Translator's note: For the passages of Meyer's reply to Piper quoted in Albrecht Kolthoff's article Fritjof Meyers "Replik" - unter die Lupe genommen I used the translation of Meyer's reply by a Mr. J. M. Damon, featured on David Irving's website under http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Osteuropa/Meyer_replies_engl.html . For the passages where the author quotes Rudolf Höss, I used Constantine FitzGibbon's translation of Höss' autobiography published by Phoenix Press, London.
Fritjof Meyers "Reply" Under the Magnifying Glass
by Albrecht Kolthoff
[translation by Roberto Muehlenkamp]
In the previous article Unbelievable, not imaginable the central flaws and failures of Fritjof Meyer's "Reply" to Franciszek Piper were addressed; numerous details contained in this reply were not discussed there, however, in order to focus on the core issues and present the subject more systematically.
Here, now, there will be addressed a number of detailed issues raised in Meyer's "reply". Without pretension of systematic structuring the topics will be dealt with in the sequence of their presentation by Meyer.
In the following all bolded passages are taken from Meyer's "reply", whereas the passages thereafter constitute the response thereto. Except where stated otherwise, all quotes of Piper are from the English translation of Piper's "Review Article", which Meyer referred to in his "Reply".
It is very much to the credit of the Auschwitz museum, its archives section (the APMO), and especially Franciszek Piper that they corrected the misleading number of four million victims to 1.1 million, following the collapse of the USSR.
The term "collapse of the USSR" for Poland's development towards democracy in the years 1989/1990 does not allow for an accurate dating; at any rate this sentence suggests that Piper corrected the four-million-figure only after this turnabout. Actually Piper had already in the mid-1980s criticized this information, still officially maintained at the time, and pleaded for the revised figure at a conference in 1987.
According to Piper, this imaginary number is based on crematorium capacity. This is in part my approach as well. It leads to a tenth of his alleged number of victims. It is based also on detailed eyewitness accounts by Tauber and Dragon, which had been kept secret for several decades. The fact that both of them stand by the number of four million, which they by themselves could not have established, speaks against the reliability of their eyewitness testimony. Such an extremely high number would necessitate a crime locale vastly different from the two converted farm houses. The crematoria would have been suitable for homicidal gassings, at least experimentally. However, in the Soviet commissar's report, mention of both crematoria and gassings is limited to a single sentence.
For Meyer it is therefore clear that the four-million-figure was established arbitrarily; accordingly he claims that murder sites had to be found to fit this arbitrary statement.
Actually Piper (as already in his 1993 book Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz) explained how the Soviet commission arrived at this conclusion, i.e. through the depositions of witnesses about the operation time and capacity of the crematoria; these data were the starting point and led to the four million figure.
Furthermore the Red Army possessed all the Central Building Administration documents, camp death rolls, directives of the camp commandant, and possibly the entire camp archives containing more than 127,000 documents. According to the interrogation report the Russian interior ministry returned these to Poland soon after the camp was liberated. According to Piper, however, all this evidentiary material was "destroyed before liberation."
Piper was by no means referring to this kind of documents as having all been destroyed. What he wrote was the following: "When the Soviet army entered the camp on January 27, 1945, they did not find any German documents there giving the number of victims, or any that could be used as a basis for calculating this number. Such documents (transport lists, notifications of the arrival of transports, reports about the outcome of selection) had been destroyed before liberation. For this reason, the Soviet commission investigating the crimes committed in Auschwitz Concentration Camp had to make estimates."
With this Piper is in accordance with several data. As one of many examples the deposition of Josef Erber, who was interviewed for a TV film by journalist Ebbo Demant, is reproduced hereafter:1
[Interviewer's question] Directly from the ramp off to the gas chamber? ERBER: Directly from the ramp. Before they were again counted, however, for Berlin required us to count very precisely, and also the details, i.e. distinguishing between men and women.
Documents of this kind were not found at Auschwitz because they were forwarded directly "to Berlin" and did not remain at the camp.
Once again, in the case of the massacre at Babi Yar, which was investigated by the same officers of the court, there is no mention that Jews were the principal victims. This omission was done on orders from higher up, which gives causes suspicion that these millions were victims of Soviet atrocities. The fact that State Prosecutor Rudenko had been involved in the Katyn massacre makes this all the more likely. It could also be that these statistics were falsified or manufactured as another propaganda lie;[…].
What Soviet crimes is Meyer referring to here when he speaks of "millions" of victims? Concretely he mentions Katyn - where, however, Soviet units killed not millions, but about 4,000 Polish officers. Thus this mention of "millions" of victims is without any reference in this context; if it addresses the victims of the civil war, the Ukrainian famine or the Stalinist persecutions of the 1930, the order of magnitude may be correct, but any connection is missing.
A "suspicion" arises in Meyer - also a researcher is entitled to utter suspicion. Yet Meyer did far more than just utter a suspicion: as already shown above, he made the suspicion into his certainty and accused the Soviet commission to have first established its "fantasy figure" and only then allocated it to the murder sites of the crematoria.
With this, however, Meyer did nothing else than make a suspicion the basis of his theses regarding the coming into being of the four million figure.
