Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review of the Debate on the Gas Openings at Crematoria 2 and 3 in Auschwitz - Part II: Revisionist arguments

Part I: Evidence

Part II: Revisionist arguments

Testimonial evidence 

Carlo Mattogno has commented on few of the 28 witness accounts in the book Auschwitz Lies (2005, recycling his earlier article "No holes, no gas chamber(s)"). His arguments usually follow the same pattern: he points out some problem in some testimony, claims the witness is therefore unreliable and implies that anything the witness has ever stated about the matter has to be ignored and has no value whatsoever.

One wonders where Mattogno learned or why he thinks that this is a feasible and reasonable treatment of evidence. Did he try this trick on any other historical event and check if it gives a proper result?

There are no doubt situations, where problematic elements in a testimony justify its dismissal. For instance, if there is only a single testimony on a detail, for which no corroboration exists, then qualitatively and/or quantitatively significant problematic elements in this testimony immediately raise severe doubts about the reliability of the detail in question.

However, things are different if the problems are relatively insignificant (either already for themselves or compared to the bulk of the testimony) and/or if multiple sources are involved and mutual corroboration comes into play.

In the case of the gas introduction in crematoria 2 and 3, some testimonies indeed do contain some problematic details. On the other hand, many descriptions are also reliable or relatively reliable (or if not, at least explained without damaging the integrity of the witness). Further, there is often a reasonable corroboration and consistency on details on the gas introduction in crematoria 2 and 3.

Mattogno (and virtually any other Revisionist) is typically committing two significant flaws in analyzing witnesses' accounts:

a) viewing testimonies in isolation and neglecting corroboration

b) viewing problematic elements in testimony in isolation and not in the context of the bulk of the testimony

For somebody, who is advertised as "specialist in text analysis and critique", this is quite remarkable.

Josef Erber 

The former SS officer Josef Erber explained that the gas introduction devices consisted of “four iron pipes each from the floor to the roof. These were surrounded by steel wire mesh”. Carlo Mattogno argued that this would be “clearly inconsistent with those [devices] described by Henryk Tauber, and moreover, it is difficult to imagine how they were made”.

Actually, Erber’s description corresponds quite well to how Tauber and Kula described the outermost layer of the device. They are not “clearly inconsistent” but in contrary compatible and mainly differing in the degree of detail reported.

Erber assigned two devices to each “gassing room”. In the published extract of the testimony (from Gerald Reitlinger, Hitler und die Endlösung), Erber did not explain what the term "gassing rooms" was precisely referring to. Did it refer to each one gassing room in crematoria 2 and 3? Or four gassing rooms in crematoria 2 and 3? Or to two gassing rooms in one basement of a single crematorium? He is not quantitative and specific on this one, so we do not know. But in the latter two cases, he would have assigned four devices to a whole basement, which is consistent with other evidence discussed in part I.

Mattogno noted that Fleming has indicated "gassing rooms" was referring to both crematoria 2 and 3, and alleged that he should know it best after Erber himself. While it is possible that Fleming knew it better than we do because Erber was providing some hint in the rest of his unpublished letter, this is not necessarily the case. For all we know, he might have just concluded it from Erber's use of plural, not being aware of the evidence on the subdivision of the basements. Accordingly, without further information how Fleming arrived at his interpretation, it cannot be taken for granted.

Moreover, even if Erber was referring to both crematoria 2 and 3 (as Fleming assumed), it cannot be deduced that he meant to say there was only one gassing room in each of them. The plural of gassing room only shows there were > 2 of those. So he could have referred to four gas chambers in both crematoria 2 and 3, which would be consistent with four gas openings per crematorium.

Konrad Morgen

The SS investigator Konrad Morgen mentioned a single “shaft” in his testimonies, which Mattogno sees as a contradiction to the claim of four devices and openings per basement. However, Morgen did not state there was only one shaft in the entire basement. And for all we know, he was noticing only one because he stepped not far into the gas chamber. How matter Mattogno wants to summon a contradiction, the description is not inconsistent with four devices.

Mattogno also has an issue with Morgen’s term “air shaft”, which he considers “inappropriate”. In fact, the appearance of the opening does indeed resemble that of some “air shaft”. Functionally, they were of course rather gas shafts in this terminology (and only as a secondary function also for ventilation), but their appearance explains why Morgen (and Rudolf Höß and Hans Aumeier) coined the term air shaft to describe them.

