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A Comparative Analysis

By Harry W. Mazal OBE


In February 2001, Mrs. Zoe Polanska Palmer swore an affidavit meant to support claims made by Mr. David Irving in his libel suit against Prof. Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, Ltd. Her affidavit was presented to the Court of Appeal in London, but was subsequently withdrawn without explanation by Mr. Irving's barrister on the second day of the Hearing. No reasons were ever given either by Mr. Adrian Davies, Barrister for the Claimant (Irving) nor by Mr. Irving himself.

The Lord Justices were sufficiently annoyed by the withdrawal of the affidavit that they included the following paragraph in their Judgement:

25. We also mention at this point that there were before the Court two applications to call fresh evidence in support of the application. The first, made well before the hearing, was to call evidence from Mr Germar Scheerer (born Rudolf), who holds a diploma in chemistry, and Mrs Zoe Polanska-Palmer, who was detained in Birkenau Camp. The respondents had prepared voluminous evidence in reply. In the event, that application to call fresh evidence was not pursued. We express our dismay at this combination of events; the preparation of very detailed evidence (exposing the respondents to great expense in preparing a reply and the members of the Court to considerable pre hearing reading) and the withdrawal of the application.

Mr. Irving lost his Application for Permission to Appeal and has subsequently defaulted in the payment of legal costs imposed by the High Court.

A careful comparison of Mrs. Polanska Palmer's affidavit with the text of her earlier (1986) autobiographical book Yalta Victim [FN-1] as well as with information gathered from other sources reveals that her sworn statements in the affidavit to support Mr. Irving's case are false and misleading. This study further suggests that Mrs. Zoe Polanska Palmer was not held as a prisoner in the Birkenau camp (Auschwitz 2), but rather in the main camp (Auschwitz 1). Evidence will show that her affidavit directly contradicts what she wrote in her book. Because of the patently false claims in her affidavit, it is fair to suspect that her sworn statements were, in fact, fabricated by the litigant rather than by the deponent.

In a sworn statement dated 28 February 2001 before the Court of Appeal, Mr. Irving said:

"... (2) I was not aware of the existence of the witness Mrs. Arthur ('Zoe') Polanska Palmer, a Russian-born Auschwitz survivor until about six months ago when her name was introduced to me by a Mr. Martin Gwynne, who had read transcripts of the trial before Mr. Justice Gray. I first spoke to her on February 15.

Her support of Count Tolstoy, who has befriended her and statements criticizing the British Armed Forces add further to her unsuitability as an unbiased witness. Until very recently Count Tolstoy and Mr. Irving were on friendly terms.

For ease in the interpretation of this document each section, marked with Roman numerals, will consist of two or three parts: (Affidavit): Extracts from the Affidavit; (Book): Quotations from Mrs. Polanska Palmer's book, Yalta Victim; and, where appropriate, (Commentary) some additional comments. [Bold italics introduced for emphasis - HWM]. The text is linked to the relevant pages of the affidavit and book.

I (Affidavit)

Par. 3:

In or about February 1943 I was taken … and deported to German Occupied Poland as forced labour.

Par. 5:

When I arrived there was snow on the ground. I started in the Birkenau Camp and … was taken straight to the shower house (Zentralsauna)

I (Book)

p. 58

"Unknown to us some of the British prisoners-of-war would watch us from the nearby punishment block."

p. 60:

"However dreadful my experience of Auschwitz was, I fared better than those who were sent to the Birkenau compound — another part of the camp."

p. 74:

"I was pathetically happy just to pass through that evil gate. With two SS guards at the front and at the rear of the truck we sped away from the sign above the gate: ironically it read 'Arbeit macht frei' — Work makes people free."

I (Commentary)

The Zentralsauna was not built until December 1943. Two smaller bathing facilities were in use in Sections BIa and BIb, but neither one of these was referred to as the Central Bath House. More probably she was taken to the bathhouse [FN-2] in Auschwitz 1 housed in Block 26.

There was no 'punishment block' in Birkenau. The punishment block to which she refers is no doubt the infamous Block 11 in Auschwitz I. There is no record of British prisoners-of-war in the Birkenau section of the Auschwitz compound.

If it is true that Mrs. Polanska Palmer fared better than 'those who went to Birkenau' it is safe to assume that she was not in Birkenau, but in Auschwitz I. The 'evil gate' with the ironic sign is located in Auschwitz I, not in Birkenau.

II (Affidavit)

Par. 6

"I lived in one of the barracks in the Birkenau women's area. … I and many other women worked in a large shed separating clothes into different categories … These were the clothes taken from the prisoners when they entered the camp."

