Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes

And Other Writings on the Holocaust, Revisionism, and Historical Understanding

By Samuel Crowell
Nine-Banded Books, 2011, 370 pp.

Review by Michael K. Smith
www.legalienate.blogspot.com

Reading Samuel Crowell's, "The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes" is a little like stumbling across a rational mind in an insane asylum years after being taken hostage by the inmates. Following prolonged immersion in clashing dogmas, the dispassionate use of evidence and logic to arrive at a sensible conclusion comes as a jolting but thoroughly pleasant surprise. And Crowell's modesty in stating that conclusion tentatively, knowing that genuinely rational inquiry will and should be superseded by later efforts, is an equally refreshing departure from polemical norms.

Drawing on establishment and revisionist authors, along with a careful scrutiny of German source documents, Crowell deftly evaluates contending claims arguing that Nazi "gas chambers" were (1) weapons of extermination (2) disinfection chambers (3) bomb shelters designed to protect against aerial gas attacks. Aligning eyewitness testimony with the material and documentary record, he sketches out the basis for a rational opinion, putting readers in a position to make their own judgments, without first requiring that they join in partisan warfare. Thanks to this effort we no longer need choose between delusional orthodoxy and strident dissidence, but can simply weigh evidence. This should come as a relief to everyone, while hopefully expanding the number of readers who can move beyond ritual denunciation and actually take the gas chamber debate seriously.

Crowell's work contains not a trace of anti-Semitism. He makes no attempt to whitewash Nazi racial policy, which he characterizes as a "shameful and disgraceful chapter in Germany history," even if "we assumed revisionist theses to their maximum extent." The important consideration, he notes, is that "we would still be dealing with about a million dead European Jews, who died as a direct result of Nazi persecution, plunder, forced labor, deportation, and yes, mass killing." As for his personal beliefs, he says, "they remain what they have been for thirty years or more," that "there certainly was a Holocaust in the sense that Nazi Germany persecuted and massacred many Jews," with the likelihood "that this massacre ran into the millions." Philosemitic crusaders, please take note.

A self-declared "moderate revisionist" who clearly values the standards of rational investigation, Crowell avoids exaggeration, misrepresentation, and self-righteousness. He shows no reluctance to admit when a conclusion is debatable or when the evidence is open to varying interpretations; and he is able to perceive shortcomings in the views and tactics of those who share a revisionist stance - and even some merit in those who do not. This adds credibility to his analysis, and marks him as a rare breed of intellectual who actually does what he is supposed to do: face up to facts and plausibly explain them. It is truly sad that on such an important topic his open-mindedness is all but unique.

Alarmed by the banning of revisionist thought in Europe, Crowell originally took up Holocaust research in order to rescue intellectual freedom from the Holocaust witch hunts of the 1990s, ironically doing so under an assumed name (he fears for the safety of his family). He correctly points out that the censorship crusade against revisionism represents nothing other than "the censorship of historical investigation itself," and notes with considerable relief that it appears to be losing steam. After years of beatings, fire-bombings, heresy trials, and book shreddings, designed to suppress what is openly regarded as a species of historical blasphemy, one can only hope and pray that this judgment is correct.

Due to a lack of corroborating physical and documentary evidence, Crowell is skeptical of the mass homicidal gassing thesis, classifying it as a "conspiracy theory," which he defines as "a small group of people operating, as it were, invisibly, causing things to happen and covering the traces of their activity." He finds this an implausible line of thought, because "there is no material evidence to support the theory," i.e., no forensic evidence of homicidal gas chambers. Such an argument "demands the belief in unseen or invisible agency, which is able to accomplish its work without leaving behind clear material traces of its misdeeds." Crowell finds people who take such ideas seriously reminiscent of "those millenia of humans who attributed terrible events to demons, devils, or other invisible supernatural beings."

