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Pat Buchanan and the Holocaust

by Jamie McCarthy

In his New York Post column of March 17, 1990, Patrick Buchanan wrote:

Since the war, 1,600 medical papers have been written on "The Psychological and Medical Effects of the Concentration Camps on Holocaust Survivors."

This so-called "Holocaust Survivor Syndrome" involves "group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics." Reportedly, half the 20,000 survivor testimonies in Jerusalem are considered "unreliable," not to be used in trials.

Finally, the death engine. During the war, the underground government of the Warsaw Ghetto reported to London that the Jews of Treblinka were being electrocuted and steamed to death.

The Israeli court, however, concluded the murder weapon for 850,000 was the diesel engine from a Soviet tank which drove its exhaust into the death chamber. All died in 20 minutes, Finkelstein swore in 1945.

The problem is: Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody. In 1988, 97 kids, trapped 400 feet underground in a Washington, D.C., tunnel while two locomotives spewed diesel exhaust into the car, emerged unharmed after 45 minutes.

Demjanjuk's weapon of mass murder cannot kill.

Patrick Buchanan has come to a preposterous conclusion based on incorrect facts. That the Nazis used engines as weapons of mass murder is not in doubt; see for example the letter to Himmler's staff describing a gassing van, or the horribly detailed letter to Rauff describing how gassing vans were used to exterminate 97,000 people. (Mobile vans were used first; the vans were made stationery at the Chelmno camp; and special chambers were built at the Reinhard camps, including Treblinka.)

Let's look first at his claim about diesel engines. Many things are wrong with the diesel argument, and this will be the topic of a future webpage at this site. Here is the quickest way to debunk the claim: if the operator of the diesel engine races it up to high RPM and then restricts the air intake, the engine can be made to run arbitrarily rich, producing extremely low levels of oxygen.

The victims at the Reinhard camps were suffocated to death, not killed with carbon monoxide, because, although an intentionally-mistuned diesel produces enough carbon monoxide to kill you, the lack of oxygen will kill you first.

A properly-tuned diesel engine running at idle cannot kill: this is true. But unlike the locomotive engineer in Buchanan's example, who was concerned with saving the lives of trapped people, the Nazis had no qualms about opening the engine's throttle and restricting the air intake.

Buchanan's incorrect conclusion is one thing; people are sometimes wrong. But now the question must be raised: where did he get his facts? Who told him that the deaths of 850,000 people (in fact, between 1.5 and 2.0 million people, because all Reinhard camps used similar murder weapons) were imaginary?

According to Jacob Weisberg, in his article "The Heresies of Pat Buchanan" in the October 22, 1990 issue of The New Republic:

Buchanan stands by his bizarre claim about the diesel engines, but refuses to discuss it on the record. Suffice it to say that he embraces a bolder debunking claim than he is yet willing to endorse in print. ... Where did he get the anecdote [about the children in the tunnel]? "Somebody sent it to me."

Who that "somebody" is will probably never be known. But we can make an excellent guess at the "it" that was "sent."

Buchanan's source was almost certainly the July 1988 issue of a small (six-page) pamphlet: the G.I.E.A. Newsletter of the German American Information and Education Association (P.O. Box 23169, Washington D.C., 20026). The agenda of this newsletter becomes clear on page two:

The May Newsletter which discusses the Holocaust Museum continues to generate the greatest response. Approximately 95% of the response has been favorable; 5% negative. Evidently, that museum has a lot of people stirred up. It is obvious that the issue that sticks in the craw of so many is the hypocrisy blatantly displayed and practiced by the American Jewish community.

It is very clear that if enough people would write their senators and congressman [sic], and demand that rooms be set aside for other holocausts, something could be accomplished. Write them and point out that the German people were "holocausted" after WW II, especially by the Bolshevics, originally a Jewish/Zionist movement.

The Palestinians daily suffer terrible persecution with their civil and human rights being trampled upon by the State of Israel. Even the United Methodist Church condemned "Israel's current iron-fist policy ... is totally unacceptable as civilized behavior." The Church's reproach against Israel... [etc.]

On page five is a photocopy of a Washington Post article on May 13, 1988: "5th Graders' Trip Turns to Terror in Train Tunnel." Above the article is typed "For the inevitable victory of decency, free speech, and historical truth!" Below it is written (and I've reproduced the typos and other errors):


Nothing surprising about this, we would say, since it has been long known that the exhaust from Diesel engines is, though malodorous, not especially toxic. But why ist this of relevance to a German-American organization? And why this mailing?

