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Bradley Smith / The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH)

Though he often tries to present himself as a free speech activist, Smith has functioned as a propagandist for the Holocaust denial movement since 1983. He achieved his greatest notoriety as the director of the now-defunct Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, whose mission was to disseminate Holocaust denial to students on college campuses. In more recent lectures promoting his book, Break His Bones, Smith has sought to refocus his message on the free speech issue and to "decriminalize Holocaust history." Privately, he admits that his aim continues to be promoting "revisionism" and anti-Israel propaganda. In April 2004 he spoke at a conference organized by the Institute for Historical Review and the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

Smith
Year of birth: 1930
Organization: Founded the now-defunct Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust in 1987.
Location: Offices have been located in Visalia, California, and Baja, Mexico.
Publications: Break His Bones: The Private Life of a Holocaust Revisionist (book); Smith's Report (newsletter). Defunct newsletters: The Revisionist, Smith's Journal, Prima Facie, Revisionist Letters, Campus Update for Editors.
Strategy: Campus ad campaigns and speaking tours
Associates: Smith launched the Campaign to Decriminalize Holocaust History with David Cole. Smith was the only member of the now-defunct Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. He has been helped with his publications by Germar Rudolf, George Brewer, Bill Halvorson, Samuel Crowell, David Thomas, Richard Widmann, Martin Henry, Ernest Sommers, and MacKenzie Paine (deceased). Smith previously worked for the Institute for Historical Review and speaks at many of its conferences.
Quotes:
"I don't want to spend time with adults anymore. I want to go to students. They are superficial. They are empty vessels to be filled".
"Promoting [Break His] Bones is promoting revisionism because there is no light between the two."

1. Beginnings
2. Bradley Smith and the Institute for Historical Review
        • Prima Facie and the IHR Newsletter
        • The IHR Media Project
3. The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust
        • The Campus Project
        • Decline of the Campus Project
4. Break His Bones and the Campaign to Decriminalize Holocaust History
5. Smith's Motives

Beginnings

According to an autobiographical work 1, Bradley Smith tried his hand at many things during the first period of his life. He worked in rail yards, milk plants and the construction industry; he drove a Good Humor ice cream truck and owned a bookshop. He was married twice. He served in Korea and traveled to Vietnam in the hope of becoming a war correspondent.

His life changed, he says, on the day he read an article by French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson entitled "The Problem of the Gas Chambers, or The Rumor of Auschwitz." From Faurisson he moved on to Arthur Butz's The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. Bradley Smith, at the age of 49, had discovered Holocaust denial; his true life's work would now begin.

Bradley Smith and the Institute for Historical Review

Smith says that by 1980 he had contacted the Southern California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR), then the major Holocaust denial organization in the United States. He had "regular contact" with David McCalden, who was then IHR's director. He also developed a relationship with IHR's founder, the notorious anti-Semitic propagandist Willis Carto; Smith says Carto sent him to Canada in 1984 to cover the trial of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel for The Spotlight, the weekly tabloid of Carto's Liberty Lobby.

Prima Facie and the IHR Newsletter

Smith's relationship with IHR entered a new, more substantive phase in July of 1984. At the time, Smith claims, IHR was prepared to publish his first completed manuscript, entitled "The Holocaust Cult and the Suppression of Free Inquiry: An Autobiographical Narrative." Although an arson attack on IHR's building that month apparently caused the Institute to indefinitely divert its attention from Smith's manuscript to its own reconstruction, Smith's enthusiasm for the IHR and Holocaust denial only grew. He immediately began working on his next manuscript, which he later published as "Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist" (probably cannibalizing "The Holocaust Cult" in the process). He also offered the IHR his services as "public spokesperson." The result of this offer was the creation of Prima Facie, a monthly newsletter written by Smith and funded by IHR.

The goal of Prima Facie, as recorded beneath the masthead of the first issue, was to inform the press and the media about the censorship, suppression of free inquiry, the taboos, quackery, cultism, disinformation and pathology commonly used to promote belief in the Holocaust and the "genocide" of the "six million" on the one hand, and that used to stifle critical examination of the evidence used to support those tales on the other.

Smith hoped that once informed by Prima Facie about the "falsehoods they were repeating in the press about the Holocaust story," journalists and editors would begin writing stories from a "revisionist" perspective.

