"Vergasungsapparate" - "Gassing Devices"

Second Response to "Samuel Crowell"

written by Jamie McCarthy
February 1999

"Samuel Crowell" has responded to my critique of his reasoning regarding this document. If the reader has not read the earlier webpages, this will be important:

This second response is divided into the following sections:


Mr. Crowell's response begins "Dear CODOH: Thank you for forwarding to me..." when I know full well he received my email directly. [1] The writer who hides behind the name "Crowell" is known to me, and we have corresponded in the past. If he insists on this game, I will go along without violating his privacy, but it is childish, and it is grating to see such pretense leading off his wounded claims to honesty and forthrightness.

I also note for the record that, when his response went online, he did not extend me the courtesy of an email notification (as I always do). Nor does he cross-link from his page to the webpage it addresses (as I always do) - but this is nothing new, the CODOH website refuses to link to opposing arguments anyway.

It would be an exercise in futility to disassemble his response line by line, especially because his argument rests mainly on two or three crucial ideas which are wrong. His analysis depends on distracting the reader away from bearing a few simple concepts in mind all at the same time, and foiling his analysis is really as simple as reading and understanding the document. The impatient reader who knows German will likely be able to find all the errors for him- or herself, and should progress directly from his response to the text of the Wetzel-Lohse letter itself, which he has failed - for very good reason - to quote at length.

Context: The Wrong Way

His errors mainly center around the idea of context. Of course it is important to recognize the context for this document with relation to others, for each line within the document, indeed for each word (if we must argue about the meanings of words). He would surely agree, as he refers to context repeatedly:

In the context of the disinfection literature, this [word] is clearly...

...in the context of the disinfection literature, this draft memo is about...

...what might they [words] mean in a disinfection context?

The words 'Vergasungsapparate' and particularly 'Apparate' are common in a disinfection context...

And so on. The trouble is that he never gives any reason why we should analyze this document "in a disinfection context." [2] He has written at length about the German delousing chambers, but that does not mean that every document from the war concerns delousing. When one's only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

His argument that "vergasen" is a verb "used for fumigation at least since 1914" is misleading since it was also used to mean exposing humans to gas since roughly the same time.

His only other argument is that because the document refers to constructing "Unterkünfte und Vergasungsapparate" - barracks and gassing devices - therefore the latter must be related to, indeed part of, the former. As we shall see, his arguments on this point are utterly without merit.

In short, when he writes about context, what he means is that the document must be removed from its context, and placed in another context which supports his claims. His argument is:

The context of the words he argues over, meanwhile, is clearly given in the letter itself, from which he is careful never to quote more than two words in a row. His most grevious sin is that he fails to explain why Viktor Brack, head of the euthanasia (murder) program, will be in charge of building the "gassing devices." Brack's "devices" - Brack's devices - are the entire point of this letter.

In analyzing a document, it is not valid to ignore the very reason why the document was written. The question that Crowell's interpretation brings to mind is, why should Brack, the head of the euthanasia program, be involved in such a mundane activity as setting up delousing chambers? (And for that matter, why does something as trivial as delousing require the agreement of Adolf Eichmann, head of the Reich Security Main Office Department of Jewish Affairs? Since when did Eichmann have anything to do with delousing?)

Yet Crowell ignores Brack completely, devoting not a single word to why he might be involved. When I pointed this out, his response was stunning. First he claimed "I have not ignored Viktor Brack," which he certainly had. (To ignore: to disregard deliberately, to refuse to consider.) Then he said:

I have not mentioned him because he is not relevant to what we are discussing, which is whether the 'Unterkünfte' and 'Vergasungsapparate' in this document refer to delousing chambers or 'gas vans.'

Of course Brack is relevant. This lack of care seems even more stunning since he admitted later that:

...it is being proposed that Jews who cannot work will be disposed of by use of "Brack's method, means, remedy, or expedient" -- that is, I am assuming that "Brackschen Hilfsmitteln" is a euphemism for euthanasia, which itself is a euphemism for putting to death.

So the "Brackian remedy" means killing, and "Brack ... has agreed to collaborate in the production of the required ... gassing devices."

This seems like a slam-dunk (and it is). The gassing devices are homicidal in nature. Even the most cautious reader would conclude, at a bare minimum, that the reason for Brack's involvement should be thoroughly considered!

