It is important to consider that the Holocaust was a state secret in Nazi Germany. As a result of this, very little was written down, and few documents were kept about killing operations. Instead, code names were used for specific actions that were neutral sounding in nature and there were significant attempts to destroy all forensic evidence of murders. Covering up and denying the crime of genocide began during the war, continued afterward and exists today.
Those who denounce the Holocaust or claim for it to be an exaggeration of events are often referred to as Historical Revisionists or Holocaust Deniers. These people deny basic historical facts such as the existence of the Nazi extermination program, the use of gas chambers, and the total number of people killed. The argument that the Holocaust did not occur is often fueled by the antisemitic ideology that Jewish people are manipulating the world, events, and opinions. Many Holocaust deniers claim that Jewish control of the media enabled them to “create” the Holocaust. Through the utilization of literature, films, art, and mass media, Holocaust deniers have attempted to create an impression of credibility to spread their opinions. Holocaust denial rises out of certain worldviews based on antisemitism, prejudices,xenophobia, fascism, and nationalism.
The Institute for Historical Review was formed in 1978 by Willis Carto and was the first major Holocaust denial group to gain traction and a substantial membership base. In the following years, the Leuchter Report was issued by an American manufacturer of execution equipment, Fred A. Leuchter. His report has been used by deniers as it was deemed a revelation by concluding that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Zyklon B was not used to kill people, but only for disinfection. Leuchter claimed that only 278 people could fit into one gas chamber at a time while standing based on measurements taken. What he failed to disclose was that often, as many people as possible (up to 2000) were instructed to squeeze into the chambers while holding their arms up in the air to create as much room as possible for mass exterminations.
The report also questions the capacity of the crematoria and suggests that only 714 bodies per week could be burned in a single crematorium. Leuchter’s findings are contradicted by statements from former prisoners and the Auschwitz commandant. Historical documents prepared by the Central Construction Board in Auschwitz in 1943 stated that five crematoria in the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps can burn nearly 5,000 corpses in a 24-hour period which can total over one million per year.
In the early 1990s, Germar Rudolf, a certified German chemist carried out similar research which resulted in his imprisonment in 1994. Another report by Walter Lüftl, who held an engineering degree and was the chairman of the Austrian chamber of engineering suggested that it would be impossible because it would be a violation of the “laws of nature, and, and besides, the requisite technical and organizational conditions were absent.” To reach this conclusion, he conducted experiments on the relationship between body temperature, gas chamber temperatures, and the rate of evaporation of Zyklon B. He argued that the crematoria were not capable of burning large quantities of bodies, and that the human body itself was not flammable.
False documentation and incorrect reporting by people who are highly regarded in society or deemed to be academics of the subject reveal the dangerous nature of Holocaust denial which can have severe impacts on people who do not have access to accurate scholarly literature about the horrific events that took place. While Holocaust denial is punishable by law in many countries, there is an ongoing debate about the legality of expressing personal opinions through free speech laws granted by other nations. While it is clear that there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech, the rise of social media has added to the complexity of spreading misinformation as it has given a platform for many people to express their hateful and discriminatory beliefs to large audiences.
It is important to confront Holocaust denial because the Holocaust reveals that while Jewish people were the target of such horrific actions, no group is immune to hate. By denying or rejecting any type of history, people are allowing for voices to go unheard, individual rights to be threatened, and hate, discrimination, and xenophobia to flourish in modern society.
Those that denounce the occurrence of the Holocaust, or claim it to be an exaggeration of events, are often referred to as Historical Revisionists or Holocaust Deniers. These people deny basic historical facts such as the existence of a Nazi extermination program, the use of gas chambers, and the total number (6 million) of Jews killed – despite the fact the Germans kept accurate records of their atrocities. Deniers are often Anti-Zionist, antisemitic, and suffer great efforts to prove the existence of a Jewish conspiracy. The argument that the Holocaust did not transpire is often fueled by the idea that Jews are manipulating world events and opinions. Many deniers claim that Jewish control of the media enabled them to “create” the Holocaust in order to legitimately establish Israel as their homeland.
In the Middle-East, denial propaganda is predominantly used to advance the case against Israel’s right to exist. The President of Iran, for example, brazenly expresses such sentiment through his denial propaganda and Anti-Israel rhetoric. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister of Germany expressing his condolences for the repercussions the country endures on account of the media’s “false” presentation of events; he recently held the world’s first state sponsored Holocaust denial conference; and he has publicly termed the Holocaust a myth and called for the destruction of Israel.
In the Western world, deniers, while often anti-Israel, tend to place their focus on the advancement of neo-Nazism and white supremacism instead. People who fall into this category include Ernst Zundel, David Irving and the high school teacher from Alberta, James Keegstra.