More than six million may have died

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 February, 1996, 12:00am

RONALD MacEachan's letter (South China Morning Post, January 31) challenging scholarly estimations of the numbers of Jews murdered in the Holocaust marks the second example last month in your letters column of the tactics employed in the growing worldwide attempt to create a 'revisionist' environment in which Holocaust denial can flourish. (These tactics are well documented in Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 1993).

The literature on Holocaust statistics from these revisionists as well as legitimate scholars is enormous. While there will probably never be any degree of precision on the exact number of Jews who died in this tragic era, legitimate scholars estimate the figure from around five million to just over six million. The data gathering process is very complex - with information coming from a variety of sources. The complexity of this process, the methodology of estimation and the resources used in this process can be examined in F. Furet, Ed., Unanswered Questions: Nazi Germany and the Genocide of the Jews (New York, 1989) and I. Gutman, Ed., Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (New York, 1990).

Furthermore, new data now emerging from the former Soviet Union, which had kept these statistics in archives previously unavailable to outside researchers, tends to raise the figures even higher than current estimates.

Mr MacEachan's estimation that there were only one to 11/2 million murdered in the Holocaust is negated even by Nazi records.

One such Nazi record calculates that nearly three million mainly East European Jews had already been killed by the end of 1942! (See report from Richard Korherr to Nazi police chief Heinrich Himmler, dated March 23, 1943, ND No 5192-4).

In reference to Mr MacEachan's estimation of the maximum possible number of daily murders, it can be noted that Maidanek, the death camp located on the outskirts of Lublin, had its busiest single day on November 2, 1943, when Einsatzgruppen of the SS machine-gunned 18,400 prisoners, the victims being interred in ditches they themselves had been forced to dig. (Documented in E. Gryn & Z. Murawska, The Maidanek Concentration Camp, a Polish publication).

The primary assumption in Mr MacEachan's 'logistical' analysis is that only deportations to death camps were used in the Nazi genocide programme. He ignores the two other major categories of mass murder which accounted for huge numbers of deaths, that is, mass shootings and deaths as the result of privation, principally from systematic starvation, disease and abuse in ghettos and forced labour sites.

Whilst propagandists play their games, forcing others to quote ad infinitum published factual data in response, many people lose sight of the unique and horrendous basis of the Holocaust, vis: the government of an internationally recognised country effectively made it a violation of national law to be born a Jew. (See the Nuremburg Laws of 1935).

I would also suggest that this tragedy is so enormous that Mr MacEachan's effort to reduce the figures so substantially in the face of published evidence and scholarly analysis is insulting and demeaning to both the victims and their surviving relatives.

DENNIS A. LEVENTHAL Chairman Jewish Historical Society of Hong Kong


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