The Zündel trials: 1985 and 1988
On 13 May 1988, Ernst Zündel was sentenced by Judge Ronald Thomas of the District Court of Ontario, in Toronto, to nine months in prison for having distributed a Revisionist booklet that is now 14 years old: Did Six Million Really Die?
Ernst Zündel lives in Toronto where, up until a few years ago, he worked as a graphic artist and advertising man. He is now 49 years old. A native of Germany, he has kept his German citizenship. His life has known serious upsets from the day when, in about 1981, he began to distribute Did Six Million Really Die?, a Revisionist booklet by Richard Harwood. The booklet was first published in 1974 in Great Britain where, a year later, it was the focus of a lengthy controversy in the literary journal Books and Bookmen. At the instigation of the Jewish community of South Africa, it was later banned in that country.
In Canada, during an earlier trial in 1985, Zündel had been sentenced to 15 months in prison. That sentence was thrown out in 1987. A new trial began on 18 January 1988. I participated in the preparations for it and in the unfolding of those judicial proceedings. I devoted thousands of hours to the defense of Ernst Zündel.
François Duprat: a precursor
In 1967, François Duprat published an article on “The Mystery of the Gas Chambers” (Défense de l'Occident, June 1967, pages 30-33). He later became interested in the Harwood booklet and became actively involved in its distribution. On 18 March 1978, he was killed by assassins armed with weapons too complex not to belong to an intelligence service. Responsibility for the assassination was claimed by a “Remembrance Commando” and by a “Jewish Revolutionary Group” (Le Monde, 23 March 1978, page 7). Patrice Chairoff had published Duprat’s home address in the Dossier Néo-Nazisme. He justified the assassination in the pages of Le Monde (26 April 1978, page 9) by citing the victim’s Revisionism: “François Duprat is responsible. There are some responsibilities that kill.” In the Droit de vivre, the publication of the LICRA (International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism), Jean Pierre-Bloch expressed an ambiguous position: he criticized the crime but, at the same time, he let it be understood that he had no pity for those who, inspired by the victim, would start out on the Revisionist path (Le Monde, 7-8 May 1978).
Eight months before Duprat’s assassination, journalist Pierre Viansson-Ponté had launched a virulent attack against the Harwood pamphlet. His chronicle was entitled: “Le Mensonge” (The Lie), (Le Monde, 17-18 July 1978, page 13). It was reprinted with an approving commentary in Le Droit de vivre. Six months after the assassination, Viansson-Ponté took up the attack once more in “le Mensonge (suite)” (The Lie — Continued) (Le Monde, 3-4 September 1978, page 9). He passed over the assassination of Duprat in silence, made public the names and home towns of three Revisionist leaders, and called for legal repression against Revisionism.
Sabina Citron versus Ernst Zündel
In 1984, Sabina Citron, head of the Holocaust Remembrance Association, stirred up violent demonstrations against E. Zündel in Canada. An attack was made on Zündel’s home. The Canadian postal service, treating Revisionism the way it treats pornography, refused him all service and all right to receive mail. Zündel only recovered his postal rights after a year of judicial procedures. In the meantime, his business had failed. At the instigation of S. Citron, the Attorney General of Ontario filed a complaint against Zündel for publishing a “false statement, tale or news.” The charge was based on the following reasoning: the defendant had abused his right to freedom of expression: by distributing the Harwood pamphlet, he was spreading information that he knew was false: he could not fail to be aware that the “genocide of the Jews” and the “gas chambers” were an established fact. Zündel was also charged with publishing an allegedly “false” letter, which he had written himself.
The first trial (1985)
The first trial lasted seven weeks. The jury found Zündel not guilty regarding the letter he had himself written but guilty of distributing the Harwood booklet. He was sentenced by Judge Hugh Locke to 15 months in prison. The German consulate in Toronto confiscated his passport and the West German government prepared a deportation action against him. In Germany itself, West German authorities had already carried out a series of large scale police raids on the houses of his German correspondents. In 1987, the United States forbade him entry to its territory. But in spite of all that, Zündel had won a media victory: day after day, for several weeks, the entire English-speaking Canadian media covered the trial, with its spectacular revelations. The public learned that the Revisionists had first-class documentation and arguments, while the Exterminationists were in desperate straits.
