Published in the May 2002 issue of
Forget about what she says about Irving. It's tame stuff, nowhere near as damning as what came out in court. A better portrait of the man -- and of Holocaust denial -- can be found in 2000's Denying History by Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman. No, the interesting part begins (in Chapter 2: "The Antecedents: History, Conspiracy, and Fantasy") with Lipstadt's notion that the roots of Holocaust denial lie, not with neo-Nazism, but with World War II "isolationism," which she limns with exactly the spatter you'd expect, swinging from the mandatory suspects (e.g., Father Coughlin) to such genuine leading lights as John T. Flynn, whose worthy classic The Roosevelt Myth is apparently cited only to allow her to just mention that it was "released by Devin-Adair, which would in turn [?!] become one of the leading publishers of Holocaust denial material" -- an observation on par with pointing out that many of Mencken's pro-limited government essays first appeared in The American Mercury, which would "in turn" become one of the leading publishers of antisemitica. Delightfully, Lipstadt will soon treat us to an even lovelier image of guilt by association. But basically what she wants us to glean from this historical graffiti is the contention that "[v]irtually all the [isolationists'] charges were adopted by the deniers" -- "arguments [that] would become crucial elements in the deniers' [efforts]."
as? "They generally agreed that the United States should not
have allowed itself to be drawn into the war" -- a hideous
conviction, to be sure, but at least one that can be correctly
attributed to the isolationists, which is more than can be said for
what comes next: "They recognized that [after the war] the
Allies in general and Americans in particular were likely to balk at
aiding a country that was perceived as vicious, if not genocidal. It
was necessary, therefore, to mitigate, if not totally dissipate, the
uniqueness of Germany's wartime behavior." The error may be
mine, but I really don't recall the isolationists (who were often
smeared as "pro-German") having been all that keen on
foreign aid, much less that the architects of the Marshall Plan
sought moral support from the (by then defunct) America First
Committee. Well, no matter exactly whom Lipstadt has in mind, "they"
accomplished this mitigation "in a number of ways," with
the foremost being "by engaging in immoral equivalencies
-- that is, by citing what they claimed were comparable Allied
wrongs" (my emphasis). And the connection with Holocaust denial?
Lipstadt contends that the concept of "comparable Allied wrongs"
Actually, that would render the equation, not "easier," but null. In any case, what we have here, in its essentials, is: Opposition to U.S. entry into WWII plus making rude noises about evils committed by nations other than Nazi Germany equals denial of the "uniqueness" of the Holocaust, which ("in turn") equals denial of the reality of the Holocaust -- the Lipstadtian thesis.
John T. Flynn was the father of David J. C. Irving. Honestly, I never suspected. Be that as it may, it's a revelation that does not "inform" Denying the Holocaust so much as it transforms it... into something far more than a mere profile of crackpots and lunatics.
Lipstadt begins her explication of "immoral equivalencies" with two "mild example[s]." Chicago Tribune editor George Morgenstern had (in 1947) paralleled the "slave states" of the Axis with the "exploitation" of millions of native peoples by the British Empire. Similarly, William Neumann -- "one of the first to attack prewar U.S. foreign policy," his only identification -- opined that the Allies had committed evils that matched the Nazis' "point by point." (The first example given by Lipstadt: "Stalin had invaded Poland in 1939....") But she hastens to warn us that there "were also those who, not satisfied with attacking Roosevelt or equating German and [Allied] wrongdoing, went a step further and portrayed Germany as the much-maligned victim of Allied aggression. Such arguments served as the model for those who would eventually seek not just to exculpate Germany for the Holocaust but to deny its existence altogether." Indeed? "Such arguments" as? Believe it or not: the condemnation (as an atrocity) of "the bombing of Dresden and Cologne." So, when British Major-General J. F. C. Fuller damned the air raids as "appalling slaughterings, which would have disgraced Attila" -- or when historian Max Hastings (Bomber Command) stated his belief that the "cost of the bomber offensive in life, treasure, and moral superiority over the enemy tragically outstripped the results that it achieved" -- both were doing nothing but clearing the brush for the emergence from the muck of Ernst Zündel and Fred Leuchter. Even worse: "They" -- presumably, "those who ... went a step further"; here again Lipstadt fails to name names, with Fuller and Hastings being my examples -- "assailed Allied acquiescence in allowing the bifurcation of Germany and Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe, ignoring the fact that the West had no alternative short of armed conflict with the Soviets." And so by failing to acknowledge the obvious reasons why American troops had to cross the Atlantic to save Western Europe from Nazism but could not march a few miles to save Eastern Europe from Communism, "they" -- wittingly? unwittingly? -- paved for the deniers the way out of the wilderness and onto cable access television.