The first issue of Prima Facie was published in October 1984, and according to Smith was sent "to about 4,000 journalists and their editors throughout Southern California and in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston and Chicago." In a mimeographed letter that accompanied the issue, Smith urged readers to subscribe, explaining that the newsletter would inform them about "fraudulent documents, and the dishonest manipulation of authentic documents, used to substantiate the 'gas chamber' thesis," "acts of suppression and censorship used to prevent critical examination of the 'gas chamber' thesis," and "the intimidation and slander used by such organizations as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to silence Holocaust revisionists."

Smith was able to produce seven issues of Prima Facie before budget constraints at the IHR, which was preparing for the Mel Mermelstein trial, 2 forced the cancellation of the venture. In a 1990 interview, Smith reflected that as far as his goal of influencing reporters was concerned, Prima Facie was an "utter failure." He explained: "The last thing...reporters wanted was to think about verifying stories they were handed from survivors, spokesmen for the Holocaust Lobby, or the academics."

It is not difficult to see why Prima Facie had so little impact on the journalists who received it. Smith peppered the newsletter's articles with self-indulgent and sarcastic comments and frequently insulted the journalists he was purportedly trying to influence. The third article in Prima Facie No. 6 was actually entitled, "How mindless is the typical American journalist? Let us count some of the ways."

Smith was shortly offered, and accepted, the editorship of the IHR Newsletter for the duration of the Mermelstein trial. He devoted the entirety of one issue to exposing the purported flaws and inconsistencies in Mermelstein's testimony, which embroiled the IHR in yet another lawsuit -- this time when Mermelstein sued the IHR for libel. Although the first Mermelstein suit had resulted in IHR agreeing to pay Mermelstein $90,000, Mermelstein himself dropped the second suit in 1991. After editing the newsletter for five issues, Smith continued as a contributing editor for some time.

The IHR Media Project

In January of 1986, Smith became the first director of the IHR Radio Project, which soon came to be called the Media Project. Its goal was to disseminate Holocaust denial propaganda by soliciting the producers of radio and television talk shows to interview a 'revisionist' -- almost always Smith himself, but occasionally other prominent American Holocaust deniers such as Mark Weber, David Cole or Tom Marcellus. After a failed attempt at provoking discussion about the landmark documentary Shoah -- which he called a "fraudulent film" -- Smith promoted a critique of "the Dachau gas chamber hoax, the Jews-made-into-soap hoax and the Elie Wiesel hoax about how Jewish cadavers are supposed to be able to spurt 'geysers of blood' from their graves." By 1993, IHR was claiming that Smith had appeared on "more than three hundred" radio and television shows.

For reasons unclear, in 1993 the IHR ceased referring to Smith as the director of its Media Project and stopped including updates on the Media Project in its publications. At the time, IHR was embroiled in a costly lawsuit with its founder, Willis Carto, whom the board of directors had recently ousted; it may be that, deprived of Carto's financial resources, IHR was forced to cancel the Media Project due to a lack of funds. To date, it does not appear that Smith has held any other official positions in IHR; nevertheless, he has continued playing important roles in IHR's revisionist conferences and, according to some reports, IHR has provided occasional monetary assistance to CODOH.

The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust

In 1987, while serving as the director of IHR's Media Project, Smith, along with IHR Editorial Advisor Mark Weber, founded the Committee for Open Debate of the Holocaust -- a somewhat misleading name, for the two "directors" were the only members of the "Committee" (Weber has since left). Its stated goal was to "encourage public awareness of the controversy that has developed about the truthfulness of the claims that Germans systematically exterminated some six million European Jews during the Second World War."

