The Auschwitz Gas Chambers and Holocaust Deniers
by G. B.
A student essay from Dr. Elliot Neaman's History 210 class (historical methods - fall 1996)© Elliot Neaman / PHDNReproduction interdite par quelque moyen que ce soit / no reproduction allowed
In the middle of the twentieth century the horrific display of violence and murder directed towards Jews was termed as the Holocaust. Nazi Germany looked upon the Jews as a contamination of their people which needed to be remedied. Fueled by Hitler's strong, anti-Semitic beliefs, the German people wanted the complete extermination of European Jewry to become a reality. In carrying this out, the Nazi Regime created a system of killing institutions known as concentration camps. Built as labor camps that housed Jews and political prisoners forcing them to work in support of the war effort. This was the beginning, but the Nazi anti-Semitic hatred grew and they implemented the next stage of extermination, Hitler's "Final Solution".
After realizing the other methods of mass murder ineffectual, the Nazis thought of an easier and cheaper way. This change in plans created gas chamber/oven combinations known as crematoriums. These combinations would eventually have the power to gas and incinerate some 8000 people in twenty-four hours(Gutman 166). After an experimental trial, the Nazis settled on the pesticide Zyklon B as the killing agent. A pesticide, used primarily for delousing clothing and mattresses, which is also extremely deadly when inhaled by humans. The gas was dropped into a room filled with prisoners, evaporate into gaseous form, and kill everyone inside. It was not the most perfect plan, but it was effective. In the newer crematoriums the furnaces would be placed close to the gas chambers in order to make the system as efficient as possible. The furnaces ran day and night trying to make a dent in a never ending pile of corpses. Camps that used this gassing system were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzac, Chelmo, Treblinka, Sorbidor, and Majdanek.
The largest were the connected Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. Being only three miles apart, these camps relied on each other. Located outside the town of Oswiecim in south-central Poland, the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex served as the Nazis' biggest extermination camp from 1942 until 1944 (Smolen et al. 1f.). Birkenau, known also as Auschwitz II, held the best gassing installations the Nazis could create. Four crematoriums, kremas II-V, were built in order to create an efficient system of mass murder using the latest in gassing and furnace technology.
People who deny the existence of gas chambers in Auschwitz and elsewhere in Nazi Germany are therefore denying the Holocaust itself. Respected historians, who have taken up this belief, give evidence which they think refutes the Holocaust and its' gas chambers. These historians are called revisionists because their historical perspective is a revised version, no longer conforming to history texts. This paper will show the perspective concerning the doubt raised on the existence of gas chambers. Deniers claim that the suspected gas chambers at Auschwitz were only delousing facilities and they support this claim with so-called evidence. Deniers, like Robert Faurisson, Arthur Butz, Fred Leuchter, and Mark Weber, do their best to convince the world that the Holocaust was a hoax. Some of the arguments are: the pesticide Zyklon B was only used as a delouser, the chambers themselves for inefficient for the gassing of humans, and survivor testimony regarding gassing is an unreliable form of evidence. Along with these, other arguments will be shown which help to describe how deniers manipulate historical facts.
After giving these ludicrous arguments "air time", rebuttals will then put them back where they belong, the garbage. The rebuttals will speak the truth, and in the process, define the Holocaust. Every argument the deniers try to establish as fact, true history will demolish with truth. When the dissection of each of the denier's arguments is complete, an overview of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp's history, technique and operation, will be shown. This will allow the reader to fully grasp the routine of the complex.
Concluding with an attempt to understand why "revisionists" take the time to deny these atrocities committed by the Nazis. The deniers hold some personal grudges that force them to take a stance which ruins their reputation and careers as valid historians.
The denier arguments contain excerpts of data taken out of context in order to prove a point. Avoiding whatever vast evidence is available because it won't help prove their point. The largest piece of denier evidence used to prove the nonexistence of gas chambers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps is the Leuchter Report. Fred Leuchter, an engineer, was asked by the defense for Ernst Zundel to become an expert witness regarding gas chambers. Leuchter traveled to Poland in order to study gas chamber ruins of the big three: the Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek camps. He took samples for forensic examination and considered the possibility if gas chambers could have worked where history claims they did. Leuchter was a designer and manufacturer of all types of execution equipment(electric chairs, lethal injection, etc.) and claimed expertise in the area(Leuchter 1f.). The evidence Leuchter brought back and the hypothesis he formulated are used by other deniers in their arguments. Leuchter's belief was no gas chambers intended for the purpose of mass murder were built on those sites, and the ones that were built could not of possessed the capability, due to their "design and fabrication"(Lipstadt 163). The samples he had tested were said not to "show traces of the active ingredient of Zyklon B"(Leuchter 4).
