Law­mak­ers dis­avow praise of Holo­caust de­nial film

Deny see­ing video, say staff didn’t read mail

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY JEF­FREY SCOTT SHAPIRO

A Holo­caust de­nial video that sug­gested Jews were not ex­ter­mi­nated by gas cham­bers at the Nazi Auschwitz con­cen­tra­tion camp mys­te­ri­ously re­ceived flat­ter­ing praise in let­ters from the of­fices of one U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive, a Maine state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a high-rank­ing pol­icy ad­viser to the pres­i­dent of Hun­gary who now works for NATO.

A fourth let­ter from a U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive ac­knowl­edged re­ceiv­ing the video, but only de­scribed it as “in­for­ma­tive,” and re­turned the video to the sender.

The Wash­ing­ton Times reached three of the four in­di­vid­u­als whose of­fices sent out the flat­ter­ing re­sponses, and, in all three cases, of­fi­cials de­nied hav­ing ac­tu­ally watched the video and of­fered apolo­gies.

They sug­gested that a sec­re­tar­ial staff mem­ber prob­a­bly sent the re­sponse not know­ing the ac­tual con­tent of the video, wrongly as­sum­ing it was a con­ven­tional anal­y­sis of the Holo­caust.

The 1992 doc­u­men­tary in ques­tion was pro­duced by David Cole, a then-22-yearold Amer­i­can re­searcher who is Jewish, and Bradley Smith, who in 1987 founded the Com­mit­tee for Open De­bate on the Holo­caust.

The video, “David Cole in Auschwitz — A Jew Ques­tions the Holo­caust,” quickly be­came a hall­mark film in the Holo­caust de­nial com­mu­nity and has since been trea­sured by de­niers par­tially be­cause of Mr. Cole’s Jewish her­itage, which they say gives cre­dence to his claims be­ing, as one let­ter stated, “ob­jec­tive.”

A Wash­ing­ton Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that ad­mir­ers of Mr. Cole’s sent VHS copies of his doc­u­men­tary in the mid-1990s to po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cials in the U.S. and abroad, and, in at least four in­stances, let­ters were sent back — from the of­fices of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kap­tur of Ohio, for­mer U.S. Rep. John E. Bal­dacci of Maine, Maine state Rep. Alvin L. Barth and Zsolt Rabai, a for­eign pol­icy ad­viser to then-Pres­i­dent Ar­pad Goncz of Hun­gary.

In the first three in­stances, an Ore­gon man named Gregg Clem­mer sent the video.

An opaque re­sponse sent back to Mr. Clem­mer and pur­port­edly signed by Mr. Bal­dacci flatly said, “Thank you for the tape sent to me re­gard­ing the Auschwitz con­cen­tra­tion camp. It was a very in­for­ma­tive pro­duc­tion. I am re­turn­ing your tape, fol­low­ing of­fice pol­icy. I ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity to view it. Thank you again.”

Mr. Bal­dacci, a Demo­crat who later served as gov­er­nor of Maine, told The Times he had no rec­ol­lec­tion of the video, and de­scribed any form of Holo­caust de­nial as “dis­gust­ing.”

In con­trast to Mr. Bal­dacci’s flat re­sponse, the let­ter sent from Ms. Kap­tur’s of­fice of­fered more dra­matic praise, say­ing, “Thank you for send­ing me a copy of David Cole’s video. Mr. Cole has ob­vi­ously in­vested a great deal in re­search­ing his sub­ject, and I ad­mire his tena­cious cu­rios­ity. Again, I thank you for shar­ing this doc­u­men­tary with my­self and other mem­bers of Congress.”

The re­ply from Mr. Barth was hand­writ­ten and said, “Dear Mr. Clem­mer, thank you for the video. It does raise some valid and in­ter­est­ing points. Have you con­sid­ered court ac­tion to get the video aired?”

