by J. W.
A student essay from Dr. Elliot Neaman's History 210 class (historical methods - fall 2000)© Elliot Neaman / PHDNReproduction interdite par quelque moyen que ce soit / no reproduction allowed
The topic of Holocaust deniers is one that leaves a bitter taste on the mouths of people who have chosen history as their career. For those of us who do not pursue history as a living, but have a special place in our hearts for it, Holocaust denial is just as vile. For the general public, it is a cause that has yet to creep into the living room through television, but is lurking in a medium that is nearly as popular. Through the World Wide Web, more and more people are being exposed to materials that used to be hard to come by. The internet has given a new birth to those who devote their lives to thrashing memories of those that died as a result of the Final Solution and to those who lived to tell their stories.
Research for this paper led me to a figure that is often overlooked in the field of Holocaust denial. Carlo Mattogno is Italy's premiere Holocaust denier, although some sources bill him as "Italy's foremost revisionist scholar." Though he is not mentioned in Deborah Lipstadt's remarkable book Denying the Holocaust, he is no less a danger to the memories of the millions that were killed by the Final Solution. Born in 1951 in Orvieto, Italy, Carlo Mattagno has devoted his career to "the discipline of Historical revisionistic research and writing" (Website 1). In the limited collection that the University of San Francisco has of Holocaust denial literature, I came across a small book entitled My Banned Holocaust Interview. In it Carlo Mattogno rattles off typical Holocaust denial arguments. He claims that miscaptioned photographs included aside Holocaust newspaper articles are another example of "Holocaust revisionism refuters unequivocally clear ignorance" (Mattogno. My Banned Holocaust Interview. pp.45). He denies that he defends Hitler or Nazism while trying to clear the names of both. This poorly constructed book led me to believe that Carlo Mattogno was an easy target for my dissection of Holocaust denial arguments; however he is not. So many of his works come off with a much more scholarly air than did the first one I came across. A particularly dangerous aspect of Mattogno's attack on history is his heading as a "scholar." The only information this paper has uncovered as to his qualifications as a scholar is his alleged attendance to three military schools (Website 1). No source, even on Mattogno's own website, gives any information about the validity of his title as a "scholar." The one source that provides a little personal background about Carlo Mattogno is vague; "university work" in philosophy, Oriental studies, and religious studies are mentioned, but no university is cited. In fact, the only organizations that Mattogno is cited in association with (Annales d'Histoire Revisonniste, the Journal of Historical Review, and the Institute for Historical Review) are those explicitly associated with Holocaust denial. In turn, the only people that Mattogno is associated with (Russ Granata, Jurgen Graf, and Ernst Zundel) are holocaust deniers. Along with his scholarly front is the danger in his smugness. Many other people and organizations associated with Holocaust denial put a lot of effort into defending their theories. Mattogno's confidence in his theories is apparent in his approach to defense of them. He, just like Deborah Lipstadt, makes it very clear before and after his response to refuters that their views do not amount to the worth of the paper they are printed on (Website 2). His concealed defensiveness lends to the picture of a real scholar. Though he may say that he does not need to defend himself, nearly all his works are refutes or responses to revisionist critics. Moreover, Mattogno's tendency to discredit other Holocaust deniers openly gives him an appearance of credibility (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau). By not accepting every argument ever espoused by every single holocaust denier, Mattogno look as if he is taking a critical nonbiased view of the events of the Holocaust. Just as easily as he proves some Holocaust denier statements to be incorrect does he attack the statements of real historians like Deborah Lipstadt. The attempt by himself and his "colleagues" is to present the facade of a valid scholar and his arguments on what really happened during the Holocaust. Their success at presenting Mattogno as a man that "meticulously researches" to come to conclusions that mainstream historians have overlooked is not wholly unsuccessful. At first glance, Mattogno carries himself well as a real historian; if one does not know better or look deeper, he or she could easily be fooled. Fortunately, people like myself must look deeper. This paper will inform the reader of the arguments that Carlo Mattogno, "accomplished linguist, researcher, and specialist in textual analysis," passes off as the truth (Website 1). His studies on crematoriums, gas chambers, and his obsession with debunking the myth of Auschwitz will be examined, as well as his very telling response to Denying the Holocaust. The photographs and documentation in Auschwitz 1270 to the Present combined with the examination of countless efforts to present the actual truth of the Holocaust will provide more than adequate proof that Mattogno is just as dangerous a figure as the Holocaust deniers mentioned in Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust. The real scholars' efforts will provide a guideline to the truth about crematoriums, gas chambers, and the Holocaust, which will allow the real picture to form.
