the lazy sunbathers

Nick Kollerstrom used to teach maths at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, in the London area. He also wrote a book about teaching maths — through the study of crop circles. According to the review

The author, quite deliberately, does not discuss any of the possibilities as to how crop circles appear, leaving the reader to further investigate if they so choose. It certainly offers a lovely way to teach mathematics in addition to promoting students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and a must for any school library.

More importantly, though, Kollerstrom isn’t just a former waldorf teacher with a fascination for crop circles. He’s an anthroposophist and some of his work is presented here on the website of the science section of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain. He also holds some pretty peculiar — not to say abominable — views on Nazi Germany. When his viewpoints came to the knowledge of the University College London, they terminated his position as an honorary research fellow. Kollerstrom isn’t by far the only anthroposophist who happens to be a holocaust denier; there are several others, eg, Gennadi Bondarew, Bernhard Schaub, Willy Lochmann, Robert Mason, Jos Verhulst and Tom Last. As for Kollerstrom, after he was dismissed from the UCL, Nick Cohen penned an article about his case in The Guardian:

Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom is convinced that academics have punished him for a ‘thought crime’. The distinguished astronomer exercised his right as an intellectual in a free society to speak his mind. His university responded by stripping him of his research fellowship and declared that it wishes to have ‘absolutely no association’ with him.

Cohen offers a neat summary of Kollerstrom’s beliefs:

Once he was away from his scientific studies, Kollerstrom embraced them all. ‘Let us hope the schoolchildren visitors are properly taught about the elegant swimming pool at Auschwitz, built by the inmates, who would sunbathe there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons while watching the water polo matches,’ he said of the Nazi genocide. ‘Let’s hope they are shown postcards written from Auschwitz, where the postman would collect the mail twice weekly.’

Denying the crimes of the clerical fascists of today comes easily to a man who can deny the crimes of the secular fascists of the 1940s. Kollerstrom has opined at length on how the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon and the 7/7 London bombings were not the work of the actual bombers, but of Western security forces acting on the orders of – you’ll never guess – their ‘Zionist masters’.

[…] although he perpetuates Nazi doctrine, Kollerstrom presents himself as a man of the left rather than the far right. He says that he is not a member of a neo-Nazi organisation, but an active supporter of the Green party, Respect and CND. Given the political gyrations of our times, he may well be telling the truth.

This post summarizes Kollerstrom’s views from a number of discussions concerning holocaust denial, conspiracies, et cetera. A post at the Liberal Conspiracy blog adds to the picture of Kollerstrom, who even makes an appearance in the comment thread. Unity writes:

Ordinarily I might just write Kollerstrom off as just another run of the mill conspiraloon and move on, were it not for the fact that he holds down a ‘day job’ as a research fellow at University College London and actively trades on his academic credentials when writing articles for CODOH’s ‘New Revisionist Voices‘ website, where he has, to date, published three articles; Britain – Pioneer of City Bombing, School Trips to Auschwitz and The Auschwitz ‘Gas Chamber’ Illusion. CODOH, which styles itself as the ‘Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust’ – ‘open debate’ meaning open revisionism – also promotes the ‘work’ of the discredited revisionist ‘historian’, David Irving, and Ernst Zundel, both of whom Kollerstrom cites in his own articles.

Kollerstrom’s main line of academic work appears to be the history of astronomy, albeit that he has a notable sideline in publishing articles on astrology and crop circles, and an interest in pseudoscience is not at all an uncommon feature amongst ardent conspiracy theorists.

Unity also provides a fuller quote than Nick Cohen, including a discussion of Kollerstrom’s sources. Kollerstrom professed these hopes, apparently:

Let us hope the schoolchildren visitors are properly taught about the elegant swimming-pool at Auschwitz, built by the inmates, who would sunbathe there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons while watching the water-polo matches; and shown the paintings from its art class, which still exist; and told about the camp library which had some forty-five thousand volumes for inmates to choose from, plus a range of periodicals; and the six camp orchestras at Auschwitz/Birkenau, its the theatrical performances, including a children’s opera, the weekly camp cinema, and even the special brothel established there. Let’s hope they are shown postcards written from Auschwitz, some of which still exist, where the postman would collect the mail twice-weekly.

Kollerstrom’s reply to Unity’s post doesn’t actually get us anywhere meaningful; he seems to be labouring under some serious misconceptions, I’d say. (For example, the mass gassings, as far as I’m aware, didn’t take place in Auschwitz but in death camps which were pulled down before Germany lost the war [ie, the main camp of Auschwitz — I believe there was an extermination camp nearby, a facitlity which is sometimes referred to as Auschwitz — correct me if I’m wrong, please]. In another comment, he writes that gas was used for delousing the concentration camps: ‘The Zyklon-B worked very well in the Nazi gas chambers of WW2, for delousing mattresses etc, but no human being was put into these.’ But again, in the extermination camps, there was no need for mattresses. People were taken there solely to be killed, basically upon arrival. But about this, Kollerstrom says nothing. He just voices his ‘doubts’, seemingly the guy who only has a few ‘questions’… who doesn’t ‘buy’ the official story. And so forth. That’s perhaps the usual routine; I have little experience with these folks and more of the Kollerstrom variety doesn’t seem tempting.)

