Sunday, December 25, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 1: The Hoax That Dare Not Speak Its Name (1).

The Hoax That Dare Not Speak Its Name

 From its inception, Holocaust Revisionism has repeatedly asserted that we have been lied to about the fate of Europe’s Jews at the hands of the Nazis. However much it might be denied by some contemporary negationists, Holocaust denial is unthinkable without some form of conspiracy theory. Indeed, the popularity of the term ‘holohoax’, coined by the sometime Liberty Lobby associate Revilo P. Oliver, among present-day deniers on the internet is a striking illustration of this. Without a conspiracy, there would be no hare to chase for many Revisionists. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to find a major negationist author who does not at some point advance a claim of fabrication, manipulation, coercion or some other form of skulduggery.
And yet it is truly shocking to discover how poorly thought out and how feebly substantiated these claims have been. If one re-reads the texts of the first generation of Revisionist authors, one encounters a veritable cacophony of finger-pointing, as different suspects are blamed for starting ‘the Hoax’. For Paul Rassinier and his epigones/plagiarists David Hoggan and Richard Harwood, the man to blame for it all was Raphael Lemkin, the legal scholar who coined the term genocide, who was supposedly ‘the first’ to charge that the Nazis had exterminated the Jews in gas chambers in 1943, a conclusion Rassinier reached after supposedly ‘fifteen years of research’[1], while a conversation with a ‘university professor’ from the Allied side fabricated by Friedrich Grimm was enough to allow nearly a dozen negationists to point the finger at British propaganda expert Sefton Delmer.[2] For Arthur Butz, meanwhile, the ‘Hoax’ was the work of “New York Zionists”[3], based no doubt on the fact that Butz did not search much further than the pages of the New York Times for his evidence of hoaxing, and assumed that whatever appeared in the paper could not possibly have come from Nazi-occupied Europe, but was simply locally-produced propaganda. Robert Faurisson, on the other hand, did not even have the courtesy to identify a more specific hoaxer, but simply asserted that the “lie” was “essentially of Zionist origin”.[4]
It is instructive to be reminded of such utter embarrassments for Revisionism before we consider how the ‘Hoax’ has evolved in recent negationist writings and in the work of Mattogno, Graf and Kues. For the identification of a hoaxer revealed more about the Revisionist than it did about the Holocaust: that is why the antisemite Rassinier fingered the Polish Jewish lawyer Lemkin, why the German nationalist Grimm fingered a British propagandist, and why Butz and Faurisson babbled about ‘Zionists’. Placing cart firmly before horse and arriving at their conclusion before checking the facts, the early Revisionists simply vented their frustrations and anger at their imagined enemies and accused them of a massive act of fabrication which many could not have committed. For it is a matter of record that Raphael Lemkin was not the first to discuss gas chambers, and likewise that the “New York Zionists” of Butz’s fantasies could not have been the origin of reports of Nazi gassings during the war. Not one contemporary negationist author has ever tried to correct or apologise for these blatant errors and falsehoods, which have instead simply been thrown down the denier memory-hole as if they never existed, even though Butz remains by far the most widely-touted Revisionist author on the internet, in the experience of the present group of writers.
No doubt recoiling in shame and horror at the crudity of previous Revisionist efforts to locate the origins of the ‘Hoax’, in 1997 the American negationist “Samuel Crowell” tried to advance the theory that the ‘Hoax’ was in fact not a ‘Hoax’ at all, but simply a gigantic oopsie, a colossal misunderstanding, a product of culturally-determined hysteria born out of East European Jews’ alleged fear of German hygiene measures, leading them to mistake delousing procedures for homicidal gassing.[5] In Crowell’s view, the history of the Holocaust was really only a ‘hystory’, a panic reaction no different to the shock produced by the Orson Welles radio play of The War of the Worlds in America during 1937. This seemingly intellectually sophisticated theory has been touted for some time now on the CODOH home page with the marketing slogan ‘No Conspiracy – A Grand Delusion’.[6] But even Crowell reverted to type when his narrative reached the end of the war, and started alleging that key SS witnesses had been tortured and coerced.
Crowell’s argument reflected the mood of the era which produced this piece of drivel, since the very notion of a ‘hystory’ reflected quite specifically the  concerns of 1990s American media culture, wracked as it was by panics over Satanic child abuse, false memory syndrome and UFO abductions.[7] A number of other negationist writers, among them Germar Rudolf and David Irving, similarly tried to ride the zeitgeist by echoing Crowell’s claims about ‘false memory syndrome’ as a supposed explanation for eyewitness accounts of Nazi mass murder.[8] More recently, ‘Denierbud’ has reverted to Revisionist type and begun the truffle hunt for the head hoaxer all over again, fingering SHAEF’s Psychological Warfare Division as the probable chief culprit.[9] Leaving aside his consistent – and annoying - misspelling of ‘psyche warfare’, Denierbud’s claims are risible, simply repeating the same error of reductionism made by the first generation of negationist writers, as the largely American PWD did not operate in Soviet-liberated territory. Perhaps in dim acknowledgement of this, Denierbud has occasionally fingered the Soviet Jewish journalist Ilya Ehrenburg as another head honcho of the ‘Hoax’, simply replacing one strawman target with another. Meanwhile, the lunatic fringe of the denier scene  has decided to blame the ‘Zionists’ after all, claiming that ‘the Jews’ had already launched one Holocaust propaganda campaign in the aftermath of the First World War, citing, as is usual for cranks, a single ‘Crucial Source’, namely a misinterpreted newspaper article originally dredged up by Udo Walendy.[10]
