Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Claude Lanzmann, Abraham Bomba, Korea, Vietnam

I have been criticized by two readers for having published errors of fact. The first alleged error of fact is in The Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist in the chapter titled 1986. This is the chapter I did on Abraham Bomba, the Barber of Treblinka. I quoted Bomba as saying that the gas chamber in which he worked cutting their hair from the heads of Jewish ladies scheduled to be murdered by the Germans that the size of the chamber was about 12 feet square. It a stupid story that American professors have let stand for decades because it sentimentalizes Jewish experience while it contributes to the unique monstrosity of the Germans, which is just how it is on the American campus.

My reader pointed out that Europeans do not speak in “feet” but in “meters,” which would make the chamber much larger and make Bombas story more rational. He had a point. I went to the chapter in Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist where I had ridiculed Bomba’s testimony along with those who, like George Will do not ridicule it. There I found that I had quoted Bomba as he was quoted in Claude Lanzmann’s film “Shoah; An Oral History of the Holocaust.” Lanzmann is a European too, but he had used the term “feet.” So this wasn’t really an error of fact on my part.

You can read the full chapter I have on the stupid exchange between Claude Lanzmann and Abraham Bomba here:


The second charge of my having stated an error of fact is a different story. I did. In my latest little book, The Man Who Saw His Own Liver, I write about the day long ago in Korea where I, how should I put this, executed a Chinese soldier who had suffered a wound that blew off the top of his skull, exposed his brain to the light of day, and who was being used for the amusement of one of our guys who was poking a straw into the bloody organ. I wrote that I placed the muzzle of my M-16 to the temple of the Chinese and killed him. In my old age, when I wrote those lines, I had gotten my wars mixed up. In Vietnam it was the M-16. Although I was in Vietnam as a freelance journalist, and while there were two occasions when I was given an M-16 out of necessity, that was Vietnam. But in Korea we used the M-1, not the M-16. I stand corrected.

Holocaust History Today and the Founder's Page

My Web guy, Gustavo, was here this morning and did some work on The Holocaust Question Today blog. But most of our two hours was spent in working out a new concept for The Founder’s Page, which I haven’t worked on for a year now. Since last August. I was just too sick. The remake of the page will take some 20—30 days. We have to work out the concept, the design, go back and forth on it for a few days, then do the trench work. And with that CODOHWeb will be pretty well straightened out. The technical side of the work is to transfer the entire Founder’s Page from Dreamweaver to Word Press. I am assured that even someone so slow as I am will be able to pick up Word Press easily.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Palm Trees and Beggars

Kept an appointment with the VA this morning. The port in my chest was irrigated, a little blood taken for analysis. Three quarters of an hour with my oncologist Dr. Go. He says everything looks good. The white blood count is a little low, but is slowly building. I told him about the tiredness. No specific reason for it. Age, chemo, obesity, age. He asked if I snore. I told him I do, though not as much as my wife. He ignored the crack and suggested he make an appointment for me to see the “pulmonary/sleep” clinic. I may have sleep apnea. I said I didn’t think so. He said if I do, and I take care of it, in 30 days I’ll be a new man. If it will make a new man of me, I’ll take a run at it.

By 11am I was driving south from La Jolla, half-asleep. Stopped in Chula Vista at Starbucks and ordered a regular coffee with three shots of espresso. It was tasteless, but it did its work. Picked up my wife at our American mail drop in San Ysidro, did some banking, went to Henry’s Market where I bought another sleeping aid, one without melatonin which I think I have a negative reaction to, then we stopped at a Chinese buffet-style restaurant. It was a nicer place than we expected, the food better than we expected.

I was sitting facing the front windows which looked out across a few parking spaces, across the street and another parking lot to a little strip mall. There were palm trees in each of the parking lots on either side of the street, their green fronds moving softly and without let in the soft breeze beneath the pale blue sky. While the trunks of the trees were deeply rooted, strong and stable, their fronds never ceased their easy movements with an intricacy that was far beyond my ability to follow in any detail. It was a simple, complex scene of great beauty.

