Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: Why the Diesel Issue is Still Irrelevant

Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans
Part I: Why the Diesel Issue is Still Irrelevant (update)

One of the main arguments by the Revisionist Santiago Alvarez against German homicidal gas vans is that most of the vehicles (namely those with Saurer chassis) were supposed to have had Diesel engines combined with the claim that Diesel engine exhaust - as opposed to gasoline engine exhaust - is not suitable for killing.

This posting presents evidence that the homicidal gas vans based on Saurer chassis were fabricated with gasoline engines in German occupied France. In fact, all brands identified as possible gas vans by the most reliable sources were either most likely or at least possibly using gasoline engines. Furthermore, the available testimonial evidence strongly supports gasoline engines over Diesel. Therefore, the "Diesel issue" is indeed irrelevant as far as the reality of homicidal gas vans is concerned.

The Diesel Issue

The most active advocate of the "Diesel argument" is the Holocaust denier Friedrich Berg. It says that a) Diesel engine exhaust is insufficiently lethal or unsuitable for murder and b) Diesel engines were used for the homicidal gassings if it were true, and since a) and b) are incompatible it follows that homicidal gassings with engine exhaust are not true.

Supposing that the premise A is correct and can be considered as "hard" knowledge based on scientific, technical facts, this is not true for the second premise. Engine type identification from the memory of bystanders and people not operating the device is not a particular reliable piece of information. But an argument is just as strong as its weakest element. Hence, the "Diesel argument" is an inevitable weak argument against homicidal gassings - as long as it is possible to explain that sources on Diesel engines were mistaken. For a general rebuttal see Sergey's Why the "diesel issue" is irrelevant.

While for stationary gas chambers, the use of Diesel engines is rather unlikely based on the low amount of carbon monoxide and high amount of oxygen emitted in idle mode, this is not necessarily true anymore for gas vans with possibly load on the engine:
"if one has an ordinary truck, a full load can be imposed on the engine by first filling the truck with a heavy cargo and then racing the vehicle up a steep hill with the fuel pedal to the floor. Under that condition, one would probably be putting out about 0.4%/vol. CO, which is indeed lethal, from the exhaust pipe of an undivided chamber Diesel."
(Friedrich Berg, Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture - Absurd for Murder)

Hence, the argument is reduced to 'Diesel is not be best choice for killing, therefore it was not chosen for killing', which is even less powerful than its variant on stationary gas chambers - except for cases where gas vans are supposed to have been operated idle.

Moreover, some of the sources mention only a brand or type of chassis, but not the type of engine or the fuel. This adds quite some uncertainty as an engine is something that could have been replaced. The chassis of a (factory-made) Diesel truck could have actually carried a gasoline engine. It is also not known for sure when the chassis for the gas vans were actually produced. The point is significant because the older the chassis the more likely would they have gasoline engines.

Gas Vans, Diesel and Holocaust Deniers

Holocaust deniers usually bring up the Diesel issue in two contexts on homicidal gas vans. The first is the Soviet Krasnodar and Kharkov trials (1943), which claimed that Diesel engines were employed in homicidal gas vans. Since there is little concrete evidence on Diesel from these trials (see section Testimonial Evidence on the Type of Engine), I'll skip over it here. More serious is the argument on trucks from the Swiss brand Saurer, which made up the bulk of the gas van pool. The construction and use of Saurer trucks for homicidal purposes is shown by multiple contemporary German documents featured here.

