Auschwitz: A Judge Looks At The Evidence
This is a selection from Chapter 1 – The Making of a Myth: Origins of the Auschwitz Myth by Wilhelm Stäglich, a respected judge in Finance Court in Hamburg for many years and author of numerous articles on legal and historical subjects.
English translation from the German original Der Auschwitz-Mythos – Legende oder Wirklichkeit ? Eine kritische Bestandsaufnahme, Grabert, Tübingen, 1979.
Translation by Thomas Francis
The Making of A Myth
In every period of history, men have succumbed to certain illusions. Perhaps the most widespread illusion of our time is that people are now more thoroughly, comprehensively, and, above all, accurately informed than ever before. In reality, just the opposite seems to be the case.
The quality of the information disseminated via modern techniques of communication stands in inverse proportion to its quantity. This general observation also applies to the veracity of specific pieces of information. Anyone who has seen an event reported about which he has firsthand knowledge will attest that much of the depiction was at variance —even radically so— with what actually happened.
This is hardly the place to examine the manifold causes of such distortion. Of one thing there can be no doubt: All politically related “information” that appears in the mass media today is designed to serve a purpose. The vaunted “independence” of the communications media is little more than a soothing copybook platitude. Though every once in a while ostensibly dissenting viewpoints are aired in the mass media, so as to give a certain substance to pretensions of “balance,” that does not alter in the least the fact that the clique which, by virtue of its enormous wealth, largely controls the communications media is primarily interested in manipulating individuals and nations to attain its political objectives.1 The ultimate achievement of propaganda is, as Emil Mair-Dorn has so vividly put it, to “make millions of people eagerly forge the chains of their own servitude.”2
A most depressing example of a people forging its own chains is to be seen in the almost fanatical tenacity with which so many Germans cling to feelings of guilt that have been implanted in them about an epoch in which bitter necessity impelled the German people to seek an independent path to the future. Many things go into the make-up our national guilt complex, but more than anything else it is the product of deliberate misinformation about the German past. As a result of this artificial and utterly baseless guilt complex, at no time since the fall of the Third Reich has the German people been able to bring itself to pursue its own political interests. Mendacious propaganda of a kind and scope perhaps unique in history has insidiously —and thus all the more effectively— deprived it of the national self-confidence required for such a policy. Just as an individual cannot get along without a healthy measure of personal self-esteem, so a people without a sense of national self-esteem cannot maintain its political independence. In the long run, this political propaganda disguised as “historiography” can have a positively lethal effect on the nation.
Pivotal to the German national guilt complex is the Auschwitz Myth. During the war, a number of concentration camps were established near Auschwitz, an industrial town of some 12,000 inhabitants situated about 50 kilometers west of Cracow.3 In the course of the 1960’s, but especially after the so-called Auschwitz Trial of 1963-1965, the name of this town evolved into a synonym for “genocide.” In the concentration camps of the Auschwitz region — so the story goes— millions of Jews were systematically killed on orders from the leadership of the Third Reich. Today the word “Auschwitz” has the almost mystical force of traditional fables and legends, and it is in this sense, too, that the phrase “Auschwitz Myth” should be understood. Indeed, the Auschwitz Myth has become a quasi-religious dogma. Skepticism about it is not tolerated, nor often expressed. Cleverly using the Auschwitz Myth to represent itself as the sacrosanct embodiment of “Humanity” —and the German people as the embodiment of utter evil— international Jewry has laid claim to a privileged status among nations. Similarly, forces inside Germany, as well as outside, have used the Auschwitz Myth to forestall or suppress any objective discussion of the Third Reich era. Whenever Germans show signs of deviating from what Golo Mann calls the “sociopedagogically desirable view of history” (“das volkspädagogisch erwünschte Geschichtsbild”), one need only utter the catchword “Auschwitz” to remove all doubt as to the basic depravity of the German people.4 Not only does the very mention of “Auschwitz” call a halt to rational discussion of the Third Reich, since beside “Auschwitz” this symbol of absolute evil, everything else seems inconsequential; it can also be used to cast a shadow over any other aspect of the German past. So long as the Auschwitz Myth retains its terrible power, the recovery of our national self-esteem is virtually impossible.5
Origins of the Auschwitz Myth
When one traces the evolution of the extermination legend, it is really quite difficult to comprehend how the Auschwitz Myth came to occupy such a towering position in it. To be sure, as early as 1944 the inventors of the legend had decided on Auschwitz as the site of the “extermination of the Jews” and were clever enough to bolster this allegation with an official U.S. Government publication, the “War Refugee Board Report” as Dr. Butz has shown.6 However, the WRB Report, which we shall discuss at greater length in the next two chapters, was consigned to oblivion after the war. At least in Germany, the “gas chamber” propaganda largely centered around camps in the Reich itself, even though the International Military Tribunal (IMT) had asserted in its decision, on the basis of an affidavit from Rudolf Höss, the former commandant of Auschwitz, that some 2,500,000 Jews were murdered in “gas chambers” at the camp.7 Almost immediately after the war, severe tensions arose between the western Allies and Soviet Russia, with the result that a line of demarcation, the “Iron Curtain” was drawn between their respective spheres of influence. Partly for that reason, partly for others, the western Allies never got to inspect the Auschwitz area. Here one recalls the statement of Stephen F. Pinter, a U.S. War Department attorney who was stationed at Dachau for 17 months:
We were told there was a gas chamber at Auschwitz, but since that was in the Russian zone of occupation, we were not permitted to investigate, since the Russians would not permit it.8
Thus there was some uncertainty about what position the Soviets would ultimately take on the “extermination of the Jews” especially since Stalin himself was reputed to be an “anti-Semite.”
