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Hate Came To Dinner: Revilo Oliver, Holocaust Denier

Revilo Oliver, founding member of the John Birch Society, twisted my father’s ideas about the Holocaust. The Jews became the Communists and Nazis became loyal soldiers following orders.

I was in the first grade when I started walking to St. Timothy’s School, a Catholic grade school in my Chicago neighborhood. The four-block hike from my home on Maplewood took me down Devon Avenue, a busy commercial street lined with small shops, most with Jewish owners.
I was around ten when it dawned on me that I heard lots of conversation about World War II and the fate of Jews in eastern Europe. The old folks usually spoke in Yiddish, so I didn’t understand much. But I did hear the English words “smoke,” “ghetto,” and “camps.” My across-the-alley-neighbor, Mrs. Fishman, told me that the Jews in Germany were forced to wear yellow stars and then they were put into railroad cars.

“Now they’re all dead,” she said. “No one is left.”

I asked my father about the stars and boxcars. He told me how the Nazis arrested Jews across Germany and Poland. He told me about the gas and the crematoriums. He told me that the Nazis also killed untold numbers of Gypsies, Christians, and anyone who opposed them.
I remember his face when he said that the ashes of the dead covered everything. I remember his voice cracking when he described what the Allies found when they liberated the camps: piles of corpses and emaciated prisoners in striped prison pajamas.
Corpses discovered by Americans liberating Buchenwald, 1945

Corpses discovered by Americans liberating Buchenwald, April 1945

Before I knew the word Holocaust, I knew the Nazis had tried to kill every Jew in Europe. I knew this for certain.
In 1958,  my father joined the John Birch Society and became a national leader. Our home turned into Ground Zero for Birch recruiting  in the Midwest. Lots of Dad’s Birch friends stopped by to share a meal, meet new members, and discuss plans for growth and development.
One frequent guest was Dr. Revilo P. Oliver, a classics professor from the University of Illinois in Campaign-Urbana. He was a founding member of the Birch Society and a personal friend of Birch founder, Robert Welch. Welch often described Oliver as one of the “ablest speakers on the Americanist side.” Oliver got a hearty welcome from my parents. After all, any friend of Robert Welch was an automatic friend of Stillwell and Laurene Conner.
Using the Birch network, Oliver peddled his revised history of World War II; one in which the Jews invented the Holocaust and foisted the story of their imaginary persecution on an unsuspecting world. I heard Oliver spin his vile “Holohoax” ideas right in my parents’ living room.
The first time I met Oliver he gave me the creeps. His long face was exaggerated by greasy black hair, bushy eyebrows, beady eyes and wide handlebar mustache. I never saw Oliver smile. But his lips often curled in a nasty snarl, especially when he was berating someone who dared to disagree.  
Dr Revilo P Oliver

Dr Revilo P Oliver

Oliver was a frequent contributor to National Review, William F. Buckley’s magazine, and to the John Birch Society’s magazine, American Opinion. In the pages of these journals, he expressed some of his most controversial positions including a 1965 slam against the United States for “an insane, but terribly effective, effort to destroy the American people and Western civilization by subsidizing . . . the breeding of the intellectually, physically, and morally unfit.”
Oliver peppered his speeches and his articles with racial slurs and discredited historical assumption. In his role as a member of the John Birch Society speakers’ bureau, he railed against Communist subversion inside our government while insisting that President Roosevelt tricked the United States into World War II in order to help his friend, Joseph Stalin, the Russian dictator.

 

Along with this interpretation of World War II, Oliver peddled his version of the Holocaust, one in stark contrast to everything I’d learned from our Jewish neighbors and my own father. Gone were the yellow stars and the death camps. Gone were the gas chambers and crematoria. Even the witness of soldiers who liberated the camps were discredited. Instead, Oliver said that there were no gas chambers and no exterminations. 