Kollerstrom also takes an interest in recent events — or more precisely, conspiracies regarding terrorist attacks of recent years. One of his more odious acts is described in newspaper London Evening Standard:

He has admitted he phoned the father of one victim to tell him how he believed the man’s daughter’s body had been planted at the site of the Tavistock Square bus bombing. The victim’s family has described the phone call and subsequent claims posted on a website as “very upsetting”.

The London bombings, believes Kollerstrom, were carried out by

the four bombers who […] were “innocent patsies”, set up by a combination of the British, US and Israeli secret services.

The last article by Kollerstrom published by an anthroposophic organisation is from the year 2008, according to UK Anthroposophy. It would be interesting to know more about his present status in anthroposophic circles. What are other anthroposophists thinking? Are they rejecting his views in silence? Do they believe that since this has nothing to do with anthroposophy — at least not on the surface — there’s no need to openly refute or reject Kollerstrom’s lunacy? Peter Staudenmaier writes:

Bondarew is scarcely alone. Further anthroposophist holocaust deniers include Bernhard Schaub, Nick Kollerstrom, Willy Lochmann, Robert Mason, and Jos Verhulst. A number of other anthroposophists, such as Michael Howell, Stephen Hale, and Carol Canning, have also publicly expressed excuses for holocaust denial similar to Last’s, and promote a variety of antisemitic conspiracy theories in anthroposophist terms. It is still relatively rare to find anthroposophists explicitly confronting and rejecting such views from their fellow anthroposophists.

In another post, he notes that

[Holocaust denial] is a genuine problem for anthroposophy, and one that isn’t really being addressed by the rest of the anthroposophist movement, by those anthroposophists who don’t deny the holocaust — Frank Smith, for example, takes the ‘ignore it and it will go away’ stance. In an important sense, it is a particularly disturbing instance of the broader anthroposophist predilection for conspiracy theories, combined with longstanding anthroposophist beliefs about Jews and Jewishness.

57 thoughts on “the lazy sunbathers

  1. It’s hardly surprising anthroposophists prefer to ignore their holocaust deniers, it must be painful to admit anthroposophy itself might be fertile ground for these ideas.

    I revisited this UK Anthroposophy post: http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/plymouth-university-axes-steiner-ba/#comments
    because Mike Collins has today written an excellent rebuttal to a statement by someone who says they are a student on the UK University of Plymouth Steiner teacher training course (BA) a course which will close after the present intake. Mike writes comment no. 15.

    On reflection, the exchange about Nick Kollerstrom which precedes this comment couldn’t be ignored, thanks to zooey we have a chance to revisit the articles & posts written about him a couple of years ago.

  2. Indeed, it was the tip about that thread which led me onto this. Kollerstrom’s ideas were worth ‘collecting’, because there’s so little information connecting the dots. This isn’t really about connecting the dots either, but perhaps provide a starting point — and even though other anthroposophists can’t be held responsible, in any way, for Kollerstrom’s views, I think it is worth asking the questions. Like, what do they think about it? To make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed. Some anthroposophists really do take these things seriously — but too many don’t.

    Of course, Kollerstrom is an anomaly, even as far as anthroposophy is concerned. I’m sure many anthroposophists, not wanting to be associated with this wackiness, would say he isn’t really an anthroposophist — not a true anthroposophist. Because they’re nice and humanitarian and so forth. To me, though, it was interesting to see how deep his anthroposophist ties really went. The science section and alchemy stuff. Is works on astrology and farming, planting according to the moon. Him being a waldorf teacher.

    What I didn’t understand was which subject he got his PhD in. Clearly, he must have worked as a teacher after getting the PhD earlier in life, because as late as in 2006 he worked at Kings Langley school. When Nick Cohen wrote he was a ‘distinguished astronomer’, some people protested, saying he’s not an astronomer, but got his degree in history (science history). I know I said, on Twitter, that it’s lucky he taught maths and not history (at Kings Langely). I do wonder about his academic degree though. Given that he’s written about astrology, a PhD in astronomy seems pretty weird, but a history degree seems quite strange too… Perhaps the PhD in crackpottery.

  3. “Given that he’s written about astrology, a PhD in astronomy seems pretty weird”

    Why would that be “pretty weird”? It’s quite common.

    I read a book by David Irving, btw. It was a biography about Joseph Goebbels. I must admit it was surprisingly balanced and well researched. Not the Irving I’ve read about at all.

    As for the evil question: is “six million” to be taken literally?

    Pappan (part jew, ok)

  4. Given the nature of his astrological work (as far as I can tell, only looking at the books and descriptions of them online), it would be surprising, yes. I could certainly understand an astronomer finding astrology interesting… as a curiousity.

    To be taken literally? As opposed to… metaphorically?

  5. Pappan – Christopher Hitchens, who has been criticized for his defense of Irving’s right to free speech, writes candidly about his association with him here: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/may/20/books/bk-144 and gives credit to aspects of Irving’s scholarship, including his biography of Joseph Goebbels. Hitchens is also scrupulous in mentioning Irving’s fascist sympathies, as well as Irving’s desire to cause trouble, frequently for himself.

    But Irving isn’t an anthroposophist and we have to wait for Christopher Hitchens to notice this fringe esoteric group. Kollerstrom is an anthroposophist, unless the Science group of the Anthroposophical Society let in any old crop circler. The worrying thing is that anthroposophical interpretations are often metaphorical, as zooey hints and that anthroposophical conclusions are often unhelpful, to put it politely, when we’re faced with real humans and real tragedies.

