx).
The massacre of the Piazza Fontana, in Milan,
in 1969 was executed by the Italian services. This is well known
today. Le Monde wrote an article about it the day after
the explosion in Bologna, as though it was simple trivia, known
by every reader, while it had never written about it
or explain it before. Sanguinetti shows why:
That this State is in need of terrorism
is something everyone of its representatives is henceforth perfectly
convinced of, by experience if not by reasoning, since the happy
immediate and miraculous outcome of the operation of Piazza Fontana.
The proof is that if there was no "Dreyfus affair"
about it, it doesn't certainly mean that it was less scandalous,
but because of the fact that all parties, for different reasons,
understood that this bomb saved the State, that each one defined
in its own way; and that the truth about this bomb was
capable by itself of destroying it completely. And if there was
no "Dreyfus affair," it was also because of the fact
that in our enslaved intelligentsia, no Emile Zola has ever demanded
or required a truthful conclusion of the piazza Fontana (pp.
The investigation may answer some subsidiary
questions, but it will be difficult, policemen will not suffice.
They must be assisted by sociologists.
The Pedestrians of Copernic Street
Sanguinetti's analyses provoked a shock in 1975, when he published, under the name of Censor a Reporto veridico sulle ultime opportunita di salvare il capitalismo in Italia. He seemed so well informed that the press speculated that he may well be a member of the government. Sanguinetti ridiculed them as too smart: he had no special information and he simply used his understanding. Everyone can do the same thing, it's as plain as the nose on your face.
We notice that in Bologna, Munich or Paris, it seems that sophisticated explosives were used. Police experts are curiously discreet about this subject. Yet, it's child's play to determine the nature of the explosives (and hence, in most cases, their origin) as well as that of the detonator. Nobody told us whether or not the bomb of Copernic Street was remote-controlled. All those elements that remain obscure allow us to better understand the motives, to see why the putative bomb carrier was blown up with it in Munich and why in Paris, it blew up before the religious service was over. Errors or supreme skills of the planners?
This rise in terrorism in Europe becomes clearer in the light of what it revealed about itself, especially in Italy, over the past ten years. The explosions in Bologna and Munich were not only predictable, they were predicted. Read Sanguinetti. For in order to validate its racket, this terrorism has to always outbid. Right after the Copernic Street incident, we could expect other bombs, aimed at other victims, to explode. The carnage, which by sheer luck did not occur a few days later at la Bourse, will take place somewhere else soon. So there is nothing surprising about the explosion of Copernic Street, but some of its special features should be pointed out.
It is an antisemitic attack, or at least it appears as such. In fact, antisemitism may be the means rather than the aim. Tracing back the sequence of events, we can recall that the attack was claimed by FANE. This was favorably received by the public. For three months, the press, the courts, the politicians, all in chorus attacked this small group which vegetated for many years without drawing anybody's attention to it. Neither the activities, nor the literature of FANE had changed in nature. But during the summer, actions of anti-Jewish character are anonymously claimed in the name of FANE, culminating, a week before the bomb, with nightly machine- gunning of Jewish businesses. The road leading to Copernic had been carefully prepared for several months. During this time, the FANE people were targeted by the justice system and the police. They were the object of several attacks, such as Fredriksen's apartment on May 4, when the cops discretely took the list of FANE members. The path was marked. FANE or no FANE, it's a Nazi attack.
It's a curious idea to resuscitate such an old corpse. Especially as the true Nazis got to power through democratic means. The Italians, who are more modern, have a double faced terrorism: "red" and "black." In France, despite some pathetic attempts by the "proletarian left" rednecks, so dear to Sartre's heart, the leftists were not up to it. They could not get their "willing machines" to work in the pyrotechnic craft of "jambisation" (54) of small chiefs. They finally preferred the salsa or returned to the synagogue. As for the independents, they lacked the hierarchical, clandestine structure necessary for efficient manipulation. Yet, no means were spared to trip them up. The "provocation" item in the police budget must have been high in 1979. Recall the demonstration of March 23rd in Paris where cops were deliberately sent to have their face bashed by steel workers, or those of the Opera or Jussieu, where provocateurs were so wild that even journalists were set to thinking. And this is a lot.
There was only a handful of toughs from the suburbs, well trained in the Maoist tradition to play at "direct action." Those miserable would-be bandits could not survive very long. As much as they were infiltrated, they were so weak that the cops had to liquidate them at the same time as the opinion makers were inflating an ectoplasmic FANE. After all, it turns out that it is impossible to set up and manipulate a terrorism of the left that makes the required impression and is credible, so it has to be found on the right. There are no Red Brigades in France, but there are Nazis.
Also, they have to be able to have some credibility before and after the birth of modern terrorism. The ground was prepared by the newspapers, stupid jerks, the hallmark of the attack has to be above any suspicion. What proves that a Nazi is indubitably a Nazi? He kills Jews. Quod demonstrandum erat.
But since it is already known that it will be difficult to find a good Nazi who would make a presentable guilty party, other trails have been meticulously prepared to be used as circumstances dictate. An incredible false Cypriot, waving his passport and his dollars in everybody's face, blazed a trail that stands to get lost in the moving sands of Shatt el Arab. And how many other rings are in store to excite the sagacity of our faithful Ganimard?
Incidentally, this affair provides the key to a little, so far unresolved puzzle, the assassination of Henri Curiel in 1978 (55). It is well known (56) that the latter was a central figure in connections among many foreign clandestine organizations. His network "Solidarity," reasonably well infiltrated by the French Services, gave them an interesting observation post. Those who don't see that Curiel worked freely and voluntarily for the Russians, don't surely known for whom they themselves work. There was speculation that the assassination was ordered by the KGB but Curiel was never intractable or reticent.
Whatever we may think of Curiel, there is no doubt that his activities were the exact opposite of terrorism. Being at the crossroads of so many underground activities, Curiel surely had connections with groups or militants who had, at one time or another, practiced terrorism. But he had the means to oppose it and he in fact did. Therefore, it seems normal that any venture aimed at paving the way for the preliminary manipulations which are necessary to set up a terrorist structure will come up against the Curiel obstacle and the clandestine ramifications of his group. This would completely justify his elimination and the fact that his network had not been touched: a leaderless clandestine organization is the dream of manipulators. As luck would have it, it wasn't until June, 1980 that his false documents would come out (Le Monde, June 25, 1980). This was a pivotal moment when Direct Action was being corned and when FANE was suddenly propelled to center stage.
The only known positive evidence about the murder comes from the cops: the weapon that killed Curiel is the same one that killed the night guard at the Algerian Association in December 1977. The thing is unverifiable. Either they are lying to confuse the issue, or this shows that the organizers of state terrorism in France have no difficulty in finding a weapon or a shooter among the veterans of the AOS. Those who are nostalgic about racial attacks are obviously the best breeding ground for experienced men. Finally, with an admirable desire for coherence, and in order to close the loop and connect the preliminary murder of May 1978 to the preparation for Copernic Street, they came during the summer of 1980 to lay a small bomb at Mme. Curiel's door, the same assassination place. All these miserable inventions have to hold.
ENDNOTES at the end of part 2 of this chapter
ARTICLE 19. <Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.>The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, in Paris.