Crowell's analysis is particularly apt in critiquing the "convergence of evidence" model borrowed from evolutionary biology, in which multiple strands of facts allegedly "converge" on a conclusion. But as Crowell notes, "no competent historian works that way." For if historians have corroborating documentary evidence for a conclusion from a high-level document, they look for further substantiation from mid and low-level documents in order to avoid an argument with anomalous gaps. On the other hand, if they have merely eyewitness confirmation or a vague corroboratory reference, they search for higher level evidence before drawing hard and fast conclusions. The difference between this approach and conventional Holocaust historiography is striking. As Crowell notes: "The absence of evidence for gassing in a continuous hierarchy is a serious problem, just as an evolutionary biologist would be dumbfounded if he or she found entire geological strata in which there was no evidence of life at all. That is the proper analogy for the magnitude of the problem faced here."

Equally helpful is Crowell's excavation of the devastating impact of the Nuremberg Trials on subsequent Holocaust research. What scholars have been able to access about the Holocaust are a selection of documents from the German archives that were gathered and used for the express purpose of convicting the Nazi leadership in the first five years after World War II ended. Later the judgment of the International Military Court was declared unchallengeable, and criminal penalties were applied to those who publicly questioned the court's findings. This means that the same documents, along with a prosecutorial interpretation of those documents, have remained fixed for over sixty years. As Crowell notes: "This never happens in normal historiography."

The strength of Crowell's book is also its weakness. He stays riveted on "gas chambers," refusing to be drawn into broader issues or concerns. He explicitly rejects the notion that revisionist theses on the Holocaust carry with them implications for Israel, whose problems, he says "have nothing to do with an aggressive recounting of the suffering of the Jewish people in World War Two."

But this observation entirely misses the point. For the so-called "mother question" in the Middle East has never been how to solve Israel's problems, but rather, how to deal with the impossible problems created by Israel. And central to those problems is the political capital the Jewish state has made out of what Crowell calls the Canonical Holocaust. Indeed, it is unlikely that a Jewish state could ever have been founded on Palestinian Arab lands, much less won license to commit permanent ethnic cleansing against them, had it not been for widespread belief in the extermination of European Jewry in gas chambers and cremation ovens, a uniquely horrible destiny, if true. But if that story is fatally flawed, as Crowell's careful research suggests it is, then world leaders' ritual deference to a presumed unique Jewish victimhood (especially on the part of U.S. leaders) may very well prove impossible to sustain, as may the justification for maintaining Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. And if U.S. support on these scores ever wavers, it is difficult to see how Israel will be able to stave off the radical transformation it will have to undergo in order to remain part of the Middle East. Whether it continues to exist in name or not, it will no longer be the state the world is familiar with.

7 comments:

Jack Martin said...

Michael K. Smith writes:

»Samuel Crowell characterizes Nazi racial policy as a "shameful and disgraceful chapter in Germany history."«

and goes on to suggest that the "Holocaust" did happen... but not quite as we've been led to believe... and that whatever happened to the Jews at that time was through no fault of their own... the perennial innocent victims... yet again... as always.

Let's consider the case of a wife beater. The man erupts in violence, and viciously beats his wife causing grave injury to her.
Pretty hard to sympathize with such a character.

But let's look further...
It seems that the wife, behind his back, was prostituting herself, giving him a case of venereal disease in the process.
She stole his money, sold off his possessions, and ran up a huge debt on his credit cards. When he objected, she got her brother and his friends to give him a good beating nearly killing him.
She then added insult to injury by slandering him with vicious lies destroying his good name in the community.

Now would you consider the wife an innocent victim in this affair?

What was done to Germany in the earlier war and its aftermath is quite analogous to the abovementioned case of the wife beater.
And it was done by persons predominately Jewish.

Certainly Jews suffered greatly during that time as did many others. There was certainly no attempt to "exterminate" them which is the defining claim of "the Holocaust."

Professor Arthur Butz wrote at the close of his seminal 'The Hoax of the Twentieth Century,'

"We are now very close to the end of our study. The thesis of this book has been proved conclusively. The Jews of Europe were not exterminated and there was no German attempt to exterminate them. The Germans resettled a certain number and these people were ultimately resettled again in accordance with Allied programs. Although various statistical details are missing from our analysis, it was possible to reconstruct quantitative aspects of the problem to a satisfactory degree.

