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The Great Unz-Cole Holocaust Debate


Ron Unz

3,243 words


Last month, Ron Unz of the Unz Review posted a 17,600 word article about Holocaust denial [2] as part of his American Pravda series. Not only does he offer a brief history of Holocaust denial and a compendium of its literature, he also attempts to cast enough doubt upon what’s known as the Holocaust to suggest that perhaps it didn’t happen exactly the way mainstream historians say it did. I don’t think Unz ever flat out denies that the Holocaust happened. (Numerous times in the article he reminds his readers of how new he is to this subject and how little he has read compared to experts.) Rather, he just points out enough irregularities in the historical record to make his readers suspicious of the prevailing narrative; perhaps even deeply so. He’s like a defense attorney that way. All he has to do is raise reasonable doubt and his client walks.

Well, one person who didn’t let him walk was David Cole, a man whose reputation in large part stands on what he thinks of the Holocaust. As I understand it, Cole is a revisionist who challenges some of the scholarship surrounding the Holocaust and claims the final death tally is a bit lower than the accepted six million figure. For this, he got in a lot of trouble in the 1990s with, among other people, the Jewish Defense League. You can read his bio here [3]. But if there is one thing David Cole isn’t, it’s a Holocaust denier, a point he banged into the center of Ron Unz’s forehead with a number two pencil as hard as he could. Cole’s piece [4] over at Taki’s however just dented the scalp. Their follow-up correspondence [5] and Cole’s profanity-laden parting shot is what really drove it home, deep and wide.

For sheer entertainment value, you can’t beat the correspondence (I always like to see a good fight, and these two Jews really let each other have it). Cole also has the art of the abusive insult down, and, I have to say, is fun to read. He is, shall we say, creative in his contempt. Here’s a taste:

So yes, one can, at the same time, denounce the Allied postwar propaganda nonsense while STILL accepting the veracity of contemporaneous German documents. You don’t have to choose. Well, WE don’t have to choose. You, in that cobweb-infested cavern of a mind, probably think you do have to pick one, like a carnival game. Hope you win a stuffed ducky!

Are you a performance artist? Is this an act? PLEASE tell me it’s just an act. Please. I would sooner believe that a human can possess telepathic powers than that one can be as dumb as you appear to be.

But shit, look at me . . . talking to you like you have comprehension skills. Jesus, who’s the dumb one here? Literally, who’s more stupid, the poo-flinging baboon, or the human trying to reason with the poo-flinging baboon?

Round 1: Advantage, Cole

Aside from marveling at Cole’s wit, however, greater meaning from this exchange emerges after some consideration. Like with great art or fiction, one can view the principals from multiple perspectives and come away gaping at the mystery of life and reflecting productively on one’s own. Although in general I have greater sympathy for Unz than for Cole, I feel that Unz’s article was rambling, anecdotal, undisciplined, and ultimately unconvincing. One minute he seems to promote Holocaust denial, then Holocaust skepticism, then a distrust of tendentious Holocaust affirmers like Deborah Lipstadt, then a distrust of Jews in general, and then back again. After reading him, I’m still not sure where he stands on the Holocaust as a historical phenomenon—he’s so all over the place in his article, I’m not even sure he is. I think we can best summarize his main points like this:

  1. Holocaust denial can be perfectly reasonable and has a body of literature to support it.
  2. Holocaust deniers are unfairly suppressed, abused, and oppressed by Holocaust affirmers, many of whom are powerful Jews who behave like theological zealots.
  3. Many powerful Jews weaponize the Holocaust while ignoring Jewish culpability in similar atrocities in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe prior to World War II.

Of course, these points can be true irrespective of the Holocaust itself being true. But in order to establish point 1 at least, Unz must either cast doubt on the Holocaust as a historical phenomenon or quote people who do. He must throw shade on the Holocaust affirmers as well. Here are some examples (emphasis, all mine):

Dr. James J. Martin, a contributor to Reason magazine from 1970s:

I don’t believe that the evidence of a planned extermination of the entire Jewish population of Europe is holding up. I have been influenced over the years by the works of Paul Rassinier, and he still has to be reckoned with. His works have been ignored for a long time, and sooner or later somebody’s going to have to do a decent job of coping with what he has presented. I think Rassinier’s general case is sound at the moment and I haven’t seen any strong evidence to upset his allegations or his assertions that there was no planned program for the extermination of European Jews.