Yet, the dishonest could decide that Brack is "not relevant," though only through an amazing contortion would this be possible:

I contend that the first and second paragraphs of this letter are not the same paragraph...

In other words, our search for context must stop at the individual sentence level (or below!) - because if we try to understand one paragraph by reading the paragraph before, we will only be led astray.

This is a clear demonstration of the pseudoscholarly approach which characterizes Holocaust-denial.

It is not really worthwhile to exhaustively debunk each bend and kink in his argument: mislabeling of the "Hilfsmittel" as a "code-word" and thus a "mistranslation"; pretending the same word "Apparate" must always be used to describe the devices (as though Germans do not use synonyms); etc.

To put it bluntly, when our intrepid revisionist writes that the "Brackian remedy" "bears no obvious relationship with" Brack's devices, he is lying. Just as I would be lying if I claimed that the phrase "our intrepid revisionist" bore no obvious relationship with Samuel Crowell because I have not spelled out his name for several paragraphs. Nobody could say such a thing with a straight face. This is why such researchers are not taken seriously by historians and scholars.

Crowell is not unintelligent, and is perfectly capable of reading and understanding a simple letter. Only by claiming that the letter must be read "in a disinfection context" can he proclaim it to be about disinfection - and only by ignoring the many references to the contrary can he make this assumption. Faced with this newly twisted rendering, I am only the more certain that he misleads deliberately: that he is dishonest.


I would be remiss to stop there. Crowell's linguistic arguments are confusing and also require detangling, and here the reader who does not know German may need assistance.

He wishes to prove that the noun "Vergasungsapparat" refers to a delousing device but has no evidence for this claim. We must be careful to distinguish the word's meaning from what it refers to. Its meaning is:

The word (removed from any context) means simply a device which exposes someone or something to gas: thus our term "gassing device" is a fine translation.

It will not take long to find some context for the word, after which we will be able to make an informed decision about what it refers to: whether these were delousing gassing devices, or (as they happen to be) homicidal gassing devices.

As my first response pointed out, Crowell simply had no evidence that the former was the case. That does not mean his hypothesis is necessarily wrong (though it happens to be). It just means there is no evidence.

So, without any linguistic or contextual evidence that the "gassing devices" must be for lice, he turns to supposition that such might be the case:

I would point out however first of all that the "Unterkünfte" and the "Vergasungsapparate" are discussed in tandem, and in subsequent sentences there are at least two more references to "Apparate". Now what might these words mean, based on contemporary documents or other sources? And, in terms of my explicit argument, what might they mean in a disinfection context?

He asks entirely the wrong questions above (emphasis added). It is not especially useful to look at what the words might mean based on usage in other documents. It is surely more important to look at what they do mean in the very document they appear in.

He makes his case largely based on the fact that related words ("vergasen," "Apparate") are used in describing delousing chambers. But since the root words are quite common, this proves nothing. He writes,

The words "Vergasungsapparate" and particularly "Apparate" are common in a disinfection context...

but the first is a lie - he cannot locate a single occurrence of "Vergasungsapparate" [4] - and the second is meaningless - "Apparate" ("devices") is a common word in a hundred other contexts as well. He goes on:

Such "Apparate" in such "Unterkuenfte" were common in the German Labor Service...

The word "Unterkünfte" simply means "barracks." [5] He has found a document describing some rather ordinary "devices" in "barracks" and concludes from this that all devices, if mentioned in the same sentence as barracks, must be harmless!

And again, he is only making a case for what the words could refer to (but don't). If we want to know what a word could mean, it suffices to consult dictionaries. But we want to know what it does refer to, in a particular document, so we must actually understand and analyze that very document.

Crowell cannot do this because it immediately produces an answer which he dislikes.

Other Problems

Distortion. Crowell distorts my meaning to find supposed support for his thesis. I wrote that the letter does not explain whether the gassing devices (Vergasungsapparate) and "shelters" (Unterkünfte):

...are related (apart from being, presumably, used in the same camp or same region).

(Emphasis added.) Crowell falsely summarized this:

...the author of this piece comes so close to agreeing with me, as he ... implies that "Vergasungsapparate" may well have been part of the "Unterkünfte" in question, in which case they could not have been gas vans.

In fact I was arguing that that exact claim was "specious." I went out of my way to point out that it was not specified that the devices were in the shelters, that there was no stated relation between them, and that one could only presume (not know) that they were even to be used in the same region. In response, I am accused of "implying" that they "may well have" been part of one another. This is false: that implication is nowhere in what I wrote.

