Research into Holocaust denial has revealed that the principal actors in this field have been motivated by anti-Semitism. Indeed, the very first Holocaust deniers were the Nazis themselves. Hitler's SS chief, Heinrich Himmler, instructed his camp commandants to destroy records, crematoria and other signs of mass extermination of human beings, as Germany's defeat became imminent. Following the end of World War II, many of the former leaders of the SS left Germany and began using their propaganda skills to defend their actions. Shortly after the war, denial materials began to appear.

An early proponent of Holocaust denial was Francis Parker Yockey, an American admirer of Hitler whose book Imperium, filled with anti-Semitic analysis, was published in 1962. 

The Holocaust denial movement grew into full strength in the 1970s with the publication of Arthur Butz' The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The case against the presumed extermination of European Jewry in 1976 and David Irving's Hitler's War in 1977.

These books, seen as the basis of much of the deniers' arguments, brought other similarly inclined individuals into the fold. 

In the United States, the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) was founded by the neo-Nazi Willis Carto in 1979 as an organization dedicated to publicly challenging the "myth" of the Holocaust. Most of IHR's supporters were neo-Nazis and White Supremacists. Facing difficulty in finding recruits and especially financial backers, spokespersons for the IHR and other denial groups began travelling to the Middle East in an attempt to forge closer ties with radical groups there.