Unz on historian David Irving:

[Irving’s] entire approach to controversial historical issues was to rely as much as possible upon hard documentary evidence, and his total inability to locate any such documents relating to the Holocaust drove Lipstadt and her fellow ethnic-activists into a frenzy of outrage, so after many years of effort they finally managed to wreck his career.

The following is a paragraph which seems to sum up Unz’s opinions on the matter:

Over the years, Holocaust scholars and activists have very rightfully emphasized the absolutely unprecedented nature of the historical events they have studied. They describe how some six million innocent Jewish civilians were deliberately exterminated, mostly in gas chambers, by one of Europe’s most highly cultured nations, and emphasize that monstrous project was often accorded greater priority than Germany’s own wartime military needs during the country’s desperate struggle for survival. Furthermore, the Germans also undertook enormous efforts to totally eliminate all possible traces of their horrifying deed, with huge resources expended to cremate all those millions of bodies and scatter the ashes. This same disappearance technique was even sometimes applied to the contents of their mass graves, which were dug up long after initial burial, so that the rotting corpses could then be totally incinerated and all evidence eliminated. And although Germans are notorious for their extreme bureaucratic precision, this immense wartime project was apparently implemented without benefit of a single written document, or at least no such document has ever been located.

And here is where he takes on Holocaust Studies expert Joseph Bendersky:

Much of this very interesting story is told by Joseph Bendersky, an expert in Holocaust Studies, who devoted ten years of archival research to his 2000 book The “Jewish Threat.” His work chronicles the extremely widespread anti-Semitism found within the U.S. Army and Military Intelligence throughout the first half of the twentieth century, with Jews being widely regarded as posing a serious security risk. The book runs well over 500 pages, but when I consulted the index I found no mention of the Rosenbergs nor Harry Dexter White nor any of the other very numerous Jewish spies revealed by the Venona Decrypts, and the term “Venona” itself is also missing from the index. Reports of the overwhelmingly Jewish leadership of the Russian Bolsheviks are mostly treated as bigotry and paranoia, as are descriptions of the similar ethnic skew of America’s own Communist Party, let alone the heavy financial support of the Bolsheviks by Jewish international bankers. At one point, he dismisses the link between Jews and Communism in Germany by noting that “less than half” of the Communist Party leadership was Jewish; but since fewer than one in a hundred Germans came from that ethnic background, Jews were obviously over-represented among Communist leaders by as much as 5,000%. This seems to typify the sort of dishonesty and innumeracy I have regularly encountered among Jewish Holocaust experts.

So, like a capable defense attorney, Unz seems to be more interested in casting reasonable doubt upon the accusation that his clients are not telling the truth rather than flatly insisting that they are. This may be suitable in a court of law where the high bar to establish guilt corresponds to the high value we place on human life. After all, a perfectly guilty perp can walk if his attorney can prove that his accuser or the witnesses for the prosecution are unreliable. But when it comes to historical revisionism, in my opinion, this is approach is weak since everything the attorney is attesting could be true, and his client could still be wrong. Unz’s three points above are definitely true regardless of whether the Holocaust actually happened. This means that Holocaust denial really isn’t central to Unz’s position, but he never outright says so in his article. It would have been better if he had.

Unz does however say this:

Any conclusions I have drawn are obviously preliminary ones, and the weight others should attach to these must absolutely reflect my strictly amateur status. However, as an outsider exploring this contentious topic I think it far more likely than not that the standard Holocaust narrative is at least substantially false, and quite possibly, almost entirely so.

See how sneaky this is? Unz is not saying the Holocaust didn’t happen; he’s saying “the standard Holocaust narrative” is either partially or entirely incorrect. This means that Unz could claim vindication if it turns out only four million Jews were killed, or if the majority of the killing didn’t happen in concentration camps, or if the Soviets were responsible for half of it, or what have you. He’s careful to leave a lot of wiggle room to allow for multiple ways of being correct. Therefore, his conclusions from a pure factual standpoint strike me as timid, equivocal, and unconvincing.

