Notebook

Published: 1998-03-01

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Last summer when we arrived in Baja I began thinking about what problems might come up because of my work with revisionism, who should know what my work is, how much they should know, was it going to be different here than it was in the States, and so on.

One day my daughter Paloma asked me for a copy of my Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist. She wanted to give it to one of her sixth grade teachers, a young woman. I wasn’t sure that was the right thing to do but I didn’t want to say no either so she took a copy to class with her and a couple days later she brought the book home and said her teacher wanted me to autograph it. The next day Paloma took the book back to her teacher and added a copy of my leaflet The Holocaust Controversy: The Case for Open Debate. After school she said her teacher wanted any other books I had written and would appreciate it if I would autograph them.

“Daddy,” Paloma said, “how many books have you written?” I was a little unhappy to have to tell her only one.

A couple days later one of her teachers told the class that he had two videos on the Holocaust that he wanted them to view. He talked a little about the gas chambers and Paloma asked him how he knew the gas chambers had existed. The teacher said everyone knew they existed, and Paloma said that her daddy doesn’t believe it. Her teacher said that anyone who doesn’t believe the gas chambers existed is “stupid.”

When Paloma related the incident to me I was annoyed. It wasn’t that her teacher would say I’m stupid, but that he would say it to Paloma in front of her classmates. I was reminded of a scene in The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand. The father visits his daughter’s grade school class in an upper crust private academy. In Apley’s presence, the teacher reprimands his daughter for speaking out of turn, whereupon George Apley withdraws his daughter from the academy—on the spot. For Apley, it wasn’t that the teacher had criticized his daughter, but that she did it in front of him, implicating Apley by chastising his daughter publicly when in fact a father would reprimand his daughter in private. I was intrigued by the notion that a father would make so much of what to me appeared to be so little. I recognized it as an exotic gesture made by a man belonging to a social class that I would never be a part of or understand.

I told Paloma to ask the teacher when I could drop in to have a word with him. He said I could call for an appointment. I got busy and didn’t call. The teacher never brought the Holocaust videos to class, and after a couple weeks Paloma told me he had left his teaching position at the academy, so there was no real resolution of the incident. (I had wanted to have a talk with the fellow about the gas chambers.)

About then it occurred to me that I would have to remind Paloma to not wear her big T-shirt with “No Gas Chambers” printed on the front and “No Six Million” printed on the back.

For several months I played my cards close to my chest, not really having a feel for what was acceptable here with regard to the work I do. One day after I picked up my mail I stopped at a print shop. While waited to be helped I went through my mail. In one envelope there was a book on Auschwitz. Oddly, I can’t recall the title, which I suppose is a sign of how weary I get of the subject sometimes. One of the ladies who works at the shop saw the title, picked up the book and drew it—I can only say lovingly— to her breast as if it were a tiny baby. Her face was glowing and there was a far-away look in her eyes.

“Oh,” she said in English, “the Holocaust. It’s so important. I didn’t know you were interested.”

It turns out that Maria attended a private academy in Tijuana and in the summer of her eighteenth year in the early 1980s her class toured Europe. While they were there they did Auschwitz. Her voice became hushed when she spoke of it, but she was radiant. The tour had been a milestone in her life. I can imagine how it could have been. Seventeen years old, in Europe for the first and maybe last time, and then—the gas chambers. She said the Holocaust was so important that whenever something came on television about it she would make sure her son watched. Her son is eight years old. I asked if she were Jewish. “Why no,” she said. “I’m Catholic.” Then she said something remarkable. In a voice hushed with reverence she recalled how when she and her classmates were at Auschwitz they could still smell the “gas” from the old days when the Germans were doing their thing to the Jews. I was unsure if I should mention it, but after a moment I decided to tell her that the gas that was allegedly used by the Germans to kill all those Jews is odorless. Maria smiled uncertainly. She said:

“That’s what we were told [that smell] was. We were just girls.”

I was touched by her willingness to take seriously what I said. Why should she? I told her I’m a writer and that I work with the Holocaust story and that I had a video about it that she might find interesting. “Oh, yes,” she said. “I’d like to see it. Very much.” I suggested that if she found it interesting maybe she could show it to her son.

One day I gave her a copy of our Auschwitz video David Cole Interviews Dr. Franciszek Piper, a copy of Cole’s 46 Unanswered Questions about the WWII “Gas Chambers”, and a copy of my article The Holocaust Controversy: The Case for Open Debate. A couple days later I went to the print shop and when she saw me Maria smiled enigmatically.

“What did you think?” I asked. “It doesn’t prove anything, I know, but it’s pretty interesting, eh?”

“Oh, it’s very interesting. I had no idea.” She was smiling and smiling but rather uncertainly. She asked if she could lend the video to friends who she had told about it. Sure she could. I’d be interested in knowing what they thought of it. But her friends changed their mind about watching it, so I don’t know.

The other day I asked Maria if she would like to read something. She smiled at me searchingly and said yes, she would. I gave her a copy of my Confessions. I said: “This book will reveal all the secrets of my private life.” “It will?” she said. She looked at the title of the book.

Then she said enthusiastically, “Oh, it will?” And she laughed a bit.

So far it appears that Mexicans don’t have strong feelings one way or another about the Jewish issues that are so important above the border. At the same time, the educated class has invested to some degree in the gas chamber stories. But they appear to be somewhat more willing to consider dissenting opinions on such controversies than Americans are, and are less inclined to allow their opinions to interfere with personal civility.


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Author(s): Bradley R. Smith
Title: Notebook
Sources: Smith's Report, no. 52, March 1998, pp. 2f.
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Published: 1998-03-01
First posted on CODOH: Oct. 27, 2015, 9:30 a.m.
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