Breaking the Spell by Nicholas Kollerstrom Review and Commentary Part One

Did you know that the Jews in Auschwitz ate cake and ice cream? Well, that’s what Nicholas Kollerstrom says on his book Breaking the Spell,

“Inmates were paid for their labour and services while interned at Auschwitz concentration camp, and special money was printed for their use. Through extra work, inmates could obtain such coupons, redeemable for cake and ice cream in the camp’s canteen.” (Nicholas Kollerstrom, Breaking the Spell, The Holocaust:  Myth and Reality, Castle Hill Publishers, Uckfield, 2014, p 197)

Nicholas Kollerstrom in The Jewish Chronicle Online
Nicholas Kollerstrom in The Jewish Chronicle Online

When I moved to Launceston in 1991, I met a Holocaust revisionist or denier who introduced me to the Leuchter Report and other revisionist material. There was a time when I wondered if there might be some truth to their arguments. However, I soon came to realise they were wrong. The fundamental problem with Holocaust revisionism is their inability to show, with evidence, what “really” happened to the Jews if they were not killed.

I have had some articles on the errors of the Leuchter Report and Holocaust revisionism published in the alternative magazine Hard Evidence which can he found on my Articles and Essays page.

In future posts I intend to review some revisionist books and explore their flawed arguments, beginning with Breaking the Spell by Nicholas Kollerstrom.


Kollerstrom, who has a Ph. D. in physics, was expelled from the University College. London, for his views on the Holocaust in 2008 (Breaking the Spell, p 15, 107-108). I do not agree with the censorship and persecution of Holocaust revisionists. If we only have freedom of speech for people who say things we agree with, we do not have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means putting up with people who say things we don’t like.

Worse, suppressing Holocaust revisionism only fuels their persecution complexes, so they believe their claims cannot be debated or refuted.

If you are going to believe something controversial, which is going to result in your being persecuted and your life pretty much being ruined, you should make sure what you believe is true, which is not the case with Kollerstrom’s claims in Breaking the Spell.

Kollerstrom does not accurately define what happened in the Holocaust. He write, “The Holocaustian religion is about six million Jews who tragically died in gas cambers, then mysteriously came back to take the cash.” (Breaking the Spell, p 133) (No hint of anti-Semitism here.) He repeatedly claims six million Jews were gassed in the Holocaust (Breaking the Spell, p 28-29, 30, 52, 57, 133, 176, 223).

The only people, who say six million Jews were gassed in the Holocaust, either know nothing about the Holocaust or are revisionists making a straw man argument. About 1 million Jews were gassed using Zyklon B in Auschwitz. About 2 million Jews were gassed by carbon monoxide in the Operation Reinhard camps. Kollerstrom says nothing about the 2.5 million Jews  who were mainly shot in the occupied Soviet Union.

Kollerstrom is vague about the nature of Auschwitz and where the Jews were killed. The Auschwitz complex consisted of three major camps, Auschwitz I, the Main Camp, Auschwitz II or Birkenau, Auschwitz III or Monowitz, and several smaller satellite camps. Much of Kollerstrom’s attention is focused on Auschwitz I where the gas chamber in Crematorium I operated in 1942. In 1944 it was converted into an air raid shelter. After the war it converted into a replica gas chamber. Kollerstrom repeatedly claims it was built by Stalin (Breaking the Spell, p 37, 53, 64), but does not present any evidence Stalin had anything to do with it.

On one page Kollerstrom describes the gas chamber in Auschwitz I as a post war reconstruction (Breaking the Spell, p 56). Then, on the next page he describes a revisionist video about Auschwitz,

“David Cole in his video walks around the dreaded chamber. He points to an ordinary wooden door, opening inwards, with a thin glass panel. Clearly this and the door itself would have been immediately smashed if one attempted to put loads of people inside and gas them.” (Breaking the Spell, p 57) He is suggesting this could not possibly be a door to a gas chamber, but he has just said the building is not in its original wartime condition when it was a gas chamber. He cannot have it both ways.

Lots of buildings and ruins have been restored and reconstructed. There is nothing sinister about this. It does not mean they are fakes.

Auschwitz I’s gas chamber played a relatively minor role in the gassing of the Jews in Auschwitz. Out of the 1.1 million Jews killed in Auschwitz, it has been estimated that “only” 10,000 were cremated in Auschwitz I and not all of those would have been gassed (Jean Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York, 1989, p 134). The vast majority were killed in Auschwitz II or Birkenau in the two Bunkers in 1942 and the gas chambers in Crematoria II, III, IV and V in 1943 and 1945. Kollerstrom does not make this clear to his readers, giving the impression that it was all about Auschwitz I and its supposedly fake gas chamber.

The locations of these gas chambers can be found in numerous books on Auschwitz and the Holocaust, yet Kollerstrom  writes about “fairly unspecified physical locations” (Breaking the Spell, p 120) as though there is some confusion about where these gas chambers were (Breaking the Spell, p 52).

Kollerstrom quotes some Nazi documents that the death rate in the concentration camps be reduced (Breaking the Spell, p 216-217). This does not sound like an extermination program, but the purpose of the concentration camps was not to kill every inmate. Some were used as slave labour for the Nazi war effort. As the war worsened for Germany, there was a greater need for slave labour in the war industries, so more effort was put into keeping them alive. This did not apply to those unfit Jews in Auschwitz who could not be used for slave labour.

When the Jews arrived in Auschwitz, they went through a selection process where the unfit Jews were usually gassed and only the fit Jews were admitted into the camp and used as slave labour. Non-Jewish inmates did not go through a selection process.

