A Split in the Ranks of the Holocaust Denial Movement
Printed in the United States of America
David EI. Strassler, National Chairman
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director
Howard P. Berkowitz, Chairman, National Executive Committee
Peter T. Willner, Chief Operating Officer
Robert G. Sugarman, Chairman, Civil Rights Committee
Jeffrey P. Sinensky, Director, Civil Rights Division
Gary Zaslav ,Chairman,Fact Finding and Research Committee
This publication was made possible through a generous grant from the
This publication was prepared by Rebecca N. Kaufinan, Research Analyst,
Research and Evaluation Department. Edited by Alan M. Schwartz, Director,
Research and Evaluation Department.
Power Struggle ........................................................1
Background: IHR, Carto, and the Holocaust Denial Movement .............2
Mutiny at the IHR .....................................................3
Carto's Reaction ......................................................4
Aftermath of the "Battle" .............................................5
New Voice of Extremism ................................................5
Blaming the Jews, Again ...............................................6
Conclusion: Effect of the Conflict on the Holocaust Denial Movement ...6
A Split in the Ranks of the Holocaust Denial Movement
A bitter dispute has recently engulfed the Holocaust denial movement
in the United States, resulting in a split in the ranks of its main
propaganda outlet, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a pseudo-
academic institution whose business is peddling hateful lies. Within the
past year the feud has included these dramatic events: lawsuits filed by
IHR's founder against several IHR staffers, their countersuit against him,
his issuing of a new, competing Holocaust denial publication, and a
violent physical altercation at the IHR office between the two factions.
It is unclear what the schism will ultimately mean for this insidious
The Institute for Historical Review is the primary force in the
international anti-Semitic propaganda movement known as Holocaust denial.
Through its publications and periodic conferences, the IHR has attempted
to garner scholarly respectability and popular visibility for what it
claims to be historical "revisionism." [See ADL report Hitler's
Apologists: The Anti-Semitic Propaganda of Holocaust "Revisionism"
Since 1979, the IHR has enjoyed increased attention within the extremist
community, despite significant legal and financial setbacks. The best
known of these reversals occurred in 1985 when IHR agreed in a court-
approved settlement to pay $90,000 to Mel Mermelstein, an Auschwitz
concentration camp survivor. Mermelstein had sued the organization for
failing to pay him a $50,000 "reward" it had offered for "proof" that
the Nazis operated execution gas chambers at the concentration camps
Ironically, the Mermelstein case and other financial difficulties, such
as a 1984 fire at IHR headquarters, are not responsible for the most
serious problem facing the group. It seems that after a decade and a
half of nefarious activity, the IHR's most formidable challenge is a
conflict between its founder and its own activists.
IHR's internal politics are as contentious as its "revisionist" theories
about the Holocaust are hateful and absurd. Recently, a power struggle
within IHR culminated in the ousting of the group's founder, the longtime
anti-Semite Willis Carto. Carto -- who has lamented Hitler's defeat at the
hands of the "International Jews" -- was ejected as IHR's leader in
September 1993 after the Institute's editorial staff and board of directors
voted to terminate association with him.
A month later, on October 15, Carto unsuccessfully tried physically to
"retake" the IHR building and was dragged from the premises by the police
as he reportedly screamed, "You're killing me." The scuffle then moved
into the courtroom, where lawsuits and countersuits have been filed
regarding who would head the organization. The victor would not only
control IHR, but also a bequest of $10 million in stock share certificates
from the late granddaughter of the inventor Thomas Edison. A key figure in
the coup against Carto summed up the imbroglio by stating, "I think it's
all about money."
Background: IHR. Carto and the Holocaust Denial Movement
The Institute for Historical Review was founded by Willis Carto in 1979
and is currently based in Newport Beach, California. In 1980, Carto and his
wife, Elisabeth, filed for IHR's business license under the title "Legion
for the Survival of Freedom, Inc." doing business as "The Noontide
Press/Institute for Historical Review."
Three motivations animate the propaganda of the Holocaust denial movement:
(1) the rehabilitation of Hitler and Nazi ideology; (2) the promotion of
new formulations to express traditional anti-Jewish conspiracy theories,
and (3) the undermining of the moral legitimacy of the State of Israel.
IHR materials and activities clearly reflect these themes.
