Are There Horns Under That Hat?

Myths About the Jewish People

Several years ago there was a TV series called Little House on the Prairie. One of the show’s characters, a youngster named Albert, became friendly with an elderly Jewish man. The kids at school made fun of Albert because they ignorantly believed many falsehoods about the Jewish people.

One of the things they told Albert was to beware of what was concealed under the man’s hat. Being an observant Jew, the man consistently wore a head covering, a sign of his reverence for God. The children said he was hiding his horns. (Many people believed that the Jewish people were demonic.) Albert did not want to believe his friends, but he had never met a Jewish person before, so he wanted to be sure. He tried different ways to get the man to remove his hat, but to no avail. Finally, he told the old man what his schoolmates had said. The old man smiled, took off his hat, and, to Albert’s relief and embarrassment, there were no horns. This fictional story, set in the late 1800s, brought out a very important belief with roots going back to the Middle Ages.

Michelangelo is one of the most famous artists in history. His frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican are world renowned. His marble sculpture of the great Jewish king, David, is magnificent. In 1515 Michelangelo finished a sculpture of the great Jewish prophet, Moses, complete with horns protruding from his head. Although the horns sculpted onto Moses’ head were the result of an unfortunate mistranslation of a word in the Latin Vulgate, the statue has perpetuated the horns myth since the Middle Ages.

Many who view Michelangelo’s Moses and the fictional characters living on the prairie have been exposed to a myth, which is defined by Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, as “an unfounded or false notion.” The Jewish people have long been the target of myths. It is these false notions that have been used to deny one of the most documented events in all of human history, the Nazi Holocaust. At the root of each of these myths is the venom of anti-Semitism. It can be camouflaged and cloaked to look like superstition or fairy tale, but, as Adolf Hitler said, “Make the lie big make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” When combined with existing prejudice, that process does not take long.

Misconstrued theology is also at the root of various myths about the Jewish people. Although Jesus was a Jew, lived in Israel, and chose Jewish disciples, and although the first Christians were Jewish, there arose the belief over time that God had rejected His people. The Temple, destroyed in AD 70, was used as “proof” of this rejection. It later would be argued that the Jewish people killed Christ; thus, the new Israel, the church, would take the place of the Temple. This false theology was the starting point for prejudice against the Jews.

The list of religious leaders who used Bible verses to justify anti-Semitic statements runs long. John Chrysostom, who lived in the late 300s, said that Jewish people were a disease capable of contaminating the population. Martin Luther, the great reformer who at one time called on Christians to treat the Jews kindly, later wrote a book in which he called the Jews, among other things, thieves and vermin. He also called for the burning of Jewish books and synagogues. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, declared that the Jews were “disinherited from the grace of God” and “would never have hesitated to burn their own Jewish scriptures.”1

During the Middle Ages, Jews were seen as greedy, dirty, and diseased liars. They were viewed as conspirators with Satan, as the enemy of the church. As aimless wanderers, their very existence meant the downfall of their host nation. Myths of an intrinsically evil character and conspiracy to defeat Gentiles have stuck like glue to the Jewish people.

No wonder they were accused of poisoning wells, spreading diseases such as the black plague, and stealing away children as sacrifices for their worship.

Perpetuating these myths was rather simple, since Judaism taught a separatist lifestyle. As time passed, Gentiles grew more and more ignorant of Jewish traditions and faith. Ignorance of this biblical people, as well as of the Bible itself, proved to be a breeding ground for fear. Legal restrictions were passed by various nations requiring distinctive dress or symbols on the clothing of Jews to alert people about the Jews. Segregation became a way of life for many Jewish people.

It must be remembered that many countries allowed the Jews to thrive. Yet while things might go well for a time, all it took was some difficulty, some inexplicable problem to provide a reason to persecute the Jewish people. Thus, the Crusades, Inquisition, and pogroms were burned into Jewish history.

A document written at the turn of the 20th century entitled “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” played on the myth of a Jewish conspiracy. Its thesis was simple and direct: The Jews are plotting to take over the world. Proven to be a forgery of a work by Morice Jolly written in 1864 to demonstrate Napoleon’s delusions of world domination, the Protocols have been labeled a “pretext and rationale for anti-Semitism” by the Encyclopedia Britannica. Its contents influenced men such as Henry Ford, who published excerpts in his Dearborn Independent newspaper, as well as in a book entitled The International Jew. The Protocols are still sold today, usually through ads in blatantly anti-Semitic magazines. It is common fodder for those who believe the Holocaust to be a lie. It was also required reading in Germany during the days of the Third Reich.

Employing the character myth makes it easy for deniers to explain away the volumes of proof for the Holocaust. When asked to explain the reasoning behind making the Jews wear yellow stars on their clothes to identify them in European communities, Robert Faurission, former professor of literature at the University of Lyons-2 and a Holocaust denier, claims that it was a measure designed to protect the German soldiers. The Jews, he said, engaged in terrorism, black market arms trafficking, as well as other dangerous activities. According to Faurission, Jewish men, women, and children were a “formidable enemy.”2 Austin App, professor of English at the University of Scranton at La Salle, concluded that the majority of the Jews who supposedly died at German hands were, in fact, “subversives, partisans, spies, saboteurs, and criminals.”3 Others with lesser credentials have asserted that the Jews simply lie about the Holocaust or that those few who did die deserved their fate because they were enemies of the Germans.4

It seems incredible that a people with such a formidable army, who talked about ruling for a thousand years, had to go on the offensive against a people scattered throughout many different countries with no army, no political organization, and no homeland. Yet the reasons given by those who deny the Holocaust emphasize the enormous power that the Germans seemed to need for protection from what they considered an innately evil and powerful people.

