BBC – History – World Wars: Denying the Holocaust

Posted By on May 8, 2020

Disappearances

Buchenwald camp survivorsSome deniers posit that the Jews said to have been killed under the Nazi regime actually survived the war, and succeeded in avoiding detection by going to places such as the Soviet Union or the United States. In these countries, the deniers claim, there were already so many Jews that no one noticed a couple of million more.

Deniers such as Arthur Butz offer other equally fantastic explanations as to the supposed 'disappearance' of millions of Jews. Many of those who were reported killed in the war, he suggests, actually survived - but did not re-establish contact with their pre-war relatives because they were in bad marriages. After the war they found other partners, established better relationships, started a new life and failed to correct the record. This improbable explanation of why these people deserted their families would be hilarious, were the topic not so serious.

The real facts are much better documented. For example, it is known that Nazis used gas buses at one point to murder Jews (eventually they abandoned this system because it was not efficient enough). This is known partly because SS-Major General Dr Harald Turner, chief of the German Administration in Serbia, wrote to Karl Wolff, chief of Heinrich Himmler's personal staff, on 11 April 1942.

In the note Turner describes a 'delousing van' - the quotation marks around the word already suggest that it is a euphemism - then makes it quite clear what this means:

Additional details about these buses are to be found in a letter from Willy Just to SS Lieutenant Colonel Walter Rauff on 5 June 1942. In the letter, Just describes how a load of '97,000 have been processed'. He leaves little doubt about the nature of the load, when he writes about it pushing against the door as a result of 'fear aroused by the darkness'.

Just also offers Rauff a series of suggestions on how the vans might be improved. Since there was a problem of 'off-road manoeuvrability', he suggests that the cargo area be reduced. This would make the operation more efficient, because '... were the cargo area smaller, but fully occupied, the operation would take considerably less time, because there would be no empty space.'

Deniers find it impossible to 'explain away' these kinds of documents so they generally ignore them.

Most of all, deniers focus on the extermination camp run by the Nazis at Auschwitz. They claim - despite overwhelming documentary and physical evidence as well as eye-witness accounts by both perpetrators and victims - that it was not an extermination camp. They ignore or try to explain away evidence that leaves no doubt as to Auschwitz's nefarious purposes. A small sample of the many pieces of documentary evidence demonstrates the far-fetched nature of their claims.

Though the Germans made concerted attempts to avoid direct references to the gassings that took place in the camp, sometimes even those in the upper echelons slipped up. On 29 January 1943, for example, SS Captain Bischoff, head of the Auschwitz Central Construction Management, wrote to officials in Berlin regarding Crematorium 2, and in this letter he referred to a Vergasungskeller (gassing cellar).

In the Auschwitz archives one can inspect the architectural drawings for Crematoria 4 and 5. These call for 30 x 40cm windows, through which Zyklon B was to be thrown. In February 1943 the Auschwitz Construction Office issued a work order for the 'production of 12 gas-tight doors (window shutters) approximately 30/40cm'. In Auschwitz there remain a number of decrepit 30 x 40cm window shutters. The remnants of a gas-tight seal are still visible around their edges. The handle for closing the windows is on the outside, a decidedly impractical arrangement for any room, unless one wanted to ensure that those inside could not open them.

On 28 February, according to the civilian contractors' daily time-sheets, the gas-tight shutters were installed. A time-sheet dated 2 March 1943, and submitted by the contractor for work on Crematorium 4, mentions a 'concrete floor in gas chamber'. These documents indicate that by March 1943 workers officially designated a room in Crematorium 4 a 'gas chamber'.' The drawings, work order, time-sheets, and remaining windows constitute a simple but stunning example of the confluence of evidence concerning the gassing of prisoners at the camp.

Deniers also claim that the gas chambers were actually delousing chambers or morgues. But the documentary evidence proves this a bogus claim. In a letter dated 31 March, Bischoff refers to a 'gas [tight] door' for Crematorium 2, which was to be fitted with a rubberised sealing strip and a peephole for inspection. The deniers fail to explain why a door for a delousing chamber or morgue would need a peephole.

Another claim is that the gas chambers were air-raid shelters. This argument ignores the fact that these supposed shelters were too small to house the camp inmates, and were over a kilometer away from where the guards were quartered - a decidedly silly arrangement if these shelters were meant to protect them. Furthermore, the doors had a metal grille over the peephole on the inside of the door - to protect the glass from being broken from within - exactly the opposite of where it would be were it the door for an air-raid shelter. And indeed there were proper one- or two-person air-raid shelters for guards around the camp. They are still visible at the perimeter of Birkenau.

Most importantly, to support their position, deniers also have to ignore testimony given by perpetrators such as Hans Stark, a member of the Auschwitz 'Gestapo.' At his trial Stark described the killing process.

Stark told the court that, because the Zyklon B '... was in granular form, it trickled down over the people as it was being poured in. They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them.'

In February 1943 Auschwitz camp building authorities complained to Topf, the company that built the crematoria equipment, that they needed ventilation blowers 'most urgently'. Why the urgency, if this was an air-raid shelter, morgue, or delousing chamber?

Deniers hypothesise that the urgency was a result of official fears that the camp would be hit with a typhus epidemic, which would cause a tremendous spike in the death toll. Without the proper ventilation system, the crematoria would not be able to operate.

Deniers try to bolster their argument about the typhus by pointing to documents which show that at this point in time the planned monthly incineration rate of Auschwitz had been boosted to 120,000 bodies. Deniers claim this was because of the typhus epidemic. However, the camp's projected population was 150,000. For the deniers' explanation to make sense, in one month an epidemic would have to kill four-fifths of Auschwitz's population and the Germans would have to repopulate the camp with 120,000 people. This claim exceeded the absolute worst case epidemiological scenario.

