Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beyond Rumors - The Testimony of the Sonderkommando Doctor Charles Bendel

In April 2015, the Revisionist blogger "Friedrich Jansson" posted his reply ‘Hans’ attempts to evade the facts on Bendel: a reply to a controversial blogger to my blog Reply to Friedrich Jansson on Auschwitz Sonderkommando Doctor Charles Sigismund Bendel. Actually, I can reiterate again the previous conclusion: "Jansson's critique is either of minor significance for my argument, irrelevant or utterly unfounded". For him and those who are interested in all the details, I attach a point-to-point reply as a supplement to this posting.

In this main blog, I will focus only on a single point of the skirmish, but which most significant for the issue of the testimony of the Auschwitz prisoner Charles Bendel. Jansson argued that Bendel's testimony on mass extermination and the events concerning the Jewish Sonderkommando history in Auschwitz-Birkenau can be explained by rumors circulating among prisoners in Auschwitz. However, Bendel's level of knowledge far extends the details and reliability of rumors and hearsay knowledge which were present among ordinary prisoners. Hence, and despite the absurd low ceiling height of the gas chambers provided by him, he has to be considered an insider and eyewitness to the extermination sites.

Bendel claimed that he was assigned as a doctor of the Jewish Sonderkommando in Birkenau in August 1944. He provided detailed descriptions of mass extermination and the Sonderkommando on 1 October 1945 at the Belsen trial, on 2 March 1946 the Tesch trial and in the book Temoignages sur Auschwitz published in 1946. I haven't seen and therefore cannot comment on his affidavit NI-11390 of 21 October 1945, and there is also his examination of 18 March 1948 at the IG Farben trial.

In Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 3: Eyewitnesses (Supplement), I have argued that Bendel was assigned to work in the crematoria else he could not have provided such a wealth of details of the extermination sites. Jansson asserts in his last reply that the details provided by Bendel in his testimony at the Belsen trial "do not in any way imply experience inside the crematoria" but may have been "spread by rumor and propaganda" and that "Hans has not offered any kind of case for why the details he cites from Bendel’s account demonstrate even that Bendel was present inside the crematoria".

Now, for anybody with slightly more than rudimentary occupation with Auschwitz history, I assumed, it is clear and common knowledge that details on mass extermination were poorly known among ordinary prisoners and therefore that detailed and reliable knowledge implies being an insider and eyewitness to the sites. I never expected to explain this to any Revisionist, for it is a favourite activity of certain Holocaust deniers to recall and collect false and absurd descriptions of mass extermination. In fact, Carlo Mattogno has dedicated an entire chapter in his book Auschwitz: The Case of Sanity - which I was rebutting in the posting on Bendel - pointing out distortions of the narrative of mass extermination from non-Sonderkommando prisoners. Furthermore, this is something already apparent from testimonies at the Belsen trial, which Jansson had studied (Bendel vs. Sompolanski, Litwinska, Bialek, Bimko).

Jansson's unexpected denial of what I thought would not be disputed by anybody (least by a Revisionist) has motivated me to treat the issue systematically and statistically in Knowledge of Mass Extermination Among Hungarian Jews Returning from Auschwitz. The DEGOB protocols with the testimonies of some thousands of Hungarian Jews turn out to be an excellent source for this. From 999 Auschwitz survivors (extracted from protocols number 1 to 1060), the vast majority did not report anything about extermination or only generically without details (beyond gassed/killed/burnt and open-air cremation). When somebody did mention details, these were either very few or heavily accompanied or entirely replaced by false rumors. In short, there is not a single detailed and reliable testimony among these 999 Auschwitz survivors that would come even remotely close to Bendel's testimony.

The zoo of distortions and misconceptions on the extermination sites among the prisoners can be well understand. Jansson says that "humans are quite good at remembering stories", which may be true for simple stories (e.g. the false rumor that soap & towels were distributed to the victims), but it's hardly the case for the more complex and detailed history of mass extermination in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Moreover, humans are also quite good in accumulating errors in retelling stories, especially on something as delicate and to be kept secret as mass extermination under the conditions of isolation, punishment, mistrust and linguistic barriers in a German concentration camp (e.g. it can be well imagined that the fact that the gassed corpses were brought from the underground gas chamber to the oven room with an electrical elevator in crematoria 2 & 3 was transformed into the tilting floor and conveyor belt rumor after some Chinese whispering). And last but not least, as the DEGOB protocols and numerous post-war memoirs show, there was very poor flow of detailed information from the extermination sites to the outside to begin with and it was only poorly passed further on. 

I further previewed the remaining more than 2000 protocols and screened all protocols mentioning the Jewish Sonderkommando. There are only three accounts with reliable and detailed descriptions of mass extermination according to this search. These are protocols number 2114 and 2829, from prisoners who helped to dismantle crematorium 2/3 and directly talked to Sonderkommando prisoners (see also Testimonies of Prisoners of the Demolition Detail on the Crematoria 2 & 3 Extermination Sites), and number 3632 from a certain M. N. working in Mengele's section detail in the crematorium.

Hence, according to the DEGOB protocols, prisoners with no direct access to the extermination sites were not able to share reliable and detailed knowledge of the extermination sites. In contrast to this, in his testimony on mass extermination in Auschwitz-Birkenau Bendel performed as comparable well as Sonderkommando prisoners and others eyewitnesses, which is strong evidence that he was an eyewitness to the scene and confirms that he was assigned as Sonderkommando doctor.

Moreover, Bendel also captured all the key moments and figures of the Sonderkommando history of the period:
  1. the Sonderkommando strength of 900 in Summer 1944
  2. the selection of 200 Sonderkommando prisoners in September 1944
  3. the Sonderkommando revolt on 7 October 1944
    • setting fire at crematorium 4
    • the shooting of 500 Sonderkommando prisoners (recte: 443)
    • the participation of crematorium 2 SK after crematorium 4 was set on fire
    • implied the non-participation of crematorium 3 SK
  4. the selection of 100 Sonderkommandos in November 1944
That's a nice package of reliable knowledge exactly reflecting what bothered and concerned the Sonderkommando at the time. In contrast to this, other (non-Sonderkommando) prisoners did not know and remember the basic facts as accurately as they are displayed in Bendel's testimony.

I've analyzed 42 accounts from the period 1945 - 1960 providing at least some details on the 1944 Sonderkommando history. These are the DEGOB protocols number 7, 68, 109, 182, 193, 219, 313, 378, 380, 471, 600, 816, 1266, 1272, 1802, 2114, 2527, 2655, 2829, 3138, 3150, 3206, 3526, 3587 from Hungarian Jews interned in Birkenau as well the memoirs of Pelegia Lewinska, Albert Menasche,  Eddy De Wind, Guy Kohen, Dounia Ourisson (main camp), Charles Papiernek, Julien Unger, Therese Chassaing, Olga Lengyl, Seweryna Szmalewska, Simon Laks & Rene Coudy, Bruno Baum (main camp), Krystyna Zywulska, Lucie Adelsberger, Alfred Fiderkiewicz, Thomas Geve (main camp), Primo Levi (Monowitz) and Franciszek Strj (main camp) (for memoir titles see here). 

Most accounts (60%) did not date the Sonderkommando revolt, but of those who tried, it was placed somewhere between August and November 1944. Only Guy Kohen was a bit too off with December 1943. Most accounts (76%) noted that a crematorium was destroyed, but only 27% of those explicitly identified which of the crematoria (however, for most Hungarian Jews working in the Kanada detail, "the crematorium" in Birkenau was simply "their" crematorium 4 next to the fence). Whenever somebody could identify the site, he or she correctly mentioned crematorium 4. Most remembered that the SK prisoners were shot, while in one and two accounts they were burnt alive and gassed, respectively. 