In the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, the witnesses Filip Müller, Paisikovic and Porebski testified only with reservations. Quoted after Langbein:
Presiding Judge: Could you watch the introduction of the poisonous gas? Porebski: Yes, on several occasions. Once I was on ring control at Camp Section B I b. There I saw how SS-men quickly opened the cans. On the roof of each gas chamber there were four openings. They threw it in very quickly. I was just walking along the fence between the women's camp and the crematorium. From there I could watch exactly. I also asked the capo how they knew that everyone was dead in the gas chamber. The capo told me that an SS-physician gave permission to open the gas chamber. Public Prosecutor Kügler: How many victims were in one gas chamber? Porebski: In both the larger crematoria I and II 1,800 to 2,000.2 Public Prosecutor Kügler: In purely architectonic terms was there a difference between the crematoria I, II and the crematoria III and IV? Müller: The crematoria I and II were built in the same way, the crematoria III and IV also. In each of crematoria I and II there were 15 ovens on the ground floor, each crematorium had one chimney. Over stairs one went down to the undressing room, which was underground. There were hooks and wooden benches there. The inscriptions on the wall were in several languages. "To the baths", they read, with an arrow pointing to the gas chamber. From the gas chamber an elevator went upwards. With it the corpses were taken to the cremation room.3
What Meyer means by "expressed themselves reluctantly" he would have to explain more exactly.
The "showers and steambeds" [Damon: sic. steam baths?], which were still presented as evidence by the Polish government in Nuremberg, were never used to commit murder, even at the euthanasia sites, contrary to what Piper maintains [the passage in italics, essential to the understanding of Kolthoff's comment, is missing in Damon's translation - RM].
Meyer thus infers that Piper claimed "showers and steambeds" to have been used as killing mechanisms at the euthanasia institutions, i.e. killing through overheated water or steam.
Piper, on the other hand, wrote the following:
In technical terms, the gas chambers were utterly simple equipment: they functioned on the principle of a closed space into which poison gas could be introduced. Any sort of stationary or mobile structure could be used for this purpose. Showers or steam-baths were used in the euthanasia centers, specially constructed trucks in Chelmno (Kulmhof), barracks in Treblinka, and, for a time, two farmhouses in Brzezinka (Birkenau).
Apart from the citation error ("steambeds" instead of "steam-baths") it thus becomes clear that Piper was referring to the rooms and structures providing the "closed space into which poison gas could be introduced" for gassing to be carried out.
Either Meyer did not understand this statement of Piper's or he wanted to misunderstand it; for an attentive reader it is not understandable, at any rate, how Meyer could come to infer this.
Piper's assumption that ." . . Höss had every opportunity to correct his testimony before both the IMT in Nuremberg and in Poland" completely disregards Höss's predicament: His captors were threatening to extradite him to the Poles [as actually happened, picture above] and to send his son to Siberia. At any rate, he later repudiated parts of his confession: In "Die Endlösung" (Final Solution) he declared that his statement of 2.5 million victims was "much too high."
This is exactly the circumstance which supporters of the theory that all oral and written statements of Höß must be considered worthless due to his situation have most difficulty in explaining.
Höß didn't have to fear extradition to Poland at Nuremberg, for that had already been decided upon. Meyer fails to mention that at Nuremberg Höß testified as a defense witness (for Kaltenbrunner); instead Meyer claims that he was in a "predicament" there. The indictment at his own trial in Warsaw had held him responsible for the death for "at least 2.8 million people", the court in its judgment had considered the number of three to four million victims to be "very likely".4 Höß' listing in his "notes", on the other hand, led to a total death toll of 1.13 million at Auschwitz. In what respect he is supposed have been in a "predicament" or to have felt "threatened" by something when making this statement remains Meyer's secret.
It is noteworthy that in his memoirs, the last thing he wrote before the gallows, he failed to identify the crematory cellars [Damon: sic. Leichenkeller, basement mortuaries?] as a place where murders were committed. He does, however, describe in detail the murders committed in the converted farmhouses [Damon: Bauernhäuser]
Höß had in November 1946 written the following:
The provisional structure number I was demolished when work was started on building section III of Birkenau. Crematorium II, later designated bunker V, was used up to the last and was also kept as a stand-by when breakdowns occurred in crematoria I to IV. When larger numbers of transports were being received, gassing was carried out by day in number V and numbers I to IV were used for those transports which arrived during the night.5
That Höß did not write down again in detail in the "notes" he concluded in February 1947 what he had described in detail two months before must not surprise; as autobiographic notes (title: "My Psyche. Development, Life and Experience") they don't contain quite a few things of which it is known that they existed or occurred.
Here Piper is relying on a "crucial document" which is in fact a forgery: the "letter" written June 28, 1943, allegedly signed by a certain SS Sturmbahnführer (Major) named Jährling.
The document is not signed, even by civilian employee Jährling, the real Jährling of the Bauleitung (directorate of the building administration) who was by no means an SS Major. Piper should have been aware of this since he himself quotes the source document "SS in Einsatz" (SS in Action). Mr. Jährling's name appears on the list of people receiving copies (page 269) but nowhere else. We note that this is the "doctored" version of 1957 which originated in the DDR -- somewhat mysteriously, according to Piper, from "Domburg, BRD." The only Domburgs are in the Netherlands and Surinam. Furthermore a semi-original of this is to be found on page 24 of Piper's book, Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz (The Number of Victims of Auschwitz). It is a corresponding, manipulated facsimile of an authenticated carbon copy from the files of the APMO.
The original is to be found in the Moscow Special Archives (502/1-314). It was known to exist in the DDR In the DDR as early as 1957 -- by no means "destroyed before occupation." Van Pelt published the original as a facsimile in The Case for Auschwitz, page 343: ." . . In the list of recipients, Jährlich's name is written in by hand only. His name was subsequently transferred to the counterfeit version by typewriter, in place of a signature. In this way the impression was created that the letter had been sent."
