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I don't get the hunchback quote.

You find it implausible that the government could maintain a facade about 9/11. Yet denierbud (who you've promoted here) claims our government successfully engaged in such a psy-ops for the holocaust (after which they invented the cold war). Do you think bud is wrong? Mass panics are usually quickly revealed to be overblown, why is the holocaust different?

TGGP,

On the first point, read RAW's "Masks of the Illuminati."

With the gassing claim, I think it was a perfect storm. And I think the cultural backdrop is a crucial part of the story. Early in the 20th Century, in the wake of the Russian pogroms, Jewish emigrants were subjected to new disinfection procedures in various lands (in Germany such procedures utilized mobile delousing facilities, which may prefigure the "gas vans" that would later become a core element of the standard Holocaust narrative). You had quarantines and the early use of cremation in disease control (a violation of Jewish law) in various places, and it is easy to imagine how such a disorienting atmosphere, lost or garbled in translation, could give rise to a particular blend of suspicion and paranoia, particularly for those who experienced it all first-hand as foreigners. I think a lot of it also traces to the Nazis' early euthanasia program and to a more generalized fear of poison gas that largely grew out of the First World War. This is a theme that is reflected in contemporaneous literature. In such an environment, rumors germinate and breed. When such rumors are repeated in official communications across great distances and recycled through radio broadcasts and official reportage (especially early BBC broadcasts, as Crowell documents) and are later reinforced by official reports (initially by the Soviets, who may have taken a page from the Germans' Katyn investigation) and then looped back through the mix in the a series of widely covered but little-examined government tribunals (most famously at Nuremberg), you have a situation where the seeds of rumor and hearsay are ripe to develop into full-blown myth. Or history. I think the psy-ops that Bud focuses on are an important part of the story and I think there was good reason for champions of the Allied war effort to promote the notion that a unique form of evil had been defeated, or whatever. But I don't think the story would have sold quite so well were it not for the prevailing cultural-bound anxiety in which the initial stories took root. The template was set, and it was important.

Here's a rapid summary from Sherlock, p. 29:

"...the most likely explanation for the evolution of the mass gas
extermination legend ... is that the application of delousing measures on the populations of Eastern Europe, and particularly on the Jewish people who were being resettled to the East, or dragooned into forced labor, conjured up rumors of extermination and slaughter as they had in the past. These rumors, in turn, were conveyed to Jewish parties in Western Europe and the United States, who appear to have all too readily believed them. The rumors in turn were propagated by the British in radio broadcasts back to Europe, including broadcasts in Yiddish, such that the rumors were already widely known, if not widely credited, throughout Europe by the end of 1942."

It's true that most mass panics are - I would say eventually - revealed to be overblown. There are of course exceptions (Christianity, duh) but I would say that the rule applies with reference to certain aspects of the Holocaust-extermination story. Early atrocity reports are rife with elements that have been quietly or explicitly abandoned by official accounts. In many of the same originating reports of gassing, you will find references to deaths carried out in electrocution chambers, by steam, by vacuum pressure, and by a strange pneumatic hammer (the "hammer of air"). A lot of these tropes survive in those sleazy "Ilsa" films from the 70s, and you can find them repeated in a lot of forgotten memoirs. Then there are the accounts of soap and lampshades, which few take seriously anymore. All such claims were indeed revealed - or conceded - to be "overblown," despite their appearance in many of the same documents put forth to substantiate the gassing allegations and entered as evidence at Nuremberg. (I think such abandoned story elements reflect a slightly dissimilar anxiety centering on German industrialization and reputed factory proficiency, but that doesn't really matter.) I suspect that the gassing claims stuck mainly because of typhus and typhoid and the ubiquitous presence of delousing chambers at many camps at the time of liberation (the use of cremation also being relevant). The conflation was already there; it was easy to believe. I think that most people who believed it, believed it sincerely.

I just don't think it's true. It makes more sense to me that it isn't, much the way it makes more sense to me to believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by terrorist hijackers. On both points, I could be wrong. On only one account am I courting trouble.

