Charles Koch's Brain Shuts Down The Holocaust
Ted Cruz’s libertarian ideology and the rise of US holocaust denial.
Ted Cruz, the Inspiration behind the government shutdown, made a lot of noise last week when he compared Obamacare supporters to Hitler’s appeasers, Holocaust-enablers.
But don’t bother asking someone from the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC how appropriate that comparison is—thanks to the Tea Party shutdown, the Holocaust Museum is closed. According to the museum website:
The Museum Is Closed
The Museum is closed to the public due to the federal government shutdown. It will reopen when the federal government resumes operations. Read More.
Which would be merely ironic, but for the little-known role that Ted Cruz’s libertarian ideology played in creating the Holocaust denial industry in the United States.
I found out about the Holocaust Museum’s shutdown when I tried to contact them about their online “Holocaust Denial Timeline.” Some of the names and events on the museum's list figure big in the history of libertarianism and in the early involvement of Charles Koch in creating the modern libertarian movement, which I investigate in the current print edition of the NSFWCORP.
This entry on the Holocaust Denial Timeline stands out the most, because it directly ties Charles Koch and the libertarian empire he built to the rise of the Holocaust denial industry:
1966-67: American historian Harry Elmer Barnes publishes articles in the Libertarian periodical Rampart Journal claiming that the Allies overstated the extent of Nazi atrocities in order to justify a war of aggression against the Axis powers.
The real story behind “the Libertarian periodical Rampart Journal” which published this notable work of Holocaust denial garbage is that the journal was funded and published with the active involvement of a younger Charles Koch. As my print article "Charles Koch's Brain" reveals, in 1964, Charles Koch joined the board of trustees and became a director of the nonprofit which funded Rampart Journal, along with Rampart College and Freedom School, the corporate-backed libertarian indoctrination programs run by Charles Koch’s first mentor, Robert LeFevre.
Koch was “converted” to libertarianism in LeFevre’s indoctrination camp, originally named “Freedom School,” in 1964. It was under LeFevre’s influence that Charles cut short his planned career in the nuclear energy sector, and returned to MIT to get a chemical engineering degree (supplanting his original degree in nuclear engineering) so that he could enter the oil business instead. As a 1965 New York Times profile on LeFevre’s whites-only Freedom School reported:
Charles de Ganahl Koch of Wichita returned to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a degree in chemical engineering after “realizing that staying in the nuclear field would require working for the government over an extended period”...
The 1966 Rampart College promotional booklet features a photo of young Charles Koch holding a shovel ceremonially breaking ground on a planned new Rampart extension building, as his white-haired guru Robert LeFevre stands beside him, smiling. Under Koch’s influence and funding, LeFevre started publishing reams of what libertarians call “historical revisionism”—a euphemism for Holocaust denial propaganda—which the Holocaust Museum notes on its timeline.
But it goes much deeper than one author in a couple of journals. Under Koch’s watch, LeFevre hired one of the most notorious Holocaust deniers to head up the new Rampart College history department: James J. Martin, who later served as an editorial director at neo-Nazi leader Willis Carto’s “Institute for Historical Review,” the largest and the worst of all America’s Holocaust denial outfits.
LeFevre devoted the entire spring 1966 issue of the Libertarian periodical Rampart Journal to the theme of Holocaust denial and “historical revisionism.”
For example, in an article by Harry Elmer Barnes titled “Revisionism: A Key To Peace,” the author writes,
Even if one were to accept the most extreme and exaggerated indictment of Hitler and the national socialists for their activities after 1939 made by anybody fit to remain outside a mental hospital, it is almost alarmingly easy to demonstrate that the atrocities of the Allies in the same period were more numerous as to victims and were carried out for the most part by methods more brutal and painful than alleged extermination in gas ovens.The article also claimed that FDR’s Jewish Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, planned a far worse genocide of Germans:
If the current Germanophobia is based on the assertion that Hitler and his entourage ordered the extermination of six million Jews, there is no doubt that the Morgenthau plan for postwar Germany envisaged the starvation of twenty to thirty million Germans in transforming Germany into a pastoral country.
