'Irrefutable Response' Falls Flat

Book Review
Published: 1995-03-01

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'The Good Old Days': The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders. Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess, editors. Translated from the German by Deborah Burnstone. Foreword by Hugh Trevor-Roper. New York: Free Press, 1991. Hardcover. 334 pages. Photographs. Source references. Biographical appendix. Index. ISBN: 0 02 9174252

John Weir is a computer programmer/analyst who lives with his wife and three children in a suburb of Kansas City. Born in Missouri in 1958, he received a B.S. degree in computer science and technology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

This book's dust jacket blurb promises a lot which I guess is its primary purpose, besides keeping off dust. The prospective reader is assured that "The Good Old Days" reveals "startling new evidence," and is "yet another irrefutable response to the revisionist historians who claim to doubt the historic truth of the Holocaust."

While interesting, this book does not live up to its promise, though unlike many other Holotomes it is not a whiny narrative history. Instead, it is a collection of contemporaneous reports, letters, and diary excerpts, along with numerous postwar statements obtained during Allied interrogation sessions. Apparently the editors of this work expect the documents here to speak for themselves. In fact, the editors have taken these documents from their historical context, assembling them to distort the historical record and mislead the reader.

One doesn't have to read far before finding that the book breaks the promise made on the dust jacket. In his foreword, British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre) writes:

History is always liable to revision and there are indeed some unresolved problems of the "Final Solution." ... There are some genuine uncertainties about the exact structure and working of the gas chambers and the number of their victims. However, these reasons for questioning the evidence where it is weak are not reasons for rejecting it where it is firm: they are reasons for looking it in the face.

After reading this, I guessed I could forget about finding "startling new evidence" in the pages to follow. And so it turned out.

What did startle me was that three-quarters of the book deals with the activities of the Einsatzgruppen German security field police units, and various native auxiliary militia units, which operated during 1941-42 in the occupied Soviet territories, and especially in the Baltic countries. The remaining 60-odd pages are devoted to the "extermination camps" and their "gas chambers." This division is perhaps an indication of where Holocaust evidence is relatively firm, and where it is weakest.

Because most Holocaust accounts claim that "resettlement" was merely a Nazi code word for killing, I was surprised to find here (pp. 183 ff.) a July 1943 report by an SS officer complaining of a slavishly pro-Jewish attitude by Wilhelm Kube, Generalkommissar of German-occupied Belarus (White Russia). The report's author accuses Kube of being especially protective of German Jews who had been resettled there from the Reich.

Many of the documents in this book show that the Germans were particularly suspicious of the local Jews in the areas they occupied. For example, Kube reports (p. 180) in a confidential July 1942 letter:

It has become apparent during the course of all clashes with partisans in Belarus, in both the former Polish and the former Soviet parts of the region, that the Jews, together with the Polish resistance movement and the Moscow Red Army in the east, are the principal supporters of the partisan movement.

Consequently, Jews were subjected to harsh retribution for acts of sabotage or murder committed by partisans. Furthermore, as the Germans advanced in pursuit of the Red Army, local Jews were singled out for punishment in retribution for mass killings carried out by the Soviet secret police before their retreat.

This suspicion and severe treatment is further pointed up in excerpts from the diary of Einsatzgruppe officer Felix Landau (pp. 88 ff.), who recounts in one entry the execution of 20 Jews from the local ghetto because a group of Jews had failed to show up for work one day. Clearly, the Nazis meant business.

This book's final section, which deals with the "extermination camps," contains nothing new. For example, there are extensive excerpts from the familiar diary of Dr. Kremer, an anatomist and physician who was stationed at Auschwitz in 1942. [See: R. Faurisson, "Confessions of SS men who were at Auschwitz," Summer 1981 Journal.] Interestingly, Kremer's only mention of Zyklon B (p. 257), which allegedly was used to gas hundreds of thousands of Jews at Auschwitz, is "against lice" in connection with fumigating a barracks building. Most the diary entries given here deal with the typhus epidemic, food, travel, work, and other duties. Nowhere does Kremer mention gas chambers. For evidence of these, the book depends entirely on the familiar postwar statements of Rudolf Höss, Kurt Gerstein, Kurt Franz, and others. [See: R. Faurisson, "How the British Obtained the Confessions of Rudolf Hoss," Winter 1986-87 Journal; H. Roques, The 'Confessions' of Kurt Gerstein.

Among the many grim photographs in this book are two I found amusing. First, there is a photo of a power crane (p. 246) standing next to piles of sand and gravel. It is captioned: "Excavator used for corpses at Treblinka." What the editors fail to tell the reader that there was a gravel quarry at Treblinka. Maybe, just maybe, it was used for the obvious purpose of simply quarrying gravel.

A second photo shows a pet dog, "Barry," that belonged to Treblinka deputy commandant Kurt Franz (p. 248). According to the caption, Franz "used to set [the dog] on prisoners ... 'Barry' tore many Jews to pieces, on numerous occasions biting off their genitals." One might expect "Barry" to look like something out of "The Omen," but what the photograph shows is a real disappointment. Too bad no "action" photo is available, because it's difficult to believe that the rather scruffy, medium-sized, retriever-mix mongrel shown here was capable of doing what's been claimed.

In a postwar statement (p. 249) about "Barry" and his own role in the camp, Kurt Franz hit the nail on the head:

It is true that I had a dog called Barry. Or rather – to be precise – this dog was a stray from [the work and training camp of] Trawniki that attached itself to me in the camp ... I never set this dog on a Jew. I never killed a person or beat anyone. I would like to correct myself – the latter may have occurred once. Basically I have never done wrong to anyone, nor would I ever have wished to do a wrong. I vehemently deny these attacks against me. I state that the entire thing is a sham. I believe that I am now being maligned for the sole reason that I was a member of the SS. I wore the uniform of an SS officer and for this reason alone was a familiar figure among the prisoners.

Although it is promoted as an "irrefutable response" to the revisionists, The Good Old Days is a sham. It simply ignores the work of revisionist scholars.

Most of the text, by far, is devoted to the activities of the Einsatzgruppen, but as early as the mid-70s Dr. Butz acknowledged that this is the only aspect of the Holocaust story that contains a grain of truth. The remainder that deals with the camps is a rehash of material that has been thoroughly discredited for years.

In short, there's no "response" here, irrefutable or otherwise. In fact, the book's editors book appear entirely ignorant of revisionist scholarship.

This book might be of some value as a reference work, but don't pay full price for it.

"A morsel of genuine history is a rare thing, so rare as to be always valuable."
—Thomas Jefferson

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): John Weir
Title: 'Irrefutable Response' Falls Flat, Book Review
Sources: The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 15, no. 2 (March/April 1995), pp. 43f.
Published: 1995-03-01
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 17, 2012, 6 p.m.
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