Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Ernst Nolte and the Memory of the Shoah

Filed under: Anti-Semitism
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 14:3-4 (Fall 2002)

Nolte’s path is haphazard and contradictory in an effort to enjoy both worlds: to avoid being seen as a negationist of the Shoah while allowing himself to make a series of outrageous and preposterous points regarding the Shoah. His trajectory and tactics are revealed extensively as is the array of claims he makes. Nolte equates Zionism to Nazism and envisages a future recognition of Hitler as the originator of the State of Israel. He belittles the Nazi massacre of the Jews while condemning it as the most terrible mass annihilation in history. Moreover, he notes the relatively small sum given to Jews as reparation after the war while criticizing the very fact that any reparations were given at all. At the same time, he almost equates Jews to Bolsheviks and deems the Nazi “reaction” to this as comprehensible “yet excessive,” while tracing Hitler’s anti-Semitism to his anti-Bolshevism. In the process of making the victims culpable for their tragic fate, Nolte stresses the idea that the Jews themselves declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939, blatantly blurring the fact that one could hardly imagine a non-country doing so. This last point serves Nolte in order to underline the rationality he sees in the Nazi perception of the Jews as an “enemy people.” Nolte can be clearly seen as a revisionist historian making a thinly veiled effort to exonerate Hitler and the Nazis from the responsibility of having committed the worst crimes in the history of humanity.

The methodology used by Ernst Nolte is somewhat ambiguous and confusing. He makes contradictory statements and he does not hesitate to take a stand in favor of opposing theories whenever it suits him. In his book Streitpunkte,1 he describes the horrific Nazi persecutions against the Jews in the first chapter, but finds arguments later on to define these persecutions as rational. Besides the confusion, there is an immoral facet to his methodology, since he does not take full responsibility for his own ideas. Nolte maintains his position in such a way as to always be able to demonstrate that he has also said the opposite of what he is saying now. In short, he lacks minimal intellectual honesty.

Nolte is obsessed with Bolshevism. No one can doubt that the events of 1919 in Monaco, Bavaria or the rise to power of Bela Kun in Budapest had made a great impact on a vast population. However, it seems completely exaggerated to attribute all of Hitler’s ideology to a fear of Bolshevism. Hitler’s strong desire to expand the German borders, his fierce nationalism, his racism which considered the German race to have absolute supremacy over other races, would have existed even if Bolshevism had never appeared.


Zionism Equals Nazism?

Nolte absurdly sustains that there was a common objective for Zionism and Nazism. Nothing could be more wrong. Nazism’s aim, as demonstrated by facts, was to massacre as many Jews as possible, while Zionism’s aim was to save them from Nazi butchery and transfer them to the then Palestine in order to establish a Jewish state. Nolte writes: “It is therefore impossible to negate a surprising proximity between the Zionist conceptions and those of Nationalism.”2 This claim is made because, Nolte writes, the Zionists wanted to reinsert the Jewish bourgeois parasites in a productive life. But it is a baseless claim because while it is true that Zionists wanted to build a new country with a just society, the Nazis had planned only expulsion and massacre for the Jews. Nolte writes: “Zionists basically wanted something similar to the national socialists, namely to conquer and colonize a vital space.”3

If one applied Nolte’s strange argument to reality, any nationalism of any kind and in any country in the world could be just as much affiliated to and compared with Nazism. Nolte is quoting and supporting Paul Rassinier’s false argument that “Zionist Israel utilized the suffering and death of non-Zionist Jews at Auschwitz and Treblinka in order to justify the suffering, exile and death of the local Palestinian inhabitants of the land, which the Zionists wanted to conquer and colonialize basing themselves on the Bible.”4 No one knows how many of the Jews massacred in Auschwitz or Treblinka were Zionists, and in any case they were not massacred as such but for being Jews. The cause of neo-Nazism is served well by forgetting the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and liberals such as the Italian scholar Sergio Romano5 (“Letter to a Jewish friend”), and the German author Martin Walser, consider that this is the right moment to no longer remember the Shoah. In 1998, Walser said that the Holocaust has been used as a “moral cudgel” against Germany.6

