The Holocaust Historiography Project

An Open Letter to the Rev. Mark Herbener


The following open letter was first published in Christian News, (Box 168, New Haven, MO 63068) a traditionalist Lutheran weekly friendly to Holocaust Revisionism, on April 27, 1987. In it Mark Weber responded to several letters by the Reverend Mark Herbener, a clergyman of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and a member of the Dallas (Texas) Memorial Center for Holocaust Studies. Weber’s letter has been translated into French and published in the excellent French Revisionist quarterly, Annales d'Histoire Révisionniste (Autumn-Winter 1987, No. 3; B.P. 9805, 75224 Paris CEDEX 05, France). Readers of The Journal of Historical Review will be happy to learn that the challenge to debate the historicity of the Holocaust issue at the conclusion of “An Open Letter to the Rev. Mark Herbener” has been accepted by a group of Christian fundamentalists led by attorney Glen Peglau; as of this writing the debate is projected for early 1989, and will be held in Washington, DC. The Rev. Herbener has not replied to Mr. Weber’s arguments or to his questions. — Editor

Rev. Mark Herbener
Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Dallas, Texas

Dear Rev. Herbener:

Over the years, I have written a number of revisionist articles and essays challenging the story that the German government systematically exterminated some six million European Jews during the Second World War.

I was therefore particularly interested to read your letters of March 5, 18, and 27 to Rev. Herman Otten, along with his replies, in recent issues of the weekly Christian News. I also felt called upon to reply with this open letter to some of the questions and points you raised.

You pose a question that you apparently believe that revisionists cannot answer. You ask “What happened to the Jews who were transported to Sobibor or Chelmno or Treblinka?”

No 'Extermination Camps' in Germany

Here is my answer to your question.

The Holocaust story has changed quite a lot over the years. At one time it was alleged that the Germans exterminated Jews at camps in Germany proper, such as Dachau, Buchenwald, Oranienburg, and so forth. That part of the Holocaust story proved so untenable that it was quietly dropped more than twenty years ago. Not even prominent Jewish Holocaust historians still claim that there were any “extermination camps” in the territory of the old German Reich

At the great Nuremberg trial of 1945-1946 and during the decades following the end of the Second World War, Auschwitz (especially Auschwitz-Birkenau) and Majdanek (Lublin) were generally regarded as the really important “death camps.” At Nuremberg, for example, it was alleged that four million people were killed at Auschwitz and another one and half million at Majdanek. These fantastic figures have since been drastically revised downwards. In addition, more and more striking evidence has been presented in recent years which simply cannot be reconciled with the allegations of mass extermination at these camps.

For example, detailed aerial reconnaissance photographs taken of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 (during the height of the alleged extermination period there) were made public by the CIA in l979. [1] They show no trace of the piles of corpses, smoking crematory chimneys and masses of Jews awaiting death which should have been clearly visible if Auschwitz had indeed been an extermination center.

Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno, Belzec

During the last several years, the emphasis in the Holocaust story has been shifting once again, this time to four small camps in Poland: Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno and Belzec.

In keeping with this strategic shift, the question you pose does not deal with Dachau, Buchenwald or even Auschwitz, but rather with three small camps of which no trace remains and for which almost no documents are available. Virtually the only evidence presented to support the claim that these were extermination centers are a few very dubious and often contradictory postwar “testimonies.” Especially in recent years, an effort has been made to present a coherent and selfconsistent “Exterminationist” account of these camps. As a result, some of the more outrageous claims about them have been suppressed.

Lets take a closer look at each of the camps you ask about.


For years this camp did not figure very prominently in Holocaust accounts, but that’s no longer the case. Earlier this week, for example, the CBS television network broadcast a new “docudrama” movie entitled “Escape From Sobibor.”

Between 200,000 and 600,000 Jews were supposedly gassed at Sobibor in 1942 and 1943. Holocaust historians are not able to agree about what gas was supposedly used, how the camp was laid out, or even how many gas chambers there were.

