Thursday, May 04, 2006

Arolsen: AAARGH, all those names....

As Sergey reported earlier this week, this here lil' blog has come to the attention of French deniers AAARGH. Apparently, we are 'intéresant', which is more than can be said for their screeds. But let's not trade insults too early in the debate, since AAARGH saw fit to reprint a post of mine from a month back about the Arolsen archive controversy.

Shame, however, that they didn't bother to read what I wrote very carefully.


Even more bemusing is the contention that we're specialists in 'damage control', since the whole raison d'etre of my original post was to point out that deniers seem blithely unaware that materials from Arolsen copied in NARA and Yad Vashem have already transformed historians' understanding of the Holocaust, and also constitute powerful documentary proof of the mass murder of hundreds of thousands. Here's what AAARGH said in their own attempt at spin-doctoring the story:
Les spécialistes du damage control, sur l'intéresant site "Holocaust Controversies" disent qu'une bonne partie des données concerne des non-juifs, qui pourraient réclamer aussi, et sur le sort desquels les révisionnistes sans cœur n'ont pas voulu se pencher. C'est évidemment là un mensonge très grossier.

My translation:
The specialists in damage control, the interesting site "Holocaust Controversies" say that much of the data concerns non-Jews, who could also claim, and about whose fate the heartless revisionists do not want to lean. This is obviously a very coarse lie.

Oh, really? Then perhaps AAARGH might care to commission studies of any of the following groups once the Arolsen archives are open:
a) non-Jewish Fremdarbeiter
b) non-Jewish KZ-Häftlinge
c) German Vertriebene
d) postwar Displaced Persons
since these are precisely the groups that will be best documented amidst the reputed 17 million names to be found in the Arolsen files. Perhaps we'll get clarification of the fate of the seven million plus foreign workers who were brought to Germany during the Second World War, mostly involuntarily. Perhaps we'll be able to clear up a little more of the confusing picture surrounding the 'ordinary' concentration camps, into which at least half a million non-Jews vanished between 1939 and 1945, seemingly not to come out.

Perhaps, once Arolsen is open, we might have a firm indication whether there really were were 2 million dead among the German expellees, or only 500,000 as German historian Rüdiger Overmans has calculated.

Ha. Bet you didn't think of that one, did you?

Maybe, now Arolsen is opening up, we might get an apology from right-wing German nationalists who insist on claiming figures of over 15 million German dead during and immediately after the Second World War,especially from moonbats such as Professor Bellinger who use sources like James Bacque which have been exposed as factually worthless.

Of course, AAARGH are not content to let their case rest there, but bring up a favourite denier meme that sounds, as they so often do, earth-quakingly portentous on first hearing, but really turns out to be the usual same-old, same-old bullshit.
Denier Cliché Number 367 is, of course, the fact that Yad Vashem have not accumulated the names of all five to six million victims of the Holocaust:
Yad Vashem, the Israeli dispensary specialising in the memorial racket had to rapidly engage a thousand inputters to transcribe its files into data-processing data. The result was an immense fiasco: the number of Jewish victims, after 60 years of feverish collection, did not exceed 3 million, and still with many doubled names.The figure is much more probably located between 2 million and 2,5 million. The last hope is Bad Arolsen. The great brothel of Washington, Holocaust Memorial Museum, which already tapped elements of files of Bad Arolsen, wants a copy of these files. (25 km linear, more hundreds of thousands of micofilms and microfiches). Probably, these people there believe as firmly as iron in their myth of the six million and hope to be able to reinflate it, after the puncture of Yad Vashem.

Let's pause for a moment and consider exactly what the Yad Vashem Database contains: the names of victims based on Pages of Testimony submitted by surviving relatives or friends. So far as I can see, it doesn't seem to have factored in all of the many documentary sources of the kind that are found in Arolsen and a zillion other archives around the world. One of the documentary sources that does seem to have been factored in are the transport lists found by the Dutch Red Cross immediately after the war which gave the full names of all 105,000 Dutch Jews deported to Auschwitz, Sobibor, Theresienstadt and Bergen-Belsen.

Oh yeah, the Dutch Jews. Them. Holocaust deniers tend to keep especially quiet about the Dutch Jews, perhaps because they are aware of precisely how detailed the Dutch records are. And indeed, let's see what Yad Vashem have to say about the numbers of names available from individual countries:
The Database contains 1,260,256 million names occurrences of people from Poland; 225,284 from Germany; 198,189 from the former USSR (1938 borders); 163,628 from Romania; 124,591 from Czechoslovakia and 100,000 from the Netherlands.

