|David McCalden, founder |
Willis Carto, co-founder
The Institute for Historical Review (IHR), founded in 1978, is an organization based in California, United States, best known for publishing articles and books promoting Holocaust denial. It is considered by many scholars to be central to the international Holocaust denial movement. IHR promotes antisemitic viewpoints, and has links to neo-Nazi organizations. The Institute published the Journal of Historical Review until 2002, but now disseminates its materials through its website and via email. The Institute is affiliated with the Legion for the Survival of Freedom and Noontide Press.
In 2009, Institute director Mark Weber published an article questioning the relevance of "Holocaust revisionism" in general, triggering infighting in the movement.
The IHR was founded in 1978 by David McCalden, also known as Lewis Brandon, a former member of the British National Front, and Willis Carto, the head of the now-defunct Liberty Lobby. Liberty Lobby was an antisemitic organization best known for publishing The Spotlight, now reorganized as the American Free Press. Austin App, a La Salle University professor credited for being the first major American holocaust denier, inspired the creation of the IHR. McCalden left the IHR in 1981. Tom Marcellus became its director, and Carto lost control of it in 1993, in an internal power struggle. Since 1995, the director of the IHR has been Mark Weber, who previously worked with the white supremacist National Alliance. Since taking over, Weber has continued to publish writing on the Holocaust and on World War II and has pushed to broaden the institute's mandate. He has been editor of the IHR's Journal of Historical Review for nine years. Currently, its main method of spreading its message is through its website IHR Update and e-mail list. The website that Weber has built features such articles as "The Jewish Role in the Bolshevik Revolution" and "Israel at 60: A Grim Balance Sheet."
At the IHR's first conference in 1979, IHR publicly offered a reward of $50,000 for verifiable "proof that gas chambers for the purpose of killing human beings existed at or in Auschwitz." This money (and an additional $40,000) was eventually paid in 1985 to Auschwitz survivor Mel Mermelstein, who, represented by public-interest lawyer William John Cox, sued the IHR for breach of contract for initially ignoring his evidence (a signed testimony of his experiences in Auschwitz). On October 9, 1981, both parties in the Mermelstein case filed motions for summary judgment in consideration of which Judge Thomas T. Johnson of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County took "judicial notice of the fact that Jews were gassed to death at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in occupied Poland during the summer of 1944." On August 5, 1985, Judge Robert A. Wenke entered a judgment based upon the Stipulation for Entry of Judgment agreed upon by the parties on July 22, 1985. The judgment required IHR and other defendants to pay $90,000 to Mermelstein and to issue a letter of apology to "Mr. Mel Mermelstein, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald, and all other survivors of Auschwitz" for "pain, anguish and suffering" caused to them.
On July 4, 1984, a firebomb destroyed the Institute's offices and warehouse. Thousands of books, cassette tapes, and pamphlets, 90% of their inventory, were lost. Carto had not insured the facilities or the stock.
In 2001, Eric Owens, a former employee, alleged that Mark Weber and Greg Raven from the IHR's staff had been planning to sell their mailing lists to either the Anti-Defamation League or the Church of Scientology.
In January 2009, Weber, the IHR's director, released an essay titled, "How Relevant Is Holocaust Revisionism?" In it, he acknowledged the death of millions of Jews but did not wholly reject Holocaust denial. He noted that Holocaust denial had attracted little support over the years: "It's gotten some support in Iran, or places like that, but as far as I know, there is no history department supporting writing by these folks." Accordingly, he recommended that emphasis be placed instead on opposing "Jewish-Zionist power", which some commentators claim was a shift to a directly antisemitic position.
Although the IHR comments on a variety of subjects, it is most noted and criticized for its Holocaust denial. IHR is widely regarded as antisemitic and as having links to neo-Nazi organizations. Multiple writers have stated that its primary focus is denying key facts of Nazism and the genocide of Jews.
When the IHR devoted itself to publishing Holocaust-denial material, it insisted that its work in this regard was "revisionism" rather than denial:
The Institute does not "deny the Holocaust." Every responsible scholar of twentieth century history acknowledges the great catastrophe that befell European Jewry during World War II. All the same, the IHR has over the years published detailed books and numerous probing essays that call into question aspects of the orthodox, Holocaust-extermination story, and highlight specific Holocaust exaggerations and falsehoods.
