Monday, December 15, 2014

Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 3: Eyewitnesses (Supplement)

 Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz:

Comments on Selected Individual Testimonies on Homicidal Gassing in Auschwitz

Henryk Tauber

Pressac provided a decent analysis of the Polish testimony of Sonderkommando Henryk Tauber in Technique, p. 432. He reproduced the full testimony together with corroborating sources as well as his own explanatory and critical remarks, and concluded that Tauber’s Polish testimony is “the best that exists on the Birkenau Krematorien” and “95% historically reliable” (Pressac, Technique, p. 481). In stark contrast to this, Mattogno claims that Tauber's testimony is "to 95% unreliable, that is to say: it is historically worthless" (Mattogno, Auschwitz: The Case of Sanity [ATCFS], p. 424). However, he attacks only about 25% of the descriptions contained in Tauber’s Polish testimony. Moreover, Mattogno concedes that “as far as the buildings are concerned and in respect of the description of the crematoria, Tauber’s testimonies are fully reliable”. However, these “fully reliable” descriptions already amount to about 20% of the Polish testimony. Clearly, these estimates do not add up and Mattogno's harsh judgement on Tauber would be heavily exaggerated even if his analysis were perfectly correct.

Mattogno would not be a Revisionist if there were not some totally ridiculous attacks from him, such as that Tauber estimated the height of the Topf three-muffle muffle as 1 m instead of 80 cm (ATCFS, p. 377) and that the strength of the Sonderkommando in summer 1944 as 1000 instead of 903 (ATCFS, p. 403). Such small deviations are entirely compatible with a reliable and credible witness. Others of objection against Tauber’s descriptions are simply false or unfounded. Among these are all the atrocities besides homicidal gassing and shooting in the neck Tauber mentions, such as the cutting of human flesh of executed prisoners (ATCFS, p. 418) and the burning of people alive (ATCFS, p. 418).

There are certainly a number of questionable and false descriptions in Tauber’s testimony. But Mattogno does not even go the next step to evaluate and estimate how critical these flawed descriptions really are. For instance, Tauber falsely assumed that air was pulled from the gas chamber suffocating the victims (ATCFS, p. 403). But since he was neither a ventilation technician nor operating the gas chamber, his claim obviously derived from the fact that the gas chamber had a gas tight door plus an air extraction actively pumping out the air is excusable. Mattogno does not succeed to point out a single serious mistake in Tauber’s testimony. There are a few memory lapses, misinterpretations and the weakness to have adopted the 4 Million death toll from Soviet investigators, amounting to less than 5% of his Polish testimony. Neither the quantity nor the quality of these flaws is worrying. Hence, it is entirely justified to say that Tauber is a reliable and credible witness on mass extermination in Auschwitz.

As pointed out by Pressac, further emphasized by Van Pelt and also acknowledged by Mattogno, Tauber’s description of the layout of the crematoria is outstanding. It is almost too good to be true. It is possible that Tauber explained the mass extermination in Auschwitz based on documents found in the archives of the central construction office, and that in turn Tauber’s memory was to some extent refreshed by such documents. This does not invalidate Tauber’s excellent description (as Mattogno would like it to be), which still had to come from somebody who was a good observer and honest witness, but it might relative its almost perfect accuracy.

Shlomo Dragon

Rudolf Höß

Mattogno claims that Rudolf Höß's declarations are “absurd and contradictory”, but when John Zimmerman looked into some of the descriptions in Höß’ manuscript on the Final Solution of the Jewish Question he found that “based on all of the available evidence, the Höß memoirs are very reliable as to their overall truth”. The article is available on the Holocaust History Project Website since May 1999 (the site is well known to Mattogno as he has replied to Zimmerman’s later articles in the past), but it is not even cited let aside addressed by Mattogno in ATCFS.

