Protocols of the revisionists
By Laurent Cohen | 08/10/2009
Even before the Six-Day War, there was an organic link between Holocaust denial and the negation of Israel's legitimacy. Be it a function of Nazi or anarchist ideology, European revisionism has a single goal: undermining the ethical and historical right of the State of Israel to exist. Laurent Cohen on the most important ideological monster A Jewish school in the Paris suburb of Gagny,
of the second half burned down in November
of the 20th century Photo: AFP. Illustration: Miri Garmizo
In Rassinier's opinion, the Holocaust, the Jews and the State of Israel are the three links in the chain of enslavement of the world proletariat. The survivors of the extermination are lying, because Marxist science teaches that throughout history there is no victim but the proletariat
Alain Finkielkraut: “We must stop calling the elites of revisionism ‘blond hooligans'. There is no sadism in them, they have no desire for a swastika, or nostalgia for right-wing totalitarianism. Their only concern is to stake out a position to the left of all the leftists; an abstract place, an absolute meta-language, an invincible fortress, from which the revisionists can condemn the weaknesses and the compromises without being judged”
This is a story of an insanity that spreads by means of a pseudo-rational process, and that has gained acceptance as a pseudo-scientific process. To date, the phenomenon of Holocaust denial and its representatives, who are called “revisionists”, has not received proper attention in Israel, and as a result, the revisionist activist is for the most part viewed as a young, violent, dimwitted skinhead, willing to swear on Hitler's head that “only lice were killed in the gas chambers”. Such types are, in fact, not uncommon in Europe: England's Blood and Honor neo-Nazis, French movements that are the offspring of the GUD or the FANE, or the Spanish Circle of Friends of Europe; but the story of the revisionist sect is much more strange and complex.
French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut writes in his book “L'avenir d'une negation”, (“The Future of a Negation: Reflections on the Question of Genocide”, 1982), which is dedicated to a study of revisionism: “We should stop calling the elites of revisionism ‘blond hooligans'. There is no sadism in them, they have no desire for a swastika, or nostalgia for right-wing totalitarianism. Their only concern is to stake out a position to the left of all the leftists; an abstract place, an absolute meta-language, an invincible fortress, from which the revisionists can condemn the weaknesses and the compromises without being judged. They are accused of sympathizing with the horrors that took place in the camps, but the revisionists, who are surrounded by a group of ‘traitors and naïfs' (the rest of the world, according to the revisionists – L.C.), see themselves as having brought the idea of revolution to its ultimate victory, and as victors by a knockout in the inter-sectarian struggle over the ownership of radicalism.”
On May 15, 1948, the day after the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, five Arab armies invaded the country. Beyond the military confrontation with the Arab world, which refused to recognize the UN resolutions (in favor of the partition plan to divide Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab), the young country was aware of the very widespread moral support it had in the world – support unparalleled in Jewish history. The source of this support all over Europe was the revelation of the Holocaust. Anyone who has read the European press from that time knows that solidarity with the Jewish people was based on guilt feelings and on the desire to “repair” what had been done in Auschwitz. In effect, the West tended at the time to create a direct link between Hitler's death industry and a commitment to the State of Israel. Leon Blum, who was the Jewish prime minister of France before the war and for a short time afterwards, wrote on August 1, 1947 in Le Populaire, a newspaper that he himself controlled: “Only one thing is bothering the international conscience: a miserable handful of Jews, the surviving remnant of the Hitlerian destruction (...), who were refused entry to the only refuge they could hope for – Palestine, the soil of which is cultivated by their brethren.”
On May 14, 1947, Soviet deputy foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, made his famous speech before the delegates of the United Nations, in which he explained that the strong desire of the Jews to find a place for themselves in the land of Israel “is a result of the fact that no European nation was capable of guaranteeing the Jewish people protection of its elementary rights. What this means is that only the genuine assistance of the world in establishing the State of Israel will atone for the humiliating passivity of the nations and the governments during the Holocaust.”
In Le Figaro of May 4, 1948, Francois Mauriac, the outstanding writer who had assumed a moral-cum-prophetic authority, reiterated the same idea: “A nation that has been wandering for hundreds of years has finally been able to pitch its tent. If there is one nation to which the UN cannot break its promises, it is this nation, which has survived a massacre unparalleled in all the cruel history of humanity.”
