The denials of genocide

Introduction

The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) in 1944, a polish-Jewish legal scholar. But the concept of the crime itself originated from Assyrians massacred in Iraq on 11th August 1933. Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (and)forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

This paper will try to expound on some of the greatest genocides in history and the denials that they ever occurred. Though genocide has been signed under the international law, it is not very clearly defined which historical events constitute genocide and which are merely criminal or inhuman behavior. Hence many accusations of genocide have mostly been controversial. Historical events have been revised, re-examined and/or distorted so as to deny historical crimes. The main aim of those people who aim to revise history is to advance a different historical view and deny many historical events that occurred. This is done by presenting known forged documents as genuine; inventing reasons for distrusting genuine documents manipulating statistics to support his/her own personal view and deliberate misinterpretation of texts. The deniers aim at writing history by minimizing, denying, assuming and ignoring essential facts. Holocaust and the Nanking massacre are the greatest Massacres in the world history but despite the large amount of foolproof evidence present, many people and especially historians deny that these ever existed. Other genocides that occurred but still continue to be denied are the Rwanda genocide and the Armenian genocide.

Holocaust denial

Holocaust can be termed as the greatest atrocity that ever happened during world war one. But there are those people who deny that it ever existed. The deniers aim at rewriting history so that the fact of Holocaust can be omitted. These are people who claim that the genocide of Jews never occurred and/or if it occurred it was not to the degree that is historically recorded. These deniers claim that the German government did not have any policy to exterminate the Jews as a people. They also reject the fact that more than five million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, and that the extermination occurred in concentration camps where homicidal gas chambers were used. They say that there were no gas chambers especially at Auschwitz-Birkenau where mainstream historians claim that over 1 million Jews were killed[1]. Some deniers of holocaust use the term revisionism to express their point of view. David Hogan wrote the first book denying Holocaust in 1969[2]. But the first stage of denial occurred even before the war was over and this was propagated by the Nazis. These Nazi officials after their escape began working on readjusting history. Paul Rassiner, a holocaust survivor from France was one of the first Holocaust deniers and he therefore laid the foundation of the denials.

The holocaust deniers claim that the holocaust was a myth, a make believe story that never happened. They claim it was a hoax story created by the Allies of World War 2 to demonize Germans.They claim that it was a conspiracy to advance the interests of Jews who spread this myth at the expense of other people so as to create a Jewish state in Palestine. They also base their arguments on the survivor stories which they say are unreliable because they are full of inconsistencies and errors. But what about the confessions from the Nazis? These they claim were extracted from the alleged war criminals through torture. Also on the documentary evidence found in photographs, they claim that it is not genuine and that it is fabricated and also that what the Nazis did to the Jews was in line with what the Allies did to their enemies in World War 2.

On the number of Jews exterminated, the deniers claim that 6 million is an exaggerated figure and that just about six hundred thousands people and not specifically Jews died at the hands of the Nazis[3]. They claim that the gas chambers and the crematory ovens were used not for mass extermination but rather to disinfect clothes and burn bodies of people who had died of disease. They say that what happened to the Jewish community in Europe was an unfortunate consequence of the vicissitudes of war[4]. The anti defamation league claims that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz and that Hitler had no ill intentions towards the Jews. It also claims that there is scientific evidence showing that the gas chambers did not exist and if they did, they could not have been used to kill such a large group of people. The several massacres of Jews were deliberate just like in any war but it was not carried out specifically by the Nazis but by the larger Eastern Europe. Most Jews died in concentration camps due to disease and starvation but not from homicidal gases. But regardless of the claims, Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman conclude that there is "convergence evidence" which proves that the Holocaust happened. This evidence he writes include written documents, eyewitness testimony, Photographs and the camps themselves. The deniers have tried to refute this evidence by even presenting evidence in courts to prove that holocaust never happened. But this evidence after extensive research has shown it to be flawed, biased and falsified[5]. Even as the fall of German became evident, the Nazi leaders tried to destroy all the evidence of mass extermination on realizing that they will be captured. They dug up bodies of Jews previously buried and burned them[6].

