The gas chamber myth is dying
In Le Monde Juif (the magazine of the Center for Jewish Contemporary Documentation in Paris), No. 107, July-September 1982, which appeared at the end of October 1982, there appeared an article by Jean-Claude Pressac entitled: "Les 'Krematorien' IV et V de Birkenau et leurs chambres à gaz, Construction et fonctionnement" (pages 91-131).
An introduction to the article, about a hundred lines long, was written by Georges Wellers, the magazine's editor and himself the author of a book entitled Les Chambre à gaz ont existé: Des documents, des temoignages, des chiffres, published by Gallimard Publishers in its Temoins Collection in 1981 (229 pages).
Wellers expresses some explicit reservations about Pressac's thesis. In brief, Pressac says that the decision to construct the four large buildings at Auschwitz-Birkenau that are known as Crematories II, III, IV and V was made by the SS "outside of any criminal context" (in plain English that means "without any criminal intent"); the criminal intent supposedly came "later," although he gives no details about when that was.
Wellers says that Pressac gives four reasons to support his new and surprising thesis. Wellers lists them and then criticizes them one by one, because he does not agree with any of them. In conclusion, he writes: "In short, the author does not offer any convincing argument to support his opinion that 'originally' no one planned to build criminal gas chambers at Birkenau."
The reader has to wonder why Wellers agreed to publish in Le Monde Juif a study whose arguments he does not find convincing. We expect him to explain, but he doesn't. Wellers begins his introduction by saying that the author is young, Catholic, has made several trips to Auschwitz, and there has studied the ruins of Birkenau, plans for it, photographs of it, its archives, etc. Wellers says of the author: "The desire for an in-depth study, carried out completely independently, is, no doubt, an indication of his intellectual curiosity and the means that he has used to satisfy that curiosity are the best ones although rather unusual." Pressac supposedly offers "many new details" and some "important unpublished details," as well as "conclusions that are original but sometimes disputable." In short, this is "an important addition to our understanding of the Auschwitz gas chambers and it clarifies many problems that had until today remained unclear if not totally obscure."
It would have been nice if those compliments had been accompanied by details and examples. Wellers' final sentence is devastating: "none of [Pressac's] arguments … is convincing."
The last paragraph of Wellers' presentation of Pressac's new thesis is just as devastating. There Wellers says that there is "a coherent series of facts" showing, in essence, that the Pressac thesis is unacceptable. For Wellers, in fact, the decision to construct four large crematories at Birkenau was taken in what he calls "the sinister framework of the 'final solution of the Jewish question'," i.e., in the context of a deliberate extermination of the Jewish people. Wellers does not make it clear what facts he is talking about and therefore he does not show the "coherent series of facts." That is a pity.
Pressac and Wellers are both "Exterminationists," but their arguments, rather than being complementary and mutually reinforcing each other, instead diminish and destroy each other before our very eyes. It is not possible to say simultaneously that the crematories were
- constructed deliberately as slaughterhouses for the Jews, for the purpose of criminal extermination; and
- were deliberately constructed for a peaceful purpose, to serve as sanitary buildings for Jews and non-Jews and, later, at some unspecified time and by a general process that is unknown, they lost their peaceful purpose, and what had been sanitary buildings became slaughterhouses for the Jews.
Wellers' claim has the merit of coherence. Pressac's thesis is perhaps not exactly incoherent, but relies on a complete confusion of people and things. To accept the possiblity of such a 180-degree about-face in the use of the buildings, the reader would require from Pressac a clear, methodical, rigorous analysis in which each stage of the complicated process would be carefully described so that the unbelievable would become believable. At each step the reader would have to be reassured by finding the development logical. Each time he would have to be told about the time, the place, and the persons involved. Before his eyes, so to speak, buildings with obviously peaceful purposes would be changed into buildings with obviously criminal purposes. Where men entrusted with sanitary tasks supposedly once entered, the reader would see butchers enter. In place of the buildings whose various rooms and outbuildings had been planned (by architects, engineers, doctors, all sorts of technical specialists) to be either shower-baths or disinfection chambers or morgues or ovens intended for burning bodies, or finally incineration ovens, we would see horrible homicidal gas chambers being built, disguised or not with dummy shower-baths and intended for mass killing of so many victims that the ovens would never finish the job.