The Jews of Europe suffered during the war by being deported to the East, by having much of their property confiscated and, more importantly, by suffering cruelly in the circumstances surrounding Germany's defeat. They may even have lost a million dead."

And what they suffered was far less than the suffering of the Germans - and others - that was brought about by persons who were predominately Jewish... those perennial innocent victims... as ever again.

Michael Smith said...

Aryan supremacy would be a disgraceful doctrine even if zero Jews had been killed in WWII.

Terms like "the Jews," and "the Germans," are so broadly encompassing as to make meaningful comparison difficult, if not impossible. The operative questions should be, "Which Jews?" and "Which Germans?"

In your analogy, even assuming it's a proper one, would it be fair to kill off large numbers of the woman's family, including her children, in retaliation for her behavior?

Agreed that organized Jewry ritually adopts a stance of innocent victim, one that is rarely, if ever, justified by the facts. But organized Jewry and Jews in general are not the same thing.

The guilty are the powerful.

Jack Martin said...

The idea of "Aryan supremacy" was more one of Allied propaganda than of actual German ideology. Even were that not the case, it would certainly have been no worse than the Anglo-American supremacy which had been operating long before the Nazis appeared on the scene... all sanctimoniously and hypocritically in the guise of promoting liberté, égalité, fraternité.

"Which Jews?" and "Which Germans?" you ask.

Regarding the Germans... they were ALL fair game... before, during, and after the war.

• The British blockade after the WW-I cease fire, intended to force the Germans to accept the criminal terms of Versailles resulted in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of German civilians, mostly women and children.

• The saturation incendiary bombing during the war carried on by British and American air forces murdered hundreds of thousands... perhaps a million or more.

• And when the war was "over," Eisenhower murdered hundreds of thousands of German POWs in his open-air death camps along the Rhein. When told that what he was doing was against international law, "Ike" merely reclassified the POWs as DEFs (Disarmed Enemy Forces) and said the laws protecting POWs did not apply.

Concerning the Jews... sufficient numbers of them had demonstrated their disloyalty and proclivity to undermine German society and German economy to collectively consider them as an enemy entity.

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote:
"Let us all recognize that we Jews are a distinct nationality of which every Jew, whatever his country, his station or shade of belief, is necessarily a member." wrote Justice Brandeis in his book, THE JEWISH PROBLEM -- HOW TO SOLVE IT. Here, with superb simplicity and directness, the late Supreme Court Justice gives us the source of the strength of Jewish organization-a common racial spirit. No one can quarrel with such a spirit when devoted to the development of a national culture. But unfortunately there are many who have been led to believe, that perhaps because of its internationalism, the Jewish spirit is antagonistic to other national cultures and tends; to smother all but its own… "Organize! Organize! Organize! Until every Jew in America must stand up and be counted - counted among us - or prove himself, wittingly or unwittingly, of the few who are against their own people."

Conrad Grieb wrote:
"He (the Jew) is disarming in his attitude which says in effect, "See, I am no different from you, am I? " Were he an individual he would be right. But he is not an individual. He does not stand alone and unsupported, as the great body of American citizenry must do. Actually, he is a watchman for the racial group into which he is born. By birth, by breeding and culture, he is a member of a great world-girdling super-organization, whose purpose it is to protect him… and to promote the aspirations common to his racial group, without criticism or restraint from people who are forever barred by birth from the benefits of these great international protective associations..."
-- Uncovering the Forces for War.

You wrote: "In your analogy, even assuming it's a proper one, would it be fair to kill off large numbers of the woman's family, including her children...?

It is not "fair" to kill innocent persons period... whether they be Jews or Germans... or whomever...

We can't help but note though that, as George Orwell noted in Animal Farm, "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." You apparently subscribe to that theory.

Regarding the killings you speak of... To repeat what Professor Butz wrote in The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, "The Jews of Europe were not exterminated and there was no German attempt to exterminate them..."

