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Did Six Million Really Die?
By Richard E. Harwood

 

6 

 AUSCHWITZ AND POLISH JEWRY

 

The concentration camp at Auschwitz near Cracow in Poland has remained at the centre of the alleged extermination of millions of Jews. Later we shall see how, when it was discovered by honest observers in the British and American zones after the war that no "gas chambers" existed in the German camps such as Dachau and Bergen-Belsen, attention was shifted to the eastern camps, particularly Auschwitz. Ovens definitely existed here, it was claimed. Unfortunately, the eastem camps were in the Russian zone of occupation, so that no one could verify whether these allegations were true or not. The Russians refused to allow anyone to see Auschwitz until about ten years after the war, by which time they were able to alter its appearance and give some plausibility to the claim that millions of people had been exterminated there. If anyone doubts that the Russians are capable of such deception, they should remember the monuments erected at sites where thousands of people were murdered in Russia by Stalin's secret police -- but where the monuments proclaim them to be victims of German troops in World War Two. The truth about Auschwitz is that it was the largest and most important industrial concentration camp, producing all kinds of material for the war industry. The camp consisted of synthetic coal and rubber plants built by I. G. Farben Industrie, for whom the prisoners supplied labour. Auschwitz also comprised an agricultural research station, with laboratories, plant nurseries and facilities for stock breeding, as well as Krupps armament works. We have already remarked that this kind of activity was the prime function of the camps; all major firms had subsidiaries in them and the S.S. even opened their own factories. Accounts of visits by Himmler to the camps show that his main purpose was to inspect and assess their industrial efficiency. When he visited Auschwitz in March 1941 accompanied by high executives of I.G. Farben, he showed no interest in the problems of the camp as a facility for prisoners, but merely ordered that the camp be enlarged to take 100,000 detainees to supply labour for I.G. Farben. This hardly accords with a policy of exterminating prisoners by the million.

 

MORE AND MORE MILLIONS

It was nevertheless at this single camp that about half of the six million Jews were supposed to have been exterminated, indeed, some writers claim 4 or even 5 million. Four million was the sensational figure announced by the Soviet Government after the Communists had "investigated" the camp, at the same time as they were attempting to blame the Katyn massacre on the Germans. Reitlinger admits that information regarding Auschwitz and other eastern camps comes from the post-war Communist regimes of Eastem Europe: "The evidence concerning the Polish death camps was mainly taken after the war by Polish State commissions or by the Central Jewish Historical Commission of Poland" (The Final Solution, p . 631). However, no living, authentic eye-witness of these "gassings" has ever been produced and validated. Benedikt Kautsky, who spent seven years in concentration camps, including three in Auschwitz, alleged in his book Teufel und Verdammte (Devil and Damned, Zurich, 1946) that "not less than 3,500,000 Jews" had been killed there. This was certainly a remarkable statement, because by his own admission he had never seen a gas chamber. He confessed: "I was in the big German concentration camps. However, I must establish the truth that in no camp at any time did I come across such an