Sunday, April 16, 2006

If you cannot refute the evidence, you can always abuse the witness

Believe it or not, a denier by the name of Barrington James actually has the audacity to use the idiotic slogan above as his tagline at The Cesspit. It nicely sums up Holocaust Deniers' approach to eyewitness testimony, a truly vexed subject for the dear little moonbats, since there happen to be rather a lot of them, saying things that are somewhat inconvenient to the Denier Faith, i.e. that gas chambers did indeed work properly and killed people.

Read on...

While it's fine for internet Nazis to abuse those who were there as 'Lie-Witnesses', and impute either that all testimonies were tortured out of the SS or were deliberately concocted in some mysterious telepathic mind-meld conspiracy between concentration camp inmates, such crude verbal bully-boy tactics are too lowbrow for denier Gurus. Indeed, the Pope of Revisionism, Robert Faurisson, began his career in Denial by espousing a so-called Ajax Method, applying the techniques of French literary criticism to deconstructing eyewitness testimony until it had been scoured clean of that nasty, inconvenient stuff about the gas chambers.

Faurisson's disciples are many, and one of the most devoted followers in his footsteps is of course Italian denier Carlo Mattogno. Indeed, Mattogno is scrupulous enough to present masses of verbatim citations of testimonies, and to identify as many witnesses to the camps as possible, thereby going far beyond his own guru's lazy efforts to refute one witness at a time.

Yet we'd like to point out a simple methodological problem with Mattogno's approach to eyewitness testimony, that seems to recur again and again in his work. Having predetermined his conclusion, namely that witnesses contradict themselves, therefore they are all lying, Mattogno has neglected to provide a coherent methodology of how one evaluates witness statements. This is a notoriously tricky area, one which both lawyers and historians spend much time learning during their respective educations, since eyewitnesses, as is well-known, rarely have perfect recall of their memories, especially of events that might have happened months or even years ago, as was invariably the case when testimonies relating to the camps were recorded after the war.

Indeed, even a cursory perusal of Mattogno's writings reveals a consistent niggle in his approach to testimony: he is seemingly incapable of understanding the concept of hearsay. This curious blind-spot is especially apparent in an article in which he tackles the testimony of a former Sonderkommando, Charles Bendel, who gave evidence at the Belsen trial in 1945 and subsequently at the trial of Tesch & Stabenow, the manufacturers of Zyklon-B. Bendel, let it be said, is far from the perfect witness. He does indeed give differing dates and observations in differing testimonies. So far, so normal. But is Mattogno content to let his case rest on pointing up these contradictions? No, he also has to invent wholly imaginary conflicts based on a wilful misreading of the facts.

Charles Sigismund Bendel was a Romanian Jewish doctor arrested in Paris in late 1943 and was deported from Drancy on December 10, 1943 to Auschwitz. He claimed to have worked with Mengele in the 'Gypsy Camp' - not unplausible, given his medical qualifications. Some time between June and August 1944, he was assigned, he claimed, to a Sonderkommando at one of the four crematoria. While most of Bendel's testimony concerned what he saw in the summer of 1944, he also testified to other things as well, testimony which particularly exercises Mattogno, because he spots a contradiction or two to the Known Facts:

According to him, the construction of crematoriums 1 and 2 (II and III in the official German numeration) began in March 1942: "The foundations of these imposing red brick buildings were laid in March 1942."
This is not correct, because the Central Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and Police in Auschwitz took bids for the construction of the first Birkenau crematorium on 1 July 1942 ....
Once again according to Dr. Bendel, the crematoriums were completed in January 1943: "Completed in January 1943, their dedication was honored by the presence of Himmler in person".
This is likewise incorrect. The Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and Police of KGL-Auschwitz finished construction on crematoriums II and III on 31 March and 25 June 1943 respectively. It is also untrue that Himmler was present for the openings.

Hello? Carlo? Bendel wasn't even in Auschwitz when either of these events happened! Of course he isn't going to know the precise details! In short, this part of the testimony is hearsay. Pointing out a factual mistake in testimony relating to events before a witness arrived at Auschwitz is no proof whatsover that the subsequent testimony is also false. In fact, it looks like overkill - and thereby creates the suspicion that Mattogno doth protest too much.

