THE STRUTHOF-NATZWEILER CAMP

by Miloslav Bilik

English translation by Michael Stein


Les lecteurs qui préfèrent s'adresser à la version française la trouveront ici.

See also the book "The Struthof Album" by Jean-Claude Pressac.


Of the current critique of the documents and testimonies relative to the Holocaust by the so-called revisionists (the term deniers seems more appropriate, because what is involved is nothing less than to deny the body of documents and testimonies), that which is relevant to the existence of the gas chambers is a particularly sensitive point.

In reality, these virtuous appearing deniers, claiming to want to simply re-establish the historical truth, really want to trivialize the crime by explaining the enormous quantity of deaths by the necessities of the war and by placing the belligerents, Allies and Axis, back to back in a common responsibility.

In fact, they seek only trying to rehabilitate the Nazi regime by attempting to erase the most unjustified deed that it committed. Obviously, Hitler's regime was a very brutal dictatorship, interning all opposition in "re-education" camps as of 1933; violating many international treaties beginning with the non-belligerence treaty, and robbing the Jews of their possessions, of their right as citizens and finally of the quality of human existence.

But the most visible and conspicuous part is naturally the mass extermination of the Jews and especially the usage of gas. In this case, one cannot invoke the necessities or vicissitudes of the war: they killed en masse and without apparent necessity old people and children - and yes, adults in good health - not because of any of their actions or any visible obvious threat.

They killed them simply because they were born, existed and had to cease to exist. Behold the big secret that the deniers want to revise.

To believe that the deniers do not have a political ulterior motive would be simply naive. Apart from a few exceptions or discrepancies in the elements of their communities (journals, Web sites), they have in common antisemitism, the desire to re-establish a fascist regime; the leader of the extreme Right in Germany is a former Waffen-SS member; the leader of the extreme Right in France counts among his principal collaborators former members of the Waffen-SS or former members of the LVF (League of French Volunteers against bolshevism who fought the Soviets with the Germans in World War II). Léon Degrelle (creator of the SS Wallonie Division), refugee in Spain until his death, was a friend of JM Pen, and one election evening, was the guest of the sister of the celebrated revisionist Faurisson. In addition, the extreme Right movements are organizing themselves and and the French leader (Pen) explained once again recently in an interview that he sought to create an association regrouping all of the European movements, as much as to say: a Fascist Internationale which seems to be in development.

For the deniers who seek to support a neo-Nazi renewal, disputing the gassings is thus a priority. And, in fact, they contest tooth and nail the idea that Hitler's Germany committed any killings and even more so by gassing or mass murder of people, women, children and old people whose only mistake was to have been born Jews.

It is a difficult task: they evoke therefore, for all the extermination camps, the faking of the evidence by the Communists; the extraction of testimony from the SS by torture; and a kind of solidarity of the Jewish escapees, who everywhere and without consulting each other, have all lied or exaggerated to support the creation of the future State of Israel - three years before it existed. The escaped non-Jews, not being dead, have no useful testimony to supply.

I will not make much of it because the strength of the testimonies and evidence flows from their multiplicity and convergence: such a document found by the British is a letter of response to another found by the Russians; the survivors collected by the Russians say nothing different than those in Bergen-Belsen. It is obvious that the British had no interest in supporting the events that were to follow in Palestine in the coming years where the Cold War would also appear and render impossible a mutual doctoring of the documents.

There is a camp, which was not strictly speaking a direct extermination camp (but indirectly through labour so difficult that few survived), and which was equipped with a gas chamber where some gassings took place, especially the gassing of almost one hundred Jews selected at Auschwitz.

The distinctive feature of this camp is that it was situated in France, on the Alsatian mountainside of Vosges and that it was evacuated very quickly by the Germans faced with the unexpected advance of the Allies: the Germans did not have the time, as almost everywhere else, to destroy the compromising documents and buildings; its gas chamber (which was first used for gas mask training by the SS.) had been returned to its original use before the camp was liberated; it remained practically intact as compared to the period of the homicidal gassings.

