Posts Tagged ‘P2 Lodge’

Conspiracy Book’s Debunking of Holocaust Denial

September 16, 2018

The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups: The 100 Most Disturbing Conspiracies of All Time, Jon E. Lewis (London: Constable & Robinson 2007).

As the book’s cover tells you, this is a popular treatment of 100 assorted conspiracies, ranging from the assassination of JFK, 9/11, the Da Vinci Code, the death of Princess Diana, the Men In Black of UFO lore, the belief that Roosevelt knew about the coming Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour?, the Illuminati, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and so on. It’s a selection of conspiracies and conspiracy theories that were current at the end of the 1990s and early part of the 21st centuries.

As you might expect of a popular work of this size, the individual chapters tend to be brief. Many are only about two or three pages long, and so this isn’t an in depth examination of them by any means. Most of these theories are absolutely spurious, and so get properly debunked. Most, but not all. Some conspiracies, like the Iran-Contral scandal and the Masonic lodge P2, which was deeply involved in Italian Fascism, the Mafia and had connections to the CIA.

Lewis writes in his introduction that his aim has been to understand and treat the conspiracy theories objectively, to find which are true, and which aren’t.

Hostility to conspiracy theory is as useless in understanding the world as an indiscriminate acceptance of it. The task, surely, is to disentangle the mad and bad conspiracies from those that illuminate the darkened, secret corners of power. To this end The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups takes a considered, objective scalpel to one hundred of the most compelling conspiracy theories of modern times. The theories are arranged alphabetically, assessed and interrogated. Where appropriate, the relevant documents are reproduced, and details of where to look to find out more are listed. Each conspiracy theory is assigned an “Alert Level” rating indicating its likely veracity. (p. 3).

One conspiracy theory that the book thoroughly debunks is Holocaust denial, discussed on pages 180-2. The first two paragraphs briefly state what it was, and how its existence is supported by a mountain of very trustworthy evidence.

The Holocaust is the name given to the extermination of some six million Jews and other “undesirables” by the Third Reich of Germany between 1933 and 1945. To industrialise the genocide process, the Nazis purpose-built a number of death camps such as Auschwitz, which gassed the Jews in batches; most victims, however, simply died of malnourishment in concentration camps. In occupied Eastern Europe, from where more than five million Jews were taken, special SS killing squads, Einsatzgruppen, sometimes shot Jews in situ.

A wide spread of sources confirms the nature and extent of the Holocaust: the thousandfold testimonies of camp survivors; film and photographs taken by Allied reporters as the camps were liberated in 1945; the confession by Auschwitz SS camp commandant Rudolf Hoss; the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann in 1960-2 and his sentencing to death for “crimes against humanity”. But all of this is dispute by a number of historians and politicians, who speculate that the Holocaust, if it happened at all, was on at most a minor scale. (p. 180).

It then goes on to discuss David Hoggan and his The Myth of the Six Million, one of the earliest and most influential books pushing the lie that the Holocaust never happened. Hoggan claimed in it that the Jews had falsely accused the Germans of genocide in order to gain reparations. This set the pattern for later works, claiming that the Jews had made it up either to gain money or international sympathy. It was the latter which led the United Nations to look kindly on the creation of Israel as a Jewish homeland. The book notes that from 1970s, the most prominent mouthpiece for Holocaust denial in the US has been the Institute for Holocaust Review, led by the neo-Nazi Willis Carto. Publications from the Institute and similar organisations in the US speculate that the gas chambers at Auschwitz weren’t there to kill Jews, but to kill the lice they carried. There are many versions of Holocaust denial. One of these is that there was indeed an extermination of the Jews during the Nazi occupation, but that this was small and not official Nazi policy. This was the view of the notorious David Irving, who claimed that the Nazis were too busy fighting the war to organize the mass extermination of the Jews, and that Hitler was unaware of it.

