A well-known Orthodox rabbi and lecturer based in the US posted a video claiming that only one million Jews died in the Holocaust.
The other 5 million people included in the numbers of Jews killed by the Nazis were intermarried and not Jewish, he said.
Academic scholars of European Jewry and the Holocaust based in Israel rubbished his claim saying it was without historical foundation.
Rabbi Yosef Mizrahi is involved in Jewish outreach to return Jews to religious life and holds a series of weekly lectures in New York as well as speaking in other parts of the US and has a Facebook page with 77,000 followers.
He also conducts speaking tours in Israel, and has spoken in Ramle, Jerusalem, Afula, Ra’anana, Rehovot, Eilat, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv.
In a video published on his YouTube channel on Tuesday, Mizrahi stated, “This is how it was in Europe, 80 percent of the Jewish people were assimilated and intermarried with non-Jews many generations before the Holocaust.”
The rabbi noted that according to Jewish law only a person whose mother is Jewish is considered Jewish while also pointing to the Nazi policy that defined someone as Jewish if they had just one Jewish grandparent.
Mizrahi argued therefore that the figure of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, as accepted by the vast majority of Holocaust scholars, contained 5 million people who were not Jewish according to Jewish law.
Said the rabbi, “The truth is that not even one million Jews were killed. Not that this is, God forbid, an insignificant number, it’s massive, but there is a difference between one million and 6 million.”
Prof. Kimmy Caplan, head of the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University said Mizrahi’s claims had no basis in fact and were not backed up by any corroborating data.
“Someone who says this is completely detached from historical reality,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “There is no historical evidence that sustains such an argument or anything that comes close to such an argument.”
Caplan said that intermarriage did occur on a small scale in Germany, France and the UK but noted that neither Jewish newspapers nor rabbinical responsa in Europe, especially Poland and Eastern Europe, discussed the issue of intermarriage before the Holocaust because, he said, the issue did not exist on a large-scale level.
“Jewish society was discussing anti-Semitism, Jewish nationalism, and other issues but there was no discussion of intermarriage because it wasn’t a reality of Jewish life,” he said.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office and a Holocaust historian, described Mizrahi’s comments as “made up history to suit an agenda,” and accused Mizrahi of using his claims to encourage people to be more observant Jews.
“He wants people to be more religious, so he’s saying be religious by downplaying the Holocaust through an attack on the ‘imperfect’ Jewish identity of people who are not religious,” said Zuroff. “This is a product of the utter ignorance of the actual historical record.”
In response to a request for comment from the Post, Mizrahi said he had “never determined this fact” and said that “a group of liars systematically distort my words and take them out of context.”
“At the time of the Holocaust, the Nazis murdered people who were half-Jewish or a quarter-Jewish according to their system – although as I said according to the Torah there is no such thing as half-Jewish but rather that someone is either totally Jewish or totally non-Jewish.
“I explained in my lesson that it is possible that 5 million Jews died or 3 million or even just one million.
“The reason I spoke about the issue was to alert the public to the awful assimilation that is taking place right now in the world.”
According to Prof. Robert Gellately, editor of Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany, in 1935 when the Nuremberg laws were passed, “approximately 35,000 of the 500,000 members of German Jewish communities lived in intermarriages.”