Irving v. Lipstadt
David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. EvansTable of Contents
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(b) Use of gas chambers
1. Denial of the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and elsewhere is a central element in denial of the Holocaust. Irving, as Plaintiff in the case, has responded to the defence's plea to the court in the following terms: 'It is denied that the Plaintiff has denied the Holocaust; it is denied that the Plaintiff has denied that gas chambers were used by the Nazis as the principal means of carrying out that extermination; they may have used them on occasion on an experimental scale, which fact he does not deny.'47 This sentence is self-contradictory - is he saying that he accepts that the gas chambers were the principal means of killing, or that their use was only possible ('may have used') and if it did occur, is he merely saying that it was only experimental in scale?
2. It is also contradicted by another line of defence he takes against the accusation of being a Holocaust denier, namely to deny that there is any authentic wartime archival evidence for the existence of gassing facilities at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka; a cautious statement stopping short of an outright denial but clearly designed to imply that those gassing facilities therefore did not exist.48 Here it is necessary to point out that the term 'archival' is redundant: if there is authentic wartime evidence, it does not matter whether it is stored in an archive, a library, a private house or anywhere else: its authenticity is not affected by any of this. Moreover, if Irving is implying here that he will not accept any evidence about the Second World War unless it was written at the time, then how does he justify his own very extensive use of the postwar testimony of members of Hitler's entourage given in interviews with them conducted by himself? Here again, he is applying double standards in his approach to different types of evidence. The fact is, as this Report has already pointed out at some length, that historians have to take all kinds of evidence into account, and apply the same standards of criticism to all of them. Even if Irving is correct in implying that there is no authentic wartime evidence of gassing facilities at the camps he mentions (and as expert witness reports by Professor Van Pelt and Professor Browning will demonstrate, he is not), this does not mean that there is no authentic evidence of any kind to prove that they existed.
3. Nevertheless, Irving clearly means to imply that they did not. In his testimony to the Zündel trial in 1988, indeed, Irving explicitly rejected the use of the term 'extermination camps' apart from Chelmno, which 'was operating on a very small scale', and by shooting, not gassing.49 This minor concession is characteristic of his technique in admitting small-scale, limited instances of what he devotes much of his attention to denying on the large scale, as a kind of alibi that enables him to deny that he is really doing the latter at all. Admitting the existence of experimental gassing facilities and mass shootings ('on a very small scale') at Chelmno does not, however, constitute an admission that the Holocaust happened as it is conventionally defined by those who have carried out bona fide research into it.
4. In 1992, he put forward the same kind of argument in describing the memoirs of Adolf Eichmann, Irving said:
He also describes - and I have to say this being an honest historian - going to another location a few weeks later and being driven around in a bus; then being told by the bus driver to look through a peephole into the back of the bus where he saw a number of prisoners being gassed by the exhaust fumes. So I accept that this kind of experiment was made on a very limited scale, but that it was rapidly abandoned as being a totally inefficient way of killing people. But, I don't accept that the gas chambers existed, and this is well known. I've seen no evidence at all that gas chambers existed.50
5. In pursuit of the latter argument, Irving endorsed the so-called Leuchter Report, which sought to prove that there were no gassings at Auschwitz, and published the Report under his Focal Point imprint on 23 June, 1989.
6. Following the Leuchter Report, Irving alleges both that there has been a 'refusal of the authorities to call for site examinations, forensic tests and other investigations' at Auschwitz, and that 'forensic tests were carried out by Polish authorities on the Auschwitz site', but that the results ('of which the Plaintiff has a copy') were 'suppressed' because they confirmed Leuchter's findings.51 He alleges that 'equal tonnages of Zyklon-B pesticide granules were delivered to Auschwitz and Oranienburg camps, at which latter camp nobody has ever suggested that gas chambers existed, and to camps in Norway.' Recently discovered documents in former Soviet archives show that Auschwitz prisoners, he says, were released to the outside world on completion of their sentence. This is 'incompatible with the character of a top-secret mass extermination centre'. The official history of British Intelligence in the Second World War, edited by F. H. Hinsley, claims that illness was the main cause of death in Auschwitz, and not gassing.52 Moreover, he denies 'that diesel engines can be used for killing operations. These engines exhaust non-lethal carbon dioxide (CO2), and only minute quantities of toxic carbon monoxide (CO). These howlers', he says, 'typify the flawed historical research into "the Holocaust" even now, fifty years after the tragedy.'53 In his videotaped speech The Search for Truth in History, made in 1993, Irving asked: 'How can you gas millions of people with hydrogen cyanide gas and leave not the slightest significant trace of chemical residue in the walls of the gas chambers?' Irving went on to claim that Dr. Franciszek Piper of the Auschwitz State Museum had had the tests secretly replicated and when the State Forensic Laboratory in Cracow had confirmed Leuchter's findings the museum suppressed the fact and filed the report away.54 The engines used in the gas-vans at Chelmno and elsewhere were not diesel but petrol engines. The official history of British Intelligence in the Second World War by F. H. Hinsley does not, as this Report has already noted, suggest that nobody was gassed at Auschwitz.