In contrast to such defensive posturing, Cole’s methods are direct, forthright, and impossible to misinterpret. He takes a firm, positive stand and backs it up with an intimidating amount of research and knowledge. Regardless of what one thinks of Cole or the Holocaust, one must respect this. Cole finds errors in Unz’s approach (he refers to them as “lies”) and then smashes them mercilessly. Watching David Cole maul the arguments of Ron Unz is a little like watching seals getting clubbed to death; only, the seals in question represent what Cole sees as lazy or dishonest historical revisionism, and so deserve to die.

In response to Unz’s treatment of David Irving above, Cole writes:

That is a complete lie. A 100% complete lie, and if you ran it by Irving himself, he’d tell you so. Have you READ Hitler’s War? It’s not a denial book. Have you READ his Goebbels biography? It’s not a denial book, and it contains DOZENS of “documents relating to the Holocaust.”

In 1994, in his speech before the IHR international conference, Irving informed us that he had, in fact, recently authenticated arguably THE most important “document relating to the Holocaust,” Goebbels’ diary. From that speech:

More chilling is another diary entry a few weeks later. On March 27, 1942, Goebbels dictates a lengthy passage about another SS document that had been submitted to him, and which appears to have been much uglier in its content. “Beginning with Lublin,” he states, “the Jews are now being deported eastward from the General Government [occupied Poland]. The procedure is pretty barbaric and one that beggars description, and there’s not much left of the Jews. Broadly speaking one can probably say that 60 percent of them will have to be liquidated, while only 40 percent can be put to work.”

It’s a very ugly passage, and it’s easy to link this diary passage with everything we’ve seen in the movies and on television since then.

I’ve known Irving since 1991, and it bothers me to see his work so mischaracterized. His beef was not with “the Holocaust” (“Aktion Reinhard,” the Ostland exterminations, the Einsatzgruppen) but rather with the specific Auschwitz extermination story.

In response to Unz’s claim that the Holocaust “was apparently implemented without benefit of a single written document,” Cole writes:

Completely untrue. Himmler commissioned a census to lay out, by the beginning of 1943, how many Jews were still living, how many had emigrated before the war, how many were in camps and ghettos, and how many had been “dispatched” in 1942 via “special treatment” in the camps in the East (Treblinka et al). This figure also included the number of “todesfällen” Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen in ’41. Altogether, this figure of “dispatched” Jews came to 2.4 million by April 1943.

Along with Himmler’s census, we have Stroop’s reports about sending Jews for “liquidation” at Treblinka, Kube’s reports of liquidations, and Himmler’s speeches at Sonthofen.

Cole also employs logic numerous times to dismantle Unz. For example, in response to Unz’s claim that Treblinka was merely a “transit camp,” Cole brings up Unz’s earlier claim about the lack of contemporaneous Holocaust documentation and asks why there would be no documentation if all they did at Treblinka was innocently transfer Jews.

Granted, Cole never gave Unz a chance to respond in the end. Still, after digesting tens of thousands of words on this, Cole’s arguments ring true to me more than Unz’s do. So, that makes it Cole one, Unz nothing.

Round 2: Advantage, Unz


David Cole

But there is another way to look at this, a way that the Dissident Right should not overlook. Ron Unz, by defending the right of Holocaust deniers to deny, is standing up against Jewish power, specifically, liberal diaspora Jewish power. He recognizes how destructive and insidious it is and wishes to shake two of its most fundamental pillars: the concept that Jews are always the victim and the concept that Jews are morally superior to white gentiles. If it can be proven that the Holocaust was an elaborate smear job, similar to what the Russo-Jewish Committee did to Tsarist Russia in the late nineteenth century, then much of the support and credit Jews get from gentiles would evaporate and their influence would begin to dwindle. This is why the majority of the hardcore Holocaust deniers appear on the Right: the outcome of a fraudulent Holocaust undermines the power of their enemies. Rarely do conspiracy theorists promote theories that threaten their own ingrained worldviews.

So from this perspective, Ron Unz is the hero in this struggle because he’s fighting the good fight. Holocaust denial as a factual claim is only one of the many weapons he uses. He also advocates for the right to deny, exposes the zealous hysteria and dishonesty of many Holocaust affirmers, and points out Jewish hypocrisy when Jews weaponize the Holocaust while ignoring the prior Jewish role in the Holodomor and the Gulag Archipelago.

