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    Auschwitz-Birkenau Gas Chambers: Leutcher Report

    How do we know that the Leuchter Report, which claims to prove that the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau did not exist, is not scientifically sound?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    A scientific study called the Leuchter Report proves conclusively that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Leuchter concluded that there were only “insignificant traces” of Zyklon-B in his samples. Therefore, “the alleged gas chambers at the inspected sites could not have then been, or now be, utilized or seriously considered to function as execution gas chambers.”

    The facts are:

    The Leuchter Report is junk science. Leuchter’s methods were flawed and his conclusions are false. The samples were collected in an uncontrolled way and the type of analysis was not appropriate to producing accurate results. His conclusions that there were no provisions for gasketed air-tight doors, windows, or vents; that there was no ventilation; that the Germans would have died from exposure to the Zyklon-B themselves; and that there were only “insignificant traces” of Zyklon-B are incorrect and not supported by the evidence.

    What is the Leuchter Report?

    Ernst Zündel, a German-Canadian Holocaust denier, commissioned self-appointed execution chamber specialist Fred Leuchter to conduct a forensic examination of the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps for his trial in Canada in 1988 for “spreading false news.”[1]

    Leuchter went to Auschwitz-Birkenau where, without official permission, he covertly chipped out fist-sized samples of brick and concrete,[2] which he then sent to a forensic laboratory for analysis. In the Report, Leuchter concluded that: “There were no execution chambers at any of these locations.” In Leuchter’s opinion the “the alleged gas chambers at the inspected sites could not have then been, or now be, utilized or seriously considered to function as execution gas chambers.[3] (Emphasis in original)

    Zündel submitted the Leuchter Report as evidence in this trial and wanted Fred Leuchter to be a witness for his defense. However, when Leuchter was questioned by the court about his credentials as an expert witness it was discovered that he wasn’t licensed as an engineer. Leuchter’s degree was in the humanities and he had no expertise in chemistry, toxicology or cremation—all subjects he had weighed in on in the Leuchter Report. The court, therefore, refused to enter the Leuchter Report as evidence or to accept Leuchter as an expert witness.

    The Leuchter Report was published in 1989. It quickly became a cornerstone of Holocaust denial and remains so today.

    How we know the Leuchter Report is scientifically unsound.

    Leuchter collected 31 fist-sized samples of bricks and mortar from the cremas/gas chambers and one control sample from the

    delousing building in Birkenau. The delousing building was used regularly to delouse clothing and bedding in order to combat typhus in the camp. Leuchter collected the samples in a covert, random and undocumented manner. There is no way of knowing whether the mortar and bricks that Leuchter sampled and which were later analyzed for residue of Zyklon-B had come from anywhere near the gas chamber rooms.

    Leuchter’s sampling methods can be seen in the Errol Morris’ film Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred Leuchter, Jr. in which he can be seen digging big chunks of brick and concrete randomly out of the walls, floors and ceiling. At one point he even collected chunks of brick and concrete from a puddle of melted snow on the floor of what he claims was a gas chamber, but was actually the cremation oven area.[4]

    Compounding the problem of getting an accurate analysis, each fist-sized chunk of brick or concrete was ground up into powder for analysis. Any minute trace of the HCN residue that might have been there became an even more miniscule part of the larger sample. A more appropriate method would have tested only the surfaces of the sample. However, the lab was not told what the samples were being analyzed for and so subjected the entire sample to analysis.

    Thus, it is clear that the methodology of the Leuchter Report was flawed from the onset. Leuchter’s sample collection was not controlled and the method of analysis was unable to produce accurate results.

    The Leuchter Report claims that the results of the tests showed an “absence of any consequential readings” of hydrogen cyanide [HCN] in the gas chamber samples.

    Repeated HCN exposure leaves a blue chemical residue on surfaces called “Prussian Blue.” The walls and ceiling of the gas chambers were plastered. The Prussian Blue would have collected on the surface of the plaster and would not have left a substantial presence on the bricks, mortar or concrete underneath. By the time Leuchter arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau to take his samples, the plaster was long gone and the brick it had been applied to had been exposed to 43 years of rain, sun, ice and snow.

    Making it even more unlikely that significant amounts of HCN might be found in the diluted gas chamber samples is the account of Josef Sackar, a member of one of the Sonderkommandos who worked in the gas chambers, who recalled: “After every killing, we washed everything and sprayed it with a substance so that the odor of the gas would not remain. We also washed the floor of the chamber.”[5]

    Thus, Leuchter’s conclusion that the “absence of any consequential readings” of HCN were found in his gas chamber samples proved that the rooms were not used as gas chambers is not supported by the evidence.

