Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans
Part III: The Ford Gas Wagon (update)
Part IV: The Becker Letter (update)
Part V: The Rauff Letter to the Criminal Technical Institute (update 1, 2, 3, cf. on Mattogno)
Part IV: The Becker Letter (update)
Part V: The Rauff Letter to the Criminal Technical Institute (update 1, 2, 3, cf. on Mattogno)
Part VI: The Turner Letter
Part VII: The Schäfer, Trühe & Rauff Telexes
Part IX: The Just Memo
The West-German investigations and trials yielded more than two hundreds of testimonies on the German homicidal gas vans, mostly of former members of the German paramilitary and military forces (Wehrmacht, Security Service, Security Police and Ordinary Police). This massive amount of evidence from perpetrators, accomplices and pro-German bystanders obtained by numerous West-German police officers, public prosecutors and judges in a constitutional democracy over many years poses arguably one of the biggest problems for Holocaust denial encountering the reality of the Nazi gas vans.
In his book The Gas Vans the denier Santiago Alvarez failed to explain and neutralize this evidence. His "analysis" of the West-German investigations is limited to the trial judgements as published in the Justiz and NS-Verbrechen volumes, i.e. he did not research the actual pre-trial investigation and trial files, which is only the first shortcoming of his contribution. According to him, this material is "currently difficult, if not impossible, to access by critical researchers due to German censorship laws" (Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 12). This explanation sounds like a lame excuse for not performing crucial archival research on the subject. As a matter of fact, "Santiago Alvarez" was a completely unknown quantity prior the publication of his book in 2011 and there is no evidence it is a pseudonym of a prominent person, who should be known to the Bundesarchiv and the various Landesarchive staff. Most importantly, Alvarez did not even attempt to request the files to test if he could gain access to them (else he would have certainly reported such). It is therefore obvious that there was never any serious intention to examine the West-German trial files (or any others, for that matter).
A point for point rebuttal of all his sections on the trials is beyond what can be managed in this series in terms of space and probably also patience of the readers, but that's not even necessary given that the omnipresent, systematic flaws penetrating his writing can be demonstrated in case studies. This was previously done by Roberto in "Alvarez" and Marais lie about the judgment LG München I vom 14.07.1972, 114 Ks 4/70 and by myself in Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: The Ford Gas Wagon. The following will further look at his fail on the West-German trials against former members of Einsatzkommando 8 of Einsatzgruppe B, which operated a gas van in Mogilev in Belorussia.
In order to brush away the powerful evidential bases for the gas vans from German perpetrators and bystanders, Alvarez seriously claims in section "3.4 The Psychological Framework of Postwar Confessions" the "basically worthless nature of such confessions" (Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 127). He concludes this from the false conviction of the so called Norfolk Four, who confessed to a crime they never did, which supposedly shows that "all it takes to make almost every person confess almost any crime is to put him or her into a desperate situation which has apparently only one exit: comply with the wishes of your tormentors".
The argument is another prime example of a textbook fallacy: Because some confessions turn out as false, therefore any confession is "basically worthless". You do not need the extreme case of the Norfolk Four to know that people can make false confessions for various reasons including threats by interrogators. But the mere theoretical possibility does not yet result in any significant probability on its own, but it has to be established by actual evidence. Something completely absent in Alvarez' treatment.
Moreover, the case of the Norfolk Four cannot be transferred to the West-German investigations and trials relating to homicidal gas vans. According to its media coverage, all confessions were obtained by a police officer, who has "since been convicted of extortion and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in another case" and "is serving a 12-year sentence". In contrast to this, the West-German investigations were carried out by numerous federal, regional and local police officers, prosecutors and judges throughout whole West-Germany. While it were possible that there was some black sheep among these working like this Norfolk police officer, it is utterly unlikely for the whole mass of people involved without leaving any evidence up to day.
The Norfolk Four were young sailors in their 20s, some of whom are described as "shy" and "submissive and easily misled even under normal circumstances", hence already relatively easily susceptible. On the other hand, the former members of the German paramilitary forces, who testified on the homicidal gas vans, were mostly seasoned men between 40 - 60 years with various backgrounds and positions, who served in the paramilitary and military forces in the East. While some could have given away to threats of punishment, this is absurd to assume for the mass of people without leaving any evidence up to day.
Instead of actually evidencing the Revisionist conspiracy theory, some particular nasty smearing of the investigating body can be found on p. 174 of the book. Alvarez claims that the "West German criminal investigations into these alleged crimes were nothing else but yet another extension of the Soviet wartime show trials" simply because the historian Shmuel Spector presented some sources on the gas vans from Soviet publications in the book Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas, which was co-edited by Adalbert Rückerl, the former head of the Zentrale Stelle. This now might come as a surprise for Alvarez, but to judge some testimonies obtained by the Soviets as reliable evidence does not automatically associate one with a Soviet agenda (as if anything ever published by the Soviets was a fraud). This episodes says only something about Alvarez' mindset, but nothing about the West German investigations.
