Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mattogno and Father Patrick Desbois (3)

Mattogno and Father Patrick Desbois (1)
Mattogno and Father Patrick Desbois (2)
Mattogno and Father Patrick Desbois (3)
Mattogno and Father Patrick Desbois (4)
Mattogno and Father Patrick Desbois (5)

The previous blog of this series dissected Mattogno’s attacks on Desbois’ methodology for establishing mass killing sites, and his accusations of "numerical nonsense".

In this blog, we will have a look at Mattogno’s attempt, in sections 4 and 7 of his critique, to discredit witnesses interviewed by Desbois whose testimonies are rendered in Desbois’ book.



Desbois divided the witnesses he interviewed into three categories[35]:
There were indirect witnesses, people who did not see the assassinations but who had heard about them or had seen the Jews leaving town. They told us how, for example, they had seen the police taking the Jews from their homes and had watched them disappear from the corner of the street.
Then there were the direct witnesses, who had been present at the assassination. Like Yaroslav Galan, who told us that he had seen several trucks arrive while he was tending a cow. Thirty or so people had gotten out of these trucks. He saw them digging and then being shot. He heard the orders of the Germans and the last words of the Jews. This second group constituted the majority of our witnesses.
And then there were others: civilians, mostly children, who had been requisitioned for a day or a week. A local policeman, an emissary from the mayor, or a German officer would go into people’s houses and order: “You come with me and bring a spade.” They could be requisitioned to dig a pit at 5 in the morning. After they had finished digging, the Germans made them sit down while they brought in the Jews and shot them, and then they had them get up and fill in the pit. Some were assigned the task of gathering up the clothes, passing by with a cart so the Jews should put their clothes into it. When the cart was full, they took it to a house designated by the Germans to store the loot. Others were requisitioned to pull out teeth. Still others to transport the Jews in their carts when the pit was too far from the village and there weren’t enough trucks. Most of them were forced to act at gunpoint. They had no choice.

Mattogno’s first objection concerns the age of the witnesses at the time of the events about which they were interviewed. He exclaims that the direct eyewitnesses ""were only six, seven or eight years old at the time of the events in question"!", based on the following observations by Desbois[36]:
These are people who saw what happened but who could do nothing. Powerless people who still ask themselves whether they are guilty or innocent, when they were only six, seven, eight, or nine years old at the time these events occurred. These children who ran behind the lines of Jews who were throwing away their last possessions—necklaces, wedding rings, and the few bits of jewelry they had left—so as not to leave them to the Germans. These curious children who ran along behind the Jews, up to the place of execution, hiding in the grass or climbing up into the trees to watch. These children who saw their fathers dig the pits and their classmates stripped naked before being shot.

As a particularly egregious example, Mattogno points out that of Maria Kedrovska, born in 1937 and thus only five years old at the time of the killing she witnessed. What he conveniently omits is that this witness, born to a Russian mother and a Jewish father, was saved by the intervention of a German at the very site of the killing, where all members of her family were killed except for her mother, who as a Russian was spared but went mad. [37]

Mattogno claims that the witnesses’ recollections, "more than sixty years later, are now indissolubly confused with what they heard of read later". This "fact" is supposed to be made obvious by their own declarations, of which he quotes the following (the page numbers refer to the Italian translation of Desbois’ book):
Only much later did we learn what had happened (p. 148);
My father, who died in 1980, was the person who told me… (p. 203);
I didn't see it personally, but someone spoke to me about it… (p. 216).
I didn't see it directly, but the villagers told me about it (p. 245).
From rumors going around… (p. 186).

However, the snippets that Mattogno quotes out of context fail to support his claim, for they suggest that, even after 60 years, the witnesses were able and willing to distinguish between their own sensory perceptions related to the killing (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching) and what they had learned from others. This impression is hardened in most cases[38] by a closer look at the witness interviews[39], which furthermore show that the witnesses distinguished between what they knew for certain and what they did not. I encourage our readers to look up these interviews.

The mentions of "rumors" in the last quoted snippet is a handy pretext for yet another of Mattogno’s convenient sweeping conclusions:
These alleged "eyewitness testimonies" are thus clearly invalidated by the rumors circulating post-war.

A reference to "post-war" rumors is not mentioned in the eyewitness testimonies unless I missed something, and the same goes for the source of such rumors that Mattogno postulates, the investigations carried out by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission for the Establishment of German Crimes. Mattogno indulges in a lecture about the German and Soviet investigations of the Katyn killings, praises the former’s having been conducted by commissions made up of independent experts, and calls the latter a "large-scale propaganda exercise in the falsification of history" – which it was, as the Soviets tried to blame their own crime on the Germans. Yet this doesn’t justify the conclusion that Mattogno gladly jumps to, which is that all investigations conducted by the Soviet Extraordinary Commission are useless as sources of historiography and can be thrown into the rubbish bin ("The value of the above-mentioned Soviet reports can readily be assessed", as Mattogno puts it.)

Desbois, who is quoted in this sense by Mattogno, also stood before the question what value he should attribute to Soviet investigation reports:
I went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where massive archives concerning the Holocaust since 1944 have been microfilmed. It is a virtually inexhaustible bank of data that represents 46 million pages that are open to public access, in which one can find also the documents of the extraordinary Soviet commissions of 1944. As soon as the Germans left a place, the Soviets, village after village, opened the ditches, interrogated neighbors, the priest, the mayor, and the survivors, and drew up a document in which they established the facts. They sometimes even drew a sketch indicating the site of the mass graves. But how much could one rely on the Soviet which, although used during the Nuremberg trials, had lost much of their credibility since the revelations about the Katyn affair? [40]

Yet this question didn’t lead Desbois to dismiss Soviet investigation reports in toto:
Nonetheless, we dissected all the texts of the Soviet commissions. One of them related the order to open all the mass graves at Lisinitchi.
Fifty-seven mass graves were listed. Bodies had been burnt there and the commission indicated that the ashes had been found very deep down in the ground. These statements confirmed the content of the testimonies of Miron and Adolf.