This is an especially egregious tactic because he does not link to or quote my words. His reader must trust him.

Misreading. Crowell writes:

The first paragraph of this letter is specifically about impressing Jews into the labor service in Riga and Minsk, and therefore the Germans would have had to construct delousing huts for them...

He has this exactly backwards. The first paragraph discusses how some Jews will be sent to Riga and Minsk; other Jews will be impressed into labor to the East. It specifically says (in the next paragraph which Crowell refuses to connect) that those Jews who cannot be used for labor (in other words, the ones sent to Riga and Minsk) will be eradicated - using the "Brackian remedy."

His explanations for the supposed meaning of this document are noteworthy for his glib claim that its "context" includes testimony from Bruno Tesch in a postwar trial. Apparently his idea of "context" will extend to postwar testimony when it suits his case, but not to successive sentences in the same document!

Ignoring documents. His dismissal of all corroborating evidence is also noteworthy for yet another distortion of the facts:

...the 'gas vans' are not 'Vergasungsapparate' and that transformation does not take place no matter how many eyewitness testimonies one cites about the existence of gas vans.

Note that trial testimony is considered insignificant, now that it is not from a source he likes. But worse: I had cited two pieces of documentary evidence, one stating explicitly "The gas van Pol 71463 is ready. It will be sent to Riga with its driver." Why is he suddenly free to ignore this? Because it is from a collection which also includes "some material" he says is from "Soviet show trial provenance." No other comment. His work is published as part of CODOH's "Inconvenient History" - how ironic that he so easily dismisses and ignores inconvenient evidence.

Ignoring arguments. His other objections can be nullified by repeating what I wrote earlier (he did not address this):

Even if the letter had requested stationary gas chambers specifically, such as those Brack's office had constructed for the euthanasia program, it would not be surprising and certainly not contradictory if, between October and December, someone had proposed and enacted an alternate plan. The Wetzel-Lohse letter is a request for people to get in touch, not a design specification. It is even marked as a "draft."

This letter was only a proposal. Not all proposals get adopted (though Wetzel's was); not all proposals are adopted in exactly the same form that they were written.

Context: The Right Way

The proper context for this, like any other historical document, is on a much larger scale than this sentence- and word-level quibbling that we have been dragged down into. We should not waste our time finding documents on stamp-collecting or the State Labor Service or other mundane activities that happen to contain some variation on the one word "device."

Instead, we should seek out other facts and documents that are related to the Wetzel-Lohse letter's undisputed subject matter:

All of these subjects converge on the use of gas chambers, including mobile gas chambers known as gas vans, for homicidal purposes. Three documents on gas vans in particular are now available on the Holocaust History Project website:

If one is interested in examining the context of the Wetzel-Lohse letter, these documents are a good place to start. (For a more well-rounded study, turn to Eugen Kogon et al., Nazi Mass Murder, and Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide.)


The most important feature of his commentary is Crowell's inability - twice now - to quote more than two words in a row from the Wetzel-Lohse letter. I challenge him to reprint the entire letter, without omission, adding only short interruptions between sentences to summarize what his interpretations are. I do not think he will accept. If he does this using an accurate translation, I do not anticipate needing to respond further, as the document itself will likely debunk his claims.

I further challenge him and CODOH to crosslink from his reply to the webpages he is replying to.

Finally, regarding his repeated protest that I have presented ad hominem attacks: this is done not out of malice, but necessity. I continue to maintain that Crowell argues his case dishonestly. This is a simple document to understand and it is only through complex machinations that he can misinterpret it. He is not unintelligent, nor too terribly unfamiliar with the historical context. His distortions can therefore only be deliberate.

To point this out is not to expose him to personal attack. He hides behind a pseudonym; what would be the point? If my goal were personal destruction I would attack him, not his false name.

In responding to his analysis of NO-365, I have two goals. The first is to affirm that the document is valid, and means what it means, by rebutting an attack on it.

The second is to show that the author of Samuel Crowell's large work, The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes, is not merely biased but deliberately deceptive. It only takes one solid example to demonstrate that the remainder of the work is not to be trusted. NO-365 is one such example. His latest response has been another. Given someone who distorts my words from contradiction into agreement, how can he be trusted not to distort his other sources?