So far so good. But the difficulties begin already with the nature of the attack on the crematorium. About two thirds of the accounts claim that the crematorium was blown up with explosives (false), while one third knew that only fire was set (true). Only 30% provided causalities for the killed Sonderkommandos, ranging from 120 to 1200 men, but none getting as close as Bendel to contemporary documents. 38% noted that "all" or "almost all" or "99%" were killed. Actually about 25% Sonderkommandos survived the massacre, to which Bendel was again by far the closest with his survivor rate of 17%.

The remaining facts were not or without any precision known in the early testimonies: 

None of the first accounts pointed out that the revolt turned over only to crematorium 2. It was only mentioned by Alfred Fiderkiewicz in 1956. Fiderkiewicz was the initiator of the Auschwitz State Museum site and was a member of the Polish Central Commission on War Crimes, so there is a high risk that he was aware and influenced by post-war sources in his late account.

None of the accounts provided the exact figure of the number of prisoners employed in the Sonderkommando at its peak in summer 1944 (900). Not even the most well-informed prisoners with useful contacts and connections like Bruno Baum (1200), Olga Lengyl (1200 - 1600), Albert Menasche (1200). Not even those with extensive post-war knowledge either: Bruno Baum again and (probably) Alfred Fiderkiewicz (800 - 1200). 

And last but not least, none of the accounts mentioned the final Sonderkommando selection in November 1944.

Back to Jansson:
Hans has failed to take into account how numerous the sources of information, rumor, and propaganda at Auschwitz were, and thereby failed to show that Bendel could not have learned the details in his account without ever entering the Birkenau crematoria. and a fortiori has failed to show that Bendel is a reliable witness to gassings."
In contrary, I did take into account how numerous the sources of information, rumor and propaganda were at Auschwitz. And precisely because reliable details of the extermination sites were floating along numerous misinformation and false rumors in Auschwitz, it can be concluded that Bendel's reliable testimony at the Belsen trial is consistent with his claim that he was attached to the Sonderkommando. While his later testimonies also contain a few more mistakes, he was also adding more reliable details including those even more challenging to get straight from prisoner's outside the extermination sites, e.g. the underground undressing and gas chamber complex with two gas chambers with "two mesh tubes with external valves through which the gas was introduced".

There is no soap and towel story in Bendel's testimony, no confusion about what was above and below ground, no gas bombs and gas sprayed from showers, no conveyor belt. His detailed testimony is consistent with that of the Sonderkommando survivors, and he displayed in-depth insider knowledge far beyond that of those who have never been at the site or could only take a short, superficial look. He knew the most significant facts of the Sonderkommando history. Bendel was little affected by the cloud of rumors, distortions, imaginations hanging over the Auschwitz complex, obviously, because he could tap into a much superior source of information: his own experience at the extermination sites and direct talks to other Sonderkommando prisoners. 


Supplement: Point-to-point reply to "Friedrich Jansson"

"Hans calls my arguments “either of minor significance for my argument, irrelevant or utterly unfounded” and complains that “Jansson has ignored the essence of my analysis of the testimony of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando doctor Charles Sigismund Bendel.” Yet, when one examines the substance of his post, one sees that Hans is forced to concede that I was right and he was wrong. Hans, in effect, argues as follows: “I surrender – you lose.”"
Reality check: I was "forced" to concede one minor point (I mistakenly assumed that Bendel was asked at the Belsen trial by the prosecution if the victims were brought down into the gas chamber by one of the doctors, when it was actually a defendant lawyer, some sloppy reading and remembering from me), on which I was wrong. Since Jansson could only score on a minor issue but didn't make any big points, then, of course, I was not impressed by his reply and was forced to conclude that "Jansson's critique is either of minor significance for my argument, irrelevant or utterly unfounded".

"Hans had claimed that Bendel’s characterization of the ceiling height “could be the result of a small observer (Bendel doesn’t look too big) + a filled gas chamber + taking the 1.9 m height door as reference + subjective estimation.” This argument makes no sense whatsoever. First, a small observer is likely to think things are bigger, not smaller. In one’s childhood memories, everything seems to have been larger, and not, as Hans would have it, smaller."
That's missing the point. I was not arguing that a small observer would more likely estimate anything smaller than a tall observer, say that a 1.4 m observer would be more likely than a 1.5 m observer estimate a 1.9 m door frame as 1.7 m.

I'm arguing that, for people conscious of their own body height, a small observer < 1.7 m could possibly underestimate a 1.9 door height as 1.7 m, while this is very unlikely for a tall observer > 1.7 m.

Somebody higher than 1.7 m would unlikely estimate the gas chamber height as 1.7 m judging from the 1.9 m high door because the door frame is already far higher than himself. The estimation of 1.7 m is inconsistent with his body height and the gap to the 1.9 m door frame.

On the other hand, somebody say of 1.6 m size would more likely (than the person > 1.7 m) estimate the gas chamber height as 1.7 m judging from a 1.9 m high door, because the height of the door frame is much larger than his own body height and therefore consistent to his estimation.

"Second, it is inexplicable how looking at a door could lead an observer to believe that the ceiling inside was considerably lower than the height of the door."
I did not say or imply that an observer would "believe that the ceiling inside was considerably lower than the height of the door". I wrote that the observer could have taken "the 1.9 m height door as reference". Of course, this observer would have also underestimated the height of the door in this case.

"Third, while Hans may be able to claim that Bendel’s Belsen trial testimony regarding the low ceiling (“These chambers gave the impression that the roof was falling upon the heads of the people. It was so low.”) was made from the reference point of an observer outside the gas chamber (it came in the context of Bendel’s first day in the crematoria), he cannot make the same claim for Bendel’s other testimonies. In his Tesch trial testimony, Bendel claimed that “you had the impression that the roof is falling on your head”. Likewise, in his account in Témoignages sur Auschwitz, Bendel wrote that “on avait l’impression, en y entrant que le plafond vous tombait sur la tête tellement il était bas” (p. 161). In both of these accounts, Bendel describes the impression from the perspective of a witness inside the gas chamber. How, then, could Bendel have been confused about the ceiling height, given that he described how it felt inside the gas chamber?" 
Very simple: he would have been misleading in his later statements implying that he had been inside the gas chamber when he only saw it from outside. This is a fairly small assumption not costing very much.

"In his latest attempt at an explanation, Hans writes that “[t]he best explanation I can think of is that [Bendel’s] memory was selectively distorted on the gas chamber ceiling”. This is no more an explanation than a “get out of jail free” card is an exoneration."
This explanation is left after eliminating other conceivable reasons as these have too little probative strength:
"Since Bendel was not a compuslive [sic] liar as demonstrated by his appearance at the Belsen trial and since he was definitely assigned to work at the crematoria (else he could not provide such a wealth of details of the sites and even provided a reasonable description of the wire mesh shaft from inside the gas chamber), the underestimation smells like somebody who was heavily and selectively traumatised..."
(Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 3: Eyewitnesses (Supplement); note that it's proper to replace "definitely" by "most likely")

Of course, such an explanation cannot be satisfactorily (without, say at least some expert opinion). But neither are any of the other alternatives. It appears to be the best among three inadequate explanations, which is enough to favour it over the others. Sometimes the available evidence does not allow for an entirely satisfactorily answer to a problem.

