Monday, March 31, 2008

The Connection Between History and Moral Choice

28 March 2008

Professor Eric Weitz, Chairman
History Department
University Minnesota

Dear Professor Weitz:

On 04 February 2008 I asked Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt if she could provide “the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” Professor Lipstadt did not reply. I have since put the question to several hundred academics but none has replied to the question.

On the Web page representing the [University of Minnesota] Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies (CHGS) I read that -- “Nazi ‘extermination’ camps located in occupied Poland at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Majdanek-Lublin begin mass murder of Jews in gas chambers in 1942.”

Is it possible that CHGS might provide us with “the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau” One name, with proof, out of the million or so allegedly murdered there?

In the CHGS mission statement I read: “By studying the historical development and lessons of the Holocaust and other examples of collective violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives.”

While I agree with this sentiment, the issue is not merely to make a “connection” between history and moral choice, but to make a connection that is historically sound, and one that is “moral” in that the evidence used to charge the “other” with a “unique monstrosity” is judged using the same standards to which we hold ourselves.

Professor Weitz: do you think it reasonable, or do you think it unreasonable, to ask the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies to provide “the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?”

Thank you.


Bradley R Smith


NOTE: I will pass this on to academics in history, journalism, and others at U Minnesota. I invite any faculty member to reply which, unless asked not to, I may publish on my Blog, “One Person With Proof.”

NOTE TO THOSE WHO TEACH JOURNALISM: Is this a question that you feel comfortable asking your colleagues in history? There’s a story there. You like stories. That’s one reason why you’re in journalism. If you want the story, sometimes you have to risk discovering what the real story is. Still, I know -- it’s not for everyone.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I was wrong

I spelled Professor Michael Berenbaum's name wrong.
That may be why he has not responded to my request that he provide us with the name of "one person, with proof," who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. What else could it be?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Israel and its relationship to the Shoah

25 March 2008

Professor Michael Birenbaum, Director
The Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust

Dear Professor Birenbaum:

In your recent article in The Jewish Journal “Israel and its relationship to the Shoah,”
you quote Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer:

"The reason why survivors turned to Zionism is not hard to understand. The murder of the European Jews seemed to vindicate the Zionist argument that there was no future for Jews in Europe."

Further on you make the interesting observation that “The Holocaust invites questions not answers.”

Accepting the fact that the gas chambers of Auschwitz are at the very heart of the story of the “Shoah” and the “murder of the European Jews,” I invite you to answer this question:
“Can you provide the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?”

On the home page of The Sigi Ziering Institute, of which you are Director, it is stated that it is necessary to “ … ask those questions that must be asked [in order to] honor the past and forge a more compassionate future.”

Because “Shoah” and the phrase “the murder of the European Jews” are implicit charges of “unique monstrosity” against the Germans, and because we really do want to “honor the past and forge a more compassionate future,” do you believe it reasonable, or unreasonable, for me to ask this simple question:

“Can you provide the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?”

Thank you.

Bradley R. Smith


Blog: http://bradleysmithsblog.blogspot.com/
Web: www.codoh.com

Note: I will pass this communication on to other academics at the American Jewish University, including The Sigi Ziering Institute. I invite any faculty member to reply which, unless asked not to, I may publish.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Professor Lipstadt and the Irony of "Living With Wolves"

Professor Lipstadt has unflinchingly denounced the Misha Dfonseca book “Living With Wolves,” wherein the Belgian lady claims that “after the Nazis took her parents away, she - at age 7 - wandered across Europe, crossed rivers, was befriended by wolves and managed to survive,” referencing reports that the lady made the whole thing up.

Lipstadt writes that [Dfonseca] “is not even Jewish."

That “People like this are beneath contempt.”

That she is “this phony survivor.”

That “Holocaust survivors deserve far far better.”

And that she is " ... filled with loathing at this person's action.”

But here is the irony. Professor Lipstadt has assigned Dfonseca”s “Living With Wolves” in her own Emory University class on Holocaust Memoirs. When she was confronted with the fact that the book is a fraud, she replied that while such revelations “might complicate matters somewhat, [Living With Wolves] is still powerful.”