CODOH was initially funded by William Curry, a now-deceased Nebraska businessman and self-proclaimed "anti-Zionist" who used his wealth to disseminate two beliefs: that Israel has no right to exist and that the Holocaust was nothing but "World War II propaganda." Curry was not only the financial patron of CODOH (and of IHR, as well); he was also apparently the inspiration for the methods it employed. In November 1986 he attempted to purchase space for a full-page ad denying the Nazi extermination of six million Jews in the Daily Nebraskan, the University of Nebraska's student newspaper. The paper refused to run the ad. Curry also unsuccessfully offered $5,000 to the university to pay for a speaker who would debate Holocaust "revisionist" theory at an academic Holocaust conference that the university had planned. In addition, Curry was a prolific letter-writer, attempting to publish his views on Israel and the Holocaust in newspapers such as the Omaha World-Herald, the Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star, and the New York Daily News. Finally, in some cases he disseminated his ideas through mass mailings; late in a 1982 Senate campaign he mailed an article to thousands of residents of the 40th legislative district of Nebraska attempting to defame one of the candidates as a "Zionist." These four tools -- purchasing ad space in student newspapers, sponsoring debates, writing letters to the editor and sending direct mail -- were all adopted by CODOH in its attempt to spread Holocaust denial throughout the United States.

The Campus Project

CODOH's most ambitious and important effort was its Campus Project, a semiannual campaign undertaken by Smith to place Holocaust-denying advertisements in college newspapers. Since 1991 he conducted eight major campaigns, each one featuring an ad of his own composition. His first major offering in a student paper was headlined: "The Holocaust Story: How Much is False? The Case for Open Debate." In the text, Smith railed against "thought police" and the "politically correct," and argued that students and professors should "be free to investigate the Holocaust story in the same way they are free to examine every other historical event." The themes in his other ads have included similar calls for "free inquiry" into the Holocaust, while denouncing attempts to "censor" Holocaust deniers (1991); attempts to discredit photographs, documents and eyewitnesses (1991-1992); and attacks on Elie Wiesel (1999-2000), the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (1994-1995), the Simon Wiesenthal Center (2000-2001) and mainstream historians who study the Holocaust (1992-1993) (all of the ads have included the address of the CODOH internet site, which contains a library of Holocaust denial literature as well as links to other Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic sites). Two of his ads posed public challenges: in 1998 he announced a $100,000 cash award for anyone who could arrange a prime time network broadcast of a video on the "disputed Auschwitz 'gas chamber'" produced by his prot�g�, David Cole. In 1999 he upped the ante to $250,000 for anyone who could arrange a prime-time debate with a representative of the Anti-Defamation League, to be broadcast on a national network. Neither of these challenges met with success.

Smith's first ad was submitted in the fall of 1991 to the student newspapers of about 40 of the nation's larger colleges. More than half the schools rejected the ad outright. Over the course of several months, however, enough papers ran the ad to trigger nationwide controversy. The New York Times and The Washington Post weighed in with editorials, and many of the nation's prominent columnists produced op-eds on the subject. Public sentiment, as reflected by the media, was mixed. Most applauded those college editors who had refused the ad, which was almost universally recognized as a piece of specious anti-Semitic propaganda; some defended the editors, however, claiming that despite its offensiveness, newspaper editors had a First Amendment obligation to print the ad. Furthermore, they argued that the best way of discrediting the views of Holocaust deniers was to publicize them and expose them to rational criticism.

Decline of the Campus Project

After 1991 Smith was unable to attract the national coverage that his cause received during his first campaign, and he became dissatisfied with his operation. In the January 2001 edition of his occasional newsletter, Smith's Report, he admitted that the Campus Project "has been in decline for perhaps the last three years." Although he reported that his 1999-2000 ad ran in almost 70 newspapers, his 2000-2001 ad received only a handful of acceptances, and he acknowledged that "the big state universities have been declining our ads at an increasing rate over the last three years. The mainline press reports on the Project with diminishing frequency. Mainline media seldom call any longer. The colleges that do run our ads are increasingly small, isolated, and unimportant."

Smith attributed his lessening effectiveness not to increasingly savvy student communities, but to an organized attempt at repression. In a column that reflects his conspiratorial megalomania, Smith wrote:

The Industry has all the money, all the press, all the professors and all the politicos. None of us can go head to head with the Industry. CODOH is in a guerilla war... [and is composed of] a small band of idealists struggling to overturn a great tyranny. That's what the Industry is, an agent for great cultural and military tyranny. It promotes and legitimates cultural tyranny in the nations of the West, and military tyranny in the Middle East....The display-ad tactic has become what CODOH tactics must never become--predictable. The Industry understands what we are going to do each academic year, and when we are going to do it, and it is prepared for us. Almost everywhere I probe with the display ads, I'm being stopped in my tracks....I'm being neutralized....They are on to [my] game plan....

