© Michel Fingerhut 1996/7

Pierre Vidal-Naquet:
A Paper Eichmann (1980) - Anatomy of a Lie (6)
Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman
in Assassins of Memory (NY: Columbia University Press 1992),
English translation © 1992 Columbia University Press
Reproduction interdite sauf pour usage personnel - No reproduction except for personal use only

We are very grateful to Pierre Vidal-Naquet and his american publisher, Columbia University Press, for allowing us to make this text available here.

6. The Fantastic Calculations of Paul Rassinier

I am not here to "judge" Paul Rassinier. Lucien Febvre once assembled two studies "against the surrogate judges of the Valley of Josaphat."[68] Thion speaks of the "incredible slander whose victim he has been" (p. 60). He concedes "that there are verbal excesses and, occasionally, debatable affirmations to be found in his writings," but concludes: "One day, it will indeed be necessary to rehabilitate Paul Rassinier" (p. 165). As for Faurisson: "An authentic revolutionary, an authentic resistance fighter, an authentic deportee, [Rassinier] loved the truth as it should be loved: quite strong and above all else" (Vérité, p. 195). It will be appreciated that such praise, with that insistence on the love of the truth that characterizes all forgers, is not exactly of the sort to win my own sympathy.[69]

There is, in fact, something tragic in the fate of Paul Rassinier; not so much a discontinuity in his career (of which there are many: Mussolini, Doriot) but a rift within his very being. What happened at the time of his death (July 28, 1967) symbolizes rather well his destiny. In Paris, the eulogy at his funeral was pronounced by Maurice Bardèche; in Bermont, near Belfort, where he was buried, a representative of the pacifist group La Voie de la Paix was the speaker.[70] A grade-school teacher, then a history and geography professor in a Collège d'Enseignement général, Rassinier was a Communist, then a Socialist, initially of the Marceau Pivert tendency, then of the Paul Faure tendency. A number of the militants of that tendency eventually made the transition to a pro-Vichy and anti-Semitic stance after 1940 (the emblematic Jew being Léon Blum). This was not the case for Rassinier. In favor of the Munich pact, he was nonetheless a member of the Resistance, arrested by the Gestapo in October 1943, and deported to Buchenwald, then to Dora. His experience as a deportee was less that of a political militant than of a petty convict. It was that experience which accounts for the value of Passage de la ligne [Crossing the Line] (1948), the first part of Le Mensonge d'Ulysse [Ulysses's Lie] (1950), and of his critique of the concentration camp bureaucracy and literature. Le Mensonge d'Ulysse also denounces French and colonial arbitrariness. It was prefaced in 1950 by an anarchist of the extreme right, Albert Paraz, an anti-Semite and a friend of Céline's. The foreword to the second edition of Le Mensonge d'Ulysse (1954) features a striking tribute to Maurice Bardèche (p. 235n6), who had begun his political campaign in 1948 with Nuremberg ou la Terre promise [Nuremberg or the Promised Land]. It is worth while reading that "admirable book" (Rassinier, Véritable procès Eichmann, p.43). At the time Maurice Bardèche had not yet discovered that Hitler's genocide did not exist: "There was a will to exterminate the Jews, for which there is copious evidence" (p. 187). But that extermination does not concern us: "What transpired at Auschwitz, Maidanek, and other places concerns the Slavs; as for us, our business is the West" (p. 115). Thus the real question for him is: "How many Frenchmen were at Auschwitz and Treblinka?" (p. 162). "There was no deportation of the French, but a deportation of the Jews; and if certain Frenchmen were deported along with them, it was because they had accepted or seemed to accept the defense of the Jewish cause." The book closes with a pithy formula: "Our choice is between having the SS on our side or in our homes." As of 1955, Rassinier was published by extreme right-wing firms, Les Sept Couleurs and La Librairie Française, which was run by the professional anti-Semite H. Coston. Today La Vieille Taupe declares: "Those who reproach Paul Rassinier for allowing himself to be published by an extreme-right firm are those who would have preferred that he not be published at all."[71]