In his testimony, Höß was confused about the dating and context of several events. The most striking case concerns the genesis of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Auschwitz. It is now well established and accepted (Reitlinger, Die Endlösung, 1979, p.114; Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz; Dwork, Van Pelt, Auschwitz 1270 to the Present; Orth, Rudolf Höß und die "Endlösung der Judenfrage") that Höß was not summoned to Himmler in summer 1941 to receive the order to exterminate the European Jews in Auschwitz. Most likely, he was referring to an event in summer 1942 (as suggested by the reference to the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto and the existing extermination camps in the East), reinterpreted it as having been taking place the year earlier and merged it with other events after autumn 1941. In the one extreme case, Höß was deliberately and consciously lying and shifting backwards the order to exterminate all Jews to legitimise any killing of Jews in Auschwitz prior to the summer of 1942. In the other extreme case, he was genuinely confused about the sequence and context of the events. The truth may also lie in between these extremes.

Mattogno argues that the probability that Höß was confusing events (here Van Pelt’s hypothesis that Höß confused a meeting with Himmler on the extermination of Russian POWs with that on the extermination of the European Jews) “is actually untenable, because Höss always stressed with certainty that the alleged order given by Himmler concerned the European Jews”. (ATCFS, p. 428). How this is challenging Van Pelt’s interpretation is beyond me, as if an honest mistake could not be committed consistently and with certainty.

Mattogno believes that Höß’s first account on Auschwitz of 14 March 1946 (NO-1210) “was not written by Höss but drawn up by his British interrogators” (ATCFS, p. 437) and speculates that also his later confessions were not made “voluntarily and without compulsion” (ATCFS, p. 438). The latter claim has been entirely made up by Mattogno. The first claim is based on the misinterpretation (already committed by Martin Broszat, Kommandant in Auschwitz, p. 225) that Höß’s later statement in Poland that “[m]y first interrogation was marked by striking demonstrations. I have no idea what the minutes contain, although I did sign them” (ATCFS, p. 437) referred to his interrogation filed as evidence NO-1210, which took place on 14 March 1946 in Minden. However, in his autobiographical notes Höß made it clear that the remark referred to an earlier interrogation in Heide, about 300 km north of Minden. This interrogation record has not been released/found/published so far. 

There is no evidence that Höß’s account NO-1210 was “drawn up by his British interrogators” as suggested by Mattogno. In contrary, according to the wealth of information likely unknown to the British Field Security Police (i.e. on his own biography, detailed account on the escape of high ranking members of the SS-WVHA, organisation of the SS-WVHA), the relatively minor incrimination of SS personnel (only Himmler – who was already dead at the time – is blamed for the extermination of the Jews, some SS doctors are blamed of medical experiments, but his own WVHA is exculpated from atrocities) including himself (“I personally never shot anybody or beat anybody”) and the relativization of the responsibility for the disastrous situation in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945 in favour of the SS (e.g. the order from Himmler to stop all dying in the concentration camps, order from Pohl to Kramer to improve the food in Bergen Belsen, unspecific blaming of the Landesernährungsamt for the lack of food in Belsen) the account was authored by Höß himself. It is important to note that NO-1210 already contains the core elements of the mass extermination in Auschwitz, i.e. the gassing procedure in the Bunker 1 and 2 extermination sites, open air cremations and the gassing procedure in the crematoria 2 and 3.

Mattogno avoids explaining how exactly the British are supposed to have “drawn up” the mass extermination in NO-1210, but which is an absolutely crucial point for his hypothesis. The document is obviously neither based on the War Refugee Board report nor on the Soviet report 008-USSR. Substantial descriptions in NO-1210 are corroborated by the report of Pery Broad, which was known to Gerald Draper (see NI-11954 of 2 March 1946), who also dealt with Höß in Minden. NO-1210 is much less detailed and comprehensive on Auschwitz than the Broad report. It also lacks many atrocities and events reported in detail by Broad such as the Block 11 executions, the first homicidal gassing in Block 11, the Budy revolt, the gassing procedure in crematorium in the main camp (Höß very briefly indicates en passent that people were gassed in the crematorium 1), the Sonderkommando revolt, the gassing in crematorium 4 and 5. On the other hand, NO-1210 contains a comparable detailed description of the uprising of a transport sent from Belsen, but which is only a side note in Broad’s report (without explicitly linking it to a transport from Belsen). It cannot be ruled out that Broad’s testimony served to help the interrogators to question Höß, but the differences are too significant to argue that one has scripted the other. And of course, this hypothesis does not solve the more severe problem for Revisionists that would follow then: how was Broad’s testimony “drawn up” by the British?