Willis Carto, 67, began peddling anti-Semitism and extremism more than
two decades before the inception of IHR. Liberty Lobby, founded in 1955
and currently the nation's largest anti-Jewish propaganda organization,
was also the brainchild of Carto and continues to be his chief propaganda
vehicle. Carto additionally founded the far-right Populist Party in 1983;
in 1988, the party ran as its presidential candidate the former neo-Nazi
and Klan leader David Duke. (Duke received 47,047 votes from eleven states
in this campaign.) Since the 1988 election, the Populist Party, like IHR,
has broken with Carto; it nonetheless continues to promote the same
extremist agenda. Until the IHR/Carto schism in 1993, Liberty Lobby
promoted IHR and Holocaust denial in its weekly newspaper, The Spotlight.
Recent issues of The Spotlight - which has been estimated to have a
circulation of nearly 100,000 -- vilify IHR and refer to its leaders as
The IHR, whose membership is comprised of pseudo-academics and veteran
hate propagandists, attempts to operate under the guise of scholarship. It
publishes a bi-monthly glossy magazine, The Journal of Historical Review,
and holds annual conventions where self styled "revisionist historians"
present papers on a variety of subjects -- but the agenda caters on
debunking the Holocaust. Regular speakers have included:
* Robert Faurisson, a former University of Lyon (France)
literature professor who was convicted and fined in French
courts in July 1983 and April 1991 for promoting racism and
denying the reality of the Holocaust.
* Ditlieb Felderer of Sweden, who claims that Anne Frank's diary
is a hoax and who was convicted in May 1983 by a Swedish court
for distributing anti-Semitic hate mail, including locks of hair
and pieces of fat which he alleged belonged to Holocaust victims.
* British author David Irving, who has described himself as a "mild
fascist," and who has commented, "Without Hitler, the State of
Israel probably would not exist today, so to that extent he was
probably the Jews' greatest friend."
* Dr. Arthur Butz of Northwestern University, a professor of
electrical engineering and computer science who wrote The Hoax
of the Twentieth Century, one of the first Holocaust-denying
* The late Ivor Benson, a one-time politician in Rhodesia
(now Zimbabwe) and pro Apartheid activist.
The nature of the conventions and publications indicates that IHR is clearly
less concerned with historical truth than it is with promoting anti-Semitism.
Holocaust denial depends on the embrace of a mass conspiracy theory -- the
allegation that Jews, academics, historians and others falsified or
maliciously distorted all testimonies, reports and pictures of the
Holocaust. Holocaust deniers explain Jewish motivation behind the "Zionist
conspiracy" as a means to gain power and influence. In Carto's opening
speech to the 1981 IHR convention, he asserted that "Zionists" are
"predators" who exploit the "guilt" of Western society and "offer us
expiation for the sins of our fathers by giving us the magnificent
opportunity to contribute to the building of God's promised land for God's
chosen people with our tax money." The IHR's game plan is simple;
by legitimizing "debate" over the settled historical veracity of the
Holocaust, deniers hope to sow the seed of doubt, which in turn will foster
anti-Semitism in the form of resentment against those who have promoted
this "hoax": the Jews.
Mutiny at the IHR
On October 4, 1993, according to court records, Willis Carto received a
letter signed by four senior staff members of The Journal of Historical
Review (Thomas Marcellus, Mark Weber, Ted O'Keefe and Greg Raven)
announcing that the IHR was "firing" him. Although Carto, in a court
document, contended that he had "no inkling of their conspiracy to take
over," trouble between Carto and his staffers reportedly had been building
for some time. Carto's reputed highhandedness towards his employees and
associates appears to be the primary reason for his ouster, in addition to
several reasons listed by Marcellus in a court declaration, including:
Elisabeth Carto's purchase of a new Cadillac with IHR funds; Carto's
frugality in taking out an insufficient insurance policy (a 1984 fire had
destroyed the IHR warehouse and offices and the $50,000 insurance policy
purchased by Carto covered only a fraction of the damage); his skimping on
pay and health benefits; and his "launching and subsequent mishandling of
the reward offer" in the Mel Mermelstein affair.
Marcellus asserted, moreover, that the primary point of contention rested
on the editorial direction of The Journal of Historical Review. To the
editorial staffs dismay, Carto allegedly wanted to reduce Holocaust denial
features -- the publication's stock in trade -- by 80%, eventually to
abandon the issue along with the name of the journal entirely. Furthermore,
Marcellus accused Carto of trying to turn the journal into a "racist"
and "Nazi" publication -- as if the IHR's Holocaust-denial agenda weren't
inherently anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi from the outset. Carto, of course,
denies the allegations against him and insists that the rebellious staff
members were manipulated by "sinister forces," as he put it in a letter
to Holocaust denier Arthur Butz. This letter was included in a mailing
from Carto to IHR contributors and contained attacks on ADL and Mel
In light of the tension between Carto and the staffers, Marcellus and
O'Keefe decided to take the issue to the board of the Legion for the
Survival of Freedom, Inc., IHR's parent organization. According to the Los
Angeles Times (May 8, 1994) Marcellus described their decision in a court
declaration: "Having suffered Carto's machinations, hair-brained [sic]
schemes, mismanagement, insults and irrationality long enough, the senior
staff met to determine the course of action to stop Carto from taking harmful
actions." It was alleged that the Legion for the Survival of Freedom, Inc.,
had listed a corporate director who had been dead for five years; that the
board had never met, and that Willis Carto was the sole and controlling
voice in the corporation.
