Monday, January 04, 2010

Carlo Mattogno, the failed Dragon-slayer

(Last revised: 30.01.2010)

Long sections of Carlo Mattogno's book The Bunkers of Auschwitz [PDF] are devoted to the critique of various testimonies of Auschwitz Sonderkommando Shlomo Dragon and his brother Abraham.

First, let's take a look at Mattogno's comparison of Shlomo Dragon's Soviet and Polish testimonies. Since I have examined the original Soviet testimony and have the text before me, I'm in a good position to analyze Mattogno's analysis.

The first thing I want to state is that all the citations from Dragon's testimony in Mattogno's book, given in footnotes in original Russian, are indeed authentic. Mattogno's translation of some of them is another matter, as we shall see shortly...

Mattogno's analysis starts on p. 75:
Even a cursory reading of the sections quoted above makes it obvious that the Polish deposition of Szlama Dragon presents significant contradictions with respect to the Soviet one, dated less than three months earlier. In the following comparative analysis I shall examine the most important ones.

5.2.1. Terminology
The first thing to note is that Dragon, at the time of the Soviet deposition, did not yet know the terms ‘Bunker 1’ and ‘Bunker 2,’ allegedly used even by the SS. In this deposition he speaks always of "gazokamera" (газокамера) nos. 1 and 2 and states explicitly that this was the official designation: "I was taken to the gas chamber called gas chamber no. 2." In the Polish deposition, the term for these alleged extermination installations becomes ‘Bunker:’ "This chamber was designated Bunker no. 2. In addition to it, at a distance of about 500 meters, there was another chamber, indicated as Bunker no. 1." The term occurs here with the same frequency as the term "gazokamera" in the preceding deposition.
The problem with Mattogno's argument is this: strictly speaking, he deals not with Dragon's original testimony, but with a Russian translation, with all possible stenographers' mistakes/typos, mistranslations, misunderstandings and even intentional alterations.

Mattogno concocts a whole conspiracy theory - the term "Bunker" was invented by the Poles and adopted by the witnesses. Then it was forced upon even the witnesses who were in the Western Allies' hands, like Aumeier and Hoess. Mattogno even goes this far with his claim:
During the trial session of March 11, 1947, Hoess finally adapted himself to the Polish ‘truth’ and its terminology, speaking explicitly of ‘Bunker 1’ and‘Bunker 2’: [...]

The obvious difference between the British and the Polish versions of Hoess’ ‘confessions’ is thus further proof of the fact that they expressed the propaganda orientation of the respective interrogators.
The problem for Mattogno is that Hoess did mention the term "Bunker" before he was transferred to Poland. Here's a quote from the joint interrogation of Otto Moll and Rudolf Hoess at Nuremberg on 16 April 1946, by Lieut.-Colonel Smith W. Brookhart, as published in R. Overy, Interrogations. The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945, 2001, p. 394:
Q. How does that figure strike you, Hoess?

A. It is impossible for him to know the exact figures, but they appear to me to be much too small as far as I can remember today. The people buried in the two big mass graves of the so-called dugouts one and two, amounted to 106,000 or 107,000 people.


Q. Hoess, what do you think would be the correct figures?

A. Moll, in my opinion, cannot possibly have any idea of the number of killings in the dugouts where he was working and responsible. At any rate, they were far, far too low - that is, Moll's figure.
Obviously "dugouts one and two" are Bunkers 1 and 2, and the translator was clueless about what Hoess meant. And why would that be if there was such a grand conspiracy? So much for Mattogno's claim about Hoess. Now returning to Dragon.

The simpler and more parsimonious explanation of the Soviet interrogation terminology: in their original Polish-language testimonies Dragon (and Tauber; see below) always used the term "Bunker". Since the term would cause unnecessary confusion (kind of like what happened to Hoess above), as "Bunker" does not mean "gas chamber" in Russian (or in any other language, for that matter), the Soviet translator and/or interrogator, after ascertaining that Dragon's "Bunkers" were gas chambers, simply wrote "gas chamber" every time Dragon mentioned "Bunker", for the sake of clarity. It's a reasonable and realistic hypothesis which does not require any conspiracy theories, therefore it is preferable to Mattogno's conspiracy-mongering. To repeat: we're not dealing with a precise stenographic record. Mattogno:
However, in this deposition Dragon is still unaware of the other two designations, "czerwony domek" (little red house) for ‘Bunker 1’ and "bialy domek" (little white house) for ‘Bunker 2,’ which were invented a few years later during the Hoess trial.
Although there is no evidence that these designations are post-war inventions, from all the materials I've read it does not seem to me that these were some popular designations among the prisoners or the Nazis, although they probably were used by some people. I think it's unfortunate and irritating that these are often presented as "official" designations nowadays, but when we look at the big picture, it is hardly that important. So, meh.
The fact that in February-March 1945 the above-mentioned official terminology was still unknown is also clear from the deposition of Henryk Tauber, dated February 27 and 28, 1945, in which he refers to the ‘Bunkers’ merely as "gas chambers "(газовые камеры).

The Polish-Soviet experts, in their report prepared between February 14 and March 18, 1945, also speak only of "gas chambers" (газовые камеры) nos. 1 and 2.
The explanation for this is as above.

Skipping a bit further:
5.2.2. ‘Bunker 1’
In this section, I shall list the major discrepancies of the two depositions on
the subject of ‘Bunker 1.’

1) Soviet deposition: "In each of the rooms of gas chamber no. 1 there were two doors; the naked persons entered through one and the corpses were taken out through the other."

Polish deposition: "In addition to it, at a distance of about 500 meters, there was another chamber, indicated as Bunker no. 1. This, too, was a brick house, but it was divided into only two rooms, which could take in a total of fewer than 2000 naked persons. These rooms had only one entrance door and one little window."
On the corresponding drawing, too, the two gas chambers of ‘Bunker 1’ have only one door each.
This is a genuine discrepancy between two texts. Let's designate it as GC1.
2) Soviet deposition: "On the outside of the entrance door was written ‘To the disinfection’ and on the inside of the exit door ‘To the bath.’"

Polish deposition: "On the entrance door there was the plate of which I have already spoken, with the inscription ‘Hochspannung – Lebensgefahr.’ This inscription was visible only when the entrance door was closed. When the door stood open, it could not be seen, instead, there was another sign ‘Zum Baden’ [to the bathing]."

The inscription "Zum Baden" was therefore (Soviet deposition) on the inside of the exit door, but (Polish deposition) on the inside of the entrance door.
Um. Carlo. What were you smoking when writing this? Because the "Polish deposition" quote is from the description of Bunker 2. Here's a quote from your own freaking book:
On the entrance door there was the plate of which I have already spoken, with the inscription ‘Hochspannung – Lebensgefahr.’ This inscription was visible only when the entrance door was closed. When the door stood open, it could not be seen, instead, there was another sign ‘Zum Baden’ [to the bath]. The victims destined for the gassing saw another sign on the exit door of the chamber which said ‘Zur Desinfektion’ [to the disinfection]. Of course, behind the door with this inscription there was no disinfection at all, because this was the exit door from the chamber, through which we pulled out the corpses into the yard.

Each room had a separate exit door. The chamber that I have described has been faithfully drawn on the basis of my testimony by the engineer Jan Nosal from Oswiecim. This chamber was designated Bunker no. 2.

3) Soviet deposition: "At some 500 meters from gas chamber no. 1, there were two standard wooden barracks."

Polish deposition: "Not far from Bunker no. 1 there was a barn and two barracks."