These little points of contention of hers, however, are mere buds. Lipstadt's indictment of the "relativists" (i.e., the promulgators of "immoral equivalencies") fully flowers with so astounding a statement that it fairly begs to be quoted at length, and I haven't the heart to say no. Ergo:
Relativists and German apologists cited the Allies['] mass transfer of German citizens from Czechoslovakia and Poland in the immediate aftermath of the war as the ultimate example of Allied brutality. Sen. William Langer (R-ND), who had vigorously opposed Roosevelt's foreign policy, spoke of a "savage and fanatical plot" to destroy fifteen million German women and children. Senator Langer claimed that three million of the German refugees had died en route. Freda Utley [The High Cost of Vengeance] described these population transfers as "crimes against humanity." Her choice of this particular phrase, which had already gained wide currency as a result of the Nuremberg indictments, was telling. (Eventually Utley would become one of the most vocal of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's supporters, branding one of those he accused of being a Communist spy as a "Judas cow," an animal who led others to be slaughtered). Using a tactic that typified the actions of those who, in their quest to defend Nazi Germany, stopped short of denying the atrocities [i.e., the Holocaust], she compared these transfers [and the concomitant deaths] with what had been done to the Jews. According to her the expulsion of millions of people from their homes for the sole "crime" of being part of the German "race" was an "atrocity" equivalent to "the extermination of the Jews and the massacres of the Poles and Russians by the Nazis."
Now what is Lipstadt saying here? That Senator Langer was an isolationist extremist who invented wild tales of exiles and casualties? That Utley was a despicable McCarthyite and fellow-traveler (of the "defend[ers of] Nazi Germany") who unconscionably exploited the language of the Holocaust to describe what was only... what? A myth? A hoax? Exactly what is she denying? That about sixteen million Germans were forced from their ancestral communities in Eastern Europe? That about two million were killed by this "transfer"? That they were expelled solely because they were ethnic Germans? That this action constituted a "crime against humanity," an "atrocity" in the same sense as the Nazi barbarities? That those who would affirm these statements do not do so only as the forward guard of Holocaust denial? Perhaps Lipstadt might care to ponder the reflections of G.M. Tamas, a Hungarian who (in The Spectator in 1989) wrote:
The Jews were murdered and mourned.... But who has mourned the Germans? Who feels any guilt for the millions expelled from Silesia and Moravia and the Volga region, slaughtered during their long trek, starved, put into camps, raped, frightened, humiliated? ... Who dares to remember that the expulsion of the Germans made the communist parties quite popular in the 1940s? ... The world expects Germany and Austria to "come to terms" with their past. But no one will admonish us, Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians, to do the same. Eastern Europe's dark secret remains a secret.
And will do so indefinitely as long as we allow the Deborah Lipstadts to convince us that to throw light on such evils is to "in turn" plunge the Holocaust into darkness.
These are but a few examples of the applied Lipstadtian thesis, with the most noteworthy ones saving their appearance for the final chapter. But along the way Lipstadt spills a hint of what's there when she makes a passing comment about the "distasteful ... creating [of] an immoral equivalence of the gulag versus the death camps." What in the name of decency is either "distasteful" or "immoral" about such a comparison, you ask? Good question. Lipstadt herself tells us that "between 1.5 and 2 million" died at Auschwitz, while scholar Robert Conquest notes that "some three million" died at Kolyma. Moreover, Lipstadt, in that final chapter, readily admits that "Stalin killed more people than did the Nazis." So, the answer is? The only one made possible by her thesis: Such comparisons are thinly-veiled attempts to deny the reality of the Holocaust by denying its uniqueness.