That 180-degree about-face likewise supposedly originated not in the sick mind of some SS men working there but in decisions coming from very high up, decisions which would necessarily have left unmistakable traces throughout the military and administrative structures of a country at war. The German concentration camps depended on an administrative and economic structure that very carefully monitored the smallest supplies of materiel, money, and personnel. The smallest bolt made or put in place was mentioned in registers such as those of the camp shops. In a country at war you do not order the merchandise that you want for just any purpose. A central service is given the job of authorizing acquisitions in accordance with the needs of export, the civilian population, and the army.
Did Pressac a priori have much chance to convince us of such a complicated transformation? It is hard to believe he could have when we consider the already insurmountable difficulties faced by exterminationists such as Wellers — who at least had the advantage of defending a coherent thesis without any 180-degree about-face. Those exterminationists were already worried about finding for us one proof, one single proof, of the existence and functioning of one single gas chamber in one single German concentration camp. How, today, could a man such as Pressac bring us the two-fold proofs he would need? How could he prove that the Germans had, at some point, cancelled and caused to be cancelled all or part of the well-intentioned steps that had been taken so that, at a later time, they could do terrible things having a diabolical purpose?
But that is not the first stumbling block Pressac faces. I mentioned the need for being clear. However, Pressac is not only not clear, but he obviously has a great deal of trouble organizing his ideas. The subject that he has chosen to study is difficult. The general thesis that he tries to sustain, the exterminationist thesis, is terribly difficult to defend. The particular thesis that he has forged in his mind could only be successfully defended by someone who is a real genius in conceiving and describing things. Suffice it to say that Pressac does not fit that bill. The ordeal of reading his article once is exhausting, and it is likely that Pressac had as much trouble pulling together in his mind the elements of his thesis as the reader encounters in trying to understand the author's sentences and their logical sequence. Just as Wellers himself finds some problems to argue, that long study in Le Monde Juif is a real struggle for any reader. The French of Wellers is bad; the French of Pressac is worse.
Pressac's four arguments, according to Georges Wellers
Pressac has devoted his study to the two buildings at Auschwitz-Birkenau known as Crematory IV and Crematory V. He promises us other studies on other buildings and, in particular, on Crematories II and III. According to Wellers, the following are the the principal reasons why Pressac thinks that Crematories IV and V were not originally (August 1942) planned with any criminal intent:
- On the plans of the buildings, the rooms called (according to exterminationist terminology) homicidal "gas chambers" are not given any names;
- If those were homicidal "gas chambers," the general arrangement of the buildings and the exact emplacement of the "gassings" would imply an absurd "sequence of operations" followed by the victims;
- In order to reach the skylights through which they "let in" the Zyklon B, the SS butchers would have needed a ladder; however, according to the author, "it would have been so simple to place the openings … lower, or by building … just below, a small stairway … in such a way as to make [the skylights] directly accessible;"
- Finally, some of those rooms contained small coal burning stoves, suggesting that the rooms were originally showers.
Pressac is an Exterminationist
After noting that some people (the Exterminationists) believe there were homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz and that other people (the Revisionists) do not believe that those chambers existed, the author announces (on page 94), that, in his inquiry, he has tried "to remain impartial." He dedicates his study to Maria and Helena Zylbermine "exterminated by the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau." What does he mean by calling them "exterminated" by a camp? Has he verified, as can easily be done, that those two people did in fact die at the hands of the Germans? The author talks about the "six million" as if he believed that number (page 93). He continually praises the authorities of the Auschwitz Museum who gave him free access to the entire site and to all the documents he wanted (… except those I will mention below). He by no means considers those authorities to be "Polish Communist fabricators" (with some major exceptions that will likewise be mentioned below). He believes that the number of victims at Auschwitz was about one million (page 97).