Since the Zionists wanted to reunite Jews in a country of their own, Nolte makes a parallel between the Zionist movement and Nazism, writing that the two parties are so near to each other that in the future the total conflict between the two will loose its power of conviction.7Nolte maintains that in future historical perspective, Hitler will appear as the one who originated the State of Israel. Contrary to this strange thesis one should recall the declarations of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (Haj Amin el Husseini) made in Berlin in 1941, according to which “the powers of the Axis are also willing to give their consent to the abolition of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.” On 28 November 1941, Hitler received the Mufti and told him that Germany was engaged in fighting a mortal battle against the two strongholds of Judaism: England and Soviet Russia.8A few months later General Rommel advanced his troops and reached El Alamein in Egypt, causing great fright among the Jewish population in Palestine and putting them in a state of emergency. If Rommel had not been halted at El Alamein by the British forces, the fate of the Jewish settlements in Palestine would have been different

Nolte cites Robert Faurisson who wrote:” The claimed gas chambers of Hitler and the claimed genocide of the Jews form one historical lie which has allowed a colossal political and financial sham whose major beneficiaries are the State of Israel and international Zionism, and the major victims were the German people and the entire Palestinian people.”9 This is a good example of Nolte’s systematic use of quotations. Ostensibly avoiding taking sides, as he does not comment on the quotations, by the mere fact of inserting such quotations he is adhering to the views of the original author by implication. Such methodology is aimed at diverting any future criticism from himself.

The entire second chapter of Nolte’s book Streitpunkte is dedicated to the revisionists and those who deny the Shoah in a pseudo-scientific approach. Yet Nolte wrote in the first chapter about the genocide of the Jewish people and confirmed that “there are good motives for indicating the national socialist ‘Jewish annihilation’ as the most terrible mass assassination of universal history.”10 If Nolte admits that the Nazis carried out the worst mass annihilation in history, why should the Germans be exonerated of any responsibility for the massacre? In his eyes, the so-called sham is exposed in the modest sum given to Jews as reparation after the war.

According to the Restitution Agreement of 10 September 1952, West Germany undertook to pay DM 3 billion in goods and services to help the resettling of “destitute Jewish refugees uprooted from Germany and from territories formerly under German rule” in recognition of the fact that “unspeakable criminal acts were perpetrated against the Jewish people.” In addition, restitution had been paid to individual Jews totaling $8 billion.11 Yet the Weimar Republic was forced by the allies to pay enormous reparations, irrespective of crimes committed, simply for having declared war in the first place. Would it have been more moral in Nolte’s eyes that the Germans should inherit the properties of the Jews killed by them, so that, to quote the Bible, they would be asked: “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”12

The claim that the Palestinians are victims is totally baseless. On 29 November 1947, the United Nations decided on the partition of mandatory Palestine into two states, one Jewish, the other Arab. The Palestinian leaders rejected this decision, choosing instead to go to war against the Jews, which resulted in the exile and death of many Palestinians. The Palestinians attacked the Jews with the intention of throwing them into the sea, but did not succeed. They do not deserve a prize for that. If they are victims in any way it is their own leaders who are to blame since they always preferred extremism to compromise.

Nolte considers the Jews to be almost equivalent to the Bolsheviks and the Nazis, and in making such a comparison he grossly exaggerates their role in history, not to speak of objective differences of size and military power. Nolte writes that in order to follow “the way of reason” one must abandon the dream of a classless society or the creation of a big Euro-African space dominated by Germany, and “even the idea of Greater Israel on both sides of the Jordan river.”13 But Nolte ignores the fact that no Israeli political party includes in its program today the idea of “both sides of the Jordan.”

European Jews between the world wars were not Bolsheviks. Nolte does not understand that in the midst of the Jewish population in Europe there was an enormous diversity and practically all opinions were represented. It is convenient for him to make readers believe that “a great part of the young Jewish generation” (in which country?) “was affiliated with revolutionary parties”14 in order to conclude that there was “a great affinity between Judaism and Bolshevism.” This generalization is baseless, and Nolte does not provide proof for it. The opposite is true-between the two world wars the great majority of German Jews was strongly anti-Bolshevik; in Poland the large proletarian Jewish masses belonged to the Bund, the anti-Zionist socialist movement. Some were Zionists while others were observant. They were anti-Bolshevik and as such they were treated by the Russians, following the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty of 1939. The Russians occupied the eastern part of Poland, and many Jews considered by the Russians to be bourgeois, were sent away to Siberia as a punishment, which inadvertently saved their lives when the Nazis conquered that territory in 1941.