In addition, the extremely rapid break-through of the Leclerc Division and the liberation of Strasbourg left even less time to the Germans: in one stroke, they found in Strasbourg the bodies of gassed Jews and an amount of other compromising documents.

Finally, this camp and Strasbourg were liberated two months before Auschwitz: the testimonies are of a veracity that is impossible to doubt when certain material elements, totally unknown until now, are specified.

In substance, this camp combines all the elements of which the neo-Nazis, disguised as "revisionists", deny the existence: the gas chamber; the documents concerning the gassing of the Jews from the preparation for the selection of the Jews at Auschwitz, passing by the modalities of the preparations for the gassings; the bodies themselves with documents concerning them, including even a letter asking if it was necessary to destroy them, repatriate them to Germany, or disguise them as anatomical pieces before the advance of the Allies, and the testimonies of inmates, civil servants, the confessions of the SS and the guards.

One could ask oneself what more proof is possible when one has the motive, testimony that could not have been faked, the confessions, the bodies and the device that carried out the murders.

This camp is Struthof, place name of the town of Natzweiler (or Natzwiller according to German spelling) near Schirmeck. The French do not like the name Natzweiler (which is that of their town) and to not sully their name, prefer that of Struthof which is the name of the place situated some kilometers above the real location where this took place; nevertheless, the German correspondence naturally prefers the official location: Natzwiller (German spelling) or Natzweiler, because it is the name of the common territory.

These pages aim to present the essence of the Struthof camp. We have scrupulously taken up again some of the documents that were published at this time and a bit later. You can note the contradictions, the errors: it is the lot of historical documents and testimonies to contradict each other on certain points. On the French Revolution and still today, one can discuss about what happened to Robespierre at Thermidor: did he want to commit suicide, was he wounded by a policeman? But no one disputes that he was wounded before being guillotined the same day.

Here you will find the same uncertainties of detail: perhaps the witnesses exaggerate their actions, and if they have seen many things they spoil their testimony by indicating things that they did not directly see (having found out about them later) without them in any way being completely false; others (Germans, guards) minimize their role out of fear of being implicated; some reports, written quickly, are in error on several points; excesses (often because of lack of time in which to carry out the contradictory examination;) the perpetrators who attempt to sneak in impossibilities so they can eventually claim that they were extracted by force -- whereas those who interrogated them attempt to obtain material details, even going so far as to suggest them in aberrant cases that they hope to verify later on in order to strengthen the value of the confession. It is thus today that criminal trials unfold, with uncertainty about testimony, but allowing the court to build a strong case for conviction.

You will see yourself how the documents and testimonies ultimately converge to give this total picture: 86 Jews were gassed in this camp to constitute a collection of "typically Jewish" skeletons, with the blessing of Himmler who sought to study "scientifically" the "racial" traits.

You will find in what follows, with personal comments from time to time:

  1. a document of the French Information Ministry dated September 8, 1945;
  2. a plan of the camp with some comments;
  3. extracts from two confessions by Joseph Kramer, commandant of this camp at the time of the gassings;
  4. comments on some elements of proof: the Bautagebuch, the disappearance of the tattoos
  5. extracts from the correspondence between the different concerned German services;
  6. the methods of murder: some cliches of the gas chamber, extracts of documents.
  7. some photos showing the results: the remains of the Institute, and a conclusion summarizing the extremely telling pieces of which deniers seek to minimize the significance.

I propose to begin with a document from the French Ministry of Information dated September 8, 1945. This document is very fresh because it was published less than a year after the liberation of the Strasbourg camp, and contains a relatively large number of inaccuracies that I point out throughout; but it gives an immediate global picture of what the camp was.

The details of how the prisoners were mistreated, punished and victims of torture are not particularly specific to the Struthof camp; the majority of the German camps "benefited" from the this type of administration.

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