Holocaust denial is one of the most controversial contemporary arguments concerning 20th century history. The argument tends to treat the Holocaust as something that either took place on a vastly reduced scale to that which is generally believed or to claim that the entire was event was fabricated according to a conspiracy. This paper will show, such an argument involves not only a deliberate misinterpretation of historical facts, but also key logical fallacies.
One common argument used by those who deny the Holocaust is to state that, as they have found no direct communication from Hitler to other officers and individuals to implement the Final Solution, it is possible to claim that there is no way of proving that the event took place as it is generally understood to have done. The fallacy here is the assumption that all political action takes place by means of directly traceable communication and that no information may be lost, especially in a war. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that the Holocaust did take place in the manner in which it is generally reported and such evidence does not require every single piece of documentation to be preserved in order for it to be true.
A second technique used to Holocaust deniers is to draw attention to the fact that there are apparently large numbers of survivors and to claim from this fact that the Holocaust killed ass manner people it as has otherwise been proven. This argument fails in two clear ways. Empirically, a huge amount of survivor testimony has been collected which describes in harrowing detail the ways in which people were sometimes able to survive the Nazi camps, as well describing the number of people who died within them. The argument regarding survivors, however, also fails with regard to its own logic. If one was to assume that a catastrophe leaves many people dead, but will inevitably also leave a certain number of survivors, then it does not makes sense to assume that reportedly large number of survivors is an indication of a smaller catastrophe. A war that kills many million will leave more survivors than a war that kills a few thousand, however the number of survivors do not detract from the severity of the war, rather they can be argued to serve as evidence of it. The more there are survivors of the war, the more likely it is that there is an exponentially larger number of people have by killed by it. The same can be said of the Holocaust. From this perspective then it is clearly the case that the purportedly large number of survivors is an argument for, not against, the size and historical importance of the Holocaust.
Finally, another argument that one often finds is that the Holocaust was invented by the victorious nations in World War II in order to facilitate their occupation of Europe. If this were the case then it does not makes sense that the Holocaust denial should be illegal in Germany, where it is currently a crime to deny that the Holocaust took place. Indeed, it could equally well be argued that it would be much more profitable for Germany to actively encourage a historical revision concerning the Holocaust, rather than to criminalise denying it. As such, the argument that the event is a lie propagated by allied forces clearly does not make any sense when it is upheld by those who have the most to lose from it.
In conclusion, it is possible to refute Holocaust deniers using both empirical evidence and also by refuting the logic of their arguments. In each of these cases it can be made clear that these arguments contain clear fallacies and that they do not stand up to any serious investigation or critical examination.