Heavy usage of Zyklon B leaves large drip-like stains on the walls of the rooms in which it was used. Deniers claim this staining was not found in any of the gas chambers, only the delousing rooms(Lipstadt 167). This evidence was available when Leuchter went to Poland and to anyone who looks at the chambers themselves. The deniers believe that Zyklon B was not used in the manner which history has told us for many years.
Both Leuchter and fellow denier, Robert Faurisson, claim the pesticide Zyklon B is a volatile chemical and if around extreme heat would react explosively. The blueprints of the crematoriums show that the ovens are extremely close to, if not on top of, the gas chambers. With the dangerous proximity of the two, Faurisson and Leuchter argue that the Germans would have been crazy to burn people in the ovens and use the pesticide at the same time(Lipstadt 168).
Another angle deniers try concerns the actual construction of the gas chambers. In order for a gaseous material to remain locked into a room, all openings must be tightly sealed. If a leak is left open, then the gas, in this case Zyklon B, would escape and endanger others. Also, with a leak the room would become ineffectual for the intended purpose. Deniers claim that the rooms that are said to have been the gas chambers were not sufficiently sealed to the point they could hold gaseous materials inside without letting any escape(Weber, Auschwitz 7).
There is also the conflict of venting systems. Using a gas such as Zyklon B, a need for the proper venting systems arises due to the serious nature of this chemical towards humans. The vents must be able to extract the gas from the chamber so as not to effect any of the German personnel in the corpse extraction process. Leuchter, the supposed expert, stated that he was witness to the lack of venting systems(Weber, Auschwitz 7). With history telling this was the way it happened, the Nazi soldiers couldn't have been so absent minded as to lose some of their own men.
A Dr. William B. Lindsey, research chemist for the DuPont Corp., was reported saying that after his on-site inspection of the big three, "the gassing story was technically impossible" and that "no one was willfully or purposefully killed there by Zyklon B in this manner"(Weber, Auschwitz 7). Deniers do there best to round-up these so called experts, and when their opinion is given in favor of denial, they post it up wherever they can punch a staple.
Robert Faurisson argues that the gas Zyklon B, with its powerful prussic acid, has the tendency to adhere itself to whatever exposed to, be it lives or mattresses. With this fact, he claims that in order for the bodies to be extracted from the chambers, some of the Nazi personnel would endanger themselves by getting the chemical on their hands and bodies. The amount of time required before contact with the object of the gassing be made is "twenty-four hours after natural aeration"(Faurisson 6). Faurisson seems overwhelmingly knowledgeable in this area and is convinced the corpses would have been saturated with the cyanide(Faurisson 6).
Another denier, Mark Weber, introduces the aerial photographs of the Auschwitz complex taken in 1944. These photos were released to the public in 1979 and capture the crematoriums(both gas chamber and oven) from the sky. In the pictures, Weber points out that there is no evidence of crematorium operation. "No piles of corpses, no groups of Jews waiting their turn, no smoking chimneys"(Weber, Auschwitz 6). Why aren't there? he asks. If in 1944, the supposed gas chamber and oven complexes were fully operational, gassing and burning some 8000 people every 24 hours, why didn't the aerial photos show some sort of evidence?(Gutman 166).
Besides concrete, physical evidence there are other ways to disprove the Holocaust. Arthur Butz, prominent denier, attacks survivor testimony and deems it extremely unreliable(except if it proves his point, of course). A piece of testimony that Butz focuses on is the affidavit of the former Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Hoss, taken on April 5, 1946(Butz 101). First of all, deniers claim that Hoss was coaxed into this testimony by torture and beating creating a worthless document(Weber, Auschwitz 2). Butz picks at Hoss' every word starting with Hoss' estimation of the number killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Hoss first gave a total of 3,000,000 dead during his reign, and in a later affidavit his numbers changed(Butz 103). In the April affidavit, Hoss also mentions other camps that used gas as a genocidal agent. One of the camps he mentioned was "Wolzek", a camp that deniers claim to be "pure invention"(Weber, Auschwitz 3). Hoss was also recorded saying he received orders to begin full-scale gassing in late 1941 from Himmler(Butz 101). But, both Weber and Butz agree that "gassings of Jews did not begin at Auschwitz, Treblinka, or Belzac until sometime in 1942"(Weber, Auschwitz 3).
