A man may imagine things that are false,
but he can only understand things that are true.
In his application for permission to appeal against the Judgment of Mr. Justice Gray in the case Irving vs. Penguin and Lipstadt, David Irving has submitted a thick binder with an affidavit containing allegedly "new evidence" on Auschwitz written by a certain Germar Scheerer, known better in circles of Holocaust deniers as Germar Rudolf, the author of the so-called The Rudolf Report (official English title: An Expert Report on the Formation and Detection of Cyanide Compounds in the "Gas Chambers" of Auschwitz), originally published in 1992. 1 According to Irving's "skeleton argument re an application to adduce new evidence," the Scheerer/Rudolf affidavit is "founded upon the same author's earlier analysis of the improbability or outright impossibility of the established historiography of Auschwitz." 2 Auschwitz was only one part of a large case, but it is the only part of the case that is being challenged at this point.
Remarkably, in his decision to focus exclusively on Auschwitz, Irving acts completely in accordance with what Lipstadt accused him to be in her Denying the Holocaust, and what Mr. Justice Gray judged to be justified in his verdict: a Holocaust denier. Holocaust deniers, or negationists, are obsessed with that camp. In fact, one could safely claim that Holocaust denial is really Auschwitz denial.
To understand the centrality of Auschwitz for the negationist cause, it is important to know that one of the very few full confessions given by any German official involved in a key role in the Holocaust concerns the statements Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss made in Nuremberg, during his own trial in Warsaw, and the autobiography, accompanied by an essay entitled "The Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Concentration Camp Auschwitz." Other key figures in the Holocaust either died before the end of the war (Heydrich), or committed suicide immediately after the German defeat (Himmler), or made less than full confessions (Eichmann). The first installment of Höss' confession was available within a year of the end of the war, and his writings were published in the 1950s. As he acknowledged the central role of Auschwitz in the Holocaust, and as he described the organization, development, procedures, and problems of the extermination program in great detail, any attempt to refute the Holocaust must engage and refute Höss.
A second reason that Auschwitz is the focus of Holocaust denial arises from the historical certainty of the central role of Auschwitz as an extermination center that arises from the convergence between eyewitness' accounts, Höss's writings, the physical remains, the extensive building archive of the Auschwitz Central Building Office (which survived the war) and various other archival sources. The evidence for the role of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor - sufficient as it may be to come to a moral certainty as to the wartime history of those places - is much less abundant. There are few eyewitnesses because virtually all deportees who were sent to those camps were killed upon arrival, no immediate post-war confession that can compare to that given by Höss (Gitta Sereny's seventy hours of interviews with Treblinka Kommandant Stangl were conducted in 1971), no significant remains, and considerable fewer archival sources, which can be explained by the fact that these extermination camps generated fewer documents to begin with (because they were not regular concentration camps), and because the willful destruction of documents did not occur, as in the case of Auschwitz, in the haste of evacuation, but in late 1943 - that is at a time that the perpetrators had all opportunity to do a complete job. Consequently the man who ran those camps, Odilo Globocnik, could write in a memo dated January 5, 1944 that "with regard to the complete final accounts of 'Operation Reinhard' I must add that all vouchers should be destroyed as soon as possible, as has been done in the case of all other documents pertaining to this operation." 3
Given this situation, Holocaust deniers seem to have concluded that it makes strategic sense to concentrate their energies on debunking the Höss account and showing that Auschwitz could not have accommodated an extermination program. Their strategy is explained by the well-known Holocaust denier Arthur R. Butz who, in 1982, claimed that impartial scientific, forensic and scholarly analysis of the evidence showed that Auschwitz had not been a center of extermination. "It follows," Butz argued, "that the basic tactic of the defenders of the [extermination] legend, in controversies to come, will be to attempt to make claims that cannot be tested by the normal method of placing them as hypotheses in appropriate historical context and seeing if they cohere." According to Butz, those who want to maintain that the Holocaust existed despite the evidence to the contrary would prefer to discuss extermination camps like Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka - places of which little remain in terms of physical or archival relics, and knowledge of which is largely based on witness testimony of survivors like Jankiel Wiernik and post-war confessions of Treblinka commandant Stangl and others. "The consequence," Butz concluded, "is that it is much easier to disprove the legend as it applies to Auschwitz than as it applies to the others." For Auschwitz there were the remains of the crematoria, and there were ample archival sources, and these all pointed, as Butz confidently believed he had proved, to a non-genocidal intent and use. Therefore Butz declared that, confronted with Auschwitz, "the defenders of the [extermination] legend are in an impossible position."
