What is "Holocaust Denial and Distortion"? The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum article on "Holocaust Denial and Distortion" provides a short answer and good starting point to differentiates between hardcore and softcore denialism and relativism.

There is a problem in an answer on a very sensitive topic. The following points of the answer at least can be read in several ways, discussed below:

Q Priorities of trains to Nazi death camps?

Not a full answer (don't have the time or sources right now) but the claim is massively oversimplified.

That the claim is an oversimplification is the probable reason for the question. Not having sources or time for an answer that is nevertheless written, is a lame excuse. For, what, exactly?

Sure, a lot of German rail resources went to supporting the concentration camps.

"Support" – what is this? Food, drink, clothes, medicine? Or people going 'up in smoke'?

But a lot of that wouldn't be of use to the armed forces anyway.

"that" is "support"? Well, yeah, on the other hand starving holocaust victims are of no use at the front?

Not only are the railway lines in Russia of a different gauge from those in the Reich (and indeed most of Europe) so the trains wouldn't even fit on them,

Irrelevant. Victims were transported from most of Europe in the camps located mostly in Poland and Belarus. Further, when the Wehrmacht invaded, tracks were usually quickly converted. –– Does this say that in the East the transports were technically infeasible?

the lines can only support so many trains of such length passing over them in a given period, trying to put more trains on them wouldn't work.

Assertion without base, as this increase in length, packing density, frequency etc is exactly what happened. Or otherwise: "increase wouldn't work" from what baseline?

The same problem plagues railroads all the time. E.g. the modern Dutch rail system is massively congested. There are constant calls to run more trains on it to meet the increased demand for passenger and cargo capacity, but there simply isn't enough rail to go around, without compromising safety by allowing multiple trains on each section of track they can't increase capacity any further.

Hmhm. Railroad is awful in general; these days? –– "Safety" was compromised, and in case of cattle-boxcars not a requirement in the first place. Again a quibble about general considerations, 'common sense' that did not apply in that situation.

And with the German army in retreat through Russia and Poland, laying more track for them was out of the question. They had neither the resources (steel, manpower) nor the time to do so.

Until mid-1944 new tracks were laid down frequently, as needed. In Birkenau a new track was installed ending directly at the ramp. The above paragraph denies reality with a general thought that doesn't fit the evidence.

Combine that with the ever increasing allied air attacks on railheads and the trains themselves destroying a lot of the rolling stock in the west (especially after D-Day) and not only do the Germans lack the amount of rolling stock they need to fully support the troops in the east, they also lack the capability of getting that rolling stock to the railheads to load and later offload it.

Allied attacks after D-day were quite ineffective until the end of 1944. But apart from that, this is again tangential to answering the question. This is the very core of the question: war effort got ever more difficult during losing the war, so why and how did they continue to transport holocaust victims? In essence this just repeats the question with an ever more 'skeptical' undertone. It is unclear into what direction the skepticism is directed.

And yes, the SS placed ever greater demands on German infrastructure to support their operation of the camps.

"SS" might be a shift in agency away from willing executioners, located in Reichsbahn, industry etc. But: "Operation" in reality meant killing. Is this the same meaning here?

Not so much to "transport Jews to the gas chambers"

Perhaps the meaning is a different one?

but because those camps supplied the slave labour needed by German industry to produce the weapons and other equipment that was needed by the troops at the front.

This is incompatible with reality. On average 80% of new arrivals in Birkenau were immediately gassed. It is true that a lot of slave labour went into armament as well, but the way it is depicted above is highly misleading. What was produced in Treblinka? Pure death.

As these inmates died after faster from ever declining living conditions and ever increased physical demands on their labour, they needed to be replaced ever faster.

This is more than contentious. As already stated, camps like Birkenau and Treblinka had absolutely no use for any other 'raw material' than victims to produce nothing else but death.

This is so much into the relativist and denialist camp: "victims died because of 'conditions' ("no death by gas chambers")".

It is intolerable. Yes, from those who were not killed instantly, many died while they waited for their turn to the gas chambers, monooxide vans etc of typhus and whatnot, and therefore 'for other reasons'. But the main point is that they were all designated to be exterminated, whether by hunger, labour, sickness, firing squad, experiments or death march or gas chamber. Emphasising the 'conditions' shifts the blame from intention to circumstance. This is absolutely intolerable.

And not more important in general, but technically for an SE site: does this answer the question or at least contributes to answering it?

AND the camps needed ever increasing supplies of food for those inmates, the failure of which to arrive played no small part in the high death toll in the camps later in the war.

Again the same melody. There wasn't even any much food planned or scheduled to arrive for all those intended to be killed anyway.

Remember that while there were a few camps specialising in mass killing of people, these were few (only 4 of them known to have existed I think) and by the time your stated problem played were no longer in operation

This is the second time the word "play" is used when talking about the holocaust.
Further: Wrong number, wrong conceptualisation. At least 8 camps were designated or designed for instant death, the rest for intermediately fast death through other means. For the time of operation:

(they were shut down by late 1943

maybe a typo, but just in a few days we have Holocaust Remembrance Day. Chosen as the date commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army. On 27 January 1945. Camps were kept in operation until the Soviets approached. For those furthest East that meant an earlier date.

as it was realised that their operation was a waste of resources that could be used more effectively elsewhere, including sending the inmates to other camps for hard labour in stone quaries, mines, and factories).

That is based on what? Jews from a death camp were not relocated to labour camps for any effort other than the 'final solution', they were relocated to kill them at a later time.


I quoted the entire answer.
It is important to realise what this meta-post question is, and what it isn't:

This is not saying the author of the answer is a holocaust denialist. That may be the case or not.
This is not saying that the whole answer is holocaust denialism. That may be the case or not.

My good will likes to assume the better alternatives. The author was perhaps well meaning. The phrases and statements used were perhaps just too ambiguous with a misleading result, but not the intention. Sometimes answers written off-hand from memory rely on false memories or have mixups in them. Nevertheless, it seems the subtle effects are quite insidious.

This is saying that such an answer is very poorly written, not well researched, not backed up with any references and stating things as fact that are not. This is saying that such a topic needs all the backup it can get. This is saying all those sentences that border on, touch tropes and topics of, or would qualify as denialism need deletion. This is saying that all those errors and imprecisions need edits and backup.

Ask yourself, what happens if one tries to paraphrase and summarise the salient points of that answer? What is left? Is that a desired result?

Requests for corrections were issued in comments and banners. The edits and corrections didn't come, despite the user being active on main.

This is saying that I do not understand this community!

On a first reading one might not find much to criticise. But with that paucity of references or sources I wonder about the upvotes anyway, which were three or four in total before the criticism came. This is reason for concern.
But after a closer reading this positive voting attitude should change. And after some of the problems were pointed out in comments, on the one hand the author didn't edit, but on the other hand at least one member in the community upvoted this answer, again!


What can be done about this?

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    Good analysis. My immediate, knee-jerk reaction is that any answer touching on the Holocaust should require higher standards of references, verifiability etc for any assertions made. How this could be enforced - hmm... scratches head. – TheHonRose Jan 26 at 20:29

First, the usual disclaimer:

This is my personal opinion, so please try to ignore any diamond you might see beside my username.

History:SE is a community moderated site. In fact, Stack Exchange itself is designed to to be mostly self-regulating. To that end, as users gain reputation they also gain moderation privileges. So,

  • Users with 15 rep can flag posts.
  • Users with 500 rep can review posts from new users.
  • Users with 500 rep can cast close and open votes.
  • Users with 1,000 rep can edit any question or answer in the system.
  • Users with 2,000 rep can cast delete and undelete votes on questions, and have access to a moderation dashboard.
  • Users with 3,500 rep can protect posts.
  • Users with 4,000 rep can cast delete votes on negatively voted answers.

(Full list of privileges)

In the general case, if a question or answer is clearly Holocaust denial, then it should be flagged, and Moderators can deal with it under the Stack Exchange Code of Conduct.

In cases where it is less clear, then it should be for the community to act. In my opinion, the answer you've quoted falls into this category.

If no sources to support assertions have been provided, the first step - again in my opinion - should be to flag the post to allow a moderator to add a post notice. This allows the OP an opportunity to deal with any problems that may have been highlighted in the comments, and to add links to sources supporting their assertions.

Downvoting is also a form of community moderation. An answer should be downvoted when it is 'not useful',as per the tooltip:

downvote tooltip

If you consider that the answer isn't useful, because it lacks sources, or because it is factually inaccurate, or for any other reason, then please exercise your right to downvote.

Now, if the post-notice has been added, the community has exercised its right to downvote, and the OP has not improved their answer, then the last of the privileges I listed above comes into play: the right to cast delete votes on negatively voted answers.

Since moderators have a 'super-vote', we can't generally participate here - except as the last vote.

Now in the case of this particular answer, for the most part I see legitimate dissent, although the lack of cited sources to support assertions always concerns me. However, in my opinion, the part where the OP states:

Remember that while there were a few camps specialising in mass killing of people, these were few (only 4 of them known to have existed I think) and by the time your stated problem played were no longer in operation (they were shut down by late 1943 ...

crosses a line.

In fact, you also pointed out the problem with that section in your comment to the answer.

If I weren't a Moderator, that passage, and the lack of cited sources means I would probably have voted to delete the question since the OP has chosen not to respond to the comments or the post-notice.

But I am a Moderator, and - in my opinion - I should try not to impose my opinions on the site if I can avoid it. I would rather hold back in the hope the community will step up.

In my opinion, situations like this should be dealt with by the community. That means that high-rep users should exercise their right to vote to delete.

Of course, the community may feel differently.

Now, of course the SE reputation model can be a disincentive when it comes to deleting problematic posts. In this case, the answer has a net score of -5.

That is 5 upvotes (gaining the OP 50 rep) and 10 downvotes (costing the OP 20 rep).

I understand that if reputation is a motivating factor then people may not want to delete a post that is worth +30 reputation, no matter how bad the rest of the community may consider it to be.

Again, in my opinion, this is where high-rep members of the community need to be proactive and vote to delete.

(Also, bear in mind that this question made it onto the HNQ list, so some of those upvotes may be from new members who have no other contribution to History:SE)

We live in an imperfect Universe.

  • Its been a long time since I was low-rep enough to worry about a handful of downvotes. That being said, IMHO seeing my name next to a "-4" would be enough of a handslap to more than make up for the fact that it gained me 5 rep due to the one upvote I got. If I were instead a callous rep farmer, deleting one sentence vs. having my entire answer deleted along with the 5 rep it got me would be worth the trade-off. – T.E.D. Feb 8 at 22:17
  • @T.E.D. Yet those types of answers are to be found on all the sites I'm a member of. The solution, of course, is to make sure that all those kind of answers are deleted. Right now, many aren't, and the only reason I can think of for the OP not deleting them themselves is the rep they're gaining from them. – sempaiscuba Feb 9 at 2:49
  • It seems like I recall reading of a user who was suspended and part of the response as to the reason included self-deletion of too many answers raising some flag in the system, and actually being treated more harshly then downvotes themselves? – justCal Feb 9 at 15:11
  • @justCal Perhaps you were thinking of this question here on Meta? If so, this answer to a question on Meta:SE may help clear up any confusion. Note that "If a post was poorly-received (downvoted or closed), that will continue to count against your account even if the post is deleted"! – sempaiscuba Feb 9 at 16:09
  • Yes, that was it. A question ban not a suspension. Good meta link. So deleting wasn't the issue itself, it just doesn't help to remove downvotes recieved. – justCal Feb 9 at 16:47
  • @justCal Yes. Although I don't think details of the algorithm have been made public, it seems the intent is to make people improve poor questions/answers (or perhaps just not post them in the first place) rather than simply deleting them after they have been poorly received by SE communities. – sempaiscuba Feb 9 at 16:54
  • "Not deleting" reasons, hypothesis: 1. You might be really convinced that the content is right (have three candidates of my own on SE). 2. In the heat of posts being visible on the homepage the 'punishers' (regular hi-rep users with convictions) will try to discipline anything unfit, and sometimes their actions will be seen as wrong (by some &OP; +sometimes they are!) 3. Downvotes over time are very rare. Observational guess: Old posts gain a few ups if good, and nothing if mediocre or bad, only really egregious get downs: with time chances improve that a negative net-score turns around. – LangLangC Feb 10 at 12:01

For a while, we've contended with this problem, although we've mostly looked it from the perspective of questions, which were bad-but-not-bad-enough-to-get-closed.

I think we decided to just apply the higher standard unofficially, and be more harsh with the downvotes on questions which didn't get there. Can't we just do that with answers too?

That said, I'm uncomfortable with setting a higher bar just because it's a sensitive subject. Practically all of our questions have something to do with wars, plagues, and other natural and unnatural shocks that flesh is heir to. It's probably true in practice to say that for the majority of the stack's visitors the holocaust is a more sensitive subject than, say, the Cultural Revolution, but, really, should it be? Why?

If we do this, it should do it because we have a specific problem of high-volume, low-quality answers. Edit: According to the link you posted

Holocaust denial is an attempt to negate the established facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jewry.

I don't see any attempt to negate established facts in the answer under discussion.

  • 3
    One point, I don't think the Cultural Revolution etc, is subject to such a barrage of "it didn't happen", "it wasn't that bad", "it's a myth/conspiracy" attacks as the Holocaust. – TheHonRose Feb 5 at 0:16
  • @TheHonRose: I would think there is precisely such a barrage, largely set up by the Chinese government. – TimLymington Feb 5 at 11:30
  • Ack for para 1&2. Re your edit: The link I posted speaks of belittling and distortions as subsumed under negate. I think I showed in the question already that the effect of that answer at least cannot be an accurate portrayal und thus answer to the mainQ. By coincidence I am also in favour of a higher bar for many more answers other than on this topic. And the still uncorrected '43', 'only', 'lacked' etc should qualify easily as "contrary to established fact". – LangLangC Feb 5 at 13:45
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    I don't want to quibble with you about this particular answer. As long as we agree that holocaust denial answers and 'just bad' answers are two separate problems which demand separate solutions, we're on the same page. As for what to do about it, if you think this answer is holocaust denial, you should flag it. That leaves us with the question of what to do about holocaust-related answers that are 'just bad' – Ne Mo Feb 8 at 19:29
  • 1
    Perhaps you could compile a list of 'just bad' holocaust-related answers, and post it on meta to raise awareness that we should be downvoting them? Just a thought. – Ne Mo Feb 8 at 19:30
  • 1
    Its mostly a matter of experience though, isn't it? I mean, if we get to a point where we get a constant barrage of "If the Armenian Genocide really happened, then how does X make sense?" questions, then you all would probably treat them similarly. It seems like its a matter of what tends to burn our hands, and what doesn't. – T.E.D. Feb 8 at 22:58
  • Short answer: I agree and that's what I've been trying to say: we have/should have higher standards for holocaust related posts because we have a problem with too many bad questions/answers. If this happens in the future with other topics, whether or not they are genocide-related, we should do the same – Ne Mo Feb 9 at 17:40
  • Longer answer: I'm aware one type of holocaust distortion is to portray it as somehow unexceptional & humdrum. Equating the holocaust to USSR oppression in postwar eastern Europe is an example of this kind of distortion. This should go without saying, but the holocaust was a highly exceptional event. In relative and absolute numbers of victims, only a few events such as the Great Purge and Cultural Revolution are comparable. In terms of how it happened, the holocaust was horrendously industrialised and mechanised; e.g. even the Red Guards didn't make lampshades out of their victims' skin. – Ne Mo Feb 9 at 17:56
  • However, we can't afford, even unofficially, to get into the business of ranking bad things. It's untenable for us to say that this topic is more important, therefore bad answers are a bigger problem, is what I mean. – Ne Mo Feb 9 at 17:56

Did the Nazi regime always or often prioritize transport trains to the death camps over military transport, where a significant proportion of vehicles was deflected from logistical support and used to transport Jews to the gas chambers?

The Sonderzüge, contrary to myth, were given low priority for movement. The special trains were put into unoccupied slots intended for through freight trains or were run as freight extras. The result was that they were allowed onto the main line only after all other traffic had passed Wehrmacht trains, military supply trains, trains carrying armaments, and coal trains all moved before the Sonderzüge.

The above is the answer to the question if the OP isn't going to define significant or military. And it's a Wiki link (at least I think - why is there an entire page worth of attribution?).

However horrible it was, the part of WWII known as the holocaust was mostly about genocide. Use of slave labor and the reasons behind why it was part of a logistical conundrum is worth more than an honorable mention, that you seem to have summed up nicely. Why not edit the answer to include it, and if the OP rolls it back, DV and move on.

those who were not killed instantly, many died while they waited for their turn to the gas chambers, monooxide vans etc of typhus and whatnot, and therefore 'for other reasons'. But the main point is that they were all designated to be exterminated, whether by hunger, labour, sickness, firing squad, experiments or death march or gas chamber. Emphasising the 'conditions' shifts the blame from intention to circumstance.

Except that last part. You're talking about the holocaust again; not trains.

What can be done? Personally, I try not to participate in topics that I might find myself having to use the word intolerable. If there's a higher bar to be set, it should be protecting the question before it gets out of hand. But your 'adversary' has about 7k rep so that wouldn't have helped.

Their answer isn't the best, but it is far from being not useful IMO. Because IMO the only useful part of your answer is a single sentence from the web : "they were allowed onto the main line only after all other traffic had passed"

You offered your opinion:

The Germans did assign a priority for transport to kill trains that seems incomprehensible from a strategic perspective.

Other users are allowed to theirs.

No higher bar will be set just because some people don't believe we landed on the moon.

  • 1
    1. Sorry to have failed you, but the "one sentence" is not enough to understand the issue and misleading as "the answer" to the question of mine on main. 2. Criticism to that answer should be in comments below that A or in another meta? 3. the quote here with the del-tag is exactly here because 'talking trains' alone + holocaust in criticised A in that sloppy way should be avoided? 4. 'Protecting' is again for questions, this metaQ is about bad answers to not-bad Qs. As that are deemed useful by too many despite very questionable content quality and still upvoted 5. The moon landing angle? – LangLangC Jan 30 at 9:47
  • @LangLangC - Moon: IDK how you troll a Holocaust question other than saying it didn't happen. I don't see any comments with "false info" in the chat, so I guess : do what you did. Which was flagging them I assume, but more importantly by putting a banner on the answer in dispute (that's as close to Skeptics as y'all got I guess {side bar at the top}>). I prefer "sloppy" frame challenges (see your other question for that thread) - that's all I can offer you for help to understand this community, which is now all of SE thanks to the HNQ. – Mazura Jan 30 at 16:41

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