Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 6: Death Camp Witnesses (5). Dishonest Treatment of SS Witnesses.

Dishonest Treatment of SS Witnesses

While the overwhelming majority of witness criticisms produced by MGK are aimed at survivors, they have also attempted to deal with some of the accounts by former SS men who served at the camps. Several of their interpretations on those witnesses will be examined below, all of which fail to provide an honest treatment of the statements.
In Sobibór, Kues argues that SS camp official Gustav Wagner "adamantly denied the existence of gas chambers at Sobibor."[101] He bases this claim on an article in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo on June 6, 1978, which quoted Wagner stating to the police: “I never saw any gas chamber at Sobibor” (Eu nunca vi nenhuma camara de gas em Sobibor).[102] However, Kues has lifted this quote from a series of reports in which Wagner contradicted this denial with a number of damaging admissions. On May 31, 1978, the Journo de Brazil reported:
Wagner said: - No Jews were killed at Sobibor. There were other orders --- Wagner said to the DOPS (of São Paulo) yesterday, shortly before contradicting himself by saying: "Stangl did not kill anyone. Those who killed the Jews came out and they executed the orders, without which we knew nothing of it." New contradiction: “there were no gas chambers in Sobibor.”[103]
The original news source on Wagner’s arrest therefore noted contradictions in Wagner’s account, which Kues has omitted, such as the obvious contradiction between “No Jews were killed at Sobibor” and “Those who killed the Jews came out and they executed the orders.” A similar contradiction suppressed by Kues in an article he uses is from Der Spiegel, which noted on the one hand that Wagner claimed "not a single Jew was killed, neither by him nor by others. His role in Sobibor was with the production of barracks"; but on other hand quoted this exchange between Wagner and Szmajzner:
Wagner...then committed one of his biggest mistakes. "Yes, yes, I remember you well. I had you taken out from the transport, and I have saved the lives of you and your two friends who were goldsmiths." "So," said Szmajzner, "and my sister, my mother, my father and my brothers? If you say you saved my life, then you have indeed known that others had to die." Wagner did not answer.[104]
Kues (as Dahl) even posted this exchange in February 2007 by including it in a quoted passage that appears in Richard Rashke’s Escape from Sobibor.[105]  Rashke’s work was also cited in MGK’s Sobibór.[106] The Brazilian article had noted that Wagner had already attempted suicide several times (ele tentou o suicídio várias vezes).  Moreover, American reports, easily available to Kues through online archives, contain more damaging admissions. The New York Times of June 11, 1978, quotes Wagner’s admission of May 30 that “I knew what happened there but I never went to see - I only obeyed orders. You would not want to see what they did there either.” Thus, Kues knowingly engages in dishonesty when he selectively quotes Wagner’s statements. In one of his many articles, Kues also gives a dishonest paraphrase of one of Erich Bauer's statements. Kues states as follows: 
According to Bauer's "confession", written while serving a life sentence in a Berlin prison, he had at one occasion overheard camp commandant Franz Stangl mention that 350,000 Jews had been killed at Sobibor (quoted in Klee et.al. The Good Old Days, p. 232). Since Stangl left Sobibor for Treblinka in September 1942, it follows that the final death toll would be much higher - that is, if we are to believe Bauer's testimony rather than the documentary evidence of the Höfle telegram.[107]
Bauer's actual statement, taken from the same source cited by Kues, does not say the 350,000 figure came from Stangl:
I estimate that the number of Jews gassed at Sobibor was about 350,000. In the canteen at Sobibor I once overheard Karl Frenzel, Franz Stangl and Gustav Wagner. They were discussing the number of victims in the extermination camps of Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor and expressed their regret that Sobibor 'came last' in the competition.[108]
The figure of 350,000 was therefore Bauer’s estimate, made in the 1960s, not (as Kues states) Stangl’s contemporary estimate. The purpose of this false paraphrase[109] is to mislead the reader into assuming that Bauer's 350,000 was taken from a conversation in 1942, and only covered the period when Stangl (the supposed source of the figure) was at the camp, and thus artificially raise the estimate of deaths at the camp. Taken in isolation, such a false paraphrase may appear to be a minor case of dishonesty. However, this instance is highly significant because Kues is attacking a perpetrator who he clearly regards as one of the most dangerous to the denier’s case on Sobibor. He bases his attack on an unsupported assumption (a 'begging the question' fallacy) concerning the amount of knowledge that Bauer 'must' have had:
It seems curious that Bauer, who, if the gassing story was indeed true, must have known with accuracy the capacities of the gas chambers as well as the average number of daily gassings, could have been so wide off the mark as to put credence in the figure reportedly mentioned by Stangl.
