Gerdes will of course never make a clear-cut statement about what it is that he would accept as proof. For if he should undertake to state what evidence would convince him, he would face an unsolvable dilemma. Either he makes unreachably high demands, like asking for evidence that cannot be expected to exist in view of what is known about the mass killing and body disposal procedure at Nazi extermination camps – evidence such as an autopsy report or a document containing the names of persons expressly stated in that document to have been killed by gassing on a certain date. Or he professes to accept what by reasonable standards of evidence, such as applied by a constitutional state's courts of justice, would be considered proof that a certain person was among the victims of homicidal gassing in a Nazi extermination camp. In the former case he would make it plain that he is not interested in an answer, but only in making a propagandistic fuss. In the latter case, evidence that he would have to accept would soon be rubbed under his nose.
Let's take the example of the two little children shown on the photograph below, which was copied from the book Escaping Hell in Treblinka. Israel Cymlich. Oskar Strawczynski, edited by Yad Vashem and The Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project, New York and Jerusalem 2007.
Guta (the girl) and Abus (the boy) were the children of Oskar Strawczyinski, a Jewish tinsmith from Lodz, and his wife Hannah (her husband called her Anka). This photo, also copied from the aforementioned book, shows their parents when they were married in 1932:
Guta was born in 1933, Abus in 1938. They were thus about 9 and 4 years old on 5 October 1942, when together with their parents, their grandparents they arrived at Treblinka extermination camp in a transport from the Polish city of Czestochowa. The arriving deportees were separated, men on one side, women and children on the other. Oskar Strawczynski was selected as a worker on account of his tinsmith skills, while his parents, wife and children were taken to "Camp 2", from where they never returned. What had become of them Strawczynski didn't take long to realize, the details of how people were killed in gas chambers in "Camp 2" and their bodies disposed of being later revealed to him by fellow inmates.
The source of the above information about the fate of Oskar Strawczynski's family is Oskar Strawczynski's memoir, the translation of which from Yiddish is partially transcribed after the aforementioned book, together with an introduction and biographical note from the same book, in my RODOH post # 11612. This is how Oskar Strawczynski, in his memoir written in a forest hideout during the spring and summer of 1944, described the last he saw of his loved ones:
It was the day after Sukkoth, October 5, 1942. The morning was bright and sunny. Although utterly exhausted after 24 hours in the tightly packed cattle cars, we shivered with terror when the train stopped and we heard frightful shouts: "Out! Out! …" Whips fly over our heads … In the eyes of my wife I recognize that finally even she has begun to believe the horrible rumors about the gas factory beyond Malkinia. I can see that now she regrets not having agreed to my plan to hide with the children in our neighbor’s hideout. She could not bring herself to believe all the malicious talk. She had wanted to believe that as long as we were together, no evil could reach her or our dear children.
We run out as fast as we can to avoid the whips lashing overhead and find ourselves on a long, narrow platform, crowded to capacity. All familiar faces – neighbors and acquaintances. The dust so tremendous, it obscures the sunlight. A smell of charred flesh stifles the breath. I catch a glimpse of the mountains of clothing, shoes, bedding and all kinds of wares that can be seen over the fence. But there is no time to think … The dense mass of people is pushed toward and jammed through a gate.
At this moment I have just one thought, not to lose my dearest ones in all this chaos. I succeed in keeping together with my wife, my two beautiful children, my mother and father. Little do I know that these are our last moments together, that behind the gate we would be torn apart and we would never see one another again.
Beyond the gate, we find ourselves in quite a large square with barracks on two sides. Opposite the fence and the gateway through which we had passed is a fence with a small entrance in the corner. This is the gate to the "Avenue of Death", which leads to the "baths" in Camp 2. Down this avenue, completely naked, they took their last walk: my dear wife and children, father, mother, brothers and sisters, together with millions of Jewish men and women. They never came out of the "bath". Their sacred bodies were heaped on stretchers and thrown into the infernal fires.