The leading Holocaust denier Carlo Mattogno claims that all Saurer trucks had Diesel engines:
"This document proves in no way that the 'Einsatzgruppen' employed 'gas vans' for homicidal purposes. In fact, all Saurer trucks had diesel engines, the exhaust gases of which were totally unsuitable for murder, a fact now even acknowledged by orthodox historians, as we have seen earlier." 
(Mattogno, Inside the Gas Chambers, p. 113 )

He is citing Santiago Alvarez to support the assertion. Alvarez makes extensive use of the "Diesel argument" in his book on gas vans. Here some of the instructive examples:
"German documents from 1942 prove the order of thirty special cargo boxes mounted onto the chassis of Austrian Saurer trucks sporting Diesel engines. The vehicles thusly equipped are claimed to have been used as “gas vans” especially by the so-called Einsatzgruppen, German armed forces officially in charge of combating partisans operating behind the German lines at the eastern front." (p. 18)
"During this study we will encounter over and over again the claim that the alleged mass murder with “gas vans” is said to have been conducted with the exhaust gases of Diesel engines, either expressly or implied by the vehicle make used (Saurer)...This is particularly true for the Swiss-Austrian truck manufacturer Saurer, who equipped their trucks only with Diesel engines" (p. 24)
"This sentence implies that the gassings took place while the trucks were stationary, because a driving truck cannot be operated at “full throttle” all or even most of the time. This in turn implies that the truck’s engine was running without any load. In case of Saurertrucks with Diesel engines, their exhaust gases would not have had toxic amounts of carbon monoxide under these circumstances; hence they would have been unsuited for murder by asphyxiation." (p. 53)
"During the war, the German Wehrmacht obtained almost 100,000 medium-size trucks (3 tons) of the type Opel Blitz, which had a 3,600 cm³ gasoline engine. Equipped with an appropriate cargo box,this vehicle could have served as a “gas van.” Yet the RSHA instead decided to buy Saurer heavy goods trucks, which had Diesel engines and were therefore only capable of slowly torturing the intended victims to death." (p. 87)
"The vehicles in question are specified in this document as Saurer trucks; hence they were equipped with Diesel engines, which are unsuitable for homicidal purposes." (p. 93)
"Moreover, if the Saurer Diesel engines couldn’t do what Schäfer and the verdict claim they did (killing within 15 minutes), if therefore his testimony isn’t true, then why would he say such things?" (p. 182)
"This is all very impressive, with the one catch that all Saurer trucks had Diesel engines; hence their exhaust gases while idling in some courtyard would never have resulted in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide...And they knew that exhaust gases of idling Diesel engines would not kill anybody. So why did all those doctors of crime technology testify otherwise?" (p. 213 f.)
"Saurer trucks with Diesel engines, which, when running idly, will not kill anyone within half an hour, and even when moving they would need a heavy load to accomplish that, if at all possible. This would have required continuously driving up a steep mountain, for instance, but such mountains are far and between in most Soviet areas occupied by the Germans during WWII." (p. 264)
"Illustration 26 (p. 378), on the other hand, shows a draft of an impossible “gas van” as described in the pertinent literature using the exhaust gases of a Saurer Diesel engine, piped into the cargo box’s floor via a metal hose." (p. 272)
"Considering that the Saurer special vehicles with their Diesel engines and low cargo boxes could not have served as mobile homicidal gas chambers, it would be interesting to know what the original request was for – if it ever existed." (p. 298)
"Problems: 1. Diesel engines, while idling or when running under low load, do not produce gases to be lethal within 20 minutes." (p. 378)
(Alvarez, The Gas Vans)

This chorus on Saurer is joined by the Revisionists Ingrid Weckert ("Saurer vehicles always had Diesel engines"), Jürgen Graf ("all Saurer vehicles were driven by Diesel"), Thomas Dalton ("...Saurers, which only run on diesel...these definitely could not have been gasoline") and Scott Smith ("Saurers are always diesels").

Alvarez refers his readers to the Saurer chronology on the homepage of the Oldtimer Club Saurer in Arbon, Switzerland. The site says that Saurer used both gasoline and Diesel engines for their B series. It explains a new Diesel "injection system" was introduced for the C series, but this does not exclude that gasoline engine continued to be used as well. In short, the site does not consist any evidence that Saurer = Diesel.

There is no way how to deduce from this website the proportion of Diesel to gasoline engines produced by Saurer in its home country Switzerland. There is further no way how to estimate the proportion of engine types produced in the foreign factories after the German occupation. There is finally no way to conclude from this that a factory made engine type could not have been changed before the chassis were provided with the coach works for the homicidal gassing. Thus, there is no way how to exclude that the Saurer gas vans were actually gasoline powered.

