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Saturday, April 7, 2012

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

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
 

14. Pressac's "Criminal Traces"


THE ISSUE OF AIR RAID SHELTERS and gas protection at the concentration camps leads directly to the purported evidence of gas chambers in the Birkenau crematoria, which have been the subject of an important study by the Frenchman, Jean Claude Pressac.442
Pressac's study represented an attempt to prove that the four Birkenau crematoria were equipped with gas chambers, strictly on a material and documentary basis. The centerpiece of Pressac's massive tome was a list of some three dozen "criminal traces" which represented the totality of material and documentary evidence that can be offered in support of the thesis that mass gassing occurred at the Birkenau crematoria.443 (There is no material or documentary evidence for gassings at any other locations at Auschwitz.)444
We have not yet had occasion to review this part of the documentary evidence because almost all of it was produced at the time of the Polish run Auschwitz trials in 1946 and 1947 after which it was filed away.445 With one or two exceptions, these documents were never used to support the claim of mass gassing in the West.446 Only in the late 1980's, after the revisionist critique had cast major doubts on the veracity of the gassing claim, were these documentary traces unearthed and offered as authoritative and final proof of the mass gassing claim.
But when we review the "criminal traces" we do not find evidence of gas chambers after all. Indeed, looking at the "criminal traces" in the light of German civil defense literature, we find instead that Pressac has unwittingly made a convincing argument that each of the Birkenau crematoria was equipped with a gas-tight bomb shelter, and that these shelters also included decontamination facilities in the form of showers and baths.447 In this respect it is important to note that the crematorium at the base camp was known to have been used as an air raid shelter, although its poison gas protection features have rarely been commented on.448
We should emphasize that all of the material and documentary evidence, when placed in a larger context, points to gas tight air raid and anti-gas shelters, although it is likely that at least two of the traces -- the gas detectors, and possibly the term "Vergasungskeller" -- are rooted in other benign procedures, including disinfection.449 There is no direct material or documentary support for the claim that these spaces were designed, let alone used, as extermination gas chambers.
Since all of the criminal traces at Auschwitz Birkenau can be explained in terms of civil air defense literature, disinfection literature, and other technical literature, it means, first, that there is no longer any documentary or material evidence that mass gassings took place at all. This is important because, as we have already noted, no documents pertaining to gas extermination have ever been offered for the other camps, for example, Sobibor, Treblinka, or Belzec. Second, these documents, which the context shows clearly concern either disinfection or civil air defense procedures, were just as clearly used out of context by the Polish communists who conducted the original Auschwitz trials. One can possibly suggest that they were used out of context unwittingly, but the fact that documents pertaining to civil air defense and disinfection were so clearly misused strongly indicates that there was never any merit to the extermination gassing claim in the first place.
In other words, civil air defense literature, along with disinfection literature, does more than explain all of the alleged documentary and material for mass gas exterminations. Shown in their proper context, these documents, now clearly seen as having been misused, bring us face to face with the possibility of a deliberate Polish and Soviet communist fraud.450

Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


15. The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes


WE HAVE SEEN SO FAR that the concept of shower-gas-burning underlay the accusation of gas exterminations in World War Two, and we have also seen that no material or documentary evidence in support of the accusation has surfaced. This leads us naturally to the question as to whether the claim is entirely fictitious.
