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Pyotr Velikiy (U.K.)

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Breaking the Spell: The Holocaust, Myth & Reality
Breaking the Spell: The Holocaust, Myth & Reality
Price: £2.57

5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good points, errors, flunks big question, 11 April 2015
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The author is excellent where he describes how the Holocaust has become a religion, and one moreover which displays considerable and worrying intolerance towards non-adherents. However he does little to persuade me that its basic tenets have no basis in history.

I gave up counting the number of times the author refers to 6 million Jews being gassed. Nobody claims that: the number claimed is around 3 million with little more than one million gassed using Zyklon B. I found several other errors of detail, such as the statement that the Bolsheviks killed upwards of 20 million members of the Russian middle classes shortly after they came to power or the claim that Gordon Brown created the Hero of the Holocaust Award so that he could give it to Avey. None of these others may individually be substantial but collectively they affect his credibility. He is supposed to be a scholar and not a tabloid journalist with a deadline.

Kollerstrom rests his case on the absence of blue-staining in what he calls ‘alleged human gas chambers’. This is a perfectly reasonable question. There is possible explanation which he knows of and characterizes on p. 70. as ‘bugs are harder to kill than humans’, but he goes no further than to mock it. I would expect it takes less Zyklon B to kill a single bug in a test tube than to kill a human, but it may take less to kill a human than to kill every last bug in a mattress. If he is arguing that Zyklon B was only used at Auschwtiz to do “exactly what it says on the tin” and no more then he should tell us what is written on the tin or elsewhere about the amount to use and compare this with the amounts of Zyklon B supposed to have been used in lethal gassings. I haven’t found that in the book, which greatly limits its usefulness.

He raises other valid questions about the practicalities of mass murder with Zyklon B and the cremation of so many corpses but I suspect there are answers which may be reconciled with the ‘orthodox’ account of the Holocaust. The possible origin of the figure of six million dead is interesting and we do need to ask how far our understanding of the Holocaust may have been determined by wartime and immediate post-war propaganda. On Treblinka the relative absence of evidence of mass murder may be puzzling but the alternative explanation offered for the existence of the camp, that it was a transit camp for Jews being taken eastwards, has little credibility. It makes no sense that the Nazis should wish to delouse those they sending into an area where Typhus was not under control. Having lived for three years in Russia, where the Holocaust seems neither to be denied nor made into a religion, I have never come across any suggestion of three million Jews deported eastwards in 1941-2.

Kollerstrom is doing us all a favour by raising questions. However one of the revisionists he quotes makes a rash assumption. Much as those of us who rebel against thought-control might wish it “The fact that it is illegal to doubt the ‘Holocaust’ in many countries of Europe, and Canada, is conclusive proof that it is a hoax” does not automatically follow.
Comment Comments (20) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2015 2:58 PM BST

What Islam Did for us: Understanding Islam's Contribution to Western Civilization
What Islam Did for us: Understanding Islam's Contribution to Western Civilization
by Tim Wallace-Murphy
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not what you'd think, 29 Sept. 2012
If you think this is a book about how Islamic science came to Western Europe forget it. I did see the book before buying so had an idea of what I was in for and I read it straight through within 24 hours. The author takes the 'Rex Deus' thesis, which appears in 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail' as read, I am personally sceptical about this but nonetheless felt there were interesting ideas in the book, even if they didn't relate immediately to Islam. In portraying Trinitarian Christianity as being something initiated by St Paul rather than Jesus and portraying the Islam of Mohammed as being closer to Judaism that Trinitarian Christianity I found the author very interesting. He portrays Islam in a much wider context, where the context takes up rather more space than the subject. However I wasn't confident in all of his facts and his tone seemed very emotive and partial at times, as for example in discussing the cathars. I'd put this down as a very interesting if rather a 'crank' book, but because of the discrepancy between title matter and subject I will only give it two stars.