Saurer Chassis and Their Engines

The proportion of gasoline to Diesel engines delivered by the Saurer factory in Arbon/Switzerland is illustrated here (Wipf et al., Saurer. Vom Ostschweizer Kleinbetrieb zum internationalen Technologiekonzern). It shows that gasoline engines were steadily on decline but some were still produced even in 1940.

In the Austrian factories producing on Saurer license, the C series was stopped in 1939 after Austria was incorporated into the German Reich. The C series employed both gasoline and Diesel engines between 1934 - 1939. Under the German regime, the production was focused on trucks based on the B series. The Saurer trucks produced in Austria in 1940-1942 were Diesel driven 4BTDv-S and BT4500 with 4.5 to 5 tons load (see Kopacs, Die Österreichischen Saurerwerke. Lastkraftwagen 1906 - 1948). Eckermann (Fahren mit Holz, p.184) claims that the Austrian Saurer factories had to convert their Diesel engines to gasoline since July 1942 (to what extent this was implemented remains unclear though). 

By 1940, the Germans gained access to another site producing on Saurer license: the Saurer factory in Suresnes near Paris. The factory delivered between 750 - 950 Saurer chassis per year in 1941 - 1942. Most of the production consisted of modified C series chassis - the Diesel of the 5 tons 3CT trucks was replaced with gasoline engines:
"Im Zeichen der Rationalisierung sank die Typenzahl radikal, statt Saurer-Diesel wurden vor allem Fünftonner mit Benzinmotor gebaut (3 CT1), auf die nicht weniger als drei viertel der Gesamtproduktion 1940 - 1944 entfiel"
(Wipf et al., Saurer. Vom Ostschweizer Kleinbetrieb zum internationalen Technologiekonzern, no page numbers)

Accordingly, there are two possibilities of how gasoline engines could have ended up in the 30 Saurer chassis purchased by the RSHA for the second generation homicidal gas vans (leaving aside the replacement of Diesel by gasoline engines):
  • The chassis were pre-1940 models running on gasoline from Austria or Switzerland.
  • The chassis were purchased with gasoline engines from the Saurer factory in Suresnes.

The second hypothesis is strongly supported by the testimony of the gas van driver Heinz Schlechte, who recalled that his Saurer vehicle was equipped with a French gasoline engine (see section Testimonial Evidence on the Type of Engine).

Other Chassis Used for Homicidal Gas Vans

Renault trucks were employed according to the testimony of the Chelmno gas van driver Walter Burmeister (Kogon et al, Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen mit Giftgas, p. 114). According to Ware, Die Lastkraftwagen der deutschen Wehrmacht, p. 200 ff. Renault was heavy on gasoline engines for all its classes of trucks, which is confirmed by this (unfortunately without citation, but apparently well researched) French article on Renault trucks during the war.

Opel gas vans were mentioned by the gas van inspector August Becker...
"I want to mention that two types of gas wagons were employed: 'Opel-Blitz' 3.5 tons and the big 'Saurer-wagon' with 7 tons according to my knowledge."
(Ernst Klee, Schöne Zeiten, p. 71, my translation) well as by Helmut Hoffmann from the Criminal Technical Institute of the Security Police:
"It was an Opel Blitz 3 tons."
(Interrogation of Helmut Hoffmann of 27 January 1959, Bundesarchiv B162 / 5066, p. 95, my translation)

Opel provided their 3.5 tons class trucks typically with gasoline engines (e.g. Ware, Die Lastkraftwagen der deutschen Wehrmacht, p. 204 & Frank, Laftkraftwagen der Wehrmacht, p. 124).

