I promised to post the full text of Nolte's comments about revisionism, here it is:
...since the time of Herodotus, large numbers, unless they come from statistical specialists, can only be questionable, and ... large crowds assembled in extreme situations and confronted with inexplicable events were, and remain, real rumor mills.
But the difference of opinion reaches its emotional extreme when the question concerns the actual magnitude of the "holocaust", or its existence or non-existence. Here anger and indignation are most understandable, because, in what is called revisionism, it seems motivated only by an impudent denial of tangible facts, testified to in an extensive manner. This indignation can extend to the position I outlined in my work Streitpunkte and is summed up in the simple thesis that revisionist arguments must be answered by arguments and not legal action. I am very interested in knowing your position on this question.
But allow me first to explain why the question of revisionism has become so important to me in recent years. In it I see a challenge to the first and most powerful of my beliefs, that is, my basic hypothesis. At the beginning of the 1960s, while I was preparing my book Three Faces of Fascism, I did not go to the archives of the state museum of Auschwitz to study documents concerning the construction of the camp, and I did not interview any witnesses. I was aware only of the most important written sources, such as the declarations of Kurt Gerstein and Rudolf Hoess, the book of Eugen Kogon, as well as the published acts of the Nuremberg trial. That seemed to suffice since no one at the time questioned the reality of the extermination of millions of people and the use of gas, not even the attorneys of the accused during the big Auschwitz trial getting underway at that time. I didn't yet know the name Rassinier. But I did something that wasn't obvious at the time. I studied the primary sources of Hitler's "conception of the world", his first letters, his first speeches, and the writing of Dietrich Eckart, the long-forgotten poet Hitler saw as a mentor, and the articles of Alfred Rosenberg, published in the little magazine Auf gut deutsch, the essays of Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, the former diplomat that Hitler judged "irreplacable" after he was killed in the putsch of 1923.
It was at this time that I made one of several discoveries to my credit: a pamphlet titled Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin: A Dialogue Between Adolf Hitler and Myself, which had no author's name but was no doubt written by Dietrich Eckart. Even today I consider this text by far the most important and the most instructive of the "conversations with Hitler", because all of the later partners, such as Otto Strasser and Hermann Rauschning, were secondary collaborators, whereas, according to his statements, Hitler considered Eckart his "guiding star". This reading bolstered my earlier conviction, drawn from the reading of Mein Kampf, that Hitler was truly a fanatical idealogue for whom anticommunism and anti-Semitism were united to a previously unprecedented degree, something the pamphlet already makes clear. To the extent that Hitler was a sociobiologist for whom peoples and races were the ultimate founding reality, "living substances of flesh and blood", nothing other than "Auschwitz" could be the result, as the supreme postulate of this counterideology, and as far as I know, I was the first to believe it possible to establish that certain early declarations by Hitler, notably a sentence from this "conversation" with Eckart, contained a clear anticipation of the extermination of the Jews.
My entire interpretation turns on this central point. If radical revisionism were right to assert that there was no "holocaust" in the sense of general and systematic measures of extermination decided at the top level of the state (apart from the partisans war carried out with great harshness on both sides in the Soviet Union), and that there were only vast deportations - comparable to the internment of Germans in England and the citizens of Japanese origin in the United States - in which the large number of victims could be blamed on extreme conditions, then I would make the following confession. I considered a politician to be an ideologue animated by a rage to exterminate, a politician who, at times like other politicians, threatened his enemies for psychological reasons, a politician who wanted nothing more with regard to the "Jewish question" than what the Zionists wished for, that is, the divorce of two peoples after the failure of their effort at a shared life; and by such an interpretation, my own would be invalidated. During the last war it was not two states driven by opposing ideologies, each determined to exterminate the other, but a simple extension of the battles between the great powers of the First World War; Nazism wasn't a "distorted copy of Bolshevism", but led a fight only for the survival of Germany, put on the defensive by world politics. No author voluntarily accepts that his work is ruined, and I therefore have a vested interest in revisionism not being right, at least in its radical version. But this is precisely the reason I feel provoked by it. On the other hand, I don't see myself associating with those who want to mobilize the public prosecutors and the police against it. Thus I feel constrained to ask the question of whether revisionism disposes of arguments, or if it is in fact only an uproar tangled in lies.
What is at stake here is neither more nor less than the fundamental quality of the historian. He knows that "revisions" are the daily bread of scientific work and that in the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, "revisionisms" haven't stopped springing up even in the victor's camp, when their ideas enjoyed an apparently unassailable privilege during or following major events. This is what happened after the Civil War and after the First World War. At the outset of the "Cold War" as well, a Western revisionism attacked the West's central thesis that the Soviet Union was responsible for triggering the "East-West" conflict.
