Saturday, July 26, 2014

Of Hatred, Delusion and Fantasy

Someone very close to me, and whom I love very much, recently challenged my patience and my good nature by not only proclaiming that he was a rabid anti-Zionist, but that he had bitten the holocaust denial fantasy hook, line, and sinker.

As all Holocaust deniers tend to be, he was influenced by someone he admired that advanced such views, and rather than being interested in the facts and in doing actual research, being exceptionally gullible, he simply bought it.  And then, of course, arrogantly demanded that unless someone could "prove" to him that the denial fantasy narrative was wrong, that it was, in fact, true... in short, a raging case of confirmation bias intermixed with a healthy dose of observational selection.

Holocaust denial is certainly not new.  Neo-Nazis still cling to it with religious zeal to justify their hatred and anti-Semitism.  Anti-Zionists and anti-Semites also cling to the holocaust denial narrative to justify their hatred of Israel.

This person, who ordinarily is a researching machine, somehow failed to find the resources that I was able to find in about a 15 second search on Google.  Such is not surprising, however, because regardless of their faux sincerity in claiming that if evidence is provided, they will "believe," the reality is that when documented evidence *IS* provided, they simply ignore it and move the goalposts to more favorable territory, or "flip-flop" to another argument.  They simply aren't interested in the truth, no matter how strenuously they claim otherwise.  And this is the very definition of "delusional..." a malady that many such individuals appear to suffer from.  According to the dictionary, a delusion is a "belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary."
Denial of the holocaust is one such delusion.

I'm sure that there is a whole list of arguments against the holocaust, many of which were spawned by works by wingnuts such as Fred A. Leuchter and David Erving, both of whose claims were found to be flatly spurious in a court of law.  Many of their chestnuts have been completely debunked by the Nizkor Project, a group opposed to Holocaust denial claims, who analyzes these claims for instances where the evidence used by Holocaust deniers has been altered or manufactured.

For the sake of brevity, I'm going to address the main point that this person brought up as the de facto proof that the holocaust never happened... "There is no proof that the Jews were ever gassed."  I was assured that if I could provide such proof, that he would be convinced.  Of course, I know that to be untrue.  He will simply move the goalposts, reject the data, and stubbornly cling to his predetermined belief.

One of the main accusations brought forward in the argument denying the gas chambers was that there had been no autopsies conducted that showed that the Jews were gassed.  Jean-Marie Le Minor, a noted pathologist and anatomist in his work "Morphological Sciences Medicales Strasbourg", pg 332 states, 

"The voluminous reports of forensic examination of Prof. C. Simonin, Prof. Dr R. Piedelievre and Dr J. Fourcade meticulously described the autopsy of 17 whole and complete subjects and 166 body segments belonging to at least 64 people, all showing signs of death by inhalation of hydrogen cyanide."
The actual accusation that Jews were not gassed based on technical criticisms that were originally advanced by Leuchter in particular, is soundly destroyed in the paper "TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THE HOLOCAUST: Cyanide, Zyklon-B, and Mass Murder" by Brian Harmon, Ph.D. in molecular biology and microchemistry.

Professor Harmon states:

"Because many holocaust deniers find themselves unable to dismiss 
the many volumes of historical information documenting the Holocaust, 
they often turn to other methods.  A very common tactic is to 
claim that the Holocaust was "technically impossible", improperly 
citing chemical and physical data as "proof".  The most well 
known example is the "Leuchter Report" where Fred Leuchter, a 
self-proclaimed engineer, claimed that "no one was gassed at 
Auschwitz", using a combination of poor chemical analysis and 
technical difficulties as "proof".  

"Another example, "The Luftl Report", written by the Austrian 
Walter Luftl, erroneously claims that not enough people could 
be crammed into the chambers, and that Zyklon was too 
dangerous to use for extermination.  

"Many of these documents are shrouded in pseudo-scholarly 
terminology and methodology, and use confusing statements to 
make their lies seem more tenable.  The deniers hope to play 
on the common individual's lack of knowledge in chemistry and 
physiology to confuse and obfuscate the issue."  (ibid.)

For a detailed technical analysis that proves that Leuchter and Luftl were completely wrong, please refer to the complete article here.