WAIT A MINUTE!

Wait a minute. I got my wires crossed.

Lipstadt did not assign the lying Holocaust memoir Living With Wolves to her Emory University class on Holocaust Memoirs. The lying Holocaust memoir she assigned to students in her class was Binjamin Wilkomirski’s memoir “Fragments.” It was that lying Holocaust memoir, Fragments, that when Professor Lipstadt was confronted with the fact that it was a fraud could be overlooked because, while “ … it may complicate matters somewhat, but [Fragments] is still powerful.”

Oh!. Well. The truth of the document then is secondary to the literary accomplishments of the lying author. It’s author may be contemptible, phony, loathsome and not even Jewish, but it if is a good read and forwards the concept of the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans, it has a good shot at being assigned to Professor Lipstadt’s class on Holocaust Memoirs. On the university campus, with regard to the Holocaust story, Holocaust literature will beat out Holocaust history as often as not.

How can we fix this – get Holocaust literature and Holocaust history into right relationship with one another? I would urge professors serving out their time in history, journalism, German, and Jewish studies to find a few individuals among them, a mere handful, who are willing to address the problem of providing us with “the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” That would be a start. I doubt very much that our Professor Deborah Lipstadt will be the one who will risk it. Why should she risk it? The truth? What’s truth go to do with it?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ask a Librarian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

It occurred to me yesterday to contact the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask The Lipstadt Question. To go directly to the horse’s mouth. That of the Museum -- not Professor Lipstadt.

On the USHMM Website I am given the opportunity to “ASK A LIBRARIAN.”

“Welcome to the Virtual Reference Desk, a service provided by the Library at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This service is intended to help you find information concerning the Holocaust that is not available in your local library.”

Okay! This could prove to be very helpful.

I filled out the requisite form and put my question: “Please provide the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.”

So there we are. The Virtual Librarian cautions me to not expect an immediate answer, but suggests that I will hear from her by 22 March. That’s reasonable. Meanwhile, I’ll continue putting The Lipstadt Question to our run of the mill academics on our run of the mill university campuses. Persistence can be a bore, but with regard to some issues it can, occasionally, be a virtue.

Norman Finkelstein and the Question He Will Not Answer

O8 March 2008

Editor
The Maneater
214 Brady Commons
Columbia, MO 65211

For Publication


NORMAN FINKELSTEIN AND
THE QUESTION HE WILL NOT ANSWER

Professor Norman Finkelstein is widely recognized as a controversial critic of the “Holocaust Industry,” Israeli policies and actions against the Palestinians, and the cynical exploitation of Jewish suffering for the profit of those who indulge themselves with it. There is no doubt that he is an honorable, courageous man who has been willing to risk his career and most everything else in order to say what he thinks. I believe that what he thinks is of the greatest importance. That’s one side of the story.

The other side, ironically, is that he appears to be fearful of challenging the story that is the cornerstone of all he talks about, the allegation that during WWII the Germans used weapons of mass destruction (“gas chambers”), particularly at Auschwitz, to murder maybe a million innocent, unarmed civilians. It is the Auschwitz gas-chamber tales that morally justify forwarding the idea of the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans. It is those tales that were exploited to morally justify the invasion and conquest of Arab land in Palestine by European Jews, and continues to be used to morally justify the U.S. alliance with Israel against the Palestinians.

As Richard Cohen has it in The Washington Post, “The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake.” If you agree, ask yourself how such a terrible mistake could have been made, and why the Americans participated in the mistake and how, after more than half a century, we remain committed to the mistake. It was, fundamentally, a moral issue. Yet how do we justify it morally? The answer in brief? The Auschwitz gas-chamber allegations.

On 04 February I asked Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory U. and author of Denying the Holocaust: the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, if she could provide “the name of one person, with proof, who had been killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” I did not expect her to respond. So I copied “The Lipstadt Question” to her peers in the history and journalism departments of Emory U, the U of Georgia, and to the campus and off-campus press there. Following Lipstadt’s example, none tried to answer the question.

