Penn State ‘Holocaust History’ Course: A Lesson in Ignorance
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When Journal subscriber Karl Striedieck signed up in January for Professor Rose’s three-credit “Holocaust History” course at Pennsylvania State University (University Park), he wasn’t expecting a warm welcome for his skeptical views. Still, he wasn’t quite prepared for the bigoted reception he did receive.
Striedieck, who served for 23 years as a U.S. military fighter pilot, says that he decided to sign up for course 297C “to broaden my knowledge of the subject in a university-level course, taught by an accredited specialist on the subject.”
On the first day of the Spring term class, Dr. Paul Rose warned students that they should not read any of the writings of Robert Faurisson, Arthur Butz, Arno Mayer, David Irving, or Mark Weber, or any of the publications of the Institute for Historical Review. These revisionist historians are so clever, Rose explained, that students aren’t able to see through their deceptive arguments. Thinking this a rather odd approach to take by someone supposedly dedicated to open-minded inquiry, Striedieck informed the teacher that he had, in fact, already read works by these individuals, and would appreciate a critique of their arguments. Rose responded by suggesting that the student immediately drop the course.
“Much of what Rose taught in the weeks that followed contrasted sharply with the findings of revisionist historians,” recalls Striedieck. “Still, I resisted the temptation to raise awkward questions.” That is, until the day when students were assigned a short story that included a claim of homicidal gas chambers at Buchenwald, a Nuremberg trial story that is now generally acknowledged as a propaganda lie.
At this point Striedieck asked: “I have been unable to find a single serious historian on either side of this issue who claims that there were homicidal gas chambers at Buchenwald. Would you please comment?” Without attempting to answer, Rose ordered Striedieck out of the classroom. The student responded by explaining that “since I haven’t behaved in a manner deserving expulsion, I am staying.”
In the face of this defiance, the teacher threatened to call the police to have him removed. Rose then abruptly left the room, and ten minutes later two campus policemen arrived. During Rose’s absence, Striedieck gave the other students (bored until this point) an abbreviated crash course in Holocaust Revisionism. After taking his statement and listening to his account of what had happened, the police agreed with Striedieck that he had done nothing wrong, and returned with him to the classroom. Unsuccessful in his further efforts to remove the uppity student, Rose himself returned ten minutes later and finished the hour-long class. Later Striedieck met with the head of the History Department, who agreed that he was a serious student who had done nothing improper.
Professor Rose’s course reflects the standards that now prevail in American academic life. More than half of class time was devoted to watching videotape presentations, many of them frankly fictional dramatizations, including “Seven Beauties,” “The Garden of the Finzi-Contini,” “The Wannsee Conference,” “Nasty Girl,” and “Europa, Europa.”
Although the teacher urged students to purchase and read Michael Marrus’ The Holocaust in History, as a “course text,” Rose made no assignments or even further references to it. He did make a point of bringing to class a copy of the 1989 book about Auschwitz by French pharmacist Jean-Claude Pressac (whom Rose inaccurately identified as an engineer), and of telling students that this 564-page work thoroughly discredits the revisionists. On other occasions, Rose endorsed the Holocaust fable that Ilse Koch made lampshades from the tatooed skins of murdered Buchenwald inmates, and said that Zyklon B was not an effective pesticide.
This “Holocaust history” class might be described as a course in German-bashing, Striedieck recalls. At one point, Rose told students that the German national character is one of “mindless obedience.”
Of the eight or so students who normally attended, one or two routinely nodded off during class. There were no tests or exams, and no grading policy was announced. The only requirement for this three-credit course was an eight-page paper analyzing “a single Holocaust” event, issue, episode or process from different perspectives.
Predictably, Dr. Rose did not find Striedieck’s paper on Birkenau very satisfying, and gave it a “D.”
"The arts of power and its minions are the same in all countries and in all ages. It marks the victim, denounces it, and excites the public odium and the public hatred to conceal its own abuses and encroachments."
—Henry Clay, 1834
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Mark Weber , Karl Striedieck|
|Title:||Penn State ‘Holocaust History’ Course: A Lesson in Ignorance|
|Sources:||The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 13, no. 5 (September/October 1993), p. 45|
|First posted on CODOH:||Nov. 25, 2012, 6 p.m.|