On our side of the street, beneath one of the beautiful palms, there was a filthy beggar with a shopping cart full of trash, probably his possessions. He looked like some kind of Hispanic guy who had been in the oven too long. It was as if, with my eyes raised, I could see the beauty of how the earth is, while if I lowered them I could see the filth that men bring to the earth. The beggar held up a sign to any car that passed in the lot that read: “HELP.” Some drivers did help with a few coins.

While I watched him with a rather casual curiosity, I found that this filthy man had a smile that was beautiful beyond any expectation I would have had. It was more than beautiful, it was a beautifully joyful smile. It didn’t matter if you donated to him or not, if you only passed him standing there in his rags you were given the beauty of his big, wonderful, toothy smile. Sometimes he laughed his thank-you and that laugh added to the charm of his face. While I watched him through the window from our table inside the resturant I felt myself enchanted, enchanted somehow in the same way as a few moments before I had been enchanted by the beautiful complexity of the green palms moving in the early afternoon air.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Day Anne Frank was Arrested

It was on 04 August that Sylvio called to ask if I knew what day it was.


“That’s funny,” he said in his Romanian accent. “Yes. But do you know what day it is? This is the day that Anne Frank was arrested.”

I didn’t know. If you ask me who Sylvio is, I won’t say. He’s one of my Jewish informants and I want to take care of him. He always has something interesting to say, something comic, something I don’t expect.

Sylvio’s call put memory on alert, as does most everything else. This time memory recalled that it was at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam where David McCalden first came to doubt the orthodox Holocaust story. He was on vacation with a couple guys and was doing the Anne-Frank-House tour. When he was upstairs in the quarters where, so the story goes, the Franks hid from the Germans, when he looked out the back window over the green filled with trees and bordered with windowed houses, it did not seem real to him that the Franks and others could have hid there secretly for month after month and after month. Looking at the neighborhood geography, as it were, the story did not compute.

Until that moment David McCalden had believed the H. story in its entirety, as almost all of us had. From that afternoon on, he began to doubt. And the more he looked into the story, the more he doubted. Until he came to America, hooked up with Willis Carto at Noontide Press, and had the original concept for The Institute for Historical Review and then the Journal of Historical Review, which at the beginning he edited himself. It became the international center for Holocaust revisionist studies.

Sylvio called again yesterday but I was too busy to talk to him. Too busy with what? No idea.

The market where we do most of our grocery shopping here in Baja is called Calimax. The other night I noticed that they have a new floor manager in the evening shift. I was sitting on a bench by the door, waiting for my wife when he came over and asked in Spanish if I needed coffee. At first I didn’t understand. I understood the words, but why was he asking me? Then I understood that my wife had asked him to ask me. I told him no, we didn’t need coffee.

But what I noticed was that he was a David McCalden look-alike. It was surprising how much he resembled David physically. Even his smile reminded me of David. I have seen the floor manager several times since. Each time I see him I feel a small pain in my heart.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Last Call at Elaine's

Today Hernandez and I spent a good part of the morning talking about the right approach for us to take to promote a campus tour using El Gran Tabu as part of the program. We had several good ideas. Hernandez checked out the prices for rooms in Arizona and Central California. We can do it. We believe we can create a story.

This afternoon I drove around the corner to see Dr. Arciniaga. He walked me through my neuropathic leg pain over the last ten days with injections and some pills. The worst of it is over. The left knee still keeps me from walking. He asked me what was wrong with my face, which is all broken out with bloody scabs. I told him the face was rotting. He appreciated the joke. Still, he wanted to know.

I explained that it was not an infirmity, but the cure for one. Dr. Go had found a place on the forehead and one on the left cheek that suggested they could become cancerous, so I’m on a self-treating procedure where I rub an ointment all over the face twice a day, twice a week, and it burns the bad stuff off. The face looks something like a pizza. The other night Irene and I were in Wal-Mart in Chula Vista and I was at the magazine rack. A Mexican couple with a young boy, maybe eight years old, passed by. The boy took one look at me and said to his father:

“Look at that old man, Dad. Look at that old man. What happened to him?”