They cannot concede Auschwitz without conceding the whole issue, for the reason that there is no sort of evidence they offer for the others that is not also offered for Auschwitz. If the "confession" of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss is fanciful, then who will believe the "confession" of Treblinka Kommandant Franz Stangl? If the Auschwitz accounts of Rudolf Vrba and Miklos Nyiszli are not credible, and their books sick jokes, then who will believe the equally sick Treblinka accounts of Jankiel Wiernik and other obscure people? If the Nuremberg and postwar German trials have not established the truth about Auschwitz, then who will believe that they have established the truth about Treblinka? If the large numbers of Jews admittedly sent to Auschwitz were not killed there, then who will believe that the large number of Jews sent to Treblinka were killed at that camp? My advice, then, to those who would engage in controversy is not to permit the defenders of the legend to get away with ignoring Auschwitz. The fact is that it is very easy to bring down the legend as it applies to Auschwitz and Auschwitz in turn, on account of the nature of the evidence involved, brings down the rest of the legend with it. 4
Butz confidently claims that Auschwitz, seemingly the strongest proof of the Holocaust, is in fact the easiest to attack. Subsequent history has shown that he has a point. In the last fifteen years holocaust deniers have fired a barrage of arguments to show that Auschwitz could not have been an extermination camp, that the gas chambers could not have worked, or that the crematoria ovens could not have incinerated the great number of bodies claimed, and that therefore all eyewitnesses who claim that they witnessed or even ordered or participated in the gassings stand exposed as liars. They advance obfuscatory " technical" arguments, which laypeople find difficult if not impossible to refute. Their arguments are based on the premise that the Holocaust is a hoax created and maintained by sinister forces such as the British Secret Service or some Zionist outfit or which arose as the result of some mass hysteria of eastern Jews. And they argue that Auschwitz, which was during the war an ordinary concentration and labor camp of extraordinary size, was selected by those same forces or identified by those same hysterics as a death camp equipped with installations for mass extermination. And they see their own task to rip the veil of falsehood and deception. They see themselves as successors of Sherlock Holmes, looking for clues that give access to the hidden truth. Their confidence that they can do so is based on their assumption that the "Hoax" that is the Holocaust centers on the premise that Auschwitz was an extermination camp, and the assumption that Auschwitz was an extermination camp centers on the premise that it was equipped with homicidal gas chambers, and that our knowledge of the gas chambers is based on only a very few and very unreliable sources: mainly hearsay and a few scraps of paper. Therefore, they assume that the whole "legend" will dissolve when they can show one error, one mistake, one inconsistency, or one contradiction.
Since 1988, Irving has joined the chorus of those who believe that Auschwitz is the battlefield where negationist victory will be won. In my expert report submitted in the trial I have given many examples of his obsession with Auschwitz. Here I will offer only one. In a speech given in 1990 at the negationist Institute for Historical Review Irving identified declared the Holocaust a hoax. He then asked why he and everyone else had been fooled for so long in thinking that the Holocaust had happened. His answer was simple: "we have been subjected to the biggest propaganda offensive that the human race has ever known."