Gas vans based on the chassis of the American company Diamond T were used according to the telegram from Heinz Truehe to the RSHA of 15 June 1942...
"20 exhaust hoses for the existing 3 S-wagons (2 Diamond, 1 Saurer)"
(Contemporary German Documents on Homicidal Gas Vans)

...the testimony of the gas van driver Johann Haßler... 
"This vehicle was an American 3 ton truck of the make Diamond."
(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 152)

...and the testimony of Willi Schmidt, who was in charge of the gas vans in Minsk:
"At my time in Minsk there were two to three gas vans. There were trucks of the brand Diamond and other captured English vehicles."
(Interrogation of Willi Schmidt of 23 February 1961, Bundesarchiv B162 / 5066, p. 261b, my translation)

The Diamond Ts were apparently captured by the Germans in the campaign in the West. I didn't find much reliable information on the chassis and engines of Diamond T trucks out there (I encourage readers to submit hints to relevant literature). There is, however, sufficient indication that Diamond Ts were using also gasoline engines and so that it can be ruled out that the trucks were always running with Diesel.

Here some references to gasoline engines in Diamond T trucks: According to Wikipedia, the 201 models "were powered by the Hercules QX-series 6-cylinder engines" (= gasoline). This blog says that "Most T’s were powered by the Hercules QX series as well as Continental engines". This factory specification of 306 models from 1948 lists a "carburator". This model 969A has a Hercules engine "RXC 6 cylinder petrol". This auction list has several Diamond Ts from the 30s and 40s with gasoline engines, e.g. "1941 Diamond T 406 Fire Truck, CBJXC Hercules engine". This site mentions that the Diamond T968 came with a "Hercules RXC 6-cylinder" gasoline engine.

The use of a Magirus truck as homicidal gas van is not supported by reliable sources.

Testimonial Evidence on the Type of Gas Van Engines

There is little concrete evidence that the gas vans were on Diesel. Vladimir Tishchenko, who worked for the German paramilitary forces, mentioned "the Diesel engine by which the vehicle was driven" at the July 1943 Krasnodar trial (The People's Verdict. A Full report of the proceedings at the Krasnodar and Kharkov German atrocity trials, p. 17). There is no indication that Tishchenko was technically involved in the gassing process and had to know the type of engine.

In contrast to this, there are numerous testimonies from competent witnesses on gasoline engines used in the gas vans:

1.) Heinz Schlechte, gas van driver:
"The vehicle was a big box wagon of the type Saurer. I remember that the vehicle had a French Otto engine. It was thus no Austrian make, because the Austrian vehicles were exclusively equipped with Diesel engines."
(Interrogation of Heinz Schlechte of 27 August 1963, Bundesarchiv B162 / 5066, p. 645, my translation)

2.) Walter Burmeister, gas van driver:
 "The wagons were medium-sized Renault trucks with an Otto engine."
(Kogon et al, Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen mit Giftgas, p. 114, my translation)

3.) Walter Piller, deputy commandant Chelmno, in May 1945:
"These were gases that had been created by the gasoline motor."
(Kogon et al, Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen mit Giftgas, p. 138, Roberto's translation)

4.) Helmut Hoffmann, chemist at the Criminal Technical Institute of the Security Police:
"Dr. Widmann talked about adjusting the carburetor to obtain a deadly mixture as quickly as possible. As I know, this was achieved by retarded ignition."
(Interrogation of Helmut Hoffmann of 27 January 1959, Bundesarchiv B162 / 5066, p. 95 f., my translation) 

Since Diesel engines don't have a carburetor and are self-igniting, what Hoffmann described here was clearly a gasoline engine.

5.) Friedrich Jeckeln, according to the German historian Christian Gerlach:
"The former Head of SS and Police Eastern Territories, Friedrich Jeckeln...mentioned too high gasoline consumption and cleaning problems."
(Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, page 767, Roberto's translation

6.) Bruno Israel, police officer involved in the mass extermination in Chelmno:
"I wish to point out that the exhaust pipe entered the inside of the van through the floor, so the exhaust fumes, after the engine had been started, entered the vehicle killing all those inside. I do not know if the gasoline was mixed with chloroform, ether or other substances."
(Pawlicka-Nowak, Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 197, Roberto's transcription)