One questionable group
In spite of their earnestness, attitudes of this sort ignore the fact that the desire for Zion is as old as the Exile; their representatives forgot that political Zionism was born in the second half of the 19th century, well before the writing of “Mein Kampf”. The desire to “repair” the terrible injustice of the Nazi destruction in World War II limited the discussion of the Jewish question to the 20th century. But who could imagine back then, in 1947 and 1948, that one questionable group in France, mainly composed of radical right-wing intellectuals, was fabricating the message that no one had died in any camp because of being a Jew, or in the words of Robert Faurisson, the official prophet of contemporary revisionism, Hitler never ordered the destruction of the Jews, “and never ordered to kill anyone because of his race or his religion”. Faurisson writes in his book, “Memoires en defense” (1982), that “the myth of the gas chambers was born sometime around 1942, in various American-Zionist circles”. It logically follows, then, that the Jewish national movement was in essence fraudulent. According to this view, anyone who deciphers, exposes and disseminates the abovementioned “lie” will in effect prove, that the State of Israel has no justification to exist, and that the struggle of the Palestinians is therefore, morally speaking, an eternal necessity. To sum up, this is the “innovation”: revisionism is in fact as old as the State of Israel.
At least at first, the figure hiding behind the conspiracy was not at all anonymous. Maurice Bardeche taught French literature, first at the Sorbonne, and from 1942 at the University of Lille. He was considered one of the great French experts on the works of Balzac and Stendhal. Bardeche wrote for the weekly Je suis partout. During the Nazi occupation of France, this weekly was considered very high caliber, and those who wrote for it were “the philosophical-literary future of the nation”.
In her book “The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach” (2000), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Alice Kaplan proves that Je suis partout was characterized by obsessive anti-Semitism, captivated by the charms of Hitler and by the hope for a French “nationalist revolution” such as that in Nazi Germany. The name of the weekly, which means “I am everywhere”, was supposed to reveal to naïve Frenchmen the secret plan of the Jews: their desire to dominate the world economy, sacrifice the vital interests of the nations of the world on the altar of capitalism, subjugate the media, sow atheism in order to cause moral and social chaos, etc.
The editor of the newspaper was writer Robert Brasillach, Bardeche's brother-in-law. There was a spiritual alliance between the two. Brasillach was tried and executed on February 6, 1945, immediately after the liberation of Paris. Standing in front of the firing squad, he managed to shout: “Vive la France quand meme” (“Nevertheless, long live France”). In these words, his followers see a double testimony: proof that Brasillach was loyal to his ideology up to the moment of death, and that he remained “a man of words” – a person who insisted, as Alice Kaplan puts it, “on saying the right words at the right time”.
On the day after Brasillach's execution, February 7, the editors of Je suis partout (who were not put on trial until the fall of 1946), published the following notice: “They have shot Robert Brasillach. They have dared to do so. They have murdered a young man of 33, whose wise eyes were full of all the hopes of youth. Robert Brasillach was one of the most talented people of our time, and one of the smartest, a man who respected French literature and France in general… He was shot by General de Gaulle. The Jews demanded the blood of this righteous man.” After Brasillach's execution, all his possessions were found packed in a bag, on which was written: “Please deliver this bag and its contents to M. Maurice Bardeche”. Among French fascists, there was no doubt as to how to interpret the message: from beyond the grave, Brasillach was ordering Bardeche to continue the struggle. Bardeche considered the inheritance a “moral challenge” and a “sacred mission”, and after three years of scientific development, he presented to the world the patent that nobody had expected: the Holocaust was never anything but a Jewish propaganda ploy.
Bardeche's first book, “Nuremberg ou la terre promise” (“Nuremberg or the Promised Land”), was published in October 1948 in a print run of 25,000 copies. For Bardeche, this book is only “a cornerstone. It consists primarily of questions rather than accusations, analyses rather than documents. But isn't that enough for now, in order to organize the material that was deliberately presented in a confused manner?”. In effect, Bardeche was outlining revisionism's program of action. Since that time, “Holocaust denial” in all its forms – even when it came from the direction of radical left circles – would draw on the ultra-rightist Bardeche's revelations, and the theories he fashioned from these revelations.
By what feat of manipulation is Bardeche able to persuade his readers that the story of World War II is so entirely different from what had been commonly thought? How can we explain the fact that this “creation” marked the beginning of a movement that now numbers tens of thousands of adherents all over Europe, publishes in every language and even has its own more or less legal institutions of higher learning? Bardeche offers several versions of a handful of groundless fictions, one more absurd than the next, according to which “the Nazi regime never planned to destroy the Jews, but only to concentrate them in Eastern Europe”; “the main reason for the horrors of the camps was cruelty among the prisoners”; “the Jews are the ones truly responsible for the war”. This issue is of the greatest importance in the revisionist rhetoric: “Not only were the Jews not victims, they were the ones who caused the world conflict and therefore bear responsibility for millions of dead”.
