- Denial of the Denial, or the Battle of Auschwitz: Debates about the Demography and Geo-Politics of the Holocaust, ed. by Alfred Kokh and Pavel Polian
The Holocaust—one of the great catastrophes of the twentieth century—is the object both of scholarly research and of exploitation by so-called “revisionists” representing it as an ordinary event among others, or even denying that it happened at all. The audiences for research and for exploitation seldom intersect; many unfamiliar with professional scholarship may not be able to distinguish between the two. For the wider readership to become acquainted with current professional thought on the Holocaust—and to see through the arguments of denialists—they could do no better than to consult the anthology under review, a translation of a volume originally published in Russian in 2008.
Pavel Polian is a social geographer, historian, and (under the pseudonym of Nerler) poet and Mandelshtam authority. He is known as the author of works such as Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migration in the USSR (2001), and as the compiler of others such as Scrolls from the Ashes: The Jewish “Sonderkommando” at Auschwitz-Birkenau and its Chronicles (2013 [in Russian]). Alfred Kokh is best known as an economist, politician (a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin), and businessman (and one who helped this project see the light of day). Articles by Polian (“The Denial of the Holocaust and Its Geopolitics”) and Kokh (“A Denial of Denial”) survey the history of the movement to deny the Holocaust and analyze its key approaches. Articles by Sergio Della Pergola (a professor of population [End Page 527] studies at Hebrew University, where he heads the Division of Jewish Demography and Statistics), and Mark Kupovetsky (director of the Russian-American Academic and Research Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies at the Russian State University for the Humanities) respectively treat global and European Jewry, and the Jewish population of the Soviet Union and adjoining countries. Pavel Polian’s “The Demography and Statistics of the Holocaust” reviews the overall state of demographic research. Articles by Wolfgang Benz (director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism of the Technical University of Berlin) and Dieter Pohl (professor at the Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt) analyze quantitative aspects of the Holocaust in various countries and in Europe generally. Articles by participants in Yad Vashem’s project creating a database of known victims of the Holocaust include Alexander Avraham’s contribution on the history of that project and Aron Shneer’s showing the database’s research potential through the example of Latvia. Three appendices complete the volume: the first a select bibliography of Holocaust denial; the second a presentation of early Soviet documents estimating the number of victims of the Auschwitz death camp; and the third a table presenting major estimates of total Jewish losses during the Holocaust.
The compilers note that the volume is in part a reaction against the resurgence of antisemitism in Europe and the Near East (in particular Iran)—a resurgence occurring as the last survivors of the Holocaust pass from the scene.1 The authors draw upon all kinds of documentation to summarize the state of knowledge and expose the essential fraudulence of the Holocaust-denial industry. Not, therefore, a compilation of new additions to knowledge, this volume is more for general and student audiences than it is for specialists in the field. It is unlikely to change the minds of denialists, though it is intended to expose them before their intended readerships, especially the young.
The purpose is not to acknowledge the revisionists by debating them; in any case denialism is essentially a mere form taken by contemporary antisemitism. But one important aspect of the phenomenon deserves special note: as Daniel Romanovski has observed, denialism is an instance of present worldwide denial of rationality and science altogether.2 Precisely in this lies the epistemological root of revisionism—négationisme, as some of its observers...