Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 6: Death Camp Witnesses (2). MGK’s Methodology (or lack thereof).

MGK’s Methodology (or lack thereof)

In their approach to the history of the Reinhard camps, MGK fail to use any proper methodology with regard to the utilization of witness testimony. The method they and other deniers proffer on dozens of witness testimonies largely amounts to a game of ‘anomaly-hunting’, which also radically applies the principle of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus (false in one thing, false in all things), using it to the effect that a single falsehood or mistake invalidates not only the testimony of the specific witness in question but also casts suspicion on the reliability of all witnesses. Such an amateurish and erroneous approach to testimony is not to be unexpected, as despite the crucial role that witness testimony plays in their writings, not a single member of MGK have been formally educated in any field relevant to a proper analysis of witness testimony (e.g. law, history, psychology). A lack of formal education obviously would not preclude MGK from reasonably studying witness testimony, but MGK have never cited any text detailing a proper analysis of witness testimony which has guided or supported their odd form of criticisms.
MGK, being so eager to dismiss witnesses in order to support their preconceived notions, hang the entire credibility of a witness on rather peripheral details in their statements. Graf, for instance, though recognizing a detailed and lengthy account by Moshe Bahir, included in a collection by Miriam Novitch, suggests that Bahir is not a credible witness for the hearsay statement (overheard from two camp officials) that Himmler’s 1943 visit to the Sobibor camp marked the millionth Jew murdered in the camp.[9] This number of Jews was never deported to the camp; however, how does such a camp rumour (which may or may not have been exaggerated or properly heard by Bahir) determine the credibility of the rest of the testimony? Mattogno also performs a similar act when he derisively claims that SS-Scharführer Heinrich Gley’s knowledge of the gas chambers at Belzec “can be judged” by his uncertainty of the type of engine that was used.[10] 
Graf takes this falsus in uno type argumentation to the extreme when in Treblinka he writes regarding the engine type:
Whoever may object that the witnesses had possibly made false statements in regard to the weapon of the crime is simultaneously discrediting, along with the credibility of the witness testimony, the entire picture of the ‘eastern extermination camps,’ which is based exclusively upon just these witness statements![11]
Graf made this statement because Revisionists have so heavily invested in the ‘diesel issue’, and any proper revision of the issue, as we already saw, discredits much of the Revisionists gas chamber related arguments.[12] The proposition is also based on an illogical foundation. Why would witness statements which incorrectly identify the gassing engine (done mainly by hearsay or indirect witnesses[13]) be discredited? Should murder witnesses be ignored due to a misidentification of an M-16 as an AK-47? What would MGK say about Allied troops during the Second World War who reported being bombarded by German 88mm artillery shells, when there were no German ‘88’s in the vicinity? Would they doubt the occurrence of the barrage, or perhaps even the battle?
Certainly the above questions are  nonsense for any reasonable inquirer.[14] What they show is how ridiculous MGK’s approach (and the related outgrowth) to witness testimonies is, where a few errors are used to discredit the value of an entire statement. In essence, MGK’s approach entails tossing out the baby with the bath-water.  A German handbook for trial judges and attorneys, written by Attorney at Law and retired Presiding Judge at the Court of Assizes Rolf Bender, and German Federal Supreme Court Judge Armin Nack, discards such a method of analysis in their legal handbook:
”Him who lies once you don’t believe, even if he speaks the truth“This saying must – contrary to its customary use – be understood “quite literally”, i.e. as follows:
“It is a (common) erroneous notion to assume that someone who lies about a secondary issue also tells untruths about the main issue."