The intellectual disarray among Revisionists regarding the origins of the ‘Hoax’ or ‘hystory’ is thus truly profound. Neither when reviewing earlier negationist writings nor when examining the products of the past eleven years since the Irving-Lipstadt libel trial is there any reason to dissent from the assessment offered by Robert Van Pelt that
The negationists claim to be Revisionist historians, but they have yet to produce a history that offers a credible, “revised” explanation of the events in question. Until Crowell’s piece appeared, Rassinier and his disciples had an exclusively nihilist agenda. They attacked the inherited account on the unproven assumption of some general conspiracy, but they had not been able, or willing, to even begin writing a single piece of investigative journalism (let alone produce one product of serious revisionist historiography) that gives us the origin and development of this conspiracy – the reason why and how it seized on, of all places, those very “ordinary” Auschwitz concentration camps as the fulcrum of its effort to hoodwink both gentiles and Jews – to leverage the international community in general and defraud the Germans and Palestinians in particular. Crowell’s article attempts to create a plausible narrative that could have begun, at least superficially, to engage with issues of relevancy and causation. But one cannot but judge Crowell’s attempt an utter failure.[11]
What Pelt was asking for – and what has to this day not been produced – is a coherent explanation from Revisionists of how and why the reports of mass murder and gassing originated. Misunderstanding Pelt’s point and also snipping most of the quote, Mattogno claimed recently in Auschwitz: The Case for Sanity (2010) that he had in fact provided just such a credible, “revised” explanation[12], but it is perfectly obvious from the book that he has done no such thing, rather instead simply repeated a range of decontextualised negationist jabs at familiar Revisionist bugbears such as the Vrba-Wetzler report on Auschwitz published by the War Refugee Board report.[13] 
In the ‘trilogy’ of works on Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, Mattogno, Graf and Kues repeat much the same strategy as Mattogno has essayed in his works on Auschwitz. All three volumes contain a series of chapters or part chapters addressing what might be called the ‘discovery process’ of the Holocaust in general and the Aktion Reinhard camps in particular. Already in this critique’s introduction, we have asked the question, ‘how did we come to know about Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka?’, and answered it by referring to three broad processes: wartime reports, postwar investigations and trials, and historiography. It is not difficult to discern that MGK have huge problems with all three phases, and indeed end up making conspiracy allegations regarding wartime reports, postwar trials as well as history and memory. Nowhere, however, do they use the term ‘Hoax’. But this does not stop them from using substitute weasel terms like ‘propaganda’[14] as well as such rhetoric as ‘the gassing myth’.[15] Clearly, this is nothing else but the ‘Hoax’ that dare not speak its name.
There are any number of problems for MGK’s allegations, but two are perhaps more critical than others. The biggest problem of all is how MGK have addressed these issues: one camp at a time, in total and utter isolation from each other. Yet if MGK are alleging that wartime reports were nothing more than ‘propaganda’, it would stand to reason that such a conclusion could be reached only after all wartime reports of all camps have been analysed together. Likewise, if postwar trials were frame-ups, then proving such a claim would necessitate examining all trials. MGK have alleged that so many different Nazi war crimes are ‘myths’ or ‘propaganda’ in so many different publications that the impression is given from browsing their oeuvre that almost every single Nazi war crime is a hoax. Indeed, the ‘trilogy’ gives powerful voice to such a suspicion by at one point or another denying the full extent of the mass shootings in the occupied Soviet Union[16], the use of gas chambers in the T4 euthanasia program[17], the existence of gas vans at Chelmno or anywhere else[18], along with the gas chambers at Auschwitz and Majdanek[19]. By breaking the Holocaust down into its component parts and examining them piecemeal, MGK create the impression that they do not want to consider them together, lest anyone start asking questions about the sheer logistics involved in writing up so much false propaganda, rigging so many trials, and hoodwinking so many historians. Even if they were to follow Crowell in focusing only on gassings, then the number of sites (and thus reports, trials, history books) to be considered rapidly escalates to thirty or so locations. But as MGK in fact also deny mass shootings, the number of sites, reports, trials and history books is even larger. The one-camp-at-a-time piecemeal approach is both intellectually dishonest as well as incoherent.
The second problem for MGK follows on from the first, which is that all of the different phases of the ‘discovery process’ have been examined in what is by now some considerable detail by historians. Yet MGK do not seem very familiar with the now substantial literatures on wartime knowledge, postwar trials, historiography or collective memory.[20] They therefore end up making a number of assertions which are easily refuted by consulting this literature, and are in effect trying to stake out a position while remaining spectacularly ignorant of what has already been said about the phenomena they are trying to address. The discrepancy between MGK’s scribblings in the ‘trilogy’ and what is available to the serious researcher on each of the rubrics is stark, and starker still when we look at individual themes. While Mattogno, who draws the duty of ‘tackling’ wartime reports, at least bothers to cite some literature and a few sources on the subject[21], Graf, who pens a chapter in both Treblinka and Sobibór on postwar trials[22], evidently thinks it acceptable to opine about trials whose transcripts he does not cite and has not read, and while ignoring virtually everything ever written on the subject. Unless, that is, Graf has redefined scholarship to include quoting from Wikipedia, a practice which these days is liable to result in a fail if tried on by a first year undergraduate student.[23]  It is unsurprising, therefore, that virtually all of Mattogno and Graf’s allegations are totally unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