The approach of comparing evidence from Soviet investigation reports with evidence independent of the Soviets (such as post-Soviet local testimonies, testimonies collected by West German investigators or made at trials before West German courts, contemporary German documents) is also taken by historians, who have found that in many cases evidence collected by the Soviets matches evidence on which the Soviets could have had no influence. One of these historians is Dieter Pohl:
The Soviet Extraordinary State Commission for the Establishment of German Crimes, to use the short version of its name, started to locate places of German mass murder from February 1941 on. They collected evidence, witness statements and in many cases exhumed victims of Nazi crimes. Of course, this investigation commission was a Stalinist institution that served the purpose of propaganda and restitution. And there has been much source criticism of the commission’s handling of the Katyn case and its victim statistics. Even in cases of exhumed large mass graves, their estimates were much too high. Nevertheless their source material is of enormous value and has not been fully combed through until today. The Soviet Union "re-discovered" the occupation only during the mid-1960s, and research on the crimes under occupation was not published before the mid 1970s, among it valuable surveys of the destroyed villages in Belorussia. [41]

(Emphasis added).

The value of Soviet source material has also been assessed on this blog site, which contains various articles in which Soviet evidence is set against evidence independent of the Soviets[42]. The result of such comparisons is that, while the Soviets often exaggerated in their estimates of the number of victims, the massacres they claimed are borne out by evidence on which the Soviets could have had no influence. I haven’t yet come upon a single case in which the Soviets simply made up a German mass crime that never took place, and I’m also not aware of any report by the Soviet Extraordinary Commission – except for the notorious Katyn report – in which the Soviets tried to blame a crime of their own on someone else. The experience of my fellow bloggers and co-authors, as far as I know, is the same.

So the reasonable approach to Soviet investigation reports is to use them with the necessary caveats and checking Soviet claims, whenever possible, against evidence the Soviets could not have influenced. That is the approach taken by historians and serious researchers, whereas defense attorneys of Nazi Germany, such as Mattogno, take the a-historical approach of dismissing, on a handy pretext, a large body of evidence that is inconvenient to their clients. On page 1480 of the magnum opus[43], Mattogno contends that, because the Soviet investigations were not "independent, professional investigations", the Soviet discoveries "in principle have exactly the same value as the findings by father Patrick Desbois: none at all". The only investigations he accepts as "accurate" are "the ones performed by the Germans at Katyn and Vinnitsa".

Mattogno’s private standards of evidence, whereby it takes an investigation such as conducted by the Germans at Katyn and Vinnitsa to provide conclusive proof of a mass crime, have the corollary that the only crimes of Stalin’s regime proven according to such standards are those at Katyn and Vinnitsa, which together claimed 13,575 victims[44]. No other crimes committed by Stalin’s regime were the subject of "independent, professional investigations" – or, for that matter, of any criminal investigations at all. So by the standards of evidence that Mattogno applies when it comes to Nazi crimes, a Communist regime that murdered millions[45] would be reduced to something in between the regime of Pinochet in Chile[46] and the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983[47]. Maybe this incidental apology of Stalin’s regime is the reason why Mattogno seems to get along well with Russian Katyn "Revisionist" Yuri Mukhin[48].

Back to Mattogno’s "devastating" critique of Father Desbois, in which the "Revisionist" coryphée claims it’s beyond doubt that the witnesses interviewed by Desbois, "who were mostly mere adolescents at the time" (didn’t he previously point out that they were children?) were heavily influenced by "this" propaganda, meaning the Soviet investigation reports. Other than the fact that such reports existed, Mattogno has nothing to show in support of his claim that the witnesses were influenced thereby, and it is actually unlikely that they were – not only because they were children and the Soviet investigators would preferably interrogate adults, but also because of the isolation in which they lived, before and after the Nazi occupation. Contacts between these inhabitants of remote villages and the Soviet system (whose interest in Nazi atrocities seems to have waned after the war and the immediate postwar period, judging by Pohl’s above-quoted statement) were rather sparse, as pointed out by Desbois:
The witnesses who spoke to us are simple people who had not been swallowed up by the Soviet system, because they were too poor. Peasants who keep a cow tied on a rope, exactly as they did 60 years ago. Beggars or farm workers who bring in the harvest. People whose path, or that of their animals, had happened to cross the path that led to the extermination of the Jews. When we asked them if people had come to the village since the war to talk to them, they told us: “No, you are the first.” When, before ending an interview, I would ask them why they had never spoken, they all responded that they had never been asked.

So it doesn’t look like these witnesses were influenced by Soviet propaganda, outside Mattogno’s wishful thinking.

Such thinking is also at the root of Mattogno’s supposition that information about Nazi atrocities collected by some witnesses who were "researchers after their own fashion" necessarily influenced their testimony. It may have had an influence or not, and there’s no indication in the testimonies that it did.

Mattogno claims that the testimonies are "full of obviously apocryphal horrifying or edifying anecdotes", but actually the transcribed interviews[49], which I again encourage our readers to look up, contain few if any such "anecdotes" and rather show the horrifying banality of the killings described. Mattogno had to dig hard to come up with examples of "obviously apocryphal horrifying or edifying anecdotes", which upon closer examination do not seem nearly as "apocryphal" as Mattogno claims they are. Let’s have a look at them, one by one

Mattogno:
the story of the … man who had seen a local Volksdeutscher take a childhood friend into the camp and shoot him, after which [the child] was forced to pick a cartful of sunflowers [!] to burn his friend and all the Jews who had been killed over the past week (p. 152).

Either the Italian translation is not very accurate or Mattogno distorted this quote, for in the English translation[50] Desbois mentions a woman who
… saw her childhood friend taken into the fields and shot by a Volksdeutscher who then brought a cart of sunflowers to burn her friend and all the Jews who had been killed in the preceding weeks.

