Critical thinking and the Holocaust

What really

I consider myself a sceptical revisionist. Indeed, at the risk of falling into the No True Scotsman fallacy, I would say that true revisionism is scepticism.

So what do I mean by scepticism? I mean the application of critical thinking. Examine everything, suspend judgement, accept only what is proved to your satisfaction to have been objectively demonstrated, and even then accept a balance of probability based on the evidence. Do not believe anything absolutely. Be prepared to change your position and admit you were mistaken if the evidence justifies it. Reject any personal attacks and concentrate only on the issue. 2+2=4, even if Hitler, Stalin or Osama bin Laden says so.

One of my favourite YouTube videos concerns Critical Thinking. The author of this video has, as far as I am aware, never expressed any view on the Holocaust, and so much the better, since we are interested only in his methodology.

So how do we apply Critical Thinking to the Holocaust? I am not suggesting that Critical Thinking will automatically lead you to reject the standard Holocaust story. I am saying that it should lead you to ask questions and to examine the evidence. To ask whether you have been expected to accept its claims at face value, on authority alone, or whether there is sound factual evidence to support them. It should go without saying that you must, of course, apply similar strict principles when examining the claims of Revisionists.

How do we apply the advice of this video to the Holocaust?

We must want to pinpoint and minimise biasing influence from upbringing and culture, to seek out and be guided by knowledge and evidence that fits with reality, even if it refutes our cherished beliefs. Indeed, when we think critically beliefs tend not to be cherished, but held on the understanding that if they are shown to be unfounded, a change of position is the most appropriate response.

The Holocaust has become a cherished belief that we are very resistant to questioning. I speak from experience: 10 years ago I took it for granted as much as anyone; submitting it to critical thinking was a slow process. I now think it very unlikely that the conventional narrative of extermination in gas chambers is correct. I find the Revisionist position of harsh camps, disease, hard labour, malnutrition, exposure, deprivation and deportation better argued and more probable.

Scepticism does not mean an indiscriminate rejection of ideas, as some mistakenly believe. It refers to doubting and suspending our judgement about claims with which we are presented, so that we do not simply accept claims which may be unjustified, but first take the time to understand them, examining the reasoning and possible assumptions and biases behind them.

Don't just accept Holocaust claims of gas chambers, a policy of deliberate extermination and an immutable total of six million on authority, but ask to see the evidence. What assumptions are made? Are the proponents subject to bias arising from their political or ethnic background? (You should ask the same questions of their opponents. In both cases this will help you understand motive and to explain and discount emotion. The historical facts, of course, are not influenced by the emotions of either side.)

Reasoning should be based in sound consistent logic, not on emotions and social pressure.

Which of these is most people's attachment to the Holocaust story based on? What social pressures are you under to accept the official version of the Holocaust? Question it and you face social ostracism and maybe loss of your job. No mainstream media and no teacher at any level dare do anything other than uncritically regurgitate the approved storyline and in most of Continental Europe people are jailed for several years or subjected to heavy financial penalties for questioning it. What kind of truth needs defences like that?

The truth of factual claims is not determined by the emotion that accompanies them

How many Holocaust narratives seek to manipulate your emotions and thereby suppress your critical faculties? No one disputes that Ann Frank suffered a horrible death. But what is the relevance of her death from typhus to claims of gas chambers and extermination? Did you indeed know that she died from typhus, or have you been allowed to innocently assume she was gassed?

...or by the fact they may be believed by certain social groups.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are naturally drawn to a revisionist view of the Holocaust. This is then used to imply that anyone who questions any aspect of the orthodox version of events must be a "Holocaust Denier" and fall into this category. It is a vicious circle: an electric fence is created which prevents, or at least dissuades, someone of a more liberal outlook and the public in general from any kind of critical investigation. The issue becomes one of pure emotion.

This can in no way affect the factual, historical issue of what happened during the Second World War. As it happens, revisionists come from across the political spectrum. The first person to seriously examine and question the orthodox story of the camps, Paul Rassinier, was a French Socialist who had been imprisoned in Buchenwald and Dora for his Resistance activity, suffered badly there and returned a 100% invalid. David Cole is an atheist, Jewish neo-conservative and Zionist. Josef Ginsburg was a Romanian Jew who had been deported. Roger Garaudy was a Catholic and a Communist. Bradley Smith is a tolerant, non-racist American libertarian whose previous wife was Jewish and his present wife Mexican. Friedrich Berg and Frederick Toben, on the other hand, are self-avowed Hitlerites, but a Hitler who, they think, did not perpetrate the atrocities he is accused of. The present writer is British, in the bottom left (liberal) quarter of the political compass, and usually votes Liberal Democrat or Green.

One of the biggest barriers to critical thinking is an unwillingness to see complex issues in anything other than black and white terms. If one sees only two options, when more exist, this constitutes a false dichotomy... If we think in false dichotomies we will draw false conclusions.

Issues don't come much more black and white than the Holocaust as it is conventionally presented. You believe it all, lock, stock and barrel, or you are a Holocaust Denier. But “Did the Holocaust happen?” is a meaningless question. The valid question is “What actually happened in the set of events that have come to be referred to as the Holocaust?” along with “What level of probability can we attach to our conclusions?”

We may also misrepresent others by wrongly assuming that if they don't hold attitude X they must hold attitude Y.

I couldn't understand how anyone could deny the Holocaust. The only explanation I could conceive of was that they were bovver-booted skinheads from Combat 18 who denied the self-evident because of their racist prejudices, which is, of course precisely the image the Holocaust Industry has put great effort into promoting. But when I summoned the intellectual curiosity to look for the answer, I was astonished to find that they did not deny the deportations, the exploitation and the deaths.They even reproduced those horrific photographs of emaciated corpses at Belsen in support of their position. What they questioned was the extent, the cause and the intent: specifically the use of gas chambers and intent to exterminate. I did not at that point accept their position, but I realised that it was quite different from what it had been represented to me as.

The issue is anything but black and white. The mainstream story has itself been heavily revised. In the 1940s and 1950s we were told that there were gas chambers in camps all over Germany. Now they are said to have existed only in Poland. The numbers of deaths claimed for individual camps has shrunk, but the 6 million never changes.

The critical thinker can handle uncertainty, preferring to be aware of their own areas of ignorance, and they can wait for valid evidence and evidence-based answers...  It [critical thinking] moves us away from rash conclusions, mystification and unwillingness to question received wisdom, authority and tradition. 

The relevance is self-evident.