The question of “who really started” leaves tremendous room for debate (and for the imagination). In fact, in order to “prove” that the Jews are the reason for the war, the revisionists frequently quote from a letter by Chaim Weizmann that was published in the British-Jewish newspaper The Jewish Chronicle on September 8, 1929: “The Jews stand by Great Britain and will fight on the side of the democracies”. This sentence proves, then, that the Zionist movement, and through it Jewish “cosmopolitanism”, threatened Germany, to the point that it had no choice but to exercise its right of self-defense. “Chaim Weizmann”, writes Robert Faurisson, for example, “became the trumpet of the international Jewish community, which declared war on Germany in September 1939”. In order to invest this issue with utmost importance and seriousness, the revisionists habitually claim that at the time Weizmann was president of the “World Jewish Congress”, a glamorous title seemingly drawn from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. In fact, Weizmann was then the president of the Jewish Agency.
“Defense of the West”
Going back to “Nuremberg ou la terre promise”, we discover that the main cause of death in the camps was typhus and “improper sanitary conditions”. “Of course, I am not concluding that the concentration camps were white and pink prisons, in which they played ball while singing to the accompaniment of a harmonica”, writes Bardeche. To the ultimate question – who “invented” the “myth of the gas chambers” – the author offers a threefold answer: the Jews (in order to reinforce their domination of the world through moral and emotional blackmail), the Soviets (in order to play down the crimes of Bolshevism and cause them to be forgotten) and the Allies (in order to justify the bombings and the “terrible suffering” of the German nation, which was the real victim of the war).
The monthly newspaper, founded by Bardeche in December 1952, became the pipeline that transformed Holocaust denial into the identity of a small, pretentious and determined sect. Defense de l'Occident (“Defense of the West”) was, in the words of Valerie Igournet, a “fighting newspaper”. Igournet's comprehensive study relates to all the elements in the history of revisionism, and includes highly important interviews with Bardeche conducted a short time before his death (on September 30, 1998).
“This newspaper was founded in order to present all my ideas. Revisionism is an outcome of my ideas”, Bardeche admitted to Igournet. From the mid-1950s, the anti-Zionist struggle became a crusade for Bardeche and his staff. They present the State of Israel as a foreign body endangering the stability of the world, as the illegitimate daughter of America and as a cancer “in the heart of the Muslims”. In April 1963, former SS man Pierre Hofstetter offered a succinct statement of the movement's attitude toward Israel: “The ghost state, Israel, was assembled from territories stolen from the Arabs and was built from the billions that were extorted from the Germans with the claim of ‘Nazi war crimes'.” Thus, even before the Six-Day War of 1967, Holocaust denial and the denial of Israel's legitimacy were organically related. In the 1970s they would be combined into a single ideology.
Worship of marginal details
When we examine the roots of ultra-leftist revisionism, we must ask if the movement's aim of being “scientific” is in fact due to the ideological emptiness of its founding father, Paul Rassinier. One thing is clear: we can learn something of the true nature of the radical-left activists through their pretension to being researchers and scientists able to offer a comprehensive explanation of reality based on the Marxist system. These “academicians” demonstrate what Finkielkraut calls “the fetishism of written material”. “Fetishism transforms their prejudices into meticulously thought-out concepts, makes them into researchers, and turns their rejection of and disdain for reality into a worship of marginal details”, he writes.
These sentences serve as a good description of Paul Rassinier. In “The Assassins of Memory” (Columbia University Press, 1992), Pierre Vidal-Naquet, a historian of ancient Greece who also writes about contemporary history, demonstrates that the entire theoretical structure of Paul Rassinier and his followers (who claimed that, “only one million [Jews], more or less” died in World War II, from various causes) relies on only one, very vague source: an article published on December 5, 1942 (!) in Die Einheit (“The Unity”), a Yiddish newspaper published in Moscow (!), which noted that “most (80 percent) of the Jews of Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia were rescued”.
Rassinier and his successors always forget to mention that David Bergelson, who signed the article, was a writer recruited for pro-Soviet propaganda activity, whose purpose was to convince American Jewry of the merits of Communism. As a Soviet propagandist, Bergelson invented the story of the rescue of the Jews of Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania in order to glorify the Red Army. (A sad but predictable detail: after the war, in 1952, Bergelson, like Stalin's other most loyal servants, was to receive his compensation – a bullet to the head.) But Rassinier didn't bother with such petty details. As a “revolutionary logician”, only the numbers are important to him. Vidal-Naquet sums up: “On the basis of such ideas, and many others like them, Rassinier imagines that he has a right to state that the Hitlerian genocide is in effect ‘the most tragic and macabre fraud of all time'.”