Their expert: Raul Hilberg
The prosecution expert in the first trial was Raul Hilberg, an American professor of Jewish descent and author of the standard reference work, The Destruction of the European Jews (1961), which Paul Rassinier discussed in Le Drame des Juifs européens (The Drama of the European Jews, 1964). Hilberg began his testimony by explaining, without interruption, his theory about the extermination of the Jews. He was then cross examined by Zündel’s lawyer, Douglas Christie, who was assisted by Keltie Zubko and myself. Right from the start it was clear that Hilberg, who was the world’s leading authority on the “Holocaust,” had never examined a single concentration camp, not even Auschwitz. He had still not examined any camp in 1985 when he announced the imminent appearance of a new edition of his main work in three volumes, revised, corrected, and augmented. Although he did visit Auschwitz in 1979 for a single day as part of a ceremonial appearance, he did not bother to examine either the buildings or the archives. In his entire life he has never seen a “gas chamber,” either in its original condition or in ruins. (For a historian, even ruins can speak volumes). On the stand he was forced to admit that there had never been a plan, a central organization, a budget or supervision for what he called the policy of the extermination of the Jews. He also had to admit that since 1945 the Allies have never carried out an expert study of “the weapon of the crimes,” that is to say of a homicidal gas chamber. No autopsy report had established that even one inmate was ever killed by poison gas.
Hilberg said that Hitler gave orders for the extermination of the Jews, and that Himmler gave an order to halt the extermination on 25 November 1944 (such detail!). But Hilberg could not produce these orders. The defense asked him if he still maintained the existence of the Hitler orders in the new edition of his book. He dared to answer yes. He thereby lied and even committed perjury. In the new edition of his work (with a preface dated September 1984), Hilberg systematically deleted any mention of an order by Hitler. (In this regard, see the review by Christopher Browning, “The Revised Hilberg,” Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual, 1986, page 294). When he was asked by the defense to explain how the Germans had been able to carry out an undertaking as enormous as the extermination of millions of Jews without any kind of plan, without any central agency, without any blueprint or budget, Hilberg replied that in the various Nazi agencies there had been “an incredible meeting of minds, a consensus mind reading by a far-flung bureaucracy.”
Witness Arnold Friedman
The prosecution counted on the testimony of “survivors.” These “survivors” were chosen with care. They were supposed to testify that they had seen, with their own eyes, preparations for and the carrying out of homicidal gassings. Since the war, in a series of trials such as those at Nuremberg (1945-46), Jerusalem (1961), or Frankfurt (1963-65), such witnesses have never been lacking. However, as I have often noted, no lawyer for the defense had ever had the courage or the competence necessary to cross-examine these witnesses on the gassings themselves.
For the first time, in Toronto in 1985, one lawyer, Douglas Christie, dared to ask for explanations. He did it with the help of topographical maps and building plans as well as scholarly documentation on both the properties of the gases supposedly used and also on the capacities for cremation, whether carried out in crematory ovens or on pyres. Not one of these witnesses stood the test, and especially not Arnold Friedman. Despairing of his case, he ended by confessing that he had indeed been at Auschwitz-Birkenau (where he never had to work except once, unloading potatoes), but that, as regards gassings, he had relied on what others had told him.
Witness Rudolf Vrba
Witness Rudolf Vrba was internationally known. A Slovak Jew, imprisoned at Auschwitz and at Birkenau, he said that he had escaped from the camp in April 1944 with Fred Wetzler. After getting back to Slovakia, he dictated a report about Auschwitz and Birkenau, and on their crematories and “gas chambers.” With help from Jewish organizations in Slovakia, Hungary, and Switzerland, his report reached Washington, where it served as the basis for the U.S. Government’s famous “War Refugee Board Report,” published in November 1944. Since then every Allied organization charged with the prosecution of war crimes, and every Allied Prosecutor in a trial of “War Criminals” has had available this official version of the history of those camps.
