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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Samuel Crowell - The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes (B)

The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes

An Attempt at a Literary Analysis of the Holocaust Gassing Claim


by Samuel Crowell


"In Memoriam!"
Dec 22, 1997: Revised Jan 10, 1999


4. The First Reports on Auschwitz and Majdanek

 
IN THE SUMMER of 1944 the legend of mass gas extermination became solidified through a series of reports that were published by the Soviet government, and, at the end of the year, by a report issued by an agency of the United States government. At this point the gassing claims assumed authoritative status, so much so that by the end of the year the Germans would explicitly deny them. The issuance of official reports cannot be overstressed: a rumor of any kind repeated over an official medium, such as the radio, and particularly in print, gives enormous weight to the claim. Nevertheless, as we shall see, these claims were not accompanied by hard evidence.
The first document that is important is a communication that seems to have come from a Jewish circle in Slovakia at the beginning of July, 1944, which we will call the July Report. This report is noteworthy because it contains the first full series of allegations about the Auschwitz Birkenau camp. Gilbert reproduces the document in full.148 In the context of the gassing claim, the report contains some data that may be considered accurate, in the sense that they do not contradict the current version. Thus we have a garbled reference to the Zyklon B issued by Tesch and Stabenow, and we have a reference to a bathing establishment, and holes in the ceiling where the gas drops down.149 But there are other elements in the report that are clearly false, for example, the reference to the number of holes (three), the time required for execution (one minute), the rails that are said to have led to the cremation ovens, which are also incorrectly described and counted, and so on.150
While we can grant that different observers might incorrectly estimate the time of execution, or the number of victims, because of the shock of what they were observing, it is another matter entirely that an observer would lose track of his or her ability to count or perceive. Therefore, while we may be inclined to dismiss the differences in the time of gassing, or the number of victims, the errors of physical detail are much more serious, and strongly suggest that whoever described these processes was never anywhere near a gas chamber or a crematorium. Therefore it must be conceded that the witnesses who wrote the report were repeating rumor, and, even if the witnesses believed it, the existence of a rumor is certainly not proof of the facts which the rumor alleges. The only thing the July report really shows is that gassing rumors were current in Auschwitz at the time.
The actual elements of the July report combine old and new features. The communiqué represents the first time that Zyklon B was specifically described as the source of poison gas. On the other hand, as we have seen, rumors about cyanide usage sprang up in the summer of 1942 and were abandoned late that year from the propaganda. The showering motif appears, which had been a common feature ever since late 1942. It seems that the association of poison entering through the actual holes in the shower nozzle was an easy inference -- we note that already in the previous year, in discussing the steam exterminations at Treblinka, the steam was described as emerging from holes in the pipes. This conceptualization of the gas dropping down on the inmates may also account for the idea of overhead openings needed for introducing the gas: obviously, Zyklon could not pass through a shower-head and would require a larger opening. 
Another explanation, and a possible clue to another motif, involves the dusting with chlorine and lime which frequently accompanied the deportations, which goes back to the Karski report. That description had already led to some descriptions of chlorine gassing.151 In the July Report, however, we have a situation in which the bathers are led into a room, allowed to stand for several minutes so that an optimum temperature is achieved, and then the gas in the form of powder is thrown on them. Of course the problem with this description is that it is false, Zyklon B does not act in this fashion.152
The next event in the evolution of the gassing legend is crucial, because it involves the first allied exposure to a German concentration camp. Majdanek was liberated at the end of July, 1944, during a massive Soviet offensive that destroyed Army Group center.153 For a month, the Soviets did not allow any visitors, then, at the end of August, they gave Western journalists a brief tour.154 This tour, in turn, generated wide press reportage by the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor, and was accompanied by an official report of the Soviet Special Commission on Majdanek.155
The gassing sequence at Majdanek is different from that described at Auschwitz in July or at any other camp to this point. Previous accounts had always stressed that the victims were disrobed and met their end in the shower or bath itself. But at Majdanek it was now alleged that the shower was a preliminary step to the gassing process, which occurred at the other end of the building.156 This is a major divergence and we must inquire why.
The reason appears to lie in the physical layout that presented itself to the Russians. Most of the gassings were supposed to have taken place in the building labeled "Bath and Disinfection Complex II." This is a long narrow building that featured a series of rooms, including a dressing room, a shower room, a drying room (Trockenraum -- that is a heated room for drying inmates after showering) and, at the far end, three small squarish rooms (approx. 4 x 4 meters, but one larger), two of which had outside attachments with boilers that piped air into the rooms (the third was connected to the Trockenraum).157 The showers in the building actually worked, therefore the gassings could not have happened there. The smaller rooms and the Trockenraum, brick faced on the outside and roofed with reinforced concrete, thus became the gas chambers. 
There were other features present at the site. The Trockenraum (sometimes called Room "A") had two wooden openings carved into the concrete ceiling: the same room contained several wooden struts, apparently with some wire reinforcing.158 It was also equipped with wooden doors with three sets of bidirectional handles.159 The smaller rooms at the far end had heavy steel doors, gastight doors with peepholes, also with bidirectional handles.160 In addition, two of the rooms had still extant piping running along the wall, about 30 cm above the floor, that appeared to be connected to five steel tanks located outside of the rooms.161 At first glance the gastight doors and the ceiling openings seem to be peculiar additions for a bath and disinfection complex, but they do not necessarily support a gassing claim, beyond that the structure corresponds to typical bath and disinfection complexes.
The Soviet scenario that was presented to the world's press went like this: the people were told to strip, leave their clothes in one room, then pass into another room where they would shower.162 After the shower, they would be led into one of the "gas chambers" where the Zyklon B would be dropped down on them after a waiting period. The three boiler rooms, on the other hand, would generate carbon monoxide gas that would be piped into the rooms, or else hot air to heat the rooms, or finally carbon monoxide would be piped in through the tanks.163 Meanwhile, the Germans were supposed to watch the death throes of the victims through the peepholes.164
There are some problems with this scenario. Of four rooms designated as gas chambers, only one (Room "A") had openings in the ceiling for the Zyklon to be introduced, two of the other rooms had crudely cut holes in the reinforced concrete.165 One of the rooms had no ceiling opening at all. Three of the rooms had boilers attached outside (hence, perhaps, the origin of the "three gas chambers"), the fourth room had no opening of any kind except the door.166 Graf and Mattogno have noted that of the five tanks found, only two remain, and they are marked not CO, but CO2, that is, carbon dioxide, necessary for the generation of disinfection gases (T-Gas), but with no claimed extermination potential.167 These, along with the boilers, would suggest that the rooms were used over time with a variety of disinfestation substances, including Zyklon B, T-Gas, and hot air. The gastight doors with peepholes, on the other hand, with bi-directional handles could be opened from inside or outside.168 Finally, the idea that showering ahead of time would facilitate the evolution of Zyklon B is simply wrong.169 What we have here is a clear case of forcing the facts to fit the theory.
Furthermore, while we continue to maintain that most of the elements in the gassing story arose more or less spontaneously and were just as spontaneously believed, at Majdanek we are confronted with grim evidence of a deliberate Soviet hoax. This is because while Room "A" of the complex features two carefully crafted and well dressed openings of wood in the ceiling, someone had attempted to replicate the openings in Rooms "B" and "C" by clumsily hacking small, squarish holes through the reinforced concrete roof and not even bothering to remove the rebar.170 It is simply unbelievable that the workmanship that created the apertures in the ceiling of Room "A" created the hole in the roof in Room "B" and "C", and moreover the opening in Rooms "B" and "C" could never have been gas tight. To the extent that these latter openings are claimed as contemporaneous opening devised for introducing poison gas, to that extent we are looking at clear cut case of Soviet fraud.
The reverberations of the Majdanek Special Commission were extremely broad, many of the symbols of the Holocaust have their beginning here. Among these one may note the huge piles of clothes, shoes, and hair, which were taken as prima facie evidence of exterminations of a million and a half human beings, although we now know that these piles of belongings indicate no such thing, and the current evaluation holds that less than 100,000 perished at Majdanek.171 Other elements include the red-brick facing of the gas chambers, the flat concrete roofs, the piping above the floor, and similar elements. But the most notorious element of the Majdanek report were the gas tight doors with peepholes. The first place this would become apparent was in the War Relief Board report.
It is not known exactly how long and in what form the War Refugee Board (WRB) report circulated in the late summer and early fall of 1944.172 It is known that repetition of some of its claims called forth a German rejection of the allegation in October.173 Finally, on November 26, 1944, the WRB Report was issued, and was summarized in the world press.174 The contents of the report, with respect to the gassing claim we are investigating, for the most part recapitulated material from the July Report, however there is one reference to the peephole not present in that earlier report that strongly suggests the influence of the Majdanek Special Commission:
Prominent guests from Berlin were present at the inauguration of the first crematorium in March, 1943. The "program" consisted of the gassing and burning of 8,000 Cracow Jews. The guests, both officers and civilians, were extremely satisfied with the results and the special peephole fitted into the door of the gas chamber was in constant use. They were lavish in their praise of this newly erected installation.175
The WRB report contains what would be considered many errors by the standards of today's knowledge of the subject.176 Nevertheless it was for some months the most important document in propagandizing not only the shower-gas-burning sequence but also the alleged unique status of Auschwitz Birkenau as a slaughterhouse of vast proportions. But as we have seen, it contained enough errors that it could not be a reliable source for the mass gassings it alleged, and, in fact, it appears to have both influenced, and been influenced by, the Soviet Special Commission on Majdanek.177 In the panicked atmosphere of the time, no doubt the similarities of the reports would have caused more than one sincere individual to feel that they were slowly piercing a veil of truth; 50 years later, however, it seems less likely that that was the case.