Who was Paul Rassinier? Historian Nadine Fresco spent years trying to answer that question, and the result is an 800-page book called “Fabrication d'un antisemite”, (“Making of an Anti-Semite”). Fresco shows us that behind Rassinier's many ideological disguises is a bitter man with delusions of grandeur, who had been a full-time political activist, but either left on his own initiative or was expelled from every political group that had accepted him. However, after his death in July 1967, his dream came true: other people turned Rassinier into a political camp of his own.
Rassinier's life is like a journey through the depths of the left. He was born in March 1906, at the age of 18 joined the French Communist party, and in 1932 was banished from its ranks. Rassinier was the chairman of the Socialist Federation in Belfort (in eastern France), and belonged to the pacifist branch of Paul Faure. During the Nazi occupation, Rassinier founded the underground newspaper La IV Republique, and in late 1943 was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Buchenwald. As anyone familiar with the history of the period knows, there were no gas chambers in Buchenwald. So when Rassinier says he saw no gas chambers during the period of his incarceration, his statement is based on fact, except that he draws a deceptive conclusion from it: “Nobody ever saw the gas chambers, because they simply never existed...”.
After the liberation in 1945, Rassinier was recognized as being disabled. Internment had shattered him, although he claimed, “It was not the Nazi ideology that was to blame for that, but the prisoners themselves”. One can see that Rassinier uses means similar to those of Maurice Bardeche in order to banalize the Nazis, normalize the concentration camps and totally neutralize their uniqueness, thus bringing them back into the category of more or less “conventional” prisons. “But who is responsible?”, asks Finkielkraut, summing up Rassinier's viewpoint. “Who is to blame? The Haftlingsfurhrun, the autonomous administration of the prisoners. Some members of this administration received certain authorities from the SS, which divided them in order to conquer, and introduced the practice of slavery into the relationships among the prisoners themselves. The guilty parties are the cruel perpetrators. According to Rassinier, it was they who caused the increasing chaos and insanity in the camp. The law was strict but correct. Unfortunately, the perpetrators were not loyal: orders were distorted, various acts of fraud deepened the differences between the rabble and the camp aristocracy, the Kapos exploited their power and thus betrayed the SS men.”
In June 1946, despite his disability, Rassinier achieves the greatest success of his life: he is elected as a representative of the Socialist party in eastern France. But Rassinier doesn't enjoy the realization of his dream for long, and in November of that year leaves Belfort and establishment politics, with plans to do “great things”. In the years 1949-1950 he publishes two books, “Passage de la ligne” (“Crossing the Border”) and “Le mensonge d'Ulysse” (“Ulysses' Lie”). During this period, Rassinier is still undecided: he is not yet saying unequivocally that the gas chambers never existed. He does repeatedly say that the phenomenon was much less common than is generally thought, and he is beginning to cast doubt on its very existence: “The time has not yet come for a final judgment on the gas chambers. Documents are rare, and what we do have is imprecise, incomplete, forged and suspicious… My opinion about the gas chambers? They existed, but their number was smaller than is generally thought. There was extermination in this manner as well, but not to the extent that is claimed.”
During the 1950s, Rassinier becomes closer to the anarchists, and at the same time his anti-Semitism grows more extreme. Pierre Vidal-Naquet speaks of him as being obsessed with the international Jewish conspiracy. Nadine Fresco comments that during his anarchist period, “Rassinier took part in the publication of the newspaper of the Anarchist Federation, Le Monde libertaire (“The Permissive World”). He published articles dealing with economics, mostly as a response to the celebrity of Pierre Mendes France, a Jew who was one the leaders of the Socialist party in the 1950s. He condemned the “political manipulation of the banks and the bankers, mainly Jews”.
For Rassinier, his fight against the “Jewish bankers” is of a piece with his fight against the State of Israel. He himself explains: “They came to me with an objection, more implied than specific, that I blamed the political corruption almost entirely on the Jewish banks (...). This is a mass tendency that is unique to France: unless it is being done for the purpose of praise and positive exaggeration, one may not judge the behavior of the Jews in public matters without being immediately accused of anti-Semitism or racism. For that reason, in the left and in the workers' movement (...) it has never been possible to take a stand against Zionism, which Tolstoy so roundly condemned, or against the establishment of the State of Israel, which is opposed both to the principles of permissive socialism and to socialism in general.”
At the end of the 1950s, Rassinier was forced to address accusations leveled by German anarchists, who refused to accept his anti-Semitic views. His relations with some of the French activists suffered, as well. According to Rassinier, these activists had sinned in their moderation and in their refusal to draw conclusions from the one and only truth: the world is divided between the proletariat and the capitalists, who are controlled from within by Judeo-Zionists.