In the Soviet deposition Dragon affirms that the incineration trenches were located about 500 meters from ‘Bunker 1’; in the Polish one he declares: "The trenches were very far away." It follows that the barn and the two barracks which were "not far" from ‘Bunker 1’ stood at a distance much less than 500 meters from Bunker 1: the witness contradicts himself.
I agree that there is a discrepancy between the texts, let's call it D1.
5.2.3. ‘Bunker 2’

We now come to the major contradictions of the two depositions on the
subject of ‘Bunker 2’

1) Soviet deposition: "The gas chambers were two modified houses, whose windows had been hermetically sealed."

Polish deposition: "The windows were walled up."
I don't see the supposed contradiction. The windows were hermetically sealed by walling them up. This is not a technical manual. Calling that a contradiction is grasping at straws.
2) Soviet deposition: "[...] another two barracks stood at some 150 meters from gas chamber no. 2."

Polish deposition: "At about 30 to 40 meters from this cottage stood two wooden barracks."
Discrepancy D2.
3) Soviet deposition: "At 150 meters from chamber no. 2 there were six trenches of the same dimensions as those near chamber no. 1."

Polish deposition: "On the other side of the house there were four trenches, 30 m long, 7 m wide and 3 m deep."

In the Soviet deposition these trenches are 30 to 35 meters long, 7 to 8 m wide, and 2 m deep.
The discrepancy between the measurements of the trenches is not accepted, the difference between 2 and 3 meters not a great contradiction. The rest is accepted as discrepancy D3.
4) Soviet deposition: "Gas chamber no. 2 could take in 2,000 persons."

Polish deposition: "One of them [the rooms] could take in 1,200 naked persons, the second 700, the third 400, and the fourth 200 to 250."

At maximum, then, the four rooms of ‘Bunker 2’ could contain 2,500 to 2,550 persons.
From the point of view of common sense this is a simple numerical variation not too large to pay any attention to it; if anything, 2000 is a very rough rounding of 2500. Since this number cannot be fixed in principle (people vary in size, you know), this is nothing to make a fuss about.

And if we look at it formally, there is not even a discrepancy, since if the gas chamber could contain 2550 persons, then obviously it could contain 2000 persons. Objection denied.
5) Soviet deposition: "The gas chambers 1 and 2 were located about 3 km apart from each other."

Polish deposition: "In addtion to it, at a distance of about 500 meters, there was another chamber, indicated as Bunker no. 1."
Discrepancy D4.

Thus Mattogno listed 8 examples of what he considers the most important discrepancies between the Polish and Soviet testimonies of Dragon, but only 5 of them merit any attention, and in the process Mattogno himself confused Bunker 1 and Bunker 2!

And this is not the only place in the book where he confuses the two Bunkers. On p. 184 he tries to analyze an aerial photo of Bunker 2. And he writes:
According to Ms. Wisinska the house itself measured some 12 by 9 meters.
Except Wisinska was writing about Bunker 1, as is obvious from p. 214, where there is a "Sketch of house of Jozef Harmata (the alleged ‘Bunker 1’), annex to declaration of Jozefa Wisinska of August 5, 1980" and from p. 165, where we have "Jozefa Wisinska’s Declaration on the Location of ‘Bunker 1’". Again: d'oh!

Now, some people will say - OK, Mattogno made these mistakes, but this is irrelevant, since Dragon's contradictions are too serious anyway.

But Mattogno's mistakes are very relevant indeed.

Let's compare the two situations. Mattogno wrote his book (presumably) in Rome, in a comfort of his own home, having all the archival documents and other materials at his disposal, which he could check and re-check at leisure. And yet he still mixed everything up!

So how much slack should we cut to young Shlomo Dragon, who had just gone through the hell of Auschwitz, obviously a hypertraumatic experience, and who, during the interrogation, had nothing but his memory to rely on?

Besides, he worked at the Bunkers only for a short time (according to the Soviet testimony, no more than 2 months in Bunker 2, which in light of context and his later testimonies probably means several times during two-month-period, while most of the time he was gathering bricks from various demolished buildings; and several days in Bunker 1). After that there were months of work in the crematoria and tens of thousands more corpses going "through" him.

So yes, he probably mixed several details of the two Bunkers (discrepancy GC1), and most other discrepancies (D1-D4) are distance-related, with the exception of the different number of trenches. Some of those numerical discrepancies could have been clerical mistakes by the translator/interrogator who wrote the testimony down, especially the distance between Bunker 1 and undressing barracks (D1). In fact, I'm pretty sure that this is the most probable explanation for D1, especially given the repetition of the "500 m" figure for the distance between Bunker 1 and mass graves. Given the barrage of numbers, such a mistake ("500 m" instead of probably "50 m", as the later testimony indicates that the barracks were "not far" away, unlike the graves) is not surprising at all.

Other discrepancies are quite inconsequential, like the distance between the Bunkers (D4; the real distance being about 800 meters as the crow flies). After all, it's not like we have already established that Dragon was walking back and forth between the Bunkers before his interrogation and thus could make a reliable estimate.

For all we know, the Soviet interrogator might have "ambushed" Dragon with request for more precise numerical data, after understanding how valuable Dragon's experiences were. If so, then Dragon might have supplied the very rough estimates, not having much time to reconstruct the data in his memory during the interrogation.

But, someone may say, the very fact that Dragon changed his testimony proves he is a liar. Not at all. In the months between the testimonies Dragon apparently analyzed the information he had from memory, maybe he tried to verify his memories on the site (as much as it was possible), by talking to other former inmates, etc. Thus by the time Sehn examined him, he had better information in some respects, especially in regard to distances. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or dishonest about that, although it's a pity that he did not explain the discrepancies himself (though he probably never had a chance to do it anyway, as he was not confronted with the Soviet protocol during the Polish interrogation or during the interview with Greif).

What is the lesson from all this (Dragon's discrepancies and Mattogno's confusion)? Certainly not that Auschwitz witnesses are liars, that Dragon's testimony is absolutely unreliable, or some such crap.

The lesson is that human memory is frail. And certain researchers are mistaken when they rely on a single witness to establish fine details like text on plaques on the gas chamber doors, or the number of incineration pits and their measurements, since witnesses are bound to get such details wrong, no matter how detailed or reliable their testimony may seem to us at some moment. But neither should such discrepancies in detail be used to throw away a testimony as a whole. Rather, all testimonies should be "tested" against the body of existent evidence. Then it is often possible to separate wheat from chaff.