Later, when I was working on the rooftops of Treblinka, I had many opportunities to watch the last walk of our naked, unfortunate people: Mothers holding their little ones in the arms, older children at their sides, young girls with their hair already shorn, covering their breasts with their hands; or several together, arms linked, all running as quickly as possible through the row of Germans and Ukrainians, who laugh at them and mock them. Quite often, one or another of the victims was struck on the head with a whip or rifle butt and collapsed in a stream of blood. Those were horrible scenes from hell.
I return to the moment when we entered the so-called Transport Square. As we take our first steps, we hear shouts that freeze our blood. I stop thinking or feeling. We know only one thing. These are our last moments together. The shouts become louder and more penetrating: "Men to one side, women to the other."
We are completely confused by the lightning speed and terrible noise. I do not, I cannot, say a single word, not even a final farewell to my loved ones. I just hear the sigh of my beloved wife and her last words: "That’s it." No one can know how much despair and anguish those words contained. To me, they are the abyss of sorrow. I still hear those words ringing in my ears and I will surely not forget them to the last moments of my life.
Writing these words, I once again relive the sorrow of our parting. I cannot express the feelings raging within me. Fresh tears well up and the warm forest ground soaks up the hot stream from my eyes.
But there, on that sorrowful transport square, there is no time for tears or feelings. I scarcely have time to hand my wife the carefully hidden blanket for the children. A brutal hand grips my shoulder and I am hurled to the other side of the square. I manage to stay with my gentle father. The place is packed with people. On one side are women and small children; on the opposite side, men, forced to kneel. In the middle there are SS men, Ukrainians with weapons in their hands, as well as a group of about 40 men with red armbands. These are Jews, the detachment of "Reds." In Treblinka slang, they are called the "Hevra Kadisha" [Burial Society]
Kapo Jurek, the leader of the "Reds", had been a Warsaw rickshaw driver so corrupt and debauched, no deed was too foul for him. This brute would not hesitate to take aside a girl, already naked, on her march to the "bath". Promising to save her, he would do the worst, and then push her back into the line. He dressed elegantly, as that sort of person could easily afford to be in Treblinka. He works his whip on Jewish heads frequently and with gusto. As foul and corrupt as he was, his language was even worse. The vernacular of the Warsaw underworld was nothing new in Treblinka. There were great artists in that field, but no one could surpass Jurek. In short, he was quite a notable member of Treblinka’s aristocracy. Most of the "Reds" were recruited from the Warsaw underworld and did not fall short of their Kapo.
Most prominent among all in the square is a German officer, a stout man with a trimmed beard, mounted on a beautiful brown horse. He moves haughtily on his horse in the middle of the square. At a certain point, he turns towards the kneeling men and shouts: "Craftsmen, out!" A number of men step forward. Most of them, however, are sent back. Only a few are taken aside, where an SS man makes a further selection, and divides the remaining men into groups of three. I am kneeling beside my father. My mind is completely blank. No feeling, not a thought. I do not even say a single word to my father.
Among the men with the red armbands, I notice a familiar face. At first I cannot recall who he is, but then I recognize him. It is Aaron Berliner, a worker from the Czestochowa Jewish Community. He too has noticed me. He motions me to come over to him. I stand up, take my father's hand and try to take my bundle as well. He orders me to leave my bundle, and orders my father to kneel as before. Aaron leads me to the mounted German. The German looks me over and asks: "What’s your trade?" "Tinsmith," I say. He motions me toward the selected group, to which Aaron leads me. Now I am completely alone, also parted from my father, without a kiss, without a single farewell …
The group grows to about 60 men, no women. A man of about 30 approaches us. He is tall and broad with strong muscular legs and black hair, a young giant. This is Kapo Rakowski. He shouts a command and leads us away in military formation. As we march through the remaining mass of people, I scan the women’s side. Perhaps I can catch a last glimpse of my loved ones; perhaps I will see my two little angels again. I do not find them; probably they are in the barracks.
