Irving v. Lipstadt


Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 9: Electronic Edition

Pages 66 - 70 of 194

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 1 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     I must mention that, for example, in 1943 and 1944 a
 2number of Jews transports arrived from Theresienstadt
 3where none of these people were selected, with children
 4and old people were housed in what is called a
 5Theresienstadt lager in Auschwitz, so Jews' children at
 6that time were admitted to Auschwitz, and also old
 7people. That was part of a camouflage action by the SS
 8because they feared, or they expected, a Red Cross
 9inspection of Theresienstadt and wanted to be able to
10account for the people who had been sent to Auschwitz.
11 MR IRVING:     What is your documentary basis for making that
13 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     The documentary basis?
14 Q. [Mr Irving]     For making the statement that this transport arrived from
15Theresienstadt, that it was properly housed in Auschwitz
16and the Theresienstadt camp, and that the reason for that
17was to prepare camouflage against the Red Cross
19 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     I have to rely here on the historians of Auschwitz. I
20have not studied the history of the Theresienstadt Jews
21myself. I rely here on people like Atler, who has written
22the definitive history of the Theresienstadt ghetto.
23I have not done any specific research into the history of
24Theresienstadt lager.
25 Q. [Mr Irving]     While we are talking about the histories of Auschwitz, do
26you agree that there is a high degree of politicization of

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 1the writing of history about camps like Auschwitz. If
 2I can put it like that?
 3 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     To be very honest, I have always been surprised how little
 4politicization there has been. In general, I must say
 5that, with the exception of the number of victims, I find
 6Jan Sehn's history still remarkably useful. You know Jan
 7Sehn wrote his history in 1945/46. I have been very
 8impressed in general by the professionalism of the
 9historians at Auschwitz, and in general I must say that
10for the people who have looked seriously at this camp I do
11not have too many complaints. Now, it is of course true
12that new source material has become available and new
13historical questions have been asked. I think one of the
14reasons that you were so interested in my book was because
15I introduced a lot of new kind of evidence about the
16history of the camp. But in general I must say that
17I think that most people have acted very responsibly, and
18with very few kinds of political prejudices in relation to
19the history of Auschwitz.
20 Q. [Mr Irving]     The site of Auschwitz has not really changed very much
21since the end of World War II, apart from the barracks
22being torn down and recycled. Can you explain to the
23court, please, why it is that in the very earliest
24references to Auschwitz, published by the Russians after
25the capture of the camp in January 1945, there is no
26reference whatsoever to the discovery of gas chambers, but

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 1any number of references to other atrocities being
 2committed there?
 3 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     I would like to comment on the document, but I would like
 4it see it in front of me.
 5 Q. [Mr Irving]     Very well.
 6 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     I think that, if we are going to interpret in this case an
 7historical source, we should go carefully and slowly.
 8 MR JUSTICE GRAY:     I think that is fair.
 9 MR IRVING:     That is quite fair, my Lord, and tomorrow, with
10your Lordship's permission, I will bring the translation
11of the appropriate account. Can you explain also why the
12New York Times, in its account published in April 1945,
13referred to 5 million people having been exterminated in
14the camp? This is at the other end of the extreme.
15 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     I would like to see it before I comment.
16 Q. [Mr Irving]     Very well.
17 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     I can do that now if you give it to me or I can do it
19 Q. [Mr Irving]     I have another New York Times item here. New York Times,
20November 25th 1947, I will be happy to show it to you.
21I will read it out. It is a very brief paragraph: "44
22Nazi officials of the notorious Auschwitz extermination
23camp accused of responsibility for the killing of 300,000
24prisoners from a dozen European countries went on trial
25today before the Supreme National Tribunal."
26     Can you explain the figure of 300,000 in 1947,

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 1with the Auschwitz officials being put on trial in Krakow
 2in Poland by the Polish authorities?
 3 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     My Lord, this is a number which also has come up in a
 4newsreel of the trial which was shown in German cinemas.
 5The 300,000 quite literally is, as it is mentioned here,
 6prisoners from a dozen European countries. It was a
 7number which, until the late 1980s, was also in the
 8Auschwitz museum. It only referred to the actual people
 9who had been imprisoned in the camp.
10 MR JUSTICE GRAY:     And registered?
11 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     And registered. It did not refer to the people who had
12not been registered.
13 MR IRVING:     Well,, Professor, would you not agree that the
14court is entitled to find that a rather extraordinary
15explanation? On the one hand, we are told that 4 million
16people had been killed in Auschwitz, and yet these people
17were being put on trial for the murder of 300,000. There
18is no mention of the other 4 million in round figures.
19 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     The facts are the facts, Mr Irving. I have studied this
20issue of the 300,000 where this number came from. It was
21a number that refers to registered prisoners. I do not
22know why the Polish court decided at the certain moment to
23make that issue the issue on which they were going to
24prosecute the people who were accused in Auschwitz.
25 Q. [Mr Irving]     Without any reference to the larger figure which was being
26set aside. I can appreciate that, in the case of a

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 1murderer who has been accused of murdering 20 people, a
 2court may decide to prosecute just on one murder, but at
 3least they would mention the fact that 19 other cases were
 4taken into consideration.
 5 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     Yes, but, my Lord, I have made a very careful study of the
 6trial of the architects of Auschwitz. Maybe I can answer
 7by just telling you in short that, during the trial of the
 8architect Dejaco in Vienna in 1972, the prosecution
 9ultimately tried to have him condemned for murder of one
10inmate on a building site. Now maybe you can explain to
11us or to someone else why this would be a proper way to
12proceed, but they ultimately did not want to take him, to
13actually challenge his statement that he had nothing do
14with the blue prints, that they had been made in Vienna.
15They just executed him, but an incredible amount of
16testimony was heard on this particular incident in which
17he would have drowned in a large bucket of water, this
18particular inmate who was not pulling his weight on the
19building site.
20 Q. [Mr Irving]     Can I interrupt you at this point and say that it is true
21that both Defendants were acquitted, were they not?
22 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt]     Ertl was not officially acquitted, but his status remained
23kind of unclear.
24 Q. [Mr Irving]     I am not an expert on Austrian law, but certainly under
25English they law they could have then reprosecuted him on
26any one of the other murders. They could have had him

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