But let's return to Mattogno's attempted analysis.
5.2.4. Critical Analysis

For this analysis, I shall again restrict myself to the most important points. 1) In the Soviet deposition, Szlama Dragon affirms that ‘Bunker 1’ had a total floor area of 80 square meters and 1,500 to 1,700 persons could be squeezed into it – i.e., 19 to 22 persons per square meter in rounded figures! In the Polish deposition he speaks of "fewer than 2,000 persons" which corresponds to a density of "fewer than" 25 persons per square meter! On the other hand, ‘Bunker 2’ had a total floor area of 100 square meters and could take in 2,000 persons according to the Soviet deposition or up to 2,550, if we follow the Polish one. Thus, here again, we have a density of 20 to 25 persons per square meter!
So where's the analysis? Mattogno merely calculated the supposed densities. What's the conclusion? Or are these densities self-obviously fantastic? Well, no, not according to late Charles Provan's calculations, when one assumes that a significant percent of victims were children, as, of course, was often the case in Birkenau (in Provan's experiment there were more children than adults and he got the density of 28 persons per square meter). Plus Dragon's rough estimates of number of persons per Bunker should be compared not with with his rough estimates of the sizes of the Bunkers, but with documented sizes (if possible).
2) In the Soviet deposition, the witness, referring to ‘Bunker 1,’ declares:
"The removal of the corpses from the chamber, as I have already explained, was carried out by 12 persons who took out 6 corpses every 15 minutes. [...] The clearing of the chamber took 2 to 3 hours."
Actually, if 12 men carry 6 corpses every 15 minutes, the clearing of 1,500, 1,700, or "fewer than 2,000" corpses would have required about 62 hours, or about 71 hours, or "fewer than" 83 hours respectively. To carry 2,000 corpses within 3 hours would require that each of the 12 persons carried roughly one corpse each and every minute!
Mattogno mistranslates and misunderstands the passage. This is not the first time he misunderstands the meaning of Russian. Here's what the text actually says:
Разгрузкой камеры от трупов, как я выше указывал, занимались 12 человек попеременно, разгружали каждые 15 минут по шесть человек. Больше чем 15-20 минут в газокамере трудно было находиться, так как запах от циклона при открытии дверей сразу не улетучивался.

The unloading of the corpses from the chamber, as I have pointed out above, was carried out by 12 persons alternately, 6 persons were unloading every 15 minutes. It was difficult to stay in the gas chamber for more than 15-20 minutes since the smell from Zyklon did not evaporate immediately after the doors were opened.
So not 6 corpses were unloaded each 15 minutes by 12 men (an absurd claim, anyway!), but 6 men were working for 15 minutes and then were replaced by the other 6 men. Mattogno omitted the word "попеременно" ("alternately", "by turns") in his translation, incorrectly translated the word "человек" ("persons") as "corpses" and omitted the next sentence, which explains why they had to work by turns in the first place.

Mattogno’s command of many languages deserves some respect, but when he mangles text after text... Here is another demonstration of the limits of his knowledge of Slavic languages. On p. 191 he writes:
The Auschwitz Museum was quick to take up the Vatican’s initiative, cleverly trying to historicize this pious legend by installing in the ruins of the alleged ‘Bunker 2’ a plaque with the Polish inscription: “Miejsce męczeństwa Bł.[639] Edith Stein + 9.08.1942,” i.e., “Place of martyrdom of Edith Stein.”
The footnote follows:
639 The Polish adjective “byłej,” abbreviated “Bł,” literally “ex” or “former,” refers in this case to the name of the nun in her civilian life.
Actually “Bł. Edith Stein” means “błogosławioną Edith Stein”, i.e. "Blessed Edith Stein". "Bł." is an absolutely standard abbreviation for "błogosławiony". Indeed, "former Edith Stein" is such an absurd and idiotic construct that it should not have passed the smell test of such "an accomplished linguist, researcher, and [...] a specialist in textual analysis". Oh well.

This is not simply an ad hominem argument. Mattogno criticizes testimonies on the basis of fine details - and yet he gets the details wrong in translation. At the very least his translations of Slavic testimonies are suspect.
3) In the Soviet deposition the witness declares that his transport (2,500 persons), which arrived on December 7, 1942, was received at Birkenau by Dr. Mengele, who carried out the selection. However, Dr. Mengele was not dispatched to Auschwitz until six months later, on May 30, 1943. Dragon adds that the gassings were performed "by various SS men, one of whom was called Scheimetz." In the Polish deposition the witness declares that the gassings were carried out by Rottenfuehrer "Scheinmetz" upon the orders given by Mengele; the Zyklon B was brought by a car with the sign of the Red Cross, which the Germans called "Sanker."
At the time – as we have already seen – Mengele was not yet at Auschwitz.
Correct. As Deborah Lipstadt once said:
Lots of survivors who arrived at Auschwitz will tell you they were examined by Mengele. Then you ask them the date of their arrival, and you say, 'Mengele wasn't in Auschwitz at that point'.
Dragon was "telescoping" Mengele's later participation in selections (which he probably had heard about from other inmates, if he didn't witness it himself) back to his arrival, as was a common occurrence among survivors. It doesn't mean that it is a deliberate untruth.
As to "Scheimetz," "Scheinmetz," or "Steinmetz" – a rather common German last name – nothing at all is known about him, and there is therefore no proof that he ever existed.
Which is true of billions of people who had lived and died. The point is, there is no proof of the opposite too.
It is true that this name was also mentioned by Henryk Tauber in his deposition of May 24, 1945, but Tauber gave his deposition after Dragon’s. That the source is really Dragon is borne out by the fact that for the gassings Tauber, too, evokes the duo Mengele-Scheimetz. It is likewise clear that Dragon, at the time of the Soviet deposition, did not yet know anything about the alleged vehicle with the Red Cross, which brought the Zyklon B and which appears in many later testimonies.
The logic here is fascinating: if Dragon did not mention some detail, he did not know about it. And if details of Tauber's a Dragon's testimonies match, it must be because one plagiarized another. Hmmm.

By the way, for some reason Mattogno doesn't mention pre-liberation testimonies mentioning that same van, e.g. diaries of Lejb Langfus ("During the singing the Red Cross van arrived, gas was thrown into the chamber...", Bezwinska and Czech, Amidst a nightmare of crime..., p.115) and Salmen Lewenthal ("Ear-piercing cries of despair and loud weeping were heard [...] terrible [...] they expressed immense pain [...] various muffled voices merged together [...] and proceeded from under the ground until the car of the humanitarian Red Cross arrived [...] and put an end to their pain and despair [...]. After throwing 4 tins of the gas through the small upper doors and after sealing them hermetically, silence soon reigned."; ibid., p.146).

Then Mattogno whines about Dragon's overly exaggerated incineration figures, which, of course, were usual for Auschwitz witnesses. What can I say? Those were mere estimates, which, while based on the real horrors, were more often than not influenced by the feedback loop of rumors and wishful thinking. And yes, witnesses could believe in such numbers and not be liars. After all, it's not like they claimed to have personally counted each corpse.
5) Just as absurd is the assertion that the SS collected the human fat of the corpses to feed the combustion in the trenches. Animal fat has a flashpoint of under 184°C (363°F), considerably less than the ignition temperature of dry wood, which varies between 325 and 350°C; on the other hand the combustible substances in a corpse start to gasify (into carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons) at around 400 to 500°C, so that in any kind of burning trench for corpses the first thing to burn would be the fat. I have demonstrated the impossibility of recovering burning human fat for fuel in a series of specific experiments.
Actually, Mattogno has done no such thing, as I showed in my article "Recovery of liquid human fat from pyres is impossible..."
6) In the Polish deposition, the witness attributes to ‘Bunker 2’ four incineration trenches, which in the Soviet deposition he had assigned to "gas chamber no. 1."
Above I have dealt with such discrepancies at length.
7) We must also note that the first description of the installations of the two ‘Bunkers’ follows a pattern that is both repetitive and nonsensical. For ‘Bunker 1’ it is as follows:

undressing barracks - 500 m - ‘Bunker’ - 500 m - burning trenches

For ‘Bunker 2’ it is as follows:

undressing barracks - 150 m - ‘Bunker’ - 150 m - burning trenches

From the point of view of logistics, it does not speak strongly in favor of German organizing methods to have 2,000 naked people walk or run 500 m in the open and to transport the corpses over the same distance.
Partially dealt with above - the 500 m between the undressing barracks and Bunker 1 is probably a clerical mistake for 50 m. The distance between the gas chambers and mass graves, on the other hand, may be determined by a myriad of factors, of which the distance is only one. According to Pressac's interpretation of evidence, which I accept in this case, the graves of Bunker 1 were in Birkenwald, 300 to 400 meters from the gas chambers (Technique..., p. 162). If so, then Dragon's 500 m is not such a bad estimate. Whatever the Nazis' reasons for placing these graves in Birkenwald (of which the most obvious one seems to be greater secrecy), this particular detail can hardly be used against Dragon's testimony.
8) A final observation: According to official historiography, the members of the so-called ‘special unit’ were regularly murdered by the SS after a few months as potentially dangerous ‘witnesses.’

