Rudolf challenges two paragraphs from Mr. Justice Gray's Judgment [the parts of the paragraphs Rudolf left out are here quoted in italics]:
Rudolf does not challenge the Kinna report or its significance, so I will concentrate on the minute of the meeting of August 19, 1942, held in the Central Construction Office at Auschwitz. This meeting was chaired by SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Ertl, and attended by Engineer Kurt Prüfer of Topf and Sons. The context for the meeting was the decision to dramatically increase the incineration capacity in Birkenau. Instead of one crematorium, Birkenau was to receive four. Item 2 of the minutes reads as follows:
Regarding the installation of each of the 2 three-muffle furnaces near the "bathinstallations for special actions," engineer Prüfer suggested that these furnaces should be taken from a consignment already prepared for shipment to Mogilev. . . .
It is important to note that the term "bathing installations for special actions" was put into quotation marks in the original - the only term so treated in that document. It immediately suggests that it was a euphemism. This is wholly ignored by Rudolf. This document was discovered in 1945, and from the very beginning these "bathinstallations for special actions" have been identified as Bunkers 1 and 2, the gas chambers in Birkenau that functioned as the main killing installations for Jews until the completion of the crematoria in 1943.
In my expert report I referred to this minute:
During Irving's cross-examination, Richard Rampton referred to this passage of my report.
MR RAMPTON: At the top of page 341 of van Pelt we see this: "On August 19th 1942 Ertl chaired a meeting in which members of the Central Construction Office discussed with engineer Kurt Prüfer of Topf and sons the creation of four crematoria in Birkenau. Item 2 mentioned the construction of two triple oven incinerators near the bath houses for special actions". If you look over at the other document, the original German document, it is in paragraph 2 on the first page, first sentence, is it not?
Irving never did take this issue up with me, and so the issue has remained unresolved - unnecessarily, I must admit, since binders with all the sources used in my expert report were available in the courtroom. However, it may be noted that neither Irving nor Rudolf in his report proposes any reason why, if the facilities referred to were merely delousing rooms, the SS thought it necessary to camouflage these installations with a euphemism. For the record, I will produce here the full extracts from the court proceedings in Vienna.
Concerning a query on ON 193, Memorandum of August 21, 1942, signed by accused Ertl, concerning Prüfer of the Firm Topf, the accused Ertl states:
It is important to note that the medics were charged with the task of operating the gas chambers, under supervision of the camp Gestapo, known as the Political Department. Shortly before, Ertl had discussed the former judge as the man who had told him in the Summer of 1942 that Auschwitz was to become an extermination camp for Jews.
Then I talked with an employee of the Political Department who was in private life a judge. He then told me something. Normally one would not have dared to talk while on duty, because one had to fear to be punished for that. I remember that Mrs. Bischoff complained about an officer who had jokingly called Goebbels as "Jupp." This judge has enlightened me. That must have been in the summer of 1942. He came from Hamburg and later fell on the front. Auschwitz, so he told me, is an extermination camp. Many people were to be executed, that means condemned by court martials. Then he indicated through reference to the Jewish Problem that larger exterminations were to come. He counseled me to find ways to quickly get out. He himself left somewhat later, and fell in Russia. This statement was for me a warning, I was shocked and enraged. This conversation took place at the time that construction began of the crematoria. This I used as an occasion to ask for a transfer. Bischoff yelled at me and told me that he was not prepared to consider this. 39
Later in the same proceedings Ertl commented that the new crematoria were necessary "because of the special actions."
Concerning On. 195, Letter to the Economic Administrative Head Office, of 13 October 1942, by the chairman, the accused Ertl states:
A couple of minutes later Ertl commented on the notorious letter that contained the word "Vergasungskeller."
At this time I was not anymore in Auschwitz. In my personnel dossier it is recorded that I left Auschwitz on January 25, 1943. I did not get a copy of this letter.
Ertl's statement is straightforward, and does not need to be doubted as to its veracity. Another important indication that the term Special Action referred to killing can be found in the war-time diary of Dr. Johann Paul Kremer, who served in Auschwitz from August to November 1942.