Vrba later became a British, and published his autobiography under the title of I Cannot Forgive (Bantam, 1964). This book was actually written by Alan Bestic, who, in his preface, said: “Indeed I would like to pay tribute to him [R. Vrba] for the immense trouble he took over every detail; for the meticulous, almost fanatical respect he revealed for accuracy.” On 30 November 1964, Vrba testified at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial. Then he settled in Canada and became a Canadian citizen. He has been featured in various films about Auschwitz, particularly “Shoah” by Claude Lanzmann. Everything went well for him until the day at the Zündel trial in 1985, when he was cross-examined mercilessly. He was then shown to be an impostor. It was revealed that he had completely made up the number and location of the “gas chambers” and the crematories in his famous 1944 report. His 1964 book opened with a purported January 1943 visit by Himmler to Birkenau to inaugurate a new crematorium with “gas chamber.” Actually, the last visit by Himmler to Auschwitz took place in July of 1942, and in January 1943 the first of the new crematories was still far from finished.
Thanks, apparently, to some special gift of memory (that he called “special mnemonic principles” or “special mnemonical method") and to a real talent for being everywhere at once, Vrba had calculated that in the space of 25 months (April 1943 to April 1944) the Germans had “gassed” 1,765,000 Jews at Birkenau alone, including 150,000 Jews from France. But in 1978, Serge Klarsfeld, in his Memorial to the Deportation of the Jews from France, had been forced to conclude that, for the entire length of the war, the Germans had deported a total of 75,721 Jews from France to all their concentration camps. The gravest aspect of this is that the figure of 1,765,000 Jews “gassed” at Birkenau had also been used in a document (L-022) at the main Nuremberg trial. Attacked on all sides by Zündel’s lawyer, the impostor had no other recourse than to invoke, in Latin, the licentia poetarum, or “poetic license", in other words, the right to engage in fiction. His book has just been published in France (1987): this edition is presented as a book by “Rudolf Vrba with Alan Bestic.” The short introduction by Emile Copfermann notes that “with the approval of Rudolf Vrba the two appendices from the English edition have been removed.” Nothing is said about the fact that those two appendices had also caused Vrba serious problems in 1985 at the Toronto trial.
The second Zündel trial (1988)
In January 1987, a five-judge appeals court decided to throw out the 1985 verdict against E. Zündel for some very basic reasons: Judge Hugh Locke had not allowed the defense any influence in the jury selection process and the jury had been misled by the judge on the very meaning of the trial. As for me, I have attended many trials in my life, including some carried out in France during the period of the “Purge” at the end of and after the Second World War. Never have I encountered a judge so partial, autocratic, and violent as Judge Hugh Locke. Anglo-Saxon law offers many more guarantees than French law but it only takes one man to pervert the best of systems. Judge Locke was such a man.
The second trial began on 18 January 1988, under the direction of Judge Ronald Thomas, who is a friend, it seems, of Judge Locke. Judge Thomas was often angry and was frankly hostile to the defense, but he had more finesse than his predecessor. The ruling by the five-judge appeal court also inhibited him somewhat. Judge H. Locke had imposed numerous restrictions on free expression by the witnesses and experts for the defense. For example, he forbade me to use any of the photos I had taken at Auschwitz. I had no right to use arguments of a chemical, cartographical, or architectural nature (even though I had been the first person in the world to publish the plans for the Auschwitz and Birkenau crematories). I was not allowed to talk about either the American gas chambers or the aerial reconnaissance photos of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Even the testimony of the eminent chemist William Lindsey was cut short. Judge R. Thomas did allow the defense more freedom, but at the outset of the trial, he made a decision, at the request of the prosecution, that would tie the hands of the jury.
