Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Eichmann Testimonies (Part 1)

Author: Jonathan Harrison
Christopher R. Browning published an excellent study of Eichmann's testimonies here. This has recently been subjected to denier attacks by Grubach here and Hargis here. In this series of blogs, I examine Browning's arguments and expose the dishonest nature of the attacks. I begin with the sources of the Eichmann testimonies.

Read more!

Firstly, Hargis can be dismissed straight away because he is clearly ignorant of the Sassen tapes and transcripts. He claims that:
The alleged Sassen recordings have never been released for scrutiny. Why not? Why should we believe edited and alleged excerpts that were printed in Life magazine but the alleged tapes never released. What are they hiding?
This is baloney. The Sassen tapes are held in the Bundesarchiv Koblenz and have been heard in full by at least one historian, Imtrud Wojak. The transcripts were owned by individuals with pro-Nazi and/or pro-Eichmann leanings: Sassen himself, Eichmann's widow and Aschenauer; the latter published a biased, edited version here. Once again, Hargis and sources (even secondary ones) are total strangers.

Grubach has a different problem. He wants to play the torture card:
Eichmann was in Israeli captivity and facing death by hanging, which in itself is a form of very stressful coercion. It is possible that Eichmann was, after his capture, coerced to give testimony that is congruent with this Holocaust ideology, or he gave false testimony that he thought would help him escape a death sentence. Of course, there is even the possibility that he was tortured, or mind-altering drugs were used to gain the testimony the Israelis wanted to hear.

Did Browning take this into consideration, and hesitate, when he used the Eichmann memoirs as evidence for his theories in The Origins of the Final Solution? Maybe not. The book was published by the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust in Israel. No further comment necessary.
This is, of course, the product of a paranoid epistemology; and it ignores the fact that all the episodes that Browning discusses were first revealed by Eichmann in the Sassen interviews, when he was a free man. Moreover, Grubach cannot explain why, given that Eichmann was attempting to escape the hangman's noose, he did not simply tell Sassen that the Jews had all been relocated in the USSR. Eichmann would have been ideally placed to have known where the Jews went, and had fifteen years of freedom to construct a defence to that effect, yet he was unable to come up with a better strategy than the defence of obedience to superior orders.

Grubach is therefore forced to attempt to discredit the Sassen tapes by creating false 'discrepancies' between the Sassen transcripts and the post-capture testimonies. For example, he makes this claim about the testimony concerning Chelmno:
While in Israeli captivity, Eichmann repeated the “gassing-on-buses” story during his pretrial interrogation, but once again he apparently altered his story. The alleged gassing did not take place at Lodz (Litzmannstadt) as stated in Life magazine, but rather at Chelmno concentration camp.
We know this is wishful thinking without even consulting Browning's original text, because, earlier in the essay, Grubach has written that:
But here is the real eye-opener! Eichmann insisted in his precapture testimonials that he witnessed homicidal mass gassings of thousands of Jews in “gas busses” near Lodz (Litzmannstadt) in the winter of 1941-42 (p.17). We quote the Eichmann “observations” from Life magazine of November 28, 1960: “Later in that same winter [1941] [General] Müller sent me to watch Jews being gassed in the Litzmannstadt [Lodz] area of central Poland
So, Grubach twists "near Lodz" and "in the Litzmannstadt [Lodz] area of central Poland" to mean the city of Lodz itself, when infact a simple deduction and a little geographical check would have told him that Chelmno and Lodz were both in the Warthegau and that Eichmann, having driven from Lodz to Chelmno, would clearly associate the two locations. One would need to be willfully obtuse not to see that, in Eichmann's memory, the death camp "near Lodz" was Chelmno.

Hargis and Grubach cannot therefore even be honest about sources. In the next blog, I show how Grubach misrepresents Browning's methodology regarding the value of the testimonies as evidence.

Part 2

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