Desktop version

Home arrow Sociology

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Transatlantic antisemitism and Holocaust denial

While the earliest Holocaust denial literature was actually produced by British anti-Semites, they were very quickly joined by deniers around the world and soon became part of transnational networks sharing ideas, tactics and ‘evidence’. Some of these transnational networks existed between moderates on the Holocaust denial spectrum - those who generally sought to diminish the uniqueness of the Holocaust by engaging in ‘immoral equivalency’ - while others, such as those involving early American deniers, existed among the more extreme fascist and Nazi groups of the period. The dividing line between moderate and extreme denial is a blurred one and is more of a spectrum, meaning that some individuals and groups appear in both sections.

At the most moderate end of the spectrum were Major General Fuller and Liddell Hart, whose work relativising the Holocaust is covered at length in the Holocaust denial chapter. Fuller’s writing on British bombing was lauded in America, notably by the American textile importer and prominent anti-Communist, Alfred Kohlberg, who at considerable expense sent all three volumes of Fuller’s A Military History of the Western World to seven people.7 The two were also in contact,8 and in 1952 Kohlberg came to London and they agreed to meet.9 Fuller also found American supporters among the more extreme elements of the American far right such as Leon de Aryan, publisher of The Broom, who often informed Americans of events in Britain. De Aryan also corresponded with and published articles by a number of British activists.10 Articles about the bombing of Dresden referenced Fuller and with glee explained how, 'It’s not some “Nazi” who charges Churchill with this monstrosity, but General J.F. Fuller, an Englishman’, a statement built on the erroneous assertion that ‘Nazi’ and ‘Englishman’ are mutually exclusive." He had first been mentioned in the pages of The Broom in 1948 when it published an article by the German-born American journalist Karl von Wiegand, first published in The Leader, in which Fuller’s book The Second World War was referenced. Its arguments regarding Churchill and the British bombing of Germany were discussed, while Wiegand mentioned how it ‘created a furore’ upon publication.12 Impressed by the work of Fuller, de Aryan proceeded to publish extracts from his 1945 book Armament and History on numerous occasions, usually on the topic of Dresden and British bombing.13 However, it was not just to Fuller that de Aryan turned to on the issue of British war crimes. Another article on British bombing referenced Advance to Barbarism by fellow British author FJ.P. Veale.14 The same week they proceeded to positively review Veale s ‘splendid little book’15 and quote his ‘scathing attack on the war crimes trials’ in a separate article.16

Liddell Hart also had American admirers. In November 1948, Hart had lunch with the American Francis Parker Yockey. At the meeting the infamous American fascist gave Hart various documents relating to ‘the Dachau case’1, and the trial of SS Colonel Fritz Knochlein who was indicted in 1948 for a massacre of British soldiers. On the strength of the information provided to him by Yockey, Hart helped secure the services of the Labour MP Reginald Paget KC for Knochlein’s defence.18 Yockey also gave Hart a proof copy of Volume II of his as-yet-unpublished work Imperium, which included extreme Holocaust denial.19

In 1951 Hart also met the prominent American denier Harry Elmer Barnes at which meeting Barnes presented him with a copy of Design For IVar — A Study of Secret Power Politics 1937-1941 by Frederic R. Sanborn.2" They remained correspondents for many years after their meeting, sending each other their books and articles as well as those by others they deemed of interest.21 Barnes also put Hart in contact with the influential American publisher Devin Garrity who ‘always admired’ the work of Hart.22 Barnes himself toured Europe in 1951 meeting numerous European deniers in addition to Hart including Montgomery Belgion. At the meeting Barnes suggested that Belgion should cross the Atlantic and give a series of lectures stateside.23

Harry Elmer Barnes, a Professor of History at Smith College, was an isolationist and had been an outspoken critic of World War I and the Versailles peace treaty. He was also a champion of Germany and had previously shown his approval of Hitler.24 In 1947 he published The Struggle Against the Historical Blackout. The work sought to absolve Germany of any responsibility for the start of World War II by shifting the blame to the Allies and ironically lamented what he believed was the postwar emergence of the ‘ “Nineteen Eighty-Four” pattern of intellectual life’ in which ‘professional historians gladly falsify history’.25 The ‘blackout’ of which he spoke was a reference to the supposed ‘abject terror and intimidation’ that denier historians felt as a result of the ‘smearbund’.26 His 1962 pamphlet Blasting the Historical Blackout went further by claiming that Germans who had been the victims of postwar population transfers from Poland and Czechoslovakia suffered an ordeal, ‘obviously far more hideous and prolonged than those of the Jews said to have been exterminated in great numbers by the Nazis’.27 By 1966 he had added outright denial to his existing immoral equivalency when in Revisionism: A Key to Peace he claimed that.

it is almost alarmingly easy to demonstrate that the atrocities of the Allies in the same period were more numerous as to victims and were carried out for the most part by methods more brutal and painful than alleged extermination in gas ovens.28

From his initial steps merely attempting to exonerate Germany for starting the war, he had arrived at the outright denial of Nazi atrocities by the 1960s.29 Barnes’ radicalisation towards outright denial was deeply influenced by the work of Paul Rassinier, one of the first French Holocaust deniers.30 Harry Elmer Barnes praised Rassinier as a ‘distinguished French historian’ and applauded him for exposing the ‘exaggerations of the atrocity stories’.31