Here are some excerpts from a gassing narrative:
And then we stopped in front a large barrack marked Bad und Desinfektion II. "This," somebody said, "is where large numbers of those arriving at the camp were brought in." The inside of this barrack was made of concrete, and water taps came out of the wall, and around the room there were benches where the clothes were put down and afterwards collected. [....] Anyway, after the washing was over, they were asked to go into the next room: at this point even the most unsuspecting must have begun to wonder. For the "next room" was a series of large square concrete structures, each about 1/4 the size of the bathhouse, and unlike it, had no windows. The naked people (men one time, women another time, children the next) were driven or forced from the bath-house into these dark concrete boxes -- about five yards square -- and then, with 200 or 250 people packed in each box -- and it was completely dark in there, except for a small skylight in the ceiling and the spyhole in the door -- the process of gassing began. First some hot air was pumped in from the ceiling and then the pretty pale-blue crystals of Cyclon were showered down on the people, and in the hot wet air they rapidly evaporated. In anything from two to ten minutes everybody was dead. There were six concrete boxes -- gas chambers -- side by side. "Nearly two thousand people could be disposed of here simultaneously," one of the guides said. [...] At first it was all very hard to take in, without an effort of the imagination. There were a number of very dull-looking concrete structures which, if their doors had been wider, might anywhere else have been mistaken for garages. But the doors -- the doors! They were heavy steel doors, and each had a heavy steel bolt. And in the middle of the door was a spyhole, a circle, three inches in diameter composed of about a hundred small holes. Could the people in their death agony see the SS-man's eye as he watched them? Anyway, the SS-man had nothing to fear: his eye was well protected by the steel netting over the spyhole. And like the proud maker of reliable safes, the maker of the door had put his name round the spyhole: "Auert, Berlin". Then a touch of blue on the floor caught my eye, it was very faint, but still legible. In blue chalk someone had scribbled the word "vergast", and had drawn above it a skull and crossbones.451
and here are some excerpts from another:
I was ordered by Brack to attend the first euthanasia experiment in the Brandenburg asylum near Berlin. I went to the asylum in the first half of January 1940. Additional building work had already been carried out especially for the purpose. There was a room similar to a shower room which was approximately 3 by 5 meters and 3 meters high and tiled. There were benches round the room and a water pipe about 1 inch in diameter ran along the wall about 10 cm off the floor. There were small holes in this pipe from which the carbon monoxide gas poured out. The gas cylinders stood outside the room and were already connected up to the main pipe. [....] There were already two mobile crematoria in the asylum with which to burn the corpses. There was a rectangular peephole in the entrance door, which was constructed like an air raid shelter door, through which the delinquents could be observed. The first gassing was carried out by Dr. Widmann personally. He turned the gas tap and regulated the amount of the gas. [....] For this first gassing about 18-20 people were led into this 'shower room' by the nursing staff. These men had to undress in an anteroom and they were completely naked. The doors were shut behind them. These people went quietly into the room and showed no signs of being upset. Dr. Widmann operated the gas. I could see through the peephole that after about a minute the people had collapsed or lay on the benches. There were no scenes and no disorder. After a further five minutes the room was ventilated.452
and here is are excerpts from a third:
Then came the idea of a room such as you see here with iron door and shutter -- a hermetically sealed room. Put those two facts together, and whither do they lead? [....] Observe what I found. You see the gas-piping along the skirting here. Very good. It rises in the angle of the wall, and there is a tap here in the corner. The pipe runs out into the strong room, as you can see, and ends in that plaster rose in the center of the ceiling, where it is concealed by the ornamentation. That end is wide open. At any moment by turning the outside tap the room could be flooded with gas. With door and shutter closed and tap full on I would not give two minutes of conscious sensation to anyone shut up in that little chamber. By what devilish device he decoyed them there I do not know, but once inside the door they were at his mercy. Now, we will suppose that you were shut up in this little room, had not two minutes to live, but wanted to get even with the fiend who was probably mocking at you from the other side of the door. What would you do? ... Now, look here! Just above the skirting is scribbled with a purple indelible pencil, 'We, we --' That's all. 453
What is the difference among these accounts? They all sound similar. The first is from Alexander Werth, and fairly represents the kinds of arguments he and others made in September, 1944 in describing the operation of the Majdanek gas chamber. As we have seen, the gas tight door, which he found so incriminating, is merely an air raid shelter door. The second account comes from testimony about a euthanasia gassing, which we have seen involves a probable retrofitting of the shower-gas-burning concept. The final excerpts come from a Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, written in 1924 or 1925.