On the IHR website, Barbara Kulaszka defends the distinction between "denial" and "revisionism" by arguing that considerable revisions to History have been made over the years by historians and concludes:
For purposes of their own, powerful, special-interest groups desperately seek to keep substantive discussion of the Holocaust story taboo. One of the ways they do this is by purposely mischaracterizing revisionist scholars as "deniers."
American environmentalist Paul Rauber wrote:
The question [of whether the IHR denies the Holocaust] appears to turn on IHR's Humpty-Dumpty word game with the word Holocaust. According to Mark Weber, associate editor of the IHR's Journal of Historical Review [now Director of the IHR], "If by the 'Holocaust' you mean the political persecution of Jews, some scattered killings, if you mean a cruel thing that happened, no one denies that. But if one says that the 'Holocaust' means the systematic extermination of six to eight million Jews in concentration camps, that's what we think there's not evidence for." That is, IHR doesn't deny that the Holocaust happened; they just deny that the word 'Holocaust' means what people customarily use it for.
According to British historian of Germany Richard J. Evans:
Like many individual Holocaust deniers, the Institute as a body denied that it was involved in Holocaust denial. It called this a 'smear' which was 'completely at variance with the facts' because 'revisionist scholars' such as Faurisson, Butz 'and bestselling British historian David Irving acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed and otherwise perished during the Second World War as a direct and indirect result of the harsh anti-Jewish policies of Germany and its allies'. But the concession that a relatively small number of Jews were killed [has been] routinely used by Holocaust deniers to distract attention from the far more important fact of their refusal to admit that the figure ran into the millions, and that a large proportion of these victims were systematically murdered by gassing as well as by shooting.
In 2007, the United Kingdom's Channel 4 described the IHR as a "pseudo-academic body based in the United States which is dedicated to denying that the Holocaust happened," while the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the IHR a "blatantly anti-Semitic assortment of pseudo-scholars".
In an article published in Hitlist Magazine in 2002, author Kevin Coogan claimed there had been attempts to forge ties between American and European Holocaust-denial groups such as the IHR and "radical Middle Eastern extremists." According to Coogan, Ahmed Rami, a former Moroccan military officer "founded Radio Islam to disseminate antisemitic, Holocaust denying, and often pro-Nazi propaganda," and tried to organize, with the IHR, a conference in a Hezbollah-controlled section of Beirut, Lebanon.
The Daily Star, the leading English-language paper in Lebanon, in response to a planned IHR meeting in the country, called its members "loathsome pseudo-historians" and the Institute itself an "international hate group." The paper reported "one former PLO official [stating], 'with friends like that, we don't need enemies'." With the help of the anti-Israeli Jordanian Writers Association, an alternative event was held with the theme "What happened to the Revisionist Historians' Conference in Beirut?"
The "Holocaust revisionist" arguments published by the IHR are not regarded as serious historical research by mainstream historians and academics; rather, they are regarded as works of pseudo-science aimed at proving that the Holocaust did not happen. The editorial board of one of the leading historical journals, The Journal of American History, wrote, "We all abhor, on both moral and scholarly grounds, the substantive arguments of the Institute for Historical Review. We reject their claims to be taken seriously as historians." In response, IHR printed Weber's letter disputing the claims.
In April 2004, following a complaint by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, The Nation magazine refused to accept advertising from the IHR, stating "[T]here is a strong presumption against censoring any advertisement, especially if we disagree with its politics. This case, however, is different. Their arguments are 'patently fraudulent.'" Weber responded with critical commentary in a letter to Leigh Novog of the advertising department of The Nation.
The IHR published the Journal of Historical Review, which its critics – including the ADL, the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and other scholars, such as Robert Hanyok, a National Security Agency historian – accused of being pseudo-scientific. Hanyok referred to the IHR as a "scholarly organisation", but denounced them because "in its content, the JHR carries a heavy emphasis on articles pressing a revisionist or denial viewpoint about the holocaust."
The journal History Teacher wrote of the Journal of Historical Review that the "magazine is shockingly racist and antisemitic: articles on 'America's Failed Racial Policy' and anti-Israel pieces accompany those about gas chambers ... They clearly have no business claiming to be a continuation of the revisionist tradition, and should be referred to as 'Holocaust Deniers'."
The journal commenced publication in the spring of 1980 as a quarterly periodical. Publication was suspended in 1986-87, and thereafter continued until 2002. Publication of the journal was halted in 2002 due to "lack of staff and funding", according to the organization's website.