The chapter goes on to describe how Irving’s version of the Holocaust and Hitler’s involvement was challenged by Deborah Lipstadt in her 1993, Denying the Holocaust. This accused Irving of anti-Semitism and distorting evidence. Irving sued her and her British publisher, Penguin, for libel. Lipstadt and Penguin defended themselves by hiring the Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans, who then went through Irving’s works. He found that Irving had deliberately used unreliable documentation. One such was the report made by Fred Leuchter, who designed gas chambers for the American prison service. Leuchter stated that he found no significant deposits of cynanide at Auschwitz. However, this was in 1988, nearly 40 years after the camp was used and Leuchter himself was not trained in forensics. Evans also found that Irving also expressed very anti-Semitic sentiments in his books, such as calling Jews ‘the scum of humanity’. The court found in Lipstadt’s favour, with the judge declaring Irving to be ‘an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semite and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism’.

The chapter also makes it clear that Hitler knew very well what was going on. He knew its scope even if he didn’t know all the details about every train of victims going to Sobibor. He set the agenda for the Holocaust, as shown in his speeches. In 1939, for example, he declared

If international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war, the result will be … the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe. (p. 181.)

Fifteen other leading Nazis attended the Wannsee conference in 1942, which was held outside Berlin on how the extermination of the Jews could best be arranged. The meeting was minuted, and its protocols used to incriminate those present.

The chapter concludes

The Holocaust happened. Most reputable historians put the lower limit of Jews, gypsies, Romanies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled and the mentally ill exterminated by the Nazis at five million. The upper limit is as high as 11 million.

In 1979 the Institute for Historical Review offered a $50,000 reward to anybody who “could prove that the Nazis operated gas chambers to terminate Jews”. Mel Marmelstein, an Auschwitz survivor, forwarded to the IHR affidavits concerning the fate of his family in Auschwitz plus other documentation, and duly claimed his money. When the IHR failed to give him the $50,000 he sued. The court awarded him the $50,000 plus an extra $40,000 for distress. In other words, the leading outfit for Holocaust denial, giving it its best shot, could not convince a neutral jury of its case. (p. 182).

The book properly gives Holocaust denial an alert level of zero, as it is a completely false conspiracy theory.

It also has a short bibliography, which includes the following two books debunking Holocaust denial:

Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 1993; and

Michael Shermer, Alex Grobman and Arthur Hertzberg, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?, 2002.

Lobster on Real Conspiracies Versus Conspiracy Theories: Part Two

March 18, 2018

Bale then goes to contrast the non-existent groups of the bogus conspiracy theories, with real conspiratorial groups, which have exerted a genuine influence, such as the Afrikaner Broederbond, the extremist Afrikaner nationalist group that was ultimately responsible for the adoption of apartheid. He writes

No Monolithic Conspiracy
There has never been, to be sure, a single, monolithic Communist Conspiracy of the sort postulated by the American John Birch Society in the 1950s and 1960s. Nor has there ever been an all-encompassing International Capitalist Conspiracy, a Jewish World Conspiracy, a Masonic Conspiracy, or a Universal Vatican Conspiracy. And nowadays, contrary to the apparent belief of millions, neither a vast Underground Satanist Conspiracy nor an Alien Abduction Conspiracy exists. This reassuring knowledge should not, however, prompt anyone to throw out the baby with the bath water, as many academics have been wont to do. For just as surely as none of the above mentioned Grand Conspiracies has ever existed, diverse groups of Communists, capitalists, Zionists, masons and Catholics have in fact secretly plotted, often against one another, to accomplish various specific but limited political objectives.

No sensible person would claim, for example, that the Soviet secret police has not been involved in a vast array of covert operations since the establishment of the Soviet Union, or that international front groups controlled by the Russian Communist Party have not systematically engage in worldwide penetration and propaganda campaigns. it is nonetheless true that scholars have often hastened to deny the existence of genuine conspiratorial plots, without making any effort to investigate them, simply because such schemes fall outside their own realm of knowledge and experience or – even worse – directly challenge their sometimes naïve conceptions about how the world functions.