NOTES



  1. Gilbert, op. cit., pp. 262-264, where it is described as a summary. The changes involved with this document, which will culminate in the War Refugee Board (WRB) Report, are detailed by Miroslav Karny, "The Vrba and Wetzler Report", in Gutman, Y. & Berenbaum, M., Anatomy, pp. 553-568.

  2. Ibid., Although the July Report is described as a summary, it contains errors of detail (e.g., "Megacyclon") that are absent from the November WRB Report, as well as an important omission (i.e., the peephole at the inaugural gassing) that is included in the later report. Karny's article suggests that the report was revised throughout the year, it is difficult to check exactly how because he further notes that the original manuscript has not survived. (Karny, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 564n5.)

  3. Ibid.

  4. Martin, op. cit., p. 145

  5. That is, Zyklon does not come in a powder, and the optimum temperature is not liable to be reached in a packed underground cellar. It should be noted that some cyanide products do come in powdered form, but these are not the substances alleged.

  6. This was Operation Bagration, timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Barbarossa and the Western Allies, who continued to be pinned down in Normandy. An evaluation of precisely what the Soviets encountered during this advance, which surrounded huge amounts of territory, is crucial to settling claims of what occurred here during the war.

  7. Martin, op. cit., loc. cit. The recent book of Jurgen Graf and Carlo Mattogno, KL Majdanek: Eine historische und technische Studie, Castle Hill, Hastings:1998 is a thorough and indispensable account of materials for this camp.

  8. Communique of the Polish Soviet Extraordinary Commission for Investigating the Crimes Committed by the Germans in the Majdanek Extermination Camp in Lublin, Foreign Languages Publishing, Moscow:1944 This document, in the Hoover Library, Stanford, CA, placed on the Internet due to the efforts of Philip Traurig. cf. Also Graf & Mattogno, op. cit., p. 119f for a detailed analysis of Soviet and Polish claims. On contemporary press coverage, consult, e.g., W. H. Lawrence "Nazi Mass Killing Laid Bare in Camp", in Reporting World War II, Part Two: American Journalism, 1944-1946, Library of America, New York: 1995, pp. 267-273.

  9. Communique, op. cit., pp. 13-17

  10. Ibid.

  11. noted by Aroneanu, op. cit., but not the text of the communique we are using here.

  12. Graf & Mattogno, op. cit., p.

  13. Communique, op. cit., loc. cit.

  14. Graf & Mattogno, op. cit., p.

  15. Communique, op. cit., loc. cit.

  16. Communique, op. cit., loc. cit. The source of the CO and/or function of the boilers is not completely clear from the text, although bottles of CO are described; apparently this led to some confusion subsequently, thus the photograph #0326 on the USHMM Internet website, at http://www.ushmm.org describes the boilers as "furnaces" which generated "carbon monoxide".

  17. loc. cit., consult photo of Majdanek "gas chamber" door.

  18. Grundlagen, p. 278 provides four very interesting photos of features at Majdanek.

  19. David Cole's "Forty Six Unanswered Questions About the Gas Chambers" is important not only for its discussion of Majdanek but also of Auschwitz Birkenau. On CODOHweb.

  20. Graf & Mattogno, op. cit., p. , and see the discussion in Schmidt, in Handloser, op. cit.

  21. see Crowell, Defending Against the allied Bombing Campaign, Part 2

  22. That is, humidity and moisture inhibits the evolution of the gas.

  23. compare Grundlagen, photos on p. 278

  24. op. cit., loc. cit., p. 277, 129n

  25. Gilbert, op. cit.

  26. Gilbert, op. cit.

  27. Gilbert, op. cit., for coverage in the NY Times, see Reporting World War II, John H. Crider, "U. S. Board Bares Atrocity Details Told by Witnesses at Polish Camps", pp. 553-559

  28. Dawidowicz, Reader, p. 119

  29. compare Gilbert, op. cit., loc. cit., or Dawidowicz, op. cit., loc. cit.

  30. That the WRB report was combined from various rumors was corroborated at the first Zundel trial in 1985, during which Rudolf Vrba, under cross-examination, admitted that he repeated rumors, and was not an eyewitness to what he described, moreover "He defended 'errors in good faith' n his 1944 Auschwitz accounts, which he made two weeks after escaping, as due to 'great urgency' to warn Jews." "Book 'An Artistic Picture'", Dick Chapman, Toronto Sun, January 24, 1985


Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


5. The Eastern Camps, Polevoi's Report, and the Gerstein Statement

 
ALREADY IN THE SUMMER of 1944, the Soviet propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg began acquiring testimonies from the Aktion Reinhardt Camps. Some of these were collected and published in Merder fun Folker in 1945.178 Looking over some of these testaments today, one finds that while gassing claims are repeated, they are not usually presented with much detail.179 We should keep in mind however that for these Aktion Reinhardt camps (Sobibor, Treblinka, and Belzec) the buildings had been dismantled and there were no physical traces of gas chambers.180 No orders, correspondence, or documents concerning gas chambers were presented at the time, nor has there been any such documentation since.181 Our knowledge of these three camps -- in which today it is said that close to two million were killed -- rested then, as now, solely on witness depositions and SS confessions.182 The only corroboration for the actions alleged at these camps are some mass graves, which by normal estimation of grave mass, contain perhaps a few tens of thousands of bodies altogether.183 This may indicate murders and mass executions of some type, but they do not indicate mass exterminations, let alone by poison gas. 
At the end of January, Auschwitz was liberated, and the Red Army found about six thousand prisoners who were considered too ill by the Germans to march back to Germany.184 Photographs of the liberated inmates, that included several hundred children, indicate old age, even infirmity, but neither starvation nor epidemics.185 Obviously the fact that such inmates were alive tended to contradict the already reigning conception; later, an SS man would confess that Himmler had ordered all exterminations to cease the previous November, in fact, precisely on November 26, 1944, the day the WRB report was issued.186 Needless to say no documentary evidence in support of this confession has ever surfaced.187
At the same time, the Soviets made reference ot the liberated Auschwitz camp in their national propaganda organ, Pravda. After a brief reference on February 1, a full report, by correspondent Boris Polevoi, was published on Friday, February 2, 1945, less than a week after the camp had been liberated, and a full three months before the official Soviet report on Auschwitz.
Polevoi's indebtedness to the Majdanek reportage is explicit, but at the same time there are some differences:
Last year, when the Red Army revealed to the world the terrible and abominable secrets of Majdanek, the Germans in Auschwitz began to wipe out the traces of their crimes. They leveled the mounds of the so-called "old" graves in the Eastern part of the camp, tore up and destroyed the traces of the electric conveyor belt, on which hundreds of people were simultaneously electrocuted, their bodies falling onto the slow moving conveyor belt which carried them to the top of the blast furnace where they fell in, were completely burned, their bones converted to meal in the rolling mills, and then sent to the surrounding fields.
In retreat were taken the special transportable apparatuses for killing children. The stationary gas chambers in the eastern part of the camp were restructured, even little turrets and other architectural embellishments were added so that they would look like innocent garages.
There is one major surprise to this narrative: first, it is completely different from the report of the Soviet Special Commission on Auschwitz. That report, in turn, would show the influence of the War Refugee Board (WRB) Report of November 26, 1945. An obvious inference is that the Soviet Auschwitz narrative was revised subsequent to this report to make it harmonize with the various anonymous messages which comprised the WRB report. Nevertheless, Polevoi's report shows other influences and connections.
For example, the concept of the "factory of death" is today well-known in the Holocaust literature, but appears to have its beginnings here. That concept in turn seems clearly linked to Russian, Soviet, and Western symbolism rejecting the industrial factory system, compare the short stories of Anton Chekhov or various writings of Maxim Gorky, or further the angst of German Expressionism. Meanwhile, the concept of the Germans "wiping out the traces of their crimes" goes back, as we have seen, to the Katyn Forest revelations of 1943.
It hardly needs to be pointed out that the "electric conveyor belt" has no place in any subsequent Auschwitz narratives, this story element is probably linked to the reports concerning the large electric chambers at Belzec and elsewhere. The "special transportable apparatuses for killing children" are probably references to gas vans, their special utilization for that purpose first attested at the Krasnodar-Kharkov trials. The description of "stationary gas chambers" is apparently a reference to either the delousing stations BW 5/A and 5/B at Birkenau, or else Crematoria IV and V. The reference to the "gas chambers" as "garages" ("garazhi") was a characterization first made of the "gas chambers" at Majdanek.
What is most striking about this press report is not its derivative nature or that it is totally at variance with the version of Auschwitz that we have come to know, substituting the traditional atrocity record with another, completely imaginary one. Rather, that the first non-anonymous observer at the Auschwitz camp could be so far from the current narrative speaks not only to the inaccuracy of this initial report, but also to the artifice of subsequent ones.
Shortly after Polevoi's report was published, Soviet interrogators developed affidavits from Pavel Leleko, who had been a police guard at Treblinka.188 Coincidentally, Leleko's interrogations are supposed to have begun on the same day that the WRB Report was issued, three months before. On the following February 20 and 21, 1945, Leleko contributed two affidavits, and these rehearse the structure of the Treblinka mass gassing claim, and indeed, the gassing claim for all the Aktion Reinhard camps.189
The Leleko depositions contain the following details of the gassing process:
  1. The victims were detrained, asked to turn in all valuables, were separated by sex, and stripped. Then the victims were walked to a separate area that housed the gas chambers.
  2. The gas chambers had flowers growing alongside in boxes. Instead of a door the victims entered through a heavy hanging made from a rug.
  3. A long passage moved through the length of the building, five rooms on each side (10 in all). 
  4. Four rooms on each side comprised gas chambers, 6 meters square in size, 2.5/3 meters high.
  5. The center of the ceiling had a light fixture with no wiring and two showerheads whereby the gas was let into the chamber.
  6. The walls, floor, and ceiling were of cement.
  7. Each gas chamber had two doors, one opening to the outside whereby the bodies were removed.
  8. 500 people per chamber (500 people in 36 square meters).
  9. Eight rooms out of the 10 used for gas chambers, the other two contained "powerful German engines" that fed the gas into the chambers.
  10. After being filled, the gas chambers were sealed "by hermetically closing doors."
  11. Progress of the gassing was observed by looking through a "porthole" "near each door."
  12. The gassing took 15 minutes. 
  13. About 20 meters distant was the old gas chamber building, which had only three gas chambers.
  14. The bodies were disposed in a concrete incineration pit about 20 meters long and 1 meter deep.190
The interrogation of Leleko is valuable because it is one of the most detailed description of a gassing at one of the Aktion Reinhardt camps.191 All other confessions, to the extent that they describe the gassing process at all, show clear traces of harmony with Leleko's testimony.192
The problem is that Leleko's testimony offers nothing new. The entire shower-gas-burning sequence was already well known by this time, so Leleko's remarks are not revelatory and could have been derivative. More interesting are his comments on the unwired lightbulbs in each room, and the two showerheads through which the gas was supposed to have filled the chamber. Such details tends to confirm our surmise that the association of showers and gas would inevitably lead to the conception of the gas actually coming down through the nozzle: although this method does not seem that it would be particularly effective, given that carbon monoxide is lighter than air.
More serious is the fact that the description of the building sounds remarkably similar to the Bath and Disinfection Complex at Majdanek. Again, we have a long corridor. Again, medium sized rooms into which hundreds of people are forced in the nude. Again, the chambers are constructed with cement, or more likely reinforced concrete. Again, each chamber has two doors. Again, the doors are hermetically sealed, and again, the dying are observed through a porthole or peephole. Even the number of "gas chambers" of the old style (three) corresponds to the number alleged at Majdanek. 
Finally there is the detail that is almost decisive in linking Leleko's account with Majdanek: the engines. As we recall, three rooms at the bathing complex were equipped with outside boilers that forced hot air into the rooms. This is entirely consistent with the idea of hot air delousing, disinfection with Zyklon or other cyanide products, or combinations of the two. But the Soviet Special Commission on Majdanek had suggested that these boiler rooms instead generated carbon monoxide gas that was led into the rooms in order to kill the people inside. (The Soviets also alleged that carbon monoxide was led into another room through a pipe.193) Leleko's description of powerful German engines that generated enough carbon monoxide to kill 500 people in 15 minutes seems clearly derivative of the Majdanek concept. Leleko's confession does not specify the type of engine; that would be left to Kurt Gerstein two months later, with even more problematic implications for the mass gassing claim.
Kurt Gerstein was a minor officer in the SS who was apparently involved in some anti-Nazi activities before and during the war.194 He was, however, an engineer, and was apparently involved in the use of cyanide gas for disinfection purposes. 
He fled the approaching Red Army and surrendered to allied custody in late April, 1945, and on May 6 was turned over to the French authorities.195 During this period he wrote several versions of an affidavit or statement, which differ in small details, but which generally provide a picture of a gassing at Belzec concentration camp and a confirmation of gassing operations at the other Aktion Reinhardt camps.196
The Gerstein Statement, as the various drafts are known, is probably the most widely quoted document for those who claim that mass gassings took place.197 The problem is that it is almost never quoted in full, because the entire document contains a number of errors and improbabilities.198 
The Gerstein Statement, concerning gassing, and a few other matters, may be summarized as follows: 
  1. Gerstein visits Belzec and Treblinka,
  2. Belzec has a capacity 15,000 per day,
  3. Sobibor (not seen), has a capacity of 20,000 per day,
  4. Treblinka, a capacity of 25,000 per day.
  5. Globocnik, who controls the camps, instructs Gerstein to disinfect clothes and also increase efficiency of the gas chambers which are using old diesel engines.
  6. Globocnik informs Gerstein that Hitler and Himmler had been to the camp August 15, 1942: Gerstein records an utterly incredible conversation between Hitler and Globocnik.
  7. At Belzec the next day, Gerstein describes the bathhouse,
  8. with flowers growing outside,
  9. and a sign "To the baths and inhalations"
  10. The building is accessed by a small stairway,
  11. there are three rooms on either side, 4 x 5 meters, 1.9 meters high, "like garages" (the wording in one version appears to describe two doors per chamber, viz. "on return")
  12. A transport arrives and everyone is forced to strip and turn in valuables in sequence,
  13. the hair is shorn, someone tells Gerstein, "to make of it something special for the submarines, linings, etc."
  14. The people are crowded into the gas chambers, 700-800 in 25 square meters.
  15. The diesel engine fails to work, Gerstein times the delay, two hours and 49 minutes on his stopwatch.
  16. One can see that many are still alive through a little window and the electric light in the room.
  17. After 32 minutes of the gassing all are dead.
  18. The next day he goes to Treblinka, there are 8 gas chambers,
  19. mounds of clothes and underwear 35-40 meters high. and
  20. The numbers reported on the BBC are too low: 25 million have been gassed.
  21. that on June 8, 1942, Gerstein had spread rumors that the cyanide he was picking up at Kollin, in Czechoslovakia was for killing people
  22. that the cyanide in his transport consisted of bottles which he later poured out, 
  23. that another method of murder consisted of leading people up staircases and throwing them into blast furnaces.199
The material or documentary evidence for any of these claims is nil.200 It is not normally claimed that anyone was killed with bottled cyanide, when that claim is made, as for example, in postwar testimony by former SS, it is arbitrarily corrected by historians.201 It is established that Hitler and Himmler were never at these camps in August, 1942.202 The crowding elements and the piles of clothing are impossible exaggerations. Therefore we are not bound to analyze the document as fact but are rather entitled to move immediately to the question of the source of the statement's elements.
The diesel gas reference is probably connected either to Soviet revelations of gas vans, or else to Soviet discussions of Treblinka.203 Other tropes can be identified, for example, the description of the gas chambers as appearing "like garages" is almost certainly indebted to Werth's description of Majdanek the previous summer, or Polevoi's description of Auschwitz two months previous.204 It is interesting to note that if Gerstein really was involved in the spreading of rumors about cyanide use for human beings, then the timing of these rumors (June 8, 1942) would coincide with the rumor of cyanide use that reached Switzerland the following August.
Another element: The 25 million victims goes back to a usage manual on Zyklon.205 The heaps of piled clothes are a reference to Majdanek.206 Above all, the statement shows the influence of Leleko's February interrogations and probably other testimonies concerning Treblinka and Sobibor made at the same time or before. In particular, the use of the "blast furnace" motif shows the clear influence of Polevoi. But many other elements, including the number of rooms, the arrangement of the building, the engines, the peepholes, even the flowers in front of the building, also appear derivative.
The main problem with the Gerstein statement is that one does not pick and choose from a document. Many elements of Gerstein's statement are simply false, if we reject these, we must legitimately ask why we should give credence to the other elements.207 As it turns out the only part of the statement which is quoted, and considered unambiguously true, relates to its repetition of the now conventional shower-gas-burning concept. Yet this simply means that we are using a part of Gerstein to confirm what we already know.
The gravest structural difficulty with the Gerstein statement is that it insists on the use of diesel engines in the generation of carbon monoxide gas for the gas chambers. Since 1983, Friedrich Paul Berg, a professional engineer and former environmental expert, has demonstrated that this would be a most improbable method for mass exterminations: diesel engines emit virtually no carbon monoxide.208 These analyses, in turn, cast grave doubts on the alleged gassings at all of the Aktion Reinhardt camps, because, following Gerstein, diesel engines -- usually from Soviet tanks but sometimes from submarines -- are nowadays always alleged as the means of the gas production at these three camps.209 
Another point with Gerstein's statement is not that it can be shown as derivative of contemporary Aktion Reinhardt testimonies, or that it contains many absurdities, or that its description of the supposed 600,000 mass murders at Belzec remains essentially uncorroborated. It is rather that Gerstein, a Zyklon technician, was attempting by his confession to deflect guilt away from himself, which in turn proves the extent to which Zyklon was perceived solely as a death dealing mass murder weapon at the time.210 In this regard he was unsuccessful: after his claims were widely publicized in the press in July, 1945, the French indicated their intention to try him as a war criminal, and Gerstein committed suicide.211