  6. I wholeheartedly support Irving’s right to free speech too (as well as Kollerstrom’s and everybody else’s). To me, that’s not even the question. (Irving, on the other hand, has tried to suppress others’ rights to express their views — through use of UK libel laws…)

    I agree with Jonathan Turley’s post yesterday, re bishop Williamson; he wrote

    ‘Despite our personal revulsion with such accounts, it is important for civil libertarians to stand with free speech. This trial should not be over the historical fact but free speech. Williamson has a right to speak his mind as to his view of history while the rest of us have a right to denounce those views.’

    http://jonathanturley.org/2010/04/16/germany-prosecutes-bishop-for-questioning-the-holocaust/

    The Anthro Society may let in any old crop circler, of course, but this Kollerstrom was also published by them and on the website. His interests in astrology and planting seems to coincide with anthroposophy too, but I’m not aware to which degree.

  7. I agree too, indeed it’s Christopher Hitchen’s question – who exactly would you trust to decide what you’re allowed to read or hear? that convinced me.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6379618149058958603#

    I’m adding his speech here because it’s so entertaining and worth hearing whatever one’s opinion of Hitchens – and mine is high, no surprise.

    This does not mean that institutions should never be able to distance themselves from the views of staff which they cannot support, as University College London did by dispensing of Kollerstrom’s services as an honorary researcher. There is silence from anthroposophical circles, meanwhile.

  8. Thank you, that’s a brilliant speech. And important to remember is that fundamental right of free expression of opinions is a right of the individual citizen against the state and its powers — not a right that can be demanded by an individual from private websites, employers, and so forth. (Kollerstrom was ‘only’ a honorary research fellow — which means, I suppose, he wasn’t even employed by the uni. That they can choose to distance themselves from him, isn’t weird at all. And it doesn’t restrict his right to speak his mind, of course.)

  9. Boy that was one hell of a poignant speech!
    As fas at that SSPX-guy Williamson I did see that interview on Youtube and as far as I can recall he expresses rather clearly that HE BELIEVES this and that and that HE PERSONALLY DOUBTS this and that, about the so called Holocaust. The man is simply stating his beliefs! And in response to a direct question at that. He’s not denying anything at all! If for no other reasons than that, he has my sympathies. Then again, I can ask myself what business a devoted and public man of God has in even involving himself in historical debates outside of his field. But that is another story.

    The Goebbels book is the only thing I’ve read by Irving, btw. But good it was.

    Pappan

  10. I believe I saw the Williamson interview on TV, but I can’t say I remember much of it, other than the fact that he seemed rather… ignorant. Whether he was ‘denying’ anything or not. What I mean by that is that he clearly isn’t a historian. The only thing separating him from other wackier conspiracy theorists is that he’s an important priest and more well-mannered and eloquent than the average loon or, for that matter, the average guy on the street. But I’d say his opinions on the holocaust are about as valuable as his opinions on cardiac surgery or maritime law; i e, he’s an amateur and it’s no surprise may be wrong or mistaken.

    It’s my firm belief that the law isn’t intended to stop mistaken people from saying dumb things, because when it’s applied like that, it makes the law itself look dumb and… not worthy of resepct, in some sense. And an unwanted side-effects is making martyrs and heroes of people who very rarely deserve to be martyrs and heroes.

    Even if he had been explicitly denying things… wouldn’t make adifference. He may very well be a moron, but sending a famous moron to court for being basically a moron, will make him a moronic martyr. And it won’t make people think the ‘right’ thoughts or hold the ‘right’ beliefs.

    But really, it’s wrong from the start. I refuse to believe there are many, if any, such opinions which — in themselves, apart from any acts — are so dangerous it won’t suffice to counter them with arguments (or with silence) but which necessitate taking the legal route. It seems like what ought to be society’s last resort has become its primary one or at least one favoured over other more reasonable options.

  11. And what’s wrong with revisions anyway? We all know the winner writes the history his way, and will do anything he can get away with to have the loser look evil and himself look good. It’s always been that way and always will, it’s human nature. And since that is something we can be rather sure of, we can also be rather sure every war needs to be historically revised after the first generation has passed on. Facts need to be checked. Assumptions questioned. This is standard procedure in ANY historical conflict — except WWII. Isn’t that odd? I mean, if you question ANYTHING about the badness of the losers or the goodness of the winners, you’re a “Revisionist”, and that is a code word for Hitler Hugger, Nazi, Jew Hater etc etc — how long will people buy this?

    The “six million” thing: From what I understand, this figure (of killed jews) was based on the assumption that four million jews were killed in Auschwitz — a figure that was later officially corrected to something like ONE million, and not even that is for certain. That actually splits the six million mantra in half! Not that three million deaths is to be taken lightly, even in a war — but compare that to the +25 million that Stalin had killed, or the +50 million that Mao had killed, and that in times of peace.

    I can think of ONE serious reason not to question the six million mantra, and that is the security of the state of Israel. There are close to six million jews living there right now and they are surrounded by people who would love to see them evaporate into thin air or worse.

    my five cents

    Pappan

  12. I’m not going to discuss numbers. I’m just going to add that Kollerstrom’s comments about ‘the elegant swimming pool at Auschwitz, built by the inmates, who would sunbathe there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons while watching the water polo matches,’ exceed any ‘revisionism’ and are grotesque.

  13. TM: “I’m not going to discuss numbers.”

    No, God forbid. That would, technically, make you a Revisionist, wouldn’t it!