According to Danuta Czech, the previous ‘special unit,’ consisting of 300 persons, was gassed on December 3, 1942, “in the gas chamber near crematorium I,” and three days later, a new ‘special unit’ was formed, which included Szlama Dragon. This same witness, in the Polish deposition, relates that his ‘special unit’ was housed near Block 2 and states:
“This Block was a closed one, and, different from the other Blocks, was surrounded by a wall. They did not want us to communicate with the detainees in another Block.”
After his first day at work in “gas chamber no. 2,” he fell ill, but instead of being gassed, he was assigned to cleaning duty and other tasks in barrack no. 2, where he worked until May 1943. He was then transferred to the unit in charge of gathering bricks, where he stayed until February 1944. At the same time, though, he worked for 2 months in “gas chamber no. 2” and for some days also in “gas chamber no. 1” until he was finally assigned to crematorium IV. Dragon remained with the so-called ‘special unit’ until January 18, 1945, when he and the other 100 men of the unit – instead of being shot as dangerous witnesses – were sent to Germany on foot(!), and he was able to escape unobserved along the way.

One can see that the SS had a strange way of keeping their ‘secrets,’ about which Dragon and his brother Abraham were to provide further accounts in 1993, just as amusing.
What is this mythical "official historiography" Mattogno is blabbering about, and exactly who claimed that? And even if some authors did claim that, why would that make this claim a part of the (mythical) "official historiography"?

Here's what Hoess had to say about this subject in the above-cited joint interrogation with Moll:
Q. How often were the crematoria detail of prisoners exterminated?

A. As far as I can remember, it was twice before I left for the first time and they were exterminated again after the action against the Hungarians was completed.

Q. On whose orders were the prisoners exterminated?

A. I received that order from Eichmann and he ordered in particular that the furnace commandoes should be shot every three months, however, I failed to comply with these orders as I did not think it was right.
So (supposedly) there was an order for such a regular extermination, but Hoess did not comply. And yes, Hoess does say that several groups were exterminated. Is there a contradiction with existence of several SK survivors? Not at all. If, say, from a group of 1000 people 990 are killed and 10 are spared for whatever reason, it is fair to say that the group has been exterminated. There was an extremely small number of surviving "old" SKs (from among those who had worked in Krema I, at the Bunkers in 1942, etc.) whose individual fates we might consider "improbable", but when we consider the fact that the absolute majority of "old" SKs was exterminated, the improbability vanishes. The probability of a given person winning in a lottery is very small, but someone always wins. The probability of survival of any given "old" SK was extremely small, but it's not surprising that a small number of them did survive.
Szlama Dragon provides us with no indication that would allow us, even only approximately, to locate the two ‘Bunkers.’ His statements as to the distance between them are contradictory (3 kilometers in the Soviet deposition, 500 meters in the Polish one). That is strange, to say the least, because in 1945 establishing the location of both houses would have been extremely easy, as their positions could have been determined in relation to that of two other major buildings in their vicinity, i.e., the central sauna and the sewage plant of BAIII. One might therefore reasonably suspect that Dragon never even set foot into the places he speaks of. When it comes to ‘Bunker 2,’ this suspicion becomes certainty. All the maps of the area around the Birkenau camp show, in fact, two houses in the zone of ‘Bunker 2.’ As the two versions of drawing 2215 “Development Map for the Erection and Extension of the Concentration and POW Camp” demonstrate, the second of these two houses, which stood some 25 meters to the east of ‘Bunker 2,’ was still standing in March 1943. Nevertheless, Dragon never mentions it in his depositions, although it must have been clearly visible, considering its position right next to ‘Bunker 2.’ Why then, doesn’t he mention it?
A prima facie idiotic argument. Why would Dragon mention any nearby house, even if he remembered about such an insignificant detail (which I doubt)? As to trying to determine the location - maybe he did just that after the interrogation, together with a Soviet commission (therefore the Polish deposition was more accurate). Apparently he had not given this issue much thought before he was asked about it by the Soviets, thus the understandable inaccuracies in reconstruction.
The alleged ‘Bunker 1’ was a house situated at some 25 meters from the western enclosure of BAIII, in the area between the sewage plant and the northwest corner of the camp, hence in a location that could be easily identified and described. The “Site Map of Area of Interest Concentration Camp Auschwitz No. 1733” of October 5, 1942, shows that close by the house, to the west, there were also two barns and another larger house within a radius of 40 meters. Still, Dragon affirms that “in the vicinity of Bunker 1,” aside from the two barracks allegedly built by the Central Construction Office, there was only one small barn.

It is true that he says he began his activity in the so-called ‘special unit’ on December 11, 1942, while the map dates from October 5, 1942, and the situation may have changed in the interim. But it is also true that ‘Bunker 1’ is said to have started its alleged extermination activity in either March or May 1942.

Hence, there are two possibilities: either the situation changed after October 1942, in which case the Central Construction Office would have left the two barns and the other house intact for five or seven months and then suddenly, for some mysterious reason, have demolished one barn and the house, or else the situation did not change – but in that case Szlama Dragon never set foot in the area of ‘Bunker 1.’ Which of the two possibilities is the correct one is immediately evident from the fact that the witness was not able to locate ‘Bunker 1’ (or ‘Bunker 2’ either) or to help the Soviet investigative commission with its identification, even though – as Andrzej Strzelecki tells us – he was present during its proceedings.
Frankly, this is not even funny. All this ado is about whether Dragon remembered about a couple of absolutely secondary details? Unbelievable. The last charge, however, is serious. So let's jump to chapter 7.2 (pp.158ff) in which it is explained in more detail:
The most important problem that the Soviets had to solve in their attempt to establish the ‘Bunkers’ as historical fact was the location of the two “cottages”.

As we have seen in chapters 5 and 6, all the wartime testimonies and Szlama Dragon’s two depositions – the Soviet one of February 26 and the Polish one of May 10–11, 1945 – are extremely vague on this point.

The Soviets entrusted the task of determining the location of ‘Bunkers’ to a Polish engineer – Eugeniusz Nosal – the same man who later drew the three sketches of the ‘Bunkers’ attached to Dragon’s Polish deposition. On March 3, 1945, Nosal drew two maps of the western part of the Birkenau camp.

The first is a “Map of the position of the chambers and the pyres for the incineration of corpses.” On this map, “gas chamber 2” (identified by the letter K) appears in the location later to become official, i.e., at 200 meters to the west of the western fence of the Birkenau camp, at a level between the central sauna and crematorium IV. “Gas chamber 1” (similarly indicated by the letter K) is likewise located outside the camp, some 280 meters from the northern enclosure of BAIII, perpendicular to the two settling basins.