Another article in that issue, “Rising Germanophobia: The Chief Obstacle to Current World War II Revisionism” by Michael F. Connors, complained,
One of the most widely publicized reasons offered in explanation of our vehement opposition to the regime of the late Adolf Hitler was its severe policy directed at Jews and other enemies of the regime. It is conveniently overlooked that there were over 3,000,000 Jews in Poland as compared to 500,000 in Germany, and that they were on the whole treated worse than the Jews were in peacetime national socialist Germany.
In Deborah Lipstadt’s authoritative book “Denying The Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” the Libertarian movement (and Koch guru Robert LeFevre) are called out for their role promoting Holocaust deniers like Harry Elmer Barnes:
When “The Public Stake in Revisionism” -- in which [Harry Elmer Barnes] referred to the “doings real or alleged at Auschwitz” and described the Einsatzgruppen as "battling guerrillas" -- appeared in the journal of Rampart College, Robert LeFevre, the college dean, writing in the journal, demonstrated the academic community's willingness to regard Barnes's behavior as excusable excesses: "There are places where Dr. Barnes' understandable frustration is indicated by the use of emotive words and that may be unfortunate although it can be forgiven.”
Today Barnes's work is generally dismissed by scholars because of his obsession with a conspiracy theory related to America's entry into World War II. However, he remains something of a cult historian for members of the Libertarian party, who subscribe to Barnes's style of revisionist scholarship. They have kept his works in print and made his books widely available in their bookstores.
Another major libertarian historian who doubled as a leading Holocaust denier is James J. Martin. Koch’s guru LeFevre hired Martin to chair the Rampart College history department, and published his works in Rampart Journal. In the 1970s, the Kochs kept boosting Martin’s quack Holocaust denial garbage through Reason magazine. In January 1976, the Koch-owned Reason magazine—under editor-in-chief Robert Poole—published a giant fawning profile-interview with Martin, complete with giant pull quotes advertising his Holocaust-denials. The feature article, titled, “Introducing Revisionism: an interview with James J. Martin” proudly announces Reason Magazine’s new campaign to upend conventional wisdom on the Holocaust and Nazi crimes:
Next month’s REASON will be a special issue on the subject of historical revisionism. The critical revision of “official” versions of doings of states is an important adjunct to the overall battle for liberty. As a preview of next month’s issue, and to introduce the subject to our readers, we are pleased to present an exclusive interview with one of America’s leading revisionist historians, Dr. James J. Martin.”
The pull quote on page 18 of Reason magazine’s January 1976 issue reads in large letters:
"The German concentration camps weren't health centers, but they appear to have been far smaller and much less lethal than the Russian ones.”
A sample of Reason magazine’s hard-hitting style of Q&A journalism with this Holocaust denier:
REASON: Dr. Martin, do you believe (1) that the specific charge against the Nazis of having a mass extermination program of several million Jews is true, and (2) that the Allied atrocities were as great or greater than those of the Germans, from your study of the question?
MARTIN: Well, I never made a head count of all who lost their lives in the War—we've seen a wide variety of statistical materials, some of which have been pulled out of thin air. As a consequence, it’s hard to make any kind of estimate of this sort, whether ten more were killed on the one side or the other is not a particularly entrancing subject as far as I'm concerned. Whether allegations can be proven it remains to be seen. I don't believe that the evidence of a planned extermination of the entire Jewish population of Europe is holding up. I have been influenced over the years by the works of Paul Rassinier...
That name “Paul Rassinier” appears on the Holocaust Museum’s “Holocaust Denial Timeline,” one entry earlier than the LeFevre-Koch “Libertarian periodical Rampart Journal” entry. Neither Reason magazine editor Robert Poole nor owners Charles and David Koch bothered refuting or responding to Martin’s outrageous claims. They did publish a letter to the editor in the April 1976 issue by an angry "Dr. Sylven Shaffer" from Tempe, AZ, but allowed Martin to get in the last persecution-complex word:
Dr. Martin replies:
Dr. Schaffer's reaction to my observations is a prime example of what revisionists in any area are sure to encounter: enraged and indignant ex-postulations over the temerity of a skeptic of an entrenched orthodoxy. Psychic intimidation and the hope of incubating guilt feelings and shame as a consequence of being so rash as to defy a sanctified climate of opinion are venerable ploys.