    Pappan

  14. No, it only demonstrates I lack the historical knowledge to bandy the extent of genocide in the comments after an internet post.

  15. I’ll be back later, but just want to say I’m with Thetis here — it’s not a question of whether it was 6 million or 3 million or whatever and the horror of it isn’t relative to the number of people murdered by other dictators. (Clearly Stalin was a monster. But does that change anything about the nastiness of the 3d reich?)

    Auschwitz wasn’t an extermination camp. Lots of people who died in Auschwitz weren’t actually killed, in a strict sense of the word, meaning murdered; they died from the horrible living conditions (which probably didn’t allow for sunbathing by the pool…). Lots of people died, though, and indirectly, yes, they were killed. Also, quite a number of people were murdered there too, but it wasn’t built for murdering people. In the extermination camps in Poland, people were killed. Murdered. That was the point, and the difference between a concentration camp and an extermination camp. Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, though. I’m not sure.

  16. It’s not a matter of horrible or unhorrible, it is a matter of honesty or dishonesty. I actually have personal relatives who died in Auschwitz — that, however, does not make me less inclined to clean up inevidable post war lies and exaggerations, on the contrary. So what you can side with or not is truth. For appreciating Christopher Hitchen’s speech, you folks are surprisinly unwilling to revise. Re-vision means, literally, to take a second look at something. Lies, coverups and denials ALWAYS cost more than they taste. Why is that so hard to grock??

    Can anyone give me a definition of “hypocrite”?

  17. Pappan: Are you going to tell us what you think of Kollerstom’s extreme form of ‘holocaust revision’?

  18. I lack the historical knowledge to bandy the extent of Mr Kollerstrom’s historical accuracy in the comments after an internet post. Not much, however, would surprise me regarding WWII anymore. With all respect to everyone who still need the officially sanctioned Hollywood version to cling to. Which would include the state of Israel.

    Now, again, as English is not my native tounge and my knowledge thereof is far from perfect, can someone please help me with the proper definition of the term HYPOCRITE?

  19. So what you’re saying, Pappan, is that it’s a matter of opinion whether there were ‘elegant swimming pool at Auschwitz, built by the inmates, who would sunbathe there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons while watching the water polo matches,’?

  20. No. To put it brief: What I’m saying is that I have not yet studied and estimated this text: http://web.archive.org/web/20070624001635/http://codoh.com/newrevoices/nrillusion.html — which apparently is the core of this conversation. …. hmm… have you?

    You, Thetis “I’m-Not-Going-To-Discuss-Numbers” Mercurio, who graced me with the gift of Christopher Hitchen — will you not also grace me with the proper definition of the term HYPOCRITE?

    As my guru said: Truth hurts — but just for a second.

  21. Do you need to study it? How long will it take you?

    Do you want me to acknowledge Kollerstrom’s work? To say he has a right to say this? He undoubtedly has that right.

  22. But maybe you need to revise Hitchin’s speech first. He is not merely stating the right of people to express unconveniant perspectives, he is stating the right for them to be LISTENED TO.

    So, have you?

    Pappan

    Oh btw, by which standard do you label me “Pappan, an Anthroposophist”??

  23. What I think, dear TM, is that truth is serious. And that ANY figures and claims, by ANY winners, directly anfter ANY war, necessarily need to be revised a generation later. This has not happend in one particualr and huge case, the WWII. That’s what I think.

    But then again, you’re talking to someone who isn’t even sure about the proper definition of a word as simple as “hypocrite”.

    In the honor of Hitchin,
    Pappan

  24. Or if you really can’t define “hypocrite” for me, at least define “holocaust” as YOU use the term!

    earnestly and on your case,
    Pappan

  25. Hi Pappan!

    Many thanks for writing in to Michael Eggert’s German Egoisten blog about Judith von Halle. It’s great to hear from someone who has actually attended one of her lectures.

    Anyway, for this thread, the only link with JvH is that she is actually Jewish herself. Such a fact was quite a case of “cognitive dissonance” for me because I was raised strict and devout Irish Roman Catholic in New York City, attending Catholic schools from First grade through high school. So I had developed the belief that only Catholics could get the Stigmata!

    Anyway, that’s off-topic for here but on topic at Egoisten
    http://www.egoisten.de/

    To jump into this Holocaust discussion, a little over a month ago, I attended the Los Angeles movie premiere of a documentary film called “American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein.”
    The movie website is here: http://www.americanradicalthefilm.com/
    Norman’s webpage is here: http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/
    What’s even better is that Norman himself was at the premiere, so it was great to see a documentary which ends in 2008 have its star drop off the screen and then stand there live to answer audience questions when the lights came up.

    I love Norman because he is able to play not one, but two Holocaust cards, and they are both aces. His father is a survivor of Auschwitz and his mother a survivor of Majdanek camp, also in Poland. Before that, in 1942, both of them were confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. Yet Norman is seen as a “self-hating Jew” and traitor Jew to the Zionist cause because he considers the Gaza action to be a massacre and Norman has charged that the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians, exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Holocaust — including both his parents. And indeed he has actually been banned from visiting Israel for ten years

    Norman’s most famous or infamous book came out ten years ago, entitle “The Holocaust Industry,” and it is a searing indictment of all those Israelis and other Jews who have shamelessly exploited the Holocaust for their own ends, largely financial and political.
    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/category/the-holocaust-industry/
    (He includes Elie Wiesel as an exploiter!)