Fortunately, a few secret documents have survived which explain the camp’s function. On July 5, 1943, SS chief Heinrich Himmler sent a personal directive to several top SS leaders. In this directive, which was issued at the same time that Sobibor was supposedly functioning as an extermination center, Himmler ordered that …

… the Sobibor transit camp in the Lublin District is to be transformed into a concentration camp. A center for dismantling captured ammunition is to be established in the concentration camp.

In a letter dated July 15, 1943, the head of the SS concentration camp system, Oswald Pohl, explained to Himmler that a center for dismantling captured Soviet ammunition could be set up at Sobibor without having to transform it into a concentration camp. Sobibor would remain a transit camp with a special section for dismantling ammunition. This correspondence (Nuremberg document file NO- 482) clearly shows that neither Himmler nor Pohl regarded Sobibor as an “extermination center.” [2] These documents simply cannot be reconciled with the Holocaust portrayal of Sobibor.

Sobibor’s location close to the border between German-ruled Poland and German-occupied Ukraine is consistent with its designation as a transit camp. Large numbers of Jews were in fact deported to the occupied Soviet territories in 1942 and 1943. It’s quite logical that Jews would first be brought to transit camps near the border before being transported further east

Rev. Herbener, you write that trainloads of Jews arrived at camps such as Sobibor and then returned empty to their places of origin. “What happened to them?” you ask, suggesting that these deported Jews must have been killed. The rather obvious answer is that Jews were kept in the transit camps only temporarily, and were then soon transported across the nearby Polish-Soviet border to camps and ghettoes further to the east.

Like Sobibor, Belzec was a small camp located near the Polish-Ukraine border. It is now regarded [by Exterminationists] as a major extermination center. A secret German memorandum dated March 17, 1942, by an official named Reuter specifically referred to Belzec as the “furthest border station” in Zamosc county from where many thousands of Polish Jews will then be sent across the border [into the Ukraine] and will never again return to the [Polish] General Government” [3]

Polish underground courier Jan Karski (who now teaches at Georgetown University), secretly visited the Belzec camp in 1942 in order to find out what was happening to the Polish Jews who were being sent there. In his book The Secret State, Karski described his visit to Belzec in detail. [4] He did not see any evidence of “gas chambers.” To the contrary, he reported seeing trainloads of Jews leaving Belzec. This observation is completely consistent with Belzec’s function as a transit camp, and cannot be reconciled with its alleged role as an extermination center.

For a time, the acting commandant of Sobibor was Gustav Franz Wagner. Some years after the war, he was found living in Brazil and was put on trial there. Jewish witnesses testified in court that he was responsible for 150,000 deaths and took special delight in brutally killing women and children. Wagner, however, swore that Sobibor had been a “model” work camp, not an extermination center. The Brazilian court rejected the prosecution’s case and decided to neither convict nor extradite him. Wagner was released in 1979, but was found dead a short time later at his farm, knifed in the chest.


So little is known about Chelmno (or Kulmhof) that it is difficult to effectively refute the charge that it was a mass extermination center. Because there is no trace of a camp left today, even the precise location is uncertain. Shortly after the end of the war, the American Jewish Year Book (Vol. 47, p. 398) reported that 1,350,000 Jews were killed at Chelmno. The numbers of Jews now said to have been killed in this camp vary between 150,000 (Raul Hilberg) and 360,000 (Polish govermnent).

Chelmo is the only camp where Jews were supposedly gassed, not in gas chambers, but in the sealed rear compartment of a large truck ("gas vans"). This story is inconsistent with the allegation that the Germans exterminated Jews as part of a well-coordinated program. Although the German officials in charge of the “final solution” were supposedly very methodical and organized, they were never even able to decide on a single efficient means of killing Jews.


Holocaust historians regard this as one of the most important German extermination centers. These days, it is often said that 850,000 Jews were killed at Treblinka, although figures of 700,000 to more than a million victims are sometimes also cited.

Contrary to what many believe, Treblinka was not a secret camp. A statement published in both German and Polish in the December 2, 1941, issue of the Amtlicher Anzeiger, the official bulletin of the government of German-ruled Poland, announced the establishment of the “Treblinka Labor Camp.” [5] An internal German document dated July 7, 1942, likewise refers to the “Treblinka labor camp.” [6]

It is true that a number of documents exist which show that trainloads of Jews arrived at Treblinka, and that empty trains then left the camp. Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg has cited these German railway records as proof that Jews were therefore exterminated at Treblinka But these documents prove nothing of the kind.

