Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thomas Klueless on Gerstein

The new "revisionist" star Thomas Kues strikes me as a "Samuel Crowell"-lite: a somewhat "savvy" guy who can write coherently, but who at the same time is a pompous long-winded ignoramus, who mostly fills his writings with his irrelevant observations on witnesses' testimonies (tearing witnesses apart - oh, what a hard work!), and who does not really dig deep. But at least "Crowell" (nom de plume of Alan Buel Kennady) seems to have done a bit of original documentary research (which, in the end, was demolished by Carlo Mattogno anyway). Kues is more of a commentator. When Kues was posting as Laurentz Dahl at the Cesspit, he demonstrated that he was quite inept at handling the historical evidence.

Let's take a look at his handling of the Gerstein story.

First, necessary preliminaries. Here's my take on Gerstein's report(s) (check the original article for more details):
Deniers have long been picking on Kurt Gerstein's testimony, and some of their criticisms are correct. Dr. Christopher Browning summarizes the correct attitude to this testimony thus:
Many aspects of Gerstein's testimony are unquestionably problematic. Several statements he attributes to Globocnik are clearly exagerrated or false, and it is not clear whether Gerstein or Globocnik was the faulty source. In other statements, such as the height of the piles of shoes and clothing at Belzec and Treblinka, Gerstein himself is clearly the source of exaggeration. Gerstein also added grossly exaggerated claims about matters to which he was not an eyewitness, such as that a total of 25 million Jews and others were gassed. But in the essential issue, namely that he was in Belzec and witnessed the gassing of a transport of Jews from Lwow, his testimony is fully corroborated by Pfannenstiel. It is also corroborated by other categories of witnesses from Belzec.
Indeed, one cannot ignore certain blatant impossibilities in Gerstein's testimony, like the piles of shoes of enormous height. It is my opinion that many historians who have used Gerstein's testimony have done so uncritically. On the other hand, one cannot ignore the fact that the core his testimony finds strong corroboration. Professor Pfannenstiel testified in court several times that while Gerstein's testimony is incorrect on many counts, they did visit Belzec together and witnessed a gassing. Pfannenstiel also testified about this in private to a denier patriarch Paul Rassinier, so there could be no coercion involved.

Many others testified after the war that during the war Gerstein told them about gassings. They include: Dr. Gerhard Peters of Zyklon-B producing company Degesch; pastor Rehling; Dr. Hermann Ehlers; Baron von Otter; bishop Otto Dibelius; and other people whom the judgement in a 1955 case against Dr. Peters lists as "Armin P. und Sch.", "Prälat Bu., Kirchenrat We. und Dr. Me." (names abbreviated according to German legal requirements concerning privacy). (Also see this article and this judgement.)

Gerstein even managed to pass the information about the gassing to his contact in the Dutch resistance, J. H. Ubbink. Ubbink relayed information to Cornelis van der Hooft, who wrote it down in 1943. Here's the document published by L. de Jong in Een sterfgeval te Auswitz, 1967, scanned and translated by Dr. Pieter Kuiper [...]
As you see, certain details differ from Gerstein's later confession. E.g. a tractor is mentioned instead of just a gassing engine. Unless the information was inadvertently distorted by Ubbink and van der Hooft (which is certainly possible), this is just another example of Gerstein mangling details, but the core of his testimony is the same.

In conclusion, Gerstein's report indeed contains quite a lot of inaccurate claims. In my opinion, it cannot stand on its own. But the gist of it is corroborated and corrected by other sources, so we can be certain that Gerstein did visit Belzec and did witness a homicidal gassing, even if he didn't describe it absolutely realistically.
I.e., the 1945 reports themselves don't matter as much as the whole background behind them. To reiterate: we know that Gerstein told his story to others both from witness testimonies (including one given by a hostile witness to a "revisionist") AND from contemporary documentary evidence.

So what is Kues' opinion on Gerstein? He picks on discrepancies, as all deniers do, but there is a novel element in his article - he actually discusses at length the Dutch report made from Gerstein's words in 1943.

Kues' aim is to "demonstrate why Roques was justified in dismissing this document as a possible forgery". As a side note: even if Kues were correct, that still wouldn't excuse Roques' pathetic dismissal of this document in a footnote. He never even analyzed it in his so-called "thesis"!