For whatever reason, the Auschwitz Myth was not widely publicized until well into the 1950’s. At least, it still had not acquired the crucial significance attributed to it today. No distinction was as yet made between the various camps when the “Final Solution” —the physical destruction of European Jewry allegedly ordered by the leadership of the Third Reich— was discussed. They were all supposed to have played basically the same role in this enormous “murder plot.” Every concentration camp, it was said, had one or more “gas chambers” in which Jews were asphyxiated with volatile cyanide (in the form of “Zyklon B” a proprietary fumigant) or carbon monoxide — in usu vulgi : “gassed.” Even in the later editions of his “standard work” The Final Solution, Gerald Reitlinger claims:
Thus, eventually, every German concentration camp acquired a gas chamber of sorts, though not on Auschwitz lines. The Dachau gas chamber, for instance, was preserved by the American occupation authorities as an object lesson, but its construction had been hampered and its use restricted to a few experimental victims, Jews or Russian prisoners-ofwar, who had been committed by the Munich Gestapo.9
In Reitlinger’s hedging of his statement about the Dachau “gas chamber” one sees a rearguard action. As early as 1960, the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich felt itself called upon to issue the following statement, perhaps in response to the findings of the French historian Paul Rassinier:
Neither in Dachau nor Bergen-Belsen nor in Buchenwald were Jews or other inmates gassed. The gas chamber in Dachau was never finished and put into operation… The mass extermination of the Jews by gassing began in 1941-42, and occurred in a very few places, selected exclusively for the purpose and outfitted with the appropriate technical facilities, above all in occupied Polish territory (but nowhere in the German Reich proper).10
If Reitlinger’s statement was a rearguard action, the statement of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte was a general retreat. What made it so sensational was that not only had a host of former inmates testified that “gassings” took place at concentration camps in the Reich, but several commandants of these camps even signed “confessions” affirming the existence of the alleged “gas chambers.”11 At the Nuremberg IMT trial, the British Chief Prosecutor Sir Hartley Shawcross specifically cited Dachau, Buchenwald, Mauthusen, and Oranienburg as places where murder was “conducted like some mass production industry in the gas chambers and ovens.”12
For a long time, Auschwitz and other camps that had existed in the German-occupied eastern territories played a subordinate role in the extermination legend. But after Dr. Martin Broszat, a leading member of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, made the statement quoted above, the view that any concentration camps in Germany were “death factories” became completely untenable.
However, the claim that some six million Jews had fallen victim to the “Final Solution” was so vital to the interests of the inventors and promoters of the extermination legend that they absolutely could not abandon it. Not only was that charge a means of holding the German people in political subjugation; it had also become a highly lucrative source of income for international Jewry. The six million figure was the basis of the “reparations” which the Federal Republic of Germany obligated itself to pay to the State of Israel and the Jewish international organizations, in addition to compensation payments to individual Jews, beginning in the early 1950’s and continuing even today.13 For that reason alone, the six million figure, about which certain writers had already expressed well-founded and earnest doubts on other grounds, could not be abandoned, even after it was established definitely that none of the camps in the German Reich proper were “extermination camps.”14
Thus the necessity of sticking to the six million figure led the extermination mythologists to shift their emphasis from the camps in Germany to the camps in German-occupied Poland. Auschwitz, undoubtedly the largest camp complex, became the focal point of the extermination allegation. Since the Poles had set themselves to the task of refashioning part of the camp complex into an “Auschwitz Museum” —a move that also signaled the Soviets would hold to the extermination legend, something about which there had been some uncertainty after the IMT trial— the extermination propagandists no longer had any reason for restraint.