Most importantly, at stake in this controversy was over $10 million in
stock certificates bequeathed to the Legion by Jean Farrel, the granddaughter
of Thomas Edison. The summer before the October "coup," Marcellus reportedly
discovered a $100,000 bank order for Carto's Liberty Lobby, drawn from the
Jean Farrel bequest. According to Marcellus, Carto directed his wife to set
up a corporation for the sole purpose of controlling the money and loaning
it back to the Legion -- thus making the Legion a less attractive target for
potential lawsuits. Because the IHR advertised itself as the Legion, the
senior staffers demanded control of the money Mrs. Farrel had bequeathed
to the parent company.
After discovering and exposing Carto's alleged business improprieties, the
staffers and their lawyer, William Hulsy, reportedly convinced two elderly
directors of the board of the Legion to resign. The remaining third member,
Thomas Kerr, appointed a new board which subsequently voted to terminate all
association with Carto. Kerr later contended that he was "misled as to the
facts" by the rebel staffers, and later rejoined the Cartos in a suit
against the Legion.
After receiving his letter of dismissal, according to a Carto mailing sent
to IHR contributors, Carto negotiated with Marcellus and O'Keefe to meet
with them on October 15 at Hulsey's office to go over all of the corporate
documents. Carto apparently failed to show at the meeting and instead went
to IHR headquarters, from which, according to his mailing, he sent a fax to
Hulsey's office notifying him that he was "now in control of the IHR
office." According to the Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1994, those present at
IHR when Carto arrived allege that Carto, his wife, and three other people
started to disconnect telephones, change locks, and tamper with computers.
The editors and Hulsey went to IHR, where a fracas ensued. The Los Angeles
Times reported an account of the events as follows:
"It was hard to keep from laughing," recalled Hulsey, the staff
attorney who raced to the office after receiving the faxed
declaration of war. "Who would control the headquarters? The staff
arrives, forces the door and then fistfights start breaking out all
Eventually police arrived and Carto was arrested along with some
of the other staff members. Charges were never filed against any
Hulsey's last memory of the melee is an indelible image of Willis
Carto with one foot wedged in the door. Nearby a staff editor
brandished a gun to break up a wrestling match on the floor.
Meanwhile, other institute historians were struggling mightily to
shove Carto out of the door.
The founder's screams filled the room: "You're killing me!"
Aftermath of the "Battle"
Carto's efforts to regain power over the Legion and IHR moved to the legal
arena. Thomas Kerr and Elisabeth Carto filed suit against the Legion for
the Survival of Freedom (which now included O'Keefe, Marcellus, Weber, and
Raven), and, in turn, the Legion filed suit against the Foundation to
Defend the First Amendment (which included Willis and Elisabeth Carto).
On August 3, 1994, William Hulsy, counsel for the Legion, told the court
that a settlement had been reached, that neither side would take anything
from one another, and the cases were dismissed.
The Carto/IHR feud, however, rages on. According to the August 15, 1994
issue of The Spotlight, the IHR filed another lawsuit against Carto, this
time with Liberty Lobby as co-defendant, in order to "gain control of
purported financial assets they claim belong to a bogus IHR 'board of
directors' that the conspirators themselves appointed." Subsequently,
according to a September 12, 1994 issue of The Spotlight, Carto filed
another lawsuit against "the bogus directors [of IHR] forbidding them to
continue fraudulently acting as directors."
Carto has also waged a letter-writing campaign against the "conspirators."
Carto pleaded his case to IHR contributors on stationery with IHR
letterhead, listing as an address a P.O. Box in Torrance, California,
which, incidentally, he claims to be the "original and historic address
for the IHR since the beginning."
New Voice of Extremism
The Spotlight -- which continues to be overseen by Carto and used as his
vehicle for attack -- recently announced in an August 1994 issue the debut
of a new Holocaust denial publication to compete with The Journal of
Historical Review. The Barnes Review -- named in honor of the late Harry
Elmer Barnes, the original revisionist historian of WWI who in his
senescence became closely allied with Carto and other Nazi sympathizers --
will be assisted by the staff of The Spotlight, according to an editorial
by Carto. The proposed topics which Carto announced would be examined in
forthcoming issues of the new publication included: "The truth about
Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court's desegregation ruling in Brown vs.
