How I Became a Holocaust DenierBy Paul Eisen
03 November 2012
How I Became a Holocaust DenierMy family were ordinary folk—'twice-a-year Jews' we used to call them. But like most of us second and third generation, upwardly mobile, North London Jews, our Jewishness filled our lives. And, at that time, that meant Zionism and the Holocaust. For me, my family, and our friends, a post-Holocaust Israel meant quite simply 'never again'.
But, while seemingly ordinary, my family was also rather extraordinary. My father was unusually tolerant and free-thinking, and my mother too was unusually lively in her thinking. A born rebel, there was nothing she loved more than to burst a balloon. As for me, I started off, first as the family tsaddik—awfully concerned with God and my Jewishness (though always strangely at odds with other Jews)—then the family dissident-intellectual. By young adulthood, you would have found me somewhere on the Zionist left—unquestioning in my support for the Jewish state but wishing it would not behave quite so badly and stop embarrassing me in front of my friends. However, when it came to the Holocaust, my faith was unwavering.
This is me in 1978 at Yad Vashem:
Then through the museum and its unfolding narrative: Concentration, Deportation, Selection, Extermination. It wears you out, it really does. Like countless others, we stand dumb in front of the little slave-labourer's shoe in the glass case and also like countless others, we know we've had enough.
That was 1978 and I didn't then know what I now know: that, as I came out of that bunker—that universally known symbol of Jewish suffering, and took in that perfect view—I was looking straight at that completely unknown symbol of Palestinian suffering, the village of Deir Yassin. Of course, I didn't know then about Deir Yassin, and even if I had known, I probably wouldn't have much cared.
Thinking back, I suspect my response would have been something like: Ah yes, Deir Yassin, the one stain on an otherwise unblemished Zionist record. (The line had come, pretty much verbatim from my reading (age eleven) of the blockbuster Exodus.) And anyway, I would have reasoned, was not the fevered anguish of the Zionist leadership (later referred to by me as 'Jewish breast-beating') yet more evidence of an essential Jewish moral grandeur?
Sure, I'd known about Deir Yassin—both the village and the massacre—but I had not known, nor probably wanted to know, about the close to five hundred other destroyed or depopulated Palestinian villages or about the seventy known massacres which accompanied the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Like the child who does not, cannot, or will not see the lamb chops on his plate as skipping round the farmyard, so for now, I did not, could not and would not see those refugees, terrorists or biblical shepherds on my TV screen as those same folk—those safely de-personalized and de-humanized 'Arabs' -who had lived in what was, and as far as I was concerned, had always been, Israel.But I must not blame myself. I do not blame myself. Even after digging through the accumulated layers of indoctrination to which any Jewish child could expect to be subjected, this was still some story. After two thousand years of exile, an ancient people return to their ancient homeland—a land given to them by God, or, (for the more secular amongst us), by History.
Because mine was no run-of-the-mill Zionism. What was claimed by so many Jews (particularly of the anti-Zionist, Marxist variety) to be an essentially political ideology, just a Jewish version of imperialism or an add-on—an essentially practical solution to an ever-present anti-Semitism, was for me—and I now know, deep-down, for most Jews—a deep, emotional, spiritual, even religious affiliation. For my Zionism was a true sense of my Jewishness—a feeling that came deep from within Jewish history and even destiny—a feeling that I, with all Jews, had stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and, also with all Jews, had marched through history—a history which, at the time, I had not yet dreamt of questioning.
But question it I did. Here I am again in 1996 on the phone to the first name listed under "Palestine"—PSC: the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
"Hello, look, I'm doing a bit of research, trying to find the name of a Palestinian village on the site of a particular kibbutz ... I used to stay there ..."
In 1998, I met Dan McGowan founder of the Palestinian solidarity organisation "Deir Yassin Remembered," but not once in our short conversation or in the extended interview he gave afterwards did Dan mention the proximity of Deir Yassin to Yad Vashem. I read about that later, in the leaflet Dan gave me, on the London Underground, somewhere between Gloucester Road and Holloway Road.
"The Holocaust museum is beautiful, and the message 'never to forget man's inhumanity to man' is timeless. The children's museum is particularly heart-wrenching; in a dark room filled with candles and mirrors, the names of Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust are read aloud with their places of birth. Even the most callous person is brought to tears. Upon exiting this portion of the museum, a visitor is facing north and is looking directly at Deir Yassin. There are no markers, no plaques, no memorials, and no mention from any tour guide. But for those who know what they are looking at, the irony is breathtaking."
For Dan, a conservative American patriot, no more was needed than to note both the fact and the irony. But for me, with my leanings and obsessions, searching as I was for some meaning to the jumbled mass of my Jewish childhood and to the Holocaust, Israel and Palestine, it was epiphany. Deir Yassin was one thing but Deir Yassin in clear sight of Yad Vashem was quite another.
Of course, it was only much later, long after I had begun to think, write and speak about these things, that I was able to properly articulate even to myself that it was precisely this 'breathtaking irony' of Dan's that had so held my attention. But even if I didn't then know it, I certainly hung onto it—from that moment I was a messenger who had found his message.
