Monday, April 10, 2006

How To Interpret Witness Testimony, Part I: Sporrenberg on Majdanek and Sobibor

Normally, deniers don't like to acknowledge the veracity of eyewitness testimony, even, or should that be especially, when it comes from the mouths of their secret heroes in the SS. A case in point: we posted the following excerpt from a British interrogation of Jakob Sporrenberg, the SS und Polizeiführer in Lublin from August 1943 on RODOH.

Within minutes, our good friends at The Cesspit had jumped up and down excitedly. Why? Because Sporrenberg described a visit to Majdanek shortly after he took charge in the Lublin district:

Sporrenberg asked the Commandant to show him the gas chambers, but the latter denied their existence. He showed PW [= Prisoner of War, i.e. Sporrenberg] the baggage room and delousing arrangements and it was these that the Commandant thought had probably been mistaken for gas chambers. It is known, however, and confirmed in Report No. WCIU/LDC/982 on PW AUMEIER, who had been penal camp leader at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, that the gas chambers at Auschwitz bore the word 'Delousing' on the doors. Sporrenberg made no further investigation although he was aware that gas chambers existed and that mass exterminations were carried out there.

Funny, huh? Even the Commandant of Majdanek denied there were gas chambers there, and offered the possible explanation that they had been confused with delousing facilities, way back in 1943. Here we have a senior SS general, asking the same question as Robert Faurisson, saying 'show me the gas chamber!' Yet his request was denied, because the Commandant of Majdanek said they did not exist. Case closed!

Alas for denier moonbats, no.

Firstly, to turn denier logic back on itself, how do we know that the Majdanek commandant, most probably Hermann Florstedt, said this at all? Might not poor Herr Sporrenberg be making things up, to distance himself from the responsibility, however indirect, for an extermination camp in his command region? He might. How can we check this?

Simple: we see what else Sporrenberg has to say. For the SS-Gruppenführer's command region also contained another extermination camp still operating in the late summer of 1943, Sobibor. Did he try and visit? Yes he did. What happened? This is how Sporrenberg explained it:

When PW arrived he did not know of this camp’s existence. Only on odd occasions some of Globocnik’s men would talk of the Camp ‘S’, but PW later heard through the KdS [Pütz] that it was an extermination camp. He also knew that the camp was situated in the Lublin district, about 120-150km from the town, i.e. the district in which Sporrenberg himself was SS u PF. He wanted to inspect the camp and did in fact go there some time in October 1943. Sporrenberg maintains that the camp came directly under the command of Globocnik and that the Sipo had nothing whatever to do with it.
On arrival at Sobibor, the Guard Commander would not let Sporrenberg enter and called the Camp Commandant, Hstuf Rechleitner, who also refused him access and informed him that he could only visit Sobibor in the company of the RFSS or Globocnik, preferably both. PW had a quarrel with Rechleitner and told him that as SS u PF Lublin he was responsible for all camps in the district. But the Commandant would not permit him to get past the gate.
Sporrenberg returned to Lublin and, although he had told Rechleitner that he would complain, he did nothing about it, especially as Rechleitner had told him that the camp would be dissolved in three to four weeks and that he himself would then follow Globocnik to Trieste.

The testimony is interesting in a number of regards, not least because it confirms the decoding of 'S' in the infamous Höfle Telegram of January 11, 1943.

But it also shows that Sporrenberg's experiences at Majdanek were not unique; no one wanted to tell him anything, or show him anything. To put it simply, Sporrenberg, the successor to Odilo Globocnik as SSPF Lublin, was not trusted by Globocnik's men. So little was he trusted that Rechleitner neglected to inform him that Sobibor was now under-guarded and vulnerable to a prisoner revolt. Which is precisely what then ensued:

About three weeks later PW received a report from Cholm that a rising had taken place in the camp while it was being dissolved. This report reached Sporrenberg about 24 hours after the rising had begun. He drove there at once and found that the police had taken over the guarding of the place. PW had not given such an order himself.
He found out that the last remaining Jews there, about 150, had beaten to death all the German staff present (there were about 15), and had then made off together with their Russian guards. Rechleitner himself was unfortunately not present as he had already left for Trieste. Before leaving the prisoners had also set the entire camp on fire.
By the time Sporrenberg had arrived the police had placed the bodies of the dead Germans in one room. He tried to have a look around the camp but nearly everything had been destroyed by the fire. He saw a heap of stone rubble which, he says, were the former gas chambers, but as he also says that he had never been there before, had never seen a plan of the camp and that nobody ever told him about it, it seems peculiar that he should be so certain about it. He explains that this was the only stone building and all others were made of wood, which gives rise to the assumption that it used to be the crematorium and not the gas chamber. Furthermore, he does not know where the corpses were disposed of. There were railway lines which had originally led to the heap of stone rubble.

Do we have confirmatory evidence of the SS reaction to the Sobibor breakout? We do. Bletchley Park's Police Section intercepted a radio message on 15 October 1943, in which Sporrenberg signalled to the neighbouring SSPF in Luzk (Generalkommissariat Wolhynien-Podolien) that '700' Jews had broken out of Sobibor and were fleeing in his direction.

And what of the pile of rubble that Sporrenberg believed was the ruins of a gas chamber? We know from his earlier testimony that he was not shown the gas chambers at Majdanek, and had never set eyes on one in his life. Yet he remained firmly convinced that the smashed bricks were indeed the remains of just such a facility, even though the British interrogator queried whether he could really have known what he was seeing.

So, what are we to make of it all? Is this a forced confession? Evidently not. Did the interrogators put words in his mouth? No. Yet here we have an SS commander, never before posted to a region where there were extermination camps, evidently very interested in seeing for himself what had been going on.

In Part II, we will see what Sporrenberg has to say about a certain mass shooting operation Holocaust Deniers don't like to admit happened.

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