We are led to an enormous square, piled with mountains of bundles. In the distance is a tall embankment on which a watchman saunters back and forth, his rifle at the ready. From behind the embankment, thick smoke bursts forth as if from a volcano.
The crowd passes through and there is silence for a few minutes. Suddenly a smothered mass scream is heard from the distance. "Ah-ah-ah…" The scream does not last long; it becomes weaker and weaker until it dies away. I know instinctively that this is the last cry of the unfortunate, condemned victims, among them my own, my loved ones. Again I break into hysterical tears.
After every transport I heard this same last cry, which makes by blood run cold.
Like other survivors separated from their families upon arrival in an extermination camp, Oskar Strawczynski didn't see his wife, children and parents die in the gas chambers. But there could be no doubt for him that they were dead, because he never saw them again after they were taken to "Camp 2", because he saw the smoke of the fires burning in "Camp 2" and smelled the stench of burning flesh, and because fellow inmates who had worked in "Camp 2" later described to him what he briefly mentioned in the above-quoted passage and later in more detail, i.e. how the people taken to "Camp 2" were killed and their bodies disposed of:
While we in Camp I were busy building and beautifying, the work of exhuming and burning the bodies of the first victims of the Warsaw ghetto continued intensively in Camp 2. There were a few tremendously huge mass graves, each one filled with tens of thousands of murdered people. The layers of corpses were covered with chlorine. At the beginning, the chlorine used to arrive in wagonloads. The bodies were now being dug out and burnt in order to erase the evidence. It was not an easy job. For many months, three bulldozers growled away from 4 o'clock in the morning until nightfall. The work went on with great intensity, in two shifts. The bulldozers would constantly dig up earth mixed with body parts. The body parts had to be carefully picked out and taken on wooden carriers to be burnt in the great ovens. When one of the mass graves was emptied, the earth was replaced and carefully smoothed over, to give the appearance that nothing had ever been there. The Germans would celebrate by bringing whiskey and drinking a toast – "Until the last Jew" – and would finish up with a three-gun salute.
The graves could never be emptied entirely, because blood mixed with water accumulated at the bottom. Motorized pumps were set up to draw it out. However, they could never manage to drain the bottom few meters, and so the graves were simply covered over.
Over in Camp 2, there was also the bath … It was a large, concrete building standing on a cement platform. On its roof, visible from a distance, was a wooden Star of David. Running through the middle of the building was a corridor. The entrance was covered with a red curtain. Off the corridor were doors leading to small cubicles into which the arrivals from the transport were introduced. Outside, over the platform were large openings covered by panels hinged at the top and fastened with steel bands. Inside the cubicles, smooth tiles covered the slightly slanted floors and halfway up the walls. On the ceiling were mounted a few shower-heads. There was also a small window in the middle of the ceiling [of each cubicle].
As mentioned before, the people leave all their belongings in Camp 1. Everyone is undressed there. The women, already naked, are seated on a long bench and their hair is cut off. This is accomplished by about 40 barbers. The hair is then cleaned with steam, using a steam kettle brought especially for this purpose. The hair is then packed in bales, and sent out along with the clothing and other wares.
The victims come into Camp 2 already naked and shorn, and are immediately squeezed into the cubicles. There is no more division. Men, women, and children are all pressed together in the small cubicles so tightly that this alone would be enough to suffocate them. The doors are hermetically sealed, and the motors start to work. The air from inside is sucked out, and fumes from burnt gasoline are forced in. The cries from inside can be heard for about 10 minutes, and then it becomes silent. The entire process, from the arrival at the camp to the oven, lasts only about half an hour. Most of the victims in the cubicles start to hemorrhage.
A German controls the progress of the "work" through the little window in the ceiling. When he is sure that everyone inside is dead, he opens the side panels, and the corpses fall out onto the cement platform. An elderly Jew from Czestochowa, known as "the dentist", checks the bodies for gold or metal teeth, which he pulls out. The bodies are then piled onto stretchers and carried to the oven, where they are flung into the fire and burned. The blood that has collected in the cubicles streams out into specially dug ditches.