I will probably not have time to address the bulk of his work in the near future, much as I would like to. Until I do, having shown its author's dishonesty to my own satisfaction, I will not lose much sleep over what it purports to prove.

Appendix I: Samuel Crowell's Response

Only minor corrections to the HTML formatting have been made.

Response to J. McCarthy on NO-365, The Wetzel-Lohse Correspondence

February 7, 1999


Thank you for forwarding to me the response to my analysis of the Wetzel-Lohse correspondence in "The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes" as found on The Holocaust-History Project. I would make the following comments.

     The author of the piece accuses me of many errors, and furthermore, claims that these are not mistakes but rather "examples of intellectual dishonesty." I note in passing the remarkable need for the author to spice his writing with ad hominems.

     The text itself contains four errors that my analysis is supposed to contain. I will discuss each of these in turn, but first I would like to recapitulate what I wrote:

     There are three judgments of fact in the above paragraph.

     The author questions the first and second judgments of fact, but does not contest the third. I maintain that the first and second judgments remain secure, and that there is nothing in his critique to confound them.

     Now to deal with the claims seriatim.

Claim #1

The author's first claim is that I am wrong in asserting that the "Vergasungsapparate" discussed in the text are delousing chambers. He writes "He [Crowell] simply has no evidence for this assertion." He then goes on to challenge, "If the word has an ordinary meaning, it should not be hard to find in ordinary documents."

     In response to this I can only say that the author apparently did not read the earlier sections of my essay, where the terminology of disinfection is clearly described.

     I would point out however first of all that the "Unterkünfte" and the "Vergasungsapparate" are discussed in tandem, and in subsequent sentences there are at least two more references to "Apparate". Now what might these words mean, based on contemporary documents or other sources? And, in terms of my explicit argument, what might they mean in a disinfection context?

     As Section 3 of my essay makes clear, "vergasen" is a common verb used for fumigation at least since 1914, "Apparate" is the standard term for delousing chambers or fumigation vaults, and there are even "Vergasungsapparaturen" specifically discussed in an article on railway tunnel delousings dated to 1931.

     Therefore, the judgment that "Vergasungspparate" is a reference to delousing chambers is well supported by contemporary documents, the context of the disinfection literature, and even by the history of German disinfection procedures.

     In contrast, there is no documentary reference to "Vergasungsapparate" either before or during the war which characterizes "Vergasungsapparate" as "gas vans."

     On balance, therefore, I would continue to maintain that Vergasungsapparate is a reference to delousing chambers, and so far I have only covered the meaning of the word itself, saving the wider context of the word's use for a bit later. Furthermore, there is no question that my original judgment that "In the context of the disinfection literature, this is clearly a reference to a Labor Service hut that would be equipped with the standard Entwesungskammern for delousing clothing." remains a perfectly acceptable conclusion, provided, of course, that one knows something about the disinfection literature.

Claim #2

The author then claims that I have ignored the person of Viktor Brack. The reponse to this is simple. I have not ignored Viktor Brack, I have not mentioned him because he is not relevant to what we are discussing, which is whether the "Unterkünfte" and "Vergasungsapparate" in this document refer to delousing chambers or "gas vans."

     Perhaps what the author has in mind is the fact that the Germans had a euthanasia program, also known as T-4, that it was administered by Brack, that some of the persons involved in T-4 also became involved in the East (although they had other duties as well), and that it seems likely -- because of this and other documents -- that there was an intention to euthanize (that is, put to death) Jews who were of no labor utility to the Reich during the war.

     But none of this is disputed by me, indeed I specifically grant the existence of this euthanasia program. Of course, it is also said that there were "gas chambers" in the euthanasia program, so one might conceive a "clang association" in that respect. But I have discussed that lack of evidence elsewhere. There is a rather clear reference to euthanasia in the second paragraph of the letter, but that has no necessary relationship to these "Vergasungsapparate", as we shall see.

Claim #4

The author's fourth "error" (I will return to the third one momentarily) holds that I "dishonestly" ignored the references to Brack that I have just discussed here, that I told an "outrageous lie" in claiming that there is no material or documentary evidence in support of the interpretation of this document as a document of a mass gassing program.

     The refutation of my claim consists largely of personal attacks, which are irrelevant, as well as a typical obiter dictum "There can be no denying this ...."

