Monday, March 04, 2019

Mattogno, his Einsatzgruppen book and the Gas Vans. Part VII: Semantics

 Mattogno, his Einsatzgruppen book and the Gas Vans

If we search through the books published before the Second World War, the word Gaswagen has been used with three meanings: a) short for Holzgaswagen (producer gas vehicle), short for Gastransportwagen (vehicle for transporting gas), c) any vehicle with an internal combustion engine (for sources see Mattogno and the Activity & Situation Report of Einsatzgruppe B on its Gas Vans). 

Between 1941 and 1944, the Nazis deployed homicidal gas vans with engine exhaust. The vehicles consisted of a closed cargo box mounted on a light to medium truck chassis and can be described as Kastenwagen (box wagon/van). Vergasungen (gassings) were carried out inside the closed box, so the vehicle would be something like a Vergasungskastenwagen. The bulky term can be shortened to Gaswagen (as in Gaskammer/gas-chamber, the prefix Vergasung- can be simplified to Gas-). It is semantically plausible that the Nazis would have called their homicidal gas vans as Gaswagen.

Such was the case in the Activity and Situation Report of Einsatzgruppe B of 1 March 1942, which mentions four Gaswagen in the motor pool of Einsatzgruppe B. Their homicidal nature is independently corroborated by gas van drivers of Einsatzgruppe B. It can be discarded that these were producer gas vehicles (see again Mattogno and the Activity & Situation Report of Einsatzgruppe B on its Gas Vans for details, which will be further elaborated later on in this series).

In December 1943, the captured collaborator Mikhail Petrovich Bulanov, who had worked for the Security Police and Service in Charkov, explained at his trial that "[t]he Germans called those vans Gasenwagen[sic]" (The People's Verdict: a full Report of the Proceedings at the Krasnodar and Kharkov German Atrocity Trials, p.85).

In a report of February 1944 by an SD deflector for the Swiss Intelligence, the vehicles are described as "Nebe'sche Gaswagen" (according to Arthur Nebe, former head of Einsatzgruppe B and chief of the Criminal Technical Institute assisting in the development of the gas vans).

Its contemporary use is confirmed by the testimonies of the members of the German paramilitary forces, e.g.

Gustav Laabs, gas-van driver of Sonderkommando Chelmno:
"Upon questioning, I explain that about 50 people were gassed in the Gaswagen - this was later on the commonly used designation - driven by me."
(interrogation of 29 November 1960, BArch B 162/3246, p. 49)

Otto Kl., Pol. Btl. Res. 3, Einsatzgruppe C:
"The people were pushed into the vehicle. The doors were closed and the vehicle drove away...It was said that this is a Gaswagen. Under [the term] Gaswagen, I have understood that the exhaust gases are directed into the inside of the vehicle to gas people."
(examination of 4 March 1969, BArch B 162/17921, p. 562)

Franz Ei., Einsatzkommando 6:
"In Spring 1942, I was ordered to transfer a Gaswagen to Russia. When I saw the vehicle, I thought it was a moving van. In Cracow, they said, "there is another Gaswagen". Because of this remark, I looked closer at the vehicle and then knew what it was about. "
(interrogation of 25 October 1965, BArch B 162/1580, p. 14)

From the explicit term Gaswagen, the Nazis also derived a camouflaging variant: G-Wagen. A radio message from Walther Bierkamp to Ernst Kaltenbrunner of 18 February 1943 described that "a G-Wagen was blown up and burned on march" (see German Document on Gas Van Blown up by Einsatzgruppe D). Its use is likewise confirmed by testimonies, e.g.

Wilhelm Ka., Security Police in Minsk:
"During my stay in Minsk I became aware that Gaswagen - so-called G-Wagen - existed and were also used."
(interrogation of 3 February 1970, BArch B162 / 3460, p. 48)

The local Soviet population did instead refer to them as "death vans" according to a contemporary report of the gas van inspector August Becker. The English translation of the 1943 verdicts of the Krasnodar and Kharkov trials called them "murder vans" (p. 8, 122). A Russian term to describe the gas-vans was душегубка/dushegubka, literally meaning soul-destroyer  (Report of M. Belkin, head of SMERSH Northern Caucasian Front, of 6 July 1943). It became more widely known from the Pravda articles of special reporter Elena Kononenko on the Krasnodar trial:
'The soul-destroyer' was not simply the delirious petty tyranny of Christmann. 'The soul-destroyer' was a method for the planned extermination of Soviet people, thought up by Hitler and his band.
(Elena Kononenko, ‘Zonderbanda’, Pravda, 17 July 1943, quoted from Jeremy Hicks, 'Soul Destroyers': Soviet Reporting of Nazi Genocide and its Perpetrators at the Krasnodar and Khar′kov Trials, p. 535; Hicks explains that dushegubka "might literally be translated as the 'soul [or life] destroyer', but also has evocative associations of suffocation through the cognate verb 'dushit'")

Soul-destroyer was a common designation for the gas vans by Soviet investigators. It was often put into Soviet interrogation protocols even in responses made by perpetrators, e.g. in that of Hans K.  ("...the killing of people with a gassing-van, the so-called soul-destroyer"; interrogation of 25 December 1945, BArch B 162/2268, p. 1483), Anton D. ("...were killed with a soul-destroyer."; interrogation of 6 August 1945, BArch B 162/2268, p. 1515), Iwan P. ("The soul-destroyer drove with the back to the pit excavated by us"; interrogation of 31 May 1945, BArch B 162/2268, p. 1543), Emil S. ("...the killing was to take place with the soul-destroyers"; interrogation of 29 May 1945, BArch B 162/2268, p. 1504), all former members of Sonderkommando 7b.

