Eaton: Who Are the Holocaust Deniers and How Do They Operate?
“The people who deny the Holocaust understand something,” Richard Eaton said. “There are a lot of historians who understand the Holocaust, but most people do not understand the disgusting details of the Holocaust, they are not scholars, [the deniers] rely on this, they capitalize on it, because they know how they can go about denying the Holocaust.”
Eaton began by undercutting a central claim of by the Holocaust denial organizations that the German concentrations camps were an invention of postwar Jewish propaganda. “It is important to understand that in Nazi Germany, Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals were not the first victims of the Nazis. The first victims of the Nazis were Germans themselves. They were the mental patients, they were political prisoners, and others. The first camps were set up in Germany in 1933, only seven weeks after Hitler came to power.”
Before looking at the motives of the Holocaust denial movement, Richard Eaton discussed their methods. While there are some outright lies, he said, they more commonly take isolated facts out of context and present them to mean something very different. This is usually done in a context that attempts to sound scholarly and avoids overt anti-Semitic declarations. “They pick very specific items out of the vast subject of the Holocaust and say this didn’t happen that way and so forth.”
The deniers’ strategy has been to pressure legitimate historians to debate them in public, as though their antifactual positions have equal validity with the body of established historical facts and accredited university scholars. A few years ago “they started a campaign taking out full-page ads in campus newspapers.” Almost half the schools that received these ads printed them, Eaton said. “Many of them believed they were doing this on a free speech basis, even though they were selling advertising. They had every right to not print the ad.” The goal, he said, was to gain legitimacy in the academic community.
Here he turned to the substance of the denial claims. Eaton commented that everybody knows the figure that six million died, but most do not know how the figure was arrived at. It comes, he said, by comparing the Jewish population of cities and villages throughout Nazi-occupied Europe before and after World War II. That is, not all the killing took place in particular camps. The Holocaust deniers have focused on trying to refute the numbers, particularly at specific concentration camps.
“They brought in a man who was supposed to be a gas-chamber expert, and actually went over to Poland and he went to the gas chambers and he took samples and scrapings off the walls, and looked at the plans. And he came up and said the gas chambers couldn’t actually do what they were said to have done. They could not have killed these hundreds of thousands of people in the short time with the amount of gas that they had.
“Well, the one thing that they actually proved in doing so is that their expert didn’t understand how the gas chambers worked in the first place. The truth is that the gas chambers worked on displacement. If you take a room like this one and you put about a thousand people into it you are going to literally jam them up to the ceiling. As such, all you have to take is a couple of small cans of Zyklon-B, the gas that was used, and poison what little air is left in the room and most of the victims there die of suffocation from the other people that they are jammed in with. So these people proved they didn’t know how the gas chambers worked, yet they produced this scientific engineering study by this so-called engineer that went to the camps and checked them out. In truth they found out that he wasn’t actually an engineer and he was later tried in the state of Massachusetts for impersonating one.”
Another example Eaton gave was a photograph widely circulated by the Holocaust deniers of General Eisenhower standing next to one of the gas chambers at Dachau. “And they hold this up and say, here is Eisenhower being shown a false gas chamber. And they are correct. At Dachau, which was a camp in Germany used mainly for political prisoners, they started to construct a gas chamber. They used inmates to construct the gas chamber. The inmates sabotaged the chamber and it was never actually used as a gas chamber.”
Eaton said that the largest of the true death camps was the Birkenau section of the enormous Auschwitz complex. “The average lifespan of people who were placed on trains and sent there, when they arrived at Auschwitz, was about three hours.” He pointed to the use by the deniers of Red Cross figures that recorded only some 300,000 deaths at Auschwitz, which the Red Cross listed as caused by disease. Auschwitz, Richard Eaton said, was actually a large series of camps the size of the San Fernando Valley. It included gas chambers but also munitions factories that employed slave labor. The Red Cross was admitted to Auschwitz One, where they saw bodies of people who had died of disease, but they were barred by the Nazis from the rest of the complex.
“There were five other camps that used gas chambers. They did not keep records and they did everything to conceal them. Treblinka killed somewhere between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people, mainly from Warsaw and the surrounding area.” When Germany was losing the war, he said, “they bulldozed the property and put a Ukrainian farmer on there and told him to tell people he had been farming there for the whole war.”