    The Leuchter Report claims that analysis on the samples from the delousing chambers showed significantly higher amounts of HCN residue.[6]

    This is not surprising. Leuchter calculated that it required 3,200 parts per million (ppm) of Zyklon-B to kill a human being.[7] In reality, it requires only a maximum of 300 ppm.[8]

    However, to kill lice, beetles, etc. requires at least 16,600 ppm of HCN. Therefore, it is understandable that the walls of the

    delousing chamber, where clothing and bedding were regularly submitted to several days of soaking concentrations of Zyklon-B, show significantly higher amounts of HCN residue. Unlike the gas chamber rooms, the delousing building is still standing so the interior plaster walls with the “Prussian Blue” residue have been protected from the elements.[9]

    Thus, it is completely reasonable that the walls and floors of delousing building still shows Prussian Blue stains and contain significant quantities of HCN residue.

    The Leuchter Report claims: “There is no provision for gasketed doors, windows or vents . . .”[10]

    The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum archives—which Leuchter did not visit—show proof to the contrary of this assertion. A letter from Karl Bischoff, the head architect at Auschwitz-Birkenau, to the German Armament Works dated March 31, 1943 orders “three gas tight doors” for Crema/Gas Chamber 3 following “exactly the size and construction of those already delivered” for Crema/Gas Chamber 2. Bischoff reminded the manufacturer that the doors had to have a spy-hole of double 8-mm glass “with a rubber seal and metal fitting.” The order was characterized as “very urgent.”[11] In the archives there is a request for a “handle for the gastight door” (Order No. 162, 6 March 1943).[12]

    There are also photographs of the actual gas-tight doors that were found in Auschwitz-Birkenau after the war. The door had a peep-hole covered with a heavy mesh screen and still had a gas-tight seal still around the edge, just as Bischoff’s letter requested.[13]

    Thus, despite Leuchter’s claims, there is documentary and photographic evidence of the existence of the gas-tight doors.

    The Leuchter Report claims: “There were no exhaust systems to vent the gas after usage . . .”[14]

    The Germans’ own blueprints for Cremas/Gas Chambers 2 and 3 in Birkenau show ventilation ducts in the walls (‘Entlüftung’), the remains of which can still be seen in the ruins.[15] Saul Chazan, a member of the Sonderkommando that worked in Crema/Gas Chamber 2 in Birkenau, described these ducts: “The ventilation was installed in the walls. You wouldn’t notice it; all you could feel was the chill. You could hardly hear it. There was a metal cover with openings and cold air came in almost the entire length of the wall. The ventilation worked all the time; it was turned off only when the gas was thrown in.”[16]

    Thus, Leuchter’s conclusion that there was no ventilation in Cremas/Gas Chambers 2 and 3 is incorrect. The Germans own plans and eyewitness testimony prove otherwise.

    The Leuchter Report claims: “. . . those throwing Zyklon B in the roof vents and verifying the death of the occupants would themselves die from exposure to HCN.”[17]

    The Germans who poured the Zyklon-B into the gas chambers through the holes in the roof wore gas masks as a precaution. Filip Müller, a Slovak Jew who arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau in April 1942, was put to work as an oven stoker in Crema/Gas Chamber 1. Later, he was transferred to Birkenau to work in the crematoria and burning pits. Müller recalled a gassing in Crema/Gas Chamber 1: “When the last one had crossed the threshold, two SS leaders slammed shut the heavy iron-studded door which was fitted with a rubber seal, and bolted it . . . the Unterführers on duty had gone onto the crematorium roof . . . They removed the covers from the six camouflaged openings. There, protected by gas-masks, they poured the green-blue crystals of the deadly gas into the gas chamber.”[18]

    Thus, despite Leuchter’s claims that the SS men who poured the Zyklon-B through the openings in the roof would have died as well, the evidence shows that they wore gas masks when going about their deadly work.

    Central Sauna Auschwitz-Birkenau. By Konrad Kurzacz Pimke, e-mail: konrad.kurzacz@gmail.com (own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
    Central Sauna Auschwitz-Birkenau. By Konrad Kurzacz Pimke, e-mail: konrad.kurzacz@gmail.com (own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], CC-BY-SA-3.0  or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

    Conclusion

    The Leuchter Report is junk science and its conclusions are incorrect. Leuchter’s methods were flawed. He collected the samples in an uncontrolled way and the type of analysis used on the samples was not appropriate for getting accurate results for HCN residue.