The historian also knows that as a general rule certain revisionist theses end up being accepted by the establishment or at least introduced into the discussion. Thus, as far as I know, the previously disparaged assertions of Gar Alperovitz concerning the Cold War currently enjoy wide acceptance. The first atomic bombs targeted Japan less than the Soviet Union. It is impossible to avoid asking oneself if this analogy is equally valid for the "revisionism concerning the Holocaust" of Rassinier, Faurisson, Mattogno, and the Journal of Historical Review.
One can't answer solely in the negative except on the condition that until then there was no "research need" or any questionable assertion in the area of the "Final Solution". But this is not the case.
The most important specialists on the Holocaust, all belonging to the "established school", including Raul Hilberg and Yehuda Bauer, participated in a conference in Stuttgart in 1984. On that occasion Bauer criticised the still current and unassailable thesis in Germany that the extermination of the Jews was "decided" at the "Wannsee Conference". Hilberg strongly insisted on the fact that the frequently advanced figure of 2.5 million Jewish victims at Auschwitz was an impossibility, that the number could not surpass 1 million. (Several years later this revision became the official version. On commemorative plaques at Auschwitz, the "four million" was replaced by "from one to one-and-a-half million.") One member of the Berlin Institute of Research on Anti-Semitism indicated that Zyklon B, "which has often been ignored", was frequently used to combat vermin, and that it was indispensable in the camps where typhus was widespread, and he cautioned against "overestimating the number of those were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau". Eberhard Jaeckel referred to certain indications that Goering and Goebbels and even Himmler expressed reservations regarding the first mass executions. Hilberg underscored the great importance of "hearsay", declarations that were not based on personal experience but on what others reported, which had played a large role, even among the leadership of the Nazi party machine. No mention was made of the claim that during and immediately following the war, mass executions were carried out by injecting burning vapour into closed rooms while passing electric current on huge plaques or by using quick lime. This silence in the face of assertions of this order amounted to delaring them obviously erroneous, as was also the case, for example, regarding the rumor that soap had been milled from Jewish cadavers, a claim nevertheless repeated recently in Germany in the press releases of a well known director. Even de visu accounts of the 1950s of the high ranking SS Kurt Gerstein, a member of the Catholic Church, are no longer mentioned in the bibliography of completely orthodox researchers. And we know that Jean-Claude Pressac, recognised as a serious scholar in spite of unusual precedents, recently reduced the number of gas chamber victims at Auschwitz to around half a million.
Similar corrections of detail are not unlike certain assertions that, to my knowledge, were only made by "revisionists". For example, that the first confessions of Auschwitz commander Hoess were extorted under torture, that the high flames coming from the crematoriums observed by numerous eyewitnesses were only optical illusions, that the technical conditions were not in place to carry out the daily cremation of 24,000 cadavers, that the morgues in the camp crematoriums that counted about three hundred "natural" deaths each day during typhus epidemics were there for that purpose only and, at least during these periods, could not be used for mass executions.
Even such theses hardly surprise the historian, made aware by his daily work that since the time of Herodotus, large numbers, unless they come from statistical specialists, can only be questionable, and he knows as well that large crowds assembled in extreme situations and confronted with inexplicable events were, and remain, real rumor mills. Nevertheless, all these corrections and restrictions don't place the core of the matter in doubt, and the postulate that they should not be excluded from free scientific examination is appropriate. You know the literature perhaps better than I, and you can show me the passages where these problems and these doubts were explained. If I am not mistaken, this has not occurred in Germany.
The Essential is Incontestable
Two other claims are of a different order. They completely and fundamentally deny the existence of gas-chamber extermination. The first could lead to a spectacular defeat of the revisionists if it weren't kept from the public. It concerns the claim that the morgues of the crematoriums could not have been used as gas chambers because no significant trace of cyanide could be found in them, as opposed to the rooms used for the destruction of vermin. The other claim, advanced for some time, maintains that the openings in the roofs of the crematoriums, which were necessary to dispense the poison, were made after the fact, and that even today they were not adapted for pipes.
However, even if these two claims were definitively refuted, it would not suffice to dispense with the question of whether a revisionism that distances itself from provocative agitation and that proceeds by argumentation is not, in fact, an extreme example of revisions that are legitimate in principle and should be accepted as phenomena internal to scientific development. If this were the case, obviously strong criticism of the revisionism in question would be pursued, not excluded. I'm inclined to answer this question in the affirmative because what would science be if it were not always constantly required to carry out its critique of scientific errors through extensive work and to discover other cores of truth in the errors themselves!