So it was not the child but the killer who brought the cart, and as to using sunflowers as burning material, Mattogno obviously expects his readers to be impressed by his "[i]", which is presumably meant to express the idea that sunflowers don’t burn well. Actually sunflowers seem to be quite flammable, which is why gardeners are advised to use extreme caution when burning sunflower roots and stalks, and warned against trying to burn away sunflower seedlings ("This is especially unwise in dry conditions or near any flammable materials, such as a wooden fence.")[51]. Sunflower and Sunflower seed dust are listed as "Combustible Dust"[52]. Spontaneous combustion is a real danger in drying and storing sunflowers[53].

Mattogno:
Or that of the Jewess who, indifferent to the mass executions, wandered around calmly begging with her three children near the barracks housing the Gestapo. The "head of the Gestapo" shouted at her:
Jews? The woman nodded, yes. Then he took his pistol and killed them all, right there, right in front of my doorway (p. 125).
Truly a suicide looking for a place to happen.

Again, the account differs somewhat from Mattogno’s rendering:
I also saw in my mind’s eye that poor old lady whose house was requisitioned to be a Gestapo headquarters . . . She sat silently with her daughters on a little bench in front of the house, beside the asphalt road. She seemed to be hiding as best she could, with her big thick blue woolen scarf and large glasses with their light brown plastic frames. One of her daughters, the youngest, took her gently by the shoulder and encouraged her: “Come on, mama, speak!” The old lady nodded her head, not saying a word. “No, no, they’re not going to deport you to Siberia; all that’s finished!” The woman remained firmly locked in her silence. Svetlana calmly sat down opposite her. And then suddenly, in a voice that could barely be heard, she began her story: “The Gestapo was living with us. They had requisitioned the house. One day I was in the garden, just there, behind the entrance gate, and I saw in the distance a Jewish woman coming on foot with her three small children. She was going from house to house to beg for food. I ran as fast as I could to tell them not to stop at our house. The head of the Gestapo saw me from the window; he opened the door and started running after me. When the Jewish woman was in front of us with her children he shouted out to them in a loud voice: ‘Juden?’ The woman nodded yes. Then he got out his pistol and shot them, right there in front of my door.” [54]

(Emphasis added.)

Again, either the Italian translation is inaccurate, or Mattogno deliberately omitted the highlighted details.

Mattogno:
Or the story, a truly plaintive one, of the Jewish child, "aware" that his friend Anna was watching his execution together with her friends, concealed in a nearby hayloft, waved goodbye to her before being shot; since they were watching "through cracks in the slats," and could not be seen from the outside, he was able to "make a brief gesture in their direction, as if to wave goodbye, after which he shouted: "Goodbye!" The murderers fired at that moment. (p. 213)
All this is said to have taken place in the face of imminent death by shooting, in which a true "silence of the tomb" must have reigned, enabling them to hear the child's words, from a distance, through the cracks in the hayloft.

This episode is briefly mentioned in Anna Dychkant’s interview on 29 April 2004[55]:
A boy who was with me at school knew; he shouted "farewell" and signaled to me with his hands.

Yet Anna mentioned this episode on several occasions, including the first encounter in which she took Desbois’ team to the execution site:
All the Ukrainian witnesses of the Holocaust we talked to, when brought back to the sites of the Jews’ assassination, had made their own way, without waiting for us, with rapid steps toward the scene of the crime, as though overtaken by the vision of those men and women who had been there during those wretched days. A vision that has never left them. I heard her murmuring: “Yes, there, there! They were taken there . . . They forced them to run by beating them, even elderly people. Some of them found it hard to walk.” As she moved, she recaptured the memory of the child who saw the massacre of her Jewish neighbors. “They were brought to the door of the cemetery in a car from the ghetto. Some were already dead.” She reached the lower ground, on the bank of the river, and stopped, then suddenly began speaking again, as though in a single breath: “It is here that the Jews had to undress completely and place their clothes on the ground. They threw their jewels in the river so that the Germans couldn’t collect them when they were forced to undress! The Germans were furious. Afterwards they forced them to take off their clothes further away from the river, down there!” She climbed, a little out of breath, onto a long slope covered in grass. “Under my feet, just there, they shot them one by one, with a bullet from behind.” With her right hand she pointed to the nape of her neck, looking at us to be sure that she was understood. It seemed impossible to imagine that this bucolic landscape was the backdrop to such a massacre. She was talking about her experiences for the first time since 1943. Several times she mentioned a memory of her childhood friend, a young Jew from the ghetto. He was taken by the police to this field with all his family. He knew that Anna was watching the execution, hidden with her friends in a hay barn. This barn, very close by, behind the Jewish cemetery, was made of uneven planks through which she could watch. Anna was 14. He was pushed far from the others who were waiting, standing in front of the pit with his family, stripped of all their clothes. Just before the shooting, he had turned toward Anna and made her a little hand gesture as if to say goodbye, and then shouted “Farewell life!” Then the assassins started shooting. [56]

It’s not clear what Mattogno expects his readers to consider apocryphal about this detail. Anna’s vantage point seems to have been close enough to the execution site for her to hear her friend’s last words, regardless of whether there was a "silence of the tomb" at the execution site or the victims were crying and wailing. Maybe it was the former, judging by the report of one Oberleutnant Walther about the shooting of Jews and Gypsies in Pancevo, Serbia, on 4 November 1941[57], which contains the following remark:
Das Erschießen der Juden ist einfacher als das der Zigeuner. Man muß zugeben, daß die Juden sehr gefaßt in den Tod gehen – sie stehen sehr ruhig -, während die Zigeuner heulen, schreien und sich dauernd bewegen, wenn sie schon auf dem Erschießungsplatz stehen. Einige sprangen sogar vor der Salve in die Grube und versuchten, sich tot zu stellen.
The shooting of the Jews is easier than that of the Gypsies. One has to admit that the Jews go to their deaths very composed – they stand very quietly – whereas the Gypsies howl, cry and move all the time when they are at the shooting site. Some even jumped into the pit before the salvo and tried to feign death.

Anyway, the detail of her friend’s farewell seems to have been etched into Anna’s mind, and the context in which it is mentioned offers no indication that she was not recalling something she honestly remembered.

