Denialism Chronicles: The Strange Case of Charles Krafft

Blogging’s been light recently because I’ve been wrapping up applications for fellowships for the now-seriously-it’s-ready-but-wait-let-me-change-one-last-thing Denial screenplay. But this story about the apparently well-regarded ceramic artist Charles Krafft in The Stranger drew my interest because it touches on the same subject matter as my script:

Krafft, who is 65, has always had an edge to him, and it’s been sharpening in recent years. “I drifted into white nationalism as a result of reading a book about a Romanian archbishop who was charged with crimes against humanity and subsequently deported from the United States,” Krafft explains on the podcast. (According to the New York Times, the archbishop’s past “included membership in a group called the Iron Guard, a fascist movement that was the Romanian parallel of the Nazi storm troopers in Germany.”) The archbishop’s story “intrigued me and I started investigating this case,” Krafft says on the podcast, “and the deeper I got into it, the more I realized that the charges were trumped up. That led me to investigating the Holocaust, and I went through that into becoming aware of the writings of Kevin MacDonald and some of the intellectual leaders of what we call the white nationalist movement.”

The particular topic of the podcast was whether white nationalists could be more successful as a movement if they hid their beliefs on the Holocaust or homosexuals. Krafft said he didn’t think a person’s sexuality should matter to white nationalists (the two others on the show disagreed), but said that the truth is more important than white nationalist strategy, and therefore he and his fellow white nationalists should not hide their beliefs about the Holocaust.

Krafft’s website, from which he sells most of his artwork, does not contain any of his copious commentary about the Holocaust.

To clarify his views, last week I asked Krafft over e-mail, “Do you believe Hitler’s regime systematically murdered millions of Jews?”

Krafft wrote back, “I don’t doubt that Hitler’s regime killed a lot of Jews in WWII, but I don’t believe they were ever frog marched into homicidal gas chambers and dispatched. I think between 700,000–1.2 million Jews died of disease, starvation, overwork, reprisals for partisan attacks, allied bombing, and natural causes during the war.”

That was the entire e-mail. I followed up: “The number I’ve always read is 6 million Jews killed. I just want to clarify that it’s your belief that 700,000 to 1.2 million Jews died total.”

Krafft did not answer the question. He only sent a link to a story about exaggerations in the original numbers of Jews reported killed at Auschwitz. That story, called “New ‘Official’ Changes in the Auschwitz Story,” appears on a website called Institute for Historical Review.

I don’t intend to devote the remainder of my afternoon to a thorough debunking of Krafft’s claims, except to say that the evidence is 14 layers thick that yes, the SS marched millions of Jews (as well as Roma, homosexuals, Russian war prisoners, and Polish political prisoners) into gas chambers in the various Aktion Reinhard camps as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek. (This leaves out the two million killed by the SS Einsatzgruppen death squads that trailed the German Army during Operation Barbarossa and the Jews who were killed by local mobs the SS stirred up in Lithuania and Latvia.)

And, contra Kraft and the IHR, historians never regarded the 4 million Auschwitz deaths figure as “official”. The only entity that took that number seriously was the Soviet Commission, whose methods of calculation had long been held as suspect. More reliable mortality figures from Auschwitz have, since the early 1960s, placed the toll at approximately 1.1 million.

Anyway, Krafft’s swallowing of the mix of conspiracy theory, ignorance, and racism that make holocaust denial possible has shocked the West Coast art scene, which had always taken Krafft’s incorporation of Nazi symbolism in his work as ironic.

According to old friends of Krafft’s interviewed for this story, Krafft has laughed in private at the liberal-leaning art establishment he’s fooled with his art. In response to that accusation, Krafft said, “I would ask the person who told you they have seen me laugh about ‘fooling’ curators to be more specific and tell you which curators they saw me laughing at.” More than one person tells the story of Krafft privately laughing at curator Timothy Burgard, who is in charge of American art for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF).

The sub-headline for the story is “What Will Happen to One of the Northwest’s Preeminent Artists—Whose Nazi Imagery Has Always Been Considered Ironic—Now That His Views Are Not a Secret?” It’s not hard to guess. I’ve no doubt he’ll be shunned by sensible people, and that he’ll deserve it, and that Krafft will take this shunning as further proof that the Jews or ZOG or whatever are out to get him for daring to speak the “truth”. In thinking this way, Krafft has plenty of company. The world’s population is long on people who jerk themselves off with the belief that they’re bold and honest purveyors of wisdom and that the world rejects them because it can’t handle their truth. Krafft, and others of this type, would do well to remember this classic exchange from the movie Bedazzled:

Stanley Moon: You’re a nutcase! You’re a bleedin’ nutcase!
George Spiggott: They said the same of Jesus Christ, Freud, and Galileo.
Stanley Moon: They said it of a lot of nutcases too.

Of course, if Krafft were capable of achieving the of critical distance needed for him to realize that this quote might apply to him, he’d have probably never gotten into Holocaust Denial in the first place. Ah, well.

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