Although definitive evidence is not available, it would seem that Dr. Arthur Butz of Northwestern University is correct in concluding that Treblinka served both as a labor camp and as a transit camp for Jews being deported eastwards to the occupied Soviet territories. [7] Like Sobibor and Belzec, Treblinka was located near the Polish-Soviet border.

Since the war, a number of diagrams based on the memories of “eyewitnesses” have been produced which purport to show the layout of the camp. Interestingly these diagrams differ from each other in every important respect. Compare the diagrams given, for example, in these books: Into That Darkness, by Gitta Sereny; The Death Camp in Treblinka, edited by Alexander Donat; and, German Crimes in Poland, vol. 1, published by the Polish government in 1946.

The Contradictions of Eyewitnesses

There is considerable confusion about just how Jews are supposed to have been killed at Treblinka.

According to one wartime “eyewitness” account compiled by the OSS, the U.S. govermnents main intelligence agency, Jews at Treblinka “were in general killed by steam and not by gas as had been at first suspected.” [8] The New York Times reported on August 8, 1943, that two million Jews had already been killed at Treblinka by steaming them to death. [9]

U.S. prosecutors at the main Nuremberg trial supported the steam story. According to a Polish government report dated December 5, 1945, Jews were killed at the camp “by suffocating them in steam-filled chambers.” This report was submitted as U.S. prosecution exhibit USA-293, and was published in the official Nuremberg trial record as document

PS-3311. [10] An American prosecutor quoted from this document during his address to the tribunal on December 14, 1945. [11]

However, Samuel Rajzman, a Jew who took part in the Treblinka inmate revolt of August 1943, testified that Jews were “suffocated to death” at the camp with a machine that pumped air out of death chambers. [12]

Shortly after the war, the Jewish Black Book Committee of New York compiled and published a lengthy volume entitled The Black Book which described alleged German wartime atrocities in gruesome detail. The Jewish Black Book Committee carefully calculated that Treblinka must have destroyed three million persons.” The Germans supposedly used three diabolical techniques, including poison gas and steam, to kill some 10,000 Jews daily. But “the most widespread” method “consisted of pumping all the air out from the chambers with large special pumps.” [13]

In the Nuremberg trial against Oswald Pohl (Case No. 4), U.S. Judge Michael A. Musmanno declared that “death was inflicted here [at Treblinka] by gas and steam, as well as by electric current.” Citing Nuremberg document PS-3311, Musmanno declared: “After being filled up to capacity the chambers were hermetically closed and steam was let in.” [14]

The story these days is that Jews were gassed at Treblinka with carbon monoxide from the exhaust of an engine, usually described as a diesel engine. However, as engineer Freidrich Berg has persuasively demonstrated, this story is highly improbable for technical reasons. [15] In spite of their obnoxious odor, diesel engines produce much smaller quantities of carbon monoxide than ordinary gasoline motors. It would thus be very difficult, if not impossible. to gas efficiently large numbers of people using diesel exhaust.

It’s important to keep in mind that the “evidence” presented for steaming and suffocating at Treblinka is no less credible than the “evidence” now usually cited for gassing. The steaming and suffocating stories have apparently been dropped for the sake of credible consistency and because even upholders of the Holocaust story regard them as too bizarre to be readily believed.

Where Are the Remains?

Rev. Herbener, if more than a million Jews were exterminated at Sobibor, Chelmno and Treblinka, as you and other defenders of the Holocaust story insist, where are the remains of the dead? If more than 800,000 Jews were cremated at Treblinka alone, as many claim, and each cremated corpse resulted in, let us say, six pounds of ash and residual bone, there should be more than 240 tons of remains still left at the camp site. Why has no one bothered to present this persuasive evidence of mass extermination to the world?

It is quite true that the great bulk of the many hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in eastern Europe at the outbreak of the Second World War were no longer there at the end of the conflict.

The loss of this ancient center of Jewish life was certainly a catastrophic misfortune for the Jews of the world.

