The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
Production for Krematorium [IV], BW 30b.c of 2 fork type anchors and 8 Schaurohre / inspection tubes, the shortening of 4 anchors and the modification of 12 pulleys according to the instructions, of foreman Koch, employed by Topf & Sons of Erfurt.
and he presented these 8 inspection tubes as being peep holes for 5 [!] gas tight doors, whereas in fact they were for the 8 guillotine doors of the big eight muffle furnace of Kr IV. From another file, known as “Metalworking shop WL”, of which annex 15 of volume 11 of the Hoess trial contains certain passages and the original of which is lost, he extracted Order No 459 of 28th May 1943 for the fabrication of “fittings for 1 door with frame, air tight, with peep hole for gas Chamber”, actually for a disinfestation installation in the Auschwitz main camp, and stated that the peep hole was watching Jews die, not lice. This order is in fact the only one with no criminal connection and was for a real delousing gas chamber, probably that of “Stammlager” Block 1. Maître Jouanneau did not have the time to do the work of a true historian. Responsibility for his errors lies with the traditional historians, who did not appreciate the value of the documents found. These historians caused Maître Jouanneau and his translator, to go astray many times due to the famous “coding” and “camouflage”. I have to admit that them was a certain coding involved with the word “Sonderbehandlung / special treatments”, but the term is unambiguously “decoded” in several documents conserved in the CDJC. However, the stubborn desire to interpret exclusively in terms of coding, to replace one word by another, has led to aberrations. To say that “Leichenkeller 1” is the codeword for the Krematorium II gas chamber is absurd. To affirm, like the translator, that:
“Leichenkeller” is a term unknown to the German language, [that] had a fleeting existence between 1941 and 1944 in the very closed circle of the SS,
smacks of dangerous bias. Declaring the movement authorization issued on 22nd July 1942 for a 5 ton track to go from Auschwitz to Dessau:
”… to pick up gas [Zyklon-B] for gassing in the camp, to combat the epidemic that has broken out.”
to be coded is quite wrong. A typhus epidemic was in fact raging in the camp, as confirmed by Dr Johann Paul Kremer, an SS reservist, in his Diary on his arrival in Auschwitz on 30th August 1942. The authorization of 29th July 1942 is even more urgent, still for disinfestation purposes. By contrast, that of 26th August 1942 requesting “material for the special treatments” and that of 2nd October 1942 [Photo 32] for “material for the resettlement of the Jews”, where is the “coding” when the Zyklon-B brought back will be used to supply Birkenau Bunkers 1 and 2? There is no coding: a spade is called a spade. No doubt some of the disinfestation gas was used as homicide gas, and vice versa. If the SS had wanted to use code, ALL the movement authorizations, without exception, would have mentioned gas for disinfestation purposes. In all the files and on all the drawings that I have consulted at the PMO archives, I have never encountered a “coded” document or word [except on one occasion, on a drawing of June 1944], otherwise, how would I has, been able to find “criminal traces"? The myth of “camouflage” is based on a letter of 6th November 1943 [Annex 7 of Volume 11 of the Hoess trial, or file BW 30/34, page 14], in which Bischoff, head of the Bauleitung, after a conversation with Hoess, ordered from SS Major Caesar, head of Agricultural Service, a number of shrubs and young trees in order to form a ring of greenery around Krematorien II and III. At the time of the Liberation, the trunks of the trees actually planted were as thick as my thumb. What camouflage [Tarnung]! The traditional historians, thanks to this letter which does not even contain the word “Tarntung”, introduced the idea of camouflage of the Krematorien, then extended it to documents because it fitted with the fable of “coding”. “Camouflage” makes it possible to claim that any quite ordinary document