In "Watching on the Rhine: The Future Course of Holocaust Denial," Lipstadt confirms any and all suspicions that her thesis is a juggernaut that recognizes and respects no boundries. Focusing on the Historikerstreit in the 80s that involved Ernst Nolte and other German intellectuals, who had compared the Holocaust to the other great mass murders of history (in the author's rendition: "the Holocaust was simply one among many evils"), she speeds far past the post of "comparable Allied wrongs":
The [German] historians' attempts to create such immoral equivalencies ignored the dramatic difference between these events and the Holocaust. The brutal Armenian tragedy, which the perpetrators [-- she must mean current Turkish officials --] still refuse to acknowledge adequately, was conducted within the context of a ruthless Turkish policy of expulsion and resettlement. It was terrible and caused horrendous suffering but it was not part of a process of total annihilation of an entire people.
I suppose that we should be somewhat thankful that in this case we at least get an unambiguous concession that the "policy of expulsion and resettlement" was not only real but even "ruthless." But that's all we get. Forget about the "annihilation of an entire people" -- it seems quite uncertain whether Lipstadt really believes the "policy" killed any people. Our professor cites no sources for this rendition of history. Not that surprising, since it's a rendition shared by no one: not those who commanded the carnage nor those who actually witnessed it nor those who today truly "acknowledge [it] adequately." Enver Pasha, one of the Turkish triumvirate rulers, openly declared, "The Ottoman Empire should be cleaned up [!] of the Armenians and the Lebanese. We have destroyed the former by the sword, we shall destroy the latter through starvation." Talat Pasha, another Young Turk, was equally explicit: "Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians." The second group includes Mustafa Arif, Minister of Interior, who admitted that the "wartime leaders, imbued with a spirit of brigandage, carried out the law of deportation in a manner that could surpass the proclivities of the most bloodthirsty bandits. They decided to exterminate the Armenians, and they did exterminate them." Our ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., wired Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, calling the actions of the Young Turks an attempt at "racial extermination." In Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (1919), we read, "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact." Finally, in 1994, Yossi Beilin, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, provided the proper memorial: "It was not war. It was most certainly massacre and genocide, something the world must remember ... We will always reject any attempt to erase its record, even for some political advantage." Too obviously, denying the Holocaust parallel can be the effect of only one of two causes, neither charitable: an immense ignorance of this history -- or a conscious "attempt to erase its record" precisely "for some political advantage."
Lipstadt's discussion of the Khmer Rouge is so riddled with error as to actually require itemization:
 The Khmer Rouge's massacre of a million of their fellow Cambodians,  to which the Western world turned a blind eye,  was carried out, as Richard [J.] Evans [In Hitler's Shadow] observes, as a means of subduing and eliminating those whom Pol Pot imagined had collaborated with the Americans during the previous hostilities. The ruthless policy was conducted as part of a brutalizing war that had destroyed much of Cambodia's moral, social, and physical infrastructure.  This is not intended in any way as a justification of what happened in Cambodia.  The Khmer Rouge's treatment of their countrymen was barbaric. But what they did was quite different from the Nazis' annihilation of the Jews, which was "a gratuitous act carried out by a prosperous, advanced, industrial nation at the height of its power."
