Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Just History or Living History

Haven't written in a while, fiendishly busy with Pesach and the shul dinner, but this story about a woman whose experience goes agaisnt the common opinion of historians about goings-on at Auschwitz, caught my wife's eye, and mine.

My comment thereto as well, about a family member's experience in a death camp (as part of the US Army) that goes against the common wisdom, and the wishes of deniers that it not have happened.

1 comment:

Joe in Australia said...

This woman's story is important in the abstract but it has nothing to do with the pseudo-question of whether the Holocaust happened. I think it's a mistake to associate minor issues with major ones, because Holocaust deniers commonly attack straw men. They'll say something like "Everyone has heard that the Nazis were accused of making soap from human remains. Bars of German soap have even been given human burial. But it's not true, and here's the proof from independent scientists!"

In fact the soap story as cited isn't true. Interested readers can find out more on Ken McVay's invaluable website. If this woman's claim is true then it doesn't materially increase the Nazi's guilt ("not only did they murder millions of Jews, they were also hypocrites!"), but if it's false then it's yet another red herring for the use of Holocaust deniers.

I don't know enough to have an opinion on whether there were Jews in Block 24 but I do know that this story is really bad evidence for it. We don't even know her name, let alone have any proof that anything she said was true. Her story itself rings false to me. Was anyone taken away from the very door of the gas chamber? Would some random guard have the power to do that? Would some random undressed woman, without makeup and with her hair shaven be so stunningly beautiful as to be chosen for this purpose after having passed all previous selection points? It just doesn't sound plausible to me.

This being said, all sorts of weird stuff happened at Auschwitz, and so many people passed through there that there are many weird stories. Almost every survivor will have had an unusual experience, otherwise they would be among the ones who perished there. Furthermore, the story may have been misremembered or misquoted or this woman might have misunderstood the events - perhaps she wasn't at the door of the gas chamber but the door of something else she later understood to be the gas chamber? Perhaps this selection really took place at her arrival to Auschwitz, when she still was dressed and looked normal, and she later fantasised about the gas chamber episode? It's not my place to defend the story, but those are among the plausible defenses I can think of.

Anyway, this blogger is well meaning but I wish she hadn't posted the story.