What was the Soviets’ evidence for their location of the two ‘Bunkers’? One might think they used Szlama Dragon’s deposition, given five days earlier. This, however, is highly improbable. In his deposition on the ‘Bunkers,’ Dragon provided many details, but he did not indicate, even in a general way, the locations of the two “cottages.” It would, after all, have been very simple for him to say that ‘Bunker 2’ stood some 250 meters west of the central sauna (or some 200 meters from the enclosure that ran along it), and that ‘Bunker 1’ was located (according to the map in question) to the north of BAIII, less than 300 meters from the enclosure. It would have been even easier for Szlama Dragon to accompany the Soviet interrogators to the site where the two “cottages” stood. They would then simply have had to place them on the map. However, on this map the distance between the two alleged ‘Bunkers’, as the crow flies, is about 1,100 meters – the real distance between the two points is actually about 900 meters – which matches neither the 3 km of Szlama Dragon’s Soviet deposition nor the 500 meters of his Polish deposition. Dragon obviously knew nothing about the location of the ‘Bunkers.’
Mattogno sets up a strawman - "One might think they used Szlama Dragon’s deposition" and "It would have been even easier for Szlama Dragon to accompany the Soviet interrogators to the site where the two “cottages” stood". Yet in an earlier cited passage Mattogno writes that Dragon was present during proceedings of the Commission. So could he have tried to find the locations? Obviously, yes. Thus whatever he had said or had not said during the earlier interrogation is irrelevant to this issue.

It is true that on Nosal's map the location of Bunker 1 is different from what is assumed to be its location now. It's not hard to understand - time passed, memory faded, surroundings changed, the gas chamber itself no longer existed (even its foundation and probably even all ground traces; at least with Bunker 2 one could probably see relatively fresh traces on the ground from the house itself and its undressing barracks, which were only demolished at the end of 1944), so even together with witnesses a mistake was possible (and was made).
Map no. 2501 of June 1943, copied by engineer Nosal, shows only two houses near the camp enclosure, namely those that the Soviets identified as the two ‘gas chambers.’

This demonstrates that the basis for the location of the two ‘Bunkers’ was not an on-site inspection in the company of the alleged eyewitnesses (Szlama Dragon, first of all), but resulted from mere desk work.
I'm not sure I follow the logic here. How does this demonstrate anything?
And, in fact, on another German map of unknown number and date, but which certainly dates from 1944, the Soviets searched, with colored pencils, for four zones, two of which concerned crematoria II–III and IV–V.
The other two are described as follows on a sheet glued to the margin of the map:
“In the blue circle: position of the separate gas chambers and the pyres for the cremation of the corpses next to them.”
The first circle comprises an area to the west of the central sauna which, while being contiguous with the one shown on the map drawn by engineer Nosal as the zone of ‘gas chamber’ no. 2 and its cremation trenches, is different from it. The second circle includes an area inside the camp, between the settling installation and the western enclosure. Hence, on two different maps, the Soviets placed ‘Bunker 1’ as well as ‘Bunker 2’ in different positions.

This great uncertainty, less than a month after the liberation of the camp, when the traces left by the SS were still intact and could have been easily identified by anyone who had really worked in the ‘Bunkers,’ proves that in fact no one – starting with the alleged eyewitnesses, above all Szlama Dragon – knew anything about the location of the alleged extermination installations.
Ah, the smell of pure, unadulterated manure!

The markings on the map (GARF f.7021, op.108, d.36, l.31 - not l.29, contra Mattogno) are not dated. They're not signed. The author of the markings is not known. All this also applies to the small piece of paper attached to the map (ibid., l.30). How, then, can Mattogno draw any conclusions from its existence? It might have been made by the Red Army investigators (not to be confused with the Extraordinary Commission members) in the first days after the liberation, during the initial investigations, when details were known only very roughly. We don't know the purpose of the map. It could have been the status of knowledge on a given date - and a plan for further research. Nothing indicates that it was a final attempt at precise location of all gas chambers. We don't know what witnesses supplied information for the sketch and there is zero evidence that Dragon or any other more or less knowledgeable witness took part in its creation.

Mattogno makes grandiose conclusions from paltry evidence. A good illustration of his general method.

Then Mattogno discusses Nosal's sketch of the Bunker 2 area and notes:
The legend at the bottom reads:
“Place where the Germans burned the corpses of those poisoned in the gas chamber on pyres. 5,900 square meters.”
The 30–square meter basin (“бассейн”) that appears in the center of the map existed on the ground in March 1945 but is not shown on any German map. However, it, too, is drawn incorrectly because its long side was on the northwest, not the northeast. This basin is, moreover, the only trench shown on the map. It is clear that if six graves, each one 30–35 meters long, 7–8 meters wide, and 2 meters deep, with a total surface area of at least 1,260 square meters, had been part of an area of scarcely 5,900 square meters they could not have disappeared without a trace, even if they had been filled in and leveled. Therefore, Nosal’s drawing categorically refutes Dragon’s claim of the existence of six cremation pits near ‘Bunker 2.’
This argument, however, is also without any merit. The legend on Nosal's sketch (see p.212) does not refer to the whole area as the "Place where the Germans burned the corpses...". It is not a title of the document, but, indeed, a legend, and thus on the left side of this text you can see that it refers to cross-hatched areas on the sketch, which do take up most of the Bunker 2 area, indicating that according to Nosal's plan, most, though not all, of the area of Bunker 2 "pentagon" was used for incineration one way or another (perhaps Nosal thought that above-ground pyres had been used too). The same plan is also published in Pressac's Technique... (p.180), but it is reproduced very poorly, so you can't see the hatching.

Nosal chose not to draw outlines of individual pits (the pits which did not exist at that moment anyway) but rather to indicate the general incineration area. Given this, we cannot make any conclusions about existence of non-existence of the pits on the basis of Nosal's map. Thus there is no contradiction between Nosal and Dragon on this issue.

Now let's go a little bit back, to p. 128:
6.4.6. Szlama (Shlomo) and Abraham Dragon Gideon Greif has expressed his admiration for the prodigious memory of these two brothers, whom he interviewed in the summer of 1993:
“Both brothers possess an excellent memory.”
But twenty-one years earlier, in Vienna, at the 26th session of the Dejaco-Ertl trial (March 2, 1972), Szlama, after having confused crematorium I and ‘Bunker 2’ the previous day, had to admit:
“I can’t remember [that] today, after 30 years...”
Somewhat miraculously, then, in 1993 Szlama remembered things he could not recall in 1972! Thus the prodigious memory that had so astounded Gideon Greif simply depended much more on the fact that, this time, Szlama Dragon was more careful, and had reread attentively his Polish deposition of 1945; this was all the easier as the interview took place at Birkenau and the deposition was kept at the Auschwitz Museum.
Note how Mattogno relies solely on Pressac for his short citation from 1972 trial (footnote 431). This begs the question: why did Mattogno ignore this trial, which had a great amount of material on the Bunkers issue? This alone exposes him as an amateur trying to perform a task which he is simply not up to.

That a witness would not remember something after 30 years is nothing supernatural. And Greif might as well have been mistaken about Dragon's memory, this is kind of irrelevant anyway. But did Dragon really confuse the Bunker with Krema I or did he merely call the Bunker a "crematorium", which is just a bit of lexical weirdness also seen in other testimonies (and not only the ones related to Auschwitz)? E.g. Pery Broad said during the Tesch trial on 02.03.1946 (NI-11954):
There were crematoriums Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. [...] In No. 5 there was only a gas stove there...
From the context (the pairing of crematoria 1 and 2, 3 and 4) it is clear that Broad calls Bunker 2/5 "Crematorium No. 5" (the "gas stove" is, of course, a reference to gas chamber, possibly a mistranslation in accordance with the "gas oven" meme). In part 5 of Polish documentary Z Kroniki Auschwitz Henryk Mandelbaum says:
Eszcze dwa krematoria, tak zwany Bunkry - domik bialy, domik czerwony - za krematoriem numer piec.

