We know from Hilberg’s censored PBS comments that as early as 1976 he was very aware of the lack of any direct evidence implicating Hitler, yet on the stand in Toronto in 1985, he didn”t mention what he told the West German prosecutors in “76 “his fear that he “went into print with something that isn”t entirely accurate” regarding Hitler’s role. Hilberg was asked by Zundel’s attorney a multitude of questions directly pertaining to the accuracy of Hilberg’s book, and the claims he made in it regarding Hitler’s involvement in the Holocaust. Under oath, he defended his “not entirely accurate” material as being completely accurate.
Hilberg perjured himself.
But there is, I would argue, a bigger story here. The story isn”t “Why would Hilberg perjure himself?” (the damn fool shouldn”t have taken part in that show trial to begin with), but rather, “Why would PBS edit out the most fascinating remark in the speech?” That’s what interests me. In a boring-as-toast special featuring overweight people doing tai chi, PBS chose to leave out the one thing that might have sparked a genuinely interesting debate.
I”m asking my question rhetorically, because I know the answer. It’s the “fear of the gray area.” Hilberg’s comment was an admission that, even by the late “80s, there were still large gaps in our knowledge of the Holocaust. Too many”way too many”mainstream historians and media figures believe that the existence of these “gray areas” must be covered up, lest the gaps and uncertainties open the door to “denial.”
The fear of the gray area is hardly limited to the field of Holocaust history. Every discipline (scientific, medical, historical, etc.) has its gray areas, and every discipline has its outlying groups designated as skeptics or deniers. And in every discipline, far too many professionals feel that the best way to keep out the “fringe” is to suppress the gray areas. Personally, I say embrace them, and let the chips fall where they may.
Yes, broadcasting Hilberg’s opening remarks might have driven a few people to Holocaust denial (or, dare I say, legitimate revisionism), but suppressing those key few minutes not only robbed viewers of some tantalizing food for thought, but it also turned Hilberg’s speech into a crashing bore.
Maybe it was just an attempt to make Maya Angelou’s tai chi look appealing in comparison.