Trials against Members of Einsatzkommando 8
The first taste of what is to come is anticipated already on p. 94, where Alvarez rigs up the following theory:
"In this context it should be noted that, during a 1966 West-German trial, the Germans deployed at Einsatzkommando 8 claimed to have no knowledge at all about homicidal gas vans in their former unit (see chapter 220.127.116.11.), which is in stark contrast to most other such trials, were at least some of the German defendants and witnesses frequently confessed to their existence and use. Interestingly, in later West-German trials the gas vans of Einsatzkommando 8, which in 1966 had been unknown to the Germans alleged to have used them, became more and more established “facts,” with the memories of those involved slowly “refreshing” (see chapters 18.104.22.168. and 22.214.171.124.). The more those Germans were interrogated and had to testify or stand trial, the more their “knowledge” seems to have grown."(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 94)
On the contrary, the judgement of this 1966 West-German trial (against Adolf Harnischmacher; in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 23, Verfahren Nr. 624) explains that "the witnesses St., S., Kö., Mor., Bro. and Kob. could indeed remember the gas van" and further indicates that also the witnesses Has. and Sch. had testified on the gas van (the former only in his pre-trial interrogation). In fact, more than 20 former members of Einsatzkommando 8 have testified on the existence and use of a homicidal gas van before 1966 according the various files. Hence, the theory that the former members of Einsatzkommando 8 had no knowledge of the gas van prior 1966 and only learnt about it through later interrogations and trials is patently false.
This misrepresentation ("the gas vans of Einsatzkommando 8, which in 1966 had been unknown to the Germans alleged to have used them" vs. 8 witnesses on the gas van mentioned in the judgement of the 1966 trial) certainly raises the question if Alvarez is competent to read and understand these kind of texts. As a matter of fact, the same kind of gross distortion from Alvarez has been also documented in case of other judgements in Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: The Ford Gas Wagon and "Alvarez" and Marais lie about the judgment LG München I vom 14.07.1972, 114 Ks 4/70.
In the light of the numerous perpetrator testimonies on the gas vans of Einsatzgruppe B, if some of the witnesses denied their knowledge than this was likely not because they were genuinely ignorant, but rather because they did not want to reveal their knowledge, which is quite an expected reaction and defendant strategy for perpetrators. If they later admitted their knowledge, then this was likely not because they just learnt about it from investigators, but because the denial was realised as senseless given the evidence from their former comrades or because it served as mental relief.
The defendant Adolf Harnischmacher did never admit knowledge of the commando's gas van. He was sentenced to only four years of prison by the regional court Frankfurt and even released in the revision. He refused to testify at the later trial against Richter & Hasse. His lack of admission of the gas van and his mild sentence radically refutes the Revisionist's fantasies on the nature of the West-German investigations and trials. It exemplifies that the West-German executive and judiciary had no mean and/or will to force this defendant into a gas van confession and that his denial of knowledge was not punished. And this is not an individual case, but representative for how the West-German executive and judiciary treated denial of knowledge of accepted and established facts. Other examples can be found in the files on Chelmno extermination camp, where more than 20 officials of the Warthegau denied their knowledge of Chelmno extermination camp (BArch B162/3247 - 3249), or in the files on the Mogilev asylum gassing, which has more than 30 former or still present police officers stating that they do not know anything about this incident (BArch B162/3298).
In fact, "not known" was one of the most frequent responses given by former members of the German paramilitary forces when enquired about atrocities by West-German investigators, which illustrates the mild circumstances and climate of these interrogations. Outright denial of knowledge was arguably the best strategy there if there was no incrimination by witnesses who could show up on trial.
Richter & Hasse
On 11 April 1969, the former leader of Einsatzkommando 8 Heinz Richter and his deputy Hans Hasse were given prison sentences for complicity in murder by the regional court in Kiel (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 32, Verfahren Nr. 702).
Alvarez asserts that "[t]he unusual feature of this trial is the fact that both defendants had along track history of having been philo-Semites before and at the beginning of the war" (Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 223). However, this was only true for Hasse as the judgement clearly - and rightly - stated that the "accused Ric[hter] was not the broad-minded philosemite" (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 32, Verfahren Nr. 702, p. 65). The false representation of Richter's attitude toward Jews by Alvarez culminates in the statement that this "raises the question how two philo-Semites could so easily be converted into mass-murdering automatons once deployed behind the eastern German frontline in Russia". This open question remains unanswered by him and is apparently supposed to cast doubt on the reality of the mass murder. If Alvarez had any basic knowledge of Holocaust history, it could not have escaped him that the question of how Ordinary Men became mass murder is not terra incognita just discovered by him, but since long a subject of research by historians and sociologists, who have addressed the issue.
