The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/aktion.reinhard/belzec/belzec.02

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Kurt Berstein - Eye-Witness to Gassings
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Belzec,Gerstein

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/belzec belzec.02
Last-modified: 1993/03/05

"... Kurt Gerstein, born ... of an old Prussian family, was early invovled
in Christian evangelical movements that drew to they young Germans who were
repelled by the paganism of the Hitler Jugend. Gerstein believe that, since
both polarized groups yeared for a strong, creative Germany, he could
reconcile the passionate nationalism of the Nazis and the fervent religious
sensibilities of authentic Christians. Seeking to work from within, he
joined the Nazi party in 1933. From the fanatic reactions of the Hitler
Jugend he realized almost at once that a formula for compromise was
impossible. Outspokenly critical of Nazi blasphemies, Gerstein was expelled
from the party  in 1936 and, in 1938, was sentenced to a term in a
concentration camp to reappraise his premises. ...

... Upon release, he came to what he called the salient decision of his
life. He took it upon himself to expose the Nazi menace by gathering
evidence of the extent of its depravity. [Although never fully trusted ...]
he was put to use where it served a Nazi purpose. Gerstein had studied
mining engineering and was considered an authority on the properties of
gas. The Nazis were just then searching for a more economical and efficient
mass method of killing, and Gerstein was assigned to Belzec to devise some
method of accelerating the machinery of death. He gave a favorable report
on what was called Zyklon B, a gas produced when prussic acid crystals were
exposed to air, already widely used by manufacturers of particularly strong
vermin sprays.

Gerstein wrote what became perhaps the most horrifying eye-witness account
of death in the Belzec chambers, a process that took thirty minutes, with
600 to 700 victims crushed into an area of approximately 270 square feet: 
`Inside, the people were still standing erect, like pillars of basalt,
since there had not been an inch of space for them to fall in or even lean.
Families could still be seen holding hands, even in death. It was a tough
job to separate them as the chambers were emptied to make way for the next
batch. The bodies were tossed out, blue, wet with sweat and urine, the legs
soiled with faeces and menstual blood. A couple of dozen workers checked
the mouths of the dead, which they tore open with iron hooks. `Gold to the
left, other objects to the right.'<15>

The chief at Belzec was the notorious Globocnik, who proded Gerstein to
deliver ever larger quantities of gas and to step up daily quotas from the
August 1942 high of 15,000. When Globocnik was disappointed in the capacity
of Zyklon B to achieve faster results, the gas chambers were supplemented
by firing squads. Gerstein said that he realized he was dealing with a
monster when he queried Globocnik about the wisdom of creating mass graves
that would be evidence for adverse interpretations by future generations.
Globocnik replied: `If there should ever be, after us, a generation so
cowardly and so soft that they could not understand our work which is so
good and so necessary, the entire National Socialist movement will have
been in vain. On the contrary, we ought to bury bronze tablets stating that
it was we who had the courage to carry out this gigantic task.'<16>

Gerstein later claimed that he had stalled as best he could, offering any
ingenious excuse that would obstruct the orders from on high. Meanwhile, he
smuggled out confidential appeals to diplomats of the free world who were
posted to Germany and whom he felt he could trust. He tried the apostolic
nuncio in Berlin and several Swedish and Swiss diplomats, pleading that
they make known the Nazi crimes.

On one occasion, when traveling by train from Warsaw to Berlin, Gerstein
poured out his heart to Baron von Otter, a Swedish diplomat, later
ambassador to Great Britain. The baron described the encounter: `From the
very beginning as Gerstein described the atrocities, weeping and broken
hearted, I had no doubt as to the sincerity of his humanitarian
intentions.'<17> Von Otter reported Gerstein's story to his own government,
which found it, as did other neutrals, too bizarre for credibility.
Gerstein's appeal to the papal nuncio in Berlin, Father Orsenigo, was also
ignored. Gerstein sent scores of letters to other church leaders, but if
there were any replies, they must have been private, for none has come to
light. ..."

When the Nazi regime collapsed, Gerstein turned over to a French
intelligence team his detailed report on atrocities in Belzec and
Treblinka. His date provided the Allies in later trials with their most
detailed accounts of the Nazi murder mills, and it was used at Nuremberg.
Gerstein was, however, arrested by the French, who concluded that he was a
war criminal now trying to weasel out of retribution. Gerstein argued that
he had endangered his own life by appealing to important public figures,
all of whom were ready to vouch for him. He made little headway with the
French. The court noted that he was not stationed in some remote
administrative office but was assigned to Belzec, where the gas chamber
deaths were watched by him.

In July 1945, Gerstein was found hanged in his cell. The inquest concluded
that he had committed suicide. ... The documents that Gerstein submitted
and the notes that he made in his cell were lost or destroyed, deliberately
or otherwise. ...

In 1950, a denazification court in Tuebingen identified Gerstein as a
willing Nazi collaborator for his role in supervising the manufacture of
Zyklon B. It was not until authorities in the state of Baden Wuerttemberg
again reviewed the case, with access to considerably more documentary
evidence and the testimony of reliable witnesses such as Baron von Otter,
that the Gerstein's good name was redeemed.<18> In the judgement of the
distinguished French historian Leon Poliakov, Gerstein's testimony about
the activities at Belzec remains one of the most harrowing accounts in the
vast literature of the genocide.<19> The German Federal Republic
Information Service distributed many thousands of copies of Gerstein's
account in its campaign to disabuse the younger generation of any lingering
admiration for the achievements of the Third Reich."

<15> Saul Friedlander, "Kurt Gernstein: The Ambiguity of Good," pp. 110-111
<16> Ibid., p. 105
<17> Ibid., pp. 201-209
<18> Ibid. The battle for vindication is documented in the last part of
     Friedlander's biography of Gerstein.
<19> Commentary. August 1965

Extracted from--------------------------------------------------- 
"THE REDEMPTION OF THE UNWANTED", Abram L.  Sachar (New York: St.
Martin's/Marek, 1983.

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