The question of what precisely happened to the Jews of eastern Europe is indeed an important one. One book that deals with this subject in some detail is Walter Sanning’s impressive analysis, The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry. [16]

Compare Fate of Jews with Germans

In this regard, it is perhaps worth comparing the fate of the Jews of eastern Europe with that of the Germans in this part of the continent. Before the war there were more than nine and a half million Germans in eastern Germany, including East Prussia, Silesia, and so forth. There were another three million in what is now Czechoslovakia, and many hundreds of thousands in Poland and elsewhere. But in just a few turbulent years (late 1944 to 1948), more than 16 million Germans vanished from their ancient homelands in eastern and central Euorpe. Some 14 million fled or were forcibly expelled, and about two million perished. Hundreds of thousands were killed. (On this subject, the book Nemesis at Potsdam by American historian Alfred M. de Zayas is worth consulting.) [17]

In support of your view of the Holocaust story, you recommend the well-known “Stroop Report” on the destruction of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw in April-May 1943.[18] However, your quotation from the report that 56,000 Jews were apprehended in the ghetto and destroyed is misleadingly translated and taken out of context. The report refers elsewhere specifically to “about 7,000 (Jews who) were destroyed within the former ghetto in the course of the large-scale action.” In other words, these “destroyed” Jews perished during the fierce battle that raged there for almost three weeks. As the “Stroop Report” indicates, and as Jewish Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg confirms in his major study, the vast majority of the 56,000 Jews in the ghetto were transferred to various concentration and labor camps. [19]

The Mermelstein-IHR Debate?

Rev. Herbener, you reject Rev. Otten’s call for a fair and open exchange of views on the Holocaust, charging that it “has only wickedness as its intent.” You inaccurately claim that such a debate has already taken place between Revisionists and Mel Mermelstein, a former Auschwitz inmate. It is true that the Institute for Historical Review paid a substantial sum to Mr. Mermelstein in an out-of-court settlement of his law suit. But this dispute was over whether Mermelstein had filed his claim properly and during the time period specified. The basic historical disagreement was never debated or settled

It is also not true, as you assert, that “the revisionist is running as fast as his legs can carry him to dodge the law.” (Which revisionist?) It is more accurate to say that the upholders of the Holocaust story are the ones who are running away. They refuse to answer or even discuss some very serious questions. Instead, they hide behind a propagandistic smoke screen of spectacular movies and television broadcasts, expensive “memorials” and polemical “museums.”

In contrast to the situation in our country, where all that most people ever see and hear is the “Exterminationist” side, the Holocaust story has been the subject of significant controversy in Europe. It was heatedly debated for several hours on Swiss television and over French national radio. The consensus of impartial observers was that the Revisionists were the clear winners in these exchanges. The leading French daily, Le Monde, [20] and the respected Italian historical journal, Storia Illustrata, [21] have also given extensive coverage to both sides of this issue.

Who is 'Self Serving'

Rev. Herbener, you describe revisionist material as “largely self-serving.” In fact numerous revisionists have suffered terribly for daring to write what they regard as the suppressed truth about this very emotional chapter of contemporary history. One French revisionist, a teacher named François Duprat, was murdered with a car bomb. [22] Prof. Robert Faurisson of the University of Lyon in France has suffered in countless ways, including assaults by thugs. The homes and offices of American revisionists have been fire-bombed. West German judge Wilhelm Stäglich wrote an essay about his wartime experiences at Auschwitz. As a result, he was forced into early retirement and his pension was cut Later, because he wrote a critical analysis of the Holocaust claims about Auschwitz, the West German government revoked his doctorate in law.

No, Rev. Herbener, it is not the revisionists who are self-serving, but rather those who uphold the Holocaust story. The politicians, businessmen and, yes, clergymen who support the Holocaust campaign are rewarded with acclaim and praise from powerful and influential organizations. You write that you “proudly serve” as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dallas Center for Holocaust Studies. Well, it doesn’t take any courage to join the wealthy and prominent “beautiful people” who lend their names to the lavishly funded Holocaust committees, councils and centers around the country.