NOTES


  1. Novitch, op. cit., passim

  2. Ibid.

  3. The standard story is that the Germans dismantled them to hide the traces of their crimes, but under our theory the huts would have been dismantled after use.

  4. All "documentation" pertaining to these camps subsequent to the immediate postwar period has consisted of testimonies, thus, Gitta Sereny's Into that Darkness, Henry Holt, NY:1974, contains what are said interviews with former commandant Franz Stangl in the early 1970's, but aside from being very scanty on detail, these interviews also offer no proof, simply corroboration of the standard claim.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Ball, John Clive, "Luftbild Beweise", in Grundlagen, German translation of "Air Photo Evidence" which is rehearsed on Ball's website, at

    http://www.air-photo.com
  7. noted in the Soviet Special Commission, USSR-8, discussed below.

  8. Stäglich, op. cit., contains several such photos.

  9. This is according to a postwar SS affidavit, but is not corroborated. Interestingly, Czech, noted below, references this for the 26th, but then references for the day before (November 25th) a scrap of paper of unknown origin which refers to the order to dismantle the crematoria. The juxtaposition would repay careful scrutiny.

  10. The facts behind the "stop the gassing" order are reconstructed in "Himmlers Befehl, die Vergasung der Juden zu stoppen" in VffG, I:4 (XII:97), pp.258-259

  11. Documents of the US government reproduced in Sheftel, Yoram, Defending Ivan the Terrible, Regnery, Washington, DC: 1996, p. 378. It should be noted that the Leleko interviews are the earliest recorded in this document, however it is also important to note that the Soviets had already issued their "special commission" that is, had established the facts, of Treblinka, two months before Leleko's interrogations began. See discussion of "Canonical Holocaust" below.

  12. The two later Leleko depositions played a crucial role in reversing the conviction of Ivan Demjanjuk, hence, they have been widely distributed and widely cited. We reference the versions found on the Nizkor site, at

    http://www.nizkor.org
  13. Ibid.

  14. xxxxx

  15. Compare, for example, the descriptions established at the various Treblinka trials from 1950, and also the testimony of Franz Suchomel in Lanzmann's Shoah.

  16. Communique, loc. cit.

  17. Roques, Henri, The 'Confessions' of Kurt Gerstein, Institute for Historical Review, Newport Beach, CA: 1989 is the standard analysis of his depositions and his life, cf. P. 90.

  18. Ibid., p. 122f. It is important to note here that Roques is strictly concerned with analyzing the statements of Kurt Gerstein, not with overturning any other particular aspect relative to the gassing claim or the Holocaust.

  19. Ibid.

  20. Ibid., cf. Dawidowicz, Reader, in whose anthology it constitutes the sole description of gassing, and the sole document not completely contemporaneous with what it describes.

  21. Dawidowicz, loc. cit., for an example, Roques cites several others, op. cit., pp. 143-156.

  22. Roques, op. cit., detailed tables describing the elements of the eight (sic!) diiferent versions are found between pages 117-118.

  23. The only "corroboration" for Gerstein's testimony, at a camp where 600,000 murders are claimed, is the 1946 book of Rudolf Reder which describes the same lengthy diesel breakdown. That was precisely one of the elements mentioned in French news reports, July 4, 1945 (Roques, op. cit., pp. 108ff reproduces the story in France-Soir.) The "confession" of Pfannenstiehl came later, consult Roques, op. cit., pp. 299-309, esp. 302, for an interesting discussion of his interrogations by the postwar courts.

  24. Furet, Francois, Unanswered Questions, Schocken Books, NY: 1989, Adam, Uwe Dietrich, "The Gas Chambers", 35n, p. 350, 72n, p. 352 pp. 134-154

  25. Noakes, op. cit., cited below, like most of those who use Gerstein, annotates when he doesn't omit.

  26. This seems clear, although Friedrich Berg believes that the diesel motif goes back to the gas vans of the Krasnodar trial of July, 1943, if not earlier in Soviet propaganda thinking.

  27. Werth's account will be given at the beginning of Section 15, below.

  28. Roques, op. cit., the document is known as NI-9912. A translation of this document into French was one of the early broadsides in Robert Faurisson's revisionist career.

  29. cf. Communique

  30. Rassinier summed this up beautifully in Debunking, q. v.

  31. Berg's "The Diesel Myth" has existed in several different versions, consult the version in Grundlagen, or one of several articles which cover the same material on CODOHweb.

  32. Eichmann, in his 1960-61 interrogations, referenced submarine engines as being the source of the carbon monoxide: this is almost certainly a garbling of Gerstein's assertion. It should be noted that the Germans collected hair from German women in both world wars, although the pupose was unclear. In World War One, a woman's hair was used to strengthen rubber driving belts.

  33. ref. to effect of the Communique, and the WRB report.