Because our children are still being poisoned by the loathsome Zionist "Holocaust" story, and:

* Because, despite the of hundreds movies, books, TV docu-dramas, "eyewitness-testimonies" and warcrimes trial "evidence" -

1. No one any longer claims "gassing" in the camps inside the German Reich (Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, Ravensbrueck, etc.). In fact,a recently brought forward allied investigatory document reveals the authorities knew the stories were false as early as 1948.

2. The Auschwitz/Birkenau (and related Majdanek) "gas chamber" story, the very cornerstone of the entire "Holocaust" legend (though long discounted by the sophisticated), has just been dealt the final death blow. In Toronto on April 20th, 1988, Mr. Fred Leuchter, an American engineer with over 25 years of experience in the design and construction of gas chamber for execution of criminals...

At this point it's obvious where the article is going. Discredited Fred Leuchter is cited as authoritative. The remainder of page five and all of page six is devoted to Holocaust-denial. One assumes that this particular section would have caught Buchanan's eye, considering that his cause at the time was exonerating Nazi SS member John Demjanjuk:

...that the ruthlessly efficient, evil Germans Exterminated Millions of Jews at three tiny (and long since virtually vanished) transit camps near the Polish Eastern border (Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka) - - and did so (though some early versions referred to "steam" or "suffocation") by means of DIESEL EXHAUST "from a Russian T-34 tank". (One assumes the tank was operated by John Demjanjuk, who no doubt clubbed the "950,000" victims of Treblinka into the "gas chamber", and then sprinted around the back, lept into his tank, and started 'er up!)

I am not aware of this May 13, 1988 article being cited in any Holocaust-denial material other than this newsletter. It looks, therefore, suspiciously like it was this newsletter that Buchanan received in the mail and, accepting its claims as true, reprinted them in his nationally-syndicated column.

Now let's turn to Buchanan's claims about unreliable testimony of Holocaust survivors. He writes:

..."Holocaust Survivor Syndrome" involves "group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics." Reportedly, half the 20,000 survivor testimonies in Jerusalem are considered "unreliable"...

There is no need to hunt for Buchanan's sources on these statements. They have been staples of Holocaust-denial for many years. The source is the Director of the Yad Vashem archives in Jerusalem, Shmuel Krakowski.

Krakowski was misquoted in an article in the Jerusalem Post on August 17, 1986. It read:

Over half of the 20,000 testimonies from Holocaust survivors on record at Yad Vashem are "unreliable" and have never been used as evidence in Nazi war crimes trials, Yad Vashem Archives director Shmuel Krakowski has told The Jerusalem Post.

"A large number of testimonies on file were later proved inaccurate when locations and dates could not pass an expert historian's appraisal," he said

On the same day this article appeared, Krakowski sent a shocked protest, which appeared on August 22:

To the Editor of the Jerusalem Post

Sir, - I was deeply astonished to read Barbara Amouyal's front-page article of August 17, which is based in part on an interview with me.

Many hundreds of the 20,000 testimonies held in our archives were extensively used in Nazi war criminal trials, contrary to what Amouyal wrote.

I told Amouyal that survivors wrote their accounts for the record of history. I cannot understand why she made of it that survivors wanted "to be part of history".

I said there are some - fortunately very few - testimonies, which proved to be inaccurate. Why did Amouyal make them out to be a large number?

Regarding the final remark, I did not receive any "orders" not to discuss the Demjanjuk case. I simply refused to discuss it with Amouyal.

Shumel Krakowski,
Yad Vashem Archives

How would Buchanan have seen the inaccurate article and not noticed the immediate retraction? It's possible he read it only second-hand. As Holocaust-denier Bradley Smith admitted in 1995, the original had "made the rounds in revisionist circles" for many years (but the retraction of course had not):

I hadn't known Krakowski replied to Amouyal's column until I read his letter on the Internet. Krakowski had replied in 1986 but I didn't learn of it until 1994. I don't know why. Maybe revisionists were more interested in circulating the Amouyal column than they were Krakowski's response to it. Revisionists are human too. The Amouyal column that made the rounds in revisionist circles was published in the weekly International Edition of the Jerusalem Post.

Whether Patrick Buchanan is a Holocaust-denier, or merely a journalist who let his biases convince him to pass on rabid antisemitism as truth, is left as an exercise for the reader. But remember Jacob Weisberg's cryptic comment, presumably based on comments made off the record, that Buchanan "embraces a bolder debunking claim than he is yet willing to endorse in print." Also note that the only letter to the New Republic protesting Weisberg's article was written by Mona Charen; her letter was entirely rhetorical and contested none of the facts.

(This webpage is a revised version of an essay I wrote in 1995.)


Last modified: September 15, 1999
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