installation as a gas chamber" (p. 272- 3). The only execution he actually witnessed was when two Polish inmates were executed for killing two Jewish inmates. Kautsky, who was sent from Buchenwald in October, 1942 to work at Auschwitz-Buna, stresses in his book that the use of prisoners in war industry was a major feature of concentration camp policy until the end of the war. He fails to reconcile this with an alleged policy of massacring Jews. The exterminations at Auschwitz are alleged to have occurred between March 1942 and October 1944; the figure of half of six million, therefore, would mean the extermination and disposal of about 94,000 people per month for thirty two months - approximately 3,350 people every day, day and night, for over two and a half years. This kind of thing is so ludicrous that it scarcely needs refuting. And yet Reitlinger claims quite seriously that Auschwitz could dispose of no less than 6,000 people a day. Although Reitlinger's 6,O00 a day would mean a total by October 1944 of over 5 million, all such estimates pale before the wild fantasies of Olga Lengyel in her book Five Chimneys (London, 1959). Claiming to be a former inmate of Auschwitz, she asserts that the camp cremated no less than "720 per hour, or 17,280 corpses per twenty-four hour shift." She also alleges that, in addition, 8,000 people were burned every day in the "death-pits", and that therefore "In round numbers, about 24,000 corpses were handled every day" (p. 80-1). This, of course, would mean a yearly rate of over 8-1/2 million. Thus between March 1942 and October 1944 Auschwitz would finally have disposed of over 21 million people, six million more than the entire world Jewish population. Comment is superfluous. Although several millions, were supposed to have died at Auschwitz alone, Reitlinger has to admit that only 363,000 inmates were registered at the camp for the whole of the period between January 1940 and February 1945 (The S.S. Alibi of a Nation, p. 268 ff), and by no means all of them were Jews. It is frequently claimed that many prisoners were never registered, but no one has offered any proof of this. Even if there were as many unregistered as there were registered, it would mean only a total of 750,000 prisoners -- hardly enough for the elimination of 3 or 4 million. Moreover, large numbers of the camp population were released or transported elsewhere during the war, and at the end 80,000 were evacuated westward in January 1945 before the Russian advance. One example will suffice of the statistical frauds relating to casualties at Auschwitz. Shirer claims that in the summer of 1944, no less than 300,000 Hungarian Jews were done to death in a mere forty-six days (ibid. p. 1156). This would have been almost the entire Hungarian Jewish population, which numbered some 380,000. But according to the Central Statistical Office of Budapest, there were 260,000 Jews in Hungary in 1945 (which roughly conforms with the Joint Distribution Committee figure of 220,000), so that only 120,000 were classed as no longer resident. Of these, 35,000 were emigrants from the new Communist regime, and a further 25,000 were still being held in Russia after having worked in German labour battalions there. This leaves only 60,000 Hungarian Jews unaccounted for, but M. E. Namenyi estimates that 60,000 Jews retumed to Hungary from deportation in Germany, though Reitlinger says this figure is too high (The Final Solution, p. 497). Possibly it is, but bearing in mind the substantial emigration of Hungarian Jews during the war (cf Report of the ICRC, Vol. I, p. 649), the number of Hungarian Jewish casualties must have been very low indeed.