The Holmes story reminds us of two things. First, that a clearly fictional -- but meant to be realistic -- depiction of a gassing could antedate any gassing stories by almost 20 years. Indeed, we are almost inclined to think that Conan Doyle's adventure -- bearing in mind the universal popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories back then -- contributed some detail to the other two later accounts.
The second thing that comes to mind is the ultimate origin of these concepts. That is, we are not merely interested in the idea of poison gas, but also the concepts of delousing and burning, and how they evolved and were associated in the Western mind. In addition, we should also take note of those concepts that we specifically associate with the Holocaust, namely, an extermination program, carried out by higher orders in a secret fashion, and consuming a predetermined number of Jewish victims. What we are proposing is no longer a simple history of what happened, but how what happened was interpreted by those who experienced it on the basis of their expectations and beliefs.
Such an investigation takes us far from mere literary analysis and almost into a kind of literary archaeology that would take years to unravel. Nevertheless it is still possible to adumbrate some of the roots of these various concepts.
From the 19th Century "gas" seems to have conjured up above all the firedamp of coal mines which engendered several terrible disasters.454 Alternatively, gas was related to medicine because of its use as an anesthetic for surgery and dentistry.455 Probably the mining concept inspired H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds from 1898 where exploding gases provide not only propulsion for the Martian craft but also a potent weapon.456 Gas usage again would figure in the Martian stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, from 1913, although here the association clearly seems to be with nitrous oxide, which frequently is known to cause out of body experiences.457 Folk conceptions of gas probably also involve gas lamps and gas ovens, both of which were used for suicides after World War One.458 Probably the Holocaust researcher should be familiar with as many associations of gas as possible when reviewing the construction of gassing claims.
Gas warfare in terms of air power also figures in the European mind earlier than we might think. Already in 1912, a Leipzig correspondent, reviewing the political scene in the Balkans, spoke of the need to develop "poison gas bombs"459, and, as far back as 1932 the author of a novel about the coming war would provide a vivid description of the bombing of Paris, ending with a gas attack.460
It is interesting in this regard that Conan Doyle is a veritable fount of references to poison gases of various kinds but also cyanide.461 Particularly interesting in this respect is The Poison Belt, from 1913, which describes Planet Earth entering into a celestial cloud of poison gas that apparently kills all, the only hope for the five survivors is to turn the Madame's boudoir into a kind of "anti-gas shelter" complete with bottled oxygen.462
Most remarkably, we find already in the 1930's references to gas killings remarkably similar to those that arose in 1940. A Jehovah's Witness publication from 1937 already reported on the alleged use of poison gas in German camps, and Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here from 1936 features an episode in which twenty Jews are asphyxiated in the basement of their synagogue with bottled carbon monoxide.463
We have already touched on delousing procedures and cremation in the popular culture, as shown in Huxley and the memoirs of Mary Antin. Doubtless there are many more. The Soviet poet Mayakovsky used the motif of a delousing station in his futurist play The Bathhouse (1926) to describe a process of exclusion, cleansing, and as it were "ideological delousing".464
Turning now to the concepts important to the Jewish perspective on the Holocaust, the usage of the term "extermination" is deserving of further excavation. In this respect the researcher is surprised at how easily the term is employed to describe the persecutions and hardships of the Eastern Jews since the early 1880's. Thus, in 1882, a speech in the United States House of Representatives concluded "The Hebraic-Russian question has been summed up in a few words: 'Extermination of two and one-half millions of mankind because they are -- Jews!'".465 And, in a letter written in 1939, the legendary Jewish historian Simon Dubnow would write of conditions in Germany: "Hitler's 'system of extermination' is simply a translation of Haman's plan to 'destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all Jews.' [....] Hitler has almost realized his plan. One million Jews in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia are destroyed, plundered, mutilated [....]."466 With due regard to the frightful excesses of the initial wave of Russian pogroms and the effects of Kristallnacht, to use the term "extermination" seems either hyperbole or irresponsibility, certainly in the sense in which we construe the term today. But then the obvious conclusion is that "extermination" did not have quite the meaning it has today in the 1930's and World War Two.467
These remarks also refer back to the concept of "six million" Jews endangered with "extermination" a construction which has been traced back to a speech by the governor of New York in 1919, in the context of the Russo-Polish war and typhus epidemics.468 As Arthur Butz was perhaps the first to note, the final figure for Jewish losses as a result of National Socialist persecution seems to have been firmly set early in the war, certainly long before any accurate accounting could be done.469 One has to inquire on the fixation with this number, especially in light of both traditional and revisionist studies that indicates the loss of life -- if not the loss of community -- was rather less.470
Finally, it seems to be worthwhile to study Jewish historians to grasp their vision of historical causality. Simply put, the explanations put forward by Jewish historians for the pogroms, as for any of the other misfortunes of Jewish history, is almost always expressed in terms of the conspiratorial plotting of members of the ruling elite.471 Rarely does there seem to be an appreciation of the social tensions that could give rise to largely spontaneous episodes of violence, or that the interests of Jewish people could conflict with those of non-Jews, thus generating tensions which would lead to tragic upheavals.