Board of Education"; "The Federal Reserve--a bankers' conspiracy"; "The
mixing of the races in history--what are the results?"; and "What happened
to the Cro-Magnons and the Neanderthals? Are remnants of these ancient
people living in our world today?" Such features appear to confirm
allegations made by the rebel staffers against Carto: that Carto intended
to replace Holocaust denial articles in The Journal of Historical Review
with more overt racist and nationalist propaganda.
Blaming the Jews. Again
Carto is promoting a conspiracy theory that he hopes will downplay the
allegations against him and instead focus on longtime adversaries of IHR
and Liberty Lobby. He contends that, among others, the Anti-Defamation
League, "forces of political Zionism," and even the Church of Scientology,
with which Marcellus is associated, are responsible for his estrangement
from IHR. An August 15, 1994 issue of The Spotlight claims "the IHR coup
was, in fact, simply a first step in the ultimate goal of the ADL,
destruction of Liberty Lobby and The Spotlight." Carto explained his
conspiracy theory in an open March 4, 1994, letter to IHR Editorial
Advisory Committee member Arthur Butz, "Simply put, what is happening to
the IHR is the fourth attempt by its enemies to destroy it ... There is not
the slightest doubt in my mind but that the ADL and/or other forces of
political Zionism are behind this ..."
Conclusion: Effect of the Conflict on the Holocaust Denial Movement
The impact of the IHR conflict on the Holocaust denial movement's
direction and viability remains to be seen. But even if IHR and Carto
continue down a self-destructive path, the movement will certainly not
fold. Holocaust denial remains a propaganda mainstay for several other
extremist figures in the United States, including :
* George Dietz, publisher of Liberty Bell, a gutter level,
pro-Hitler monthly publication;
* Arthur Butz, the previously mentioned Northwestern University
professor of electrical engineering who wrote The Hoax of the
* Bradley Smith of the "Committee for Open Debate on the
Holocaust," an organization which continues to place in college
newspapers advertisements that deny the Nazi murder of six i
* Jack Wikoff, a self-proclaimed white separatist who started his
own anti-Semitic "revisionist" periodical, Remarks, in August 1990;
* Charles Weber, founder of the one-person Committee for the
Reexamination of the History of the Second World War and
contributor of several articles to the publications of well
known hate groups;
* Gary Lauck, the leading supplier of Neo-Nazi propaganda abroad, and
* Hans Schmidt, who founded the German-American National Political
Action Committee to promote Holocaust "revisionism" and to fight
what it perceives to be an anti-German sentiment on television
and in the news.
In addition, certain Black extremists in the United States have ridiculed
and sought to cast doubt upon the horrors of the Holocaust. [See ADL
report "Uncommon Ground: The Black African Holocaust Council and
Other Links Between White and Black Extremists" (1994)]
Furthermore, this brand of "revisionism" extends well beyond the United
States. In Canada, Ernst Christof Friedrich Zundel has been an active
pro-Nazi propagandist for over two decades. His materials defending Hitler
and the Third Reich and denying the Holocaust have been mailed to numerous
individuals in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. French
Revisionists include the aforementioned Robert Faurisson, and Henri Roques,
who became the center of a controversy for submitting a Holocaust-denying
doctoral thesis which was approved by the University of Nantes in 1985.
The question of whether or not the movement's guru, Willis Carto, will
maintain a prominent position in IHR is less important than how effectively
Holocaust denial propaganda can be countered. The denial or distortion of
the Holocaust has served many groups of the radical right, as well as some
on the radical left, in their campaigns to attack Jews and the State of
Israel, and to justify their own totalitarian agenda. Wherever they operate,
these propagandists find small but fertile ground to cultivate their
intellectual fraud among those people ignorant of or indifferent to the
fact that Nazi Germany deemed Jews and other religious, ethnic, and cultural
minorities subhuman, and in so doing, itself succumbed to inhumanity. Most
importantly, an increasing distance separates this generation from
the events of World War II. As the survivors themselves pass from
the scene, and as hollow comparisons proliferate, the danger of
losing sight of the Holocaust's unique place in history grows.
In response to this propaganda, measures to preserve the memory of
Hitler's victims have taken on a new importance. Education on the
Holocaust, at both the secondary school and college levels, the
establishment of Holocaust museums, other programs, and public
exposure of these hateful propagandists are vital tools in upholding
the promise never to forget.