    Norman is a refreshing and important piece to this insoluble puzzle. It is clear that Holocaust Deniers do not arise in a vacuum. Like Newton’s 3rd law of Action-Reaction, the Deniers are reacting to the other extreme which is Holocaust-Exploitation, so whenever I see a Denier, then I start looking for an Exploiter somewhere else.

    Anyway, I’m glad this discussion is going on as it is very important. At the movie premiere, Norman noted that in the last 2 years especially, since the genocidal-type attacks on Gaza, that public opinion is really shifting against the racist Zionist extremes of Israel. In the movie audience, the crowd was very friendly and receptive and I would estimate it was 30% Muslim and 60% Jewish (We Anthroposophical-Atheist-Catholics were a distinct minority. 8-)

  26. Well, I wouldn’t actually say that everybody has the right to be listened to, because this would mean everybody has the right to demand that others listen. That’s ridiculous. If there’s merit to the claims, well, then yes — other people ought to listen. If there’s argumentation and reasoning. But what to do about all those conspiracy theorists — like Kollerstrom — who produces inordinate amounts of texts (often hysterically detailed and of dubitable relevance)? If all of us actually listen to all the stuff these people had to say, we’d have time for nothing else. We wouldn’t have time to read what actual historians of the 3d reich and the 2nd world war say. It’s an impossible task to commit ourselves to this degree to the babble of people like Kollerstrom. Thus, when he states that there were nice afternoon by the swimming pool in Auschwitz… would it be wise to consider his claims about German camps as reasonable and well-founded? I’d say no. Whatever one thinks re the number of people dead in Auschwitz and the causes of their deaths — his ‘argument’ is ridiculous and beyond credibility. It doesn’t correspond to anything renowned historians have written about Auschwitz as a labour camp, a concentration camp.

    Anyway, I don’t think this is about history and historical truth. I don’t think it’s about ‘exploiters’ either (clearly, every event — historical or current — is always used by someone to further some end — sometimes legitimately, sometimes not… I don’t see the particular relevance here, though). I think it has more to do with people with a tendency to see conspiracies in almost everything. And anthroposophists seem quite prone to do this… (Just look at our example, Kollerstrom. He doesn’t restrict himself to ‘historical research’ — or, in another word, and in his case, crackpottery — in one area. First crop circles, then holocaust, then terrorist attacks and the bus bombings… When he tires of this, he’ll move on to some other phenomenon or event and create a conspiracy theory or join an existing one.

    [edit: corrected sentence]

  27. Imker, thanks for your interesting and nice mail!

    Zooey, personally I believe the idea of free floating “human rights” is a problem. It has no base. It is neither based on divine revelation (such as the Decalogue) nor on natural law. It’s made up. Out of what? To me it is simply a cover up for the fact that int is NOT the Have-not’s that has rights. It is the Haves that has obligations. But that one is hard to sell, so we speak of human rights as of something god-given.

    Conspirationism and paranoia is a major disease. That, however, does not mean there is or never has been any conspiracies, political lies or cover ups. There has been plenty of them. Need I say more? World politics is a huge game of chess.

  28. Re the last paragraph: that is indeed part of the problem, and a reason for society to strive towards openness and why there’s a need for researchers who do a good job and whose conclusions are up for renewed scrutiny by yet other researchers.

    I agree with you, I think, about what you write; there certainly are no rules emanating from either divine revelation or natural law. Still, all societies have rules and all societies enforce their rules. It’s possible to be a legal positivist and believe international rules (which are then enforced on an international level) regulating basic human rights. Humans define these rules, and they also enforce them. In principle, it isn’t that much different from ordinary laws and regulations (often of relatively minor offences at that). It’s no more god-given. It’s on an other scale, no doubt, and meets with other kinds of difficulties.

  29. I don’t think we materialists currently here believe rights are god-given, especially if by ‘we’ we could include Christopher Hitchens. We make the assumption that ‘made up’ by man is the reality.

    If by rights we include the right to express views like Kollerstrom’s: in many countries he would face legal sanctions for doing so. I personally agree with zooey that it’s better to ‘counter them with arguments (or with silence)’ than to prosecute but as has been said several times in these comments, it’s the reaction of the associates of such people that’s so telling. If there’s very little point taking on Kollerstrom in debate, so absurd are his ideas, there’s certainly a case for rejecting his presence as a researcher or teacher; so it would be interesting to hear if Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley feel the same way as UCL.

    Conspiracy theories fall down because people can’t stop themselves talking to others. ‘Three can keep a secret if two are dead’ etc. There are of course a great many lies and attempts to cover up in politics, business and elsewhere, zooey’s blog discusses Waldorf education after all.

  30. The fact that I don’t know of any political secrets proves there can’t be any.

    The fact that I don’t know of any cosmic gods proves there can’t be any.

    The fact that I don’t know of any (whatever) proves there can’t be any.

    Just as erroneous as

    The fact that I don’t know of any political secrets proves they exist.

    etc

    See the flaw?

  31. Pappan – it’s clear we have different idea of decency, if nothing else.

    I can’t prove there are no gods, no one can. I assume there are none. To this I add the assumption that imaginary gods can’t make laws or otherwise meddle in human affairs.

