The Holocaust Historiography Project

An official Polish report on the Auschwitz 'gas chambers'

Krakow Forensic Institute Confirms Leuchter's Findings

A recent investigation by a Polish government agency has authoritatively corroborated the findings of Fred Leuchter from his detailed 1988 on-site forensic examination of supposed German wartime extermination gas chambers. The American execution expert concluded that the "gas chambers" in the former concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek were never used to kill people. (On Leuchter's findings and the resulting international controversy, see his detailed Report, which is available from the IHR, as well as The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1989 and Winter 1990-91, and the IHR Newsletter, October 1990 and January 1991.)

Concerned at the impact of Leuchter's widely-circulated Report, the Auschwitz State Museum, a Polish government agency, commissioned the Institute of Forensic Research (Instytut Ekspertyz Sadowych) of Krakow to carry out its own investigation. The result: In a carefully worded six-page internal forensic report, the Institute's experts essentially replicated Leuchter's findings and implicitly corroborated his conclusions.

Consistent with Leuchter's investigation, the Institute's specialists detected absolutely no traces of cyanide (or ferro-ferri-cyanide compound) in most of the plaster and brick samples taken from the alleged extermination gas chambers. Traces of cyanides were detected in eight samples, seven of which were rooms in Block 3 of Auschwitz main camp where -as the Institute's experts acknowledge - inmate clothing was disinfected by "gassing" with Zyklon.

A barely detectable trace of cyanide compound was found in the eighth remaining "positive" sample, which was sample No. 15 from the alleged homicidal "gas chamber" in Krema building II in Birkenau. Significantly, this is the only sample taken from any of the supposed extermination gas chambers that showed any trace of cyanide. The presence of an almost indetectable trace in this sample is entirely in keeping with Leuchter's conclusion that the room from which it was taken must have been deloused with Zyklon at one time or another.

In an apparent attempt at "damage control," the authors of the Institute's report sought to play down or negate the significance of their own findings by asserting that any cyanide traces would have disappeared long ago under the impact of the weather and the elements. This assertion is simply not true, as Leuchter and other specialists have pointed out:

  • Precisely speaking, it is not hydrogen cyanide itself that leaves a trace, but rather the compounds that result from the interaction of hydrogen cyanide with iron and other heavy metal ions. The resulting ferro-ferri-cyanide compounds are very stable as James Roth, chief chemist of Alpha Analytical Labs in Massachusetts, testified in the 1988 "Holocaust" trial of Ernst Zündel. Even after 45 years, the compounds would not have "weathered away."
  • It is not true that all of the alleged gas chambers were exposed to the elements, as the Institute's experts contend. Specifically, the entire crematory facility (Krema) I in the Auschwitz main camp, including the alleged homicidal "gas chamber" there, has been completely intact since the camp was liberated by Soviet forces in January 1945. The authors of the Krakow Institute report make no effort to explain the absence of cyanide traces in this "gas chamber." Similarly, the alleged extermination gas chamber of crematory facility (Krema) II in Birkenau is protected by the collapsed concrete ceiling, and is otherwise in its original condition.

It is worth noting that the Krakow Institute's report did not respond at all to other compelling reasons given by Leuchter for doubting the orthodox extermination story. As he points out, for example, the alleged homicidal gas chambers he examined were not properly sealed or vented for use as killing facilities.

Auschwitz State Museum officials initiated this investigation rather obviously hoping that the Institute's report would discredit Leuchter's findings and corroborate the orthodox extermination account. And just as obviously, if the Institute's report had, in fact, discredited the American engineer's conclusions, the Auschwitz State Museum and Holocaust organizations around the world would certainly have wasted no time in giving it maximum publicity.

Although neither the Auschwitz State Museum nor the Krakow Institute has (so far) made this September 1990 report public, revisionists were nevertheless able to obtain a copy of the original document. Professor Robert Faurisson in France and Fred Leuchter in the United States were quick to cite this "Polish Leuchter Report" as corroboration of the Revisionist view of the Auschwitz extermination story. (See the IHR Newsletter, April 1991.)