     As just noted, I did not discuss Brack, nor even this document in great detail, but my omissions here are not germane to the topic at hand. It is clear that there was a euthanasia program, administered by Brack. It is clear that Jews who were incapable of working were envisioned as being euthanized. But it is not clear that the discussion of "Vergasungsapparate" in this document has anything to do with either one or the other.

     In this respect, the author quotes a phrase from the second paragraph, to the effect that it is suggested in this draft letter that Jews unable to work will be "done away with by means of Brack's gassing apparatus." However the German text does not say this, describing instead "mit den Brackschen Hilfmitteln beseitigt." My interpretation of this reference is that it is being proposed that Jews who cannot work will be disposed of by use of "Brack's method, means, remedy, or expedient" -- that is, I am assuming that "Brackschen Hilfsmitteln" is a euphemism for euthanasia, which itself is a euphemism for putting to death.

     Now in my essay I many times reference the fact that the Germans persecuted, and killed, Jews. But the point of my essay is not to contest that matter. The point of my essay is to evaluate the evidence that Jewish people were systematically killed using poison gas. The evidence for this, by my analysis, is wanting, and the evidence for such mass gas killings is not helped by insisting that "Hilfsmittel" is a code-word for "gassing apparatus." Not only do I consider this a mistranslation, in the sense that a "Hilfsmittel" is not usually an object, but also because the first paragraph of the letter provides a perfectly fine word for describing these "Vergasungsapparate", namely, "Apparate"! In other words, I contend that the first and second paragraphs of this letter are not the same paragraph, and that "Vergasungsapparat" and "Hilfsmittel" are not the same thing, either.

Claim #3

The analysis comprising the third "error" is the longest so I have saved it for last. In this part of his refutation the author now turns to the subject of gas vans. Here, he wishes to prove that there were gas vans in Riga, and since this letter discusses constructing "Vergasungsapparate" in Riga, they must be the same thing. That at least is the "reasoning" here.

     The evidence adduced for this claim comprises affidavits and testimonies from around 1960, the words of a witness at a Soviet show trial in late 1944, and a collection of documents introduced at the International Military Tribunal known as "PS-501" which contains at least some material from Soviet show trial provenance.

     I do not find this evidence for "gas vans" convincing, but again, that is not the point, because the point is that the "gas vans" are not "Vergasungsapparate" and that transformation does not take place no matter how many eyewitness testimonies one cites about the existence of gas vans.

     It follows therefore that the author has still failed to provide any material evidence (that is, the ruins of a gas chamber in Riga) or documentary evidence (that is, documents -- not affidavits or testimony) that describe the use of "Vergasungsapparate" as "gas vans", and therefore my judgment of fact concerning the absence of such evidence remains intact.


To summarize the points of this refutation in their proper order:

  1. "Vergasungsapparate" can only mean "gassing devices" for homicidal gassing,

    • but as I have pointed out the linguistic and literary basis for seeing these "Apparate" as delousing chambers is much stronger than the basis for the "gas vans" interpretation.

  2. I have ignored Viktor Brack, who headed the euthanasia campaign,

    • but there is no reason to mention him, since there are no documents that link Brack's euthanasia campaign with "Vergasungsapparate" or "gas vans",

  3. I have ignored the evidence for gas vans,

    • but the evidence for gas vans has nothing to do with "Vergasungsapparate" nor is there any evidence that specifically links them with this letter,

  4. I have ignored the final paragraph, which arguably discusses euthanasia,

    • but again that is a topic that bears no obvious relationship with the "Vergasungsapparate" in this letter.

     In the end it turns out that this "correction" of my "errors" and exposure of my "intellectual dishonesty" consists almost entirely of blaming me for not emphasizing connections that are important to the author, but not a single one of which demonstrates any explicit connection of "Vergasungsapparate" either with a mass gassing program or "gassing vans."

     In this respect I must record my amusement that the author of this piece comes so close to agreeing with me, as he, in the closing sentences of his enumeration of my third "error", implies that "Vergasungsapparate" may well have been part of the "Unterkünfte" in question, in which case they could not have been gas vans. Every author should wish for such "refutations"!