Wiki reports that "Another thoroughly debunked claim by Holocaust deniers is that the "gas chambers which mainstream historians believe were for the massacre of civilians never existed, but rather that the structures identified as gas chambers actually served other purposes. These other purposes include delousing and disinfection. A similar argument is sometimes used that claims gas was not used to murder Jews and other victims, and that many gas chambers were also built after the war just for show.

"A document advancing this theory is the Leuchter report by Fred A. Leuchter, a paper stating that only traces of cyanide were found when he examined samples taken from one of the Auschwitz gas chambers in 1988. This is often cited as evidence that gas was not used in the chambers, as no trace amounts remain."
There is only one small problem with that.  It turns out that not only was Leuchter lacking the education and technical skill to conduct such tests, but that the tests themselves were exceedingly sloppy and inconclusive.

Unfortunately for those delusional enough to buy into Leuchter's denial fantasy, in Feb of 1990, Professor Jan Markiewicz, Director of the Institute of Forensic Research in Kraków, redid the analysis. (
"A Study of the Cyanide Compounds Content in the Walls of the Gas Chambers in the Former Auschwitz & Birkenau Concentration Camps". Retrieved 2014-03-22.)
Note: I'm going to be quoting quite a bit from the paper I referenced above, as it addresses some of these precise claims, so bear with me.

"Markiewicz and his team used microdiffusion techniques to test for cyanide in samples from the suspected gas chambers, from delousing chambers, and from control areas elsewhere within Auschwitz. The control samples tested negative, while cyanide residue was found in high concentrations in the delousing chambers, and lower concentrations in the homicidal gas chambers. This is consistent with the amounts required to kill lice and humans. (ibid.)

"The search for cyanide in the bricks of buildings said to be gas chambers was important, because the pesticide Zyklon B would generate such a residue. This was the gas most often cited as the instrument of death for prisoners in the gas chambers, supported by both testimony and evidence collected of Nazi policy.
This study concluded that:

"The present study shows that in spite of the passage of a considerable period of time (over 45 years) in the walls of the facilities which once were in contact with hydrogen cyanide the vestigial amounts of the combinations of this constituent of Zyklon B have been preserved. This is also true of the ruins of the former gas chambers. The cyanide compounds occur in the building materials only locally, in the places where the conditions arose for their formation and persistence for such a long time.
"In his reasoning Leuchter claims that the vestigial amounts of cyanide combinations detected by him in the materials from the chamber ruins are residues left after fumigations carried out in the Camp "once, long ago"(Item 14.004 of the Report). This is refuted by the negative results of the examination of the control samples from living quarters, which are said to have been subjected to a single gassing, and the fact that in the period of fumigation of the Camp in connection with a typhoid epidemic in mid-1942 there were still no crematoria in the Birkenau Camp. The first crematorium (Crematorium II) was put to use as late as 15 March 1943 and the others several months later.   ("A Study of the Cyanide Compounds Content in the Walls of the Gas Chambers in the Former Auschwitz & Birkenau Concentration Camps",JAN MARKIEWICZ, WOJCIECH GUBALA, JERZY LABEDZ Institute of Forensic Research, Cracow, Z Zagadnien Sqdowych, z. XXX, 1994, 17-27
Received 8 March 1994; accepted 30 May 1994 )

Testimony of Eye-Witnesses

Those who deny that gas chambers were used also disregard HUGE volumes of data and testimony... which they like to downplay as ONLY coming from "one person" who was "tortured for three days before testifying."  Such accusations are, however, either outright lies, or are born in sheer ignorance of fact.

There are voluminous amounts of testimony from thousands of survivors of the Holocaust, as well as the testimony of captured Nazi officers at the Nuremberg Trials and other times.

"Holocaust deniers discount the testimony of officers claiming that these witnesses were tortured, or that Rudolf Höess allegedly signed a confession written in a language he did not understand (English) or that the Nuremberg Trial did not follow proper judicial procedures.