Published here for the first time in English, a translation of the Krakow Institute's report follows:


INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC RESEARCH

In the name of Prof. Dr. Jan Sehn, Krakow

Division of Forensic Toxicology
Krakow, 24 Sept. 1990
Westerplatte 9 / Code 31-033
Tel. 505-44, 592-24, 287-50
Telex 0325213 eksad
Ref. No. 720 / 90
[ rubber stamp: ]

Received at the Auschwitz State Museum,
11 Oct. 1990 / filed: I 4998

To the
State Museum in
Auschwitz-Birkenau
Re: Ref. No. I-8523/51/1860/89

The Institute of Forensic Research,
in the name of Prof. Dr. Jan Sehn, Krakow,
herewith presents this

Forensic Report,

prepared by the court-approved experts
Prof. Dr. Jan Markiewicz, Dr. Wojciech Gubala, engineer Jerzy Labedz, and Beate Trzcinska, M.S.

In response to publications and court proceedings in the West, according to which Zyklon B gas was not used to kill people in the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Auschwitz [State] Museum asked us to take samples of wall plaster from the gas chambers and analyze them for the presence of hydrogen cyanide.

On the basis of an agreement in writing and by telephone, the team of experts of the Institute of Forensic Research, consisting of Dr. Wojciech Gubala and engineer J. Labedz, arrived on 20 February 1990 at the camp and Museum in Auschwitz-Birkenau for the purpose of taking samples for investigation, in order to determine the presence of hydrocyanic acid compounds.

In accordance with agreed-upon procedure, the material samples, consisting primarily of pieces of wall plaster and brick, were taken in the presence of Dr. Franciszek Piper, senior curator of the Museum, from the rooms of Block 3, from crematory [building] 1 in Auschwitz [main camp], as well as from crematories [buildings] 2, 3 and 5 in Birkenau. Wall plaster samples were also removed from Block 11 in Auschwitz [main camp] in the presence of Piotr Setkiewicz, M.S., an employee of the Museum.

Altogether, 22 samples were removed, including two control samples from a distant place where contamination with HCN [hydrocyanic acid] would not be possible.

Of the 20 samples removed, ten were taken from rooms in Block 3 in Auschwitz [main camp] (from rooms 1, 2, 3 and 4) where inmate clothing was disinfected with Zyklon B. According to our information, these rooms were white- washed during the war years. In some spots, a blue or dark blue stain shows through.

Five samples were also taken from the ruins of the gas chamber of crematory [building] 2 in Birkenau, as well as one sample each from the ruins of crematory [building] 5 and the wall of crematory [building] 1 in Auschwitz [main camp]. No samples were taken from the ruins of crematory [building] 4, because the 30-40 centimeter high wall structure there was reconstructed after the war.

In addition, the above-mentioned employees of the Institute of Forensic Research were given an envelope containing about 150 grams of human hair (marked PMO II-6-476), which had been obtained by a Museum employee, as well as four pieces of pulverized horse hair material ["wlosianki"] which had likewise been obtained by an employee of the Museum (marked PMO II-6-477 to 480).

Individual samples of the secured material (wall plaster, brick, hair and horse hair material) were reduced to small particles and placed in a micro-diffusion chamber. These samples were then treated with sulfuric acid and exposed to diffusion for 24 hours at room temperature in a Conway chamber. The resulting vapors and gases were absorbed in a sodium-hydroxide solution.

After this diffusion process was completed, the samples were subjected to color intensity analysis using pyridine-pyrazolone reagent, and the resulting color intensity was measured with a spectrophotometer (630 nm).

The corresponding concentration of hydrocyanic acid compound was measured against the calibration curve, which had been calibrated from an appropriately prepared sample of a known concentration.

