Monday, October 31, 2005

A truly offensive use of Halloween

Having been blogging for nearly a year now, one thing that's surprised me is the relative paucity of blogs relating to Holocaust denial. There are certainly many websites out there that push Holocaust denial, including CODOH, The Holocaust Historiography Project, Arthur Butz's website, The Institute for Historical Review, Carlos Porter's site, Michael A. Hoffman II's Campaign for Radical Truth in History, the Zundelsite, David Irving's site, and Fritz Berg's particularly odious Nazi Gassings site, among others. (Care should be taken before visiting some of these sites if you have a weak stomach, given that many of these sites mix anti-Semitism and white nationalist beliefs freely with their Holocaust denial, as expected. If you're at work and your company has filtering software installed, they are also likely to trigger the filters.)

But there were no Holocaust denial blogs, at least not as far as I could find--until now.

I became aware of my first actual Holocaust denial blog a few weeks ago. I had debated whether or not to write about it, mainly because I was reluctant to do anything that might raise its profile or increase its Technorati ranking by linking to it, but I think you'll see part of the reason why I decided to write about it and, in particular, why on Halloween. The blog in question is Bradley R. Smith's My Life as a Holocaust Revisionist and his other blog The Holocaust Story. The former is meant to be a more "personal" blog, while the latter is meant to discuss "serious news stories," whatever that means coming from Holocaust deniers. Smith happens to be the director of CODOH (the ironically named "Committee for the Open Debate of the Holocaust"), one of the principle purveyors of Holocaust denial literature in the U.S.

Here is the post that caught my eye:
Announcing the 2nd Annual David McCalden Most Macabre Halloween Holocaust Tale Challenge. The winner gets a $200 cash prize.

Pits of boiling human fat? Human soap? Giant "death by steaming" pressure cookers? Fountains of blood squirting from the earth?

Help us find new Holocaust stories you find macabre and ridiculous.
Included was a link to the contest page:
The winner will receive a $200 cash prize; second place will receive a $50 cash prize. Entries are to be judged on four factors:
  1. Originality (search our site before entering),
  2. The macabre nature of the tale,
  3. Citation of the source(s) where the tale or claim has appeared, and
  4. The use of the tale in official Holocaust histories. (Receive added points if your submission was used in a court of law.)
The contest deadline is Saturday, October 30, 2005. You may enter as many times as you wish, but there will be only one winning entry per person. Each contest entry is subject to verification. The winners will be announced on Sunday, October 31, 2005 (Halloween).

The prize is in honor of skeptic and founder of the Institute for Historical Review, David McCalden. All submissions become the property of the Holocaust Historiography Project, and may be published on this website.

Let's make David proud!
As it turns out, David McCalden was the founder of the Institute for Historical Review and noted for essays such as The Amazing, Rapidly Shrinking "Holocaust." He was also a purveyor of bogus "challenges," famously offering $50,000 for "proof" of the existence of Nazi homicidal gas chambers. A Holocaust survivor by the name of Mel Mermelstein accepted the challenge and the IHR reneged on the offer. Mermelstein went to court and won a $90,000 settlement, as the court concluded that he had met the terms of the challenge.

Apparently, making fun of stories from the Holocaust would apparently have made McCalden proud (he's been dead 15 years). McCalden, like many Holocaust deniers, liked to paint himself as a "skeptic," but in reality he was selective about his skepticism. Holocaust deniers love to search for dubious survivor stories to debunk. That such stories exist is not surprising, given the magnitude of the Holocaust, the number of people involved, and the trauma many of the survivors lived through. Given human nature, one would expect that some fraction of eyewitness testimony would be questionable or false. Given human nature, one also would expect that some survivors would have incomplete memories; that some might exaggerate some stories for attention or for whatever other reason; or that some would be mistaken about some events that occurred at the camps. Deniers love to debunk a few dubious witness' stories with great gusto and flourish, by implication claiming that a few examples of false or erroneous "eyewitness testimony" somehow "prove" that the Holocaust didn't happen or that it was of a much smaller magnitude than the commonly accepted history. Of course, they happily ignore the bulk of the overwhelming evidence, including (but not limited to) eyewitness testimony, the testimony and writings of the Nazis themselves, physical evidence, etc., showing that the Nazis did indeed conceive and impliment a genocidal plan to exterminate European Jewry and others they considered racial "undesirables."

Holocaust deniers also like to make a lot of hay over misconceptions that lay people might have about various specific aspects of the Holocaust and like to attack such misunderstandings with similar gusto, like cranks attacking a straw man. Bradley Smith also got my attention doing this, as he apparently noticed the same photoessay about Dachau by Pundit Guy that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. He makes a great point of attacking PunditGuy's photos of the gas chambers there:
First, the USHMM does leave visitors with the impression that there was a Nazi gas chamber at Dachau. For what it's worth, they appear to be trying to square the circle on this issue. Its website states: There is no credible evidence that the gas chamber in Barrack X was used to murder human beings. If they were more forthright, it would of course state that there is no credible evidince that there was a Nazi gas chamber at Dachau, as virtually no serious historian now maintains that there was such a construct at Dachau.

