Auschwitz: Myths and facts
by Mark Weber
Nearly everyone has heard of Auschwitz, the German wartime concentration camp where many prisoners — most of them Jewish — were reportedly exterminated, especially in gas chambers. Auschwitz is widely regarded as the most terrible Nazi extermination center. The camp's horrific reputation cannot, however, be reconciled with the facts.
Scholars challenge Holocaust story
Astonishing as it may seem, more and more historians and engineers have been challenging the widely accepted Auschwitz story. These "revisionist" scholars do not dispute the fact that large numbers of Jews were deported to the camp, or that many died there, particularly of typhus and other diseases. But the compelling evidence they present shows that Auschwitz was not an extermination center and that the story of mass killings in "gas chambers" is a myth.
The Auschwitz camps
The Auschwitz camp complex was set up in 1940 in what is now south-central Poland. Large numbers of Jews were deported there between 1942 and mid-1944.
The main camp was known as Auschwitz I. Birkenau, or Auschwitz II, was supposedly the main extermination center, and Monowitz, or Auschwitz III, was a large industrial center where gasoline was produced from coal. In addition there were dozens of smaller satellite camps devoted to the war economy.
Four million victims?
At the postwar Nuremberg Tribunal, the Allies charged that the Germans exterminated four million people at Auschwitz. This figure, which was invented by the Soviets, was uncritically accepted for many years. It often appeared in major American newspapers and magazines, for example. (note 1)
Today no reputable historian, not even those who generally accept the extermination story, believes this figure. Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer said in 1989 that it is time to finally acknowledge the familiar four million figure is a deliberate myth. In July 1990 the Auschwitz State Museum in Poland, along with Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Center, suddenly announced that altogether perhaps one million people (both Jews and non-Jews) died there. Neither institution would say how many of these people were killed, nor were any estimates given of the numbers of those supposedly gassed. (note 2) One prominent Holocaust historian, Gerald Reitlinger, has estimated that perhaps 700,000 or so Jews perished at Auschwitz. More recently, Holocaust historian Jean-Claude Pressac has estimated that about 800,000 persons — of whom 630,000 were Jewish — perished at Auschwitz. While even such lower figures are incorrect, they show how the Auschwitz story has changed drastically over the years. (note 3)
At one time it was seriously claimed that Jews were systematically electrocuted at Auschwitz. American newspapers, citing a Soviet eyewitness report from liberated Auschwitz, told readers in February 1945 that the methodical Germans had killed Jews there using an "electric conveyor belt on which hundreds of persons could be electrocuted simultaneously [and] then moved on into furnaces. They were burned almost instantly, producing fertilizer for nearby cabbage fields." (note 4)
And at the Nuremberg Tribunal, chief U.S. prosecutor Robert Jackson charged that the Germans used a "newly invented" device to instantaneously "vaporize" 20,000 Jews near Auschwitz "in such a way that there was no trace left of them." (note 5) No reputable historian now accepts either of these fanciful tales.
The Höss 'confession'
A key Holocaust document is the "confession" of former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss of April 5, 1946, which was submitted by the U.S. prosecution at the main Nuremberg trial. (note 6)
Although it is still widely cited as solid proof for the Auschwitz extermination story, it is actually a false statement that was obtained by torture.
Many years after the war, British military intelligence sergeant Bernard Clarke described how he and five other British soldiers tortured the former commandant to obtain his "confession." Höss himself privately explained his ordeal in these words: "Certainly, I signed a statement that I killed two and half million Jews. I could just as well have said that it was five million Jews. There are certain methods by which any confession can be obtained, whether it is true or not." (note 7)
Even historians who generally accept the Holocaust extermination story now acknowledge that many of the specific statements made in the Höss "affidavit" are simply not true. For one thing, no serious scholar now claims that anything like two and a half or three million people perished in Auschwitz.
The Höss "affidavit" further alleges that Jews were already being exterminated by gas in the summer of 1941 at three other camps: Belzec, Treblinka and Wolzek. The "Wolzek" camp mentioned by Höss is a total invention. No such camp existed, and the name is no longer mentioned in Holocaust literature. Moreover, the story these days by those who believe in the Holocaust legend is that gassings of Jews did not begin at Auschwitz, Treblinka, or Belzec until sometime in 1942.
