Irving v. Lipstadt


Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 32: Electronic Edition

Pages 146 - 150 of 222

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    How many had died at Auschwitz? We still do not
 1Professor of European history at the University of
 2Princeton, a scholar of considerably greater renommee than
 3Professor Evans, and himself a Jew, expressed the view in
 4one book that most of the victims of the camp died of
 5exhaustion and epidemics. He said: "From 1942 to 1945
 6more Jews died, at least in Auschwitz and probably
 7everywhere else, of 'natural' causes of death than of
 9     The Russians who captured the camp did not at
10first make any mention in their news reports of gas
11chambers. There is a famous report published in the first
12day or two in February 1945 in Pravda. Moreover, as we
13saw on the newsreel, which I showed on the first day of
14this trial, even the Poles, with access to all the
15records, claimed only that "altogether nearly 300,000
16people from the most different nations died in the
17Auschwitz concentration camp". This is the news reel
18trial of the trial of the Auschwitz officials. "300,000
19people from the most different nations died in the
20Auschwitz concentration camp". It concluded that the camp
21now stood as a monument of shame to the lasting memory of
22its 300,000 victims. In both cases gassing was not
23mentioned. The New York Times quoted the same figure
24300,000 when the trial began in 1947. The figure
25gradually grew however. The Russians set up an inquiry
26including some very well-known names, including the

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 1experts who had examined the Nazi mass graves at Katyn,
 2and even the notorious Lysenko. They announced that 4
 3million had been murdered at Auschwitz. Under the Polish
 4communists, a monument to "4 million dead", with those
 5words on it, was duly erected, a number which was adhered
 6to until the 1990s even under Franciszek Piper, one of the
 7later (but still communist) directors of the Auschwitz
 8State Archives. After the communist regime ended that
 9figure was brought down to 1.5 million, and then to
10750,000 by the acknowledged expert Jean-Claude Pressac.
11The Defendants' own expert Peter Longerich spoke of one
12million deaths there from all causes, and then in response
13to cross-examination by myself and to your Lordship's
14enquiries, Dr Longerich confirmed that he included all non
15homicidal deaths, deaths "from other causes", including
16epidemics and exhaustion in that overall figure of 1
18     Perhaps I should pause there and say that these
19figures seem appalling figures but, if it is one million
20or 300,000 or whatever the figure is, each of them means
21that many multiples of one individual. I never forget in
22anything I have said or written or done the appalling
23suffering that has been inflicted on people in the camps
24like Auschwitz. I am on the side of the innocents of this
26     As for the overall death roll of the Holocaust,

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 1what meaning can one attach to the figures? The
 2International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg found that
 3the policy pursued resulted in the killing of 6 million
 4Jews, of which 4 million were killed in the extermination
 5institutions, but the 6 million figure derives, as the
 6American chief prosecutor Jackson recorded in his diary in
 7June 1945, from a back of the envelope calculation by the
 8American Jewish leaders with whom he met in New York at
 9that time. Professor Raul Hilberg puts the overall
10Holocaust figure at one million or less. Gerald
11Reitlinger had the figure at 4.6 million, of which he said
12about 3 million were conjectural, as it was not known how
13many Jews had escaped into the unoccupied part of the
14Soviet Union. The Israeli prime minister's office, we are
15told by Norman Finkelstein, recently stated that there
16were still nearly one million living survivors.
17     There are doubts not only about the precise
18figures but about specific events. The same Nuremberg
19tribunal ruled on October 1st 1946 that the Nazis had
20attempted to utilise the fat from bodies of victims in the
21commercial manufacture of soap. In 1990 historian Shmuel
22Krakowski of Yad Vashem announced to the world's press
23that that too had been a Nazi propaganda lie. Gradually
24the wartime stories have been dismantled. As more
25documents have been found, widely stated propositions have
26been found to be doubtful. For a long time the confident

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 1public perception was that the Wannsee protocol of the
 2January 20th 1942 meeting at the Interpol headquarters in
 3Berlin, Wannsee, recorded the actual order to exterminate
 4the European Jews. Yehuda Bauer, the director now of Yad
 5Vashem, the world's premier Holocaust research institution
 6in Israel -- one of the correspondents of the second
 7Defendant you remember -- has stated quite clearly: "The
 8public still repeats time after time the silly story that
 9at Wannsee the extermination of the Jews was arrived at".
10In his opinion Wannsee was a meeting but "hardly a
11conference", and he even said: "Little of what was said
12there was executed in detail". Despite this, your
13Lordship has had to listen to this "silly story" all over
14again from the expert witnesses.
15     Surely, my critics say, there must now be some
16evidence of a Hitler order.
17     Back in 1961 Professor Raul Hilberg, one of
18Yehuda Bauer's great rivals for the laureate, one of my
19correspondents, asserted in "The Destruction of the
20European Jews", his book, that there had been two such
21orders, one in the spring of 1941, and the other soon
22after. By 1985, after I had corresponded with him and I
23had begun voicing my own doubts, Hilberg was back
24pedalling. Hilberg went methodically through his new
25edition of his book, excising the allegation of a Hitler
26order. It is not as though he did not mention the Hitler

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 1order. He actually went through a book, taking every
 2reference to it out. "In the new edition", as Professor
 3Christopher Browning, another of our expert witnesses here
 4for the defence, who testified before this court, said,
 5"all references in the text to a Hitler decision or
 6Hitler order for the Final Solution had been
 7systematically excised. Buried at the bottom of a single
 8footnote stands the solitary reference: 'Chronology and
 9circumstances point to a Hitler decision before the summer
10ended (1941)'". "In the new edition", Browning repeats,
11scandalized, "decisions were not made and orders were not
12given". Your Lordship will find my exchange with
13Professor Browning as to whether he had indeed written
14those words in 1986 on day 17. You will find too that he
15regretted that he could not recall the events clearly of
1615 years ago, which invited a rather obvious riposte from
17me about the probably similar memory deficiencies in the
18eyewitnesses on whom he had on occasions relied.
19     The director of the Yad Vashem archives has
20stated that most survivors' testimonies are unreliable.
21There is a quotation from him. "Many", he writes, "were
22never in the places where they claim to have witnessed
23atrocities, while others relied on second-hand information
24given them by friends or passing strangers". It is the
25phenomenon that I have referred to as cross-pollination.
26Your Lordship may have been as startled as I, I confess,

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