"However, Höess's testimony did not consist of merely a signed confession; he also wrote two volumes of memoirs... ("Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz", by Rudolf Höess, Steven Paskuly, Foreword Primo Levi, Translated from German by Andrew Pollinger and "Commandant of Auschwitz : The Autobiography of Rudolf Höess" by Rudolf Höess, Constantine Fitzgibbon, Joachim Neugroschel, Introduction by Primo Levi) and gave extensive testimony outside of the Nuremberg proceedings.  See, for instance, "How many People Died at Auschwitz", by Franciszek Piper, Article Review, Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Note 24: Hoess testimony, March 11, 1947, The proceedings of the Supreme National Tribunal in Warsaw;  also see "Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals", Volume VII, p. 11 Case 38. Trial of Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess. Supreme National Tribunal of Poland (11th-29th March, 1947).

Further, his testimony agrees with that of other contemporary written accounts by Auschwitz officials, such as Pery Broad, "KZ Auschwitz: Reminiscences of Pery Broad, SS man in the Auschwitz concentration camp", by Pery Broad]. See also "The Case for Auschwitz: evidence from the Irving trial" By Robert Jan Pelt, p. 224. and "People in Auschwitz" by Hermann Langbein, Henry Friedlander p. 59, 112," an SS man stationed at Auschwitz while Höess was the commandant and the diary kept by SS physician at Auschwitz Johann Kremer, as well as the testimony of hundreds of camp guards and victims.  See "How Reliable are the Hoss Memoirs?" by John C. Zimmerman. Associate Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 11 February 1999.

In addition, former SS personnel have criticised Holocaust denial. SS-Oberscharführer Josef Klehr has said that anyone who maintains that nobody was gassed at Auschwitz must be "crazy or on the wrong".  See Demant, Ebbo (Hg.): Auschwitz — "Direkt von der Rampe weg..." Kaduk, Erber, Klehr: Drei Täter geben zu Protokoll, p. 114. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1979 ISBN 3-499-14438-7.
SS-Unterscharführer Oswald Kaduk has stated that he "does not consider those who maintain such a thing as normal people."  See "Three German murderers. Records of the banality of evil, Germany 1998" (filmed in 1978). Directed by Ebbo Demant, produced by Southwest Broadcasting.

Hearing about Holocaust denial compelled former SS-Rottenführer Oskar Gröning to publicly speak about what he witnessed at Auschwitz, and denounce Holocaust deniers, (see Rees, Laurence. Auschwitz: The Nazis & The 'Final Solution, p. 300. London: BBC Books, 2005. ISBN 0-563-52117-1) stating:
"I would like you to believe me. I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections took place. I would like you to believe that these atrocities happened because I was there."  (ibid., pg 301)
Sonderkommandos provide another key piece of testimony. There were Jewish prisoners who helped march Jews to the gas chambers, and later dragged the bodies to the crematoria. Since they witnessed the entire process, their testimony is vital in confirming that the gas chambers were used for murderous purposes and the scale to which they were used.  (See "The Nizkor Project - Command staff". Retrieved 2014-03-22.)

In Summary

  • Holocaust denial is nothing but either a particularly vicious and disgusting attempt to intentionally lie and deceive, or an example of textbook delusional behavior and ignorance.  Either way, it is an extension of garden variety hate and anti-Semitism.
  • Those who deny the Holocaust are rejecting literally warehouses full of physical evidence, millions of pages of testimony presented at the Nuremberg Trials and the eye-witness accounts of those who were not only there (Jews) who were directly involved in the operation of the gas chambers, but of the actual SS officers who not only directed the camp, but participated in these acts.
  • Denial of the gas chambers specifically shows complete ignorance of the facts and the science at play, and suggests scenarios that have either been proven to be factually false, of which are literally impossible on a technological/scientific basis.
  • The Nizkor Project as well as other scholarly projects, have completely decimated the false claims by holocaust denial theorists, to no valid rebuttal (to date) of their data.
Hopefully, this wonderful, bright, otherwise intelligent young person will realize that one cannot simply glom onto whatever he hears from someone he admires and looks up to as gospel truth... that REAL research involves looking that data that might, and often does, destroy those pet theories that we love to embrace sometimes.

There are plenty of things in history to wonder about, speculate about, and research... but the Holocaust is an event which has been so extensively researched as to be undeniable by any normal, intelligent, sane person.