Saturday, January 24, 2009

The New York Times on Bishop Williamson

In a piece from today's New York Times on Pope Benedict's reinstatement of four bishops, Rachel Donadio wrote"a particularly contentious part of the reinstatement on Saturday was the inclusion of Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that six million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers."

Williamson's Antisemitism, which Telegraph writer Damian Thompson wrote about in his blog last March, is newsworthy, but you would never know it from Donadio's words, or at least not unless you read carefully and made it to the twelfth paragraph, where she explains 'in a November interview broadcast on Swedish television last week and widely available on the Internet, the bishop said that he believed that “the historical evidence” was hugely against the conclusion that millions of Jews had been “deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”' The key word here is "millions."

In this quote Williamson denied that "millions" of Jews were killed in gas chambers, which is entirely different from denying, as Donadio wrote before, that 6 million Jews were gassed. If he had said the latter, he would have been factually accurate, and this statement alone would not be evidence of his Holocaust denial.

It has been well documented that Approximately 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, but they did not all die in gas chambers. An estimated 3.5 million, slightly more than half, were killed in this way. The rest died in a variety of other horrific ways including disease that resulted from the unthinkable living conditions in concentration camps, shooting, medical experimentation, and suicide. That they were not all killed in gas chambers does not make their deaths any less horrific nor does it make the Nazis any less guilty.

Most of my Jewish ancestors who did not emigrate to the United States from Eastern Europe were never heard from again, and were probably killed by the Nazis in one way or another, and I cannot say that I would be relieved to learn that their cause of death was not gassing. What matters is that they were murdered in a genocide.

It is important that we get the historical facts right. Repeating false statistics does nothing to rectify the atrocities of the Holocaust or to educate the public about them. We can simply say that 6 million Jews were murdered. That fact is both accurate and devastating.

Donadio should investigate Williamson's anti-Semitism further. His denial of the Holocaust is just the tip of the iceberg. She should also get her facts straight.

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