The Holocaust Historiography Project

Jean-Claude Pressac's new Auschwitz book

  • Les Crématoires d'Auschwitz: La machinerie du meurtre de masse. Jean-Claude Pressac. Paris: 1993.67

In 1989, French pharmacist Jean-Claude Pressac published in English a massive book deceptively entitled Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers. In my review of this book, I noted that it contains hundreds of details about the camp itself, the crematoria buildings, the ovens, the typhus epidemics, the disinfestation gas chambers (with Zyklon B or by other means), and even many details about the private life of the author.

Nothing about execution gas chambers

But as I pointed out, there is nothing in this 564-page book about the alleged execution gas chambers, except what Pressac himself called, instead of "proofs," only "beginnings of proofs" or "criminal traces." The mountain had given birth to a mouse and, as a matter of fact, the mouse was Revisionist, because many of Pressac's statements were revisionist.

My unanswered challenge

Since 1978, I have repeated a challenge:

Show me or draw me a Nazi gas chamber! Stop giving me words. Stop showing me a building, a door, a wall or, sometimes, only hair or shoes. I need a full picture of one of those fantastic chemical slaughterhouses. I need a physical representation of the extraordinary weapon of an unprecedented crime. If you dare to say that what tourists are shown in some camps is, or was, such a gas chamber, come on and say it …

This challenge has never been answered. In Washington, DC, the "Holocaust" memorial museum shows visitors the door of something that Pressac himself describes in his 1989 book (pp. 555-557) as a non-homicidal disinfestation gas chamber in Majdanek. Pressac did not answer my challenge in 1989. Does he answer it in his new book, Les Crématoires d'Auschwitz: La machinerie du meurtre de masse (The Crematoria of Auschwitz: The Machinery of Mass Killing)? The answer is definitely No.

One (phony) proof

Pressac's new book is, in essence, nothing but a summary of his 1989 English-language work. Of the 60 documents he cites, none really pertains to execution gas chambers, except one that Pressac describes as a proof (not more than one) of the existence of one execution gas chamber in Auschwitz. In fact, it is a simple letter, a commercial letter, with no mention of secrecy, from the German firm of Topf and Sons to the Auschwitz construction office (Bauleitung). It is about hydrocyanic acid (HCN) gas detectors in one of the crematoria. The engineer who signed the letter says that they have tried in vain to get from five different firms the ten required gas detectors and that, if they ever do, they will tell the construction office. Pressac contends that HCN gas detectors are of no use in a crematory except, if, in this case, it was used as an execution gas chamber.

This is an inadmissible conclusion. Zyklon B (which is essentially HCN) is a commercial pest control agent that has been used since 1922 in countries around the world. In Auschwitz it was used extensively in the disinfestation of all infected premises, especially to combat typhus. In the mortuaries of the crematoria there were plenty of infected corpses. These places sometimes needed fumigation. In 1980, I published a German document (classified by Allied officials as Nuremberg document NI-9912) about the fumigation process with Zyklon B: The word for fumigation was Vergasung (gassing), and the word for gas detector was Gasrestnachweisgerät. This was quite common. In Auschwitz poison gas was used to kill lice, not people.

800,000 dead?

In a famous 1955 film, "Night and Fog" (Nuit et Brouillard), which is shown in every school in France (and many in the United States), the figure of the dead in Auschwitz is said to have been nine million. The Nuremberg Tribunal established that it had been four million (Doc. USSR-008). On the Auschwitz-Birkenau monument it was also four million but, in 1990, they chiseled out this figure. In his 1989 English-language book, Pressac wrote (p. 553) that it was between one million and a million and a half. Now, in 1993, in his new French-language book, he says 775,000 dead, rounded out to 800,000. (Among those, he maintains, 630,000 Jews were gassed.) The actual figure of Auschwitz deaths between 1939 and 1945 is probably closer to 150,000, mostly because of epidemics, starvation and overwork.

Lanzmann incensed

Claude Lanzmann, maker of the Holocaust film "Shoah," is incensed at Pressac. He says that the entire contents of this new book are already "tremendously well known," except for the gas detector document that, he adds, certainly will not convince the revisionists. He says that revisionism is a catastrophe, in both the common sense of the word as well as in the philosophical sense, that is, a change of era. He thinks that Pressac is in fact a Revisionist who uses the material and physical arguments of a Faurisson. (See Le Nouvel Observateur, Sept. 30.)

An expert report

Pressac is in fact a con artist. But the value of Pressac's book is that the believers in the "Holocaust," at least in France, finally acknowledge that this "Holocaust" must now be treated as a scholarly or scientific matter. We only have to take them at their word, and to say:

Okay! Let's begin at the beginning. We need an expert report about the weapon of the crime. If you think that Fred Leuchter is wrong in his forensic expert report — as well as Germar Rudolf, Walter Lüftl and the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow (what about your silence on this?) — there is an obvious solution: produce your own expert report, or commission an international committee to do so. In this way you will answer our challenge: you will show us or draw us a Nazi gas chamber.