One of Mattogno's main obsessions is the plausibility of crematoria ovens in Auschwitz and Birkenau being able to burn as many bodies as have been claimed they did. In 1993, with Franco Deana, he published "The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau," a study that presents the results of his extensive, technical research efforts. Through his research he has come to the conclusion that the figures reached by "the only researcher to have approached the historical problem of the cremation of bodies in Auschwitz and Birkenau from a technical perspective," Jean-Claude Pressac, are wrong (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 2). Mattogno tells us that Pressac's figure of "500 cremations per twenty-four hours, from a technical perspective is completely unrealistic" (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 2). On the other end of the spectrum, he also finds Fred A. Leuchter's results of only 156 bodies a day to be not nearly high enough (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau). In this article Mattogno and his co-author Deana "intend to close the debilitating gap" between these two figures (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau). To begin with, the article gives a brief history of "modern-day cremation" (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 3.1,3.3). This history includes figures of how many hours and how much fuel it took for the cremation of one body in ovens of the 1870's, 1920's, and 1930's. These figurers are the foundation of his figures for how much an oven at Auschwitz or Birkenau would need in regards to time and fuel to burn one body. Through many improvements the process of cremating one body in five to six hours with over a ton of brown coal was refined to a process that could have taken only 65 to 75 minutes and only 350 to 570 pounds of coke fuel. However, these low amounts of fuel and short time are theoretical. Mattogno points out that "it is pointless to speak of an oven's fuel consumption without considering at least the oven's construction system, the manner of cremation (direct or indirect), and the frequency with which cremations are carried out." (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 3.4). He fills the sections three to five of this article with lots of jargon and seemingly scientific formulas that he uses in the remaining sections as proof of his theories. Through formulas and "practical experience," Mattogno proves that mass extermination was impossible due to lack of the plausibility of body disposal. This so called "practical experience" is gained through "two objective test - the results of the experiments with coke-fired cremation performed by engineer R. Kessler on January 5, 1927, and a list of the cremation in the crematorium of Gusen"(Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 6.1). Because R. Kessler's test could not cremate a body in less than forty minutes under even optimum conditions, Mattogno assumes that this was an impossible feat. His tests also calculate the minimum amount of coke (fuel) that is necessary to cremate one body; therefore, because "the coke deliveries from March to October 1943 prove indisputably that only the bodies of the inmates who had died of natural causes could be cremated in the crematoria" (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 7.6). Because the figures Mattogno comes up with do not support the theory of crematoriums being able to burn the extraordinary amount of bodies that a mass genocide would have caused, "NO MASS MURDERS TOOK PLACE IN AUSCHWITZ AND IN BIRKENAU" (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 7.6).
Another argument included in the bulk of Mattogno's studies is the existence (or lack thereof) of mass gassings at Auschwitz. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth, a " paper presented to the Ninth International Revisionist Conference," is the beginning of Mattogno's attack on the gassing myth. He examines the legend of the first gassing, because it is said to have "initiated the greatest murder operation of all times" (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). Mattogno complains that the account of the first gassing in Auschwitz is a story that is not documented and has no sources, instead it is taken at face value. In the paper he looks at the only four alleged witnesses accounts of the first gassing as well as Polish Investigation Committee and finds them contradictory. Mattogno shows that the supposed witnesses and the sources he studied can't agree on when and where the first gassings took place, for how long or even whom the first victims were. The sources vary on the exact date of the first gassing by months. The accounts of the whereabouts of the first gassing are different as well; some say it happened in coal cellars, other in an underground shelter. Nor can the witnesses agree on how long it took for the first victims to die. Because of the discrepancies, Mattogno says, " therefore, all the victims died immediately, or during the night, or two days later" (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). The witness cannot agree on whether the first victims were Russian, the incurably ill, or both. Just as the sources do not coincide exactly, neither were they exact replicas of each other regarding the clean up and disposal of the bodies. Mattogno also points out that "there exist neither eye-witness testimony nor documents on the actual gassing process" (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). The official account is from the faulty Polish Investigation Commission is only a description and is "technically absurd" (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). All of the contradictions that plague the first gassing story make any consequent stories false. "The myth of "the gas chambers" is based almost exclusively on false and contradictory "eyewitness testimonies" which are accepted as authentic, in dogmatic and uncritical fashion, by the official historiography" (Mattogno, Carlo. Auschwitz: A Case of Plagiarism. Website 5).