Two more crematoria - so-called Bunkers - white house, red house - behind the crematorium no. 5.
They knew, of course, that the Bunkers were not, strictly speaking, crematoria. These are the cases of simple metonymy. So could the same have happened to Dragon in 1972? Why does not Mattogno explore such a possibility, going to the trial transcripts? Why does he not verify Pressac's interpretation?

I've got the excerpts from the trial sessions, thanks to Dr. Nicholas Terry, so let's explore this issue a bit. The important thing to note in regard to the first day of Dragon's testimony is that there was no Hebrew translator present. That this presented a problem became clear towards the end, when the difficulties with understanding were explicitly acknowledged and a translator for the next day was appointed ("Wegen Schwierigkeiten in der Verstaendigung in deutscher Sprache unterbricht der Vorsitzende die Vernehmung zur Beiziehung eines Dolmetsch fuer die hebr. Sprache. Nachdem eine sofortige Beiziehung des Dolmetsch Dr. Ader nicht moeglich ist, erfolgen Verlesungen.")

Apparently, Dragon had a "working knowledge" of German, but not enough to testify clearly. Here is what he said about gas chambers during the first day:
Ich arbeitete zunaechst in einem Krematorium welches ein kleines Gebaeude war in dem sich eine Gaskammer befand. Das Dach bestand aus einer Strohdecke. In der Naehe dieses Hauses stand eine Baracke. In dieser Baracke waren Kleider von Leuten abgelegt die sich vorher dort ausgezogen hatten. [...] Dieses Gebaeude war aussen weiss.

[At first I worked in a crematorium which was a small building in which there was a gas chamber. The roof was made of straw. Near this house stood a barrack. In this barrack were left the clothes by the people who had undressed there. [...] This building was white on the outside.]

Ich habe in Krematorium I gearbeitet. [...] Es gab dort eine Gaskammer. Es war noch kein Krematorium. Auf den Eisenbahnschienen haben sie die Leichen zu den Gruben gebracht und dort Verbrannt.

[I worked in crematorium I. [...] It had a gas chamber. It was not a crematorium yet. On the railroad tracks the corpses were brought to pits and there burned.]

Vors.: In diesem Haus war nur ein Gasraum?
Zeuge: Ja.

[Pres.: In this house there was only a gas chamber?
Witness: Yes.]

So Dragon explicitly says that this "crematorium" actually was not a crematorium per se. Contra Pressac, Dragon did not actually confuse Bunker 2 and crematorium I, especially as he never even had been in crematorium I. The use of "crematorium" is an example of metonymy, as described above.

Dragon is certainly confused about the details after 30 years: he probably meant to say "Bunker 1", and yet he describes features of Bunker 2 - the white house with a roof of straw. He did, indeed, forget a lot of things by 1972, as we shall see shortly. I should also note that the talk about "a gas chamber" in the house does not mean a single room for gassing, as we shall also see. Rather, it describes the function of the building (as opposed to crematoria with ovens).

The last question for Dragon that day was about whether he had also been in another Bunker. Dragon's answer:
Ich habe alle vier gekannt. Im Bauernhaus gab es nur eine Gaskammer.

[I knew all four. In the farmhouse there was only a gas chamber.]
At this point the interrogation was interrupted until the next day because of the aforementioned language difficulties. It is not clear what Dragon's last answer means, apparently there was some sort of miscommunication. For one thing, he doesn't seem to answer the question put to him. Maybe he continued answering the previous question and meant something like "I knew all four Birkenau crematoria, and unlike them the farmhouse served only as a gas chamber"?

On March 2 Dragon returned to the stand, this time with a translator. He explained that he had come to Auschwitz in 1942 and was selected for Sonderkommando.
Damals hat es noch kein Krematorium gegeben. Es hat nur eine Gaskammer bestanden und zwar war diese Gaskammer in einem Haus mit mehreren Raeumen. Das Haus hatte ein Strohdach in Giebelform. Ich glaube dieses Haus das damals zu einer Gaskammer eingerichtet war, hatte zwei oder drei Raeume. Mit Sicherheit kann ich das heute jedoch nicht mehr sagen.

[At that time there was no crematorium yet. There was a gas chamber and this gas chamber was in a house with several rooms. The house had a thatched roof in the gable form. I believe that this house, which at that time was set up as a gas chamber, had two or three rooms. I cannot say anymore with certainty today.]


Ich kann mich heute nach 30 Jahren nicht mehr erinnern, wieviele Raeume diese Haeuser hatten. [...] Die Tueren waren hermetisch abgedichtet und es gab nur ganz kleine Luken durch die das Gas eingeworfen wurde.

[Today, 30 years later, I can no longer recall how many rooms these houses had. [...] The doors were hermetically sealed and there were only very small hatches through which the gas was thrown.]
When asked whether he had seen one or two farmhouses, Dragon answered:
Ich kann mich beim besten Willen nicht mehr an dieses zweite Bauernhaus erinnern. Es ist schon 30 Jahre her.

[With all my will I cannot recall anymore about this second farmhouse. It has been 30 years since.]
He was presented the sketches from the Polish interrogation in 1945 and he could not remember them, then he said that the houses stopped functioning when the crematoria were finished. During the discussion of admissibility of his 1945 testimony Dragon broke down in tears, so his brother had to give him a medicine. A doctor declared him not able to testify (vernehmungsunfaehig). This near-breakdown psychological state is yet another reason for the low quality of his 1972 testimony.

Thus, though there is no reason to suppose that Dragon confused the Bunkers and crematoria, unfortunately, by 1972 his memory regarding many important details was already extremely poor. So, yes, during the 1993 interview Dragon relied on his Polish testimony for the details of extermination process, as is already obvious from a simple comparison.

Then Mattogno tries to rip this late interview of Gideon Greif with Dragon brothers apart. It's a kind of a silly task, because with age the inaccuracies certainly do pile up as memory fades away, as we have just seen. The "revisionist" task is much easier with late testimonies. But even here Mattogno's critique is hardly fair and balanced:
Still, the two brothers made statements that clash violently with the official image of the SS at the camp. They were assigned to the so-called special unit on December 9, 1942, and were taken to ‘Bunker 2’ the day after. But on that very day, Szlama attempted suicide by slitting his wrist with a piece of glass, and therefore could not go on working. He was transported to Block 2, where the detainees of the special unit were housed, and then the following happened:
“For this, they selected the sick and the weak. Luckily, I belonged to the injured and the weak, and so I was selected. I asked for my brother to be assigned to the room detail as well […] thus we remained in Block 2 and did not go out for work.”
Hence, Szlama was not only not “selected” for the ‘gas chambers’ as a dangerous witness to SS mass murder who was, to top it all, unable to work and weak, but instead received medical treatment, was transferred to barracks clean-up, and even managed to have his brother assigned to the same work!
Just to give more context, here's what Dragon was assigned to (We wept without tears, p.143):
Shlomo: [...] Shortly after we reached the block, the block elder was ordered to assign several people to barrack room duty.

Abraham: The block was divided into four wings, and two men in each wing were assigned to barrack room duty.