    I don’t know a lot of things, it’s quite true. But I do put a great deal more down to incompetence than design than I did before I had reason to get closer to politicians. There’s a difference between a conspiracy (people do conspire) and a conspiracy theory .. here’s Greta Christina, she’s thought about this: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2009/01/conspiracies.html

  32. We do. To me, the ultimate indecency is to criminalize even the expressed desire to revise a war that caused so much harm, hatred and confusion as did the WWII. It is not right to ANYONE to freeze the investigations into What Really Happend and Why, at the initial stage. Loads have been written about Germany’s 12 years of National Socialism and the 6 years of war that ended the project. You still see it in every other issue of glossy tabloid historical review magazines. But as for serious revision — nothing. And that way beyond the point of absurdity, as is shown by the example of the Six Million Mantra and your typical “I’m not going to discuss numbers”-response when presented with the problem.

    Q: Did x kill one or two people? A: “I’m not going to discuss numbers.”
    Q: Was it self defence or cold blooded murder? A: “I could sue you for that!”

    My take on indecensy. And I lost relatives in Auschwitz.

    Pappan

  33. I would like to clarify that Nick Kollerstrom was at the Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley for less than one term. I am reliably informed that he took two main lesson blocks. As far as I can tell no-one at that time was aware of his potentially anti-semitic views. This was before the London bombings.

  34. @ falk: that’s nice. But were people also unaware of his other wacky ideas?

    @ pappan: well, it isn’t possible to revise the war — perhaps it is possbile to revise knowledge about the war. In any case, discussing numbers is absurd — neither Thetis nor I am historians. There are shelves after shelves of books about the 2nd ww. Lots of reputable historians have dealt with the topic, researched sources, put forth arguments that are well-founded in facts. It would be nuts to say ‘well, kollerstrom also has an opinion and we must take it just as seriously as we do the views of these historians!’ It isn’t even about numbers — whether more people died or less people died doesn’t change anything. I don’t think the interested amateur reader can judge these details independently anyway — we have to place our faith in reliable sources, in the scholarship of people who have a good reputation among other historians, for example.

    As for what Thetis wrote, she certainly did not say that people should be sued. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think that either. This doesn’t mean I believe people have a duty to listen to every crackpot theory.

  35. What if the commonly held assumption that Germany’s aggression towards its jews was unprovoked and intentionally killed six million jews turns out to be not only THE crackpot theory, but a deliberate lie to justify the existence of the state of Israel? Would we then reevaluate our view on WWII?

    Most people I know would not. It is way too inconvenient. There is way too much investment in the Six Million Mantra.

    We — the Western World, Gemany included — may just need Israel to be where it is, for military strategic reasons. If Israel’s legacy as a six million jewish citizen state hinges upon the six million jewish nazi victim thesis, would we then not uphold that thesis even if evidence turned up against it? Most of us would. And who am I to blam them. I have nothing against the state of Israel per se and I definitely see a stategic point in its existence from a European perspective.

    There is enough evidence in here: http://web.archive.org/web/20070624001635/http://codoh.com/newrevoices/nrillusion.html so incite an intellectually honest and historically conscientious person to at least suspend judgement in this question. Thank you for sharing it, I did not know about these things before.

    Pappan

  36. First – it’s useful to have another source confirming that Nick Kollerstrom taught at a UK Steiner school although we don’t know by reading this comment thread the nature of that source. The point here is that he is or was a Steiner teacher. It wouldn’t be surprising if other staff didn’t know his views on the holocaust, though I’d be very surprised if he adopted these views after his tenure at Kings Langley. In fact the nature of the small anthroposophical community would predispose me to think whoever made the decision to employ him may well have known his reputation for advocating conspiracy theories or unusual historical prospectives.

    It would be interesting to know if Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley have an opinion on Kollerstrom’s views now that these are common knowledge.

    Secondly – as zooey says, it would be absurd for us to discuss numbers as above, thus we don’t. There is historical revision and there is nonsense, a difference between criminalizing a person and reacting to their ideas with scorn or distaste. It is in poor taste to cite self-defense in the context of genocide, especially this genocide.

    The point of this for you though Pappan is quite different to the subject of this thread. It’s a chance for you to air a particularly repellent conspiracy theory.

  37. As for Kollerstrom — apparently the Kings Langley website or other documents used to list him as a teacher. At least, people claim this (I haven’t seen it myself — am not very interested in Kings Langely and until recently did know very little about Kollerstrom). Kollerstrom isn’t alone — German waldorf teacher and national party activist Andreas Molau taught for years in a waldorf school and his political activities weren’t unknown to school management. Finally, when it turned to embarrassment, they got rid of him.

    It is in poor taste to cite self-defense in the context of genocide — well, yes, that’s an understatement…

  38. So “poor taste” is now the argument for not taking a second look at what really happend in WWII?? Jeezes, I’m WAY too jewish to buy that one! Sober up, willya. It’s about the legacy of Israel TODAY, no more no less. For what do you think would happen in the Middle East if the Six Million thing turned out to be a, well, a crackpot theory or rather a strategic lie? Nothing??

    Pappan

  39. TM: “The point of this for you though Pappan is quite different to the subject of this thread. It’s a chance for you to air a particularly repellent conspiracy theory.”

    You have proven your ability to display bad manners.
    But can you meet the arguments presented to you?

    Kollerstrom does not interest me. Never heard of him before. But his paper on WWII was … thought provoking.

    Your insinuations against the Waldorf Community, however, are thoroughly tasteless. Perhaps you have a personal need to provoke. That can be understandable (like a syndrome of some kind). But as an actual notion (the notion that the W community are some kind of closet anti semites) is downright silly. Kollerstrom’s perspective on WWII, on the other side, can not as easily be dismissed as tasteless, it must be refuted point by point or it must cause a major reevaluation of the events of the WWII.

