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Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/crematoria/sheet-metal-pillars

From Wed Mar  6 08:32:07 PST 1996
Article: 26262 of alt.revisionism
From: (John Morris)
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: The Sheet Metal Columns in Krema II
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 1996 09:01:02 GMT
Organization: University of Alberta
Lines: 149
Message-ID: <4hjk55$>
X-Newsreader: Forte Free Agent 1.0.82

Jean-Francois Beaulieu, "Ceacaa," and other Holocaust deniers
have been making much of the discrepancies between the
testimonies of Filip Mueller and other Sonderkommando survivors
regarding the sheet metal induction columns for Zyklon B in Krema
II at Birkenau. The sole discrepancy cited to date has been the
claim that, while all other Sonderkommando survivors refer to the
induction columns as being constructed out of sheetmetal or
wire-mesh, Mueller wrote that the column was made of sheetmetal
and inserted into a hollow concrete pillar. Since no evidence of
hollow pillars is to be found in the ruins of Krema II, we are
led to believe that Mueller is probably a liar and, from that
conclusion, that there are serious enough discrepancies in the
witness accounts about the material features of Krema II to cast
doubt on all accounts of mass murder at Krema II.

All of the denier claims about Filip Mueller's recollections are
predicated on one short passage in the French edition of
Mueller's memoir, known in English as _Eyewitness Auschwitz:
Three Years in the Gas Chamber_.

Mueller's memoir was originally written in Czech or Slovakian and
published in summary form in Czechoslovakia in 1946. This summary
was later translated into English and published in _The Death
Factory_ by O. Kraus and E. Kulka in 1966. The complete memoir
was written after Mueller's testimony at the "Auschwitz Trial"
before a German court in 1964, and it was first published in a
German translation. While efforts are being made to find and
translate the disputed passage in a Czechoslovakian edition, we
may take its first published German version as definitive, since
that is the version from which the French and English versions
are derived.

The passage posted to alt.revisionism by M. Beaulieu has been
retranslated into English, and it has formed the basis of the
discussion so far. It reads

   Des colonnes en beton se succedaient le long des murs
   lateraux: elles etaient creuses et servaient a deverser
   le zyclon-B que l'on jettait par des ouvertures amenagees
   dans leur partie superieure et qui communiquaient avec la
   chambre a gaz par des colones metalliques. Celles-ci etaient
   perforees a intervalles regulliers[..]

   [Columns of concrete were lined up against the lateral
   walls; they were hollow, and used for pouring Zyclon-B which
   was thrown in through openings in their upper part, and which
   communicated with the gas chamber through metal columns.  The
   latter had holes at regular intervals[...]]

So far as I can tell, the retranslation into English is accurate.
Unfortunately for all of us, the French version bears only a
passing resemblance to the original German text. As provided to
me by Mr. Ulrich Roessler, it reads:

   Als ich mit Kaminski und Jukl die Leichenkammer verlassen
   hatte, kamen wir zu einer massiven, eisenbeschlagenen Holz-
   tuer, die nicht verschlossen war. Der Raum, in den sie
   fuehrte, war in undurchdringliches Dunkel gehuellt. Als wir
   das Licht einschalteten, leuchteten an den Waenden Gluehbirnen
   auf, die von einem Drahtgeflecht umfasst waren. Vor uns lag
   ein etwa 250 Quadratmeter grosser Raum. Seine auffallend
   niedrige Decke und die Waende waren geweisst. Zwischen den
   Waenden der beiden Laengsseiten standen Betonsaeulen, welche
   die Decke abstuetzten. Wer glaubt, die Saeulen in diesem Raum
   wuerden nur diesem Zweck dienen, befand sich in einem Irrtum.
   Die Zyklon-B-Gas-Kristalle wurden naemlich durch Oeffnungen in
   der Betondecke eingeworfen, die in der Gaskammer in hohle
   Blechsaeulen einmuendeten. Diese waren in gleichmaessigen
   Abstaenden durchloechert und in ihrem Innern verlief von oben
   nach unten eine Spirale, um fuer eine moeglichst leichmaessige
   Verteilung der gekoernten Kristalle zu sorgen.

I have translated the passage into somewhat unidiomatic English
as follows:

   When I had left the mortuary with Kaminski and Jukl, we came
   to a massive, iron-mounted, wooden door that was not locked.
   The room into which it led was hidden by an impenetrable
   darkness. When we switched on the light, the lightbulbs, which
   were covered with wire cages, flashed on the walls. Before us
   lay a large room of about 250 square meters. Its remarkably
   low ceiling and the walls were whitewashed. Between the walls
   along the length of the room stood concrete columns which
   supported the ceiling. Whoever thought that the columns in
   this room would serve only this purpose would have been
   mistaken: the Zyklon B gas crystals were inserted through
   openings in the concrete ceiling to which were joined hollow
   sheet metal columns. These were perforated at regular gaps,
   and in their interior a spiral ran from top to bottom in order
   to make sure of as regular a distribution of the granular
   crystals as possible.

Even allowing for the slight ambiguity in the German text, the
French translation is both too literal and too economical for its
own good. A phrase like "der beiden Laengsseiten" could, if
translated too-literally, be rendered as "against the lateral
walls." But that would be to mistake the German idiom which would
translate better as "along the length of the room" and would be
more in accord with the physical remains of Krema II.

On the other hand, the drive for elegance and economy of
expression has led the French translator to conflate two very
distinct features in the description of the gas chamber: the
concrete pillars and the sheet metal columns. Mueller does not
say that the sheet metal columns are inside the concrete pillars,
and he certainly does not say that the concrete pillars are
perforated. Instead, he sees an opening in the ceiling to which
is joined a perforated sheet metal column. The distinction which
is ambiguous in the first instance ("Whoever thought. . .") is
rendered unambiguous by the description of a separate set of

It is interesting to note that the official English translator,
Susanne Flatauer, has translated the passage entirely without
ambiguity as the context certainly warrants:

   Down the length of the room concrete pillars supported the
   ceiling. However, not all the pillars served this purpose: for
   there were others, too. The Zyclon [sic] B gas crystals were
   inserted through openings into hollow pillars which were made
   of sheet metal. These were perforated at regular intervals and
   inside them a spiral ran from the top to bottom in order to
   ensure as even a distribution of the granular crystals as

Flatauer, who is obviously a more competent and idiomatic
translator than I am, takes the clause "die Saeulen in diesem
Raum wuerden nur diesem Zweck dienen" to mean "not all the
pillars served this purpose" which, if not literally correct, is
clearer and also accurate in the context of the whole passage.

An awful lot of words have passed back and forth on this issue
and all of them predicated on a bad translation into French and
retranslation into English. I sincerely hope that it will be
obvious to all particpants in this discussion that the
discrepancy between Mueller's account and the accounts of other
survivors of the Sonderkommando is more apparent than real. I
also hope that this information will lead to a better informed
discussion, though experience has taught me that that is a fond

 John Morris                               
 at University of Alberta     
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