Now You See It, Now You Don’t. Maybe.
Jewish “eyewitnesses” to German monstrosity during WWII are oftentimes demonstrable liars and/or psychologically impaired in ways too obvious to deny. Other Jewish eyewitnesses tell stories that are largely true though in a context of German monstrosity that oftentimes cannot be shown to be true. There are old and very old Jewish women and men, oftentimes older than me, who go about the country talking to high school students and synagogue audiences remembering things sometimes the way it happened and sometimes in ways that it could not have happened.
When I read what these folk are saying, sometimes there is the suggestion that while what they are testifying to might be untrue, that they are not lying, that they have come to actually believe what they are saying. In short, they are “innocents” basing their stories on lies they heard years ago or on real memory that is not dependable. To that point, below are the opening sentences from my first book, Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist. They refer to an incident that took place one night in 1979 on the mezzanine of a Los Angeles Hotel during a convention being held by the Libertarian Party.
I PAUSED TO ACCEPT a photocopy of a newspaper article he was handing out when he quickly started telling me that the stories that six million Jews had been exterminated during World War II are not true.
I felt stunned, as if Buck Rogers had somehow come down from the 21st century and zapped me with a beam from his ray gun. I had heard about people like the little man who was confronting me, who deny that the Holocaust happened, but I had never actually seen one.
He was a small, thin, middle-aged man with a white pointy beard, clear blue eyes and a ruddy complexion. The picture of health. He talked fast (though in a well-mannered, articulate way) as if he were afraid he would lose me.
In the first instant I didn’t truly grasp what he was saying; then I understood that he was telling me that there had been no Nazi gas chambers — none – that the stories I had heard all my life about the gas chambers were meant to gain sympathy for Jews at the expense of Germans. I felt my heart change its beat and pick up speed. I felt sweat appear on the palms of my hands.
Most of that story is true. One part is almost certainly not. The man who handed me the newspaper clipping was not a small man with a white pointy beard, clear blue eyes and a ruddy complexion. When David McCalden read what I had written he corrected me. He explained that the two men who handed out the Le Monde article by Robert Faurisson that afternoon and evening was himself and his friend John Bennett, an Australian. He said John Bennett didn’t look anything like the man I had described. I protested. I was certain about what the man looked like. He had stood there before me. I had seen him. I could still see him in my mind’s eye. McCalden laughed at me, insisted that it had to have been either himself or Bennett.
Sometime later, maybe a couple years, I met John Bennett at an IHR conference. He told me what McCalden had told me earlier. It was McCalden and he, Bennett, who had passed out that Faurisson article that day at the Libertarian convention. I was shaking my head “no.” We were both laughing. I was certain about what I had seen—the white pointy beard, bright blue eyes, the ruddy complexion. Nothing like the John Bennett who was there before me now. Later on I was to record an interview with Bennett while driving him someplace and we went over the story again. It was he, not a man with a white pointy beard and the rest of it.
The story had gotten to the place where I was forced to understand that in all likelihood my memory of my encounter with the man in question was not accurate. That it was false. But how could that be? I had nothing to gain from this false memory. Yet to this day, when I recall the incident, now accepting the fact that the man who gave me the Le Monde article was John Bennett, in my mind’s eye I still see the man with the white pointy beard, the clear blue eyes and the ruddy complexion. I accept the fact that it is an instance of false memory. I have no idea why the brain produced that false image in the first place, what possible reason there could be for memory to persist with it.
With this one example of false memory, I place myself in the company of those Holocaust survivors who themselves are plagued with false memory. Filip Mueller might truly have “seen” buckets of human flesh jump about on the floor of German hospitals. Yankiel Wiernik may have truly seen, in his mind’s eye, the fetuses of Jewish ladies burning like torches in their exploded wombs. How could they ever forget such sights? How could they ever be convinced, once they had “seen” such sights, that they did not “see” them? If I could see a man with a white pointy beard who did not exist, in place of the man who did and was there before me, could not Mueller and Wiernik and a boatload of other such Holocaust eyewitness crazies have actually seen what they claim to have seen?
What I am getting at here is that human memory sometimes recalls what truly happened, even about Germans, and sometimes it recalls something else. That being so, it is of some import for me to keep in mind that I share with even the craziest Holocaust survivor eyewitnesses a faculty that is imperfect, one that sometimes recalls with great clarity something that happened, and other times with great clarity something that did not happen. Another suggestion to the effect that we are all in this together, revisionists and True Believers alike.