Professor Finkelstein, the great “taboo breaker,” is caught up in the same struggle, the same taboo, as the Deborah Lipstadts and the academic establishment in general. He cannot bring himself to address revisionist arguments which arguably demonstrate that the German gas-chamber allegation is the first great WMD fraud orchestrated by the U.S. Government and its allies, Iraq being a poor second. Finkelstein recently wrote a moving tribute to Raul Hilberg, the author of The Destruction of the European Jews, who he believes understood the gas-chamber question. To get the other side of the Hilberg gas-chamber beliefs, see Juergen Graf’s The Giant With Feet of Clay. It would be good if Professor Finkelstein would address this book, because it goes to the heart of the Hilberg / gas-chamber / Finkelstein conundrum.

Last year I wrote Professor Finkelstein himself to ask if his very independent mother, herself a survivor of the German camps, had told him that she had seen “gas chambers” with her own eyes. He did not respond. I have since written Professor Finkelstein again, asking if he could provide “the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” He did not reply.

So we have a nice irony here. Finkelstein is an authority on the moral and political corruption of the Holocaust Industry, but can’t seem to get it together to investigate the story that morally justifies the existence of that Industry – the rumor that Germans used homicidal “gas chambers” to kill hundreds of thousands and maybe “millions” of innocent, unarmed civilians during WWII. The rumor that, as Richard Cohen has it, morally justified the “mistake” that is Israel, a mistake that has helped bring about more than half a century of tragedy and murder in and around Israel – largely paid for, and still being paid for, by the U.S. Congress.

I would ask Professor Finkelstein one more time: “One” person, with proof – one out of a “million!” Is that too much to ask? And I would ask those who teach and study journalism at U Missouri: Ask the question.

Just ask it.

Bradley Smith
Desk: 209 682 5327

Note: This letter was copied to academics at U Missouri-Columbia in History, German, and particularly to faculty in the Missouri School of Journalism and to off-campus press. It's about time, I should think, that those who teach at such institutions begin to suggest to their students that they ask The Lipstadt Question, or consider not reporting on any story whatever that pretends to deal with Auschwitz, gas chambers, or the Holocaust generally. It is not the responsibility of Journalism Schools to protect the taboo that protects, in turn, Professor Finkelstein's Holocaust Industry.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rabbi Joseph Edelheit: His Problem With the "Other"

05 March 2008

Rabbi Joseph Edelheit
Director Religious and Jewish Studies
St Cloud State University

Dear Rabbi Edelheit:

I have read the transcript of your interview with The St. Cloud Times, published on 02 March.

In the interview you come across to me as a decent and civilized man. The immediate purpose of the interview appears to be that the Times wanted your reaction to the fact that someone at St. Cloud U. had scratched a swastika into the wall of the St. Cloud multicultural center, which most of us would agree is a vulgar act, at the very least.

You express real concern over the concept of the “other” in American culture. The “others” you mention include illegal immigrants, Somalis, Muslims, and Jews. You note: “I’m a Jew, and I’m constantly reminded that I’m the ‘other.’” I agree that these feelings are usually present when you are not part of a majority. For myself, my wife is Mexican, my family is Mexican, and we live in Mexico. I have some familiarity with the feelings you express.

At the same time, you identify with the vast majority of those who forward the concept of the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans, while I am part of a minority that doubts it. With regard to this great moral issue, then, I am the “other.” You suggest that the swastika, as symbol, represents those who intentionally killed 6 million Jews and 5.2 million non-Jews. It is universally understood that this “genocide” was accomplished by the Germans using weapons of mass destruction (gas chambers).

Rabbi Edelheit: have you read any of the primary revisionist arguments questioning the evidence alleging that Germans used these WMD to murder millions of innocents? That is, have you ever held a “conversation” with the “others?” I see no sign of it. You would appear to be perfectly at home among the vast majority, while the “others,” a despised minority, risk prison, career, and most everything else to shine the light of day on the charges against the Germans. With your apparent “true belief” in the unique monstrosity of the “other” I believe you risk making of yourself an intellectual and cultural “nativist,” the folk that in other parts of American society are of such concern to you.

