Breaking the Spell by Nicholas Kollerstrom Review and Commentary Part Two

This is the second of a series of posts on the Holocaust revisionist book Breaking the Spell by Nicholas Kollerstrom and will examine some of his “scientific” arguments such as the Leuchter Report.


In 1988 Fred Leuchter took samples form the sites of the gas chambers at Auschwitz I and Birkenau and found they contained negligible levels of ferric-ferro-cyanide or Iron Blue, compared with the delousing chamber at Birkenau. He tried to present his findings  at the trial of the revisionist Ernst Zundel.

(Kollerstrom distances himself from Zundel  and describes him as “pro-Nazi” (Nicholas Kollerstrom, Breaking the Spell, Castle Hill Publishers, Uckfield, 2014, p 32))

From a scientific perspective, Leuchter’s findings are worthless because there was no control sample. He did not take any samples from real gas chambers, used to execute prisoners, to show how much ferric-ferro-cyanide there should be and then compared it with the samples he took from Auschwitz.

Leuchter has designed execution gas chambers. Under cross-examination during the Zundel trial, Leuchter admitted he would not expect to find any residue in one of his gas chambers forty five years later. It seems hypocritical for him to expect there to be cyanide residue in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

Leuchter was looking for ferro-ferric-cyanide which he expected to form when the hydrogen cyanide gas reacted with the iron in the bricks. If there is negligible ferro-ferric-cyanide residue, it does not necessarily mean it was never exposed to hydrogen cyanide gas, only that it did not react with the iron in the bricks.

Kollerstrom acknowledges there is no ferro-ferric-cyanide on the walls of the delousing chamber in Dachau,

“However, the walls of the Dachau delousing chamber were coated with a sealant, an eggshell paint, which would prevent cyanide gas absorption.” (Breaking the Spell, p 52)


The walls of the Birkenau gas chambers were coated with cement. Leuchter took samples from the bricks which had been behind the cement. Revisionists do not consider that cement, like paint, could have prevented the hydrogen cyanide from reacting with the iron in the bricks.

pwelt 001
Photo of the white cement coating on the walls of the gas chamber of Crematorium II taken by Omer Arbel, reproduced in Robert Jan van Pelt ,The Case for Auschwitz, Indiana University Press, 2002, p 361

Leuchter used the Birkenau delousing chamber as his supposed control sample, but delousing chambers and gas chambers were not used in the same way. A delousing chamber used a greater concentration of hydrogen cyanide over a longer period of time. A dosage of 300 ppm of Hydrogen cyanide is lethal to humans and the gassings took about 20 minutes. In contrast, a dosage of 3200 ppm was used in the delousing chambers and a delousing session could take 12 to 18 hours.

It is no wonder the results are different. There was arguably not enough time for the hydrogen cyanide to react with the iron in the bricks, which was covered by cement, and form fer0-ferric-cyanide.

This is a summary of my article The Truth about the Leuchter Report Part Two.


Other articles which address the Leuchter Report are:

The Leuchter Report, Holocaust Denial and the Big Lie

The Chemistry of Auschwitz by Richard Green

Leuchter, Rudolf and the Iron Blues by Richard Green

Chemistry is not the Science by Richard Green and Jamie McCarthy

Report of Richard J. Green for the Irving Trial

Technical Aspects of the Holocaust, Cyanide, Zyklon-B and Mass Murder by Brian Harmon

Kollerstrom says that Leuchter “was surely the first person since World War II to really see the buildings as they had functioned.” (Breaking the Spell, p 120) Presumably based on the Leuchter report, Kollerstrom claims that the gas chambers were either washrooms or morgues (Breaking the Spell, p 38). However, many Holocaust revisionists admit that Leuchter was wrong about the supposed real purpose of the gas chambers.

In the original Leuchter Report he said the gas chambers had no doors or ventilation, so they could not possibly have been gas chambers. In 1989 Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers by Jean Claude Pressac was published. It reproduced wartime construction documents for the crematoria which mentioned gas-tight doors, ventilation and other evidence for gas chambers. An extensive list of the evidence for gassings at Auschwitz can be found at the Holocaust Controversies blog here.

Instead of admitting he had been wrong. Leuchter simply made up new explanations to explain away the new evidence.

Other revisionists have invented new explanations to explain the documentary evidence. In “Technique and Operation of Anti-Gas Shelters in World War II” Samuel Crowell argues that the chambers were really anti-gas air raid shelters, designed to keep poison gas out, rather than in.

In “Morgue Cellars of Birkenau: Gas Shelters or Disinfesting Chambers?” Carlo Mattogno says there were delousing chambers in the crematoria.

During the 2000 libel trial David Irving said that the gas chambers were really both air raid shelters and delousing chambers for fumigating the corpses of typhus victims (Irving v. Penguin Ltd. and Lipstadt, January 24, 2000, Bay 8, p 85-88). In other words, the Nazis gassed Jews with Zyklon B there but they were already dead.  It is not clear why the Nazis would delouse typhus infested corpses before cremating them,rather than  just cremate them.

The evidence is pretty conclusive if revisionists have to come up with explanations like this. Quite frankly, the revisionists sound desperate. They will say they were anything other than gas chambers.

But if they were delousing chambers, shouldn’t Leuchter have found higher levels of ferro-ferric-cyanide? Revisionists only believe the scientific evidence when it suits them.

Kollerstrom says nothing about these more recent developments but relies on the outdated Leuchter Report.

Kollerstrom refers to Germar Rudolf’s use of the philosopher Karl Popper and his idea of falsifiability which basically means that if a scientific theory is valid, there must be a way to show that it is false (Breaking the Spell, p 126). If a theory cannot be disproved, it is not a valid scientific theory. For example, evolutionists say that if we fossils of rabbits in Precambrian rocks, evolution would be falsified and disproved.

Holocaust revisionism is not falsifiable. Revisionists will not accept evidence which proves they are wrong. If a witness says they saw the gas chambers, revisionists say they are lying. If a document refers to the gas chambers or the mass murder of the Jews, revisionists say it means something else, or if they cannot get away with that, they say it is a forgery. There is no amount of evidence  which will  make them change their minds. Holocaust revisionism is not falsifiable, so it is not a valid scientific theory.

On the other hand, the Holocaust is falsifiable. revisionists could show that the millions of Jews, who were killed by the Nazis in camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka , were really still alive.







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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