Both Sean Spicer and Marine Le Pen have in recent days uttered claims that might well fit under the capacious tent of "Holocaust revisionism." Spicer has walked it back, and one can generously attribute his comments to gross maladroitness in the performance of ... well ... his job.
Still: such events do give us the opportunity to observe that much of the crap that passes itself off these days as "Holocaust revisionism" traces itself back to Harry Elmer Barnes, a paid apologist and propagandist for Nazi Germany in real time.
Barnes may have been atoning for his own war guilt. During the "Great War," 1914-18, Barnes was an enthusiast for the crusade against the Huns.
When peace came, Barnes (like many at the time) wondered what it all had been about. He concluded not just that he had been overly enthusiastic, not just that he had been wrong in seeing the war as a matter of white hats versus black hats, but that in fact he had had the 'hats' the wrong way around -- that the Central Powers were forced into a war they didn't want, and then were forced into a draconian peace by the actual warmongers.
In his 1927 book, THE GENESIS OF THE WORLD WAR, he treated both Germany and Austria-Hungary as victims of an evil Franco-Russian plot. By this time he was in the pay of the German Foreign Ministry.
He seems to have been led into anti-semitic conspiracy theories by degrees. He spoke to the former Kaiser while working on his book, and the Kaiser told him that he was wrong to blame France and Russia for the calamity of 1914. He should rather blame the freemasons and international Jewry which had worked their will through those nations.
In the late 1930s Barnes was syndicating a weekly newspaper column arguing that the powers to Germany's east and west were once again ganging up on it.
In 1940 the New York World-Telegram dropped his column. Barnes of course knew who the culprits must be: the city's Jewish department store owners.
Barnes wisely kept silent on such matters during the period from Pearl Harbor until the defeat of the Axis powers. Once this war was over he got to work writing -- this time without foreign subsidization, for Adenauer would clearly have been uninterested -- that this time too the Germans had been the victims. Hitler, Barnes wrote in 1947, had been the only reasonable world leader around in 1939, and it was Britain that was responsible for the outbreak of war.
His pamphlets through the '50s and '60s laid the groundwork for the stupid holocaust-denialist arguments of our own time.
I am almost inspired to song. How about a few alternative lyrics to the tune of "Signs"?
Barnes Barnes, too much left of Barnes,
Breaking up the scenery, raising alarms.
Jew this, Jews did that
"Can't you see?" asks Baaaarnes....