They Do Exist
If someone were to say, for example, that a secret masonic lodge in Italy had infiltrated all of the state’s security agencies and was involved in promoting or exploiting acts of neo-fascist terrorism in order to condition the political system and strengthen its own hold over the levers of government, most newspaper readers would probably assume that they were joking or accuse them of having taken leave of their senses. Ten years ago I might have had the same reaction myself. Nevertheless, although the above statement oversimplifies a far more complex pattern of interaction between the public and private spheres, such a lodge in fact existed. It was known as Loggia Massonica Propaganda Due (P2), was affiliated with the Grand Orient branch of Italian masonry, and was headed by a former fascist militiaman named Licio Gelli. In all probability something like P2 still exists today in an altered form, even though the lodge was officially outlawed in 1982. Likewise, with the claim that an Afrikaner secret society, founded in the second decade of this century [the 20th], had played a key role in establishing the system of apartheid in South Africa, and in the process helped to ensure the preservation of ultra-conservative Afrikaner cultural values and Afrikaner political dominance until 199. (sic). Yet this organisation also existed. It was known as the Afrikaner Broederbond (AB), and it formed a powerful ‘state within a state’ in that country by virtue, among other things, of its unchallenged control over the security services. There is no doubt that specialists on contemporary Italian politics who fail to take account of the activities of P2, like experts on South Africa who ignore the AB, are missing an important dimension of political life there. Nevertheless, neither of these to important organisations has been thoroughly investigated by academics. In these instances, as is so often the case, investigative journalists have done most of the truly groundbreaking preliminary research.
(pp. 21-2).

He then goes on criticise the attitude of historians like David Hackett Fischer, who have identified those theories that attribute too much power to secret organisations as part of the ‘furtive fallacy’, but then go too far the other way in insisting that the only significant influences are those that are above board and public, and that nothing of any significance has ever been by clandestine groups. He writes

To accept these unstated proposition uncritically could induce a person, among other things, to overlook the bitter nineteenth century struggle between political secret societies for, at least, between revolutionaries using non-political secret societies as a ‘cover’ and the political police of powerful states like Austria and Russia, to minimise the role played by revolutionary vanguard parties in the Russian and communist Chinese revolutions, or to deny that powerful intelligence services like the CIA and the KGB have fomented coups and intervened massively in the internal affairs of other sovereign states since the end of World War II. In short, it might well lead to the misinterpretation or falsification of history on a grand scale.

It is easier to recognise such dangers when relatively well-known historical development like these are used as illustrative examples, but problems often arise when the possible role played by conspiratorial groups in more obscure event is brought up. It is above all in these cases, as well as in high-profile cases where a comforting ‘official’ version of events has been widely diffused, that commonplace academic prejudices against taking covert politics seriously come into play and can exert a potentially detrimental effect on historical judgements. (p. 21-2, my emphasis).

He concludes

There is probably no way to prevent this sort of unconscious reaction in the current intellectual climate, but the least that can be expected of serious scholars is that they carefully examine the available evidence before dismissing matters out of hand.

The proposals by YouTube, the Beeb and the Tory Party to set up monitoring groups to rebut ‘fake news’ go far beyond normal academic prejudice against taking real secret politics seriously. They are an attempt to present a very comforting official version of politics, which in the case of the Tory party means suppressing and falsifying the horrific assault their policies have had on British institutions, industry, and people since Maggie Thatcher. They are trying to shore up the decaying economic edifice of neoliberalism by presenting its opponents as wild-eyed radicals in the grip of loony conspiracies, producing ‘fake news’.

And the same is true of Israel lobby, which tries to hide its attempts to pervert British and American politics through lobbying and the sponsorship of leading politicians. It also uses the existence of malign, anti-Semitic conspiracies as a weapon to smear genuine historians and activists, who support the Palestinians in their struggle for dignity and equality, or simply want to correct their lies, as anti-Semites. People like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and so many, many others. They need to be stopped. Now.

The article is available at the magazine’s website. However, early issues, like 29 are behind a paywall. The editor, Robin Ramsay, has also written a book on conspiracies, where he makes the same distinction.