Monday, August 14, 2006

Kramer vs. Kremer

In 2003 David Hebden sent a letter to David Irving, in which he tried to cast doubt on the incriminating meaning of the word "Sonderaktion" in Dr. Kremer's diary. I will quote it in full, in case anything happens to Irving's site.

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Dr Kremer and the word "Sonderaktion"

The diary of Dr. Johann Paul Kremer, and in particular, those entries which record the two months he spent stationed at Auschwitz (Aug 30 - Nov 1, 1942), are considered strong evidence that mass gassings occurred at the Auschwitz camp.

At first sight, several entries do indeed appear incriminating.

It contains several seemingly incriminating references to Sonderaktion, Dante's inferno, anus mundi and the like. Revisionists have responded that the term Sonderaktion could refer to selections or disinfection measures.

Thirteen of the fourteen "special actions" that Kremer attended involved incoming transports. But one, that of September 5 1942, concerned women prisoners only:

"In the morning attended a special action from the women's concentration camp (Muslims); the most dreadful of horrors. Master-Sergeant Thilo (troop doctor) was right when he said to me that this is the anus mundi. In the evening towards 8:00 attended another special action from Holland. Because of the special rations they get a fifth of a liter of schnapps, 5 cigarettes, 100 g salami and bread, the men all clamor to take part in such actions. Today and tomorrow (Sunday) work."

The importance of this is this: The deaths of these women, as registered prisoners, should show up in the so-called Death Books.

Although the diary entry does not mention how many women were included, the editors of KL Auschwitz As Seen Through the Eyes Of The SS give, in a footnote, the number as "about 800." I emailed the Auschwitz State Museum to ask where this number came from. The museum replied that it derived from Danuta Czech's Auschwitz Kalendarium which in turn relied on a statement made by Dr. Kremer during his trial in Cracow in 1947.

Having established this, I then emailed the museum again to ask how many deaths were recorded in the relevant Death Book for September 5. Their reply was interesting:

"Searching after date of death as it was noted on Sterbebücher forms is hopeless, since after every major Action prisoner-clerks employed in the camp Standesamt were obliged to distribute death cases among next several days; in other words, dates of deaths from those documents are not fully credible. In September, as much as 1,654 deaths of female prisoners were listed in the Sterbebücher, 24 only on September 5th."

I asked them to put this hypothesis to the test by providing a breakdown of deaths for the whole month of September and received the following in reply:

"Complying with your request I have checked again daily rates of deaths in the "Sterbebuch" register for September 1942; this was about 20-70 death cases a day, grouped roughly in regular manner.
September 1 86
September 2 43
September 3 40
September 4 48
September 5 24
September 6 19
September 7 38
September 8 63
September 9 12
September 10 68
September 11 19
September 12 12
September 13 73
September 14 78
September 15 23
September 27 127"

Unless I'm missing something obvious, the Death Books therefore do not support a homicidal interpretation of the term Sonderaktion as used by Dr. Kremer.

David Hebden
Irving was so impressed with this argument that he even used it in a draft of his Himmler biography.

If all the premises of the argument are true, what follows?

a) Either "Sonderaktion" in Kremer's diary did not have an incriminating meaning.

b) Or not all deaths of registered prisoners were recorded in the Death Books.

Let's examine the premises.

1)
Although the diary entry does not mention how many women were included, the editors of KL Auschwitz As Seen Through the Eyes Of The SS give, in a footnote, the number as "about 800." I emailed the Auschwitz State Museum to ask where this number came from. The museum replied that it derived from Danuta Czech's Auschwitz Kalendarium which in turn relied on a statement made by Dr. Kremer during his trial in Cracow in 1947.
This is most likely a case of confusion either on part of the Museum Staff, or on Mr. Hebden's part.

When I wrote to the Museum to inquire about Czech's source ("APMO, Hoess Trial, vol. 16, p. 55", in Auschwitz Chronicle, p. 233) Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the Auschwitz archives, replied with the following quote:
In September 1942 ging dann einmal der jüdische Krankenblock /Block 27/, es waren über 800 Menschen.
It comes from Josef Kramer ("Aussagen zu dem in Lüneburg stattfindenden Bergen-Belsen-Prozess gegen den Lagerführer Josef Kramer"). According to Dr. Setkiewicz, this is all that Kramer told about this selection. So, Kramer testified about 800 people who were selected in Jewish infirmary in September of 1942. (He didn't even explicitly state that those were women, though possibly such an identification may be found in context.)

While no other selections in the women's camp in September 1942 are known at present (possibly because of scarcity of sources), there is no direct corroboration that Kramer's selection is Kremer's Sonderaktion of September 5. Danuta Czech should have made her assumptions clear when she wrote that during the selection on 05.09.1942 800 women were gassed.

So, apparently, somebody confused Kremer with Kramer above. Kremer himself explicitly stated in 1947 that he didn't know how many women there were (Auschwitz Chronicle, p. 233 - "How big the group was, I can't say").

Thus the first premise of the argument is unproven: there is no confirmation that during the 05.09.1942 Sonderaktion no less than 800 women were gassed.

2) Premise: absence of an increase in deaths on September 5 in the Death Books means that inmates were not murdered en masse that day.

As explained by the Museum official:
Searching after date of death as it was noted on Sterbebücher forms is hopeless, since after every major Action prisoner-clerks employed in the camp Standesamt were obliged to distribute death cases among next several days; in other words, dates of deaths from those documents are not fully credible.
Although no evidence has been cited by the official, there is some supporting evidence in the Auschwitz Chronicle (p. 310):
AUGUST 3

The SS Camp Doctor carries out a selection in the prisoners' infirmary. He selects 193 prisoners recuperating from typhus. They are taken to Birkenau and killed in the gas chambers. **

[...]

** In the Prisoners' Infirmary register of Block 28, "moved to Birkenau" is entered next to the names of the 193 sick prisoners. In the Occupancy Register, on the other hand, the names of these prisoners are entered in the list of the deceased, the entries divided among three successive days. 30 of them are entered on August 10, 100 on August 11, and 63 on August 12.
On p. 178 we see the following explanation:
To wipe out the traces of the crimes, the names of the prisoners killed in mass executions are crossed out in the Occupancy Register on a few successive days.
If they falsified the Occupancy Register in such a way, why they couldn't have distributed the deaths over several days in the Death Books also?

Thus, the second premise is unproven.

Conclusion:
... the Death Books therefore do not support a homicidal interpretation of the term Sonderaktion as used by Dr. Kremer
Such a formulation is misleading. The Death Books may not support a homicidal interpretation, but they don't contradict it, given that both premises of the argument are unproven.

And note that even after proving the untenability of the above argument there still remains a hypothesis which we have yet to tackle, and which, if true, alone refutes Mr. Hebden's logical construction: that not all deaths of registered inmates were recorded in the Death Books. We will return to this issue.

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