This suspicion is only strengthened by Mattogno's handling of other witnesses. In Auschwitz: The First Gassing (large pdf), our friend makes much hay of the fact that many 'key witnesses' to events at Auschwitz don't mention the first experimental use of Zyklon-B to execute prisoners in their postwar testimonies. The dating, by the way, of this event is notoriously controversial: some witnesses claim August, some September 1941 - a subject which this blog will return to in due course. Hint: might there have been several experimental gassings? Just a thought.

You might think, perfectly reasonably, that Mattogno has found many 'key witnesses' who were present at Auschwitz in August and September 1941 who simply 'forgot' to mention this epochal, world-historical event in their testimonies, thereby proving Denial correct in its contention that Nazi Gassings Never Happened. Ah, but you reckoned without Mattogno's clumsy use of evidence. On closer inspection, it turns out that almost all of these forgetful witnesses arrived at Auschwitz no earlier than December 1941, several months after the first gassings are considered to have taken place. Indeed, most of the witnesses Mattogno cites for ignoring the subject of the first gassing arrived in the spring of 1942, including Alfred Wetzler (registered April 13, 1942) and Rudolf Vrba (registered as Walter Rosenberg on June 29, 1942), who escaped Auschwitz in April 1944 to bring the first detailed description of the gas chambers to the West. So why didn't they mention the first gassings in August or September 1941?

Hello again! Carlo! They weren't there - the fact that they did not include what would have been hearsay in their testimonies proves nothing. Once again, Mattogno's refusal to use the concept of hearsay properly renders his critique worthless. Why clutter up your argument with easily disprovable contentions? Why make rookie mistakes in handling the evidence that call into question everything else you are proposing?

In short, 'Revisionism' really has to learn that Deny Everything, Admit Nothing, is an approach which is almost guaranteed to make even the smartest Denier bunny look like a complete fessacchione*.

We''ll return to this theme, and also propose our own, more coherent methodological approach to eyewitness testimony, in the coming weeks and months.

*fessacchione: It., fucking idiot (coll.)


The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

"In the discipline of jurisprudence there is a generally recognized hierarchy of evidence. At the top of the hierarchy is physical evidence, the investigation of the material traces of a crime (corpse, murder weapon, bloodstains, fingerprints and so on); the next highest rank is documentary
evidence and the lowest is testamentary evidence, of which a particular form of testamentary evidence, the testimony of interested partiess - those directly affected by the event in questionóis considered particularly unreliable.

With Hilberg, the ordering is reversed: Testamentary evidence and
especially the testimony of interested parties is highest in the hierarchy, followed by documentary evidence. Physical evidence he does not bother with."

- Jurgen Graf
The Giant with the Feet of Clay

Nathan said...

What a crock!


As its name suggests, direct evidence relates immediately to the allegation being tested. If the direct evidence is true, the allegation is established. Direct evidence, on the other hand, is evidence of a fact based on a witness's personal knowledge or observation of that fact. An example of direct evidence would be the surveillance video of a person robbing a convenience store, or a witness who saw a person stealing a car. A person's guilt of a charged crime may be proven by direct evidence alone, if that evidence satisfies a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt regarding that crime.

The law draws no distinction between circumstantial evidence and direct evidence in terms of weight or importance. Direct evidence or circumstantial evidence may be enough to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt, depending on the facts of the case as the jury finds them.

US Federal Rules of Evidence:

Rule 401. Definition of "Relevant Evidence"

"Relevant evidence" means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.


Rule 402. Relevant Evidence Generally Admissible; Irrelevant Evidence Inadmissible

All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States, by Act of Congress, by these rules, or by other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to statutory authority. Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible.

CPS Policy for prosecuting cases of rape:

The police will always look for corroboration or supporting
evidence (such as medical or scientific evidence, CCTV
evidence, or eyewitnesses to events prior to or after the
incident) but it is not essential and a prosecution can still go
ahead without it