As a result, Smith said that he decided to change his strategy. Instead of his regular ads, he intended to rely on subtler, op-ed-style pieces, which would deal with Holocaust denial in a more oblique fashion, and which he would "frequently" submit to the "300 biggest and best universities in the land." Substantive obstacles notwithstanding, Smith's plan would save him the expenses of an ad campaign. In addition, he said that he planned to branch out into the commercial press as well (at the time he had already published one piece ("Hard to Know What's Right and Wrong"), combining anti-Israel polemic with Holocaust denial, in a January 2001 issue of The Asian Reporter).

Smith was disappointed, however, when he found that there was almost no interest in these his articles. He eventually abandoned this approach as well, and for a time limited his activity to posting occasional pieces of Holocaust denial or anti-Israel propaganda on his Web site.

Break His Bones and the Campaign to Decriminalize Holocaust History

In October 2002 Smith self-published an autobiographical work entitled Break His Bones: The Private Life of a Holocaust Revisionist, which consists largely of recycled essays on his life, Holocaust denial and free speech that have been available at various locations on the Internet for years. To help promote the book he launched a now-defunct Web site (breakhisbones.com); he also sought to promote his book through ads in campus newspapers, but soon reported that many were being rejected by editorial staff.

Realizing, perhaps, that the agenda of his Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust had become too well-known to allow him easy entr�e to campuses and student newspapers, Smith took down the previous Internet home of his Campus Project (at CODOH.org), and started anew with a "Campaign to Decriminalize Holocaust History" (CDHH). With CDHH Smith is taking his greatest pains yet to portray himself as a free speech advocate. With a dense, 13,000-word essay entitled "No one should be imprisoned for writing a book" at their core, Smith's new efforts focus on the legislation that some European countries have enacted to prohibit extremist attempts to deny the Holocaust and demonize Jews; he charges that this legislation turns innocent historians and researchers into "thought criminals" and alleges, based on an obscure paper presented at a 1988 academic legal conference, that such legislation is even now being prepared for enactment in the United States.

In 2004 Smith attempted, with limited success, to bring his newly focused message to college campuses. In several instances he was able to arrange to speak on campuses in Southern California. But despite Smith's public claim that his goal is merely to awaken students to the value of "dissident history" and free speech, privately Smith admits that his attempt to refocus the debate away from Holocaust denial is a ruse. His newsletters are peppered with assurances to his readership of hard-core Holocaust deniers that "promoting [Break His] Bones is promoting revisionism because there is no light between the two." In the company of his fellow Holocaust deniers, Smith even admits that he carefully constructs his campus speeches to minimize the possibility of disagreement with his ideas. In a lecture he gave at an April 2004 convention of the Institute for Historical Review and the neo-Nazi National Alliance, Smith said that he his stump campus speech is constructed "as simpl[y] as possible�to set [the issues] up in a way that could not really be debated."

It appears that Smith has underestimated the students he is attempting to reach. Student newspaper accounts of two of his CDHH campus appearances so far (in April 2004, at San Jose State University and California State University at Chico) quoted attendees who characterized his presentation as "weak," and who saw through his attempt at "using the First Amendment as a clever shield to hide his hate messages."

Smith also promotes his book through an occasional electronic newsletter, Outlaw History: The Newsletter, which he founded in September 2004.

Smith's Motives

There is some indication that Smith continues to peddle his Holocaust denial on campuses because it is his only means of financial support. In Break His Bones Smith, now in his seventies, writes that even as a younger man he had developed health problems and "couldn't do real work." Though he had aspired to be a writer, he recognized that he "couldn't make a living writing about the gas chamber hoax." So he solicited donations for campus speaking tours:

It wasn't long ago when I was ten thousand dollars in debt and sinking�.In desperation I mailed out a solicitation begging for money, promising I would use part of it to get college speaking dates to talk about Holocaust revisionism. Within a month I'd gotten enough money to pay off my debts. One man alone sent me 2,000 dollars. I couldn't believe it.

For the most part, however, Smith prefers to present himself as a crusading advocate for free speech and free debate. He characterized his CODOH operation by saying, "I run ads in college newspapers encouraging students and professors alike to take seriously the great ideal of Western culture, intellectual freedom -- even with regard to the Holocaust controversy." He maintains that freedom of expression is one of the defining values of his life, and to prove his free speech bona fides he often recalls that in 1960 he was "arrested, jailed, tried and convicted" for "refusing to remove Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer from the display window" of his bookstore, and for "selling a copy of the book to an undercover police officer."