  40. No, I’ve never said any of you are anti-semites. I’ve suggested (or rather reiterated, since I’m not the first to suggest it) that the Waldorf community – or anthroposophists (though some teachers undoubtedly are not or would not call themselves anthroposophists) are unusually interested in crackpot and often offensive conspiracy theories. Kollerstrom’s other theories about say, the 7/7 bombings, don’t indicate anti-Jewish feeling.

    I don’t want Steiner Waldorf education to get any more public money in the UK, that’s my aim. The more I read the thoughts of anthroposophists, the more evidence I have to show those policymakers, University Vice Chancellors, parents and local authorities that to be associated with Steiner schools or anthroposophical initiatives in any way would be a very bad idea. I can’t act as a historian though others who can will hardly take you or Kollerstrom seriously, not because they’re afraid, or cling to a received opinion but because your notions are simply ridiculous.

  41. I have no particular opinion on your anti-Waldorf mission. Anti-people are in a sense like maggots. They eat away at the dead meat, which either kills or cures a wounded patient. They are used for cleaning old wounds in complicated surgery.

    I was in the W-community for a decade (1990s), I found good things and bad things. But no revisionism or nazi sympathies. Commonly, they don’t even like Wagner as far as I can tell. Conspiracy theorists seem to be as common or uncommon there as anyplace else, as far as I can tell. Mostly, if at all, they seem conspirational about freemasons or the New Age movement.

    I’m not sure this information is useful to you but this is my five cents. Have a good hunt!

  42. ‘So “poor taste” is now the argument for not taking a second look at what really happend in WWII??’

    Nope, that wasn’t the argument.

    Besides, Thetis isn’t primarily ‘anti-waldorf’, she’s pro reason and pro good education for children. I would guess she’s in favour of good historical scholarship and negatively disposed towards bad scholarship. Of course, these are just my guesses.

    We know the waldorf community isn’t closet anti-semite. I certainly never claimed it is. Sometimes, though, I have noted that waldorf people and anthroposophists don’t recognize racism (or anti-semitism) even if it bites them in their asses. That people like Kollerstrom (and Molau) would fit in, at least for a while, doesn’t come as a surprise.

    I agree with Thetis:

    ‘I can’t act as a historian though others who can will hardly take you or Kollerstrom seriously, not because they’re afraid, or cling to a received opinion but because your notions are simply ridiculous.’

    Also, I’m not so certain Thetis is the ill-mannered one… (That said, this isn’t a club for the well-mannered. We put our feet on the sofas to be comfy while sipping champagne in the ethereal lounge. With our shoes on. Sometimes we spill. Thank dog there’s nobody there to decree we’re breaking any rules of conduct and send us to the guilloutine or the nearest church for repentence!)

  43. Yes, you guess well (though there has been a great deal of evidence for same)

    I’m pro education, Pappan, as are all skeptics of Steiner Waldorf ed. Public money is scarce. Waldorf education isn’t very good. There are better ideas to chose from. And hunting anthroposophists is shooting quacks in a barrel, frankly.

    You’re not interested in Kollerstrom, or me. It bores you. Here’s the door of the ethereal kiosk: painted magenta red. Go before anything sharper bites your heels.

  44. ‘I can’t act as a historian though others who can will hardly take you or Kollerstrom seriously, not because they’re afraid, or cling to a received opinion but because your notions are simply ridiculous.’

    Also, I’m not so certain Thetis is the ill-mannered one…

    Wait a minute… If the above is NOT ill-mannered, then what is?
    Asking for solid arguments instead of petty obnoxia?

    Whatever. If that is the way you ladies want it, fine. Enjoy each other’s company!

    Pappan

  45. I really and truly don’t have any interest in policing people’s manners and no intent to do so (it goes for both of you, I don’t actually think there is any issue of bad manners here at all… but I’m no expert in etiquette…)

  46. I recieved via email a comment to Pappan’s claims. It is from Peter Staudenmaier. I have copied Peter’s reply below.
    ____________

    I took a quick look at the thread about the holocaust, and much of what Pappan says simply recycles standard holocaust denial claims: that the total figure of six million Jewish dead is sacrosanct for historians of the holocaust, that this figure was based on an initial estimate of four million dead at Auschwitz, that it is an inflated figure invented either by Jews themselves or by the Allies in the direct aftermath of WWII, that historians revising historical claims about WWII or the holocaust get charged with holocaust denial, and so forth.

    All of those claims are mistaken. Historians of the holocaust put the range of total Jewish victims between 5 million and 6 million; the more detailed estimates are generally over five and a half million, with 5.8 million often seen as the best consensus figure. But it is difficult to get a more precise total figure based on the available evidence. There is nothing sacrosanct about such totals, and historians disagree about them and argue about them all the time. (For a one-volume examination of this very question, I recommend Wolfgang Benz, Dimension des Völkermords: Die Zahl der jüdischen Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, 1996.) These numbers were established by historians and in some cases demographers as evidence gradually became available after 1945, though there were also estimates offered even before the war ended. This is how historians always work, regardless of the topic, revising previous claims on the basis of new evidence.

