Irving v. Lipstadt
Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 9: Electronic Edition
Pages 86 - 90 of 194
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1 Q. [Mr Irving] Was there a bone mill attached to these crematoria?
2 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] No. The sonderkommando, they give in detail accounts of
3how they had to take out the parts of the body that were
4not reduced to ashes, and with either wooden or metal
5implements crushing them into pulp.
6 Q. [Mr Irving] These might very well be the remains that you found in the
7field of ashes?
8 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] The field of ashes is quite far away from the
9crematorium. I think it would have been very unlikely
10that people would have carried those things from the
11crematorium to the field of ashes. One of the problems is
12that there is a barbed wired fence in between the two
13places. There is also a very deep ditch between the
14places, and that would have been very unusual. Also, the
15pits themselves are visible. You see in the landscape
16actually that there is a cavity there.
17 Q. [Mr Irving] So what did they actually do with these remains, the bone
18fragments that came out of the crematoria that had been
19pulverized by the sonderkommandos? There must have been
20very substantial quantities, tonnes and tonnes of them?
21 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] All the ashes -- again there was an exception to this
22general account I am going to give me now, but in general
23the ashes and the crushed bones were combined, and at
24regular intervals with a truck were brought to the Vistula
25River which is very close by. Actually, it is visible on
26the photos and it was dumped in the river.
1 The exception is that at certain times the truck
2broke down, especially in the Hungarian action, that this
3was impossible to do; and then there have been occasions
4in which the ashes were actually dumped in one particular
5pond near crematorium (iv).
6 The other exception, and this is on the basis of
7eyewitness testimony -- again no documents -- is that in
8the winter sometimes the ashes were used to actually throw
9on the iced roads in the camp in order to make them more
10convenient for everyone.
11 Q. [Mr Irving] What is the evidence for that rather lurid story?
12 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] This is the evidence, eyewitness testimony, for example,
13of Mr Bacon who testified in the Eichmann trial in
15 Q. [Mr Irving] He is, presumably, Jewish, therefore?
16 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] Yes.
17 Q. [Mr Irving] I am not suggesting that it makes him in any way
18unreliable, of course, but I am suggesting that possibly
19he may have derived advantage from giving that kind of
20testimony in Jerusalem in the Eichmann trial.
21 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Can I ask a related question which I should
22have gathered the answer to but I do not know?
23Sonderkommando, were they all in inmates who were, as it
24were, put to work?
25 MR IRVING: I was going to come to that, my Lord. I was going
26to ask for identity of ----
1 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Were you? Can I not ask the question now
2just so I know the answer?
3 MR IRVING: Yes.
4 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] The sonderkommando were prisoners, people selected either
5on arrival or maybe sometimes a little later from the
6general prisoner population, who were going to work in the
7crematoria. They were housed either in the crematoria,
8especially from '44 onwards, but originally also in the
9men's camp in a special kind of barrack which was isolated
10from the other barracks with their own courtyard, and
11these inmates, 1944, when four crematoria were in
12operation and a group of 800 inmates, so roughly 200 per
13crematorium, working in two shifts of 12 hours each, so it
14would be 100 people at any crematorium at any time,
15operated the crematoria and were, again on the basis of
16eyewitness testimony, at regular intervals these groups
17were renewed after sometime.
18 Q. [Mr Irving] That is a very complete answer. Would there be anyone who
19could be described as a sonderkommando who was, in fact, a
20Nazi camp official?
21 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] No.
22 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Thank you.
23 MR IRVING: These sonderkommandos were all people who had been
24previously very endangered, of course, they were potential
25victims, and the story is that, as you hinted at the end,
26they were recycled, they were fed into the furnaces with
1their -- have I understood correctly what your innuendo
2was -- at the end of their period of usefulness they were
4 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] Yes, I would just like to ask you, you used the word
5"previously", what you exactly ----
6 Q. [Mr Irving] Were they previously endangered? In other words, were
7they people who might otherwise have been exterminated,
8but they were given the option, "Do this job and you, like
9Scheherizada, you will continue to survive for a while"?
10 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] No. Actually, you know, I thank God every day I was never
11in Auschwitz, but, given the choice, if I was in the man's
12camp and given the opportunity to get the job of
13sonderkommando, I would have tried to get out of it with
14any, whatever possibility because it was a very dangerous
16 Q. [Mr Irving] It was a kind of trustee, what we would call a trustee in
18 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] No, it is not at all, Mr Irving. A sonderkommando was a
19-- I mean, people knew what was happening in the
20crematoria. At a certain moment -- I mean, a recent book
21has been published by a research of the Avwaschen(?). "We
22cried without tears" is the title, which is a quote from
23one of the sonderkommando. This man has systematically
24started to interview surviving sonderkommandos. In all
25these accounts you see that people were appointed
26sonderkommandos without asked if they wanted to do this,
1and that many of them realized it was a sentence of death.
2 Q. [Mr Irving] Because?
3 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] And tried to get out of it.
4 Q. [Mr Irving] Because?
5 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] Because they knew that the reason they were appointed as
6sonderkommandos, or they were selected as sonderkommandos,
7was because the group which had been sonderkommandos
8before had been eliminated.
9 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Yes, but why did they eliminate them?
10Because they were able to bear witness?
11 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] Because they were able to bear witness and, yes, you do
12not want -- and also, I do not know, I do not know what
13happens, you know, we talk about Stockholm syndromes, and
14so on. I do not know at a certain moment what happens
15exactly between the SS and the sonderkommandos in the
16crematoria but probably.
17 MR IRVING: A kind of symbiosis?
18 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] What kind of symbiosis did emerge within at a moment these
19communities which formed themselves in the crematoria.
20 Q. [Mr Irving] So we can be specific about what we are talking about
21here, call a spade a spade, would it be right to say that
22a large number of these sonderkommando members were Jewish
24 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] By definition, they were Jewish.
25 Q. [Mr Irving] By definition, they were all Jewish?
26 A. [Professor Robert Jan van Pelt] Yes.
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