This last factor appears to be particularly instrumental in the tendency to view the Holocaust in a rather simple and monocausal way, as the personal pursuit of the Hitler-Haman, driven by unnamed demons to utterly destroy the Jews. But aside from the biblical resonance of such an explanation it does not fit the patterns we normally associate with any other upheavals in history. Nor does such an explanation account for the complexity of the time, or for the nature of the very real persecutions and dissolution effected by the Stalinist regime, the pre-war Polish regime, or other East European governments.472 To put the onus for the Holocaust solely on Hitler the Man, is merely to brandish a caricature of Hitler the Devil, and certainly such historical perception is useless in preventing future holocausts. Instead, all too often, such approaches to historical judgment merely descend into a vein of highly colored condemnations, first of Hitler, then the Nazis, and finally the German people.473 Such moralistic diatribes may soothe the suffering soul, but they contribute nothing to our understanding, nor, it must be said, do they contribute anything to reconciliation.

Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


16. Conclusions


THE AIM OF THIS ESSAY was to trace in a rudimentary form the evolution of the gassing claims from the summer of 1942, when they began in the form of wartime propaganda, until the end of the Nuremberg Trials, by which time they had assumed the stature of facts. Our main assumption was that in tracing the development of these stories we would be able to define precisely where and how the various story elements evolved. Of course, if the evolution of the stories had ended up in a solid documentary or material base, that would have strongly corroborated the factuality of the mass gassing allegations. But in our traversal, we have found two things:
  1. There is no unambiguous material or documentary basis for the gassing claims: what has been put forward as indirect evidence of mass gassings turns out, in context, to overwhelmingly pertain either to German disinfection procedures or German civil air defense measures.
  2. Gassing claims similar to those from World War Two were made on several occasions long before the Germans are supposed to have embarked on the project.
We conclude that since the gassing claims were able to evolve and develop independent of any reliable material or documentary evidence, and indeed were able to evolve to a high degree even before the war began, the gassing claim should be recognized as a delusion, indeed, as one of the greatest delusions of all time.
The critical response could be twofold. First, the critic could say that the hundreds (really, dozens) of eyewitnesses and confessors could not be lying, they must be telling the truth in describing gas chambers, because if they were lying one would have to hypothesize a massive amount of collusion among them in order to make their stories converge.
There are several problems with this rejoinder. The most serious is that it absolutely ignores the context of the testimonies and confessions, all of which were generated in an atmosphere saturated with rumors of the shower-gas-burning sequence. The so-called "convergence of evidence" as it applies to testimonies and confessions could just as easily be attributed to a ground of generalized rumor as to one of empirical fact. Nor is this reliance on testimonies and confessions very convincing when we have seen that testimonies (e.g., Bendel, Bimko), memoirs (e.g., Lengyel, Vrba), and confessions (e.g., Grabner, Höß) are all liable to be inaccurate and untruthful, even if we were to grant that, of course, no one would ever be untruthful about these events on purpose.