The original is not signed because it was a rough draft which obviously was never mailed. This is clear because it refers to the "Bau-Erläuterungsbericht" (Explanatory Construction Report) dated October 30, 1941, which had been superceded. It contradicts initial operational test results, as is proven by my "crucial document," namely the letter from Engineer Kurt Prüfer dated September 8, 1942.
At this place it must be clearly pointed out that Meyer finds strong words against the version of the letter in question (a postwar typed copy) which was used by Piper and is printed as a facsimile in Piper's article7. Yet he obviously does not question the authenticity of the document, the facsimile of which from the Moscow Archive was printed by van Pelt.
In this Meyer differs from David Irving, who in his trial against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Editors had questioned the authenticity of the document proper. Van Pelt wrote in detail about the quality of this document as a source8, one page after the facsimile mentioned by Meyer. Van Pelt's arguments for the authenticity of the document can be summarized as follows:
If the document should have been forged, then Soviet entities must have been the forgers. If it should have been forged, then why was it nowhere used as evidence or for propaganda purposes? Actually the Soviet military commission in its report had claimed a crematorium capacity more than twice as high as becomes apparent from the document in question. The Soviets knew about the document at an early stage, for in the Moscow Archives there is a Russian translation dated of 28 April 1945. The commission's report was from May 1945, nevertheless the document was not mentioned, precisely because it proved only half the capacity that was claimed by the commission.
As Meyer correctly states, the sample shown by van Pelt is the "original" corresponding to the typed copy. It is not the original of the letter, however, because what the Soviets captured at Auschwitz corresponded to a letter that had been sent by the Auschwitz Construction office to the WVHA in Berlin. Thus this "original" is the carbon copy of a letter from the Construction Office filed at Auschwitz. Of course this carbon copy is not signed, only the original letter which was sent to the WVHA.
Piper wrote the following about this document:
In spite of what Meyer says about the recent discovery of a crucial document on the capacity of the Auschwitz crematoria, this document has been known for a long time. It is a letter from the head of the Central Construction Board in Auschwitz (Der Leiter der Zentralbauleitung der Waffen SS und Polizei Auschwitz), H. Bischoff (signed in his absence by SS-Sturmbannführer Jährling), to H. Kammler, head of office group C in the SS-WVHA, dated June 28, 1943. The letter states that the following numbers of corpses can be cremated over a 24-hour period in specific crematoria in Auschwitz Concentration Camp: 340 corpses in crematorium I, 1,440 in crematorium II, 1,440 in crematorium III, 768 in Crematorium IV, and 768 in crematorium V, for a total of 4,756 corpses cremated per day. Held in the German archive in Domburg, where it is catalogued as item ND 4568, this letter was published decades ago and has been known ever since (SS-im Einsatz. Eine Dokumentation über die Verbrechen der SS, Berlin, 1957, p. 269).
Piper is mistaken in four points in this paragraph. First, the name of the head of the Central Construction Office was Karl Bischoff (and not "H. Bischoff"); second, Bischoff, and not Jährling, was the "Sturmbannführer"; and third, this document, being a carbon copy for the files, was not signed. The fourth error will be discussed further ahead.
The Auschwitz-Museum obviously did not and does not have the original (the carbon copy in the Moscow Archives) shown in van Pelt's book, but a "typed copy", which was made after the war on hand of the carbon copy. Unlike the "typed copy", the Moscow sample has the SS-letter in the address and signature sections, which were used in SS-own typewriters; in the typed copy, on the other hand, the typewriter types are normal ones.
All mentioned publications referred to the typed copy of this carbon copy. Regarding the history and origin of this typed copy the following can be said:
It obviously came into being at some time between 1945 and 1957, when it was first published. The mysterious place "Domburg" - and thus Piper's fourth error - can be traced through van Pelt, who in his book lays the right track.
In the transcription of the Irving trial van Pelt's deposition about the document is still rendered as follows:
Moscow, it has been in Moscow. It has been made available, for example, in the Vienna trial. It was available earlier. There was another copy of this document in a Didier archive in Dumburg.9
In van Pelt's book the recording errors were removed; the last sentence thus read:
There was another copy of this document in a DDR archive in Do[rn]burg.10
And later van Pelt writes in the very book that Meyer had taken as the cause for his "Osteuropa" - article:
During my examination-in-chief, I presented the court with the other version of the same letter, one that came from the Staatliche Archivverwaltung, Archivdepot Dornburg in the former GDR, which had been made available to the Auschwitz archive years earlier.11
Castle Dornburg on the Elbe had since 1959 been used by the State Archives Administration Postdam; after two cases of arson in the years 1963 and 1964 the building was completely secluded, and for a time even a prohibition to photograph was issued, which lead to its current denomination as a "secret archive"12. About the archive's contents the former head of the archive depot, Oberarchivrat Dr. Johannes Kornow, wrote the following:
After the most important construction changes had been finished, the castle was quickly filled with files. Especially documents were placed here for which the German Central Archives a Postdam should have held themselves competent. These included, for instance, the collection "Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle Ost" as well as the collections "Deutsche Umsiedlungstreuhandgesellschaft" and "Bonner Kliniken". I am further thinking of the conglomerate "Concentration Camps and Prisons", which included the Buchenwald inmate files. The archives of Germany's free mason organizations must be mentioned here, also the files of the so-called "war societies", which during World War I coordinated the sections of economy important for the war effort. Furthermore there were the files of the Rostock Supply Office.13
According to Stefan Schüler, the archive material was "taken over by the German Federal Republic after the German reunification, and the castle was cleared."14 Thus the typed copy in question should now be among the documents of the Federal Archives.