On 6 March 1943, one of the civilian employees working on the construction of Crematorium 2 referred to the air extraction system of 'Auskleidekeller [undressing cellar] 2'. No normal morgue could require an undressing room, particularly one that was 50 yards long. In that same month, there were at least four additional references to Auskleidekeller. It is telling that civilians who, according to the deniers, were in Birkenau to work on underground morgues, repeatedly referred not to morgues but to the ventilation of the 'undressing cellars'.

In the same letter the employee asked about preheating the areas that would be used as the gas chamber. If these were morgues they should be cooled, not preheated. Heating a gas chamber, on the other hand, would speed the gassing process by more quickly vaporising the gas from the Zyklon B.

A letter dated 31 March 1943, regarding Crematorium 3, spoke of it as having a Gastr, a gas door. Deniers argue that this could mean many things. But the inventory attached to the handover documents for the crematorium states that it had a Gasdichtetr, a 'gas-tight door'. One might argue about the meaning of Gastr, but it is hard to squabble over a gas-tight door.

Deniers have said for years that physical evidence is lacking because they have seen no holes in the roof of the Birkenau gas chamber where the Zyklon was poured in. (In some of the gas chambers the Zyklon B was poured in through the roof, while in others it was thrown in through the windows.) The roof was dynamited at war's end, and today lies broken in pieces, but three of the four original holes were positively identified in a recent paper. Their location in the concrete matches with eyewitness testimony, aerial photos from 1944, and a ground photo from 1943. The physical evidence shows unmistakably that the Zyklon holes were cast into the concrete when the building was constructed.

There is much additional evidence affirming Auschwitz/Birkenau's role as a killing centre. There is no reputable evidence that affirms the deniers' claims.

Anne FrankDeniers have repeatedly attacked the authenticity of the famous Diary of Anne Frank, which tells of the young Jewish author's experiences as she and her family hid from Nazi persecution in Holland. It seems they believe that by creating doubts about this popular book, which is often a young person's first encounter with the literature of the Holocaust, they can generate broader doubts about the Holocaust itself. Their attacks on the diary became so widespread, that eventually the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, the archives to which Anne's father left the work, subjected the glue, paper and ink of the diary to extensive forensic tests. They found them all to be from the 1940s.

The investigators compared Anne's handwriting in the diary to other samples of her writing, including letters she wrote before going into hiding, and traditional student autograph books she signed before the war. The tests found the handwriting to be that of the same person. In fact, every test to which the diary was subjected proved that this was a genuine World War Two era work by a teenager.

Deniers also argue that there are multiple versions of the Diary of Anne Frank. This, they claim, proves it is a fraud. Actually, there are multiple versions of the diary, and Anne herself explains why this is so. In 1944, a Dutch government official, broadcasting from London, urged the population to save eyewitness accounts of their wartime experience, including memorabilia and diaries. Hearing this, Anne, decided to rewrite some of the entries. She also used her diary as a basis for a novel, The Annexe. Hence the different versions.

Deniers also make the claim that the diary is in green ballpoint pen, something that was not readily available during the war. And there are, in fact, some minor stylistic marginal notes in green ink. However, as the Dutch investigation demonstrated, the only ballpoint writing is on two scraps of paper included among the loose leaves, and these have no significance whatsoever in terms of content. Moreover, the handwriting on the scraps of paper differs markedly from those in the diary, indicating that they were written by someone else, an editor perhaps.

The final result of the Dutch investigation was a critical 712-page edition of the diary containing the original version, Anne's edited copy, and the published version as well as the experts' findings. While some may argue that the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation used an elephant to swat a fly, once again it becomes clear that the deniers glibly make claims that have no relationship to the most basic rules of truth and evidence.

All this evidence, and much else, demonstrates the nature of the deniers' claims. Much of this information was entered into the High Court of Justice in London as evidence when the author of this article was sued for libel by David Irving, a man who has written many books on World War Two, a number of which deny the Holocaust.

Irving sued for libel because he had been described as a Holocaust denier in one of the present author's books. He contended this was not true, because his claims about the Holocaust were correct. The judge in the case, Judge Gray, however, found Irving, who introduced virtually all of the standard denial arguments into his submission, to be indeed a Holocaust denier.

Dismissing Irving's claims that the gas chambers were an impossibility, the judge noted that that the 'cumulative effect of the documentary evidence for the genocidal operation of the gas chambers' was not only 'considerable' but 'mutually corroborative'.

Judge Gray, who found the eyewitness and documentary evidence to be 'striking[ly]... consistent', concluded that 'no objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt' the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, which were used on a substantial scale to kill Jews. He found Irving's arguments - and by extension the claims of deniers in general - to be 'perverse and egregious'.

Furthermore, the judge said that Irving had 'significantly misrepresented what the evidence, objectively examined, reveals'. (For the complete judgement, the daily transcripts, and the expert witness reports see http://www.hdot.org - the link is given below.)

Holocaust denial is a form of virulent anti-Semitism. But it is not only that. It is also an attack on reasoned inquiry and inconvenient history. If this history can be denied any history can be denied.

Holocaust deniers have, thus far, been decidedly unsuccessful in convincing the broader public of their claims - although many people worry that after the last of the Holocaust survivors has died (most are now in their 80s) deniers will achieve greater success. However, historians, carefully relying on a broad array of documentary and material evidence, a small sample of which is mentioned in this article, can and already have demonstrated that Holocaust denial is a tissue of lies.

More here:

BBC - History - World Wars: Denying the Holocaust

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