OK, let's take 'em as they come. (1) The figure is closer to two million. Still, we should again be "somewhat thankful" that we at last get Lipstadt to acknowledge that a bona fide "massacre" (but not "genocide" -- that would be pushing it) had occurred. (2) Unless "the Western world" means Gareth Porter and George Hildebrand (Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution), this is simply nonsense. In fact, many Westerners (e.g., assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Philip Habib) predicted that a "bloodbath" would follow a Khmer Rouge seizure of power. (3) The massacre was carried out, as David Horowitz and Peter Collier (Destructive Generation) observe, "as part of [the Khmer Rouge's] unremitting assault on the cities as centers of bourgeois culture.... Their savagery was ... a systematic strategy dictated by their Marxist political program, which required the destruction of traditional institutions like religion and family, and which required as well forced collectivization, liquidation of the 'parasitic' classes, and police terror." The notion that the Khmer Rouge singled out "those whom Pol Pot imagined had collaborated with the Americans" bears an unsettling resemblance to "the argument of Staughton Lynd and Tom Hayden ... that the systematic mass murder of North Vietnamese peasants ... by Ho Chi Minh's dictatorship ... had been nothing more than spontaneous lynchings of pro-French traitors" (Michael Lind, Vietnam: The Necessary War). And "as part of a brutalizing war"? Meaning what -- in response to the forces fighting the Khmer Rouge? Here the resemblance is with the equally unsettling Chomsky-Herman suggestion (in After the Cataclysm) that Khmer Rouge violence was a "direct and understandable response to the still more concentrated and extreme savagery of a U.S. assault that may in part have been designed to evoke this very response." Shifting into that mode, we may float the possibility that Der Führer conceived the Final Solution in response to the declaration of war by Britain and France, who issued the declaration to achieve precisely that. Yet most disturbing -- shocking, really, since Lipstadt herself clearly does not recognize it -- is the symmetry of her adopted New Leftish historiography and the attempts of those who would deny or diminish the Holocaust by arguing that (in her paraphrase) "most Jews died of starvation and disease (as is the case in every war) or were killed as partisans and spies." (4) Could've fooled me. Lipstadt does not merely absolve Communist ideology of any responsibility for Pol Pot's class genocide -- she denies that there was any genocide, any "annihilation" -- but blames others (in "part") for the "ruthless policy." (5) Again, meaning what? That the atrocity of the Killing Fields was a "non-gratuitous" act carried out by a poor, backwards, agrarian nation at the nadir of its power? What import would Lipstadt have us attach to that? Would she see, let's say, the rise of Nazism as somewhat mitigated by the fact that it was emphatically not an "act carried out by a prosperous, advanced, industrial nation at the height of its power"?
By now it's impossible not to see where all this is going: Yes, other governments may have killed many persons, but only the Nazis acted with the intent of achieving "total annihilation of an entire people." It is the uniqueness of this racism that distinguishes the Holocaust as history's only true genocide. Witness this rhetorical marvel:
These historians also seem intent on obscuring the crucial contrasts between Stalinism and Nazism. Whereas Stalin's terror was arbitrary, Hitler's was targeted at a particular group. As the German historian Eberhard Jäackel [sic] observed in an attack on Nolte and his compatriots, never before in history was a particular human group -- its men, women, children, old, young, healthy, and infirm -- singled out to be killed as rapidly as possible using "every possible means of state power" to do so. The fate of every Jew who came under German rule was essentially sealed. In contrast, no citizen of the Soviet Union assumed that deportation and death were inevitable consequences of his or her ethnic origins. People in the USSR did not know who might be next on Stalin's list. This uncertainty terrorized them. By contrast, during the Nazi assault on the Jews "every single one of millions of targeted Jews was to be murdered. Eradication was to be total." The Nazis did not borrow these methods from the Soviets. They were sui generis, and the refusal of these historians to acknowledge that fact reflects the same triumph of ideology over truth that we have seen throughout this study.
All right, so perhaps "marvel" doesn't quite do it justice. Drs. Jäckel and Lipstadt, if they are so focused on ethnic genocide, might wish to apply their criteria to the Armenian genocide (which Hitler cited as a precedent) or, even better, to the Ausrottung of the Native Americans (which Lipstadt doesn't deign to so much as mention) before finalizing their pronouncement of "never before in history." They might also think to acquaint themselves with the Bolsheviks' "monstrous plan of de-Cossackization," which "involved mass relocation of population, the extermination of a rich stratum of Cossacks, the creation of concentration camps for the families of rebellious Cossacks, and systematic terror" (Vladimir Brovkin, Russia After Lenin). An excellent book would be Aleksandr M. Nekrich's The Punished Peoples: The Deportation and Tragic Fate of Soviet Minorities at the End of the Second World War, although Lipstadt herself would probably prefer the example of persecution discussed in Louis Rapoport's Stalin's War Against the Jews. But is it really better not to know whether your "ethnic origins" (or any other factor) will condemn you to "deportation and death" until it's too late? I don't know; too bad Freud and Einstein aren't still around for us to ask.