As we have seen, the essentials of the gassing legend as embodied in the shower-gas-burning model was widely disseminated during the war, including via radio broadcasts to Europe. Literally anyone in 1945 or thereafter could have devised, or imagined, or attested to, a mass gassing scenario. And in fact we find further that the testimonies and confessions frequently contradict on almost all details, but only have the shower-gas-burning sequence in common.
It is probably no coincidence that the three predicates of the sequence indicate things that prompted widespread anxiety and fear in the early 20th Century: disease and disease control measures, poison gas usage, and cremation. Looked at from this angle, the shower-gas-burning scenario, along with the vacuum chambers, the electrocution plates, the lampshades, the soap, the medical experiments, and the films of executions and mass murders that were purportedly the delight of the Nazi leadership, are all, at least on some level, simple expressions of a myth of a 20th Century Inferno:474
Excuse me, please go on drinking. Are you better now? Or do you have progressive ideas about hell and keep up with the reformists? I mean, instead of ordinary cauldrons with sulfur for poor sinners there are quick boiling kettles and high pressure boilers. The sinners are fried in margarine, there are grills driven by electricity, steam rollers roll over the sinners for millions of years, the gnashing of the teeth is produced with the help of dentists with special equipment, the howling is recorded on gramophones, and the records are sent upstairs for the entertainment of the just. 475
Returning to the objection that the many witnesses and confessors could not be wrong, such an objection sounds eerily similar to claims made by those who assert the reality of alien abductions: "All the major accounts of abduction in the book share common characteristics and thus provide a confirmation of one another," wrote David Jacobs, "Even the smallest details of the events were confirmed many times over. There was a chronology, structure, logic -- the events made sense .... and the displayed an extraordinary internal consistency."476 Yet Elaine Showalter, in her book Hystories has a ready response for those who see in such narrative similarity something more than spectral evidence:
Literary critics, however, realize that similarities between two stories do not mean that they mirror a common reality or even that the writers have read each other's texts. Like all narratives, hystories [Showalter's term for hysterical narratives - SC] have their own conventions, stereotypes, and structures. Writers inherit common themes, structures, characters, and images; critics call these common elements intertextuality. 477
To the extent that we can see traces of the gassing claim in the popular culture in the decades before World War Two simply strengthens the notion that it arose out of such "intertextuality", or, less ornately, out of the common sense of the time.
That the mass gassing claim can be explained as a cultural construct leads us naturally to consider whether it can be successfully explained by recourse to other approaches borrowed from psychology, crowd and social psychology, and sociology.
One approach would be to look at the gassing claim in the context of the "conveyor belt of death" imagery that is frequently crops up in the Holocaust literature.478 From a sociological point of view, such imagery is above all a hypostasis and rejection of the industrialization and modernization process that at this moment in historic time was completely transforming Eastern Europe. It is a truism of sociology and the sociology of knowledge that such transformations destroy the "plausibility structures", or belief structures, of the previous craft-based or agricultural-based societies, and above all their legitimizing structures in religion.479 No doubt the emotion, verging on religious devotion, that for many imbues this topic and this claim can be linked back to such crises of faith and society.
Then again, there are those who would prefer to characterize the gassing claim as a hoax. A hoax it may well be, especially when, in studying it, we limit ourselves to the cheap and salacious gossip of far too many of the immediate postwar treatments, and, unfortunately, characteristic of most of the widely read ones.480 Yet, that this great tragedy has over the years accrued a thick silt of fantasy does not on its own dispute the sincerity or the pain of those who experienced the deportations or lost loved ones during the war. Still, on the other hand, the gassing claim does seem to meet many of the wish-fulfillment and projection characteristics of true hoaxes.481 It would probably be better to say that, if the claim is a hoax, then surely a hoax of limited participation, and we should emphasize the number of those deceived, rather than the small number of those deceiving.