The "bath" contained 10 cubicles: four big ones and six smaller ones.
As I mentioned before, we in Camp 1 were strictly forbidden to enter Camp 2. If anyone crossed over into Camp 2 by accident, that's where he had to remain; there was no return to Camp 1. I received the information about the arrangements and procedures in Camp 2 mainly from Herszel Jablkowski, a solid and decent man, with whom I worked for many months in the workshop; he as a [black]smith and I as a tinsmith. He arrived at Treblinka on June 18, 1942, a considerable time before the first transports. According to him, the first transport arrived on Tisha B’Av in 1942 (July 23). He participated in digging the first mass grave. At that time, there was no bulldozer. Later, as a smith, he was employed in building the "bath". It was all one camp then. The day before the first transport arrived, Camp 1 and Camp 2 were divided. As a skilled tradesman, Jablkowski was sent to Camp 1. I also received some information about Camp 2 from Szymon Goldberg, a carpenter from Radomsko, who worked in Camp 2 for four months. He escaped during the uprising and we met in the forest 10 months later.
Oskar Strawczynski's above-quoted descriptions of what he experienced himself as an inmate in "Camp 1", and of what he learned from Jablkowski and Goldberg about procedures in "Camp 2", are generally accurate. His description of the gas chamber building's features, for instance, tallies with descriptions provided by other eyewitnesses (inmates, Ukrainian guards or SS supervisors) independently of Strawczynski. His express mention of three "bulldozers" (probably a mistaken translation of the Yiddish term used by Strawczynski to describe the excavators shown on photographs taken by Treblinka’s second-in-command Kurt Franz - corroborates and is corroborated by Alex Bay's analysis of Kurt Franz’s photographs in Bay's article The Reconstruction of Treblinka, namely the following conclusion (my emphasis):
The most basic fact that can be determined from the ground photos is that there were two, and probably three excavators in use at Treblinka. (see Figure 40).
And it is noteworthy that Strawczynski and his sources were among the few witnesses to mass murder in Treblinka who realized that the gassing was done with gasoline exhaust and not – as described by several other Treblinka witnesses – with diesel exhaust.
There are also some inaccuracies in Strawczynski's above-quoted account. Witnesses are usually not perfect observers, especially when it comes to traumatically violent events, and Strawczynski was no exception to the rule. Thus, for instance, he had an exaggerated idea of the number of Treblinka’s victims (estimated as at least 731,600 by the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland and at least 780,863 by Polish historian Jacek Andrzej Młynarczyk), unless he was referring to Nazi extermination camps in general when he wrote that his family had taken "their last walk" down the "avenue" to the gas chambers "together with millions of Jewish men and women". But then, how could any Treblinka inmate have made a fairly accurate estimate of the number of people killed in Treblinka? One should also bear in mind that many people have no precise notion of the meaning of numbers and may thus use the term "millions" not in a literal sense but just to convey the idea of an enormous order of magnitude. (This applies even to some historians, according to Matthew White, who in research for his Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century occasionally got the feeling «that some writers use numbers as pure rhetorical flourishes. To them, "over a million" does not mean ">106"; it's just synonymous with "a lot"»). Oskar Strawczynski and his sources may also be forgiven for having mistakenly assumed that the air was sucked out of the gas chambers before "fumes from burnt gasoline" were forced in (what actually happened, as pointed out by the editor of Strawczynski’s memoirs in a footnote, was that the effect of pumping the poisonous exhaust into the gas chambers was to replace the air there). And it is not a mistake at all that they referred to the roasters used for burning the corpses as "ovens". It is a mere difference in lexicon: survivors would often call the pyres in Babiy Yar, Sobibor and elsewhere "crematoria", "ovens" and "furnaces", all the while describing them as pyres (thanks to Sergey for this input). Ukrainian guard Pavel Vladimirovich Leleko talked about "furnaces", and yet his detailed description of the devices used to burn the corpses at Treblinka helped me to accurately reconstruct the features of these devices, especially as concerns the presence of a pit underneath the rails on which the bodies were placed, in which the fire to make the corpses burn was ignited (see the blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (4,2)).