"It was convenient for the court that almost all witnesses testifying during this trial had themselves been members of the German armed forces in one way or other, which somehow in the eyes of the German judiciary and the public at large renders their statements credible only if they are self-incriminating. Hence the judges could at will declare this or that statement as plausible or implausible, depending on the need to come to the expected, politically correct verdict.(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 226)
Pri. had claimed that at one point all the inmates of the Mogilev prison were shot because some of them had been diagnosed with typhus. Apparently this claim had not been bandied about sufficiently yet, so none of the defendants or other witnesses could “remember” such an event, hence the court acquitted the defendants in this regard (p. 74). Yet instead of concluding that Pri. had probably either made up the event or was no longer capable of distinguishing between fact and rumor and thus had to be rejected as an unreliable witness, the court followed Pri.’s second wild story about the summary execution of the inmates of an insane asylum with engine exhaust gases, just because the submissive defendant Ha. had admitted his involvement in this event (pp. 74f.)."
First of all, the conclusion in the second sentence does not follow from the premise he puts forward in the first sentence. If the statements of the witnesses were considered "credible only if they are self-incriminating", then in contrast to what Alvarez says the judges could not "at will declare this or that statement as plausible or implausible" but had to follow this alleged rule.
Apart from the ill logic, Alvarez provides no evidence for his assertion, which would require multiple examples that the judges claimed self-incriminating statements reliable, when they were clearly not, and conversely claimed exculpatory statement unreliable, when they were clearly reliable.
The case of the clearing of the Mogilev prison because of a typhus epidemic does not only fail to support the claim, but it actually refutes it straight away. As a matter of fact, Richter was acquitted on this charge, although one of the perpetrators (Prieb) had testified on the clearing. If Alvarez claim were right, the judges would have had convicted him on this point.
None less flawed is Alvarez' understanding of the actual evidence on this prison clearing. His claim that "none of the defendants or other witnesses could 'remember' such an event" is false, as the judgement recalls that Ha "'vaguely' remembered" it and that "some witnesses want to know of this only from hearsay" (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 32, Verfahren Nr. 702, p.73). For instance, according to the actual trial transcript, the police men Walter Fin. testified that "I know that they once talked about that typhus broke out in the prison. I also know that the prison was cleared thereupon" (examination of 30 September 1968, YVA TR.10. 7b, p. 417). The judges did not convict Richter for the incident, because there was not sufficient corroboration that the event occurred under Richter's leadership and in dubio pro re, but it did not rejected it as historically false.
In the final step of his allegation, Alvarez attacks the judges that they accepted the asylum gassing testified to by Prieb, although he "had to be rejected as an unreliable witness". Now, even if - for the sake of argument - Prieb had been unreliable on the typhus outbreak in the prison and its subsequent clearing, it were still proper to rely on him on the asylum gassing if he is corroborated by others. And indeed, the judgement pointed out that this incident was corroborated by Hasse at the trial. Alvarez' conviction that if a witness turns out as unreliable on one thing than there is no way to rely on him on something else is a "discredited doctrine" based on "primitive psychology".
Secondly, as pointed out above, it was never established that Prieb was "an unreliable witness" in the first place, but on the contrary the essence of his description of the typhus outbreak and clearing of the prison was vaguely corroborated by others and considered as true by the judges. Hence, they were all the more justified to rely on him on the asylum gassing, which was not only corroborated Hasse but also by Stro, Böh. and Schlechte.
Heinz Schlechte was a temporal gas van driver of Einsatzkommando 8 and provided detailed descriptions of the homicidal gassings. The verdict of Schlechte's trial can be found in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 33, Verfahren Nr. 720. Alvarez thinks to have spotted "all the nonsense this defendant told during his various testimonies and interrogations", which will be looked at in the following in more detail.
"Regarding the uselessness of those criss-crossing pipes underneath the wooden grate and the unlikely use of a thread in the exhaust pipe to affix a hose I have made ample remarks before, so I will spare the reader a repetition."(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 229)
It would have been even better if Alvarez had not only spared his readers of the repetition, but also of his own nonsense that the pipe system inside the gassing box were useless. On p. 153 of his book, he elaborates that "[s]uch a system seems reasonable at first sight" but yet "a sophisticated gas distribution pipework was utterly unnecessary" because "the exhaust gases would have streamed into the cargo box with considerable speed and since the victims, through their body motions and breathing, would have caused sufficient air motion in the van to further distribute and mix the gases".
