On the one hand, deniers argue that the trials were structurally coercive, as in a witch trial, giving defendants no room in which to question the 'accepted narrative'. Rudolf makes such a claim here:
While the situation of witnesses from the SS and similar backgrounds is critical, that of the accused can only be described as hopeless. They are the target of the unbridled hatred and malice of the witnesses for the prosecution as well as of the media. It borders on the miraculous that in light of the conditions pointed out here, by far the majority of the accused do in fact dispute any participation in the alleged crimes. On the other hand, they do not as a rule dispute the crimes per se; in view of the "self-evidence" of these matters, any such attempt would only serve to diminish their credibility in the eyes of the Court anyway. The accused frequently express dismay and disgust at the crimes alleged. Jäger comments that these exclamations might be prompted by tactical considerations, and by a change of heart brought about by later influences from outside, and can thus hardly be regarded as evidence for an awareness of guilt at the time in question - and we would like to add here that for the same reasons they can also not be taken as evidence for the crime itself, particularly since the often ambiguous statements of the alleged perpetrators, as recorded in contemporaneous diaries, letters, speeches etc., almost never suggest any awareness of guilt.This argument can be refuted by comparison with the Sinyavsky-Daniel trial that took place in a period - between autumn 1965 and February 1966 - when the Aktion Reinhardt trials were in process in West Germany. The Soviet Union was clearly a more coercive society than West Germany, yet the defendants in those trials wrote letters of protest and gained recognition as victims of injustice.
Frequently, however, the accused do not speak out against the allegations made against them, or cannot remember. They merely attempt to dispute any participation in the crime, and to shift the blame onto third parties - mostly unknown, dead or missing comrades. Statements made by the accused in their own defense are interpreted by the Court and the prosecution as lies intended to serve as cover, which is often the case since many defendants will try any and all possible and impossible tricks in order to distance themselves from the place and time of the alleged crime, which of course they do not always succeed in doing. But these tactics, often doomed to failure, are easy to understand, since the accused are given next to no chance to disprove the crime itself. Thrust into the helpless defensive in this way, the accused fall silent at many of the charges brought against them.
More importantly for the present discussion, Rudolf's claim is refuted by the fact that deniers clearly do not believe it to be true, as they simultaneously rely on claims that recalcitrant defendants were murdered (Staeglich/Kues) and that other witnesses were bribed with lighter sentences. This contradiction leads to cognitive dissonance and direct lying on the subject of sentencing. For example, Graf writes:
Kooperative Angeklagte durften auf milde Strafen hoffen, mochten die ihnen zur Last gelegten Verbrechen noch so scheusslich sein. Beim Belzec - Prozess von 1965 wurde der einzige Angeklagte Josef Oberhauser wegen Beteiligung an 300.000 Morden verurteilt, kam aber mit einer lachhaft niedrigen Strafe von vier Jahren und sechs Monaten Zuchthaus davon, die er kaum ganz absitzen musste. Grund für diese Milde: Oberhauser hatte bei der Verhandlung jede Aussage verweigert. Dies hiess, daß er die Anklage nicht bestritt, und somit konnte die westdeutsche Justiz wieder einmal triumphierend feststellen, die Täter hätten die Massenmorde ja gar nicht geleugnet (Rückerl, S. 83/84). Beim Frankfurter Auschwitz - Prozess erhielt der Angeklagte Robert Mulka, dem besonders bestialische Schandtaten "nachgewiesen" worden waren, eine Strafe von 14 Jahren, die als zu mild kritisiert wurde. Bereits nach vier Monaten wurde Mulka aus "Gesundheitsgründen" auf freien Fuss gesetzt - er hatte das Spiel der Anklage mitgespielt und die Existenz der Gaskammern zugeben. Wer dies nicht tat, konnte nicht mit Milde rechnen. Kurt Franz, Angeklagter im Treblinka - Prozess, hat bis zu seiner im August 1993 erfolgten Begnadigung 35 Jahre hinter Gittern verbracht, denn er hat das offizielle Treblinka - Bild stets hartnäckig bestritten. Sein Mitangeklagter Suchomel, dem zufolge die Juden "nackt und geordnet in die Gaskammer marschierten", sass nur vier Jahre ab.Graf is wrong in several respects. Firstly, Oberhauser's sentence was gauged against the fact that he had already served several years in Magdeburg prison, as is made clear in the trial judgment:
Auch bei ihrer Bemessung ist das Gericht von den bereits dargelegten Strafzumessungsgründen ausgegangen. Daneben wurde aber - auch bei der Bemessung der Einzelstrafen - in erheblichem Masse der Umstand berücksichtigt, dass der Angeklagte bereits im Jahre 1948 durch das Landgericht Magdeburg wegen seiner Beteiligung an den Euthanasieverbrechen und seiner Zugehörigkeit zur SS zu fünfzehn Jahren Zuchthaus verurteilt worden ist und einen erheblichen Teil dieser Strafe in ostzonalen Strafanstalten unter ungleich schwereren Bedingungen als in der Bundesrepublik verbüsst hat. Eine unbillige Benachteiligung des Angeklagten dadurch, dass eine Aburteilung wegen seiner sämtlichen während des nationalsozialistischen Regimes begangenen Taten in einem Verfahren nicht erfolgen konnte, war im vorliegenden Verfahren nur durch eine entsprechende Strafmilderung auszugleichen. Hätte sich Oberhauser damals oder heute wegen aller seiner Verfehlungen zu verantworten gehabt, so wäre mit Rücksicht auf seinen damaligen niedrigen Dienstgrad allenfalls die höchstmögliche zeitige Zuchthausstrafe (§14 Abs.2 StGB) ausgesprochen worden, ein Strafmass, zu dem er wegen eines Teils seiner Taten schon in Magdeburg verurteilt wurde.Secondly, Mulka was released in the third year of his sentence, in 1968, not after four months, and he was released on ill-health grounds, as shown by the fact that he died a year later. Graf seems to have lifted this error directly from a letter sent by Butz to the New Statesman in 1979, reproduced here, without checking its accuracy and without crediting Butz with the original claim.
Thirdly, Graf's claim that Franz "persistently denied" the "official picture" of Treblinka is plainly false. Arad (p.92) cites this statement by Franz:
It was late summer or the beginning of autumn 1942, when I came from Belzec to Treblinka. I went by foot from the railway station of Malkinia to Treblinka; when I arrived it was already dark. Every¬where in the camp there were corpses. I remember that these corpses were already bloated. The corpses were dragged through the camp by working Jews.... [Treblinka-Franz, Band 8, p. 1493]Fourthly, Graf's statement that Suchomel's statement was too light is directly contradicted here by Bradley Smith, who states that:
Franz Suchomel was the SS-man "in charge of collecting and processing gold and valuables of Jewish prisoners. Sentenced to seven years in prison . . ." This sentence was at least proportional to that received by Gustav Munzberger. It is right and just to penalize less harshly a man like Suchomel, who is only responsible for collecting Jewish valuables, than the man Munzberger who put his hand to personally exterminating a million Jewish souls.Smith then has this antisemitic rant:
Hermann Lambert seems not to have been an SS-man; but he was given four years anyway for helping ". . . in the construction of the gas chambers." This one bothers me. Hermann the German gets four years for helping build the gas chambers where a million Jews were exterminated, while Yankiel the Jew, who pitched in with everything he had-"I myself took them to the execution site. I built their death chambers for them"-becomes a hero in the eyes of Holocaust cultists the world over, and his autobiographical narrative becomes recommended reading in the books of other famous Jewish authors.Smith ignores the fact that Lambert received a further three-year sentence at the Sobibor trial in Hagen.
Finally, and most importantly, denier claims concerning sentencing can be empirically falsified. As I show in this table, when the statements made by SS defendants at Aktion Reinhard trials are collated and compared to their sentences, there is no correlation at all between nature of admission and length of sentence received. A defendant serving a life sentence, such as Franz or Bauer, has often made statements concerning gassing, shooting and body disposal. Moreover, as David Irving himself revealed here, Franz corresponded with Michael Tregenza from prison during the 1980's about the gas chambers, and continued to acknowledge their existence (albeit he never operated the engine so may have misidentified it as diesel). He also gave a statement to Jerome Brentar, discussed here, in which he acknowledged that Ivan of Treblinka existed (thereby posing a problem for deniers) but denied that Ivan Demjanjuk was the same person. Franz was thus neither a coerced witness nor a Zionist stooge, as he confirmed the gassing narrative but did not collaborate in the conviction of Demjanjuk.