Denial is an ugly thing. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as follows:
Denial – noun
- refusal to satisfy a request or desire
- a (1): refusal to admit the truth or reality (as of a statement or charge) (2): assertion that an allegation is false b: refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing : disavowal
- the opposing by the defendant of an allegation of the opposite party in a lawsuit
- negation in logic
- a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality
The way I see it, it’s as if your brain is blocking its ears and going LA LA LA LA LA when presented with evidence to refute its claims, usually a sacred cow.
There are many forms of denial we deal with as skeptics and they populate a wide spectrum of plausibility, from evolution denial to global warming denial.
SGU Fan Chris recently wrote the following to us:
Hi, I recently came across this report on some of the Nazi death camps from a “specialist on the design and fabrication of homicidal gas chambers.” His name is Fred A. Leuchter and he testified in court that his investigations on various camps reveled no evidence that they ever served as execution sites. Is Holocaust denial considered to be in the same silly category as homeopathy and ghosts? Also, do you know if the camps were ever investigated by other experts in the field, and if so where I can see their findings? What do you think of Leuchters report? Does he have any legitimate points, some conflict of interest that would motivate him to lie, or is he just incompetent?
The document Chris is referring to is the Leuchter Report. This report was put together by Leuchter during the Ernst Zundel trial of 1988. Zundel was put on trial in Canada, under section 181 of the Criminal Code of Canada, for publishing “Did Six Million Really Die?”, a holocaust denial book. Zundel was found guilty by a jury of the charge that he “did publish a statement or tale, namely, ‘Did Six Million Really Die?’ that he knows is false and that is likely to cause mischief to the public interest in social and racial tolerance, contrary to the Criminal Code.” Zundel was later acquitted by the Supreme Court of Canada which stated that section 181 was a violation of the guarantees of freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Leuchter testified as an expert witness at the 1988 trial for his self-declared expertise in execution technology. His “expertise” was put to the test by Judge Thomas during the 1988 trial when Leuchter admitted he merely held a BA in history. Judge Thomas dismissed Leuchter’s opinion on the functioning of the crematoria at the Nazi extermination camps because it was of “no greater value than that of an ordinary tourist” and prevented Leuchter from testifying because “he hasn’t any expertise.”
Leuchter claimed that most of the information gathered, including original blueprints, to research and write the report were directly obtained from the camp archives of Auschwitz and Majdanek and were extremely important in drawing his conclusion. After the trial the director of the Auschwitz museum denied that Leuchter had received any plans or blueprints.
Holocaust deniers make many claims, the basis of which is either that the Holocaust never happened, or that it resulted in far fewer deaths than are reported. Other sub-claims are that Hitler wasn’t directly involved with the mass-murders and the denial of the use of gas chambers as execution rooms.
The Leuchter Report is the main source of “scientific” evidence for holocaust deniers. It presents itself as a scientific report refuting the conclusion that there were mass murders in gas chambers at Nazi extermination camps, specifically at Auschwitz.
This report has been refuted by experts. There are many sources of evidence that contradict this report including (but not limited to):
- The camps are still (partially) there and forensic data confirms that there were gas chambers used for mass killings
- Pictures of the camps, burning bodies at Auschwitz, and recon photos of prisoners being marched into the gas chambers en masse.
- Anecdotal evidence. Although a flimsy form of evidence at best, and not one to be taken on its own, the anecdotes of survivors and the diaries of Jewish Sonderkommando confirm that there were gas chambers used for mass murders.
- Documents. Official Nazi documents confirming orders for large quantities of Zyklon-B gas, the gas used to murder the people at these extermination camps. Blueprints and orders for building materials for the gas chambers and crematoria.
The gas chambers were investigated by experts, I refer you to a study by The Institute of Forensic Research (IFFR), the abstract states:
In a widespread campaign to deny the existence of extermination camps with gas chambers the “revisionists” have recently started using the results of the examinations of fragments of ruins of former crematoria. These results (Leuchter, Rudolf) allegedly prove that the materials under examination had not been in contact with cyanide, unlike the wall fragments of delousing buildings in which the revisionists discovered considerable amount of cyanide compounds. Systematic research, involving most sensitive analytical methods, undertaken by the Institute confirmed the presence of cyanide compounds in all kinds of gas chamber ruins, even in the basement of Block 11 in Auschwitz, where first, experimental gassing of victims by means of Zyklon B had been carried out. The analysis of control samples, taken from other places (especially from living quarters) yielded unequivocally negative results. For the sake of interpretation several laboratory experiments have been carried out.
In a foreword to the IFFR report, Richard J. Green writes:
The conclusion is obvious. Leuchter and other Holocaust deniers performed a “forensic analysis” that even had it been conducted straightforwardly and honestly was based upon incorrect premises. When real scientists approached the problem using appropriate methods and reasoning they were able to detect unambiguously, what we already knew to be the case from the historical record, viz., the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Birkenau were indeed exposed to cyanide.
Chris asks if Holocaust denial is considered to be in the same silly category as homeopathy and ghosts. Well there’s no agreed-upon system to categorize these claims, though perhaps there should be. They are all pseudoscientific claims, but the spectrum between science and pseudoscience is wide. I personally don’t see ghosts, homeopathy and holocaust denial in the same categories. I classify ghosts in “X-Files” along with cryptozoology, demons, aliens, psychics, etc. Homeopathy is in “so-called alternative medicine”, with aromatherapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, etc. And I classify Holocaust denial in “historical revisionism”, with conspiracy theories, moon-landing denial, etc. Some topics can occupy multiple categories.
In my opinion, the Holocaust is one of, if not the most appalling period in human history. It demonstrates humanity at its very worst. Approximately six million European Jews and a number of Mizrahi Jews were murdered in a world that, before this, had no definition of the word “genocide”.
Perhaps coincidentally, yesterday (May 2nd) was Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is the Yom Hashoah, the 27th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, a day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.