  34. Roques, op. cit.


Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


6. The Canonical Holocaust

 
IF WE WERE TO PINPOINT the time when the gassing claim assumed its present shape, it would be in the three-week period from April 15 to May 6, 1945. During this period the Western Allies liberated a number of concentration camps, and at the end of this period the Soviets issued their Special Commission report on Auschwitz Birkenau. 
On April 15, the British Army took over the Bergen Belsen complex, which at this point contained tens of thousands of prisoners.212 The images of Belsen, cultivated by British military photographers, left an indelible impression: stacks of nude, discolored and disfigured corpses, many in advanced stages of putrefaction, lined like cordwood outside of buildings. Overcrowded barracks full of dead and dying inmates. Large mass graves full of contorted and twisted bodies. The universal reaction was one of shock, horror and disbelief: a common remark was that words could not describe what the liberators had seen.213
Also in April, the United States Army liberated Dachau and Buchenwald.214 These camps too provided their own images: at Dachau, a group of open train cars containing the bodies of a few hundred dead prisoners, at Buchenwald, a handful of strips of human skin which had apparently been lifted from the corpses of tattooed inmates.215 The American reaction to such death and destruction transcended shock in at least one instance: an American officer, confronted with the bodies at Dachau, lined up several hundred German soldiers (mostly youths) who had ended up in the camp at its liberation and machine gunned them in cold blood.216
The allied soldiers, confronted with these scenes of horror, interpreted them in terms of what they knew. And what they knew after three years of unchecked propaganda was that the Germans had been engaged in the systematic murder of millions of human beings in the camps by means of the shower-gas-burning sequence. The presence of a shower, or a crematorium, or a delousing chamber became prima facie evidence of the well-known gas extermination claim.217 The nude, discolored, and disfigured bodies were no doubt victims who had been gassed just before the allied arrival.218 Again and again one finds the sentiment that the corpses were the proof of the totality of the accusation which had been made for years, and that the Germans had been stopped, as one American put it, "before they had time to get their act together."219
The problem is that these perceptions were wrong. What the Allies had found in the Western camps was simply the result of the "last major epidemic of typhus in world history."220 The epidemic had been precipitated by the complete breakdown of sanitation, transportation, and provisioning for the concentration camp system in the last weeks and months of the war.221 The bodies were discolored and disfigured by the process of putrefaction, they were nude because whenever a prisoner died the other prisoners would strip their clothing and burn the lice-infested garments.222 Although widely publicized descriptions and photographs of gas chambers were proffered at the time for the western camps, these turned out to be nothing but standard delousing chambers.223 In 1960, it was established that there were no gassings in the Western camps.224 But none of this penetrated the western consciousness of the time which could not see beyond the piles of dead bodies, and saw in them proof of German evil and Nazi Kultur.225 The imagery of the western camps, and above all Belsen, would remain for decades the proof of the Holocaust, and by extension, of the gas extermination claim.
Just before the end of the war, the Soviets issued a report which would authoritatively establish the nature of the extermination program. The Soviet Special Commission on Auschwitz., like most Soviet reports, was relatively brief, about 30 pages, and published in brochure format.226 Given the emphasis given to the gassing claim there is very little descriptive material contained in the report, only two documents are cited: one, a reference to the construction of crematoria, second, a document that refers to baths for special purposes for either Crematorium IV or V.227 We should note that this evidence is not only considered incriminating but sufficient proof of the crime: this shows the extent to which the shower-gas-burning sequence was fundamental to thinking at the time, any one of the elements was considered decisive for the others. The substance of the report, with respect to the gassing claim, can be summarized in the following extract:
  1. Twelve crematory ovens with 46 retorts were available in four new crematoria.
  2. Every retort could take three to five corpses.
  3. The cremation procedure took approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. The baths for special purposes, that is, the gas chambers for the killing of human beings were located in the cellars of special buildings next to the crematoria.
  5. There were also another two separate "baths", the bodies of people killed here were burnt in separate fires in the open.
  6. Dogs helped to drive the men intended for death into the baths.
  7. On the way, they were driven with blows from clubs and rifle butts.
  8. The doors to the chambers were hermetically sealed, and the people in them were poisoned with Zyklon.
  9. Death occurred within 3-5 minutes;
  10. after 20-30 minutes, the bodies were removed and taken to the crematory ovens in the crematoria.
  11. Before cremation, cremation dentists removed all gold teeth from the bodies.
  12. The "production" of the "baths" and gas chambers by far exceeded the capacity of the crematory ovens; therefore the Germans used gigantic fires in the open to burn the bodies.
  13. Ditches 4 - 6 m wide, 25 - 30 m long, and 2 m deep were dug for these fires.
  14. Channels ran along the floor of the ditches and were used for air supply.
  15. The bodies were brought to the fires by narrow-gauge railway, and placed in layers crossways in the ditches.
  16. Oil was poured over them and that is how they were burnt.228
At the end of the report, the Soviets calculated the number of bodies that could be burned in each of the five crematorium, this totaled 279,000 per month, from which they concluded that the maximum capacity of the crematoria was over five million.229 Nevertheless, their conclusion stated that "the technical commission established that the German hangmen killed not less than 4,000,000 citizens of the USSR, Poland, France, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Holland, Belgium, and other countries during the period of the existence of Auschwitz camp.230
Hence was born the Auschwitz four million.
The Soviet Special Commission on Auschwitz is probably the most important document ever issued on the gas extermination claim. Indeed, it is somewhat shocking to see the extent to which the claim is traced back to this slim and insubstantial brochure. But at the time it established not only the fact of the gas extermination claim but also the implementation of that alleged policy at the largest of all of the concentration camps. On the other hand, the report offers no proof of the claims which it makes, only two documents in circumstantial support, an assertion of the number of victims based merely on arbitrary multiplication of cremation rates, and is buttressed only with large amounts of eyewitness testimony that fail to even come close to providing details of the gassing procedure.
The importance of the document immediately became apparent in the interrogations, confessions, and immediate postwar trials. The first of these was at Belsen in the fall of 1945.231 Although the purpose of the trial was ostensibly to try the SS personnel who had been captured at that camp, it turned out that many of the SS and many of the prisoners had been transferred to Belsen from Auschwitz in late 1944 and early 1945.232 As a result, the Belsen trial was also a trial about the reality of what happened at Auschwitz: indeed, the proceedings included the showing of a Soviet film on Auschwitz.233 
The German defendants were almost all former Auschwitz guards. The Belsen commandant, Josef Kramer, had formerly served briefly as commandant at Birkenau. Hößler had been the head of the women's camp. Irma Grese had been a warder at Birkenau. All of them were accused of participating in selections for the gassing process and all of them eventually admitted their participation. The extent to which the Soviet commission colored their confessions can be readily seen. 
On May 22, 1945, the day after Heinrich Himmler was taken into British custody, Josef Kramer gave a lengthy statement describing the conditions in all the camps where he served, including Belsen, Birkenau, and Natzweiler Struthof. He explicitly denied the existence of "a gas chamber" at Auschwitz.234 The next day, Himmler was dead, an apparent suicide.235 In a later interrogation, Kramer admitted to the existence of "a gas chamber" at Birkenau over which he had no jurisdiction.236 From the stand, he would declare that his initial denial was motivated by an oath of silence to which he was no longer bound by the death of Hitler and Himmler.237 Unfortunately we do not have the date of the second statement by Kramer, but it seems likely that the revelations of the Soviet Special Commission were instrumental in getting him to admit to the gassing claim. The idea that he would be silent about the gassing claim, if it was true, when the WRB report had made essentially the same charges as far back as November, 1944238, and when the Soviet Auschwitz Report had been issued two weeks earlier, is very difficult to believe. The idea of an oath to remain silent makes no sense with regard to Hitler, who had been dead for weeks, nor is it likely that Kramer would deny, while his superior Himmler was also in British custody, something his interrogators were surely expecting him to admit.239
The rest of the defendants at the Belsen Trial also endorsed the gassing claim, with varying degrees of vagueness -- Grese, for example, would claim that she heard of the gas chamber from the prisoners' grapevine -- and after being found guilty 11 of the 45 defendants were hanged.240
The Auschwitz Special Commission definitely set the tone not only for subsequent confessions but also for eyewitness testimonies: in early September, 1945, the former political officer at Auschwitz, Grabner, gave a confession in Vienna in which he said that 3 million had been exterminated at the camp by the time he left in December, 1943.241 This generally accords with the Soviet projections, in the sense that if 3 million had died by the end of 1943, that would project to another million or so by the time the camp was liberated in January, 1945. Even more precisely, at the Belsen Trial, two former Auschwitz prisoners, Dr. Bendel and Ada Bimko, also attested to the reality of the gas chambers, Bimko in particular supporting the four million figure in two places.242
The fact that the eyewitness testimonies and confessions in the postwar period correspond to the Soviet Special Commission could be taken as simple corroboration of the Soviet report, except that it has now been recognized that the Soviet report was wrong, in particular on its totally arbitrary calculation of four million victims (current estimates hold one million or less.243) That figure derived from the Soviet calculation of cremation capacities. It did not derive from testimony. On the other hand, we have several testimonies and confessions which support it. But since the figure is wrong, it follows that the testimonies and confessions which support the calculation were influenced by that report.
If a witness or a confessor makes statements that corroborate statements in an official and widely publicized report, that witness or confessor may be viewed as independently verifying the truth, although the absence of material or documentary support would still leave the matter in doubt. But when the witness or confessor corroborates statements and the statements are false, then one can presume that the witness and confessor statements were simply derivative of the reports. To put it another way, several testimonies may converge on a truth, but several testimonies cannot converge on a falsehood: in such a case one is dealing either with statements derived from a common erroneous source or a kind of mass hysteria determined by the authority of an erroneous source. 
Such is the problem with all witness testimonies and confessions for the gas extermination claim, particularly for this initial period, but even more subsequently. The allegations of mass gassing had been widely disseminated since 1942, and had assumed official status by the fall of 1944. Under these circumstances it would have been impossible to obtain "blind" testimony or an untainted confession. Only statements that provided high levels of corroborative detail would be probative, yet that is precisely what was never offered. Eyewitness testimonies and confessions made the gravest errors whenever they strayed into details, for example, in Ada Bimko's odd notion that the cyanide gas was kept in large round tanks244, or Josef Kramer's assertion that a gassing at Natzweiler was carried out by pouring half a pint of salts into a pipe.245
The Auschwitz Special Commission derived its authority partly because the Soviet government issued it and partly because there were no other reports -- as in the case of Katyn -- to contradict it. Its authority was certainly not due to any exhaustive forensic, documentary, or material calculations. As a result it became the fundamental document for anyone who wished to know what had transpired there. Witnesses, preparing to testify, would consult it so that they could refresh their memories or to put their own experiences in a wider context. Most importantly, allied officials, confronted with former Auschwitz personnel, would have to consult the report in order to know how to distinguish truth from falsehood in the course of their prisoner interrogations.246
As soon as a witness or confessor made statements corroborating the Soviet Special Commission, then those statements themselves acquired the Soviet report's weight of authority because they matched its claims. Over time the proof of the mass gas exterminations at Auschwitz would not be traced in the popular mind back to the Soviet Auschwitz report itself, but rather to testimonies and confessions that were clearly produced under its influence. Thus a version of the gassing claim, what we would call the Canonical Holocaust, evolved almost entirely through oral testimonies that built upon the basis of a report which had no substance. Meanwhile, the damning newsreels of Belsen would be manipulated and juxtaposed from camp to camp according to the whim of the prevailing culture, and provide the unanswerable ground to the claim.247