 

AUSCHWITZ: AN EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT

Some new facts about Auschwitz are at last beginning to make a tentative appearance. They are contained in a recent work called Die Auschwitz-Lüge: Ein Erlebnisbericht von Theis Christopherson (The Auschwitz Legends: An Account of his Experiences by Thies Christopherson, Kritik Verlag/Mohrkirch, 1973). Published by the German lawyer Dr. Manfred Roeder in the periodical Deutsche Bürger-Iniative, it is an eye-witness account of Auschwitz by Thies Christopherson, who was sent to the Bunawerk plant laboratories at Auschwitz to research into the production of synthetic rubber for the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. In May 1973, not long after the appearance of this account, the veteran Jewish "Nazi-hunter" Simon Wiesenthal wrote to the Frankfurt Chamber of Lawyers, demanding that the publisher and author of the Forward, Dr. Roeder, a member of the Chamber, should be brought before its disciplinary commission. Sure enough, proceedings began in July, but not without harsh criticism even from the Press, who asked "Is Simon Wiesenthal the new Gauleiter of Germany?" (Deutsche Wochenzeitung, July 27th, 1973). Christopherson's account is certainly one of the most important documents for a re-appraisal of Auschwitz. He spent the whole of 1944 there, during which time he visited all of the separate camps comprising the large Auschwitz complex, including Auschwitz-Birkenau where it is alleged that wholesale massacres of Jews took place. Christopherson, however, is in no doubt that this is totally untrue. He writes: "I was in Auschwitz from January 1944 until December 1944. After the war I heard about the mass murders which were supposedly perpetrated by the S.S. against the Jewish prisoners, and I was perfectly astonished. Despite all the evidence of witnesses, all the newspaper reports and radio broadcasts I still do not believe today in these horrible deeds. I have said this many times and in many places, but to no purpose. One is never believed" (p. 16). Space forbids a detailed summary here of the author's experiences at Auschwitz, which include facts about camp routine and the daily life of prisoners totally at variance with the allegations of propaganda (pp. 22-7). More important are his revelations about the supposed existence of an extermination camp. "During the whole of my time at Auschwitz, l never observed the slightest evidence of mass gassings. Moreover, the odour of burning flesh that is often said to have hung over the camp is a downright falsehood. In the vicinity of the main camp (Auschwitz I) was a large farrier's works, from which the smell of molten iron was naturally not pleasant" (p. 33-4). Reitlinger confirms that there were five blast furnaces and five collieries at Auschwitz, which together with the Bunawerk factories comprised Auschwitz III (ibid. p. 452). The author agrees that a crematorium would certainly have existed at Auschwitz, "since 200,000 people lived there, and in every city with 200,000 inhabitants there would be a crematorium. Naturally people died there - but not only prisoners. In fact the wife of Obersturmbannführer A. (Christopherson's superior) also died there" (p. 33). The author explains: "There were no secrets at Auschwitz. In September 1944 a commission of the International Red Cross came to the camp for an inspection. They were particularly interested in the camp at Birkenau, though we also had many inspections at Raisko" (Bunawerk section, p. 35). Christopherson points out that the constant visits to Auschwitz by outsiders cannot be reconciled with allegations of mass extermination. When describing the visit of his wife to the camp in May, he observes: "The fact that it was possible to receive visits from our relatives at any time demonstrates the openness of the camp administration. Had Auschwitz been a great extermination camp, we would certainly not have been able to receive such visits" (p. 27). After the war, Christopherson came to hear of the alleged existence of a building with gigantic chimneys in the vicinity of the main camp. "This was supposed to be the crematorium. However, I must record the fact that when I left the camp at Auschwitz in December 1944, I had not seen this building there" (p. 37). Does this mysterious building exist today? Apparently not; Reitlinger claims it was demolished and "completely burnt out in full view of the camp" in October, though Christopherson never saw this public demolition. Although it is said to have taken place "in full view of the camp", it was allegedly seen by only one Jewish witness, a certain Dr. Bendel, and his is the only testimony to the occurrence (Reitlinger, ibid, p. 457). This situation is generally typical. When it comes down to hard evidence, it is strangely elusive; the building was "demolished", the document is "lost", the order was "verbal". At Auschwitz today, visitors are shown a small furnace and here they are told that millions of people were exterminated. The Soviet State Commission which "investigated" the camp announced on May 12th, 1945, that "Using rectified coefficients . . . the technical expert commission has ascertained that during the time that the Auschwitz camp existed, the German butchers exterminated in this camp not less than four million citizens . . ." Reitlinger's surprisingly frank comment on this is perfectly adequate: "The world has grown mistrustful of 'rectified coefficients' and the figure of four millions has become ridiculous" (ibid, p. 460). Finally, the account of Mr. Christopherson draws attention to a very curious circumstance. The only defendant who did not appear at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial in 1963 was Richard Baer, the successor of Rudolf Hoess as commandant of Auschwitz. Though in perfect health, he died suddenly in prison before the trial had begun, "in a highly mysterious way" according to the newspaper; Deutsche Wochenzeitung (July 27th, 1973). Baer's sudden demise before giving evidence is especially strange, since the Paris newspaper Rivarol recorded his insistence that "during the whole time in which he governed Auschwitz, he never saw any gas chambers nor believed that such things existed," and from this statement nothing would dissuade him. In short, the Christopherson account adds to a mounting collection of evidence demonstrating that the giant industrial complex of Auschwitz (comprising thirty separate installations and divided by the main Vienna-Cracow railway line) was nothing but a vast war production centre, which, while admittedly employing the compulsory labour of detainees, was certainly not a place of "mass extermination".

 

