Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles Gray

Table of Contents

The use of the gas vans to kill healthy Jews

6.70 As Irving also accepted, the gas vans and associated personnel were then moved to the East and placed at the disposal of Globocnik, the SS officer in charge of police in Lublin, where they arrived in late 1941 and early 1942. In September 1941 there is evidence that experimental gassing of Soviet POWs and others took place in Auschwitz. On 25 October 1941 Himmler met Globocnik at Mogilev, where an extermination camp was planned. On the same day Wetzel of the Ostministerium in Berlin met, firstly, Brack, a senior official of the Reich Chancellery who had been involved in the euthanasia programme, and later Eichmann. Wetzel drafted a letter to Rosenberg (Reichsminister for the Occupied Eastern Territories) and Lohse (Reichskomissar for the Ostland) that Brack was prepared to help set up gassing apparatuses in Riga and that there were no objections if Jews who were not fit for work were "removed" by these apparatuses. On the same evening Hitler met Himmler and Heydrich.
6.71 The experimental use of the gas vans continued. In November 1941 30 prisoners were killed by exhaust fumes from a van at Sachsenhausen. There was debate in the course of the evidence about the number of vans employed and their killing capacity. Longerich maintained that a minimum of six vans were used. Irving suggested only three were ever built. The Defendants adduced in evidence a report from a sergeant in the motor pool dated 5 June 1942, which records that 97,000 had been killed by means of the use of three vans over the preceding six months. Irving made a number of observations about the document designed, as he put it, to plant suspicion about it. For instance he queried how 97,000 could have been killed over that period, when according to court records only 700 were killed in gas vans in an action "lasting several days" at the end of November 1991. The figure of 97,000 struck Browning as perfectly feasible. He testified that the carrying capacity of the vans ranged from 30 to 80 people and that the arithmetic indicates that the three vans would have been capable of putting 97,000 to death in a period of 172 days. As to the 700 killed over several days at the end of November 1941, Longerich explained that after a period of experimentation, the Nazis improved their technique. In the end Irving accepted the authenticity of the sergeant's report.
6.72 Whilst Irving does not dispute that homicidal use was made of gas by the Nazis during the euthanasia programme and that thereafter the vans were put to use in the East to kill Jews in increasing numbers, he does quarrel   with the Defendants' estimates as to the numbers killed. What is more important, Irving disputes the claim advanced by the Defendants that Hitler was kept informed of the killing of Jews by gas and approved it. I shall therefore summarise the parties' respective arguments on these contentious issues.

accessed 11 March 2013