Respectful Insolence

I’m reminded by this article that today is the 62nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops advancing west towards Germany:

OSWIECIM, Poland — As they do on every anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops, witnesses to the Holocaust will gather Saturday — growing older, frailer and fewer each year. After 62 years, the camp itself is also showing signs of aging under the pressures of tourism and time.

Its new director is searching for ways to preserve vital evidence of Nazi crimes and update the exhibits without chipping away at Auschwitz’s authenticity — or giving fodder for Holocaust deniers.

“The biggest dilemma of this place is preserving what is authentic while also keeping it possible for people to see and to touch,” said Piotr Cywinski, a 34-year-old historian who took over in September.

“This wasn’t built as a medieval castle with strong materials to last for all time,” Cywinski told The Associated Press in an interview in his office in one of the Auschwitz barracks. “It was a Nazi camp built to last a short time.”

Most sensitive, perhaps, is what to do about the remains of gas chambers which are slowly sinking into the ground, the result of weather, erosion and gravity.

The Nazis themselves blew up the gas chambers and crematoria toward the end of World War II as the Soviet army approached. Today, they are mostly in ruins as the Nazis left them, evidence of both the original crimes and the German attempt to cover them up.

Any decay at all poses a problem given the camp’s role today as evidence of the atrocities inflicted on Jews, Gypsies, Polish political prisoners, homosexuals and others. Still visible are the railroad tracks along which inmates were brought in, the barracks where they lived in inhumane conditions, the gas chambers where they were murdered, and the crematoria where their bodies were burned.

For all that to crumble would deprive future generations of priceless historical evidence of Nazi atrocities — a further concern in light of Holocaust denial. The site provides a clear picture of how the camp operated — while many other former Nazi death camps, including Treblinka and Belzec, were dismantled and are marked today only by monuments.


Indeed. Holocaust deniers already make claims insinuating that any renovations to the camp are “evidence” that the gas chambers didn’t exist or that the gas chambers were built after the war to frame the Nazis. As the camp crumbles from the elements, this will accelerate:

But any tampering with the gas chambers is problematic because Holocaust deniers could seize on that — and photographs of repair work — to try to argue that the whole thing was fabricated, according to Jonathan Webber, a professor of Jewish studies at the University of Birmingham and a member of the International Auschwitz Council, a board that advises Auschwitz administrators.

Webber noted that the barbed wire at Auschwitz has already been replaced more than once since the war, because the original was so rusted. But “fiddling with the gas chambers” is different.

“Anyone tampering with gas chambers is tampering with the heart and soul of what Auschwitz represents,” said Webber, who has urged the council to seek the advice of engineering experts before starting any work.

A tough problem.

Also, on this anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, let me direct you to one of my earliest posts on the Holocaust originally published two years ago today on my old blog. It should help you to understand how I became involved with countering the lies of Holocaust deniers in the first place.

Comments

  1. #1 Kiwiwriter
    January 29, 2007

    This is what one might call a “cleft stick.” Repair the sites, and the historians are accused of faking the whole thing. Leave them untouched, and they will erode into the ground, along with the survivors and their memories, and deniers will be able to say the whole thing is a fake.

    I say, take some measures to prevent complete erosion. The deniers’ views are not about the reality of the Holocaust: they are simply a tool by which neo-Nazis and anti-Semites can rehabilitate Nazism as a political force and anti-Semitism and extermination as legal policies.

    The fact of the matter is that neo-Nazis and their ilk know damned well that the Holocaust happened as advertised. Their problem is with the advertising. They don’t want the Holocaust told as a story of horrific mass murder by kleptomaniacs, sadists, and bullies.

    They want it to be a story of Europe’s hygienic cleansing of a dangerous, conspiring, sub-human bacillic race that is the cause of all of mankind’s problems, accomplished by the determined and far-seeking leadership of the great Adolf Hitler an the unparalleled courage and devotion to duty of the elite SS, backed by the firm support of the Voliksch people, in the face of overwhelming Jewish-Bolshevik-Plutocrat oppression, conspiracy, and lies.

    Under their rule, the camps would become monuments to the guards and executioners, and the victims would be depicted as human vermin that needed to be “ausrottung.”

    That’s why they basically say, “It never happened, but the Jews got what they deserved.”

    Holocaust denial is not about Holocaust denial. It’s about Nazi rehabilitation.

  2. #2 valhar2000
    January 29, 2007

    I agree with Kiwi: the people that matter already have access to the rest fo the evidence available to corroborate the historicity of the Holocaust. Holocaust deniers are just demagoes and agitators, and they should be dealt with appropriately. Pandering to their imbecility, even in this indirect way, cannot do anyone any good.

  3. #3 Rashid Harouin
    January 30, 2007

    Actually the claim that the gas chambers are crumbling are nonsense.

    They have never been anything other than a ruin that it is forbidden to enter.

    Ironically the most recent “crumbling” of the gas chambers was when a certain group of researchers headed by one Harry Mazal had to go and knock a couple of extra holes in the roof of Krema II. Previously there had only been 2, one of which was in the wrong place.

    Given that Krema II and III are presented as a ruin, it is difficult to know what “preservation” work could be done to them.

    In actual fact the “ruins” were extensively reconstructed in 1945-1948, ironically using German POW labor.

    One of the most tell-tale signs is the new walls of the supposed undressing halls, walls that are too wide to support the ruined roof.

  4. #4 Orac
    January 30, 2007

    Oh, goody.

    Another Holocaust denier spouting exactly the sorts of idiocy that I was referring to in the post–almost as if on cue.

  5. #5 Rashid Harouin
    January 31, 2007

    We aim to please.

    Is this idiocy?
    “One of the most tell-tale signs is the new walls of the supposed undressing halls, walls that are too wide to support the ruined roof.”

    Of course, possibly the evil demonic SS required Sonderkommando to stand 24/7 as pillars to hold the roof up as human pillars?

    Anyway, like it or not. These are new walls (ie post roof collapse circa 1945/6)
    http://www.scrapbookpages.com/auschwitzscrapbook/Photos/Gallery8/Photo8.html
    “Preservation” work if you wish, I prefer to call it could old-fashioned fabriction.

    You may call it idiocy, others call it Euclidean Geometry.