In sum, what inaccuracies are contained in Oskar Strawczynski’s account of his arrival at Treblinka extermination camp and the killing and body disposal procedures at that place are no reason to put in question the essential accuracy of that account. The stated date on which the Strawczynski family arrived at Treblinka from Czestochowa, 5 October 1942, can be checked against the evidence used by Yitzhak Arad to put together the deportation statistics in his book Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, according to which about 40,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka from Czestochowa between 21 September and 5 October 1942. There is no indication whatsoever that Strawczynski's parents, his wife Hannah and his children Guta and Abus survived the war, or that they got out of Treblinka alive, or even that they survived the day on which Strawczynski last saw them. Thus the only argument that "Revisionists" might have to dismiss Strawczyinski’s account as a collection of lies and Strawczynski as a "lie-witness" ("Revisionists" are fond of such idiotic word concoctions) would be some evidence that Strawczyinski was a person prone to telling lies, and moreover a liar so degenerately immoral as to falsely claim the murder of his wife and his two little kids. Is there such evidence?
The best place to find such evidence would be an assessment of Strawczyinski's testimony at a trial held before a court of a constitutional state according to a constitutional state's defendant-friendly procedural rules, in which such court as well as prosecutors and defense attorneys had the opportunity to gain a first-hand impression of Strawczyinski as a witness and to cross-examine him as they considered necessary. Oskar Strawczyinski testified as a witness at the trial of Kurt Franz and others before the Düsseldorf District Court. So, what does that court's judgment tell us about Oskar Strawczyinski behavior when testifying and his reliability as a witness?
I translated the following excerpts from the judgment (emphases are mine):
During an evening roll-call SS-Hauptscharführer Küttner called the number of an inmate who had for some reason caught his attention during the day. The inmate was tied to the beating rack and beaten by Küttner and the defendant Franz on the naked behind. Thereafter Franz and Küttner announced that this inmate would be shot in the Lazarett. At their orders the beaten man was then immediately brought to the Lazarett and shot there. This incident, which was described by the witness Oscar Stra. under oath, has been established to the jury court's conviction. The witness Oscar Stra. made an objective, truth-loving impression on the court. He immediately recognized the defendant Franz. As he also said favorable things about some of the German guards, such as the defendant Suchomel, there is no reason for assuming that he could subjectively or objectively have said something false. Although the witness did not himself see the shooting in the Lazarett, this has also been established to the court's conviction. That the beaten man was in fact liquidated in the Lazarett is suggested by the fact that Franz and Küttner announced his imminent shooting during the evening roll-call. Besides the witness never saw the man again after that evening roll-call. As the Lazarett was a place where people were shot in the neck, this only allows for the conclusion that the beaten man was shot there.
Although Miete denies this deed, it is proven by the testimony under oath of the 58-year-old tinsmith Oscar Stra. from Montreal, who himself witnessed how Miete addressed Galitzarski, selected him and took him to the Lazarett. On the other hand the witness didn’t see the shooting proper in the Lazarett. Yet he pointed out that he thereafter never again saw Jakob Galitzarski, who was a personal acquaintance of his, in the camp. This allows for concluding that Miete actually killed this inmate. In any case the extensive taking of evidence made known no case in which an inmate taken by Miete to the Lazarett for shooting remained alive.
The witness Oscar Stra. correctly described the German camp personnel, especially including the defendant Miete, and the camp's installations. He strictly distinguished between what he had observed himself and what he had been told by other inmates. As he reinforced his quiet and objective deposition with the oath, there are no misgivings about giving him credence.