September 2, 1942. Was present for the first time at a special action at 3 a.m. By comparison Dante's inferno seems almost a comedy. Auschwitz is justly called an extermination camp! 42
After his arrest, Kremer was extradited to Poland, and he became one of the defendants in the Auschwitz Trial held before the Supreme National Tribunal in Cracow in November and December 1947. During his pre-trial interrogation Kremer was asked to elucidate the various entries of his diary. On August 18, 1947, he stated that "by September 2, 1942, at 3 a.m. I had already been assigned to take part in the action of gassing people."
These mass murders took place in small cottages situated outside the Birkenau camp in a wood. The cottages were called "bunkers" in the SS-men's slang. All SS physicians on duty in the camp took turns to participate in the gassings, which were called Sonderaktion [special action]. My part as a physician at the gassing consisted in remaining in readiness near the bunker. I was brought there by car. I sat in front with the driver and an SS hospital orderly sat in the back of the car with oxygen apparatus to revive SS-men, employed in the gassing, in case any of them should succumb to the poisonous fumes. When the transport with people who were destined to be gassed arrived at the railway ramp, the SS officers selected from among the new arrivals persons fit to work, while the rest - old people, all children, women with children in their arms and other persons not deemed fit to work - were loaded onto lorries and driven to the gas chambers. I used to follow behind the transport till we reached the bunker. There people were driven into the barrack huts where the victims undressed and then went naked to the gas chambers. Very often no incidents occurred, as the SS-men kept the people quiet, maintaining that they were to bathe and be deloused. After driving all of them into the gas chamber the door was closed and an SS-man in a gas mask threw the contents of a Cyclon tin through an opening in the side wall. The shouting and screaming of the victim could be heard through that opening and it was clear that they were fighting for their lives. These shouts were heard for a very short while. I should say for some minutes, but I am unable to give the exact length of time. 43
Three days later Kremer witnessed another gassing, and dutifully recorded it in his diary.
September 5, 1942. At noon was present at a special action in the women's camp (Moslems) - the most horrible of all horrors. Hschf Thilo, military surgeon, was right when he said to me today that we are located here in the anus mundi. In the evening at about 8 p.m. another special action with a draft from Holland. men compete to take part in such actions as they get additional rations - 1/5 litre vodka, 5 cigarettes, 100 grammes of sausage and bread. Today and tomorrow (Sunday) on duty. 44
In Poland, Kremer gave again a full explanation of this entry. On July 17, 1947 he testified that "the action of gassing emaciated women from the women's camp was particularly unpleasant."
Such individuals were generally called Muselmänner [Moslems]. I remember taking part in the gassing of such women in daylight. I am unable to state how numerous that group was. When I came to the bunker they sat clothed on the ground. As the clothes were in fact worn out camp clothes, they were not let into the undressing barracks but undressed in the open. I could deduce from the behaviour of these women that they realized what was awaiting them. They begged the SS-men to be allowed to live, they wept, but all of them were driven into the gas chamber and gassed. Being an anatomist I had seen many horrors, had dealt with corpses, but what I then saw was not to be compared with anything ever seen before. It was under the influence of these impressions that I noted in my diary, under the date of September 5, 1942 "The most horrible of all horrors. Haupsturmführer Thilo was right when he said to me today that we are located here in the anus mundi." I used this expression because I could not imagine anything more sickening and more horrible. 45
Like Ertl, Kremer was straightforward about the meaning of Special Action.
In any event, even without his post-war explanation, it is perfectly apparent from the context in which the word appears in his diary entries, that the word Sonderaktion was used by Kremer to indicate mass murder, and that it had nothing to do with the delousing of inanimate objects.
It would be wrong, however, to assume that every time the world "special action" is used this is a euphemism to killing. In 1989 Jean-Claude Pressac already noted in his Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers that architect Bischoff used the term in a letter of December 18, 1942. A strike had broken out amongst civilian workers involved in building the crematoria. In a letter to his superior Kammler, Bischoff explained that the crematoria would be delayed.
During the month of December, work had to be interrupted several times for delousing and disinfestation. Also, starting on 16th December, for security reasons, there was a special action among all the civilian workers. 46
Pressac commented that "the term 'special action' in this context means checks and interrogations among a specific category of person and has nothing to do with the selection of those fit for work and the gassing of the rest." 47
Rudolf's representation of this part of Mr. Justice Gray's Judgment is not fair. The word "Sonderaktion[en]" in the minute of August 21, 1942 was not the only piece of evidence that pointed at the true meaning of the "bathhouses for special actions." There was Ertl's explanation of the term, and there was the fact that the term was set in quotation marks, and then our knowledge of the historical context in general. Important in this respect are statements made by Rudolf Höss, printed on pages 322f. of my expert report.