There are some things about Mattogno's theories that are clearly inconsistent. This "world-class expert" seems to have a double standard when it comes to research methods and reporting evidence. In his review of Denying the Holocaust, Mattogno complains that Deborah Lipstadt's book is "278 pages of insults and inconsequential prattle" (Mattogno, Carlo. Deborah Lipstadt: A review of Denying the Holocaust. Website 2). Not surprisingly, in his review Mattogno calls Lipstadt "vile," "incompetent," "ignorant," and "misleading" (Mattogno, Carlo. Deborah Lipstadt: A review of Denying the Holocaust. Website 2). Mattogno admits that his research contains "unavoidable inexactness" yet he does not give this luxury to his opponents; all their figures must agree or be discredited (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 1 Authors note). He wants all of the revisionists to agree regarding figures and dates exactly, however he does not agree with the entire revisionist school in their attack on conventional history. He discounts David Irving's findings and Leuchter in one article alone (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau). The fact that he openly disagrees with some of his allies shows that even the most "meticulously researched work" has discrepancies (Mattogno, Carlo. My Banned Holocaust Interview. Jacket). He also attacks authors like Pressac for changing their figures in subsequent publications. He says that these alterations must be "magic," but he too has changed his numbers. This is not magic, but it is the result of further research. Once again Mattogno presents the double standard.
The above are merely general problems with Mattogno's defense, there are more holes that pertain specifically to his stipulations about the crematoria ovens in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Mattogno says himself that "in practice the performance is affected by variable factors which cannot be predicted by theory and which affect the operation of the oven from case to case" (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau 3.4). Later he uses as proof "the results of the experiments with coke-fired cremation performed by engineer R. Kessler On January 5, 1927. If there are variations from oven to oven then it is not valid to use the results of experiments performed nearly twenty years earlier than the crematoria ovens in Auschwitz were used. Three sources he uses to prove that the capacities of the ovens at Auschwitz are even less than the ones in Kessler's experiment are not by themselves adequate proof. · Two letters form the SS New Construction Office of Auschwitz, of November 22, 1940-at which time the crematorium mentioned had only one Topf oven with two muffles-and of January8, 1941; both letters show that the oven was not adequate to the task of cremation 20 to 30 bodies per day.
· The inscriptions on the lids of two urns-both shown in Pressac's book-from which it is clear that the body of inmate Szczesni Wrobel, who passed away on October 19, 1940, was cremated four days later, and that Karl Witalski, who died on March 28, 1941, could not be cremated until five days later.· The constant maintenance that was required to achieve at least a small measure of efficiency. (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau 6.2)
These sources do not prove Mattogno's point, his interpretations do. The letter in question does state that "the incinerator with two muffles is too small," but it still "had the capacity to incinerate seventy corpses in twenty-four hours" (Dwork, Deborah and van Pelt, Robert Jan. Auschwitz 1270 to the Present. pp. 177). The fact that two inmates were not cremated until several days after their deaths seems to indicate there were more people murdered than Mattogno concedes. He tries to prove that because the capacity of the ovens was not great enough that mass gassings could not have taken place. This is reductive reasoning, one could just as easily reach the opposite conclusion: it is obvious that so many people were killed no oven could keep up with the rate. Because the Topf operation manual for the ovens says that "every evening the generator grate must be cleaned of coke cinders and the ash must be removed," Mattogno assumes that the oven was cleaned (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. 6.4). Even if the manual was followed there is no documentation to say how long this process took. He assumes that it took at least four hours and that knocks operating time of the ovens to twenty hours a day. These assumptions have no basis except that Mattogno guess that they are about right. The constant maintenance that Mattogno speaks of is his theory and his use of it is valid, if and only if he leaves it as a hypothesis. When he presents it as proof it is unfair. Going back to his "practical evidence," Mattogno states an instance where premium conditions existed and still no faster cremation than 40 minutes occurred. He says, "there was a large number of bodies that needed to be disposed of as well as the presence of an undisputed expert on the cremation oven. Under these conditions two or more bodies would no doubt have been cremated at the same time if doing so had allowed for greater cremation capacity" (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau 6.3). Even though there is no evidence that more cremations took place at this time he uses the total number of bodies cremated in two days for calculations that prove there was no advantage to such a process. He is using speculation and presenting it as proof. He does not have the records that could prove the cremations at this time were done any differently than any other period of time. Mattogno's needs to put his own method under the microscope.