Pery Broad

Mattogno maintains that Broad’s report written in July 1945 “is absolutely unreliable” (p. 618), but when I analysed the source in great detail elsewhere, it turned out to be very reliable. The report is very detailed and well corroborated but it is also significant that it was written only few months after the liberation of Auschwitz, 800 km away from the crime scene and the corresponding Soviet and Polish investigations. It is clearly not based on the War Refugee Board report (that may have been available to British investigators), it cannot be based on the report of the Soviet War Crimes Commission of 6 May 1945 (008-USSR) either. Broad had no chance to review any documents captured by the Soviets in Auschwitz and there is no evidence that he had any source available to him other than his own memory. The genesis of the Broad report is a massive problem for Revisionists (though only one among many). As usual, Mattogno restricts himself to point out a few inaccuracies in the 19,000 words report (ATCFS, p. 617; already addressed elsewhere) and doubts a bit the authenticity of the source, which is a classic Revisionist approach if they don’t know further. As shown elsewhere the report is authentic beyond any reasonable doubt. Hence, testimony of Pery Broad remains entirely unexplained by Mattogno.

Charles Sigismund Bendel

Bendel was one of the first eyewitnesses to testify about the mass extermination in Auschwitz on trial. His most important account (because detailed, dated the earliest and most reliable) is his cross examination of 1 October 1945 at the Belsen trial (his pre-trial interrogation would be of course even more relevant, but it is not known/published so far). The transcript of the examination has some 3500 words and can be largely corroborated by independent sources (in Italics is me paraphrasing Bendel; you may skip this huge paragraph if you trust me that Bendel performed pretty well). 

Bendel correctly identified Mengele as SS doctor and Epstein as prisoner's doctor in the Gypsies camp, "twins" as Mengele's research topic, that 11,000 prisoners were hold in the Gypsies camp by 27 February 1944 (the figure is confirmed by Rudolf Höß in his autobiographical notes: "I know that the section was calculated for 10,000 and that it was fully occupied", my translation from the Auschwitz trial DVD; about 19,000 Gypsies were registered up to this date in Auschwitz and taking into account losses among the prisoners, the figure is certainly at the correct order of magnitude), that 4300 Gypsies were killed end of July 1944 while 1500 were kept for work (Pery Broad: "In July 1944, the dies were cast. Himmler had ordered the fit [Gypsies] to stay in the camps and the rest to be gassed", Rudolf Höß: "There were about 4000 Gypsies left until August 44, who had to go into the gas chambers", see also Appendix U, Correction Corner #4: Auschwitz Museum and the number of Gypsy victims and An interesting testimony about the gassing of Gypsies on August 2, 1944), the men who worked at the crematoria were called Sonderkommando and their strength was 900 prisoners, there was also a SS Sonderkommando of 3 men per crematorium, Wirths [misspelled Dr. Wurts in the transcript] as SS garrison doctor, Moll as head of the Sonderkommando, the prisoner's Sonderkommando lived in locked Blocks (Stanislaw Jankowski in April 1945 in Poland: "In Birkenau we were accomodated in Block 13 in section D...Block 13 was a closed block", my trans. from Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 43 f.), the liquidation of 80,000 Jews from Lodz in August 1944, three cremation trenches 12 x 6 m behind crematorium 5 (1944 aerial photographis indicate 4 - 5 cremation sites of various size 12-30 m x 3-6, Sonderkommando ground photos show a cremation trench in operation in late August 1944), a cremation capacity of 1000 corpses per day for crematorium 5, the undressing of the victims in the yard of crematorium 5, the victims waited in a big hall (shown  in between furnace room and gas chamber tract on construction drawings of the crematorium) until a Red Cross car arrived with the gas (confirmed by the Sonderkommando handwriting of the unknown author [written in 1943-1944, dug out near crematorium 3 in 1952], Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 179 f., and Salmen Lewenthal [written prior October 1944, dug out near crematorium 3 in 1961], Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 220), the low roof of the gas chamber tract, the cutting of hair (confirmed by Henryk Tauber in May 1945 in Poland) and removal of gold teeth (confirmed by Stanislaw Jankowski in April 1945 in Poland and by Pery Broad in July 1945 in Germany), the shooting of people at the cremation trenches, Kramer as commandant of  Birkenau, the Sonderkommando revolt on 7 October 1944 (the uprising is corroborated by the garrison order of 12 October 1944 [3 SS men killed on 7 October 1944]) because 300 Sonderkommandos were supposed to get transferred (confirmed by the handwriting of Salmen Lewenthal: "On the next day, i.e. 7 October 44, we learned that 300 people were to be sent on transport by noon", Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 241) with 500 dead Sonderkommandos (corroborated by labour force reports of 8 and 9 October 1944 showing a drop from 661 to 212 crematoria workers) and crematorium 4 was set on fire (corroborating by its lack of workforce in the labour force reports, see Mattogno, Auschwitz: Open Air Incinerations, p. 73), the supply of dynamite to the Sonderkommando by girls from the ammunition factory Union (confirmed by the handwriting of Salmen Lewenthal, Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 230 and Pery Broad in July 1945 in Germany) and the hanging of four girls in December 1944 (confirmed by Stanislaw Jankowski in April 1945 in Poland, Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 56, the execution took place on 6 January 1945 according to Czech, Kalendarium, p. 957), there were four crematoria in Birkenau and a Bunker which was only a gas chamber.