Mattogno:
Obviously, this little fairy tale is then said to have "almost broken" Desbois's heart (p. 213), just like this one, no doubt:
When the neighbors read "kilometer 11," the Germans had already blocked the road. All traffic was prohibited during the executions. The only vehicles authorized to continue along the road were loaded with Jews. They glimpsed little Dora on the other side of the barrier. She was naked. In the freezing cold, she begged the Germans to give her back her cloak: "Give me my cloak, I'll give you my shoes in exchange!" But the Germans never listened to any of the pleading victims. Dora was shot (p. 275).
But if the road was blocked and all traffic was prohibited, how could the "neighbors" have seen and heard such a scene, which occurred, be it noted, in the midst of a crowd of 1,500 persons?

Dora was a Krymchak girl from Simferopol, Crimea[58]. She was shot when she was four and a half years old. Desbois writes[59] that the Germans killed first the Ashkenazi Jews and then the Krymchaks, but according to historian Andrej Angrick, who reconstructed the killings based on German criminal investigation files[60], the sequence in Simferopol was the other way round: the Krymchaks, numbering at least 1,500, were killed on 9 December 1941, whereas the killing of the city’s about 11,000 Jews started two days later. Anyway, when Dora was taken away with two other members of her family, those who had escaped the raid begged two neighbors to go to the execution site at "kilometer 11" to try to negotiate with the Germans for her not to be killed. It’s not clear why the neighbors, who apparently made their way to the site on foot, should have been kept by the blocking of traffic on the road from seeing Dora behind the "barricade", which presumably means the road block. It is not improbable that a girl naked in the freezing cold, begging to be given back her coat, should have been noticeable to the neighbors even among a large number of people. It should be noted, by the way, that Desbois doesn’t mention the number of Simferopol Krymchaks shot anywhere in his book. Mattogno must have got that number from Angrick or another source mentioning the killing of the Krymchaks. His argument that it would have been impossible to make out a little girl "in the midst of a crowd of 1,500 persons" implies his maintaining that there was such a crowd at "kilometer 11", which in turn implies his concession that the massacre of the Simferopol Krymchaks took place.

Mattogno:
Not to mention the little fairy tale of the bodies piled up on top of each other and stamped on like grapes in a vat:
There were thirty of us Ukrainian young people, we had to stamp on the bodies of the Jews with our bare feet and throw a thin layer of dirt over them, so that the other Jews could lie down.
The following is Desbois's comment:
I could never have imagined that the Germans would have forced Ukrainian children to stamp on the bodies of Jews with their bare feet, as if they were Beaujolais grapes at harvest time (p. 102).
Does this require any comment at all?

Yes it does, or rather a question: what are Mattogno’s arguments against the account provided by the witness Petrivna[61], other than personal incredulity? He tries this argument:
Alternatively, the bodies were "thrown" into the graves (p. 94), in which case it was unnecessary to "stamp" on them, but they had to be arranged in regular layers; or they were "arranged" (p. 185), in which case, it was unnecessary to "stamp" on them.

Different places, different commanders in charge, different methods. The "pressing" or "stamping" is mentioned on only one occasion in Desbois’ book. Argument dismissed.

Another argument, equally feeble:
It is odd that the "method" in question did not enlist the labor of the Jewish victims themselves, and that not even the Jews forced to lie down on top of the layer of bodies to be shot in turn were compelled to "stamp" on the bodies forming the underlying layer.

The killers may have expected – correctly or not – that the victims themselves would be too paralyzed with fear to do any "pressing" or "stamping", or then that they would be defiant and refuse to do so as they no longer had anything to lose anyway. Local village girls, on the other hand, would be vigorous and frightened enough (but not so frightened as to be paralyzed). They may thus have been considered likelier to be compliant and do an effective job. Argument dismissed.

Mattogno’s next comment:
It might be added that if "sardine packing" were really a "method," it should have been in general use throughout the Ukraine; but not a single one of Desbois's witnesses even mentions it; on the contrary, some of the witnesses openly contradict it. For example, Stanislav claims that the victims were killed "on their knees in front of the graves, facing forward, towards the grave" (p. 224). Nikolaj Olkhuski declared that the Germans "all shot at the same time" (p. 94) at the Jewish victims on the edge of the grave, who then fell into the ditch, some of them still alive (pp. 94-95). The same method is confirmed by Ivan Fedossievich Lichnitski, according to whom, in the ditch, a group of Jews "were forced to distribute the Jews lengthwise, covering the entire breadth of the grave" (p. 173), precisely because they had been shot at the edge of the ditch.

further reveals Mattogno’s ill-reasoning and sloppy research. Even if Jeckeln had been the only commander of mobile killing squads in Ukraine throughout the period of occupation, this would only mean that he endeavored to apply his "sardine packing" method whenever practicable, exceptions to the rule being possible. But Jeckeln was only one out of several actors on the scene, and his method, as mentioned by Ezergailis (see the previous blog of this series), horrified even some of the Einsatzgruppen operatives who witnessed it at Rumbula, and was considered unacceptable by Ohlendorf, the head of Einsatzgruppe D, which did much of the killing in Ukraine[62]. Jeckeln was Höherer SS und Polizeiführer (HSSPF) Russland Süd (Head of SS and Police Southern Russia) from June 1941 until his replacement as of 1 November 1941 by the HSSPF Ostland, Hans-Adolf Prützmann. Jeckeln was transferred to Riga and appointed HSSPF for Northern Russia and the Ostland (which comprised the Baltic States and parts of Belorussia) [63]. It stands to reason that mass killings in Ukraine after Jeckeln’s departure were not necessarily carried out according to Jeckeln’s method. Desbois mentions the application of this method only once, in connection with the testimony of Petrivna from Ternivka on 23 July 2007[64]

Mattogno continues:
Thus, precisely and solely this method justifies the folk legend, referred to by many witnesses, of the mass graves covered by dirt which moved for three days, because the victims were buried alive (p. 81, 109, 175, 274), with the variants of two days (p. 187), or four days (p. 267); or of the use of a "well" instead of a mass grave (p. 263), evidence of extraordinary vitality on the part of the victims, to say the least: buried alive, three days below ground, without air, after being deliberately "stamped" on, like grapes in a wine vat! If to this be added the shot in the back of the neck inflicted upon every single victim, buried alive in mass graves, for three days, only zombies would be capable of such movement.