These findings of fact are based on the defendant’s deposition, insofar as it can be accepted as accurate, and on the testimonies under oath of the credible witnesses Gl., Un., Do., Raj., Oscar Stra., Pla., Sed., Ku., Wei., Au. and Lew.
In his interrogation under oath the tinsmith Oscar Stra. accurately expounded that Suchomel made an effort for better feeding of the gold and court Jews and that he treated them well within the range of his possibilities. As Oscar Stra. was himself a court Jew he can correctly judge this. The witness finally pointed out that Suchomel was called "the good German" by the gold and court Jews, a designation that according to the results of the taking of evidence was given to no other German SS-men by the witnesses.
The witness Su. was furthermore certainly mistaken insofar as she stated that Suchomel "very often" beat inmates on the roll-call square. Many reliable witnesses, among them Gl., Un., Pla., Oscar Stra., Raj. and Wei., declared the contrary, that Suchomel never beat anyone outside the processing of transports.
Suchomel denies to have killed one or even more of the gold Jews. He points out that during his stay in Treblinka of the small detachment of gold Jews only the gold Jew Stern was killed, for which he could not be held responsible (see Section A.VI.15. of Part Two of the reasons for the judgment, where the death of gold Jew Stern is described).
This defense of the defendant Suchomel is confirmed by the witnesses Oscar Stra., Gl., Tai., Koh., Sed. and Lew., all of whom the jury court considered especially reliable.
That Suchomel treated his gold and court Jews well is proven by the sworn witnesses Gl., Un., Do., Raj., Oscar Stra., Pla., Sed., Ku., Wei., Au. and Lew. and has been already demonstrated in detail in Section F.II.2. of the Second Part of the reasons for the judgment. On the other hand is has been described in detail in Section F.II.1., on hand of the depositions of the witnesses Gl., Tu., Kols., Oscar Stra., Do., Tai. and Koh., interrogated under oath, that Suchomel could also be brutal during the processing of the transports, by beating the Jews who had arrived and were meant for extermination with the whip and in a few cases also using his firearm, in order not to be considered by his superiors and comrades a weakling and loser.
These are not the only mentions of Oskar Strawczyinski in the judgment, but I think they are sufficient to show that the court had a most favorable impression of this witness as an objective and fair man who differentiated between the horrors he had experienced and the gentler behavior of some SS-men, namely the defendant Suchomel. Strawczyinski’s care in distinguishing between what he had seen or heard himself and what he had learned from others also shows in the above-quoted excerpts from his memoir, in which he expressly mentioned the sources of what he knew about "Camp 2".
So what we have is the memoir of someone who everything indicates to have been a highly reliable witness, which includes a first-hand description of how that witness's loved ones were separated from him and taken to a place from which they never returned, which was part of a camp that all known evidence – including but not limited to that witness’s memoir and testimony and to other evidence listed in my VNN posts nos. 172, 194,777 and 1825 and in previous posts on this blogspot – shows to have been an extermination camp for Jews, a place where Jewish people were taken for no other purpose than to be killed there, mainly by gassing in the part of the camp to which the members of Oskar Strawczyinski's family were taken.
That being so, what reason is there not to consider it proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oskar Strawczyinski’s parents, his wife Hannah and their children, nine-year-old Guta and four-year-old Abus, were killed in a gas chamber at Treblinka on 5 October 1942?
"Revisionists" may want to seek refuge in the formal-legalistic argument that the late Oskar Strawczyinski's memoir would not be admissible as evidence in court, so let’s take a look at whether this is really so.