II (Book)

p. 60:

"Most of the girls I knew worked in 'Canada' or at scrubbing out the latrines or the filthy barracks. I spent my first few months doing the latter. Tonia, however worked in 'Canada' … I was only there once or twice …"

II (Commentary)

By inference, Mrs. Polanska Palmer was occupied in 'scrubbing out the ... barracks' in a place other than Birkenau, i.e. Auschwitz I. Having been to 'Canada' only 'once or twice' it is probable that Mrs. Polanska Palmer was eventually occupied in sorting clothes, etc., at the warehouse for property plundered from victims that was located in Auschwitz 1.

III (Affidavit)

Par. 10

"People in our block died from time to time. I remember seeing bodies laid outside the huts."

Par. 11

"I cannot recall now the exact cause of death. … There were frequent outbreaks of dysentery and pneumonia. Or it may have been the malnutrition. Or the beatings."

III (Commentary)

Mrs. Polanska Palmer fails to mention, either in her book or in her affidavit, typhus or spotted fever, which killed hundreds and even thousands of prisoners every day. A typhus epidemic racked Birkenau beginning in July 1942. Both prisoners and captors feared the disease. The incidence of this disease was considerably higher in Birkenau than in Auschwitz 1.

IV (Affidavit)

Par. 12

"Many of the Kapos were Jewish but that did not make them any the less cruel. …
I am not criticizing the ordinary Jewish prisoners, only the Kapos."

Par. 13

"…I am not an anti-Semite. I … had numerous Jewish friends in Odessa…"

IV (Book)

p. 56:

"Much has been written about the atrocities committed by the Nazis in their concentration camps. Books about Auschwitz would fill a library. The facts are there for those who wish to read them — and they should, for the millions who died (not only the Jewish people) must never be forgotten."


Some of her best friends are, no doubt, Jewish.

The key statements in her affidavit directly contradict what appears in her book. This strongly suggests that her sworn statements were fabricated.

V (Affidavit)

Par. 15

(a) "I never however saw anything which looked like a gas chamber. It is true that there were rumors about the gas chambers. The Kapos in particular used to use them as a threat saying things like: 'if you don't do as you are ordered, you will go to the bake-house!'"

Par. 16

"… I recollect a Jewish Kapo coming out with this remark …"

V (Book)

p. 59:

"…we would stand, sometimes for hours, waiting for someone to arrive to count the heads or 'select' those of us who were no longer fit for work. We all knew that selection meant certain death…"

p. 60:

The SS guards never failed to remind us that we were very privileged children to have been left alive — and not to have been swallowed by the suction of the gas ovens."

p. 61:

"Then, one day, he came over to his usual place behind the barbed wire and threw a little bundle across to my side: it contained his shirt and a pair of shoes. In his quiet voice he said, 'I won't need them any more. My parents are already in the gas chambers…'"

p. 108:

"All trace of them has been lost. The rest — those who failed the test — were sent into the gas chambers in Treblinka."

V (Commentary)

Mrs. Polanska Palmer was certainly aware of the fact that gas chambers were used for killing people. She might not have had the opportunity to see one … very few people did and lived to tell about it. Except for Gypsies, only Jews were routinely killed in the gas chambers.

VI (Affidavit)

Par. 17

"I did not see any evidence either of crematoria. I never saw any chimneys belching smoke, whether continuously or intermittently and I was in the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps for many months until (nearly Autumn of - HWM) 1944. "

VI (Book)

p. 61:

"Then, one day, he came over to his usual place behind the barbed wire and threw a little bundle across to my side: it contained his shirt and a pair of shoes. In his quiet voice he said, 'I won't need them any more. My parents are already in the gas chambers and tomorrow when you see the flames from the chimneys it will be my turn … and I will be thinking of you.' "

p. 62:

"That evening our barrack was full of weeping women whose thoughts were with their children. No one slept that night; we watched the flames belching from the chimneys."

p. 71:

"The terror and desperation of those days still flashes before my eyes and the obnoxious odour of burnt flesh in the stale atmosphere lingers in the air."

VI (Commentary)

In addition to Mrs. Polanska Palmer's misrepresentations regarding the crematoriums, it should be noted that:

a) Four large buildings with tall chimney stacks were built on the western side of the camp (Birkenau). The stacks of Crematoriums II and III, on the southeastern side of the camp were visible from the eastern entrance of the camp, a distance of some 750 meters. Photographs taken near the entrance to the camp at the time that Mrs. Polanska-Palmer claims to have been in Auschwitz clearly show these structures. [FN-3]

b) Crematoriums IV and V were contiguous to "Canada" where Mrs. Polanska-Palmer claims (falsely, it is believed) to have labored sorting clothes taken from the prisoners.

Whether she chooses to remember these structures or not in her affidavit is irrelevant. There is more than adequate proof that the crematories existed, not the least of which is what she wrote in her own book.