[Example:] The deposition at a murder trial of a main incriminating witness from the homeless milieu, who had been subject to several criminal procedures for false accusations and who had in these procedures been considered incapable of responsibility because of lacking control over her actions, proved to be credible. The witness described original conversations with the perpetrator before and after the deed and provided many details, for instance how the perpetrator had previously “trained” on her the victim’s strangulation with the murder weapon, a brown leather belt.[15]  
This is a sound guide to a proper treatment of testimony as concerns witnesses whoa re known to have incurred in deliberate falsehoods, which applies all the more regarding witnesses who erred in good faith. We do not believe that any of the Aktion Reinhard witnesses that we have quoted have lied in the testimony we included, but rather may be prone to exaggeration or other such errors. The same holds true for statements regarding the February 13-14, 1945 bombing of Dresden as, in addition to several other areas, many victims reported the occurrence of an Allied strafing attack that never happened[16], and several witness statements suggested the death toll lay significantly above 100,000 victims, even though the actual death toll has recently been revised to around 25,000.[17]
These contradictions and “degrees of conflict” (as psychologist Willem A. Wagenaar
termed them) among the dozens of witness statements, for sane researchers, do not provide sufficient cause to deny the reality of a historical event, especially when no other plausible alternative has been offered. For MGK, their faith requires such a misguided approach to testimony in order to discard inconvenient evidence, as the discovery of minor anomalies does not amount to proof of a hoax. Nowhere in their body of work have they connected or explained the purpose of such ‘anomaly-hunting,’ nor do they explain the surrounding body of evidence regarding the camps in relation to Nazi policy, and thus the limited anomalies essentially only amount to logical non-sequiturs.[18] What MGK are ultimately left with is their hope and dogmatic belief that “contrary to what mainstream Holocaust historians and propagandists may believe, such contradictions are fatal to the Sobibor gas chamber allegation.”[19] Kues repeats this fallacy by quoting Butz’s dictum that "These are simply the sorts of contradictions that one should expect to emerge from a pack of lies"[20], but Kues offers no basis for inferring lies rather than errors from the evidence he cites. Kues cannot grasp that simply presenting a list of contradictions does not prove anything with regard to the probability of hoax versus error. Nowhere in their works have MGK detailed the origins of this contradictory “pack of lies.” Ironically, the divergences on minor details in witness statements that MGK point out (which, as we have shown are to be expected with witness testimony) help to show their consistency with authenticity and truth. If the testimonies cited by MGK were coerced or scripted, one would expect consistency, not contradiction. MGK seem to expect the body of witness testimony to be expressed in a detached, academic, and mechanical fashion expressed in the same voice, stripping witnesses of their emotions and individual personality; but such a scenario would appear heavily suspicious, and rightfully so.[21]  
Much of MGK’s work can be summed up as an attempt to dismiss testimonial sources altogether. Such an attitude, we contend, is entirely contrary to all known methods of inquiry or fact-determination in law or history. Indeed, Ranke’s famous dictum, that the task of history was to show “how it really was” (wie es eigentlich gewesen war) is immediately followed up by a list of the kinds of sources that can be used to achieve this goal: “memoirs, diaries, letters, legation reports, and original accounts from eyewitnesses.”[22] No sensible historian since then has dissented from such a view. Not even at the height of the mania for positivism did Langlois and Seignobos take such an attitude. Their famous dictum “no documents, no history” turns out on closer examination to mean “no sources, no history”, as the bulk of their work is given over to articulating a method of source criticism which can recover historical truth from second-hand hearsay accounts written some time after the event – the kind of sources with which most historians are confronted when writing about most epochs in the past.[23]
Virtually every commentary on the practice or philosophy of history will instruct the historian to be cautious with memoirs, as for example one can see from the discussion in Marc Bloch’s famous essay The Historian’s Craft.[24] Bloch’s discussion focuses on the memoirs of Napoleonic generals who massaged their battle narratives in order to paint themselves in a better light. What applies to generals and politicians also applies to the ego-documents produced by ‘ordinary’ historical witnesses, especially in what has been called ‘the era of the witness’.[25] The outpourings of veterans’ memoirs which began with the First World War are a testament to this. In the 1920s, the French-American veteran Jean Norton Cru took a literalist scalpel to the corpus of memoirs and fiction produced by the survivors of the trenches, noted many exaggerations and impossibilities in their accounts, but in the end concluded that only 7% of such accounts were entirely useless.[26] Nowhere, of course, did he conclude that trench warfare did not happen. Norton Cru’s sample consisted of 300 personal accounts – around the same number as there are direct eyewitnesses to Aktion Reinhard.

[9] MGK, Sobibór, pp.31-32. Graf briefly goes on to criticize Bahir’s description of the extermination process (gas through shower pipes and collapsible floors), which were based on hearsay, another dishonest criticism.
[10] Mattogno, Bełżec, p.66.
[11] M&G, Treblinka, p.43.
[12] See the section The Gassing Engine, Chapter 5.
[13] For further examples of MGK’s conflation of direct and indirect witnesses see the section Direct and Indirect Witnesses, Chapter 6.
[14] The problems consist of the unreasonable assertions, demands, and claims by extreme negationists, which forms a significant part of MGK’s audience. 
[15] Rolf Bender and Armin Nack, Tatsachenfeststellung vor Gericht - Band I: Glaubwürdigkeits- und Beweislehre. 2. Auflage. (C.H. Beck Verlag, 1995), Randnummer pp.303, 304.
[16] Frederick Taylor, Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. New York: HarperCollins, 2004, pp.429-442. Taylor refers to the work of Dr. Helmut Schnatz (p.439), who was one of the leading German historians on Allied air raids. Schnatz has studied witness accounts of numerous attacks, and has been intrigued by the “often quite glaring contradictions” to be found in their statements, with witnesses providing distinguished or sometimes contradictory descriptions of the same event.  
[17] BBC News, “Up to 25,000 died in Dresden’s WWII bombing-report,” 18 March 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8574157.stm.  David Irving recorded the figures of Hanns Voigt (135,000), Klaus Mehnert (140,000), Professor Fescher (180,000), and Karl Bodenschatz (150,000). As MGK declare exaggerations of camp death tolls to be “lies,” would they do the same for Dresden victims and witnesses?
[18] For instance, Kues’ criticism regarding the first gas chamber at Sobibor, with witnesses reporting different details on the victim group, and the structure of the building. Nowhere does Kues detail the ultimate point in referring to such ‘contradictions’. Is the attempt to say one witness was not there? That no witness was there? Such would be illogical. Indeed the lack of any connection among the anomalies founders even more when examining the evidence for all three camps.
[19] MGK, Sobibór, p.296.
[20] Kues, ‘On Rudolf Höss’ alleged visit to Treblinka’.
[21] Things that would create suspicion of a hoax include emotionless survivor accounts, rigorous attention to details irrelevant to the witnesses, the use of literal language rather than any figurative descriptions, inflexible consistency in all details across the testimonies, and a complete absence of errors and/or exaggerations. Basically, revisionists are proclaiming ‘hoax’ because it doesn’t sound enough like a hoax, that is how their distorted logic works.  
[22] Leopold von Ranke, Geschichten der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1885 (original: 1824), p.vii.
[23] Charles V. Langlois and Charles Seignobos, Introduction to the Study of History, London: Duckworth, 1898. Langlois and Seignobos also rejected the falsus in uno approach of analysing sources separately.
[24] Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992
[25] Annette Wieviorka, The Era of the Witness. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006; see also the important study of the sociology of testimony by Renaud Dulong, Le Témoin oculaire. Les conditions sociales de l´attestation personnelle, Paris: Editions de l'EHESS, 1998.
[26] Jean Norton Cru, Témoins, Nancy: Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1993 (original: 1929). On the ‘Norton Cru affaire’ that blew up after the publication of Témoins, see Frédéric Rousseau, Le Procès des témoins de la Grande Guerre. L’affaire Norton Cru. Paris, 2003.

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