The Gas Chamber of
Sherlock Holmes And Other
Writings on the Holocaust,
Revisionism, and Historical Understanding
By Samuel Crowell
Review by Michael K. Smith
Reading Samuel Crowell's, "The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes" is a little like stumbling across a rational mind in an insane asylum years after being taken hostage by the inmates.
Following prolonged immersion in clashing dogmas, the dispassionate use of evidence and logic to arrive at a sensible conclusion comes as a jolting but thoroughly pleasant surprise. And Crowell's modesty in stating that conclusion tentatively, knowing that genuinely rational inquiry will and should be superseded by later efforts, is an equally refreshing departure from polemical norms.
Drawing on establishment and revisionist authors, along with a careful scrutiny of German source documents, Crowell deftly evaluates contending claims arguing that Nazi "gas chambers" were (1) weapons of extermination (2) disinfection chambers (3) bomb shelters designed to protect against aerial gas attacks. Aligning eyewitness testimony with the material and documentary record, he sketches out the basis for a rational opinion, putting readers in a position to make their own judgments, without first requiring that they join in partisan warfare.
Thanks to this effort we no longer need choose between delusional orthodoxy and strident dissidence, but can simply weigh evidence. This should come as a relief to everyone, while hopefully expanding the number of readers who can move beyond ritual denunciation and actually take the gas chamber debate seriously
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