Hitler maintained that all Jews were communists, but Nolte, would have done better to ignore these preconceptions, since they did not correspond with reality. For Nolte, “the national-socialist anti-bolshevism was a comprehensible reaction, and even justifiable within certain limits, yet excessive and therefore inadequate.”15 This is how Nolte finds a rational core for Nazi behavior. However, it is false because it pretends that Nazism limited itself to react to the Bolshevik threat, without ever taking any initiative on its own. Even if one were prepared to accept this thesis, the connection to the massacre of the Jews is based only on the wrongful hypothesis that all Jews were communists. Even if that were true, it would never justify the killing of men, women and children, who had nothing to do with politics.

Beginning with the false idea that all Jews were communists, and from his theory that Nazism was reacting to Bolshevism, Nolte writes: “[Nazism] wanted to be equal to its enemy in logic coherence and radicalism, bringing the slogan ‘socialism or barbarism’ up to the alternative of either the world domination of Arian masters or the self-annihilation of humanity through ‘Judaic’ modernism.”16 One cannot accept that Nazi ideology was only based upon the will to imitate Bolshevism, but even so one cannot understand why the alternative to Arian masters would be Judaic modernity. Nolte himself has doubts regarding his idea that Nazis were driven by mere anti-Bolshevism. With his usual methodology of writing one thing and the contrary at the same time, he writes that “It would be a gross simplification if one were to view the National-Socialist will to annihilate as basically nothing more than a reaction to the Bolshevik actions of annihilation.”17But even if one accepts Nolte’s claims in previous statements, concerning the supposed link between Nazi actions and previous Soviet deeds, this had nothing to do with the Jews. If the Nazis did think in this way, even if it was an aberration of their mind, one could then perhaps begin to understand why anti-Bolshevik Pope Pius XII did not make any public declaration in favor of the Jews during the entire war.18The Bolsheviks at least had an army, weapons and a certain amount of power. The Jews were mere defenseless civilians, with no country of their own, disavowed by the countries whose citizens they were, and could find refuge nowhere.


Hitler’s Anti-Semitism

According to Nolte’s analysis of Hitler’s anti-Semitism, one can come to the conclusion that, in Hitler’s case, anti-Semitism was linked to anti-Marxism. Nolte writes that Hitler had a need “for a more ancient image upon which to project his hatred.”19 Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not an emulation of Bolshevik practices or ideologies. It was deeply set in centuries of hatred of the Jews originating in the Church’s preaching, which accused the Jews of having killed God and of practicing ritual crimes.

Given the fact that over the centuries persecuting the Jews was the norm in Europe, it is not surprising that Hitler was deeply anti-Semitic. Proof of the strong influence that Catholic doctrine had on Hitler’s hatred against the Jews is found in a quotation brought by the British historian A.J.P. Taylor: “He [Hitler] praised the Oberammergau passion play as a wonderful demonstration of the Jewish danger: ‘Pontius Pilate appears as a Roman so superior racially and intellectually that he stands out as a rock in the midst of the Near Eastern scum and swarm.'”20 Hitler diligently prepared public opinion to accept the massacre of the Jews by enforcing a series of anti-Semitic measures. In addition to degrading the victims, divesting them of their human image by transforming the Jews into untermentschen facilitated the assassins’ work. The Gulag is irrelevant for the deeds of the Nazis. Anti-Semitism was the ideological core of Nazism, and planning and carrying out the systematic extermination of a whole population, including women and children, has no precedent either in the Gulag or elsewhere.


A Provocation by Weizmann?