THE WARSAW GHETTO

In terms of numbers, Polish Jewry is supposed to have suffered most of all from extermination, not only at Auschwitz, but at an endless list of newly-discovered "death camps" such as Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Maidanek, Chelmno and at many more obscure places which seem suddenly to have gained prominence. At the centre of the alleged extermination of the Polish Jews is the dramatic uprising in April 1943 of the Warsaw Ghetto. This is often represented as a revolt against being deported to gas ovens; presumably the alleged subject of Hitler and Himmler's "secret discussions" had leaked out and gained wide publicity in Warsaw. The case of the Warsaw Ghetto is an instructive insight into the creation of the extermination legend itself. Indeed, its evacuation by the Germans in 1943 is often referred to as the "extermination of the Polish Jews" although it was nothing of the kind, and layers of mythology have tended to surround it after the publication of sensational novels like John Hersey's The Wall and Leon Uris' Exodus. When the Germans first occupied Poland, they confined the Jews, not in detention camps but in ghettos for reasons of security. The interior administration of the ghettos was in the hands of Jewish Councils elected by themselves, and they were policed by an independent Jewish police force. Special currency notes were introduced into the ghettos to prevent speculation. Whether this system was right or wrong, it was understandable in time of war, and although the ghetto is perhaps an unpleasant social establishment, it is by no means barbaric. And it is certainly not an organisation for the destruction of a race. But, of course, it is frequently said that this is what the ghettos were really for. A recent publication on the Warsaw Ghetto made the brazen assertion that concentration camps "were a substitute for the practice of cramming the Jews into overcrowded ghettos and starving them to death." It seems that whatever security system the Germans used, and to whatever lengths they went to preserve a semblance of community for the Jews, they can never escape the charge of "extermination". It has been established already that the 1931 Jewish population census for Poland placed the number of Jews at 2,732,600, and that after emigration and flight to the Soviet Union, no more than 1,100,000 were under German control. These incontrovertible facts, however, do not prevent Manvell and Frankl asserting that "there had been over three million Jews in Poland when Germany began the invasion" and that in 1942 "some two million still awaited death" (ibid, p. 140). In reality, of the million or so Jews in Poland, almost half, about 400,000 were eventually concentrated in the ghetto of Warsaw, an area of about two and a half square miles around the old mediaeval ghetto. The remainder had already been moved to the Polish Government-General by September 1940. In the summer of 1942, Himmler ordered the resettlement of all Polish Jews in detention camps in order to obtain their labour, part of the system of general concentration for labour assignment in the Government-General. Thus between July and October 1942, over three quarters of the Warsaw Ghetto's inhabitants were peacefully evacuated and transported, supervised by the Jewish police themselves. As we have seen, transportation to camps is alleged to have ended in "extermination", but there is absolutely no doubt from the evidence available that it involved only the effective procurement of labour and the prevention of unrest. In the first place, Himmler discovered on a surprise visit to Warsaw in January 1943 that 24,000 Jews registered as armaments workers were in fact working illegally as tailors and furriers (Manvell & Frankl, ibid, p. 140); the Ghetto was also being used as a base for subversive forays into the main area of Warsaw. After six months of peaceful evacuation, when only about 60,000 Jews remained in the residential ghetto, the Germans met with an armed rebellion on 18th January, 1943. Manvell and Frankl admit that "The Jews involved in planned resistance had for a long time been engaged in smuggling arms from the outside world, and combat groups fired on and killed S.S. men and militia in charge of a column of deportees." The terrorists in the Ghetto uprising were also assisted by the Polish Home Army and the PPR - Polska Partia Robotnicza, the Communist Polish Workers Party. It was under these circumstances of a revolt aided by partisans and communists that the occupying forces, as any army would in a similar situation, moved in to suppress the terrorists, if necessary by destroying the residential area itself. It should be remembered that the whole process of evacuation would have continued peacefully had not extremists among the inhabitants planned an armed rebellion which in the end was bound to fail. When S.S. Lieutenant-General Stroop entered the Ghetto with armoured cars on 19th April, he immediately came under fire and lost twelve men; German and Polish casualties in the battle, which lasted four weeks, totalled 101 men killed and wounded. Stubborn resistance by the Jewish Combat Organisation in the face of impossible odds led to an estimated 12,000 Jewish casualties, the majority by remaining in burning buildings and dug-outs. A total, however, of 56,065 inhabitants were captured and peacefully resettled in the area of the Government-General. Many Jews within the Ghetto had resented the terror imposed on them by the Combat Organisation, and had attempted to inform on their headquarters to the German authorities.

 

SUDDEN SURVIVORS

The circumstances surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, as well as the deportations to eastern labour camps such as Auschwtiz, has led to the most colourful tales concerning the fate of Polish Jews, the largest bloc of Jewry in Europe. The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, in figures prepared by them for the Nuremberg Trials, stated that in 1945 there were only 80,000 Jews remaining in Poland. They also alleged that there were no Polish-Jewish displaced persons left in Germany or Austria, a claim that was at some variance with the number of Polish Jews arrested by the British and Americans for black market activities. However, the new Communist regime in Poland was unable to prevent a major anti-Jewish pogrom at Kielce on July 4th, 1946 and more than 150,000 Polish Jews suddenly fled into Western Germany. Their appearance was somewhat embarrassing, and their emigration to Palestine and the United States was carried out in record time. Subsequently, the number of Polish Jewish survivors underwent considerable revision; in the American-Jewish Year Book 1948-1949 it was placed at 390,000 quite an advance on the original 80,000. We may expect further revisions upwards in the future.

 

 



Index

Introduction

1. German policy toward the Jews prior to the war

2. German policy toward the Jews after the outbreak of war

3. Population and Emigration

4. The Six Million: Documentary Evidence

5. The Nuremberg Trials

6. Auschwitz and Polish Jewry

7. Some Concentration Camps Memoires

8. The Nature & Condition of War Time Concentration Camps

9. The Jews and The Concentrations Camps: A Factual Appraisal by the Red Cross

10. The truth at last: The work of Paul Rassinier


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