Greek Qabalah: Alphabetic Mysticism and Numerology in the Ancient World
Greek Qabalah: Alphabetic Mysticism and Numerology in the Ancient World
by Kieran Barry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kaballah for reasonable people, 29 Feb. 2012
This is a proper reasoned scholarly and yet accessible study of a subject which is ignored by many academics as a field fit only for cranks. It's how people thought and may be difficult from the way that most scholars think in these post-Enlightenment times. We should be careful not to project our own standards back into the past but rather try to see the ancient world through the eyes of those who inhabited it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2012 3:16 PM GMT

Ibsen and Hitler: The Playwright, the Plagiarist, and the Plot for the Third Reich
Ibsen and Hitler: The Playwright, the Plagiarist, and the Plot for the Third Reich
by Steven F. Sage
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Book, 29 Feb. 2012
I have no doubt that Sage is onto something. Towards the end he describes how he stumbled on his idea, by noting parallels between details of certain of Ibsen's works and Hitler's own life. The parallels may have seemed incredible but they were undeniable and demanded explanation. I would call this a triumph for the Sherlock Holmes method of history, proceeding from detailed observation to broad picture rather than ignoring details which don't fit with pre-existing assumptions. This is not to say that I would agree with every detail, but the overall thesis is absolutely compelling.

Heroes of the Holocaust: Ordinary Britons who risked their lives to make a difference
Heroes of the Holocaust: Ordinary Britons who risked their lives to make a difference
by Lyn Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction, but..., 29 Feb. 2012
This book brings together the stories of many good people. However I fear that the author is not always sufficiently critical.

Lyn Smith includes Denis Avey amongst her heroes. She interviewed him in 2001. When journalists raised questions about discrepancies between Avey's interview and his account in `The Man who Broke into Auschwitz' she said "It was not my job to double-check the places and names he gave to me. But the author of the book, Rob Broomby, would have double-checked everything."

Lyn Smith is not responsible for checking what Avey said during interview, but if she is going to endorse him as a hero she is surely responsible for checking all available accounts. I hope she will be able to state clearly and publicly how much she has cross-checked all of Avey's available accounts and what she makes of his statement to have heard that the Australian Donald Watt was working as a stoker in Birkenau in 1944.

I also came across details in another biography where I wondered if erred on the side of sensation. Because I find the biography in question very moving despite my reservations I don't want to pick over the details. The book is a good introduction but anyone with a passion for accuracy over a good story may wish to approach it with some caution.

The World of Gerard Mercator: The Mapmaker Who Revolutionised Geography
The World of Gerard Mercator: The Mapmaker Who Revolutionised Geography
by Andrew Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story, 23 July 2011
I found this an excellent story. Perhaps the one difficulty is that the projection for which the subject is famed occupies only a small part of the narrative. I think some more diagrams could have been included to explain some of technicalities.

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?
by James Shapiro
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarship made accessible, 18 May 2011
Having read John Michell's book on the authorship where he compares leading candidates on their merits I enjoyed Shapiro's historical and chronological approach. It made for a great story. I found it compelling that I may not have read the denser passages as thoroughly as I might. He displays immense learning which is generally very accessible.

Shapiro seems to like dividing a book into four sections, his `1599' is divided into four parts - one for each season. Here the four-fold structure Shakespeare - Bacon - Oxford - Shakespeare has its drawbacks - it does not allow space for other candidates and Rutland and Derby should come between Bacon and Oxford. At the end he talks of Shakespeare as collaborator which raises the possibility that Shakespeare may have collaborated to some extent with one or more of the alternative candidates, something he doesn`t broach..

Shapiro is generally respectful to those who support other candidates: I thought he betrayed some impatience with present-day Oxfordians, though I for one can forgive him that. I thought the choice offered at the end between Shakespeare writing from personal experience and Shakespeare writing from imagination as opposed than personal experience is a false one - it does not need to be a question of either/or. Despite criticisms I give this five stars for the wealth of information and pertinent insights made so readily accessible.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2011 12:40 AM BST

Spectator in Hell: A British Soldier's Extraordinary Story of Imprisonment in Auschwitz
Spectator in Hell: A British Soldier's Extraordinary Story of Imprisonment in Auschwitz
by Colin Rushton
Edition: Paperback

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read with caution, 16 May 2011
I advise caution for anyone wishing to use this as a historical source. Rushton states p.115 (all my references are from the second edition) "The crematoria were busier than ever as the Christmas of 1944 approached and the stench of death was overpowering'. The following is from Nizkor, a site specifically set up to combat Holocaust denial "The dismantling of Kremas II and III began in early December of 1944. The Sonderkomando revolt in early October of 1944 detroyed Krema IV and the demolition of Krema IV's walls commenced in mid-October of 1944. The demolition (with dynamite) of Krema II and III took place on January 20, 1944 and Krema V, which was operational until the end, was demolished (with dynamite) on January 26, 1945 "

On p.119 He writes "Being some distance from the Jewish section, the British soldiers could only hear the small orchestra that would play as the victims filed into the gas chambers if the wind blew towards them". I think I may have heard full-size symphony orchestras faintly at a mile to a-mile-and-a-half with a favourable wind, but this is a small orchestra and the distance seems to be at least three miles.

