Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Free Speech Deniers

Richard L. Cravatts, Director
Program in Publishing at the Center for Professional Education
Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts

07 October 2008

Dear Dr. Cravatts:

I have your article, published on History News Network (HNN), titled "Iran's Political Motivation for Ridiculing the Holocaust Again." You've made of it a heated exercise, but I can agree with you that the primary purpose of the Iranian State in suggesting that the story is fundamentally fraudulent is to undermine the moral legitimacy of the Jewish conquest of Arab land in Palestine following World War II.

With regard to the Holocaust story itself, you appear to be entirely uninformed about revisionist arguments that question a number of the core elements of that story, including (but not solely) the "gas chamber" allegations. If six million Jews were "exterminated" during WWII, an idea you forward, at least a million of them in gas chambers at Auschwitz, you should be able to provide, with proof, the name of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at that camp. Can you do that? Do you know anyone among your colleagues who can?

In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I spoke at the "perverse" Holocaust conference you mention that took place in Teheran two years ago. There I addressed the unwillingness of the American professorial class to allow the Holocaust to be examined in the routine way that all other historical issues are examined. Rather, it enforces a strict taboo on the matter, which leads oftentimes to a near-hysterical use of language, which is present in your article.

I have asked several thousand academics, including Dr. Paul Shapiro, Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to provide the name, with proof, of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. None has replied to the question, including Dr. Shapiro.

And then there is the fact that because I ask this question I have been banned from posting on the HNN Website by its founder Rick Shenkman and his sidekick Jonathan Dresner. You believe what Rick Shenkman believes, so you can publish on HNN. I doubt what you and Professor Shenkman believe, so I am banned. So much for a Website run by historians "for" historians.

Meanwhile, if we are going to charge - endlessly - that Germans exterminated millions of Jews in gas chambers in the middle of the 20th century, I believe we have a simple moral obligation to demonstrate that the charge is true. Are not Germans human beings like the rest of us? All you (the professorial class) have to do is decide that you will no longer support a cargo-cult mentality where some questions about history are allowed, while others are not. It's not complicated. Rather, it's easy, and it's one of the glories of a culture in which the free exchange of ideas is considered a norm.

Meanwhile, I want to make it clear that I do not defend Iranian State policies, no more than I support, with regard to many such policies (Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel among others) those of the U.S. Government.


Bradley R. Smith
Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust
PO Box 439016
San Ysidro, Ca 92143
Desk: 209 682 5327

Note: I will copy this missive to some of your colleagues.

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