Judge Thomas' judicial notice
In Anglo-Saxon law, everything must be proved except for certain absolutely indisputable evidence ("The capital of Great Britain is London,” “day follows night"…) The judge can take “judicial notice” of that kind of evidence at the request of one or the other of the contending parties.
Prosecuting Attorney John Pearson asked the judge to take judicial notice of the “Holocaust.” That term then had to be defined. It is likely that, had it not been for the intervention of the defense, the judge could have defined “Holocaust” as it might have been defined in 1945-46. At that time, the “genocide of the Jews” (the word “Holocaust” was not used) could have been defined as “the ordered and planned destruction of six million Jews, in particular by the use of gas chambers.”
The problem for the prosecution was that the defense advised the judge that, since 1945-46, there had been profound changes in the understanding of Exterminationist historians about the extermination of the Jews. First of all, they no longer talked about an extermination but about an attempted extermination. They had also finally admitted that “in spite of the most scholarly research” (Raymond Aron, Sorbonne Convention, 2 July 1982), no one had found any trace of an order to exterminate the Jews. More recently, there has been a dispute between the “intentionalists” and the “functionalists.” Both agree that they have no proof of any intent to exterminate, but “intentionalist” historians nevertheless believe that one must assume the existence of that intent, while “functionalist” historians believe that the extermination was the result of individual initiatives, localized and anarchic: in a sense, the activity created the organization. Finally, the figure of six million was declared to be “symbolic” and there have been many disagreements about the “problem of the gas chambers.”
Obviously surprised by this flood of information, Judge R. Thomas decided to be prudent and, after a delay for reflection, decided on the following definition: the “Holocaust,” he said, was “the extermination and/or mass murder of Jews” by National Socialism. His definition is remarkable for more than one reason. We no longer find any trace of an extermination order, or a plan, or “gas chambers,” or six million Jews or even millions of Jews. This definition is so void of all substance that it no longer corresponds to anything real. One cannot understand the meaning of “mass-murder of Jews.” (The judge carefully avoided saying “of the Jews.") This strange definition is itself a sign of the progress achieved by Historical Revisionism since 1945.
Raul Hilberg refuses to appear again
One misfortune awaited Prosecutor John Pearson: Hilberg, in spite of repeated requests, refused to appear again. The defense, having heard rumors of an exchange of correspondence between Pearson and Hilberg, demanded and got the publication of the letters they exchanged and in particular of a “confidential” letter by Hilberg that did not hide the fact that he had some bitter memories of his cross-examination in 1985. He feared being questioned again by D. Christie on the same points. To quote the exact words of his confidential letter, Hilberg wrote that he feared “every attempt to entrap me by pointing out any seeming contradiction, however trivial the subject might be, between my earlier testimony and an answer that I might give in 1988.” In fact as I have already mentioned, Hilberg had committed perjury and he may have feared being charged with that crime.
Christopher Browning, prosecution witness
In place of Hilberg there came his friend Christopher Browning, an American professor who specializes in the “Holocaust.” Admitted as an expert witness (and paid for several days at the rate of $150 per hour by the Canadian taxpayer), Browning tried to prove that the Harwood pamphlet was a tissue of lies and that the attempt to exterminate the Jews was a scientifically established fact. He had cause to regret the experience. During cross-examination, the defense used his own arguments to destroy him. In the course of those days, people saw the tall and naive professor, who had strutted while he stood testifying, seated, shrunken in size, behind the witness stand like a schoolboy caught in a mistake. With a faint and submissive voice, he ended up acknowledging that the trial had definitely taught him something about historical research.