But to me the statement of Hitler's political testament remains incomparably more probing than all the arguments of revisionism. The guilty one, that is, Judaism, has meanwhile suffered its punishment "even though inflicted by the most humane methods." And I would suggest sending all the revisionists a copy of the commemorative book published by the archives of the Federal Republic on "the victims of the persecution of the Jews under the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany from 1933 to 1945", a two-volume work in which more than one hundred thousand names of men, women and children are listed with the place from which the last information on them came. One of the columns shows the fate of each one. These indications don't specify if one was "gassed" or if another "died of typhus" because it is impossible to establish exactly what happened in each case, but they simply state "disappeared" or "died". And most often, but not always, the last place indicated is "Auschwitz". On the whole, this 1,700 page large-format publication is more important and more moving regarding "the essential" and the incontestable than the representation of personal fates and the works (however vast) of historians, no matter how sensitive they may be.
If I could make a wish, it would be that one of the well-known experts and archive analysts of the "established school" write a book in which he records without anger or obvious indignation the arguments of the revisionists and analyzes them in detail so that we would finally arrive at a result comparable to earlier examinations of revisionist arguments, and in this form: "It must be acknowledged that...but in no way does this call the essence of the matter into doubt."
But I consider the claim fundamentally false that if the essential is irrefutable, no particular claim need by further examined, and that all the doubts can only come from bad intentions. I think that the core of the matter is threatened when the shell of the discussion is removed, certainly not the factual character of the core, but the rank and importance accorded to it.
If the matter had to follow another course, if we insist on the conviction that the smallest fragment torn from the edifice makes the collapse of the whole inevitable and that we must therefore defend all testimony, however debatable, by an appeal to the courts and the police, I am convinced that we would be taking a fatal path. Already in Germany there has been a public demand for the application of the penal code concerning nationalist incitement on the part of scholars who attribute to Stalin a significant part of the responsibility for the war and who speak of a "preventive war" rather than of "the German aggression against the Soviet Union". It won't be long before historians who attribute an essential role to communism in the appearance of fascism have to defend themselves before a tribunal, which could also involve the historians who "trivialise" Nazism by establishing a parallel between it and communism.
In reunified Germany there are influential currents that would like not only to accept essential parts of the defunct DDR's representation of history, with certain modifications, but also start to apply the methods used when it was instituted.
All of this is apt to raise serious concerns, and I propose that in this correspondence we discuss the contemporary intellectual situation, a present that seems constituted by a "victory of the West" and that has nevertheless spawned so many disappointments. But first of all I would like to know how you view this highly delicate question of the attitude to adopt towards revisionism and whether you could even partially agree with the ideas I have developed in this letter in a very concise and certainly too summary fashion.
It may be pretty damn cheeky of me as an amateur to criticise Nolte's work, but it's a free internet so I noted a few points as I was reading it.
1. As mentioned in my first post, despite Nolte's request, Furet refused to even consider discussing revisionism.
2. Even funnier, at one point Nolte raises various revisionist arguments and says "You know the literature perhaps better than I, and you can show me the passages where these problems and these doubts were explained. If I am not mistaken, this has not occurred in Germany." Ha ha! Not just in Germany mate! Oddly enough Furet doesn't use his superior knowledge of the literature to direct Nolte to where the problems raised by revisionists have been explained, most probably because as yet, they haven't been...
3. I'm at a loss to understand why Nolte imagines revisionists would be swayed by reading a 1700-page publication listing over 100,000 names of Jews who were killed or disappeared, many having Auschwitz as their final location. For one thing, we already know from the death books that that many people died there, mostly through disease. For another, although it no doubt is very moving to read through such a list of people who died through no fault of their own, we might ponder for a moment the prospect of the Polish, Russian and Czech governments one day collaborating to compile a 1700-page tome listing the names and fates of dead and missing Vertriebenen. Would it be any less moving? And can anyone in this forum imagine even for a second that such a thing might happen? Not while the Poles, Russians and Czechs are still breathing, anyway.
4. I couldn't understand Nolte's belief that publicly contesting the revisionists' claims that "the morgues of the crematoriums could not have been used as gas chambers because no significant trace of cyanide could be found in them" could lead to a spectacular defeat of the revisionists. If Germar Rudolf read this passage, he must have spat his coffee across the room! As far as I can see, the technical impossibility of using those morgues as the eye-witnesses alleged is the strongest card in the revisionist deck.
5. Laugh-out-loud moment: "...the high flames coming from the crematoriums observed by numerous eyewitnesses were only optical illusions..."! It's a very ingenious and creditable attempt to avoid calling the numerous eyewitnesses barefaced liars, but I think I'll stick with... "Barefaced liars!"