7. These allegations are the subject of a separate expert witness report by Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt. Here it may be noted briefly that Irving's arguments are specious and derivative, and correspond to those put forward by well-known Holocaust deniers. The Leuchter Report is an incompetent and thoroughly unscientific document compiled by an unqualified person; it was completely discredited at the second Zündel trial in 1988. The Polish authorities have not suppressed findings of their own investigations of the former gas chambers, and these findings do not confirm Leuchter's claims. Prisoners sent to Auschwitz for extermination were not even enrolled on the camp's list of inmates, but were sent straight away to the gas chamber; there was no record of their release.55
8. These arguments are not for the most part based on original research by Irving, but are derived from previous work by well-known Holocaust deniers such as Robert Faurisson.56 Irving himself is on record as ascribing his 'conversion' to the belief that there were no gas chambers to his reading of the Leuchter Report during the Zündel trial.57 The fact that the Leuchter Report has been widely discredited since its appearance in 198958 has not prevented Irving from continuing to assert that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz or elsewhere, and there was no mass murder of Jews by gassing during the Second World War.
9. In his book on the Nuremberg trials, published in 1996, Irving notes (p. 131) that evidence was presented at Nuremberg that there were lethal gas chambers at Dachau. 'The German government has certified that no lethal gas chamber was ever operated at Dachau'. But of course the Nuremberg evidence and the German government statement say two different things. Not even Irving claims that the evidence presented to Nuremberg said that the gas chamber at Dachau ever actually came into use. Irving's technique here is to present (sometimes real, sometimes invented) minor mistakes and propaganda legends at Nuremberg while ignoring the overwhelming mass of evidence on major matters of fact, using the former to discredit the latter.
10. The situation in Dachau has no bearing on the situation in Auschwitz; it is important here, as always, to bear in mind the crucial distinction between concentration camps, designed from 1933 onwards to imprison, abuse and humiliate Nazism's real and imagined opponents in Germany, and extermination camps set up only during the war and outside the German borders of 1937 with the express purpose of killing large numbers of Jews and other categories of undesired or unwanted people not just from Germany but from other countries as well. Towards the end of the war, to be sure, the distinctions between the two began to become less important and less clear-cut, but they remained none the less.59
11. Once more, the plates in Irving's recent books give a clear expression of his views. Thus an illustration on pp. 182-3 of Nuremberg: The Last Battle, carries the following caption: 'Pest control in the Auschwitz slave labour camp. Tons of Zyklon B pellets, containing poisonous hydrogen cyanide, are shipped by the Degesch factory to the Pest Control division of Auschwitz and other camps including Oranienburg in 1944.' The delivery note pictured opposite the caption, however, only concerned Auschwitz. It is addressed to Kurt Gerstein.60 It makes no mention at all of pest control. Here again, Irving's intention to deny that gassings took place at Auschwitz could not be clearer.
12. In June 1989, he told a radio interviewer that 'the buildings identified hitherto as gas chambers in Auschwitz and Treblinka, were not. This is a myth, and it is time the myths were dispelled.'61 'There were no gas chambers in Auschwitz', he said on 5 March 1990. In his view, only '30,000 people at the most were murdered in Auschwitz...that's about as many as we Englishmen killed in a single night in Hamburg.'62 In 1995 he repeated this view: 'we revisionists', he declared, 'say that gas chambers didn't exist, and that the "factories of death" didn't exist.'63 In his persistent and undeviating denial, since 1988, that gassing was used at Auschwitz and other camps in the German-occupied east for murdering large numbers of Jews, Irving stands squarely in the camp of the Holocaust deniers. 'I'm a gas chamber denier', he told a television interviewer in 1998, 'I'm a denier that they killed hundreds of thousands of people in gas chambers, yes'.64
13. Irving has repeatedly denied that there were any functioning gas chambers and that any Jews or other victims of Nazism were killed in them, with the sole exception of a small number who he concedes were gassed during experiments. In 1989, for instance, he confessed himself 'quite happy to nail my colours to the mast on that, and say that to the best of my knowledge, there is not one shower bath in any of the concentration or slave labour camps that turns out to have been some kind of gas chamber.'65
14. On 5 March 1990 he declared roundly to an audience in Germany once more that there were no gas chambers at all in Auschwitz during the war:
There were no gas chambers in Auschwitz, there were only dummies which were built by the Poles in the postwar years, just as the Americans built the dummies in Dachau...these things in Auschwitz, and probably also in Majdanek, Treblinka, and in other so-called extermination camps in the East are all just dummies.
