The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Deceit & Misrepresentation
The Techniques of Holocaust Denial

The Auschwitz Gambit: The Four Million Variant


Holocaust deniers would have people believe that the Auschwitz State Museum's death toll of four million was a widely accepted idea, and that any revisions in this number should also lower the total dead from the Holocaust. Deniers often claim that this revision is largely due to the efforts of "revisionist scholars", and then use this as evidence that the stories of mass murder at Auschwitz are a hoax.

Deniers also claim that anyone who dared to question the four million figure was "labeled an Anti-Semite, neo-nazi skinhead (at the very least)." By accusing their opponents of slander, deniers can simultaneously tarnish the reputations of real historians, and also invoke a "conspiracy" thatsuppresses "the truth." Conspiracy theorizing is another common denier approach, and they use it to explain why their "startling facts" have been ignored for so long. Deniers almost always overstate the "Four Million Variant,"as they would like to portray Holocaust historians as a repressive, Jewish dominated cadre that rigidly enforces the "dogma" of four million dead at Auschwitz.

As is often the case, our "revisionist scholars" have things more than a little askew. "The Four Million Variant" is the fallacious notion that a change in the Auschwitz Museum's figure pokes a major hole in mainstream Holocaust history. Taking each aspect of the "Four Million Variant" individually shows just how wrongheaded this notion is:

  • "The four million figure at Auschwitz was a widely held notion."

This is clearly false. In a quick survey of nineteen historical references (see appendix) only two listed the total Auschwitz dead at four million [7], [8] One of these, Friedman's "This Was Oswiecim: The Story of a Murder Camp," was published in 1946, well before morereliable estimates were available. Most list figures from 1 to 2.5 million, and they arrived at these figures in a variety of methods .

Some quoted Kommandant Höss's testimony (2.5 million) and others attempted to piece together how many people arrived at Auschwitz, minus any survivors, while still others used available pre- and post war census data. In fact, to find many sources that do list four million dead, one has to find books published behind the iron curtain (see appendix).

Other authors derided the Tribunal's four million figure as an absurd example of Soviet propaganda.[9],[10] For example, Gerald Reitlinger's The Final Solution discussed the source of the State Museum's figure and why he found it ludicrous:

...The Red Army did not arrive [at Auschwitz] till January 26th. They found 2,819 invalids in the three camps, whom they spared no pains to nurse back to health. In due course a Soviet State Commission arrived and on May 12th the world was presented with its findings.

However, using rectified coefficients for the part time employment of the crematorium ovens and for the periods when they stood empty, the technical expert.commission has ascertained that during the time that the Auschwitz camp existed, the German butchers [sic] exterminated in this camp not less than four million citizens of the U.S.S.R., Poland, France, Jugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Holland, Belgium, and other countries.'

The world has grown mistrustful of 'rectified coefficients' and the figure of four million has become ridiculous. Unfortunately, Russian arithmetic has blurred the stark and inescapable fact that 800,000 to 900,000 human beings perished in Auschwitz, its gas chambers and its camps. There are probably too many incalculable factors to make a closer estimate of the number of Auschwitz victims possible...[11]

Reitlinger's book was published in 1968, well before the deniers claim the figure fell into disfavor, and twenty years before "revisionist scholars" began challenging the figure.

Another issue is the denier notion that anyone who dared to stray from the "Four Million" was labeled an anti-Semite and then hounded into submission by some mainstream historians, the media, or Jews. This soon becomes a laughable idea once one sees the wide-ranging estimates in the mainstream literature. If no one dared question the Soviet Commission's "four million," one must wonder why Reitlinger would be so bold as to call it "ridiculous," and also why so few historians believed that figure.

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