Why can there be subjects of historical inquiry that are off limits?
It is currently illegal in many European nations to question the official or generally accepted account of the holocaust of European Jewry during the Second World War. This is no distortion nor exaggeration. European readers are well aware of these restrictions.
Our purpose here is not to dissect the official holocaust story, but rather to question the possible reasons or motivations for restricting objective and open inquiry into the official history of the holocaust, and stifling open discussions of the results of such inquiries that are made.
A lengthy read, best read on a tablet or desk top computer.
A few words of background may prove helpful at this juncture. We have read books and articles from both camps or factions, that of the official historians, and that of the revisionist historians. One thing to be aware of is that much of the official history is written by authors that did their research at libraries reading the accounts of others and accepting these as true without question. This describes one tome we read in late 1988. The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry 1933 – 1945, by Nora Levin (copyright 1968 by the author, first Schocken Books edition 1973, 768 pages). Many, many footnotes and several referenced sources, but the author did not visit the sites in question. True, during the 1960s, it was difficult for Western authors to travel to communist controlled Poland. Nevertheless, for a thorough and rigorous review and verification (vetting) of the history, on site, forensic examinations are necessary. Otherwise, authors run the risk of merely repeating the unverified claims of other writers. There are revisionist authors who have actually been on site at the alleged death camps since the fall of communism in the early 1990s. When on site examinations fail to support previous official claims, or actually cast doubt on these, uncomfortable questions arise. And, this is the problem independent researchers and revisionist historians (to revise the recorded or official history to bring it into accord with the facts) face. Their written works chronicling their research and investigations are banned in many countries, and they face possible imprisonment for speaking publicly about their research findings when these contradict the official history of the holocaust. One wonders why.
Bear in mind, as you read on, that the post communist government of Poland replaced the prior official plaque at Auschwitz-Birkenau with a new one in 1992. The new total of deaths at the camp complex is about one and one half (1.5) million, down from 4 million previously. Similarly, newspaper reports in 1945 for Majdanek (death camp or work camp?) in the Lublin area claimed that 1.5 million persons were killed there, of which a significant portion were Jews. (Even Wikipedia says “The Soviets initially overestimated the number of deaths . . .” Why did they? For sensationalist or propaganda purposes?) This figure has been walked back over the years and is now down considerably (per Wikipedia): “The 2005 research by the Head of Scientific Department at Majdanek Museum, historian Tomasz Kranz indicated that there were 79,000 victims, 59,000 of whom were Jews.” In some revisionist articles, the total figure for deaths at Majdanek from all causes is put at approximately 38,000 – a staggering reduction from 1.5 million. So, we can see that even the official history has been revised multiple times. Yet, it appears that the universally known total figure of 6 million Jewish deaths during the holocaust must be maintained. Thus, estimates for death camp, Belzec (in southern Poland), now cover a very wide range from 600,000 to 3 million. (Such a very wide range in the estimates invites scrutiny.) And, some attention is shifting from the death camps of occupied Poland to the mobile killing squads, einzatsgruppen, that followed on the heels of the advancing German armies in the Soviet Union hunting out and killing any and all Jews they found in the summer of 1941.
I could never understand how open inquiry and open discussion of the holocaust could incite hatred of Jewish people. This is one of the reasons given for restricting such inquiries and discussions. Also, calling for free and open inquiry and conducting relevant research does not constitute so-called “holocaust denial”, but rather a search for historical truth.
Why is it tabu to question the official story of the holocaust? Such a tabu that is enforced by legal sanction in many countries must be for important reasons one might think. One cannot help considering the following question. If the official story is “debunked” who loses? If the official story is true, accurate and factual, further examinations of its claims would involve no risk. Indeed, further and more scrupulous investigations and examinations would serve to verify and thereby strengthen the official account – if it is true. Why fear such inquiries? One possible conclusion is that those who promote the official history of the holocaust stand to lose as further and more critical scrutiny will expose the official history as being inaccurate and to a degree, false.
What would this mean? Possibly, several things.
The justification for the modern state of Israel would lose some of its legitimacy in the public’s eyes. Much positive public sentiment at the time in favor of the creation of Israel in 1948 was based on widespread sympathy for a people who had suffered such terrible losses in the holocaust. If there were millions fewer Jewish deaths, much of the legitimacy would be eroded. As well, Jews would not be viewed as perpetual victims, but could be viewed and treated as any other people of the world are without any special considerations nor preferential treatment. Indeed, Jews active in public life throughout the world could be given greater scrutiny and would be less able to hide behind the charge of “anti-Semitism” if they are found to be involved in nefarious activities.
The German people could throw off the collective guilt that they have been burdened with now for 70 plus years.
The exclusivity or special nature of Jewish suffering would be abandoned allowing for a fuller appreciation of the suffering of other peoples during World War II and across the world in the decades since the end of the war.
A more critical look at the Allies and their conduct before, during and after the war could occur among official or court historians. This has long been occurring in revisionist history circles. Such a re-evaluation of the Allies and their actions could yield a better understanding of how and why wars get started and how to avoid wars in the first place.
Enough. We have previously written on how the official holocaust history has been used. From July, 2014:
Given that there is so much incorrect information, so much misinformation and disinformation surrounding this topic, we are led to pose the following questions. (Today, it is not only the holocaust that is confounded by so much that is false, distorted or exaggerated. Propaganda, fake news and anti fake news that is itself fake (false) burdens our discourse and thinking on so many issues.)