It is not clear what Mattogno means to say in the first period of the above-quoted paragraph. If by "this method" he means the Jeckeln method, his reasoning is mistaken as a method in which each victim was shot individually was the one least likely to leave some victims merely wounded, unless the marksmen were bad shots or too drunk to aim accurately. Mattogno would then be contradicting his argument in this first period in the last sentence of the paragraph, in which he argues that "the shot in the back of the neck inflicted upon every single victim" would make victims not fatally wounded unlikely.

As to the "folk legend", one might consider the possibility of such a legend if all witness testimonies referred to executions at a single location. It is extremely unlikely, however, that the mention of a phenomenon by witnesses in a number of isolated places far away from each other should be a "folk legend", unless travelling bards carried such legend through the vastness of Ukrainian, from one boondocks village or town to another. As there’s no evidence to the activity of such bards, the mention of agonizing victims moving inside mass graves must be more than just a "folk legend". That said, is the phenomenon recalled by several witnesses at different locations improbable?

In arguing such improbability, Mattogno dishonestly tries to make believe that the procedure of "stamping" on or "pressing" the victims was generally applied, while in fact it is mentioned only in the testimony of Petrivna from Ternivka – which contains no mention of movement inside the grave(s) for some time after the execution. Movement inside graves or wells because people were not yet dead was mentioned by the following among the witnesses whose interviews are transcribed:
• Olena S. [65]: in response to the question whether the earth moved because some victims were not dead, this witness replied that she didn’t see it herself but people told her that. She also mentioned a man who had managed to get out of a pit and was saved by a villager, adding that he was the only person not mortally wounded who got out of the pit because "In most cases, they shot them in the head".
• Nikolai Olkhusky[66] mentioned that at the end of the day on which the execution took place he "went to look" and saw that "the earth was moving". He considered the possibility that some children who were in their parents’ arms fell into the ditch alive and that this was the reason why "the earth was still moving afterwards". Olkhusky also mentioned that after the shooting was finished the requisitioned Russians filled in the ditch but "they didn't put much earth on top. Dogs came to rummage and pull things out. Then you could see the bodies." He didn’t know whether Jews who were only wounded came out of the pit alive because he "wasn’t next to the pit" (presumably meaning that he wasn’t next to the pit at the time the execution took place, as he had earlier mentioned that he had gone there at the end of the day).
• Hanna Senikova[67], who described a massacre during which the executioners had a banquet prepared by her aunt and drank lots of alcohol, mentioned having been told about a Jewish man who had "jumped into the pit without being wounded" and "waited until the end of the shooting to get out". The man had asked a collaborator named Kothya to "let him come out of the pit", but Kothya had killed him instead. Hanna considered the possibility that "someone was only wounded and it took the whole night for him to die", but added that "we can’t know", further mentioning that, the morning after the execution, "we had to go and get the young boys from other villages to fill in the pit with their spades", because there were no young people in her village.
• Marfa Lichnitski: during the first interview together with her husband Ivan[68], this witness spoke about her mother having told her that "the earth moved for three days" and that small children "were thrown in alive".
• Ivan Lichnitski: during his second interview together with his wife Marfa[69], this witness mentioned that "the earth was still moving" when they "filled the pits immediately after every execution". Asked for how long the earth moved after an execution, Ivan replied: "About two days. There were dead people, wounded, and people still alive. Not everyone was killed on the spot. Some were only wounded." He also mentioned a man who "fell into the pit alive", managed to get out during the night and survived to come back after liberation.
• Marfa Lichnitski added that the man mentioned by her husband had helped them as a cook when he came back, and told them that "the pit was very full when he fell inside alive".
• Olga Bitiouk[70], when asked whether there were people in the pits who were still alive, answered: "They say that when they filled in the pits with spades and a bulldozer, they heard moaning. People must have still been alive."
• Eugenia Nazarenko[71] recalled that the victims were in "such hysteria" and that some "fell when they weren’t even dead". She remembered "a woman who managed to get out of the pit; she took refuge with another woman from the village. The woman denounced her and the Jewish woman was caught and killed." Eugenia thought that there might also have been other such cases: "If someone fell into the pit alive he perhaps managed to get out of the pit."
• Maria Kedrovska[72] mentioned that some people fell alive into the well into which members of her family and other Jews were shot, and that shouts "were heard for three days"[73].

What were the chances of someone who fell into an execution pit or well unwounded (because, being children, they were thrown in alive or fell in together with shot parents holding them, or because they managed to jump inside the pit and feign death without the killers noticing because they were too drunk) or not mortally wounded (because the shooting was done by steady fire from machine guns or pistols, or because the marksmen shooting individual people were bad shots or had drunk too much) to survive inside the pit or well for up to two or three days, or even get out of the pit on occasion? Based on the reading of the above testimonies and on pictures I have seen[74], I’d say that such temporary survival or even escape were not improbable provided that a number of conditions were met, namely that the victim in question was among those on the upper layers of bodies inside the cavity as opposed to being buried underneath several layers of corpses (like the escapee mentioned by Ivan and Marfa Lichnitski), the pit was covered with soil only after some time (like in the execution witnessed by Hanna Senikova, in which the pit remained open after the execution until boys from another village fetched the next morning covered it up), and/or the soil cover was so thin that air could get through (like in the execution witnessed by Nikolai Olkhusky, in which the soil cover was so thin that dogs "came to rummage and pull things out" and "you could see the bodies". The described presence of such circumstances, together with the long distances between and remoteness of locations in which witnesses recalled such phenomena, allows for the conclusion that what Mattogno dismisses as "folk legends" has a factual basis, even though the time during which bodies moved inside pits or wells may have been shorter than recalled by witnesses.