Anyway, Kues points out that:

1. the document was not penned by Gerstein himself, does not carry a signature or Gerstein's name;

2. the 1943 document contradicts the 1945 reports on several points and also contains several inaccuracies;

Kues' conclusion:
Carlo Mattogno concludes about the Dutch report:

This is in all probability the translation of a text originating from Gerstein.

However, as demonstrated above, there exists compelling reasons to believe the Dutch Gerstein apocrypha to be, as Roques puts it, “an antedated forgery” written by individuals at a time when the first orthodox Holocaust narrative had begun to crystallize, or at the very least a conscious distortion of an oral report made by Gerstein.

Of course, Kues has given no evidence (or "compelling reasons") at all for the forgery thesis.

Point 1 is not evidence, since we have external evidence of the report's authenticity at least from the words of Gerstein's Dutch contact, which should have been addressed by Kues (there is also crucial documentary evidence, see below).

Point 2 is not evidence in this particular case not only because of the time lag, but also because the mental state of Gerstein in 1943 apparently significantly differed from his mental state in 1945. Gerstein of 1945 was a man who was writing about 35-40 meter high piles of clothes in the camps, which is... how do I put it... an immediate visual absurdity. He was the man who committed suicide not long after writing the reports. Thus, the contradictions do not hint at a forgery, since there is a better explanation for the discrepancies, namely, the passage of time plus a certain mental instability.

Then we have a simple fact of witnesses confirming that Gerstein had been telling them his story during the war; and deniers' inability to explain why anybody would forge such a document in the first place, what purpose it was supposed to serve and why, if it was forged, it contains such contradictions in the first place (only some of which tend to "reduce" the improbabilities of the latter reports).

Interestingly, Kues must surely know that he is missing something, for he writes in a footnote:
On the alleged history of the document, cf. L. de Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, Deel 7, mei ’43 – juni ’44, eerste helft, Staatsuitgeverijns-Gravenhage 1976.
Well, why didn't he address this allegedly "alleged" history of the document before dismissing it using contrived arguments? Because that's what deniers do.

Now let's see what a real historian who has done his homework has to say about this document.

Florent Brayard, "An Early Report by Kurt Gerstein", Bulletin du Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem, 2000, no.6:
The document reproduced at the end of this article is directly related to the efforts to provide information to neutral and allied countries. It is easy to reconstruct the way in which this information passed from Germany to Holland. Gerstein had been the friend of a Dutch industrialist , Ubbink, since the beginning of the thirties. In 1941, while Gerstein, a young volunteer conscript in the Waffen-SS was training at Arnhem, he re-contacted Ubbink, at Doesburg, and the two friends maintained their relationship until almost the end of the war. In February 1943, Ubbink visited Gerstein in Berlin:

With great indignation he told me how the gassings took place using the exhaust gas from diesel engines. He gave me all the details and told me that at that time there were 9000 deaths per day in the three camps. At the beginning I didn’t want to believe him at all, but his show of emotion and state of psychic collapse more than the fact that he swore, gave me the conviction that a secret had been revealed to me that only a very few people knew. […] He asked me if I could get in touch with people who had radio contact with London. I told him I could. He asked me, no-- more than that, he begged me to transmit this story to England, so it would be known all over the world, and that the German people could be warned.5

[Note 5: Letter from J.H. Ubbink to Erika Arajs, Department of Justice in Nuremberg, dated September 14, 1949 (this is a copy, Landeskirchliches Archiv Bielefeld, Bestand Gerstein, n.365). As of 1946, Ubbink confirmed to Gerstein's widow that the information had been passed on through him to the Dutch resistance (letter to Elfriede Gerstein dated August 3, 1946, ibidem, n.334).]

Ubbink indeed passed on the information given to him. “I kept my word” wrote Ubbink – who added “but they did not at that time believe such a horrifying story.”6 The disbelief he encountered, or felt he had encountered, as we will see later- profoundly affected him. In 1947, he had already revealed his sentiment to the widow of Kurt Gerstein,7 and he would not say differently, fifteen years later, to the historian Lou de Jong.8

[Note 6: Ibidem, idem.
Note 7: He wrote to her: “The reality of what he told me about the ‘concentration camps’ was never believed at the time, in 1943 by the Dutch resistance movement.” (Letter from J.H. Ubbink to Elfriede Gerstein dated January 31, 1947, ibidem, n.463a).
Note 8: Louis de Jong, “The Netherlands and Auschwitz”, Yad Vashem Studies on the European Jewish Catastrophe and Resistance, n.VII, 1968, p. 45.]