It's been conducted with such finesse, with such refinement, with such financial clout, that we have not been able to recognize it as propaganda offensive - from start to finish. And yet there are these weapons cruising past us on the horizon - in all their ugliness - and the biggest weapon, of course, of all in this propaganda campaign against the truth since 1945 has been the great battleship Auschwitz! And we have now, at last, the historical profession - above all, the Revisionist historical profession - have found as our own task, the major task: "Sink the Auschwitz!" 5
In the trial he was quite candid about his aim to base his whole case on Auschwitz. On Wednesday January 19, 2000, Irving made it clear that he looked forward to the Battle of Auschwitz. It was appropriate, he argued, "to hinge this case on Auschwitz rather than what I might call the lesser camps, where there is a great deal of uncertainty, whereas Auschwitz is really the battleship, the capital ship of this entire case." According to Irving, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka - camps in which more than 1.5 million people were killed - were not really central. "These are the minor escorts, the corvettes and minesweepers, not the actual battleship which is Auschwitz itself." 6
Not only in his aim, but also in his method to "Sink the Auschwitz" did Irving reveal his negationist credentials. Following the negationist premise that the Holocaust centers on Auschwitz, and Auschwitz on crematorium 2, and crematorium 2 on its gas chamber, and that on some holes in its roof to introduce Zyklon B, Irving produced that very argument that has become known in Holocaust denier circles as "No Holes, No Holocaust!" - This led to the following exchange:
MR IRVING: And do you accept, do you not, that if you were to go to Auschwitz the day after tomorrow with a trowel and clean away the gravel and find a reinforced concrete hole where we anticipate it from your drawings, this would make an open and shut case and I would happily abandon my action immediately?
PROF. VAN PELT: I think I cannot comment on this. I am an expert on Auschwitz and not on the way you want to run your case.
MR IRVING: There is my offer. I would say that that would drive such a hole through my case that I would have no possible chance of defending it any further. 7
In the month that followed this exchange, the reinforced holes were identified, and the results are appended to this report.
But let us return to the main issue at stake: the curious epistemology of Holocaust denial. The assumption that the discovery of one little crack will bring the whole building down is the fundamental fallacy of Holocaust Denial. It would be a legitimate argument if indeed our knowledge of the Holocaust depended on our knowledge of the extermination installations of Auschwitz, and if the existence and operation of the gas chambers was proved by very few bits of information. This is obviously nonsensical. First of all there is the fact that if we assume the Holocaust to have happened more or less as told, all or at least most of the evidence becomes intelligible, while if we assume it was a hoax, most if not all of the evidence ceases to make any sense. The father of "debunkment," Lord Bolingbroke, counseled that in such a situation one had to desist and accept a fact as true." 8 Force your imagination as much as you please, you will find insurmountable difficulties in your way, if you suppose the fact to be invented: but all these difficulties vanish when you suppose it true." Furthermore, our knowledge of the Holocaust depends on tens of thousands of individual pieces of information, many of which have nothing to do with Auschwitz, and if we do consider Auschwitz, then we may safely state that our knowledge of the gas chambers depend on thousands of individual pieces of evidence of different kinds and classes. All those data converge to a conclusion. Even if one can point at erroneous information, inconsistencies and contradictions - normal occurrences in everyday historical practice - this does not mean that these disprove the existence of the gas chambers, or the Holocaust.
To illustrate the way Holocaust deniers try to argue away the convergence of historical evidence that allows us to come to the conclusion that Auschwitz was an extermination camp, and that there was a Holocaust, I quoted in my expert report a long passage written by Michael Shermer, a historian of science who became interested in pseudo-science, and who studied Holocaust Denial as an example of pseudo-science (pp. 377f). I followed Shermer's description of the mechanics of negationist argumentation with an observation that Holocaust deniers had not been able transcend their nihilist agenda, and that they had not yet begun to undertake the task of "revising history" by providing an alternative, plausible narrative that one can engage with. I observed that Holocaust deniers had spent much energy on inventing many alternative explanations for various selected pieces of evidence that point to a deliberate program of genocide, but that they had not spent any time to reconcile these alternative explanations in one plausible narrative that forces to choose between the many options they imagine, to seriously engage with issues of relevancy and causation, and to apply judgement (pp. 378ff).
