As the House casts its vote on forwarding the articles of impeachment to the Senate, we should pause to remember a timely lesson about submitting evidence to prove that the Holocaust occurred.
Though difficult to believe, the Holocaust still has its deniers — people driven by anti-Semitism or ignorance seeking to plant the seed it was all a myth. It is not dissimilar to what Democrats are doing today with impeachment claims against President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE.
Concerned at World War II’s end there would be those in future generations questioning the Holocaust’s validity, the Allies collected as much evidence as possible. But Jewish historians have determined that just as important is to ensure that all evidence displayed about the Holocaust should lack any basis for deniers to challenge its authenticity, so that it cannot undermine that which it seeks to prove. A scrap of inauthentic evidence could be poison for the truth of the Holocaust’s occurrence.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York opened in May 2019, housing a living Holocaust memorial in an exhibit covering three floors. Curators there soon realized they had just such a “poison document” on display. Although collected long ago, and despite references to it years earlier by many scholars, it still potentially could provide fodder for Holocaust deniers.
Titled “SS Rentabilitätsberechnung” (meaning “profitability calculation”), it was somewhat of an obscure document, apparently authored to show a financial justification that slave labor camps were profit centers for the Nazis.
Most visitors to the Museum of Jewish Heritage listen to a 90-minute audio/video program that guides them through various artifacts and documents. But soon after the museum’s opening, to be safe, curators decided to delete a 13-second segment from the tape referencing the document in question. The sentence removed was: “During World War II, the SS calculated that, after costs such as cremation, but not including the value of bones used in fertilizer, the profit made from each prisoner was roughly $745.”
The SS Rentabilitätsberechnung document provided every tidbit of minutia about various costs associated with running the camps, including feeding and housing individuals, costs of running crematoriums, etc. The data were so detailed, even the average number of calories prisoners consumed was factored into calculations to determine the anticipated average lifespan of laborers (nine months).
Against these costs appeared the average income each prisoner generated, either as a Nazi slave laborer or when “rented out” to German companies. Included, too, as an asset was the gold extracted from the teeth of deceased laborers, the value of their bones used in fertilizers, value of personal belongings, etc.
The SS Rentabilitätsberechnung reduced to paper the frightening reality of the evil that man can render unto his fellow man. Although numerous historians, writers and rabbis long had referenced this document, research showed its origin could not be determined. Citation cross-references only cited each other, without linking the document to an original source. Every citation, it turned out, was a secondary source.
This very telling document could be real, but curators had to consider that their inability to prove its authenticity also raised the possibility it was not. Knowing Holocaust deniers would seize upon even a minor historical inaccuracy as ammunition to discredit the Jewish genocide, curators opted not to display the document.
This cautionary tale is one that promoters of Trump’s impeachment totally ignore. The SS Rentabilitätsberechnung document could be a museum curator’s evidentiary dream to support what happened in Nazi Germany, but why risk arming deniers with a way to undermine the Holocaust’s reality?
Similarly, it became clear early on in the House impeachment inquiry that Democrats would take an entirely different approach to authenticity concerning evidence with regard to Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president. His accusers had no firsthand evidence that Trump committed an impeachable offense; instead, they chose to rely on unvetted hearsay evidence — sometimes as much as three times removed. One Democrat went so far as to outrageously suggest, “Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct.”
Democrats have demonstrated no concern about unsubstantiated evidence, giving impeachment deniers valid arguments. This strongly suggests House Democrats never were really interested in the truth, but only in marketing unsupportable claims that the president committed impeachable offenses.
The SS Rentabilitätsberechnung document stands as a warning that relying on hearsay evidence opens the door to undermining the truth. The museum curators chose not to run this risk; the impeachment promoters won’t be as careful.
Interestingly, the Democrats’ anti-Trump efforts date to the Steele dossier, opposition research from the 2016 campaign that was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE — a dossier we now know was based almost entirely on hearsay. This document shows us how far down a road paved with untruths hearsay can take us.
There are many lessons about the Holocaust and its aftermath that teach us about the evils of mankind and the need to preserve truth for future generations. Pro-impeachment members of Congress should pay attention to the latter.
James G. Zumwalt is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He heads a security consulting firm named after his father, Adm. Zumwalt & Consultants, Inc.