Then we might ask ourselves to what extent we may call the gassing claim a rumor, or whether it even qualifies to the status of a legend. That the gassing claim began as rumor seems indisputable: it meets the general criteria of disorientation and anxiety in its formation.482 But on the other hand does it have sufficient value for it to remain in our collective cultural consciousness as a legend?483 This brings us to the fundamental value of the Holocaust to the Jewish people.
Our general position is that the Holocaust can only be understood in the wider context of the two wars between the Slavic states and the Germanic states for East European hegemony from 1914 to 1945 and thereafter. That conflict, in turn, can only be understood in terms of the social, economic and demographic transformation of the region over the previous several decades. Such a putting into context certainly does diminish the Holocaust, because then it is placed between the horrors of collectivization in Russia on the one hand, and the expulsions of the Eastern Germans on the other. But while such a putting into context is probably apt for a more global and inclusive concept of 20th Century European history, it is not going to satisfy the identity needs of the individual communities in Europe, nor can it satisfy those needs for the Jewish people. To put it another way, every group is entitled to regard their history and their trials as unique, although some mischief undoubtedly begins when one group seeks to makes its group judgment the regnant judgment in a pluralistic society.
Therefore we may ask: how must the Jewish people perceive the Holocaust? From a long perspective, the erosion and gradual destruction of the Eastern European Jewish communities had been going on ever since the Polish partitions, but there is no doubt that in the 20th Century those communities not only came to an end, but were extirpated in scenes of terror and horror. Yet, given the long history of the pogroms from 1881,484 the extent of pre-war Polish anti-Semitism,485 the non-German participation in many of the massacres,486 the massive Soviet deportations of 1940,487 and the anti-Semitism and persecutions of the Soviet Union,488 it seems naive to insist, "No Hitler, No Holocaust."489 Given the predilection for ruthless transformations among the leaders and theorists in the region, it seems likely that had Hitler never lived someone else from some other country would have devised some other Final Solution. It should be clear, on empirical grounds alone, that to focus solely on Hitler, or National Socialism, or the German people, is to seek a simple answer and a convenient scapegoat for a process of destruction that is still difficult to grasp or reconcile with the will of the Lord of the Universe.
The rational traditions of Judaism make it doubtful that thinking men and women in the Jewish community will forever endorse claims that have been shown to be lacking empirical foundation. Therefore we should understand that the concept Holocaust, as usually discussed, can be construed and memorialized in different ways. We have noted the emphasis on "extermination" among Jewish historians before Hitler's Russian War: we take this to be above all a reference to the communal and social nature of the Jewish life. In other words, we should be sensitive to the idea that while extermination may not mean death, to the extent that it involves the destruction of a Jewish community it is almost the same thing as death. Therefore, whether the victims are numbered in millions or hundreds of thousands, whether they died from typhus, or bullets, or poison gas, in German ghettoes, Soviet camps, or gas chambers, and whether it was done by plan or occurred as plans unraveled, the Jewish people undoubtedly experienced a terrible bloodletting and a virtually complete loss of community in World War Two. Whether we wish to call this "Holocaust", realizing that to do so brings one to the endorsement of a very particular vision of Jewish-Gentile relations and a very specific political ideology, namely, Zionism, lies outside of the province of historical analysis. But whether we call it Holocaust or Judeocide490 the general outlines of the destruction are clear and inarguable. We should respect this first, just as we should insist on the humanity of the German people in this troubled period, and then the facts will take care of themselves.
Returning to the objections of a would-be critic, we could imagine that our interpretation of the facts could be called into question: that in our analysis we have wrongfully explained the meager documentary or material data, that in fact the buildings really were gas chambers, and the documents really were references to mass gassing. There are three ways to respond to this argument.
The first is to note that, because of their inaccuracy and variability, the testimonies and confessions absolutely require corroboration with reference to material, physical, or documentary data. Moreover, due to the fact that delousing paraphernalia was inarguably misconstrued both after the war and during the postwar trials as being related to gas extermination means that skepticism is indeed called for and that the threshhold of proof must be kept to a high standard.