Besides the mention of moving bodies inside mass graves, Mattogno has another objection regarding the testimony of Ivan Lichnitski, which he expresses as follows in section 7 ("State Secrets and open secrets") of his article:
All the persons forced to participate, according to Ivan Lichnitski, by German order, took empty buckets and beat on them to make a noise, to cover up the blows and screams (p. 183).
This witness also claims to have remained concealed in the usual barn overlooking the execution site, so that he saw what happened. In response to the remark that "it was a miracle that they weren't killed," he said:
And how. They even saw us, shot at us, but thanks to God they didn't capture us (p. 176).
We are thus invited (or expected) to believe that the Germans released direct eyewitnesses, who had witnessed the entire course of the executions, "remaining side by side with the Jews and their murderers, sometimes just a few meters away, seated on the grass," eyewitnesses who were then drafted again for the next round of executions (pp. 177-178), but shot at children who witnessed the shootings only by chance, partially and at some considerable distance!

The trick Mattogno plays here is to conflate information from various parts of Desbois’ book to create a false dilemma. The mention of witnesses "remaining side by side with the Jews and their murderers, sometimes just a few meters away, seated on the grass" is not part of Lichnitski’s testimony, but appears as a remark of Father Desbois elsewhere in the book, in the following context:
The requisitioned were not watching the columns of Jews marching to the pits from their windows. Neither were they watching perched up in an oak tree or hidden behind a bush. They were at the site of the crime, very often before the Jews arrived. They were present, from beginning to end, at the shootings, beside the Jews and their assassins, sometimes sitting in the grass only a few meters away from them. [75]

Ivan Lichnitski mentions the following indigenous participants in the killing:
They put the Jews in the cells. They took boys born in 1928, 1924 and 1926, gave them a machinegun and told them to guard the cells. If one of them managed to escape, the boy was shot. They kept them around two days, the time it took to fill the cells. [76]
They shot them in groups of five or six. The police and the guards had to bang empty buckets to cover the noise of the shooting. Others led them there, mothers carrying their children in their arms or by hand. They were beasts. [77]
My brother was requisitioned. I know that he had to shoot two people. Two armed policemen came in the night and said: “Get up, get dressed and come with us.” [78]
If he was part of the guard team, he had to do it [in response to the question whether his brother also had to fill in the pits]. Once, the guards stole jewels from a Jew. The Germans said to this Jew: “If you can recognize the guards who took your valuables, they will be shot.” The Jew pointed them out and they were shot with the Jews.” [79]


So the only indigenous people that Lichnitski mentioned, besides himself and other boys who watched the killing from the attic of the local pharmacy (not the "usual barn", as Mattogno would have it) while the other locals were hiding, were the policemen (assuming these were men of local collaborator formations, not German policemen), and the requisitioned "guards", who took part in leading the victims to the killing site and one of whom (Lichnitski’s brother) even shot two Jews. These eyewitnesses were also accomplices to the crime and could accordingly be expected to be discreet about it. Their having been ordered to "bang empty buckets to cover the noise of the shooting" suggests that the commander in charge of this killing had a certain concern with discretion that other commanders of mobile killing units may not have had (every commander was different in this respect, and the degree of efforts to maintain secrecy accordingly varied from one killing site to another). Under these circumstances, it is not implausible at all that the killers should have felt bothered by uninvolved witnesses watching their activities, and tried to shoot them or at least chase them away (the shot or shots fired in the direction of Lichnitski and the other boys may have been meant not to hit but only to frighten them, for all we know). Seen this way, the part of Lichnitski’s account that Mattogno takes issue with:
No. Everyone hid. [In response to the question whether they stopped the traffic on the roads during the executions.] With other boys, I climbed up to the attic of the pharmacy and we watched what was happening. When they saw us, they shot at us but they didn’t hit us, thank God.

is quite plausible.

Mattogno also objects to the credibility of witness Eugenia Nazarenko, on similarly feeble grounds:
To conclude our review of the imaginative anecdotes reported by Desbois, the witness Evgenja Nazarenko, in 1943, at age 9, is said to have been abandoned, alone, by her mother, near an execution site at Busk , in the province of Leopoli, to allow her (the mother) to see whether or not her husband, the child's father, would also be shot, thus risking the life of the little girl (pp. 218, 241, 246).

Actually little Eugenia’s having been "abandoned" is not all that frightfully shocking, if one considers the circumstances that Mattogno conveniently omitted:
The Germans knew her father well because of his music. He was requisitioned by the deisatnik of their street to dig the big pit, and to fill it in after the shootings. Her mother was very worried when she saw the desiatnik taking him away. She took her daughter Eugenia to the other side of the river, next to the wooden church, to check what the Germans were going to do with her husband. But she couldn’t stay with her daughter because the tufts of grass were not high enough to hide an adult. So only the child saw the preparation of the pits, the arrival of the Jews, their assassination, and the filling in of the pits. She explained: “From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the Jews and the gunmen very clearly; there were so many people all around.” [80]

(Emphasis added.)

The highlighted text suggests that the child was well hidden in the grass and thus not at risk, and that Mattogno’s objection is therefore moot.