[1] Paul Rassinier, Le Drame des juifs européens, Paris: Les Sept Couleurs, 1964, p.107; David Hoggan, The Myth of the Six Million, Los Angeles: The Noontide Press, 1969, Chapter 6; Richard Harwood, Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth At Last, London, n.d, 1974, Chapter 4.
[2] The origin of the meme is Friedrich Grimm, Politische Justiz, die Krankheit unserer Zeit. 40 Jahre Dienst im Recht, Bonn, 1953, p.147ff. Sefton Delmer has been invoked by Udo Walendy, Franz Scheidl, Heinz Roth, Wolf-Dieter Rothe, Austin App, J.G. Burg, Ernst Zündel, Mark Weber, William Lindsey, Dankwart Kluge, Roland Bohlinger and Johannes Ney, Cedric Martel, Joachim Nolywaika and Knud Bäcker.
[3] Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, 3rd ed., Chicago: Theses and Dissertations Press, 2003.
[4] Robert Faurisson, ‘The Problem of the Gas Chambers’, Journal of Historical Review, 1/2, 1980, pp.103-114.
[5] Samuel Crowell, The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes, CODOH, 1997, now republished and revised as The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes and Other Writings on the Holocaust, Revisionism, and Historical Understanding, Charleston, WV: Nine-Banded Books, 2011.
[6] , accessed 8.8.2011.
[7] Indeed, Crowell took the idea of a ‘hystory’ from a then-brand new book published the same year as his original essay, Elaine Showalter, Hystories, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
[8] David Irving, ‘Falschzeugen’, Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung 1/1, 1997, pp.41-46 (review of Elizabeth Loftus, The Myth of Repressed Memory, New York, 1994); Germar Rudolf, ‘Falsche Erinnerungen überall – nur nicht in der Zeitgeschichte. Über die Unehrlichkeit einer jüdischen Psychologie-Professorin und Expertin für Aussagenkritik’, Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung 2/3, 1998, pp.214-217
[10] Don Heddesheimer, The First Holocaust. Jewish Fund Raising Campaigns with Holocaust Claims During and After World War One, Chicago: Theses & Dissertations Press, 2003.
[11] Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz, p.318.
[12] Carlo Mattogno, Auschwitz: The Case for Sanity, Washington, DC: The Barnes Review, 2010, Vol. 2, p.669.
[13] Mattogno, Auschwitz: The Case for Sanity, p.541ff.
[14] Used in a derogatory sense 20 times in M&G, Treblinka, 11 times  in Mattogno, Bełżec and 16 times in MGK, Sobibór.
[15] MGK, Sobibór, p.32.
[16] M&G, Treblinka, pp.203-231; MGK, Sobibór, p.100 n.256;
[17] MGK, Sobibór, pp.254, 278
[18] MGK, Sobibór, p.395
[19] Eg M&G, Treblinka, p.300
[20] There are dedicated chapters to the themes of bystanders and trials in Dan Stone (ed), The Historiography of the Holocaust. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, covering the literature to the early 2000s; MGK have not even mastered that portion of the literature, much less recent research.
[21] M&G, Treblinka, pp.47-64; Mattogno, Bełżec, pp.9-34; MGK, Sobibór, pp.63-69
[22] M&G, Treblinka, pp.161-175; MGK, Sobibór, pp.171-192
[23] MGK, Sobibór, pp.174 n.501, 178 n.510, 186 n.528, 191 n.548


Gilles Karmasyn said...

Hi. The van Pelt quotation should look more like a quotation. Great work. Gilles Karmasyn.

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

Why do you cite Heddesheimer's book for your claim that Udo Walendy dredged up that Martin Glynn article?

Walendy's not even mentioned in Heddesheimer's book.

Very sloppy.

Chip said...

Crowell's publisher here.

The assertion that "Crowell took the idea of a ‘hystory’ from ... Elaine Showalter" is not accurate. The critical interpretation of collective behavior and belief has a long pedigree and Crowell cited Showalter for the thematic relevance of her then-current studies after initial work on the first draft of "Sherlock" had been completed. This was a matter of serendipity, not appropriation.