Like Ubbink, obviously, Gerstein remained convinced that he had delivered his testimony without having been believed. In one of the versions of his report, in April 1945, he discusses this reaction of disbelief:
In the year 1943, the Dutch resistance asked Ubbink to tell me that I was requested not to provide invented atrocities but to be satisfied to report the truth alone.9

[Note 9: Version of the Gerstein report in French, dated May 6, 1945, deposited in the National Archives in Washington.]

Several weeks later, writing to Ubbink doubtless from his cell in the Cherche-Midi prison, he exclaims: “Ask your friends if now, at least, they believe what happened in Belzec, etc.”10

[Note 10: Letter from Gerstein to J.H. Ubbink. This letter was found in the personal effects of Gerstein after his death and sent to his wife in 1949. After a copy (which I use here) was made, (Landeskirchliches Archiv Bielefeld, Bestand Gerstein, 5.2. Teil `1,5,7, Fase 2) it was then sent to Ubbink who then lost it (letter from Ubbink to Pastor Weiselberg, dated July 22, 1967, ibidem, 5, 2, Teil 1 N 2 Fasc 1.).]


Because of his actions in the rescue of persecuted Jews, Ubbink was in touch with Cornelius Van der Hooft, who in turn was associated with the clandestine Calvinist newspaper Trouw. Ubbink sent Van der Hooft Gerstein’s testimony in February or March 1943. Van der Hooft manifested extreme caution or disbelief, and Ubbink “had a great deal of difficulty convincing the leader of the resistance of the veracity of [his] report,” as he explained to Jong in 1963.12

[Note 12: Louis de Jong, “The Netherlands and Auschwitz” op.cit. De Jong bases himself on a letter from Ubbink in November 1963. In addition the information on Van der Hooft and Trouw are mentioned in the same article.]


Several days later, on March 25, 1943, Van der Hooft met with members of his underground network, Jo Satter and his father, in the outskirts of Doesburg. In their presence, Van der Hooft wrote a four-page long report in Dutch, entitled “Tötunsanstalten in Polen” – the one reproduced here which will be analyzed in part two of this article. The report was hidden in the chicken coop of the Satter farm. A year later, Van der Hooft was arrested14, as well as Satter and his father.15 Only Satter would survive. The farm was destroyed but not the chicken coop. Satter recovered the document there after the war, but kept it to himself. Why disseminate a document providing information that everyone knew about, at a time when, unfortunately, nothing could be done?

Satter only realized the importance of the document in his possession in 1996 when he was watching a television program presented by Lou de Jong on the occupation.16

[Note 14: Louis de Jong, “The Netherlands and Auschwitz” op.cit..

Note 15: Letter from Henk Biersteker to the author dated November 4, 1996.

Note 16: Ben Van Kaam, “De waarheid bleef liggen onder een dakpan”, Trouw, July 22, 1995.]


Finally in 1992, a young historian, Jim Van der Hoeven, discovered a third link22, vastly larger than the previous ones, which made it possible retrospectively to analyze the actions of the two previous links differently than Lou de Jong had done.

[Note 22: Jim Van der Hoeven, “De Nederlandse regering in bllingschap wist al heel vroeg van de ‘Endlösung’” Vrÿ Vederland, May 2, 1992.]

On April 24, 1943, one month after the meeting between Van der Hooft and the Satters, another version of the report inspired by Gerstein was written. Typed on paper without an official heading, and with the simplified title of “Tötungsanstalten” this document has the sole reference number “Rappt. Nr. 61”.23, probably an in-house reference number of the Ministry of War of the Dutch government in exile intelligence service.24 The document probably arrived on April 24, 1943 or a few days before in London, perhaps by radio. None of the archives consulted by Van der Hoeven indicate the exact source of this report, but its great similarity to the almost identical report dated March 25, 1943, suggest that Van der Hooft had indeed succeeded in transmitting Ubbink’s information to London. The discovery of this document confirmed Satter’s recollections concerning the belief by Van der Hooft, himself and his father, in the report transmitted by Ubbink, but this discovery came too late: Satter had died in 1988 and Ubbink two years later.