According to her book Mrs. Polanska Palmer saw chimneys belching smoke. Whether she did or not is equally irrelevant. The Germans built and used four large, expensive crematoriums in Auschwitz-Birkenau. There are engineering drawings, contemporary ground-level and aerial photographs, and their very ruins to prove their existence. Putting aside for a moment their use on the victims of the gas chambers, the crematory furnaces in Auschwitz, Birkenau, Majdanek, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Dachau, etc., were also used extensively for cremating the bodies of those unfortunate enough to perish in the camps for whatever reason. The mounds of human bone fragments and ashes stand as a mute testimony.

Finally, a few words about her apparent affiliation with Count Leo Tolstoy, who quite curiously, has written a book with a title (Victims of Yalta) similar to that of Mrs. Polanska Palmer's book, Yalta Victim.

Both "… raise allegations of crimes committed by British soldiers in Austria against Russian soldiers and civilians." Both mutually support each other's claims. [FN-6, 7, 8, 9, 10] By a remarkable coincidence, the Claimant has in the past supported Count Tolstoy's allegations and presumably learned about Mrs. Zoe Polanska Palmer from him. A large section of the Claimant's web site is dedicated to Count Tolstoy. [FN-11]

The Claimant writes a note regarding a dinner conversation that he held with Count Tolstoy [FN-12]:

"Tolstoy tells me some of the events at his famous libel trial, where he was represented by Richard Rampton QC (he sounds anything but impressed by him), and Lord Aldington by Charles Gray QC."

On October 19, 1997, the Claimant wrote a letter to The Sunday Telegraph supporting Count Tolstoy's position in a famous libel suit [FN-13]:

"The removal of these records from the public domain had the clear effect of perverting the course of justice in the libel action brought by Lord Aldington against Count Nikolai Tolstoy over allegations concerning the British Army's delivery of tens of thousands of Cossack prisoners and Yugoslav nationals to their enemies, with fatal consequences, in 1945."

Mr. Irving's selection of Mrs. Zoe Polanska Palmer as a witness for his case was a serious mistake. Any reputable and intelligent historian would have checked Mrs. Polanska Palmer's credentials and investigated any possible previous publications. Her obscure book, Yalta Victim, can found in the British Library where Mr. Irving has presumably conducted research in the past. The copy from which this study was derived forms part of a much more modest collection in the Mazal Library.

Several weeks before the Hearing a Response confronting Mrs. Polanska Palmer's sworn testimony was presented by the Defendant's lawyers to the Court of Appeals and to Mr. Irving. It contained the evidence displayed in this brief essay. Mr. Davies had no choice but to withdraw the affidavit lest he and his client be subjected to an embarrassing confrontation with the Lord Justices.

An in-depth analysis of the much larger, but equally mendacious, affidavit presented — and also withdrawn — on Mr. Irving's behalf by one Mr. Germar Rudolf (or Scheerer) is in preparation.

Harry W. Mazal

Note: A response to Mrs. Polanska Palmer's affidavit was presented to the Court of Appeal on 30 March, 2001.This was the deadline imposed by the Lord Justices. The response contained all of the offered proofs shown above. Comments referring to the actual hearing and judgement have been added as events unfolded.

[FN-1] Zoe Polanska Palmer, Yalta Victim, (Edinburgh 1986), ISBN 1-85158-001-8
[FN-2] Waclaw Dlugoborski and Franciszek Piper (Editors) Auschwitz: 1940-1945, Vol II, (Oswiecim 2000) ISBN 83-85047-56--5
[FN-3] Yitzhak Arad, The Pictorial History of the Holocaust, New York 1990 (Photos 262-263) ISBN 0-02-897011-X
[FN-4] http://www.uvsc.edu/commorgs/russia/tolstoy/tolstoy4.html
[FN-5] http://www.uvsc.edu/commorgs/russia/tolstoy/tolstoy6.html
[FN-6] http://www.uvsc.edu/commorgs/russia/tolstoy/tolstoy10.html
[FN-7] http://www.uvsc.edu/commorgs/russia/tolstoy/tolstoy12.html
[FN-8] http://www.uvsc.edu/commorgs/russia/tolstoy/tolstoy14.html
[FN-9] http://www.uvsc.edu/commorgs/russia/tolstoy/tolstoy17.html
[FN-10] http://www.uvsc.edu/commorgs/russia/tolstoy/tolstoy18.html
[FN-11] http://www.fpp.co.uk/History/General/Tolstoy/index.html
[FN-12] http://www.fpp.co.uk/docs/trial/RadDi180400.html
[FN-13] http://www.fpp.co.uk/History/General/Tolstoy/Independent170900.html


Last modified: July 27, 2002
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