The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/american/codoh/press.response/dershowitz

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Dershowitz on Debating with Holocaust Deniers
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Dershowitz

Archive/File: orgs/american/codoh/press.response dershowitz
Last-modified: 1993/05/14

Alan Dershowitz on debates:  Washington Times, 2/14/92

"Despite the incontrovertible evidence of the Holocaust--the Nazis 
themselves documented many of the killings--there are cruel bigots
who are trying to convince naive people that the Holocaust is a
'myth' perpetuated by Jews 'promulagating anti-German hate propadanda--
Bradley Smith and his ilk have been trying to turn an incontestable
historical fact into a 'debatable issue.'

"The Holocaust-deniers realize that they cannot win the debate during
this century.  They envision a two-step process; the first is to make
the truth of the Holocaust a debateable issue; the second is to win
the debate in the next century; when the victims and perpetrators of
the Holocaust are all dead.

"As part of this process, Mr. Smith has tried to buy full-page 
advertisements in college newspapers.  These ads call for 'open debate'
on whether the Holocaust occured.  Invoking currently voguish language
about 'campus thought police,' and 'political correctness,' Mr. Smith
say students should be 'encouraged to investigate the Holocaust
story the way they are encourated to investigate every other historical

"I agree with that formulation.  The Holocaust should be studied in the
same way that 'every other historical event' is studied.  American
slavery is studied, but no one 'debates' whether there were slaves,
because that is not a debateable issue.  The detention of Japanese
Americans during WWII is studied, but there is no debate about 
whether this historical event occured, because it is not debateable.
Who killed Kennedy is debatable, but not whether Kennedy is still alive,
as some tabloids have claimed.  The occurrence or non-occurrence of
a universally accepted historical event does not become a legitimate
issue for academic debate just because some crackpot says it is
debateable.  An initial burden of persuasion must be satisfied before
a ludicrious 'idea' is given the imprimatur of reasonable debatibility.
Holocaust denial has not come close to meeting the preliminary burden.
"Recently, Mr. Smith invited me to debate whether the Holocaust
occurred. He knows he cannot win, but he would like to be able to say
that Alan Dershowitz regards the issue as worthy of debate.  I have
written him that I will debate the Holocaust, but only as part of
a series on the following subjects:  (1) that slavery did not exist
in America, (2) that Elvis Presley is still alive and (3) that the 
Earth is flat.  That is the company of crackpot 'ideas' into which
Holocaust denial comfortably fits."

Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard Univeristy.

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