Book Reviews

Van Pelt's Plea against Sound Reasoning

By Robert H. Countess, Ph.D.

Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz. Evidence from the Irving Trial, Indiana University Press, Bloomington/Indianapolis 2002, 464 pp., $45.-.

Introduction

I bought the Van Pelt book because of my interest in the drawings and details of the alleged triple-mesh columns axonometrically reconstructed on pages 194-208, planning to focus on these in order to fabricate an actual model for display and practical analysis. But I found myself reading beyond these vitally important and hypothesized homicidal gassing metal contraptions and I decided to start from the beginning and work through the whole book. I am glad that I did because reading Van Pelt--the brightest star in the present Holocaust galaxy--has been truly an education and a challenge to Holocaust Revisionism. Since this large book appeared only in January, it is not yet widely read nor reported on and I believe that an introduction to it here today may help Revisionists ("negationists" in Van Pelt's vocabulary) to avoid certain pitfalls in the future.

The Case for Auschwitz is a thoroughly impressive book in its overall appearance, wide margins, typeface, photos, drawings, index, bibliography, binding and, most of all, its content. Van Pelt is to be congratulated for presenting large sections of Revisionists' writings even though he, more often than not, distorts them or simply errs in his own theory's favor. Accusing him of outright dishonesty may even find solid justification.

The Case for Auschwitz is an overwhelmingly compelling book in terms of its goal and its logical approach.

The Case for Auschwitz is a devastating blow to Holocaust Revisionism except for one "if" and that "if" is to be placed as follows: The Case for Auschwitz is a devastating blow to Holocaust Revisionism if the alleged eyewitnesses and their "confessions" are reliable and if they are consistent with the materials sciences of physics, chemistry, architecture, hydrology, and construction engineering.

Van Pelt's book rests more than on any other type of evidence, the evidence of alleged eyewitnesses and their "confessions."[1] And it is Professor Van Pelt's "will-to-believe" certain alleged eyewitnesses that makes his book so powerfully convincing to the general readership, the media, politicians, judges, attorneys and academicians, and the masses who comprise today's social consensus. His drawings are excellent and, again, impressively convincing to those listed above. I suggest that in the coming decade that this book will become the most quoted Holocaust volume and most discussions will tend to be settled with an "...as Van Pelt says..." assertion.

The Game of Tennis

Both players begin with l'oeuf (= zero) and move to 15, 30, 40 and then game. Since Van Pelt scores some points in his book against Revisionists' data and arguments, he must be given credit, and contemporary Revisionists must "go back to the drawing board," as it were, and revise any errors they find convincing. But, I believe the final score is somewhere in the neighborhood of Van Pelt 15 and Negationists Game, Set, and Match.

But he has played the game strongly, worked hard, read widely in the Negationists' writings, even personally met one or two, conducted enormous research and travels on his own, thoughtfully weighed opposition arguments, and applied his best talents to refuting them--all done, of course, for a handsome payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars or Euros and receiving enormous favorable publicity from the Holocaust Industry that created the social consensus and keeps it thriving.

I conclude that Van Pelt shows himself a worthy opponent, ably prepared for most confrontations as Irving found in the London trial, but Van Pelt will only find himself fully tested if and when he agrees to a full and open debate on his Auschwitz obsession--what I abbreviate as his "A™" (Auschwitz Trade Mark)[2] --with prominent Revisionist scholars at a conference or similarly open gathering "with no holds barred."

Van Pelt's Two Hats

No one normally writes a book on the history of Auschwitz or Miami or Paris while wearing his/her hat of objectivity, since there is no total detachment from one's value system possible. Objectivity is a goal one may strive for but one that is never reached with complete success by a mere mortal.