Although the Auschwitz propaganda campaign was aggressively pursued from the very beginning, it still had a lot of catching up to do. To be sure, “extermination camps” in occupied Poland had been mentioned in the so-called Gerstein Report, a document allegedly composed by a onetime SS man named Kurt Gerstein. At first, nobody seemed to take this document seriously, and it was not even admitted in evidence at the IMT trial.15 At least three versions of it were circulated: two French versions and one German version. Numerous passages in these texts vary from one another.16 According to the French version published in 1951, the following “extermination camps” were in existence as of August 17, 1942:
1) Belzec, on the Lublin-Lwow road. Maximum per day, 15,000 persons 2) Sobibor, I don’t know exactly where it is, 20,000 persons a day 3) Treblinka, 120 Kilometers NNE of Warsaw 4) Maidanek, near Lublin (in preparation)17
One notes that the supposedly well-informed Gerstein does not include Auschwitz on this list, though “mass murders” are now alleged to have begun there in the spring of 1942 (The first “gas chambers” were, it is claimed, two converted farm houses).18 Since, according to this document, Gerstein was responsible for the procurement and distribution of Zyklon B, he certainly would have been aware of the existence of Auschwitz. As a matter of fact, Auschwitz is mentioned as an “extermination camp” at the end of the English version of the document —along with Theresienstadt, Oranienburg, Dachau, Belsen, and Mauthausen-Gusen!19 This version of the “Gerstein Report” (the one that appears in Dr. Butz’ volume) was used by the Americans in the “trials” they conducted on their own after the IMT proceedings.
As the years went on, Auschwitz by and large receded into the background. A decade after the war, the public knew virtually nothing about it. This may be attributed partly to the fact that the Soviets did not permit outsiders to inspect the grounds of the Auschwitz complex. What is more, none of the German and Austrian soldiers interned at Auschwitz, which served for several months as a Soviet prisoner of war camp, found any traces of the alleged mass murders, not even in Birkenau, supposedly the actual extermination camp, or else did not report them after their release.20 Of course, remnants of the crematoria were there to be seen, but the quantity of rubble did not match what would have been left behind by crematoria of the size required for the mass extermination of several thousand people per day.21
One may well ask: If this allegation were true, why then did not the Soviets immediately exhibit the camp to journalists from all over the world and place the evidence of the alleged mass murders under international control? I shall leave it to the reader to answer this question for himself. Even less comprehensible is the fact that the majority of Germans offered virtually no resistance to the Auschwitz propaganda campaign that began in the middle of the 1950’s. They did not ask why Auschwitz was suddenly being brought forward as the greatest extermination camp of them all, a camp in which Jews were “gassed” by the millions. Everyone seemed to have forgotten the old German proverb: Wer einmal lügt, dem glaubt man nicht*. Given the fact that the falsehoods about Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and other camps lasted hardly a decade, similar charges about Auschwitz should have been regarded with the utmost suspicion.
Of course, here one must take into account the fact that even today many Germans are in the dark about how shamelessly they were deceived in regard to the concentration camps in Reich territory. Countless Germans still believe the lies they were told, for neither the Government nor the mass media gave Dr. Broszat’s revealing admission the publicity it deserved.
However, that alone is not enough to explain the establishment and entrenchment of the Auschwitz Myth. Not even the segment of our population most familiar with the Dachau “gas chamber” hoax, for example, is immune to the Auschwitz Myth. Anyone who follows the nationalist press knows that even there “Auschwitz” is often used as a synonym for “genocide.”22 In part, this implicit endorsement of the Auschwitz Myth may be the result of a thoughtlessness that is in itself unpardonable. But there is also some genuine belief involved, as became clear to me from discussions with editors of those publications. To support their position they usually cited the findings of the first Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial. Indeed, the actual reason for the widespread public acceptance of the Auschwitz Myth may be that the decisions of German courts enjoy the unlimited confidence of the German people. Despite many miscarriages of justice, judicial authority and objectivity are still considered above suspicion. Whether this trust is justified when it comes to such blatantly political trials as the so-called Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial is a question that will arise many times in the course of our investigation. At this point, it should be enough simply to note that it can never be the task of the courts to pronounce the final verdict on historical matters, something that certain groups consider the real purpose of the so-called “Nazi Crimes of Violence Trials” (“NSGVerfahren”), of which the Auschwitz Trial is the prime example.23
Considering the importance of the Auschwitz Myth, and its strange etiology, it is high time that the facts be systematically investigated and scrutinized. To be sure, other writers —for example, Rassinier and Butz— have brought many significant facts to light. However, since their studies embraced the whole problem of the German concentration camps, their treatment of Auschwitz was necessarily limited to the essentials, and could do with some supplementation. Beyond that, I should like to treat the Auschwitz Myth from a different point of view, as will become evident in the following pages.
