28 March 2008
Professor Eric Weitz, Chairman
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?”
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.