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Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory Paperback – 28 Jul 1994
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Praise for Denying the Holocaust"Important and impassioned... A comprehensive account of Holocaust denial, particularly from an American perspective and particularly for the reader with little prior knowledge of the subject. It rigorously traces the movement's roots and development both in this country and abroad, describes the ways the deniers have managed to focus attention on their arguments in both educational institutions and the news media, and explores the susceptibility of Americans, as well as others, to their arguments."--Walter Reich, New York Times "Lipstadt, who has been sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving, was the first to call attention to the rapidly expanding movement to deny that the Holocaust ever took place. In this groundbreaking analysis, she profiles the deniers and explains their viewpoints and exposes the rabid anti-Semitism at the heart of Holocaust denial and the very serious threat it poses."--Donna Seaman, Booklist
The denial of the Holocaust has no more credibility than the assertion that the earth is flat. Yet there are those who insist that the death of six million Jews and other persecuted people in Nazi concentration camps is nothing but a hoax perpetuated by a powerful Zionist conspiracy. In this first full-scale history of Holocaust denial, Deborah Lipstadt shows how - despite tens of thousands of living witnesses and vast amounts of documentary evidence - this irrational idea has not only continued to gain adherents but has become an internationally organized movement. Lipstadt argues that this chilling attack on the factual record not only threatens Jews but could dramatically alter the way that truth and meaning are transmitted from one generation to another.See all Product description
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Her primary focus is on American deniers but she includes the British far right author David Irving. He famously sued her for libel and lost.
Leading arguments of the deniers are that the Nazis never planned to exterminate the Jews, that Hitler did not order it, that gas chambers never existed and that 6 million Jews didn’t die. Some argue that the Diary of Anne Frank is a hoax. These assertions lack all credibility in the face of the overwhelming evidence supplied by professional historians, the physical evidence of the death camps and the vast archival material left by the Nazi state’s bureaucracy. Holocaust deniers are usually either neo-Nazis or cranks, promoting their theories in obscure publications. Lipstadt is the first academic to work her way through this mass of lunatic fringe material, forensically and persuasively debunking it. If that was all there was to this book I’d give it five stars.
However, I was jolted by Lipstadt’s refusal in Chapter Eleven to acknowledge the Armenian holocaust. She refers to it as a brutal tragedy but denies it was genocide: ‘It was terrible and caused horrendous suffering but it was not part of a process of total annihilation of an entire people’. Modern historians would not agree with her. Indeed, the word ‘genocide’ was explicitly coined with reference to the Armenian holocaust, which was systematic in intention and practice.
This jarring refusal to acknowledge other genocides reflects badly on her grasp of history. Lipstadt also lacks any sense of irony in her discussion of reparations paid to Israel for stolen and looted property.
Elsewhere she is careless with the facts. She accuses Noam Chomsky of having written the introduction to a book by the Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. In reality Faurisson took an essay by Chomsky and without permission used it as a preface, creating the false impression that he endorsed its contents. A couple of minutes with a search engine are all it takes to find Chomsky’s take on this episode.
Similarly her account of the play Perdition is tendentious and inaccurate and the only source she cites, vaguely, is ‘Arab News, May 8, 1988’. This is inadequate for a controversial play for which many sources are available, including the play text itself. Lipstadt cannot even bring herself to acknowledge the playwright’s name, which is less than scholarly.
She claims that the Palestinian Red Crescent Society published an article denying the existence of gas chambers. This is deplorable if true but she fails to identify the author of this article, or its title, or where and when it was published. Her only source for this allegation is ‘Los Angeles Times, December 18, 1990’. This is too vague as a credible historical source for such a serious charge.
Lipstadt’s book is published under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since she asserts that ‘knowledge and memory are among the keystones of our civilisation’ let us not forget that in 1968 this University unlawfully seized 825 acres of Palestinian land, without compensation, to expand its campus.
If you are interested in the topic of Holocaust denial this book is well worth reading but her generalisations and sources occasionally require sceptical scrutiny.
If I could sum up this book, I would describe it as a total destruction of Holocaust denial as a concept. As another reviewer below pointed out, Lipstadt seemingly does the same thing to denier-‘historians’ that she accuses them of doing to historians who have written about the Holocaust and people who endured it - seeking to damage their reputations. It’s an interesting point, but frankly I don’t see what else Lipstadt can do when these deniers, as she shows, are not just unworthy of the title of the ‘historians’ they present themselves as, but also anti-Semites trying to spread their agenda; the world does need to hear what she says.
The book is extremely well written with both compassion and authority. It illustrates that despite the irrefutable evidence and clinical accuracy in which the Holocaust was meticulously documented and in which the genocide of the European Jews was pursued, there are still sources who would dispute that the Holocaust ever occurred or that it has been greatly exaggerated. An attitude which appears to increase in parallel with the present day's rising anti-Semitism.
It is made very clear in this book that very few historical events are as well documented as the Holocaust, yet few if any of these other events are questioned. Indeed, despite other genocides and slaughters having occurred throughout history, (with none having been as well documented as that of the Jews), none receive the denial and hostility afforded the Jewish Holocaust.
On page 22 the book cites a seeming "contradiction" where it outlines many instances where even the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust actually admitted the crimes that they committed, whilst a growing group who were not even present at the time claim that the perpetrators were innocent.
The book citing neo-Nazis who once argued that the Holocaust, however horrible, was justified now content that the entire event was a hoax. The latter being more expedient to furthering their cause, where the book alleges attempts are made to "rehabilitate the persecutors and demonise the victims".
The book addresses the issue of how Holocaust deniers are often afforded near celebrity status and their views given unbelievable credibility with a ready platform frequently being provided for the proponents by many elements of the media under the banner of free speech.
Many Holocaust deniers are described as often using the guise of scholarship to camouflage their anti-Semitic ideology. With the increase of anti-Semitism the book contends that the average uninformed person will find it increasingly difficult to discern the true objectives of the Holocaust deniers, who use arguments carefully designed to take advantage of the vulnerability & fragility of memory, truthfulness and reason. Indeed a number of public surveys are quoted in the book which reveal an alarming ignorance amongst the public in relation to the Holocaust, despite the wealth of material and information available.
The contents of the work show that for the first 40 years after the Holocaust, there was a sort of protective "Teflon" against blatant anti-Semitic expression. Now, due to the process of Holocaust denial, that protective covering has become eroded and society has moved from where anti-Semitism was a crime, past where anti-Semitism was classed as distasteful, to it now simply being another opinion. Something which the book declares will increase as the number of Holocaust survivors become less and less as the years progress.
My only criticism of this book is that, amongst the many areas/avenues of Holocaust denial studied, no attention is made to the Holocaust denial amongst the Arab nations in the Middle East. For those interested in the latter subject might I respectfully recommend Arieh Stav's book entitled "Peace: The Arabian Caricature: A Study of Anti-Semitic Imagery". Thanks for your time.