Well known deniers like Harry Elmer Barnes who was one time a mainstream historian became convinced later that the allegations of holocaust were wartime propaganda to justify the involvement of United States in the Second World War in his pamphlet Revisionism and Brain washing (1962) He alleges that the atrocities of the allied were more brutal, painful and numerous than those committed by the Germans. He claims that the Germans were the victims both in 1914 and 1939 and that the holocaust was just propaganda to justify a war against Germany. He goes on to allege that the allies wanted to make Germany the scape goat for all the horrors and evils that they did (the Allies).[7]

There are many other historians all over the world who defect from the mainstream and support the deniers of holocaust. They have stated their reasons to believe that the holocaust never happened in books, journals and/or magazines.

Willis Carto founded the Institute of Historical Review who called themselves revisionist but were actually deniers of the Holocaust and their first major event was to award a reward of 50,000 dollars to anybody who could prove that Holocaust ever occurred. They invited Holocaust survivors and Mel Mermelstein a survivor of Auschwitz responded but when he got no response from the Institute, he sued it. The judge ruled that Jews were gassed to death and that that was not subject to dispute and that it was simply a fact. He was rewarded 90,000 dollars and the institute lost a major case.[8]

David Irving was a main figure in the 1980s and 1990s to popularize the denial movement. He is said to have even gone to the Hitler's mountain retreat and treated it as a shrine. Soon after the holocaust denial spread even to the Academic world.Henri Roques, a graduate student received a doctorate from the University of Nantes for his thesis that Auschwitz had no gas chambers.[9]

Fred Leutcher the author of the Leutcher Report who denies holocaust but masqueraded as a research engineer is said to have carried out a research in 3 sites in Poland. He claims that his study was not to deny holocaust but to see the engineering of the gas chambers that could kill so many people. He concluded that the facilities referred to as the gas chambers could not have been used to kill any one[10].It however emerged that he was not an expert engineer but a man with a B.A. masquerading as an expert engineer.[11]

The Zion Conspiracy

This is the major belief that the deniers rely upon to claim that the Holocaust never happened. It is well documented in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book which originated in Russia. It claims that the Jews conspired on setting the price of gold and world monies, take over the world media and eventually control the world. The media was to be used to spread propaganda. It is claimed that this propaganda was meant to fill the Gentiles all over the world with guilt such that they (the Gentiles) would not protest when the Jews robbed the Palestinians of their homeland with the utmost savagery.[12]

Reactions to Holocaust Denial

Many historians have refused to argue with the deniers in that they do not want to give them unwarranted legitimacy[13].Others like Deborah Lipstadt try not to legitimize the deniers claims but instead try to raise awareness of their motivations and methods. she claims that the arguments will never end in that the deniers' commitment is to an ideology and the findings they get are aimed at supporting this ideology, Others respond to the deniers claims by pointing out errors and inconsistencies on the arguments put forward by the deniers.Other acts of genocide have also been vehemently denied though the historical evidence present shows that they indeed took place. Gregory H Stanton., founder of Genocide watch states that denial is the 8th stage that follows genocide and that denial is an indication of further genocidal massacres.[14] After world war two; Dwight D.Eisenhower foresaw that the atrocities committed by the Nazis will one day be denied. When the concentration camps were being liberated and the crimes committed in those camps revealed, he gave the following speech.

"I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that 'the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda'... I not only did so but as soon as I returned to Patton's headquarters that evening, I sent communications to both Washington and London, urging the two governments to send instantly to Germany a random group of newspaper editors and representative groups from the national legislatures" (Shermer et.al.1920).

From this and other speeches and documentations, it was evident that one day, the events of holocaust would be denied. Eisenhower foresaw this even before the war was completely over.

The Nanking Massacre

It is also known as the Nanjing Massacre or the Rape of Nanking. Nanking was the former capital of the Republic of China and this massacre refers to a 6 week period after the Imperial Japanese Army captured this city. Many civilians were murdered and many women raped. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of civilian were killed and 20,000-80,000 women raped by the Japanese soldiers[15]. But the issue remains controversial and contentious in that some historical revisionists deny that it ever happened. Also some Japanese nationalists claim that the massacre was either exaggerated or fabricated for propaganda purposes. Due to this controversy, there have not been good relationships between Japan and China as well as between Japan and other Asian countries e.g. South Korea and the Philippines. The controversy arises from the fact that there are no accurate and comprehensive records of the massacre. Also, there exists variance in estimates of the death toll, differences in definition of the geographical area, and the time that it occurred. in defining it by the geographical area, it can be narrowed down to only those killings which occurred in Nanking Safety Zone or broadly to those killings in the immediate environs of Nanking, or more broadly the 6 counties around Nanking.Also the time period can be the six weeks after the fall of Nanking or broadly to include killings from the time the Japanese Army entered Jiangsu province i.e. mid November till late March 1938[16].

