Respectful Insolence

Real Holocaust revisionism

One of the most annoying thing about Holocaust “revisionists” is that they really aren’t revisionists at all. Revisionism is a legitimate academic pursuit in history. Indeed, nearly all history is to some extent revisionist, because new historians find new sources that previously may have been lost or otherwise not available and reinterpret history in light of new information, or they bring a different perspective to the existing evidence and try to get closer to the “truth” of history. What Holocaust deniers have done is to appropriate the term “revisionist” in a deceptive manner meant to add a patina of academic historical legitimacy to their lies and equate their “work” to that of legitimate historians. I’ve now become aware of a new group blog called Holocaust Controversies (tag line: “What part of the word genocide do you not understand?”), a member of which happens fellow Holocaust History Project member Andrew Mathis who will be joining historian Nick Terry and longtime anti-denier Sergey Romanov from time to time.

The blog’s manifesto is here. Excerpts:

They proffer interpretations of the death-camps and, more rarely, of Nazi Judenpolitik, that bear no resemblance to the reality of wie es eigentlich gewesen war, how it really happened. Time and time again one hears a litany from Holocaust deniers – it is alleged that six million Jews died in the gas chambers. Wrong. They confuse the ‘Hollycaust’ of media myth with the grubby reality of genocide; a reality that encompassed deliberately-induced starvation, epidemic diseases incubated inside ghettos and concentration camps; mass executions by rifles, machine-guns and the Genickschuss.

As a practising historian of the Third Reich and Stalinist Russia at war, I hope to dedicate some of my postings to this collective blog to discussing the genuine revisionist controversies that make my chosen profession and field so exciting. All historiography barring the first draft of history – the newspapers of the day – is by its very nature revisionist, challenging our previous interpretations of the past, and in the process hopefully forcing us to think through the events afresh. Since long before I began researching in this field, the study of the Third Reich and the Holocaust has proven especially controversial. Perhaps beginning with Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem in the 1960s, these controversies have come thicker and faster. From the intentionalist-functionalist debate of the late 1970s, the field moved on to disputing the tasks of the Einsatzgruppen five years later, and soon after to the Historikersteit of 1987. Before the end of the Cold War, German historians were tearing into Goetz Aly and Susanne Heim for daring to highlight ‘The Economics of the Final Solution’. They did so again after unification when Aly and Heim published Vordenker der Vernichtung in 1991, since translated into English as Architects of Annihilation. Five years later came the turn of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen and Hitler’s Willing Executioners. This in turn generated a follow-on controversy over Norman Finkelstein’s critique and subsequent publication of The Holocaust Industry. Finkelstein himself then intervened into the latest controversy, over Jan Tomas Gross’s Neighbours and the pogrom of Jedwabne in eastern Poland scant weeks after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Holocaust Controversies was set up in part to discuss these debates between historians as well as news related to them. Since both myself and some of my fellow contributors have interests in similar controversies over the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union, we will from time to time also discuss these debates, which offer so many remarkable parallels and sharp contrasts with the historiography of Nazi Germany.

But this blog has an additional, perhaps more important purpose, namely to confront the arguments of Holocaust Revisionism and ‘historical revisionism’ in general. It may come as no surprise to learn that professional, mainstream historians have paid relatively little attention to what they regard as the ramblings of cranks. I can testify to meeting expert witnesses for the defense in the David Irving libel trial, world-famous professors, who have never heard of the leading Italian Holocaust denier Carlo Mattogno.

And:

In engaging with denier arguments, some might charge that we pay them too much respect. Yet this reckons without the insidiousness of what are otherwise absurd debating-points. Like it or not, Holocaust Denial must be confronted. In spite of the work done by web projects and academics to demolish Holocaust Denier arguments, ‘revisionist’ literature is mushrooming yearly and by no means all arguments have been deconstructed and exposed. We therefore will from time to time post reviews, critiques and ongoing debates about the ‘classics’ of ‘Revisionist’ literature, which we hope readers may find instructive, even perhaps enlightening as to the inadequacies of ‘Revisionist’ argumentation.