"Hans is not being particularly honest when he faults me for not responding to every single one of his arguments. The title of the post to which Hans responded was “C.S. Bendel and ceiling height (reply to an argument advanced by ‘Hans’)”. As the title should make clear, the post was concerned with the issue of Bendel’s characterization of the ceiling height of the Auschwitz gas chambers, and with Hans’ arguments concerning this specific point, engaging with Hans’ broader arguments only as an afterthought. The reason for the focus on the ceiling height issue should be obvious, namely that it was a point of contention related to the Tesch trial, on which I had recently written a paper. The post did not pretend to be a direct response to Hans’ treatment of Bendel in general. Rather, it was a post on one specific issue, which was supplemented by some general observations and an important correction."
That's some false and nasty accusation of dishonesty. In his original blog posting, Jansson ignored and missed to take into account and address points that are - in my opinion - relevant for the conclusion he has drawn himself. He claimed that "Bendel never saw the inside of these structures, and is a fraudulent witness" but without explaining how this fits the bulk of his testimony. Thus, he has only advanced a stupid argument and drawn a conclusion without addressing the most crucial point. How do they say: in for a penny, in for a pound. Go big or go home.

Now, even if Jansson disagrees with my opinion and believes that it is reasonable to draw such a firm conclusion based solely on a single or few details yet without explaining how it is consistent with the rest of testimony, this does not make me "not being particularly honest".

As if two people could not disagree without one being dishonest!

Jansson's not so pleasant habit to quickly smear his opponents in a discussion as dishonest says way more about himself than about his opponents.

"Now, Hans complains that I ignore “the essence” of his analysis of Bendel. Alas, this “essence” is rather elusive. Hans made two arguments concerning Bendel’s testimony, first, that it contains many details which are corroborated by other accounts; second, that Bendel was resistant to prosecutors’ wishes. We’ll take on the second argument first"
I've previously explained that this "second argument" was not the essence, but - to put it Jansson own words - a mere afterthought to the essential argument. Here it is again:
"But let's see how serious the mistake is for my argument in the blog. Jansson says it's "a critical error". But my claim that Bendel "proved to be resistent towards manipulation and suggestive questions from the prosecution at the Belsen trial" was only supplementary anyway to my primary point that Bendel provided a reliable and credible testimony at the Belsen trial. Therefore, this mistake - even if it were completely invalidating the point I was making - would have only a limited impact on the entire argument. It's not a critical error. "
Jansson (on the still minor point if Bendel was resistant towards suggestive questions by the Belsen trial investigators):
"Hans supposes that what the prosecution most wanted was a few atrocity stories involving the key defendants. "
Any prosecution, which is not on the defence's payroll and which is not prevented for some other reason to want the maximum sentence for the defendants, can be presumed to want the most reliable witness incriminating the defendants most heavily. That's their job and not "some unsupported speculation".

To rationalise the opposite, Jansson makes up a contradictory and inconsistent story:
"In reality, there was never any doubt that the “main” defendants, Kramer above all, would be killed. Nor is there any reason to believe that the prosecution was particularly eager for accusations against Kramer, Klein, and Hössler. Already on June 1st, 1945, the investigative team believed that the evidence for murder against Klein and Hössler was complete, and the evidence against Kramer was “more than complete”. Why, then, would they pressure Bendel to offer evidence of this nature?"
Excellent question. Here's another one:

Why would the prosecution even have bothered to question Bendel if they considered the evidence "complete" (in the sense of perfect, saturated, not to be improved, which Jansson has to assume in his argument)?

The fact that prosecution called Bendel as last-minute witness to incriminate defendants (as opposed to providing some context to Auschwitz) indicates very much that they were not sure and not convinced at all that their evidence was "complete" or even "more than complete" at the time. Whatever they thought or expressed on 1 June 1945 is not crucial. What matters is what the prosecution thought when they went for Bendel in September/October 1945. There was either a shift in the prosecution's opinion on the evidence by the time, or "complete" was to be understood as complete enough to go on trial yet not without its flaws.

Jansson further undermines his own argument by pointing out that the prosecution had "their troubles" with their own witnesses like Roman Sompolinski who were "embarrassing" them. This leads to another good question:

What kind of  "complete" evidence is this which troubles and embarrasses you?

If the prosecution was so troubled and embarrassed by some of their own witnesses, it is reasonable to assume that they would have been happy to present a reliable witness doing maximum damage to the defendants.

Finally, Jansson gets further confused when he argues that the prosecution was troubled by "eager claims of atrocities, as all too often the witness would manage to accuse some SS-man of killing someone at a date prior to his arrival at Auschwitz, or something similarly absurd" and that the "prosecution probably welcomed and encouraged Bendel’s relative sobriety".

However, Bendel already testified on a great atrocity - the mass murder of thousands of entirely innocent people - and he already mentioned that Klein and Kramer had been at the site at the time and further they should have known too well that Hössler was Schutzhaftlagerführer virtually the entire time Bendel was employed to the Sonderkommando either. Thus, Bendel already delivered what the prosecution may have troubled according to Jansson or there was no reason to be troubled to begin with. But then it would have hardly affected the credibility of his testimony if he had linked Klein, Kramer and Hössler to this atrocity fully instead of only half, indirectly or not at all.

"My above interpretation, suggesting that contrary to Hans’ suppositions the prosecution did not want Bendel to pepper his testimony with atrocity stories evidently devised in order to incriminate a defendant but rather to maintain a more sober and dignified note in order to give a little respectability to the prosecution’s case, is also supported by an argument made in Hans’ initial post, which I didn’t bother responding to before. In support of his belief that Bendel resisted the prosecution, Hans pointed out that Bendel denied that anyone had been let out of the gas chamber during his tenure, which might call into doubt the testimonies of the witnesses Regina Bialek and Sophia Litwinska, who claimed to have been saved from the gas chamber mid-gassing. As Hans notes, Backhouse had mentioned these witnesses in his opening address, and promised that they would appear in court (“You will hear an actual account of what the gassing was like from two people who were sent into the gas chamber and rescued at the last moment, and you will hear that the victims foamed at the mouth, turned blue and finally died.”). However, the gas chamber escapes of both Bialek and Litwinska are supposed to have occurred before Bendel arrived in Birkenau, so his testimony on this point does not even raise much doubt about their testimonies. Moreover, the testimony of Litwinska seems to have raised some questions with the court, and Judge Advocate Stirling made a note of her tendency to exaggeration. The court’s attitude was likely transmitted to the prosecution, because contrary to the promise in Backhouse’s opening address, Bialek did not appear, and her evidence was given only in deposition form. Thus, it would seem that the prosecution had some reservations concerning the impression that its witnesses were making, and wanted to shift towards a more respectable class of witness."
Except that Jansson did not explain why Bendel would have appeared less "respectable" if he linked the defendants (he already mentioned) fully to the atrocities he already mentioned as well.

"One might even suppose that this shift on the prosecution’s part was related to the last-minute addition of Bendel to the witness list. This is only speculation, of course, but unlike Hans’ speculation it takes proper account of the historical context."
It's hard to see how this hodgepodge of incoherency and contradiction is taking "proper account of the historical context" (unless we understand the term "historical context" as something randomly put together by Jansson without checking for internal consistency to salvage his little argument):

- The prosecution considered the evidence complete. Yet the prosecution was troubled and embarrassed by their own witnesses.

- The prosecution considered the evidence complete. Yet they called Bendel as a last-minute witness to incriminate Kramer, Hössler and Klein.

- Bendel appeared as reliable and superior witness. Yet the prosecution is not supposed to have grilled him how far he could incriminate Kramer, Hössler and Klein.

In contrast to this, my suggestion that the prosecution wanted a most reliable witness incriminating the defendants most heavily is dictated by common sense, and that they questioned Bendel on how far the defendants were involved in the atrocity, which he already described reliably anyway, is another not far fetched speculation.

