The denial of the Holocaust and genocide take many forms, from simply ignoring obvious facts by manipulating the sources, through minimizing the dimensions of genocide, to trivializing and rationalizing genocide by analogy and claiming that it is an acceptable example of the kinds of things that happen in wartime.
The deniers of the Holocaust and genocide attack three facts in particular:
- the existence of the gas chambers
- the capacity of the crematoria in the camps, which far exceeded the natural death rate
- the enormous scale of the crime.
According to Professor Yisrael Gutman of the Yad Vashem Memorial Institute in Israel, the use of the term “Polish concentration camps” is a form of Holocaust denial. It is a conscious or unconscious way of changing victims into perpetrators and an attempt to blur the question of responsibility for the crime.
The aim of denying the existence of the gas chambers is, first, to negate the mass scale of the crime of genocide. The second aim is to make it easier to contend that people have always been killed on a greater or lesser scale throughout history, and that the things that the Nazis did during the Second World War were hardly exceptional, but rather examples of the kind of repression that always occurs during war.
The prime evidence for the deniers’ contention that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz used to be an account by one of the Auschwitz guards, Sonderführer Thies Christophersen (transcribed in the presence of attorney Manfred Röder). Published in the form of a brochure titled Auschwitz Lüge (Auschwitz Is a Lie) in 1973, Christophersen’s assertions became a “classic” of neo-Nazi propaganda. The SS man stated categorically that, as an eyewitness in Auschwitz, he never saw any gas chambers there. Christophersen also claimed that reports of cruelty in the camp were a lie, and that those who opposed Hitler during the war were traitors. Auschwitz, he asserted, was no death camp, but instead an ordinary industrial plant where “internees” were treated according to the regulations, and gas chambers the product of diseased imagination.
Since the end of the 1980s, genocide deniers have been appealing to more “objective” proofs, namely the results of chemical analysis of plaster samples taken from the walls of the gas chambers. Teams of pseudo-experts posing as tourists clandestinely gouge chunks of plaster from the walls of the gas chambers and later submit them to chemical analysis for the presence of hydrogen cyanide compounds. The quantity of these compounds is always, of course, too small to state that people were killed in the gas chambers. What is more, the deniers regard these analyses as clear proof that no one was killed by gas there.