Nolte mixes up cause and effect when he writes that during World War II the Jews made the aims of the allied forces their own cause. What should they have done? Join Hitler? Hitler who, from the very first days after his arrival in power in 1933, had shown his stand against the Jews? When Hitler came to power, he proved his hate against Jews with expulsions, arrest, concentration camps, Kristallnacht in 1938, and ousting from schools and work.

Nolte raises the stake when he claims that the reason for the persecution of the Jews was the provocative declarations made by the Jews themselves. This is certainly not a new expedient-making the victim the guilty party is a well-known defamatory strategy. Nolte quotes the letter written by Chaim Weizmann in the British press in September 1939, in which he declared that in case of a future military conflict, the Jews would side with the democracies against Nazi Germany. Such an intention by a man, who did not even represent the majority of the Jews, seems sufficient to Nolte in order to justify the mass massacres committed in the second half of 1941 in occupied territories taken from the Soviet Union. This is a baseless assertion. Not only was Weizmann a king without a kingdom at the time and could not commit all of the Jews, but he could not have any right to a war declaration, contrary to what Nolte writes.21 The persecution of the Jews in Germany had commenced well before 1939. A few months after Hitler rose to power, in April 1933, the Law of Reintegration of the Public Service had all Jewish public servants dismissed. Later on, the admission of Jews to schools was limited and in October 1933 Jews were forbidden from practicing all the journalistic professions. The persecutions continued-in September 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were approved thus relegating the Jews to the status of second-class citizens. In 1938, doctors and lawyers lost the right to practice their professions and there was an endless list of laws restricting Jews from taking public transport, owning bicycles and other restrictions. On 9 November 1938, the infamous Kristallnacht took place. The Nazi authorities organized a pogrom that led to the burning of almost all the synagogues in Germany, to the arrest of 30,000 German Jews and to the imposition of a fine in excess of one billion marks. In the words of Wolfgang Benz, “The physical annihilation later on was but the last station in a road which was intentionally and publicly taken in November 1938.”22

In May 1939, the British government had the Parliament approve the “White Book” regarding Palestine, thus drastically limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine just as it was becoming urgent to find a safe haven for the refugees of Hitler’s persecutions. Great Britain held the mandate over Palestine and in spite of protests by the Permanent Commission for Mandates of the League of Nations, it chose to act as it saw fit. On 16 August 1939, the 21st Zionist Congress took place in Geneva, and a few days later, on 23 August, the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement was signed between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. The news arrived at the congress and was taken as a serious blow. It was clear that war was at hand. Weizmann, who presided over the congress, chose to speak in the name of the Zionist Movement and the Jews in Palestine, “It is my duty at this solemn hour to tell England and through it the Western democracies: We have grievances….But above our regret and bitterness are higher interests. What the democracies are fighting for is the minimum…necessary for Jewish life. Their anxiety is our anxiety; their war is our war.”23

The choice between one evil, Nazi Germany, which had been persecuting the German Jews for years and another, Great Britain which governed Palestine even if it limited access to it, was obvious. Even admitting Nolte’s absurd accusation that Weizmann made a declaration of war against Germany, one would then have to ask oneself why Hitler did not treat the millions of Jews as he treated British prisoners of war, most of whom remained alive. Nolte claims that Weizmann, at the outbreak of World War II, was a fighter, just like Salomon Michoels who, in 1941, launched from Moscow an appeal to the Jews inviting them to participate in the war against Hitler, and like all Polish Jews who threw themselves like tigers against the Germans and “therefore were persecuted.”24 Nolte’s definition is baseless and disrupts the normal definition of “fighters” on one side and “civilians” on the other. Naturally it would be very convenient for the Nazis to define as fighters all the civilian Jews that they massacred, but this definition has no relation to reality.



Nolte’s Thesis: Is the Gulag Equal to the Lager?