15. Repeating this claim later in the same speech, Irving added that 'I and, increasingly, other historians, ...are saying, the Holocaust, the gas chamber establishments in Auschwitz did not exist.'66 On 8 November 1990 he repeated the same claim to an audience in Toronto: 'The gas chambers that are shown to the tourists in Auschwitz are fakes.'67 These statements are clear and unambiguous. They make it plain that Irving's statement to the court of his position on this issue - 'it is denied that the Plaintiff has denied that gas chambers were used by the Nazis as the principal means of carrying out that extermination' - is a falsehood.68
47. Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, p.3.
48. Ibid., pp. 5-6.
49. David Irving's 1988 Testimony at the Trial of Ernst Zündel, pp. 99-100.
50. David Irving on the Eichmann and Goebbels Papers. Speech at Los Angeles, California, October 11, 1992 (11th Conference of the Institute for Historical Review, transcript on Irving's "Focal Point" Website); also on Audiocassette 114 at 420-430.
51. Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, pp. 5, 10.
52. Ibid., pp. 5-6.
53. Ibid., pp. 5-6.
54. Jackson, The Case for David Irving pp. 75-9.
55. Expert witness reports by Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt, Professor christopher Browning, and Dr. Peter Longerich; see also Shelly Shapiro (ed), ,Truth Prevails: Demolishing Holocaust Denial: The End of "The Leuchter Report" (New York, 1990).
56. Robert Faurisson, 'The Problem of the Gas Chambers', The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1980; Robert Faurisson, foreword to The Leuchter Report: The End of a Myth. An Engineering Report on the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek, Poland (American edition, 1988).
57. See Irving's foreword to the British edition of Auschwitz: The End of the Line: The Leuchter Report (London, 1989), and the statements quoted above, in Section II(c) of this Report, recording Irving's change of mind in 1988.
58. Shapiro (ed), Truth Prevails. Under cross-examination at the Zündel trial, Leuchter withdrew some of the arguments he had put forward in his report: See the trial transcript in Her Majesty the Queen versus Ernst ZündeI (District Court of Ontario, 1988), esp. pp. 9,200 ff..
59. Martin Broszat, 'The Concentration Camps 1933-1945', in Helmut Krausnick et al., Anatomy of the SS State (London, 1968), pp. 397-504.
60. Gerstein was an SS officer who reported to the outside world on the crimes being committed in the extermination camps, in a document which constitutes an important piece of evidence for the gassing procedures and which therefore has become one of the most important targets of the attacks of Holocaust deniers: see Vidal-Naquet, Assassins of Memory, p. 115.
61. lnterview with David Irving on Radio Ulster, 23 June 1989.
62. Videotape 186: Irving in Moers, 5 March 1990, at 4 mins. 45 secs.: 'In Auschwitz hat es keine Gaskammern gegeben, 30 000 Menschen in Auschwitz sind höchstens ermordet .... das ist etwa so viel wie wir Engländer in Hambrg in einer einzigen Nacht getötet haben.'
63. David Irving, 'Revelations from Goebbels 's Diary', Journal of Historical Review, Vol. 15 (1995), No. 1, pp 2-17, here p. 15.
64. BBC2: 'Journey to the Far Right' (20 March 1999).
65. Videotape 184: Leuchter Report Press Conference, 23 June 1989, at 57 mins. 30 secs..
66. Videotape 186: Irving in Moers, 5 March 1990, from 31 mins 30 sees. and again at 1 hr. 17 mins. 45 secs.: 'In Auschwitz hat es keine Gaskammern gegeben, es hat nur Attrapen gegeben. Die von den Polen erbaut wurden in den nachkriegsjahren, genau so wie die Attrapen, die die Amerikaner in Dachau gebaut haben daß these Sachen in Auschwitz, und wahrscheinlich auch in Majdanek, Treblinka, und in anderen Vernichtungslagern (sogenannt) im Osten alle nur Attrapen sind .... (Und es gehört etwas dazu, aufzustehen heute, so wie) ich und zunehnicnd andere Historiker auch tun in der ganzen Auflenwelt, und sagen, der Holocaust, die Gaskammeranlagen in Auschwitz, hat es nicht gegeben.'The grammatical and syntactical errors in the speech have not been corrected in the above quo- tation.
67. Videotape 190: Irving at Latvian Hall, Toronto, 8 November 190, at 1 hour, 1 minute, 50 secs..
68. Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, p. 3.
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