The Japanese government has acknowledged the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army but it claims the deaths were military in nature. Others claim that the deaths were accidental, isolated or justified militarily and that the exaggeration of the same is basically for purposes of political propaganda. A Japanese journalist, who was with the army at the time, states that Japanese army was advancing towards Nanking faster due consent among officers and men that they could loot and rape as they wished[17]. The most brutal and vicious of the crimes was the killing contest between two Japanese officers. This was covered as a sporting event with regular updates over a series of days. The two lieutenants called it a tie at 106 and107 because they had no specific time when they killed their 100th victim[18]. But this story is claimed to be fraudulent because the names of the two lieutenants are not revealed. Historian Bob Wakabayashi agreed with some Japanese scholars who claim that the story was concocted and that it had been made up by the soldiers themselves in order to raise the morale and national fighting spirit of the soldiers[19].But the historicity of the event will remain disputed since in 2005, a judge in Tokyo ruled that the incident had actually taken place and that the story was not concocted.

The Japanese army on capture of Nanking started a massive raping spree. The army would search from house to house for young girls and women. Husbands or brothers who tried to resist were shot dead. The women were killed after the rape ordeal either through explicit mutilation or by stabbing a bayonet, long stick of bamboo or other objects into the vagina[20]. Most of the evidence of rape was in form of photographs because the Japanese soldiers would take a photo of their victim. Most of the soldiers were found with these photos after they were arrested[21].

Nanking Massacre Denials

The denials that this ever occurred was brought forward by the Japanese who used their politicians and journalists to claim that it never occurred and that it was just a propaganda used by the Chinese. The Nanking massacre was brought to the English speaking world by Iris Changs book The Rape of Nanking.the works in the book have been criticized by denialists and non denialists.It is reported by Iris that what happened at Nanking was meant to happen in that "the path of Nanking runs through the very marrow of Japanese culture." She has repeatedly commented on the Japanese Psyche which she sees as historical product from a Japanese identity that is made of a bloody business with martial competitions, samurai ethics, and the fearsome warrior code of bushido.Iris Chang best describes the Nanking Massacre as the single most diabolic incident committed by the Japanese in a war that killed more than 10 million Chinese [22] .The Ministry of Education in Japan demanded that text books avoid criticism of its role in the Pacific War .It eliminated the Sino-Japanese war from school textbooks in 1955 and the school children were not taught the true history of Japan. The Nanking Massacre simply disappeared. This remained in effect for 20 years until 1970 when it was attacked. This was also the beginning of the rise of the denial movement.[23] The issue of history distortion on the Japanese textbooks was challenged by Ienaga Saburo,a Japanese historian who sued the government for the same. While in court, death threats were fired off by the extremists to the judges, Ienaga himself and to the plaintiff attorneys.[24]

The Ministry of Education did eventually remove the number killed from all the textbooks. The rise of conservatism in the 1980s saw the textbooks come under scrutiny once again. The government's strategy was to tone down the wording in them e.g. "Japan's aggression in China" was replaced with "Japan's occupation of Manchuria"[25]. In 1990, Emperor Horohito died and his death changed the denial of history. He was the final high ranking officer of the war. After his death, numerous soldiers expressed remorse and acknowledged that they participated in the massacre[26]. The year 1997 saw textbooks talk about the massacre. This saw the formation of a group by 78 deniers to object to the text books and take out Nanking Massacre from the school syllabus.

The Rwanda Genocide was denied by the United States until it was publicly acknowledged by President Bill Clinton. The Armenian Genocide is still denied by Turkey and its allies e.g. France[27].

Conclusion

Denial is a part of history. Almost every genocide that occurred in the world's history has been denied. The deniers do so because of various reasons. And these deniers are usually specific people who had interests or are involved in the said genocide. The holocaust is denied by the Anti-Semitic, The Nanking massacre is denied by the Japanese and the Armenian Massacre is denied by turkey. The main aim of the deniers is to project their countries into a positive right and to try to portray their countries as victims of propaganda.