Konrad Morgen initially confused the Auschwitz subcamp Monowitz with Birkenau at his Nuremberg testimony. Mattogno believes (the argument was previously made by Wilhelm Stäglich) that the confusion would show Morgen is a "completely unreliable witness" on the crematorium and that his descriptions of the gas chamber not only at the IMT but also at the later West-German Auschwitz trial has to be dismissed. He is suggesting that Morgen “had seen precisely nothing, but spoke - for the most part incoherently from hearsay”. 

The confusion over Monowitz and Birkenau indeed could be explained with the hypothesis that Morgen never was in Birkenau or saw basically nothing of Birkenau. But Mattogno is overlooking that this rather radical explanation is not the only possible and, in fact, there is no further evidence to back up the hypothesis. Mattogno sucked it from his thumb, and it is rather far-fetched.

Morgen confirmed his visit to Birkenau and inspection of the crematorium at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, where he could have retracted from his Nuremberg testimony and claimed that he only knew about from Birkenau from hearsay, if actually true.

Secondly, the visit was corroborated by SS investigator Gerhard Wiebeck in Frankfurt.

Thirdly, his descriptions of the crematorium in his 1946 affidavit and even more in his more detailed Auschwitz trial testimony 1964 [except for the submergence of ground he remembered in the crematorium yard] are somewhat valid and good enough to doubt it is based on mere hearsay.

Hence, this suggests that Morgen was indeed visiting the extermination site (though not in operation, and in so far some elements of the gassing are hearsay passed on to him by his tour guide, but not the visit in the crematorium as such) and simply mixed the name and some impressions of Birkenau and Monowitz when standing in court in Nuremberg.

Paul/Charles Bendel

Bendel stated in his examination of 1 October 1945 that the gas chamber was filled with corpses “to the height of one and a half metres”. On 2 March 1946 he testified at the Tesch trial that the gas chamber was 1,70 m high. The figure of 1,60 m was actually put into his mouth by the defendant lawyer, conveniently omitted by Mattogno. Still, the basement was some 2,41 m high according to blueprints, so that Bendel had underestimated its height.

Bendel gave several accounts on Auschwitz, some details are incorrect or inaccurate, but many are also correct or fairly correct, such as the following in his account "temoignages sur Auschwitz" of 1946:

4 crematoria, 900 Sonderkommando (SK) prisoners, separate accomodation of SK, SKs were medically treated on site, liquidation of 200 SKs in September 1944, SK revolt in early October 1944 with hundreds of death, Bunker facility, camouflaging of crematoria, double track railway, twin nature of crematoria 2 and 3, their underground undressing room and gas chamber with reinforced concrete ceiling, process of undressing, 16 [actually 15] furnace, twin crematoria 4 and 5 located in a forest area with 8 furnaces [actually muffles], pit burning behind crematorium, 150 workers at a crematorium in the day shift, Mohl [actually Moll] was head of crematoria, undressing in the yard, Dr. Klein [with correct SS rank] arrived with ambulance car with the gas, removal of hair and gold teeth, 400,000 [actually 300,000] liquidated Hungarian Jews between May - June [actually July] 1944.

This extensive amount of reliable details and insider knowledge he provided on the activity at the crematoria suggests that he was actually part of the crematoria personnel. Either he saw the basement as well as the gas device himself, or he was told by other members of the Sonderkommando. An explanation for his underestimation of the ceiling height could be that the gas chamber was filled with corpses at the time he witnessed it, giving him the impression of a very low ceiling.

In any case, his description of (in total) 4 “mesh tubes with external valves through which the gas was introduced” is clearly corroborated and confirmed by numerous other accounts as well other type of evidence (discussed in the previous blog posting), and has to be considered reliable.

Miklos Nyiszli

In his book, Miklos Nyiszli described the gas chamber basement more than four times longer than it actually was and assigned four elevators to the crematorium, when there was only one. These exaggerations are somewhat puzzling especially since he claimed to have "avoided even the smallest exaggerations". On the other hand, Nyiszli account’s on Auschwitz provided numerous reliable details. He cannot be simply brushed away and was evidently a witness at the scene.

Furthermore, his deposition 28 July 1945 (quoted in Charles Provan , "No Holes? No Holocaust?") and his affidavit NI-11710 of October 1947 are lacking these exaggerations, but also contain the description of the gassing in the crematorium basement including the gas introduction, which is strongly corroborated by other source and consistent to other accounts.

