Irving v. Lipstadt
Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 17: Electronic Edition
Pages 176 - 180 of 214
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1 Q. [Mr Irving] Surely, if he had denied it, then he would have been
2subjected to even more intensive interrogations until
3finally he came round. Is that not more likely?
4 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning] These are German interrogations in the 1950s and, from my
5looking through a number of court cases, the notion that
6he would have been subjected to ongoing pressures and
7whatever, I see no evidence of that in the Belzec trial or
8other trials of this sort.
9 Q. [Mr Irving] Gerstein has however been pretty comprehensively
10discredited as an eyewitness, has he not?
11 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning] Gerstein, as I think most would agree, was a very
12traumatized and, they decided, unstable individual, but
13what he witnessed, in terms of having been in Belzec, that
14he knows the names of several of these people, he gets
15them slightly wrong but close enough, whatever, he could
16have come up with those names in his cell in 1945 when the
17Allies had absolutely no knowledge of the names of the
18personnel in these camps. How could he have known that
19there were Galetian transports in August? This was not
20knowledge in 1945. He knows a number of things that could
21not have been known if he had not been there. In that
22case, in those areas, I think one can say that this is a
23witness that is telling what he saw, even if it is in a
24highly excited and exaggerated mode.
25 Q. [Mr Irving] So his visit is plausible but one is entitled to
26disbelieve large parts of what he claims to have seen?
1 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning] If this was the only witness for all of Operation
2Reinhardt, we would say that this is a very contested
3one. What he did say in fact, there is very good
4plausibility in the details of which he tells us about
5some things that he could not have known if he had not
6been there, and in turn it is confirmed by a number of
8 Q. [Mr Irving] Does it not tell us something about the integrity of
9historians who have relied so wholeheartedly on Gerstein
10and have suppressed the details which you omitted from
11your original report. I am not pointing a finger at you,
12Professor, I am just talking about a number of other
13historians. I am not going to mention any names.
14 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Why does it matter for our purposes, what
15other historians may have made of Gerstein? I do not
17 MR IRVING: It does not matter at all.
18 MR JUSTICE GRAY: I do not think it really does if one thinks
20 MR IRVING: It does not, no. The point which I am finally
21going to develop is that, if an eyewitness like Gerstein
22can be discredited so largely through the good fortune of
23our having access to his French police records and other
24materials, is it not likely that other eyewitnesses will
25turn out also to be made of straw to a greater or lesser
26degree, for one reason or another?
1 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning] No, I do not agree. I think that he is confirmed in his
2essentials, and the question before us here was how did
3the killing at these camps take place? And he is one of a
4number of witnesses that say they take place in gas
5chambers. In so far as he can come up with the names of
6the people that were there, the transports from the
7particular region that were arriving at Belzec at that
8time, I think this is very essential for saying this part
9of his testimony is reliable. I do not consider that
10having been destroyed in any way, and I think there are a
11large number of other witnesses that are also believable
12that tell the same story.
13 Q. [Mr Irving] Just dealing with Gerstein at this moment, I do not have
14to destroy all the eyewitnesses. I just want to tackle
15the principal ones. If he was who he said he was and he
16had the task of delivering these fumigation supplies, the
17Zyklon, to those camps, then he would know the people who
18were operating whatever they were operating, would know
19the names. This does not necessarily presuppose that all
20the rest of his story is true, or any of the rest of his
21story is true.
22 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning] We know that transports from the Volf went there at this
23time. This was the place from where they were coming. We
24know that Hockenholt was the man who ran the gas chambers,
25that Oberhauser was Wirt's assistant, that he could have
26come into this information without having visited Belzec.
1 Q. [Mr Irving] How did he know that Hockenholt ran the gas chambers? Is
2this another eyewitness?
3 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning] This is the other eyewitnesses, but people from whom
4Gerstein could never possibly have heard of and known of
5when he was giving this testimony.
6 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Can I ask a question at this stage,
7Mr Irving, really because it might suggest to you that
8there may be one or two questions you would want to ask as
9a follow up? It is really this. Given that there is a
10live issue about gassing at Auschwitz, does the evidence
11about what was happening at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka
12have an impact on the issue in relation to Auschwitz? Do
13you follow my question?
14 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning] In the sense that it has the impact that, if the Operation
15Reinhardt camps are basically killing the bulk of Polish
16Jewry, then the bit provides the historical context for
17weighing, is Auschwitz a similar camp for killing Jews
18brought from other parts of Europe? So they are
19interrelated if, in that sense, the camps are dividing up
20geographical areas from which they receive people. We
21know, I do not know if he does concede but it seems to be,
22that the people sent to these camps died in one way or
23another, and at least the eyewitness testimony tells us
24how that was done. That would contribute to the
25credibility of those that say Auschwitz was a similar camp
26as part of a similar programme.
1 MR IRVING: My Lord, may I remind you, of course, that I do not
2challenge that there gassings at Auschwitz on some scale?
3It is the scale that we very much challenge.
4 MR JUSTICE GRAY: I think, I do not want to quote him without
5his permission, as it were, but I imagine, Professor
6Browning, it is implicit in the answer he has just given,
7would say that you learn something about the scale of the
8gassing at Auschwitz from what was happening at these
9other death camps.
10 MR IRVING: With respect, my Lord, I think not.
11 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Am I misrepresenting you?
12 MR IRVING: I am just alarmed at the notion of building such a
13major part of World War II history just on the testimony
14of half a dozen eye witnesses as far as Auschwitz is
16 MR RAMPTON: I do not know where that comes from. It is the
17second time we have had that today. It is built on a mass
18of evidence, documentary, archeological, eyewitness,
19goodness knows what, all of which, as Professor van Pelt
20puts it, converged to the same conclusion.
21 MR IRVING: The transcript will show what position we reached.
22 MR JUSTICE GRAY: We will obviously have to deal with the
23totality of the evidence, but it had gone through my mind,
24this thought, and I therefore thought it right to put it
25to Professor Browning, because it seems to me to be an
26argument for the existence of gassing on a substantial
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