. . . Revilo Oliver–Holocaust Denier and John Birch Society Leader
They’re All Dead
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 many of the conversations I overheard were about World War II and the fate of the Jews in eastern Europe. The old folks usually spoke in Yiddish, so I didn’t understand much. But I did hear some 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.”
Ashes Covered Everything
I asked my father about the stars and the boxcars. He told me how the Nazis arrested Jews across Germany and Poland. He told me about the gas and the ovens. 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.
Before I knew the word Holocaust, I knew the Nazis had tried to kill every Jew in Europe. I knew this for certain.
Any Friend of Robert Welch is Welcome
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.
Oliver Used Conservative Magazines to Peddle His Racial Views
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.”
No Gas Chambers
Oliver took every opportunity to peddle his version of the Holocaust, one in stark contrast to everything I’d learned from my Jewish neighbors and from my own father.
According to Oliver: there were no yellow stars. No death camps. No gas chambers. No crematoria. Even the witness of soldiers who liberated the camps was discarded out of hand. Oliver insisted that the Jews were imprisoned because they were traitors to the German state. But, no one was gassed. No one was exterminated. Death was the natural result of imprisonment and poor food.
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 only 14 and I thought my parents had lost their minds. Dr. Oliver had helped them
* * *
Oliver’s Views Were Known to the John Birch Society Leaders
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. Over a period of eight years, every single member of the Birch leadership had heard Oliver deny the Holocaust, and label Jews as inferior, subversive, and evil. While some of the men may have been shocked, Oliver continued to be one of the most visible and powerful of the top Birch leadership.
This Was Different
The 1966 Rally was different. Oliver was speaking at a public Birch-sanctioned event with press in attendance. He was introduced as a member of the Birch leadership and his comments reflected badly on the Society, which critics had called “anti-Semitic” for years. Robert Welch knew he had to act.
In early August, Welch told council members that Oliver had resigned. In a split-second, Revilo Oliver 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 Fueled Today’s Neo-Nazis
Oliver left 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. They point to Dr. Revilo Oliver as a hero of their movement.
To confront today’s Holocaust deniers and Neo-Nazis, we have to know the man who fueled the movement, Revilo Oliver–the vilest man I ever knew.
Roger Langendoerfer says
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.
Claire Conner says
I deleted the Oliver video from my site. Having his voice and face here feels gross.
Hadding Scott says
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.
Claire Conner says
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.
Julia Conaway Bondanella says
Hadding Scott. You are quite simply wrong. Abundant, corroborated testimony exists concerning the Holocaust. You really ought to read some real history like Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands that gives you insight into all the killing that went on before the Holocaust began in earnest.
Raymond Beale says
I think you might be correct, Hadding Scott, so I have a suggestion and a favor to offer you. Lock yourself in your garage with your car running and I will be happy to tell your friends that it wasn’t gas that killed you.
Roger Langendoerfer says
Hadding there is nothing mainstream or correct with a word you said. You would have made a great Nazi or maybe you do. I really feel sorry for those like you who are filled with such hate and ignorance. It must be miserable to be you.
Sandra Gibson says
My father was there and saw the camps and treated the survivors. Don’t you dare call all the US soldiers who who were willing to give their lives in that war and who came back with nightmares of what they saw in those camps liars.
Claire Conner says
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.
You worthless degenerate pseudo human vermin. Oliver was a a genius and stood against the genocide of his own type in this world. You are a sick, perverted individual who promotes the opposite. The extinction of one of the most successful and artistically proflific species ever to appear on the surface of this solar dirt rock.
Claire Conner says
The hatred spewed by Oliver is the hatred spewed by you, TJ. I’m sorry for anyone who goes through life with such anger and hate. You might consider that the root cause of such unbridled hate is fear.
SusanElizabeth Osborn says
No, TJ, Oliver and creatures like him stood and stand FOR Genocide.
Lamar Wadsworth says
My WWII veteran father had an eloquent 3 word rebuttal for holocaust deniers: “We liberated Buchenwald.”
Bev Cowling says
I am amazed at the deniers, in the face of all the evidence. I have been to Dachau, seen the ovens, walked through the “showers,” and saw the photos of massive mountains of naked bodies, fillings yanked out of teeth, hair shorn and obviously starved. To deny there were killings there is absurd. To claim that man’s inhumanity to man didn’t happen is even more absurd…
Pretty bad stuff happened. Seems insane to deny it.
Brent Slensker says
Oliver and his ilk POISONED the mind of my father and his friends.
Claire, thank you for fighting the good fight and standing up to the crazies. I too grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Houston. I knew people with arm tattoos and people who did not know their grandparents (as I was fortunate enough to know mine) because a mad man had hated them so very much. One friend of my mother’s was somewhat younger than my mother and had come out of Poland prior to the war. Her family walked to Prussia and then left Prussia by boat to come to Sweden and then the US. She was 5 years old and had two younger siblings. Her mother told her that she had to run from tree to tree to hide from the bad men that wanted to kill her. She told her that she was sorry she couldn’t carry her but she had to carry the baby and her father had to carry her younger brother. She was basically on her own. It breaks my heart to think of a mother having to tell her five year old child this… it breaks my heart to think of a five year old child having to hear it… much less do it. It breaks my heart that there are those who would deny that the Holocaust ever happened.
Holocaust deniers have got to be the most repugnant and ignorant by choice group of people on the planet. It was after all the anal retentive Nazis that kept the detailed records of all their heinous deeds.
I highly recommend reading Jodi Picoult’s book “The Storyteller”. I just finished it and became so obsessed by it that there were several times that I got up in the middle of the night to read it. I read about Jews leaving their homes and surviving on the absolute bare minimum in labor camps. Story within the story gives two different sides of life of two brothers who were Nazi’s and had opposing views. I could go on and on. This was a very emotional story to read. Do yourself a favor and read it.
Rose Mary Coffman says
Claire, I have been at this computer for hours reading your blog and other sites that your name comes up. I am absolutely enthralled by your writings and I am learning so much. I wanted to know about the JBS and that is where it started. I have ordered, “Wrapped in the Flag” and it will arrive at the bookstore in 7-10 days. I am sure I won’t be able to put it down. Thank you so much for sharing your personal knowledge and opinions.
Julia Simmons 2429 Wesvill Court, Apt L. Raleigh, NC 27607 says
Hello Mary Rose, I too have spent untold hours reading the works of Claire Conner. When I began reading the comments from readers of conservative pages on face book, I thought these people must be insane and uneducated. They could not spell or form a complete sentence to save their lives!
I comforted myself with the FALSE belief that they were harmless. It was Claire Conner who educated ME. All of these people, from the GOP billionaires and politicians…to their most misguided followers, are a tremendously evil and powerful force.
I have not turned away from the teachings of Christ, but I no longer attend a Baptist church I attended in Willow Spring, North Carolina for a short time. They are not “conservatives”, they are radical right-wing loons. The pastor there loves Huckabee and follows Fox News. He made very strange comments about the government I now recognize as the rantings of a radical. “The government never did anything for me”. He openly hates gay people. I now attend meetings with a Unitarian Universalist group in Raleigh. They talk about love and justice. It’s not easy being a progressive liberal in a Southern state. I’m the only one with a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker as far as I can tell. Lol
I follow Claire like a groupie, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
If anyone has any doubts, let them read “The Case for Auschwitz”, by Robert Jan van Peldt