The Holocaust deniers, Eaton said, “are very good at what they do, and too many people that have no business doing so try to tangle with them.” Just knowing that six million people were murdered is not enough to win an argument with people who have a litany of documents taken out of context and are well versed in it. “I guarantee that when ordinary people try to take them on they do not know the details about the Holocaust the way the people that deny it do. They are very practiced. They have all the answers.”
Another example of their tactics was to send a man named David Cole to Auschwitz to interview the director of the Auschwitz Museum on video. In the full interview, the director explained the Nazis’ decision to use gas chambers after earlier efforts — to seal the Jews in ghettos and starve them to death and the widespread use of traveling gas-chamber vans — proved to be too slow or too messy. The video was edited back in the United States and released by the Institute for Historical Review, one of the main Holocaust denier organizations, with the claim that the footage had the museum director admitting that the gas chambers were all fakes constructed after the war.
In a few-minute segment of the long interview the museum director said that a pilot gas chamber had been built by the Nazis at Auschwitz One as a test, in which they killed some Russian soldiers. When they were satisfied that the process worked, they converted the experimental gas-chamber building to other uses and constructed the main gas chambers at nearby Birkenau, where millions of people were murdered. At the end of the war, the museum director explained, as part of the Auschwitz memorial the experimental gas chamber was restored for visitors to see. “So David Cole cuts this video and makes it sound like the Allies built the whole camp after the war to show that the evil Nazis were gassing Jews at Auschwitz. And they touted this video for a long time.”
The Institute for Historical Review and similar Holocaust denial groups write heavily footnoted essays with a scholarly tone. “All it takes to dispel this is to dig into their footnotes and see what the original sources actually say. But they know that the good majority of people are not going to do this.”
Who are these people and why do they propound these counterfactual positions? Richard Eaton said his opinion is that they hope to lay the groundwork for disbelief in the Holocaust in some future generation when all the witnesses are dead. “In the meantime it gives them something to do, they may hope to get a job pretending to be scholars. But deep down you do find neo-Nazis involved with this movement. One of the premier movers and shakers of the Holocaust denial movement is a man named Willis Cardo,” the head of the Institute for Historical Review. “Cardo has been a long-time racist in this country. Back in the 1940s he started an organization called the Joint Council for Repatriation. If you haven’t figured that one out, what it was was an organization that lobbied Congress to pass a law to send African Americans back to Africa.”
These groups have pamphlets and web pages where you don’t see racism and anti-Semitism, Eaton concluded, “but when you scratch a Holocaust denier deep enough you can usually find something else beneath.”
“Jasenovac and The Holocaust in Yugoslavia” presents the twelve papers by historians and the fifteen survivor testimonies given at the First International Conference and Exhibition on the Jasenovac Concentration Camps, where hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Romas and anti-fascists of various nationalities perished. The book also includes a forty- page introduction, ninety-seven photographs and a thirty-seven page appendix of never-before-translated documents. The thirty chapters cover all aspects of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia and especially fascist Croatia. Among the historians included in this volume are Michael Berenbaum, Christopher Simpson, Eli Rosenbaum, Charles R. Allen, Jr., Antun Miletic and Thomas Popovich.
Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945: A Record of Racial and religious Persecutions and Massacres by French historian Edmond Paris, published in 1961 by the American Institute for Balkan Affairs, and The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican: The Croatian Massacre of the Serbs during World War II by Vladimir Dedijer, a Communist Yugoslav confidant of Josip Broz Tito, published in 1992 by Prometheus Books in New York. These accounts are, however, marginal and fringe accounts, translations of French and Yugoslav historians.
The historical accounts of the Jasenovac camp and the genocide committed there remain largely untold, suppressed, covered-up, and censored.
Even the Nazi generals were amazed at the horrors of Jasenovac. Thus, General von Horstenau, Hitler’s representative in Zagreb, wrote in his personal diary for 1942 that the Ustasha camps in the NDH were „the epitome of horror”, and Arthur Hefner, a German transport officer for work forces in the Reich, wrote on November 11, 1942 of Jasenovac: „The concept of the Jasenovac camp should actually be understood as several camps which are several kilometers apart, grouped around Jasenovac. Regardless of the propaganda, this is one of the most horrible of camps, which can only be compared to Dante’s Inferno”.