The re­ply from Mr. Rabai, the Hun­gar­ian po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, was writ­ten to Mr. Cole’s co-pro­ducer, Bradley Smith, and said, “Thank you send­ing us your doc­u­men­tary video about the Auschwitz con­cen­tra­tion camp. I was im­pressed by the ob­jec­tive and log­i­cal way David Cole spoke about the Auschwitz gas cham­ber. Con­grat­u­la­tions!”

Steve Fought, a spokesman for Ms. Kap­tur, said that the still-sit­ting Demo­cratic con­gress­woman did not watch the doc­u­men­tary or write the let­ter.

“I’ll be hon­est with you: We ap­par­ently let one slip through the cracks,” he said. “Back in 1995 this of­fice re­ceived about a hun­dred let­ters a day. Most of­fices now av­er­age about a thou­sand a day and around a quar­ter [of] a mil­lion a year. It’s very hard to keep up. We try to add a lit­tle fla­vor to th­ese let­ters some­times to make a re­sponse sound per­son­al­ized, and I think that’s what hap­pened here.

“We made a mis­take, but no one ever watched this video, and no one would ever say any­thing to deny the Holo­caust,” Mr. Fought said.

Mr. Barth is now re­tired and could not be reached for com­ment, but Mr. Rabai was so con­cerned when The Times sent him a copy of the let­ter sent from his of­fice that he watched Mr. Cole’s full doc­u­men­tary so that he could com­ment on it.

He said that both he and the for­mer Hun­gar­ian pres­i­dent “were deeply touched by the tragedy and hu­man suf­fer­ing caused by the Holo­caust,” and later added that although he an­swered much of the for­eign mail, books and videos that came to his of­fice, he rarely had time to an­a­lyze what he had re­ceived.

“We tried to an­swer all mail com­ing in and per­son­al­ize them as much as pos­si­ble so, at least my­self, I tried to have a quick look at the sum­mary of a book, a few pic­tures of a video and make a ref­er­ence to it.”

He ex­pressed re­gret for not is­su­ing what he called “a proper an­swer on the state­ments of this video.”

Bradley Blake­man, a for­mer deputy as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent George W. Bush who also served on the board of the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­rial Coun­cil, said that the let­ters re­veal what he de­scribed as “a se­ri­ous prob­lem on the Hill that needs to be ad­dressed and cor­rected.”

“All of Capi­tol Hill has sur­ren­dered their au­thor­i­ta­tive voice to a bunch of in­ex­pe­ri­enced in­terns who don’t know what they’re talk­ing about,” Mr. Blake­man said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “In this case, U.S. con­gres­sional of­fices sur­ren­dered their voice to the Holo­caust de­nial com­mu­nity and em­pow­ered it by do­ing so. Th­ese let­ters are out there now, and they can be used to val­i­date the doc­u­men­tary. If elected of­fi­cials al­lowed their staff to mail out th­ese let­ters with­out ever watch­ing the video, then they were grossly neg­li­gent.”

Mr. Cole him­self said that he does not think Mr. Bal­dacci watched his video, but he does be­lieve some­one in Ms. Kap­tur’s of­fice did be­cause of the spe­cific lan­guage of her re­sponse.

“I feel cer­tain that who­ever wrote the Kap­tur let­ter — be it Kap­tur or a per­son act­ing on her be­half — saw the video,” he told The Times. “If you re­ceive a video about Auschwitz, and you just want to fire off a sim­ple form let­ter thank you note, you’d say some­thing like, ‘Thank you for the video. The Holo­caust is a ter­ri­ble chap­ter in his­tory and must never be for­got­ten. Thank you for your ef­forts to fur­ther the cause of re­mem­brance …’

“But my doc­u­men­tary was specif­i­cally about my ‘tena­cious cu­rios­ity’ in re­lent­lessly grilling the Auschwitz State Mu­seum staff re­gard­ing the ev­i­dence for gas cham­bers. One would only know that the video was about David Cole and his ‘tena­cious cu­rios­ity’ by watch­ing the video.”

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