Nolte’s thesis is no more than a subtle and elegant way of making the Shoah a banality. In Nolte’s words:

All those acts later perpetrated by the National Socialists-with the sole exception of the technical process of gassing-had already been described in a voluminous literature from the early 1920s: mass deportations and shootings, torture, death camps, the extermination of entire groups based on purely objective criteria, and public orders for the annihilation of millions of innocent human beings regarded as “enemies.”…Nonetheless, the following must appear as an admissible and indeed ineluctable question: did the National Socialists-and Hitler-proceed to carry out an “asiatic” action perhaps solely because they regarded themselves and their kind as potential or real victims of another “asiatic” action? Wasn’t the “Gulag Archipelago” a predecessor of Auschwitz? Wasn’t the “class murder” of the Bolsheviks the logical and factual precursor of the “racial murder” perpetrated by the National Socialists?25

This author sees the Gulag to be a totally irrelevant example for the deeds of the Nazis; the German historian Joachim Fest doubts that the Gulag was the logic precursor of Auschwitz. But even admitting as pure hypothesis that Hitler only wanted to copy the Asian actions of Stalin or the Gulag, why the Jews were also implicated remains unexplained. In a desperate effort to find a thread of rationalism in Hitler’s blind hatred of the Jews, Nolte finds many excuses, none of which can convince anyone.

But is it really possible to compare one “asiatic” action to another, or Nazism with Stalinism? Sergio Romano notes that 12 million people died in the Soviet Gulags in addition to the 7 million victims of Stalinist collectivization, but the genocide carried out against the Jews “occupies a dominant place in the collective imagination of the Western world.”26 It appears that Romano, as Nolte, puts the Gulag and the Lager on the same level and wants to deny that the Shoah is unique.

According to Israel Gutman, the Soviet Union cannot be compared to Nazi Germany although certain elements are similar such as the dictatorship, the huge secret police, and the one-party state. For Communism, violence and war were tools and not a basic element of its doctrine. Fascism and Nazism, on the other hand, glorified and glamorized war, as an integral part of the Nazi doctrine. “The central place that war between nations, portrayed as a struggle for survival between organic species, occupied in the Nazi doctrine practically ruled out reform and change in the direction of moderation.” When the Soviet secret police officials talked about the elimination of the bourgeois class, to which many of them belonged in the first place, they did not have in mind total physical extermination.27

According to Gutman, the Nazis, with their racist ideology, “aspired to impose their domination through mass physical liquidation, and claimed for themselves the right to decide who was to live and who was to die. For this reason the Soviet Gulag does not bear any comparison to Auschwitz. What matters is both the method of murder and its scope, the relentlessness of a state apparatus seeking out every member, including children, the sick and the elderly, of the doomed ‘species’; the totality of the annihilation enterprise; and the willingness of its perpetrators to forgo the benefits of Jewish slave labor so vital in the last stages of the Third Reich.”28

Furio Cerutti thinks that the Gulag and the Lager are two very different things: “The nature of Nazism as an image of the world brings Saul Friedlander, for example, to underline its singularity, also compared to Stalinism, in that Nazism is the only historically known movement which added to millenaristic and apocalyptic visions not instances of liberation or salvation, but submission to an oppressive authority.”29



Nolte writes that the triumph of National Socialism would have meant domination by a “superior race,” which would have ruled by means of a hierarchy of race.30 Nolte understands that this was a wrong path and asserts that “the verdict of guilt which has to be handed [to the Nazis] is inexorable and not only moral.” Yet, later on he looks for a “rational core” in the Nazi accusation against the Jews, seen as “puppets of the destiny of humankind” and quotes Raoul Hilberg, according to whom “the Jews made the cause of the Allies their own,”31 which could justify the concept of “an enemy people.” But how can one speak of rationalism when the hatred of Jews drove Hitler to neglect even the course of the war he was already losing, just in order to exterminate Jews, to overlook the value of their slave labor just to kill them, and to commit logistic errors in 1944, when the fate of the war was in fact sealed, just so he could massacre the Hungarian Jews? It was a demential hatred which had nothing rational to it. Nolte understands that “attributing collective merit or guilt [to the Jews] was in any case unjustified, leading to a form of myth,”32 but immediately after it he writes that if one refuses to admit the “rational core” of National Socialist anti-Semitism “one is guilty of scientifically destroying the contexts and the dogmatic construct of a notion of “absolute evil.”33 There is no element of rationality in Nazi anti-Semitism, which was at least partially due to the demonization of the Jew by the Christian Churches in previous centuries.