The Nazi policy of killing the unfit Jews and keeping the fit ones alive to work is outlined in  a passage from Joseph Goebbels’ diary on March 27, 1942,

“Beginning with Lublin the Jews are now being deported eastward from the Government-General. The process is pretty barbaric, and one that beggars description, and there’s not much left of the Jews. Broadly speaking, one can probably say that sixty percent of them will have to be liquidated while only forty percent can be put to work.” (David Irving, Goebbels, Mastermind of the Third Reich, Focal Point, London, 1996, p 388)

Kollerstrom ignores this well-known passage.

Moreover, the majority of concentration camp inmates were not Jews. Peter Black writes,

“With the exception of Auschwitz and other Jewish labor camps in Poland and the Soviet Union, the overwhelming majority of the camp population, approximately 224,000 in August 1943, was non-Jewish between the end of 1942 and the arrival of the Hungarian Jews during the summer of 1944. The majority of the prisoners in Reich camps in 1942-44 were Slavs, primarily Poles and Russians; after these came the resistance fighters and forced labourers from western Europe: Italian laborers, who arrived in the camps after the Italian surrender on September 8, 1943; and finally German political and criminal prisoners.” (Peter Black, “Forced Labor in Concentration Camps. 1942-1944”, in Michael Berenbaum (editor), A Mosaic of Victims, I. B. Taurus, London, 1990, p 56)

Kollerstrom cited figures that in 1942, 65% of the inmates in Auschwitz were Poles and 39% were Jews. However, he also writes that nearly 60% of the deaths of registered inmates were Jews (Breaking the Spell, p 104) This would suggest that the Poles were treated better than the Jews.

Not all inmates in Auschwitz were equal. There was a hierarchy and some inmates, such as German political and criminal prisoners, had more right than others, such as the Jews (Wolfgang Softy, The Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1997, p 117-129)

Auschwitz swimming pool, copyright unknown
Auschwitz swimming pool, copyright unknown.

Kollerstrom points to features, such as the swimming pool and brothel in Auschwitz I, to argue that Auschwitz was not such a bad place (Breaking the Spell, p 194-196), when they were only for the more privileged non-Jewish inmates and the Jews did not have access to them. Laurence Rees writes in Auschwitz, The Nazis and the Final Solution,

“The idea that Auschwitz prisoners could be found brawling in an SS-sponsored brothel seems, at first hearing , inexplicable. But it is actually a story that illustrates the sophisticated hierarchy of prisoners that had now developed at the camp. As Jozef Paczynski points out, the idea that Jews could use the brothel was inconceivable. They were considered a lower class of inmate, subject to a level of ill-treatment that some of the Polish or German non-Jewish prisoners escaped.

The Nazis could see that one of the keys to the smooth running of the camp  was the attitude of the inmates who had managed to gain relatively privileged jobs, many of whom were political prisoners who had entered the camp years before. This class of prisoner was not subjected, as a rule, to the ruthless and regular selections that other inmates endured. But the Germans wanted a better way of controlling them. A brothel, with entrance dependent on vouchers issued by the Nazis, was a reward for good behaviour for around 100 of these key inmates and a clear incentive to behave even better in the future,” (Laurence Rees, Auschwitz, The Nazis and the Final Solution, BBC Books, London, 2005, p 252)

rees auchwitz

Rees also writes,

“There is another difficulty with the existence of the brothel at Auschwitz. Holocaust deniers and other apologists for the Nazis seize upon its presence as evidence that Auschwitz was a really different place from that painted in conventional historiography. This problem s especially stark when combined with knowledge of the so-called ‘swimming pool’ at Auschwitz main camp. In reality this was a water storage tank over which the firemen had fixed a makeshift diving board, but selected inmates were certainly able to bathe in it. ‘There was a swimming pool in Auschwitz for the fire brigade,’ confirms Ryszard Dacko. ‘I could even swim there.’ This facility has become one of the totems of the Holocaust deniers’ case. ‘This is supposed to be a death camp?’ they say, ‘With a swimming pool for the inmates? Come off it!’ But in reality its existence fits into the same pattern as that of the brothel. Instead of showing how Auschwitz was a centre for mass murder, which it undeniably was, the presence of these two institutions demonstrates once again the complex make-up of the various camps that together constituted ‘Auschwitz’.

The many different hierarchical structures and purposes  of the various camps within the Auschwitz complex have allowed the Holocaust deniers  to focus on so-called anomalies such as these. There were myriad variations – from the ‘swimming pool’ and brothel at one end of the spectrum to the crematoria and murder of children at the other. It was the very complexity of Auschwitz as an institution that made the place so appealing to Himmler in 1943, and makes it a focus of the Holocaust deniers’ attentions today.” (Auschwitz, The Nazis and the Final Solution, p 253-254)

Kollerstrom writes, “Is anyone really dumb enough to believe that this pool with spring board and starting blocks was merely a water reservoir for use by firemen? Yes, see Laurence Rees Auschwitz, a New History, 2005.” (Breaking the Spell, p 196)

However, we have seen that Rees said it was both a swimming and a reservoir for firemen.

Kollerstrom and other Holocaust revisionists do not make it clear there was a hierarchy in Auschwitz and some inmates had more rights and privileges than others. They give the impression that the Jewish inmates had access to the same privileges as the top non-Jewish inmates. However, I have not seen any evidence that even these elite prisoners could eat cake and ice cream.

To be continued.



Author: Malcolm Nicholson

I am a small business owner and I live in northern Tasmania. I am a graduate of the University of Tasmania and I have a Master of Arts in Early Christian and Jewish Studies from Macquarie University. I am a member of the Churches of Christ. I have been a teacher librarian, New Testament Greek teacher, branch president and state policy committee chairman of a political party, university Christian group president. My interests include ancient history, early Christian history, the Holocaust, Bible prophecy, revival, UFOs, peak oil and science fiction.

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