Second, PunditGuy has become so steeped in Holocaust "knowledge" from the media's daily pounding of the Holocaust drum that he no longer knows why he knows what he thinks he knows about the Holocaust, and turning to the high priests of the Holocaust myth is not the way to get straight information.

Ironically, this type of muddled thinking seems worse among the "elite" such as PunditGuy (my dictionary defines "pundit" as "an expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called on to give opinions about it to the public"). If you ask the average person about Dachau or the Holocaust, you get pretty vague answers. Most persons just don't care. But self-appointed experts -- hey, they've seen Schindler's List! -- cling to Holocaust falsehoods as if they were life itself.
A word of explanation is in order here. Dachau was the oldest Nazi concentration camp, established mere weeks after Hitler became Chancellor. Unlike Treblinka, Belzec, or Sobibor, Dachau was not a death camp, although many were indeed killed there. Of course, Smith is incorrect about the existence of gas chambers at Dachau. There were indeed gas chambers designed for delousing clothing, but there were Harry Mazal has written a long essay in which he shows convincingly that there was indeed at least one gas chamber designed to kill humans, but that it is not clear whether it was ever actually used for that purpose. Smith tries to make a great to-do over whether or not Pundit Guy is sufficiently conversant in Holocaust history that he is aware of the debate over whether the gas chamber at Dachau was ever used to kill people in an effort to suggest some sort of "conspiracy" or propaganda. He does this even while pointing out that no less an entity dedicated to teaching the public about the Holocaust than the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum states flat out on its website that there is no credible evidence that the gas chambers were ever used to kill Jews!

Holocaust deniers use such obfuscations and rhetorical tricks because they don't have the evidence on their side. And, when their obfuscations won't fly, they reveal their true stripes, either by letting their anti-Semitism show or by using crude and tasteless mockery of the dead such as the "Halloween Holocaust tale challenge" Smith seems so pleased with himself about. No wonder Smith doesn't allow comments on his blog.

9 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 10/31/2005 1:45 AM, Blogger Socialist Swine said...

Even though I don't believe in Hell, there must be a special place there for holocaust deniers.

-Socialist Swine

 

At 10/31/2005 12:20 PM, Anonymous Stephen Benson said...

My knowledge of the holocaust is one of personal contact. I met Dr. Viktor Frankel and spent a wonderful afternoon on Lake Tahoe with him fishing and talking. We talked about music, theatre, life, philosophy, and survival. He had the Nazi tattoo on his arm. THEY wrote the records that damned them later. They wrote their own indictments on the skin of living human beings. They left the camps intact. They didn't believe what they were doing was wrong. They thought we would understand and carry out the work. That people now are denying this took place is reprehensible. They want to be able to forget so that they can do it again. I will never forget the evil done to good and gracious people. I will never let my children forget. I oppose and condemn revisionists and deniers at every meeting.

 

At 10/31/2005 4:46 PM, Blogger T.H.E.Probe said...

I grew up in Brighton beach in the 1950's and MANY people had the number tatooed on their arms. It was commonplace.

Holocaust Deniers do not deserve hell. It is too good for them.

 

At 11/01/2005 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave S.

A Holocaust survivor by the name of Mel Mermelstein accepted the challenge and the IHR reneged on the offer. Mermelstein went to court and won a $90,000 settlement, as the court concluded that he had met the terms of the challenge.

If Kent Hovind has taught us anything, it's that first you make sure your challenge is impossible to meet, then you make it.

 

At 11/02/2005 8:10 PM, Blogger Tim said...

In a way its surprising our "old friends" Sc*t Bradb*ry, Al V*nge, and Mat* Giwe* haven't set up blogs. (The *'s are to reduce the chance of said morons finding this post via a search engine and sticking their annoying racist yaps in here.)

 

At 11/02/2005 8:28 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Well, Giwer already has his own website www.giwersworld.org. (I doubt he'll notice, as I didn't use any HTML tags to link him directly. And if he does, who cares? I still encounter him from time to time on Usenet, but fortunately very rarely now.)

 

At 11/04/2005 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote, "the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum states flat out on its website that there is no credible evidence that the gas chambers were ever used to kill Jews!" Do you mean that no Jews in the whole Holocaust were ever killed in gas chambers, or just that the one in Dachau did not kill people?

 

At 11/05/2005 12:37 PM, Blogger Orac said...

My comments here have been confined only to Dachau, not the other Nazi camps. I did, in fact, mention some of the Nazi death camps, such as Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor. Gas chambers were definitely used as a major means of implementing the Final Solution at these camps and at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The evidence is indisputable.

In this blog post, I meant that there the one at Dachau probably was never used to kill people, although it very well might have been, as Harry Mazal's essay shows. However, Holocaust deniers claim there was no gas chamber at Dachau designed to kill humans, and that is completely incorrect, again, as the essay by Harry Mazal shows. In fact, as the essay shows, that gas chamber may indeed have been used to kill a small number of prisoners. The USHMM seems to take the position that there is no credible evidence that the Dachau gas chamber was ever used, while Mr. Mazal takes the position that the evidence is inconclusive.

 

At 11/07/2005 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Linked

http://acepilots.com/mt/2005/11/07/orac-on-holocaust-deniers/

The Commissar

 

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