The Journal of Historical Review

Auschwitz in History

Ernst Nolte

“Was someone an ‘Auschwitz denier’ if, a decade ago, he disputed the officially sanctioned thesis that four million human beings were gassed in Auschwitz – that is, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp? Should Daniel Goldhagen today be considered an ‘Auschwitz denier’ because, in a passage right at the beginning of his book that reviewers and critics have hardly mentioned, he contends that the efficiency of the gas chambers has been ‘greatly exaggerated’? Was someone an ‘Auschwitz denier’ if, a year ago, he dared to express the suspicion that [the book] Fragments by ‘Binjamin Wilkomirski,’ while certainly a moving recitation, is not, as so many enthusiastic reviewers have agreed, an eyewitness account?

“In truth, Auschwitz was anything but an invention, but like any other historical reality of comparable importance, it must again and again be re-discovered and re-interpreted, also, and precisely within, the context of [historical] genocide and state organized mass murder …

"No group and no generation should have the right to use the law to set in stone their understanding or the results of their studies, and shut out new arguments or research oriented on the maxims of objectivity.

“… Even incorrect arguments are generally helpful to scholarship because they can serve to sharpen superior arguments, and to increase the critically important scope of research.”

– Ernst Nolte, professor emeritus of contemporary history (Free University of Berlin), in a review, “Auschwitz als Argument in der Geschichtstheorie” (“Auschwitz as an Argument in Historical Theory”), in the German daily Die Welt, January 2, 1999, p. 8. (See also the interview with Nolte, and the review of his 1993 book Streitpunkte, both in the Jan.–Feb. 1994 Journal, pp. 15–22, 37–41.)

Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 18, no. 2, p. 36.

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