Van Pelt may believe he writes objectively, but his other hat--a really all conditioning hat--is the one that dominates this book. It is, I conclude, his Jewish mystical-religious hat and when he wears it, he displays a radical obsession with Jews and all things Jewish. And I wish that the typeface of The Case showed in color, say, yellow, when he wears that hat, and black when he merely supplies data and the words of outside sources. Or, when speaking in public that he would physically wear a black hat or a yellow hat when moving so effortlessly, as he does, from one stance into the other.

But then, I recommend that I and all of us do that as well.

His second chapter, "Marshalling the Evidence for Auschwitz," is key to his personal mystical Jewish value system and how it colors the rest of the book. In fact, the early pages of this chapter may well be the most important content of The Case for Auschwitz since they demonstrate, I hold, that both his personal and professional life is inextricably bound to his religious philosophy of good and evil, with Auschwitz and 'Nazis' as absolute evil and Jews representing ultimate goodness.

Van Pelt makes clear that "evil" (p. 67) looms large in his historiography of the A™ and he states forthrightly that he was troubled to find that "evil" by the 'Nazis' did not play its all-encompassing role in architectural studies as he found them in 1985.

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Van Pelt's honest expression of his mystical feelings can best be expressed in his own words.

"My journey to Courtroom 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice in London began in 1985 in the dean's conference room at the architecture school of the University of Virginia. I had recently been appointed as visiting assistant professor of architectural History and attended a faculty meeting to discuss the 750 buildings which students of architectural history were to know for their comprehensive exam. My colleagues offered me an opportunity to review the existing list and suggest alterations. Having earned a doctorate with a dissertation on the cosmic speculations on the Temple of Solomon a year before, I proposed its inclusion in the University of Virginia canon. There were no objections. The Tabernacle of Moses and the Tower of Babel also proved acceptable. Then I nominated Crematorium 2 of Auschwitz. A stunned silence followed, broken by one professor's acid observation that obviously I was not serious. When I said I was, another academic suggested that perhaps I ought to consider an alternative career." (p. 66)

One must remember that here was a Dutch Jew--whose doctorate from Leiden in 1984 was in a field known as the History of Ideas and not in Architecture--sitting among real architects, and professors of Architecture at that, and he proposes that an ugly but practical, concrete reinforced mortuary-crematorium (and eventual air-raid shelter and poison gas protection shelter, if Samuel Crowell and Carlo Mattogno are correct) be added to a list of significant structures for an examination in the field of Architecture.

One also must remember that I had wrongly assumed--until the London trial--that Van Pelt was a real architect himself, in part due to his being called "Assistant Professor of Architecture in the Architecture School at the University of Waterloo, Canada" (Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, p. xiv) in this 1994 book.[3] My erroneous assumption is hardly of importance, however, but of great importance in assessing the mental furniture of an author is the display of mystic nonsense with which Van Pelt began his Chapter 6 in the latter book, "A Site in Search of a Mission." (pp. 93-156) He began about the place name Auschwitz:

"Its name seems unassimilable. Before we have recovered from its harsh and repulsive beginning (Ausch), we are hit by its violent and sarcastic end (witz)." (p. 93)[4]

How utterly ridiculous! One might as well castigate the Polish name mutatis mutandis by separating Os from wiecim and then hissing after each. Why not play the same game with Tel and A-viv? Or with my own city of Hunts and ville? I did not realize in 1994 that I was confronting a mystic so obsessed with a place name locatable on a map with grid coordinates that he could dogmatize that its "...gas chambers changed the whole meaning of architecture." (Case, p. 67) Not only is this mystical, it is absurd to include in a book on serious historiography, although perfectly appropriate for a synagogue talk.