To complete the ideological portrait of Rassinier, mention should be made of his hatred of the Soviet Union. Again, Rassinier could be Bardeche's double. He was convinced that like the Jews, the Soviets were interested in disseminating the story of the Holocaust. Pierre Vidal-Naquet remarks that for Rassinier, “The alliance between the Jews and the Communists is a given of world politics”. And what is the Soviet interest? Rassinier: “In my opinion, the trick of the Communists was clear – by emphasizing the German camps, they thought to confuse the world and divert its attention from the 20 million people imprisoned in their camps”. Aside from Rassinier, the ultra-left revisionists consider Jews and Russian Communism to be two “embodiments of fraud”: the former forged history, and the latter desecrated the revolution and its messiah, Karl Marx.
A link in the chain
In 1964, Rassinier, who had lost all inhibitions, published his book “Le drame des juifs europeens” (“The Drama of the European Jews”). In order to understand the “drama” implicit in the book's title, it is sufficient to read the following statements: “The drama of European Jews does not lie in the fact that six million of them were destroyed, as they claim, but in the claim itself. There is no lie without punishment, and now the time for atonement has come. We must not forget that the purpose of the lie was to receive the budget needed for the establishment of the State of Israel (compensation based on the number of Jewish victims).”
In July 1967, Rassinier died at the age of 61, but following his death the leftist branch that has developed an entire philosophy based on his writings began to take form.
Today, notwithstanding the symposia, the periodicals with the megalomaniac titles, the Internet sites, but also in spite of the legal bans on Holocaust denial in Europe, the viewpoints of his supporters have not changed.
They still contain that same dose of crudeness and disturbed imagination as that which characterized Rassinier himself. The Holocaust, the Jews and the State of Israel are the three links in the chain of enslavement of the world proletariat. The survivors of the extermination are lying, because Marxist science teaches that throughout history there is no victim but the proletariat. Ever since societies, armies, flags and nations came to exist, the workers of the world have been the real martyrs, and now the Jews are trying to steal this honor from them. A desperate, sick, masochistic contest for the coveted title of suffering: these words can sum up the revisionist perversion.
Apropos persecution of the Jews
Louis-Ferdinand Celine, one of the most important French writers of the 20th century, was a controversial figure. Admirers of his revolutionary literary work “Journey to the End of the Night” (1932) find it difficult to accept the existence of the anti-Semitic pamphlets, suffused with expletives, which he wrote over the years. The most violent of them is “Bagatelles pour un massacre” (“Bagatelles for a Massacre”, 1937).
The following is a passage from a letter sent by Celine from prison to his attorney on March 5, 1946 (at the end of the war, Celine emigrated to Denmark, but was arrested there at the request of French authorities), which shows that Celine was one of the pioneers of Holocaust denial.
“…Anti-Semitism is ancient. And mine, in its exaggerated, very comic, solely literary form, hasn't harmed a soul. Besides, in my books never advocated any activity of an anti-Semitic nature; I advocated an awakening, a shakeup of the Aryans who had become brutish, a union between France and Germany for the sake of peace. And another major issue: Jews in France never suffered from persecution. The Jews were completely free (unlike me) in body and property in the Vichy region, throughout the entire war. In the north they may have been forced for few months to wear a small star (What glory! I'm willing to wear ten!). Here and there, Jewish property was confiscated (big deal!) that has since been returned to them, and how! Many times over (and my property will never be returned to me). It is true that a certain number of Jews were expelled from France to their country of origin. This step was taken because of the shortages that existed in the country. Even the Danes would undoubtedly have done the same in similar circumstances.”
“I am not justifying the Germans, I am only presenting the facts. And since we are discussing persecution of Jews, it's needless to point out that the most active policemen among the Gestapo during the occupation, the SS and the SA, were almost all Jews or half-Jews, and that the most energetic persecutors of the Jews, the informers were actually Jews themselves. This phenomenon probably existed in other countries, as well. It caused me to wonder and to be suspicious about the actual principle of race. I found that most of the well-known anti-Semites and major collaborators have “definite” traces of Semitic blood or of Jewish origin. From this I concluded that the game in which I had so entirely immersed myself, and that totally destroyed me, was but a fool's game, in which all the cards were fake and deceptive. Don Quixote at least tilted at real windmills; I never encountered anything of the kind – only a nightmare, a foolish hoax, always with the same faces playing all of the roles.”
Laurent Cohen is a French journalist and writer living in Israel