     Actually, the author would have done better to pursue this line of thought, that is, that the document is about stationary gas chambers. After all, that was the position of the prosecution at the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in Case 1, "The Doctors Case":

     The proof has shown that Brack himself advanced plans for the mass extermination of the Jews. In the beginning of 10/1941, Brack had a conference with Eichmann from the Reich Security Main Office of the SS and Wetzel of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Territories on the "solution of the Jewish question". (No-997, Pros. Ex. 506.) Brack declared himself ready to collaborate in the manufacture of the necessary gas chambers and gassing apparatus for the extermination of all Jews who were unit to work. Since the manufacture of this apparatus was easier to accomplish in the East, Brack agreed to send some of his collaborators, and especially his chemist, Kallmeyer, there for this purpose. Brack proposed outright termination of all Jews who were unable to work. Since Eichmann, whom Hitler had charged with the solution of the Jewish question, was in agreement with Brack's proposals, no objection was voiced against the extermination of those Jews who were unable to work with the "Brack remedy". (No-365, Pros. Ex. 507.) Kallmeyer was the technical expert on operation of the gas chambers in the euthanasia station. (Tr. p. 7743.)

     Nevertheless there are still problems with the "stationary gas chamber" approach. There were no stationary homicidal gas chambers in Riga, although Brack testified under oath that there were gas chambers, and that Kallmeyer was in charge of them. But since no one argues that such stationary gas chambers for homicidal purposes ever existed in Riga, if one argues that this letter is about them, that is tantamount to admitting that this memo is about absolutely nothing at all..

     In addition, shifting the interpretation of this document to one of stationary gas chambers does not help the conventional interpretation, since the weight of corroborative evidence, that is, contemporary texts, continues to weigh heavily on the side of a disinfection interpretation.

     The core issue with this letter is simple. The first paragraph makes references to "Unterkuenfte" and "Vergasungsapparate" (later referenced twice in the same paragraph as "Apparate"). So far, two meanings have been suggested: "gas vans" and "delousing chambers". (The third intepretation, "stationary gas chambers" is no longer advanced, and can be ignored.) It is my continued judgment that "Vergasungsapparate" is a reference to delousing chambers. My reasoning is as follows:

and I consider it a reasonable inference that the discussion of these "Vergasungsapparate" is in fact about the construction of these huts, along with their associated delousing chambers.

  1. The letter specifies that such "Apparate" are in short supply in Berlin, and that they must be constructed on site in Riga,

  2. A disinfection interpretation is supported in context by testimony at the Tesch Weinbacher trial that indicate that Bruno Tesch was in Riga in the late fall of 1941 specifically to give training to disinfectors in the construction of such huts and their proper use,

  3. On the other hand, a "gas van" interpretation is contradicted in context by the very eyewitness testimony quoted, which specifies that the vans were driven from Berlin to Riga, and not constructed on site,

and therefore I consider it a reasonable inference that the reference to the "Apparate" that are to be constructed on site is more likely a reference to delousing chambers than gas vans.

  1. The letter suggests that Dr. Kallmeyer should travel to Riga to ensure that the "Apparate" to be built are safe,

  2. The use of Zyklon B for delousing was notoriously unsafe, and care had to be taken with its use, on the other hand, the carbon monoxide from gas vans -- and a fortiori diesel vans -- would scarcely be dangerous to someone outside of it,

     Therefore my judgment is that the most logical conclusion is that Dr. Kallmeyer was sent for to assist in the construction of "Apparate" that would use a more dangerous gas than carbon monoxide, and that would be the hydrocyanic acid contained in Zyklon B.

  1. Adolf Eichmann is referenced specifically as in agreement with "this process", i.e., the construction of these "Apparate",

  2. this in the context of Eichmann's information that labor camps for Jews are to be established in Riga and Minsk,

  3. the Jews who will thus be victimized will come from the west, via Lodz (also in the west), to Riga and Minsk, in the east,

     In other words, it seems clear from the context that whatever is being constructed in Riga is being constructed for the purpose of facilitating the entry of western Jews into the German (forced) labor program in Riga, in the east (or Minsk, which is even farther east.)

     As a matter of fact, the document suggests that what happened in Vilnius was this: a trainload of Jews were sent to Vilnius, they were deemed unsuited for labor, and they were shot. The letter is about arranging measures so that

  1. such shooting incidents no longer occur,

  2. only labor capable Jews are sent to Riga,

  3. labor capable Jews are entered into the labor service.

     I assume -- and I might be wrong on this -- that the reference to "beseitigen" the Jews who cannot work is a reference to killing them, however, this draft letter by itself does not even support the contention that the Jews incapable of work would be sent to Riga at all! Which means that they would be "beseitigen" somewhere else.