1 Especially after World War I, the often bizarre workings of this “supra-national power” were vividly exposed in numerous books, articles, and speeches. It is significant that for a long time after World War II there was no public discussion of this subject. Although in recent years a relatively large number of books about it have appeared, and been widely circulated, for instance, those of the American journahst Gary Allen, one rather gets the impression that they are intended to divert our attention from the real “wire-pufiers.” In any case, the facts they “reveal” are for the most part already quite well known. Possibly these “expos6s” owe their appearance to rivalry or competition among group~ of powerful men. For an extensive survey of the subject see Gerhard Müller, Uberstaatliche Machtpolitik im 20. Jahrhundert (2nd ed., rev., 1975).
2 Emil Maier-Dorn, Welt der Täuschung und Lüge, p. 8.
3 Gerald Reitlinger, Die Endlösung, p. 116.
4 See Caspar Schrenck-Notzing, Charakterwäsche, p. 11.
5 Interestingly, the English writer Richard Harwood [Richard Veran] views the legend of the extermination of the Jews as a threat to all nations. He believes that it produced a delusion that nationalism inevitably leads to genocide. According to Harwood, the spectre of “Auschwitz” is being used to suppress and destroy the sense of nationhood which is a people’s “very guarantee of freedom.” See Richard Harwood, Did Six Million Really Die?, p. 2.
6 Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, pp. 67ff.
7 International Military Tribunal, Nürnberg; Der Prozeß gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof Nürnberg (cited hereafter as IMT), vol. I, pp. 282-283; ibid., vol. XXXIII, pp. 275-279 (Document 3868-PS). [It should be noted that here, and throughout, Stäglich cites the German edition of the IMT volumes, especially since the pagination of the published German-language transcript of the “Proceedings” (vols. 1-XXIII) does not correspond to that of the “Official Text in the English Language.” In both editions, however, the “Documents in Evidence” sections (vols. XXIV-XLVII) are identical.]
8 Writing in the correspondence section of the American Roman Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor, June 14, 1959. See Butz, op. cit., p. 47. Pinter’s letter is quoted at length by Heinz Roth, Wieso waren wir Väter Verbrecher?, p. 111.
9 Reitlinger, op. cit., p. 149. The German version of this so-called “standard work” bears the misleading sub-title, “Hitlers Versuch der Ausrottung der Juden Europas.” The original English edition was published at London in 1953 by Valentine, Mitchell & Co. Ltd. under the title The Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe.
10 Letter from Dr. Martin Broszat, then an associate member, now director, of this institute, published in the correspondence section of the Hamburg weekly Die Zeit, August 19, 1960 (No. 34), p. 16. [In the North American edition, August 24, 1960 (No. 34), p. 14.] See Butz, op. cit., p. 47; also Paul Rassinier, The Real Eichmann Trial – The Incorrigible Victors p. 89; and Roth, pp. 19-23.
11 As the French university professor Robert Faurisson recently emphasized in the monthly periodical Défense de 1’Occident, June 1978, p. 35. The “deathbed confessions” of the camp commandant of Mauthausen, SS-Standartenführer Franz Ziereis, even appeared as a pamphlet.
12 IMT vol. XIX, p. 483. See also Joe J. Heydecker and Johannes Leeb, Der Nürnberger Prozeß, p. 487, and the same authors’ Bilanz der Tausend Jahre, p. 455.
13 On this subjeet see Franz Scheidl, Der Staat Israel und die deutsche Wiedergutmachung, also his Deutschland und die Juden, pp. 266-270; and J. G. Burg, Schuld und Schicksal, 1962, pp. 155-163. The Allgemeinejüdische Wochenzeitung of July 4, 1975 estimated that 50.1 billion marks in reparations have already been paid and indicated that the total would amount to 85.5 billions.
14 As Dr. Peter Kleist, for example, did long ago in his book Auch Du warst dabei. In Das Drama der juden Europas, Rassinier conducted a thorough investigation of the 6,000,000 claim, using Jewish statistics. In my opinion, all such estimates are of only slight importance, since there are no reliable Jewish population statistics. Moreover, the decisive question is not how many Jews lost their lives during World War II, but, granting that some did, how they perished. On the problem of Jewish fatalities in the war see Butz, op. cit., pp. 205-240.
