Michael K. Smith, author of The Madness of King George and Portraits of Empire (Common Courage Press), hits all the right notes in his review of Samuel Crowell's The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes. From the top:
Reading Samuel Crowell's, "The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes" is a little like stumbling across a rational mind in an insane asylum years after being taken hostage by the inmates. Following prolonged immersion in clashing dogmas, the dispassionate use of evidence and logic to arrive at a sensible conclusion comes as a jolting but thoroughly pleasant surprise. And Crowell's modesty in stating that conclusion tentatively, knowing that genuinely rational inquiry will and should be superseded by later efforts, is an equally refreshing departure from polemical norms.
Drawing on establishment and revisionist authors, along with a careful scrutiny of German source documents, Crowell deftly evaluates contending claims arguing that Nazi "gas chambers" were (1) weapons of extermination (2) disinfection chambers (3) bomb shelters designed to protect against aerial gas attacks. Aligning eyewitness testimony with the material and documentary record, he sketches out the basis for a rational opinion, putting readers in a position to make their own judgments, without first requiring that they join in partisan warfare. Thanks to this effort we no longer need choose between delusional orthodoxy and strident dissidence, but can simply weigh evidence. This should come as a relief to everyone, while hopefully expanding the number of readers who can move beyond ritual denunciation and actually take the gas chamber debate seriously.
Crowell's work contains not a trace of anti-Semitism. He makes no attempt to whitewash Nazi racial policy, which he characterizes as a "shameful and disgraceful chapter in Germany history," even if "we assumed revisionist theses to their maximum extent." The important consideration, he notes, is that "we would still be dealing with about a million dead European Jews, who died as a direct result of Nazi persecution, plunder, forced labor, deportation, and yes, mass killing." As for his personal beliefs, he says, "they remain what they have been for thirty years or more," that "there certainly was a Holocaust in the sense that Nazi Germany persecuted and massacred many Jews," with the likelihood "that this massacre ran into the millions." Philosemitic crusaders, please take note.
A self-declared "moderate revisionist" who clearly values the standards of rational investigation, Crowell avoids exaggeration, misrepresentation, and self-righteousness. He shows no reluctance to admit when a conclusion is debatable or when the evidence is open to varying interpretations; and he is able to perceive shortcomings in the views and tactics of those who share a revisionist stance – and even some merit in those who do not. This adds credibility to his analysis, and marks him as a rare breed of intellectual who actually does what he is supposed to do: face up to facts and plausibly explain them. It is truly sad that on such an important topic his open-mindedness is all but unique.
Also, TGGP reminds me that I forgot to link to Trevor Blake's piquant review of L.A. Rollins' The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays (which is now sold out, alas — if the world doesn't end, we plan to do an enlarged reprint in 2012).
And for good measure, here's Keith Preston on Andy Nowicki's Considering Suicide (which still available from 9BB for $12, postpaid).
4 thoughts on “Michael K. Smith on The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes”
The Brown Pundits site (featuring Razib Khan of GNXP) is usually quite hostile to Pakistani nationalism/military and even the concept of Pakistan itself (Zachary Latif embraces a “noble lie” for liberalism narrative against his co-bloggers there). So I was surprised to see this there:
Sarmila Bose’s narrative of scrutinizing a near-sacred narrative of war, oppression & massacre redeemed by a new order, only to be subjected to taboos, should be familiar to you.
Thanks for bringing this article to my attention. It’s very relevant to Crowell’s project.
A relevant passage from Bose:
“Scholars and investigative journalists have an important role in “busting” politically partisan narratives. And yet, far too often we all fall for the seductive appeal of a simplistic “good versus evil” story, or fail to challenge victors’ histories.”
Another post from BP on the topic:
are thousands of references which develop serious questions about the
orthodox exterminationist version of the WWII. Just be aware of it,
make a minimum of studies and think with your brain. I was a believer.
After some time passed on the deep study of the “gas chambers” of
Auschwitz through the book of Pressac, I became a revisionist just
because as an engineer I know how to read and interpret plans. It takes
its time and it needs some technical skills, that’s because so few
people is able to discuss seriously that matter. I include the
exterminationist “historians” on the group of those who don’t have a
clue of what it is about. If not, they wouldn’t have written so much
insanities about an alleged “industrial extermination plan” which
magically has left no traces on the tons of documents captured by the
Allies and on the places where it was supposed to have been carried