Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Me and the H-Bomb Part Two: The Gas Chamber of Samuel Crowell

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By Chip Smith


In 2010, Nine-Banded Books will publish a newly and finally revised edition of Samuel Crowell's long-developed monograph, The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes. In addition to the text of "Sherlock," the book will include a revised and updated restatement of Crowell's empirical research on German civil defense architecture (largely an expansion of his other major work, Bomb Shelters in Birkenau) as well as a new closing essay appraising a number of revisionist and counter-revisionist texts that have appeared over the last decade.

I mention this first by way of disclosure, but I will say up front that I feel a special obligation about this one. To state it plainly, I think Crowell's book is important. I think it will be read. And I am perhaps naively hopeful that it will be taken seriously by people -- even some few public intellectuals -- who are understandably skeptical of revisionist challenges to the consensus historiography regarding the Holocaust. I don't expect that an encounter with Samuel Crowell will change many minds, but I do think there is a real possibility that some readers will come away with an understanding that, as Crowell puts it, "the revisionist interpretation on the subject of mass gassing [is] possible, and since possible, a particularly unworthy candidate for censorship."

What follows, the second in a three-part series devoted to the Holocaust controversy, is my digressive introduction to Crowell's major theoretical work, The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes. Though I believe that Crowell's other contributions to the literature of revisionism are just as relevant, I have chosen to focus on Sherlock because its central argument is so shockingly novel, and so seldom engaged. I also think the argument will be vindicated, at least in broad form.I've been wrong before. Time will tell.

The third and final installment in this series (part one is here) will be broadly devoted to "Skepticism, Epistemology, and 'Belief in Belief'." In that post, I will respond to a number of points raised in reader commentary and correspondence. I will also revisit the curious case of Irène Némirovsky and Michel Epstein, with a few surprises.

My apologies for the delay.

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