His sources are exclusively Exterminationist (pages 98-99). He mentions two Revisionist works: one by Butz and the other by Rassinier, but he does not use either one of them in his study. He contents himself with a scornful reference to them (page 98). He uses the testimony of Pery Broad, something that even someone such as Vidal-Naquet suspects of being a forgery. He uses Filip Müller's Three Years in a Gas Chamber at Auschwitz, the epitome of crude anti-Nazism. He dares to cite Doctor at Auschwitz, a book that has appeared in many forms and that someone named Tibere Kremer attributed to Dr. Nyiszli, whose unreliability Rassinier masterfully demonstrated. Pressac depended on the testimony of the "Unknown Author" discovered by Bernard Mark, Director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, a professor whom even historian Michel Borwicz considers a forger (Revue d'Histoire de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale, January 1982, page 93). On all those points, Pressac need only have referred to the demonstrations furnished by the Revisionist books of Rassinier, Stäglich, Thion, and Faurisson. A demonstration can and must be based, to begin with, only on documents that one has critically examined. Pressac cites the manuscript by the "Unknown Author" as given in the very well-known edition published by the Auschwitz Museum in 1972. Hasn't he read what those same Museum authorities think about Bernard Mark? How did he fail to understand that that Yiddish manuscript is a fabrication in the purest "Socialist Realism" style — for example, the story of the naked young Polish woman haranguing the victims in the gas chamber itself, with those victims falling to their knees, some singing the Polish national anthem and the others the Jewish anthem "Hatikvah," until the moment when all the voices merged to sing the "Internationale"? Because this last detail must have seemed a little excessive, it was left out in some editions.
But, even better, today, as if to reward that forgery, we find that in France the Plon publishing house has just published a book by the same Bernard Mark, entitled Des Voix dans la nuit (Voices in the Night) (1982, 382 pages). The Unknown Author has now shed his former anonymity and now is identified as Leib Langfus. The passage about the "Internationale" is on page 247.
On page 262, a first surprise awaits us. There they let us have a fragment that had been left out of the 1972 Auschwitz Museum edition with the following explanation: "they omitted four pages about Belzec." The four pages are presented to us here under the heading of "Sadism." There (page 263) we learn that the Germans built "in the forest eight large barracks in which they put tables and benches." Then, says the text: "it was in there that they crowded the Jews from Lublin, Lemberg, and other districts and electrocuted them." A footnote makes the following remark: "That is what was thought at the time. In reality, they used gas."
What is true is that in Belzec as in Auschwitz and in all the camps, there was a cacophony of rumors. As regards Belzec: at first the truth was that they electrocuted the Jews there (New York Times, 12 February 1944, page 8, quoted by Butz, page 146; Dr. Stefan Szende, quoted in Faurisson's Réponse à Pierre Vidal-Naquet;23 Walter Laqueur, The Terrible Secret, in the note on page 222), with the electrocution being carried out in strangely different ways depending on the source. Then, or at the same time, the truth was that they killed the Jews with quicklime and in no other way. Then came the version by Kurt Gerstein: they gassed the Jews. The "quicklime" version comes to us from Jan Karski, today a professor at Georgetown University in Washington.
As regards Auschwitz and the manuscript by the "Unknown Author" (Leib Langfus), Pressac would be very interested to read two other fragments that were also added to the initial version: the first is called "The 600 Little Boys" and the second is "The 300 Naked women" (pages 297 to 263). He would also do well to consider the comments made in an article by Serge Thion and Jean-Gabriel Cohn-Bendit about Filip Müller's Three Years in a Gas Chamber at Auschwitz, an article entitled "Le faux témoignage est un art difficile" ("Perjury is quite an art").
At many other points in his article Pressac makes allegiance with the Exterminationist thesis. He goes so far in his complacency that he suffers some embarrassment from it. He flatters, but at the same time he asks himself whether his flattery isn't becoming absurd. Höss, in his notes written under the surveillance of his Communist jailers at Cracow, is supposed to have written the following sentence of his own accord:
I must frankly say that I would never have expected that during my detention in Poland they would have treated me in a manner so proper and considerate as they have since the intervention of the public prosecutor (page 147 of the German edition).
Höss is not the only one to compliment his judge, Jan Sehn, and the public prosecutor. He died by hanging, but he died happy. One can be sure of that. Besides, according to Pressac,
Höss seems to have achieved, according to one of the last photographs of him taken just before his execution, a state of total interior peace, to the point of saintliness, as absurd as that may seem …" (page 94).
Pressac's concessions to the Revisionists
Pressac attacks (pages 94-95) those who have doubted the authenticity of Höss' confessions. He says that, for his part, he has had plenty of time to consult and examine the Höss manuscript written in pencil. But, at the very moment when he believes that he has found in it a proof of the authenticity of the manuscript, he is overcome by a scruple. It occurs to him that Höss "wrote several hundred pages without any erasures." From that he quite properly concludes that "This carefully done work does not seem to be the 'first draft' by Höss, a common man and not a professional writer." He adds: "This manuscript supposedly is derived from a recopying of one or several rough drafts which have not been revealed to the public."
A little farther on, he does not conceal the fact that only half of Höss' writings are known to us. Dr. Martin Broszat, who published Höss' writings in their original language in 1958, had already advised us of that fact; on page 8 of his work, he even gave us some precise figures. From this comes a serious question: why can't we have access to the various drafts of the writings of Höss, and why, in 1948, 11 years after Höss was hung, did they turn over to us only half of the final version in its original language? Did Pressac ask the Auschwitz Museum authorities that question?
Mr. Smolen, the Director of the National Museum, offered to correct Pressac's books or articles, whatever might be their conclusions, and did so "kindly, to avoid stupid errors." That proposal was accepted by the author, as he tells us on page 99. Pressac's article therefore was submitted simultaneously, prior to publication, to the authorities of the Auschwitz National Museum and to those of the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Paris. For someone who says that he is trying to remain impartial, it would have been enough for him to have submitted his text to one or two Revisionist authors. He would have spared himself many "stupid errors" and perhaps he would thereby have been able to prove his impartiality.
In the course of his article, the author made some remarks which represent about as many reservations as the Exterminationists, in complete disarray, feel they have to accept.
(page 106) In spite of repeated requests, he was not able to obtain from the Auschwitz Museum a document mentioned by the Soviets in their 8 May 1945 report on Auschwitz (Pressac's use there of the initials T.I.N. should have been T.M.I, the French initials for the International Military Tribunal (Tribunal Militaire International);
(same page) in his book, Filip Müller seriously contradicts his deposition to the Frankfurt trial; there he talks about the dummy showers in the crematories, while in his deposition he stated: "There were no dummy showers in the crematories";
(page 111) the teams working on the construction of the crematories were of mixed composition, including civilians and detainees (for example, the case of the Köhler team). That, in my opinion, renders absurd the theory that the construction of those buildings was criminal and highly secret;
(page 119) examining magistrate Jan Sehn corrects an original text before affixing his signature as well as the authentication formula for the court; the author thinks that Sehn was right (!) to correct it but that he ought to have revealed that it had been corrected;
(page 120) such an order for "air tight doors" is "obviously not for a criminal purpose";
(page 122) if it is reasonably certain that the gas chambers in the four crematories had such doors, "it is impossible to conclude that they were used for criminal purposes" (the author's style is so confused that the meaning of the passage seems to be following: "Those doors appear to belong to disinfection gas chambers");
(same page) such a fact "demonstrates the complete impossibility of distinguishing between the doors of disinfection gas chambers and criminal gas chambers" (the author seems to want to say: "it is totally impossible to determine whether those doors were for disinfection gas chambers or for homicidal gas chambers");
(same page) "the legal work carried out by Jan Sehn is of excellent and irreprochable quality" (a compliment which is astonishing after Pressac's remark on page 119) but the work done by the "experts" on technical matters is "dubious, imprecise, sometimes incomprehensible (and) on the borderline of being debatable"; this is especially true of the work of Professor Dr. of Engineering Roman Dawidowski, "expert on all technical questions;" the latter in 1945 participated on the Soviet expert commissions before going on to the Polish commission of experts; that fact is serious, Pressac says, because Judge Sehn "used those terrible technical expert reports in order to give his estimate of the number of victims of Auschwitz;" the number, which Pressac does not remind us of, is nearly four million; if he had reminded us of that number, as well as many other extravagant numbers from Judge Sehn, Pressac would have given us an idea of how much his compliments of the Polish judge are worth. For example, doesn't Jan Sehn himself, in his book on Auschwitz (Le Camp de concentration d'Oswiecim-Brzezinka, Wydawnictwo Prawnicze, Warsaw, 1961, third edition, page 132), tell us that the output of the Birkenau gas chambers was 60,000 people per day? That is the kind of man whom Höss and Pressac single out for admiration;
(pp. 123-26) the testimony of Szlama Dragan describes for us the sequence of activities from the arrival of the victims in front of the crematories to their gassing and to the work of the barber and the dentist on 3,090 bodies (one single barber and one single dentist, each in his corner). Pressac, who does not seem to have thought about those incredible things, asserts that "industrially speaking, the carrying out of those operations is nonsense;" he underlines his sentence; farther on, discussing the manner in which the SS-man poured out the contents of his can of Zyklon B, he writes: "this amateurish way of doing things is astonishing";
(page 126) in conclusion, Pressac asserts: "Therefore, one thing is obvious: Crematoria IV and V were not planned as criminal instruments, but were transformed to serve that purpose." The author probably is trying to say that such an unusual way of carrying out the operations and such amateurishness imply that the buildings in question had not originally been planned to serve as mass slaughterhouses. We would love to hear him explain clearly for what purpose the Germans had created those buildings and what changes had to be made, all the more because what Dragan describes leads us to believe that there had been absolutely no changes. Might it not be the Dragan narrative itself which is nonsense and amateurish? The sentences that follow Pressac's conclusion are especially obscure;
(page 127) talking about Filip Müller's book, Pressac says in the same breath: "(it) includes certain passages whose truthfulness seems doubtful; but which do not at all harm the reality of his testimony." He doubtlessly means to say: "… which do not at all harm the authenticity of the testimony." It is astonishing to be told that a testimony containing certain passages (unspecified) of doubtful truth still retains its authenticity. Pressac adds furthermore that, if he were forced to choose between Dragan and Müller; he would choose Dragan (the witness who described the unusual facts and the amateurishness of the Germans);
(page 128) Jean-Claude Pressac declares that "the unknown author was wrong in good faith … on several points";
(page 129) speaking about the gas-tight doors that were found when the camp was liberated, he agrees that they could have "come from classic disinfection gas chambers" and, going on to refer to the famous camouflage of one of the crematories, he writes that the Germans had planted a row of trees and he adds: "it seems that the effectiveness of the camouflage was more symbolic than real";
(page 130) he suspects the Poles of having tried to "restore" Crematories IV and V as they have "rearranged" Crematory I in the Auschwitz main camp; this passage can be understood and fully appreciated only when you know that the "rearrangement" of Crematory I by the Poles was a clumsy hoax for tourists (for a comparison of the current state of the premises with the original condition, see Serge Thion's book, Vérité historique ou vérité politique?, pages 314-317.
Some suggestions for Jean-Claude Pressac
This article is full of errors for the reasons mentioned above. It is neither orderly nor clear nor rigorous. The reasoning is lame. Along with the observation of the premises and the examination of the documents the author constantly mixes bits of testimonies. We get lost in it all.
A good examining magistrate begins by establishing the reality of the facts that can be established. He has the plans and photos right in front of him as well as other physical evidence. He examines them. He tries to understand them. Sometimes, he has to turn to to experts. Later, when this part of his work seems to him sufficiently advanced, he listens to or reads the statements by both the prosecution and the defense. If he ever begins with a preliminary hearing of the parties or of the witnesses, he will take them seriously only conditionally. When he hears people saying things that challenge the elementary laws of physics or chemistry, he will note that carefully. He will not pass over them in silence.
Pressac errs in stating that those two mysterious rooms in Crematories IV and V must originally have been showers. He does not furnish any argument to support his hypothesis. Furthermore, he has the honesty to recall to us all through his account that the term "shower" is a term chosen "out of convenience and habit." He wisely recalls that, in the concentration camps of the Third Reich, the crematories were often flanked with showers. He forgets to say: "… and with disinfection installations, for example gas chambers. Starting with the idea that the two rooms, each outfitted with a small coal stove, could have been showers, he goes on from there to examine the registers of the workshops at Auschwitz and there — amazingly — nothing seems to indicate that there had been showers ordered for those crematories. He discovers, on the contrary, numerous proofs that some gas chambers or elements of gas chambers were ordered for those crematories. He then devises this line of reasoning: if the Germans ordered some gas chambers for what were, in reality, shower rooms, it is because they were using gas chambers there that were homicidal. The truth is that from examining carefully how the orders are written, there is no doubt that there were gas chambers for disinfection.
Another of Pressac's errors is not to have included in his bibliography any book or even any article about the German disinfection gas chambers. Might it not have happened that, while looking at the Revisionist works by Thion or Faurisson, he would have learned what factors must be considered in gassing operations with Zyklon B or other gases? On the question of the gas chambers he ought to have studied several books and articles, especially those written in German or English which can be found by the thousands in American or German libraries — to begin with, the documents gathered by the Allies to try Germans such as Tesch, Weinbacher or G. Peters represent a rich source.
Had Pressac done so he would have spared us his thoughts on page 123 about the Zyklon B cans bearing the comment: "Note: without warning agent." He would have learned that well before the war the Germans, both for domestic use and for export, had begun supplying Zyklon without that product (Bromessigester) which had the drawback of not being able to be applied to certain sensitive products. The German army was able to use a simplified form of Zyklon B. In Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, Vol. XIII, page 138, ("The Courts and Nazi Crimes"), we read, for example: "In some exceptional cases, principally for using gas to treat materials sensitive to odors, such as food and tobacco products, Degesch supplied Zyklon B without a warning agent; that was then indicated on the labels of the cans by the comment: 'Note: without warning agent.'" Nuremberg Document NI-12110 is a memorandum of 21 June 1944, signed by a Dr. Heinrich. It explained that there was then a "shortage of Bromessigester (Mangel an Bromessigester), which is very troublesome for the Zyklon B patent."
Pressac has in fact seen that the mention in a register of the Auschwitz metal workshop of words such as Gaskammer does not imply that there was homicidal gassing. But he is wrong, when he sees the word Gaskammern replaced by that of Kammern, to imagine that they wanted to hide the word "gas" (page 111). The Germans called their gas chambers by the names Gasraum, Gaskammer, Begasungskammer, Blausäuregaskammer, Entlausungskammer, and Entwesungskammer. Those terms were more or less interchangeable. And when they had to repeat the word in the same context they could also very well use Kammer. The same would be done in a French or English text where chambre or "chamber" would replace chambre à gaz or "gas chamber."
In order to improve the action of certain gases, they would sometimes warm the room beforehand. In some hastily improvised installations such as those at Majdanek, we still see today that the gas chambers were flanked by a small shelter where there was a stove. That room was connected to the gas chamber only by a pipe through the wall separating the two. It is likely that the two rooms found suspect by Pressac in Crematories IV and V were disinfection gas chambers. The stove was in fact stoked from the outside, in the access corridor, using coal stored in another nearby room.
I do not know what gas they used but I suppose it was some gas other than Zyklon (for example, Cartox, Ventox, Areginal …) which had the drawback of being very dangerous and of sticking to surfaces for a long time. Zyklon was most often used for the general gassing of buildings; the operation required 6 to 21 hours, depending on the temperature; it required a specially trained staff, and nothing was as crucial as the airing out of those buildings and of the objects that were located in them. Equipped with gas masks with the strongest filters, technicians entered those premises with instructions to open only the windows which could be opened without too much trouble; and they quickly left the premises, took off their masks, breathed fresh air for ten minutes, and then continued their work.
Therefore, we can only shrug our shoulders at the tales of homicidal gassings which were supposed to have been freely mentioned by Höss in his pleasant Polish Communist prison. To hear Höss tell it, the team that had the job of emptying the gas chamber of such a crematory at Birkenau entered the premises immediately after the death of the victims and started the ventilation machinery. The team members dragged the bodies out of the gas chamber toward a small hoist, while smoking and eating, that is, if we understand him properly, without even wearing a gas mask.
Even with gas masks, the operation would have been impossible. Imagine 2,000 bodies (the number given by the Auschwitz Museum) of people killed by cyanide gas, bodies bathed in the remnants of that deadly gas, which would have had to be disentangled from one another. Pressac knows very well that the arrangement of the premises is such that there was no maneuvering room, so to speak, and that the team members would have had great difficulty in finding anywhere to store 2,000 bodies while waiting to burn them, so that the following convoy of victims could have its turn to be gassed in the 210 square meters of space which was in reality a "Leichenkeller," an underground morgue.