No media campaign is more self-serving than the sophisticated and well-financed Holocaust blitz. Zionist leaders frankly regard the perpetual effort as crucially important for their own interests. That’s why, for example, the Israeli government provided $850,000 to produce the Shoah film you endorse. [23] It’s also no wonder the Zionist organizations are so determined to silence anyone who challenges their portrayal of history. As Professor W. D. Rubinstein of Australia candidly acknowledged in September 1979: “If the Holocaust can be shown to be a myth, the strongest of all weapons in Israel’s propaganda armory collapses.” [24]

The Holocaust — A New Religion

Among American Jews, the Holocaust has become both a flourishing business and a kind of new religion. Jewish author and newspaper publisher Jacobo Timmerman put it this way in his book, The Longest War: “Many Israelis feel offended by the way in which the Holocaust is exploited in the Diaspora. They even feel ashamed that the Holocaust has become a civil religion for Jews in the United States. They respect the works of Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe, and Marie Syrkin. But of other writers, editors, historians, bureaucrats and academics they say, using the word Shoah, which is Hebrew for Holocaust; 'There’s no business like Shoah business.” [25] Another Jewish writer, Leon A. Jick, commented: “The devastating barb, 'There is no business like Shoah business is, sad to say, a recognizable truth.” [26] Well, at least a few perceptive Jews recognize this truth, even if many non-Jews do not.

Over and over again, the public is exhorted to “Never Forget.” Given the relentless media campaign to make the fate of the Jews during the Second World War the central event of human history, how can anyone ever forget? There is no end to the heavy-handed motion pictures, the simplistic television specials, the vindictive hunt for “Nazi war criminals,” the one-sided “educational courses,” the self-righteous appearances by politicians and celebrities at Holocaust “memorial services,” and so forth and so on.

Non-Jewish victims, of course, just don’t merit the same concern. For example, there are no American memorials, “study centers,” or annual observances for Stalin’s victims, who vastly outnumber Hitler's.

Distortion of Reality

You write proudly, Rev. Herbener, of your annual participation in the “Interfaith Pleas for Soviet Jewry” in Dallas. You go on to charge that “the Soviet Union has virtually imprisoned all Jews in Russia.” This claim, like so much of what we are told regarding Jewish affairs, is a distortion of reality.

It is certainly true that the Soviet government cracks down on all expressions of anti-Soviet nationalism, including Zionism. But Soviet Jews are not oppressed any more than, say, Soviet Ukrainians. Contrary to what Americans have been led to believe, Jews are not persecuted in the Soviet Union simply because they are Jews. In fact, Jews in the USSR are generally better off than most Soviet citizens, and Jews are well-represented among the members of the Soviet elite. This was documented, for example, in the CBS “60 Minutes” broadcast of March 22, 1987.

Moreover, in one important regard, Soviet Jews are a privileged group. They are virtually the only Soviet citizens who are allowed to emigrate to the United States (and other countries) in large numbers. About 98 per cent of the “Russians” who have moved to the U.S. in recent decades are Jews.

Since you express such concern for the victims of oppression, I would be interested to know what public action you have taken on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Soviet Union. Have you participated in any “interfaith” pleas on behalf of oppressed fellow Lutherans in the USSR? It would be interesting to see how many Jewish leaders would be willing to participate in such an event.

Questions For Herbener

In your letters to Rev. Otten, you asked several pointed questions that I have tried to answer here. Now, I have some questions that I hope you will answer

1. Do you believe that Jews were gassed at Dachau during the war years, as was alleged at Nuremberg and elsewhere, or do you agree with Jewish Holocaust historians who now concede that this story is not true? If you reject this story, why do you believe that the evidence for gassings at Dachau is less credible than the evidence for gassings at Auschwitz, Sobibor and other camps?

2. Do you believe the evidence that Jews were steamed to death at Treblinka? If so, why do you think that Holocaust historians now reject that evidence? If not, why not? Is the evidence for Steam chambers” any less credible than the evidence for agas chambers"?

3. Do you believe the story that the Germans manufactured bars of soap from Jewish corpses during the war? If so, why do you think that Holocaust historians now reject this story? If not, are you ready to condemn those who spread this story as liars or misinformed defamers?