Of course it is desirable that in the future this document is only cited after the original version published by van Pelt. The citation of the faulty typed copy, however, does not also make the original worthless let alone a forgery.
In meticulous, detective-like work van Pelt managed to remove the doubts about the authenticity of the document (van Pelt, page 479-484). Meyer's argumentation against this document is therefore another: he claims that the letter was not sent.
It is absurd, of course, to conclude from the fact of an unsigned carbon copy for the files that the original was not sent. Meyer produced no other evidence or even indications in support of his claim. His "proof" consists of circular logic: he thinks the data contained in the letter of 28 June 1943 about the capacity of the crematoria had already been obsolete at this time, because in September 1942 - nine months before this letter - other figures from experience had been available; the letter is supposed to have been just a "draft".
Reading van Pelt also refutes this fallback argumentation for Irving's failed attempt to put the document proper in question.
The letter was taken into the letter register of the Auschwitz Central Construction Office under sequential number 31550, i.e. according to all rules of German administrative procedure this document was officially recorded in the files as a letter that had been sent. Drafts not sent were not recorded in letter registers.
Besides: why should the Auschwitz Central Construction Office have issued a letter, even only as a draft, the information in which would have been obsolete since nine months?
At another place Meyer takes over Pressac's claim that the letter had been an "internal propaganda lie".15 This categorization as the bragging or justification in the sense of plan compliance by a subordinate entity towards a superior entity, however, requires the letter to have been sent to the superior level (as Pressac assumed it had been).
The assumption that the letter was obsolete and had therefore not been sent, on the other hand, is a central pre-condition for Meyer's claim that the capacity of the crematoria is by no means to be considered as high as it was stated in the letter.
With the refutation of this unsubstantiated claim taken out of thin air, about a "draft never mailed", the argument that the crematoria capacity had been significantly lower than in the letter therefore collapses as well.
Note: Here I did make a mistake similar to that of Piper: When ordering the article, I misread a handwritten notice "Buchenwald" as "Birkenau." The mistake is entirely inconsequential, although Piper claims that ." . . this mistake by Meyer makes unnecessary any further commentary on or evaluation of his findings."
Prüfer's letter of 1942 was of course not written ." . . following completion of the crematories" at Birkenau, as Piper claims, but rather following completion of the first of two three-muffle ovens of identical construction at Buchenwald. It had been in operation for two weeks, since August 23, 1942. The second oven went into operation on October 3, 1942. The "results as reflected in practical operation" shows up again in a second letter of Prüfer's dated November 15, 1942, which is now in the Weimar State Archives, 2/555a (Prüfer Dossier), as was reported by Pressac/Van Pelt. Gutman/Berenbaum tells us on page 212: ." . . Prüfer's letter states 800 bodies per day for each larger crematorium."
In the unmailed draft of a letter dated 28th June 1943, the number was erroneously stated as ." . . 1440 bodies per day."
This is one of the cardinal errors in Meyer's "Osteuropa" - Article, which played a central part there already. Piper correctly wrote that this error could be considered to make further comments about Meyer's research performance superfluous.
Let us recall the respective passage from the "Osteuropa" - article:
According to this there was found in the archives of the crematorium company Topf & Söhne (now: Erfurter Malzerei und Speicherbau), folder 241, a letter by leading engineer Kurt Prüfer, on construction assignment at Auschwitz, which is dated 8 September 1942, i.e. nine weeks after Bischoff's letter and after completion of the crematoria, i.e. on hand of the first operation results. According to Prüfer each of the two crematoria I and II burned 800 corpses per day, each of the smaller, III and IV, 400 corpses, for a total of 2,400.16
In summary it can be said that Meyer made a capital error, but instead of admitting to it and withdrawing his argumentation based thereon he now admits half an error and tries to save the argumentation as a whole.
In detail: Meyer had explicitly claimed that Prüfer's letter referred to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He had explicitly claimed that it had been prepared "nine weeks after Bischoff's letter and after completion of the crematoria". And he had explicitly claimed that Prüfer had stated much lower numbers than Bischoff as actual operational capacities.
The "nine weeks after Bischoff's letter" were actually nine months before Bischoff's letter; Meyer had fatally confounded the years 1942 and 1943, although directly before he had still rendered the date correctly ("8 September 1942"). All of these explicit claims were wrong.
Prüfer's letter contained a supplier's careful statements towards a customer about the performance of his product. When it was written, the crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau were still in an early construction phase; for the crematoria IV and V the first construction drawings had been made only in August17, and the decision to build crematoria III to V had only been taken around 19 August18.
If Meyer now claims that "completion of the crematories" referred to Buchenwald rather than Birkenau, this is an unsuitable attempt to save a lost argumentation. Meyer's argumentation was that on hand of values from actual experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau the capacity had to be corrected downward in relation to Bischoff's letter. Now he's saying that the capacity according to Bischoff's letter was not realistic because lower results had been achieved at Buchenwald.
This, however, is another argument, though not a very good one: for the capacities achieved at Buchenwald were not necessarily an upper limit for the capacities that could be achieved at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where technical improvements could be applied due to the experience already gained and where a special form of organization of the "special detachments" made possible an extremely rationalized and effective procedure.
About the capacities that could be actually achieved at Auschwitz-Birkenau van Pelt had already written in detail 19 and arrived at the conclusion that the crematorium capacity was well in the range of the figures given by Bischoff.
Remarks on 2): Average Hours of Operation Nine Hours per Day.