Van Pelt's "Cabbalistic" Metaphysics of Architecture

Continuing his UVA story wherein he had succeeded in getting three structures for which little, if any, verifiable remains, exist, Van Pelt writes:

"By the time I arrived in Virginia, I had become increasingly vexed by the way my colleagues circumvented the questions raised by the camps.[5] It seemed that most historians were embarrassed by the camps, preferring to consider these places as aberrations that belonged to a footnote. And architectural historians had ignored the camps altogether. Auschwitz did not appear in any architectural history--not even in specialized studies of 'Nazi' architecture. This troubled me because I had come to the conclusion that interpretations of history that ignore evil were doomed to remain shallow and ultimately meaningless. I did not underestimate the historiographical pull away from systematic investigations of the presence of evil in history: as I wrote in my dissertation, I had become acutely aware of the extent to which historians possess an artistic bent for building. They assemble isolated pieces of historical evidence into a coherent story that fits the constructive ideology of causal thought. The practice of historiography makes it inevitable that historians are at ease when they describe the constructive efforts of past generations--be it in economics, politics, speculative thought, science, art, or architecture--and that they feel lost when confronted with evil, because in its negative and purely destructive character evil denies meaning and, as such, refuses to fit modes of historical narration that imply in form and causal structure the presence of meaning. Having studied narrations of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, I realized that manifestations of evil in some remoter past can be molded into an aesthetic form. But when the memory of victims has not yet died, this is more difficult." (p. 67)

When I read these lines, I realized that Van Pelt's mindset was not fundamentally that of a physical scientist. The science of Architecture must be radically physical and materialistic and fixated on exactitude, because the beauty of a structure must follow, not precede, its safety and durability and suitability of its purpose.

Van Pelt's obsession with "evil"--and having given no method by which readers or judges or architects might arrive at what Van Pelt's "evil" is--I assessed to be a crippling defect against his ability to research and analyze and write in the modern World characterized by physical proofs and mathematical calculations. Plus, the modern scientific, economic, academic and political World does NOT overtly concern itself with a specialist's religious orientation, especially if he/she inserts a metaphysical principle of "evil" that is clearly beyond the practical observance of, for example, the evil caused by a flood or fire or earthquake or crime.[6]

How bizarre that he labeled Krema 2 Leichenkeller I "the holy of holies" at the London trial, thereby transforming a corpse cellar into a religious sanctuary on the level of the Mosaic Tabernacle wherein the God of all Creation dwelled in some symbolic fashion!

Without trying to sound unkind to Van Pelt, it seems necessary to state that for him the so-called "Auschwitz disease" is not dysentery but Holocaustomania. Robert Jan van Pelt cannot possibly function normally in a modern, Western university, it seems, without polluting students and colleagues with his own Jewish disease wherein he finds metaphysical "evil" in an ugly but functional reinforced concrete building built to save lives, when he can turn a blind eye to the ugly concrete wall of Apartheid that his beloved PM Sharon is now constructing with U.S. taxpayer dollars to ghettoize the indigenous Palestinians. His sort of mindset may just as well reify (= make a thing out of a NON-thing) the "Loch Ness Monster" and "BigFoot" and UFOs and use one or all to explain destructive weather patterns or the 9-11 catastrophe.

When he asserts that "evil denies meaning", he also lacks the epistemological self-consciousness of an expert philosopher who would at least inform his readers l.) what "evil" means; and 2.) what "meaning" is in his own Weltanschauung. Van Pelt does neither and, thereby, renders his writing here to be Cabbalistic.[7]

Also, if Van Pelt had only studied his fellow Dutchman's, Herman Dooyeweerd's, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,[8] he would have learned that meaning is highly controversial and is a grand Voraussetzung (presupposition) of theoretical thought. What we find with Van Pelt is, rather, a feeble effort to smuggle a Jewish mystical understanding of religion into both the fields of History and of Architecture.

Van Pelt then writes that

"My proposal to include Crematorium 2 among the key buildings of architectural history was based on the assumption that its construction was an event of crucial significance in the history of architecture. The gas chambers changed the whole meaning of architecture. [emph. added...] Even before I finished my dissertation, I felt that temple and crematorium were united in a diptych, and that having studied one panel, I should not avert my gaze from the other." (p. 67)

We can now view Van Pelt's mental framework: the two-tablet (diptych) unity here of temple and crematorium comprise his fundamental grasp of Architecture as a science and thus the very place name "Auschwitz" now has this evilly hissing sound and the four holes must exist and the four triple-mesh gassing contraptions must have been realities and the eyewitnesses Henryk Tauber and Michael Kula and Shlomo Dragon and Stanislaw Jankowski must have told the truth and the Polish Communist Judge Jan Sehn must have been careful and fair and the Pery Broad and Johann Paul Kremer and Rudolf Höß confessions must have been true confessions of reality.

Van Pelt's A™ is not fundamentally a place in Poland or Upper Silesia but rather a metaphysical concept wherein the evil of non-Jews (= anti-Semitism) wars eternally against "the Chosen People" who are good and decent and loving and creative.

And for David Irving to offer major criticisms of the A™ made him "a falsifier of history.'[9]

The "social consensus" and the Amniotic Fluid.

Here I found Van Pelt to be completely reliable. He writes:

"When I had accepted the invitation to join the defense team, I had assumed that in the courtroom Irving and I would engage the contentious issue of Auschwitz on a level playing field. I now realized that it would not be so, and that in choosing to challenge a social consensus which he paradoxically shared himself, he would find it almost impossible to convince not only the judge and jury, but even himself, that the evidence could be interpreted substantially differently from the way it had been done. In other words, he would engage the evidence epistemologically divided against himself. The trial was to show that this was indeed the case. Every time that Justice Gray tried to establish Irving's conclusion about the evidence under discussion, he received confused answers that in the end affirmed that the evidence stated that the alleged gas chambers were designed and used as gas chambers. Only by claiming that these had been rooms to gas corpses could Irving reach a compromise between his two sides, the one that had declared war on the consensus and the other that, despite everything, had remained part of it. As I watched him struggle with the paradoxes he had summoned up, I sometimes felt sorry for him. But then, again, I remembered what he had said about Auschwitz--'I don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz. It's baloney. It's a legend.'"[10]

Other than the fact that Irving spoke extravagantly and overly generalized about "Auschwitz"--which is triply a place name and a German camp site and a highly controversial "social consensus" created by people with a vested interest in perpetuating anti-German hatred and a Holocaust Industry that has made rich many individuals and organizations and created special academic chairs for mediocre Jewish professors--Irving may have finally become so fed up with the A™ or, as he has styled it, "the Holocaust™", that he allowed himself to vent his spleen--something very human but also something that can come back to haunt one later, this time, in Her Majesty's courtroom.

Van Pelt makes even more clear his accurate assessment of the social consensus of the sacred "Six Million" in homicidal gassing chambers when he wrote:

"[...] because neither judge nor jury would be able to separate themselves from our own culture and judge the inherited account of Auschwitz on the basis of documentary evidence." (p. 104)

The definite article "the" of "the inherited account" is not an accidental choice of a linguistic particle. Van Pelt's "our own culture" bespeaks the Jewish contextualized nature of WW2 history as a War that centered on Jews and that it was a War Against the Jews.[11] Van Pelt and Dawidowicz and Hilberg and Wiesel and Lipstadt and Berenbaum and all the stellar luminaries of the Holo-Industry, I submit, really do believe what they write. And, they have marvelously succeeded in creating the "social consensus" that influenced Judge Gray at the Irving versus Lipstadt trial of 2000. I have no doubt in my mind that Judge Gray really believed that he ruled correctly and that he was not giving himself over simplistically to a decision that would enhance his future in the British judiciary system.

By analogy, when the Roman Catholic Church insisted that the sun revolved around planet Earth, that Church really believed its best scholars of that era. People, more often than not, act sincerely and base their actions on sincerely held beliefs of their culture at the time.

Hence, as a baby develops within the amniotic fluid of the womb and knows nothing else but that particular physical context, Van Pelt is powerfully accurate about what I call the Holocaustian amniotic fluid of post-WW2 social consensus.