In a long essay on Heinrich Himmler and his role in the development of Auschwitz, Höss provided much detail about Himmler's crucial two-day visit to Auschwitz of July 17 and 18. Höss recorded that the Reichsführer-SS was briefed on the progress of the design of the settlement and the I.G. Farben complex, that he visited the Stammlager, Birkenau, and the various agricultural and industrial operations in the camp's Zone of Interests. As a special treat he witnessed the first day the complete extermination process of a transport of Dutch Jews which had just arrived. "He also looked on for a while during a selection of those who would work and those who would die without any complaint on his part. Himmler made no comment about the extermination process. He just looked in total silence." 48 Höss noted that he desperately tried to focus Himmler's attention on all the various unresolved issues, which included the problem of the waste water treatment which continued to be an irritant between the camp and the province, but Himmler shrewdly managed the situation in such a way that Höss had no opportunity to complain. He decided not to stay the night in Höss's house, where he would have been subject to his subaltern's petitions, but in the official Kattowitz residence of the Gauleiter Bracht of Upper Silesia. Politesse demanded that he invited Höss for dinner, but to ensure that neither the Kommandant nor the Gauleiter would have any opportunity to raise difficult issues, Himmler insisted that the respective spouses would join them. According to Höss it was a pleasant gathering. "He was in a very good mood that evening; charming and very talkative, especially with the two ladies, the wife of the Gauleiter and my wife. He discussed every topic that came up in the conversation: the raising of children, new houses, paintings and books. He told about his experiences with the Waffen SS divisions at the front lines and about his front line inspection tours with Hitler. He carefully avoided mentioning, even with a single word, anything that he had seen during the day or any matters concerning official business. Any attempt by the Gauleiter to bring business into the conversation was ignored by Himmler. We broke up quite late. Himmler, who usually drank very little alcohol, that evening had a few glasses of red wine and smoked, which was another thing he didn't usually do. Everyone was captivated by his lively stories and cheerfulness." 49
Despite his promotion, Höss was less than happy with the visit.
The meeting that Ertl chaired occurred a month after Himmler's visit, in which the Reichsführer-SS had ordered Höss to "move ahead with the completion of Birkenau" - a camp that was to be the focus of an accelerated program of extermination. Thus a meeting discussing the creation of three extra crematoria makes sense.
On pp. 37-41 Rudolf presents a general argument in which he proposes the theory that the term S.B. refers not to Sonderbehandlung, which normally refers in Nazi Germany to killing, but to Schonungsblock. Not only does Rudolf not produce any evidence to substantiate this claim, but in fact produces a document that strongly suggests that S.B. stands for killing. The report of the number of inmates of Birkenau, made on October 3, 1944 (fig. 8 on p. 341), reads as follows:
Report of Inmate Total [literally "strength"]
Inmate Total on October 2, 1944 26,230 Admissions on October 2, 1944 Admissions 49 Transit Jews 17202 17,251
Departures on October 2, 1944 Died a natural death 11 S.B. 8 19 43,462 This report clearly suggests that S.B. is a sub-class of the general class labeled "departures." Inmates who were sent to the Schonungsblock were not released from the camp. The Schonungsblock was part of the camp. In fact, a document exists issued by the Auschwitz labor department that gives a detailed account of where the inmates are on October 2. Of the 26,230 registered inmates 11,506 are working, 7,574 are able to work but without work, and 7,150 are unable to work. Of this last group a total of 2,415 are in various forms of quarantine, and 2,886 are officially sick, and so on. Rudolf asks at the bottom of this picture the question "'Sonderbehandlung' or 'Schonungsblock'?" The obvious answer is "Sonderbehandlung." The document Rudolf introduced lists two sub-classes of "Departures." The first lists "Died a natural death." The second category, S.B., is not defined. It seems plausible that it refers to "Died an unnatural death."