15 IMT, vol. VI, pp. 370f., 400f., 467. Characteristically, the Nuremberg Tribunal did not admit into its official documentation a memorandum Gerstein allegedly composed, in bad French, but only two invoices for shipments of Zyklon B, to the Oranienburg and Auschwitz camps, that were appended to his statement. See T. XXVII, pp. 340-342 (Document RF 350/1553-PS).
16 See Hans Rothfels’s article “Augenzeugenbericht zu den Massenvergasungen” in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte (No. 2 of 1953), pp. 177ff.; and Rassinier, Das Drama der juden Europas, pp. 71ff. For an extensive discussion of the value of the “Gerstein Report” as a source see Udo Walendy, Europa in Flammen, vol. I, pp. 422-429; and Butz, op. cit., pp. 105ff.; 251- 258. The latter book contains an English translation of the “Gerstein Report” that was presented by the prosecution at the NMT “Doctors Trial” (NMT, vol. I, pp. 865-870, Nuremberg Docurnent 1553- PS). The version in the German edition of Butz’s book was translated by Udo Walendy from this English translation of the French text. It is not a German “original.” Adalbert Rückerl has recently attempted to rehabilitate the “Gerstein Report” by alleging that Dr. Wilhelm Pfannenstiel accompanied Gerstein on his trip to the “extermination camps” and later corroborated the essentials of Gerstein’s report. Yet Pfannenstiel would hardly have made certain of these statements voluntarily, though he could have done so under duress. I have before me a communication Pfannenstiel wrote to Professor Rassinier, from which it is evident that he dissociates himself unequivocally from the alleged “Gerstein Report.” At that time, as during the war, Pfannenstiel was Professor of Hygiene at University of Marburg. It is peculiar that the public is being introduced to this “witness” to the “gassings” only now when he is presumably deceased. See Adalbert Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager im Spiegel deutscher Strafprozesse, pp. 14; 61-66.
17 In the second French version this passage is missing. See Rassinier, Das Drama der Juden Europas, pp. 133ff. The German version Rothfels cites in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte and the English version Butz reproduced are in accord here.
18 As is claimed, for example, in the autobiography attributed to Rudolf Höss, Kommandant in Auschwitz, pp. 123; 154ff. See also Helmut Krausnick in Anatomie des SS-Staates, vol. II, p. 416. Previous assertions of this kind in the literature on the subject are contradictory indeed. The War Refugee Board Report mentions in this respect only one large barrack erected for this purpose in “Birkenwald.” See the report of the U.S. War Refugee Board, German Extermination Camps: Auschwitz and Birkenau (cited hereafter as WRB Report), p. 9. According to Reitlinger, op. cit., p. 166, there were “two converted barns,” however. Oddly enough, Bernd Naumann’s reportage on the trial mentions only one “converted barn.” See Naumann, Auschwitz: Bericht über die Strafsache Mulka und andere vor dem Schwurgericht Frankfurt, p. 9. The above should give one some indication of how “reliable” is the testimony on this central question in the alleged extermination of the Jews.
19 Butz, op. cit., p. 225.
20 As the late Jochen Floth, who was Chairman of the Deutsch-Völkische Gemeinschaft, stated in a special bulletin issued by his organization (Deutsch-Völkischer, no. 2 of 1975), of which I have a copy in my files. Other witnesses from among the former prisoners of war in Auschwitz are named in the periodical Denk Mit! (No. 3 of 1975), p. 65. See also Franz Scheidl, Geschichte der Verfemung Deutschlands, vol. IV, p. 59; and Heinz Roth…der makaberste Betrug aller Zeiten, pp. 94 and 140.
21 On this see Emil Aretz, Hexen-Einmal-eins einer Lüge, pp. 55ff. According to reports of former Auschwitz inmates, a crematorium was destroyed in an “uprising” toward the end of 1944. See Adler, Langbein, and Lingens-Reiner, Auschwitz: Zeugnisse und Berichte, pp. 167, 273ff, 282ff, and 385. Also Kazimierz Smolen, Auschwitz, 1940-1945, p. 81. * Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus; literally, “He who lies once is not to be believed twice.”—
22 For instance, in the Deutsche Wochen-Zeitung, July 19, 1974 (No. 29), p. 3 (“Ein heißes Eisen”). This example is by no means unique.
23 “NSG” is the abbreviation of the term “Nationalsozialistische Gewaltverbrechen” (“Nazi Crimes of Violence”), which is supposed to designate a species of crime unique in history.