Kues does not explain why Bauer must have known "with accuracy the capacities of the gas chambers as well as the average number of daily gassings." Did Bauer keep a diary and write down the number of transports and their passenger contents? Did he measure the capacity of the chambers? The obvious answer has to be no, because his estimate was far too high. There are several reasons why such an error could be made (lack of access to some necessary data; misremembering the dimensions; not being aware of gaps in the transport schedule; miscalculating the number of days the gas chambers were in use; the variance of transport figures to the camp) that do not make the witness unreliable on the fact of whether Sobibor was a death camp.
This attempt to discredit Bauer through an anomaly-hunting technique is therefore incoherent. It does not alter the fact that Bauer was already serving life with no immediate prospect of release, so cannot be accused of taking a 'plea bargain' (even ignoring the fact that West Germany did not have an American-style plea-bargaining structure[110]). Kues makes no attempt to explain why Bauer chose to co-operate, because Kues knows that any such explanation will come across as a transparently faith-based assumption rather than a deduction from any actual evidence concerning how the West German legal system really worked. In the absence of any motive to lie, the only plausible assumption is that Bauer decided to tell the truth, but that the time which had elapsed between the end of the war and the date of his statement caused him to make minor errors. Kues cannot make these errors into a narrative, so he has to settle for well-poisoning and obfuscation, which fools nobody except his gullible fellow deniers. In Sobibór, the only reference to the 350,000 made in the work is directly attributed to Bauer (in a section authored by Graf); we can take this drop, especially given the numerous remarks against Bauer in the work, as an implicit admission of guilt by Kues.[111]
Kues also makes an accusation of ‘scripting’ concerning the testimony of SS-Unterscharführer Hubert Gomerski, who served at the Sobibor camp. Regarding Gomerski’s 1950 trial, Kues wonders:
Did he really receive a fair trial back in 1950, as implied by Schelvis? Was he able to speak his mind openly to his interrogators and lawyers, or was he, like Auschwitz SS man Hans Aumeier, handed a number of leading questions, demanding that he stated what he “knew” about the “gas chambers”?[112]
Kues is, of course, unable to substantiate any of his concerns about the coercion of Aumeier or Gomerski with any shred of evidence (as evident by the lack of footnotes in the section). We know for instance that SS-Unterscharführer Heinrich Unverhau admitted to his participation in the Aktion Reinhard camps “on his own accord…during his first police interrogation in March 1948.”[113] Indeed Kues’ point is directly contradicted by the available evidence, as after his release Gomerski himself stated in an interview that his crimes deserved a sentence of 8-10 years and acknowledged, "After all, I was there (Sobibor). I cannot deny that."[114]
Where charges are not made of ‘scripting’, there often are claims of retribution against Nazi perpetrators who refused to incriminate themselves about the extermination camps. Graf claims that Franz had always persistently denied the official Treblinka picture, and thus spent 35 years behind bars in retaliation.[115] In reality, this is how Franz described the scene upon his arrival at Treblinka:
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. Every­where in the camp there were corpses.  I remember that these corpses were already bloated.  The corpses were dragged through the camp by working Jews…[116]
Franz also stated after his life sentencing:
The Treblinka camp was split into three parts, there was the reception camp, where the transports arrived, the Todeslager (extermination area), and then where the camp staff and leaders were accommodated. Some two and two and a half kilometers away from the extermination camp (Venichtungslager) there was also a labor camp. The uprising was in the extermination camp, it had nothing to do with the labor camp. After the uprising there were still between 25 and 30 Jews in the extermination camp.[117]
Obviously Franz was describing the operations of the death camp, yet he received a life sentence, and despite his later statements, was never released early or given leniency by the court. During his time in jail, Franz corresponded with Michael Tregenza about the gas chambers and was visited by Demjanjuk’s defence lawyer, Jerome Brentar. David Irving gave an example of the Franz-Tregenza correspondence:
Mike Treganza [sic] wrote to Kurt Franz (deputy Kdt, owner of the Saint-Bernard dog called Barry, originally Stangl's; arrested 1959 and sentenced to life index, he died 1998)and Franz said to Mike from prison in a letter ca. 1980s he thought it was diesel, but never operated it himself).[118]
Brentar, in a speech to a Revisionist IHR conference, described a meeting with Franz:
In Germany, I met with the wartime commandant of the Treblinka camp, Kurt Franz, who was then serving a sentence in a prison near Düsseldorf. During our meeting, Franz told me: "Mr. Brentar, several years ago six of your people were here, and I told them that this man [Demjanjuk] is not the Ivan of Treblinka. The Ivan of Treblinka was much older, had dark hair, and was taller. He had a stoop because he was so tall. So why do you come here again to ask me the same questions?"[119]
If Franz had been framed by the West German authorities, Brentar would have been a perfect advocate for his justice: an international lawyer with connections to deniers, who could have publicized his case and presented the evidence that Jews were not exterminated at Treblinka. Conversely, if Franz were being coerced or in fear for his life, he would not have denied that Demjanjuk was Ivan of Treblinka.