Another aspect of the total lack of rationality in Nazi anti-Semitism is the fact that it always identified Judaism with Bolshevism. If the Soviets committed crimes against the Germans of the Volga, then “Judaism will pay for this crime in various ways.” wrote Alfred Rosenberg, minister for the Eastern occupied regions in Hitler’s government.34 What connection could there be between the Germans of the Volga and the Polish, Ukrainian or Rumanian Jews? As always in western European history, the Jews were used as a convenient scapegoat.


The Memory of the Shoah

The question of the memory of the Shoah interests not only professional historians, but it is also a question of great actuality, as a few examples will suffice to demonstrate.

Plans are being made in Berlin for the erection of a monument in memory of the Shoah. Beyond the matter of architecture, there arises a question as to how much the Germany of today should remember and in what way. Christoph Miething, of the University of Munster, affirms that “the monumentalisation of the shame” of Germany is “a political and moral abuse against which one should rebel. The ritualization of the memory destroys its moral substance and encourages the political usage of it.” He sees in the memory of Auschwitz a series of dangers-the memory of the Shoah should not become an instrument of self-mortification; the theme of Auschwitz is dealt with excessively; Auschwitz can be presented as the quintessential and absolute evil, and the Nazi as the forever wrongful agent par excellence. “This is the ritualization of a memory that one wishes to forget.” Yet the most surprising statement of Miething is the following: “The memory of Auschwitz can also be considered to be an aggression. The repetition of memory becomes a continued aggression which transforms the victim into a persecutor.”35It is unusual to consider the memory of Auschwitz as an aggression, but it may be an idea shared by those who fear they will be obliged to take responsibility for actions carried out by their fathers, and not by them.

The question of the Shoah is back on the agenda also because of political rivalries, whereas it would be preferable to leave it out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict altogether. Some Palestinian sites on the internet present in full the book entitled “The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics,” written by a known negationist of the Shoah, Roger Garaudy.36 On 15 May 2001, in Amman, Jordan, the president of the writers’ union, Fakhri Qawar, suggested holding a conference dedicated to the negation of the Shoah, as it is thought to be a Jewish invention meant to justify the creation of the State of Israel. In Egypt, the official daily newspaper Al-Akhbar published an article in which the Shoah was praised: “We should thank Hitler, of blessed memory, who vindicated the Palestinians in advance, and acted against the worst criminals on the face of the earth. We do have one complaint against him, for his vengeance against them was not sufficient.”37

The Catholic Church has taken a different position. Yes, the Shoah did take place and did become “an indelible stain on the history of the century,” as Pope John Paul II wrote.38 However, his predecessor, Pius XII, affirmed on 2 June 1945 that the church had never sided with Nazism, and could be considered as one of its victims. A similar idea was repeated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who claimed that “the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel.”39 According to Ratzinger, the Nazis murdered the Jews in order to hit the Catholic Church. Thus one sees a convent built near Auschwitz, crosses near the concentration camp, and the beatification of the Jewish-born Edith Stein, who had converted to Christianity, and murdered by the Nazis. There are sufficient elements to show that the Church has a tendency of appropriating the Shoah in order to turn it into a pillar of the Catholic martyr logy in general, and the Polish one in particular.

The question of how to remember the Shoah was raised recently in Poland following the publication of a book by Jan T. Gross about the pogrom of Jedwabne in 1941, which caused great controversy.40 The Poles, who wished to go into history only as victims of Nazism, suddenly found themselves to be on the other side of the barricade. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the Primate of Poland, maintains that “the pro-Soviet sympathies of the Jews were the reason for the aversion they met with….The Jewish side expresses until now its enmity towards the Poles. One asks oneself if the Jews shouldn’t admit their misdeeds towards the Poles, especially in the period of their collaboration with the Bolsheviks, for having participated in the deportations of Poles to Siberia, for having sent Poles to prison.”41 In short it is the Jews who should beg forgiveness from the Poles.