Filip Müller

On Müller’s testimony, Mattogno objected that it is “pitifully late, going back only to 1979”. Actually, Müller already testified about the device at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial in 1964. The testimony was, by the way, already available at the time "Auschwitz Lies" was published. It is pitifully that Mattogno missed checking the Auschwitz trial DVD prior to publishing his work.

Mattogno complained that Müller “lost [the] opportunity to indicate the positions of the holes” in a plan of the crematorium that was published in his book. But the openings are actually shown in the plan (though without the offset from the central beam as it is indeed indicated by physical evidence).

Finally, Mattogno found some grain when he accused Müller of plagiarism in his book "Sonderbehandlung".  There is indeed a passage in the book which seems like it was based on Nyiszli's 1961 publication, some speech hold at the crematorium site. Also, it appears that Müller was employing a "poetic license" in the book and omitted, for instance, his transfer to Monowitz prior to his duty in Birkenau.

These problems in the book urge to treat it very carefully as a historical source. However, as already mentioned, Müller has also provided a more valuable and significant cross-examined testimony 14 years earlier at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, where he was interrogated for almost five hours in court in a partly hostile environment and certainly under considerable pressure.

In this testimony, Müller basically confirmed his later description of the gas introduction (including the curious and probably misidentified "spiral").

Shaul Chazan

Chazan described the column as “round” (in the German edition of Gideon Greif's "Wir weinten tränenlos..."), which is in contradiction to the body of evidence. It is noteworthy that "round" is lacking in the English edition of the book. If the German translation is accurate, Chazan would be no reliable witness on the shape of the device. But incidentally, Mattogno himself provided an explanation for the mistake when he says that "who could seriously claim to remember more than 60 years later such minute details as the way certain equipment in a certain room was fastened”. The same can also be valid for the shape of specific equipment; such detail can easily fade after more than 60 years.

Now, it is one thing to forget the squareness of a certain device in a certain room 60 years ago, but it is another thing – and certainly less likely – to forget if there were gas introduction devices at all and if the people were gassed there, to begin with.

Yehuda Bacon/Bakon

Bacon was tackled by Mattogno not in "Auschwitz Lies" but in his book “Auschwitz: The Case for Sanity” (where he is curiously misspelt as “Bauer” twice). Mattogno claims that Bacon’s device is “in flagrant disagreement with those by Kula or Tauber”.

In contrary, Bacon’s description of “iron columns surrounded by strong wire” at the Eichmann trial as well as his drawing of 1945 represent pretty much what Kula and Tauber described for the outer layer of the device. There is a different degree of detail compared to Tauber and Kula, but they are not inconsistent. 

Bacon also seemed to mention a “pipe” inside the device at the Eichmann trial, which could be an inaccurate reference to the second inner layer of the device or Kula's mobile column. However, he did not mention this at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, and it would be interesting to obtain a better image of his 1945 drawing (than placed in the witness account collection I prepared) to check whether such detail is visible on it or not. If it is not, then "pipe" was likely a term referring to the whole device and Bacon's indication it was inside the wire mesh column just a slip of the tongue.

Ground photographic evidence

Mattogno argued that the objects that have been identified as gas chimnies 1 and 2 on the February 1943 ground photograph are located both on the eastern side of the basement, whereas Mazal et al.’s physical evidence suggests that opening number 1 was located on the western side. Mattogno's method to determine their location - constructing the outline and central line of the basement on the photograph - requires good accuracy especially of the upper southern edge to properly determine whether chimney number 1 is left or right of the central line. 

A small deviation of the upper south edge already flips the chimney between the eastern and western half. Considering the low quality and blurriness of the photograph, it is somewhat arbitrary and hardly conclusive whether one sees the object west or east of the central line with the method he showed.

According to Mattogno, the objects Mazal et al. have identified as gas chimneys are cylindrical because they are "rounded at top and bottom, which is absolutely incompatible with the shadow zones of a parallelepiped". Actually, the objects show a similar curvature as the ventilation chimneys on top of the crematorium, which were definitely not cylindrical.

Sceptics Society Forum Revisionist Bob claimed that Mazal et al.'s model and the February ground photo do “not match” and to illustrate his claim referred to these close-ups of Mazal’s et al. image. But they actually show a reasonable match of the model and the photograph. 