To recap vis-a-vis the accepted figures for numbers of Jewish victims from each country:
Holland 100,000 names 100,000 victims
Czechoslovakia 124,591 names 143,000 victims
Germany 225,284 names 160,000 victims
Poland 1,260,256 names 2.7 million victims
USSR(1938 borders) 198,189 names 1.1 million victims

So what do we have here? We have a 100% match for Holland, a better than 80% match for Czechoslovakia, and so many German names that one suspects they mean either Germany and Austria put together (Dimensionen des Völkermords: 160,000 + 65,000 = 225,000), or they are including those who died from suicide and natural causes 'during the Holocaust', but not in a camp.

So we have a considerable degree of overlap in the west, and far fewer names for the east. Hardly surprising when entire communities were wiped out across the whole of Eastern Europe, with few survivors and precious few relatives or neighbours left alive to report the death of their friends and family. Also hardly surprising given the taboo nature of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union, and the fact that most Soviet Jews were extensively assimilated into Russian society and fluency in Hebrew or Yiddish dropped like a stone after 1945. For this reason, Yad Vashem has just installed a Russian-language search and submission form for its database.

The fact is that both the Yad Vashem database and the Arolsen records pose a bit of a Hobson's Choice for deniers. If they insist on repeating the charge that not all names are in the database, then they have to explain why all the Dutch names are, and what happened to this not inconsiderable group of assimilated, Dutch-speaking, non-Yiddish-speaking Jews of whom nary a living trace has been found, while the ashes of some appear to have been discovered in the 1960s when Hydrokop conducted test borings around the Birkenau camp site and found sixty places where human remains had been buried. Ooops!

Then we have the Czech, Slovak, German, Austrian etc names, all cross-confirmed from archival files in Arolsen and elsewhere. Not to mention the more than 1 million Polish names. And none of this is even reckoning with the fact that the Yad Vashem database does not yet include, so far as can be seen, the name-lists of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission, or it would appear, the name-lists from the more than 1,000 yizkor books compiled by Polish Jewry immediately after the war.

None of this will ever yield the names of all five to six million victims of the Holocaust; the destruction of vital records in Eastern Europe, and the havoc caused in societies such as Poland and the Soviet Union which collectively lost nearly thirty million dead from all causes in the Second World War, mean a full listing will never, ever be possible. Why should that be surprising? The Russian government is still struggling to identify all military dead killed in action while serving with the Red Army.

And deniers should not crow; their heroes in the SS left plenty of evidence of their deeds behind, both in the form of documents as well as the countless mass graves in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, left behind by the retreating Germans for the Soviet Extraordinary Commission to uncover, exhume and forensically examine. A subject, incidentally, to which this blog will return fairly soon.

While we're on the subject of Arolsen, I'm grateful to AAARGH for making me re-read the Zundelsite's reprise of the testimony of Arolsen director Charles Biedermann at the 1980s 'false news' trial. Because it provides a classic illustration of how deniers have twisted the facts and mis-cited data.

Those familiar with the argumentational strategy of many Holocaust Deniers may have come across a frequent claim that the ITS Arolsen and ICRC has only documented the deaths of between 300 to 400,000 victims in the German concentration camps. Ever wonder where this figure came from? Biedermann explained how:
Biedermann confirmed that as of December 31, 1983, the total number of deaths registered with the Special Registry Office and various other registry offices was 373,468. (11-2515) This figure represented death certificates issued pursuant to received applications and was based, with respect to the Special Registry Office, on camp records kept by the Nazis during the war. (11-2516, 2517)
Biedermann agreed that at an international conference held by the International Committee of the Camps in Vienna in 1977, the then director of the ITS, Albert de Cocatrix, gave a speech which indicated that as of December 31, 1976 a total of 357,190 names of persons who died in concentration camps had been registered at the Special Registry Office. Biedermann confirmed that these numbers actually came from the ITS. (12-2640 to 2646) He pointed out, however, that these figures resulted from applications. If an entire family had died, there was no one to make an application for a death certificate. Secondly, the ITS had complete documentation for only two of the twenty-two concentration camps. For the remainder, it had either partial or no documentation. Therefore, if an application was made for a person who had allegedly died in one of these camps, the ITS would not have the records to justify a request to the Special Registry Office for a death certificate. (12-2647)

In case there are any dimwits out there, let's just repeat those bolded parts one more time:
He pointed out, however, that these figures resulted from applications. If an entire family had died, there was no one to make an application for a death certificate.

Capisce? So next time you come across denier pond-life using the argument that the ITS or ICRC only calculated x many dead in the concentration camps, tell 'em how the figure was arrived at, and tell 'em where to stick it.

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