NOTES


  1. Reilly, Jo, ed., Belsen in History and Memory, Frank Cass, London:1997; Gödecke, Monika, ed. Konzentrationslager Bergen-Belsen: Berichte und Dokumente, Vendenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen:1995

  2. Reilly, op. cit., see especially the article by Paul Kemp, "The British Army and the Liberation of Bergen Belsen April 1945", pp. 134-148

  3. Buchenwald was liberated a few days before Belsen, but the bulk of the camps, including the scenes at Dachau and Mauthausen, came towards the end of the month, see the discussion of the chronology in Hackett, David A., The Buchenwald Report, a translation of a contemporaneous US Intelligence Report, translated by Hackett with an introduction, Westview Press, Boulder, CO:1995

  4. cf. Aroneanu, op. cit., p. 106

  5. Irving, Nuremberg, provides a photograph of the American officer manning his machine gun

  6. cf., Edward R. Murrow, "For Most of it I Have No Words", pp. 681-685, and Martha Gellhorn, "Dachau", pp. 724-730, in Reporting World War II, op. cit.

  7. The inference is that such sentiments must have informed the decision to conduct autopsies at Natzweiler-Struthof and Dachau: no autopsy report from any camp has ever yielded a verdict of cyanide poisoning.

  8. Aroneanu, op. cit., p. 129, quoting from American report on Buchenwald

  9. Kamp article, loc. cit., in Reilly, op. cit., p. 147. Fritz Berg however has suggested that it was followed by a little-known but widespread epidemic in Poland. Indeed, this, like most events between the Bug and the Dniepr between 1944 and 1948, still requires enlightening scrutiny.

  10. This is the standard revisionist view, consult Butz, op. cit., for Commandant Kramer's description, and Berg, "Typhus and the Jews", for material on infrastructure destruction. Nevertheless, traditional Holocaust writers sometimes view these deaths as intentional (see article by Lattek, in Reilly, op. cit.), in this regard it is interesting to note that during the epidemics that raged through Bergen Belsen in the spring of 1945, of 18,168 total dead between March 1 and April 6, only 183 were from the "Star Camp" especially set aside for Jewish prisoners, and only 321 from the three main subcamps specifically for Jewish prisoners (the balance were approx. 4 thousand in the Women's Camp and 11 thousand in the Prisoner Camp #2), table cited in Gödicke, pp. 164-165.

  11. Testimony of Dr. Russell Barton, in Kulaszka, Barbara, ed. Did Six Million Really Die?, on the Zündel-site.

  12. Aroneanu, op. cit., photo, before p. 138, reproduces perhaps the most famous of these photographic hoaxes or misunderstandings, a pensive GI standing before a delousing chamber, with the caption: "An American soldier contemplates the entrance to the control room from which cylinders of Zyklon B were released into the gas chamber." 

  13. Martin Broszat's letter was published in Die Zeit, 26 August 1960, cf. Butz, op. cit., p. 47

  14. "Nazi Kultur" the sign put up by the British at Belsen, a photo of which in Reilly, ed. op. cit.

  15. The entire text of this document, "The Soviet War Crimes Report on Auschwitz, Nuremberg Trial - 6 May 1945" referenced as USSR-8, itranslated by Carlos W. Porter maybe found at http://www.codoh.com/trials/triussr8.html

  16. Ibid.

  17. Ibid.

  18. Ibid.

  19. Ibid.

  20. The main source for this trial is Philips, Raymond, ed., Trial of Josef Kramer and 44 Others, (The Belsen Trial), William Hodge and Co., London: 1949. Also known as volumr II of War Crimes Trials under the editorship of Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe. On Irma Grese, see Brown, Daniel Patrick, The Beautiful Beast, Golden West Historical Publications, Ventura: 1996.

  21. Brown, op. cit.

  22. Philips, op. cit.,.p. 653

  23. Philips, op. cit., pp. 718-737, 738f. Gödecke gives two dates: 2 May, and 22 May. If the latter, the proximity with the death of Himmler is striking. If the former, the weight of the Soviet Special Commission, issued four days later, is increased.

  24. Reitlinger, SS: Alibi of a Nation, Da Capo, NY: 1995

  25. Philips, op. cit., loc. cit.

  26. Ibid.

  27. Preceded, as we have seen, by the Soviet Kharkov Trial of December, 1943.

  28. Butz, op. cit., loc. cit., makes the same arguments about Kramer's confessions, and further on the quality of Kramer's confessions see Robert Faurisson, "Sur la pretendue 'chambre a gaz' homicide du Struthof, les trois confessions successives et contradictoires de Josef Kramer", see

    http://www.abbc.com/aaargh/fran/archFaur/RF80xxxx4.a.html
  29. Gödicke, op. cit., pp.231-233 provides a list of the defendants for the three Belsen trials (55 defendants in all) and sentences. What is less well known is that a dozen of the defendants were kapos, that is, prisoners. It should be obvious then that prisoners had a strong incentive to maintain a low profile and an orthodox interpretation: one prisoner was apparently denounced and put on trial because he was in an SS uniform at liberation.

  30. Grabner's confession cited in Klee, Ernst, u.a., Hrsg., "Schöne Zeiten", S. Fischer Verlag, p. 228

  31. Philips, op. cit., p. 68, 740ff, in both direct testimony and sworn affidavit.

  32. The general consensus from Reitlinger (1953) through Pressac (1993) that the overall death toll at Auschwitz was less than one million, although there have always been those who have claimed higher totals, e.g., Dawidowicz (1974), Yehuda Bauer (1982), etc.

  33. Carlo Mattogno, "Two False Testimonies from Auschwitz", in Jounral of Historical Review, Vol. 10, Number One, spring, 1990.

  34. quoted in Shirer, Rise and Fall, p. 1141

  35. It is understood that an interrogator will seek to elicit information; therefore he must have some kind of focus as to which information is valuable and truthful and which is not: the Canonical Holocaust provided this. Compare the comments in Ruthven, Malise, Torture: The Grand Conspiracy, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London: 1977, p. 275

  36. Reilly, op. cit., in an article provides several references to ways in which the Belsen images were appropriated for other camps, thus, for Buchenwald for the film Judgment at Nuremberg; see also Grundlagen, p.223 for an example where a photo of a Belsen pit grave is transposed to Auschwitz.


Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


7. The Nuremberg Trials

 
THE ORIGINS of the Nuremberg Trials lay in the desire of the Allies as far back as 1943 to take revenge on the Nazi leadership, and punish the German people.248 It is clear that part of the desire was to ensure that there would be no more wars with Germany: hence at this early date one frequently encounters statements of simply executing tens of thousands of the leadership cadre in Germany, or even sterilizing the total German population.249
A general aspect of this hostile attitude was one of paranoia, evinced in conspiracy thinking about the Germans or at least about their leadership. The roots of such paranoia could be variously explained. For one thing, wars always generate suspicions and anxieties that frequently go over the top: one thinks of the English Army, confused and disoriented by the German offensive of May, 1940, finding secret messages in the plowings of Belgian farmers.250 Another contributing factor is the death and destruction of the war: history provides many instances where terrible misfortunes have been attributed to the secret plotting of others. Jews, for example, were frequently scapegoats in times of plague and disease.251 In the context of war-hatred against Germans, such attributions were a natural extension: during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, an American official attributed this terrible outbreak to a German submarine which had brought the disease to America under the Kaiser's order.252
Still another contributing factor to such paranoia is the extent to which war hysteria attributes malevolent "fifth column" tendencies to specific minority groups. The internment by the Allies of the Japanese and other European nationals, the Soviet deportations of the Volga Germans and Crimean Tatars, as well as the German deportations of the Jews, all seem to have been influenced by this kind of thinking to at least some degree.
To a certain extent such conspiratorial thinking is probably a throwback to shamanistic thinking; the idea that misfortune has a direct cause that can be traced back to a specific malevolent agent: one thinks of the various witchhunts that have cropped up here and there in European history.253 As it applied to the Germans in the 20th Century, such conspiratorial thinking about German motives and German conduct clearly preceded World War Two: one thinks of the Reichstag fire and even more sinister theories traced back hundreds of years.254 
In the context of the postwar period this simply meant that the Allies were not inclined to trust the German people and least of all their former leadership.255 The Allies were convinced, on the basis of the Canonical Holocaust, that the German people, or at least the SS, had engaged in the most barbaric crimes and they would not be dissuaded by denials.256 Down to the common soldier, one finds that whenever any German denied knowledge of "what was going on in the camps" the usual conclusion drawn was that he was simply lying.257 A final contributing element to this Allied paranoia involved the fact that they were essentially occupying with relatively small numbers a nation of 80 million people; history again shows that when such a small group attempts to impose its will on the majority, conspiracy thinking is a natural result.258
Simply put, a profound gulf existed between occupier and occupied. Allied paranoia created the certainty of German conspiracies, of which the mass gassing program was merely one. The Germans were not to be trusted to tell the Allies what had happened and why, they were merely expected to confirm what they were told. The source of the information for what had happened was, after all, available in reports that had been authoritatively issued by the Soviet and later Polish communist governments, as well as by confessions and affidavits that simply restated what everyone had known all along. In this atmosphere of assumed guilt and conspiracy, it was unfortunate that the presentation for the mass gassing and extermination claims at Nuremberg fell almost entirely to the Soviet Union, which already had long experience with conspiracies, paranoia, and show trials.
What transpired at Nuremberg cannot be fully grasped without some understanding of the psychology of Soviet judicial procedure under Stalin. In the 1930's, the Soviets conducted several trials, mostly involving prominent communists but also "saboteurs" who, it was said, were attempting to destroy the Soviet Union.259 It is generally granted that the accusations made in these trials were false, an extract from one confessor's affidavit, who was charged with sabotaging Soviet agriculture as part of a German plot, is very revealing:
The chief task assigned to me by the German intelligence service at that time was to arrange to spoil grain within the country. This involved delaying the construction of storehouses and elevators, so as to create a discrepancy between the growing size of the grain collections and the available storage space. In this way [the German agent] said, two things would be achieved: firstly, the grain itself would be spoiled; and secondly, the indignation of the peasants would be aroused, which was inevitable when they saw that grain was perishing. I was also asked to arrange for the wholesale contamination of storehouses by pests, especially by corn-beetle ... The German intelligence service made a special point of the organization of wrecking activities in the sphere of horsebreeding in order .. not to provide horses for the Red Army. As regards seed, we included in our program muddling up seed affairs, mixing up sorted seed and thus lowering the harvest yield in the country. As regards crop rotation, the idea was to plan the crop area incorrectly and thus place the collective farm peasants in such a position that they would be virtually unable to practice proper crop rotation and would be obliged to plough up meadows and pastures for crop growing. This would reduce the size of the harvests in the country and at the same time arouse the indignation of the peasants, who would be unable to understand why they were being forced to plough up meadows and pastures when the collective farms wanted to develop stock-breeding and required fodder for the purpose. As regards the machine tractor stations, the aim was to put tractors, harvester combines and agricultural machines out of commission, to muddle the financial affairs of the machine and tractor stations, and for this purpose to place at the machine and tractor stations useless people, people with bad records, and above all members of our Right organization. As regards stock-breeding, the aim was to kill off pedigree breed stock and to strive for a high cattle mortality ... to prevent the development of fodder resources and especially to infect cattle artificially with various kinds of bacteria in order to increase their mortality ... I instructed [the head of the veterinary department] and Boyarshinov, Chief of the Bacteriological Department, to artificially infect pigs with erysipelas in the Leningrad region and with plague in the Voronezh region and the Azov-Black Sea Territory. I chose these two bacteria because the pigs are inoculated not with dead microbes, but with live ones, only of a reduced virulence. It was therefore quite simple from the technical standpoint to organize artificial infection ... For this purpose three factories were selected at my suggestion ... In these factories serums were made with virulent bacteria and given special serial numbers. Boyarshinov was informed of these serial numbers and he transmitted them to the chiefs of the veterinary departments in the localities who could be relied on in this matter, and they in turn transmitted them to veterinary surgeons who had anti-Soviet feelings and who in case of a heavy cattle mortality would not raise a big fuss.260
The detached reader notes first of all the tremendous scope of the secret conspiracy alleged as well as the fact that every conceivable shortcoming of Soviet agriculture is being attributed to it. A natural conclusion is that the Soviet government had orchestrated a tremendous hoax. But that is probably too radical an interpretation. It is hard to believe that any rational government, intent above all on simply suppressing its enemies,261 would devise such a lunatic indictment. Rather it suggests that, probably with some rational and deliberate coaxing from above, the concept of sabotage took on a life of its own in the minds of the security apparatus, the interrogators, and probably even among many of the defendants as well. In other words, we are looking at an instance of mass hysteria in which Soviet society had been taken over by rumors of secret "wreckers" whose secret agenda was so skillfully masked that no hard evidence existed, and whose works comprised all of the misfortunes of the process of collectivization and de-kulakization. To say that it was wholly deliberate is to go against the weight of analysis from history: as Malise Ruthven pointedly notes, histories of the witchcraft mania never suggest that the inquisitors were perpetrating a fraud.262
A similar hysterical atmosphere of endlessly ramifying atrocity appears to have prevailed at Nuremberg. The Americans had found half a dozen strips of human flesh at Buchenwald ornamented with tattoos.263 At Nuremberg, this freak discovery became a veritable cottage industry in the concentration camps: according to Dr. Blaha, the Germans made riding breeches, gloves, and ladies' handbags from human flesh at Dachau,264 while the witness Balachowsky assured the court in his testimony that it was used to bind books.265 The Soviets then produced samples of what they claimed was tanned human skin along with a few exhibits that were purportedly human soap.266 It need hardly be said that none of these claims have ever been verified; the Soviet samples have disappeared.267
The prosecution's case at the Trial consisted mostly of reading into the record miscellaneous atrocity claims from affiants who never appeared to testify.268 (The defense was allowed half a day to summarize 300,000 affidavits in rebuttal.)269 With regards to the gas extermination claim, an important document was an affidavit from Höttl, who subsequently evaded prosecution, which explained that secret orders from Himmler had established the extermination program, and that four million had been killed at Auschwitz, six million Jews in all.270 Later testimony by Wisliceny repeated Höttl's claim, and put the blame for the events on the missing and presumed dead Adolf Eichmann.271 No documents, then or now, have ever been advanced that point to the planning, budgeting, or ordering of a gas extermination program.
The Soviet presentation, covering most of February, 1946, was considered excessive by some: after presenting an affidavit that a German commandant had taken Jewish children, thrown them in the air, and then shot them for the entertainment of his small daughter, Justice Parker of the United States would be heard to privately comment: "They have gone too far!"272 When Mesdames Vaillant Couturier and Shmegelovskaya presented fantastic testimonies of the mass gassings at Auschwitz, Justice Biddle of the United States would note privately "I doubt this"273 and Justice Birkett of the United Kingdom would express private misgivings.274 But it points to the hysterical atmosphere of the time that neither they, nor anyone else, had the courage to publicly dissent and inject some rationality into the proceedings.275
In the summer of 1946, Soviet hubris finally overreached itself when they submitted a 56 page octavo pamphlet that claimed that the Germans had murdered 11,000 Polish officers and had buried them in the Katyn Forest in order to discredit the Soviet Union: under the rules of the Court, the mere submission of such a report would normally be enough to establish it as "fact of common knowledge."276 The depressing thing about the Soviet Katyn report is that it is in fact longer and more substantial than either the Majdanek or Auschwitz reports.277 It is also completely false, since it has been reasonably well known since 1952 and was admitted by the Soviet Union in 1989 that Katyn was a Soviet atrocity.278 The Germans, who finally had evidence to contradict a Soviet claim, tested the assumption, and finally, after some conflict, were able to present their own witnesses to the affair.279 The court made no mention of Katyn in its final judgment, making it very clear that at this trial justice and morality had to defer to political expediency.280
At the end of the Soviet prosecution case, the defense phase of the trial began. About a week after that, Winston Churchill, borrowing a phrase from Joseph Goebbels, spoke of an Iron Curtain descending over the continent of Europe.281 Almost simultaneously, a week long trial was held in the Hamburg Curio House against the principals of the firm Tesch and Stabenow, which sold Zyklon B to the Auschwitz camp. That trial, which yielded two death sentences, brought to the fore a number of witnesses -- Bendel, Broad, and Bimko -- whose narratives had already been before the public eye. Just days after the conclusion of that trial, and not far away, the British Field Police seized the former commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höß.