     Confronted with a document that speaks of "Vergasungsapparate" we seek a secure interpretation that does not overly depend on the vagaries of court testimony and which is based as strongly as possible within a wider context of documentary literatures. I contend that for this document, the meaning of "Vergasungsapparate" is clear, it is a reference to building delousing huts for Jews who will be impressed into the labor service, and that these huts will be equipped with cyanide gas delousing chambers. Under the circumstances, I consider this the simplest and least contorted explanation.


The critic who promised to expose my "errors", my "outrageous lie", and my "intellectual dishonesty", has done no such thing. What he has done is to offer his own interpretation of "Vergasungsapparate" and "Bracksche Hilfsmitteln" with the condition that anyone who disagrees with his interpretation is committing "errors", telling an "outrageous lie" and engaging in "intellectual dishonesty".

     This "touch me not" strategy is wholly unsuited for scholarly debate and the author is not helped by the fact that he displays what can only be described as a lack of knowledge concerning German disinfection procedures, the language of German disinfection, the activities of German disinfection in the Baltics, the Nuremberg Trials, and other sundry matters. Morevoer, the author demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the purpose of my main work.

     The point of my essay is not to argue that there were no gassings, or mass gassings, although I don't believe these took place. The point was to investigate the evolution of the gassing claims, coupled with an analysis of the quality of the evidence used to support the claim. One of the two main conclusions of my essay is that

     There is no unambiguous material or documentary basis for the gassing claims: what has been put forward as indirect evidence of mass gassings turns out, in context, to overwhelmingly pertain either to German disinfection procedures or German civil air defense measures.

     It would be obtuse to argue that a disinfection interpretation of Vergasungsapparatecannot be offered, and that simply means that this document is ambiguous. Moreover, since the consensus of historians on this subject is that there were no homicidal gas chambers in Riga, it follows that the disinfection interpretation acquires preponderant weight. A homicidal interpretation in the gassing sense can only be salvaged by insisting that Vergasungsapparate means "gas chambers", an interpretation with no documentary or material support, and by insisting that Bracksche Hilfsmitteln is about these "gas chambers", an interpretation that likewise has no support. Neither of these interpretations is self-evident and both require question begging to be fact, since they are not buttressed by any literatures or documents external to this one. Moreover, in traversing these materials we have had a glimpse of the prosecutorial perspicacity and the unreliability of witnesses at the trial where this document was introduced.

     If the author of this attempted "refutation" wishes to be more persuasive in the future, he would be better advised to follow a strategy which is generous to the other side in its assessments, which makes no claims to either omniscience, clairvoyance, or absolute authority, which demonstrates an effort to become educated in collateral matters, and which offers its conclusions with some humility. I would recommend, in short, that he read "The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes" with greater care than he has demonstrated here.

Very Respectfully,

Samuel Crowell

Appendix II: The Wetzel-Lohse Letter


The Reich Ministry
for the Occupied Eastern Territories

 Berlin, October 25, 1941

Expert AGR Dr. Wetzel


Re: Solution of the Jewish Question

1. To the Reich Commissar for the East

Re: Your report of October 4, 1941 in respect to the Solution of the Jewish Question

With reference to my letter of October 18, 1941, this is to inform you that Oberdienstleiter Brack of the Führer Chancellery has agreed to collaborate in the production of the required shelters and gassing devices. At this time, the envisaged devices are not available in sufficient quantity; they will first have to be manufactured. Since in Brack's opinion, the manufacture of the devices in the Reich will cause much greater difficulties than doing it on the spot, Brack considers it most expedient to send his people to Riga, especially his chemist Dr. Kallmeyer, who will effect all further steps there. Oberdienstleiter Brack points out that the procedure in question is not without danger, so that special protective measures are necessary. In these circumstances, I request that you address yourself to Oberdienstleiter Brack in the Führer Chancellery through your Higher SS and Police Leader and request the dispatch of the chemist Kallmeyer and other assistants. I should inform you that Sturmbannführer Eichmann, the expert for the Jewish Question in the RSHA is entirely in agreement with this process. According to information from Sturmbannführer Eichmann, camps for Jews are to be set up in Riga and Minsk, to which Jews from the Old Reich territory may also come. At this time, Jews are being evacuated out of the Old Reich to Litzmannstadt (Lodz), and also other camps, to then later be used for labour in the east insofar as they are capable of work.

