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01 March 2011

Does Norman Finkelstein Embellish His Family's History of Suffering?

Updated 5 April 2017.

Generally when I hear some Jew say that he lost some huge number of relatives in the Holocaust, of course I am skeptical, because we know that there were no homicidal gas-chambers, which are supposed to have been responsible for the vast majority of such deaths, and because from time to time it is reported that some person "lost in the Holocaust" turns out to be still alive and was merely separated from the rest of his family in the chaos following the war. Usually, however, it is not practical to investigate a person's specific claim about his family.

Usually the most you can do is ask the Jew making the claim to explain how he could know what he is claiming, and also have him give some details so as to determine whether his story is consistent with known facts.

Norman Finkelstein is a Jew with academic credentials who has criticized the uses of the Holocaust, and policies of the State of Israel. He does not, however, suggest that the Holocaust may not have occurred (despite abundant evidence that should raise that question in the mind of any thoughtful person examining the matter). He even goes so far as to call the people who do ask these questions "crackpots."

In a presentation at Waterloo University (Canada), Dr. Finkelstein, facing a difficult audience, decides, as he calls it, "to play the Holocaust card." Finkelstein says that both of his parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and that (subsequently) his father was in Auschwitz and his mother was in Majdanek. All of his mother's relatives and all of his father's relatives, he says, were "exterminated."


"My late father was in Auschwitz concentration camp; my late mother was in Majdanek concentration camp. Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising."

There is a problem here. The overwhelming majority (more than 300,000) of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were sent before the uprising to Treblinka (a work camp according to revisionists, but a killing center according to Holocaustians), so that about 70,000 were left at the time of the uprising . After the uprising, a relatively small number were sent to Majdanek, but according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum none were sent to Auschwitz.

The USHMM gives the following approximate figures for Jews deported from Warsaw after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April-May 1943:

  • 7,000 to Treblinka
  • 18,000 to Majdanek
  • 16,000 to Poniatowa forced-labor camp
  • 6,000 to Trawniki forced-labor camp
  • 2,000 to smaller forced-labor camps such as Budzyn and Krasnik

None of the named camps is anywhere near Auschwitz, where Finkelstein says that his father was sent.

On 5 April 2017 I asked Finkelstein this question: "Did your father go directly from the Warsaw Ghetto to Auschwitz, or was he sent to another camp and from there to Auschwitz? If so, to which camp?"

Finkelstein was kind enough to answer: "Majdanek."

So, apparently, Finkelstein's father was sent to Majdanek, and thence to Auschwitz. 

How long was he in Majdanek? The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising happened in early 1943.  The USHMM says that Majdanek was evacuated in "January-May 1944," with "fewer than 500" prisoners remaining when the Red Army arrived in late June 1944. So, Finkelstein Senior would have been in Majdanek for roughly one year. 

How long would he have been in Auschwitz? Again, roughly one year, since the Red Army arrived at Auschwitz on 27 January 1945.

It seems that Finkelstein's father was in Majdanek as much as he was in Auschwitz, yet Finkelstein mentions Auschwitz without Majdanek. Why? Obviously, for rhetorical impact. Auschwitz has been made famous as the great alleged extermination-camp, while Majdanek has nowhere near the notoriety.

The fact that Jews were transferred from one camp to another is also a bit embarrassing for the proposition that these were extermination-camps. The myth is that Jews who entered those places departed only in the form of smoke, and that it was a miracle to survive those places. If you say -- My father was sent to the extermination-camp of Majdanek (where nothing bad happened to him for one year) and then he was transferred to the extermination-camp of Auschwitz (where nothing bad happened to him for one year) and then he was evacuated again (and survived the war) -- it becomes a bit ridiculous. "Too many miracles," as Professor Faurisson says.

Finkelstein also could not possibly know that all the relatives of both his parents were "exterminated." This is at best a surmise based on not knowing the whereabouts of these people. Some may have died, but it frequently happens that Jews presumed by their relatives to have been killed during the war turn out to be alive (example 1) (example 2) (example 3).

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