We have seen that the second half of Hans’ argument was destroyed already in my previous post, and that his attempt to salvage it does not bear scrutiny. What of the first half of Hans’ case? Here, Hans simply enumerates a number of elements of Bendel’s testimony which he believes are accurate, or which agree with some other testimony. What is characteristic of the (allegedly corroborated and accurate) details Hans mentions is that they do not in any way imply experience inside the crematoria.
It's not only "characteristic" of these specific details, but for any details one can possibly think of. There exists no detail that would imply that someone was inside the crematoria, because any detail from inside crematoria might have possibly leaked outside. We cannot be sure if somebody saying so was really inside the crematoria merely based on the details he provided. But what we can do is to estimate how probable it seems that this somebody was really inside the crematoria by comparing his account against other sources. 

The probability this someone has been inside the crematoria increases with increasing number of details he got straight (as well as with decreasing number of false rumours and false details).

Naturally, the magnitude of this enhancement scales with how close and relevant the detail is to the activity at the crematoria. But even details not related to the crematoria, such as that Mengele was the head doctor of the Gypsies camp, - believe or not, Jansson - do enhance the probability that the person was inside the crematoria indirectly. Firstly, because these increase the probability this person actually was in Birkenau, which is a prerequisite that this person could have been in the crematoria as well. Secondly, these enhance the credibility and reliability of the witness in general and in turn also the probability that this witness was telling the truth on the crematoria. One may of course argue over whether the magnitude of such indirect enhancement is significant to negligible in a specific case.

The magnitude of this enhancement further scales with how good or bad some detail was known to other prisoners that have not been at the site. Something that was known to many other prisoners even they have not been at the crematoria, e.g. there were four crematoria in Birkenau, has a smaller effect. Something not or seldom known to others, e.g. the gas introduction devices in crematoria 2 & 3, has a big effect.

Or more formally:

P = A + B + C ... - A' - B' - C'


P: Probability the witness was inside the crematoria

A, B, C..: Probability change from weighted true details

A', B', C'...: Probability change from weighted false details

When P is below a lower threshold, we say that the witness was (most likely) not inside the crematoria, whereas when P is above a higher threshold, we say the witness was (most likely) inside the crematoria. When P is between the thresholds, we say we don't know or favour one over the other but without too much confidence. 

The reason why I wrote down the detailed breakdown of Bendel's Belsen trial testimony into its elements A...and A'... was precisely to facilitate - for myself and for the readers of the blog - to estimate the probability that Bendel was at the extermination sites.

"The use of the term “Sonderkommando” to describe the crematoria personnel? Quite common among individuals who were never inside the crematoria."
Only few percent of the Hungarian Jews deported to Auschwitz mentioned the "Sonderkommando" of the crematoria. I wouldn't call this "quite common". 

Anyway, it's clear that this specific element in Bendel's testimony was known to quite a number of prisoners, who had not been at the crematoria, and therefore its weighted impact on P cannot be great. Note that I have never claimed or suggested anything otherwise. I assume that most people have the common sense to figure this out themselves.

"The description of the Sonderkommando revolt? Contains nothing beyond the generalities that can be found in many accounts from Birkenau prisoners who were never inside the crematoria."
I'm afraid to say that this is incorrect, as I have amply demonstrated in the main part of this posting.

Bendel's knowledge of the Sonderkommando revolt was far beyond what was known to people who did not belong to the Sonderkommando. There was, in fact, a whole zoo of variants on this event among prisoners.

These elements on the Sonderkommando history are greatly enhancing the probability that Bendel was attached to the Sonderkommando and in turn also that he had been inside the crematoria. 

"The story of the liquidation of the gypsy camp and the alleged gassing of its inmates? Again, a commonplace of Birkenau testimonies from witnesses who were never inside the crematoria."
The liquidation of the Gypsy's camp was known to comparably many prisoners, since it took place right in front of many eyes. Bendel was not even yet in the Sonderkommando when this event took place. But the high level of detail and accuracy displayed by Bendel on this event strongly supports his credibility and reliability as a witness, which adds a lot to P indirectly.

"Open-air cremations during 1944 (which actually happened, though their extent and cremation capacity has been wildly exaggerated)? Yet again, such descriptions are quite common among witnesses who were located far from the crematoria. Bendel is slightly unusual only in that he gives some details concerning the pits, but here even Hans is forced to admit that Bendel’s claim that a single 12*6 meter pit could consume 1000 bodies in an hour is absurd."
That's too superficial from Jansson and a sloppy recollection of Bendel.

First of all, Bendel identified trenches vs. simply open air cremation. That's a technical detail known to much less people than those who knew there had been open air cremations.

Secondly, he identified their location vs. simply in Birkenau or at the crematorium. That's another detail known to way less people than those who knew there had been open air cremations.

Thirdly, he identified their number. That's another detail known to way less people than those who knew there had been open air cremations.

Fourthly, he identified the size of the trenches. That's another detail known to way less people than those who knew there had been open air cremations.

Fifthly, he identified the fat recovery. That's another detail known to way less people than who those knew there had been open air cremations.

Sixthly, he identified their capacity. That's another detail known to way less people than those who knew there had been open air cremations.

He did not properly identify the cremation rate. 1000 per hour is obviously a gross exaggeration. By the way, Bendel assigned the figure of 1000 not to one trench as Jansson claims but to "this system of trenches". I believe that he described the preparation time for the pyres but reinterpreted and presented it as the cremation rate.

The six "good" points above more than outweigh this last "bad" point. Open-air cremations during 1944 were known to many, but not with the level of detail and accuracy shown by Bendel. Consequently, this adds quite something to P as well.

"Hans tries to defend Bendel by arguing that 1000 may be the total number of bodies put into the pit, with the cremation taking much longer than an hour."
I'm not defending Bendel, I try to explain his testimony. So what's Jansson explanation for Bendel's comparable high level of detail and accuracy on open air cremation ? Where did he know all these things which were not common knowledge in Birkenau? Hardly by hanging out in the infirmary of the camp section BIIe. Because the Hungarian Jews (populating BIIe, BIIc, "Kanada", "Mexiko" etc.) did not provide such a level of detail.

"This piece of apologetics also fails on the basis of real-life experience with mass cremation, for instance during the 2001 UK FMD epidemic, which suggests that a pyre of the dimensions Bendel mentions could be doing quite well to incinerate 150 corpses, and that it would take a couple of days to do so."
Jansson's piece of apologetics fails on the basis that cremation data from the 2001 UK FMD epidemic cannot be simply applied on open air cremations in 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau - unless it is shown that the conditions and parameters were the same or that differences are negligible, but which requires supporting experts given the heavy testimonial evidence which needs to be contradicted (in the case that there are severe contradictions).

Perhaps Jansson can point me to those expert studies (and no, having read something about the 2001 UK FMD epidemic or doing some barbecue experiments in your back garden in Rome does not qualify as expert, unfortunately).

"Similarly, Hans’ citation of Bendel’s technically absurd claim that Krema V had a cremation capacity of 1000 corpses per day as an example of the latter’s reliability is too feeble to deserve a reply, unless of course Hans can offer a defence of his claimed cremation capacities on a technical basis."
I've missed the paragraph where Jansson demonstrated that 1000 corpses (± few hundreds, as uncertainty for eyewitness estimations) per day is "technically absurd". And please spare us with the apple & orange comparison to standard incinerations in modern crematoria ovens. I expect this from the low-level deniers at CODOH, but you should be slightly above that.

"As for Bendel’s account of the cutting of the hair and removal of gold teeth of gassed corpses, this belongs to a broad set of very common rumors extending far beyond Auschwitz, which was based partially in fact but was heavily adorned by fantasy, as many storytellers incorporated these narrative elements into their tales. Consequently, such a story does nothing to corroborate Bendel’s presence in the crematoria."
It was known to some outside the extermination sites, but it was not a common rumour. Among 999 Hungarian Auschwitz survivors reporting to DEGOB, one person mentioned that the corpses were cut their hair, one person mentioned that hair of the corpses was recycled and only one person mentioned both.

Consequently, it adds quite something to P as well.