Can objective truth be found? Can objective truth be known? These, perhaps, are questions for philosophers and not historians. What is truth? Is it merely what people can be led or made to believe?
There are bloggers that scoff at and ridicule revisionists, and dismiss their work out of hand as being motivated by hate. It is doubtful that these folks have even read anything written by revisionists, many of whom are only motivated by an honest search for the truth of what actually occurred or did not occur in the past.
Each adult citizen will have to make up his or her mind as to what to believe or not believe about the holocaust. But, we do not think that dissenting authors ought be silenced, or risk imprisonment and/or heavy financial penalties (fines) for writing about their research and what they have found and not found as to the veracity of the official account. If the official story has merit and is historically accurate, those who promote it have nothing to fear by more rigorous research including, but not limited to, the forensic examinations of the death camps in Poland, and the review of the extensive German records and documents seized by the Soviets in the final months of the war now in the former Soviet Archives in Moscow.
Dear readers, we only present the reality of the dilemma to you as a catalyst for critical thinking.
other related items
We recall reading in the national edition of the New York Times back in early 1989 or early 1990 (I will have to dig through my hardcopy files to find which year exactly it was) about cities in the Ukraine that were having their prewar Jewish population figures revised upwards (perhaps this came about through Gorbachev’s glasnost of the late 1980s). The conclusion drawn by the newspaper article’s writer was that the total Jewish death toll from the holocaust would have to be revised upwards to perhaps 7 million (from the universally known 6 million). It is this default, automatic, reflexive assertion – that if there had been more Jews living in conquered and captured areas prior to the war, then this means that there must have been more Jewish persons killed by the Germans and their allies during the war – that is so troubling. In the cases of cities in the Ukraine, many Jews were evacuated (as they were Communist Party officials or relatives of these) or fled deeper into the Soviet Union before the Germans arrived. Bear in mind that it is estimated that 500,000 Jews died in battle during the course of the war as Red Army soldiers. So, yes, Jews were killed by the Germans – on the battlefield as military personnel or combatants. And, yes, Jewish communist partisans, in civilian clothes conducting warfare behind the lines against the German armies, were killed by the Germans.
Now there is a movie (with mixed reviews) in some theatres, Bitter Harvest, that tells of the Holodomor or Ukrainian manmade famine of 1932-3. This famine resulted in millions of deaths by starvation. It is past time that this atrocity of Josef Stalin receive more widespread attention and scrutiny. The vast majority of victims were non-Jews.
The Ukrainian Archives was a website some years back that was forced to shut down. The owner of the site, Lubomyr Prytulak (likely an alias), lived in Canada and ran afoul of the authorities for being very critical of some of the Jewish promoters of the official holocaust story. He was Ukrainian and was rather upset that Ukrainians were slandered as being “anti-Semitic” and were frequently being vilified as being sadistic, even vicious death camp guards. I can remember in some of the lengthy posts on his site (1999 – 2001) he deconstructed various claims about the death camps in occupied Poland. He did not believe that inmates were electrocuted at Belzec (literally dancing on an electrified metal plate until they were electrocuted). In one post taking on the official (and often repeated) figure of 870,000 deaths at the infamous Treblinka camp, northeast of Warsaw, he said that perhaps 870 Jews had perished at Treblinka, or perhaps only 87. * Obviously, if questioning the official account of the holocaust is legally prohibited, forbidden or merely tabu, this kind of writing (available on the Internet to a potentially worldwide audience) cannot be endured nor tolerated.
* He was likely considering that the official account of the mass burial of several hundred thousand human bodies with subsequent exhumation and mass cremation on large pyres of wood from surrounding forests to be too far-fetched to be believed, that such an account beggared belief. As well, he was aware at the time he was writing that there had been no serious forensic examinations of the soil at Treblinka. (A limited British (pro-official history) examination several years back headed by Dr. Caroline Sturdy Colls did find a pit (assumed for burials) but the area examined was quite small and in no way could account for such numbers of corpses. There are many problems with Dr. Colls’ limited on site examination and analysis, not the least of which is the apparent desire on her part to interpret any remains or artifacts found as supporting her personal conviction that Treblinka camps I and II were extermination centers on a large-scale. Other serious flaws were researcher bias, preconceived conclusions, and not objectively evaluating the evidence to see where it may lead. But, I digress.) Even after several decades, cross cutting the soil to depth at various points on the camp grounds would serve to ascertain the prior existence of such large mass graves. Soil engineers with present day technology could help us to get to the truth at this (death or transit) camp.
In recent years, with the observations of psychologists, we can see that “eye-witness” testimony must now be viewed cautiously and with some skepticism. This is not to deny that deportations occurred in many countries. This is not to trivialize the real suffering that survivors no doubt endured in concentration camps. And, this is not to deny that some Jews did die in these camps. That was terrible. But, there is a very significant difference between harsh treatment and privation in a concentration camp and being resident in and surviving an extermination or “death” camp. The fidelity to the truth of eye-witness testimony, the veracity of eye-witness testimony is an emotionally charged and controversial topic to be sure. But, exaggeration for various and sundry reasons, and the distortions caused to memory by the lapse of decades from the time of the events recalled cannot be casually dismissed out of hand.
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