No documentary evidence
Many thousands of secret German documents dealing with Auschwitz were confiscated after the war by the Allies. Not a single one refers to a policy or program of extermination. In fact, the extermination story cannot be reconciled with the documentary evidence.
Many Jewish inmates unable to work
For example, it is often claimed that all Jews at Auschwitz who were unable to work were immediately killed. Jews who were too old, young, sick, or weak were supposedly gassed on arrival, and only those who could be worked to death were temporarily kept alive.
But the evidence shows that, in fact, a very high percentage of the Jewish inmates were not able to work, and were nevertheless not killed. For example, an internal German telex message dated Sept. 4, 1943, from the chief of the Labor Allocation department of the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office (WVHA), reported that of 25,000 Jewish inmates in Auschwitz, only 3,581 were able to work, and that all of the remaining Jewish inmates — some 21,500, or about 86 percent — were unable to work. (note 8)
This is also confirmed in a secret report dated April 5, 1944, on "security measures in Auschwitz" by Oswald Pohl, head of the SS concentration camp system, to SS chief Heinrich Himmler. Pohl reported that there was a total of 67,000 inmates in the entire Auschwitz camp complex, of whom 18,000 were hospitalized or disabled. In the Auschwitz II camp (Birkenau), supposedly the main extermination center, there were 36,000 inmates, mostly female, of whom "approximately 15,000 are unable to work." (note 9)
These two documents simply cannot be reconciled with the Auschwitz extermination story.
The evidence shows that Auschwitz-Birkenau was established primarily as a camp for Jews who were not able to work, including the sick and elderly, as well as for those who were temporarily awaiting assignment to other camps. That's the considered view of Dr. Arthur Butz of Northwestern University, who also says that this was the reason for the unusually high death rate there. (note 10)
Princeton University history professor Arno Mayer, who is Jewish, acknowledges in a recent book about the "final solution" that more Jews perished at Auschwitz as a result of typhus and other "natural" causes than were executed. (note 11)
Perhaps the best known Auschwitz inmate was Anne Frank, who is known around the world for her famous diary. But few people know that thousands of Jews, including Anne and her father, Otto Frank, "survived" Auschwitz.
The 15-year-old girl and her father were deported from the Netherlands to Auschwitz in September 1944. Several weeks later, in the face of the advancing Soviet army, Anne was evacuated along with many other Jews to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where she died of typhus in March 1945.
Her father came down with typhus in Auschwitz and was sent to the camp hospital to recover. He was one of thousands of sick and feeble Jews who were left behind when the Germans abandoned the camp in January 1945, shortly before it was overrun by the Soviets. He died in Switzerland in 1980.
If the German policy had been to kill Anne Frank and her father, they would not have survived Auschwitz. Their fate, tragic though it was, cannot be reconciled with the extermination story.
The Auschwitz gassing story is based in large part on the hearsay statements of former Jewish inmates who did not personally see any evidence of extermination. Their beliefs are understandable, because rumors about gassings at Auschwitz were widespread.
Allied planes dropped large numbers of leaflets, written in Polish and German, on Auschwitz and the surrounding areas which claimed that people were being gassed in the camp. The Auschwitz gassing story, which was an important part of the Allied wartime propaganda effort, was also broadcast to Europe by Allied radio stations. (note 12)
Former inmates have confirmed that they saw no evidence of extermination at Auschwitz.
An Austrian woman, Maria Vanherwaarden, testified about her camp experiences in a Toronto District Court in March 1988. She was interned in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942 for having sexual relations with a Polish forced laborer. On the train trip to the camp, a Gypsy woman told her and the others that they would all be gassed at Auschwitz.
Upon arrival, Maria and the other women were ordered to undress and go into a large concrete room without windows to take a shower. The terrified women were sure that they were about to die. But then, instead of gas, water came out of the shower heads.