This average figure given by Höss is not questioned by Piper, who had the advantage of being familiar with the court record. Likewise it is not contradicted in Piper's subsequent quotations of Höss regarding full capacity with allowance for the defective ovens. […]
If we use Prüfer's figures of daily crematory operation time of 12 hours, the capacity thus achieved is not changed by occasional 24 hour operations; however, this never achieved anyway, since the eight to ten hour figure given by Höss is the average for the entire period.
Here Meyer is misleading his readers when he claims an average daily operation time of nine hours. The deposition of Höss at his trial stood in a certain context: if referred to the time of his second command of Auschwitz from early June to the end of August 1944; at this time the destruction of the Hungarian Jews and the Jews of Lodz took place. Höss had replied to the prosecutor's question:
… after your return to Auschwitz, did you give any orders of technical nature to speed up the gassing and incineration of Jews?
To this Höss replied that the extension of railway tracks into the camp was speeded up, that the open-air corpse incineration pit was reactivated and that the work columns for sorting the deportees' baggage were increased. Especially in the capacity for handling the baggage Höss saw the decisive bottleneck:
It took between four and five hours to unload a train - people and all their luggage - and there was no way to do it faster. People could be dealt with within this time, but the luggage was accumulating in such quantities that this forced us to abandon the idea to increase the number of transports.
"People could be dealt with within this time", i.e. the people of one transportation train could be handled in five hours. And then:
No improvements could be made to the crematoria. After eight to ten hours of operation the crematoria were unfit for further use. It was impossible to operate them continuously.20
Thus Höss was not referring to an "average for the entire period", but to the period of three months during which he was at Auschwitz for the second time.
What does this statement about the crematoria mean regarding the extermination capacity of Auschwitz-Birkenau in the mentioned period?
Nothing, for Höß had before pointed out the reactivation of the open incineration pits. This operation is also proven by an air photography which was taken by British reconnaissance planes on 23 August 1944 and became known only recently when an archive with five million digitalized British air photographs was opened to access via internet.21. On this picture a huge cloud of smoke going up from the open-air incineration pit at crematorium V can be seen.
Even if the capacity of the crematories had been greater, the additional capacity would not have been needed, in view of the numbers of persons transported. For this reason new uses for the building were found, including housing for special detail prisoners, air raid shelter, and bathing and sanitary facility.
About the number of persons transported, which Meyer had inadmissibly reduced, enough has been said elsewhere. To speak of "new uses" of the crematoria is nonsense: the inmates of the special detachment were all accommodated in the upper floor of Crematoria II and III, i.e. in the immediate proximity of their "workplaces" 22. A use as "air raid shelter" is an explanation of the gas chambers popular with Holocaust deniers; David Irving and Germar Rudolf have been the last to try. Corresponding refutations can be found in van Pelt's book; the register mentions 17 page numbers under the keyword "air raid shelter"; a longer section of van Pelt's opinion for Irving's appeals procedure deals with this legend of the Holocaust deniers.23.
There was never a use of the crematoria as "bathing facility", not even "experimentally". Actually there were fake showers in the gas chambers; the men of the "special detachment" told the condemned that they would now be bathed (see above, Höß' notes). The short-lived, not implemented considerations about installing 100 warm water showers are also discussed in van Pelt's opinion 24.
Piper's critique concerns primarily the number of those who were delivered to be killed, that is, the unregistered. Let us first deal with the unregistered transportees from Hungary to Auschwitz. It is not true that I rely on any set ratio between transports arriving daily and the number of registered inmates, as Piper suggests. I rely exclusively on the transport arrivals noted by Czech. I am willing to publish my separate research on deportees from Hungary, if Piper wishes; the Website would be quite suitable for this. In my research I rely particularly on number data from the deportation zones themselves. The numbers given by the German diplomat Edmund Veesenmayer are approximately double the others. This is because they were originally supplied by the Hungarian police, who had reason to amplify them.
The number of transports and deportees from Hungary is well known from several documents: around 140 trains. These documents include Veesenmayer's reports, but also counts at the Slovakian border station Košice (Kassa, in Hungarian, on the Hungarian-Slovakian border, where the trains were handed over by the Hungarians to the SS); facsimile images on these documents are attached to Piper's "review article" 25.
Further data can be found in a report of Jewish origin from Hungary about the deportations 26, which reached Geneva from Budapest on 19 June 1944. This report referred that until 7 June already 335,000 Jews had been deported from the country; in an accompanying letter by Moshe Krausz is was stated that since then another 100,000 had been deported.27 This letter contains both descriptions of the deportations in the rural districts and lists of numbers "from the deportation zones" (pages 200-201).
A further source is the deposition of Willi Hilse on 27.11.1964 at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial. Hilse, who at the time of his deposition was Chief Inspector of the Federal Railways, had according to his own statements been "first deputy of the service chief in charge of goods handling at Auschwitz station from 1942 to 1944". Hilse stated the following: "As far as I can remember, about 120 such trains arrived within the scope of the Hungary transports until I left in July 1944. Whether further transports arrived after I left I don't know."28 In its judgment the Frankfurt County Court wrote: "The Hungary transports, which arrived at Auschwitz since May 1944, were 3,000 people strong on average, according to the credible deposition of witness Hi., who at the time was employed in goods handling at Auschwitz station. It once deducts 25 % of these who, as a maximum, were selected as able to work and taken into the camp, this leaves 2,250 people who were killed"29 The order of magnitude of the number of deportees resulting from this can be established through elementary arithmetic.