[Note 23: I am grateful to Henk Biersteker to have sent me a copy of the original upon which this description is based.

Note 24: This same secret service, according to Van der Hoeven, stamped the document.]

The circulation of the report inspired by Gerstein within the Dutch government in exile is no less fascinating that its previous peregrinations, because the same figures are found in both, and the same reactions. I base myself on Van der Hoeven’s article to reconstruct what happened to the document in London.

The Tötungsanstalten report arrived in late April and was quoted and fairly extensively paraphrased on May 8 in the diary of the Minister of War Van Lidth de Jeude. The fact that he quotes the main pieces of information suggests that Van Lidth was persuaded it was true. This passage from the Minister’s diary had been made public in 1979 by Lou de Jong25 who drew two conclusions. First of all he deduced that Van Lidth had been fully informed as of that date of the ongoing genocide, and secondly that the minister had done nothing to circulate this information. The latter deduction, based more on reasoning than on real archival work, was contradicted by a letter from Van Haersma, the advisor to the president of the council of ministers and the minister of wartime affairs (AOK), to the minister of Foreign Affairs dated August 16, 1943. In this letter, Van Haersma talked about “a report dated March 24, 1943 [sic]26 from a German SS officer, also dealing with the murder of Jews in Poland which had been transmitted [to him] by the intermediary [of] the War office which classified it as coming from a credible source.”

[Note 25: De Jong, L. Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, volume 9, Le Haye, Martinus Nijhoff, 1979, p. 561.

Note 26: It is likely that this is merely a mistake in the date: this letter was the only one that refers to a document dated March 24.]

From the Ministry of War, the Tötungsanstalten report was thus sent to the AOK at an unspecified date, between May and August 1943. The date it was sent is important, because it is indicative, on the one hand, of the rapidity with which the Ministry of War circulated the information and secondly, the duration of Van Haersma’s lack of belief in a document containing such atrocious information. In the letter cited above, after having indicated the source of the document, he expressed the feelings it elicited in him. “My original doubts on the truth of the events described in the above mentioned report were substantially diminished by the letter from a Dutch civil servant27 in which he talks about ‘gassing’ Jews in Poland. It seems to me that we should give credence to the horror of the information from the member of the SS.” The mention of a ‘letter from a Dutch civil servant’ enables us to put an accurate date on Van Haersma’s change of opinion concerning the report inspired by Gerstein, since this document was sent to him by his correspondent in fact on July 21. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs thus transmitted to the AOK the documents concerning the extermination of the Jews, and AOK accompanied its response with a copy of the Tötungsanstalten report, asking for it to be circulated.

[Note 27: This is an undated document written in German indicating that “most of these Jews [deported from Holland] are systematically assassinated, initially by shooting, but now by gassing in the so-called ‘disinfecting installations.’”]

On July 30, several days after having received indirect confirmation of the truth of the Tötungsanstalten report, Van Haersma wrote to Pelt to inform him of the contents of the report and to ask his advice. On August 3, Pelt responded and suggested transmitting the report to the IIC. On August 16, Van Haersma replied, sending Pelt a copy of the report and saying that he had followed his advice to transmit the report to the allied organism based in New York for purposes of publication. It is difficult to determine whether Van Haersma had already made contact on his own initiative or whether he was asking Pelt to do so. In any case, Van Haersma was waiting for Pelt to tell him what had been done. He contacted him on September 6, then on September 23, asking him to reply to his letter of August 16. Pelt only replied on September 27 to tell Van Haersma that the IIC was being restructured and that he would wait for this to finish before contacting him again. Our narrative ends here28, in uncertainty as to what happened to the report inspired by Gerstein within the Interallied Information Committee.

[Note 28: Nevertheless it should be noted that there was an exchange of letters between Sommer from the war ministry and a certain Drooglever Fortuyn on the subject of this report on August 10 and 16, 1943 which appears to confirm that this minister took other initiatives to disseminate the report.]
Given this rich chain of evidence it is obvious that the report is authentic. So how come Kues did not care to address this evidence?

Deniers mostly dismiss this report for one simple reason - the fact that an SS-man would inform the Resistance in 1943 about gassings in specific camps, and the fact that his information was later generally confirmed, presents a problem for them. Not an insurmountable one - surely they will think of some harebrained conspiracy theory based exactly on nothing to explain away this inconvenient fact. But in the process they will look like fools.

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