The Holocaust Historiography Project

Chapter VIII — THE NATURE AND CONDITION OF WAR-TIME CONCENTRATION CAMPS

In his book Adolf Hitler (London, 1973) Colin Cross, who brought more intelligence than is usual to many problems of this period, observed astutely that “The shuffling of millions of Jews around Europe and murdering them, in a time of desperate war emergency, was useless from any rational point of view” (p. 307). Quite so, and at this point we may well question the likelihood of this irrationalism and whether it was even possible. Is it likely, that, at the height of the war, when the Germans were fighting a desperate battle for survival on two fronts, they would have conveyed millions of Jews for miles to supposedly elaborate and costly slaughter houses?

To have conveyed three or four million Jews to Auschwitz alone (even supposing that such an inflated number existed in Europe, which it did not) would have placed an insuperable burden upon German transportation facilities which were already strained to the limit supporting the far-flung Russian front. To have transported the mythical six million Jews and countless numbers of other nationalities to internment camps, and to have housed, clothed and fed them there, would simply have paralyzed their military operations. There is no reason to suppose that the efficient Germans would have put their military fortunes at such risk.

On the other hand, the transportation of a reasonable 363,000 prisoners to Auschwitz in the course of the war (the number we know to have been registered there) at least makes sense in terms of the compulsory labour they supplied. In fact, of the 3 million Jews living in Europe, it is certain that no more than two million were ever interned at one time, and it is probable that the number was much closer to 1,500,000. We shall see later, in the Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, that whole Jewish populations such as that of Slovakia avoided detention in camps, while others were placed in community ghettos like Theresienstadt. Moreover, from western Europe deportations were far fewer. The estimate of Reitlinger that only about 50,000 French Jews from a total population of 320,000 were deported and interned has been noted already.

The question must also be asked as to whether it could have been physically possible to destroy the millions of Jews that are alleged. Had the Germans enough time for it? Is it likely that they would have cremated people by the million when they were so short of manpower and required all prisoners of war for purposes of war production? Would it have been possible to destroy and remove all trace of a million people in six months? Could such enormous gatherings of Jews and executions on such a vast scale have been kept secret? These are the kind of questions that the critical, thinking person should ask. And he will soon discover that not only the statistical and documentary evidence given here, but simple logistics combine to discredit the legend of the six million.

Although it was impossible for millions to have been murdered in them, the nature and conditions of Germany’s concentration camps have been vastly exaggerated to make the claim plausible. Shirer, in a typically reckless passage, states that “All of the thirty-odd principal Nazi concentration camps were death camps” (ibid. p. 1150). This is totally untrue and is not even accepted now by the principal propagators of the extermination legend. Shirer also quotes Eugen Kogon’s The Theory and Practice of Hell (N.Y. 1950, p. 227) which puts the total number of deaths in all of them at the ridiculous figure of 7,125,000, though Shirer admits in a footnote that this is “undoubtedly too high.”

‘DEATH CAMPS’ BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN

It is true that in 1945, Allied propaganda did claim that all the concentration camps, particularly those in Germany itself, were “death camps,” but not for long. On this question the American historian Prof. Harry Elmer Barnes wrote: “These camps were first presented as those in Germany, such as Dachau, Belsen, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Dora, but it was soon demonstrated that there had been no systematic extermination in those camps. Attention was then moved to Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Chelmno, Jonowska, Tarnow, Ravensbruck, Mauthausen, Brezeznia and Birkenau, which does not exhaust the list that appears to have been extended as needed” (Rampart Journal, Summer 1967). What had happened was that certain honest observers among the British and American occupation forces in Germany, while admitting that many inmates had died of disease and starvation in the final months of the war, had found no evidence after all of “gas chambers.”

As a result, eastern camps in the Russian zone of occupation such as Auschwitz and Treblinka gradually came to the fore as horrific centres of extermination (though no one was permitted to see them), and this tendency has lasted almost to the present day. Here in these camps it was all supposed to have happened, but with the Iron Curtain brought down firmly over them it was difficult to verify such charges. The Communists claimed that four million people died at Auschwitz in gigantic gas chambers accommodating 2,000 people — and no one could argue to the contrary.