To pay lip service to revisionism and then go on to act as though it all happened after all is dishonest and hateful - no matter how piously it is done.

Michael Smith said...

"The idea of 'Aryan supremacy' was more one of Allied propaganda than of actual German ideology. Even were that not the case, it would certainly have been no worse than the Anglo-American supremacy"

Longstanding Anglo-American racial policies were a disgrace . . . so you agree with Crowell that the proper characterization of Nazi racial policy is that it was "shameful."

"Regarding the Germans... they were ALL fair game... before, during, and after the war."

Hitler enjoyed considerable praise before and even during the war. Pre-war his "economic miracle" was admired. During the war, U.S. diplomat George Kennan sent back favorable reports from Berlin as late as the spring of 1941.


Crowell believes the Allied saturation bombings killed an undetermined number of Jews, which, if true, would relieve Germany of at least some of the blame for the Jewish death toll in WWII.

There is considerable tension between these two statements:

(1) "Concerning the Jews... sufficient numbers of them had demonstrated their disloyalty and proclivity to undermine German society and German economy to collectively consider them as an enemy entity."

(2) "It is not 'fair' to kill innocent persons period... whether they be Jews or Germans... or whomever..."

Classifying all members of a racial, ethnic, religious, or national grouping as "subversive" almost can't help but result in the killing of innocents, which you concede is not just.

"We can't help but note though that, as George Orwell noted in Animal Farm, "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." You apparently subscribe to that theory."

I don't know how you arrive at this conclusion. It certainly is NOT a "theory" I subscribe to.

"To pay lip service to revisionism and then go on to act as though it all happened after all is dishonest and hateful - no matter how piously it is done."

Crowell's book pays far more than "lip service" to revisionism. It cites revisionist works and offers an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. You don't have to like the author's conclusions, but it's far from a "dishonest" book. The author is under no obligation to subscribe to your personal beliefs.

Carmelo said...

It is interesting that Crowell's arguments regarding Auschwitz have been refuted by another 'revisionist', Carlo Mattogno.

Few such 'revisionists' even mention such a disparity. So eager to conclude the Holocaust as a hoax/delusion, they fail to recognize such a contradiction within their own gurus' work. Doubtful that half even read the books and articles.

Anyway, another failed attempt by Crowell...

curi said...

Longstanding Anglo-American racial policies were a disgrace . . . so you agree with Crowell that the proper characterization of Nazi racial policy is that it was "shameful."

Anglo-American political, economic and military supremacy obviously involve more than racial policy-at least in the modern sense of the word. For example, see the transformation of Western Europe into a collection of vassal states of the American Empire after 1945.

Or maybe Moldbug could make it more clear to you:
http://unqualified-reservation...
First, I believe anti-Americanism is best described as an epiphenomenon of Universalism. The single most significant fact about the world today is that sixty-two years ago it was conquered by a military alliance whose leader was the United States, and whose creed of battle was this nontheistic adaptation of New England mainline Protestantism. I don't think it's a coincidence that the European ruling class holds essentially the same perspectives that were held at Harvard in 1945. The US Army did not shoot all the professors in Europe and replace them with Yankee carpetbaggers, but the prestige of conquest is such that it might as well have.

It makes sense to view anti-Americanism as a postwar phenomenon, because it's hard to find anything in Europe's prewar political scene that corresponds to it. Before WWII, a European who found American influences pernicious was most likely a man of the Right, generally either an anti-Wilsonian aristocrat or a Bonapartist nationalist demagogue. After the war, and especially since the rise of the postwar-educated generation of 1968, European anti-Americanism has been overwhelmingly on the Left. Considering the animosity between these factions, it's hard to find any continuity between them.

Michael Smith said...

Not sure how we got on to "anti-Americanism" as a theme, which is not a topic of obvious relevance in assessing Samuel Crowell's work.

Yes, there is more than racial policy involved in the Anglo-American record of running roughshod over anyone and anything perceived to be obstructing its march to world domination. But that Nazi racial policy was a particularly virulent form of shameful Western racism should not be a difficult conclusion for an honest person to draw.