U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

History as a Weapon: How Extremists Deny the Holocaust in North America

NCJ Number
American Behavioral Scientist Volume: 44 Issue: 6 Dated: Feburary 2001 Pages: 1001-1031
Brian Levin
Date Published
February 2001
31 pages
This article examines the evolution of the relationship between anti-Semitic extremists and others who became central figures in the promotion of the denial that the Holocaust ever occurred.
For this article, an "extremist" is somewhat flexibly defined as "someone who for ideological reasons advocates a contention as fact that an unbiased reviewer would regard as wholly or materially unsubstantiated, or someone who, while advocating a particular ideological theory, relies on violence and criminality as a primary means for promoting that position." One of the most notable attempts by extremists to exploit an historical event for bigoted ends is that of the self-styled Holocaust "revisionists" who question the existence or scope of Hitler's extermination program for Jews. This denial of the Holocaust has been promoted and financed in substantial part by powerful extremists with a distinct political agenda. Although denial of the Holocaust stands on its own as a ideological movement, it also plays a crucial role in broadly promoting anti-Semitism. Such denial is appealing to those who promote a theory of secretive, far-reaching, abusive, Jewish conspiratorial power. It is also appealing, however, to those who subscribe to a more broad conspiracy theory that involves the collusion of various governments, political leaders, and Jews, who are believed to have concocted the Holocaust for their own individual purposes. After a brief examination of the Holocaust, this article examines the historical and contemporary ideas and relationships of some of the key figures alleged to have ties to the denial movement. The Institute for Historical Review (IHR), founded by Willis Carto in 1979, remains the most prominent Holocaust denial organization in the United States. Most of the IHR's executive staff have controversial backgrounds, including some with strong ties to prominent hate groups. This article also discusses the activities of Ernst Friedrich Zundel, arguably Canada's most famous neo-Nazi extremist and Holocaust denier, as well as the denial activities of David Irving, who emerged as the most famous promoter in the denial movement during the 1990's and the most identifiable figure associated with the IHR, even through he had no official position in the group. This article concludes that although the denial movement has failed to make any significant inroads into the changing of mainstream opinion, it is a stealthy form of anti-Semitism that connects and strengthens a broad spectrum of extremists whose influence on anti-Semitic historical views could become stronger when the voices of the World War II generation are silent. 57 references