What is the truth about so-called “gas chambers”? Stephen F. Pinter, who served as a lawyer for the United States War Department in the occupation forces in Germany and Austria for six years after the war, made the following statement in the widely read Catholic magazine Our Sunday Visitor, June 14, 1959:

“I was in Dachau for 17 months after the war, as a U.S. War Department Attorney, and can state that there was no gas chamber at Dachau. What was shown to visitors and sightseers there and erroneously described as a gas chamber was a crematory. Nor was there a gas chamber in any of the other concentration camps in Germany. We were told that there was a gas chamber at Auschwitz; but since that was in the Russian zone of occupation, we were not permitted to investigate since the Russians would not allow it. From what I was able to determine during six postwar years in Germany and Austria, there were a number of Jews killed, but the figure of a million was certainly never reached. I interviewed thousands of Jews, former inmates of concentration camps in Germany and Austria, and consider myself as well qualified as any man on this subject.”

This tells a very different story from the customary propaganda. Pinter, of course, is very astute on the question of the crematory being represented as a gas chamber. This is a frequent ploy because no such thing as a gas chamber has ever been shown to exist in these camps, hence the deliberately misleading term “gas oven,” aimed at confusing a gas chamber with a crematorium. The latter, usually a single furnace and similar to the kind of thing employed today, were used quite simply for the cremation of those persons who had died from various natural causes within the camp, particularly infectious diseases.

This fact was conclusively proved by the German archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich. He informed the Americans that during the Allied air raids on Munich in September 1944, 30,000 people were killed. The archbishop requested the authorities at the time to cremate the bodies of the victims in the crematorium at Dachau. But he was told that, unfortunately, this plan could not be carried out; the crematorium, having only one furnace, was not able to cope with the bodies of the air raid victims. Clearly, therefore, it could not have coped with the 238,000 Jewish bodies which were allegedly cremated there. In order to do so, the crematorium would have to be kept going for 326 years without stopping and 530 tons of ashes would have been recovered.

CASUALTY FIGURES REDUCED

The figures of Dachau casualties are typical of the kind of exaggerations that have since been drastically revised. In 1946, a memorial plaque was unveiled at Dachau by Philip Auerbach, the Jewish State-Secretary in the Bavarian Government who was convicted for embezzling money which he claimed as compensation for non-existent Jews. The plaque read: “This area is being retained as a shrine to the 238,000 individuals who were cremated here.” Since then, the official casualty figures have had to be steadily revised downwards, and now stand at only 20,600, the majority, from typhus and starvation only at the end of the war. This deflation, to ten percent of the original figure, will doubtless continue and one day will be applied to the legendary figure of six million as a whole.

Another example of drastic revision is the present estimate of Auschwitz casualties. The absurd allegations of three or four million deaths there are no longer plausible even to Reitlinger. He now puts the number of casualties at only 600,000; and although this figure is still exaggerated in the extreme, it is a significant reduction on four million and further progress is to be expected. Shirer quotes Reitlinger’s latest estimate, but he fails to reconcile this with his earlier statement regarding half of that figure — 300,000 Hungarian Jews who were supposedly “done to death in forty-six days.” This is a supreme example of the kind of irresponsible nonsense that is written on this subject.

HUMANE CONDITIONS

That several thousand camp inmates did die in the chaotic final months of the war brings us to the question of their war-time conditions. These have been deliberately falsified in innumerable books of an extremely lurid and unpleasant kind. The Red Cross Report of the ICRC, examined below, demonstrates conclusively that throughout the war the camps were well administered. The working inmates received a daily ration even throughout 1943 and 1944 of not less than 2,750 calories, which was more than double the average civilian ration in occupied Germany in the years after 1945.

The internees were under regular medical care and those who became seriously ill were transferred to hospital. All internees, unlike those in Soviet camps, could receive parcels of food, clothing and pharmaceutical supplies from the Special Relief Division of the Red Cross.

The Office of the Public Prosecutor conducted thorough investigations into each case of criminal arrest and those found innocent were released; those found guilty, as well as those deportees convicted of major crimes within the camp, were sentenced by military courts and executed. In the Federal Archives of Koblenz there is a directive of January 1943 from Himmler regarding such executions, stressing that “no brutality is to be allowed” (Manvell & Frankl, ibid, p. 312). Occasionally there was brutality, but such cases were immediately scrutinized by S.S. Judge Dr. Konrad Morgen of the Reich Criminal Police Office, whose job was to investigate irregularities at the various camps. Morgen himself prosecuted commander Koch of Buchenwald in 1943 for excesses at his camp, a trial to which the German public was invited.

It is significant that Oswald Pohl, the administrator of the concentration camp system who was dealt with so harshly at Nuremberg, was in favour of the death penalty for Koch. In fact, the S.S. court did sentence Koch to death but he was given the option of serving on the Russian front. Before he could do this, however, Prince Waldeck the leader of the S.S. in the district, carried out his execution. This case is ample proof of the seriousness with which the S.S. regarded unnecessary brutality.

Several S.S. court actions of this kind were conducted in the camps during the war to prevent excesses and more than 800 cases were investigated before 1945. Morgen testified at Nuremberg that he discussed confidentially with hundreds of inmates the prevailing conditions in the camps. He found few that were under-nourished except in the hospitals, and noted that the pace and achievement in compulsory labour by inmates was far lower than among German civilian workers.

The evidence of Pinter and Cardinal Faulhaber has been shown to disprove the claims of extermination at Dachau and we have seen how the casualty figures of that camp have been continuously revised downwards. The camp at Dachau near Munich, in fact, may be taken as fairly typical of these places of internment. Compulsory labour in the factories and plants was the order of the day, but the Communist leader Ernst Ruff testified in his Nuremberg affidavit of April 18, 1947, that the treatment of prisoners on the work details and in the camp of Dachau remained humane.

The Polish underground leader, Jan Piechowiak, who was at Dachau from May 22, 1940 until April 29, 1945, also testified on March 21, 1946 that prisoners there received good treatment, and that the S.S. personnel at the camp were “well disciplined.” Berta Schirotschin, who worked in the food service at Dachau throughout the war, testified that the working inmates, until the beginning of 1945 and despite increasing privation in Germany, received their customary second breakfast at 10 a.m, every morning.

In general, hundreds of affidavits from Nuremberg testify to the humane conditions prevailing in concentration camps; but emphasis was invariably laid on those which reflected badly on the German administration and could be used for propaganda purposes. A study of the documents also reveals that Jewish witnesses who resented their deportation and internment in prison camps tended to greatly exaggerate the rigours of their condition, whereas other nationals interned for political reasons, such as those cited above, generally presented a more balanced picture. In many cases, prisoners such as Charlotte Bormann, whose experiences did not accord with the picture presented at Nuremberg, were not permitted to testify.

UNAVOIDABLE CHAOS

The orderly situation prevailing in the German concentration camps slowly broke down in the last fearful months of 1945. The Red Cross Report of 1948 explains that the saturation bombing by the Allies paralysed the transport and communications system of the Reich. No food reached the camps and starvation claimed an increasing number of victims, both in prison camps and among the civilian population of Germany. This terrible situation was compounded in the camps both by great overcrowding and the consequent outbreak of typhus epidemics. Overcrowding occurred as a result of prisoners from the eastern camps such as Auschwitz being evacuated westward before the Russian advance; columns of exhausted people arrived at several German camps such as Belsen and Buchenwald which had themselves reached a state of great hardship.

Belsen camp near Bremen was in an especially chaotic condition in these months and Himmler’s physician, Felix Kersten, an anti-Nazi, explains that its unfortunate reputation as a “death camp” was due solely to the ferocity of the typhus epidemic which broke out there in March 1945 (Memoirs 1940-1945, London, 1956). Undoubtedly these fearful conditions cost several thousand lives, and it is these conditions that are portrayed in the photographs of emaciated human bengs and heaps of corpses which the propagandists delight in showing, claiming that they were victims of “extermination.”

A surprisingly honest appraisal of the situation at Belsen in 1945 appeared in Purnell’s History of the Second World War (Vol. 7, No. 15) by Dr. Russell Barton, a consultant psychiatrist in upstate New York, who spent one month at the camp as a British medical student after the war. His account vividly illustrates the true causes of the mortality that occurred in such camps towards the war’s end, and how such extreme conditions came to prevail there. Dr. Barton explains that Brigadier Glyn Hughes, the British Medical Officer who took command of Belsen in 1945, “did not think there had been any atrocities in the camp” despite discipline and hard work.’ “Most people,” writes Dr Barton, “attributed the conditions of the inmates to deliberate intention on the part of the Germans.... Inmates were eager to cite examples of brutality and neglect, and visiting journalists from different countries interpreted the situation according to the needs of propaganda at home.”

However, Dr. Barton makes it clear that the conditions of starvation and disease were unavoidable in the circumstances and that they occurred only during the months of 1945. “From discussions with prisoners it seemed that conditions in the camp were not too bad until late 1944. The huts were set among pine trees and each was provided with lavatories, wash basins, showers and stoves for heating.

The cause of food shortage is also explained. “German medical officers told me that it had been increasingly difficult to transport food to the camp for some months. Anything that moved on the autobahns was likely to be bombed.... I was surprised to find records, going back for two or three years, of large quantities of food cooked daily for distribution. At that time I became convinced, contrary to popular opinion, that there had never been a policy of deliberate starvation. This was confirmed by the large numbers of well-fed inmates. Why then were so many people suffering from malnutrition? ... The major reasons for the state of Belsen were disease, gross overcrowding by central authority, lack of law and order within the huts, and inadequate supplies of food, water and drugs.” The lack of order, which led to riots over food distribution, was quelled by British machine-gun fire and a display of force when British tanks and armoured cars toured the camp.

