The historical facticity of the Holocaust is confirmed by all accepted scientific methods of historical inquiry, from eyewitness testimony to archaeology. The facts clearly underscore that hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people, were murdered in an organized and systematic manner by Nazi Germany. Specifically targeted ethnic, religious, political and social groups, deemed inferior and undesirable by Nazi ideology, were eliminated or marginalized for what was termed the ‘sake of the fatherland’ before and during the Second World War, in utter harmony with the direct commands of Adolf Hitler. Despite these facts, there nevertheless exists an extreme minority view in the literature that the Holocaust did not occur or transpired in a radically different manner than how it is transmitted in historiography. Against the so-called ‘Holocaust-deniers’, such as David Irving and Bishop Richard Williamson, who have promoted this alternative and fallacious vision, the following paper will refute their hypothesis that the Holocaust did occur on the basis of the following three claims. Firstly, arguably the main claim of David Irving which is employed against the historical authenticity of the Holocaust is that the number of concentration camp survivors is simply too great to confirm the thesis that these detainees were targeted for systematic extermination. This, however, is a logically flawed argument, to the extent that the mere existence of survivors does not preclude the large-scale determination of other detainees. Secondly, Germany and Austria, which during the Second World War existed as a singular nation-state, have both conceded responsibility for the events, as well as having apologised for their direct historical participation in the Holocaust. Lastly, the paper will make a general critique of Bishop Richard Williamson’s and Mr. Irving’s claims on the basis that they are both erroneous and superfluous with regards to the historical facticity of the Holocaust.
With regard to the first point, against David Irving, quantitative disagreements regarding the number of people killed in the Holocaust does not in itself refute the claim that the Holocaust did occur. Accordingly, when David Irving poses the (ultimately) rhetorical questions, “Isn’t it extraordinary that there are so many survivors?” and “Isn’t it paradoxical that after killing so many there are so many survivors?”, the survival of some does not necessarily or logically entail that others did not die. For example, it is of documented historical record and almost frighteningly banal therefore to cite — against such an argument – the astonishingly high numbers who died as the result of the actions of Nazi Germany, from warfare to executions, from starvation tactics to death marches. What makes Irving’s claim more absurd, however, is that he does not rely upon sources to support his claim. Namely, the number of survivors which forms the basis of Irving’s argument itself differs. For example, Amcha, which is an Israeli group who provides care to Holocaust survivors, have provided estimates that “834,000 – 960,000 Holocaust survivors were still alive in the summer of 1997.” This number of survivors is, however, fairly high, in contrast with the statistics advanced by The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which suggests a figure of ‘195,000’” survivors. Even conceding that this figure may be lower since it only includes registrants from the United States and Canada. , according to the very nature of the conflict and the displacement of Jews, Holocaust survivors essentially became wanderers who had to find safe places of asylum, such that relying upon such numbers is not a robust form of argumentation. Irving’s claim is thus flawed in two major senses. Firstly, the existence of survivors does not a fortiori preclude victims. Secondly, since the estimated number of survivors varies, which itself suggest that the number cannot be quantified, advancing a claim based on the number of survivors is methodologically flawed.
Another crucial point is the following: to the extent that fourteen countries have made Holocaust denial illegal, what would be the reason for this recognition of the Holocaust, if it did not occur? The very countries accused of carrying out the Holocaust, such as Germany and Austria, have acknowledged their guilt for these crimes against humanity. Furthermore, on the level of individual participants, hundreds of members of the Nazi Germany apparatus have admitted to the existence of the Holocaust. For example, in the Jäger Report, a document written by Karl Jäger, a Nazi Einsatzkommando leader in 1941, a clear, detailed and concise account of the numbers of people killed is recorded as a matter of historical fact. The existence of documents such as the above provide clear support for the involvement of countries such as Germany and Austria in the events, such that to state that Germany and Austria are now manipulated by outside political interests to proclaim responsibility blatantly overlooks the documents which exist and are contemporaneous with the Second World War. The admission of guilt from such countries is namely entirely harmonious with the historical documents of the time period.
The Holocaust denial claims of David Irving and Bishop Richard Williamson is itself a logically incoherent claim, since the historical argument that the Holocaust did happen is not homologous to claims which dispute the number of people who died in the Holocaust. From this perspective, if the Holocaust was responsible, directly or indirectly, for the death of 100,000 people or 6,000,000 people, the discrepancy in these figures, despite their significant difference, does not logically support the claim that the Holocaust did not happen. The ambiguity concerning the exact number cannot be utilized as the denial of the event’s occurrence. Accordingly, it is also relevant to note that, for example, in the work of Richard Williamson there is no evidence used to deny the event of the Holocaust, but rather to dispute the number of deaths. Irving also, in much the same manner, focuses on how detainees may have died in concentration camps: even if one holds that the cause of death is subject to scrutiny, this does not eliminate the facticity of the deaths. Irving engages in much ex post facto argumentation so as to question the concept of Holocaust, for example, “The British themselves created the term ‘The Holocaust’, and used this to their advantage in propaganda…” Yet the naming of the genocide or its conceptualization after the facts of the event, even if subject to debate and interpretation, does not alter the historical reality of the genocide itself. Another case of such incoherency in argumentation is Irving’s “moral” arguments that “The allies were killing more – more people died in Hamburg in Allied fire bombings then in Auschwitz…” Once again, deaths that were the result of the Allies does not logically preclude the deaths of the Holocaust. This is rather a rhetorical technique, to shift the focus of moral responsibility, but does not directly address the events of the Holocaust themselves and cannot be used as support for the denial of the Holocaust as such. Such poorly constructed arguments, which rely on fallacious methods such as incorrectly inferring conclusions from premises and the comparison of entirely different events, violate any claims to scientific and historical rigour.
From the perspective of pure historical evidence, the occurrence of the Holocaust is indisputable. From historical documents produced during this time period to later admissions of guilt from involved parties to the testimony of survivors and other participants provide robust historical support. Furthermore, the arguments advanced by Irving and Williamson use incoherent logic to generate their conclusion, through the fallacious usage of inference to the performance of category mistakes which compare unrelated phenomena. The genocidal nature of the Nazi regime and their enactment of these policies, which led to the death of millions, are tragic aspects of our historical reality and consciousness. To deny this reality is to remain ignorant to the extent of this tragedy.