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Christopher Hitchens and Holocaust revisionists

Further to my post yesterday on Christopher Hitchens, I thought that the issue is quite straightforward.

To summarise – when St Martin’s Press tore up its contract with the Holocaust denier David Irving in 1996, Christopher Hitchens argued that the company was immoral to do so, and this was a disgrace. Hitchens called Irving a necessary voice on the 3rd Reich, in spite of his Holocaust denial. As many people have pointed out, Irving did not “just” deny the Holocaust. He also inflated the Dresden figures of numbers dead, and basically promoted “the Nazi’s argument” about Dresden.

In defending Irving in the widely-read LA Times, Hitchens had claimed there were no gas chambers in Germany. He had also called the Holocaust a “secular religion.”

David Irving made no secret of denying the gas chambers at Auschwitz. In anyone’s book, this makes him a Holocaust denier.

According to this speech, Hitchens says that someone who says the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves deserves extra protection because ‘it must have taken him some effort to come up with.’ Hitchens claims that defending David Irving is ‘one of the most proudest moments’ of his life, and that Irving was arrested for violating a law which says ‘only one version of the 2nd World War may be taught in our brave little tyrranean republic’ – as if Irving were merely teaching another version of history! Hitchens claims to have learned more about the Third Reich from Irving than from Hugh Trevor Roper and AJP Taylor ‘combined.’

If you think Hitchens was just defending David Irving on free speech grounds, you would be wrong. Here is Christopher Hitchens himself on David Irving, denying he was a Holocaust denier:

I will not take refuge in the claim that I was only defending Mr. Irving’s right to free speech. I was also defending his right to free inquiry. You may have to spend time on some grim and Gothic Web sites to find this out, but he is in fact not a “denier,” but a revisionist, and much-hated by the full-dress “denial” faction. The pages on Goebbels, as in his books on Dresden, Churchill and Hitler, contain some highly important and damning findings from his work in the archives of the Third Reich.

Taken together, this was pretty unpleasant. It wasn’t the only unsavoury Hitchens encounter with Holocaust revisionists. In 2001, Hitchens recommended an Israel Shamir article in The Nation, in order to critique Elie Wiesel. Hitchens wrote:

In a brilliant reply to Wiesel published in Vesti, Israel’s largest Russian-language paper, Israel Shamir compares him rather leniently not to Jabotinsky but to the Knight of the Doleful Countenance and his mad quest for purity:

Be reasonable, old man. Stay within the frame of the story and within the bounds of common decency. Don Quixote did not drive his jeep into Toboso to rape his old flame. OK, you loved her, and thought about her, but it does not give you the right to kill her children, bulldoze her rose garden and put your boots on her dining-room table.

Here is what else Hitchens would have read in this “brilliant reply” to Wiesel, posted on Israel Shamir’s website [http://www.israelshamir.net/shamirReaders/english/Shamir--Rape-of-Dulcinea.php].

The Shamir essay effectively accused Jews of raping Gentiles, en masse, with Elie Wiesel as their mouthpiece:

What water did to the Gremlins in Spielberg’s movies, Zionism has inflicted on the jolly Jewish folk of Eastern Europe . It caused them to carry out an ethnic cleansing of Gentiles in West Jerusalem , to convert the Schneller hospital and church into a military base and to build a Holiday Inn on top of the venerated shrine of Sheik Bader. The Jewish State forbids the Christians of Bethlehem to pray in the Holy Sepulchre and bans Moslems below the age of forty from attending Friday prayers at the Aqsa Mosque. This is the rape of the Holy City you profess to love.

[...]

In order to justify this rape, you invoke the names of King Solomon and Jeremiah, quote the Koran and the Bible

[...]

O ur ancestors, the humble East European folk of Yids, whose language was Yiddish, had a tradition of adorning themselves with the impressive heraldic lions of Biblical heroes. Their claim of descent from these legends was as valid as the claims of Thomas Hardy’s ambitious farmer girl Tess. But even the fictional Tess did not conspire to evict the lords from their castle and claim the manor for herself.

[...]

I am equally amazed that a Jewish professor from Boston University is as ignorant as the simple-minded Hassidic Jew.

[...]

Professor Wiesel, respect Gentile property rights as you would like Gentiles to respect your right to your lovely house.

This is pretty naked antisemitism, which Hitchens considered “brilliant.” Shamir was, years later, “officially” outed as a Holocaust denier, although it would not have been hard to have seen his antisemitism, even back then.

There is another Hitchens piece now only available – somewhat awkwardly – on David Irving’s website [http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Finkelstein/Hitchens0900.html], reviewing Norman Finkelstein:

Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering [is] currently occupying a word-of-mouth position somewhere between samizdat and “not in front of the goyim.

Christopher Hitchens takes the fact that there is a lawyer called Fagan who had taken up cases relating to Holocaust victims in the USA, makes a dubious and crude joke about “sneaky Jewish lawyer” and invoked Fagin. Worst of all, he suggested that Jews extracting money from their own country, might encourage people in their antisemitic thinking:

Schoenfeld concludes on the available evidence that the sudden boom in Holocaust litigation is most often exemplified by Edward Fagan, an obscure personal-injury lawyer from San Antonio, Texas who claims to have signed up 31,000 clients in record time. For his role in the Swiss settlement, he submitted to the court a bill for $4 million, or $640 an hour. The average pension that Holocaust survivors today receive from the German government is $640 a year.

FaganNow let us ask ourselves a question. Suppose that it was your desire to incite and incubate anti-Semitic emotions in Germany? You would not need to be a sneaky Jewish lawyer (Edward Fagan of San Antonio could possibly be a sneaky Irish lawyer, unless he really thought that a one-vowel change would save him from a Dickensian cliche). But if you employed dubious methods to reap vast sums from an already penitent state, and if you did this hand on heart, saying that business had nothing to do with it, and if you then couldn’t prove that the money had gone to the victims, might you not be stirring the folk rhythms of an ancient prejudice?

Here is Hitchens’ quote on the Holocaust as a “secular religion“:

While in the United States, protected as it is by the 1st Amendment, the Holocaust has become a secular religion, with state support in the form of a national museum. Accusations of ill will or bad faith are often made against anyone with reservations about the elevation of this project into something combining a cult, an entertainment resource and an industry, each claiming to represent the unvoiced dead.

Hitchens got it wrong a lot on this issue, and I think it would be dangerous and a bit silly to pretend otherwise.