I agree a cultural background is important. I disagree with people who claim the Bush administration or Fox News was responsible for people believing Saddam was behind 9/11. The very first thing I heard about it on the day it occurred was someone in a hallway talking about going to war with Iraq, before there was any information out there we already had it set in our minds that Saddam was our designated badguy (I believe South Park had him the consort of the devil well before 9/11). The conventional wisdom was not bound forever by that background though, even if the government might have preferred that story.

It doesn't make any sense to characterize Christianity as a mass panic, cults are clearly a different matter. The odd bits of wrong holocaust anecdotes seem like exceptions that prove the rule: over time we got a better picture of what happened but still after half a century the reality of the holocaust is not in doubt.

TGGP,

Good point about the office chatter and the Iraq/9-11 connection. I think it's very important to keep in mind that the media environment in 2001 was radically different that what you had in the 1940s.

As to the Christ comparison, just substitute "delusion" for "panic." It seems clear that Christianity began as a cult. Appropriation of pagan motifs and rituals helped to sell it. And official imprimatur sealed the package. I'm sure there was a public appetite to be sated as well. A feedback loop. No more goats to sacrifice and a more socially adaptable theme to play and exploit. My point is merely that it is an example of a myth that took root. There are others, perhaps more trivial. Freudian concepts, Gulf War Syndrome, tainted candy on Halloween. Urban legends that have percolated for ages. People love a good story.

As to the odd bits that prove the rule, I can't help wondering which bits and what rule. I don't think I'm wrong to observe that recent years have seen a gradual de-emphasis of the gas-chamber extermination claim, which was the most salient Holocaust-definer when I was a kid. I think that potentially problematic details are slowly being traded for the shape-shifting consensus view that the Holocaust, whatever it was, "happened." And I don't dispute that it did. The Holocaust is with us to stay, in one form or another. I think the open question that persists is: what was the Holocaust? And perhaps tangentially, what was unique about the Holocaust? My personal sense is that the Holocaust refers to a series of events that targeted a particular religious-ethnic group under a particular ideology over a period of several years. I think it refers to Kristallnacht as well as to subsequent anti-Jewish raids and to sundry Nazi-enforced anti-Semitic policies culminating in forced internment, in ad hoc executions and atrocities, and in a generally catastrophic situation made more desperate and chaotic in the atmosphere of a lost war. I think the big plan was most likely to expel the Jews from German territory, and I sincerely wish that FDR had taken his wife's counsel to let them into the United States before the situation worsened as it did. I don't believe there was a clear-cut policy of genocide and I find the evidence presented for this view to be ambiguous or dubious. Same with the gas chambers, which, again, are all tied up with delousing. I don't think a fair appraisal of the relevant forensic reports to date bodes well for the gassing-extermination claim, but I know that there are those (smarter and better schooled than I) who disagree. As for the six-million figure, it appears to be something that's just been repeated over and over. As revisionists point out, its provenance predates key events, and serious historians don't seem to play it like the public does. I doubt that Stalin killed as many people as we're told.

Anyway, if the gas-chamber/genocide narrative is wrong, as I suspect it is, we're left with a spectacle that, horrific as it is, comports with other human experiences during large-scale military conflicts. The saturation bombing campaigns against German civilian populations seem horrifying to me, but not uniquely so. The American internment of Japanese citizens during the Second World War (which led to a great many deaths) was, to my mind, a kind of atrocity. And those atomic bombs our boys dropped, well they were pretty bad by all accounts. Maybe even uniquely so. I'm sure there are countless survivor stories attaching to such incidents that await the right script. Meanwhile, wait for next years Oscars.

I've said before that the genocide/gassing narrative of the Holocaust is an extraordinary claim on its surface, especially so since it is said to have been carried out under the cover of profound secrecy with the Nazi-tracks covered at virtually every turn. If it is true, my view is that there should be strong evidence to support it. I've looked, and I don't think there is strong evidence. Such evidence that is presented is nursed by widely held preconceptions and often promoted under social and even legal pressure, and usually yields just as well to more innocuous explanation. People don't believe this until they dip in. Then they still don't believe it. I think the taboo against questioning specific claims about the nature and extent of the Holocaust exists for understandable, if complicated, reasons. Safeguarding truth just isn't one of them.

Chip, do you or Crowell then think that folks in Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah" are lying or somehow deluded in their accounts of gas vans and mass gassing? If so, don't you think they would have been exposed by now? I've not read the Crowell material; if you recall him addressing the film, I'd be interested to see how he does it.