The second point to make is that, if it is true that the documents usually offered do indeed have the sinister meaning attributed to them, such an interpretation cannot stand without contextual corroboration. In other words, it is not enough to impose a gas extermination interpretation on a few dozen documents. The effort must be made to place the documents not only within the full context of the documentary record, but also in the context of alternate interpretations. Over the past several decades, revisionists have offered a number of different contexts in which these documents can be explained, including disinfection, camp hygiene, crematoria construction, and civil air defense, and these alternate explanations are backed up by large contemporary literatures. No such literature -- large or small -- buttresses the gas extermination interpretation of these documents. The onus is therefore on the traditional interpretation to explain in detail why these alternate explanations for the documents are unsound. But instead, the general trend of the traditional school has been to ignore these other contexts entirely, preferring to support their out-of-context interpretations by recourse to the same testimonies and confessions whose authority in turn depends on the gas extermination interpretation of the documents in question. The circularity of the argumentation is manifest.
The third response to the critic concerns the concessions that must be made to the standard narrative, if it is to stand. Those now wishing to claim that the mass gas extermination campaign took place must begin their analyses by acknowledging that the claim is traceable to a process -- delousing and disinfection -- that gave rise to similar claims in World War One. They must further admit that accusations of mass gassing, clearly rooted in cultural anxiety about poison gas use but not in reality, were current in Germany in the 1930's and before the invasion of the Soviet Union. They must grant that rumors, specifically of poison gas, have contributed to cases of mass hysteria, before, during, and after World War Two. Finally, they must concede that the common reaction of allied liberators in the West was also hysterical, resulting in several false allegations of gassing.
Holocaust historians in the future must also acknowledge that the Allies, and, in particular the BBC, broadcast rumors about mass gassings back to Europe, including at least one in Yiddish, thus compounding the rumors that went back to the 1930's and giving them legitimacy. In spite of all this they must insist that the mass gassings took place, that the Nazis sought to carry out these gassings in utter secrecy even after they had been accused of them over the radio, with such success that no material or documentary trace of the operation remains. One can, by straining credulity, accept the proposition that a conspiracy would carry out a wicked deed without leaving any trace. But, in our opinion, it is simply impossible to assert that a conspiracy of such size and scope would have been organized and carried out after receiving public instruction on how it was supposed to be carried out from enemy radio broadcasts.
That brings us to the second point, which is the verdict of posterity. Historians may be gullible, but they are not permanently gullible. Historians are natural storytellers, hence they will often repeat historical details because they find them illustrative or colorful. But even historians will have to engage the details of the gassing legend some day, and when they do they will realize that there is little or no empirical substance to the claim. At that point the historian will be bound to look to the documentary record, and, finding it non-existent, will step away from the gassing claim. It makes no difference, therefore, whether revisionists are declared right or wrong on the gassing issue at this time. The point is that future historians will certainly reject the gassing claim. Those who would propose censorship, and have a care for posterity, should re-think their steps.
The gassing claim of the Holocaust derives from a complex of delusion and censorship. We are now in a position to encapsulate how both tendencies reinforced the other. The gassing legend seemed to have been endemic in Europe for several years before the outbreak of World War Two. At that time, and in conjunction with the National Socialist euthanasia program, conducted in secret, the rumor of gassing developed more widely. Once the Germans began large-scale deportations in the spring of 1942, the typical disinfection rumors arose, as they had in previous decades, but this time they tended to focus on the gassing claim. These rumors passed through the BBC, which gave the rumors authority, and in turn created the feedback loop for their further development. In this respect the growth of the gassing rumors should be distinguished from such phenomena as the War of the Worlds panic, because in the latter case official denunciation of the claim was immediate. But in this case there were no official pronouncements about the extermination rumors at all, but simply the repetition of these claims.
