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Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day009.08

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day009.08
Last-Modified: 2000/07/20

   Q.   For making the statement that this transport arrived from
        Theresienstadt, that it was properly housed in Auschwitz
        and the Theresienstadt camp, and that the reason for that
        was to prepare camouflage against the Red Cross
   A.   I have to rely here on the historians of Auschwitz.  I
        have not studied the history of the Theresienstadt Jews
        myself.  I rely here on people like Atler, who has written
        the definitive history of the Theresienstadt ghetto.
        I have not done any specific research into the history of
        Theresienstadt lager.
   Q.   While we are talking about the histories of Auschwitz, do
        you agree that there is a high degree of politicization of

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        the writing of history about camps like Auschwitz.  If
        I can put it like that?
   A.   To be very honest, I have always been surprised how little
        politicization there has been.  In general, I must say
        that, with the exception of the number of victims, I find
        Jan Sehn's history still remarkably useful.  You know Jan
        Sehn wrote his history in 1945/46.  I have been very
        impressed in general by the professionalism of the
        historians at Auschwitz, and in general I must say that
        for the people who have looked seriously at this camp I do
        not have too many complaints.  Now, it is of course true
        that new source material has become available and new
        historical questions have been asked.  I think one of the
        reasons that you were so interested in my book was because
        I introduced a lot of new kind of evidence about the
        history of the camp.  But in general I must say that
        I think that most people have acted very responsibly, and
        with very few kinds of political prejudices in relation to
        the history of Auschwitz.
   Q.   The site of Auschwitz has not really changed very much
        since the end of World War II, apart from the barracks
        being torn down and recycled.  Can you explain to the
        court, please, why it is that in the very earliest
        references to Auschwitz, published by the Russians after
        the capture of the camp in January 1945, there is no
        reference whatsoever to the discovery of gas chambers, but

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        any number of references to other atrocities being committed there?
   A.   I would like to comment on the document, but I would like
        it see it in front of me.
   Q.   Very well.
   A.   I think that, if we are going to interpret in this case an
        historical source, we should go carefully and slowly.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  I think that is fair.
   MR IRVING:  That is quite fair, my Lord, and tomorrow, with
        your Lordship's permission, I will bring the translation
        of the appropriate account.  Can you explain also why the
        New York Times, in its account published in April 1945,
        referred to 5 million people having been exterminated in
        the camp?  This is at the other end of the extreme.
   A.   I would like to see it before I comment.
   Q.   Very well.
   A.   I can do that now if you give it to me or I can do it
   Q.   I have another New York Times item here.  New York Times,
        November 25th 1947, I will be happy to show it to you.
        I will read it out.  It is a very brief paragraph: "44
        Nazi officials of the notorious Auschwitz extermination
        camp accused of responsibility for the killing of 300,000
        prisoners from a dozen European countries went on trial
        today before the Supreme National Tribunal."
                  Can you explain the figure of 300,000 in 1947,

.          P-68

        with the Auschwitz officials being put on trial in Krakow
        in Poland by the Polish authorities?
   A.   My Lord, this is a number which also has come up in a
        newsreel of the trial which was shown in German cinemas.
        The 300,000 quite literally is, as it is mentioned here,
        prisoners from a dozen European countries.  It was a
        number which, until the late 1980s, was also in the
        Auschwitz museum.  It only referred to the actual people
        who had been imprisoned in the camp.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  And registered?
   A.   And registered.  It did not refer to the people who had
        not been registered.
   MR IRVING:  Well,, Professor, would you not agree that the
        court is entitled to find that a rather extraordinary
        explanation?  On the one hand, we are told that 4 million
        people had been killed in Auschwitz, and yet these people
        were being put on trial for the murder of 300,000.  There
        is no mention of the other 4 million in round figures.
   A.   The facts are the facts, Mr Irving.  I have studied this
        issue of the 300,000 where this number came from.  It was
        a number that refers to registered prisoners.  I do not
        know why the Polish court decided at the certain moment to
        make that issue the issue on which they were going to
        prosecute the people who were accused in Auschwitz.
   Q.   Without any reference to the larger figure which was being
        set aside.  I can appreciate that, in the case of a

.          P-69

        murderer who has been accused of murdering 20 people, a
        court may decide to prosecute just on one murder, but at
        least they would mention the fact that 19 other cases were
        taken into consideration.
   A.   Yes, but, my Lord, I have made a very careful study of the
        trial of the architects of Auschwitz.  Maybe I can answer
        by just telling you in short that, during the trial of the
        architect Dejaco in Vienna in 1972, the prosecution
        ultimately tried to have him condemned for murder of one
        inmate on a building site.  Now maybe you can explain to
        us or to someone else why this would be a proper way to
        proceed, but they ultimately did not want to take him, to
        actually challenge his statement that he had nothing do
        with the blue prints, that they had been made in Vienna.
        They just executed him, but an incredible amount of
        testimony was heard on this particular incident in which
        he would have drowned in a large bucket of water, this
        particular inmate who was not pulling his weight on the
        building site.
   Q.   Can I interrupt you at this point and say that it is true
        that both Defendants were acquitted, were they not?
   A.   Ertl was not officially acquitted, but his status remained
        kind of unclear.
   Q.   I am not an expert on Austrian law, but certainly under
        English they law they could have then reprosecuted him on
        any one of the other murders.  They could have had him

.          P-70

        back up before the beak but yet they did not.  He was set
        free.  Both Defendants were set free and never prosecuted
        again although they were the architects whose names appear
        on those blue prints which were in your hands in
        Auschwitz.  Is this not a remarkable comment on the state
        of the evidence?
   A.   I think it is a remarkable comment on the way the Austrian
        court operated.  I have all the files in my possession.
        Certainly after I came out of months of studying the files
        in the courtroom there, I must say that I lost much of my
        respect at least for Austrian justice.  They had all the
        documentation from Auschwitz.  They had all the blue
        prints.  They had all the documents which had been
        under discussion, for example, in my expert report with
        two or three exceptions only.  They got material from
        Moscow for this trial.  They had the blue prints there and
        they were never consulted.
   Q.   And yet they were acquitted.  So it was a perverse result,
        in other words?
   A.   It was a very perverse result and I think that, if indeed
        an expert witness had been brought in to look at those
        documents carefully, they would not have been acquitted.
   Q.   Very well.  You had these documents before you at the time
        you wrote your book "1270 to the present"?
   A.   Which documents?
   Q.   The Ertl trial document.  I had the Ertl trial documents.

.          P-71

   Q.   Were you aware of the 1947 figure of 300,000?
   A.   I was aware of that figure.
   Q.   And that the German newsreel in January 1948 again said
        that in the judgment passed on these 40 men, many of whom
        were hanged, they were hanged for the murder of 300,000
        people in Auschwitz?
   A.   I did not know the newsreel.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  The 300,000 were not grassed, presumably, if
        they were registered prisoners?
   A.   Some of them would have been gassed.  Others would have
        been beaten to death.  Some of them would have been killed
        with phenyl injections. People would have been shot and
        people maybe would have died from beatings or other causes.
   MR IRVING:  Did you make any reference to these lower figures
        at all in your book on Auschwitz?
   A.   No, I did not, because I think these figures were
   Q.   Were irrelevant?
   A.   Were irrelevant. The book ultimately presents a cumulative
        figure of all the deaths in Auschwitz, both of people who
        have died as a result of murder immediately after their
        arrival and of people who have died after having been
        registered in the camp.
   Q.   You are familiar, no doubt, with the book written by
        Professor Arno Mayer, "Why did the heavens not darken", in

.          P-72

        which this Professor of Princetown University, who was
        himself Jewish and who cannot be called a Holocaust denier
        presumably, said that most of the deaths at Auschwitz in
        his opinion were from what he called natural causes, and
        that a very small percentage had been criminally killed in
        the accepted sense.  What is your response to that?
   A.   That I am very happy to discuss the exact statement of
        Professor Mayer if I have the text in front of me.  I have
        referred to him in my expert report.  If you are happy to
        deal with my excerpt in the expert report, I am happy to
        look for it, but I am not going to comment in general on
        what Professor Mayer said without having the text.
   Q.   So are you saying in other words that you think Mayer is
        wrong?  He got it wrong?
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  No.  I think he is saying, I cannot comment
        on a document which is not in front of me.  Unfortunately,
        it is not a document, it is a book.
   MR IRVING:  Do you not agree that I accurately precis-ed what
        he said?
   A.   I do not think you do that.  I do not think this is
        accurate, what you said.
   Q.   That Arno Mayer said that, in his opinion, most of the
        deaths in Auschwitz were through natural causes rather
        than from criminal intent?
   A.   Again, I am not going to comment on this text.  The
        question was, did you appropriately precis Mayer's

.          P-73

        argument?  I do not think so.  It is a rather long
        argument.  I know it has been taken out of context many
        times, and Mayer's text has been taken as "in admission"
        that indeed Auschwitz was not an extermination camp.
   Q.   It is difficult to see how you can take that remark out of
        context.  It seemed to be a very pithy summing up by him,
        which has been very widely quoted and caused much
        indignation, I agree, in the Jewish community.  He may of
        course be totally wrong.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Professor van Pelt's position is again,
        I think, a fair one.  If you want him to comment on what
        Mayer concluded, then he must have the right to look at
        the document.
   MR IRVING:  Very well, my Lord.  I will not delay the court by
        looking for that document now, but certainly we will refer
        to it ----
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  I am trying to find the reference to it in
        Professor van Pelt.
   MR RAMPTON:  Page 590, my Lord.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  It is not where I would have expected.
   A.   It is at page 629, 620.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  I assumed it was at the beginning.
   A.   It a little earlier also.  It is actually in 89 that Mayer
        published his book.  And so here, 594 and 592, all Mayer,
        590.  It starts at 590.
   MR IRVING:  My Lord, I think possibly I shall leave this until

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        after the luncheon adjournment and come back with chapter and verse.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Whichever you wish.
   MR IRVING:  Because we are rather drifting away from the actual
        camp site, which is the way I was hoping to take this
        cross-examination.  If I may produce the photographs
        again, we had concentrated on crematorium number 2, where
        you said that 500,000 people (in round figures) had been
        killed by the Nazis in that one buildings, this you called
        the geographical centre of any map of atrocities, a very
        telling phrase.  Would you tell the court what this little
        building is down there?
   A.   Yes.  It seems to be a pump building.

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