Nonetheless, when it comes to the madness of genos-cide, there can be no doubt as to its etiology in 20th century Europe:
We are not carrying out war against individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. We are not looking for evidence or witnesses to reveal deeds or words against the Soviet power. The first question we ask is: to what class does he belong, what are his origins, upbringing, education, or profession? These questions define the fate of the accused. This is the essence of the Red Terror.
The Brown Terror was nothing more than this same genocidal socialism with class consciousness now replaced by racial nationalism -- "National Socialism." Following as a matter of course (which Mises stressed in Omnipotent Government) were the party dictatorship, the cult of the Leader, the secret police, the concentration camps and all the other practical features of "Stalinism." Sui generis?! Nonsense, especially when considered in relation to another canon of "Holocaust Studies" orthodoxy: the notion that the Nazi slaughter of the Jews was the inevitable culmination of two millenia of Christendom. As Ralph Raico once observed, "Crusader murders in Jerusalem in the year 1096 are an important part of the story, but not Bolshevik murders in the 1920s and 30s"1 -- a most apt example of the "triumph of ideology over truth."
The verdict on Lipstadt? Certainly "immense ignorance" goes a long way towards explaining her means and motive. But there is also the matter of "political advantage." She is irreversably convinced that we must proclaim the Holocaust history's magnum crimen lest Jew-haters go about claiming that "it never happened." It's the same m.o. as the multiculturalist who insists that the school texts "include" Crispus Attucks lest our Archie Bunkers go about claiming that "white people did everything" -- historical interpretation retooled as a pre-emptive strike against low-brow bigotry. Of course, though, the mention of Attucks is in no way comparable to the "basic strategy of distortion" that defines her work and the Holocaust deniers' equally. Thus, the question becomes: Why should we exonerate Deborah Lipstadt as a mere ignoramus, when she herself condemns David Irving et al. as liars, hatemongers, immoralists and clear-and-present dangers to the commonweal?
Of their respective offenses, there can be no doubt that Lipstadt's (and that of her many Lipstadtian predecessors and contemporaries) has had the more widespread and destructive impact upon society. Ironically, she herself presents the evidence: "The question that logically follows from [these immoral equivalencies] is, Why, then, do we `only' hear about the Holocaust? For the deniers and many others who are `not yet' deniers, the answer to this final question is obvious: because of the power of the Jews." She condemns (as paranoiac prejudice) the inability to understand why we hear about the Holocaust alone; she doesn't deny the fact that we do. Indeed, how could she? When was the last time you heard about the Armenian horror? Does the name "Kolyma" appear in popular culture with anything near the frequency of "Auschwitz"? Is the Ukranian terror-famine ever even mentioned, let alone memorialized -- in art, literature and discourse -- as the nadir of man's inhumanity to man? Who speaks of the murders of Maoist China? Not Lipstadt, who nonetheless inadvertently provides a motive also for the discrepancy (between Communism and Nazism) with which the tenured disintelligentsia, a virtual cosa nostra of Lipstadtianism, always vents its collective conscience. She writes, concerning the connection between Holocaust denial and the Far Right:
As long as fascism could be linked with Nazism, and Nazism, in turn, could be linked with the horrors of the Final Solution, then both would remain thoroughly discredited. There were those, however, who were not willing to abandon these political systems. They knew that the only means of trying to revive them would be to separate them from the Holocaust and the multitude of atrocities that accompanied it.
Only minimal substitution is necessary:
As long as socialism could be linked with Communism, and Communism, in turn, could be linked with the horrors of the Red Terror, then both would remain thoroughly discredited. There were those, however, who were not willing to abandon these political systems. They knew that the only means of trying to revive them would be to separate them from the Soviet Union and the multitude of atrocities that accompanied it.