A way the deniers try to explain for the number that died in Auschwitz-Birkenau is disease. Typhus, a very deadly and contagious disease, was rampant in the camps during their operation. This, deniers claim, explains the need for the large ovens to incinerate contaminated bodies. The sickness flourishes in areas with terrible health standards, like the camps.
Jews were an important part of Germany's wartime labor force, and it was in Germany's best interest to keep them alive"(Weber, Holocaust 4)
Evidence Against the Deniers
It is fairly easy to refute deniers claims concerning the Holocaust because the amount of evidence supporting the gas chambers vastly outweighs denier evidence. The Leuchter report is an unreliable piece of work, holding not one ounce of truth. It consists of manipulated evidence and poor scientific methodology. Leuchter said he was an engineer who specialized in the manufacture of execution equipment and consulted prisons on the subject. In the Zundel trial, Leuchter's level of education and job training was exposed. Instead of receiving a B.A. in engineering, he graduated with one in history instead. Committing fraud ever since in telling people he was an engineer(Lipstadt 164). Knowing this, the samples and scientific examination Leuchter conducted while in Poland are unreliable as well. Who knows where this guy picked up the bricks that were said to contain no traces of Zyklon B. After the inmate uprising destroyed the gas chamber at the main camp in 1944, it was rebuilt with both old brick and brick from other parts of the camp(Lipstadt 169). So it was possible that the crematorium contained bricks in which no traces of Zyklon B could be found. If Leuchter had bothered to understand this, then, the mistake would have been avoided. He was denounced by the Judge in the Zundel trial who declared his "expert" status revoked and his testimony on the existence of gas chambers invalid because Leuchter "hasn't any expertise"(Lipstadt 166). Basically, after his trip to Poland and testifying in the Zundel trial, all Fred Leuchter can do is become a full-time Holocaust denier.
The deniers claim the lack of blue staining on the gas chamber walls as evidence that genocide did not occur. Comparing the delousing chambers to the gas chambers and stating that delousing chambers contain blue bricks, while the other does not. When delousing clothing it takes many hours for the chemical to penetrate and kill the vermin, be it lice, rats, or beetles. These creatures are much harder to kill than humans by the gas. Lice, which were the main victims of delousing chambers, have a stronger tolerance to Zyklon B and it takes "a more concentrated exposure to cyanide gas over a longer period of time to kill lice than to kill humans"(Lipstadt 168). At the Auschwitz- Birkenau camps delousing took somewhere between 16 and 18 hours until everything was cleansed(Pressac 59). While lingering the room the for so long, Zyklon B would be more likely to soak into the walls. With 16 hours of exposure any chemical would soak into the encasing wall. In relation to the gas chambers, the Zyklon B was inside the room for only a brief period of time. The entire process, including the extraction of the bodies took no more than a four hours(Gutman 170f.). "About a half-hour after the induction of the gas, the ventilation was turned on, the door opened"(Gutman 170). With such a short exposure time, the gas was unable to soak into the walls, thus not creating a blue stain.
The belief that the gas Zyklon B could have reacted with heat and resulting in an explosion was far-fetched. As discussed above the amount of gas used in the gas chambers was very small, therefore reducing the chances of an accident. The ventilation system also extracted the gas quickly and sent it directly outside(Lipstadt 168). With the existence of the delousing chambers seen by both the deniers and true historians alike, a case is made against the exploding gas by their existence. The amount of gas used to delouse is much greater than used for mass murder and no reported explosive accidents near any delousing chambers occurred. The deniers seemed to have been reaching a little far on this on.
Leuchter was reported saying the facilities people consider the gas chambers lacked the proper sealing making them ineffective. He cites the doors and windows as evidence. The gas chambers that were, in actuality, sealed quite well. The Nazis either transformed a delousing chamber into a gas chamber, or created a new one from basically delousing facility blueprints, both ensuring a sealed room. Delousing chambers needed complete sealing just as much as gas chambers, most likely even more. With the amount of gas used in the delousing chamber, the danger that some would escape is even greater. And I know the Germans wouldn't want to endanger any of their precious Aryans. Jean-Claude Pressac documents the sealed rooms in his book, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers. In it are pictures of the outside doors that lead into a gassing room. These doors are obviously sealed and sealed well. There are double bar locks on the doors, along with thick glass peepholes. The peepholes were first glass and then after being broken by dying inmates they were covered with pieces of iron. Basically, the doors look as though nothing could escape from inside(Pressac 28f.) With delousing having as high a priority as the gas chambers, in terms of sealing, it would be against all available evidence to states neither was properly sealed.