4. The prominent Jewish writer and former Auschwitz inmate Elie Wiesel wrote in his book, Legends of Our Time: “Every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set apart a zone of hate-healthy, virile hate — for what the German personifies and for what persists in the German.” Do you agree with Wiesel?

5. Do you agree that spreading and supporting lies about the German nation and people is a violation of the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor?”

If you wish, Rev. Herbener, I can readily provide documentation for any of the statements I've made in this open letter. Furthermore, I am willing to speak to any appropriate group about the points made in this letter or about the Holocaust issue in general. I am also prepared publicly to debate the Holocaust issue, as explained in the challenge recently issued by the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (P.O. Box 931089, Los Angeles, CA 90093).

As limited as it is, your exchange of letters with Rev. Otten is a rare and welcome public exchange of views about an important issue. I thus appreciate this opportunity to reply to some of the questions and points you raised.


[1] Dino A. Brugioni and Robert C. Poirier, The Holocaust Revisited, Washington, DC, Central Intelligence Agency, 1979.
[2] Nuremberg doc. NO-482, published in: Adalbert Rückerl ed., NS Vernichtungslager im Spiegel deutscher Stratprozesse, Munich, DTV, 1977, p. 176-178.
[3] Memorandum Reuter of 17 March 1942, published in: Helmut Eschwege, ed., Kennzeichen J. East Berlin, 1966, p. 243; and in Faschismus, Getto, Massenmord, East Berlin, 1960, pp. 269-270.
[4] Jan Karski (Kozielewski), Story of a Secret State, Boston, Houghton, Mifflin, 1944, p. 339-352.
[5] Amt1icher Anzeiger, 2 Dec. 1941, facsimile reproduction in Czeslaw Pilichowski, No Time-limit for These Crimes!, Warsaw Interpress, 1980.
[6] Document on Treblinka, 7 July 1942, facsimile reproduction in Helmut Eschwege, ed., Kennzeichen J. East Berlin, 1966, p. 245.
[7] Arthur Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Torrance (California), IHR, 1983, p. 221.
[8] OSS document dated 13 April 1944, National Archives, Washington, DC, Record Group 226 (OSS records), No. 67231.
[9] New York Times, 8 August 1943, p. 11.
[10] Nuremberg doc. PS-3311, reproduced in IMT XXXII, pp. 153-158.
[11] IMT III, p. 570.
[12] Rajzman text in Yuri Suhl, ed., They Fought Back, New York, Crown, 1967, p. 130.
[13] The Black Book, New York, Jewish Black Book Committee, 1946, pp. 407408.
[14] NMT V, pp. 1133-1134.
[15] Friedrich P. Berg, “The Diesel Gas Chambers,” The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1984, pp. 15-46.
[16] Torrance (CaLifornia), IHR 1983. German edition Die Auflösung des osteuropaischen Judentums, Tubingen, Grabert, 1983.
[17] Nemesis at Potsdam: The Anglo-Americans and the Expulsion of the Germans, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2nd edition, 1979.
[18] Nuremberg doc. “Stroop Report,” dated 16 May 1943. PS-1061, published in IMT XXVI, pp. 628-k698.
[19] Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, New York, Holmes & Meier, 1985, vol. II, p. 512. See also Nuremberg doc. PS-3841 in IMT XXXIII, p. 201-202.
[20] Le Monde, 29 Dec. 1978, p. 8; 16 Jan. 1979, p. 13; 26 Feb. 1979, pubLished in R. Faurisson, Mémoire en défense, Paris, La Vieille Taupe, 1980, pp. 71-101.
[21] Storia Illustrata, August, September, October, December 1979; Serge Thion, Vérité historique ou vérité po1itique?, Paris, La Vieille Taupe, 1980, pp. 171-212.
[22] See Le Monde, 19-20 March 1978, p.24, and 23 March 1978, p.7.
[23] The Jewish Journal (New York), 27 June 1986, p.3.
[24] W. D. Rubinstein, “The Left, the Right and the Jews,” Quadrant (Australia), Sept 1979, p.27.
[25] Jacobo Timmerman, The Longest War, New York, Vintage, 1982, p. 15.
[26] Leon A. Jick, Yad Vashem Studies, Jerusalem, XIV, 1981, p. 316.