David Irving and Holocaust 'Denial'
The first question one must ask is what exactly is "Holocaust Denial?" This may seem like a simple question at first, but the answer is more complex than you might think. To arrive at an answer we must first consider the question of what is a Holocaust revisionist? Years ago in his article, "Revisionism and the Promotion of Peace," Harry Elmer Barnes defined historical revisionism as follows, "Revisionism means nothing more or less than the effort to correct the historical record in the light of a more complete collection of historical facts, a more calm political atmosphere, and a more objective attitude." Therefore if we apply Barnes definition to the subset of Historical Revisionism known as Holocaust Revisionism we see that it is merely an attempt to correct the historical record about the Holocaust.
With a broad definition many people can be classified as Holocaust revisionists including Princeton Professor Arno Mayer, Pat Buchanan and others. However, even within the community of those who consider themselves Holocaust revisionists, the definition is more specific. It generally includes only those who believe that fewer than six million Jews perished at this time and even more specifically that the Nazis did not kill Jews or others in Gas Chambers. It is this latter point which tends to define whether someone is part of the revisionist community or not. Therefore if you have given up your belief in Nazi Gas Chambers, you are a Holocaust revisionist -- if you still believe in this early day Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD), you are not.
By the 1990's with the successes of Holocaust revisionism, the anti-revisionists coined a negative term to define the revisionists, this was "Holocaust Deniers." This term comes with much baggage and confusion on both sides of the debate. Some revisionists have missed the point and even accepted this term. Their thought process is that they do not believe in Nazi Gas Chambers and therefore they "deny" their existence, thus they are Holocaust "deniers." They don't see anything wrong with the term. Among the anti-revisionists, Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman miss the mark in their "Denying History," when they write, " According to this widely accepted definition of the Holocaust, so-called Holocaust revisionists are in effect denying the Holocaust, since they deny its three key components- the killing of the six million, gas chambers, and intentionality."
It is Deborah Lipstadt, who I belive deserves the credit for properly defining "Holocaust Denial." It is Lipstadts viewpoint which is the prevailing perspective. Lipstadt uses the term in her "Denying the Holocaust" in one of the popularly accepted definitions of "denial." That is to say (according to Webster's) that "denial" can mean "refusing to believe, accept , or embrace; as a denial of the faith or the truth." Lipstadt writes, "The attempt to deny the Holocaust enlists a basic strategy of distortion. Truth is mixed with absolute lies, confusing readers who are unfamiliar with the tactics of deniers. Half-truths and story segments, which conveniently avoid critical information, leave the listener with a distorted impression of what really happened." Lipstadt goes on to explain that her book is an effort to "demonstrate how the deniers use this methodology to shroud their true objectives." She later explains that Holocaust "denial" is "intimately connected to a neofascist political agenda."
In an article entitled, "Denying the Revisionists" Richard Widmann commented, "For Lipstadt, “deniers” are not those who express doubts about some element of the Holocaust story but those who actually believe the orthodox story in all its gruesome details. The “deniers” purposefully distort materials and even “lie” in order to support their ideology. At various times Lipstadt defines that ideology in varying terms but the net result is always the same, "they are fascists and antisemites with a specific ideological and political agenda.”
It is in the spirit of Lipstadt's definition, that so many countries of Europe (including of course Austria) have created anti-Holocaust-denial laws. The argument would be that the "deniers" believe in the Holocaust and the specifics including Nazi Gas Chambers used for extermination, but purposefully lie about these to "white wash" Nazi Germany in order to legitmize and resurrect the Nazi party. As absurd as this logic is, it is exactly this point which returns us to the Kafkaesque imprisionment of David Irving.
Irving is charged with "denying the Holocaust." The charges stem from two speeches which Irving gave in 1989 (whatever happened to a statute of limitations?). During these speeches he allegedly "denied the existence of the gas chambers." Therefore, remember, in the anti-revisionists mindset this means that Irving in fact believed in the extermination gas chambers but lied about them for ulterior purposes. Today however, according to Irving's attorney, Irving claims that he believes that Nazi gas chambers existed! Irving is reported to have said, "Look, there was a certain period when I drew conclusions from individual sources which are maybe provocative or could be misinterpreted or could be even wrong."
So it is clear, that if Irving believes in Nazi gas chambers, that he can't be "denying" them for any ulterior motive. However, now Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has come out and announced "It is an admission designed to extricate himself from imprisonment and in no way truly reflects his views." The Austrian thought-police should think this over carefully. For if Irving admits that Nazi Gas Chambers existed, he cannot be charged with denying their existence. But if Mr. Zuroff is correct and Irving is lying when he says that the gas chambers existed, and in fact believes that they did NOT exist, then too, he is not a Holocaust "denier" by Lipstadt's definition.
If this reasoning is unclear, consider the opposite. How can Irving be proven not guilty? If he says he believes in the Nazi gas chambers, he is lying and needs to be imprisoned. Alternatively if he says he does not believe in the Nazi gas chambers, he is lying and needs to be imprisoned. Like the witch-trials of the 17th century, the verdict is already in. The real question is, will we stand by and do nothing while the fire is lit and our freedoms are exterminated in the flames of political correctness?