Deniers believe that in order for gas extraction to occur, a strong ventilation system needs to exist. They claim that no such system was working in the Auschwitz gas chambers due to lack of evidence in the ruins(Leuchter 4). The amount of blueprints on the subject contradict this denial. These blueprints show exactly where the ventilation shafts ran and labeled them accordingly. The firm Topf & Sons built the crematoriums II through V and used a ventilation specialist. In II and III the gas chambers were underground and the blueprints show the ventilation system running parallel to the room itself(Pressac 26f.). In Pressac's book, he documents the two crematorium with the cross-section of the gas chambers, II and III. He shows precisely where the ventilation ducts were located, along with an examination of the ruins to see if some still remain buried under rubble(Pressac 355f.). The time the gas was required in the killing of humans was so small that a swift ventilation system was needed and that is what they had.
Mark Weber presents aerial photographs taken in 1944 as evidence that gassings were not going on at Auschwitz(Weber, Myth and Fact 6). He claims nothing is visible from the photograph, like smoking chimneys, or piles of corpses, that would prove in 1944 at the height of the gassings, something was going on. From any aerial photograph it is difficult to decipher ground activity. Also, the photographic technology in 1944 was not what it is today. In the pictures it is possible to make out buildings and other structures, but as far as people go, it would be virtually impossible. Weber uses this piece of evidence knowing that the possibility to disprove his point is extremely slight.
On the topic of survivor testimony, only a small number are ever considered reliable evidence. In any situation, survivors include bias into their testimony, thus making it unsuitable for historical purposes(Barzun 185f.). The Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Hoss, spoke of the gas chambers and their accomplishments with detail. If it didn't happen, why the specific detail? Here is an example of Hoss telling what happened inside a gas chamber after gas was released.
It could be observed through the peephole in the door that those standing nearest to the induction vents were killed at once. It can be said that about one-third died straightway. The remainder staggered about and began to scream and struggled for air. The screaming, however, soon changed to the death rattle and in a few minutes all lay still (Gutman 170).
Again, why this detail if none of it happened? Who, then, told Hoss what to say in the affidavit? in court? Butz picks at every mistake Hoss makes in the affidavit and then claims there is no validity in Hoss' testimony. In a courtroom environment, or wherever he gave the affidavit, an air of nervousness exists to which Hoss fell victim and made some mistakes.
The claim that numerous deaths were due to Typhus disease is partially true. Many did die from typhus, but it wasn't anywhere near the amount of total dead. With the extremely bad living and working conditions the inmates were subjected to, it's no wonder more didn't die from the disease than did.
The True Picture
The town of Oswiecim, located in south-central Poland, was to be the sight of the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz. The town first came under Nazi rule in 1939 and from that sprang the desire to build a camp on the outskirts of Oswiecim. Himmler gave the order on April 27, 1941 for construction to begin on the Auschwitz concentration camp(Smolen et al. 2). In order to isolate the camp from the town, Nazis began to deport the local inhabitants. They were shipped away without receiving anything for their lands or homes(Smolen et al. 3). The mayor of a nearby town ordered three-hundred Jews to begin the prepatory work on the camp. Materials were used from local, demolished houses that the Nazis destroyed in order to make room for themselves(Smolen et al. 3).
When the camp was finished in the beginning of 1942, it had 28 two-story buildings(not including the kitchen and administration buildings)(Smolen et al. 3). The camp then began to house Jews and others: prisoners of war, political prisoners, and plain criminals. In early 1941, IG-Farben looked into the possibility of building a factory in the vicinity of the Auschwitz camp. Their plans were to acquire the cheap, almost free, labor the camp's inmates could provide(Smolen et al. 3f.). The factory was encouraged by the Nazis, who needed the industry to produce for the war effort. Inmates first walked the 4km. to the factory from the main camp, but then took the train. Eventually, barracks were built near the factory to house the workers. This camp was known as Monowitz camp, or Auschwitz III. Other smaller satellite camps were established for this same purpose(Smolen et al. 3ff.).
A need for yet another camp to hold 100,000 political prisoners arose. The sight was to be Birkenau which was 3km. away from the main camp(Smolen et al. 5). The camp's capacity was later raised to 200,000 possible inmates. No one understood why such a large camp was needed for political prisoners. This act foreshadows the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union(Smolen et al. 4). The camp at Birkenau would be known later as Auschwitz II, and would begin to house prisoners in the first days of March 1942(Smolen et al. 5).
