Sunday, February 24, 2008

Filip Mueller and the "One Name, with proof."

I have copied my question for Professor Lipstadt – “Can you provide the name, with proof, of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?” to several hundred professors of history and journalism at Emory University, The University of Georgia and Columbia University. I also sent it to the campus and off-campus press around those campuses. So far, no significant reply. I’m very disappointed, but I understand that my question threatens to undermine the “product” these folk have been marketing and/or buying this last half century and more, so I understand their reticence before the matter.

I did get one reply from a U Georgia professor. He suggested that I read the book by Filip Mueller, “Three years in the Gas Chambers,” where I would find such a name, with proof. When The Journal for Historical Review was just getting off the ground in 1980, Lewis Brandon (David McCalden) reviewed Filip Mueller’s Three Years in the Gas Chambers . Perusing the review again, 28 years later, I am reminded of a lot of such “survivor” foolishness that I have not thought about in a very long time. You can find the review here and make of it what you will.

And then there is the issue that this academic, and he was very decent about it, while he is rather certain that Mueller gave honest eyewitness testimony, the professor himself does not answer the question I have put to Professor Lipstadt – “One name, with proof.” Rather, he suggests I read a book and find the name for myself. No. I am asking academic historians who are learned in the matter to provide me with such a name, with proof. It should not be all that complicated for them – or for such a formidable personality as Deborah Lipstadt herself. Other wise, each of the hundred or so historians to whom I have addressed this question this month could simply reply with the title of a book for me to read so that I could discover such a name for myself. A hundred books? I don’t think so.

After all, it is the professorial class, as a class, that has marketed this “product” for so many decades, this product that has enriched so many people in so many ways, that it would be unkind of me to suggest that none of them have the “One name, with proof” that I am asking for. The "One name" that is the cornerstone of their good fortune.

So I won’t do it.

Yet.

Monday, February 18, 2008

There Is No Other Side to the Holocaust Story


There is no "other side" to the Holocaust story.

About This Blog

It was only a few weeks ago, while participating in a discussion on History News Network (HNN), the Website “for historians by historians,” that I first thought to ask that someone give me the name of one person, with proof, who had been killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. No one told me the question was irrelevant, and no one tried to answer it.

After I had asked the question several times, I realized I had never heard anyone else ask the question. Why was that? If four millions – or as we must say nowadays -- maybe a million, were killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz, surely there was one academic on one campus somewhere in America who could provide the name of one person, with proof, who was killed there.

It occurred to me to ask Professor Deborah Lipstadt herself. She is the key public spokesperson for the Holocaust Lobby on the American campus. Of course, she did not respond. It is against her principles – I understand this and do not mean to complain about it, though every once in a while I will probably mention it – it is against her principles to discuss anything with anyone who doubts what she believes about the use of WMD (gas chambers) by Germans during WWII.

So I would write Professor Lipstadt directly, and copy my original letter to her to academics and journalists at Emory and other campuses and see if anyone was interested in the question. I would pretend that such folk can afford to be interested responding to the question. Who among them will be willing to risk their reputation, their career, and their income, over this simple question?

As of this writing I have begun my lonely quest for that one name, with proof – one out of a million names. It has been suggested to me that that is about what my chances are of any academic risking it – one in a million. I cannot believe that that will prove to be so. Surely one professor, on one campus somewhere in America, will rise to the occasion.

Regarding your comments, I will follow Professor Lipstadt’s example: I will post those that interest me. And as Professor Lipstadt has it, I will not correct ‘typos’ in email. It may turn out that Professor Lipstadt will be my model in many ways. I believe that would be wise of me. She is a real pro, she is very successful, she is above criticism, she has access to substantial funding, and she is taken seriously by the mainstream press. Who else would I better follow?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Prejudices

Lipsdat writes, “As I have said here before antisemitism and, for that matter, racism are prejudices. The etymology of the word tells it all: pre-judge, i.e. don't confuse me with the facts I have already made up my mind.”

Twenty-five years ago Lipstadt had already made up her mind about revisionist arguments regarding the WWII German WMD (“gas chambers”). She has pre-judged those arguments for decades, her position being that there is no, can be no, “other side” to the Holocaust story. The Germans acted with a “unique monstrosity” toward others and there’s an end to it. In short, it is wrong to pre-judge some matters and some folk, but okay to pre-judge other matters and other folk.

So tell us Professor Lipstadt: Can you provide the name, with proof, of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

One Person, With Proof

04 February 2008

Prof. Deborah Lipstadt
Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Professor Lipstadt:

Can you provide, with proof, the identity of one person killed in a German gas chamber at Auschwitz?

Thank you.



Bradley R. Smith

The Man Who Saw His Own Liver

Preface

The Man Who Saw His Own Liver was conceived and written by Bradley R. Smith as a one act play. It was performed in 1983 in The Theater of Note in downtown Los Angeles with John Ackelson playing the role of A.K. Swift. With minimal editing, it is presented here in novelized form.

“Joseph Conrad and the Monster from the Deep” is excerpted from Bradley R. Smith's work-in-progress, A Personal History of Moral Decay.


