creedal minimalism vs. Skeptic magazine

Lyle Burkhead (
Tue, 24 Dec 1996 00:17:36 -0500 (EST)

My post last night may have come as a shock to some people. In this
post and the following one, I want to indicate very briefly what I mean
when I say there are logical gaps in Michael Shermer's argument.

On pages 52 -53 of "Proving the Holocaust" there are two photographs
showing crowds of people on the unloading platform at Auschwitz.
The caption of the second one says:

> These two photos serve as evidence that corroborate eyewitness
> accounts of the arrival of a train of Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz and
> the sorting of them into groups of men and women, where they were
> then further subdivided and sent toward either the gas chambers or
> the camp barracks.

There are two assertions,

1. Trainloads of Jews arrived and were sorted into groups,
2. They were then further subdivided and sent toward either the gas
chambers or the camp barracks.

These pictures corroborate the first assertion (which doesn't need to be
corroborated, since it is obvious and acknowledged by everyone).
The pictures do not corroborate the second assertion, which is what
needs to be proved.

Ignoratio elenchi: the fallacy of offering proof irrelevant to the
proposition in question. A simpler term for this is "flim-flam."

Suppose you have two photographs of crowds of people in a large
room, with the caption "These photographs corroborate testimony that
people go to Eugenio the Psychic Surgeon, wait in his waiting room,
and then go into his office and have tumors removed by psychic
surgery." Obviously, the photographs only corroborate the fact that
they wait in the waiting room; they do not corroborate what needs to be
proved, namely, that the patients have tumors removed by psychic

Suppose you are on trial for murder. The prosecutor introduces as
evidence two photographs of boys in your living room, and says
"These photographs corroborate the testimony of the witnesses who
said the defendant lured boys to his home, then took them downstairs to
the basement and killed them." What would you want your lawyer to
say at this point?

To corroborate testimony about gassings, you need to have photographs
of gassings, not something else. You have to show us pictures of
people in the undressing room, in the gas chamber itself, and then after
the gassing.

Pery Broad said:

> After about two minutes the shrieks die down and change to a low
> moaning. Most of the men have already lost consciousness.
> After a further two minutes... it is all over. Deadly quiet reigns...
> The corpses are piled together, their mouths stretched open...
> It is difficult to heave the interlaced corpses out of the chamber
> as the gas is stiffening all their limbs.

Of course, we have all heard about this. We all have this image of the
sonderkommandos disentangling a mass of bodies. But it occurs to me
that this is just a mental image I have acquired over the years. I have
never actually seen a photograph of this famous scene. And that's odd.
This must have happened many, many times. If millions of people
were gassed, this scene must have been repeated thousands of times.
And people do like to take photos. Some people will always find a way
to take photos of anything, no matter how forbidden or obscure,
especially if there are naked women involved. But there are no photos
of any part of the gassing operation -- no photos of crowds in the
undressing room, no photos of people being herded into the
gas chambers, and no photos of masses of bodies in the chambers.

The Nazis were not shy about killing people. There are pictures of all
kinds of atrocities. When they destroyed the Warsaw ghetto, they even
made movies of it. On page 106 of *The Hoax of the 20th Century,*
Arthur Butz shows a picture of a mass grave at Belsen (which everyone
should look at, as a reality check). If Butz found a picture of interlaced
corpses in one of the gas chambers at Birkenau, he would print it.
So would Michael Shermer. So would everybody. But there are no
such photographs.

Michael keeps talking about "convergence of evidence." The problem
here is that the evidence does not converge. The mosaic-like pieces
don't give us a complete picture of the crime. We have a series of
pictures which approach the gas chambers from both directions, before
and after. They approach but they do not meet in the middle. We have
pictures of prisoners arriving at the camp, and pictures of bodies being
cremated, but nothing in between. There are no photographs of the
gassing operation itself. That part (the essential part!) of the mosaic
is missing, so the series does not converge.

If there were photographs or movies of the gassing operation, then
there would be no such thing as revisionism. Likewise, if there were
rooms in the ruins of Auschwitz that looked like the gas chambers in
American prisons, revisionism would be impossible. If there were
records of the construction of gas chambers (as there are for the
construction of crematoria), revisionism would be impossible. If there
were any documentation at all, any references by Himmler, Hitler, or
anyone else to gas chambers, then revisionism would be impossible.

Revisionism is possible only because there is a total lack of physical,
photographic, or documentary evidence for gas chambers.

If someone hadn't already heard about the gas chambers, he wouldn't
learn about them from the speeches of Hitler, Himmler, and the other
Nazis, nor from the photographs of the camps, nor from the documents
describing the camps, nor from examining the remains of the camps.
A naive person investigating this subject would have no indication
whatever that there were gas chambers, if all he had to go on was
non-witness evidence. One hears about gas chambers *only* from the
statements of Broad, Hoess, Nyiszli, and other such witnesses.

That's why I refer you to the Nyiszli book, which is by far the most
accessible of the witness statements. Judge for yourself.