NOTES


  1. This is widely attested, see especially Morgenthau, op. cit. Tusa, Ann and John, The Nuremberg Trial, Atheneum, NY:1983, pp. 21-28, Irving, Nuremberg, discusses the matter extensively in chapter 2, "Lynch Law".

  2. The widespread fascination with castrating Germans elicited comments from none other than President Roosevelt himself; see Morgenthau, op. cit., Butz, op. cit., cites Clifton Fadiman and Ernest Hemingway, Irving traces the concept back to a book written by an embittered American Jew, in Goebbels, p. 369, 372-373

  3. Deighton, Len, Blood, Tears and Folly, Harper, NY:1994, pp.194-195

  4. Cohn, Norman, Warrant for Genocide, Serif, London:1996, a study on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, recapitulates much of this material, and also shows the composite roots of that document. Unfortunately, Cohn takes an uncritical and erroneous view of statements derived from the Gerstein statement, cf. p. 236. The reader will have perhaps already noted that the concept of the National Socialist mass gas extermination program is an inversion of the Protocols concept which many, including many National Socialists, held about Jewish people. Therefore, in this sense, Cohn's choice of quotes is apt: the Gerstein Statement is the mirror image of the Protocols. Further, the reader would note that the wide-spread popularity of the Protocols concept (which nowadays embraces most conspiracy theories) is fundamentally a mythic reaction to certain aspects of modernity; in other words, just like our subject.

  5. Collins, Richard, The Plague of the Spanish Lady, Atheneum, NY: 1974, p. 83.

  6. Cohn, Norman, The Pursuit of the Millenium, also Ruthven, op. cit., Both authors (indeed, most modern authors) trace the witch hunts to social and hence ideological stress.

  7. The Reichstag Fire is a classic instance of paranoia striking in both directions; the National Socialists were convinced that the communists had set the blaze, most everyone outside of Germany was convinced of German guilt. Fritz Tobias' study eventually showed that van der Lubbe set the fire by himself; thus the Law of Parsimony eventually gets rid of conspiracy theories, see Tobias, Fritz, The Reichstag Fire, Secker and Warburg, London:1962. Because Hitler benefited from the fire, in the sense that it facilitated the Enabling Acts, it was long considered another Nazi plot, cf. Shirer, Rise and Fall. xxxxx

  8. One theme that is not pursued here but certainly deserves fuller treatment involves the allied desire to pacify Germany; this meant not only the demilitarizing of the nation by also the discrediting of its military and political elite. Lucius Clay, in his memoirs, Decision in Germany, discussed with frankness the result of the Nuremberg Trials: the National Socialist party was thoroughly discredited. [Doubleday, NY:1950, pp. 250-252] At the same time, Clay noted that the attempt to discredit the military leadership was less successful. [Ibid.] Therefore the reader should understand that one of the reasons that the atrocity charges (including the gassing claim) were pursued with such abandon, and were allowed to be pursued, and have been allowed to propagate unchecked, is because very quickly they became narrowed in function to the simple discrediting of National Socialism. However, just because these charges have been allowed to stand because they discredit National Socialism, it does not follow that to question these charges is the same thing as an endorsement of National Socialism.

  9. The interrogation of Dr. Pfannenstiehl, who Gerstein mentioned in his statement, is characteristic. See Roques, op. cit., pp. 299-308

  10. cf. Life Magazine, May 8, 1945, provides some examples, but this is a very common sentiment expressed in GI memoirs and the press.

  11. This is the central thesis of Ruthven's book, op. cit., interestingly the notion is recapitulated by the conspiracy of Hitler's resurrection, cf. Life, issue cited above, cf., New Yorker, article cited below, as well as the generalized paranoia about "Werewolves" and the "Alpine Redoubt."

  12. Tucker, Richard, The Great Terror, is the standard reference, but see also Ruthven, op. cit., pp. 218-278.

  13. quoted in Ruthven, op. cit., pp. 245-246

  14. Ibid.

  15. Ruthven, op. cit., p. 265

  16. Butz, op. cit., p. 238, provides a photograph of the Buchenwald exhibition that the German people were forced to view, again, as proof of the moral bankruptcy of the National Socialist regime. The photograph featured various anatomical exhibits, two shrunken heads, and half a dozen strips of human skin, most with tattoos, one of almost the complete frontal torso. Over on the far right of the photo one can see a lampshade on a stand, this was also claimed to have been made of human skin although basic visual inspection indicates that it is of a different order of material than the others. This lampshade appears to have been made of goatskin, and is the root of all of the rest of the "human skin" stories. Cf. Aroneanu, op. cit., p. 106, quoting Supreme AEF report on Buchenwald. As far as is known, neither that lampshade nor any of the other materials discussed in the text has ever been positively identified, many, not even seen; it is doubtful that such materials would be unavailable for testing even today if they had ever existed, since it is known that the United States government retains human skulls gathered by Americans soldiers and sailors in the South Pacific, Iserson, Kenneth, Death to Dust, Tucson, AZ, 1995.

  17. cited in Porter, Holocaust, the reader is reminded that Porter's text simply involves captioned pages from the trial record that have been photographed and presented in legible format whole, i.e., his book does not comprise interpretation of these affidavits and testimony, other than, of course, in his selections.

  18. cited in Porter, Holocaust

  19. Ibid.

  20. Ibid.

  21. Taylor, Telford, Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials, Back Bay, NY: 1992, p. 315

  22. cited in Porter, op. cit.

  23. discussed in Irving, Nuremberg

  24. Irving, Nuremberg, and see also Harris, Tyranny

  25. Tusas, op. cit., p. 198

  26. Irving, in both Goering and Nuremberg, makes references that are keyed to Biddle's private papers, the first gives the impression that it was Shmegelovskaya who was doubted, the second, Vaillant-Couturier. Perhaps Biddle doubted both.

  27. quoted in Taylor, op. cit., p.315

  28. This ties directly to the judges and lawyers at Nuremberg, and the community of historians, who have failed to oppose censorship today. It is of course one thing for historians to avoid investigating contentious matters. That is not praiseworthy but it is understandable; although we should keep in mind that tenure was not designed to cover minor personal peccadilloes but rather to protect scholars when pursuing difficult questions. It must be said that Dr. Butz, regardless of the merits of his book or his arguments, is the only American academician to have used tenure for the purpose for which it was designed. On the silence of historians in the face of censorship, that is another affair. On the other hand, we are bound to record the statements of professors emeritus Raul Hilberg and Gordon Craig, who have both publicly denounced both censorship and taboo on this subject.

  29. Taylor, op. cit., p. 313, reference to Article 21 of the London Charter.

  30. The Majdanek report comes in at 26 pages, the Auschwitz report would be estimated at about 35, the brochure of Katyn introduced in evidence was 56 pages long.

  31. Paul, op. cit.

  32. Harris, Tyranny, summarizes the German counter, as well as the 1952 Congressional Hearings.

  33. No mention in judgment, cf. Taylor, op. cit., Generally speaking it seems odd that historians continue to use Nuremberg testimony, especially unattested Soviet-generated testimony, as proof of German atrocities. The Soviet Katyn testimony, that described how the Germans dug up the bodies of the 11,000 Polish officers, transported them to Katyn, went through their pockets and planted papers, then reburied them, and then dug them up again, as part of a plot to discredit the Soviet Union, is just as detailed, cogent, and realistic as that provided by the Soviet Union for the extermination camps.

  34. Churchill's speech, 6 March 1946, Fulton, Missouri, first stated by Goebbels, [date], Irving, Goebbels, p. xxxxx

END Sections 4 thru 7
Copyright 1997, Samuel Crowell

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