Self-proclaimed “Nazi hunter” Simon Wiesenthal blatantly lied about the number of people allegedly killed in the Holocaust, and when confronted, he openly admitted it, Israel’s top Holocaust historian and editor of Yad Vashem’s Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust has announced.
Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust Studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was commenting following a tweet by the Israeli Defense Force Spokesperson’s Unit that “11 million” people were killed in the Holocaust.
According to an article in the Times of Israel titled “‘Remember the 11 million’? Why an inflated victims tally irks Holocaust historians,” (February 1, 2017), the
“oft-cited statistic of 5 million non-Jewish Holocaust deaths has no basis in fact, experts say, and may be contributing to denial efforts.”
The newspaper—published out of Jerusalem—said:
The “5 million” has driven Holocaust historians to distraction ever since Wiesenthal started to peddle it in the 1970s. Wiesenthal told the Washington Post in 1979, “I have sought with Jewish leaders not to talk about 6 million Jewish dead, but rather about 11 million civilians dead, including 6 million Jews.
Yehuda Bauer, an Israeli Holocaust scholar who chairs the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, said he warned his friend Wiesenthal, who died in 2005, about spreading the false notion that the Holocaust claimed 11 million victims—6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews.
“I said to him, ‘Simon, you are telling a lie,’” Bauer recalled in an interview Tuesday.
“He said, ‘Sometimes you need to do that to get the results for things you think are essential.’”
Bauer and other historians who knew Wiesenthal said the Nazi hunter told them that he chose the 5 million number carefully: He wanted a number large enough to attract the attention of non-Jews who might not otherwise care about Jewish suffering, but not larger than the actual number of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, 6 million.
This is not the first time that a leading Jewish Holocaust historian has pointed out Wiesenthal’s lies. In an article published in the Jewish Review of Books in 2011, Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University—most infamous for the “David Irving trial”—said that Wiesenthal was often criticized for “falsely taking credit for finding criminals and repeatedly inventing information unsupported by any data.”
As an example, Lipstadt said, while Wiesenthal posed as a “Nazi hunter” from his offices in Vienna, and was lauded in a United States Congressional Resolution as being “instrumental in the capture and conviction of more than 1,000 Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann,” in fact he had done nothing.
Lipstadt said that Isser Harel, the head of Israel’s Security Services at the time of Eichmann’s capture, had revealed in his book dealing with the operation, called The House on Garibaldi Street, that
“Wiesenthal played no role in the operation.
“In fact, according to Harel, Wiesenthal almost sabotaged the whole effort when he shared information that had been given to him in strictest confidence,” Lipstadt wrote.
The Times of Israel article went on to discuss how Wiesenthal’s completely invented figure of “11 million” became so commonplace:
It caught on: President Jimmy Carter, issuing the executive order that would establish the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, referred to the “11 million victims of the Holocaust.”
The Times of Israel explained further:
It’s a statement that shows up regularly in declarations about the Nazi era. It was implied in a Facebook post by the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesperson’s unit last week marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
And it was asserted in an article shared by the Trump White House in defense of its controversial Holocaust statement the same day omitting references to the 6 million Jewish victims.
It is, however, a number without any scholarly basis.
Indeed, say those close to the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, its progenitor, it is a number that was intended to increase sympathy for Jewish suffering but which now is more often used to obscure it.
The most damning exposé of famed ‘Holocaust Survivor’ Elie Wiesel ever put into print! It shines the light of truth on the mythomaniac who, in the 1970s, transformed the word “holocaust” and made it the brand name of the world’s greatest hoax: the unfounded claim by an extremist segment of World Jewry to the effect that the German government’s wartime policy of territorial transfer of Europe’s Jews out of the Reich was in actuality an “extermination program.”