"How about Bendel’s mention of Moll? He’s equally mentioned by that splendid witness Roman Sompolinsky. Does Hans think this supports Sompolinsky’s credibility?" 
Yes, it does support Sompolinski's credibility. Not that much though, since at first Sompolinski identified Moll as in charge of the Sonderkommando when he was not even Auschwitz-Birkenau. It increases his credibility from somewhere close to zero to somewhere slightly higher than close to zero. Roman Sompolinski was obviously a false witness, who was most likely not employed in the Sonderkommando at all.

In contrast to this, Bendel identified Moll as in charge of the Sonderkommando when he was really in charge of the Sonderkommando. This increases his credibility from something far above zero to something even further above zero.

"Moll is also identified by Regina Plucer, who offers a fine example to illustrate what is wrong with Hans’ style of argument. Plucer not only identifies Moll, but also gets the number of muffles in Kremas II/III correct. This is more than you can say for Bendel, who in his account in Témoignages sur Auschwitz claims that there were 16 ovens in Kremas II and III."
And how's that supposed to illustrate "what is wrong with Hans’ style of argument"? Please elaborate!

Both Plucer and Bendel were obviously witnesses to the extermination sites. Plucer was more reliable than Bendel on the number of ovens. Both have correctly identified Moll as being in charge of the Sonderkommando. Plucer could have learnt this from the Sonderkommandos (as Moll left before she started working there), while Bendel could have taken this from his own experience.

"This error on his part cannot be explained as a simple counting mistake, as there were in fact five ovens each with three muffles, meaning that any genuine witness would have seen at the absolute minimum that the number of muffles was a multiple of three, and thus was not equal to 16."
Any attentive, genuine witness would have seen that each oven had three openings, but not every genuine witness had to be attentive and not every attentive, genuine witness had to correctly remember what he saw the year(s) earlier. It is entirely possible that Bendel remembered two or four muffles per oven when he authored the manuscript for Temoignages sur Auschwitz (Rudolf Höß, who probably knew from documents and but perhaps also from visits the number of muffles, remembered that there were two-double ovens in crematoria 2 & 3 after the war in Minden and Nuremberg e.g. NO-1210).

By the way, when I wrote Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 3: Eyewitnesses I tested my own memory and tried to imagine and draw a castle I've seen hundreds of times, lastly only few months ago at the time. Yet, I could not remember the correct shape (round or square) and number of towers of the castle. But it would be patently false to conclude from my quantitatively and qualitatively false description that I never saw the castle. It says, of course, something about my observational accuracy and lack of photographic memory or about the circumstances of the observations (e.g. lack of attentiveness).

Furthermore, unless Bendel repeated the estimate somewhere else, it cannot even be ruled out that this was a typo. The number is spelled out in Temoignages sur Auschwitz, but this is not known for Bendel's manuscript.

Hence, the mistake of the number of muffles lowers the probability that Bendel has been at the sites only marginally.

Before moving on, here's another element not mentioned so far supporting that Bendel was working as Sonderkommando doctor at the crematoria. At his cross examination at the I.G. Farben trial, Bendel testified in some length that once the wife of the crematorium chief attended a killing operation. This story of the wife's visit is AFAIK not confirmed by other sources and might be more likely untrue than true.

But what is very much reliable is who Bendel has identified as "chief" of crematorium 5: "Unterrscharfuehrer Schulz". On 18 July 1944, i.e. only some days before Bendel was assigned to the Sonderkommando, "Schulz" is mentioned as one of the four SS men of the "Sonderkommando" (Piper et al., Auschwitz 1940-1945, volume 1, p. 235). The Sonderkommando was operating the crematoria, hence "Schulz" (or "Schultz" according to Mattogno) was obviously Kommandoführer at one of the crematoria, as confirmed in Sonderkommando Henryk Tauber's Polish deposition of 24 May 1945.

"Unfortunately for the holocaust industry, Plucer went a bridge too far by trying to draw a map:
I assume that the reader knows enough to see that her plan is nonsense, although she did amass enough knowledge to include some details which are accurate or which cohere with the standard story."
The drawing has its errors, but it's not nonsense. It captured many details, which were poorly known to people who never had been at the site, sufficiently well to conclude that Plucer was likely part of the demolition detail taking down the crematorium, as she claimed. One may speculate that the building could have been partially dismantled already when Plucer arrived to explain why she mistake the support pillars of the gas chamber with the gas introduction shafts and did not properly remember where the elevator ended up in the furnace room.

"(The prosecution seems to have realized the problems raised by witnesses who gave specific descriptions of the gas chamber, for when it came time to read Plucer’s affidavit they omitted the gas chamber description because “we have had enough description of the gas chamber.”)"
Please show that the investigators had a more accurate knowledge on this killing site than Plucer displayed in her affidavit.

Actually, the description in her affidavit seems fairly reliable. It seems more likely that her gas chamber description was omitted because they had an actual eyewitness on mass extermination before (Bendel), whereas Plucer was only an eyewitness on the idle site, but hearsay for its operation.

"It’s striking that none of the early Auschwitz witnesses who drew diagrams of the crematoria have remained prominent. Not Plucer, not Franz Putzker (who also identified Moll), not Albert Menasche. There was always enough wrong with the map to prove that its author did not possess knowledge of the building’s interior layout"
  • I don't know about "Franz Putzker" and too bad that you did not provide any reference to this source. There was apparently a Fritz Putzker, who drew a map of crematorium 2 & 3 in 1945 (how ironic that Jansson has seriously asked me to explain "why Bendel thought the doctor’s name was Peter Mengele").

    Putzker (the Fritz one) was clearly one of the prisoners with better knowledge on the extermination sites (no surprise here, as Kapo in the Kanada and Zentralsauna section), but his drawing contains too many false details to support that he was inside the crematorium himself.
  • Plucer did produce a drawing that actually shows she possessed knowledge of the building's interior layout
  • Menasche's drawing is not bad either (outside, inside, close-up; thanks to Andrew E. Mathis for providing me with these images), but due to lesser details and the improbability that an ordinary prisoner was given access to the site, it is not that clear if he was an inside witness, or only an outside witness with reasonable hearsay knowledge on the inside.
Anyway, Albert Menasche is actually a prominent witness. He is cited in many standard and other works on the Holocaust and this even though his memoir is rather difficult to get hold off (at least in Germany):

Langbein's Menschen in Auschwitz
Czech's Auschwitz Chronicle
Gutman et al.'s Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp
Gilbert's The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust
Benz et al.'s Der Ort des Terrors
Piper et al.'s Auschwitz 1940-1945
Strzelecki's The evacuation, dismantling and liberation of KL Auschwitz
Adler's Theresienstadt: das Antlitz einer Zwangsgemeinschaft
Hilberg's The destruction of the European Jews
Benz' Dimension des Völkermords
Gilbert's The Holocaust: the Jewish tragedy
Bowman's The Agony of Greek Jews, 1940–1945
Safrian's Die Eichmann-Männer
Friling's A Jewish Kapo in Auschwitz
Lagerwey's Reading Auschwitz
Fleming's Greece - a Jewish History
Mark's The Scrolls of Auschwitz
Yagoda's Memoir: A History
Fromer's The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando
Lee's World War 2 in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, with General Sources
Santin's Der Holocaust in den Zeugnissen griechischer Jüdinnen und Juden
Salter's Nazi War Crimes, US Intelligence and Selective Prosecution at Nuremberg
Berlekamp et al.'s "Neuordnung Europas": Vorträge vor der Berliner Gesellschaft für Faschismus- und Weltkriegsforschung 1992-1996
Safrian's Eichmann und seine Gehilfen
Novitch's The passage of the barbarians: contribution to the history of the deportation and resistance of Greek Jews
Marrus' The "Final Solution" Outside Germany
Gilbert's Holocaust writing and research since  1945
Saletti's Sonderkommando: Diario di un crematorio di Auschwitz, 1944
Yahil's The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, 1932-1945
Kluge et al.'s Re-examining the Holocaust Through Literature
Fleischer's Greece in the 1940s: a bibliographic companion
Kresse's Thessaloniki: Geschichte und Zerstörung einer sefardischen Metropole
Raim's Überlebende von Kaufering
Nahon's Birkenau: The Camp of Death
Grierson's Discours d'Auschwitz
Totten's First-person accounts of genocidal acts committed in the twentieth century
Pfoertner's Mit der Geschichte leben: A bis H
Blatter and Mildner's Art of the Holocaust
Encyclopaedia Judaica Year Book
Friedman's Holocaust Literature: A Handbook of Critical, Historical, and Literary Writings
Kitroeff's War-time Jews: the case of Athens
Benz and Distel's Das Ende der Kozentrationslager
Weiner's Exploring your Sephardic roots: a resource guide
Hetzberg's The overlooked Holocaust: the devastation of the Sephardic communities
Refeal's Un grito en el silencio
Giuntella's Il nazismo e i lager

