In the current edition of Heritage and Destiny, Andy Ritchie reviews the new Hollywood film Denial, which purports to describe the libel contest between the British historian David Irving and his American Jewish critic Deborah Lipstadt, heard in London’s High Court during 2000.
In the essay below, published to mark the 88th birthday of the pioneering French revisionist researcher and author Professor Robert Faurisson, Andy Ritchie exposes the origins of the gas chamber story. After a detailed examination of documentary evidence, he concludes that the British wartime agencies PWE and SOE “certainly did invent stories about homicidal gassings – the inventions were circulated long before any such gassings are now alleged to have taken place”.
Updates and additional information related to this story will appear on this page as further research material becomes available.
For more than thirty years, historians have been aware of once-secret memoranda by senior British intelligence official Victor Cavendish-Bentinck in which he casts doubt on the alleged use of homicidal gas chambers by National Socialist Germany. Writing to Whitehall colleagues at the end of August 1943, Cavendish-Bentinck used dismissive language which today in most European countries would undoubtedly see him prosecuted for “Holocaust denial”.
During the trial of British historian David Irving’s libel action against Deborah Lipstadt in 2000 (now dramatised in the Hollywood film Denial) some of Cavendish-Bentinck’s remarks were raised by Irving as justification of his claim that the gas chamber story originated as a propaganda lie. In his judgment against Irving, Mr Justice Gray accepted the counter-arguments of Lipstadt’s defence team. Their interpretation has since appeared in a book by Prof. Sir Richard Evans, who was among Lipstadt’s defence witnesses.
Seventeen years on from the Irving-Lipstadt trial, it is now possible to access a broader range of British documents, including intelligence material. In this essay I shall attempt to clarify what these documents tell us about the role of British propaganda and intelligence in relation to the initial allegations of homicidal gassing by National Socialist Germany.
The conclusions can be briefly summarised:
- Britain’s Political Warfare Executive and its predecessor first deployed stories of homicidal gassing as part of propaganda efforts in two areas unconnected to treatment of Jews. Their objective was to spread dissension and demoralisation among German soldiers and civilians, and among Germany’s allies.
- Partly because they knew of these earlier propagandist initiatives, Victor Cavendish-Bentinck and his British intelligence colleague Roger Allen disbelieved later stories that homicidal gas chambers had been used to murder Poles and Jews. They succeeded in having these allegations removed from the draft of a joint Anglo-American Declaration on German Crimes in Poland, published on 30th August 1943.
A Paris court on Tuesday this week gave Prof. Robert Faurisson – an 87-year-old half-French, half Scot who was Professor of French Literature at the University of Lyon – a four-month suspended jail sentence and a €4,000 fine. Judgement on a further charge will be given later this week.
The circumstances of Prof. Faurisson’s trial were explained at a meeting of the London Forum in July 2016 by Lady Michèle Renouf, who was the sole defence witness alongside Prof. Faurisson at his Paris trial.
In September 2016 Prof. Faurisson was convicted under the French “racial hatred” law for the 60-word sentence translated below: the Paris court taking the extraordinary view that his reference to “the State of Israel and international Zionism” amounted to an illegal attack on Jews as a “race”.
For this “offence” Prof. Faurisson received a 4 month suspended prison sentence and a fine of €4,000. He was ordered in addition to pay €5,000 in compensation and costs to LICRA, a French association combatting “racism and anti-semitism”.
Two additional charges under the French “Gayssot Act” prohibiting “Holocaust denial”, which related specifically to Prof. Faurisson’s Tehran conference speech, were set aside.
Prof. Faurisson immediately announced his intention to appeal against this latest conviction: an appeal which is of the highest importance for historical and political researchers worldwide, and in particular for anyone campaigning against the policies of the Israeli Government. It would seem that the latest judgement opens the way for any robust criticism of Israel to be criminalised in France as anti-Jewish “racial hatred”, even if neither Jews nor Judaism have been mentioned!
Further reports and analysis of this case will appear in the next edition of Heritage and Destiny.
An earlier interview with Prof. Robert Faurisson can be seen below (including English subtitles), in which he explains the background to his famous 60-word French sentence summarising his research conclusions. Prof. Faurisson’s words (again criminalised by the Paris court this week), read in English:
“The alleged Hitlerite gas chambers and the alleged genocide of the Jews form one and the same historical lie, which has permitted a gigantic political and financial swindle whose main beneficiaries are the State of Israel and international Zionism and whose main victims are the German people – but not their leaders – and the Palestinian people in their entirety.”