Section 250 of the German Criminal Procedure Code(Strafprozessordnung - StPO) establishes the rule whereby, if the proof of a fact is based on the observation of a person, such person shall be examined at the main hearing, and the examination shall not be replaced by reading out the record of a previous examination or reading out a written statement. The reason for this rule is obvious: as concerns assessment of a witness account's credibility, nothing beats the court's gaining a first-hand impression of the witness through direct, face-to-face interrogation. Therefore, directly interrogating the witness is what must be done if it is possible. However, sometimes direct interrogation by the court is not possible, because the witness is no longer alive or because there are insurmountable hindrances to the witness's appearing in court. For such cases, Section 251 of the StPO contains the following provisions, among others:
(1) Die Vernehmung eines Zeugen, Sachverständigen oder Mitbeschuldigten kann durch die Verlesung einer Niederschrift über eine Vernehmung oder einer Urkunde, die eine von ihm stammende schriftliche Erklärung enthält, ersetzt werden,
1. wenn der Angeklagte einen Verteidiger hat und der Staatsanwalt, der Verteidiger und der Angeklagte damit einverstanden sind;
2. wenn der Zeuge, Sachverständige oder Mitbeschuldigte verstorben ist oder aus einem anderen Grunde in absehbarer Zeit gerichtlich nicht vernommen werden kann;
3. soweit die Niederschrift oder Urkunde das Vorliegen oder die Höhe eines Vermögensschadens betrifft.
(1) Interrogation of a witness, expert or co-accused can be replaced by the reading of an interrogation record or a document containing a written statement of the witness, expert or co-accused in question,
1. If the defendant has a defense attorney and the public prosecutor, the defense attorney and the defendant agree to it;
2. If the witness, expert or co-defendant have died or for some other reason cannot be interrogated by a court within a foreseeable time;
3. Insofar as the record or document concerns the occurrence or the amount of a pecuniary damage.
Alternative 2 is the one that applies here. As Oskar Strawczyinki is dead (he died in 1966) and his memoir is a written statement of his, it would be permissible to read the memoir into evidence at a present-day criminal trial before a German court.
In Anglo-Saxon legal systems there is the so-called hearsay rule, which is guided by more or less the same reasoning that underlies Section 250 of the StPO:
The theory of the rule excluding hearsay is that assertions made by human beings are often unreliable; such statements are often insincere, subject to flaws in memory and perception, or infected with errors in narration at the time they are given. The law therefore finds it necessary to subject this form of evidence to "scrutiny or analysis calculated to discover and expose in detail its possible weaknesses, and thus to enable the tribunal (judge or jury) to estimate it at no more than its actual value".
Rule 801 of the US Federal Rules of Evidence defines hearsay as «a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted». Strawczyinski's memoir would thus qualify as hearsay if it were to be introduced at a trial or hearing as evidence to the facts we are concerned with here – the death of Oskar Strawczynski's family members at Treblinka extermination camp –, and according to Rule 802 it would thus be inadmissible as evidence to these facts at such trial or hearing unless any of the hearsay exceptions provided for in Rules 803, 804 or 807 applies.
Rule 803 contains exceptions to the hearsay rule that would make the introduction of Oskar Strawczyinski's memoir as evidence admissible even if he were alive and available to testify at the trial or hearing in question. My understanding is that the exceptions that could possibly or arguably apply in this case are the following:
• (5) Recorded recollection: if Oskar Strawczynski were available to testify but presently had insufficient recollection of the events in question;
• (16) Statements in ancient documents. Statements in a document in existence twenty years or more the authenticity of which is established: Oskar Strawczynski’s memoir was written more than sixty years ago, and its authenticity is established and could be specifically confirmed for the trial or hearing in question by expert examination or by the testimony of Strawczynski or a family member familiar with the memoir;
• (19) Reputation concerning personal or family history. Reputation among members of a person's family by blood, adoption, or marriage, or among a person's associates, or in the community, concerning a person's birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, death, legitimacy, relationship by blood, adoption, or marriage, ancestry, or other similar fact of personal or family history: Oskar Strawczyinski's parents, wife and children are reputed dead by Oskar Strawczynski, as expressed in the memoir.
