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Anglo-French denial links

Who denied the Holocaust first is less important that who did it most successfully. What matters is influence, and the French denier Maurice Bardèche was unquestionably one of the most influential of the early period. In 1947, he published Letter to François Mauriac, which strongly defended French collaboration and denounced the execution of his close friend and collaborator Robert Brasillach for treason.140 He followed it up with Nuremberg or the Promised Land in 1948, which he opened with the now traditional adage of the denial movement: ‘I am not taking up the defense of Germany. I am taking up the defense of the truth’.141 However, the text reveals otherwise. On the concentration camps, he wrote:

They photographed them, they filmed them, they published them, they made them known by a gargantuan publicity campaign, like for some brand of pen. The moral war was won. . . . After having presented our most sincere compliments to the technicians, mostly Jewish, who orchestrated this program, we now want to see clearly.142

Like Ratcliffe before him he went as far as to question the legitimacy of the pictorial evidence, claiming they showed fabricated scenes with:

Reconstituted torture chambers in places where they never existed . . . like a film set. . . . And in the pious intention of making them more realistic, supplementary crematory ovens were constructed at Auschwitz and Dachau to appease any scruples which might have been born in the minds of certain mathematicians.143

The text goes on with irony to describe Nuremberg as ‘another Dreyfus case’,144 exonerates Germany for starting the war and when talking of German atrocities mischievously states, ‘the truth, here, is not as easy to disentangle as one would think’.14’ Like many Britons with a similar motive, Bardeche also engaged in immoral equivalency by arguing that the Allies also engaged in ‘different but just as effective methods, a system of extermination almost as wide-spread’146 and stated, ‘I will believe in the judicial existence of war crimes when I see General Eisenhower and Marshal Rossokovsky take seats at the Nuremberg Court on the bench for the accused’.147 If these arguments sound similar to those published in Britain, it is no mere coincidence.

Bardeche’s next book, Nuremberg II ou les Faux Monnayeurs, published in 1950, made it abundantly clear that he was well aware of much of the earlier denial literature emanating from Britain. He talked of the Anglo-Saxon intellectuals and journalists who rose up against the supposed injustices of Nuremberg long before he did.148 He specifically drew attention to the work of the Duke of Bedford and quoted the BPP pamphlet Failure at Nuremberg, which he described as an extremely inflammatory pamphlet, very well-supported with evidence.149 While mentioning that the pamphlet contained sections on the partiality of the tribunal, on condemnations brought to trial by ex post facto law, on the Allied war crimes and on the fundamental dishonesty of the trial itself, he quoted at length from the passages concerning National Socialism and those about the falsification of evidence and testimonies.10

In addition to the Duke of Bedford and the BPP, Bardeche mentioned the work of numerous other British writers such as Montgomery Belgion, Major General Fuller, Liddell Hart and the author of Advance to Barbarism, F.J.P. Veale. Clearly impressed with the work of the British journalist Montgomery Belgion, Bardeche quoted at great length from his 1946 book Epitaph on Nuremberg.'5' Though incorrectly, as has been shown earlier, Bardeche believed Belgion to be the first to go beyond mere criticism of the trials and to describe them as political operations and propaganda designed to justify the Allies’ actions.152 He also believed this marked the first example of someone accusing the Allied forces of having committed the same atrocities that they were condemning the Germans for.153 While wrong about Belgion being first, his general summary of his work was correct. Belgion wrote, ‘I see the Trial as having taken place in order to give the delusive appearance of a legal finding to the contention that Germany caused the war’14 and that:

This time, instead of waiting for a peace treaty in which to proclaim Germany’s “war guilt” for the second war, it was decided to have trials that would, it was hoped conclusively establish this guilt in the eyes of the whole world, and also in the eyes of the German people themselves. . . . The Nuremberg Trial was a gigantic “put up show”. The Nuremberg Trial was a gigantic piece of propaganda.155

Furthermore, attention was drawn to Allied bombing campaigns, described as the ‘RAF’s Holocausts’,156 starvation and disease in Germany caused by Allied actions17 and the brutal tactics of resistance movements. In short, he believed, ‘the Nuremberg Trial was not held in order to do justice, it must have been held in order to do injustice’.158 Ironically it had been Victor Gollancz, an anti-fascist publisher, who originally encouraged Belgion to write the book, but when he saw a draft he found it ‘unpublishable’ as he had ‘fallen over backwards to give the impression of whitewashing Nazi horrors’.159 It was this attempt at whitewashing history that no doubt impressed Bardeche so much. He also praised the work of Captain Liddell Hart and Major General Fuller for showing no reluctance in demonstrating severe judgements towards the Allied bombardments, as much as towards Hitler’s concentration camps.16" He specifically praises Fuller’s 1945 book, Armament and History, for providing some of the most damaging condemnations against the Allies.161 Thus, when looking at the early work of Bardeche, the man lauded by many as the first denier, it becomes clear that he was drawing extensively on the work of British deniers who predated him.

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