- Articulating the key Holocaust dogmas, much of the literature
on Hitler's Final Solution is worthless as scholarship. Indeed, the field
of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud. Especially
revealing is the cultural milieu that nurtures this Holocaust literature.
- The first major Holocaust hoax was The Painted Bird,
by Polish emigre Jerzy Kosinsky. (*) The book was "written in English",
Kosinsky explained, so that "I could write dispassionately, free from
the emotional connotation one's native language always contains."
In fact, whatever parts he actually wrote - an unresolved question - were
written in Polish. The book was purported to be Kosinsky's autobiographical
account of his wanderings as a solitary child through rural Poland during
World War II. In fact, Kosinsky lived with his parents throughout the war.
The book's motif is the sadistic sexual tortures perpetrated by the Polish
peasantry. Pre-publication readers derided it as a "pornography of
violence" and "the product of a mind obsessed with sadomasochistic
- In fact, Kosinsky conjured up almost all the pathological
episodes he narrates. The book depicts the Polish peasants he lived with
as virulently anti-Semitic. "Beat the Jews," they jeer, "Beat
the bastards." In fact, Polish peasants harbored the Kosinsky family
even though they were fully aware of their Jewishness and the dire consequences
they themselves faced if caught.
- In the New York Times Book Review, Elie Wiesel acclaimed
The Painted Bird as "one of the best" indictments of the Nazi
era, "written with deep sincerity and sensitivity." Cynthia Ozick
later gushed that she "immediately" recognized Kosinsky's authenticity
as "a Jewish survivor and witness to the Holocaust." Long after
Kosinsky was exposed as a consummate literary hoaxer, Wiesel continued
to heap encomiums on his "remarkable body of work."
- The Painted Bird became a basic Holocaust text. It was
a best-seller and award-winner, translated in numerous languages, and required
reading in high school and college classes. Doing the Holocaust circuit,
Kosinsky dubbed himself a "cut-rate Elie Wiesel." [...] Finally
exposed by an investigative newsweekly, Kosinski was still stoutly defended
by the New York Times, which alleged that he was the victim of a Communist
- A more recent fraud, Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments,
borrows promiscuously from the Holocaust kitsch of The Painted Bird. Like
Kosinski, Wilkomirski portrays himself as a solitary child survivor who
becomes mute, winds up in an orphanage and only belatedly discovers that
he is Jewish. Like The Painted Bird, the chief narrative conceit of Fragments
is the simple, pared-down voice of a child-naif, also allowing time frames
and place names to remain vague. Like The Painted Bird, each chapter of
Fragments climaxes in an orgy of violence. Kosinsky represented The Painted
Bird as "the slow unfreezing of the mind"; Wilkomirski represents
Fragments as "recovered memory".
- A hoax cut out of whole cloth, Fragments is nevertheless
the archetypal Holocaust memoir. It is set first in the concentration camps,
where every guard is a crazed, sadistic monster joyfully cracking the skulls
of Jewish newborns. Yet, the classic memoirs of the Nazi concentration
camps concur with Auschwitz survivor Fr. Ella Lingens-Reiner: "There
were few sadists. Not more than five or ten percent." Ubiquitous German
sadism figures prominently, however, in Holocaust literature. Doing double
service, it "documents" the unique irrationality of the Holocaust
as well as the fanatical anti-Semitism of the perpetrators.
- Fragments was widely hailed as a classic of Holocaust
literature. It was translated into a dozen languages and won the Jewish
National Book Award, the Jewish Quarterly Prize, and the Prix de Memoire
de la Shoah. Star of documentaries, keynoter at Holocaust conferences and
seminars, fund-raiser for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
Wilkomirski quickly became a Holocaust poster boy.
- Acclaiming Fragments a "small masterpiece,"
Daniel Goldhagen was Wilkomirski's main academic champion. Knowledgeable
historians like Raul Hilberg, however, early on pegged Fragments as a fraud.
Hilberg also posed the right questions after the fraud's exposure: "How
did this book pass as memoir in several publishing houses? How could it
have brought Mr. Wilkomirski invitations to the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum as well as recognized universities? How come we have no
decent quality control when it comes to evaluating Holocaust material for
- Half-fruitcake, half-mountebank, Wilkomirski, it turns
out, spent the entire war in Switzerland. He is not even Jewish.
- Yesterday, Wilkomirski was feted for his tales of Gentile
evil; today he is chastised as yet another evil Gentile. It's always the
Gentiles' fault. True, Wilkomirski fabricated his Holocaust past, but the
larger truth is that the Holocaust industry, built on a fraudulent misappropriation
of history for ideological purposes, was primed to celebrate the Wilkomirski
- Norman Finkelstein
- The Holocaust Industry
- Verso, New York, 2001 (2000)
- "Hoaxers, Hucksters, and History"
- Pages 55-61
- (*) Le livre est paru en francais sous le titre
- L'Oiseau bariole