6 million did not die in the gas chambers


Historian Raul Hilberg acknowledges that there were reports about Nazi atrocities that later proved to be false. For example, the Nazis did not make human soap, nor did they kill victims by electrocution or diesel exhaust. “All of these rumors were circulating in 1942, and we have to separate rumors that were not the truth from the truth,” says Hilberg.

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Book ‘an artistic picture’

Survivor never saw actual gassing deaths

A concentration camp survivor yesterday admitted he never witnessed anybody being gassed to death and his book about Auschwitz-Birkenau in only “an artistic picture … not a document for a court.”

Rudolf Vrba, now an assistant professor at the University of B.C., told the Ernst Zündel trial that his written and pictorial descriptions of the Auschwitz crematoria and gas chambers are based on “what I heard it might look like.”

Zündel is charged with knowingly publishing false information about the Holocaust that harmed or was likely to harm racial or social tolerance.

Defence attorney Doug Christie, of Victoria, challenged Vrba’s earlier testimony that he saw a Nazi SS soldier in a gas mask pouring poison gas into a low bunker connected to a Birkenau crematorium.

Vrba yesterday admitted he was never inside that particular bunker, after Christie suggested it was the roof of a mortuary Vrba had seen, not a gas chamber.

Vrba also admitted some of the thousands of women, elderly and children he claimed were marched directly to gas chambers upon arrival might have been going to the camp’s bathhouse.

“Yes. Some of them actually went there (bathhouse) and more went to the gas chambers,” said Vrba, who claimed many babies were gassed to death.

Vrba said his 1944 drawings of the Auschwitz camp layout were inexect and Christie suggested Vrba didn’t even know where the bathhouse was located.

Christie said new arrivals had to march between two crematoria to get to the bathhouse, but Vrba insisted the area ended in a “closed road” and “nobody ever came out of there except smoke.”

Vrba, who escaped the camp in Poland in 1944 with a mission to warn one million Hungarian Jews of their impending slaughter, insisted he’d made accurate [“within 10%”] estimates of 1,765,000 mass-murder victims up to that point.

He said some narrative passages in his book I Cannot Forgive are based on accounts from others.

One Vrba acount says it took 90 minutes to burn a corpse, another said it took 20 minutes.

“I also include things I heard from reliable sources,” Vrba said, exlaining the changes in his later report.

Vrba’s 1961 affadavit quotes a Nuremberg War Crimes Trial document as relating to Auschwitz gas chambers and claims it backs up Vrba’s account.

When Christie pointed out that [“Nazi government”] documents say nothing about gas chambers, Vrba replied: “It might be a typing error.”

Vrba, whose book states the total Auschwitz death toll was 2.5 million, testified Holocaust historians Raul Hilberg and Gerald Rietlinger were limited by “historical discipline” when they made lower estimates — 1 million and about 850,000 respectively — and did not have the benefit of Vrba’s eyewitness experiences.

Vrba also said increasing estimates of the Auschwitz death toll in the decades after World War II “just shows that better scholars with better methods are constantly improving the information.”

He defended “errors in good faith” in his 1944 Auschwitz accounts, which he made two weeks after escaping, as due to “great urgency” to warn Jews.


Dick Chapman

Toronto Sun

January 24, 1985

Yeah, but he was such a good witness

Holocaust scholar quoted ‘madman,’ publishing trial told

One of the world’s leading authorities on the Holocaust has quoted selectively and extensively a German SS officer who was obviously a madman, the defence at the Ernst Zündel trial has alleged.

Among the claims sworn to by the Nazi, who ultimately hanged himself while awaiting trial for war crimes, was a statement that 25 million Jews were killed in two small extermination camps and that 700 to 800 people could be crammed into a 25-square metre gas chamber.

“Don’t you think it reflects on an author that some statements are absolutely ridiculous?” defence counsel Douglas Christie asked Raul Hilberg, a professor at the University of Vermont who has spent more than 35 years studying the Holocaust.

Mr. Zündel is charged with two counts of publishing false news which caused or was likely to cause racial or social intolerance. His articles question the Holocaust and postulate an international conspiracy of Communists, Zionists, bankers and secret societies. The Crown must prove Mr. Zündel knew the information was false.

Professor Hilberg agreed that Obersturmbanführer Kurt Gerstein, the SS officer, was most unreliable on some topics covered in sworn affidavits. But Prof. Hilberg defended his decision to quote the officer on other subjects in a book he wrote on the Holocaust.

Obersturmbanführer Gerstein was one of the few people who could provide information about gas chambers at the Treblinka and Belzec camps in Poland, Prof. Hilberg explained.

The officer said he was responsible for dispensing poison to several camps in Poland to be used to kill internees.

“Beyond that, I realized, of course, what kind of person he was and I did not rely on any statements I regarded as imaginative or incredible,” the witness said. “I think he was given to great excitability. What can you say?”

“You could say he was crazy,” Mr. Christie said crisply. The lawyer accused Prof. Hilberg of quoting only those statements from the “madman” which bolstered conventional ideas on the Holocaust.

“I’m not making diagnoses here,” Prof. Hilberg replied. “I would not characterize him as totally rational, but I’m not here making those kinds of judgments.”

Prof. Hilberg has been accepted as an expert witness. He has testified that about five million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis.

Yesterday, he said some of the SS officer’s claims were outrageous, while others, such as the number of people who could fit into a chamber warranted skepticism.

He said it was intellectually sound to use the portions which withstood scrutiny or seemed plausible, while making no mention of the outlandish statements. “For my purposes, it sufficed that there were gas chambers,” he said.

Mr. Christie maintained that if Prof. Hilberg can quote selectively with impunity, then his client is not guilty of any sin either.

For most of the morning session, Mr. Christie engaged in a grim battle over what really took place during the last days of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and whether documents exist to show Adolf Hitler actually ordered the extermination of the Jews.

Prof. Hilberg said nobody has to believe or try to verify there was such an order just because he concludes in his book there was.

Mr. Christie then asked if that statement could not also apply to the articles Mr. Zündel is charged with publishing.

“No, it is not the same,” Prof. Hilberg said.

The argument was typical of the strenuous going-over Prof. Hilberg’s writings and previous testimony are getting at the hands of Mr. Christie. The lawyer demands precise sources for everything and then frequently criticizes those.

One protracted argument concerned the use of the word “resettle” in Nazi reports and whether it was a euphemism for annihilate, as Prof. Hilberg fiercely maintained.

“The word used was relocate,” Mr. Christie said at one point. “To me that doesn’t mean annihilate.”

“That’s the difference between you and me,” the witness replied hotly. “I’ve read thousands of documents. I know what it means in the context.”

“You alone understand, right?” Mr. Christie asked sarcastically.

Later, Mr. Christie questioned whether crematoria Prof. Hilberg saw on a recent trip to Poland were really as the Germans left them.

“They were as you’ve been told the Germans left them, right?” he asked.

“I was not present when these buildings were blown up,” Prof. Hilberg said in exasperation.


Kirk Makin

The Globe and Mail

January 17, 1985