I thought the kid was referring to the fact that my hair is white. It only occurred to me this afternoon that he was referring to my face. This is the seventh week of the treatment and I sort of forget what I look like. Another five weeks and I’ll be just as pretty as I was before.

This evening I walked over to McDonald’s where the light is good and finished reading Last Call at Elaine’s by Brian McDonald. It’s the first book I’ve read from cover to cover in a long while. I think I was taken by all the name-dropping in a place where I went one afternoon about 1994. The weekend I was in New York to do the Donahue Show. One of the things that struck me about McDonald was his ambition to be a writer, a successful writer, and to be known as a successful writer. I have never been ambitious in that way. My lack of ambition to be a famous writer could well explain my failure to become one. Part of it anyhow.

As I was walking back to the house, limping, thought turned to the campus tour that Hernandez and me had talked about with such interest this morning. We had one good idea after another. Now, all in all, thought suggested that it might be better to find a way to do something on YouTube. No appreciable cost. No traveling. Nothing strenuous. I’m not certain where I am physically. I’m going to ask Dr. Go about the white blood count business. I have an appointment with him Monday next.

The problem with YouTube is that two, three, four minutes is about as long as anyone wants to watch anything. This suggests that there will be another interesting back and forth with Hernandez tomorrow morning. Two heads. . . .

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 2009. The Situation

The situation is that I have been waiting the last three weeks. Waiting for this, waiting for that.

Today I took issue 164 of Smith’s Report to the printer. I’m a week ahead of last month, two weeks behind where I should be. Still, it's to the printer, and that’s something.

I’m reading Last Call at Elaine’s. My friend Bob sent it to me from Queens. I’d never heard of it. There’s no need to read it. I’m liking it. Published by St. Martin’s Press, I’m surprised at how carelessly it was proofed. The story of an alcoholic bartender turned writer. A simple tale. My sort of thing.

I may have to change the way I sleep. Give up trying to sleep through a night. More than three, four hours at a stretch. Can’t do it. I've always done it, now I can't. Result—I’m tired. First it was the cancer. That’s over for the time being. Then it was the neuropathic pain, the twisted sciatica nerve where I used so many pain meds that for seven weeks I couldn’t wake up. The worst of that is over.

Now it’s three to four hours awake, then I need to sleep. Trying to fight it, can’t. Why fight it? Change the routine. Do what’s necessary to get the work done. Need to start walking again. Osteoporosis in the left knee, left hip. It’s the knee that will keep me from walking. My primary care doctor, Mrs. Singh, tells me the osteoporosis is “everywhere.” Hasn’t hit the brain yet. But then, if it had, how would the brain know?

On the one hand I want to let it be known what the situation is, that’s what I do, on the other I am afraid it will discourage readers from supporting me, the work. Still, it’s what I do. I spill the beans. That’s pretty much what I have done from the beginning. Spill the beans.

Two Saturdays ago in the evening I was at the bar at Vince’s fish restaurant watching the boxing. It was my first night out in two months. I was alone, very weak, could not walk well, but after a couple dark beers I felt pretty good. In the middle of a good light-weight fight between two Hispanics I do not know, the brain remembered Truman Capote. Don’t ask. No idea. I met Capote one night at the Bodley Gallery on East 60th in New York. Late 1950s. I was an employee there, it was a very small gallery, but I don’t recall that we chatted.

But there at the bar in Vince’s it was not Capote in person that the brain had recalled, but an image of him that has been reproduced many times. I think he’s reclining on a couch, holding a pencil, a paper pad, and a drink. He’s writing. He used to drink to write. It helped him. There I was at Vince’s bar. I had not been writing for several weeks. Now I was drinking. The next thing might be that I would be writing. I suppose that was what the brain was trying to organize for me. We'll see.