In an intellectual atmosphere poisoned by acrimony and haunted by the specter of persecution, The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes stands as a calm, deftly reasoned, and highly original affirmation of intellectual freedom. Drawing on extensive empirical and documentary evidence as well as methods of cultural criticism conventionally eschewed by field historians, Samuel Crowell argues that the “canonical” Holocaust gassing claim can be traced to a fateful crisis of modernism — a crisis revealed in popular texts and long-forgotten cultural ephemera. Spanning from the earliest broadcast rumors to the extermination narrative that was sealed at Nuremberg, Crowell’s probing analysis permits us to consider how a grim story emerged and evolved in the cyclonic momentum of an era marked by social upheaval, total war, and unprecedented technological change.
Though it has achieved the status of an underground classic, The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes has until now been available only in samizdat editions and on the Internet. This definitive edition has been updated and revised and includes a new introduction by the author. In addition to the title essay, supplemental texts include an appended restatement of Crowell’s important monograph, “Bomb Shelters at Birkenau,” as well as the never-before-published essay, “The Holocaust in Retrospect.”