As things now are, there are no objections if the Jews who are not capable of work, are eliminated with the Brackian remedy. In this way, events such as those that, according to a report in front of me, took place on the occasion of the shootings of the Jews in Vilna, and which, considering that the shootings were carried out in public, can hardly be excused, will no longer be possible. On the other hand, those capable of work will be transported for labour in the east. It goes without saying that the male and female Jews capable of work will be kept apart.

I request a report on your further measures.


1. Via technical means which would require lengthy explanation and which might give away his identity in the process. (We have not discussed his identity, but if he would like to know how I learned of it, he is welcome to contact me.)

2. He means "disinfestation" or "delousing," not "disinfection." Disinfection refers specifically to killing bacteria and viruses. Poison gases kill only insects and other animal vermin, have no effect on microbes, and are therefore incapable of "disinfecting." This is a surprising mistake for him to make: he writes e.g. "Zyklon B was widely used for disinfection" in the section quite erroneously titled "German Disinfection Procedures."

3. The historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet refers to this presumption of gas chambers' nonexistence as "the non-ontological proof":

Formerly, God's existence was proven by the notion that existence was contained in the very concept of God. Such was the famous "ontological proof." It may be said that for the "revisionists," the gas chambers did not exist because nonexistence was one of their attributes. Such is the nonontological proof. For example, the word Vergasung does indeed mean gassing when it appears in the negative in a letter from the historian Martin Broszat to Die Zeit (August 19, 1960): "Keine Vergasung in Dachau" ("no gassing in Dachau"); but Vergasungskeller means "carburation cellar" in a document on January 1943 cited by Georges Wellers (Faurisson, in Vérité, pp. 104, 109).

The source is "A Paper Eichmann - Anatomy of a Lie" (1980), from Assassins of Memory: Essays on the denial of the Holocaust, 1992, p. 23. Available online at http://www.anti-rev.org/textes/VidalNaquet92a/ (section 4, "On the Revisionist Method").

4. Perhaps "Vergasungsapparate" is used occasionally in a delousing context but, if so, Crowell has yet to present one single example. Thus, unless he is sandbagging by withholding information, his claim that it is "common" is a deliberate falsehood, i.e. a lie.

He claims to have ("even") found an example of "Vergasungsapparatur" - but the word he claims, "Kreislaufvergasungsapparaturen," neither is that word nor appears in the source which he cites in his footnote 127. Furthermore, its root word "Apparatur" (equipment) is not the same as "Apparat" (device) - perhaps Crowell did not notice this. Other variations are offered, with "vergasen" and "Apparat" appearing separately, but again, the separate words are so common that this proves nothing.

Even if he did find examples of "Vergasungsapparate" which referred to delousing devices, this would show only that his hypothesis is plausible - not probable. The next step would be to look at the surrounding context of the Wetzel-Lohse letter, as described above. As we have already seen, even the exact words "delousing van" can refer to killing machines, so a linguistic study would only be the first step down a dead-end road. And at present, he has yet to take even that first step.

5. I am baffled that Crowell has deluded himself into thinking that "Unterkünfte" (barracks, quarters, lodging, accomodation) should be translated as "Labor Service huts." In the first place, the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the State Labor Service, was a civil service organization in which every young adult German was required to participate. This would have nothing to do with the Solution to the Jewish Question, the euthanasia program, Adolf Eichmann, or an Adviser on Jewish Affairs.

His footnotes on this source (#134, #309) refer to one publication about the Labor Service, by Josef Stangelmeyer, titled "Standardized, Disassemblable Electrical Piping Connections for the Health-Technical Installations of the Relocatable Barracks of the State Labor Service."

Of course a paper on Labor Service barracks will repeatedly feature the word "barracks" in the context of the Labor Service. But this has no more to do with the Wetzel-Lohse letter than reports on the price of tea in China.

In the second place, "Unterkünfte" simply means lodging; in a military context, it means barracks, ordinary soldiers' barracks. Why does he choose the words "huts" (and "shelters")? Perhaps because he mistakenly translated it into English as "lodging," then back into German as "Hütte," then into English again as "huts." Or perhaps he realized that the context of barracks lent nothing to his argument about delousing chambers, and that by picking other, awkward words he could confuse the reader. Whatever the case, both his translation and his reasoning are wrong. "Unterkünfte" appear in other contexts as well, e.g. in the extermination camp.

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