is highly “criminal”. It is thus possible to produce incriminating evidence and build fictions starting with nothing. Krematorien II and III were never hidden by any sort of fence. Why would the cremation installations have been transformed into instruments suitable for the “special actions” if it were not so that the action could take place inside these buildings, whose walls totally hid the operations. Krematorien IV and V were “camouflaged” by hedges 3 meters high as from July 1944 because the big furnace of Krematorium V was out of service and open air cremation pits were dug near the building. The SS wanted to avoid the uncontrollable panic that would ensue if the arriving victims should see such pyres. A certain amount of discretion was in fact used. The SS certainly did not broadcast the fact that they were gassing Jews at Birkenau. But the whole of Upper Silesia knew, more or less precisely, what was going on in KL Auschwitz. Walter Kempowski gives an example in his book Allemands, le saviez vous? ["Germans, did you know?"] translated from the German and published by Encre in 1980. A SINGLE German (a writer, born in 1910) among those questioned BECAUSE he was stationed in the region, states:
“I knew exactly what was happening. I was guarding the frontier in Poland. It was in August 1941. I had a place at Zakopane [a good hundred kilometers from Auschwitz] and we were courting two pretty Jewesses; nothing very wrong… And then the shootings started. It had to be keep secret at all costs. On my return from a patrol, some soldiers came to say: “You know, they've shot quite a few. The two pretty girls were in the group.” Later on [1943], I saw trains at Cracow, and it was whispered that there were Krematorium furnaces that worked with gas. I said: “There are children there.” They were crying in the wagons and calling for water. A woman next to me said: “They asked for it”. Her daughter retorted: “But it’s terrible!” But the mother repeated: “They asked for it.” A little later, I left for Berlin, and there nobody would believe me! “Hans. you're starting to imagine things!” They were all antifascists. They just could not understand the business of the gas furnaces.”
I should like to explain the incident in the hearing concerned with the photograph album of Struthof. The album retained as an exhibit in the Struthof trial had three pages ripped out. That held by Maître Kormann was complete. On both copies [which I have studied] the photograph of the plan of the gas chamber, drawn by the French Military Justice in 1945, has something scratched out on the original tracing, namely the protective casing on the outside, around the funnel where the water was poured in, no doubt to protect it. Since the original tracing had disappeared from the files of the trial, Faurisson, furious at not being able to find the proof of this “falsification” [faced with the evidence, he tried to turn everything he possibly could to his account] had this pointed out by his counsel, Maître Delacroix. Nobody accused Maître Jouanneau of having “fiddled with the documents”. The amusing thing about this incident is that Maître Delcroix thought that only ONE copy had been tampered with, whereas in fact BOTH were identical.

It may appear that I praise Maître Jouanneau to the skies while at the same time criticizing his pleading. The fact is that the case dates from 1981 and it is thanks to advances in research into the history of Auschwitz since then that it is now possible to criticize what he had to say. Be that as it may, nobody can attack his masterly synthesis of the history of the genesis of the gassings. Nobody can deny that he found irrefutable proof of how the victims were crushed together in the gas chambers, and this from a German source. In the gassing trucks, the SS crammed 9 or 10 units [Jews] per square meter. He demonstrated in masterly fashion to the “professor” that it was possible to get at least 2000 people into the 210 m² of the Leichenkeller 1 of Krematorien II and III. This seems to be very much the limiting case, but Maître Jouanneau’s demonstration was superb.

I have emphasized Maitre Jouanneau’s pleading so much because in my estimation it constitutes the turning point between the earlier “traditional” history and the “precisionist” history now being developed. This comprises two methods of working, the one based on testimonies, and the other based on documents that make it possible to assess the value of the witnesses' testimony. 1980-81, I disapproved of the actions brought against Faurisson by the LICRA and other associations, considering [as Raymond Aron said at the Sorbonne Colloquium in July 1982] that they smacked of witchhunting. Now, I believe that there was no other defensive option open to the people who felt they were being “attacked” by Faurisson’s thesis. The main positive spin off from the trial was the strong boost it gave to historical research into all the gas chambers. There was a real need for such research, for since the end of the Hoess trial, for which the investigation was led by Judge Jan Sehn, a Doctor of Law, the question of how the homicidal gas chambers actually worked had gradually fallen into oblivion. Jan Sehn had first published the findings of his investigations in Bulletin I of the Central Commission for the Investigation of Hitlerite Crimes in Poland in Warsaw in 1946, then in 1955 in a special publication of the Wydawnietwo Prawnicze (Legal Press) and lastly in 1957, in a new edition, revised and completed, the English version being entitled simply Auschwitz Birkenau. The Poles did not pursue Jan Sehn’s work any further after his death, because nobody in Poland — except for rare exceptions and for political reasons — doubted the obvious facts. The staff of the Auschwitz. State Museum had other more urgent tasks, such as preparing documents for the numerous trials and studying in detail the many subcamp camps round Auschwitz. They were more than a little surprised that in the West a debate should arise over the very existence of the gas chambers. This seemed utterly futile to them, since the facts were patently obvious and at Oswiecim, for example, grandparent witnesses told the story to their children and grandchildren. Who can doubt the word of his grandparents and parents? In defense of those who brought the actions against Faurisson, it must be said that the question was of a complexity that they had not foreseen, and nor indeed had Faurisson. And neither was it suspected that the real confrontation between the “exterminationists” and the “revisionists” did not take place in the Palais de Justice in Paris, during interminable hearings, marked by boredom and suppressed tensions, but rather 1700 kilometers away, on the first floor of Block 24 of the former KL Auschwitz, between the Polish keeper of the PMO Archives and a French pharmacist passionately interested in history. Faurisson had already lost in August 1980. but in the Museum, the match between the two sides [who were never real enemies] was only just beginning…

After the judgment condemning Faurisson, pronounced by the First Section of the First Chamber of the High Court of Paris on 8th July 1981 [announced on 3rd], I continued with my research, for the trial documentation had still not answered all my questions, Since I was alone, Mr. Zylbermine introduced me to Georges Wellers, the man he thought most likely to be able to help me. Wellers asked me to provide him with some proof of my “knowledge”. I wrote short paper of about 20 pages, backed up by about 30 photographs, entitled Realization and study of Birkenau Krematorien IV and V. I had chosen IV and V because the volume of documentation concerning them was less than for II and III, hence easier to handle [this is at the same time both true and untrue]. I gave him this study at the end of July 1981, and then waited.

In the meantime, I learned from a television program that I watched quite by chance that a former Auschwitz deportee had painted canvases on which I was able to recognize features that I had already seen on photographs of the Krematorien. The picture that impressed me the most was of a face watching a gassing [Photo 34]. I noted the name of the artist, David Olère. and rushed to telephone Mr. Zylbermine. After some inquiries, we presented ourselves at the home of Mr. Olère [Photo 33], former member of the Sonderkommando of Krematorium III, prisoner 106144. It was a revelation. In a reaction typical of all those who had been direct participants in the extermination [both Jews and SS], he immediately thrust before us the most horrible things he had painted. His accompanying account was in the same vein. We were adrift in the midst of a kind of Krematorium delirium. But the canvases, and the preliminary sketches he gaily shoved under our noses for the pleasure of seeing us grimace in disgust, spoke quite a different language. That of truth and almost photographic precision. He was a crotchety old man, ceaselessly complaining — as well he might after all he had seen and experienced. But his pictorial testimony on the Krematorien and the extermination of the Jews in Birkenau is the best we know. Following his return from deportation he began to draw what he had seen and experienced, and between 1945 and 1947 he produced about one hundred sketches and [drawings] that form the basis of his work. From these, he painted about thirty canvases of the Birkenau universe. As his sight deteriorated with advancing age, so the size of his canvases grew. In 1945, he had recreated from memory the plan of Krematorium III (BW 30a, not B 360 H) [Photo 35] and drawn a cross section. He presented scenes of the living death of this Krematorium. David Olère’s drawings are not perfect, but bear witness to accurate observation and contain details otherwise unknown. To appreciate the veracity of his work, it suffices to compare the sketch [Photo 36] of the construction of Krematorium III as he saw it on his arrival at Birkenau on 4th March 1943 [49th RSHA convoy of 993 Jews from Drancy] and a Bauleitung photograph [Photo 37] taken in March 1943 during the pouring of the concrete roof of the furnace room, where David Olère often worked as from June 1943. At present it is not possible to show the whole collection of his initial sketches, the most valuable part of his work from the historical standpoint. because fifty of them were lent in January 1976 to Myriam Novitch for an exhibition in the “Ghetto fighters' house” in Israel and were never returned to Mr Olère, who was understandably most upset. He used to say that he had been deprived of half his memory.