Sunday, November 13, 2011

General Semantics and Holocaust Denial

The challenges that the deniers apply to the generally accepted history vary widely in size and scope. For instance, they dispute the death toll at Auschwitz-Birkenau, resurrect early allegations about the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities that are now known to be untrue, e.g., soap production from human fat, and they claim that the Nuremberg trials were a sham and a perversion of justice.  Furthermore, they pore over documents from the Nazi era, and, disregarding any document that would further incriminate the Nazis, they find what might be an exculpatory document and seize on it as if its existence destroys the entire house of cards. The so-called Luther memorandum is a prime example here.

Looking at such Holocaust-denial tactics through the lens of general semantics, we can find at least three main shortcomings:
1. Over- and Under-Defining the Holocaust. The use of “the Holocaust” as an over/under-defined term, allowing for the “disproof” of victim numbers and atrocity stories.
 2. Extending the Definition over Time. The inability (or refusal) of the deniers to accept multiple time-based definitions of the Holocaust, as seen in their reading of the Luther memo.
3. The Two-Valued Orientation. The overwhelming use of the two-valued orientation in presenting the so-called revisionist version of the Holocaust, for example, in their allegations about Nuremberg.
A strong working definition of the Holocaust with consideration of its development over time, along with the exposure of two-valued orientations wherever they are used, can enable us to see the faulty logic on which Holocaust denial is built.

Andrew E. Mathis, PhD. Mathis examines this subject in a peer-reviewed article origininally published in ETC: A Journal of General Semantics, and reprinted with permission at the Holocaust History Project Website: