Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Tag Archives: Treblinka

My Encounter with a Holocaust Denier

Skull

While I have spent many hours debating Holocaust deniers and the anti-immigration forces online at various blogs and forums, nothing quite prepares you for the real deal. I had a rather polite conversation with a person I interact with on a daily basis at the place I spend most of my time during the day. He subscribed to various common anti-immigration beliefs and made frequent appeals to “natural” in his justification of the subjugation of women. He also turned out to be a Holocaust denier and a self-professed “racist”. Because it is pretty clear that these particular individuals live trapped in a mirror world of make-belief and post hoc rationalizations, it is quite a surreal experience talking to one face-to-face. Now, this blog post is going to be pretty anecdotal, but I think it is instructive and could hopefully help others experiencing the same thing in the future.

This person was, luckily for me, not that well-read on arguments or debating tactics frequently used by anti-immigration pseudoskeptics or Holocaust deniers. For instance, the he did not object to the question of whether he was a racist or not, but freely confessed it to be the case. A sophisticated pseudoskeptic would probably have rejected the label and said something along the lines of “I am so tired of being called a racist just because I want responsible immigration policies”, thereby making it appear as if he or she was a martyr, being attacked on a personal level for his or her beliefs. In any case, I tried to help him clearly articulate his position, because he was a bit embarrassed when admitting that he denied the existence of gas chambers or the mainstream figure of about 6 million Jewish deaths. Clearly, he realized that the more he spoke about it, the more credibility among the listeners he lost. Granted, it was pretty low-hanging fruit for me and his claims became more and more absurd the more he opened his mouth, but I was able to shoot down most of the arguments he put forward, point out internal contradictions as well as ask him critical questions that he could not satisfactory answer.

Let me go over them, one by one.

1. Gas chambers where not just delousing chambers

One of his major claims, and one of the most common claim put forward by Holocaust deniers is that the gas chambers at the extermination camps where not actually used to kill people in, but just used for delousing infested clothes. There are many problems with this. First, the gas chambers in Treblinka used carbon monoxide, which is lethal because it reversibly binds to hemoglobin in mammals and prevents it from transporting oxygen around the body. However, lice do not have hemoglobin so using carbon monoxide to delouse clothing would be a very ineffective method. Second, some gas chambers in Auschwitz used Zyklon-B and had special chambers inside these that where specifically used for delousing. If the gas chambers where really just “delousing chambers”, why put a specific box for delousing clothing within this supposed “delousing chamber”? Clearly, the evidence supports the mainstream historical account, rather than Holocaust denialism. Read more of this post

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