Little wonder that most or all newspapers in Canada came out against Ernst Zündel over a twenty-plus year era: they knew that he was wrong about the Holocaust because they were nurtured in the Holocaustian amniotic fluid.

Thankfully, a baby comes forth at a certain time of final gestation and enters a new and different environment. One aspect of that new environment is Holocaust Revisionism and some--not many, as of 2002--change their grasp of WW2 and revise their "social context." I know that I changed mine in the mid to late 1980's. When someone tells me that we Revisionists are fighting a hopeless cause--"No one will change his/her view" etcetera--I reply that I did, and that many people worldwide have changed.

Galileo's position in the Seventeenth Century was considered bizarre but today it is de rigueur. It is not the Revisionists' primary concern to be part of the mainstream in 2002, but rather to be focused on exactitude in research and writing and speaking--not on politics or propaganda.

Van Pelt's Alleged Method: Convergence of Evidence

On page 83 of The Case, Van Pelt mentions the (notorious, to some of us!) Dr. Michael Shermer, Editor of Skeptic and co-author of Denying History. Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?[12] This writer, whose field is the history of science, offers "convergence of evidence" as bringing thoughtful readers inescapably to accept the A™, as it were.

For me, I have read both The Case and Denying History with great care and am not convinced that the evidence converges as these authors conclude. What I see is that there is still an enormous controversy because the problems with what is called "evidence" and its interpretation are not convincingly resolved by experts in the field.

When popular culture states that "All historians agree that the Holocaust happened", we have moved into the realm of polling opinions. In Galileo's day, "All scientists agreed that the sun revolved around the Earth" except for the revisionist Galileo, of course.

Polls do not establish accurate historiography; polls establish what current opinion is based on projections from a small sample and onto the general public. Useful? Indeed, but not convincing by itself as a method.

Revisionists, of course, agree with "convergence of evidence" as a method, but Revisionists also must insist upon divergence of evidence as the other side of the coin. When "confessions" are found to have been tampered with, edited, revised, created, and coerced, such "confessions" diverge from the pursuit of exactitude and must not be accepted, as Van Pelt does, as supporting his A™. I found that what Van Pelt includes in his large book--that is, "confessions"--is quite helpful, but more so, I found that what he omitted by ignorance or nescience or intentionally, to be even more important. This is especially true for Dr. Johann Paul Kremer, the physician who spent September to November 1942.

Van Pelt omitted that Dr. Wilhelm Stäglich placed a footnote revealing that Dr. Kremer had "retracted the statements he made in Poland."[13] Now, if I had not searched the Stäglich book--and Van Pelt is unrelenting in his vicious attack on Judge Stäglich's scholarship--I might have taken the Kremer "confession" as a powerful brick in the A™ Holocaust edifice's "convergence of evidence." Kremer may well prove that Van Pelt is grossly dishonest.

Conclusion

Revisionists may well want to focus some effort on listing Van Pelt's gaffes, a list I have begun. Examples are his naïve (or, dishonest?) acceptance of "confessions" of Rudolf Höß, Pery Broad, Kremer , Filip Mueller, and other notables. Another might be his lack of investigation of the psychologist Dr. Gustave Gilbert who spent much time with Rudolf Höß but did not make written notes until after a session was completed. Still another might be Van Pelt's acceptance of technical data offered by Michael Kula about the triple-mesh metal gassing columns on page 206, with drawings of these on page 208.[14]

These are excellent drawings, but in the absence of Bauleitung documents, how can they be taken seriously? Especially if there are not the famous or infamous four holes?

As Faurisson distilled this problem: "No holes? No Holocaust!"; this four-word saying might qualify as its own diptych for Revisionists!

Another line of pursuit for Revisionists is to consider carefully that Van Pelt has scored points here and there against their own works--especially in Irving's. Revisionists must always be willing to admit errors of research data, writing, analysis, and logic.