Auschwitz was no vacation center, Maria confirmed. She witnessed the death of many fellow inmates by disease, particularly typhus, and quite a few committed suicide. But she saw no evidence at all of mass killings, gassings, or of any extermination program. (note 13)
A Jewish woman named Marika Frank arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau from Hungary in July 1944, when 25,000 Jews were supposedly gassed and cremated daily. She likewise testified after the war that she heard and saw nothing of "gas chambers" during the time she was interned there. She heard the gassing stories only later. (note 14)
Auschwitz internees who had served their sentences were released and returned to their home countries. If Auschwitz had actually been a top secret extermination center, the Germans would certainly not have released inmates who "knew" what was happening in the camp. (note 15)
Himmler orders death rate reduced
In response to the deaths of many inmates due to disease, especially typhus, the German authorities responsible for the camps ordered firm counter-measures.
The head of the SS camp administration office sent a directive dated Dec. 28, 1942, to Auschwitz and the other concentration camps. It sharply criticized the high death rate of inmates due to disease, and ordered that "camp physicians must use all means at their disposal to significantly reduce the death rate in the various camps." Furthermore, it ordered:
The camp doctors must supervise more often than in the past the nutrition of the prisoners and, in cooperation with the administration, submit improvement recommendations to the camp commandants … The camp doctors are to see to it that the working conditions at the various labor places are improved as much as possible.
Finally, the directive stressed that "the Reichsfhrer SS [Heinrich Himmler] has ordered that the death rate absolutely must be reduced." (note 16)
German camp regulations
Official German camp regulations make clear that Auschwitz was not an extermination center. They ordered: (note 17)
New arrivals in the camp are to be given a thorough medical examination, and if there is any doubt [about their health], they must be sent to quarantine for observation.
Prisoners who report sick must be examined that same day by the camp physician. If necessary, the physician must transfer the prisoners to a hospital for professional treatment.
The camp physician must regularly inspect the kitchen regarding the preparation of the food and the quality of the food supply. Any deficiencies that may arise must be reported to the camp commandant.
Special care should be given in the treatment of accidents, in order not to impair the full productivity of the prisoners.
Prisoners who are to be released or transfered must first be brought before the camp physician for medical examination.
Telltale aerial photos
Detailed aerial reconnaissance photographs taken of Auschwitz-Birkenau on several random days in 1944 (during the height of the alleged extermination period there) were made public by the CIA in 1979. These photos show no trace of piles of corpses, smoking crematory chimneys or masses of Jews awaiting death, things that have been repeatedly alleged, and all of which would have been clearly visible if Auschwitz had been the extermination center it is said to have been. (note 18)
Absurd cremation claims
Cremation specialists have confirmed that thousands of corpses could not possibly have been cremated every day throughout the spring and summer of 1944 at Auschwitz, as commonly alleged.
For example, Mr. Ivan Lagace, manager of a large crematory in Calgary, Canada, testified in court in April 1988 that the Auschwitz cremation story is technically impossible. The allegation that 10,000 or even 20,000 corpses were burned every day at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944 in crematories and open pits is simply "preposterous" and "beyond the realm of reality," he declared under oath. (note 19)
Gassing expert refutes extermination story
America's leading gas chamber expert, Boston engineer Fred A. Leuchter, carefully examined the supposed "gas chambers" in Poland and concluded that the Auschwitz gassing story is absurd and technically impossible.
Leuchter is the foremost specialist on the design and installation of gas chambers used in the United States to execute convicted criminals. For example, he designed a gas chamber facility for the Missouri state penitentiary.
In February 1988 he carried out a detailed onsite examination of the "gas chambers" at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek in Poland, which are either still standing or only partially in ruins. In sworn testimony to a Toronto court and in a technical report, Leuchter described every aspect of his investigation.
