Memorabilia: The Night I Dreamed I Was Gassed at Auschwitz
One night in late December I dream that I’ve been gassed at Auschwitz. In the dream, as I become aware of myself inside the gas chamber, the gassing itself is already over. I see myself sitting naked in the center of the floor; the room around me choked with naked cadavers heaped to the ceiling. The dead are filthy with feces, urine, vomit and menstrual blood. The scene is faintly illuminated in an ugly green light.
I’m not dead and I’m not suffering. Before I have time to evaluate my situation two large doors at the rear of the chamber are thrown open and there, revealed against a somber gray sky, is the gang of work-Jews, the sonderkommandos as they are called in the literature. They are ready to begin their filthy labor of dragging out the dead, searching the mouths and rectums and even the vaginas of their murdered families and friends for diamonds and gold. Soon they will be using iron tools to pry open the mouths of their slaughtered children to search for contraband. It is these same work-Jews who will drag the violated cadavers to the crematory ovens. Then, as this sordid story has it, they will grind the very bones of their wives and children until their gravel can be disposed of in the Vistula. They will do this contemptible work to gain another week, another day, another hour of life for themselves.
There are about a dozen workers in the sonderkommando. They’re on the short side, stocky in build, dressed in shabby clothes and billed caps. They looked like men you have seen in photographs of Jewish immigrants in the streets of the Lower East Side in New York City after the turn of the century. The workers appear to be posing there in the doorway, turning this way and that as if modeling themselves for me. They give off an air of self-satisfaction, of self-importance even. Some are smoking cigarettes and I notice that they are all barehanded. None is wearing a gas mask.
When I wake from the dream I feel stunned. I can still see the individual faces of the work gang as they pose before the open gas chamber doors. They have the faces of ordinary working class Jews. In my mind’s eye I can still see the piles of corpses heaped up in their own filth. I think about what it is the work-Jews are going to do next, according to the story. I don’t just think about it. I see it. And it’s at this moment of seeing when I know, once again, I am going to do something about the Holocaust story.
I’m lying on my pad on the floor in the front room of Mother’s apartment. The first light of day is edging the drawn window blinds. I go on seeing the faces of the work Jews posing in the open gas chamber doorway. I know in my heart, without reservation, that those men would not have done what it is claimed they did. I’ve worked and lived among such men and their children for twenty-five years. They would not have done it.
Once maybe. Twice. A handful of them. But not all of them. Not day after day, week after week, month after month. They would not have done it. The gas chamber story is a lie. For half a century I have observed historians all over the world work to help legitimate the injustice, repression and lies of the orthodoxies for which they toil. At the same time I have seen artists from every discipline protest all that and cry out for liberty, truth and generosity. How could it have come about that I would chose to join with the historians all those years in a silent pact to repeat and even to exploit the lies and platitudes used to institutionalize as truth the alleged genocide of the Jews? Human-skin lamp shades, hand soap made from cooked Jews, Jewish babies thrown alive into raging furnaces, millions of people exterminated like animals and all of it proven by State decree, State courts seething with corruption and the usual army of bought bureaucrats and corrupt intellectuals. I’d bought it all, and as an artist I’d used it all.
No more. Four months earlier, when I had read Robert Faurisson’s article about the “problem” of the gas chambers at Auschwitz, I had felt in my bones that something was badly wrong. Faurisson claimed that the gas chamber stories and the genocide of the Jews are one and the same historic lie. I had felt an immediate and deep anxiety that he might be right. The news didn’t make me happy, it made me fearful. It made my hands sweat.
Faurisson’s paper turned on a statement made by Rudolf Hoess, the SS colonel who claimed to have dreamed up the Auschwitz gas chambers, overseen their construction and murdered millions of victims in them, mostly Jews. In his confession Hoess wrote that after the gassings took place the work-Jews would enter the gas chambers “immediately” to drag out the dead. They would do this while “eating and smoking.” If they were eating and smoking, Faurisson wrote, it was unlikely they were wearing gas masks. But if they were going to enter the gas chamber immediately after a mass gassing Faurisson believed they would have had to use gas masks with special filters or be “gassed” themselves. This alone suggested to Faurisson that Hoess didn’t know diddly about mass gassings with Zyklon B, his poison gas of choice, and that his famous gas-chamber confession was the invention of a tortured mind. We hadn’t yet learned that Hoess, after his capture by British military intelligence, had in fact been tortured to obtain his confession.
