Debunking the Deniers

The word debunking has negative connotations for most people, yet when you are presenting answers to claims of an extraordinary nature (and Holocaust denial surely qualifies), then debunking serves a useful purpose. There is, after all, a lot of bunk to be debunked. But I am attempting to do far more than this. In the process of debunking the deniers, I demonstrate how we know that the Holocaust happened, and that it happened in a particular way that most historians have agreed upon.

There is no immutable canon of truth about the Holocaust that can never be altered, as many deniers believe. When you get into the study of the Holocaust, and especially when you start attending conferences and lectures and tracking the debates among Holocaust historians, you discover that there is plenty of infighting about the major and minor points of the Holocaust. The brouhaha over Daniel Goldhagen's 1996 book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, in which he argued that "ordinary" Germans and not just Nazis participated in the Holocaust, is testimony to the fact that Holocaust historians are anything but settled on exactly what happened, when, why, and how. Nonetheless, an abyss lies between the points that Holocaust historians are debating and those that Holocaust deniers are promoting—their denial of intentional genocide based primarily on race, of programmatic use of gas chambers and crematoria for mass murder, and of the killing of five to six million Jews.

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