The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

A Question of What is Appropriate

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From: (Nele Abels)
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: What is appropriate?
Date: Tue, 02 Jul 96 12:47:39 GMT
Organization: Hochschulrechenzentrum der Universitaet Marburg
Message-ID: <4ragsd$ink@surz03fi.HRZ.Uni-Marburg.DE>

"My opinions, the
only opinions
worth having."
M. Giwer

"Loquientiae multum,
sapientiae parum."

A question of appropriatness

Is it fitting to introduce contributions to this newsgroup which base on the essays published at Mr. Giwer's web-site? Would the open use of these often senselessly polemic texts mean in itself an unjustified attack on an author who would be exposed and ridiculed out of context? Or would pointing at these texts lead the discussion away from the topic "holocaust-revisionism" and to different matters who certainly would need correction, but are irrelevant anyway? These questions need careful consideration.

It would be tempting and easy to take over the ductus of the "revisionists" and to demolish Mr. Giwer's texts in a highly effective but polemic way. Indeed, some "traditionalists" try to fight fire with fire and to meet the holocaust-deniers with their own weapons. Often enough, such confrontations mutate to an exchange of vulgar outbursts beyond every decency. This has to be avoided by all means. I myself am not completely free of guild on that account. For the sake of unnecessary sarcasm, in my contribution dealing with Mr. Giwer's feeble attempts as an student of literature, I did not deal sufficiently with the point I wished to make. I did not elaborate sufficiently on Mr. Giwer's false conception of the academic discussion and on his discoursive autism. Now, I think the tone of my essay was inappropiate, yet I still think its intention is justified.

Is it therefore possible to find a general criterium which helps to discern in what boundaries text like those by Mr. Giwer may be taken into the discussion of this newsgroup? To answer this, the present discussion itself has to be regarded. The topic of this newsgroup, "Holocaust-revisionism", is a historical topic.

I could be expected that the discussion would be done following the methods of the historian: use of printed or photographical sources with complete annotations, their interpretation following a rational and comprehensible argumentation, leading to a comprehensive thesis which is offered the public for further discussion. Already a short glance at the articles posted here shows that there is nothing like that. From the side of the "traditionalists" a multitude of sources and commentaries is given frequently, but unfortunately not always. The untiring work of Dr. Keren is especially important here. The answer from the "revisionist" side, overwhelmingly often by Mr. Giwer himself, exhaust themselves most times in denying with one or two lines of own text isolated points, often of minor impor- tance.

Own quotations of sources can nearly never be found with "revisionists", if this is the rare case, they are often enough torn out of their context or (knowingly?) misunderstood. Often, the discussion is pushed on scientific grounds by the "revisionists", in the wrong assumption that historiographic methods are identical to scientific methods, and that therefore induction and assumption are valid to the same extent as in science. Many times, the "revisionist" discourse gets completely lost in the playing grounds of sophistic speculations. The reason for this is of course that there is no supporting material for holocaust-deniers because there can be no doubt that holocaust has happened. But another reason is a special "revisionist" concept of history.

The discussion over the last two weeks has been symptomatic for this particular view on history. One utterance by Mr. Giwer was especially memorable for me. He depicted Dr. Keren's posts quoting the testimonies of witnesses of the SS crimes as completely irrelevant. On the first sight, such a remark is extremely astonishing. Such testimonies are historical sources, even if they are subjective and therefore have to be qualified carefully by the historian. Such sources serve the purpose of "finding the historical truth", the cause which is always given by the deniers as an apology for their acting.

On the second sight, this remark shows that for the "revisionists" the discussion of a historical problem, in this case the Holocaust, is not lead for the sake of illuminating a past reality and therefore is on principle neutral, but that the discourse gains it reason out of itself and only for them. Mr. Giwer wants to sustain the meaning, which the discussion presents to him, by trying to manipulate it following his own set of rules. He wants to decide what kind of sources may be used, which topics may be discussed, which contributions are in context and which are out. This way, he tries to construct a personal possessionship of the discussion.

By this ownership, his discussing of a historical past becomes the expression for an entirely subjective concept of history. Because a source has per se no value as a statement on the past, but gains its meaning only through the positive appreciation of the ""revisionist", every objective talk on history ends. "History" in the eyes of the "revisionist" therefore finds its existence only as an affirmative instrument of their own weltanschauung. Thus Mr. Giwer's recent threats and "spams" can only be understood in the way that the discussion has started to threaten his "opinions", therefore he was forced to intercept as a regulator. From my point of view, this is of course a highly appreciable result. "Der getroffene Hund bellt", as a German proverb says.

On the other hand, this concept of history makes it impossible to convince a holocaust-denier in any point. Every attempt to meet them on the level of reason must be vain and will probably be followed by an emotional response - as this would be the case with an attack on a religious belief. Indeed, Mr. Giwer's frequent accusations of the "holohuggers" being "religios follower of the cult of holocaust" is betraying. His attacks, as the attacks of a "believer in true reason" against the "emotional errants" reminds of the attacks of a heretic on orthodox. Not that the holocaust research would be connected in any way with such connotations, but that Mr. Giwer uses such metaphors, hints at him thinking in such categories, at least subconciously.

Lipstadt draws in "Denying the Holocaust" the conclusion, that every conversation with holocaust-deniers is contra-productive and therefore to be avoided. I do not follow Lipstadt here. I mean that one has to take the stand against deniers' claims by all means and that one has to take into account their special concept of history. That does not at all mean that we have to let ourselves be drawn into their weird dialectics. On contrary, this means that the discussion of historical facts using sources must only be a part of the discourse. The other, and as I think more important, part must be analysing "revisionist" argumentation and their travesty of history. And here the true motives of the holocaust deniers must be brought in the open. As long as we accept their claim of just defending their position "for the sake of truth", we will not be able to doubt the justification of their acting. The search for truth is the most important and the purest motive of the historian.

To disprove the "revisionist" claim of searching for the truth, we may also use material which is connected only indirectly with this newsgroup. It is appropriate to quote an essay in which Mr. Giwer proposes to intern those dependent on the social services in concentration camps. This allows conclusions on his motives of trying to improve the image of German fascism. It is possible to present Mr. Giwer's opinion that Socialism, Fascism and Liberalism are synonymous because it illustrates his inability to use historical terms in their precise meaning and therefore his incompetence of judging historical sources. It is fitting to demonstrate Mr. Giwers stubborn habit of searching only for cues in source texts and to connect them in his mind to the meaning he wants them to have. This shows sufficiently his attitude that history may be manipulated for the ends of appologizing his opinions.

The utterances of the "revisionists" must themselves be taken into account as a source of historical studies. As long as this does not take the forms of a polemic, we do not need to show any consideration. Remarks like Mr. Giwer's protestations he wouldn't need to prove the theses put forward in his essays because these are "opinion-pieces" and therefore above critique in a public discussion, are in this context amusing, if anything. Nethertheless they should be documented because they are telling.

To these ends I will (when I have time to do so) then and there dissect some of Mr. Giwer's more interesting essays. I hope he will not withstand the temptation to answer and thus to expose himself even more. I will collect his contributions to the discussion and to condense them as a criticism of "revisionist" techniques of discussion shown on a grateful object. This is in my opinion the only way to defend speaking with holocaust-deniers.

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