Introduction: Death and Taxes

Bradley Smith is one of those writers. Like Hunter Thompson or Hubert Selby; like Brautigan, Bukowski, or the Beats. You read him when you’re young. You read him with a rush of discovery, never to be forgotten. The prose is clean and relaxed and punctuated with a distinct, tumbling, rhythmic flair. It goes down easy. It makes you want to write.

The world Smith made is suffused with a restless vitality that feels personal and true. Everything unfolds as pitch-perfect Zen comedy, where wanderlust and quiet desperation harmonize with the dimly consoling romance of existential resignation. Reading Bradley Smith would be a rite of passage. Except that it isn’t. Hipster clerks who trade in the semiotics of outlaw literature have never heard of Bradley Smith. Or, if they have, chances are their familiarity will be shaded by poisonous misapprehension.

Bradley Smith writes about the inner life as revealed through dreams and books. He writes from experience about war and bullfights, and that time when he was asleep in a Mexico City jail and a cellmate took a shit on his foot. He writes, lyrically at times, about nature; about family and friendship and sin and shame and the tragicomic folly of bureaucracy and organized religion.

The problem came only when Bradley found his subject. There’s that ruined passage from Job: I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came. And so it did. Not that he wasn’t asking for it.

The broad strokes. A young man goes off to war, gets shot in the head and decides then and there to become a writer. Returning home, this aspiring writer flails and fails and somehow ends up being prosecuted by the State of California for selling a book – Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. He loses that one. Years go by. Times change. The writer works. The writer writes. Then comes this shattering, unforgivable epiphany when the muse steers headlong into the “great question of belief.” And the stakes are forever changed.

The man makes choices. Choices make the man. Or maybe things just unfold the way they do. No matter. Your friends and professors have it all figured out. Bradley Smith, they will assure you, is the worst sort of character. Bill Burroughs kills his wife and his crime is casually bought and sold as countercultural
mythology, but Smith, you must understand, is a special case, a man whose defining transgression exists beyond the pale of permissibly decadent writerly lore. He stands naked and guilty of something wholly unredeemable; he dances by the flame of the only evil still worth naming.

There’s no point in softening the lede. Bradley Smith, the very best people know and understand, is a Holocaust Denier. Rumor has it, he even dips hummus with Ahmadinejad. Ask the next question and you’ve made your first mistake. This is where things get stuck. It’s too bad, really. But also very nearly perfect.

At one end of the bar sits this avuncular old raconteur, sipping Mexican beer. He wears his heart on his sleeve and laughs at death. Buy him a fish taco and he’ll tell you the funniest war stories you ever heard. Or maybe, if the mood is right, he’ll bore you with the one about how he came to doubt the gas chamber stories.
On the opposite end, your eyes meet the collective, disapproving glare of Mom and Dad and everyone you’ve ever trusted, imploring you to simply turn away.

It’s happy hour, and everyone is looking. You have a choice. Or maybe you don’t.
If it helps, The Man Who Saw His Own Liver is not a book about the Holocaust. At least not the one you have in mind. Of course, if you can’t bring yourself to wade past the emanations and penumbras, you’ll find what you’re looking for. To be sure, the crisis of apostasy is prefigured, obliquely, in delicious criminal traces. If that’s your game, chug a lug. The book is always open.

It’s odd how easily we forget. About the Bomb. The way we forget about death, perhaps. The decades pass and Cold War anxiety washes into gray newsreel nostalgia. Pakistan still has nukes, but the hundredth monkey calls in sick. Nothing has changed, of course. You simply learn to drop the subject. Somehow, the other Holocaust is passé.

Removed from the once urgent night- mare panic of a billion childhoods, Bradley Smith’s epistle owes its resonance to deeper yet simpler verities. Beyond the din of political protest, beyond the cloying refrains of refashioned liberation theology, or regurgitated Chomsky loops, or Ron Paul bumper stickers, the bead hovers ever nearer the visceral quick, where the heart races and everything is music.

Make no mistake, taxation is theft. But true freedom belies and defies every slogan. While the grim specter of nuclear annihilation looms just offstage, the grit and gristle of Smith’s monologue distills to the imprisoned logic of Sartrean humanism; his is a helpless moral gesture telescoped through the distant lens of American transcendentalism. A dire predicament dooms us to brotherhood. In the reckoning, there is grave responsibility. And there is the longing for atonement. In the marrow, “the wanting.” Smith’s surrogate narrator, A.K. Swift, is at once quixotic and apathetic. Thoreau and Mersault. A tax resister who can’t be bothered to go public. A libertarian with blood on his hands. An absurd rebel, kicking against the pricks. A writer with no role. He stands athwart the immovable rout of "bureaucrats, revolutionaries and priests," speaking softly in the one true voice; his call to reason unheard and unheeded, swallowed up in the churning clockwork of history.

A working-class dreamer is cast against implacable forces from without and the story is as old as Sophocles. Seul contre tous. Impotent and beset by failure, his fate is sealed in eternal measures of comic futility. Camus insisted that where there is the greatest danger there is also the greatest hope. He was wrong, of course. There’s no cheating the reaper, or the taxman. Yet when hope is dashed and failure foregone, one man can laugh, or he can cry. Or he can relent. The trick, as A.K. Swift – and Bradley Smith – might remind us, is in finding right relationship.
Just ask the Buddha. Or Anne Frank. They understood what the Nazis and bureaucrats will never confess.

Chip Smith
November, 2007