Are those publications, and his writings for Rivarol, the result of a heroic "compromise," such as that, which some have advanced, of Lenin, who made his way back to Russia by way of an imperial Germany at war? Not quite. There are to be found in Rassinier's publications the wherewithal to assemble an anthology of the most stupid and shopworn cliches of anti-Semitism. In that endeavor, moreover, he was aided by quotations from an extremist Zionist of insane bent, Kadmi Cohen. Jewish power as the center of commerce and the world bank is to be dated to ancient times. Saul, David, and Solomon did in their day what Israel does today: the "counter-state" situated "along the most important commercial arteries of the modern world"; Saul, David, and Solomon, then, "attempted to install the Jewish people at the intersection of the two great commercial arteries of their time." The result was that at the end of ten centuries, "all the gold" of the Roman world was placed "periodically on galley-boats heading for Judea." Rassinier does not specify, however, whether those shipments were organized by the bank under the sign of rubrum scutum, "red shield" in English (in German, Rothschild ). "If, on two occasions, Rome sent Titus (70 A.D.), then Hadrian (135 A.D.) to destroy the kingdom of Judea and to disperse its inhabitants throughout the Empire, among other reasons, there was the following one: the retrieval of what it considered to be its gold. Until Titus, it had been extremely well-disposed toward the Jews, the Berenice affair proves as much" (Drame, pp. 128-129). Is a historian of antiquity obliged to specify that all this, in its entirety, is grotesque? As for the idyll between Titus and Berenice, it occurred, in its essential phase, after the taking of Jerusalem. But all that concerns antiquity: Jewish greed remains a threat in the modern world as well. Should the international Zionist movement get its "hands on Wall Street," "the principal Israeli way station in the Diaspora would become not only the commercial roof of the Atlantic world, but (thanks to the oil factor) the command-post of all its industry as well." Thus, however imperfectly, would the Biblical prophecy be realized: "The women of Israel would continue, to be sure, to give birth in pain, but their men would win their bread and that of their children through the sweat of other people's brows" (Drame, p. 129). Mere "verbal excesses," as S. Thion would say. Need we specify that, according to Rassinier, Léon Blum's positions in 1938, which the author, who was a socialist at the time, deems pro-war, "were inspired by the frequently repeated stands of world Jewry."[72] Rassinier, in fact, is literally obsessed by the theme of the international Jewish conspiracy. The Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (CDJC), the quite peaceful location of a library and archives in which Faurisson could work until 1978, becomes the Centre mondial, or World Center, de documentation juive and an "enterprise for the falsification and fabrication of historical documents" (Drame, p. 8 and passim), and that error compounded by slander crossed the Atlantic and is to be found in Butz (The Hoax, p. 248). The alliance of Jews and communists is a permanent datum of world politics. In 1950, Moscow, Tel Aviv, and Warsaw entered into coalition against a renascent Europe and the result was publications such as Poliakov's Bréviaire de la haine [Breviary of Hatred] (1951).[73] "Since then," according to Rassinier, "it has not stopped" (Drame, p. 9).

Rassinier's glory lay in being the first to demonstrate systematically that there was no genocide and in exonerating the Nazis of "the horrendous and libelous accusation" (Drame, p. 107). For the "drama of the European Jews... is not that six million of them had been exterminated as they claim, but only in the fact that they have made that claim" (Drame, p. 12). Rassinier's friends are on solid ground, to be sure, when they claim that what counts is not an author's sentiments but the scientific validity of his statements. I agree with them in theory, even though anti-Semitic paranoia is perhaps not the best preparation for a study of Hitler's policies toward the Jews. As Thion says, "It is important that such matters remain the concern of decent and honest people" (p. 45). Vouching for the scientific validity of Rassinier's work we have Serge Thion, a sociologist, a member of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, who holds a doctorate, and who must, then, know how to read. He tells us that, in Le Drame des Juifs européens, Rassinier "shatters the most solid statistical study of the number of those who disappeared from the Jewish communities of Europe, that by the American Hilberg" (Vérité, p. 164). Let's take a look.

I am not a specialist in historical demography, but I am nevertheless capable of following an elementary argument. I shall not say anything here about the number of those who disappeared, noting simply that according to the previously mentioned report by Richard Korherr, who was an SS inspector for statistical matters (and who is not mentioned a single time in Thion's work), by the end of March 1943, more than two and a half million Jews had already been "evacuated,È which means, without any doubt, in the majority of cases, killed, and that that figure did not include "those deaths occurring... in the front zone," which may exclude from it victims of actions by the Einsatzgruppen (Wellers, Mythomanie, p. 43).[74] Rassinier, for his part, estimates the number of Jewish losses at around one million, more or less (Drame, p. 212). But how does he reason?

