By John Weir
Recently John Sack and Michael Shermer have addressed the topic of Holocaust revisionism in mainstream publications, Sack in Esquire magazine and Shermer in his book, Denying History. Publicly, both Shermer and Sack are critical of revisionism. This is rather typical for those who want to be able to publish their works through major publishing houses. What makes these two writers different from the rest of the pack, is that they have actually spent some time communicating with revisionists and reading revisionist writings.
One line of argument Sack and Shermer share is that the words of the Nazi leaders themselves indicate their intent to kill the Jews of Europe and that this intent was put into action. John Sack writes of asking Ernst Zündel "What about Goebbels? He said a barbaric method was being employed against the Jews. And Himmler? He said the SS knew what a hundred, five hundred, one thousand corpses were like." [Inside the Bunker; Esquire 2/2001, page 138] Similarly, Michael Shermer writes of quizzing David Irving on what Adolf Eichmann meant when he wrote "Der Fuehrer hat richt der Ausrottung der Juden befohlen." [i.e. "The leader (Hitler) has ordered the extermination of the Jews." ](Shermer, pg 54) The replies they received to their questions did not satisfy them.. I can hear them saying to themselves "Aha! Got you there!"
Those who reject Holocaust revisionism argue that these quotes prove Nazi Germany was intentionally murdering Jews by the millions and therefore revisionists are wrong. Revisionists, of course, are sure this is not the case. This argument over semantics, definitions and quotations has raged for years, despite the pointlessness of attempting to read the minds of dead Nazis through the narrow interpretation of a small number of ambiguous quotes.
The Nazi theorist, Alfred Rosenberg, who was put in charge of the administration of the occupied eastern European territories, met a similar challenge while in the box at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. His problem was a bit simpler than that presented to revisionists; he didn't need to read anyone's mind, but simply put his own words into the context in which they were written. In addition he stated that though the word "extermination" was bandied about with regard to the Jews in Nazi circles, it was never understood to mean the murder of millions of Jews.(2)
During the trial, he was asked to translate the German term "Ausrottung" using a standard German-English dictionary. To this Rosenberg replied:
I do not need a foreign dictionary in order to explain the various meanings "Ausrottung" may have in the German language. One can exterminate an idea, an economic system, a social order, and as a final consequence, also a group of human beings, certainly. Those are the many possibilities which are contained in that word. For that I do not need an English-German dictionary. Translations from German into English are so often wrong-and just as in that last document you have submitted to me, I heard again the translation of "Herrenrasse." In the document itself "Herrenrasse" is not even mentioned; however,there is the term "en fallacious Herrenmenschentum" (a false mastermankind). Apparently everything is translated here in another sense.(3)
Likewise, the Nazi propagandist, Julius Streicher was called to task over his advocacy of the "Ausrottung" of Jewry while on trial at Nuremberg. He explained he was unaware of any mass murder of Jews in the East and that he didn't believe figures being presented to him at the trial. His use of the term "Ausrottung" was purely a reflection of calls for the murder of Germany appearing in the foreign press at the time. His echoing call for the extermination of the Jews was purely rhetorical.(4) To the surprise of his captors, at one point, while under interrogation by the Soviets, Streicher had declared himself to be a Zionist.(5) While on the stand, Streicher also defined the final solution to the Jewish question to be the creation of a Jewish homeland after Germany had won the war.
Those interested in the reality behind harsh Nazi rhetoric cannot interpret everything in a literal sense. In the Book of Genesis, God speaks words that magically become reality. "Let there be light" and light comes into existence. Who would be so foolish to think that Hitler or Himmler wielded such divine power? The statements of men cannot always be taken literally. The statements of mortal politicians, unlike Godís, may or may not be true.
Therefore, it is not relevant to ask what Himmler meant, or what anyone else meant when they uttered or wrote "Ausrottung." What is important is the context in which the quote is made and not conjectural definitions of a single word within a quote.
Assuming Shermer and Sack are correct, and the Nazis murdered millions of Jews in gas chambers and in Einsatz killing fields all over Eastern Europe, why waste time questioning what Himmler meant when he said what he said at Posen? Solid evidence should be abundant. There should be hundreds or even thousands of Katyn-size mass graves full of the remains of murdered Jews everywhere the Nazis operated. Yet they don't exist. Had a mass extermination actually occurred, Shermer and Sack would have plenty of physical evidence to examine and revisionism would not exist. Instead they find themselves debating the meaning of "Ausrottung." Such exercises in rhetorical futility highlight the miserable quality of evidence used to support belief in the Holocaust rather than working to debunk Holocaust skeptics.
The linguistic arguments of Sack and Shermer require a predetermined sinister interpretation. For a truly objective understanding of historical reality, one has to carefully put all words into context. Some words are spoken in order to shock. At times, hyperbole and sarcasm are used. Then again, people can simply be dishonest to affect a desirable response from an audience.
Therefore, this line of argumentation should be put to rest. Circular arguments prove only oneís own assumptions and fail to address historical reality. My advice to revisionists and others confronted with questions regarding interpretation of words in famous and sometimes not- so-famous quotes is to simply query why the questioner needs to ask in the first place.
Humpty Dumpty took the book, and looked at it carefully. `That seems to be done right--' he began.
2)"ROSENBERG: ...I heard that in Kiev a larger number of Jews
had been shot, but that the greater part of the Jews had left Kiev; and
the sum of these reports showed me, it is true, terrible harshness
especially some reports from the prison camps. But that there was an
order for the individual annihilation of the entire Jewry, I could not
assume and if, in our polemics, the extermination of Jewry was also
talked about, I must say that this word, of course, must make a
frightful impression in view of the testimonies we think are available
now, but under conditions prevailing then, it was not interpreted as an
individual extermination, an individual annihilation of millions of
Jews. I must also say that even the British Prime Minister, in an
official speech in the House of Commons on 9/23-26/1943, spoke of the
extermination in root and branch of Prussianism and of National
Socialism. I happened to read these words from this speech. However, I
did not assume that in saying this he meant the shooting of all
Prussian officers and National Socialists."
3)--Title: "One Hundred and Tenth Day, Wednesday, 4/17/1946, Part 13", in Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal. Volume XI. Proceedings: 4/8/1946-4/17/1946. [Official text in the English language.] Nuremberg: IMT, 1943. pp. 552-554.
4)--Title: "One Hundred and Sixteenth Day, Monday, 4/29/1946, Part 23", in Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal. Volume XII. Proceedings: 4/18/1946-5/2/1946. [Official text in the English language.] Nuremberg: IMT, 1947. pp. 365-367.
5)"At the interrogation of 11/10/1945 by representatives of the Delegation
of the Soviet Union, Streicher declared quite unexpectedly that he 'had
been holding the viewpoint of Zionism.'"
Installed: 07/27/98, 1: 00 AM, PST