Regina Plucer and Fritz Putzker are indeed not prominent witnesses, but rather because their accounts contain not much interesting information for researchers or are not sufficiently well known.

As if people ever bothered much about inaccuracies on mass extermination in testimonies in the past, see Miklos Nyiszli's very prominent, but semi-fictional account on Auschwitz with patently false details on the crematoria.

"Humans are quite good at remembering stories. Given a narrative that is spread by rumor and propaganda, there will be many people who hear the story and are capable of repeating it. In this case, that means that they could repeat the gassing narrative, including the details that Hans finds so thrilling in Bendel’s account, such as the removal of gold teeth or the cutting of the hair."
I have thoroughly refuted the hypothesis that Bendel's account may have been based on rumour and propaganda in the main part of this blog posting.

"What is comparatively difficult, although certainly not impossible, is to give an accurate account of the layout of a building which you have not seen from inside. This would suggest that if Hans wants to test the reliability of a witness, he would do better to ask whether the witness is capable of drawing an accurate map of the inside of the crematoria, rather than ask whether the witness can recite narrative details or mention names."
If Bendel had provided drawings of the crematoria and if these drawings were straight forward to interpret (i.e. either quite false or reliable), I would not bother about many of the details in his oral or written testimony anymore. A sufficiently reliable drawing can deliver so much probative strength that the issue may be settled already (see David Olere, Yehuda Bacon and Regina Pulcer). But there is no such drawing from Bendel.

If his oral testimony at the Belsen trial were sufficiently detailed on the interior layout of the crematoria, I would not have to bother many of the remaining details too, in order to establish if he had been inside the crematoria. However, Bendel's Belsen trial testimony contains few details from the interior layout of the crematoria. Those he mentioned are fairly reliable ("they entered a big hall...Then the door was opened and the people were crowded into the gas chambers which gave the impression that the roof was falling on their heads, as it was so low"), but they are insufficient to settle the issue.

Therefore, it is necessary to look into further details related and unrelated to mass extermination to determine the reliability and credibility of his account. From the rich details he provided on the extermination and Sonderkommando history it can be readily concluded that he was attached to the Sonderkommando, which in turn massively boosts the probability he was inside the crematoria.

In his later accounts, he introduced the misconception on the gas chamber's height and double door of the gas chamber. This drags down the probability that Bendel has ever seen a homicidal gas chamber. However, at the same time, Bendel was capable to deliver new reliable details from the inside of the crematoria, which were very difficult to get straight for people who had never been at the site and which more than compensate these two mistakes.

"Hans claims that Bendel’s absurd claim concerning the recovery of fat from cremation pyres is “either perfectly correct, largely correct or may be very well correct.” Perhaps he could specify precisely which of these he believes to be the case. The tale of fat recovery during cremations has been defended mainly by Hans’ colleague Sergey Romanov, who wrote a foolish treatment of the topic in which he completely failed to grasp the relevant technical issues."
It's probably correct.

The body of evidence leaves little doubt that it occurred that human fat was leaking from the cremation pyres and recovered. Since human fat ignites at moderate temperatures under air, this indicates that there was some inhomogeneity or spots of non-ideal combustion conditions in the trenches (low temperature and lack of oxygen).

"How does Hans defend Bendel’s claims concerning the duration of the gassing? Bendel claimed that it took two minutes after the introduction of the Zyklon until silence fell, then the gas chamber was opened after five minutes. This would mean that the German gassing procedure caused the entire building to be contaminated with Hydrogen Cyanide. Does Hans accept this preposterous story?" 
It's a subjective estimation, as Pressac would say. Bendel probably didn't have a stop watch and time can be difficult to recover by human memory. Many ear- and eyewitnesses give longer times until there was silence and the doors were opened, so it may be an understatement of these times.

"Does Hans accept Bendel’s claim that the SS threw babies on the heads of the people in the gas chambers?"
It is known that other atrocities occurred at the extermination sites from some drunken, sadist SS men (and maybe also Kapos and Jewish Sonderkommando prisoners) besides the ordered and planned mass killing.

However, I would not claim this specific atrocity as historical fact before it is not corroborated by other sources. Bendel's reliability and credibility is sufficient to accept he was a Sonderkommando doctor, but it's not as superb to accept something as this without further corroboration. The rule seemed to have been that infants found would be killed with a small calibre rifle shot. But it's not beyond possibility that such atrocity happened given the extreme circumstances at the extermination sites.

"How does he imagine this process worked?"
What else do you need other than what Bendel stated?
"It was a great amusement for the SS to throw in children above the heads of those who were packed tightly into these rooms." 
"What does Hans make of Bendel’s claim that “at Auschwitz [Stammlager] there was an underground gas chamber which was used principally for disinfestation purposes. It was about 12 metres long, 10 wide and about 1.5 meters high”?"
You should work on your bad habit to refer to statements without providing any reference (Bendel, Putzker, Menasche and now Bendel again).

It doesn't take you much to hint the reader to the source. But it took me quite some time to verify that this is not from his Belsen testimony not from his Tesch trial testimony not from Temoignages sur Auschwitz nor from his I.G. Farben trial testimony and that it can therefore only be from his affidavit of 21 October 1945. I begin to wonder if this is still careless or already arrogance from you to repeatedly cite sources, which cannot be considered common knowledge, without any reference whatsoever.

Anyway, I would need more context before I can make something out of this snippet, e.g. does Bendel claim he saw this facility himself? Please quote the full passage (better even, post the full affidavit).

"Bendel claimed that on September 27, 1944, 200 sonderkommando members were taken to the Auschwitz Stammlager and gassed there. Where does Hans believe this gassing took place?"
According to Czech's Kalendarium, it took place on 23 September 1944 in Kanada 1 near the Auschwitz main camp. I cannot competently comment on this, since I haven't seen all relevant sources (e.g. testimony from the Horst Fischer trial cited by Czech ← edited on 19/08/2015, see comments).

"Hans’ complaint about a “double standard” in my arguments concerning Draper and Zippel appears to be nothing more than an attempt to find some distraction to cover the humiliating concessions into which he’s been forced."
Now, that's something interesting. Jansson considers the admission of a mistake as humiliation. Good to know. That no constructive discussion on any controversial issue is possible with him, since the open admission and handling of mistakes is hindered by this feeling of humiliation (unless he is into masochism, which I don't presume).

As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing humiliating with admitting mistakes. Not if it's as small as in this case, but also not if it were a more serious thing. It's human to do mistakes and it's fruitful for any discussion to admit them.

