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Judgement

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

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Irving's investigation of the documentary evidence

7.102 The Leuchter report having acted as a catalyst, Irving testified that he spent some months in the period following its publication going round the archives with an open mind looking for evidence that Auschwitz was an extermination camp. Although that was the claim that he made in 1988, in his evidence he described the difficulties confronting him in regard to any such investigation. Auschwitz itself was still behind the Iron Curtain (although Irving agreed he made no attempt to gain access to the site). The Soviet archives (where most of the Auschwitz documents and in particular the construction documents had been consigned) remained closed to Westerners until 1990. So on his own account Irving's investigation was confined to the German Federal Archives (until he was finally banned from visiting Germany in late 1993), the national archives in Washington and libraries such as the Hoover library in California.
7.103 Hampered though he was in his attempt to investigate the issue, Irving relied strongly on the extreme paucity of the documentary evidence for the existence of genocidal gas chambers. He pointed out that there is no reference to the Russians having discovered gas chambers when they liberated the camp in January 1945. Irving relied further on the absence of any reference in the reports sent in cypher from Auschwitz to Berlin (which were intercepted and decoded at Bletchley and commented upon by Professor Himsley) to the death of any inmate in a gas chamber at the camp. Deaths from typhus and other causes, including shooting, are faithfully recorded but there is never any reference to killing by gas. Since the reports were secret, argued Irving, there would have been no need to omit deaths by gassing. Evans considered it to be unsurprising that there should have been   no reference to the deaths in the gas chambers of registered inmates of the camp given the high level of secrecy which surrounded the policy of extermination by that method. As for those who were not registered as inmates, they would not have featured in the reports in any event.
7.104 Irving relied on the camp registers which have recently been released by the Russians. According to his argument, these registers demonstrate that the number of those registered as having been admitted to Auschwitz is wholly irreconcilable with the number of Jews said by the Defendants to have perished in the gas chambers there. The response of the Defendants to this argument is that there is clear evidence that the camp registers did not include those who were killed immediately on arrival at Auschwitz. In this connection the Defendants relied on the evidence to that effect of General Pohl, the economic director of the Nazi concentration camps, as well as upon the evidence of certain of the eye-witnesses (including for example Pery Broad) to which I have already made reference.
7.105 Those documents apart, Irving drew attention to the fact of the thousands of documents studied by historians over the years, hardly any have surfaced which lend real support for the case for the existence of the gas chambers being used for extermination purposes. Irving in his evidence at the Zundel trial dismissed as tendentious the translation of Vergasungskeller in Bischoff's letter of 29 January 1943 word as 'gas chamber'. It signified no more than a room where gassing apparatus would be installed without the connotation that the gas would be used to kill human beings. The word Vergasungskeller would not be used by a German to refer to a gas chamber: he would use Gasungskeller. Similarly the Vergasungsapparate mentioned in Wetzel's letter of 25 October 1941 were required for fumigation and not genocidal purposes. Irving produced an invoice to the Auschwitz Construction office which refers to an Entwesungsanlage (disinfection chamber) in support of his contention that such a facility existed at the camp.
7.106 Irving dismissed several of the allegedly incriminating documents as unauthentic if not downright forgeries. One particular target for an attack of this kind was mounted upon Bischoff's estimate of the capacity of the incinerators in his letter of 28 June 1943 (to which I have already made reference). Irving relied, amongst other things, on the absence of a reference to Auschwitz in the heading of the letter; on the allegedly unusual, if not unique, way in which the reference is typed at the head of the letter; on the way the date is typed; on the initials of the secretary who typed the letter   being the wrong initials for Bischoff's secretary; on the inaccurate designation of the rank of the addressee of the letter, General Kammler, which omitted the distinctive symbol used by the Nazis for members of the SS. Irving also pointed out that, at the date when the letter was written, one of the incinerators referred to in the letter had been taken out of commission and another was under repair, so that it would have been inappropriate and unlikely that Bischoff would have included them in his assessment of the overall incineration capacity of the camp.
7.107 Another argument advanced by Irving for doubting the genocidal use of gas chambers at Auschwitz was based upon an instruction circulated on 26 October 1943 by Pohl, chief of all concentration camps, to each camp commandant instructing him to implement measures to reduce the number of deaths amongst the inmates by the provision of better food and clothing and the like. Irving also produced a letter to doctors at the camps requiring them to make extra efforts to ensure the effectiveness of the labour force by improving their health and mortality. Irving also produced a table signed by Pohl which records a reduction in the level of mortality in camps generally from 10% in December 1942 to about 8% in January 1943 as a result of hygiene measures which had been taken. In the same vein Irving relied on the note of a conference in June 1942 presided over by Dannecker, Eichmann's subordinate, which made reference to orders issued by Himmler to increase the workforce at Auschwitz. Irving relied on the note as evidence that Auschwitz was essentially a work camp. But Longerich pointed out that Himmler had made provision that 10% of those deported did not need to be fit for work. Longerich inferred that they were to be killed on arrival. Irving contended that the 10% provision was for wives and children. Such documents are, Irving argued, wholly inconsistent with the Nazis having been engaged at the same time upon a programme of exterminating Jews in gas chambers at Auschwitz.
7.108 In the light of such research as he has been able to undertake since 1989, Irving deploys other arguments and contentions (many of them advanced in the course of his cross-examination of van Pelt) which he claims bear out Leuchter's conclusions and which afford further reasons for doubting the existence of killing by gas at Auschwitz.
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