This is the third of a series of posts on the book Breaking the Spell by the Holocaust revisionist Nicholas Kollerstrom.
An important source for Auschwitz is the testimony and memoirs of Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz, however revisionists claim that his evidence is unreliable because he was tortured. Kollerstrom writes, “Rudolf Hoss was seized by a British army hit team and tortured until he gave his torturers the story they wanted to hear” (Nicholas Kollerstrom, Breaking the Spell, Castle Hill Publishers, Uckfield, 2014, p 42) and in 1983 it was disclosed “that Rudolf Hoss had been tortured for three days and nights by a British army hit team” (Breaking the Spell, op cit., p 60).
His source is Legions of Death by Rupert Butler who says that Hoess was bashed when he was arrested, but he does not say he was tortured into confessing (Rupert Butler, Legions of Death, Arrow Books, London, 1986, p 237).
The evidence that Hoess was tortured into confessing comes from Hoes himself, who wrote in his memoirs,
“At my first interrogation, evidence was obtained by beating me. I do not know what was in the record, although I signed it. Alcohol and the whip were too much for me.” (Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz, Phoenix Press, London, 2000, p 174)
Holocaust revisionists are arguing in circles. They say Hoess’ memoirs are unreliable because he was tortured but the evidence he was tortured comes from his memoirs.
Even though Hoess’ evidence supposedly cannot be trusted, Kollerstrom still relies on Hoess when it suits him. He quotes Hoess saying at Nuremberg that the reason for the poor conditions in the concentration camps at the end of the war, with thousands of inmates dying from starvation and disease, was the fault of the Allies who bombed the railways so no food could get to the inmates (Breaking the Spell, p 207-208).
The fact, that Hoess was able to blame the Allies, suggests that he was not the show trial witness which revisionists make him out to be. He could say what the wanted.
Modern revisionists use the same argument as Hoess and blame the Allies for the conditions in the camps at the end of the war. They do not just deny the existence of the gas chambers. They are hard-pressed to admit the Nazis ever did anything wrong.
There are films of German civilians being made to visit the concentration camps at the end of the war. They all look well-fed.
If there was still enough food getting through for the German civilians, it seems implausible that there was not enough the concentration camp inmates.
Starvation was also a problem for the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in the first half of the war.
This cannot be blamed on Allied bombing. It was Nazi policy in action.
Kollerstrom claims that Hoess changed his story about how the gassings took place,
“We’ve alluded to the two stages of Rudolf Hoss’s confession: after being tortured by a British army hit team, he finally agreed to sign the story which was the climax and meaning of Nuremberg, now believed by the entire world. Firstly Hoss confessed that people went into the shower units expecting a shower, and then cyanide gas came out of the shower heads, and they were all dead in twenty minutes. Then, someone presumably murmured to him that the cyanide came in granular form as slow-release Zyklon and it would not be very easy to have this result in gas emerging from shower heads. Also, psst, hydrogen cyanide is lighter than air, so it would not very quickly descend to the captive and naked crowds below expecting their shower. So the story changed, and the famous roof holes made their appearance: the Zyklon was poured down onto the seething masses of bodies through the holes in the roof. This was not part of Hoss’s original confession because he knew perfectly well that there were no buildings in Auschwitz with such holes. But they became an imaginary necessity owing to the logistic flaw in the earlier shower unit concept.
A third step in Hoss’s confession came about because the sprinkling of Zyklon through the roof holes was not felt to be adequate, so pipe cylinders appeared, stretching from those roof holes down to the ground, where the dropped Zyklon would then reside in bowls and slowly release it deadly gas.” (Breaking the Spell, p 58-59)
First of all, Hoess’ confession was not “the climax and meaning of Nuremberg”. The Nuremberg trials were not all about the Holocaust. About 90% of the proceedings dealt with other war crimes than the killing of the Jews. David Irving commented that more time was devoted to the shooting of RAF officers who had escaped from the POW camp at Sagen than the extermination camps (David Irving, Nuremberg, The Last Battle, Focal Point, London, 1996, p 235).
It is not clear which of Hoess’ statements Kollerstrom is referring to. Hoess’ first statement “after being tortured by a British army hit-team” was dated 14 march 1946 and designated NO-1210. In this statement Hoess described the gassings in Bunkers I and II,
“The people, now undressed, then went into the rooms. Each had a capacity of 200-300 people. The doors were bolted and two cans of Zyklon B were sprinkled through the hatches into each room. The Zyklon B was a crystalline mass of prussic acid. It took between three and ten minutes to take effect, depending on the weather conditions.” (cited in Ernest Klee, et al, (editors), The Good Old Days, Konecky and Konecky, New York, 1991, p 270)
At the Bunkers the Zyklon B was thrown in through openings in the walls which were then shut (Franciszek Piper, “Gas Chambers and Crematoria”, in Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1998, p 162).
In this statement Hoess also described Crematoria II and III,
“Here too it was explained to the people through interpreters that they were going to be bathed and deloused and that they should make sure they knew where they had left their clothes. Then, still underground, they went into the next-door room, which was equipped with water pipes and shower attachments, creating the impression that it was a shower-room. Right up to the end, two Unterfuhrer had to stay to stay in the room to prevent people from getting worried.” (The Good Old Days, p 271)
Hoess did not say how the Zyklon was inserted in Crematoria II and III. He did not say it came out of the showerheads as Kollerstrom claims.
Hoess made a second statement signed April 5, 1946 and designated PS-3868. He described the gassings,
“So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Cyclon B which was crystalized Prussic Aid which was dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took 3 to 15 minutes to kill the people in the death chamber depending on climatic conditions.” (PS-3868, cited in Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2002, p 250)
This sounds like a description of Crematorium I in Auschwitz I, where there were no insertion columns, The Zyklon B was dropped through the holes in the roof onto the floor.
Hoess testified at Nuremberg on April 15, 1946, where parts of this statement were read out.
On April 9, 1946, Dr Gustave Gilbert interviewed Hoess in his cell where Hoess said,
“The killing was easy; you didn’t even need guards to drive them into the chambers; they just went in expecting to take showers and, instead of water, we turned on poison gas.” (G. M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary, Eyre and Spottiswood, London, 1948, p 149)
This is the closest Hoess came to saying the gas came out of the showerheads. It was not the first version which he was told to change, as Kollerstrom claims. It was a private conversation. He had previously said in his statement on March 14 that the shower attachments were only to give the impression it was a shower. The words “instead of water, we turned on poison gas” sound more like hyperbole than a technical statement on how the gas chambers worked.
In November 1946 Hoess gave a more detailed description of the gassings in an appendix to his memoirs,
“Experience had shown that the preparation of prussic acid called Cyclon B caused death with far greater speed and certainty … After undressing, the Jews went into the gas chambers which were furnished with showers and water pipes and gave a realistic impression of a bath house … The door would now be quickly be screwed up and the gas immediately discharged by the waiting disinfectors through vents in the ceilings of the gas chambers, down a shaft leading to the floor. This ensured the rapid distribution of the gas.” (Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz, London, 1995, p 197, 198)
The revisionists’ claim that there are no holes in the roofs of the gas chambers have been addressed by the former revisionist Charles Provan here and by Daniel Keren, Jamie McCarthy and Harry Mazal in “The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau” published in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 2004.
There is no evidence that Hoess’ interrogators whispered into his ear to get him to change his story. His story did not really change. In his March 14 statement he was describing Bunkers I and II and he did not describe how the gassings took place in Crematoria II and III. In his April 5 statement he was describing Crematorium I. His later statements were describing the operation of Crematoria II and II which he had not described previously.
To be continued.