As I began this lecture by saying that Van Pelt presented a serious challenge to Revisionist thinking, let me conclude that he has not convinced me of the accuracy of his A™ theory. In fact, let me state this conclusion: If the A™ is someday in the future found to be the most convincing interpretation of the experience of some Six Million Jews within German control, this interpretation will not result from the work of a superficial Holocaustian of the Robert Jan van Pelt ilk.

As a Revisionist, I can embrace in good conscience that Germans and Jews and Russians and Arabs and Americans and Blacks could bring about the deaths of millions of people caught up in the maelstrom of a vast war, but whereas the destruction of Dresden and Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Darmstadt and Hamburg is clear from the convergence of evidence, the purposeful physical extermination of some Six Million Jews (and, as martyrs!) at the hands of Germans--whether SS or Wehrmacht or Einsatzgruppen or civilians--lacks the convergence of evidence that I must require from my historiographic perspective.


Notes

First published in German in Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung 6(3) (2002), pp. 349-354.

[1]I am convinced that one may speak only safely of these by placing quotation marks around confession and around eyewitness, and this rests upon numerous statements by victims such as Rudolf Höß and Dr. Johann Paul Kremer who attempted to make retractions afterwards. Van Pelt's possibly dishonesty lies, in part, in his unwillingness to acknowledge fully the influence of torture to them, plus threats and arrests of victims' family members related to obtaining these "confessions."
[2]A™ is not to be confused with ATM as in Automatic Teller Machine at a bank.
[3]If I read that Dr. X was Assistant Professor of Physiology in the X University College of Medicine, would I not be justified in assuming that Dr. X was trained in and held the doctorate in Physiology?
[4]If the German word "Auschwitz" comes from Old High German auwiesen, meaning "meadow," and if both of components of the place name show some Slavic influence over the centuries--which is to be expected due to the closeness of Germans and Poles over the era--then there is nothing "unassimilable" or "harsh" or "repulsive" or "violent" or "sarcastic" in this proper noun except for a Jewish mystic's personal hatred for it.
[5]Notice that he does not even employ quotation marks, thus assuming that "the camps" are univocal, that is, of single meaning and understood in his A™ framework of Holocaust dogma.
[6]Or even Prime Minister Sharon's "Berlin Wall" in Palestinian territory in June, 2002.
[7]Cabbalism was/is a rabbinical gnosticism wherein the esoteric knowledge of a text is restricted to a limited, initiated special group of knowers. In this light, I can well imagine some or most of the University of Virginia professors on that day in that unique meeting wondering if this new Assistant Professor (the lowest on the ladder of academia!) really belonged in a prestigious School of Architecture of the university founded by Thomas Jefferson.
[8]Dooyeweerd was Professor of Jurisprudence at Amsterdam's Free University during the first half of the Twentieth Century and is known widely for insisting--out of his own Dutch Calvinistic philosophy--that "Sinn ist das Sein des Seiendes." [I,73] For Dooyeweerd, "Being" as such is ascribable only to the Triune Christian Deity. All that God created "has" meaning, not "is" meaning, and all meaning derives from the purposeful and creative work of God. Though most philosophers disagree with Dooyeweerd, at least he made clear his epistemological foundation for readers; Van Pelt has not been forthright in this regard.
[9]Case, p. 106.
[10]Ibid., pp. 104f.
[11]See Lucy Dawidowicz' deliberately chosen title of her The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York 1975.
[12]With Alex Grobman, University of California Press, Berkeley 2000. Shermer wrote on the title page of his gift copy to me: "Robert: To the search for a true and meaningful past. I've enjoyed our correspondence," [signed].
[13]Number 166, page 327, of the English edition of The Auschwitz Myth.
[14]Van Pelt adds about Kula that he was a "Roman Catholic"--as if this might make him more believable.

Source: The Revisionist 1(1) (2003), pp. 99-104.


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