There is no question that the exhaust gases would be distributed at some point, but this does not address how quick this happened. Unless the distribution of the exhaust gases in a box packed with people occurs nearly instantaneously - something a priori and without doing the math very unlikely - the injection of the exhaust through several, homogeneously distributed openings was naturally speeding up the mixing of the exhaust gases with the inside of the box and hence also decreasing the time needed to kill all people. Furthermore, the use of multiple gas inlets might have also reduced the probability that these were simultaneously clogged and therefore increased the reliability of the gassing setup. This is enough to explain why the Germans in charge of the gas van construction thought to implement this feature.
That a hose was screwed onto the exhaust pipe or onto pipe welded to the exhaust pipe is a likely feature of the gas vans, since it is corroborated by numerous other testimonies.
(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 229)"In addition, is there a need to point out that a pipe tapering off conically cannot have a functioning thread?"
Is there any need to point out that the reducing pipe with would have been straight at the end and that just because some detail is not mentioned explicitly does not mean it did not exist?
(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 229)"New about the gassing procedure claimed by the defendant is that all gassings are said to have been conducted at night 'in order to avoid unsettling the local populace' (p. 285). There is no supportive evidence for such a claim, though."
Actually, the judgement was somewhat inaccurate in this respect, since Schlechte testified that "the whole actions were usually carried out in the night or in the early morning hours so that no one who was not involved got knowledge of the whole thing" (interrogation of 29 January 1963, YVA TR.10/1118/5, p. 535). There is nothing nonsensical with Schlechte's description and it is not contradicted by any evidence either.
"The verdict describes the defendant as a “truth-loving, sensible person, yet mentally not very flexible” (p. 292), or in plain English: he was a simpleton whose memory could easily be fooled. That may be the root cause of all the nonsense this defendant told during his various testimonies and interrogations, and it may also be the reason why he, during a different trial, had exclaimed that he is no longer certain whether what he is telling is “the truth or poetry” (see p. 226)."(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 229)
The term "mentally not very flexible" may describe somebody, who is a simple or slow thinker or lacks fantasy, but it says nothing about whether his "memory could easily be fooled". Alvarez made this one up. In fact, given that Schlechte was recognised as "truth-loving" person in the verdict, it is entirely unlikely that he would have been "fooled" into his very detailed testimony on the gas vans. Hence, this passage from the verdict supports the very opposite of what it was misused for by Alvarez.
The second assertion that Schlechte "had exclaimed that he is no longer certain whether what he is telling is 'the truth or poetry'" is exemplary for how little evidence Alvarez needs to accept something as fact if it just serves his agenda and his use of double standards. What he presents as a fact is an uncorroborated claim by another member of Einsatzkommando 8, Hans Graalfs, who was sentenced to prison because of Schlechte's testimony and whose claim the same judgement did not follow already because there were concerns regarding his "impartiality" (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 32, Verfahren Nr. 702, p. 58). There is no evidence in the judgement of Graalf's trial that Schlechte doubted his own memory (which was not on the gas van anyway), on the contrary, it praised Schlechte's testimony on one of Graalfs' atrocities that it was "concrete, impressive and consistent" (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 19, Verfahren Nr. 567, p. 794). It is instructive that Alvarez blindly followed the self-serving claim of a single witness, on which he knows virtually nothing about and who was not considered reliable by the judgement on this point, merely because it is convenient for his purpose.
It seems fair to say that the treatment of the West-German trials by Alvarez takes up right where he left off on the contemporary German documents. His "analysis" consists of incoherent comments riddled with misinterpretations, distortions, contradictions, far-fetched speculations and pointless, open questions, as was already pointed out in Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: The Ford Gas Wagon and "Alvarez" and Marais lie about the judgment LG München I vom 14.07.1972, 114 Ks 4/70.
Most importantly, Alvarez failed to elucidate, explain and demonstrate how the West-German investigations and trials ended up in being such a wealthy source of evidence on the gas vans, mostly from the perpetrators themselves.
While there is good evidence in case of the Norfolk Four for false confessions (starting with their recantation over fundamental contradictions to the linkage to the corrupt investigator), it is exactly the lack of any evidence that the gas van testimonies are false and that there was this huge conspiracy necessary to create and maintain the hoax - despite the much larger number of people involved and the decades it dates back -, which supports that the West-German investigations and trials have demonstrated the reality of the homicidal gas vans beyond reasonable doubt. Already the absence of any significant recantation more than four decades later and up to this day knocks out any probability in favour of Holocaust denial.