12 August 1998
A new book of 851 pages (xv - 836 p., precisely) presents itself thus: The Holocaust and History / The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck, published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, D.C.), in Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1998.
M. Berenbaum is a theologian and a rabbi. His personal drama arises from having wished, for several years, to pose as a historian, and from finding himself now, with the publication of this book, to be the plain and simple theologian and rabbi which in reality he has never ceased to be. Until rather recently (1993-early 1994) he had tried to reply to the revisionists on their own grounds, that is, on the basis of material, technical, and scientific arguments: in short, on the plane of historical research. But in this book of 1998 there is no more of all that: in it we are back in the "Holocaust" dogma, amid statements made without substantiating evidence in a quasi-immaterial world. No longer is anything "disputed" or "reexamined", except certain near-theological points, like the question whether the "intentionalists" or the "functionalists" are right in their interpretations of the Germans' "genocide" of the Jews. THE PRESENT WORK OFFERS NOT ONE PHOTOGRAPH, MODEL, DRAWING OR DOCUMENT. Only on the dust jacket does there appear a photograph, that of a heap of shoes. This image could already be seen in 1993 at the Washington Holocaust Museum, with the caption: "We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses".
Why M. Berenbaum has finally given up on History
In the 1980s and early '90s, several advocates of the "Holocaust" argument had wanted to adopt an approach based on scientific and historical reasoning, if only to retaliate against the revisionists. Such was the stance of Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Georges Wellers, Adalbert Rückerl, Hermann Langbein, Eugen Kogon, and Serge Klarsfeld (with the aid of the mentally impaired Jean-Claude Pressac). Even M. Berenbaum engaged in this pursuit, first in 1993 in his guidebook for the museum, entitled The World Must Know / The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Boston, Little, Brown and Co., 1993, xvi - 240 p.), then in the book which he edited in early 1994 with Yisrael Gutman, containing the essays of twenty-five contributors: Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, (in Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1994, xvi - 638 p.).
But, in August 1994, an event was to disrupt M. Berenbaum's life. He allowed me to visit him in his office at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, in the presence of two other high museum officials. Having taken note of his arrogant attitude, I decided to spare him nothing and, before his two colleagues, I spelt out for him, one by one, certain facts which showed the museum and his book to be devoid of any scientific or demonstrative worth, whereupon he became quite angry. He ended up telling me that if his museum exhibited no real material representation of a gas chamber (the door on display therein being that of a delousing gas chamber, and the model a mere whimsical mock-up), it was because "the decision has been made not to give any physical representation of the gas chambers".
That interview probably contributed to this more recent decision of his to abandon the scientific and historical terrain to the revisionists. It is also likely that the 1995-96 writings of such antirevisionist authors as Eric Conan, Jacques Baynac, and Robert Jan van Pelt convinced him that the case for the "Holocaust", with its purported genocide and gas chambers, had become wholly indefensible on the scientific and historical level. I shall remind the reader that E. Conan has reluctantly admitted that my discovery of the late '70s was legitimate: the alleged gas chamber at Auschwitz I, visited by millions of tourists since 1948, is but an imposture and not a "reconstruction" ("Auschwitz: la mémoire du mal" [Auschwitz: The Memory of Evil], L'Express [Paris], 19-25 January 1995; particularly page 68). In 1996, R. J. van Pelt, a collaborator with M. Berenbaum on the 1994 collective work, aligned himself with E. Conan's position, even reinforcing it, in his Auschwitz / 1270 to the Present (with Debórah Dwork, New Haven and London, Yale University Press,1996, 433 p.; in particular p. 363-64, 367-69). The coup de grâce was to be given by J. Baynac who, despite an exacerbated antirevisionism, came to recognise that there was no evidence at all with which to establish the existence of the gas chambers (Le Nouveau Quotidien, [Lausanne, Switzerland], issues of 2 and 3 September 1996, p. 16 and 14 respectively).
