One thing I can’t figure out in the current rhetoric is why holocaust denial is so often associated with Nazism or neo-Nazism [note 1]. A classic example is the strident, screaming late Lucy Dawidowicz, but consider also the French court as narrated by herself:
If any Jews had been murdered, Rassinier said, it was the Jewish kapos in the camps who had killed them. The book was widely denounced in France. Later Rassinier sued a newspaper editor for having called him a fascist; he was, he insisted, an anarchist. But the Paris court ruled against Rassinier on the ground that his book expressed ideas “identical with those proclaimed by the neo-Nazis.” (Commentary, vol 70 #6, Dec 1980, p. 33)
Rassinier believes P; neo-Nazis believe P; neo-Nazis are fascists; therefore, Rassinier is a fascist. So much for the favorable stereotype of the French as guardians and preservers of logic.
More recently, even my friend the affable, witty British Presbyterian Carl Trueman ominously suggests that Rassinier is “very popular among skinheads, Klan freaks, the British National Party and characters like David Irving. ” While he doesn’t exactly use the N-word, his more charitable assessment that
[Rushdoony] was historically incompetent, probably racist and, if he thought this kind of writing was intelligent scholarship, probably unhinged
amounts to much the same thing.
Reflect with me first on the logic contained in the premise:
if (holocaust denier) then (Nazi or neo-Nazi)
on the assumption that it is true.
Ask yourself: which is worse, to favor the Nazis, believing they perpetrated the Holocaust, or to favor the Nazis, believing they did not?
That question remains, no matter what content you fill in for the name, “Nazism.” But now, ponder the actual content: Absent the Holocaust, what is National Socialism (=Nazism)?
Answer: it is a political program of national economic renewal, labor reform, public works projects, manipulation of business, national subsidies, and preparation for and willingness to wage war. In other words, allowing for all differences of place and circumstance, it is basically the continental version of Roosevelt’s New Deal .
Holocaust-free Nazism = American New Deal.
So if holocaust-deniers are holocaustless Nazis, why don’t conservatives scream at holocaust-deniers, “da#ned New Dealer”?
And why don’t liberals embrace them as the shock troops for New Deal liberalism?
(Oddly enough, Nazism is usually painted as extreme conservatism, even by analogy with American politics where conservatism has strong overlap with Libertarianism.)
Since Nazism absent the holocaust is, roughly speaking, F. D. Rooseveltism, I can see why someone might say, “you must be crazy” (to not believe in the holocaust). But why wouldn’t they regard it as a benign, benevolent craziness? Like the crazy uncle that has lost his mind, but at least continues to praise Roosevelt? Or, from the other side, “he praises Roosevelt because he’s crazy.”
The comeback will probably have something to do with “anti-semitism.” The idea will be that even if it were granted that there was no holocaust, no planned extermination, yet undeniably, many Nazis were mean to jews, and the Party wanted them out of Germany, and eventually forced them out.
Deborah Lipstadt says, quite bluntly, “Holocaust denial is naught but a form of antisemitism.”
(Couldn’t it be a form of pro-Germanism? Why must it have something to do with an attitude toward Semites at all? But I digress.)
Unless it could be shown that this view is essential to Nazism — that the Nazi program could not exist without this aspect — then wouldn’t charity at least require asking the holocaust-denier-and-therefore-neo-Nazi whether he approves or disapproves of the ejection of jews from Germany? Should he not at least have the right to say, “no, I disapprove of that aspect of 1930’s Nazism”?
Moreover, it must be admitted that the number of people that would be sympathetic to ejecting jews, but stopping short of a holocaust, is greater than the number that would favor the extermination program. Obviously. Many cities and countries have “thrown the jews out” at one time or another, including Spain, France, England, and numerous cities such as Mainz, Frankfurt, Moscow, and various of the Italian city-states. Unless one thinks that jews have a right to live wherever they want, or that a country is better off having jews than not, why is a desire to “send the jews home” simply unthinkable?
My point here is not to argue the point, but simply to point out that the teeth of the “if holocaust denier then Nazi” rhetoric depends on the holocaust-aspect of the picture of Nazism to have its full effect; and just that is the thing that is contradictory to hold someone to if he denies it.
Perhaps the rhetoric can be rescued along a different line. Suppose that holocaust denial is not taken to be an actual belief, but rather a deliberate lie.
For example, the Jewish Virtual Library states, “the Institute for Historical Review, or IHR, publishes many small pamphlets designed to misinform people about the Holocaust.” Note that the claim is, not merely that the material is false, but that it is “designed to misinform.” The Jewish Virtual Library knows this.
Tying this approach back to our test proposition, the position is something like this:
(1) Since the evidence for the Holocaust is overwhelming, one could not fail but to conclude that it took place; therefore, anyone denying it is lying.
We would still need the additional premise,
(2) Anyone that would lie about this is a Nazi.
(2) seems dubious indeed. The converse might have a bit more plausibility, namely: All Nazis would lie about it. They hope to rope people into the “movement” and only plan to spring the anti-Semitism bit on them later. But how silly is that? Work for years spreading New Deal Rooseveltism, knowing that the Party Members will go along with the “anti-semitic” hidden agenda once they are roped in?
At any rate, (2) is not the converse of itself. (2) says that “all liars about the holocaust are Nazis.” And this is implausible. There might be lots of reasons that would motivate one to lie: to draw attention to oneself, to gain a reputation as someone that does not follow the herd, etc.
Even so, what about (1)?
(1) contains an ambiguity that needs to be resolved. If the evidence is overwhelming, this is something that is known only to specialists. We should charitably assume that Carl Trueman has done the primary research. But clearly, most people believe in the Holocaust on the weight of authority, not on the basis of examination of evidence. Such has been the case for me, for most of my life, for example; is true of all the people I have ever discussed it with; and I suspect is true for most people. More or less, most people believe in the Holocaust for the same reason they believe that the earth revolves around the sun: because they have always been told so, and the experts seems to agree.
Thus, affirming the Holocaust is, for most people, not related to any particular stance toward evidence. At most, one could say it relates to one’s stance toward authority. Rejecting authority might be a sin in some cases, but it is not the same as the sin of lying. And it is rather odd to associate “rejecting authority” with Nazism.
[Note: I use the term “Nazi” throughout to conform to popular usage. However, it is actually just as silly constantly to say “Nazi” for National Socialist as it would be constantly to say “commie” for Communist. Next time you read a narrative about WW2, about the Nazi government, the Nazi army, Nazi policy, etc. substitute the word “commie” while pretending it is about the Soviet Union and see just how childish it sounds.]