In 1941, the first experiment using the pesticide Zyklon B was conducted in the basement of Block 11 using 600 Soviet POW's and 250 sick, Polish inmates. The experiment was a success in the Nazis' minds. All of the test subjects were dead in two days(Gutman 157). This experiment would soon escalate into the creation of four additional crematoriums at the Birkenau camp. Since the Germans were building from scratch, they were able to implement the latest in gassing and furnace technology. There were no precedents in this area, so all the information had come from their own trials and errors. Crematoriums II and III were the biggest and had the largest killing capacity (Gutman 165f.). They were also constructed from almost identical plans.
The Zyklon B was distributed into the gas chambers through induction columns extending to the roof. These columns were spaced along the axis of the roof to insure even distribution of the gas (Gutman 167). Each of the crematoriums were equipped with undressing rooms that gave the appearance of upcoming showers, making it easier to cram the prisoners into the gas chamber without any hysterics (Gutman 168).
The technology used in the four crematoriums consisted of perfectly placed furnaces and gas chambers. An elevator ran from an anteroom to the furnace room carrying the corpses to their fiery end(Gutman 168). Some of the furnaces were in charge of "incinerating less-valuable articles, such as personal papers, women's purses, books and toys, that were found in the luggage of the murdered victims" (Gutman168).
When the prisoners first arrived at the camp by train they formed lines. Families tried to stay together while the Nazi soldiers ran about throwing out the occasional verbal assault, or a punch with their gun butt. A prominent-looking Nazi stood at the head of the line and directed people where to go. Forced in that direction because hi finger pointed them that way. This man was a SS Doctor stationed at Auschwitz. The men, mostly younger and fit, went one way, while women with their children and the old men went the other. The men would be sent to work in the factory, or to some other job, and the others were sent to cleanse themselves at the "showers". These "showers", they would soon find out, were actually gas chambers that would cut short their innocent lives(Smolen et al. 10f.). This was called the selection process. As soon as the people were unloaded from the train and were not fit to work they were sent to their deaths. The Nazis were not the kind of people to waste time on old men, women, and children.
At the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps some 1 mil. people died in the gas chambers (Gutman 176). This does not include the other types of death: disease, starvation, overworking, and beating. By for the biggest taker of lives were the extermination facilities, or crematoriums.
In the wide breath of history, the Holocaust ranks up with some of the worst atrocities our world has ever seen. Although the teaching of it never seemed worthy of extended attention until recently. Educators now realize the Holocaust deserves its place in history and future generations need to learn about it. We are now forced to open our eyes and relive war crimes committed by the Nazi Regime on the peoples of Europe. For this, we owe the Holocaust deniers.
These deniers have made the world prove the Holocaust existed. Considering it is a fact, the proof comes easily. The deniers claim the Nazis did not set up a system which facilitated the extermination of European Jewry. They do not deny, though, that many innocents perished at the hands of the Nazis, only that nothing was premeditated. Claiming instead people died in the concentration camps from disease, starvation and victimized by the war. These claims are false, but since we live in a free-speech oriented country deniers are allowed to say what they want and we don't have to listen. Giving these "revisionists" an open mic shows there are two sides to the Holocaust, which there are not. Murdering thousands of people with a pesticide show the horrific things humans are capable of . History records the past and can not be manipulated into discrediting fact.
The impact of the Holocaust had a detrimental effect on Europe and the world. Such atrocities should never have happened and we, as people, need to learn from them in order to prevent the same from happening in the future. Today the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex serves as a museum, allowing for this very thing. Archives on the premises contain valuable documents and relics from the camp's operational days. People interested in the subject need to visit the camp to grasp first hand what happened behind the barbed-wire and guard towers of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Butz, Arthur. The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. Newport Beach: Institute for Historical Review, 1994.
Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. The Modern Researcher. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.
Faurisson, Robert. The `Problems' of the Gas Chambers. Newport Beach: Institute for Historical Review, 1993.
Gutman, Yisrael, and Michael Berenbaum, eds. Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp. Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1994.
Institute for Historical Review. What is `Holocaust Denial'? Newport Beach: IHR, 1996.
Leuchter, Jr., Fred A. Inside the Auschwitz `Gas Chambers'. Newport Beach: Institute for Historical Review, 1996.
Lipstadt, Deborah. Denying the Holocaust: A Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. New York: Penguin Group, 1993.
Pressac, Jean-Claude. Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers. New York: Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1989.
Smolen, Kazimierz, et al. From the History of the KL-Auschwitz. New York: Howard Fertig, 1982.
Weber, Mark. Auschwitz: Myth and Facts. Newport Beach: Institute for Historical Review, 1994.
- - -. The Holocaust: Let's Hear Both Sides. Newport Beach: Institute for Historical Review, 1994.
[ Holocaust denial (french) | Gravediggers of Memory | Tout PHDN ]