Willis Carto, a publisher notorious for his anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, has died.
Carto’s death on Monday at his home in Virginia was announced by The American Free Press, a newspaper he co-founded, and confirmed by his wife, Elizabeth, to be a result of heart failure, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was 89.
The Anti-Defamation League referred to Carto as “one of the most influential American anti-Semitic propagandists” and the “mastermind of the hate network.”
Carto refused to speak in public, left his name out of his publication’s mastheads and refused interviews, The New York Times reported.
However, during the 1980s, he headed an organization called Liberty Lobby that had a mailing list of 400,000 and published a newspaper called The Spotlight, with a circulation of 300,000. He also owned a publishing house called Noontide Press, which published works such as Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
In 1988 he started the Populist Party that David Duke, head of the Ku Klux Klan, represented in his bid to become US president.
Carto was also an influential part of the Holocaust revisionist movement, which claimed that many parts of the historical accounts of Nazi atrocities against Jews during World War II were factually incorrect.
In 1978, Carto started the Institute for Historical Review, which published the Journal of Historical Review that explored questions like whether Nazi gas chambers actually had the capacity to exterminate 6 million Jews and if the gas chambers even existed at all, The New York Times reported. Carto also helped organize conferences on such topics.
“He tried to take the movement from the gutter to a higher plane to make it seem like it was legitimate, when in reality it was nothing but hate,” historian Deborah Lipstadt, an expert on Holocaust denial, told the Los Angeles Times.
In 1978, Carto’s institute offered $50,000 to anyone who could prove that the Jews were gassed at Auschwitz. A California businessman and Auschwitz survivor named Mel Mermelstein took up the challenge, providing the institute with photographs, eyewitness testimonies and even a can of the Zyklon-B gas used in the Auschwitz gas chambers, The New York Times reported. Carto’s institute declined to respond to Mermelstein’s evidence.
Mermelstein eventually sued the institute; Carto in a settlement was forced to pay Mermestein nearly double the amount he originally offered. In the court ruling, the Institute of Historical Review was also forced to accept that the Holocaust was indisputable fact, The New York Times reported.
Carto was kicked out of the Institute for Historical Review in the mid-1990s after he was accused of financial fraud. He then launched The Barnes Review, a publication he used to continue to deny the Holocaust.
He would later blame the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Israel, The New York Times reported.