A courageous effort to force the Germans to face their historical responsibility was made on 10 November 1988, in front of the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany assembled in a special reunion by its then president, Philipp Jenninger. The key sentence of the speech remains of great relevance. Jenninger said:

Whatever happens in the future and whatever will be forgotten, humanity, till the end of times will remember Auschwitz as a part of our history. It is therefore futile to ask to “close the door to the past,” our past will never be at peace nor will it ever disappear. Independently from the fact that the new generations are not to be blamed, even for the psyche of a people, the elaboration of the past is only possible in the painful experiencing of the truth. Such a personal liberation in face of the horror is less demanding than its removal.42

Unfortunately, the speech was not understood, and the misinterpretation it was given caused Jenninger to resign his post.

The Jews are neither blood-thirsty nor ravenous for gold. They merely wish that the historical truth be respected. In the Polish ghettos, and even in the extermination camp of Auschwitz, there were Jews who wanted to write what was happening to them, who wanted to survive if only to be able to tell their story, so as to embed their testimony in posterity. It was a form of resistance. Even if many writings were lost, those that have reached us are a loud and strong scream which warns: do not forget us. Those survivors, who had difficulty talking of their experiences for a long time following the war, have managed to surmount their psychological obstacles and tell about the persecutions they have suffered.

The well-known Italian author Primo Levi wrote:

We, who were favoured by fate tried, with more or less wisdom, to recount not only our fate, but also that of the others, the submerged; but this was a discourse on “behalf of third parties” the story of things seen from close by, not experienced personally….I could not say whether we did so or do so because of a kind of moral obligation towards those who were silenced, or rather in order to free ourselves of their memory; certainly we did it because of a strong and durable impulse.43

Faced with the immensity of the crimes committed, some looked for ways to escape. Among these are the numerous negationists. The recent trial of David Irving, condemned on 11 April 2000 in London, has proved how ill-based were their theses. Irving has published about 30 books claiming, among other things, that Hitler was not the one who had planned the extermination of the Jews of Europe and that the massacre was not systematic. In a defamation trial against American professor Deborah Lipstadt, the defense succeeded in proving that Hitler himself had given the orders to kill the Jews in 1941, which led to the killing of a million and a half Jews in the border areas of the Soviet Union. Before the trial, Irving in Calgary, Canada, had negated even the existence of the extermination camp in Auschwitz. The judge established that Irving, filled with his anti-Semitism and his neo-Nazi positions, falsified history in order to exonerate Hitler of the responsibility of the killing of the Jews, and had deliberately falsified historical proofs in order to adapt them to his ideas. The diaries of Adolf Eichmann clearly demonstrate Hitler’s directive role in the physical elimination of the Jews.44

Neither Nolte, nor any other revisionist historian, will succeed in the purpose of saving Hitler in particular and the Nazi regime in general, from the heavy responsibilities for the crime of organized massacre of the Jews in Europe.


*     *     *


1.  Ernst Nolte, Streitpunkte: heutige und künftige Kontroversen um den Nationalsozialismus, (Frankfurt/Main: Propyläen, c1993), p. 493; 22 cm.; in Italian: Controversie, Nazionalsocialsimo, bolscevismo, questione ebraica nella storia del Novecento (Milano: Corbaccio, 1999). The following page numbers are according to the Italian edition.

2.  Nolte, Controversie, p. 138.

3.  Nolte, Controversie, p. 157.

4.  Paul Rassinier published a first book negating the Shoah in 1948, Le passage de la ligne. In 1977, he published Debunking the Genocide Myth: a study of the Nazi concentration camps and the alleged extermination of European Jewry; introd. by Pierre Hofstetter; translated from the French by Adam Robbins; (Los Angeles: Noontide Press, c1978), p. xiv, 441; it embodies the major portions of Le passage de la ligne, Le mensonge d’Ulysse, Ulysse trahi par les siens, and Le drame des Juifs européens. Quoted by Nolte, Controversie, p. 53.

5.  Sergio Romano, Lettera a un amico ebreo (Milano: Longanesi, 1997). See also author’s answer: Sergio Minerbi, Risposta a Sergio Romano, Ebrei, Shoah e Stato d’Israele (Firenze: Giuntina, 1998).

6.  “Relativizing the Holocaust, New life breathed into the German Historikerstreit,” Policy Dispatch, no. 51, July 2000, Institute of the World Jewish Congress, Jerusalem.