Piper praises Pressac's success in having proven the existence of gas chambers in the crematoria "without any doubt whatsoever." That does not necessarily follow, however. Pressac called shower heads (which he regarded as mere trappings) as "absolute and irrefutable proof for the existence of a gas chamber." This was because a "gastight door" was included on the same acquisition order, and he assumed that a gastight door would be used only in conjunction with a homicidal gas chamber. Deborah E. Lipstadt also posed the question in Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust (Concerning Holocaust Denial), Darmstadt 1994, page 273): "Why would anybody need a gastight door in a shower room?" Concerning the sauna, however, Kulka/Kraus reported in Die Todesfabrik (The Factory of Death ), Berlin 1957, page 71: "In Birkenau this bath consisted of two areas separated by a hermetically sealed door." Since that time, purchase orders for twenty-two "gastight" doors for the delousing barracks have been found in the Moscow archives, including two doors for the aforementioned saunas.
The showerheads in the gas chambers were considered fakes not only by Pressac, who, after all, had still managed to find the fittings of these fakes in the ruins of Crematorium II:
Pressac also examined the ruins of Corpse Cellar I of Crematorium II and found that seven wooden bases to which similar phony showerheads had been installed were still visible.30
If the showerheads should have been no phonies, they would at any rate have remained dry, for they were not connected to a water pipe:
However, he [Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, author's note] ignored the fact that Pressac had examined inventory drawings for Corpse Cellar I of Crematorium III which showed that none of its three water taps were connected to the "showers," meaning that these "showers" were fake.31
The counterargument of the "sauna" is none, for the central sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau served precisely for the delousing of clothing32. That the gassing installations for disinfesting clothes being erected in the main camp were to be fitted with gas tight doors is nothing new; Pressac had already pointed this out33.Thus the existing or planned outfitting of this or similar disinfecting installations at Birkenau is not surprising.
If Meyer vaguely mentions that "since that time, purchase orders for twenty-two 'gastight' doors for the delousing barracks have been found in the Moscow archives", he is referring to Holocaust denier Carlo Mattogno, who claims to have found such and who Meyer is thus invoking, although without mentioning his source. Mattogno is the Holocaust denier about whose tactical concession Meyer showed himself elated in his "reply": "In addition, an Italian Auschwitz-denier recently published a study of the document which I quote (and he questions) concerning the conversion of the two farm houses 'for special measures' (specifically mass murder)". Mattogno had already in 1998 (so much for Meyer's "since that time") asked the rhetorical question:
If a gas-tight door and a shower facility are in fact "absolutely incompatible", then why did Auschwitz Zentralbauleitung on 13 November 1942 order "2 100/200 gas-tight doors for the sauna" of the disinfestation installation BW 5a?34
The answer to this has been available for three years in the book of Zimmerman, which Meyer had in his "Osteuropa" - article called a "thorough, but still not completely satisfactory assessment [..] of the 'Revisionists'"35:
The document he cited is a work order in AA File 502-1-328. It states: "For: Delousing Barrack. The following work is to be done: The creation of two steel gas proof doors for the sauna." In other words, if we are to believe Mattogno's explanation of this document, gas tight doors were being used in the shower facilities of the sauna. Why would gas tight doors be needed in a shower facility unless prisoners were being gassed?
What Meyer did here was to simply - without mentioning the source - copy Holocaust denier Mattogno while omitting Zimmerman's response, which he maybe considered "not completely satisfactory".
Piper is mistaken in his opinion that the air evacuation system of Morgue B ("B" for "Belüftet") was twice as effective as the one designed for the disrobing cellar, which was twice as large. According to calculations supplied by the Topf family (builders of the crematoria) dated 22 Feb 1943 (Muscow archives 502-1-327), the disrobing cellar had a single three-phase motor of 5.5 HP for ventilation. The morgue, or "B," by contrast, had two motors of 3.5 hp each, for both introducing and evacuating air. According to this the (technically counterproductive) air evacuation system of Cellar B, which was converted to homicidal gas chamber, was less powerful than the system of the disrobing station, which was twice as large.
Introduction and evacuation of air (Piper calls it "forced-air ventilation") in the gas chamber were switched on at the same time37, thus the performances of the introduction and the evacuation system must be added: as a result 7 PS were available for a volume of 504 m³. In the disrobing cellar, on the other hand, there were 5,5 PS for a volume of 1008 m³.
Let's play with these numbers: In the disrobing cellar there were 0,0054 PS/m³ available, while in the gas chamber there were 0,0138 PS/m³. Thus the airing system in the gas chamber was actually not twice as strong as in the disrobing chamber, but 2.55 times as strong.
What mattered for the functionality of the system (and thus for assessing whether the air evacuation was "technically counterproductive") are not such number games, however, but the exchange performance per unit of time.
In his claim of "un-productivity" of the gas chamber ventilation devices, hidden in a side remark, Meyer is following the dictum of Holocaust denier Germar Rudolf, who in several writings had claimed that the performance of these installations had not been strong enough to suck the poison gas out of gas chamber after a gassing (the last of these was an "expert opinion" handed to the court at David Irving's appeals procedure; Irving then preferred to withdraw this "expert opinion", however). Richard Green and Jamie McCarthy examined this issue in detail and came to the conclusion that in the gas chambers of Crematoria II and III the air could be completely exchanged 15.8 times per hour, and that after 15 minutes if was safe to enter the gas chamber without a gas mask38.
What is supposed to have been "technically counterproductive" about this remains Meyer's secret.
Only in a few cases were prisoners observed entering the crematoria.
This claim will be confronted, only and without a further comment, with an excerpt from the judgment at the Auschwitz trial.