I must confess some slight astonishment at this juncture: for Rassinier does not reason, or, more precisely, he pursues the following argument: I take an ink pad (pâté), add some lark pâté (with the habitual amount of horse) and finally one city block (pâté) of houses, and I arrive at the precise figure of 3,268,471 Jews allegedly exterminated by Hitler, but in fact having survived the war. How does Rassinier arrive at that figure? By adding up data of extremely different kinds. The crux of the problem is obviously the considerable mass of Jews living in Poland, a country partitioned in 1939, the Baltic states, the Ukraine, White Russia, and Bessarabia: more than five million human beings.[75]

In order to save, on paper, the majority of these Jews from extermination, Rassinier makes use of a single source: an artide by the Soviet Jewish journalist David Bergelson, who, in a Yiddish newspaper in Moscow, Die Einheit of December 5, 1942, an article quoted, according to Rassinier, in a German news paper in Buenos Aires, Der Weg, in January 1953,[76] afffirmed that "a majority (80%) of the Jews of the Ukraine, of Lithuania and Lettonia were saved," thanks to the Red Army, we are to assume (Drame, p. 12S). But the geographical dimensions of the rescue are expanded a bit later in the book, since we learn of "Polish, Baltic, and Romanian Jews who, in the years 1941-1942, were evacuated to central Asia, and who, if we are to believe the Jewish journalist David Bergelson, would have numbered between 2 and 2.2 million in 1942" (Drame, p. 218). As Thion says (p.33), "there are good sources and poor ones, the trick being to gauge them well." It happens that this source is worth nothing at all, and those who speak at every turn of war propaganda should have been able to perceive that we have in this case a rather typical example (cf. Wellers, Mythomanie, p. 38). Bergelson was a writer who belonged to a Jewish committee created by the Soviet authorities precisely for propaganda purposes, and for targeting American Jews in particular. After the war, in 1952, his mission accomplished, he was executed. Rassinier does not mention this, and not for a moment does he wonder how Bergelson might have been informed and how the Red Army, surprised and trapped, would have been able to save so many Jews. It did save, to be sure, a few. How many? We do not know.

With that much established, it is futile to pursue the analysis and demonstrate how Rassinier "saves" another million and a half Russian Jews. As he himself writes (Drame, p. 221), "A demographic study could only be technical in nature." But a bit alarmed by the results of his own calculations, Rassinier proffers this disarming observation: "If they are no longer in Europe and not in Israel, these 3,268,471 Jews [not one less, not one more] who were quite alive in 1945 all the same have to be somewhere else --along with however many more they have naturally in creased their numbers by!" (Drame, p. 217). For, as a songster put it after the Liberation in France, "the ovens were then only incubators." What is to be done with those excess Jews? They can, of course, be temporarily installed in central Asia, but they can't stay there indefinitely. Rassinier comes up with a solution. Between 1945 and 1961,[77] a clandestine escape network allowed more than a million of them, "at a great cost in dangers incurred,.. . to leave central Asia for the American continent" (Drame, p. 218), that is, by crossing China and the Pacific Ocean. In brief, "they are necessarily in the United States" (ibid.).

But other surprises are possible. Given the quarrel between Khruschev and Mao Zedong (Rassinier was writing in 1963), it goes without saying that Mao will help the Jews leave Soviet territory. "In that case, it is possible that the presence of a large number of Jews would suddenly come to light, one day, in all the countries of North and South America, perhaps in Israel as well" (Drame, p. 214). In the seventeenth century it happened that gazettes suddenly announced the reappearance of the ten lost tribes of Israel. Rassinier has carried off an exploit of the same type. But as he puts it, "We are dealing here only with conjectures, not certainties: a working hypothesis needed by all scholars as a starting point for their research" (Drame, p. 219). And it is on the basis of arguments of this sort --and there are many more-- that Rassinier feels fully justified in writing of the Hitlerian genocide that is, in truth, "the most tragic and most macabre hoax of all time."[78]

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