The model of chimney number 1 fits almost perfect, the model of chimneys number 2 and 4 show a deviation from the respective objects on the ground photograph by only a few pixels. These deviations are small and probably within the error margin of the method. The location of the openings could only be estimated approximately due to the destruction of the roof, especially the north-south position was prone to some error.  For instance, for opening number 4 it is given as 1 m by Mazal et al.

Bob further claimed on here that the model’s south-eastern edge does not match with the photograph. The deviation between the model’s south-eastern angle and what Bob thinks is it on the picture is about 20 cm if compared against the roof slab, which is not particularly large. Moreover, the photograph is quite blurry and irregular in this area, so that it is doubtful whether what Bob assigns as the south-eastern edge of the basement is correct and not some material masking the actual edge. 

Of course, the overlap and match of model (based on physical evidence) and ground photograph does not prove for itself that the objects on the photograph are where they have been modelled, but it provides strong evidence that the objects can and (taken into account the other evidence) have to be interpreted as gas chimneys on top of the gas openings.

Aerial photographic evidence

Not much to rebut here, so far. Several arguments have been anticipated and incorporated in the discussion of the evidence in the first part of this series.

Documentary evidence

Mattogno argues that the construction of the gas introduction devices is not reflected in the files of the locksmith's shop. Therefore it was never built. The argument is moot. What can be concluded from the lack of record, is that either a) the device never built or b) it was not put into the files (for secrecy) or c) it was lost from the files.

Mattogno dismisses the secrecy explanation b) “because various orders are recorded relating to gas-tight doors”. But gas-tight doors were already constructed for delousing chambers anyway, while the gas introduction device was exclusively designed for carrying out the mass murder in the basements. This difference might have resulted in different secrecy policy towards gas-tight doors and the gas introduction devices.

Further, the gas-tight doors were apparently ordered by the central construction office, while it is unclear who was behind the implementation of the gas devices. Possibly the devices were directly ordered by the Political Department or camp administration and then subjected to a different policy of secrecy.

If Mattogno – in response to this posting – is arguing that such would not correspond to the common and ordered procedure, then this may very well be, but I recall his suggestion that SS men were falsifying documents just because it was too bothersome to do some paperwork.

The third possibility – that the records for the devices were lost from the files – was not addressed by Mattogno at all. Unless I missed it, I could not see that Mattogno actually confirms that the records from locksmith’s shop are complete.

Also, in his comment on gas-tight doors and secrecy, Mattogno does not elaborate whether all (as opposed to some) gas-tight doors constructed for the crematoria are correctly mentioned in the locksmith’s shop’s files. But this is important and crucial to know. If already the gas-tight doors are listed only incompletely in the records, then there is no compelling reason why the gas introduction devices have to be found there. I request Mattogno or anybody who has access to the files to clarify this issue.

Some Revisionists have further argued that the openings do not appear on the construction drawings, even though it has been concluded by Mazal et al. and Robert Jan Van Pelt that they were made when the concrete was poured. The argument has been addressed by Van Pelt in his book “The Case for Auschwitz”. The Huta construction drawing with the reference 7015/IV-109/6, which according to its description was showing the steel reinforcement of the concrete ceiling and which would most likely contain the modifications in the roof, is actually missing.

As far as Huta drawings dated after the construction of the buildings are concerned, I remind David of Sceptics Society Forum, who was objecting that these do not show the openings, that they do not seem to indicate features which were definitely built, such as the direct access stairway to the undressing room or the five ventilation openings in the ceiling of furnace room (at least I cannot recognize them). If these features were not relevant for these drawings, then it is hard to see why the gas introduction openings should have been.

Re: Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung document, I refer to my detailed discussion in the first part of this series, which already anticipated most arguments brought forward by Revisionists.

Mattogno complained in "Auschwitz: The Case for Sanity" that the device did not appear in the respective transfer inventory of crematorium 3 and wondered how the gas was introduced there. Since testimonial evidence indicates that the devices were also employed at crematorium 3, the lack of record in its transfer inventory could suggest that the devices were not installed yet when the building was formally handed over to the camp administration and implemented later for instance because of construction delay.

Bob of Sceptics Society Forum asserted that the cover of the chimneys could not have been made of wood, as suggested in the transfer inventory document, and was later replaced by concrete, because Henryk Tauber is supposed to have "described concrete covers with wooden handles" already used in mid March 1943, two weeks before the transfer inventory was set up.