Another such document exists for the inmate strength in the women's camp of October 8, 1944. The document states that on October 7 there were 38,782 prisoners. That day 8 were added to bring the total to 38,880. There was a decrease of 2,394, which brought it down to 36,406. The number of 2,394 included 7 people who died a natural death, eight releases, 1,150 transfers to Flossenburg concentration camp, and 1,229 inmates who were referred to under the heading S.B. 51 Similarly, a document that dates from March 8, 1943 records the arrival of two transports from Germany, one from Berlin and one from Breslau. The transport from Berlin contained 540 men and 588 women and children, of whom 96 women were immediately admitted, and according to the registration records the women were given the numbers 37647-37742. A total of 389 men were placed on hold for a short time and the rest were subjected to "Sonderbehandlung." The transport from Breslau contained 1,405 people, of which 190 women were admitted with the numbers 37743-37932, and 406 men were admitted together with the 389 from the earlier transport from Berlin, and given the numbers 106369-107163. The other 125 men and 684 women and children were subjected to "Sonderbehandlung."
Indeed, in early 1943 the word "Sonderbehandlung" was not an innocent term, and this was clear to all. On March 23, 1943 the Inspector of Statistics of the SS, Richard Korherr, submitted to Himmler's aide Dr. R. Brandt a preliminary statistical report on the progress of the "Final Solution of the European Jewish Problem," which had been commissioned by a secret order of Himmler on January 18, 1943. In the last paragraph Korherr concluded that "between 1937 and the beginning of 1943 the Jewish population of Europe should have decreased by an estimated 4 million, partly due to excess mortality of the Jews in Middle and Western Europe and partly due to the evacuations, mainly in the Eastern territories, which are counted as a decrease here." 52
On April 10, 1943 Brandt sent a letter to Korherr. It reads as follows:
The Reichsführer-SS has received your statistical report on the "Final Solution of the European Jewish Problem." He does not wish the words "special treatment of Jews" to be used at all. On page 9, point 4 the text must read as follows:
In the final report , the formula was indeed used. It is of interest here to fill in the numbers Brandt did not mention - the numbers of people who were in the original version subjected to special treatment:
Transportation of Jews out of the eastern provinces to the Russian East: 1,499,692
In giving Korherr a detailed instruction to change the wording of point 4 on page 9, Brandt's letter suggested that this was all that needed to be done to remove the offensive term "Special Treatment" from the report. In fact, Korherr had used the term also in the recapitulation of his statistics concerning the "evacuations," and he forgot to remove this second occurrence of the term (for ease of reference, I have printed the word "special treatment" in bold type). It is important to note that Korherr makes clear in his introduction to the section entitled "The Evacuation of the Jews" that this does not refer to the emigration of Jews: "The evacuation of the Jews superseded the Jewish emigration, at least in the territory of the Reich. This evacuation was prepared after the prohibition of Jewish emigration in autumn 1941 on a large scale and was carried out extensively in the entire Reich territory in 1942."
The figures for evacuations from Reich territory including the Eastern Territories and also from territories under German control of influence between Oct. 1939 and Dec. 30, 1942 are:
It is important to note that the 2,506,848 Jews listed in this section of the Korherr Report did not end up in either ghettos or concentration camps. Point number 6, concerning the "evacuation" of the Jews from the Russian territories, clearly indicate that the word "evacuation" has in this particular context a genocidal meaning, as the reports of the Einsatzgruppen specifically referred to the killing of the Jews in these territories. Thus the question is now what is the meaning of the phrase that replaced the term "Special Treatment": namely "Transportation of the Jews from the eastern Provinces to the Russian East"? Korherr states that those 1,449,692 Jews did not end up in ghettos or concentration camps. So what happened to them?
There are more documents that make clear that "Special Treatment" means killing. For example, a secret report sent on June 18, 1943 to the Minister of the Eastern Territories Alfred Rosenberg complains that 5,000 Jews who had been killed could have been used for forced labor. It also complained that their bodies had not been buried.
The fact that the Jews receive special treatment requires no further discussion. However, it appears hardly believable that this is done in the way described in the report of the General Commissioner of 1 June 1943. What is Katyn against that? Imagine only that these occurrences would become known to the other side and exploited by them! Most likely such propaganda would have no effect only because people who hear and read about it would not be ready to believe it. [ . . . . ] To lock men, women and children into barns and to set fire to them does not appear to be a suitable method of combating bands, even it is desired to exterminate the population. This method is not worthy of the German cause and hurts our reputation severely. 56
Two other documents, given the Nuremberg number NO-4634, which are quite explicit are two memoranda sent by the Gestapo District Headquarters in Düsseldorf in late June, 1944. Their subject matter is: Special Treatment of Foreign Workers." The date of the first memorandum is June 20, 1944 - that day of Stauffenberg's attempt to kill Hitler.