Bendel also proved to be resistent towards manipulation and suggestive questions from the prosecution at the Belsen trial. For instance, when he was asked by the chief prosecutor Backhouse if the victims were "brought down [into the gas chamber] by one of the doctors?", instead of providing the "correct" answer "yes" for a coached prosecution witness (as the former SS doctor Klein was accused at the trial), he simply answered:

 "No. There was one S.S. in front and one at the back. That is all."
And questioned by a defendant lawyer if he can corroborate the claim of "anybody being released from the gas chamber" he responded:

"During the time I was there I have never heard about it; it was impossible." 

And thereby raised doubts on the prosecutors own evidence of "two people who were sent into the gas chamber and rescued at the last moment" (from Backhouse's opening speech).

In short, Bendel's testimony at the Belsen trial is fairly reliable (the only clearly weak element being his cremation trench capacity of 1000 corpses per hour; while the trenches may have been loaded with 1000 corpses in one hour and thus disappeared from the gas chamber within this time for Bendel, the actual cremation lasted many hours) and very credible.

I went into great detail on Bendel's Belsen testimony because (i) I feel it has been neglected and not fully exploited by Anti-Revisionists in the past and (ii) because it is most interesting to contrast it with Mattogno's critique of the testimony.

So how did Mattogno deal with this most important testimony of a highly relevant eyewitness? Recall that Mattogno asserts that virtually anything said and written about mass extermination in Auschwitz is false and that he has yet convince virtually any scholar on this planet of his hypothesis, I would expect a detailed analysis explaining why the testimony is unreliable and uncredible, but most importantly explaining its specific genesis. And here is what Mattogno delivered in ATCFS (p.593):