Mattogno’s convenient omissions and other distortions regarding the witnesses interviewed by Desbois reach their lowest point towards the end of the article’s section 4, as he produces the following straw-man argument:
And what can one say about the stories of Jews walled up alive (pp. 266-267) or suffocated with "Eiderdowns," i.e., feather-bed quilts [sic!]"? Desbois even entitles the paragraphs in question “The Shoah by Suffocation”! (p. 267)

The unwary reader is led to believe that there is a chapter or section in Desbois’ book headed "The Shoah by Suffocation", which includes some preposterous tale about sadistic German killers having suffocated a sizable number of Jews with feather-bed quilts instead of shooting them. Yet nothing could be further away from the actual contents of the respective chapter of Desbois’ book, which is headed "Everyday Evil" in the English translation[81] and contains three separate episodes that Desbois obviously considers illustrative of the chapter’s title. One takes place in a village called Sataniv, where there were large cellars under the central market that housed small shops. The Germans put the local Jews into these cellars, burned some straw to make smoke and smother them before closing the cellars, and then piled earth on top. According to the related Soviet investigation report, this took place on 15 May 1942, and the victims were asphyxiated by the smoke. Local women questioned by Desbois, on the other hand, recalled that the Jews had tried to get out of the cellars for four days afterwards and that "one could see the ground of the marketplace moving" - in other words, that the Jews had met a far more horrendous death than the death from smoke asphyxiation assumed, contrary to testimonies whereby "the ground moved for four days", by the Soviet investigators[82]. Desbois tries to find an explanation for this killing method and considers the intention to set an example, lack of time, or the particular sadism of the killing squad commander as possible explanations. What particularly shocks him is the revelation, by one of the locals questioned, that the cellars were only opened in 1954, meaning that the victims had remained in there for 12 years after the killing.

Another episode, namely the "feather-bed quilts" incident that Mattogno mocks himself about, is one of the most sinister in Desbois book, though in terms of criminal law it is just a plain case of serial robbery-murder and doesn’t even involve the German invaders. In a tiny village called Bertniki, the locals refuse to speak about events during the war, which in Desbois arouses the suspicion, apparently based on previous experience, that "something serious had happened". Desbois and his team go from house to house with the locals watching them, ask questions and invariably receive the answer, "with a large smile", that there were no Jews in Bertniki during the war, no executions and no mass graves. At one of the houses that looks much better than the rest and lies by "an immense quarry and a magnificent, dense, green forest", they meet a well-dressed elderly man who implausibly claims that he is only 60 years old (and thus knows nothing about what happened during the war). Desbois is furious about this obvious untruth ("He is the youngest old person I have ever met.") and continues going from house to house asking questions. Finally, as he is about to give up, the couple first questioned approaches him and reveals the village’s dirty secret: the elegant man in the better house had during the war taken in Jewish refugees, then smothered them at night with quilts, robbed and stripped them and thrown them into the quarry near his house. The revolt at this revelation and the macabre environment surrounding it leads Desbois to make the following bitterly ironic remark:
The Holocaust by smothering. This was far removed from the centralization of the Shoah, its industrial, modern character. In Ukraine it took on the quality of carnage. People could be shot in a marketplace, beside a cliff as in Yalto, walled up alive as in Sataniv, or else smothered with cushions at night.

Desbois account of this episode is not only as far removed as can be from the straw-man reference to it that Mattogno expects his gullible readers to swallow, but also shows that Desbois is everything other than the gullible collector of stories as which Mattogno tries to portray him. If he were, he wouldn’t check eyewitness testimonies against archival information as he did regarding Sataniv, and he would have left Bertniki in the belief that nothing bad had happened in this tiny village.

So Mattogno has again amply shown that "the foremost Holocaust revisionist researcher in the world today"[83] is nothing but a purveyor of sloppy research, illogical nonsense and insidious but easily detectable falsehoods, writing for an audience of uncritical true believers that share his ideological agenda.

Mattogno’s final comment in this section is worth quoting because it not only reveals (albeit unnecessarily) what makes Mattogno tick, but also shows what kind of person he is:
Everything his decrepit ex-child "witnesses" tell him sixty years later is sacrosanct Truth, like the Gospels (or the Talmud).

Let us hope for Mattogno, who turned 65 early this year[84], that he may spend his remaining years in good health and never become "decrepit" as he would like Father Desbois’ elderly witnesses to be.
Mattogno’s comments about the Busk eyewitnesses in section 5 of his article will be addressed together with his arguments regarding the excavations conducted by Desbois in this Ukrainian town.

