Irving v. Lipstadt


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

Table of Contents
The Defendants' arguments... >>

Description of the camp and overview of the principal issue

7.1 Auschwitz is a small town in the region of Upper Silesia in Poland, which was annexed by the Third Reich when Poland fell in 1940. Hitler entrusted Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler with the task of "Germanising" the annexed territories. His original plan to repopulate with Germans places such as Auschwitz, deporting Poles and Jews to the eastern sector of the General Government to make way for the Germans, proved not to be feasible. So the decision was taken to set up a concentration camp in a suburb of the town.
7.2 The Auschwitz camp area was located in a fork between the River Vistula in the west and the River Sola in the east. Part of the camp area also extended across the River Sola on its eastern bank. Surrounding the camp was an agricultural area which was originally designated to be worked by ethnic German farmers. Within the fork between the two rivers was a zone which extended to some fifteen square miles. All civilians had been deported from this area which was now controlled by the SS. This zone and its surrounding area served many purposes and forms of activity, including an experimental farm, a forced labour pool for the chemical company plant which IG Farben was planning to construct nearby at Monowitz and other industrial concerns. The town of Auschwitz was outside the concentration camp area. It is located on the eastern side of the River Sola. To the east of the town was the IG Farben Buna Factory beside which was the labour camp. The whole area and system of camps is collectively referred to as 'Auschwitz'.
7.3 Within the overall camp was a smaller security area which was surrounded by guard posts. This area contained the two main camps that formed part of Auschwitz. To the eastern side of the River Vistula there was Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II). This was the principal camp where most of the extermination occurred. Approximately two kilometres to the east of Birkenau, separated from it by a railway corridor, was the smaller   camp known variously as Auschwitz, Auschwitz I or the Stammlager. The headquarters of the camp were situated here. Located at a point along the railway line between Auschwitz and Birkenau was the ramp at which trains transporting Jews would halted. Later a spur was built, linking Birkenau to the railway and providing a further terminus.
7.4 Auschwitz fell within the jurisdiction of Himmler, who was in overall charge of the establishment and running of concentration camps. Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police and the SD and Head of the RSHA, reported directly to Himmler. Eichmann, who worked within the RSHA, also reported to Himmler, was entrusted in 1941 with responsibility for the carrying out and co-ordinating of the Final Solution. SS Obergruppenfuhrer Oswald Pohl was Head of the Economic and Administrative Office of the SS which had executive responsibility for the running of the labour camps. SS Hauptsturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoss was installed as Camp Commandant of Auschwitz in May 1941 and continued in a leading capacity throughout the period when, on the Defendants' case most of the gassings took place (with the exception of a period in 1943-4 when he was posted to Berlin to work in the Concentration Camp Inspectorate). The camp was manned by the SS. But the assistance of Jewish inmates was enlisted to perform some of the more grisly tasks in the crematoria. They were called Sonderkommando. About 200 worked in each cremaorium. They were housed either in the crematoria where they worked or in special barracks. At periodic intervals, many of the Sonderkommando were themselves gassed and replaced by other inmates.
7.5 It is common ground that from the autumn of 1941 large numbers of Jews were deported to Auschwitz from Germany and from the eleven other countries which had been occupied or formed part of Nazi controlled Europe. The overall question which I have to decide is whether the available evidence, considered in its totality, would convince any objective and reasonable historian that Auschwitz was not merely one of the many concentration or labour camps established by the Nazi regime but that it also served as a death or extermination camp, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were systematically put to death in gas chambers over the period from late 1941 until 1944.
The Defendants' arguments... >>