Which brings me to Germar Rudolf's affidavit. Before I submit its contents to analysis, I note that that Rudolf has confirmed that he has, from time to time, attempted to deceive a court by inventing various personae that could serve as expert witnesses. Here is his own account of what happened.
In spring and summer 1992 I was called by several defence lawyers as an expert witness in several trials imposed on Revisionists in Germany (see footnote 103 of the brochure mentioned). In these trials - as in all trials against Revisionists - the judges refused to accept any evidence presented by the defence, including all expert witnesses. I had to learn that a chemist (me) was being refused because he was neither a toxicologist nor a historian, an engineer (Leuchter) being refused because he was neither a chemist nor a historian, a historian (Prof. Haverbeck) being refused because he was neither a chemist nor an engineer. My conclusions were that one obviously had to be at the same time an engineer, a chemist, a toxicologist, a historian and a perhaps even an barrister to be accepted as an expert witness at a German court. The legal process being so perverted in Germany, we decided to mock it by inventing a person with all these features, but then we realized that this would be a bit unrealistic, so we split that person into many. That is the background. 9
Thus Rudolf admits to fabricating the existence of various personae with false credentials. This, so I presume, was the origin of the fact that Rudolf has written under his original name Germar Rudolf, under the assumed names of a number of men claiming a doctorate - Dr. Ernst Gauss (engineer?), Dr. Werner Kretschmer (lawyer), Dr. Christian Konrad (historian) - one man claiming no less than two doctorates - Dr. Dr. Rainer Scholz (chemist and pharmacologist) - and under the names of a few individuals without doctorates - Jakob Sprenger, Wilhelm Schlesiger, Manfred Köhler, Lennard Rose, and under his adopted name of Germar Scheerer. Rudolf never obtained his Ph.D. Rudolf has violated the principles of authorship when he actually published under the name of a well-known living writer, Anton Maegerle. He mocks the principles of scholarship when, in the past, he has used these different identities to give his various personae academic authority: Dr. Gauss quotes Mr. Rudolf, Mr. Rudolf co-authors an article with Dr. Gauss, and so on. When challenged about this practice, Rudolf stated that "in all cases when I refer to my own works written under a pen name, I never do it to say: 'look, this expert has the same opinion as I have', but rather to say 'this fact or argument was proven and published there.'" 10 The problem, however, is that he does not tell his rather unconventional view of citation to the readers, who have learned to understand references to the work of others as part of a large conversation amongst peers, and not as a schizoid monologue of one. Rudolf turns the conventions of academia into a burlesque farce - conventions that represent a readiness to adhere to some generally shared standards of truth and accountability.
In this report we will find many - all too many - instances that show that Rudolf plays fast and loose with evidence and repeatedly violates the principles of scholarship. Many of these violations concern the misrepresentation of evidence, and it can be easily understood by the educated layman. A problem arises, however, when Rudolf invokes arguments derived from the laboratory. For that reason, I have asked Richard Green, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and who over the past years has published various pieces on the internet unmasking Rudolf's scientific misrepresentations, to help me. He has submitted his observations in a separate report.
Rudolf does play by different rules than the rest of us, and this has complicated my task of responding to the 323 pages of his affidavit considerably. I must add the very short time that was available to me, and the fact that I was not provided with any of the sources mentioned in the footnotes. Many if not most of the German sources are not available in mainstream university libraries in Canada and the United States, and many of the Holocaust denial literature was likewise unavailable. I was therefore able to only check a small part of the sources mentioned. As I will show, comparison between Rudolf's statement about the sources and the sources themselves show a remarkable pattern of misquotation and misrepresentation which seriously undermines, in my view, whatever claim to scholarly or scientific legitimacy Rudolf may have claimed.
I will discuss Rudolf's affidavit in a systematic fashion, dealing with the seventeen chapters (A to Q) in sequence after a few general remarks in a section entitled "Re: Rudolf's Affidavit." I will not comment on the last section, entitled "Summary of my Persecution."