Washington Post - October 1, 1993
Author: Laurie Goodstein, Washington Post Staff Writer
Inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hans Schmidt's voice punctures the funereal hush of visitors standing shoulder-to-shoulder before a picture of naked Jews, their buttocks beaten black and blue
"You must remember, war is war," Schmidt says loudly, drawing glares. With his German accent and age spots, he could be another survivor on pilgrimage to the museum. But Schmidt , 66, a retiree and family man who still boasts of his leadership role in the Hitler Youth, is one voice in the shadowy network of individuals and organizations who call themselves "Holocaust revisionists." Most people call them "Holocaust deniers."
Schmidt is not merely skeptical about the gas chambers. He believes they didn't exist. Anne Frank died of typhus, in a hospital. Six million Jews killed is a myth, he says. He estimates 600,000 may have died, most of "natural causes" or diseases common in wartime.
He agreed to give his own guided tour through the museum, which he calls "the national temple." His tour will be a "through the looking glass" version of history, in which Germans are victims, Jews and Americans the victimizers. Artifacts most visitors see as cruel evidence of genocide -- a gas chamber door, a pile of victims' shoes, a rail car used in deportations -- Schmidt says he sees as evidence of the deception, lying and propaganda of the "Jewish overlords."
Recently, small postcards marked "Free Souvenir Card" have been appearing on cars parked near the Mall. "Skeptical about the 'gas chambers'?" the cards said. "Just write your name and address below, and mail this card to us ... German World War II veterans." They gave a post office box in Burke. The cards were the handiwork of Schmidt .
The deniers' ranks and organizations are few, according to the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that monitor their activities. But the revisionists' recent newsletters crowed about the results of a Roper Organization poll conducted for the American Jewish Committee and released this spring: 22 percent of adults polled agreed "it seems possible" that "Nazi extermination of the Jews never happened" and 12 percent said they "don't know."
It is impossible to know if such opinions are the result of exposure to denial-thinking. But these groups would like to take credit. The ADL and the American Jewish Conference each were concerned enough to issue books this year on "deniers." ( Schmidt noted he is "honorably" included in the ADL's "Hitler's Apologists," and proudly offered a copy.)
Greeting museum visitors is a rack of coarse, gray and blue striped uniforms worn by concentration camp prisoners. A fellow denier, Ross Vicksell, glanced and said, "You see how durable those uniforms are? They didn't give those prisoners flimsy stuff to wear, obviously."
The words of then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, spoken in April 1945 after he toured the camps, occupy the wall opposite: "The things I saw beggar description. ... The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering ... I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever in the future there developed a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda."
Schmidt waved his hand in dismissal. "Eisenhower didn't say that. The press office wrote it," he said. Asked how he knew that, Schmidt responded, "I presume." Then he continued, "At the same time, much worse was happening in the American prisoner of war camps for the Germans. At least the Jews were given barracks. German POWs were kept outside in the fields."
Buzzing past signs announcing curfews and boycotts of Jewish stores, Schmidt nodded coolly. "Jewish power was too great in Germany," he said.
Schmidt 's companion, Vicksell, 62, is a retired computer programmer from Boston and a denial neophyte. After passing flirtations with the anti-Vietnam War movement, the Biafra secession movement, Ayn Rand, and the Libertarian Party, Vicksell took up Holocaust denial three years ago because, he said, "I saw it as sort of a ground floor opportunity in politics."
In the ticket line, Vicksell -- awkward at 6-foot-5, his beard and mustache overgrown as a Hasid's -- returned his ticket stub to the ticket-taker. "For recycling," he explained. "I was into ecology for a while too."
At a pile of books representing those the Nazis burned, Vicksell volunteered, "Looks like obscure authors to me. I never heard of them."
Among them are Franz Boas, Helen Keller, Jack London and Sigmund Freud.
There are newsreels of der Fuehrer waving to cheering crowds, swastika flags hanging from homes. "This has a subliminal effect on non-Jewish Americans that the top Jews don't realize," he said. "What do people keep in mind subconsciously, as they see this? The order of Nazi Germany, how people admire a leader. America is descending into chaos. Look what happened in Florida, with the tourists shot. Americans -- and most of them are of German descent -- desire a leader. It is in the blood."