Both Gomerski and Franz’s admissions in private about the Aktion Reinhard camps are reminiscent of Adolf Eichmann’s similar statements to journalist Willem Sassen prior to his arrest by Israeli police. Though not a member of the SS, as previously mentioned Wilhelm Pfannenstiel also provided confirmation of the gassings at the Reinhard in private to Holocaust denier Paul Rassinier. There also is the private Shoah interview that Claude Lanzmann conducted with Franz Suchomel, who was falsely promised anonymity by Lanzmann; this interview has been ignored across MGK’s entire ‘trilogy’.[120] These and other private admissions, in which the relevant witnesses had easy opportunities to deny the reality of homicidal gassings but never did, are extremely damaging to MGK’s negationist beliefs. Perhaps due to the difficulty which they cause the three Revisionist writers, the confirmation of exterminations by perpetrators in such open and allowing circumstances has never been adequately addressed in MGK’s writings.
Of course, there are also some SS witnesses who have never been discussed in MGK’s collective trilogy. One such example is Joseph (Sepp) Hirtreiter, who was the first SS man to be charged for crimes committed at Treblinka. Hirtreiter was arrested in Frankfurt on July 2, 1946 and, whilst being interrogated about his role in the euthanasia project at Hadamar, revealed that he had worked at a death camp in ‘Malkinia’ in which Jews had been killed in gas chambers. His interviewer did not know that Hirtreiter was referring to Treblinka, and thus did not pursue the matter.[121]
In addition to dishonesty, one could easily classify some of MGK’s handling of SS testimonies as sloppy. The clearest example of such is Carlo Mattogno’s discussion of Lorenz Hackenholt in Sobibór. Mattogno states that Hackenholt’s involvement with the gas chambers at Belzec is “mentioned only in the “Gerstein report”!”[122] Unfortunately, such a claim is simply and unequivocally not true. Mattogno himself would realize that Hackenholt’s involvement has been supported by more than just Gerstein if he would read his own writing within the same chapter in Sobibór, where he quotes the statement of Josef Oberhauser[123], and in Bełżec, where he quotes the statements of both Oberhauser and Karl Alfred Schluch.[124] Such carelessness is surprising, but not unusual for MGK. The notable feature about such sloppiness is that it always serves to further their criticism of the Holocaust, which betrays MGK’s dishonesty in their treatment of the available evidence.


[101] MGK, Sobibór, p.191
[102] MGK, Sobibór, p.105, n.285
[103] Translated by Roberto Lucena and posted at ‘Kues on Gustav Wagner (Revised and Updated)’, 11.1.2011. Other sources listed below are linked in the same article:
[105] See the initial post of ‘Laurentz Dahl’ (Kues’ CODOH forum handle) in the thread ‘Richard Rashke’s “Escape from Sobibor,’ http://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4056.
[106] MGK, Sobibór, pp.34-35
[107] Thomas Kues, ‘Review of Sobibor. A History of a Nazi Death Camp, by Jules Schelvis.’
[108] Klee, Good Old Days, p.232.
[109] This same distortion also appears in Thomas Dalton, Debating The Holocaust, p.237, suggesting a degree of collaboration and showing how quickly a lie spreads in the denier pool.
[110] J.H. Langbein, ‘Land without plea bargaining: How the Germans do it.’ Michigan Law Review, 78 (2) (December 1979), pp.204-225.
[111] MGK, Sobibór, p.60.
[112] Kues, ‘Review of Sobibor.’
[113] De Mildt In The Name of the People,, p.294.
[114] De Mildt, In The Name of the People, p.392, citing Elie Aron Cohen, De negentien treinen naar Sobibor, Elsevier, 1979, interview with Gomerski in 1978.
[115] Graf, Der Holocaust auf dem Prüfstand, p.54.
[116] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, pp.92-93; citing Treblinka-Franz, Band 8, p.1493.
[117] Statement of Kurt Franz, Sta. Do. Sob 56, June 1966, No. 1477, p.3.
[118] David Irving, ‘A Radical’s Diary’, 2.3.2007, http://www.fpp.co.uk/docs/Irving/RadDi/2007/020307.html
[119] Jerome Brentar, ‘My Campaign for Justice for John Demjanjuk’, adapted from his address to the Eleventh IHR Conference, October 1992. The Journal of Historical Review,Nov.-Dec. 1993 (Vol. 13, No. 6).
[120] Claude Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust. New York: Pantheon, 1985, pp.52-57.
[121] De Mildt, In The Name of the People, p.249; citing Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p.39; JuNSV Lfd. Nr. 270, p.262
[122] MGK, Sobibór, p.277.
[123] MGK, Sobibór, p.255; citing interrogation of Josef Oberhauser on 12 December 1962, ZStL, 208 AR-Z 252/59, vol. IX, p.1685.
[124] Mattogno, Bełżec, pp.65, 66; citing interrogation of Karl Alfred Schluch on November 10, 1961. ZStL, 208 AR-Z 252/59, p.1512. 

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