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

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Gas chambers for fumigation purposes or to serve as air raid shelters

13.84 I have no doubt that Irving is right that there was throughout a need to have fumigation facilities at the camp. There is documentary evidence of concern about the effect on the labour supply of prevailing mortality levels. As van Pelt accepted, ovens would have been required to cremate the large number who succumbed to disease. But in my judgment there is ample evidence which would have convinced an objective commentator that there were also gas chambers which were put to use to kill humans. In the first place there is the eye-witness evidence to which I have referred. Secondly, there is the evidence of van Pelt that the redesign of crematorium 2 in late 1942 was intended to cater for live human beings to walk down to an undressing room before being led into the chamber and to do away with the corpse-slide previously used to convey dead bodies downstairs. Thirdly, there is evidence that a camp doctor asked in January 1943 for the provision of an undressing-room, which would have been unnecessary if the crematorium were intended for corpses. Finally there is the evidence of the letter dated 31 March 1943 in which Bischoff requisitions, as a matter of urgency, a gas-tight door with a spy-hole of extra thickness. It is difficult to see why a spy-hole would be necessary in the door of a chamber used only for fumigating corpses or other objects. For these reasons I do not accept that an objective historian would be persuaded that the gas chambers served only the purposes of fumigation. The evidence points firmly in the direction of a homicidal use of the chambers as well.
13.85 I turn to Irving's alternative argument that the redesign work carried out in early 1943 was to convert crematorium 2 (and crematorium 3) for use as an air-raid shelter. I accept his claim that there was at the time some concern about Allied air-raids in the region. I am prepared to assume in Irving's favour that it was standard practice to equip shelters with gas-tight doors opening outwards and equipped with a peephole (although probably   not with a metal grille on the inside). Nevertheless there appear to me to be cogent pragmatic reasons for a historian to conclude that the evidence does not support the air-raid shelter argument.
13.86 If the redesign was to convert the buildings to air raid shelters, there would have been no reason why the drawings and associated documents should not say so. But there is no hint in the documents that such was the intention. The question arises for whose benefit such shelters would have been built. It appears to me to be unlikely that the Nazis would be concerned to shelter the camp inmates. In any case the shelters would have been too small to accommodate more than a fraction of them. But the shelters would not have been suitable for SS personnel either, since the SS barracks were about one and a half miles way. So I cannot accept that this argument comes anywhere near displacing the conclusion to be drawn from the convergent evidence relied on by the Defendants for their contention as to the object of the redesign work.
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accessed 11 March 2013