Schmidt steered his visitors to a quotation from Hitler (it begins, "I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed ... ").
Schmidt said confidently, "Hitler didn't say that. I have proof." He alluded to some documents. "You give me your card and I'll send you that. But not for publication." (No papers arrive. And there is no answer at the phone or fax numbers Schmidt provided. Schmidt has said he regularly advises neo-Nazi groups in Germany. His colleagues say he is there now.)
The grand conspiracy behind the Holocaust myth is this, Schmidt said: Forcing Jews from Europe was a scheme encouraged by radical Zionists looking to populate Palestine. The "hoax" is kept alive by Zionists so that foreign aid and sympathy continue flowing to Israel.
If the gas chambers are the heart of the hoax, then for Schmidt and Vicksell this is the museum's room of reckoning: There is a replica of a gas chamber door, Zyklon B gas canisters and a model of a gas chamber and crematorium, cut away to expose figurines frozen in agonized screams in the gas chamber.
Schmidt counters: The door was to a fumigation chamber, Zyklon B was only for delousing clothes. The model is "a gimmick," Schmidt said, attracting a stare from a wet-eyed woman. "Germans are very logical people," and would not have gassed bodies below ground to be carried upstairs for incinerating.
To serious historians and students of World War II, deniers are "the flat Earth society." The globe has been navigated and the maps already drawn, and yet they insist they can float to the edge. Deniers dismiss the documents, the testimony of eyewitnesses -- both camp survivors and SS men -- and the physical evidence.
They are a study in endurance spitting in the wind. It doesn't matter to them that the American Historical Association unanimously adopted a statement in December 1991 condemning "attempts to deny the fact of the Holocaust," and noting that "no serious historian questions that the Holocaust took place." Denial is, for them, the only cause, even a winning one.
The opening of the Holocaust Museum, which has attracted half a million visitors, gave them a foil for raising their profile beyond the notoriety they achieved by placing ads in campus newspapers. It is Schmidt 's fourth visit, and he insists every denier see it. "Jews will come out hating Germans," he said. "Aryans will come out doubting it ever happened."
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, about a dozen denial activists passed out pamphlets outside the museum. They approached a group of high school students from the one-stoplight town of Hamilton, Ind. The students, who had just toured the museum, listened and then walked away shaking their heads. "Totally full of it," pronounced Chandra Upp, 17. But Mindy Birely, 17, said their arguments deserved a better look because "we only know what we read in the history books, and the government cancover up anything they want."
Open-minded students and others with a healthy anti-establishment perspective are particularly susceptible to the deniers' twisted reasoning, said Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt, who wrote "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," published this year. It traces the roots and strategies of the movement and rebuts their most common claims.
"The danger is in the thousands of good-hearted people who may not be that familiar with history," Lipstadt said. "How do they know when someone is genuinely raising legitimate issues, and when someone has ulterior motives?"
Schmidt 's grasp of the facts is tenuous, Lipstadt noted later: There were elevators and camp inmates to lift the corpses; if the chambers were for delousing, why were the clothes hooks outside; historians have found invoices, time sheets, engineering instructions -- all for building and operating gas chambers and crematoriums. And what about the thousands of eyewitnesses who have testified to carrying cadavers, smelling burning flesh and watching loved ones taken away to disappear forever?
Before leaving the museum, Schmidt paused before a huge heap of victims' shoes, gray and ghastly as corpses. In conspiratorial tones, he pointed out that most of the shoes are turned right side up -- an artifice by the museum staff to prevent visitors from seeing the worn-out soles. "If you were deported from your home, would you wear your best, sturdiest shoes or your skimpiest ones? I maintain those shoes came from a plant where they recycle raw materials, not from Jews."
Neither Schmidt nor Vicksell wrote in the museum's book provided for visitors' reactions. Paging through it, Schmidt passed words like "horrors" and "heartbreaking." Does this undermine even a bit his theory on the museum's impact? "Look who writes in it," Schmidt said with a laugh, poking his finger at one inscription. "Goldstein!"
Blinking in the sunlight outside, Vicksell said, "I'm afraid my stance on the whole question hasn't changed one iota. But I was already incorrigible."