The conspiracy myth is often used to try to negate the mounds of hard evidence for the occurrence of the Holocaust. The assertion is that the Jews, Bolsheviks, and Communists all worked together in the “hoax” to swindle money from West Germany. The Jews are not the “victims but the victimizers,”5 spreading the hoax to win international sympathy and thus accomplish their secret goals. The Americans and British joined in on the conspiracy because they, so it is asserted, killed thousands of civilians with their indiscriminate bombings.

To have been able to spread all these lies, the deniers claim that the Jews control the media. Paul Rassinier asserts, “The Jews have been able to dupe the world by relying on their mythic powers and conspiratorial abilities. As they have so often done in the past, world Jewry has once again employed its inordinate powers to harness the world’s financial resources, media, and political interests for their own purposes.”6

The following are examples of some of the incredible accusations leveled against traditional historians.

Six Million Did Not Die; It Is An Exaggeration by the Jews.

I do not know of anyone—expert, scholar, or lay person—who believes that there were exactly 6 million Jewish deaths. In fact, it is Jewish scholars who continue to investigate information relating to the Holocaust. The actual number of deaths is difficult to extrapolate because many of the numbers have been gathered from the Germans themselves. I have seen numbers as low as 5.2 million and as high as 5.95 million. The number 6 million has been used as a general estimation. Adolf Eichmann, chief of the deportation system for the Nazis, estimated “that a total of two million, five hundred thousand died in Auschwitz alone.”7 “Estimates on the Einsatzgruppen murders run as high as 3.5 million.”8 These killer units were designed to “kill on the road.”

These statistics alone add up to more than 5 million. It is important to realize that questioning the exact number misses the point. What would be the reason to single out a group of people—men, women, and children, all living in different countries and target them for extermination?

There Was No Such Thing as Gas Chambers, and Zyklon-B Gas Could Not Have Been Used.

Actually there were two kinds of extermination chambers. The first was a mobile unit, or truck, used by the Einsatzgruppen. People were told they had to wash and have their clothes disinfected. Then the exhaust pipe was vented into the middle of the floor. This information came from interrogation of SS members themselves.

The gas chambers at Auschwitz not only existed but functioned on a regular basis. Written diaries from Jewish people, records from the Nazis (including work orders, supply requisitions, time sheets, engineering instructions, invoices, and completion reports), and testimonies from sonderkommandos (attendants) all corroborate their existence.

Testimonies of Nazis, prisoners, and sonderkommandos also indicate that anyone involved with moving out the dead did so wearing gas masks. In addition, those who say Zyklon-B gas was not used rationalize that it is too toxic, yet they themselves claim the same gas was used for disinfection. Disinfection is carried out with a bactericide, not an insecticide.9

The fictional TV character Albert and millions of others have lived among people who believed lies perpetrated by individuals who were at best ignorant and at worst filled with hate. Albert had the courage to ask the old Jewish man to remove his hat. He didn’t allow ignorance, fear, or prejudice to get the better of him for long. Michelangelo’s mistakenly homed statue of Moses, on the other hand, continues to promote the ignorance and prejudice that fuels the passions of anti-Semites.

The myths surrounding the denial of the Holocaust are rooted in the myths that people have believed for centuries to be true of the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are synonymous entities. The only way to confront these entities is with truth—the truth of the Word of God and the truth of history.

When I visited Israel, I had the privilege of eating at the home of our correspondent, Zvi. I told him that I taught a course on the Holocaust. His reply: “Talk to me. I know about this.” Then I asked him about those who deny that it ever took place. He said, “Bring them to me.” Of all the evidences to rebuff the myths, this flesh-and-blood survivor, and others like him, is the best of all proof.

  1. Rausch, David A., A Legacy of Hatred (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), p. 22.
  2. Lipstadt, Deborah, Denying the Holocaust (New York: The Free Press, 1993), p. 9.
  3. Ibid., p. 99.
  4. Ibid., p. 53.
  5. Ibid., p. 23.
  6. Ibid., p. 63.
  7. Rausch, David A., A Legacy of Hatred, p. 130.
  8. Sherwin, Byron L. and Ament, Susan G., Encountering the Holocaust (Chicago: Impact Press, 1979), p. 22.
  9. Lipstadt, Deborah, Denying the Holocaust, p. 225.
Baltic 250,000 230,000
Belgium 90,000 40,000
Bulgaria 65,000 15,000
Denmark 8,000 N/A
Finland 2,000 N/A
France 300,000 90,000
Germany/Austria 785,000 210,000
Greece 75,000 60,000
Hungary 650,000 450,000
Italy 40,000 8,000
Luxembourg 5,000 1,000
Netherlands 150,000 120,000
Norway 2,000 800
Poland 3,334,000 2,940,000
Russia 975,0001 107,000
Ukraine 1,500,000 900,000
White Russia 375,000 245,000
Romania 850,000 425,000
Slovakia 90,000 70,000
Yugoslavia 75,000 55,000
Total 9,621,000 5,966,800

Figures taken from Encountering the Holocaust by Bryron L. Sherwin and Susan G. Ament.

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