The general findings about the arrival and handling of RSHA transports at the old ramp and later at the new ramp of Birkenau camp, the tasks and activities of the various SS-members in charge of ramp service, the deceit of the people destined to die about their imminent fate, the details about their killing at the various gas chambers and crematoria, the build and inner outfitting of the gas chambers and crematoria, the removal of the corpses, the tasks and activities of the SS - special detachment at the four crematoria and finally the work of the Jewish special detachment are based on the depositions of the defendants Boger, St., Dylewski, Broad, Hofmann, Kaduk, Baretzki, Dr. L., Dr. Frank, Dr. Sc., Dr. Capesius and Klehr, insofar as they could be taken at value, and the credible testimonies of the witnesses O., Wal., Wil., N., Schl., Hu., Dr. M., To., Lei., H., Dr. Kremer, Ch. (who had all been former SS - members at Auschwitz concentration camp) as well as the credible testimonies of the witnesses Ka., Cou., Ja., van V., Vr., K. Erich, Pa., Sw., Bac., Buk., Bö., furthermore on the handwritten notes of the first camp commandant Höss about the "final solution of the Jewish question" and the so-called Broad report.
It is welcome news that Piper now confirms what heretofore was hardly mentioned in Auschwitz literature. According to Piper, the four crematoria were built in order to gas 1.6 million persons every year. And yet the number of unregistered persons deported to Auschwitz decreased dramatically just as these crematoria were going into operation. Furthermore the decrease occurred on Himmler's orders and continued for almost a year. After this came primarily the Jews from Hungary, who were brought to Germany on Hitler's orders for the express purpose of producing his "wonder weapons." To these transports of forced laborers the Hungarian police added family members who were unfit for work, hence promptly gassed.
The decrease in gassings at the beginning of increased crematorium capacity is not explainable by Piper's assertion that "the majority of Jewish communities been had already liquidated." Around 700,000 Polish Jews were still alive, as well as the overwhelming majority of Jews in France, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Denmark, Hungary -- over a million.
Meyer pretends to have made a sensational discovery by finding Himmler's "stop order", which is supposed to have put an end to the extermination actions at the death camps Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka and at least effectively restricted the deportations to Auschwitz and the gassings. Actually the letter in question has long been known; if there's anything new about it, it is Meyer's interpretation.
Meyer refers to a letter from the WVHA of 27.4.1943 to the commandants of the concentration camps, which in his "Osteuropa"- article he had quoted as follows:
WVHA - letter of 27.4.1943 to the commandants of the concentration camps, International Military Tribunal (IMT): The Trial of the Major War Criminals, Nuremberg 1947, Volume XXIX, pages 173 and following.: "The Reichsführer SS and Head of the German Police has upon request decided that in the future only mentally ill inmates may be selected for Action 14 f 13 by the medical commissions put in charge of this. All other inmates unable to work (tuberculosis patients, cripples lying in bed etc.) are as a rule to be exempted from this action. Cripples lying in bed are to be given work that they can do also in bed. The order of the Reichsführer SS must be strictly observed in the future. The fuel requisitions for this purpose (probably for the gas motors, F.M.) therefore no longer apply."40
One wonders whether Meyer's interpretation of this letter suffers more from ignorance or from shamelessness. He is mixing up these different action complexes, which were carried out by different actors, corresponded to different organizational structures and pursued different goals. These three complexes - "Euthanasia", "Aktion Reinhard" and "Auschwitz" - must be briefly described in the following, for the sake of clarity.
To sum it up:
What brought about the temporary reduction of the deportations?
Contrary to Meyer's claim that this reduction has "hardly been pointed out in literature", it has not only been pointed out, but also explained. A detailed description, for instance, can be found in Robert Jan van Pelt's expert opinion for David Irving's appeals procedure:
A more detailed analysis of deportations to Auschwitz shows that, indeed, the crematoria, planned and ordered shortly after the policy to kill all Jews had expanded to include all of Europe's Jews, only had become available when the number of transports arriving in Auschwitz began to dwindle. According to table D in Franciszek Piper's classic study Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz (1993), the transports had gone down from a high of over 57,000 in January 1943 to 28,000 in April to a little over 16,000 in May. By the end of the year the average number of monthly arrivals was around 10,000, and in early 1944 it dropped even below that.48
One of the factors for this reduction was mentioned by van Pelt at the same place:
An added factor is that in May 1943 it also had become clear that the Hungarians were not going to hand the Germans their more than 800,000 Jews. In April, during their meeting in Klessheim Castle, Horthy had refused Hitler's request to deport Hungary's Jews. A popular contemporary summary of that interview held that Horthy told Hitler, "They may be lousy Jews, but they are our lousy Jews." As Goebbels' diary entry of May 8, 1943 reveals, the Germans realised they were not going to succeed. "Horthy himself . . . will continue to resist every effort to tackle the Jewish problem aggressively."
In the same sense Piper wrote the following in his review of Meyer:
The number of transports did indeed decrease in this period, for the majority of Jewish communities had already been liquidated, and those that still existed could not be brought under the mass extermination campaign for various reasons. There were political obstacles. Not all the countries originally slated for German occupation (such as England) had been conquered. Some countries (such as Italy) had slipped out of German control. Satellite regimes (as in Hungary) feared giving up their Jews in the face of the approaching, inevitable fascist defeat. Others (such as Bulgaria) opposed the extermination of their Jews.