While the influence of early French denial literature on American deniers has been explored by historians,32 it is clear that Americans were also looking to Britain for ideas. One influential early British denier was F.J.P. Veale, a well-known member of the Brighton branch of the British Union of Fascists before the war. In 1948 (under the pseudonym A. Jurist) he published Advance to Barbarism, a book that argued that within a short space of time the whole character of warfare had shifted from civilised back to savagery and barbarism and that the area bombing campaigns of World War II and the Nuremberg Trials were symptoms of this shift.33 He also argued that the usefulness of the evidence outlined at the Trial to future historians would be ‘tempered by the thought of the overwhelming temptation to perjury and the unparalleled facilities for forgery which existed’.34 However, this is by no means an out and out work of Holocaust denial. Veale continued to say:

None of the considerations mentioned above should be taken to suggest that the accused were, in fact, innocent of all or even a substantial part of the charges brought against them. On the contrary, the probability certainly is that they were guilty — so far as it was possible for them to incur guilt in a struggle with opponents who had declared that in waging war “there were no lengths of violence” to which they would not go.3

What Veale was arguing was not that no atrocities took place but rather that they were the result of the descent of war back to barbarism, and thus both sides, Nazis and Allies, were culpable, so singling out the Germans for their atrocities was an example of victor’s justice. This book is the perfect example of what Lipstadt has called ‘immoral equivalency’.36

The book found a wide audience and was well-received around the world by deniers. Harry Elmer Barnes described the book as:

The best general work on the Nuremberg Trials. It not only reveals the illegality, fundamental immorality and hypocrisy of these trials, but also shows how they are bound to make any future world wars (or any important wars) far more brutal and destructive to life and property'. A very readable and impressive volume and a major contributor to any rational peace movement.37

His glowing review of the book was perhaps not surprising as the two had been in contact for some time before its publication, and in 1951 he paid for Veale to receive literature from Lawrence Dennis to help him write a book.38 After its publication he was then responsible for the publication of the American edition.39

With the help of Barnes, Advance to Barbarism found an audience in American right-wing circles. Macklin has described it as ‘immensely popular in American revisionist circles’ with Veale even receiving praise in The New Yorker.40 The prominent American denier Austin App was also a fan of the book, describing it in 1955 as ‘the most brilliant book so far written about the war’.41 He was later to become a correspondent of Veale’s.42 So popular was Veale s book in American denier circles that by the time of his next book he was described in the adverts as ‘already well known to Americans’,43 and by the end of the 50s the American far-right newspaper Right referred to Advance to Barbarism as a ‘classic work’.44 In 1958 he published a similar work titled War Crimes Discreetly Veiled, which also received a ‘splendid review’ from Harry Elmer Barnes in Modern Age.45

With time Veale became more openly antisemitic, and by the early 1950s he had begun to lament not being more explicitly anti-Jewish in Advance to Barbarism, explaining to Barnes that:

When I wrote it in 1948, I carefully avoided any adverse criticism of Mr. Churchill or any mention of the Jewish Question. ... I quite realize that my book in its original form suffered as a result of my caution. Admiral Doraville, for example, told me that he liked it very much but it omitted all mention of the main factor - the Jewish desire for revenge for Nazi persecutions. In short, it was like Hamlet with the character of Hamlet omitted!4*’

By 1961 he had progressed from his position of immoral equivalency to explicit Holocaust denial as shown by a letter to Oswald Mosley in which he explained that he was convinced that ‘this “Six-Million-Jew-Massacred” is a propaganda myth. No doubt the figure ... is nearer 250,000’.47 Interestingly Veale and his work remained influential well after his death, and in 1986 the Seventh Conference of the Institute of Historical Review, then the leading Holocaust denial organisation in the world, was dedicated to his life and work.48 His influence at the time and since is further evidence that British Holocaust denial from the immediate postwar period was far more important and influential than the existing historiography suggests.

Barnes’ and Veale’s relationship was just one part of a burgeoning transnational network of deniers. Veale’s work was also sold by the Dutch Nazi Paul van Tienen. In turn Barnes helped distribute Tienen’s work The Fate of the Jews in the Second World War — Fiction and Reality. Tienen called for greater cooperation, writing to Veale to say:

I am very sorry that there is so little co-operation between revisionists all over the world; I think we could make much more progress if we had a joint organ for instance. Couldn’t you, as our European foreman, take the initiative for founding not an organisation, but a simple co-operation of all revisionists with non-political intentions?49

Paul van Tienen, believing that closer international cooperation was required, published a pamphlet in which all ‘important studies’ of ‘revisionism’ were reviewed ‘from Montgomery Belgion’s “Epitaph on Nuremberg” in 1946 untill [sic] Veale’s “Crimes discreetly veiled” in 1958’.50 Veale’s work also received an impressive reception in Germany with the translation, Vormarsch zur Barbareri, reprinted the following year as Der Barbarei entgegen. It received 44 favourable reviews across the German far-right press?1 Veale also joined other early British deniers by being referenced by Maurice Bardèche in Nuremberg II ou les Faux Monnayeurs.51 Also involved in these networks was the Italian Luigi Villari who was a correspondent of both Barnes and Veale. Barnes edited a book of Villari’s53 while Veale visited him in Rome in the late 1950s.54 Another denier to make the journey to Rome was Liddell Hart, who visited him in 1956.” This network of like-minded people including Veale, Barnes, van Tienen, Villari and Liddell Hart, to mention a few, shows just how transnational the early Holocaust denial scene was.

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics