Saturday, December 24, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Introduction (4). Structure of the Critique.

Structure of the Critique

Our structure is the opposite of MGK’s. Whereas they begin with minutiae and nitpicks and only discuss ‘the big picture’ (policy) in the latter phases of each book, we follow the only logical and acceptable academic convention, which is to start with overall context before analyzing the camp structures and killing methods. This context fills chapters 1-4 of the work, which establish overwhelming proof of decisions to exterminate Jews before we even move inside the camps proper. This proof would exist independently of the perpetrator, survivor and bystander witnesses that we present in chapters 5-8; but those witnesses would also constitute independent proof by themselves, because there is simply no possibility that any power could ever co-ordinate so many testimonies across so many times and places whilst silencing all those who would have witnessed resettlement or who would have participated in the hoax that is integral to all denier arguments.
The detailed structure develops as follows. Chapter 1, written by Nick Terry, examines the failure of MGK to come to grips with the ‘discovery process’; that is, the process by which Aktion Reinhard became known to the outside world. We show how MGK are unable or unwilling to comprehend how wartime knowledge was acquired and disseminated, and how the crimes were investigated and prosecuted after the war. Chapter 2, by Jonathan Harrison, discusses MGK’s unwillingness to confront the gradual radicalization of Nazi policy from March 1941 to July 1942, which they evade by turning historians of the process into strawmen and by imposing nonsensical thresholds, such as the insistence that a final, inflexible Hitler decision to kill all Jews (fit and unfit) must be proven to have been made by the end of September 1941 with no allowance for radicalization thereafter.
Nick Terry’s chapter 3 places the history of Aktion Reinhard into the context of Nazi policy in Poland and shows how and why the Lublin region was finally chosen as the region in which so many Jews would be killed. It exposes MGK’s manipulation and incomprehension of documents relating to the evolution of the program. Chapter 4, primarily written by Jason Myers, demonstrates that Jews could not have been resettled in the East by showing the economic and political realities that pertained in the Nazi-occupied USSR. It also exposes MGK’s double-standards of evidence, as they rely on hearsay witnesses who come from the same survivor population whose testimonies MGK dismiss when they describe extermination. Jonathan Harrison contributes a section on the Ostland that demonstrates the ignorance of Kues about that region’s demographics and documentation. Sergey Romanov contributes the internal Soviet statistics about the GULAG camps and so-called special settlements, which shows that USSR did not hide hundreds of thousands foreign Jews during or after the war.
Chapters 5-8 move to the insides of the camps and the witness accounts that describe them. In chapters 5 and 6, on gas chambers and camp witnesses respectively, Jason Myers shows how perpetrators closest to the action usually gave the most detailed accounts, and this was notable in how their trials were structured. For example, Erich Fuchs was charged with actually operating the murder weapon. It is therefore absurd to play off his testimony against that of a hearsay ‘steam chamber’ witness, as if their evidential value were the same. The chapter shows convergences and how these clearly over-ride the nitpicking of MGK over minutiae. The fact that Bauer and Fuchs described an engine as the murder weapon clearly matters far more than whether one or other could not accurately recall, over 20 years after the event, every minor detail of the crime scene. The latter would require far more accuracy of memory than is ever likely to occur in a trial held two decades after a crime. Chapters 5 and 6 also have material contributed by Nick Terry and Sergey Romanov which reveals that there are many witnesses that MGK have never discussed.[130] Furthermore, there are perpetrators who gave detailed accounts while living in freedom: Eichmann in Argentina; Rauff in Santiago; Suchomel, Hödl and Gomerski after their release. Again, we would ask any rational person to consider the possibility that all of these would have colluded in a hoax, or given such testimony unless it was true.
In Chapter 7, Roberto Muehlenkamp presents the known forensic and archaeological evidence about the mass graves and refutes the related arguments of Mattogno, Graf and Kues, especially their attempts to make believe that the graves are not compatible with or do not necessarily indicate large-scale mass murder. Chapter 8, also by Roberto, is dedicated to deconstructing MGK’s farcical claims that cremating the murdered victims’ bodies at the Nazi extermination camps would have been an impracticable undertaking as concerns fuel requirements, cremation time and disposal of cremation remains.
The drafting and redrafting of chapters was a collaborative effort, so each author had some input into most chapters, even if only a few sentences and footnotes. We take collective responsibility for any errors, which we will endeavour to correct both in the blog and in any future editions of this text. While each of the authors has been studying Aktion Reinhard for several years (mostly for longer than Kues has been doing), this critique has been written without pay in our spare time during evenings, weekends and vacations. None of us has ever been paid for our activities, and we have not employed professional editors and proof-readers.
In addition, we have had to co-ordinate our drafting across long distance and to negotiate stylistic differences. Two of us live in the USA (one a native, the other an immigrant from the UK); one of us lives in England, one Portugal and one in Russia. Two of us use English as our second or third language, and there are notable differences between British and American spelling, punctuation and usage. Not all these differences can be easily eliminated.[131]
This study is therefore necessarily a ‘white paper’ with rough edges. We anticipate that some of the feedback we receive from readers will recommend the fixing of various typos and stylistic inconsistencies that inevitably infiltrate a ‘first version’ of this kind of work. We would note that MGK’s texts are often error-prone, even though they use fewer sources than we have done, so we make no apology for publishing a critique that is unlikely to be totally error-free. We do, however, undertake to respond to reader queries, advice and corrections, albeit on a timescale of our choosing.
Of course, some of that ‘advice’ will come from deniers and will be made in bad faith. Given that deniers seem incapable of reading a book from front to back, we anticipate that many denier readers will start with the gas chamber chapter and then respond with personal incredulity. They will ignore the long sections on discovery and wartime knowledge (chapter 1), overwhelming proof of extermination decisions (chapter 2) and the twisted road to Belzec (chapter 3). They will refuse to accept any burden of proof to show that there was a hoax (chapter 1) or to show systematic evidence of resettlement, not the cherrypicked hearsay crap that Kues hypocritically parades as evidence (chapter 4). All these things would be mistakes. The critique is intended to be read as a whole, and the arguments advanced in each chapter have not been put forward independently of each other.
We also hope that this critique will be of value to those interested in the Aktion Reinhard camps and the Holocaust more generally, rather than in the often narrow pseudo-debate conjured up by Holocaust deniers. Although this work is not a comprehensive history of the Aktion Reinhard camps, we believe that general as well as specialist readers will find much of interest in these pages.
No serious scholarly project is ever completed without help from others, and our critique is no exception. For regular active assistance throughout this project, we thank David Woolfe, Mike Curtis, Dr. Andrew Mathis, and Dr. Joachim Neander. For translating and clarifying Brazilian sources on Gustav Wagner’s arrest, we thank Roberto Lucena. For pseudonymous aid and advice, the kibitzers KentFord9, Hans, bluespaceoddity, Dogsmilk and nexgen586 were invaluable to us. Pooshoodog provided the crucial ammunition of humour when we finally lost patience with denier trolling at RODOH. Special thanks are also due to Peter Laponder for making available copies of his maps of the Reinhard camps for use in this study. For answering queries and assistance with materials, we thank Steve Tyas, Jürgen Langowski, Albrecht Kolthoff, Christian Mentel, Harry Mazal, Professor John Zimmerman, Dr. David Rich, Professor Andrzej Gawryszewski, Professor Christopher Browning, Dr. Martin Dean, Dr. Michael Gelb, Professor Antony Polonsky, Andrea Simon, the JDC Archives Section, Martin Davidson, Dr. Philip Blood, and Leonid Tyorushkin of the Holocaust Foundation, Moscow. Although we have greatly valued all of these individuals’ assistance, none of them are responsible for the interpretations and arguments we advance in these pages, or any errors that may be present. For all of those, the authors of the critique take full responsibility.

[130] We have cited from interrogations in German, Polish and Russian. The original language can be distinguished as follows: Vernehmung or Vernehmungsprotokoll for German, Protokol for Polish, and Protokol doprosa for Russian.
[131] For instance, several different editions of Schelvis’ work on Sobibor and Hilberg’s foundational work on the Holocaust have been used across this critique. 

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