In all cases of special treatment [Bei allen Sonderbehandlungsfällen], whenever an immediate removal to a concentration camp for the purposes of easing the shortage of space is not possible a request is to be made to the Reich Security Main Office for permission to carry out the execution on the spot with the explanation that the carrying out of the execution must take place here for the deterrent effect and because of the impossibility of removal of those concerned by train.
A couple of days later the Düsseldorf Gestapo headquarters sent a second memorandum concerning the same subject.
In amending my directive of 20 June 1944, I request that those persons subjected to special treatment [die Sonderbehandelten] be sent to a crematorium to be cremated if possible. In order to maintain secrecy, foreign workers belonging to the same ethnic group are not to be recruited for making the necessary preparations in the case of execution by shooting. However, for purposes of intimidation, the proclamation by means of posters of the execution of the death sentence in the labor camp will be continued. 57
Many more examples could be given, but no more are necessary to make the demonstrate that Rudolf's assertions do not conform with the evidence.
On p. 40 of his affidavit Rudolf uses the discussion on the terminology of genocide to turn to one incriminating document: the minute of a meeting held in the Central Construction Office on January 29. I paid considerable attention to this document on pp. 346-355 of my expert report where I gave a detailed consideration of the precise historical context and fully argued the reasons for my conclusion that the crucial parenthesis - (whereby is made possible burning with simultaneous Special Treatment) - was a coded reference to the (as yet unrealized) need to secure a supply of electricity sufficient to enable ventilation of the gas chamber and the forced-draft of the incinerators to occur simultaneously. Despite this, Rudolf writes:
It is to be regretted that Prof. van Pelt did not look into the context [sic] of this document, which clearly shows that the ventilation system for the morgues had not even been delivered at the end of January and were not installed for many more weeks to come, as Carlo Mattogno has shown. A report by engineer Prüfer from the very same day (Jan 29, 1943) states explicitly that the ventilation system had not yet been delivered. So, for whatever the "special treatment" needed electricity for, it was not for extracting hydrogen cyanide from an alleged "gas chamber".(pp. 40f)
This passage is a misrepresentation both of the document in question and the argument I based upon it. Contrary to Rudolf's account of it, the document is quite plainly a discussion of what the SS wanted to do, but recognized was then incapable of achievement. My whole argument was based on that premise.
The last sentence of Rudolf's attempt to neutralize the obviously ominous significance of the term Special Treatment is not supported by the evidence.
In the light of all the documents we know so far, it is more likely that the term Sonderbehandlung in this document refers to the improvement of hygienic standards, of which the cremation of bodies was certainly an important part, rather than to mass murder. (P. 41).
There is no extrinsic evidence to support such a conclusion. Therefore the document must provide the evidence if Rudolf is to be believed. So let us look again at the crucial sentence.
This [putting into] operation can only involve a limited use of the available machines (whereby is made possible burning with simultaneous Special Treatment), because the main electricity supply to the crematorium is not capable to carry its power consumption.
If burning is "an important part," or a sub-class, of a class of hygienic measures known as "Special Treatment," it does not make sense to use the adjective "simultaneous." This adjective makes clear that the word "Special Treatment" refers to a specific activity that is of the same sub-class as "burning." The only activity of which there is substantial evidence that it occurred in the crematoria simultaneous with burning is killing. In Nazi Germany, Special Treatment often refers to killing. Therefore the most plausible explanation of the sentence under consideration is that it refers to burning and killing.
When one tries to respond to the challenges of Holocaust deniers, one often encounters arguments based on negative evidence. I have no reason to base my understanding of the war-time meaning of the word "Sonderbehandlung" on negative evidence. Yet the issue of negative evidence comes up when one gives a final consideration to the suggestion that "Special Treatment" referred to hygienic measures. If this were true, one would expect that in some of the memoranda and directives that issued from the Kommandantur and that ordered quarantine and other sanitary measures to combat the typhus epidemic in the late summer and the fall of 1942, one would find these measures referred to as "Sonderbehandlung." No such reference has been found.
Last modified:May 23, 2002