7.) Zalman Levinbuck:
"The people are poisoned during the drive by gases and exhaust fumes that are created by the combustion of gasoline in the motor."
(Kogon et al, Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen mit Giftgas, p. 91, Roberto's translation)

8.) Mordka Zurawski:
"I pulled the corpses out of the van and could only see the interior. After the door had been opened, we had to wait about eight minutes before we could go inside. I could not tell whether they added some (chemical) agents to the gasoline."
(Pawlicka-Nowak, Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 131, Roberto's transcription)


The type of engines installed in the homicidal gas vans can be readily deduced from the evidence:
  • Most witnesses (including the most competent) described gasoline engines or gasoline fuel.

  • The chassis of the gas vans identified by the most reliable sources were either probably or quite possibly already factory-made on gasoline.

  • Gasoline engine exhaust is far more suitable for homicidal gassing than Diesel engine exhaust.
Therefore, it can be concluded beyond reasonable doubt that the German homicidal gas vans were running on gasoline engines. The Saurer trucks converted into gas vans were most likely obtained from the Saurer factory in Surenes in German occupied France by the RSHA.

A whole bunch of leading Holocaust deniers have insisted that Saurer were always Diesel, but it is damn wrong. There was never any solid ground to equate Saurer with Diesels, no data on factory deliveries over the years and no evidence that a chassis with a Diesel engine cannot be turned into a gasoline powered truck. This is illustrative for deniers' low standard of evidence they display for something in favour of their hypothesis, quite the contrary to their else absurd high and methodologically flawed standards on German atrocities specifically designed so they are impossible to meet. For example, even numerous contemporary documents corroborated by many testimonies from victims, bystanders and perpetrators provided at various circumstances are considered insufficient to establish homicidal gas vans, yet for the strong and absolute claim that any Saurer truck was a Diesel Alvarez and Mattogno need nothing but an uneducated guess and an unsourced, ambiguous internet site.

A major addition to this posting can be found here.

28 November 2015: added Dalton to the Saurer chorus.
2 March 2016: added reference to update


Nathan said...

If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is:

(a) rationally based on the witness’s perception;

The Law (U.S. law in this case) understands that possession of first hand knowledge is important when assessing testimony. It's common sense to assume that the people who directly handled the engines would be in a better position to know what they were, rather than bystanders who simply guessed or assume. The law knows it. Historians know it. "Revisionist" chumps don't.

Thanks again for the great read, Hans.

Jeff said...

you might want to change "Alvarez" to "Santomauro" by the way.

Hans said...

Hi Jeff,

interesting, what's the reason you think that Santomauro = Alvarez? I confess that Santomauro is an "unknown quantity" to me and I never read any piece from him, so perhaps I'm just missing the obvious here.

Eric Danielski said...

Jeff said...

Michael Santomauro is a denier publisher who is believed to have used pseudonyms in the past. It is all but certain that "Thomas Dalton, phd" was actually Santomauro. Many believe that "Alvarez" is another alias.

Roberto Lucena said...

Hans, I think I've mentioned the Alvarez-Santomauro question in another post. Santomauro was a publisher and he had the VHO domain/host (one of them, I saw it a long time ago, many years ago). Santomauro released the "Dalton"'s book (the "PhD" fake), which is another fake/pseudonym of the same guy. Roberto (Muehlenkamp) comments that Dalton is the Thomas Kues in a post (I've had separated the link to put here but I can't find at the time, there's also a text of a Denier "justifying" the use of pseudonyms).

I think this is a relevant issue, because, we're talking/writing to whom?? Imagine the situation, to answer to the same person with three, four "identities". The Deniers proclaim they're "bearers of truth," so why do they need to use so many fakes? This is another intellectual dishonesty of them.

Jeff said...

Roberto, I may be misunderstanding you, but are you saying that the other Roberto (Muehlenkamp that is) stated that "Dalton" was Kues? All the speculation that I've read indicates that "Dalton" was Santomauro himself. Kues had a different writing style than "Dalton" IIRC.