In public, Smith often presents himself as an agnostic on the factuality of the Holocaust, adding earnest-sounding fillips to his writings like "I'm willing to be convinced I'm wrong about the gas chambers," "I don't care anymore who's right or wrong about the gas chamber stories," and "authentic physical remains or wartime-generated documents would do the trick." These statements are belied, however, by his emphatic printed references to the "gas chamber hoax" and the "monstrous falsehoods" propagated by the "Holocaust industry." Like every other denier, Smith dismisses the records of World War II, including thousands of documents that were used immediately after the war in the Nuremberg trials, as having been forged by a secret committee; he rejects survivors as greedy charlatans; he even claims that American GI's who saw the death apparatus in the camps were duped by the American military itself, which was also complicit in the conspiracy.

While he tries to avoid explicit racism or anti-Semitism (when accused of bias he responds with ersatz Whitmanesque tributes to universal love and mentions that his current wife is Mexican), an examination of his writings betrays an angry anti-Semitism. He describes the survivor stories as self-punishing reveries, wondering "what is there about sado-masochism that gives it such appeal among so many Jews?" and musing about "Israeli-Jewish 'Samson' and 'Masada' complexes." He describes Hillel as "the leading private Jewish intelligence agency on college campuses," whose rabbis have "broad political agendas but no spiritual one," are "sweaty with self-righteousness and bad faith," and harbor a "lust to control the thoughts of others." Referring to Simon Wiesenthal, the well-known Nazi hunter, Smith writes:

Why Christians or anyone else put up with this vulgar man, his idiotic pronouncements and his lying accusations is beyond me. But it is plain that in this affair Christian intellect has been challenged and found wanting. Christian good sense has been questioned and has closeted itself. And Christian charity, faced with accusations of inhumanity in its own community beyond the imaginings of anyone this side of the 7th Century, has refused its generosity, and its humaneness, to Germans because it has been urged to do so by charlatans such as Simon Wiesenthal and the demonstrable frauds who associate with him.

The passage is vintage Bradley Smith in its flashes of simmering anger and ominous conspiratorial implication.

In recent years Smith's distaste for the state of Israel has increasingly informed his "revisionist" propaganda. Smith writes that Israel was founded on "a mountain of fraud and greed," and claims that Israel is seeking to "destroy Palestinian culture and hold the Palestinian people in racist subjugation." To Smith, the Holocaust "gas chamber fraud" and its Jewish inventors are responsible for global terrorism, the Middle East conflict, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. As Smith wrote in a September 2004 edition of his Outlaw History newsletter:

[T]here would be no moral justification for war in Iraq without 9/11. There would be no moral justification for 9/11 without the U.S. alliance with Israel. No moral justification for the U.S. alliance with Israel without the Holocaust story. And no Holocaust story without the "gas chambers." The irony being that revisionists have shown that the gas-chamber stories cannot be demonstrated to have existed.

Most troublingly, Smith appears to recognize that his denial of the Holocaust itself contributes to anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence, especially in the Arab world. Smith writes that Holocaust deniers "understand that [telling] the truth about the gas chambers �will result in Arab fanatics having yet one more moral justification for killing innocent, unarmed Jews." Yet Smith and his cohorts continue to disseminate their lies anyway.


1Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist, Pt. 1 (Ann Arbor, 1992). 2In 1980 the Institute for Historical Review offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who could prove that Jews had been gassed at Auschwitz. Holocaust survivor Mel Mermelstein, of Long Beach, California, took up the IHR challenge and submitted his evidence. When the IHR failed to comply with its promised terms, Mermelstein filed suit to collect the reward. In July 1985 the lawsuit was settled in favor of Mermelstein. The settlement, approved by Judge Robert Wenke of the Los Angeles Superior Court, called for the IHR to pay Mermelstein the $50,000 "reward" it had offered for proof of the Nazi genocide, and to pay an additional $40,000 for the pain and suffering caused to Mermelstein. A pre-trial determination had taken judicial notice of the fact of the gassing of Jews at Auschwitz.
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