With regard to German “gas chambers,” I recently asked Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust and other works, if she could provide the name of “one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” The Auschwitz gas chambers are at the heart of the Holocaust story, at the very heart of the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans. Ms. Lipstadt cannot respond to such a question because her principles do not permit it. That has caused me to pass “The Lipstadt Question” on to faculty in the history and journalism departments at Emory, U Georgia, Columbia, U Wisconsin at Milwaukee, U Kentucky, Colorado U at Boulder.

Our historians do not want to answer the question, and our journalists, on or off campus, do not want to ask it. Neither wants to risk being identified with the “other.” I agree when you say that we need “more texture, more ambiguity” in addressing controversial political and cultural issues. To that end I’m passing this letter on to folk in and around St Cloud State in search of an environment where “texture” and “ambiguity” are prized over assumption and allegation. The starting point? “Can you provide the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?”

--Bradley Smith

Note: This letter to Rabbi Edelheit was copied to St Cloud professors in history, journalism, Jewish studies, German, and to working journalists in the campus and off-campus press in St Cloud.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Squelching Rumors

Professor Samuel G. Freedman
The New York Times

Dear Professor Freedman.

I have here your interesting article published in the New York Times titled "Struggle to Squelch a Rumor." It addresses the rumor propagated via the Internet that due to pressure by Muslims, the University of Kentucky was forced to “drop” its Holocaust course taught there by Professor Jeremy D. Popkin, which in fact is untrue.

I’m interested in the issue of “rumors” regarding the Holocaust story, particularly what appear to be “rumors” that the Germans used gas chambers to kill millions of people during WWII. The heart of the Holocaust story – the claim that about one million victims were murdered by Germans in the gas chambers at Auschwitz – itself appears to be “rumor.”

To that point, I have asked Professor Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust, The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, to provide us with the name of “one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” I understand that her principles do not permit Professor Lipstadt to respond to such a question. As for myself, on principle, I am sending “The Question” to academics and journalists on and off campus, asking for a response to this simple request. “One person, with proof. . . .”

With regard to “squelching rumors,” revisionist arguments have squelched rumors that during WWII Germans murdered unknown thousands of persons in gas chambers at Buchenwald, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and other camps in and around Germany. These rumors were exceptionally ugly, helping to forward the charge of “unique monstrosity” against the Germans of that era, a charge that is still exploited today by those who profit from it.

It has become a moral imperative to either provide the name of one person, with proof, who was murdered in a gas chamber at Auschwitz, or simply announce that the use of gas chambers at Auschwitz was, and is, a rumor created by those who profited most from it, and protected by a taboo against questioning the rumor. We all know who benefits most from taboo – again, those who profit most from it.

U Kentucky president, Lee T. Todd Jr., wrote “I understand quite well the power of the Internet. “Information flows instantaneously without respect to somewhat arbitrary borders of geography or nation state.” That’s how the “rumor” of Auschwitz spread – “instantly” via wire services, radio, overnight print stories, all of it forwarding rumors initiated by the U.S., British, and Soviet Governments.

Mr. Freedman: can you help here? My understanding is that those who teach the relevant history and journalism courses at Columbia University, your university, are in the top tier of such academics in America. You probably know a number of them. Will you take a moment to run a couple questions past those folk?

Ask the historians if there is not one among them who can provide the name of one person, with proof, who was murdered in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. And ask your peers in the Journalism Department why this question should, or should not, be asked of our historians.

Thank you very much. I will run this letter past U Kentucky Professor Jeremy D. Popkin for his review.

Bradley R. Smith

Samuel G. Freedman is a professor of journalism at Columbia University. His e-mail is sgfreedman@nytimes.com

PS: I copied this letter to academics who teach history and journalism at U Kentucky and Columbia U. None has yet tried to answer the question. I encourage academic historians to reply to The Lipstadt Question. I will publish all replies.