Today, in Berlin, the crematory of the Charlottenburg and Spandau district has a "Leichenkeller" (the word has remained the same) capable of storing 900 bodies. It has four ovens. Suffice it to say that today one body still requires a great deal of time to be incinerated and that, on the other hand, some ovens cannot function continuously for entire days. All the statistics about cremations that the Poles and others present us regarding the crematory ovens of Auschwitz must be received with the greatest distrust. Even modern crematories burn a maximum of five bodies a day. (See Hans-Kurt Boehlke, Friedhofsbauten, Munich, Callwey Verlag, 1974, page 117.)
From the immense scientific literature about disinfection gas chambers, we would recommend that Pressac begin by reading a short (120 page) book published in Berlin in 1943 under the aegis of the German government: Blausäuregaskammern zur Fleckfieberabwehr (Hydrogen Cyanide Gas Chambers for the Prevention of Typhus) by Doctor of Medicine Franz Puntigam, Doctor of Philosophy Hermann Breymesser and Engineer Erich Bernfus. Pressac could just as well take the trouble to read the studies by G. Peters mentioned on page 204 of Serge Thion's book.
But is it even necessary to undertake such research? Pressac is familiar with the register of the metal shop (Schlosserei) at Auschwitz. Let him look at order No. 459, dated May 28, 1943. There he will see this:
Delousing chamber, Auschwitz concentration camp: Object: (1) The fittings for a door with frame, artight with peephole for gas chamber; (2) A door with slats (etc).
The German words are Entwesungskammer, Beschlage, Tür, Rahmen, luftdicht, Spion, Gaskammer. Those words come up again very frequently with regard to gas chambers; it is obvious that those are disinfection gas chambers. Pressac himself is honest enough to include on page 112 of his article, the photograph of "A door impervious to gas in the disinfection barrack of Kanada I of the Stammlager, with eyepiece [or peephole]."
Of course, one could claim that the Germans gassed detainees in disinfection gas chambers. However, that is an accusation that has never seriously been made, perhaps because it would show the Germans to have a spirit of improvisation and to have relied on a kind of tinkering that would have been inappropriate for the gigantic extermination operation with which they are usually charged with (without anyone having been able to prove it with any kind of document). Furthermore, to say that would be tantamount to saying that anyone who has a hatchet in his home might have killed someone with it. Finally, none of the so-called witnesses has talked about using disinfection gas chambers for gassing people.
As regards the word Vergasung, it is seen constantly in the German works dealing with ovens, where it is to be understood to mean "carburation." It is likewise encountered constantly in works dealing with disinfection by gas chambers, whether "simple" or "with closed circuit." There it means "gassing." In a radio message of 22 July 1942 sent by General Glücks to the Auschwitz camp, we read: "I hereby authorize one five-ton truck to make a round trip journey from Auschwitz to Dessau [the place where Zyklon B was distributed] to pick up the gas intended for gassing of the camp …" It would take all of the impudence of our Exterminationists to act as if the sentence stopped there and to say, "Look, a proof that they gassed detainees at Auschwitz!" Even if the sentence did stop there, it would be obvious that the gassing in question was that of the camp's buildings and not of its inmates. However, the sentence does not stop there. It continues as follows: "… in order to fight against the epidemic that has broken out." The German text says: Gas für Vergasung.24
We could make twenty other suggestions to Pressac. For example, we could warn him against his myopia. The Auschwitz complex was enormous, and even Birkenau alone was a very large place, a fact that must be kept in mind whenever one is analyzing such and such a detail. If the Germans really did exterminate entire crowds of people in Crematories IV and V, how can one explain that quite nearby was a group of hospital barracks with 60 doctors and 300 hospital attendants who cared for the sick detainees? How did it happen that there were so many children in Birkenau, whose naive drawings we still find inside some of the rooms? How can one explain that in the Auschwitz Anthology (blue) published by the International Auschwitz Committee, one can read the report by a woman who was a midwife in Poland for 38 years? She delivered the babies of 3,000 women, Jewish and non-Jewish, during the two years she spent at Birkenau, and had done so, she says, with a level of success that was exceptionally high. How did it happen that when they arrived at Auschwitz, on 27 January 1945, the Soviets found old people or infants apparently in good health, as we are shown in the film shot at that time by their camera crews? How does it happen that, in about 1989, the Polish were carrying out a whole series of medical studies on a large number of "Auschwitz children," that is, on adults who were born in the Auschwitz camp or who had been brought there with their parents at a very young age? (For that, here are some references from the French Anthology gives for references: Volume II, second part, pages 159-169, and third part, pages 31-114).