And takers there were a-plenty. Palestinians, long resigned to Jewish suffering being placed at the centre of their own tragedy, were still pleased with the surge of publicity that the story and the resulting Jewish participation brought to their cause, and Jews were, as ever, delighted to have themselves and their suffering once more centre-stage. Deir Yassin gave Palestinians a new and effective narrative for resistance, and Jews an activism, sufficiently challenging to seem courageous and meaningful, but not so challenging as to necessitate any loosening of tribal bonds. And the rest—the Christians, the Marxists and the various non-aligned—well, as usual, they just went along with the Jews.
Now I had it all—Palestinian suffering/Jewish suffering, abused/abuser. Okay, so, my much-loved Jewish victim was now the perpetrator but no matter, Deir Yassin could be viewed only from Yad Vashem—and the suffering of the Palestinian people could be seen only through the prism of my beloved Jewish suffering.
Unfortunately or fortunately (it really does go both ways) it didn't stop there. Here I am in 2004:
It is understandable that Jews might believe that their suffering is greater, more mysterious and meaningful than that of any other people. It is even understandable that Jews might feel that their suffering can justify the oppression of another people. What is harder to understand is why the rest of the world has gone along with it.
That Jews have suffered is undeniable. But acknowledgement of this suffering is rarely enough. Jews and others have demanded that not only should Jewish suffering be acknowledged, but that it also be accorded special status.
And again a few months later ...
The issue (of Jewish suffering) is complex and cannot be fully debated or decided here, but the following points may stimulate thought and discussion.
The Holocaust, the paradigm for all anti-Semitism and all Jewish suffering, is treated as being beyond examination and scrutiny. Questioning the Holocaust narrative is, at best, socially unacceptable, leading often to social exclusion and discrimination, and, at worst, in some places is illegal and subject to severe penalty. Holocaust revisionist scholars, named Holocaust deniers by their opponents, have challenged this.
It was while writing the above and more that I came across Joel Hayward's ill-fated M.A. thesis The Fate of Jews in German Hands. That Hayward recanted mattered not one jot, and his credibility was only enhanced by his own clear astonishment at what he was writing—an astonishment fully matched by my own at what I was reading. That the Holocaust was exploited and abused, I had understood, but its veracity? No way. Now, for the first time ever, there could be doubts.
Holocaust DenierIt's always worth defining your terms. Not that it does that much good—the inquisitors will see what they want to see and claim what they want to claim. But for the record here's what I do and do not question. First, what I do not question:
But enough of this negativity—here's what I do question:
And finally, one more thing I do not and do question: I do not question the horror of what was done to Jews by National Socialists or the right of Jews (including myself) to regard that horror any way they wish. I do, however, question their right to compel the rest of the world to feel the same.
Deny the Holocaust!For my money, a child of six can see that something's not right about the Holocaust narrative, and the science simply confirms what I already suspect. But I differ from the Holocaust Revisionists. They are scholars—historians and scientists who apply 'truth and exactitude' to determine the truth or otherwise of the Holocaust narrative. I'm no scholar. I care nothing for the chemical traces in brickwork or the topological evidence for mass graves. But I've read the literature, and it just doesn't add up.
That Jews suffered greatly from 1933-1945 is not in question, but the notion of a premeditated, planned and industrial extermination of Europe's Jews with its iconic gas-chambers and magical six million are all used to make the Holocaust not only special but also sacred. We are faced with a new, secular religion, a false God with astonishing power to command worship. And, like the Crucifixion with its Cross, Resurrection etc, the Holocaust has key and sacred elements—the exterminationist imperative, the gas chambers and the sacred six million. It is these that comprise the holy Holocaust which Jews, Zionists and others worship and which the revisionists refuse.
Nor is this a small matter. If it was, why the fuss, why the witch-hunt, why the imprisonment of David Irving, Ernst Zündel and Germar Rudolf? And it's not just them. What may be a massive lie is being used to oppress pretty much all of humankind. The German and Austrian peoples who, we are told, conceived and perpetrated the slaughter; the Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Rumanian, Hungarian, peoples etc. who supposedly hosted, assisted in and cheered on the slaughter; the Americans, the British, the French, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Italians (but not the Danes and the Bulgarians) etc. who apparently didn't do enough to stop the slaughter; the Swiss who earned out of the slaughter, and the entire Christian world who, it seems, created the faith-traditions and ideologies in which the slaughter could take place, and now the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim peoples who seemingly want to perpetrate a new slaughter—in fact, the Holocaust oppresses the entire non-Jewish world and indeed much of the Jewish world as well. Stand up and have done with it.
So here's something else. The Holocaust revisionist scholars and researchers are dedicated and skilled students of historical evidence, and for them'Holocaust denier' is but a term of abuse to be hurled as 'witch' might have been hurled in the Middle Ages. But for me, 'Holocaust Denier' is a label I accept. This is not because I don't think anything bad happened to Jews at the hands of the National Socialists—for what it's worth the real story of brutal ethnic cleansing moves me far more than any 'Holocaust'—and it's certainly not because I think any such assault is right and proper. No, I deny the Holocaust because, as constituted, exploited and enforced, the Holocaust narrative is a false and abusive god, and I wish to put as much moral distance between it and myself as I can.