Alan M. Dershowitz
Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law
19 June 2008
Dear Professor Dershowitz:
I watched you speak (thanks to YouTube) on 04 May at the symposium titled “Defending Truth: Legal and Moral Imperatives of Holocaust Denial.” I understand that the event was organized by the U. of Baltimore School of Law and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.
I agree with you that questions about the Holocaust should be open to the “marketplace of ideas.” Since February I have been asking academics to provide me with the name of “one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” The first professor to whom I addressed the question was Deborah Lipstadt of Emory U., the lady whose virtues you speak of with such enthusiasm during your talk. In the event, Professor Lipstadt did not respond.
Since then I have asked hundreds of academics that one question. The question does [not] claim that the gas chambers did not exist, and does not make a claim that the “Holocaust” did not happen. It is a very simple, direct question. To date, not one academic has provided me with such a name, and none has attempted to do so.
For example, I have written the Director of one of the agencies that sponsored the symposium where you spoke, Dr. Paul Shapiro, director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advance Holocaust Studies. Could he provide me with the name of “one person, with proof …” He has maintained the same discreet silence in response to this simple inquiry that most all others have used to – how shall I put it – to perhaps evade the question.
In your talk at the U. Baltimore symposium you suggest that Holocaust minimizers like Hilberg, Chomsky, and Finkelstein are more difficult to deal with because, unlike straight out “deniers,” their writings are not based on “the existence or non-existence of gas chambers.” You ask, “Why are gas chambers so important?” And you respond to your question by saying: “If there were gas chambers, everything else from the [Holocaust] narrative follows.” The implication is, if there were no gas chambers, everything else in the Holocaust narrative would “falter.” I think you are right about this.
In your talk you speak movingly, and I believe sincerely, about the “importance” of the mass murder of Jewish children in the genocide of the Jews. You argue that “the children had to be killed first” because they were “the genetic future of the Jewish people.” And: “They were the genes. That was the genocide.”
Professor Dershowitz: can you provide the name, with proof, of one Jewish child who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?
Professor Dershowitz: do you believe it is morally right for academics to forward the charge against Germans of having murdered a million or so civilians in gas chambers at Auschwitz, and at the same time act out the role of “bystanders” by refusing to commit themselves to providing the name of one person – one child or one adult, with proof – who was murdered in one of those rooms?
Thank you for your time.
Bradley R. Smith
NOTE: I will copy this letter to some of your colleagues at Harvard Law School and to other parties who I believe might be interested.