But Oskar Strawczynski is dead, so it's moot to ponder what hearsay exceptions would apply if he were alive and able to testify about the murder of his family. The memoir clearly qualifies as an exception to the hearsay rule according to the following provision of Rule 804 (emphasis mine):
(4) Statement of personal or family history. (A) A statement concerning the declarant's own birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, legitimacy, relationship by blood, adoption, or marriage, ancestry, or other similar fact of personal or family history, even though declarant had no means of acquiring personal knowledge of the matter stated; or (B) a statement concerning the foregoing matters, and death also, of another person, if the declarant was related to the other by blood, adoption, or marriage or was so intimately associated with the other's family as to be likely to have accurate information concerning the matter declared.
The makers of the FRE obviously considered information about the death of blood relatives or other family members to be generally trustworthy.
Even if none of the hearsay exceptions according to Rules 803 or 804 applied, Strawczynski's memoir could still be admitted as evidence at a US trial or hearing according to Rule 807.
So it doesn't look like either the German Criminal Procedure Law or the US Federal Rules of Evidence would keep a competent court under either legal system from accepting Oscar Strawczynski's memoirs as evidence to the death of Oscar Strawczynski's family members at Treblinka extermination camp.
It's also not like names of victims of the Nazi genocide of the Jews – whether killed in extermination camps, by mobile killing squads or by other means – are a rarity, even though the identity of millions of victims remains to be established. The percentage of Jewish mass murder victims whose names are known differs considerably among the various countries of origin, depending on how complete the records available in each country are and what effort authorities and researchers in a given country made to establish the identities and individual fates of their Jewish citizens killed by the Nazis (see Dr. Nick Terry’s article Arolsen: AAARGH, all those names.... for details).
The Dutch authorities did the best job in this respect: they managed to record the names of all Jewish citizens of the Netherlands killed by the Nazis, mostly in extermination camps. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the main destination of Jewish deportees from the Netherlands, but a total of 34,313 Dutch Jews arrived at Sobibor in 19 trains between 5 and 6 March and 23 July 1943. 18 survived. To what extent the individual fate of these and other deportees to Sobibor has been reconstructed is becoming apparent these days at the trial against John Demjanjuk before the Munich District Court, as the following translated excerpts from articles in SPIEGEL magazine may illustrate. Emphases are mine.
From the article Mutmaßlichem Massenmörder Demjanjuk droht Anklage in Deutschland:
Demjanjuk is accused of having during the time of his service participated in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews – most of them women, children and old people. Almost all were killed still on the day of their arrival.
Among the victims – and this is important for an eventual indictment in Germany – there were about 1,900 German Jews. "Due to the charges we are confident that a trial against him can be held in Germany", says Schrimm. It is now possible for the first time, according to Schrimm, to mention the victims with their complete name and birth date. The eldest victim, who died on 23 April 1943 in the gas chambers, had been a 99-year-old Jew from Holland. In all deportation trains, according to Schrimm, there were babies and little children, who were gassed immediately after arrival at Sobibor.
From the article "Die Menschen sollen nicht vergessen":
19 of the joint plaintiffs have been called as witnesses and will travel to Munich when the trial begins. If things go according to plan they shall be heard within the first three days of the trial.
Others follow the trial from far away, in the Netherlands, in the USA, in Switzerland or Israel. All joint plaintiffs have lost close relatives, parents, brother and sisters or spouses, sometimes the whole family. According to the recovered transport lists they died in Sobibor extermination camp in occupied Poland, murdered in those months of the year 1943 in which Demjanjuk was presumably used there as guard by the SS.
From the article "Gefühllose und unbarmherzige Gesinnung":
The opening of the taking of evidence starts, over many minutes the Presiding Judge reads out names, birth and death dates of Jewish men and women who were deported in 1943 from the camp Westerbork in the Netherlands to Sobibor. There are many names, each one of them is a close relative of the joint plaintiffs, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. Some joint plaintiffs wince when the names of their relatives are read.
And then there are folks asking "Can you give the name of just one Jew, with proof, who was gassed?", as if that were a clever and pertinent question ...