Roberto Lucena said...

Jeff, it was my mistake, I wrote fast thinking of one thing (memory betrays). The Roberto Muehlenkamp's post is it, about Kues and Alvarez:
Alvarez" and Marais lie about the judgment LG München I vom 14.07.1972, 114 Ks 4/70

The Denier post justifying the use of pseudonyms is it:
Going Underground: 'Catacomb Revisionists' and Revisionist Repression

The truth is, anyone who be Dalton, this "guy" is close to Santomauro, if not himself. The writing style is also a way to identify the (real) authors of the text. It remains interesting these people create false identities to value Denial texts.

Jan Primorac said...

Truly remarkable blog. I am finding really great responses to the deniers community. Keep up the good work!


Dass Prussian said...

I came across another piece of evidence for the existence of gas vans today. It was a secret letter that Erich Naumann wrote to a fellow co-defendant while awaiting trial at Nuremberg (The Einsatzgruppen Trial).

Unfortunately for Naumann, the intended recipient of this letter ( Waldemar Klingelhofer )attempted suicide on the same night, and the guards discovered the letter and submitted it to the court to be used as evidence against Naumann.

Basically Naumann was trying to help Klingelhofer by informing him how he could conceal the truth on certain topics. It also looked like they were trying to collude in order to 'get their stories straight'. Anyway, the part of the letter that confirms the existence of the gas vans said this :

"EK B received 2 or 3 gas vans from Berlin which were not used by B and therefore, under directions of the RHSA, were given to C"

The document reference is NO 5450 and the full letter has been published in the book "The Nuremberg SS-Ensatzgruppen Trial" by Hilary Earl.

Nathan said...

- Basically Naumann was trying to help Klingelhofer by informing him how he could conceal the truth on certain topics. It also looked like they were trying to collude in order to 'get their stories straight'-

Interesting find. So the US or anyone else didn't torture or feed defendants a story. The defendants tried to do that themselves to cover their asses.

Thanks for sharing this.

Jonathan Harrison said...

I collated some material on gas vans in the USSR back in July.

Naumann is bad news for deniers on several fronts. He was trying to claim that he did not take over the unit until the end of Nov 41, so he could deny involvement in all the documented killings that month. He could not deny the killings themselves although his counsel did try to claim that numbers in the 1942 reports were too high.

As the judgment states:

"Naumann's note to the co-defendant Klingelhoefer...would suggest an attempt to influence Klingelhoefer's testimony that Naumann's duties began on November 30th."

Dass Prussian said...

I later discovered while reading Hilary Earl's book that this letter was one of the reasons why Klingelhoefer attempted suicide. Apparently after he received it he decided to hand it over to the prison guards , which therefore had serious implications for Naumann.
Klingelhoefer then began to beat himself up over whether he'd done the right thing. Obviously he would now be labelled a 'grass' by his fellow defendants, and he began to wonder if he could handle this in the future.
Coupled with this , he also became depressed over the outcome of the war and the realisation of Hitlers crimes. Unable to cope with such trauma, he decided to take his own life, but before he did this, he also wrote a farewell letter which I quote here :

"Too late (Naumann's letter), unfortunately, after the collapse ( of Germany), I gained complete insight into the whole extent of the horrible blasphemy that was carried out here. Nevertheless, I ask that this suicide attempt of mine not be interpreted as an attempt to excuse myself in any way....I am fully conscious of the fact that I must bear the consequences completely for my personal attitude and my acts. Still I will not burden my conscience with acts that are in complete opposition to the attitude I have again achieved"

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, Klinelhoefer survived his suicide attempt, which consisted of spending several hours cutting a deep hole in the artery of his left wrist with a rather large safety pin ( which can be seen today in the National Archives Washington !!!)

Jeff said...

Excellent work Das Prussian!

We at SSF are all huge fans of your efforts.

Dass Prussian said...

Thanks Jeff, although the real plaudits should go to the HC team here for the outstanding work they have carried out over the years ( and for the entertainment they have provided lol)