Following the example of Hilberg, Browning had not examined any concentration camps. He had not visited any facility with “gas chambers.” He had never thought of asking for an expert study of the “weapon of the crime.” In his writings he had made much of homicidal “gas vans,” but he was not able to refer to any authentic photograph, any plan, any technical study, or any expert study. He was not aware that German words such as Gaswagen, Spezialwagen, and Entlausungswagen (delousing van) could have perfectly innocent meanings. His technical understanding was nil. He had never examined the wartime aerial reconnaissance photos of Auschwitz. He was unaware of all the tortures undergone by Germans, such as Rudolf Höss, who had spoken of gassings. He knew nothing of the doubts expressed about some of Himmler’s speeches or about the Goebbels diary.
A great follower of the trials of war criminals, Browning had only questioned the prosecutors, never the defense lawyers. His ignorance of the transcript of the Nuremberg trial was disconcerting. He had not even read what Hans Frank, former Governor General of Poland, had said before the Nuremberg tribunal about his “diary” and about “the extermination of the Jews.” That was inexcusable! As a matter of fact, Browning claimed to have found irrefutable proof of the existence of a policy of exterminating the Jews in the Frank diary. He had discovered one incriminating sentence. He did not know that Frank had given the Tribunal an explanation of that kind of sentence, chosen beforehand from the hundreds of thousands of sentences in a personnel and administrative journal of 11,500 pages. Furthermore, Frank had spontaneously turned over his “diary” to the Americans when they came to arrest him. The sincerity of the former Governor General is so obvious to anyone who reads his deposition that Christopher Browning, invited to hear the content, did not raise the least objection. One last humiliation awaited him.
For the sake of his thesis, he invoked a passage from the well-known “protocol” of the Wannsee conference (20 January 1942). He had made his own translation of the passage, a translation that was seriously in error. At that point, his thesis collapsed. Finally, his own personal explanation of a “policy of the extermination of the Jews” was the same as Hilberg's. Everything was explained by the “nod” of Adolf Hitler. In other words, the Führer of the German people did not need to give any written or even spoken order for the extermination of the Jews. It was enough for him to give a “nod” at the beginning of the operation and, for the rest, a series of “signals.” And that was understood!
The other expert called by the prosecution (who had taken the stand before Browning) was Charles Biedermann, a Swiss citizen, a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and, most importantly, the director of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Arolsen, West Germany. The ITS has an unbelievable wealth of information about the fate of individual victims of National Socialism and, in particular, of former concentration camp inmates. I believe that it is at Arolsen that one could determine the real number of Jews who died during the war.
The prosecution did not benefit from this expert’s testimony. On the contrary, the defense scored numerous points on cross-examination. Biedermann recognized that the ICRC had never found any proof of the existence of homicidal gas chambers in the German camps. The visit by one of its delegates to Auschwitz in September 1944 had done no more than conclude the existence of a rumor on that subject. To his embarrassment, the expert was obliged to admit that he was wrong in attributing to the National Socialists the expression “extermination camps.” He had not noticed that this was a term coined by the Allies.
Biedermann said that he was not familiar with the ICRC reports on the atrocities undergone by the Germans just before and just after the end of the war. In particular, he knew nothing about the terrible treatment of many German prisoners. It would seem that the ICRC had nothing about the massive deportations of German minorities from the east, nothing on the horrors of the total collapse of Germany at the very end of the war, nothing about summary executions and, in particular, the massacre by rifle, machine gun, shovels and pickaxes, of 520 German soldiers and officers who had surrendered to the Americans at Dachau on 29 April 1945 (even though Victor Maurer, ICRC delegate, was apparently there).
The International Tracing Service included among those “persecuted” by the Nazis even indisuptably criminal prisoners in the concentration camps. He relied on the information supplied by a Communist organization, the Auschwitz State Museum. Beginning in 1978, in order to prevent all Revisionist research, the International Tracing Service closed its doors to historians and researchers, except for those bearing a special authorization from one of the ten governments (including that of Israel) that oversee the activity of the International Tracing Service. Henceforth the Service was forbidden to calculate and publish, as it had done until then, statistical evaluations of the number of dead in the various camps. The annual activity reports could no longer be made available to the public, except for their first third, which had been of no interest to researchers.