Rob,

Thanks for your question. It touches upon a number of themes that I will explore in the next installment of my "H-Bomb" series, which is partly an explication of Crowell's monograph, but considers evidence relating to the social construction of memory.

In "Sherlock," Crowell addresses Lanzmann's "Shoah" only briefly, in a footnote comparing the Leleko affidavit on the Aktion Reinhard camps to Franz Suchomel's testimony in the documentary. I don't know if Crowell addresses the film elsewhere in his body of writing, but here is a link to an archive, if you want to skulk around:

http://www.codoh.com/author/crowell.html

On the more general question of memory and delusion, some relevant discussion can be found on pp. 112-115 of "Sherlock" (PDF version).

Also, regarding "Shoah," I recommend watching this short segment of DenierBud's documentary, "One Third of the Holocaust":

http://www.holocaustdenialvideos.com/mov_pages/07_mov.html

DenierBud's deconstruction leaves little question - to me anyway - that Abraham's Bomba's account of giving gas chamber haircuts in impossibly cramped quarters cannot reflect something that is literally true. What he describes is simply impossible. Even being generous about the particulars, I think it lacks deeper verisimilitude. It's a nightmare tale.

Do I think Bomba is lying? Emphatically, I do not. I think he is expressing a culturally-facilitated confabulation, which is to say he is providing account of fantastic events perceived and experienced through suggestion as memory. The distinction is important because I think the folk understanding of memory as a kind of "tape-recorder" is scientifically false and is a huge impediment to understanding the rational basis for skepticism vis-a-vis specific claims regarding the Holocaust. I should add that many strident revisionists go astray on this point as well.

Experts have slowly come to recognize this phenomenon in other contexts, with reference to Satanic ritual abuse, police line-ups, alien abduction narratives, recovered memories, and so on. Here is a humane snip from Elaine Showalter's important book, "Hystories," that addresses the neuro-epistemological impasse as it relates to "recovered" memories:

"I have come to doubt the validity of therapeutically recovered memories of sexual abuse, but I do not wish to belittle those who believe in their memories. People do not generate these confabulations out of an intention to deceive. They may need to define an identity, to work out anger toward the accused, or to respond to cultural pressures." (p. 147, Columbia University Press, 1997.)

Now I am reasonably confident that Showalter, for all her intellectual courage, would bristle at being associated with the Holocaust bugaboo. But the shoe fits. The only thing that's missing is a literal therapist to stock the lake of memory with strange fish. That task is left to the broader culture.

I look forward to reading your follow-up post, Chip. As for "Shoah", even if Bomba's account is somehow incorrect, there are other people -- including a former guard -- whose accounts of the gas vans and mass gassing is compellingly circumstantial. Admittedly, I know as little about the Holocaust as most people, simply assume the accepted conventional narrative is generally correct, mention "Shoah" because it was so personally compelling, and also because Lanzmann's autobiography -- 150 pages of which, reportedly, are devoted to the making of the film -- was recently published in France by Gallimard. But the larger question, of course, is how plausible it is that the international scholarly community could be wrong about such a momentous issue, and an anonymous writer operating outside of the peer review oversight of that community is right. Why does someone affiliated with IHR deserve any more credence than someone affiliated with the Discovery Institute?

Rob,

You write:

"...how plausible it is that the international scholarly community could be wrong about such a momentous issue, and an anonymous writer operating outside of the peer review oversight of that community is right."

Not very plausible, I admit. Maybe one in a thousand. But I happen to think this is the one. My opinion is well considered, and I hope to explain my reasons more clearly in subsequent posts. I appreciate your perspective, and your civility.

As to the "affiliation" business, it just doesn't interest me. Whether someone writes for the Discovery Institute or V-Dare or the IHR or the New York Times, their arguments should be judged on their merits. Always. With special reference Holocaust revisionism, I think it is important to keep in mind that we're dealing with a thesis that has been radically marginalized and proscribed in mainstream outlets of debate for a very long time. The last prominent print appearance of a revisionist argument may well have been Faurisson's piece in Le Monde, which ran over 30 years ago. It ruined his career in academia. The IHR may be a stigmatized venue for scholarship, but for many years it was the only one available to those who sought to express a dissident view. I wish the situation were different. I wish I could read a traditional point/counterpoint and weigh the arguments, but that game doesn't apply in this case. The censorship is very real. Here, it's a matter of guidelines and protocol; across the ocean, it's a matter of law. But it's real. It's part of the story.

