Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 6: Death Camp Witnesses (1).

Death Camp Witnesses

Whilst they are never categorized as such by Mattogno, Graf, and Kues in their collective works, the witnesses for the Aktion Reinhard camps can be grouped in one of three ways: bystanders, victims, and perpetrators. All three of these categories had varying levels of proximity to the actual extermination area. Bystanders can range from local villagers living next to the death camps themselves, or neighbours of the Jews who were deported to said camps. Victims and prisoners of the camps were given varying jobs, which meant that some were closer to the gas chambers and mass graves than others, such as those who helped unload and prepare Jewish luggage. Perpetrators can also include an assortment of persons, such as the police officials who deported the Jews, Nazi bureaucratic officials who organized and conducted the deportations, gassings, and plunder of the victims, and also the guards and officials who ran the actual death camps.
These witness accounts are then normally looked at through several perspectives, further categorizing them by chronology in terms of a witnesses experience with the exterminations, the time when the testimony was actually given by the witness, and other such categories. Realizing the context in which a statement was given, of course as well as knowledge of the content of the statement itself, helps the historian judge the value of a testimony by determining the possible influences and circumstances of a witness. Such a basic evaluation of a witness statement seems absent from MGK’s trilogy.
Instead, readers are merely treated to whole chapters of witness criticism, where several dozen witnesses of varying proximity to the camp are disparaged to differing degrees. The majority of witnesses discussed by MGK are only given a cursory treatment, allowing absurdities and alleged contradictions (with other witnesses and the “official version” of the Holocaust) to be pointed out. On many occasions, the mere act of identifying such points is sufficient for MGK to dismiss a witness.[1] MGK (particularly Graf) do not even spare an effort to actually refute or analyze some of the quoted statements, as many simply pass without any noteworthy argumentation or analysis, but instead are largely just ridiculed with the points expected to be self-evidently understood by the reader.[2]
Such slipshod criticisms of several of the witnesses for the Reinhard exterminations certainly lessen the impact of MGK’s criticism on the wider body of evidence derived from witnesses. One can account for more than 70 survivors from Treblinka[3], 47 from Sobibor[4], and 2 from Belzec, the overwhelming majority of whom left accounts of their experiences. The number of German perpetrators (mostly SS) who had some close connection to the camps and provided statements after the war amounts to at least 38 witnesses, out of more than 90 SS men known to have served at the camps.[5] This figure is heavily augmented by the many Ukrainian guards, trained at Trawniki, serving at the three camps for security and operational purposes; a minimal estimate, based on the number of such statements available, exceeds 100. One must also take into account the wider German bureaucracy. To begin with, we have those who organized the Reinhard operation, including figures like Adolf Eichmann, Wilhelm Höttl, and Hermann Höfle, or those who experienced some connection to the camps through other channels, such as Kurt Gerstein, Rudolf Höss, and Wilhelm Pfannenstiel. Included in the latter category would also be those Germans who were stationed in the General Government and were able to visit the camps, such as Globocnik’s successor Jakob Sporrenberg,[6] as well as the Kreishauptmann of Rawa Ruska, Gerhard Hager, who once visited Belzec.[7] The statements of these persons can be reasonably estimated at several dozen. The number of bystanders living or working in close proximity to the camps themselves and who recorded statements about the activities therein is more difficult to arrive at, but surely exceeds twenty.[8]
In total, the number of witnesses in immediate or close proximity to the camps and who left behind statements reaches well above 300. Obviously the number of individuals aware of activities at the three camps, or of the extermination operations in general, who did not leave statements behind would exponentially increase the number of persons aware of the murderous activities. This brief summary on the number of witnesses no doubt is incomplete, but MGK fail to provide an adequate explanation to account for all of the statements they do include, let alone anything logical or coherent about the larger figure in our count.

[1] For instance Mattogno, Bełżec, p.66 regarding Robert Jührs; Ibid., p.69 regarding Erich Fuchs; Ibid., pp.44, 84 regarding Heinrich Gley.
[2] See MGK, Sobibór, p.30 on Stanislaw Szmajzner; Ibid., p.31 on Moshe Bahir; M&G, Treblinka, p.34 on Abraham Goldfarb; Ibid., p.50 on Oskar Berger; Ibid., pp.64, 65 on Abe Kon and Kazmierz Skarzynski; Ibid., p.67 on Szymon Goldberg, Chil Rajchman [Henryk Reichman], and Stanislaw Kon.
[3] Lubling, Twice Dead, pp.143-145, identifies 70 survivors of the revolt, excluding escapees before the revolt who survived the war (eg. Bomba) or who left written accounts but perished later (eg. Krzepicki).
[4] Schelvis, Vernichtungslager Sobibór, pp.273-286; Schelvis, Sobibor, pp.231-242.
[5] Some of these SS men had no connection to the T4 operation, such as Erich Lachmann.
[6] Report on the Interrogation of PW SS-Gruppenfuehrer Jakob Sporrenberg, 25.2.1946, p.14, PRO WO208/4673.
[7] Pohl, Ostgalizien, p.314.
[8] For example, see the Belzec accounts below.

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