Biedermann confirmed a news story that had filtered out in 1964 at the Frankfurt trial: at the time of liberation of Auschwitz, the Soviets and the Poles had discovered the death register of that complex of 39 camps and subcamps. The register consisted of 38 or 39 volumes. The Soviets keep 36 or 37 of those volumes in Moscow while the Poles keep two or three other volumes at the “Auschwitz State Museum,” a copy of which they have furnished to the International Tracing Service in Arolsen. But neither the Soviets nor the Poles nor the International Tracing Service authorize research in these volumes. Biedermann did not even want to reveal the number of dead counted in the two or three volumes of which the ITS has a copy. It is clear that, if the content of the death register of Auschwitz were made public, it would be the end of the myth of the millions of deaths in the camp.
No 'survivor' witnesses for the proscecution
The judge asked the prosecutor if he would call any “survivors” to the witness stand. The prosecutor answered no. The experience of 1985 had been too embarrassing. The cross-examination had been devastating. It is regrettable that at the trial of Klaus Barbie in France in 1987 and at the trial of John Demjanjuk in Israel in 1987-1988, no defense lawyer has followed D. Christie’s example in the first Zündel trial (1985): Christie had shown that by carefully questioning witnesses about the gassing process itself, one could destroy the very foundation of the “extermination camp” myth.
The witnesses and experts for the defense
Most of the witnesses and experts for the defense were as precise and concrete as people such as Hilberg or Browning had been imprecise and metaphysical. The Swede Ditlieb Felderer showed about 380 slides of Auschwitz and of the other camps in Poland. American Mark Weber, whose knowledge of the documents is impressive, engaged in clarifications of several aspects of the “Holocaust,” in particular the Einsatzgruppen. German Tjudar Rudolph dealt with the Lodz ghetto and visits by the ICRC delegates at the end of 1941 to Auschwitz, Majdanek, and other camps.
Thies Christophersen had been in charge of an agricultural research enterprise in the Auschwitz region in 1944. He visited the Birkenau camp several times to requisition personnel there and never noticed the horrors usually described. On the witness stand he repeated point-by-point what he had written about the camp, starting in 1973 with a 19-page report (Kritik, Nr. 23, pages 14-32).
Austrian-born Canadian Maria van Herwaarden was interned at Birkenau starting in 1943. She saw nothing, either close up or from a distance, that resembled mass murder, although she confirmed that many of the inmates had died of typhus. American Bradley Smith, a member of the “Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust,” spoke about his experience in more than 100 question-and-answer interviews on American radio and television on the “Holocaust” issue.
Austrian Emil Lachout commented on the famous “Müller Document,” which, since December 1987, has thrown the Austrian authorities into disarray. The document, dated 1 October 1948, revealed that even then, Allied commissions of inquiry had already rejected the stories of homicidal “gassings” in a whole series of camps, including Dachau, Ravensbrück, Struthof (Natzweiler), Stutthof (Danzig), Sachsenhausen, and Mauthausen (Austria). The document specifically confirms that confessions of Germans had been extorted by torture and that testimonies by former inmates were false.
Dr. Russell Barton recounted his horrified discovery of the camp at Bergen-Belsen at the time of liberation. Until that moment he had believed in a deliberate program of extermination. Then he noted the fact that, in an apocalyptic Germany, the piles of corpses and the walking skeletons were the result of the frightful conditions of an overcrowded camp, ravaged by epidemics, and almost entirely deprived of medicine, food, and water because of Allied bombings.
German Udo Walendy outlined the many forgeries he had discovered, in wartime atrocity photographs and other documents, either altered or forged by a team headed by British propagandist Sefton Delmer. J.G. Burg, a Jew who lives in Munich, told of his experiences in the war and confirmed that there had never been any policy for the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.
