Harry Elmer Barnes

Harry Elmer Barnes ( 15 June 1889 – 25 August 1968) was an American historian , a graduate of Columbia University and a pioneer of historical revisionism . He was also one of the founders of the Institute for Historical Review , an organization based in Los Angeles dedicated to the study and dissemination of revisionist historical material in various fields. Barnes was also known for being a Holocaust denier .

Above all, he was a writer, using his extensive reading and photographic memory to summarize large amounts of information, all presented in the form of a story that would be “useful” to his readers. He wrote more than thirty books, more than one hundred essays and 600 articles and book reviews, making him one of the most prolific writers in all social sciences. 1

Barnes was a prestigious historian, but in the 1950s he lost credibility because of his ideas about the Holocaust. 2


Between the First and Second World War , he became a well-known pacifist writer and the greatest exponent of the historical revisionist movement.

The causes of World War I

Between 1920 and 1926 he wrote several articles on the responsibility of the great powers in the unleashing of the First World War , where he turned the results of his personal investigations into an astounding amount of public documentation, as well as his numerous interviews With the various personalities involved in the conflict, such as Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany , who lived in Doorm, Holland, German and Austro-Hungarian officials and military. If, in the first article, the blame is shared between France, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, in the last of them it completely excludes the central powers to adjudge the totality of the responsibility in the cause of the war to Russia and France, With evidence whose robustness has motorized modern writers 3 to re-examine the question of responsibilities.

As a result of these studies and the controversies unleashed, it would be his most famous work published in 1926: The Genesis of World War , which is the first book written in the United States since 1914 on the causes of the Great War, Of the main actors. In that work, Barnes states that, in view of the evidence gathered, “any fault of Germany in the unleashing of war must be ruled out.” 4

According to Barnes wrote in the foreword to the controversial book acquittal,

In estimating the order of guilt of the various countries we may say that the direct and immediate responsibility for the World War falls upon Serbia, France and Russia, with the guilt about equally distributed. Next in order-far below France and Russia-would come Austria, through she never desired to general European war. Finally, we place Germany and England as tied for last place, both being opposed to war in the 1914 crisis. Probably the German public was somewhat more supportive of military activity than the English people, but … the Kaiser made much more strenuous efforts to preserve the peace of Europe in 1914 than Sir Edward Gray.

In the estimation of the guilt of the different countries, we can safely affirm that the only direct and immediate responsibility of the First World War rests with Serbia, France and Russia, with equally distributed guilt. Below and far below France and Russia, Austria would come, but contemplating that she never wished for a general European war. Finally, we can put Germany and England, tied in the last place, both opposed to the war when the crisis of 1914 unleashed. Probably the German public was something more favorable to the military activity that the English, but … the Kaiser Made many more strenuous efforts to preserve the peace of Europe in 1914 than those carried out by Sir Edward Gray (English Secretary for Foreign Affairs). 5

Subsequent writers, such as Fritz Fischer , a controversial and provocative Bavarian journalist, posthumously and harshly criticized Barnes’s work, although for this it was necessary to depart from the war’s own causes to focus exclusively on some isolated aspects of events In Germany, after the beginning of the first world war, thus leaving aside both its own causes and previous events in France, Russia, Serbia and England, as Barnes demanded historians of his time as a minimum rule of seriousness . Similarly, to counter the Barnes thesis, this historical line states that, in reality, Germany exploited and masterfully attacked the Sarajevo attack so much that, afterwards, already begun hostilities, an attempt would be made to orchestrate a gigantic plan of territorial annexations at the expense Of Russia mainly, but also of Belgium and Holland. 6 In turn, Barnes’s supporters say that even if these hypotheses were true – which they consider unproven – they do not prove Germany’s guilt in triggering the Great War, in addition to that similar plans were studied by all the European Chancelleries , Tempted by the opportunity for territorial gains offered by the recent war. On the other hand, the writer Fritz Fischer has been repeatedly accused of falsifying the truth. 7

Years after World War II

After the Second World War and in the later years of his life, he assumed a denialist position . It concluded that the allegations made against Germany and Japan , including the Holocaust , were one war propaganda used to justify the participation of the US in the war, the systematic destruction of Germany and delivery of German territory to Poland to compensate The Polish territory given to Russia.

In addition to his position against the supposed systematic extermination of the European Jews by the German government of the time, Barnes considered that all the sides were guilty of terrible atrocities in World War II , that Hitler did not want to go to the war against States United States and that US President Franklin Roosevelt provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor and get the United States into the war.

Barnes not only published revisionist studies on various historical issues but encouraged other historians who had graduated from universities in his country to publish their revisionist investigations. For example , in the 1960s he collaborated with David Hoggan , graduated historian at Harvard University , to draw up a detailed study of how war broke out in 1939. In 1969 work Hoggan denying that they had killed six million published Jews during the world war, which made the denialists target attacks.


Shortly after Barnes’ death, the Jewish historian Murray Rothbard wrote a recognition for the work of Barnes.

“That was Harry, passionately committed to the truth, without the applause of academics or crowds and kept in the shadows for the last two decades of his life.” Referring to Fig.


  1. Back to top↑ Justus D. Doenecke, “Harry Elmer Barnes: Prophet of a ‘Usable’ Past,” History Teacher (1975) 8 # 2 pp. 265-276
  2. Back to top↑ Goddard, 1968
  3. Back to top↑ For example: Annika Mombauer in several similar articles; Sean McMeekin has also published two successful books July-1914: Countdown to War and The Russian Origins of the First World War , on the subject. In the last mentioned, he makes extensive allusions to the works of Harry Barnes as a precursor in historical research. And the Australian historian Christopher Clark , whose work known as “ The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914″ is already considered classic and definitive in many respects.
  4. Back to top↑ Mombauer, Annika. The Origins of the First World War, London: Pearson, 2002.
  5. Back to top↑ Mombauer, op. Cit. p. 88.
  6. Back to top↑ Check the magnificent page in Italian http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septemberprogramm
  7. Back to top↑ Ullrich Volker Der berühmte Historiker Fritz Fischer im Zwielicht , Die Zeit , January 15, 2004, article in German.
  8. Back to top↑ Harry Elmer Barnes, 1889-1968