The Results

Of the ten samples taken from the rooms of Block 3, where Zyklon B disinfection was carried out, traces of hydrocyanic acid compounds were found in seven of the samples in a concentration of nine to 147 micrograms per 100 grams of the sample material, calculated on the basis of the curve calibrated with potassium cyanide.

Concentration of Cyanide in the analyzed material:

Sample number
as per the procedure
of 20 February 1990
Concentration of Cyanide
expressed as potassium cyanide
(micrograms per 100 grams of material)
Sample No. 1 17
Sample No. 2 9
Sample No. 7 19
Sample No. 8 35
Sample No. 9 101
Sample No. 10 132
Sample No. 11 147
Sample No. 15 6
Note: No cyanide was found in any of the other samples.

Each sample that showed a positive result was then subjected to infrared spectrophotometric analysis in a Digilab company model F TS 15 B spectrophotometer. In five samples analyzed with this technique, the presence of cyanide was detected corresponding to spectral bands with frequencies of 2000 to 2200 cm. [1]

In each of the five "positive" tested plaster samples, a more or less distinct blue deposit could be detected. This kind of deposit, which is known as Prussian blue, may result from the interaction of cyanide with iron-based compounds.

Of the samples taken from crematories 1, 2, 3, and 5, only sample number 15 showed almost indetectably small traces of cyanide compounds (6 micrograms per 100 grams of wall plaster). This sample was taken from a column that stands in the middle of the gas chamber of crematory [building] 2 in Birkenau.

The analysis of the hair and hair weave produced a negative result. The result of the analysis of the two control samples was also negative.

On 18 July 1990, Dr. W. Gubala returned to the former Auschwitz concentration camp and took seven further samples from the wall plasters where the presence of hydrocyanic compounds had been detected by chemical analysis. These material samples were once again subjected to the analysis procedure described above, and once again the results were positive.

The hydrocyanic acid (HCN) that is released from the Zyklon B preparation is a liquid with a boiling point of about 27 degrees Celsius. It has an acidic character, ath therefore forms compounds with metallic salts, which are known as cyanides. The salts of alkaline metals (such as sodium and potassium) are water soluble.

Hydrocyanic acid is a very weak acid, and accordingly its salts dissolve easily in stronger acids. Even carbonic acid, which is formed as a reaction of carbon dioxide with water, will dissolve ferro-cyanide.

Stronger acids, such as sulfuric acids, easily dissolve the cyanides. The compounds of cyanide ions with heavy metals are longer lasting. This includes the already mentioned Prussian blue, although this will also slowly dissolve in an acidic environment.

Therefore, one can hardly assume that traces of cyanic compounds could still be detected in construction materials (plaster, brick) after 45 years, after being subjected to the weather and the elements (rain, acid oxides, especially sulfuric and nitrogen oxides). More reliable would be the analysis of wall plaster [samples] from closed rooms which were not subject to weather and the elements (including acid rain).

The analysis of the wall plaster taken from the rooms of Block 3 did indicate the presence of hydrocyanic acid compounds, although only in very small amounts. This result is a confirmation of the fact that in these rooms of Block 3, preparations of hydrogen cyanide such as in Zyklon B were used for disinfection.

The discovery of hydrocyanic acid compounds in samples of material which had been subject to the elements can only be accidental.

The macroscopic and microscopic examination of the hair weaves (PMO-II-6-477 to 480) showed hair in the woven material with the properties of human hair, as shown in photos 1, 2, and 3.