Now it simply will not do to allow the crimes of Stalin (and Mao, Pol Pot, etc.) to serve as the reductio ad atrocitas of class ideology the way the crimes of Hitler do of racial ideology. Nor can we have Old and New Leftists becoming the kind of social pariahs that paleo- and neo-Nazis are. And so the history of Applied Marxism is subjected to denial-by-disregard.
Clearly a certain amount of the "political advantage" is collected by America as a whole, which can commemorate the atrocity it helped to end (in the "good war"), while forgetting those it did/could do nothing to stop, not even to speak of those it might have perpetrated. But by far the biggest cut goes elsewhere: When "the Holocaust" becomes history's greatest victimization, then "the Jews" become history's greatest victims. I shouldn't have to explain the benefits that accrue to that status in the present age. On one end, it has secured the Jews against religious fundamentalism (of the non-Jewish variety) and racial nationalism (of the non-Zionist kind). The Pat Robertsons and the Pat Buchanans watch their tongues (even though, perhaps predictably, that still fails to mollify the Alan Dershowitzes). And on the other end, it holds to a standard a Left that otherwise holds to no standard but the double standard. Consider the example of Mr. Louis Farrakhan. For years he spewed with impunity his poison at "white people." The charge of "reverse racism" was as ineffective against him then as it is against affirmative action now. But when he spun to aim his venom at "the Jews"! We may similarly note the observation of Shermer and Grobman: "Ironically[!], it is with issues such as Holocaust denial that all discussion of historical relativism ends. Ask deconstructionists if they think that the belief [that] the Holocaust happened is as valid as the belief that it did not happen, and the debate quickly screeches to a halt." Above all, this status operatively suppresses a latent Meinhofian "Jews with money" rage at a time when the Jews more than ever fail to conform to the Left's profile of "victims." Hence Mr. Dershowitz: "It is important to recognize that American Jews -- even those whose families left Europe before World War II -- are themselves vicarious survivors of the Nazi Holocaust." Who can doubt it?
This would appear to be the appropriate moment to mention yet another 20th century atrocity, one that has received virtually no acknowledgement at all, its history not merely forgotten but mostly suppressed -- with the Lipstadtians leading the effort. In Denying the Holocaust, the word "Gypsies" can be found but once, on page 174, and it is only on page 179 that we may read of the Nazis "using 'gas chambers' to kill millions of Jews and other 'undesirables'" -- when Lipstadt quotes David Irving. We have come to the one question never studied in all the "Holocaust Studies" courses: Why are Hitler's non-Jewish victims not part of "the Holocaust"? Why have the 5 million (the popular figure) become not even a footnote? How many people familiar with Hitler's imfamous remark about the Armenians know that it was part of a statement calling for the wholesale slaughter, not of Jews, but of Poles? For her part, Lipstadt the legalist does not even serve up a helping of her stomach-turning distinctions for an answer -- which makes sense since, again, there is no asking of the question. But then, what could she possibly say that would explain the absence of, not merely "equivalence" (which would here too be "immoral"?), but remembrance? Whether or not there is an answer to that question, the keepers of the flame are determined that "the Holocaust" remain, in Lipstadt's words, a "tragedy of civilization in which the victims were Jews" -- and no one else.
Which finally leads us to ask: What, then, of that resounding cry of "Never again!"? If not one of the other tragedies of civilization constitutes another "again," whatever possibly could? For decades, we have been told that the Holocaust is a horror so unparalleled in history (and in its implications about the nature and moral status of humanity) that no one dare speak of other "events" in the same breath -- with the result being that now no one speaks of them at all. Even those who perished alongside Jews are among the consciously forgotten. History discarded is history denied. As we weigh the Irvings against the Lipstadts, can there be any doubt whose is the greater guilt?
1) See his "The Taboo Against Truth: Holocausts and the Historians" in the September 1989 Liberty. I'm indebted to this piece for some of my examples.