"Van Pelt presents us with a long excerpt from Bendel’s deposition at the Belsen trial (pp.34ff.), but without any comment, even though it contains various assertions which clash conspicuously with his credo, for example:
- the gassing of 80,000 Jews from the Lodz ghetto, although there were only 25,000 deportees (p. 112, see chapter 15.2.);
- the number (three), the size (12×6 m) and the capacity (1,000 corpses per hour) of the alleged “cremation pits” in the yard of crematoriumV are completely at variance with the assertions by Tauber, Dragon and Jankowski (and by all the other witnesses; see Mattogno 2005c, pp. 13-23);
- the death of the alleged victims within two minutes and the opening of the door of the alleged gas chamber after five minutes, whereas van Pelt speaks of “up to 30 minutes” (p. 388; see chapter 14.1.);"
That is it. So instead of an actual analysis [= "a careful study of something to learn about its parts, what they do, and how they are related to each other"], we only get a short list of supposed falsehoods or contradictions with no explanation of the testimony whatsoever. In 1990, he published an English article adding 5 (!) more supposed false items from Bendel's cross examination. Mattogno even achieves the "masterpiece" that almost all of the supposed falsehoods he points his finger at (aside those above: execution of 150 political prisoners in August 1944, undressing of the victims in the yard of the crematorium, shooting of prisoners near the cremation trenches, collection of fat from the cremation trenches, gassing of 4300 Gypsies end July 1944, execution of 4 prisoners who supplied explosives to the Sonderkommando in December 1944) are either perfectly correct, largely correct or may be very well correct. The only exception being the 1000 corpses/h cremation trench capacity already mentioned above. 

Bendel's next appearance was at the Tesch trial on 2 March 1946 in Hamburg. This testimony is much weaker than his cross-examination at the Belsen trial. While he still provided a decent number of hard facts, his testimony is now also loaded with some guesswork, exaggerations, hearsay information, e.g. the 4 Million Auschwitz victims, 25,000 victims per day in June 1944 and that disinfection was "done mainly by Lisoform". As Pressac noted, this looks like it was prepared to provide maximum damage to the defendants and Bendel was willing to help. He also displayed some weakness in estimating the height of the gas chamber. According to him, the gas chambers of crematorium 2 and 3 were about 1.7 m high, while their actual height was about 2.4 m. This inaccuracy could be the result of a small observer (Bendel doesn't look too big) + a filled gas chamber + taking the 1.9 m height door as reference + subjective estimation.

More serious, however, is that according to Mattogno, Bendel stated in an affidavit of 21 October 1945 that the gas chambers (of all crematoria) were only 1.5 m high, i.e. smaller than most adults. Such a mistake is puzzling. Since Bendel was not a compuslive liar as demonstrated by his appearance at the Belsen trial and since he was definitely assigned to work at the crematoria (else he could not provide such a wealth of details of the sites and even provided a reasonable description of the wire mesh shaft from inside the gas chamber), the underestimation smells like somebody who was heavily and selectively traumatised:

"One got the impression that they fought terribly against death. Anybody who has ever seen a gas chamber filled to the height of one and a half metres with corpses will never forget it."

(Bendel at the Belsen trial)

Miklos Nyiszli

Nyiszli testified about Auschwitz on 28 July 1945 in Budapest before the "Budapest Commission for the Welfare of Deported Hungarian Jews". The late ex-Revisionist Charles Provan quoted some extract from the deposition he obtained from Prof. Lifton's staff on his website Revising Revisionism (mirrored here). Elsewhere Provan quoted/paraphrases some further statements from the deposition.  Another extract (on killing Mengele's twins) is quoted in Lifton's book The Nazi Doctors.

Nyiszli's prisoner's number in Auschwitz was A-8450, which was registered on 29 May 1944 according the registration records (Czech, Kalendarium, p. 788). As demonstrated by a transfer report of 27 June 1944 (Nyiszli, Im Jenseits der Menschlichkeit, p. 180), he was indeed first sent to Monowitz and then selected to work for Mengele together with two (not one) other prisoners. His description of the gassing procedure - arrival of the gas with a Red Cross car, four gas openings on the underground gas chamber with concrete covers, gas pellets in cans, SS paramedic with gas mask pours the content into the openings, death after five to ten minutes - is reliable apart from the plural "doors" (there was only one door from the corridor to the gas chamber and - of course - the chlorine gas (instead of hydrogen cyanide gas). Although one would assume that, as a doctor, he was somehow interested in the actual poison gas, the confusion is ultimately a minor error. Furthermore, the mistake rules out that Nyiszli was "scripted" by the War Refugee Board Report (that may have been available to the Hungarian authorities), since there "Cyan" is already identified as killing agent, let aside that the "four concrete slabs" or the underground gas chamber with elevator to the furnace room were not known to its authors.