Academics such as Chinese professor Dr. K.T. Fann, a Marxist, and Dr. Gary Botting, who lost his teaching position at Red Deer College (Alberta) as a result of testifying at the Zündel trial in 1985, testified that the Harwood booklet was essentially a work of opinion, and hence not subject to legal prohibition. Jürgen Neumann, a close associate and friend of Zündel, testified as to Zündel’s “state of mind” when the booklet first was published. Ernst Nielsen testified on the obstacles he encountered at the University of Toronto to open research on the “Holocaust.” Ivan Lagacé, director of the crematory at Calgary, demonstrated the practical impossibility of the numbers alleged by Hilberg to have been cremated at Auschwitz.
For my part, I appeared as an expert witness for nearly six days. I concentrated particularly on my investigations of the American gas chambers. I recalled that Zyklon B is essentially hydrocyanic acid and that it is with this gas that certain American penitentiaries execute those who have been condemned to death.
In 1945 the Allies should have asked specialists on American gas chambers to examine the buildings, at Auschwitz and elsewhere, which were supposed to have been used to gas millions of people. Since 1977, I have had the following idea: when one deals with a vast historical problem such as that of the reality or the legend of the “Holocaust,” one must strive to get to the core of the problem. In this case the central problem is Auschwitz and the core of that problem is a space of 275 square meters: the 65 square meters of the “gas chamber” of crematorium I at Auschwitz and, at Birkenau, the 210 square meters of the “gas chamber” of crematorium II. In 1988, my idea remained the same: let us have expert studies of those 275 square meters and we will have an answer to the vast problem of the “Holocaust.” I showed the jury my photos of the gas chamber at the Maryland State Penitentiary in Baltimore as well as my plans for the Auschwitz gas chambers and underlined the physical and chemical impossibilities of the latter ones.
A sensational turn of events: the Leuchter Report
Ernst Zündel, in possession of the correspondence I had exchanged in 1977-78 with the six American penitentiaries outfitted with gas chambers, gave Attorney Barbara Kulaszka the job of getting in touch with the chief wardens of those penitentiaries in order to see if one of them would agree to appear in court to explain how a real gas chamber operates. Bill Armontrout, chief warden of the penitentiary at Jefferson City (Missouri), agreed to testify and in doing so pointed out that no one in the U.S. was more knowledgable about the functioning of gas chambers than Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., an engineer from Boston. I went to visit Leuchter on 3 and 4 February 1988. I found that he had never asked himself any questions about the “gas chambers” in the German camps. He had simply believed in their existence. After I began to show him my files, he became aware of the chemical and physical impossibility of the German “gassings” and he agreed to examine our documents in Toronto.
After that, at Zündel’s expense, he left for Poland with a secretary (his wife), a draftsman, a video-cameraman and an interpreter. He came back and drew up a 196-page report (including appendices). He also brought back 32 samples taken, on the one hand, from the crematories of Auschwitz and Birkenau at the site of the homicidal “gassings” and, on the other hand, in a disinfection gas chamber at Birkenau. His conclusion was simple: there had never been any homicidal gassings at Auschwitz, Birkenau, nor Majdanek.
On 20 and 21 April 1988, F. Leuchter appeared on the witness stand in the Toronto courtroom. He told the story of his investigation and presented his conclusions. I am convinced that during those two days I was an eyewitness to the death of the gas chamber myth, a myth That, in my opinion, had entered its death throes at the Sorbonne colloquium on “Nazi Germany and the Extermination of the Jews” (29 June to 2 July 1982), where the organizers themselves began to grasp that there was no proof of the existence of the gas chambers.
In the Toronto courtroom emotions were intense, in particular, among the friends of Sabina Citron. Ernst Zündel’s friends were also moved, but for a different reason: they were witnessing the veil of the great swindle being torn away. As for me, I felt both relief and melancholy: relief because a thesis that I had defended for so many years was at last fully confirmed, and melancholy because I had fathered the idea in the first place. I had even, with the clumsiness of a man of letters, presented physical, chemical, topographical, and architectural arguments that I now saw summed up by a scientist who was astonishingly precise and thorough.
