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This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. The two books are apt accompaniments to the recent opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which tells the story of the destruction of Europe's Jews by Nazi Germany with immense power, compelling immediacy and a stunning fidelity to the truth.
One finds oneself doing it, though not without distaste, because, in dealing with Holocaust denial, one has entered the innermost arena of the absurd.
During their nearly five decades of activity, as both Ms. Vidal-Naquet note, the deniers have attacked this evidence not by disproving it but through outright lies, nonexistent documents, misquotations, pseudotechnical "investigations," flagrant illogic, the reinterpretation of clear evidence of gassings so as to make it seem to be referring to something else, like deaths from typhus, and the simple refusal to accept any testimony from any source, whether Jewish or Nazi, that contradicts the deniers' position that the Holocaust never happened.
The mountain of irrefutable evidence for this historical fact is available in the immense body of careful scholarship by numerous historians, some of which is summarized by Ms. 4, 1943 -- by which date most of the Holocaust's victims, probably close to five million, had already been killed -- in which he talked about the Nazi program for the "extermination of the Jewish people," stressed his conviction that "we have the moral right, the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us" and boasted that the extermination program was "a glorious page in our history and one that has never been written and can never be written." A recording of this speech can be heard at the National Archives in Washington; by recording it, and by using clear language about the exterminations, Himmler violated his own orders to use euphemisms, camouflage and indirection in discussing the German program to murder the Jews.
The evidence for the Holocaust also includes an enormous number of documents about the killings.
Vidal-Naquet's, provides a comprehensive account of Holocaust denial, particularly from an American perspective and particularly for the reader with little prior knowledge of the subject. Vidal-Naquet -- a Jew whose parents were deported from France during the German occupation and whose mother died in Auschwitz -- is a subtle writer whose passion about the subject is expressed by means of a gracefully piercing irony.
It rigorously traces the movement's roots and development both in this country and abroad, describes the ways the deniers have managed to focus attention on their arguments in both educational institutions and the news media, and explores the susceptibility of Americans, as well as others, to their arguments. VIDAL-NAQUET' S book, superbly translated by Jeffrey Mehlman, consists of a series of elegant essays, most of which the author -- a distinguished historian of the ancient world at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris -- published in France during the 1980's. Lipstadt's book with Holocaust denial in France, and occasionally assumes that the reader is acquainted with French intellectual currents. His reader, though dragged through the mire of intellectual dishonesty that characterizes the writings of Holocaust deniers, is nevertheless elevated by the energy and nobility of Mr.The weight of the evidence that the Holocaust took place, from materials related to Auschwitz as well as from an immense number of other sources, has been so overwhelming, so abundant and so widely available as to make the Holocaust, quite simply, an inherent, obvious and established fact of 20th-century reality.Having to cite that evidence now to prove that the Holocaust occurred is in some ways no less absurd than having to cite evidence to prove that the 1940's occurred.The evidence includes, moreover, meticulous German records, such as the precise counts of Jews, often broken down into the numbers of men, women and children, and even broken down further into the number of boys and girls, who were transported to Auschwitz on particular days from particular places in Europe; some of these people -- the strongest -- were tattooed with numbers and were allowed to work in the camp for as long as they might survive its brutal conditions on starvation rations, while most of those arriving at Auschwitz -- particularly the elderly, the ill, mothers and children -- were immediately sent for gassing.The surviving records of Auschwitz transports and killings are considerable, despite the energetic efforts by retreating Germans to destroy all incriminating evidence before the camp's liberation.The true villains of the Holocaust, the deniers have stressed, were not the Germans but the Jews. Vidal-Naquet and many others refer to them, "revisionists" -- by accepting their invitations to debate them. Vidal-Naquet puts it: "One can and should enter into a discourse concerning the 'revisionists'; one can analyze their texts as one might the anatomy of a lie; one can and should analyze their specific place in the configuration of ideologies, raise the question of why and in what manner they surfaced.But one should not enter into debate with the 'revisionists.' It is of no concern to me whether the 'revisionists' are neo-Nazi or extreme left wing in their politics: whether they are characterized psychologically as perfidious, perverse, paranoid or quite simply idiotic. Vidal-Naquet illuminate, with skill and clarity, not only the peculiarly disturbing world of the Holocaust deniers but also the methods they have used to distort history, the motives that have driven them to do so and the vulnerabilities in our educational systems, our culture and ourselves that have made so many in our society ready to listen to them.Vidal-Naquet's intellectual and moral power and achieves, in the end, a deep appreciation of the absolute centrality of truth to the twin tasks of writing history and preserving memory.It is important to say, though dismaying to have to say it, that for any legitimate historian, as well as for any reasonable person weighing the evidence, the Holocaust -- the planned and systematic extermination by the Germans, during World War II, of approximately six million European Jews -- is, quite simply, a fact. This evidence includes, for example, speeches and orders by the highest Nazi leaders: for instance, Heinrich Himmler's secret speech in Posen (the German name for Poznan, Poland) to SS leaders on Oct.It includes the accounts by Jews who had been forced to drag corpses out of the gas chambers and burn them.It includes the detailed paperwork that documented the building of gas chambers designed to kill many hundreds of people at a time.