Specific problems that Mattogno has with the story of the first gassing lead to specific problems I have with Mattogno's integrity. His astonishment that "there exist neither eye-witness testimony nor documents on the actual gassing process," is aggravating (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). The first gassing occurred before the peepholes were installed. If a gassing is successful, it's pretty hard to find someone afterwards to tell the details. There are no doubt discrepancies between the different accounts, but that should not discredit all eyewitnesses. Some reasons for the differences in the times of the year have to do with the fact that the four witnesses were from different perspectives. A prisoner in a concentration camp may not have a good concept of time like an officer would. Two of the three prisoners that Mattogno uses in The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth as invalid sources state that the first gassing took place in September, and the third prisoner says it was in the fall. There is nothing very inconsistent here. The fourth witness Mattogno sites is the only indirect witness. Rudolf Höß worked as a Nazi, so his description is bound to be different. The quotes that Mattogno uses from Rudolf Höß are not very clear; Höß's definition of "first" gassing is not even very clear. He speaks of many experiments with gas. All the accounts that mention the location being Block 11 even if the terminology differs. Some say cell others chambers, calling this a inconsistency is semantics. In speaking of the differences about who were the first to be gassed he not only exaggerates but also misquotes one of his example witnesses. Mattogno states that one witness, Vacek, recalled approximately 500 Russian prisoners of war and 196 sick inmates, totaling 696 victims and another witness, Rozanski, 1,473 Russian prisoners of war and 190 sick inmates. The difference in the sick inmates is six people, but Rozanski actually did state that he counted "more than 190 camp uniforms. These had belonged to the patients of the Camp Hospital" (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). As for the large difference in the number of Russian soldiers, that too is misquoted. Vacek did not say were 500 Russian prisoners, he states ,"Russian prisoners of war were brought to the camp. There were more than 500" (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). Mattogno's claims that the testimonies on how long it took the first victims to die vary from " immediately, or during the night, or two days later," but he does not pull these estimates form the four witnesses he has dealt with throughout the rest of the paper. He does not deal with these witnesses because they agree. His method in pulling apart the accounts is shoddy and his conclusion that the inconsistencies in the first gassing makes all gassing stories false is specious reasoning. By this account, all the "unavoidable inexactness" in his own work, would make all his subsequent work false (Mattogno, Carlo and Deana, Franco. The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Section 1).
The crematoriums of Auschwitz and Birkenau did not become the efficient way of the disposal of mass murders over night. There was an evolution involved, which Mattogno glosses over. Mattogno uses the lower capacity and inefficiencies that occurred in the early years to represent how Auschwitz always ran. In 1940 Auschwitz, with its one double muffle, coke-heated oven was still capable of incinerating seventy bodies in twenty-four hours (Dwork, Deborah and van Pelt, Robert Jan. Auschwitz 1270 to the Present. pp. 177). The camp officials ordered an extra oven to meet the demand. The past use of the crematorium has shown that even at a rather good time of year the incinerator with two muffles is too small. Both Kommandantur and the Political Department have approached the SS-New Construction Office with an urgent request for a two-muffle expansion of the facility. The SS-New Construction Office then contacted the Topf & Sons firm in Erfurt, which built the first incinerator. We discussed the expansion of the installation with Chief Engineer Prufer of Topf at the crematorium, and it seems that the enlargement will not able too difficult (Dwork, Deborah and van Pelt, Robert Jan. Auschwitz 1270 to the Present. pp. 177).