"I do not think that any good-faith reader would struggle to understand the argument being made, or the degree of certainty which can be associated with arguments of this sort. Of course, Hans is wrong in his claim that I used the word “certain” is connection with anyone’s behavior in the courtroom; as any reader of the post may readily verify, I said that if Zippel had made an elementary mistake in conversion in the courtroom, he certainly would have fixed it when writing his appeal."
Yes, I expressed myself incorrectly. But you are making much ado about little: just replace "courtroom" with "criminal proceeding".

"I based this judgement on the great care with which Zippel wrote his appeal, which is evident to anyone who reads it."
Whatever great care Zippel has put into his appeal, there is absolutely no certainty that he would have corrected every single mistake (whether in court room or during the entire criminal proceeding incl. appeal).

"As for the argument concerning Draper, which Hans labels “not exactly a convincing argument for any critically minded reader”, it is based on two facts, first, that he quibbled aggressively with the defence’s criticisms of his witnesses; second, that his presentation was quite heavily based on labelling his opponents as liars, suggesting that he would not likely miss an opportunity to do exactly that if offered such an excellent opportunity. The former of these two facts was explained in some detail in the original post, but Hans chose to ignore this when selecting a passage to quote and make the target for his petty sniping."

You did not provide a single example of Draper’s courtroom manner, but a single example would not be sufficient for the strong statement you have made. Don't advance an argument you are not prepared to back up, or advance it with the reservation it deserves. Guess why I waited with this  rebuttal until I've systematically and statistically analyzed all those DEGOB protocols and early memoirs: so I can make a solid and compelling case.

I've objected against the strong conclusion drawn merely from your view of Draper’s courtroom manner. Howsoever aggressively you think he quibbled with the defence’s criticisms of his witnesses at other occasions, it does not make it "absolutely clear that he would never have let" slide something else. You tell us your subjective opinion recovered from your memory after reading hundreds, thousands (?) of pages, probably not with the focus on Draper's courtroom manner. Unless you are a genuis, this cannot be too powerfull without any systematic analysis. You have also argued - based on your obviously imperfect memory of Auschwitz sources - that many details provided by Bendel were common knowledge in Auschwitz, when they were in fact not. Memory can be very misleading and biased, and any conclusion drawn from a huge database merely recovered from memory has to be taken carefully.

As a matter of fact, Draper did let Zippel get away with his false claim that Bendel suggested "that in a space of half a cubic metre you could put ten men", whereas it were only eight men. Obviously, Draper did not bother to check Zippel's figure or if he did he did not bother to correct it, either of which contradicts your claim that Draper "would not likely miss an opportunity" to label "his opponents as liars". He missed this opportunity here, for whatever reason, and he could have missed the opportunity if Zippel had misquoted Bendel on the ceiling height as well. What you have impressively declared as "absolutely clear" that Draper "would never have" done, is neither absolutely clear but not even very likely.

Likewise, did Zippel correct his exaggeration in the appeal? Since Jansson did not mention this, although it would consist good evidence for his hypothesis, probably not. In this case, Zippel did not write his appeal with the "great care" claimed by Jansson.

"If Hans wants to contest these facts, let him read the trial transcript. However, it’s clear that he does not seriously wish to contest this – after all, he has conceded the ceiling height issue – but rather that he was simply looking for mud to sling in order to distract his readers from the fact that he was wrong."
I was realising that you were making unsupported and exaggerated assertions - and this is something you can expect that I won't let you get away with easily.

"Naturally, these psychological judgements are not certain in the sense of physical laws, a point I made myself in my paper concerning Jan Karski’s account of the Belzec transit camp, but they are quite normal use of language and their interpretation would not cause the good-faith reader any trouble."
I guess that's your way to admit that you were wrong in exaggerating the certainty of your claims.  A simple "yes, wasn't good, let's move on" is too much already? It's because of the feeling of humiliation you mentioned, huh?

And yes, it does cause trouble to the good-faith reader. The good-faith reader understands "absolutely clear that he would never have" and "certainly" as "absolutely clear that he would never have" and "certainly". And not as "likely" or even only "possible" - unless your readers have already such a low opinion of you that they decrease the strength of your judgements per default. The more good faith your reader is the more likely you will come through with such manipulative use of language.

Many people tend to exaggerate the certainty of their claims (including occasionally myself, see when I wrote Bendel "was definitely assigned to work at the crematoria" that "definitely" was definitely over the top; but I have no problem to admit such mistake and learn from it for future postings, something I also recommend to Jansson instead of trying to sneak out of it), but this does not legitimise this flaw in any way. Especially not when we have a rigorous debate if something happened or not and where probabilities are the essence of this debate. If exactitude is not essential here, then I don't know.

"Finally, we come to the analogy between Hans’ work and Christian apologetics which I made in my previous post. In responding to this point, Hans is reduced to arguing against a strawman. My actual argument, as should be clear to any sincere reader was that Hans’ methodology, consisting in enumerating points of agreement or accuracy in the testimonies, while exercising his ingenuity in order to think of explanations for why falsehoods and contradictions are either irrelevant or merely “apparent”, is identical to the methodology with which some Christian apologists bolster biblical accounts as historical sources."
And where is the straw man supposed to be?  This is what I have addressed in my rebuttal.

Jansson's whole argument was superficial and fallacious to begin with. It says that because some "Christian apologists" present a list of points of agreement or accuracy to support the credibility of the bible and because they arrive to historical dubious or false conclusions, then therefore everybody presenting a list of points of agreement or accuracy to support a source is doing something dubious as well (guilt by association or how is this called?).

"Furthermore (though this point does not rest on a priori grounds but requires an actual familiarity with the relevant apologetic literature), by application of these techniques, apologists are able to produce a rather impressive effect, and can produce what at first encounter appear to be rather strong arguments in favor of their desired conclusions. My argument also implicitly assumed that this appearance does not stand up to more extended critical scrutiny. By analogy, one is inspired to treat the results of Hans’ apologetics with great caution, understanding that by its nature his argument is directed toward creating a presentable and persuasive facade rather than toward revealing the inner truth of the matter." 
Suppose there is a source A containing nothing but 30 very relevant statements, all of which are perfectly reliable according to our best knowledge. Somebody enumerating those 30 perfectly reliable statements to support this source would not at all create a "persuasive facade" but precisely reveal nothing else but the "inner truth of the matter".

Suppose there is a source B containing 30 not very relevant reliable statements as well as 70 relevant but false statements to our best knowledge. Someone enumerating only those 30 not very relevant but reliable statements would possibly create to some a "persuasive facade" but without "revealing the inner truth of the matter".

Hence, the exercise of enumerating statements says absolutely nothing about if the person is merely creating a persuasive facade or revealing the inner truth of the matter. It is not directed to either way. It is first of all a useful tool to extract and gauge from a source what may be relevant to estimate the probability of some conclusion drawn about this source. Whether this tool leads to a proper result entirely depends on how it is implemented in the method and how it is applied in the actual argument.

I was not abusing this tool on Bendel's Belsen trial testimony in Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 3: Eyewitnesses (Supplement). I did not ignore, but took into account the weak elements of his examination too - it's just they are so few. Unlike the Bible's Acts, the reliability and credibility of Bendel's Belsen trial testimony can be largely determined from the corroborated elements, since the rest is comparably insignificant. I could have simply stated that almost everything Bendel testified at the Belsen trial is well corroborated and therefore he is a reliable and credible witness. This would have been the same take-home message, except that it would have been a less transparent argument costing the reader way more time (and knowledge) to verify (another fairly full analysis I did on the report of Pery Broad).

If, on the other hand, the methodology and nature of the argument consists of simply ignoring the vast majority of the source i.e., elements which are either not corroborated at all or most likely false (as done in the example on source B above or as the "Christian apologist" blogger has done on the Acts), then naturally the "inner truth of the matter" is missed by miles. But this is not to blame on the tool or on its other users, but that it was not properly incorporated into a decent argument.

