Cover image for Denying history : who says the Holocaust never happened and why do they say it?
Denying history : who says the Holocaust never happened and why do they say it?
Shermer, Michael.
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Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2000]

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xviii, 312 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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D804.355 .S54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Denying History takes a bold and in-depth look at those who say the Holocaust never happened and explores the motivations behind such claims. While most commentators have dismissed the Holocaust deniers as antisemitic neo-Nazi thugs who do not deserve a response, historians Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman have immersed themselves in the minds and culture of these Holocaust "revisionists." They have conducted personal interviews with the deniers, read their literature, monitored their Web sites, attended their conferences, engaged them in debate, and even traveled around Europe to conduct research at the Nazi extermination camps. Uncovering a complex social movement, the authors go much deeper than ever before in not only trying to understand the motives of the Holocaust deniers, but also refuting their points one by one. In the process, they show how we can be certain that the Holocaust happened and, for that matter, how we can confirm any historical event.

Author Notes

Michael Shermer is the director of the Skeptics Society and the host of the Skeptics Lecture Series at the California Institute of Technology. He teaches science, technology, and evolutionary thought in the Cultural Studies Program at Occidental College.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

History professor Shermer and Holocaust scholar Grobman analyze the attitudes and arguments of Holocaust deniers, who assert that there were "no gas chambers, no six million murdered, no master plan." After a clarifying discussion about free-speech issues, the distinctions between history and pseudohistory, and the dangers inherent in allowing ideologically biased revisionist history to stand unchallenged, Shermer and Grobman profile the most influential of the deniers, including Mark Weber, director of the anti-Semitic Institute for Historical Review, and David Irving, who has sued Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust (1993), for libel. The authors then refute the flimsy theories of Holocaust denial with explicit and chilling evidence and expose the "psychology of extremism" and hate underlying denial rhetoric. Certainly denial of the Holocaust is an outrage to Jews, but Shermer and Grobman make the point that it is not just a Jewish matter. Any attempt to erase the truth about the Holocaust is an assault on our understanding of the past, the source of nothing less than our sense of meaning and purpose. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Holocaust denialÄback in the news since the British courts shot down David Irving's libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt (for her groundbreaking book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory) in AprilÄgets an inventively thorough treatment in this important book. Keeping their focus on larger questions about historical rigor and public memory, Shermer (a professor of the history of science at Occidental College and publisher of Skeptic magazine) and Grobman (Rekindling the Flame) look closely at the methods employed by deniers and those used by legitimate historians. "Holocaust denial," they argue, "is not just a Jewish issue. It is an attack on all history and the way we transmit the past to the future." Drawing on a wide array of evidenceÄinterviews they conducted with famous deniers (including Irving himself) and text from their Web sites and literatureÄthe authors explore the difference between legitimate historical revisionism and pseudohistorical denial. They note that historians interested in revising accepted knowledge depend on a wide variety of sources to draw a picture of an event or periodÄif some of that evidence is contradictory, then respectful scholarly debate ensues; if new evidence surfaces, then the historical record gets revised. Deniers, on the contrary, use the barest of evidenceÄone contradiction, for exampleÄto discount entire arguments; meanwhile, they bolster their own arguments with out-of-context phrases and mistranslations. Using the deniers' own words to tear down their arguments, Shermer and Grobman provide a clear method for determining the reality of past events and supply a powerful weapon for anyone who cares about learning from the credible historical record. 42 b&w photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Shermer, founder/publisher of Skeptic magazine, and Grobman, most recently editor of In Defense of the Survivors, team up for this in-depth case study of pseudohistory, using the Holocaust revisionist movement. The revisionists have tried to rewrite the past by finding small fallacies within the Holocaust structure, clinging to them, and concluding that because one small portion is incorrect, therefore the travesty that we call the Holocaust never happened. The authors immerse themselves in this subculture, reading the literature, meeting with the leaders, and visiting the concentration camps to examine and refute each revisionist claim. In so doing, their meticulous work not only disproves Holocaust denials while confirming the horrors of the Holocaust but also lays a framework for examining how we know that any historical event actually happened. Fascinating and thorough, this book is essential for academic and large public libraries and for all Holocaust collections.DJill Jaracz, MLIS, Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Shermer and Grobman offer a compelling analysis of the methods, mind-set, and agenda of Holocaust deniers and why it is important to confront them. Profiles of prominent Holocaust deniers, such as David Irving, give insight into their pro-fascist and anti-Semitic ideologies. Fundamentally, the book is a manual on confronting and refuting their pseudohistory. The authors demonstrate how theories such as deconstructionism help create historical relativism--the idea that all interpretations are equally valid even if they abuse facts--providing Holocaust deniers with a claim to legitimacy. Shermer and Grobman convincingly distinguish between free speech, which they support, and giving deniers free publicity through efforts such as their campaign to have anti-Holocaust ads put into college newspapers. After examining how anyone can know for certain whether the Holocaust actually happened, the book then explores the difference between historical revisionism, which is ongoing, and historical denial. An examination of Japanese attitudes toward the 1937 Rape of Nanking emphasizes that historical denial is widespread. The book will appeal to scholars, teachers, and students and is recommended for all libraries. F. Krome; Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

Table of Contents

Arthur Hertzberg
List of Illustrationsp. ix
Forewordp. xi
A Note on Terminology: Why Holocaust "Revisionists" Are Really Deniersp. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introduction: Who Speaks for the Past? History and Pseudohistoryp. 1
Part I Free Speech and History
1. Giving the Devil His Due: The Free Speech Issuep. 9
2. The Noble Dream: How We Know Anything Happened in Historyp. 19
Part II Inside the Denial Movement
3. Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened? An Inside Look at the Personalities and Organizationsp. 39
4. Why They Say the Holocaust Never Happened: The Ideological Agendap. 75
5. How Deniers Distort History: Flaws, Fallacies, and Failings in the Deniers' Argumentsp. 99
Part III Arguments and Refutations
6. The Crooked Timber of Auschwitz: How Concentration Camps Became Extermination Campsp. 123
7. "For God's Sake--Terrible": The Scope and Scale of the Holocaustp. 173
8. The Evil of Banality: The Protocols of National Socialismp. 199
Part IV Truth and History
9. The Rape of History: Denial, Revision, and the Search for a True and Meaningful Pastp. 231
Epilogue: Libel, Denial, and the Holocaust Trialp. 257
Notesp. 261
Bibliographyp. 287
Indexp. 305