Notes

[35] As above, pp. 74f.
[36]As above, p. 74.
[37] As above, pp. pp. 197-201. Maria Kedrovska’s testimony is transcribed in the reference library thread "Father Patrick Desbois, "The Holocaust by Bullets"" ([link]).
[38] Stepan Davidovski’s interview, transcribed on pp. 179-184 of Desbois’ book, is very informative, but it would be even more so if the witness had been asked what he knew from first-hand sensory perceptions and what he had learned from others. Maria Kedrovska, whose interview is transcribed on pp. 197-201, mentioned that "Shouts were heard for three days" from the well into which members of her family were shot. Her previous account of how she was saved from the execution by a German suggests that she didn’t hear these shouts herself but learned about them second-hand.
[39] The interviews are transcribed in the aforementioned reference thread.
[40] Holocaust by Bullets, p. 111.
[41] As note 30, p. 43.
[42] See, among others, the blogs "Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies …" ([link]), "Mass Graves in the Polesie" ([link]) and "Drobitski Yar" ([link]), as well as the series "The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR" ([link] to the first of three blogs, which contains links to the other two).
[43] As note 1.
[44] 4,143 corpses were found at Katyn and 9,432 at Vinnitsa, see Mattogno, Bełżec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research and History, p. 77 (online under [link]).
[45] See the blog "Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse?" ([link]).
[46] 3,095 deaths and forced disappearances according to the Chilean government, see the Wikipedia page "Augusto Pinochet" ([link]).
[47] Between 7,158 and 30,000 people killed or "disappeared", see the Wikipedia page "Dirty War" ([link]).
[48] See the blog "And now for something not completely different..." ([link]).
[49] Same link as note 37.
[50] Holocaust by Bullets, p. 122.
[51] "How to Get Rid of Sunflowers" ([link]).
[52] "Combustible Dust" ([link]).
[53] "Drying and Storing Sunflowers" ([link]).
[54] Holocaust by Bullets, pp. 102f.
[55] Holocaust by Bullets, pp. 124-128. The interview is included in the transcription under [link].
[56] Holocaust by Bullets, pp. 164f.
[57] NS Archiv, "Erschießungen in Pancevo" ([link]).
[58] Regarding the Krymchaks of Crimea and the reason why they were exterminated, see the blog "That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part VIII: The Simferopol Massacres" ([link]).
[59] Holocaust by Bullets, p. 211.
[60] Andrej Angrick, Besatzungspolitk und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D in der südlichen Sowjetunion 1941-1943, pp. 323 ff. Angrick’s narrative is rendered in the blog mentioned in note 58.
[61] Holocaust by Bullets, pp. 83-86, included in the transcription under [link].
[62] Norman Goda, "Report on the Otto Ohlendorf IRR File" ([link]).
[63] Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, pp. 182f.; Jürgen Kilian, Wehrmacht und Besatzungsherrschaft im Russischen Nordwesten 1941 – 1944. Praxis und Alltag im Militärverwaltungsgebiet der Heeresgruppe Nord, pp. 149f. See also the German Wikipedia page "Friedrich Jeckeln" ([link]) and the Usenet article "Friedrich Jeckeln - an unsung Holocaust figure", by Eugene Holman ([link]).
[64] Holocaust by Bullets, pp. 83f.
[65] As above, pp. 68-71.
[66] As above, pp. 75-79.
[67] As above, pp. 88-94.
[68] As above, pp. 136-140.
[69] As above, pp. 140-143.
[70] As above, pp. 147-151.
[71] As above, pp. 184-191.
[72] As above, pp. 197-201.
[73] Probably not a first-hand recollection, as mentioned in note 38.
[74] For instance the photos of corpse-filled pits shown in the blog "The Kamenets-Podolsky Massacre" ([link]), and the following photos included in the blog "Photographic documentation of Nazi crimes" ([link]): 1.1.9, 1.1.11, 1.1.20, 2.1.
[75] Holocaust by Bullets, p. 82.
[76] As above, p. 138.
[77] As above, p. 139.
[78] As above, p. 141.
[79] As above, p. 142.
[80] As above, p. 169.
[81] As above, pp. 203-207, transcribed in the reference library thread "Father Patrick Desbois, "The Holocaust by Bullets"" ([link]). The original French chapter title is "La banalité du mal" ("The banality of evil"), so it’s unlikely that the Italian translator should have made that into "The Shoah by Suffocation".
[82] A similar case of civilians locked in cellars and killed by asphyxiation from inhaled smoke occurred in a village that is probably Sofino in Poltavs'ka Oblast', Ukraine. This incident is documented in the Soviet film "The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR", shown at the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals (see the blog "The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR (1)" ([link]).
[83] Thus he is touted on the "Inconvenient History" website ([link]).
[84] According to the Wikipedia page "Carlo Mattogno" ([link]).

11 comments:

Jeff said...

This has been an enlightening series. Although I was aware of his dishonesty and twisting/misreading of sources from day one, I didn't realize that Mattogno was an extremely poor researcher, sloppy and shoddy with sources to the point of incompetence, and suffering from ideologically influenced tunnel vision to the point that he is unable to consider that his absurd theories may have alternatives rooted in reason and evidence.

Once again, fantastic job!

Sergey Romanov said...

Exactly how is a commission made up mostly of experts from the Nazi-occupied territories for the sake of spreading Goebbels' propaganda "independent"?

And how would Mattogno know that the Soviets committed the Katyn killing? After all, if one applies the usual denier standards, the documents proving the Soviet responsibility are fake, the exhumations are manipulated/faked, the witnesses lie...
An obvious double standard.

Sergey Romanov said...

IOW, if Mattogno rejects the Holocaust he also cannot accept the mainstream Katyn version. And vice versa, if he accepts Katyn, on the same evidence he has to accept the Holocaust. That is, if he's an honest researcher. Which we know he isn't.

Jeff said...

Excellent points Sergey. And with the inconsistencies in witness statements on the Dresden Bombing, someone with a denier mentality would easily dismiss it as fake lol.

Sergey Romanov said...

Mattogno's acceptance of the Soviet responsibility for Katyn with simultaneous denial of most Nazi crimes, his insistence that the Nazi-organized propaganda commission is objective with simultaneous wholesale dismissal of the Soviet commission shows conclusively that he's not an even-handed historical nihilist but rather a mere Nazi apologist.

Katyn and the Holocaust are in many respects mirror images of each other. For both there is rich documentary, testimonial and archeological evidence that is dismissed or dishonestly re-interpreted by respective deniers. For both the main sine qua non question is the location of the missing people: we would have known that the Holocaust happened if only because the Jews were deported and we know that they never appeared either on the German or on the Soviet territory. We would have known that the Soviets shot the Poles if only because the Poles can't realistically be located anywhere in the Soviet camp system after the spring of 1940.

This is exactly the same logic. Once you reject it and the rest of the evidence, what reason is there to accept one version over another?

Jeff said...

I always wondered what Katyn deniers had to say about the (basically) deathbed testimony of Leonid Raikhmann.

Sergey Romanov said...

As far as I know, Raikhman never admitted anything.

Jeff said...

I remember reading somewhere that he described the cover-up of Katyn to an interviewer at some point in 1989 or 90. He was dying at the time.

Sergey Romanov said...

Well, I'm aware of the opposite from Vladimir Abarinov's book. He interviewed Raikhman, mentions his death but nowhere I can see R confess. I would be interested in what source claims that R confessed.

In any case Raikhman was a secondary figure. His name mostly pops up in Katyn studies because of the fake "report" to Zarubin and Raikhman that was republished in several books (including IHR's journal) in the 1970s and 1980s.

We have pretty detailed confessions of Soprunenko and Tokarev though (who, according to the deniers, were, of course, coerced).

Jeff said...

It was an article in a Russian magazine by a guy named Vladimir Szwejcera. IIRC some observers were skeptical at the time.

Abarinov must have been a pretty brave dude. From what I've read Raikhman was a pretty scary individual.

Sergey Romanov said...

I don't think there was much scary about a frail old man.

OK, now I see that one Vladimir Shveitser did publish something about it in 2011-2012, so that explains why I missed this. A priori I'm skeptical of any such revelations published decades after the fact, but I'll try to find and assess the articles.