"Vergasungsapparate" - "Gassing Devices"
Response to "Samuel Crowell"
written by Jamie McCarthy
A Holocaust-denier who uses the pseudonym "Samuel Crowell" has prepared a lengthy essay on why there were no Nazi homicidal gas chambers. Among its many errors is the analysis of this document, NO-365, the Wetzel-Lohse letter describing the need for "Vergasungsapparate" ("gassing devices"). In fact, as we shall see, these are not mistakes which he makes, but examples of the intellectual dishonesty which characterizes the denial movement.
With the text of the Wetzel-Lohse letter in hand, it is not difficult to discover the flaws in Crowell's argument. They are:
1. Crowell argues that the Unterkünfte referred to are "Labor Service huts" (and he may be right),  and asserts without evidence that the Vergasungsapparate, the gassing devices, must necessarily be delousing rooms in these huts (and here he is wrong). He simply has no evidence for this assertion.
If he would like to bolster this claim of delousing chambers, it is very simple: he need only find another two or three documents which refer to such chambers using the word "Vergasungsapparate." If the word has an ordinary meaning, it should not be hard to find in ordinary documents.
2. Crowell ignores Viktor Brack, and thus ignores that he was involved with the T-4 program.
Brack held no minor post. The Chancellery of the Führer was a means for Hitler to delegate power - a private, hidden means, unlike the Presidential Chancellery and the Reich Chancellery - and it was divided into five central offices with various responsibilities. The second office, Central Office II, was headed by Brack, who thus was only one intermediary away from reporting directly to Hitler.
In the summer of 1939, the head of the Chancellery met with Hitler, was told to begin "euthanizing" (killing) handicapped adults as well as children, and handed off the details to Brack and his Office. Brack created the T4 organization to secretly conduct adult euthanasia in Germany, created the administrative structure which ran it, and hired the people to fill the positions he created. Gas chambers played an important role in the mass murder of the handicapped.
In mid-1941, if a German officer wanted someone with experience in delousing gas chambers or air-raid shelters, there were many other choices. But if he wanted someone who knew about homicidal gas chambers, one of the most logical persons to talk to would be Viktor Brack. What other possible explanation can there be for Brack - or more precisely "his people" - to travel to Riga?
(Source for the above information: The Origins of Nazi Genocide, Henry Friedlander, 1995, pp. 40-44, 63-64, 68ff; cf. pp. 211ff.)
3. Crowell claims that there were never any gas chambers in Riga - not any stationary ones, this is true. (One should not fail to be unimpressed by his footnote: "noted by all revisionists." Holocaust-deniers frequently cite each other as having "proved" one thing or another, but unlike historians, theirs is a closed circle, not peer-reviewed, of dishonest researchers who share biases.)
The devices that ended up being constructed for use at Riga were mobile gas vans. According to Kogon et al.: 
Crowell's argument "huts are not vans" is specious. The letter does not specify that the gassing devices will be constructed in the shelters, nor does it explain whether the two are related (apart from being, presumably, used in the same camp or same region). Even if the letter had requested stationary gas chambers specifically, such as those Brack's office had constructed for the euthanasia program, it would not be surprising and certainly not contradictory if, between October and December, someone had proposed and enacted an alternate plan. The Wetzel-Lohse letter is a request for people to get in touch, not a design specification. It is even marked as a "draft."
4. Finally - and so unequivocally that perhaps the previous three points are superfluous - Crowell has overlooked the phrase "eliminated with the Brackian remedy" ("mit den Brackschen Hilfsmitteln beseitigt"). It is unambiguous. With the aid of Brack's gassing apparatus, the Jews will be "beseitigt" - abolished, done away with.
There can be no denying this, except by Crowell's dishonest method of ignoring it. He fails to quote the letter, fails to mention this line, and then is free to write an outrageous lie: "...this same document has been occasionally put forth as evidence of a homicidal gassing program, even though there is no material or documentary support for that interpretation...."
There can be no question about the validity and meaning of this document. Those Jews who can work will be "transported for labor in the east." Those who cannot will remain - not to be massacred by shootings in public, but to be "done away with" using the "gassing devices" which will be put together by the people from the euthanasia program. Later testimonies confirm the devices, vans, were actually constructed and used.
Samuel Crowell has responded to this critique. His response is available at the CODOH website.
My Second Response to him is also available.
2. (This footnote added Feb. 27, 1999.) Upon further examination of Crowell's sources, it seems he is not correct. The Unterkünfte are simply barracks, and his assumption that they are "Labor Service huts" based on just one document. In fact it is the document cited above: "Genormte, zerlegbare Rohrleitungsnetze für die gesundheitstechnischen Anlagen der ortsveränderlichen Unterkünfte des Reichsarbeitdienstes," or:
"Standardized, Disassemblable Electrical Piping Connections for the Health-Technical Installations of the Relocatable Barracks of the State Labor Service."
He has read an article on barracks of the State Labor Service, and concludes that there were no barracks used in Hitler's Germany except by the State Labor Service. Of course this is wrong. "Unterkünfte" appear in other contexts as well, e.g. in the extermination camp.
This could be a deliberate attempt to deceive, but instead I believe it is just sloppy jumping to conclusions. Crowell is not fluent in German; he has read one document that describes some barracks and now believes he is an expert on them. A little learning is a dangerous thing.
See also footnote 5 of my Second Response on this subject.
3. Nazi Mass Murder, Eugen Kogon, Hermann Langbein, and Adalbert Rückerl, Eds., 1993, pp. 56ff. The footnotes for the section quoted read:
Last modified: February 27, 1999