Meyer criticizes Piper's remark that most Jewish settlement centers had already been liquidated in mid-1943; after all about one million Jews were still living in the occupied or allied countries. This is correct, but means that the extermination policy had already killed a great part of the Jews that the National Socialists could get hold of. Himmler himself had the statistician Korherr prepare a balance of success, which was submitted already in March 1943 and where the following is stated in the ordered camouflage language:
From 1937 to the beginning of 1943 the number of Jews, partially due to the excess mortality of the Jews in Central and Western Europe, partially due to the evacuations especially in the more strongly populated Eastern Territories which are here counted as off-going, should have diminished by an estimated 4 million.49
In the "short version" of his report dated 19.04.1943 the statistician further mentioned the tasks still open within the scope of the extermination of the Jews:
Higher contingents of Jews on the European continent (besides Russia with about 4 million) are now only to be found in Hungary (750 000) and Romania (302 000), maybe still in France.50
This camouflaged mass murder of "useless eaters," arising primarily from cost-efficiency considerations, was tantamount to a unique crime against humanity.
In accordance with Operation 14f13 (and not just in Auschwitz), those who were unfit for work comprised the major portion of prisoners destined for liquidation before Spring 1943 and following early Summer 1944.
The sequence for extermination of "useless" groups was determined by the ideological and imperialistic motives of the ruling clique of mass murderers. First came handicapped German children, then handicapped German adults. Next in line were the Polish intelligentsia, Russian prisoners of war, Jews capable of combat in Russia, all Jews in Russia, and then handicapped Russians. The Russians were followed by the millions of Jews in Poland and Western Europe, especially those unfit for work (the reason for the selections). The gypsy "Mischlinge" (mongrels) who were unfit for work came next. After these came severely wounded German soldiers and civilians who had been disabled by bombardment. These were then followed some 35,000 Polish tuberculosis patients, who were to be liquidated on the recommendation of their Gauleiter. Then came 30 million Slavs, on Himmler's recommendation. Finally, as proof of Hitler's version of absolute Social Darwinism, it would be the turn of the entire German nation: ." . . Then it must perish and be annihilated by another, stronger power." […]
Today more than ever, productivity determines the individual's worth in society. We can draw more relevant admonitions from the economic roots of the totalitarian resort to mass murder than we can from our attempts to imagine a phantasmagoria of terror which will always remain un-provable.
These passages describe the core of Meyer's attempt at historical revision. The extermination of the European Jews is reduced to Jews unable to work, who thus merge indistinguishably with other people unable to work (and thus "useless eaters") like handicapped people, prisoners of war, heavily wounded soldiers, bombing victims etc.
Of course the Jews in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union were not murdered by the Einsatzgruppen on hand of a criterion of ability to work, and neither were those murdered at the "Aktion Reinhard" death centers. At these places there was no selection, but indiscriminate murder. The motivation of indiscriminate murder consisted of race hatred and the decision to wipe out the Jews as a whole, not of economic considerations.
The ideological foundation of the will to exterminate, which was also connected to the paranoid idea of the Jews as the mortal enemies of "German blood", and the need to conclude the extermination work once begun, is probably nowhere made more clear than in the secret speeches of Heinrich Himmler, which he gave in October 1943, i.e. during the reduction of the deportations and prior to the Hungary action:
I ask you that what I tell you in this circle you will really only hear and never talk about it. The question came up to us: What do to with the women and children? - I decided to find a very clear solution also in this respect. This because I didn't consider myself entitled to exterminate the men - that is, to kill them or to have them killed - and to let the children grow up as avengers against our sons and grandsons. The difficult decision had to be taken to make this people disappear from the earth. For the organization that had to carry out the task if was the most difficult we had so far.51
In May 1944, before the beginning of the Hungary action:
The Jewish question has been solved in Germany and generally in the countries occupied by Germany. According to the survival struggle of our people, where the existence of our blood is at issue, it was carried out uncompromisingly.52
And in June 1944, i.e. at the height of the Hungary action:
It was the most terrible task and the most terrible order that could be given to an organization: the order to solve the Jewish question. In this circle I may again say it with all openness in a few sentences. It is good that we had the toughness to exterminate the Jews in our area.53
Indeed from 1943 onwards other factors became important, also at Auschwitz. This conflict between the will to exterminate and economic necessities, or better: urgencies, has been described further above. The contradictory conglomerate of surrounding circumstances was also described by Piper:
Aside from political considerations, the program for the mass extermination of the Jews, who made up the largest group of Auschwitz victim, were hindered by economic considerations, such as those that prevented the Nazis from liquidating the last large concentration of Polish Jews, in Lódz.
How many Hungarian Jews were actually employed in armament work due to these urgencies - which were mainly caused by the war situation - seems almost secondary in this respect, as the National Socialists' issue was not the preservation of Jewish life, which only had to be sufficiently able to work, but the desperate hope of turning the tide of war with "miracle weapons". How indifferent the life of Jewish laborers were to NS functionaries was made clear by the example of Dora-Mittelbau, where Wernher von Braun's V2 - rockets were produced and forced laborers were ruthlessly squandered. If the war situation had changed to the advantage of the Third Reich, this would have been the end of the Jewish forced laborers.
An "economic origin of the mass murder intent" never existed in regard to the European Jews. Actually there was an "economic origin" of the policy of leaving some Jews alive for the time being due to the war situation, contrary to the mass murders that had been so far carried out by the Einsatzgruppen, at Chelmno and at the camps of "Aktion Reinhard". Meyer's interpretation turns the character of the National Socialist extermination of the Jews into its opposite: according to him the National Socialists became mass murderers out of need ("economic interests"), while in fact it was need that kept them from immediately putting an end to the life of some.