I remember how thought wouldn’t let go of Faurisson’s thesis. It was doing a wild dance inside my skull. Thought wouldn’t go along with it either. It wouldn’t make a decision. It was like having an insane bee in my bonnet. Endless movement but no destination. Then thought did what it sometimes does with me. One night while I was asleep, thought went underground as it were. Thought treated me the way it treats children and other primitives, putting its argument into pictures so that I would see clearly what I had been unable to assure myself rationally. The pictures convinced me that it was all right, that it was good to doubt what I had begun to doubt.
In that stupefying first moment of recognition, I knew in my heart that the faces in the dream would not do what the Nazi commandant of Auschwitz claimed they had done. They would not eat their sandwiches and smoke their cigarettes with hands slimy with the blood and shit of their murdered families and neighbors. They would not jam their filthy fingers into the vaginas and rectums of their dead little girls to search for jewels and coins for their German bosses while enjoying a fag and a snack. The story was a lie. It was a lie even if “eyewitnesses” themselves repeated it. It was a lie. My heart told me that it absolutely had to be a lie. The dream was a powerful aesthetic experience. It was the quality of the pictures that moved me to finally go to the library that week, the last afternoon in December 1979, and confirm some of Faurisson’s claims.
Argument alone had left me uneasy. There’s no end to argument. A new thought, new information is always turning argument back on itself. There’s no end to it. At the same time, you have to make decisions. Little leaps of faith. Faurisson’s argument had stirred things up for me but it was the direct experience of the dream that forced me to admit that I at least half-suspected it was possible that he was right and that Hoess had lied about himself, the Jews and the SS too. The dream went beyond doubting, beyond a movement of the intellect. It permeated the whole body. There was a completeness to it that thought can’t produce. It was a holistic experience. Thought and its tools of doubt and fear were overwhelmed. Still, if it wasn’t thought that caused me to see through the gas chamber hoax, what was it? It would seem that intellection is only one of several means of expression in thought’s kit bag.
So I became a Holocaust revisionist because of a dream. Without the dream, who knows? I might still be evading my responsibilities as an artist and as a man. I didn’t tell anybody about the dream, and after a while I half-forgot about it. There are thousands of books and countless articles written by respected academics and survivors demonstrating that both Jews and Germans did what they are accused of doing in the camps. I suppose I wasn’t really very eager to challenge the history of the 20th century on the grounds that I had seen through it in a dream.
Some artists pride themselves on their uniqueness. I rest secure in my ordinariness, my vulgarity and ignorance, my insensitivity to the social standards of the day. I excuse my careless intellectual life with Whitman’s observation that while his words may mean nothing, the drift of them means everything. Where are the human-skin lampshades? You don’t have to be a historian to ask that question. You can ask it if you are only an artist. Where are the human skin riding breeches, the boots, the saddles, gloves and pornographic books made from human skin that are reported by “survivors” in documents signed, sealed and delivered to the Nuremberg court? Where are they?
We don’t have to be geniuses to ask these questions. We don’t have to be historians — or artists. We only have to be willing. Not asking the questions has been of small consequence to our historians, who routinely avoid doing such work as part of their perceived obligation to those who pay and oversee them. For us artists, however, our collaboration with the State in the promotion of the gas-chamber lie has been a catastrophe. It has coarsened our sensibilities and vulgarized our art. We have made ourselves invulnerable before those who played the role of our enemies in the past. We have encouraged neurosis and other sicknesses of character in those we have chosen to sympathize with, no matter what.
With the Holocaust story as with no other we have closed off our artist-minds and our artist-hearts to the accused. Even in law, that clumsy attempt to formalize the ideals of the good and the just in everyday life, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Where are the human skin lampshades? Where is the soap made of Jewish fat? Where is the documentation that proves the soap? Where is there a single scientific or scholarly paper that demonstrates that the pesticide Zyklon B did what is claimed for it in the manner that’s claimed for it? Who do we make our art for if it does not embrace the accused, the vanquished and the despised?
More subtly, more insidiously perhaps for the artist, we have closed our selves off from the accusers as well as the accused. Denying “survivors” the benefit of our rationality and the delicateness of our sensibilities, we have denied them our full humanity and the burden of it. We respond to survivors, to the “eyewitnesses” with- Yes! Yes! We believe you. Absolutely! Every word of it! Not one of you has ever exaggerated an important story, merely imagined an atrocity! Not one among you has ever lied or ever would! Not one of you has ever revenged yourself on a stranger for what was done to you by another or allegedly done to others! You are a survivor, perfect in the truth. In your virtue, you are like no other!
Can Jewish cadavers really spurt geysers of blood from their graves for months after they are buried? Of course they can! At Buchenwald did German SS really throw a Jew into a cage every morning where a bear would eat him and his bones would be picked clean by an eagle? Yes! Yes! At Auschwitz did Jewish fathers really take their sons by the hand and leap into flaming ditches to be burned alive? Did the work-Jews, to save their own miserable lives for another day, really attend to the cremation fires by basting their families and neighbors with ladles of Jewish fat? Yes, of course they did! Of course!