Since Dr. Schaffer appears to be utterly innocent of the content of Rassinier's six books on the subject, I see no purpose in filling an issue of REASON with contradictions of the sacred and presumably unchallengeable sources advanced in his incensed condemnation, which easily could be done.
The well known English writer Colin Wilson recently suggested, after reading some of Rassinier, that a serious investigation of his thesis should take place. Wilson was promptly assailed personally with vicious billingsgate for making this moderate proposal. But that has been the lot of almost everyone who has advanced a similar recommendation. Dr. Schaffer is to be commended for eschewing the ad hominem venom which customarily accompanies a response such as his.-J.J.M.
As late as 2004, when James J. Martin died, Reason magazine was back in the business of whitewashing and lionizing putrid old Jew-hating Holocaust denial bullshit, in this euphemism-packed obit penned by Reason senior editor Brian Doherty:
In trying to judge the motive and conduct of the Allies more objectively than did nationalist propaganda, Martin did slide distressingly into downplaying the crimes of the Axis. In later years his World War II revisionism shifted into Holocaust revisionism, and he joined the editorial board for the Institute for Historical Review. This sort of unsavory association will in the eyes of many discredit all his work, but it ought not....[Martin] helped keep alive a too-often ignored aspect of America's libertarian ideological heritage.Indeed. Another prominent name on the Holocaust Denial Timeline is Austin J. App:
1973: Austin J. App, professor of English literature at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, publishes a pamphlet: “The Six Million Swindle: Blackmailing the German People for Hard Marks with Fabricated Corpses.” The pamphlet becomes a foundation for future claims by Holocaust deniers.
Three years after Austin App called the Holocaust “The Six Million Swindle,” the Kochs’ Reason magazine published an article by the same author, titled “The Sudeten-German Tragedy.” In that same issue of Reason devoted to “historical revisionism” the Kochs and Robert Poole also published articles by noted Holocaust denier Percy Greaves—who taught at LeFevre’s Freedom School where Koch was converted to libertarianism, and who later served on the editorial advisory committee of neo-Nazi Willis Carto’s Holocaust denial outfit, the Institute for Historical Review.
Another contributor to Reason’s “historical revisionism” issue was Gary North, Ron Paul’s former Congressional aide and ideological guru. North is a leader of Christian Reconstructionism, a Christian libertarian movement that seeks to abolish the US state and replace it with an unregulated free-market economy with Biblical capital punishment requiring the stoning to death of homosexuals, blasphemers, unruly children, and women who engage in premarital sex. In his article in Reason magazine, “World War II Revisionism and Vietnam,” and in a subsequent debate in the letters page, Gary North sarcastically doubted the Holocaust, writing,
the anonymous author of “The Myth of the Six Million” has presented a solid case against the Establishment's favorite horror story—the supposed moral justification of our entry into the War.
North went on to cite other Holocaust denial books of the '60s and '70s, including “Did Six Million Really Die” by Richard Harwood, and notorious Holocaust denier Paul Rassinier. Most of Reason’s libertarian readers wrote gushing letters to the editor praising the Holocaust denial issue, but one reader, a Rockefeller University scholar named Dr. Adam V. Reed, wrote a letter complaining about North’s article and his terrible scholarship. North wrote a response which Reason published in its March 1976 issue, reasserting his Holocaust denial lies without any comment from either Reason editor Robert Poole or the magazine's owners, the Koch brothers:
DR. NORTH REPLIES:
Dr. Reed is quite correct when he states that the genocide itself was not used to defend our entry into the war at the time we entered; it has been so used since 1942. Persecution of Jews by the Nazis was one justification used in the pre-war years. No one denies the existence of such persecution; the question remains, however, as to whether such persecution did, in fact, justify our entry into the war, or whether genocide would have justified it.
