A controversial ultra-Orthodox rabbi based in New York has said that fewer that one million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, claiming most of those counted among the usually cited figure of six million were not Jewish according to rabbinical law.
In a video posted online, Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi can be seen saying that high assimilation rates in pre-war Europe and broad Nazi definitions have exaggerated the numbers of Jews recorded as killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. At least five million of the six million were “total goyim,” Mizrachi told the crowd, adopting a Hebrew word for non-Jews that many consider pejorative.
“The truth, I am telling you, is that not even one million Jews were murdered,” Mizrachi said, trashing accepted historical accounts. “A lot of non-Jews were meshed into the count, but in truth, how many Jews really were killed?”
Originally from Israel, Mizrachi moved to the United States in his twenties and received rabbinic ordination there. In the past decade he has been teaching at the Ohr Yeshiva in Monsey, New York, and producing kiruv or Jewish outreach, videos.
According to his website, DivineInformation.com, Mizrachi “has spoken in over 5,000 lectures worldwide as well participated in many weekend seminars, radio shows and other Hebrew and English events in which he enriched the knowledge and awareness of Judaism among thousands of Jews who once were lacking Jewish awareness whatsoever.”
In the video, one of thousands on his YouTube page — which has amassed over a million views — Mizrachi says it is “very simple” to explain his estimates for the actual number of Jewish victims in the Holocaust.
“If you look at the percent of assimilation that there was in Europe, which already reached 80 percent, it’s reasonable to assume that 80 percent of the 6 million were not-Jews,” Mizrachi said.
“If your grandfather from your father’s side was Jewish, and the rest were non-Jews, [you went] to the gas chambers. They also put in the wives of Jews that were entirely non Jewish. If she hid him, or they were hidden by non-Jews, if they caught them, they killed them also,” he said in an apparent reference to the Nazis’ definition of Jewishness, which sufficed with a single Jewish grandparent.
While historians differ on the exact number of Jews killed at the hands of the Nazis, the most commonly cited figure for the total number has been six million with near-universal agreement among Holocaust scholars. According to British historian Martin Gilbert, the total number of victims is just under six million—around 78% of the 7.3 million Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe at the time.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office and a Holocaust historian and Nazi hunter, said there was “absolutely no basis” to Mizrachi’s comments.
There is “no historical truth” to the claims made in the video, both regarding the number of Jews killed and the Nazi definitions of who is considered Jewish, Zuroff told The Times of Israel Thursday.
“The most populous Jewish communities were in Eastern Europe, and there, intermarriage wasn’t even an issue. Yes, there was some intermarriage in Germany and other places but it is a tiny percentage,” he said.
Regarding the claim that many of those included in the tally were not Jewish according to halachic law, Zurroff said: “Half-Jews, as the Nazis called them, were only persecuted as Jews if they were connected to the Jewish community. He doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
Zurroff, who has played a key role in bringing indicted Nazi and fascist war criminals to justice, said the use of false facts served a sinister goal.
“He is doing two despicable things: He’s warning Jews that lack of observance could cause another Holocaust. He is also mocking Jews who are not religious,” he said.
No stranger to controversy, Mizrachi has faced criticism before over comments relating to the Holocaust.
In a lecture posted in 2013 titled “Why Did The Holocaust Happen? Torah Codes, Having Faith in God No Matter What,” Mizrachi suggested the behavior of non-religious Jews as a cause for Nazi atrocities and warned that slack observance could bring about “further tragedy.”
Conversely, he said, in Arab countries, where he claims Jews were largely religious, there had been “no Hitler, no Holocaust.”
In other videos he claimed that Down’s Syndrome and autism are “punishments for sins committed in a previous life.”