Would people one day remember the skepticism I had encountered, even from other Revisionists? Just before F. Leuchter, B. Armontrout had been on the witness stand, where he confirmed, in every detail, what I had said to the jury about the extreme difficulties of a homicidal gassing (not to be confused with a suicidal or accidental gassing). Ken Wilson, a specialist in aerial photographs, had shown that the homicidal “gas chambers” of Auschwitz and Birkenau did not have gas evacuation chimneys, which would have been indispensible. He also showed that I had been right in accusing Serge Klarsfeld and Jean-Claude Pressac of falsifying the map of Birkenau in the Auschwitz Album (Seuil Publishers, 1983, page 42). Those authors, in order to make the reader believe that groups of Jewish women and children surprised by the photographer between Crematories II and III could not go any farther and were thus going to end up in the “gas chambers” and those crematories, had simply eliminated from the map the path that in reality led up to the Zentralsauna, a large shower facility (located beyond the zone of the crematories), where those women and children were actually going.
James Roth, director of a laboratory in Massachusetts, then testified on the analysis of the 32 samples, the origin of which he was unaware: all the samples taken in the homicidal “gas chambers” contained a quantity of cyanide that was either unmeasurable or infinitesimal, while the sample from the disinfection gas chamber, taken for comparison’s sake, contained an enormous quantity of cyanide (the unmeasurable or infinitesimal quantity detected in the former case can be explained by the fact that the supposed homicidal gas chambers were in fact morgues for preserving bodies; such morgues could have been occasionally disinfected with Zyklon B).
The British historian David Irving enjoys great prestige. Zündel thought of asking him to testify, but there was a problem: Irving was only partly a Revisionist. The thesis that he defended, for example, in Hitler’s War (New York, The Viking Press, 1977) can be summed up as follows: Hitler never gave an order for the extermination of the Jews; at least up to the end of 1943 he was kept in ignorance of that extermination; only Himmler and a group of about 70 or so persons were aware of it: in October 1944 Himmler, who wanted to get into the good graces of the Allies, gave an order to cease the extermination of the Jews.
I had met Irving in Los Angeles in September of 1983 at the annual convention of the Institute for Historical Review, where I challenged him by asking several questions about proof to support his thesis. I tried to convince this brilliant historian that logically he could no longer be satisfied with a semi-Revisionist position. To begin with, I challenged him to produce Himmler’s order to stop the extermination, an order that never actually existed. Later on, I learned from various sources that Irving was undergoing a change that moved him in the direction of Revisionism.
In 1988, Zündel became convinced that the British historian was only waiting for a decisive event to take a final step in our direction. After arriving in Toronto, David Irving discovered in rapid succession the Leuchter Report and an impressive number of documents that Zündel, his friends, and I had accumulated over the course of several years. The last reservations and misunderstandings melted away in the course of a meeting. He agreed to testify on the stand. In the opinion of those who were present at the two trials (1985 and 1988), no single testimony, except that of F. Leuchter, caused such a sensation. For more than three days, David Irving, engaging in a sort of public confession, took back all that he had said about the extermination of the Jews and without reservation adopted the Revisionist position. With courage and honesty, he showed how an historian can be brought to revise profoundly his views on the history of the Second World War.
The Zündel story
Ernst Zündel had promised that his trial would be “the trial of the Nuremberg Trial” or “the Stalingrad of the Exterminationists.” The unfolding of those two long trials proved him right, even though the jury, “instructed” the judge to consider the “Holocaust” as an established fact “which no reasonable person can doubt,” finally found him guilty. Zündel has already won. It remains for him to make it known to Canada and to the entire world. The media blackout of the 1988 trial was almost complete. Jewish organizations campaigned vigorously for such a blackout, and even went so far as to say that they did not want an impartial account of the trial. They did not want any account of it at all. The paradox is that the only publication that reported relatively honestly about the trial was The Canadian Jewish News.
Ernst Zündel and the Leuchter Report have left a profound mark on history; each will be remembered for many years to come.