Apologies for lifting so much text from Unz’s article, but he says it so well that his words should be preserved and remembered. His sources should be followed up upon as well:

Back in those late Cold War days, the death toll of innocent civilians from the Bolshevik Revolution and the first two decades of the Soviet Regime was generally reckoned at running well into the tens of millions when we include the casualties of the Russian Civil War, the government-induced famines, the Gulag, and the executions. I’ve heard that these numbers have been substantially revised downwards to perhaps as little as twenty million or so, but no matter. Although determined Soviet apologists may dispute such very large figures, they have always been part of the standard narrative history taught within the West.

Meanwhile, all historians know perfectly well that the Bolshevik leaders were overwhelmingly Jewish, with three of the five revolutionaries Lenin named as his plausible successors coming from that background. Although only around 4% of Russia’s population was Jewish, a few years ago Vladimir Putin stated that Jews constituted perhaps 80-85% of the early Soviet government [7], an estimate fully consistent with the contemporaneous claims of Winston Churchill [8]Times of London correspondent Robert Wilton [9], and the officers of American Military Intelligence [10]. Recent books by Alexander Solzhenitsyn [11]Yuri Slezkine [12], and others [13] have all painted a very similar picture. And prior to World War II, Jews remained enormously over-represented in the Communist leadership, especially dominating the Gulag administration and the top ranks of the dreaded NKVD.

Both of these simple facts have been widely accepted in America throughout my entire lifetime. But combine them together with the relatively tiny size of worldwide Jewry, around 16 million prior to World War II, and the inescapable conclusion is that in per capita terms Jews were the greatest mass-murderers of the twentieth century, holding that unfortunate distinction by an enormous margin and with no other nationality coming even remotely close.

See the difference here? There’s no equivocation. No wiggle room. Instead, Ron Unz argues like a mensch in the way David Cole does above, making firm, positive claims, with only one avenue towards being right or wrong. Saying something this brazen is tantamount to daring someone, anyone, to try and refute you. Per capita, are Jews indeed the “greatest mass-murderers of the twentieth century”? Quite possibly, I would imagine. I would like to see evidence or arguments to the contrary.

But because David Cole doesn’t offer any, he’s the one who now seems timid and unconvincing. He focuses on the one aspect of Unz’s thesis he can refute and ignores the rest. Why? Does he tacitly agree with Unz when he describes Deborah Lipstadt and other Holocaust affirmers as hysterical incompetents? Does he tacitly agree with Unz that Holocaust deniers are essentially being denied their First Amendment rights for political reasons? Does he tacitly agree with Unz’s massive accusation against the Jews? Does he just surrender on every single point Ron Unz makes except for his rather soft Holocaust denial?

Further, after penning his extremely long article, Unz replied to Cole’s email with an additional 1500 polite words. In comment 395 of his article, he also corrected a pair of errors he had made. If this doesn’t indicate good faith, I don’t know what does. And for this, Cole poured a cauldron of profane spite over his head. In his follow-up email, which he posted on his blog, unsent, Cole calls Unz stupid three times, variations of dumb six times, a cretin, a dipshit, an asswipe, a shit-for-brains, an imbecile, a moron, and an idiot twice. He also describes Unz as “worthless” and speculates that he is mentally retarded. After reading such a jaw-dropping rant, one wonders if there are any English-language insults he didn’t use. Clearly, David Cole comes across as the villain here despite how clever or consistent his arguments are. Like anyone else Ron Unz could be right or wrong but he does not deserve this abuse; his classy demeanor and the amount of research he put into his article precludes it. Furthermore, Cole doesn’t seem to realize that he himself is A) proving Unz’s point that Jews tend to fly off the handle when the topic of Holocaust denial comes up, and B) living down to some of the more prevalent Jewish stereotypes (i.e., being stiff-necked, pushy, overbearing, etc.). Does he really think his complete lack of manners is helping his cause? Quite the opposite I would say.

For me, that makes it a one-to-one draw in this fascinating debate.

Spencer J. Quinn is a frequent contributor to Counter-Currents and the author of the novel White Like You [14].