The Victory of Elie Wiesel and Claude Lanzmann
Concerning the "Holocaust" or "Shoah", E. Wiesel and C. Lanzmann (and let credit be given where it is due) have always avoided scientific historical method as they would the plague. The former has written: "Let the gas chambers remain closed to prying eyes, and to imagination" (All Rivers Run to the Sea / Memoirs, New York, Hill and Wang, 1994, p. 74), and the latter has stated that, if he had been able to find suitable archive photographs for his film Shoah, he would have "destroyed them" (David Szerman, "Shoah", Le Chroniqueur a publication for the French Jewish community 30 June 1993, p. 38). For his part, historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has, in a way, followed their recommendations; his 1996 work is a kind of moral or philosophical dissertation in which the author deliberately neglects the precept which every normal historian should strive to uphold: to establish the material facts before making any commentary (Hitler's Willing Executioners, Boston, Little, Brown and Co., Abacus, 1997 , xiv - 634 p.).
The Rabbi's wrath, and his warning
For this latest book M. Berenbaum has enrolled 54 authors under his banner; the great majority of them are Jewish, and all, including Raul Hilberg, respect the religious dogma of the "Holocaust" to the letter. I personally consider R. Hilberg to be gifted, as Arthur Butz has put it, with "a remarkable cabalistic mentality" (The Hoax of the 20th Century, Torrance, Calif., Institute for Historical Review, 1987 , p. 7). M. Berenbaum has even rallied Yehuda Bauer to his camp. The latter has at times suffered from accesses of independence; in 1992 he suddenly rejected the importance of the Wansee conference, declaring: "It was a meeting, but hardly a conference", and "little of what was said there was executed in detail". He continued: "The public still repeats, time after time, the silly story that at Wansee the extermination of the Jews was arrived at. Wansee was but a stage in the unfolding of the process of mass murder" ("Wansee's importance rejected", The Canadian Jewish News, 30 January 1992). This time, in a book containing a contribution by the self-same Y. Bauer, that gathering is referred to as the "eventful Wansee conference" (p. 155).
In The Holocaust and History Y. Bauer goes so far as to anathematise Arno Mayer, a professor at Princeton University who in 1988 published a book in which he made no secret of his wish to put the "Holocaust" back into the sphere of History. Entitled Why Did the Heavens not Darken?, it bore the subtitle: The "Final Solution" in History (New York, Pantheon Books, 1988, xviii - 413 p.), which, in the author's mind, meant: "in History and not in legend or mere belief". In that book and this point deserves making A. Mayer committed a grave sin against the dogma, particularly in his treating of the subjects of the "gas chambers", of Auschwitz, and of the Einsatzgruppen. Y. Bauer executes him in a few words, speaking of a "nonsense", a "cocksure" book, a "subtle form of Holocaust denial"; he even states that A. Mayer "flies in the face of well-known documention" (p. 15).
Franciszek Piper issues a warning to anyone who might be tempted to engage in an endeavour... in which, in a recent past, he himself has engaged!: that of rationally analysing the facts and techniques relating to the alleged extermination of the Jews. It is thus that one may read these words from the pen of the Polish specialist of the Auschwitz camp: "The work ahead requires sensitive attention to the tragedy of the victims and forbids reduction of genocide to a technological process" (p. 384). His master's voice (that of Rabbi Berenbaum) can be heard between those lines.
The Title's Meaning
In choosing The Holocaust and History as the title for his new book, the editor naturally intended it to be understood that the "Holocaust" was a historical event, but it so happens that the phrase for which he opted shows itself to be rather unfortunate from his point of view, because of an involuntary revealing quality. In effect, the word "and" by itself shows, without his having wished it, that the "Holocaust" is one thing and History another thing altogether. The "Holocaust" is a fiction, a dogma, a religion; History is, or at least should be, a matter of facts, reason, and science.
This patchwork of texts by fifty-five writers (R. Hilberg's dates from 1993) is merely an assortment of essays containing much "Holocaust" but no History. On the subject of the aforementioned book, consisting of twenty-five contributions, which M. Berenbaum had published in 1994, I have had occasion to say that the Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp is rather a Cacophony on the Auschwitz "Death Camp". On the subject of this new one, published four years later and compiling fifty-five contributions, I shall certainly not speak of cacophony: this ensemble's members are in unison; all are playing the same score; we are in a synagogue; chorus and orchestra obey, closely and strictly following Rabbi Berenbaum's baton. It is everything that one could expect in such a setting: a religious assembly, a ceremony, the celebration of a service, but it is definitely not a congress of historians or a historical work.
First displayed on aaargh: 17 April 2001.
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