7.  Ernst Nolte, Deutschland und der kalte Krieg, (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, c1985); p. xxvi, 748; p. 607.

8.  Renzo de Felice, Il Fascismo e l’Oriente, Arabi, Ebrei e Indiani nella politica di Mussolini (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1988), pp. 90-91.

9.  Robert Faurisson is professor of French literature at the University of Lyon. In 1979 he published several articles negating the Shoah in the daily Le Monde. Quoted by Nolte, Controversie, p. 55.

10.   Ibid., p. 33.

11.   See “Restitution Agreement,” Political Dictionary of the State of Israel, Susan Hattis Rolef(ed.) (Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Publishing House, 1993), pp. 260-261.

12.   See I Kings 21:19, The Bible, New King James Version.

13.   Nolte, Controversie, p. 194.

14.   Ibid., p. 136.

15.   Ibid., p. 134.

16.   Ibid., p. 130.

17.   Ernst Nolte, “Between Historical Myth and Revisionism?” p. 58. Translated from Historikerstreit, (Munich-Zurich: Serie Piper, 1987).

18.   Sergio I. Minerbi, “Pius XII: A Reapprisal,” Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, Carol Rittner and John K. Roth (eds.) (London and New York: Leicester University Press, 2002), pp. 85-104; Sergio Minerbi, “Pio XII, il Vaticano e il Sabato nero,” Nuova Storia Contemporanea, Anno VI, n.3, Maggio-Giugno 2002.

19.   Nolte, Controversie, p. 110.

20.   A.J.P. Taylor, Europe: Grandeur and Decline, (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 201.

21.   Nolte, Controversie, p. 159.

22.   Wolfgang Benz, L’Olocausto, (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1998), p. 33.

23.   Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel, From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time (Jerusalem: Steimatzky, 1976), p. 225.

24.   Nolte, Controversie, p. 159.

25.   Nolte, “A Past that will not Pass Away”, p. 71, translated from Historikerstreit (Munich-Zurich: Serie Piper, 1987). First published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 6 June 1986.

26.   See Romano, op.cit., pp. 26-27.

27.   Israel Gutman, “Nolte and Revisionism,” Yad Vashem Studies, XIX (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1998), pp. 132-133.

28.   Ibid., p. 136.

29.   Furio Cerutti, “Sterminio e stermini,” Ebraismo e antiebraismo: immagine e pregiudizio, Cesare Luporini (presentazione di) (Firenze: Giuntina, 1989), p. 142.

30.   Nolte, Controversie, pp. 132-133.

31.   Ibid. p. 134.

32.   Ibid. p. 140.

33.   Ibid. p. 141.

34.   Nolte quotes Ingeborg Fleischhauer, “‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’ und die Zwangsumsiedlung der Deutschen in der UdSSR,” in: Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte, 30, (1982), pp. 299-321.

35.   Emilio Jona, “Le colpe dei monumenti,” HaKeillah, Torino, Anno XXVI-130, n., 2, Aprile 2001, p. 18.

36.   See also Goetz Nordbruch, The Socio-Historical Background of the Holocaust Denial in Arab Countries, Reactions to Roger Garaudy’s The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics (Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, 2001). Nordbruch ignores the Internet sites.

37.   Al-Akhbar, 18 April 2001.

38.   Letter of John Paul II 12 March 1998, attached to “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.”

39    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “L’eredita’ di Abramo dono di Natale,” Osservatore Romano, 29 December 2000. English translation by SIDIC, Rome.

40.   Jan T. Gross, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

41.   Interview by Glemp to KAI of 24 May 2001, Polish News Bulletin,

42.   Mario Pisani, Il Fascino del Nazismo. Il caso Jenninger: una polemica sulla storia (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1989), p. 51.

43.   Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, Raymond Rosenthal (transl.) (New York: Summit Books, c1988); p. 203; p. 64.

44. Sergio Minerbi, Eichmann, diario del processo (Milano: Luni editrice, 2000).

*     *     *

PROF. SERGIO ITZHAK MINERBI has been ambassador of Israel and senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Haifa. He has published a dozen books, among them The Vatican and Zionism (1990).