The expansion of the crematoriums continued to increase. A year later, yet another oven was added. These additions led the crematoria ovens to be able to cremate eighteen bodies an hour. In the summer of 1943, with the declaration by Himmler, "The Gypsies are to be exterminated. With the same relentlessness you will exterminate those Jews who are unable to work," even this was not enough(Dwork, Deborah and van Pelt, Robert Jan. Auschwitz 1270 to the Present. pp. 320). Himmler was eager to expand the camp, and plans for a second crematorium were drawn. Crematoriums two, three, four, and five were built in Birkenau, with the input of Topf & Sons (Buszko, Jozef The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Encyclopedia, Vol. I, 113). "Topf suggested equipping the two crematoria with a new-model double four-muffle incinerator;" more and more corpses needed to be disposed of each day (Dwork, Deborah and van Pelt, Robert Jan. Auschwitz 1270 to the Present. pp. 321). Unlike the original crematoriums that needed to be altered to take on the additional corpses, crematoria four and five were designed from the beginning to handle such large amounts. " A letter from the Zentralbauleitung to Group C of June 28, 1943 indicates that the capacity for a 24-hour period was estimated at 340 bodies for crematorium I; 1,440 each for crematoria II and III; and 768 each for crematoria IV and V. Thus the five crematoria could incinerate 4,765 bodies each day (Auschwitz Alphabet: Krematoria. Website 6). Even if they did not start out that way, the crematoria of Auschwitz became efficient in the disposal of extreme amounts of human remains.
Real Holocaust historians agree that the first gassing in Auschwitz did occur in September of 1941. The method of killing that had been employed up until this point was shooting. Hauptsturmführer Fritsch came up with a cleaner method. On September 3 Fritsch decided to experiment. First he crammed five or six hundred Russians and another 250 sick prisoners from the camp hospital into an underground detention cell. Then the windows were covered with earth. SS men wearing gas masks opened the Zyklon-B canisters to remove what looked like blue chalk pellets about the size of peas, creating a cloud of poison gas. After they left, the doors were sealed. (Höß, Commandant at Auschwitz, 173. Website 7). Danuta Czech Calendar of Events in the Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Zenon Rozanski in his book, and Wojciech Barcz in his radio broadcast corroborate Höß's account (Mattogno, Carlo. The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth. Website 4). The first experiment with gassing was not immediately effective; the next day more gas had to be thrown in to finish off the few who had survived (Höss, Commandant, 175. From the History of KL Auschwitz, New York, 1982, I, 190 Website 7). Prisoners and officials alike corroborate these events.
Carlo Mattogno, with his scholarly façade, is dangerous. He attempts to dupe people into believing his theories about crematoria ovens with formulas and jargon, which have no proof. He fails to site anyone on his technical work. He uses his elaborate construction of research as factual evidence. His goal is to turn Auschwitz into a work camp that simply needed a more efficient way to dispose of people killed by disease. Auschwitz was a death camp, constantly searching for bigger and better ways to dispose of the masses that were exterminated there. Mattogno's loose reasoning about the origin of gassings being too faulty to believe is the bedrock of his argument that gassings never occurred. His double standard of reasoning is more like shale than bedrock. If people are supposed to discount gassings because witnesses cannot agree exactly what happened the first time, then why should they believe anything Mattogno says? He and his colleagues "find" new evidence all the time, old members of their clan recant, so what is true? If all of us did research and evaluated truth by Mattogno's methods nothing would have value. That is the ideal he wishes to detain; he is trying to blow up the events of the Holocaust until nothing contains meaning any longer. Fortunately, many people have gone to extraordinary efforts to make sure the Holocaust never losses significance. The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC continues to bring the truth to millions, and as flawed as it may be, movies like Schindler's List keep people that are fifty years removed from this travesty in touch. In an age that is more and more cynical it is important to do projects such as this one, to expose the unethical efforts of people like Carlo Mattogno. If we do not keep these people on the fringe we are in danger of repeating history. I hope that this brief paper helps the fight to keep Carlo Mattogno away from any reputable establishments and the people that might come into contact with his body of work to realize what a sham it is.
Auschwitz Alphabet: Krematoria.
Carlo Mattogno Biography.
Deana, Franco and Mattogno, Carlo. "The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau" Codoh 1993.
Dwork, Deborah and van Pelt, Robert Jan. Auschwitz 1270 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996
Höß, Commandant at Auschwitz, 175. From the History of KL Auschwitz, New York, 1982, I, 190
Höß, Commandant at Auschwitz, 173.
Mattogno, Carlo. "Auschwitz: A Case of Plagiarism."
Mattogno, Carlo. "Deborah Lipstadt: A review of Denying the Holocaust" Codoh 1998.
Mattogno, Carlo. "The First Gassing at Auschwitz: Genesis of a Myth"
Mattogno, Carlo. My Banned Holocaust Interview: Debate, Italian Style? Palos Verdes, California: Granata, 1996
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