The combination of frightful epidemic scenes in the Western camps combined with a series of Soviet Special Commissions, including the Auschwitz report, set the seal on the story, providing the Canonical Holocaust, which, in its function was scarcely distinguishable from one of the manuals of interrogation from the days of the great witch hunts or the Inquisition. The evolution of the Canon continued at the postwar trials, where the presentation on the alleged mass gassings and exterminations was in the hands of a state which had already demonstrated its schizophrenic tendencies in its approach to handling various internal crises while following a path of rapid and forced industrialization and modernization in the previous two decades. The residue of such rapid change is furthermore well understood to be anomie, disorientation, and other social pathologies, and these also profoundly affected the Jews of Eastern Europe, who were themselves not only subject to almost continuous persecution during this time but also to the disorientation and social disintegration characteristic of grand socio-economic transformations.
The claim of mass gas extermination arose and found its fulfillment in this context.
With some imagination and sensitivity we can see how the gassing legend arose, but the decisive factor in all cases was the impeded flow of information, characteristic of censorship, along with the silence of responsible voices of reason that could have destroyed destructive rumors before they created a hysterical reaction.
In this sense we can see how Germany, falling sway to a dictatorship which carefully monitored public information, created its own resistance. The German people, excluded from the unvarnished truth by the censor, sought to fill in the gaps of their knowledge by guessing: in this way they were like any other people. When the threat of war became prominent in the late 1930's, when the concentration camp system began to expand, and, finally, when the Third Reich embarked on its saddening experiments in euthanasia, the German people could now include fear along with ignorance in their speculations. The result was the gassing claim in embryo.
In 1942, when the Germans followed up on their avowed aim to deport all of Europe's Jews to the East, the gassing rumor reemerged with new virulence, now by a clear reference backwards to the anxiety that delousing and disinfection procedures had long engendered. The rumors thus produced filtered their way back to the West, to the dozens of prominent Zionists overwhelmed in their impotence and their concern for their people. They had no way of knowing, of course, precisely what was happening, no more than the German people knew what was happening in the Euthanasia centers. The rumors of gassing were plausible, and fit the cultural script. Their acceptance by the Western Zionists and particularly by prominent American Jews and US officials is not especially surprising.
Towards the end of the war in the east, the claims of mass gassing went hand in hand with emerging political interests. It was useful for the Soviet Union, stung by the revelations of Katyn, to ascribe even more monstrous crimes to its enemy, and it was also useful for the United Kingdom and the United States, who pretended to honor human rights, to have the Soviet Union portrayed as a progressive force. But this last could only be achieved by a completely monochromatic depiction of German evil. From the late spring of 1944 also it seems that even Zionists, while no doubt accepting the general validity of the extermination claim, began to manipulate it for political purposes.
When the war was over, the gassing claim gradually died out in the West, asserting itself only in the East, shielded by the Iron Curtain of censorship. And later, as relations with Eastern Europe thawed, and as revisionists began putting hard challenges to the truth of the gassing claim, one by one the governments of the free world began to censor their voices in turn.
Two conclusions should be obvious. The first is that the Holocaust gassing claim arose because of censorship. The second is that today the Holocaust gassing claim can only be maintained by censorship. But censorship does more than perpetuate false belief. Because it separates and divides people from access to information, it encourages conspiratorial thinking, and hence mistrust, stereotyping, prejudice, and hatred of other groups. Because censorship involves the government in suppressing the rights of individuals, it encourages individuals to feel helpless, impotent, resentful, and bitter. But precisely because the State, in its arrogance, would prevent free people from speaking their minds, there is then no more outlet for their frustrations, except a slow, constant, and alienated simmer. And having been thus separated from the State, which is supposed to exist to serve their interests, individuals turn their backs on society, which in turn leads to the gradual erosion of civil society, leaving only atomized individuals at the mercy of the State.
The Holocaust gassing claim may have been the false fruit of censorship, but certainly the holocaust of the common people in Europe in the 20th Century was a direct result of too much state intervention, and too little respect for the rights of ordinary people. By upholding censorship of Holocaust revisionists, we duly uphold false beliefs. And we also invite the very real holocausts of the future.

END Sections 14, 15, 16
Copyright 1997, Samuel Crowell

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