How does it happen that the Allied intelligence services, having at their disposal — as we know today — countless bits of information about Auschwitz during the entire war and even having aerial photographs taken during 32 air missions over the camp and its environs, had not for a moment suspected the existence of tremendous slaughterhouses, with crowds of humans trampling the ground at the entrance to the crematory buildings, the hellish chimneys day and night belching out columns of smoke and tongues of fire? We have analyses of the aerial photos. We note that the analysts paid particular attention to the flames, the fumes, and the smoke. They tried to use them to determine the results of enemy industrial activity or of the Allied bombing raids. They wanted to know whether locomotives or factories were functioning or not and to what extent. We can be sure that if there had been any of those tremendous human pyres, mentioned by Höss in his confessions or described by Filip Müller in his constantly changing memoirs, they would not have escaped the notice of the Allied planes. Perhaps a few pyres would not have attracted their attention very much, but those gigantic, repeated cremations in pits where, we are told, they gathered up the grease coming from the bodies to pour it back onto the same bodies (sic, in Höss and Müller), would unquestionably have been spotted even from a very high altitude.
How does it happen that the very detailed aerial photographs published by the Americans in 1979, one of which can be found on page 318 of Serge Thion's book, show nothing which could lead anyone to suspect the existence of immense human slaughterhouses, and lead us to conclude instead that Auschwitz was nothing more than a large concentration camp?
Pressac would have been wise to have been a little less credulous. Throughout his study he seems to be a fragile personality who takes refuge in insignificant detail so as not to have to look at people and things directly. Authority makes him afraid. His boldness deserts him. He gets scared, and, after having disturbed the teacher with a sudden stubbornness and a desire for independence, he wisely goes back to his place with elaborate apologies directed toward the teacher. He wisely repeats his lesson and if, for example, he is told that '"the order to stop the gassings came in the fall of 1944," he adopts that statement as his own (page 128). If he does not provide any proof for that, it is because he himself did not ask for any. Magister dixit (the teacher has spoken), and then we bow down.
On page 13 of her thesis, Le Système concentrationnaire nazi (1933-1945), Olga Wormser-Migot wrote:
One last remark regarding the gas chambers: neither at the Nuremberg trials, nor in the course of the trials in the various zones of occupation, nor in the Höss trial at Cracow and the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, nor in the trials of the camp commandants, nor in the trial in Frankfurt from November of 1963 to August of 1965 ("second rank" defendents from Auschwitz), did anyone produce the famous order of 22 November, 1944, signed by Himmler, on the end of the extermination of the Jews by gas, the order to put an end to the final solution.
Let us add that they would have been happy to have found that order; it would have in fact made up for the complete absence of any order starting the extermination of the Jews. On the other hand, facts and documents are not lacking to prove in and of themselves that there quite simply could not have been any such order.
Pressac's study is far from being useless. It proves first that one can be an Exterminationist in good faith, eager to work and do research, careful in thoroughly carrying out a type of investigation that is scorned by many veteran historians — a physical, scientific investigation, on site. But Pressac, try as he might to be a good Exterminationist, has succeeded in demonstrating the contrary of what he intended to demonstrate. He wanted to prove two things:
- that the crematories at Auschwitz, along with their out-buildings, had not in any way been conceived with the idea of killing anyone;
- that the Germans nonetheless had later used those crematories and their out-buildings for killing people.
On the first point, the demonstration is convincing, in spite of his incredible clumsiness in organizing and expressing his ideas. On the second point, he completely fails.
In their confusion over the rise and success of revisionist ideas, the authorities at the National Museum of Auschwitz and at the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Paris have relied on a young pharmacist who is enthusiastic but a little bit naive. They opened all their doors (or nearly all their doors) to him. Unfortunately for those authorities and for the young researcher, those doors had nothing behind them.