Professor Lepak writes (19 March) that Bradley R. Smith poses a question that cannot be answered. My question reads: “Can you provide, with proof, the name of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.”
The professor writes that the question cannot be answered because it is not my “objective” [to have it answered], a non sequitur even for a professor. He then suggests, without committing himself concretely to the fact of the matter, that the question can indeed be answered by searching the German Federal Archives in Koblenz and the International Tracing Center at Bad Arolsen.
So Lepak wants it both ways. On the one hand the question cannot really be answered, while on the other if I were not a “coward” I would go to Germany where the records exist that would answer the question. Which is it, Prof?
Lepak writes that my question is “sophistic”, not a real rhetorical trick but a “kind” of rhetorical trick. My inquiry is so “narrow” that it obscures something “more important.” What is this thing that is more important? One, I don’t include the word “please” in the question. Two: the question demonstrates a “skepticism of authority.” To be skeptical of authority is something most of us probably wish would have been the norm in Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Hitler’s Germany, to mention a few places during my own lifetime where skepticism of authority was, shall we say, seriously frowned upon by the authorities.
And three: Lepak writes, with a stunning disregard for language, that when I ask for the name, with proof, of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz that I am asking for “anecdotal” evidence. It is obvious in my language I am not, and he cannot demonstrate that I am. The fact of the matter is in the question itself: I am asking for “proof,” not anecdotal evidence. There it is in the question itself. “Proof.”
Professor Lepak and I appear to have opposing agendas. Mine is to encourage a free exchange of ideas on the gas-chamber question. Lepak’s agenda appears to be to discourage a free exchange of ideas on the matter. That is probably one reason why he uses an irrational vocabulary that includes such unnecessary terms as “coward,” “sophist,” “cynic,” “dishonest,” and that I am looking for a “jaded and lazy audience.”
To the contrary. Try me. I’m with those who are frowned upon for questioning authority.