Schmidt offered one last thought before driving off in his silver Mercedes. "The Jewish power brokers ... would say I hate. Baloney. I do not feel animosity. I do it with a smile because I know it upsets them."
Then, turning to Vicksell, he bowed slightly and said, "auf Wiedersehen" -- goodbye, in German. "Auf Wiedersehen," Vicksell answered
Caption: PHOTO MUG PHOTO
Holocaust deniers Ross Vicksell, left, and HansSchmidt scoff at a Holocaust Memorial Museum display of shoes taken from concentration camp victims. Says Schmidt : "I maintain those shoes came from a plant where they recycle raw materials, not from Jews.
Remembering Anne Frank
Washington Post - October 18, 1993
In the Oct. 1 Style article "Holocaust of Mirrors," I was quoted as saying that "Anne Frank died of typhus in a hospital." This is untrue.
This unfortunate girl did, to the best of our knowledge, die of hunger typhus that broke out at Bergen-Berlsen in the spring of 1945 because of the chaotic conditions, but it is doubtful that she succumbed at the hospital or dispensary of this small (former) transit camp.
My statement pertaining to Anne Frank's hospital stay concerned her internment at Auschwitz. She arrived there in the summer of 1944. Being sickly and frail from her ordeal in hiding, she was unable to work. New arrivals like her were usually assigned to the well-equipped hospital at Auschwitz. HANS SCHMIDT Burk
Triumph For A Holocaust Denier
Washington Post - October 24, 1993
I was appalled by the Oct. 18 letter of Hans Schmidt , a self-avowed former member of the Hitler Youth Movement and the notorious Waffen SS.
His letter "Remembering Anne Frank" was a triumph for this denier of the Holocaust and a sad comment on the journalistic integrity of The Post's editorial staff.
The proof is absolute that when Jews and other Nazi "undesirables" were brought to Auschwitz they were separated into two categories -- those fit to be worked to death, and those consigned immediately to the gas chambers for extermination. The "well-equipped" hospital at Auschwitz was reserved for camp commanders, the SS, guards at the death camps and the hierarchy of I. G. Farben.
As far as chaotic conditions at the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing complex in late 1944 and early 1945, this was caused by the approach of the Russian army and the attempts by the Nazis to remove all signs of the murder of 3 million to 4 million innocent victims. The remaining few survivors were driven toward Germany in a death march to hide the atrocities that had been committed.
This fear of being brought to justice for their unspeakable crimes was unjustified. Fewer than one percent of those responsible for the Holocaust were tried, only a handful convicted and even fewer punished. Not only did these murderers escape justice, but many survive to this day to deny the existence of the Holocaust they perpetrated.
NELSON MARANS Silver Sprin
Organizer Vows To Continue Rights Seminars - Weekend conference disrupted by protesters
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - February 4, 1992
Author: Associated Press
The organizer of a weekend conference of black nationalists and white supremacists that was disrupted by protesters vowed yesterday to continue to hold seminars on the Bill of Rights.
``People should have a right to present their view and have both sides be heard,'' said Robert L. Brock, head of the Cosmopolitan Brotherhood Association.
A raucous protest by about 300 demonstrators, some throwing bottles, disrupted the association's Saturday conference dedicated to the First Amendment. Among the topics was: ``A Holocaust, Let's Hear Both Sides.''
Brock said the protest scared people away from attending the conference and blocked some speakers from getting inside.
About 500 were expected to attend, but only 50 showed up.
Police arrested 17 people, among them a man booked for investigation of attempted arson for trying to set fire to a television station's news van, authorities said.
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith had denounced the gathering as ``a hate fest featuring a who's who of professional bigots.''
Brock blamed Jewish groups for the protest. He said he invited a wide variety of speakers, but mainstream Jewish leaders, among others, refused to attend.
``The whole thing boiled down to this: The Jews oppose somebody who opposes them,'' said Brock. ``I say, what's wrong with freedom of speech?''
Among the scheduled speakers who stayed away from the conference because of the controversy were black historian Leonard Jeffries and former Hitler Youth member Hans Schmidt of the German-American National Political Action Committee, Brock said.
Brock said his group, which advocates reparations to compensate blacks for slavery, will continue its Bill of Rights conferences with a session on the Second Amendment, which covers the right to bear arms.