An In-depth review of By Bread Alone

written by Amber Anapolsky


Mermelstein, Mel. By Bread Alone. Auschwitz Study Foundation, Inc: Huntington Beach, CA, 1979.

            Professor Marcuse recomended reading By Bread Alone because I was interested in Holocaust denial and Auschwitz. When I first heard about Holocaust denial mentioned in class, I thought of my friend Ralph Hokmann who survived Auschwitz. I was curious as to why and how people could deny that the Holocaust happened. As I read By Bread Alone, I kept on thinking about what Ralph Hokmann's experience was during hte Holocaust. I found By Bread Alone to be an easy read, but hard to follow the legal battle at the end. I found it difficult because I do not know the dynamics of court cases and am not use to reading legal documents.

            The following study of the case entitled Mel Mermelstein vs. the Institute for Historical Review has helped answer some of the many factual questions about the Holocaust.  Because of the uniqueness of each person, different perspectives will always exist in society.  Hopefully, by studying different perspectives, a fuller understanding of the Holocaust will emerge.  When studying the Holocaust, the survivors who experienced the Holocaust first hand can help piece together an understanding of the Holocaust.  In the second half of this discussion, you will find an oral interview with a Holocaust survivor.  In the interview, the Holocaust survivor talks about Auschwitz and the gassings.  By looking at the different perspectives on the Holocaust from Mel Mermelstein, the Institution for Historical Review, and the recollections of a Holocaust survivor, hopefully you will gain a better picture of the Holocaust.          

Background information on Mel Mermelstein:

            Mel Mermelstein is a Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gross Rosen, and Buchenwald.  Mr. Mermelstein's father, mother, two sisters and a brother all died during the Holocaust, simply because they were Jewish.  Mermelstein is the only Holocaust survivor in his immediate family.  Mr. Melmelstein's autobiography, By Bread Alone, describes the importance that bread symbolized in his life.  Bread was his lifeline.  It was filling and nourishing, and it also held a religious significance.  Bread was seen as the manna from heaven which was sent from God  (By Bread Alone, page 123).  In the camps, bread and shoes were key elements needed in order to survive.  Bread was traded, savored, and treasured.     

For more information about Mel Mermelstein, read his autobiography entitled: By Bread Alone.

  Mel Mermelstein

A view from the collapsed roof of Crematorium II at Birkenau.  This was one of the largest gas chambers that the Nazis used to murder people.  This may have been where Mel Mermelstein's mother and two sisters were murdered.

This pile of shoes represents one day's collection of shoes during the height of the gassings.  There are about 25,000 pairs of shoes.  "After bread, shoes were the next necessity for survival" remarks Mel Mermelstein from inside Auschwitz (By Bread Alone, page 126).

 Background information on the Institute for Historical Review:

            Willis Carto founded the Institute for Historical Review in 1978.  The Institute for Historical Review is a public interest research, educational and publishing center.  Its goal is to raise public awareness concerning key events in history.  The Institute for Historical Review claims to be a non-ideological, non-political, and non-secular organization.  The Institute tries to separate historical fact from historical fiction.

            The institute does not deny that the Holocaust happened (   The Institute for Historical Review claims that the chimneys of Auschwitz did not smoke from the gas chambers.  Rather, the chimneys smoked from the bakeries.  The Institute claims that six million Jews were not killed in the Holocaust.  The Institute claims that the six million Jews fled Nazism and are now living in Israel. (By Bread Alone, page 270)  

For more information on the Institute for Historical Review, visit:

The crematorium II at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  An SS man took this photograph in the camp.  (

Do these look like ovens in a bakery?  Are ovens in the bakery usually placed next to train tracks?

On paper, the Institute for Historical Review seems plausible; however, after viewing photographs of the ovens at Auschwitz, the Institute for Historical Review's argument is debunked.   

The Situation:

            In 1979, The Institute for Historical Review announced a $50,000 reward to the first person to prove that Jews were gassed at Auschwitz.  This announcement came during the Institute of Historical Review first conference at Northrop University in Los Angeles. (

            In the spring of 1981, Mel Mermelstein claimed the reward and sued the Institute for Historical Review for $17 million.

Mel Mermelstein's perspective and claim:

            In a letter that was published in The Jerusalem Post in 1979, Mel Mermelstein claimed that he could prove that Jews were gassed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.  Mr. Mermelstein used his autobiography, entitled By Bread Alone, to prove his claim.  By Bread Alone is a powerful and moving first hand account of surviving the Holocaust.  In the book, Mermelstein uses pictures, newspaper articles, and documents as evidence to support his claim.  The use of outside sources and personal experience is persuasive evidence that created a strong case for Mel Mermelstein.  The outside sources help to correctly document his personal story.  Without the outside sources to corroborate Mermelstein's story, it is possible that parts of Mermelstein's story could have been interpreted as incorrect or implausible.   

Institute for Historical Review perspective and claim:

            The Institute for Historical Review denies some of the facts about the Holocaust. The main facts that the Institute for Historical Review denies are that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and gas chambers were used to kill people.  For example, The Institute for Historical Review claims that there is no evidence that a single Jew was ever gassed in gas chambers during the Holocaust.  The Institute for Historical Review uses inconsistencies and inaccurate information as evidence to support their claims.  For example, the sign outside of the gas chambers at Auschwitz states that 4 million people were killed in the gas chambers.  The Institute mathematically disproved this number to be more like 1.2 million people were killed in the gas chambers.    


Mel Mermelstein wrote a letter to the Jerusalem Post claiming that he could prove that Jews were gassed in gas chambers at Auschwitz.  The Institute for Historical Review wrote Mel Mermelstein back offering him $50,000 for proof that Jews were, in fact, gassed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.  The Institute for Historical Review refused to pay the reward.  Accordingly, Mr. Mermelstein sued The Institute for Historical Review in California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles.  On October 9, 1981, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas T. Johnson ruled in favor of Mel Mermelstein, finding that he had provided sufficient evidence to prove his claim that Jews were gassed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. The Court issued a judgment requiring The Institute for Historical Review to pay Mermelstein  $90,000, and write a public apology to Mel Mermelstein. Judge Thomas T. Johnson declared that:

"This court does take judicial notice of the fact that Jews were gassed to death at Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland during the summer of 1944.  It is not reasonably subject to dispute.  And it is capable of immediate and accurate determination by resort to sources of reasonably indisputable accuracy.  It is simply a fact."

In California, the Evidence Code permits the Court to take judicial notice of "facts and propositions of generalized knowledge that are so universally known that they cannot reasonably be the subject of dispute." (Evidence Code sections 451(f) and 452(h)) This was the first time that any court in the United States took judicial notice of the Holocaust.

For the complete court transcripts of Mel Mermelstein vs. the Institute for Historical Review visit:
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review of By Bread Alone
Testimony of Ralph Hokmann