Bibliography

  • Barnes, Harry E. Revisionism and Brainwashing.1962
  • Chang, Iris. The rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust. New York: Penguin Books, 1998) page 8
  • Chapel, Joseph. Denying Genocide: The Evolution of the Denial of the Holocaust and Nanking Massacre. (2004)
  • Cummings, Joseph. The worlds Bloodiest History.2009, page 149
  • Deborah Lipstadt.Denying the Holocaust. New York: The Free Press,1993)page 141
  • Dwight D.Eisenhower as cited in Shermer et al.Denying History.page 19-20
  • Ezergailis, Andrew. The holocaust in Latvia 1941-1944-The missing center. p 4-7
  • Historical institute of Latvia.1996
  • Fogel. The Nanjing Massacre. page 76.
  • Harwood.R "Holocaust Story an Evil Hoax" as cited in Shermer et al. Denying History.
  • Heitmeyer, Wilhelm and Hagan, John .International Handbook of Violence Research, Springer: 200 Hogan, David. The myth of the six million. Los Angeles: Noontide Press, 1969
  • Leuchter. The Leuchter Report. http://www.ihr.org/books/leuchter/synopsis.html. May 16, 2004.
  • Mathias, Andrew E.Holocaust Denial, A Definition.The Holocaust History Project, July 2, 2004.Retrieved January 02, 2010.
  • Michael Shermer & Alex Grobman.Denying History: Who says the Holocaust Never happened and Why Do They Say It, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.p3
  • Military Commission of the Kuomintang, Political Department. "A true Record of the atrocities Committed by the Invading Japanese Army". compiled July 1938
  • Omer Bartov.The Holocaust: Origins, Implementations, Aftermath, London Routledge 2000.
  • Stanton, Gregory. "Eight Stages of Genocide," Genocide Watch Stem. Holocaust Denial. page 33-34.
  • Tokyo Nichi Nichi. 13 December 1937. Article on the killing contest
  • Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi (Summer 2000). "The Nanking 100-man killing Contest Debate: War Guilt Amid Fabricated Illusions, 1971-75".The journal of Japanese studies.
  1. Mathias, Andrew E.Holocaust Denial, A Definition.The Holocaust History Project, July 2, 2004.Retrieved January 02, 2010.
  2. Hogan, David. The myth of the six million. Los Angeles: Noontide Press, 1969
  3. Deborah Lipstadt.Denying the Holocaust. New York: The Free Press, 1993), 47
  4. Omer Bartov.The Holocaust: Origins, Implementations, Aftermath, London Routledge 2000.
  5. Michael Shermer & Alex Grobman.Denying History: Who says the Holocaust Never happened and Why Do They Say It, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000. p3
  6. Ezergailis, Andrew. The holocaust in Latvia. 1941-1944.The missing center. p 4-7 Historical institute of Latvia.1996
  7. Barnes, Harry E. Revisionism and Brainwashing.1962
  8. Deborah Lipstadt.Denying the Holocaust. New York: The Free Press,1993)
  9. Ibid ,141
  10. Leuchter. The Leuchter Report. http://www.ihr.org/books/leuchter/synopsis.html. May 16, 2004.
  11. Stem. Holocaust Denial. P. 31.
  12. Harwood.R "Holocaust Story an Evil Hoax" as cited in Shermer et al. Denying History. P. 80.
  13. Heitmeyer, Wilhelm and Hagan, John .International Handbook of Violence Research, Springer: 2003
  14. Stanton, Gregory. "Eight Stages of Genocide," Genocide Watch.
  15. Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. p6
  16. Ibid
  17. Cummings, Joseph. The worlds Bloodiest History.2009, page 149
  18. Tokyo Nichi Nichi. 13 December 1937. Article on the killing contest.
  19. Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi (Summer 2000). "The Nanking 100-man killing Contest Debate: War Guilt Amid Fabricated Illusions, 1971-75".The journal of Japanese studies.
  20. Military Commission of the Kuomintang, Political Department. "A true Record of the atrocities Committed by the Invading Japanese Army". compiled July 1938
  21. Ibid, p. 3
  22. Iris Chang.The rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust. New York: Penguin Books, 1998) page 8
  23. Fogel. The Nanjing Massacre. page 76.
  24. Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. page 207
  25. Fogel. The Nanjing Massacre. page 85.
  26. Ibid, p. 86
  27. Chapel, Joseph. Denying Genocide: The Evolution of the Denial of the Holocaust and Nanking Massacre. (2004)

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