Shlomo: The ill and the weak were chosen for this work. Luckily for me, I belonged to the group of injured and weak people, so I was chosen. I asked them to assign my brother to barrack room duty, too.


Shlomo: [...] In all, eight men were chosen for this work, so we stayed behind in Block 2 and didn’t go out for work.

On the second day, if I understand correctly, you stayed in the block while the other two hundred men went out to work?

Abraham: Yes.

If so, you spent only one day cremating bodies, and from the second day on you did barrack room duty in the Sonderkommando block.

Shlomo: That’s actually right, but when the mass transports came, we also had to take part in the work outside the residential block.

Shlomo, exactly what did your barrack room duty consist of?

Shlomo: We had to clean the rooms of the people who went out to work, make the beds, straighten up the floor, deliver and dole out the food, bring the utensils back to the central mess hall, and wash the dishes. Everything had to be clean and tidy.
Now, the existence of such barrack clean-up workers in Sonderkommando is absolutely plausible, as well as the fact that some weaker selectees would be assigned to this duty after the first day rather than gassed. There's nothing at all clashing with anything, much less with the mythical "official image".
Abraham then tells a story no less surprising:
“While we were still working at the pits, one of the guards beat one of our comrades. We dropped our tools and declared we would not go on working. We thus made a small revolt. And what happened? They immediately called in higher officers. Someone by the name of Hoessler arrived and asked us what was the matter. We told him while doing this awful work we were being beaten to boot. They could kill us, but we would not go on working. Hoessler calmed us down and said we would no longer be beaten.

He immediately ordered additional food brought us. And they no longer beat us.”
Therefore, this revolt of the special unit was not drowned in blood, but rather Hoessler calmly accepted the requests of the insurgents, Jews allegedly doomed to be killed soon anyway!
And what, exactly, is surprising about Abraham's story? Hoessler did what any good manager would do - satisfied the reasonable demands of the work crew. Sending these SKs to the gas chambers would be idiotic and counter-productive. In theory they were disposable, but Hoessler's solution was practical - and more efficient. Abraham's story seems very plausible.
Abraham describes his escape from a ‘selection’ of 200 detainees of the special unit who were to be sent to Majdanek to be murdered in that camp as follows:
“I became ill. The SS did not want to reveal that this transport went to their death. So it was said ‘the sick will not go along. You will have to stayhere. There, they need men who can work.’”
According to the official version, registered inmates at Auschwitz were killed because they were sick, but Szlama and Abraham, on the other hand, two more dangerous witnesses to the SS mass murder, were saved precisely because they were sick! Here we have a ‘selection’ the other way around.
The "official version" exists only in Mattogno's fevered imagination, and the plausible explanation has already been provided for the brothers' initial survival (see above). Was, indeed, the logic explained by Abraham behind the transfer to Lublin? We don't really know, and knocking down a witnesses' speculation is hardly a heroic feat, but even here Abraham's reasoning is logically plausible. So mocking is all Mattogno has left. And he goes on:
As far as the destination of the ‘selectees’ is concerned, Abraham reveals:
“They had taken them to Lublin – locked [them] in a railroad car and somehow – I don’t know how – pumped in gas.”
A brand-new method of extermination!
Yawn. He doesn't claim to be an eyewitness to this anyway. But see below.
On top of this, the official Polish propaganda has them not go to Lublin-Majdanek but to Stutthof.437
437 Cf. C. Mattogno, J. Graf, Concentration Camp Stutthof and Its Function in National Socialist Jewish Policy, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago, IL, 2003, pp. 69-73.
Here Mattogno becomes hopelessly confused. On pp. 69-73 of his and Graf's book about Stutthof there is exactly nothing about the arrival of Auschwitz Sonderkommandos to Stutthof. The only similar element is the alleged gassing of people inside railroad cars. In this respect two points should be made.

1. The transfer of about 200 Sonderkommandos from Auschwitz to Lublin (Majdanek) is a well-known "traditional claim" (to use semi-"revisionist" language). Does Mattogno know about this? If yes, why does he make the false statement above? If he doesn't... Well, he's not such an expert on Auschwitz he would like others to think he is, to put it mildly. On the transfer of 200 SKs see Czech's Auschwitz chronicle, p.588; Lewenthal's diary in Bezwinska and Czech, Amidst a nightmare of crime, p.167; Jankowski in the same book, p.58; etc., etc.

As a side note: the reduction of Sonderkommando by about 200 persons for the claimed period is confirmed by documentary evidence. A report under heading "Uebersicht ueber Anzahl und Einsatz der Haeftlinge des Konzentrazionslagers Auschwitz II" for 15.02.1944 lists 405 people in "Krematoriumspersonal" category (GARF f.7021, op.108, d.33, l.124ob). It also has the data from 29.02.1944 report (which probably didn't survive) written in pencil before the 15.02.1944 numbers (the same procedure can be seen in 31.1.1944 report, ibid., l.122ob; the numbers written in pencil correspond to those in the 15.02.1944 report). The number of persons of Krematoriumspersonal from the "future" report is 186. Thus in two weeks the number of members of Sonderkommando was reduced by more than 200 people. In Czech's Auschwitz Chronicle entry for 25.04.44 we see that the number of SKs was still as low as 207, and Arbeitseinsatz reports for the nearby dates give the number as 214 (also cf. C. Mattogno, Auschwitz: Open Air Incinerations, p. 80).

2. Did Abraham actually imply that people were gassed inside a railroad car? The German translation from Hebrew does imply this, and above we see English translation of this German translation. And here's the English translation directly from the original Hebrew (We wept without tears, p.147):
They took them to Lublin in a sealed railroad car, and gassed them to death somehow - I don’t know exactly how.
Kinda different, isn't it. Which translation is closer to the original? It would seem the second one, because here is the sentence preceding the claim, which Mattogno omitted for some reason:
A little later we heard that the people who’d been sent away were murdered in the crematorium in Lublin.
It's hard to kill a group of people in a crematorium while keeping them inside a railroad car...

Then Mattogno complains about the short time Dragon worked at the Bunkers and notes:
But thanks to his prodigious memory he still managed to give to the Poles and the Soviets those detailed accounts that we have already discussed!
But then, Dragon's short stay at the Bunkers actually helps to explain the uncertainties and some contradictions in his early testimonies.
He then confirms that their march led them actually “over the snow,”something absolutely normal for a month of December at Auschwitz. But then how could those four cremation pits (ca. 20 by 7–8 by 3 meters) have operated with the groundwater, the firewood frozen, in the snow, and with more snow falling?
Alas, Mattogno doesn't explain why they couldn't have.
Szlama goes on to say that when "the door" opened after the gassing "one sensed the sweetish taste of the gas." Apparently, no one had told him that hydrogen cyanide actually smells of bitter almonds and is therefore not sweetish!
Yet another gem from Mattogno. The smell cannot be sweetish because almonds taste bitter? Because something that tastes bitter cannot give off sweetish smell? Or something. Here's a citation from AIHA Hygienic Guide (as quoted in Occupational Health Guideline for Hydrogen Cyanide at
the odor of HCN is usually described as 'sweet'; trained persons describe the odor as that of bitter almonds and can detect it at about one ppm.
And here's J. B. Sullivan, G. R. Krieger, Clinical environmental health and toxic exposures, 2nd edn., 2001, p.705:
Hydrogen cyanide [...] has a faint odor that is variously described as bitter almonds, sweet, pungent, or metallic.
Obviously, nobody had to tell anything to Dragon! And it seems Mattogno really should inhale some HCN...