He concluded by emphatically declaring that the alleged gassing facilities could not possibly have been used to kill people. Among other things, he pointed out that the so-called "gas chambers" were not properly sealed or vented to kill human beings without also killing German camp personnel. (note 20)
Dr. William B. Lindsey, a research chemist employed for 33 years by the Dupont Corporation, likewise testified in a 1985 court case that the Auschwitz gassing story is technically impossible. Based on a careful on-site examination of the "gas chambers" at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek, and on his years of experience, he declared: "I have come to the conclusion that no one was willfully or purposefully killed with Zyklon B [hydrocyanic acid gas] in this manner. I consider it absolutely impossible." (note 21)
- Nuremberg document 008-USSR. IMT blue series, Vol. 39, pp. 241, 261.; NC and A red series, vol. 1, p. 35.; C.L. Sulzberger, "Oswiecim Killings Placed at 4,000,000," New York Times, May 8, 1945, and, New York Times, Jan. 31, 1986, p. A4.
- Y. Bauer, "Fighting the Distortions," Jerusalem Post (Israel), Sept. 22, 1989; "Auschwitz Deaths Reduced to a Million," Daily Telegraph (London), July 17, 1990; "Poland Reduces Auschwitz Death Toll Estimate to 1 Million," The Washington Times, July 17, 1990.
- G. Reitlinger, The Final Solution (1971); J.-C. Pressac, Le Cr¦matoires d'Auschwitz: La Machinerie du meurtre de mass (Paris: CNRS, 1993). On Pressac's estimates, see: L'Express (France), Sept. 30, 1993, p. 33.
- Washington (DC) Daily News, Feb. 2, 1945, pp. 2, 35. (United Press dispatch from Moscow).
- IMT blue series, Vol. 16, p. 529-530. (June 21, 1946).
- Nuremberg document 3868-PS (USA-819). IMT blue series, Vol. 33, pp. 275-279.
- Rupert Butler, Legions of Death (England: 1983), pp. 235; R. Faurisson, The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1986-87, pp. 389-403.
- Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw, German document No. 128, in: H. Eschwege, ed., Kennzeichen J (East Berlin: 1966), p. 264.
- Nuremberg document NO-021. NMT green series, Vol. 5. pp. 384-385.
- Arthur Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century (Costa Mesa, Calif.), p. 124.
- Arno Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?: The 'Final Solution' in History (Pantheon, 1989), p. 365.
- Nuremberg document NI-11696. NMT green series, Vol. 8, p. 606.
- Testimony in Toronto District Court, March 28, 1988. Toronto Star, March 29, 1988, p. A2.
- Sylvia Rothchild, ed., Voices from the Holocaust (New York: 1981), pp. 188-191.
- Walter Laqueur, The Terrible Secret (Boston: 1981), p. 169.
- Nuremberg document PS-2171, Annex 2. NC&A red series, Vol. 4, pp. 833-834.
- "Rules and Regulations for the Concentration Camps." Anthology, Inhuman Medicine, Vol. 1, Part 1 (Warsaw: International Auschwitz Committee, 1970), pp. 149-151.; S. Paskuly, ed., Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (Buffalo: 1992), pp. 216-217.
- Dino A. Brugioni and Robert C. Poirier, The Holocaust Revisited (Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 1979).
- Canadian Jewish News (Toronto), April 14, 1988, p. 6.
- The Leuchter Report: An Engineering Report on the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek (Toronto: 1988). Available for $17.00, postpaid, from the IHR.
- The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Feb. 12, 1985, p. M3
The Auschwitz extermination story originated as wartime propaganda. Now, more than 40 years after the end of the Second World War, it is time to take another, more objective look at this highly polemicized chapter of history. The Auschwitz legend is the core of the Holocaust story. If hundreds of thousands of Jews were not systematically killed there, as alleged, one of the great myths of our time collapses.
Artificially maintaining the hatreds and passions of the past prevents genuine reconciliation and lasting peace. Revisionism promotes historical awareness and international understanding. That is why the work of the Institute for Historical Review is so important and deserves your support.
Mark Weber is editor of The Journal of Historical Review, published six times yearly by the Institute for Historical Review. He studied history at the University of Illinois (Chicago), the University of Munich, Portland State University, and Indiana University (M.A., 1977). For five days in March 1988, he testified as a recognized expert witness on the "final solution" and the Holocaust issue in a Toronto District Court case. He is the author of many published articles, reviews and essays on various aspects of modern European history. Weber has appeared as a guest on numerous radio talk shows, and on the nationally-syndicated "Montel Williams" television show.