For half a century we have said Yes to such stories and a thousand like them. For half a century we have camouflaged our baseness as artists in expressions of empathy for the tellers of these unspeakable lies. We know-it’s our business to know-that every misrepresentation of human life made by a so-called survivor, as by anyone else, becomes a moral burden on the falsifier himself. With our mindless acceptance of false accusation against Germans and our heartless sympathy for those Jews who repeat them, we have made of ourselves the thieves of their virtue. There must be a very special place in Artist Hell for a generation of men and women who have done what we have done.
Who can argue that artists of every discipline do not promote the orthodox Holocaust story? Our television, our cinema, our stages are run over with fake Holocaust drama. Our novels and memoirs are full of it. Our universities and even our high schools employ the arts to urge Holocaustomania onto our children. Our poets poeticize over the Holocaust, our painters paint it, our sculptors sculpt it, while great philanthropist-thieves chat up the funding of a Holocaust ballet so that our dance artists can at last express themselves about the Holocaust.
Our scholars co-mingle with our artists to thrive on the holocaust story, using it to illustrate their speculations and support their politics. The holocaust is universally perceived among our intellectual elites to be the most morally significant story of the 20th century. Every citizen is expected to know the outline of the story and have a clear understanding of who the villains and particularly who the heroes are-the victorious allied governments. No less can be expected of the artist, and in the event we have dedicated ourselves to the project with all our fervor. Where is there a single artist in this great nation of 250 millions who has not gone along with whatever charge of filthy criminality and moral debasement has appeared in the press about Germans and Jews alike? Where is there a single artist among us who has not substituted the theories of the intellectuals for his own direct experience when making art about the Holocaust? Where has one artist among us made one artistic statement about the alleged genocide of the Jews that does not stand in conformity with the State and the State factotums responsible for overseeing State policy on this issue?
One of the things I do as a writer is to use my art to stand witness to the intellectual and moral corruption of the society in which I live. I do no more or less than artists of every discipline have always done. It’s what is expected of us, and it’s especially what we expect of ourselves. But am I not being insensitive to the feelings of Jews, I am asked? I respond that Jewish feelings are no particular concern for me. I’m an artist. My responsibility is to human feelings, human sensibilities. The German bleeds from the thrust of a lie just as the Jew does.
The Great Debate on the Holocaust that’s beginning to rumble around through the countryside is being organized and implemented by citizens from every walk of life, excepting academics, media intellectuals and artists. Long-haul truck drivers, computer programmers, sci-fi enthusiasts, engineers, pilots, plumbers, house framers and housewives, small time journalists, country preachers, retired machinery salesmen, bankers- the list is more varied than our artists have any idea of. Artists in this country haven’t a hint yet that with respect to the holocaust story they have chosen to stand with the intellectuals against the people. Artists pretend they’ve been thinking about all this, content to believe that the professors have given us the real skinny on the holocaust. The State and those who serve it have intimidated us into making our art from images created by others.
What is so powerful in being an artist is that you don’t have to wait. Unlike the historian, it isn’t necessary for you to undo what has gone before. You don’t have to set old records straight. You don’t have to disprove yesterday’s truths in order to tell your own truth today. In the passion of the moment the artist tells the truth of the moment. Our history and our museums become irrelevant in that instant of passionate impulse. Afterward, history and the museums will take care of themselves, moving slowly in the direction of least resistance.
Was I wrong yesterday? Did I do something I will regret? It’s all right! In this very moment I’ll right myself. In this moment I will make art that will uplift and liberate us all. I’ll make it for the accused and the accursed, for the shamed and for the guilty too and for those who are wrong about everything and all the rest. None of us is wrong about everything. I’ll make something even the rich, successful and influential can use. I’ll make art that’s good for the bigots. I identify with bigots of every persuasion for my art has taught me that when your mind is closed to some you are unable to open your heart to all and you are lost to the joy an open heart brings and to the quiet movement of ecstasy that comes with the full experience of brotherhood.
Am I going to be wrong about something on this very day? Am I going to do something stupid or vulgar, something I’ll regret? You can almost bet your ass on it. But I’m an artist. I don’t have the right to remain silent about what I’ve seen. So stand aside. Tell the professorial class and the holocaust hate industry to stand aside too. I’m making art. Their reputations are doomed. I’m making art for the people, without qualification.
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Bradley R. Smith|
|Title:||Memorabilia: The Night I Dreamed I Was Gassed at Auschwitz|
|First posted on CODOH:||April 6, 2017, 9:19 p.m.|