Incidentally, I agree with you that Lanzmann's film is compelling. I'm watching it again in preparation for this thing I'm writing. We have similar taste in film, you and I. If we ever meet, we can talk about Bela Tarr and Bruno Dumont. Maybe Gaspar Noe.

Chip, your point about affiliation is well-taken, but given the plethora of kooky conspiracy theory peddlers, and the impossibility of evaluating each one of them, I'm still interested in weeding out those least deserving of consideration. I'm extremely skeptical that there's much to this Holocaust revisionism, but quite interested in what you have to say about it, in any case.

Funny, I was just noting your excellent taste in films. It's hard to find anyone else who admires "Bunny" (which, amazingly, I caught in a KY theater), I'm most definitely an admirer of Noe and Solondz (who, like Dumont, my favorite contemporary director, is debuting his latest, which features Paris Hilton, at Cannes next month), and I fondly recall the earnest outrageousness of "The Rapture". I suspect you'd also like the work of Austrian Ulrich Seidl, if you've not seen his work (Dog Days, Models, Import/Export, Animal Love, Jesus You Know).

Rob,

I understand the predicament. There's a real kook factor; there are agendas and biases, and it's important to treat sources critically. I am mindful of this when I read work by revisionist writers, and I seek out their critics where possible. At the same time, I've come to find some revisionists to be more trustworthy and scrupulous than others (Rudolf, Butz, Crowell, and even Faurisson when he's not being a dickhead; I'm NOT a fan of David Irving, notwithstanding his important work on the Dresden bombing). I've also observed clear instances of dishonesty in works explicitly critical of revisionism/denial (in Shermer and Grobman's treatment of David Cole's work, for example). Of course, the flip side of the situation concerns taboo. War revisionism - apart from and including Holocaust revisionism - has a real intellectual pedigree, but the current situation is such that some views are effectively blacked out of what might fairly be described as a ruling discourse. Were it not for the professional risk and stigma that attaches, I suspect we would see more reputable scholars willing to wade in where the lines are blurred. Chomsky learned his lesson. And it's no surprise that Finkelstein's tenure was a political issue.

I absolutely love Seidl's work - especially "Animal Love," which is unremittingly bleak yet somehow hilarious. I think I may have even used a clip from "Import/Export" as a past "memento mori," but I can't recall for certain. I have this specific idea that critics are willfully obtuse to the uglier ideas nested in both Solondz's and Noe's films; it's something I hope to write about one day.

If you saw the Gallo flick in KY, I'm guessing you leave near either Louisville or Lexington, no? I live in central West Virginia and I make it through both cities a few times a year. We should get together for a beer.

I'm itching to add Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo and Dresden to that Goad list. They fit the literal definition of holocaust - totalistic incineration - only too well, yet everybody ats like they never happened.

Who, really, resemble the appellation "Holocaust deniers"?

That said, Chip, I often wonder how revisionists fit eyewitness/prisoner accounts into their anti-Holocaust narrative...

MRDA,

Your second comment is consistent with many others I have received and encountered in private correspondence and conversation with people who consider eyewitness testimony to be the most powerful evidence for the reality of Nazi gassing. I will address the subject more carefully in my next H-Bomb post, but here are a few points.

First, while eyewitness accounts are generally assumed to be reliable by the general public, psychologists who specialize in the study of memory have known for decades that this assumption is not supported by clinical evidence; it is more probably rooted in a kind of cognitive bias built into human nature. The malleability of memory is routinely demonstrated in experiments involving police line-ups and crime simulations. Despite placing high confidence in their recall, subjects turn out to be easily manipulated. The brain may be understood as kind of computer, but it is not a reliable data retrieval machine. This is important.