    The notion that the Allies or the Israeli leadership tried to inflate the significance of the holocaust in the aftermath of WWII is quite wrong, indeed it more or less reverses the reality. From the United States to France to the Soviet Union to Israel to Germany itself, the trend was exactly the opposite, to downplay the holocaust and the overwhelming proportion of Jewish victims. This is a very well studied topic — and here again, historians disagree with one another all the time — and the existing scholarship mostly shows that an increased focus on the holocaust as such and on Jewish victims of the Nazis generally set in from the later 1960s onward, in conspicuous contrast to the period directly after the war.

    The notion that the total estimate of six million was based on an assumption of four million killed at Auschwitz is preposterous; the camp’s former commandant testified at Nuremberg that around three million Jews were killed there, but historians routinely view ex post facto perpetrator testimony critically, and the actual number was roughly one million. More to the point, Auschwitz was a late addition to the apparatus of the holocaust, and until late 1943 was overshadowed by the Aktion Reinhardt camps (Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor). In addition, many people inclined to views like Pappan’s mistakenly think of the holocaust as occuring only in the camps; in reality, a very large proportion of the total victims were killed in other ways, shot by the Einsatzgruppen and other mobile killing units, killed in gas vans, in death marches, and so forth, quite apart from the ghettoes before liquidation.

    Regarding one of your claims in the thread: Auschwitz was both a labor and concentration camp and an extermination camp. Its overall structure was complex. The main camp, Auschwitz I, also called the Stammlager, was a (very large) standard concentration camp and labor camp, as was Auschwitz III, also called Auschwitz-Monowitz. But Auschwitz II, also called Auschwitz-Birkenau, was a death camp, indeed it eventually became, by 1944, the largest of the death camps.

    Perhaps the most striking thing about Pappan’s claims, aside from their historical naivete, is the notion that historical debate and revision has not occurred, and is not allowed, regarding WWII and the holocaust. This notion is entirely absurd. WWII and the holocaust are among the most intensively studied topics in all of history, and the range of disputes and disagreements and ongoing revisions among historians about these topics is massive. The appeal of holocaust denial propaganda for anthroposophists like Pappan (the website he keeps pointing to, the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, is one of the central holocaust denial platforms) depends on ignorance of this enormous body of historical scholarship. This is once again a revealing example of anthroposophical obliviousness about history.

  47. Thetis asked Pappan a week ago:
    Do you think holocaust denial is funny, Pappan?
    ———————————————–

    Thetis,
    You got me to thinking about the whole issue of humor and the Holocaust. You’re right. There is nothing funny about Holocaust Denial, mainly because I haven’t heard any jokes about it yet. So there exists an unploughed field for humorists and comedians.

    However, I am very steeped in what I might call “Holocaust Affirming Humor,” and perhaps, a bit of comic relief is warranted here, especially after Zooey posted Peter Staudenmaier’s response to Pappan and we are all now seriously considering the complex, multi-facetted and terminally ambiguous nature of the topic of the Holocaust.

    Although I was raised Irish Catholic in New York City, when I went to college in the late 1960’s at an engineering school (“technische Hochschule,” just like Rudi!), I met and befriended far more Jewish students than Catholic ones. I heard all of the jokes and stories I’m posting from those Jewish friends and we all had a great laugh over them — though I obviously could not share in their deeper feelings about the matters under discussion.

    So here we go, a sample of “Jewish Holocaust Affirming Humor.” Enjoy!

    [NOTE: As a tribute to Peter Staudenmaier in the first story, I put in the B-D agriculture reference for Rudolf Hess.]
    —————————————–
    A bar in Berlin in January 1933 is filled with Nazis. Hermann Goering is seen drinking stein after stein of beer with the Brownshirts; Jozef Goebbels is sipping cocktails with a couple of groupies and Hitler himself is seated, listening impatiently to a wild-eyed Rudolf Hess espousing the merits of Biodynamic Agriculture.
    An American journalist enters, sees the full crew and realizes he’s got the scoop of the century. He asks the barman:
    “Which one shall I ask for the absolute bottom line on all the Nazi plans?”
    “Goebbels, of course” answers the barman, “He knows everything.”
    The journalist approaches and says “I want the bottom line on just what this whole Nazi thing is all about.”
    Goebbels flashes him a smile and says: “We intend to kill six million Jews and one postman.”
    The journalist’s mind races. “But why do you want to kill one postman?”
    Goebbels shouts over to Hitler: “See Adolf, I told you no-one gives a fuck about the Jews!”

    ——————————————-
    A Rabbi addresses a group of Jews in a Nazi concentration camp. The Rabbi says “My fellow Jews, I have some good news and some bad news: The good news is, we are all going to England… the bad news is . . . we are all going as lampshades!”
    —————————–
    Question: How many Jews can you get into a Volkswagen Beetle?
    Answer: 1,004 — two in the front, two in the back and 1,000 in the ashtrays.
    ——————————
    Why did Hitler kill himself?
    He got his gas bill.
    ——————————
    Why do Jews make the best magicians?
    Because they can go into a building and vanish in a puff of smoke.
    —————————
    Two Jewish children are sitting on top of a roof near a chimney.
    A passerby asks: “What are you doing up there?”
    “We’re waiting for our parents.”
    —————————————–
    What did the Nazi guard at Auschwitz say to the Black Jew?
    “Move to the back of the gas chamber!”
    —————————————–
    Don’t make fun of the holocaust. My grandfather died at Auschwitz. He got drunk and fell out of a guard tower!
    ————————————–

    Interesting webpage here about Holocaust Humor.
    http://www.holocaust-trc.org/holocaust_humor.htm

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