The Weber-Shermer Debate: A Step Forward

Published: 1996-01-01

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When I first learned of the debate between IHR Director Mark Weber and Skeptic magazine editor-publisher Dr. Michael Shermer, I was delighted that a member of the "accepted media" had finally agreed publicly to confront Holocaust revisionist arguments. Viewing the event on videotape, I was even more pleased at the cordial and scholarly atmosphere that characterized the exchange. Both Shermer and Weber behaved respectfully in presenting their conflicting views of the treatment of Europe's Jews during World War II.

Interestingly, Shermer said that he cared little for what others might think of his "heresy" in rubbing elbows with the hated "deniers," adding that he had no fear of retribution that might cost him his livelihood – a confidence that is rare even among some revisionists.

Without doubt, the most striking and pleasant feature was the cogent and unemotional way the two sides exchanged information and presented their views. No shouting, pushing or hysterical accusations – just a calm and reasoned exchange between two intelligent men, the way any legitimate debate should be. As we know, this treatment is regrettably rare – very rare – when the "Holocaust" is the topic of discussion.

Although Dr. Shermer mentioned "being a little nervous" addressing the mostly revisionist audience, he was treated cordially. Typically, the revisionists showed restraint and respect for the opposition. There was one brief glitch, though. At one point a member of the audience interrupted Shermer with an aside in a manner that could be described as mildly rude. He quickly and properly chastised him for the interruption, and then continued.

At this point I could not help but recall that revisionists such as Robert Faurisson or David Irving have borne the brunt of savage personal attacks for expressing their views. From vicious epithets continuously shouted during their presentations, to rampaging mobs overturning tables and ripping up books, both of these men (and especially Faurisson) have had to endure not just assaults against their dignity, but even physical attacks. (On September 16, 1989, Faurisson was assaulted for the seventh time in a broad daylight attack during which he was almost beaten to death.)

As for the debate itself, I found Weber, as always, to be factual and precise with his information. It was not difficult to glean that he was the authoritative source of Holocaust information. Dr. Shermer, although a bright and pleasant man who had some interesting insights, showed himself to be little more than a hobbyist in his approach to this issue. His main arguments also seemed a bit superficial. For instance, he relies heavily on "testimony evidence," which time and again has proven to be unreliable and/or foggy at best.

Shermer belabored his point about the significance and real meaning of the German word "ausrotten." This has always seemed to be a cute topic for tea-time discussion, but not really relevant. He concluded (and I'm paraphrasing here) that "ausrotten" means ausrotten ... to exterminate." Shermer also fell back on a favorite argument of Holocaust historians in citing a passing remark by Goebbels in a diary entry, a passage by Himmler from a speech, and a statement by Frank, and then concluding that similarities in these statements prove a definite conspiracy by the German hierarchy to physically annihilate Europe's Jews.

On several occasions, and to his credit, Shermer honestly (although apparently with some embarrassment) conceded either a lack of knowledge about specific historical issues, or made major concessions to the revisionists on key points of Holocaust dogma. Additionally, he cited "new evidence" compiled by Holocaust researcher Robert-Jan Van Pelt, which affirms that, although Auschwitz was not intended to be a "death camp" in the beginning, it somehow "became" one. When Shermer sought to support this theory with some sort of psychobabble, I felt that he strayed from the role of logical scholar to that of dutiful believer. Whatever the validity of such conjectural arguments, though, they are no match for the abundant physical evidence, including the independent forensic studies, the wartime aerial reconnaissance photos, and so forth.

Shermer referred to pipes in a shower room at the Mauthausen camp that is shown to tourists as an execution "gas chamber." Asserting that these pipes carried steam to heat the room, he posed the question: "What else [other than homicidal purposes] could that mean? Why would you want to heat a shower room?" Well, how about to keep whoever was showering from getting cold, maybe, or because whoever plumbed the building cared nothing for esthetics and left the pipes exposed, or a myriad of other reasonable explanations.

Anywhere else, a few pipes in a shower room would be justpipes. If Shermer takes a shower after one of his 20K bike races, and sees heating pipes on the wall, I doubt that he'd bolt from the shower room screaming about gassing. In former Nazi camps, though, they are "proof" of murder. As a result of some 50 years of hysterical anti-Nazi propaganda, promoted by those whose personal hatred or ideological agenda blinds them to their own delusions, everything in the former German camps is suspect, no matter how trivial or insignificant.

Actually, my attitude toward, the Holocaust has been similar to Shermer's. That is, for a long time it held no special fascination for me, much less did it prompt guilt-ridden hand wringing. But then, what began as an innocent interest in ambiguous details about a much-discussed chapter of history grew into an intense craving for historical truth, fired with growing anger toward those who embrace tyrannical suppression masquerading as noble indignation.

It would be one thing if Jews around the world quietly believed various bizarre "Holocaust" claims, used their own money to build Holocaust monuments and memorial institutions, and taught their children whatever lessons they deem appropriate, while leaving the rest of us alone. But that is not what happens. Instead, a ceaseless campaign seeks to instill in all non-Jews a collective guilt for an alleged crime for which they are not in the least guilty. Whatever responsibility Jews may have for this campaign, non-Jews are certainly culpable for buying into it. While organizations such as the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center do their best to slander and silence revisionists, aiding and abetting them are non-Jewish political and religious leaders and other prominent figures who do so out of self-interest.

Does this sound nutty or "extremist?" Anyone who thinks so should listen carefully to an hour of Elie Wiesel. Even though this professional survivor is treated as a kind of living saint, his self-righteousness and horror stories have become embarrassingly ridiculous. Even more culpable than Wiesel are those who swallow such bombastic bilge. This unchallenged adherence to dogma always reminds me of John Burroughs' words: "It is easier to believe than to deny. Our minds are naturally affirmative."

Michael Shermer deserves a hearty "bravo" for graciously agreeing to participate in this IHR-sponsored debate, and for upholding the right of all Americans, including revisionists, to disagree, question, and contend. Although he still upholds the pro-Holocaust position, his performance in the debate shows that he is simply not familiar with the massive documentation and other evidence compiled by revisionist researchers. If Shermer is sincerely interested in getting to the bottom of this issue, and if he can maintain a scholarly attitude, he will be unable indefinitely to deny revisionist arguments and the overwhelming evidence.

All in all, I thought that the Weber-Shermer debate was very good, and can be considered a great step forward in righting the wrongs perpetrated by Holocaust falsehoods. There is no doubt that Holocaust revisionism lacks only public exposure for success.

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Author(s): Pat N. Mason, Jr.
Title: The Weber-Shermer Debate: A Step Forward
Sources: The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 16, no. 1 (January/February 1996), pp. 34f.
Published: 1996-01-01
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 27, 2012, 6 p.m.
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