Yet we also intend to have fun here. So much of what is posted on the internet as ‘Revisionism’ is so ludicrously absurd that we will also respond with laughter. In part, we were compelled to set up this blog in order to maintain a record of the illogicalities, inanities and insanities to be found on the heavily censored, hyper-moderated circle-jerk known as The Revisionist Forum over at the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust website. That we informally call this The Cesspit will persist so long as this forum remains censored and inaccessible for us. Most contributors here have either been banned from CODOH forum or have not even bothered trying to post there, knowing full well they would not survive much longer than…. well, you can probably guess.

Indeed. Some arguments are so self-evidently ridiculous that they do not deserve respect. Ridicule is an appropriate response in such cases.

I’ll add Holocaust Controversies to my blogroll too when I finally get around to revamping it, as I’ve been meaning to do for a couple of weaks, and I ask you to consider doing the same.

In the meantime, I may have to steal their photo of a Moonbat.

Comments

  1. #1 John Wilkins
    March 25, 2006

    Well revision is a legitimate historical pursuit. Revisionism is the tailoring of history to suit some propagandistic or ideological conclusion.

  2. #2 Don
    March 25, 2006

    “Indeed, nearly all history is to some extent revisionist, because new historians find new sources that previously may have been lost or otherwise not available and reinterpret history in light of new information, or they bring a different perspective to the existing evidence and try to get closer to the ‘truth’ of history.”

    Exactly. People who wonder why a science blog features anti-denier articles just don’t realize that history is just like a scientific theory: Components of our historical understanding are always challenged and reviewed from any number of angles. New information and understandings of those components is always being unearthed or combined in imaginitive ways with information from other disciplines. The big image of “history” is maleable, able to adjust in response to new information and develop a clearer picture than before. Likewise, because there are huge holes and unresolved disputes in a multitude of points in human history doesn’t mean that the whole of our understanding is wrong. There is forever more work to do.

    Holocaust deniers, like HIV/AIDS deniers and anti-evolutionists, like to just ignore the vast preponderance of the evidence, on the precept that a few fine details may not be entirely accurate as understood.

  3. #3 Sergey Romanov
    March 26, 2006

    “Well revision is a legitimate historical pursuit. Revisionism is the tailoring of history to suit some propagandistic or ideological conclusion.”

    This is mere semantics. We think that revisionism is a perfectly good term. Cf. http://www.holocaust-history.org/revisionism-isnt/

  4. #4 Jason Stokes
    March 26, 2006

    The use of the term “revisionism” as referring to legitimate revision of our interpretation of the historical record is absolutely dead, killed by its appropriate by holocaust denialists. This co-option happened much in the manner of the word “hacker” (which once referred honorably to particularly clever and innovative programmers, but has similarly been poisoned through its use by the computer crime underground) or “propaganda” (which once neutrally referred to information being propagated, especially by official sources).

    “Revisionism” was always a word in imminent moral danger, in any case. It’s just too close in meaning to “redaction”, and its Orwellian connotations don’t take much to bring out.

    “Revisionism” in its original meaning is clearly important, but we need a new term. I favor ‘re-evaluationism’, myself.

  5. #5 Sergey Romanov
    March 27, 2006

    It’s true that the word has been “tarnished” in public mind by its association with Holocaust denial. But even if it’s “dead”, it’s not a reason not to resurrect it by always pointing out it’s original and proper meaning, and by putting Holocaust “revisionism” in quotes, to signify that it’s not THE revisionism. Let’s not let deniers define the terms.

  6. #6 Frederick
    June 22, 2007

    I encourage all to visit the Holocaust Controversies Blog and see how much of the content of that site is dedicated to ad hominem attacks against individual posters of various forums. For a bunch of scholars, these guys act like kids on a playground, and they do it without bothering to wait for people to insult them first.

  7. #7 Frederick
    June 22, 2007

    I encourage all to visit the Holocaust Controversies Blog and see how much of the content of that site is dedicated to ad hominem attacks against individual posters of various forums. For a bunch of scholars, these guys act like kids on a playground, and they do it without bothering to wait for people to insult them first.

  8. #8 Orac
    June 22, 2007

    Oh please. Sergey and Andrew may be snarky, but they do back up their posts with data. Besides, when dealing with anti-Semites (and, yes, virtually all Holocaust deniers are anti-Semites beneath the surface; some are just better at hiding it than others) I don’t see a compelling need to remain nice.

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