The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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From: Dene Bebbington 
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Re: What is 'Holocaust Denial'? (html)
Date: Sun, 18 May 1997 11:55:37 +0100
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Greg Raven  wrote:
>Often overlooked in this controversy is the crucial question: Just what
>constitutes "Holocaust denial"? 

Maybe a previous post of mine may give us an inkling about this

A casual visitor to Greg Raven's IHR (Institute for Historical Review)
web site ( might be forgiven for
wondering what on earth is going on as regards defining the Holocaust.
Sometime in October 1996 Raven posted on his site a proposed definition
of the Holocaust, this obviously begs the question of what exactly Raven
was reviewing in his institute up until then. In the book "Critical
Thinking" (Broadview Press, 1992) William Hughes discusses several
methods of irrational persuasion, one of which is called the Persuasive
Redefinition. I believe that Raven's proposal falls into this category
(what I prefer to call the "shifting sands" tactic), this is because
Raven had in fact described a reasonably accurate and straightforward
definition of the Holocaust back in 1994 on a Usenet post, this was as

First, I do not deny the Holocaust happened. Let me repeat that. I do
not deny the Holocaust happened. For the purposes of this discussion, I
am using a fairly generic definition of the word "Holocaust," which is
"the murder of six million Jews as a central act of state by the Nazis
during the Second World War, many in gas chambers." If anyone has a
problem with this definition, I invite you to provide your version.

Second, here is what Holocaust revisionists REALLY say: The Jews of
Europe suffered a great tragedy before and during the Second World War.
Many were mistreated, and many died under horrific conditions. However,
a) there is no evidence that the Nazis had a plan or policy of
exterminating the Jews, b) there is no evidence that there were
homicidal gas chambers for murder [sic] Jews, and c) the figure of six
million Jewish victims is an exaggeration.

As can be seen from this Raven was quite clear in what he meant by the
word Holocaust and was equally clear, in contradiction to his opening
assertion, in his denial of that event as he himself defined it. 

Hughes describes the Persuasive Redefinition as follows:

p245: An especially effective device for changing attitudes is what is
called the _persuasive redefinition_: the redefinition of a familiar
term or phrase that has both a descriptive and an evaluative meaning in
such a way as to change its descriptive meaning while keeping its
evaluative meaning the same.

In this case the evaluative meaning is basically (and understating it)
that Jews were badly treated during WWII, whereas the descriptive
meaning is what Raven has said above about the Holocaust, and has
changed as can be seen in his new definition described further on.

>Defining 'Holocaust': A proposal 
>by Greg Raven 
>Although there are thousands of books about aspects of the plight of 
>European Jews during the Second World War, few define with any
>what they mean by the term that has come to represent this plight: 
>"Holocaust." Often, "Holocaust" is used in the same paragraph as 
>references to six million Jewish dead, genocide, the "Final Solution," 
>gas chambers, crematories, and words that imply mass murder and 
>extermination, without explicitly establishing the relationship (if
>among these concepts, and without defining the central term itself. 

Immediately one must be wary of what is going on here, most people would
understand what the relationships are between those concepts listed. The
final Solution is usually accepted as being the deliberate intention and
attempt of the Nazi state of Germany during WWII to exterminate Jewish
people, ie. genocide. It doesn't take much thought to thus see what
relationships the concepts such as the final solution, gas chambers,
crematories, and words that imply mass murder and extermination have.
Only Raven would have us believe that it is difficult to establish such

>Before historians can discuss events and implications of the Holocaust, 
>there first must be an understanding about what they mean when they use 
>the word. Such an understanding would not be a straitjacket that
>stifles debate,

A definition is meant to convey meaning, there is no particular reason
why in the case of the Holocaust a definition should be constructed such
that its connotation can be endlessly debated by having a vague and open

>but rather one that encourages discussion due to the creation of 
>what semanticists call an "extensional bargain" - that is, where all 
>participants to the discussion agree on the basic terminology of the 
>subject being discussed. With such an understanding (or definition) in 
>place, there could be no Holocaust "denial" among participants in the 
>discussion, and labelling revisionists as "deniers" then clearly would 
>be an act of bad faith. 

Here the talk of an "extensional bargain" is being used simply as a
smokescreen to somehow excuse what Raven is leading up to. It's not even
a very good smokescreen since he implicitly admits to wanting a
definition that does not label revisionists as deniers, this seems to be
the rationale behind his meandering and disingenuous proposal.

It is difficult to see how the following definition could be accepted by
all participants in the discussion about the Holocaust, and certainly it
is far removed from the conventional historical account.

>Taking into account everything above, I would propose that the term 
>"Holocaust" be defined as: "The mistreatment of Jewish civilians, 
>primarily in Europe, at the hands of the combatants during the Second 
>World War (1939-1945)." 

Let us cast our minds back to something that Raven said in the opening
paragraph: "few define with any precision what they mean by the term
that has come to represent this plight". If we compare this new
definition to that he used back in 1994 are we entitled to believe that
he is being more precise? Of course the answer has to be no. This
definition is so nebulous as to be, intentionally, devoid of any useful
and discriminatory meaning and many questions arise from it, not least:

What exactly constitutes the mistreatment of Jewish civilians?
How many civilians are needed to fulfill this definition?
How does this distinguish between what happened to the Jews and other

It is obscurantism at odds with the accepted connotations of the word
Holocaust, apparently for the sole purpose of absolving the so called
revisionists from charges that they are actually deniers.

Again quoting from Hughes:

p246: What distinguishes a persuasive definition from an ordinary
stipulative definition is its purpose, for it always seeks to retain the
original evaluative meaning.

This shows quite clearly that this is what Raven is up to, he's
retaining the original evaluative meaning of the Holocaust (that Jews
were badly treated) whilst changing the description of it in an attempt
to persuade people of something - namely that Jews were not deliberately
and systematically dehumanised and murdered by various means, including
gassing, in concentration camps.

NOTE: Much of Raven's proposal has been editted out, especially the
protracted review of various notions of what the Holocaust is defined
as, only those points that I considered to be germane to his proposal
and my response are cited.

Dene Bebbington

"I mean, who would have noticed | "It is impossible to enjoy idling
 another madman around here?!"  |  thoroughly unless one has plenty
- Blackadder                    |  of work to do." - Jerome K Jerome

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