Second, with reference to specific Holocaust claims, many eyewitness testimonies are laced with references to events that no one believes. There are eyewitness accounts of homicidal gassing at camps where historians contend that no such gassings occurred, such as Bergen-Belsen and Dachau. There are accounts of murders using methods that are not believed, such as by steam chambers, electrocution, and weird conveyor-belt machinery. Then there are accounts of lampshades and soap, and Elie Wiesel's famous "geysers of blood." To be sure, there are more and less credible stories, but I suspect that lurid and technically suspect elements are more common than you imagine.

Third, and again, the reality of false memories is uncontroversial in other contexts. Alien abduction stories show a high degree of internal and intertextual consistency, a fact which has led some people -- even a small number of scholars -- to believe that they reflect real experiences. The more likely explanation, of course, is that they are delusions or confabulations in which sociogenically transmitted narratives are given first-person expression as memory. This was what was going on during the Satanic abuse hysteria of the 80s and 90s as well. There are numerous other examples, from "past lives" to witchcraft. I simply believe that the atmosphere of rumor and confusion that prevailed during and before the war combined with other factors to create an environment in which horror stories could be consciously expressed as memory. This idea is perhaps most carefully exposited by Crowell, which is why I give his little-read "Sherlock" monograph special emphasis.

Fourth, while the public impression is that there are vast numbers of direct eyewitness accounts attesting to the reality of an explicit genocide program, the number of verifiable first-hand accounts is less substantial than the common impression. There may be hundreds of such eyewitness accounts, perhaps dozens. Many such accounts are revealed as hearsay under scrutiny. And on those rare occasions when such testimony has been subject to public interrogation, the results have been problematic. See, for example, Faurisson's account of the cross examination of Rudolf Vrba during the first Zundel trial in Canada:

http://www.codoh.com/found/fndwitness.html

It might be added that there are eyewitness accounts that do not support the standard genocide narrative. These are not emphasized, for obvious reasons, and the Nuremberg officials were selective about statements entered the record. I also think that the confessions provided by captured Nazi officials must be viewed in special context, since there is evidence and rational reason to suspect that many of the most famous statements were garnered through coercion and political pressure to obtain a desired result.

If the Holocaust controversy interests you as it does me, my advice it to get your hands dirty. Read the stuff on CODOH and VHO. Then read the responses on Nizkor and Holocaust Controversies and RODOH. Then read the counter-responses, and so on. Pick a manageable issue or two and see where it leads. Whatever you're predisposed to believe, it is difficult to escape the realization that there is a real debate over key issues. The discourse proceeds in reasonably good faith, despite considerable acrimony, even if it remains significant that only one side is faces the prospect of legal sanctions and social ostracism.

There's a funny Onion bit on youtube, where a 9/11 truther is participating in a moderated debate with a member of Al Qaida. The latter is extremely offended that the former wants to give all the credit to the American government for staging the attacks. It's worth a look, though I'm unsure of the link.

Chip,

Indeed, we should most definitely get together for a beer the next time you are in Lexington.

In case the books under review in this recent Atlantic Monthly piece may be of use or interest:

"...30 years ago, study of the extermination of the Jews hadn’t yet entered the mainstream of scholarship on Nazi Germany. In fact, the standard single-volume history, Karl Bracher’s analytical The German Dictatorship, devoted a mere 13 of its 580 pages to the subject. Also all but ignored 30 years ago were the attitudes and opinions of Germans toward the Jews and toward the anti-Jewish policies of the Nazi regime, an issue that today’s historians consider central. Most striking is these books’ consensus: despite their authors’ different aims and methods, and despite their contending interpretations of a host of questions, they all agree that, contrary to claims made after the war, the German people had wide-ranging and often detailed knowledge of the murder of the Jews."

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200905/nazi-germany

Chip,
The Shakespeare debate may have settled down, but one of the Classics professors here is tearing out his hair over the latest twist on the Homer Chronicles, which if I understand correctly goes like this:

The Iliad and the Odyssey weren't written by Homer.
They were written by another guy, named...
HOMER.

People get paid to come up with this stuff!

Ann,

Thanks. I know nothing, except that there is the problem of "orality," or something. And that Homeric verse reveals the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Obviously.

Lanzmann on "Shoah":

"I knew that the subject of my film would be death itself... My film would take up the ultimate challenge: to replace the nonexistent images of death in the gas chambers."

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2009/07/bearing-witness.html

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