Now let's go to chapter 7.5 (pp. 160ff) in which Mattogno tries to pit Dragon against Jozefa Wisinska. In order to understand where Mattogno went wrong, here are the points to keep in mind. Mattogno's critique concerns 2 sketches:

S1. The sketch made in 1945 by E. Nosal according to description of S. Dragon.

S2. The sketch made in 1980 according to description of Jozefa Wisinska, niece of the houses' official owner Jozef Harmata.

Both sketches don't claim to be precise depictions of the house, they're obviously rough and schematic. Only S2 has the measurements of the house - 9x12 m, and yet the house is almost square on S2, emphasizing the approximate nature of the sketch. Mattogno:
As I have already explained, the orientation of Nosal’s drawing is west-east. The two sketches attached to J. Wisinska’s declaration are orientated in the same way. On the Wisinska drawing, however, the long side of the lies along the west-east axis, while on the Dragon sketch it is placed north-south instead.
Although Mattogno did make a claim about the orientation of S1 on p.75, he never proved it. But even assuming it is correct, considering the schematic nature of both sketches this is hardly a major contradiction.
This sketch, moreover, shows two flights of stairs, S1 and S2, consisting of 8 and 7 steps respectively: Therefore the floor of the house stood at about 1.5 meters above ground level, whereas that of J. Harmata’s house was level with the ground and had no stairs.
Dragon didn't mention the stairs in his testimony. But Nosal undoubtedly received this information from Dragon orally, since he even assigned names to them. However, Mattogno's assumption that the number of steps on sketch S1 was also supplied by Dragon is unfounded - Nosal might have just as easily drawn a random number of steps himself. And certainly Mattogno's assumption about the height of these stairs is even less grounded in the available information. Just as baseless is his assumption that just because no stairs appear on the very rough sketch S2, this means that there were no stairs in reality. Wisinska probably simply did not supply (or remember) such a secondary detail.
It was divided into four rooms of equal size, the two rooms on the west side being separated from the two on the east side by a corridor running north-south. To turn this house into ‘Bunker 1’ as described by Dragon and drawn by Nosal, it would have been necessary, first of all, to demolish the four side walls along the corridor, the two walls which separated the rooms on either side of the house, and to rebuild them a few meters away in order to obtain two rooms of different size!
This argument is based on the assumptions: a) that S2 gives the precise proportions of the rooms in relation to each other, which is probably not true, considering that the correct proportion between the length and width of the house is not shown; b) that S1 gives the precise proportions of the two gas chambers in relation to each other. True, the chambers on S1 slightly differ in size, but was that a difference deliberately introduced according to Dragon's specifications, or was that a random variation? Thus, Mattogno's argument is doubly baseless.
This ‘Bunker 1,’ moreover, shows two details that run counter to a rational extermination operation: First of all, its two rooms were provided with a single door and two little windows each. Hence the ventilation that could be achieved by opening the door and the two windows was insignificant. This is even more valid for the room on the north side, the door and windows of which were located on the same wall.
Anyone who wanted to achieve efficient ventilation – even the most inept technician – would have placed the two doors in opposite walls.
In addition, the presence of only one door would obviously have hindered the clearing of corpses from the rooms.
This argument is in the same chapter, but it has nothing to do with Wisinska. Anyway, it is true that the Bunker 1 as described by Dragon in his Polish deposition would have certain inefficient features, like the one described by Mattogno above. But it should be noted that during the Soviet interrogation Dragon described each chamber of Bunker 1 as having two doors. Which version is correct? We don't really know, and we shouldn't suppose that the second deposition is necessarily more correct. Also, inefficiency is not an argument for non-existence. Later chambers were more efficient. The Bunkers were likely converted without much input from engineers anyway.
The second detail is the existence of the two flights of stairs noted above, which certainly did nothing to facilitate the removal of corpses from the ‘gas chambers.’
True, but neither do we know that the removal was severely hindered by any stairs. Also, see above about Mattogno's assumptions about these stairs.

In conclusion I can say this: Mattogno's critique is almost entirely without merit. He made egregious mistakes in his analysis that would be forgivable for a witness, but are not excusable coming from a supposed scholar with all the materials at his disposal. After comparing various testimonies of Shlomo Dragon I can see that though he certainly was not a perfect witness (as if there was such a thing), he was a good witness in 1945, despite certain rough edges. We should not rely too much on his descriptions of the specific details of the gas chambers when there is no corroborating evidence, but there is no doubt that the general picture he described is accurate.

Updated on 29.05.2016.


  1. The Tesch trial ran from March 1 to March 8, 1946. Broad testified March 2, 1946. You've incorrectly typed "2.6.46."

    Broad spoke perfect English, the British Army were employing him as a translator. Why would "gas stove" be a mistranslation?

    After Gerald Draper, the prosecutor [and the man who would forced the confession from Hoess 12 days later] had described the function of the crematoriums cum gas chambers[!], the following exchange occurred:

    GD: How were the bodies disposed of in the early times?

    PB: In 1942 and part of 1943 as far as it was possible they were burned in the crematorium.

    GD: What happened after that?

    PB: Then later they were put into big heaps containing a 1000 or 2000 bodies, and in the vicinity of the crematorium, in the open air, they were burned.

    GD: Why did they have to change over to the second system? Why was not the crematorium system good enough?

    PB: The first thing was because the crematorium, although they had fifteen stoves each, were not sufficient to do this work, and then because the crematoria suffered by this overheating and were damaged.

    Broad makes it perfectly clear that the Nazis change over to this "second system," as Draper called it, of cremating bodies in pits, when: A: Krema II & III ("fifteen stoves each") were insufficient to handle the number of corpses; B: When the crematoria were damaged from overuse.

    Broad makes no mention of pit cremations occurring before Krema II (at the very least) became operational. Clearly the "gas stove" of crematorium "No. 5" must have been used to cremate corpses.

  2. Your argument ignores the fact that Broad pairs crematoria I and II (3000-4000) and crematoria III and IV (2000?), which fact I pointed out in the article.

    This means that PB's crematorium I is not the Stammlager Krema I. And there were only 4 crematoria in Birkenau. Which makes your conclusion nonsensical, since there was no "crematorium no. 5" in Birkenau aside from the one called crematorium IV or V, which has already been listed. Unless you want to claim that PB just made up a non-existent crematorium, which is a non-starter, as you should well know.

    Moreover, PB clearly indicated that there was "only" a "gas stove" in K5. If your conclusion is that it was a crematorium without a gas chamber but with an oven, this also makes zero sense. Again, no such crematorium is known. And PB says on the previous page that there were 4 crematoria in B.

    The only remaining interpretation that must be correct is that "gas stove" is a mistranslation of "gas chamber". And this corresponds to PB's report which describes Bunker 5.

    The rest of what you wrote seems neither coherent, nor relevant. In his report Broad of course referred to the functioning of Bunker 5 in 1944, alongside the crematoria, and this provides the necessary context for a correct interpretation.

    As for PB knowing English, it's neither here, nor there. I know German and English pretty well by I probably wouldn't risk relying only on this knowledge in a German- or English-speaking court. You haven't shown that PB didn't use a translator.

  3. PS: indeed, it doesn't make much sense that he would testify in English because it was a trial in Germany (no matter who it was run by), with the German accused who had a right to hear what he said directly. Sure, it could have been translated to them but it is simply a more natural assumption (which you haven't refuted) that he testified in his native tongue.


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