The second point, that about 6 million Jews really did die in the concentration camps, is one that will be open until the records of the period become fully available. I am not convinced yet, one way or the other. I am happy to have Dr. Reed’s interpretation of the data, but until the publishing companies and academic guild encourage the re-examination of the data, I shall continue to recommend that those interested in revisionist questions read “The Myth of the Six Million” and “Did Six Million Really Die?” as reasonable (though not necessarily irrefutable) pieces of historical revisionism. If a person can’t make up his mind, he should do some more reading.—G.N.
Today, Gary North is Ron Paul’s “Director of Curriculum Development” for his new online libertarian home-schooling business, RonPaulCurriculum.com. (Poor Dr. Paul, he and his son just keep accidentally falling in with these Holocaust deniers and racists through no fault of their own—they’re just too doggone principled for this cruddy world.)
Other Reason magazine writers who served on the editorial advisory committee of the neo-Nazi Holocaust denial outfit included Samuel Konkin and Reason staffer Louis A. Rollins, who was a regular contributor throughout the 1970s into the early 1980s. One of Reason magazine’s favorite regular monthly features was Rollins’ libertarian rip-off of Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. A sample of what passed for wit according to Holocaust-denier guy L.A. Rollins:
majority rule, n. The moral equivalent of a gang rape.
looter, n. A civil rights worker.
assassinate, v.t. To recall a public official with one ballot.
Had Ted Cruz and the rest of his libertarian anarcho-Republicans not shut down the government, I would have been able to talk to the US Holocaust Museum last week about the role these libertarian figures played in the rise of today’s Holocaust denial lie-making machinery. I would have been able to get a comment from them on what they think about the fact that the CATO Institute published a book by Holocaust denier Harry Elmer Barnes as late as 1980, with an introduction by Holocaust denier James J. Martin, whom they also paid to teach at a 1979 CATO Summer lecture series.... series…and about how all this was done under the direction of recently-retired CATO president Ed Crane, a staple in the Washington DC Republican Party lobby world, and CATO founder Charles Koch.
Today, that same CATO Institute is Ted Cruz’s biggest fan, glorifying Cruz by comparing him to “Ironman” and pushing him to run for president, all in honor of his lead role in shutting down the government to sabotage Obamacare.
This is no mere coincidence: It turns out that just as Charles Koch was converted to libertarianism by a sleazy reactionary hick named Robert LeFevre, so young Ted Cruz was converted to libertarianism at a young age after enrolling in a Houston libertarian indoctrination outfit called the Free Enterprise Education Center, led by a retired natural gas wingnut and failed vaudeville performer named Rolland Storey, whom one student suggestively described as “the Santa Claus of Liberty.”
Just as Charles Koch’s libertarian guru led him to the works of Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman, so the “Santa Claus of Liberty” turned young Ted Cruz on to the same writers when he was young. Ted's own father recalled how young Ted Cruz spent his youth reading the same books that shaped Koch’s politics and worldview:
"Instead of reading comic books, [Ted] was reading Adam Smith, he was reading Milton Friedman, he was reading von Mises, he was reading Frédéric Bastiat.”
Yes, both Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises taught at Robert LeFevre’s Freedom School when young Charles Koch was first indoctrinated in libertarianism; and in the issues of Rampart Journal listed in the “Holocaust Denial Timeline,” you can see Ludwig von Mises’ name on the Rampart Journal “Board of Academic Advisors” printed near the front of every Holocaust-denying issue.
Somehow it happened that today, the loudest bleaters about the Holocaust and the worst abusers of Holocaust analogies are the same Tea Party libertarians whose roots lie in the sordid effort to deny the Holocaust, but who today abuse, flog and inflate away the Holocaust by comparing every political dispute to the Nazi genocide. When you know where it all comes from, one Holocaust abuser looks like the flipside of the other.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Robert Poole was still editor-in-chief of Reason magazine. That post is currently held by Matt Welch.