The liquidation of the Sonderkommando on 27 November 1944 as reported by Nyiszli is a simplified and distorted description of the events. In actual fact, the 900 men strong Sonderkommando was reduced in three steps (incl. the uprising), moreover it was not liquidated entirely. Nevertheless, Nyiszli was perfectly right that Sonderkommandos were liquidated around this date:

"We are going to the zone. 170 men left. We are certain that they will sent us to death. They have selected 30 people to stay in crematorium 5. Today is 26 November 1944."

(unnamed Sonderkommando prisoner, handwriting found in summer 1952 buried at crematorium 3, Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 185)

According to Prof. Lifton, Nyiszli also revealed that he assisted Mengle in murdering 14 twins. Now, it is implausible and unlikely that a former Auschwitz prisoner would testify in detail about his assistance to kill children (which took place in a closed place like the crematorium dissecting room with certainly no witness to testify against him) if it were not the painful truth.

From the extracts published by Provan and Lifton one could have already infered that Nyiszli provided a decent account (lacking major exaggerations and inventions). This is now confirmed for the full deposition, which has been published in the mean time (thanks to N. Terry for pointing this out to me).

Some months later, in March 1946, Nyiszli published a book on Auschwitz in Hungarian, which is however quite controversial. On the one hand, the lengthy narrative (some 45000 words in the German translation) displays deep insider knowledge and confirms that Nyiszli was a prisoner's doctor in the crematorium who witnessed mass extermination. On the other hand, the account is clearly soaked with fictional elements despite Nyiszli's declaration that it was written "without exaggeration". It is a novel partly based on historical facts and any details not corroborated by other sources should be taken very carefully. Conversely, the account can be still used to corroborate other independent sources, since it is unlikely that two independent sources would come up with the same fictional element by chance.

But we do not even need his book to make a case for mass extermination with him. Recall that Nyiszli credibly described the gassing in the crematorium already way before the book. And unlike what Mattogno's buddy Jürgen Graf asserted in a response to Provan, the fictional character of the book from March 1946 doesn't invalidate his earlier deposition of July 1945 as a historical source.

So what did Mattogno say about the deposition with its description of the murder weapon? He did not know about the source in his pamphlet "'Medico ad Auschwitz': Anatomia di un falso" back in 1988, so we can skip this one. But he simply ignored the source when he directly replied to Provan as well as throughout ATCFS.

Yehuda Bakon

Bakon is a former Jewish prisoner of Auschwitz, who has drawn sketches of the crematoria in Birkenau while recovering in a hospital in Austria in June 1945. Here is his sketch of crematorium 4 compared to a contemporary SS photograph and here the same for crematorium 3. He was clearly a reliable and credible eyewitness (the extent of smoke/fire is debatable). Now that we've "gauge[d] the precision of Bacon's memory" as Van Pelt has put it (The Case for Auschwitz, p. 172), we can look at his most important drawing for the issue of mass extermination in Auschwitz, a sketch of the murder weapon, a cross section of the homicidal gas chamber. The sketch shows protected lights and shower heads at the ceiling and a hollow column going from the floor through the roof closed some cover. Most interestingly, he seemed to have indicated another tube within the column. It is easy to see that number and description of the gas introduction columns correspond suficiently well to the independent testimonies of Henryk Tauber and David Olere. Hence, Bacon provided credible evidence on the mass murder in the basement.

Mattogno tried to distract the reader from Bakon's drawings to his later testimony at the Eichmann trial, as if human memory would miraculously improve over time. It is, of course, the other way around and for this reason, Bakon's most relevant account as evidence on mass extermination in Auschwitz is his set of sketches from 1945, then his Eichmann and Auschwitz trial testimony and then what he told Van Pelt just some years ago - exactly in this order. The later accounts may help to understand (or misunderstand) the early sketches, but any inaccuracies that sneaked into them do not challenge the sketches as powerful evidence.


18 October 2015: Linguistic changes in section on Broad.

No comments: