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Imagine my surprise to open The Crimson and to discover an extensive personal attack on me by a man whose book I reviewed over three years ago and have not discussed publicly since shortly after the review appeared.
Before printing John Sack's piece (Opinion, March 13), did the responsible people at The Crimson bother to look at the book in question, my review of it or the letter exchanged between Sack and me that was subsequently published? Did they bother to make even the most minimal effort to ascertain whether Sack's assault on my integrity, which is defamatory, is correct? Did they bother to check any of Sack's unattributed quotations and bald assertions? Did they ask Sack to justify any of his charges or the manner in which he characterizes me? Or did they simply print his piece because it made "good copy?" Since I now fall into the category of "public figure," apparently, for some, any mud slung my way is fit for printing.
That Sack's charges are of a highly personal nature about a member of this community, where a person's intellectual integrity is everything, seemed to matter for little. Before printing, out of the blue, such an unfounded assault on my character--which it cannot be emphasized enough, was not a response to anything I have said or written for over three years, but was given occasion by an AP wire story which The Crimson picked up about the Holocaust Museum's refusal to give Sack a forum to peddle his views--The Crimson did not take the journalistically responsible measure of contacting me to inquire about the charges or to ask for a comment. This is particularly shocking since what The Crimson did know about Sack is that he is judged to be an unreliable person and his book is deemed to be scandalous. Yet, without any inquiry, they gave their pages over to such a man so that he could launch a broadside attack on a faculty member at this university.
It is only because of this gross irresponsibility of The Crimson in printing this sort of personal attack on me that I would even bother to respond; I have learned over the years that Sack is someone who is willing to say just about anything, including outright and highly damaging falsehoods about others, in order to gain publicity and pursue his other ends. Responding to him, unfortunately, gives him more publicity.
Here are just a few of the facts: Sack writes in his piece regarding some disputed information: "I reported this in a letter to The New Republic, but the editors (my avowed free speech defenders) wouldn't publish it, and when I bought a $425 advertisement, the editors...wouldn't publish that either." Reasonable people would conclude from this that Sack was muzzled, that he was not even accorded the decency to have his response to my review printed, that this might be an instance of the conspiracy that he has repeatedly claimed exists to silence him.
The fact which Sack neglects to mention, which would reveal how misleading his statement is, is that The New Republic had already published a letter from him that took up an entire page in the Feb. 14, 1994 issue. In that letter, Sack devoted almost a full column to a discussion of this disputed information. He had his say. Did The Crimson know this before they printed this deceptive statement by Sack?
Sack's "free speech" was not abrogated (as if "free speech" is even the issue). The stratagem employed here, to mislead thoroughly by artfully suggesting something that is never said and then by upping the ante, in this case by mentioning, "free speech," is standard fare for Sack. It is but one technique in his arsenal of such techniques (which I exposed systematically in my review), and which indicates the general character of his book and of the charges that he has made against me. All of Sack's other claims and "facts" should be read with this example in mind.
When some in Germany began looking into Sack's book, they concluded that it is precisely the sort of scandalous work that I demonstrated it to be. Once his book was thus exposed by a German writer in a prominent newspaper, his distinguished German publisher, Piper Verlag (with whom I had no contact whatsoever) took the highly unusual (and highly unprofitable) step of destroying the entire print run of the book and cancelling publication shortly before its release date. It was clear that the book was more in the genre of fiction than of reportage or history, that it was making untrue and harmful charges and that it did not meet the minimum standards of veracity and probity that responsible publishers require. Before The Crimson printed Sack's piece, did it bother to find out this easily ascertainable information that this discredited man's book had been "pulped?"
Sack has spent a great deal of energy attacking me and misrepresenting what I have maintained, such as the ridiculous and demonstrably false assertion that I do not want people to learn from the Holocaust that it is not true that "all Jews are good and all Germans are bad." The Crimson even did Sack one better by inserting, as a subhead, the statement: "Goldhagen is wrong to understand the Holocaust as teaching that all Jews are good and all Germans are bad." Where is the evidence that I have ever said, written or "understood" this about either Jews and Germans? What is The Crimson's evidence? In fact, in my review of Sack's book, I wrote, "Some Jews, in sum, became murderers."
The notion that I believe that all Germans are "bad" (whatever that exactly would mean) is equally ridiculous and unfounded--a claim for which neither Sack nor The Crimson could provide evidence. It would be too silly for me to quote my own published words "proving" that I do not hold such a view. Sack has also repeatedly made wild charges against me, such as the whopper that, over three years ago, I exposed the falsehoods of his book as part of some publishing plan for my recent book--as if one has anything to do with the other.
Sack's misrepresentations here of the character of his own book and of what I have written about it, is part of the written record. I am, therefore, not going to replay it all again, any more than to convey here what the central theme of Sack's book is: that a conspiracy of secret Jews (passing as non-Jews) controlled the Polish security services after the war and brought about the deportation of millions and the killing of tens of thousands of ethnic Germans as a way of "revenging" themselves for the Holocaust. Jews working as Stalin's self-appointed "hounds of hell" (Stalin, the vicious anti-Semite, is portrayed by Sack only as a friend of the Jews, his minions) "became like Nazis" and committed (according to one German expellee whom Sack quotes approvingly) a "Holocaust" against Germans.
The principal agent in this drama is not the Polish state implementing its brutal policy to secure its western regions by expelling the ethnic Germans who populated it, but "Jewish" wrath manipulating the duped Poles. This is the "untold story of Jewish revenge" which Sack and his American publisher claimed had been suppressed for so long, seemingly by yet another conspiracy, and which the heroic Sack has, against all odds, brought to light for the world. Before printing Sack's attack on me, did The Crimson know that, whatever the nuggets of fact may be, around which Sack weaves his overheated, deceptive tale, this putative Jewish conspiracy, with all its disquieting echoes of the past, is the core of Sack's book?
For the specific disputes that Sack raises, I will be happy to provide anyone with my review, Sack's long letter and my reply to it. I have already had to do so for The Crimson. --Daniel J. Goldhagen, associate professor of government and of social studies.
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