Apart from the unavoidable deaths in these circumstances, Glyn Hughes estimated that about “1,000 were killed through the kindness of English soldiers giving them their own rations and chocolates.” As a man who was at Belsen, Dr. Barton is obviously very much alive to the falsehoods of concentration camp mythology, and he concludes: “In trying to assess the causes of the ·conditions found in Belsen one must be alerted to the tremendous visual display, ripe for purposes of propaganda, that masses of starved corpses presented.” To discuss such conditions “naively in terms of ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’ is to ignore the constituent factors …”

FAKE PHOTOGRAPHS

Not only were situations such as those at Belsen unscrupulously exploited for propaganda purposes, but this propaganda has also made use of entirely fake atrocity photographs and films. The extreme conditions at Belsen applied to very few camps indeed; the great majority escaped the worst difficulties and their inmates survived in good health. As a result, outright forgeries were used to exaggerate conditions of horror.

A startling case of such forgery was revealed in the British Catholic Herald of October 29, 1948. It reported that in Cassel, where every adult German was compelled to see a film representing the “horrors” of Buchenwald, a doctor from Goettingen saw himself on the screen looking after the victims. But he had never been to Buchenwald.

After an interval of bewilderment he realized that what he had seen was part of a film taken after the terrible air raid on Dresden by the Allies on 13 February, 1945 where the doctor had been working. The film in question was shown in Cassel on 19 October, 1948. After the air raid on Dresden, which killed a record 135,000 people, mostly refugee women and children, the bodies of the victims were piled and burned in heaps of 400 and 500 for several weeks. These were the scenes, purporting to be from Buchenwald, which the doctor had recognized.

The forgery of war-time atrocity photographs is not new. For further information the reader is referred to Falsehood in Wartime (London, 1928) by Arthur Ponsonby MP, which exposes the faked photographs of German atrocities in the First World War. Ponsonby cites such fabrications as “The Corpse Factory” and “The Belgian Baby without Hands,” which are strikingly reminiscent of the propaganda relating to Nazi ‘atrocities’. F.J.P. Veale explains in his book that the bogus “jar of human soap” solemnly introduced by the Soviet prosecution at Nuremberg was a deliberate jibe at the famous British “Corpse Factory” myth, in which the ghoulish Germans were supposed to have obtained various commodities from processing corpses (Times, 17 April 1917, p.5; Veale, ibid, p. 192; The Penguin Book of Lies, Kerr, London, 1990, p. 301). This accusation was one for which the British Government apologized after 1918.

It received new life after 1945 in the tale of lamp shades of human skin, which was certainly as fraudulent as the Soviet “human soap.” In fact, from Manvell and Frankl we have the grudging admission that the lamp shade evidence at the Buchenwald Trial “later appeared to be dubious” (The Incomparable Crime, p 84).

It was given by a certain Andreas Pfaffenberger in a “written affidavit” of the kind discussed earlier, but in 1948 General Lucius Clay admitted that the affidavits used in the trial appeared after more thorough investigation to have been mostly ‘hearsay’.

An excellent work on the fake atrocity photographs pertaining to the Myth of the Six Million is Udo Walendy’s Forged War Crimes Malign the German Nation (Vlotho/Weser, 1989; Hull 1996), and from the numerous examples given we illustrate one overleaf. The origin of the first photograph is unknown, but the second is a photomontage. Close examination reveals immediately that the standing figures have been taken from the first photograph and a heap of corpses superimposed in front of them. The fence has been removed and an entirely new horror “photograph” created. This blatant forgery appears on page 341 of R. Schnabel’s book on the S.S., Macht ohne Moral: Eine Dokumentation uber die SS (Frankfurt, 1957), with the caption “Mauthausen.” Walendy has cited eighteen other examples of forgery in Schnabel’s book. The same photograph appeared in the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal, Vol. XXX, p. 421, likewise purporting to illustrate Mauthausen camp. It is also illustrated without caption in Eugene Aroneanu’s Konzentrationlager; Document F.321 for the International Court at Nuremberg; Heinz Künrich’s Der KZ-Staat (Berlin, 1960, p. 81); Vaclav Berdych’s Mauthausen (Prague, 1959) and Robert Neumann’s Hitler - Aufstieg und Untergang des Dritten Reiches (Munich, 1961).