But Tauber did not testify that he saw how concrete covers were lifted from the chimneys in mid-March 1943. In fact, Tauber was locked in the autopsy room during the gassing ("shut up in a room located at the back") and during later gassings, they "were locked up in the coke store". It was only later that he was allowed to stay in the boiler room during the gassing and "observed how the "Cyklon" was poured into the gas chamber".

Physical evidence


Opening number 1 

 Carlo Mattogno claimed that opening number 1 was made by the Soviet or the Poles after the war. He argued that the hole was not mentioned by the Polish expert Roman Dawidowski, who investigated the ruin in 1945. But this does not consist proof for his hypothesis, but can also be explained by Dawidowski not identifying it as a gas introduction opening due to the damage the opening suffered upon dismantling the basement.

Mattogno ignored the argument brought forward by Mazal et al. that there are tar drops visible at an edge of the opening.  David of Sceptics Society Forum suggested that the tar may have been melted on a “hot summer's day” after the war. Any photograph of the ruin I have seen so far showing a piece of the broken roof slab does not seem to have any tar drops at the edges, and David himself confirmed he did not “notice any tar drops” when he wandered through the ruin.

Thus, the tar drops at opening number 1 seem to be a local phenomenon, which suggests they were not caused by melting of the sun after the destruction but instead formed during the construction of the basement.

Opening number 2

Mattogno asserted that this opening is a “simple fissure caused by the crash of this part of the ceiling onto the sustaining pillar”. There is undoubtedly a fissure going through the area, but this does not at all exclude it was initially a former gas opening. And it is not like Mazal et al. had not cited evidence and reason for their assignment of this area as a gas opening.

First of all, the hole exhibits “clean-cut rebar, short but apparently manufactured straight edges of concrete that meet at a 90-degree angle, rebar bent inwards at the edges, and most notably the absence of rebar in its open area”.

Secondly, the hole corresponds to the area, where one would expect a gas opening, if there were four more or less homogenous distributed openings (and I would like to add here as support to this point that there is strong testimonial, ground photographic, aerial photographic and documentary evidence that there were four gas openings in the roof).

Accordingly, the hole is possibly or even likely a gas introduction opening.

Opening number 3

Mazal et al. claimed that the projected location of opening number 3 is in a badly damaged area covered with rubble, which has been disputed by Mattogno. He referred to this photograph to support him, but I am unable to spot how the picture is supposed to rebut Mazal et al.’s claim and how it is supposed to show that the projected location of opening number 3 is in fact intact.

Opening number 4

Mattogno claimed this opening was caused by crushing of a support pillar against the roof. He says that the pillar "protrudes from this hole", but the piece of concrete is actually behind the hole, but not visible protruding it - at least on the photographs.

Mattogno asserts this piece of concrete was a support pillar, but he provides no explanation why it could not have been a piece of the roof (he mentions planking and steel bars, but these were also used for the roof). Anyway, whether it was support pillar or junk from the roof, the fact that it is located at the hole and may have crashed the area above the hole, would indicate it was also involved in creating the hole if the hole was not artificially made. But it does not show the hole was not made artificially during the construction of the basement, which is however what Mattogno needs to demonstrate for his argument that it was no opening for the gas introduction.

If the hole was made during the construction of the roof (as indicated by its cut and bent rebar as well as the pieces of evidence already cited), the junk of concrete (pillar or roof) has only added some destruction to it.

He also argued that “the lateral bars have not been cut as would have been necessary to erect the brick chimneys around the opening”, but does not explain why the chimney could not have been erected.

Finally, Mattogno ignored Mazal et al.'s claim that both sides of the bent rebar are embedded in the concrete, which - if true, and Mattogno should know if it is true if he investigated the opening on the site - is clearly and beyond any doubt demonstrating the opening was made when the concrete was poured in early 1943.


David of Sceptics Forum countered there is no "sign of chimneys, attachments, wire columns" at the holes identified as candidates for gas openings. However, all of the openings are heavily damaged, so it is doubtful that one would necessarily expect these features in the present state.

In fact, the reason why the holes are so heavily damaged may precisely because they were already partly destroyed upon dismantling of the chimnies and wire mesh devices before the basement was brought down with explosives.

Last edited: 22 November 2013

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