Another example of abuse can be found in many Revisionist "analysis" of eyewitness accounts that consist of nothing but listing supposed falsehoods without taking into account the rest of the testimony and analyzing the entire body of elements, see almost any work of Jürgen Graf and Carlo Mattogno. Mattogno pushed it to the extreme and published entire books consisting of nothing but a blown up list of supposed problems and some historically unfounded conclusion at the end. 

Or, in fact, Jansson own claim that "Bendel never saw the inside of these structures, and is a fraudulent witness" - based on "listing" one single false element without discussing the rest of the testimony. It is this apologetic method so common among Revisionist authors that I have criticized in the main part of Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 3: Eyewitnesses.

"As Hans attacks a strawman and ignores my actual argument, I do not see any point in quibbling over all of his statements, but will rather confine my remarks below to a couple of aspects. Hans begins his treatment of the issue with a reading error, stating that “Jansson provides ‘some general remarks concerning methodology’ and points out what he think is one of my ‘most egregious errors'”. If Hans read a little more attentively, he would know that the reference to one of his most egregious errors was made with reference to his erroneous claim that a key exchange in Bendel’s testimony took place with the prosecution rather than the defence, and had nothing to do with the apologetics analogy."
For your information, you confine yourself to point out an irrelevant little misreading instead of addressing actual arguments, which you misunderstood as strawman when they precisely rebut your critique.

"Later, Hans writes: “The anonymous author of the Acts was a hearsay or double hearsay witness or no witness at all (=> incompetent observer) vs. Bendel was an eyewitness (=> competent observer)”. Here Hans begs the question. That Bendel was an eyewitnesses to the internals of the crematoria, and a competent observer at that, is precisely what Hans needs to prove, not something which he can assume in support of his other arguments. Nor is his characterization of Acts very satisfactory, given the famous “we passages” in Acts. Consider the “we passage” of Acts 16:11-17, which leads directly into an account of a supernatural exorcism (Acts 16:16-18). On a “straight” reading of the text, this is certainly a witness statement.
Fair point.

On a straight reading of the text, my claim is only valid for some part of the Acts.

However, note that the fact that Bendel was a competent observer is shown in the next point of the list (thus, it was redundant), which Jansson has conveniently ignored. Just as he has ignored the other, more heavy arguments. A typical "Jansson", so to say. You pick what you consider easy targets (including the irrelevant misreading above!), but ignore most significant arguments. And then wonder why I'm forced to conclude that your "critique is either of minor significance for my argument, irrelevant or utterly unfounded".


  1. You concede far too much. Jansson is as historically and logically dim as deniers get, most of his schpeel is based on dramatically unrealistic expectations of eyewitnesses and strawmen regarding "rumors".

    I often wonder if he really believes what he posts.

  2. Jansson: "Bendel claimed that on September 27, 1944, 200 sonderkommando members were taken to the Auschwitz Stammlager and gassed there. Where does Hans believe this gassing took place?"

    Hans Sortie: According to Czech's Kalendarium, it took place on 23 September 1944 in Kanada 1 near the Auschwitz main camp. I cannot competently comment on this, since I haven't seen all relevant sources (e.g. the testimony of Horst Fischer).

    It's very interesting that Bendel knew about that alleged gassing in the Canada I delousing building, considering that the Soviet commission took all those pictures/film footage of the structure a few months earlier in a "completely put up job"(Pressac's description - A:T&O:46).

    Even good ol' boys Dragon and Tauber feature in the photos:

    Aside from Fischer's confession for his GDR trial [!!!], who were the other witnesses who testified to this gassing in Canada I? Was it mentioned in any of "the testimonies of 200 witnesses" the Soviet commission claimed to have collected in USSR-008; which you claim to have access to [via S. Romanov]?

  3. The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...:

    "It's very interesting that Bendel knew about that alleged gassing in the Canada I delousing building, considering that the Soviet commission took all those pictures/film footage of the structure a few months earlier in a "completely put up job"(Pressac's description - A:T&O:46)."

    Why is it "very interesting"? Please elaborate, it's hard to read the Rabbits mind.

    The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...:
    "Aside from Fischer's confession for his GDR trial [!!!], who were the other witnesses who testified to this gassing in Canada I? Was it mentioned in any of "the testimonies of 200 witnesses" the Soviet commission claimed to have collected in USSR-008; which you claim to have access to [via S. Romanov]?"

    It was mentioned by witnesses questioned by the Soviets:

    "Jozef Bialostocki testified on 25 February 1945 that 200 members of the Sonderkommando were gassed in the Auschwitz main camp in July 1944 (State Archive of the Russian Federation, f. 7021, op. 108, d. 6, l. 142, courtesy of Sergey Romanov). Santiu (?) Colette testified on 6 March 1945 that 200 - 220 Sonderkommando prisoners were gassed in the main camp in August or September 1944 (State Archive of the Russian Federation, f. 7021, op. 108, d. 10, l. 91, courtesy of Sergey Romanov)."

    Jozef Bialostocki:

    "In January 1944 I was again sent to work at construction and after completion of the construction works I worked in a gas chamber at the Auschwitz camp from June 1944 to January 18, 1945, i.e. up to the retreat of German troops, as a result of which healthy inmates were evacuated too. While working in the gas chamber for disinfection of clothing of inmates who had been killed and burned, I had learned that SS men also destroyed those of inmates who had been serving crematoria - the so-called "Sonderkommando". In order to leave Sonderkommando clueless that they were led to extermination, this group was gassed not in Birkenau gas chambers, but in the gas chamber in which I worked in Auschwitz. Circa July 1944, at night, about 200 of the Sonderkommando men were led into the gas chamber and suffocated there. Only SS men were involved in suffocation, without inmates, the service personnel. When I arrived at work in the morning, in the gas chamber there were traces of blood on the floor, as well as traces of blood on the towels with which the SS wiped their hands." (Sergey Romanov's translation)

    Santiu (?) Colette:

    "I know that around August or September 1944 200-220 Sonderkommando people were brought from Birkenau to Auschwitz and were gassed. I have not seen the process of gassing, but the next day when I arrived at work, I've seen traces on the floor where corpses had been dragged and also saw some blood-stained clothes." (Sergey Romanov's translation)

  4. The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...:
    "Aside from Fischer's confession for his GDR trial [!!!]"

    Actually, I've misread the Kalendarium ("Auszüge aus dem Protokoll des Prozesses gegen den KZ-Arzt [Horst] Fischer..."), this only suggests that somebody, but not necessarily Fischer himself, testified on the matter.

  5. Jeff said...

    "You concede far too much. Jansson is as historically and logically dim as deniers get, most of his schpeel is based on dramatically unrealistic expectations of eyewitnesses and strawmen regarding "rumors".

    I often wonder if he really believes what he posts."

    Jeff, I think Jansson is one of the most talented Holocaust deniers. Of course, you don't need to be a genuis to shine next to Hannover, Berg, Werd, Gerdes etc, but I see a qualitative difference.

    Yes, he completely failed on the main point re: Bendel. But he tried something at least, which is more you get from most Holocaust deniers. He could not succeed on this issue and one may blame him that he did not recognize this. But if you take the flaws of human mind and bias, then even somewhat talented people may fail.

  6. The thing with Jansson is that he has ridiculous expectations of eyewitnesses. As if someone in a very traumatic set of circumstances can have a chronological recall of everything and an exact command of every detail. I can't chronologically recall last night for fuck's sake!

    He nitpicks teensy little details and pumps out strawmen like an open sewer pipe. He digs hard and know the basic layout more than your average CODOH brownshirt, but that's not saying much. He generally does not impress me.


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