My parents parroted Oliver. The Holocaust stopped being so terrible, the death camps turned into detention camps. Jews were imprisoned because they were Communist traitors. The “Final Solution” became fiction, and the Nazis were loyal military men following orders.
I’d met Jews with tattoos on their arms. I’d seen photographs. I knew that millions of men, women and children were tortured, worked to death, or gassed and their ashes coated everything when the fires roared. I knew all of this as well as I knew my name. I was not even 14 and I thought my parents had lost their minds. Dr. Oliver had helped them

* * *

No matter what Revilo Oliver said, he continued to serve (with my father) on the John Birch Society National Council, the inner circle of the organization. My parents drank in everything he said and repeated most of it, almost verbatim. Robert Welch heaped praise on Oliver for his outstanding contributions to the Birch cause.
All of this Oliver devotion stopped abruptly in July of 1966, when Oliver headlined the New England Rally for God, Family, and Country, an annual Birch-sponsored festival held in Boston and billed as a reunion for conservative Americans. In his speech, “Conspiracy or Degeneracy, Oliver talked about “vaporizing” Jews as part of the “beatific vision.”
Oliver’s statements generated an avalanche of negative press, followed by internal Birch turmoil on how to respond. Oliver had said all of this and more for years and every single member of the Birch leadership had heard him. But time this was different. Oliver was speaking at a public Birch-sanctioned and sponsored event. His shocking anti-Semitism reflected badly on the John Birch Society, and the press reported the story. 
In early August, Welch told council members that Oliver had resigned. In a split-second, he vanished from my parents’ conversation. They pretended that Oliver had never been a Birch leader or a personal friend.
Revilo Oliver lived the rest of his life as a hero to neo-Nazis, skin heads and white supremacists. His views never moderated. In 1982, twelve years before his death by suicide, Oliver wrote that democracy would only be possible by “deporting, vaporizing, or otherwise disposing of swarms of Jews, Congoids (Africans), Mongoloids and mongrels (mixed-race) that now infest our territory.”
Oliver put an indelible mark on the John Birch Society, built a network of Holocaust deniers, and recruited countless followers to spread his message of hate.  Unfortunately, his ideas did not die with him. Neo-Nazis and historical revisionists continue their campaign to deny the reality of Hitler’s Holocaust.
To confront today’s Holocaust deniers and minimize their impact, we have to take a hard look at the man who fueled the movement, Revilo Oliver–the vilest man I ever knew.
Victims on the way to the gas chambers. Auschwitz

Victims on the way to the gas chambers. Auschwitz

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  1. Roger Langendoerfer

    What a lying, repugnant excuse for a human being. Listening to him makes me want to throw up. If there is a hell he is sure to be rotting in it.

    1. Claire Conner

      I deleted the Oliver video from my site. Having his voice and face here feels gross.

  2. Hadding Scott

    It’s funny that you say that you know that people were gassed in Buchenwald, when mainstream history now says that nobody was gassed there.

    The official story about Buchenwald actually changed! Imagine that! As a matter of fact, the official story about Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau had already changed before 1950, but it wasn’t publicized to ordinary people.

    Your parents were willing to change their position on gas-chambers etc. because they had been repeating claims they really didn’t know. You don’t really know either, to this day, clearly.

    1. Claire Conner

      Hadding Scott — I see you are a mouthpiece for the Nazis — you’d be happy in the company of Revilo Oliver with his hate flag flying. You are not welcome in my life or on my website.

  3. Claire Conner

    Holocaust denial is a big radical business on the internet. Even here, several Holocaust deniers have taken exception to my writing about Revilo Oliver, pointing out that Buchenwald had no gas chambers. In fact, that appears to be true. Prisoners suffered other terrible fates at Buchenwald including being hung on meat hooks until dead. The camp also house a medical experimentation program. 56,000 souls perished at Buchenwald.

    Auschwitz in Poland housed the largest extermination program. Over 80% of new arrivals at Auschwitz were taken to the “showers” where they died.

    http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005198

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