    The fact that the walls of the delousing chamber shows significantly higher amounts of HCN residue than the walls of the gas chambers is reasonable as the amount of HCN used in the disinfection chambers was much higher and the disinfection process was conducted for longer periods of time. Further, the delousing building is still standing and the HCN residue is protected from the elements.

    It is reasonable that the samples of the walls of the gas chambers would show low traces of HCN because while the gas chambers were in use the walls were regularly whitewashed and the floors washed with water. In addition, the plaster surface of the walls on which any traces of Prussian Blue would have collected was long gone as the buildings were destroyed and the ruins had been exposed to the weather for 43 years.

    There is photographic, documentary and physical evidence that gas-tight doors and fittings were ordered, constructed and used. Eyewitness testimony and German blueprints show that ventilation systems were installed in Cremas/Gas Chambers 2 and 3 in Birkenau that were adequate to air the rooms, permitting entry after 30 minutes without gas masks. The German perpetrators wore gas masks when handling Zyklon-B as a matter of course.

    Given the flawed method of sampling and analysis, the fact that Leuchter found even “insignificant traces” in the gas chamber samples proves just the opposite of what the Holocaust deniers claim the Leuchter Report proves—Zyklon-B was used at Auschwitz-Birkenau to murder human beings.

    Finally, a properly authorized and meticulously conducted scientific study done by Polish authorities in 1994 found that “in spite of the passage of a considerable period of time (over 45 years) in the walls of the facilities which once were in contact with hydrogen cyanide the vestigial amounts of the combinations of this constituent of Zyklon B had been preserved. This is also true of the ruins of the former gas chambers.”[19]

    NOTES

    [1] One can see Holocaust denier David Irving’s opinion on the Leuchter Report at “David Irving: Introduction to The Leuchter Report,” http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Leuchter/ReportIntro.html.

    [2] You can see how Leuchter collected his samples in Mr. Death: The Rise & Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr., a film by Errol Morris (2000).

    [3] Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report (“Conclusion”) at http://www.ihr.org/books/leuchter/conclusion.html.

    [4] Errol Morris, Mr. Death: “The Rise and Fall of Fred Leuchter, Jr.” at approximately 54 minutes.

    [5] Josef Sackar in Gideon Grief’s, We Wept Without Tears: Testimonies of the Jewish Sonderkommando from Auschwitz (Yale University Press, 2005), p. 111.

    [6] See the table “Compiled Data from Certificates of Analysis,” Alpha Analytical Laboratories, Ashland, Massachusetts at http://www.ihr.org/books/leuchter/appendix01.html. The de-lousing chamber sample was 880386.32 and showed a trace amount of 1,050. The rest are nominal or non-detectable in comparison.

    [7] Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report (“Design Criteria for a Fumigation Facility”) at http://www.ihr.org/books/leuchter/criteria.html.

    [8] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“IX The Leuchter Report”) at https://hdot.org.

    [9] You may see images of the delousing building at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Photos/Gallery10/index.html. By contrast the building that Leuchter chipped his chunks of mortar and concrete out of look like this: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Photos/Gallery7/index.html.

    [10] Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report (“Design and Procedures at the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers”) at http://www.ihr.org/books/leuchter/procedures.html.

    [11] Letter from Karl Bischoff to the German Armament Works, March 3, 1943 from the archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum as cited in Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“VI Blueprints of Genocide”) at at https://hdot.org.

    [12] Eugen Kogon, Hermann Langbein and Adalbert Rückerl, editors. Nazi Mass Murder: A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas (Yale University Press, 1994), p. 158.

    [13] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 192.

    [14] Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report (“Design and Procedures at the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers”).

    [15] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“IX The Leuchter Report”) at https://hdot.org.

    You may see an image of the ventilation ducts in Crema/Gas Chamber 2 in Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 367.

    [16] Saul Chazan as cited in Gideon Greif’s, We Wept Without Tears: Testimonies of the Jewish Sonderdommando From Auschwitz (Yale University Press, 2005), pp. 271-272.

    [17] Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report (“Design and Procedures at the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers”).

    [18] Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers (Ivan R. Dee, 1979), p. 38.

    [19] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“IX The Leuchter Report”) at https://hdot.org.