On p.152 he states that Arthur Dodd "will forever be able to remember the most minute detail of what happened in Polish Silesia". I believe that Dodd was there and suffered terribly but for a variety of possible reasons the book is not wholly accurate. It's fine to treat it as an account of Dodd's psychological state, but as historical testimony it should be treated with caution.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2012 10:27 AM GMT

Auschwitz : The Nazis & The 'Final Solution'
Auschwitz : The Nazis & The 'Final Solution'
by Laurence Rees
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Raises many questions, 8 May 2011
This book gives a general introduction to the `western academic consensus' view of Auschwitz, although this is interrupted by lengthy testimonies from individuals. The author sets out his stall clearly: Auschwitz represents the greatest evil in human history. I incline towards the view that it is one evil amongst many, but I know where I stand with Rees.

Rees writes on p.374 of `those few who still seek to follow the Communist line and characterise all those who died there as victims of fascism'. To my knowledge this view remains normative in present day Russia, which might be expected a the official death toll of Soviet Citizens who died during the Great Patriotic War is 27,000,000, and that of Jews who died in the Holocaust 6,000,000.

I find that Rees through his own choice of words makes me sceptical towards some of his witnesses. He says on p.316 that `Else [Baker's] experience could scarcely have been dreamed up by a writer of fiction' and on p.322 that Alice Lok Cahana had a `monumentally unlikely piece of luck' in surviving after having been inside a gas chamber.

In some places the book seems quite unclear. I've always wondered why the Nazis built their biggest extermination facilities at Birkenau in full view of many of the barracks. I was even more mystified by what Rees wrote on pp.219-20 about this. I read this several times and got the impression that they conceived a morgue/crematorium then whilst on the drawing board modified the plans, so that it would be gas chambers/crematorium and then begun construction. I have since learnt from Jean-Claude Pressac that the change from morgue to gas chamber took place whilst they were some months into building a morgue/crematorium. This makes a good deal more sense and explains the prominent location of this facility. Also it makes little sense to modify plans before construction begins, it costs very little to draw up fresh plans. So I wonder if anyone made critical comments on the manuscript or were readers cowed into thinking that if they raised questions they would be suspected of Holocaust denial?

I also noted in the testimony of sonderkommandos Morris Venezia and Dario Gabbai, p.288 that Dario `stood on the stomach of a dead woman and gas came out through her mouth' and wondered whether he or other sonderkommandos who survived suffered from effects of exposure to the gas in later life. I also did not find any explanation of why sonderkommandos survived, when the SS would have intended to kill any witnesses to exterminations. These too are fairly simple questions which might have been raised.

I trust this will not be thought disrespectful to those who died at the hands of the Nazis - I think that the greatest respect we can show them is to be as accurate as possible in constructing our histories, and to do this we should not be afraid to ask questions of anyone's account. Fortunately I write in a country where I don't have to fear prosecution for asking such questions!


I found my question about crematorium size more fully answered in Auschwitz, 1270 to the Present which strikes me as a far better book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2013 1:21 AM BST

The Password Is Courage
The Password Is Courage
by John Castle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Rollicking Good Read, but..., 3 April 2011
This is one of the most entertaining books I've read in years, the `Cockney Comedian' Charles Coward should be ranked alongside Sir John Falstaff.

The book does have Rudolf Hoess, the former Auschwitz commandant alive and living on a government pension in 1954 when he was hanged in 1948. It mentions as possibilities that 5 to 7 million people killed in Auschwitz alone and that victims were turned into soap.

Coward tells a wonderful story of escapes and sabotage, including how he directed a working party to misdirect wagon loads of goods all over the Reich and occupied territories. He purchases corpses for cigarettes and by substitution enables four hundred Jews to escape the gas chambers. He smuggles weapons and explosives into the IG Farben work to enable condemned men to blow up crematoria at Birkenau and slow down exterminations. He smuggles himself into Auschwitz for a night, describes it as like Dante's inferno to his mate Tich who then comforts him with some `good hot char' and `meat roll and spuds`. He ends gives evidence at a trial which opens the way for 20,000 former slave labourers to claim compensation. The last bit about the trial is verified.

It's stuffed with wonderful humorous dialogue `There's a Jerry tank belting away like stinko'. If there was a category between non-fiction and fiction I'd give it five stars, but every serious historians takes this with a very big pinch of salt.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2011 11:04 AM BST

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