So much on the facts. Now let's turn to something different, the fantasies of Carlo Mattogno, who claims that "the word 'Gaswagen,' in the sense of 'mobile homicidal gas chamber' was coined only after the Second World War by the victorious powers" (Mattogno, Inside the Gas Chambers, p.113, along the same line in his Chelmno book on p.16 "...which began to circulate as a designation for homicidal vehicles using exhaust gases only after the war" and in his Einsatzgruppen book on p.324 "this change in meaning, in which an already-existing word acquired the sense of 'mobile homicidal gas chamber,' was coined only after the end of the Second World War." ).

I have already debunked the claim in September 2016 in Mattogno and the Activity & Situation Report of Einsatzgruppe B on its Gas Vans and provided some more information above.

As we have seen, Mattogno is wrong that Gaswagen in a homicidal sense "was coined only after the Second World War by the victorious powers". The term appears in a report of Einsatzgruppe B of March 1942 clearly in the context of homicidal gas vans, and its abbreviation G-Wagen found its way into a radio message of Einsatzgruppe D in February 1943. The variant of Russian native speakers Gasenwagen was passed on by a member of KdS Charkow to Soviet investigators in December 1943. The book The People's Verdict. A Full report of the proceedings at the Krasnodar and Kharkov German Atrocity Trials, which contains the examination of Bulanov on Gasenwagen is even cited in Mattogno's Chelmno book on the very same page he makes his false claim. In February 1944, an SD deflector reported on the Gaswagen as the invention of Arthur Nebe. All of this is further confirmed by numerous post-war testimonies of German perpetrators and bystanders (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Mattogno's unfounded claim and contrary evidence.

Nothing in Mattogno's confidence, with which he advanced the claim, can distract from the fact that he cites no evidence that would even remotely justify his conclusion (just as with his epic fail that "the designation 'Sonderkommando 1005' was invented by the Soviets"). He merely throws in that "it is known that the Soviets called the presumed gas vans 'dushegubki' and even Jeckeln, as late as December 1945, spoke of 'Gasautomaschinen'".

The first point actually challenges his own conviction. The Soviets coined the homicidal gas vans as dushegubki, soul-destroyers, murder vans, death vans. Now, if there had been no Nazi homicidal gas vans termed Gaswagen, it is hardly explicable why such a less bloody and morally loaded designation could win through over the Soviets' terms or that in the letter in PS-501 obtained by US investigators (who made sure that the former head of the RSHA group with the motor pool department, Walther Rauff, spoke of "death vans", too). The fact that Gaswagen was becoming the prevailing term with an increasing number of perpetrators interrogated, makes sense if this was the way how the vehicles were called during the war among the Nazi paramilitary forces. Franz H. of the KdS Minsk did not mind about the Soviet language rules at his trial in Minsk and called gas vans how he knew them - Gaswagen (examination of 16 December 1945, BArch B 162/8425, unpaginated).

On the second point that the Higher SS and Police Leader Friedrich Jeckeln spoke of "Gasautomaschinen" in his Soviet interrogations, I wonder where Mattogno's alleged talent in "text analysis" is when one really needs it?

One can clearly see that the German interrogation protocols of Jeckeln cannot be his verbatim statement; they were processed through Soviet language filters and apparently back-translated from Russian. Jeckeln would have hardly spoke of Sowjetbürger (Soviet citizens), Sowjetpatrioten (Soviet patriots), okkupiert (ocuppied), Konzentrationslagerchefs (concentration camp chiefs), Agentur (literally agency, probably means agents), Generalleutnant des Ingenieurdienstes der SS (instead of Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS and Leiter Chef Amt C (Bauwesen)) or that the Red Army has "cleaned" the Baltic states of German troops. Likewise, "Gasautomaschinen" seems like a loan translation of what was made of something like Gaswagen. Jeckeln was given the chance to correct the German protocol, but he did not bother about the "Gasautomaschinen", which was apparently close enough for him to Gaswagen and which did not concern himself anyway in his opinion (Uhl et al., Verhört! Die Befragungen Deutscher Generale und Offiziere Durch Die Sowjetischen Geheimdienste 1945-1952, p. 356-365).

By the way, Mattogno shoots himself right in the foot with using the term "mobile homicidal gas chamber", since it refutes his own assertion on p. 328 of his Einsatzgruppen book on the von Thadden gas chamber memo that "the term 'Gaskammer' can only refer to a stationary 'gas chamber'" (Figure 2). Indeed, the word Gaskammer can also refer to a gas chamber mounted on a vehicle chassis. 

Figure 2: Mattogno refutes his own argument


  1. As if anybody is going to read- or even be able to read this blog for a start.

    The articles are so absurd, that even if they did so, your just going to create more deniers (if that is not in fact your purpose).

    After getting knocked out over Trablinka- it's unbelievable that you'd now set yourself up for a whopping big KO now over the Einsatzgruppen.

    Unless of course you're on the codoh payroll??

    Idiotic display- leave the defense of the holocaust to official scholars, not exiled middle aged children like HC.

  2. Elroy,

    your comment makes as much sense as your belief in Holocaust denial.

    If you were really thinking we would "just going to create more deniers", you would not try to discredit us. When a Holocaust denier comments on a blog only distracting from the matter at hand and attacking persons, it is a safe sign that he is seriously worried about its negative impact on "Revisionism".

    Holocaust Controversies has already turned around active Holocaust deniers (not talking about the hidden figure among more passive deniers), so we are definitely doing something right. It is a fact that denial has a huge problem to recruit new people with some talent - and this is surely partly so because potential candidates have to realize denial is a fraud when checking out anti-Revisionist sites like this blog.


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