[Photos not reproduced here]

The Experts:

Director
Prof. Dr. Jan Markiewicz
Specialist for Technical Testing
Engineer Jerzy Labedz
Director of Toxicology
Dr. Wojciech Gubala
Senior Assistant
Beata Trzcinska, M.S.
[rubber stamp]


Dr. Markiewicz Responds

In late April, IHR Associate Editor Mark Weber wrote to Dr. Jan Markiewicz, director of the Institute of Forensic Research, to ask for a comment on his agency's September 1990 report. He was specifically asked to comment on the significance of his institute's report in light of Leuchter's 1988 investigation and report. A copy of the April IHR Newsletter, which told about the Krakow Institute's investigation and report, was mailed along with Weber's inquiry. In a letter dated June 7, 1991, Dr. Markiewicz responded:

I received your letter with enclosure on 16 April 1991. I agree with you that a commentary should necessarily be affixed to our report of 24 Sep. 1990, which is called for by the straightforwardness of information, so essential to any scientific studies. Our Institute of Forensic Research is a scientific-research establishment attached to the Ministry of Justice. Investigations of material evidences are carried out in it independently of the parties to the suit and expert opinions are expressed in civil and criminal cases for the purposes of the administration of justice.

In a letter of 17 May 1989 the then Director of the State Museum at Auschwitz, Mr. Kazimierz Smolen, asked me to make "an analysis of plaster samples from the walls of the gas chambers for the presence of hydrogen cyanide." In connection with the question posed in that letter I qualified the chances of detecting hydrogen cyanide in such samples as nearly none. As a chemist engaged in forensic chemical toxicology for 45 years, I am familiar with the properties of this volatile substance. Hence my reply. Anyway, I stated that, if only such investigation was considered to be expedient, I was ready to undertake it. As my partner in further talks and possible study I named Dr. Wojciech Gubala of the Forencis Toxicological Laboratory of our Institute. At the same time I referred to the expert appraisal made by Dr. Jan Robel in this Institute in 1945, closely connected with the problems in hand …

Having communicated by phone with the Management of the Museum at Auschwitz, Dr. Gubala went there together with his co-worker, Mr. Jerzy Labedz on 10 Feb. 1990. Both these workers were taken round the Camp territory by the curator, Dr. Franciszek Piper, and toward the end of their visit by Mr. Piotr Sethkiewicz and they took samples of plaster in places indicated to them, in compliance with the wish expressed by the Director earlier. I was not informed then about the so-called "Leuchter's Report" or about the publications coming out at that time, and nor were my co- workers. Their investigations and results are known to you from the expertise the copy of which is in your possession. I'd like to mention that the Management of the Museum did not inform us about the copying of this expert appraisal and its propagation.

Now, in the light of letters and publications coming to us from different countries, I have arrived at the conclusion that our investigations aiming at the confirmation, if possible, of the use of cyanic preparations in the rooms that survived whole or only in the form of ruins, were rather preliminary in nature and incomplete. We are bent on widening and deepening these investigations and have already been preparing for them. It is only now when suitable materials from literature have become accessible to us that we see the purpose and sense of such studies. Naturally, we shall publish their results and make them accessible to you and your Institute.

The IHR is naturally gratified by Dr. Markiewicz's open-minded and cooperative attitude, which serves the cause of honest scholarship and historical truth.

We are pleased that the Krakow Institute will continue its investigation into this very important aspect of the Auschwitz extermination story, and we appreciate his pledge to keep us informed of the results.

In response to a couple of issues raised in this letter:

  • As Dr. Markiewicz mentions -- and as Dr. Faurisson and others have repeatedly stressed -- hydrogen cyanide is indeed a volatile substance. However, this point is not directly relevant to the investigations conducted by Leuchter or the Krakow Institute. In contrast to the volatility of hydrogen cyanide, the ferro-ferric-cyanide compounds ("Prussian blue") produced as a result of the interaction of hydrogen cyanide and iron are remarkably stable, as authoritative chemistry reference works confirm.
  • The IHR is familiar with the 1945 forensic report referred to by Markiewicz in his letter, and more will be said about it in a forthcoming issue of the Journal.

[A letter similar to the one sent by Weber to Dr. Markiewicz was also sent to the Auschwitz State Museum. So far, though, no response has been received to that inquiry.]


Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 207-216.