Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day009.11 Last-Modified: 2000/07/20 MR JUSTICE GRAY: Yes. That is one category, the ones who were doing the housework? A. Yes, so, basically, the sonderkommandos who are in the Stubendienst. Then there are sonderkommandos who had to supervise the undressing of the victims. This was again a very particular task. MR IRVING: Of the living victims? A. Of the people who came to the undressing room. These were the people who had to maintain some kind of order in the undressing room, who had to help people with the undressing and they also had to gather the clothing, take care, of course, that pairs of shoes remain together and things like that, because if you have a mountain of shoes . P-93 and they are all, you know, they are not tied together, it is going to be not very useful for the people back home in Germany. Q. This is from their eyewitness evidence, right? A. This is from eyewitness evidence, yes. We do not have any German document outlining the specific responsibilities of sonderkommando. Q. I have to keep on making that point quite plain. We are relying entirely on their word of what happened? A. The word of sonderkommandos and also of German officials. So we have sonderkommandos who work in the undressing room and that is their task. Then there are sonderkommandos who work in the gas chamber which means actually bringing people, helping people, to go into the gas chamber and then ---- Q. Well, actually ramming them in, basically? A. Whatever, in the beginning, that does not, when the doors initially open, one does not have to do that -- and who removed the corpses from the gas chamber and who clean the gas chamber afterwards. That is a particular group of sonderkommando. Then there are sonderkommandos who operated the elevator which was the next -- in the case of crematorium (ii), we are now only talking about crematorium (ii) because in crematorium (iv) and (v) the sequence is different. . P-94 Q. While we are dealing with the elevator, did one man have to go into the elevator itself or was it operated from outside? A. It was operated from the outside. We have the bills for the elevators. We know what the elevators were able to do. Q. We will come back to the elevators? A. Yes. So they operated the elevators which bring the corpses up to the incineration room. Then there was group of sonderkommandos which are called the "dentists". Q. Was the only access, while we are on the elevators, between the so-called gas chamber, which is this big building we see here, and the furnace room, this elevator? Would they otherwise have to go outside around the outside of the building carrying corpses? A. There were stairs going up, but there was no internal connection between the basement level and the incineration room or the main floor of the crematorium. Q. Rather an inconvenient layout? A. Yes, it was inconvenient. Q. Totally lacked ---- A. But it seemed to have worked very well for the Germans. Q. A totally lacking system? A. The system worked well, and I think I have pointed out in my book (and Mr Pressec has done it in his book) that crematorium (ii) was originally not designed as an . P-95 extermination plant, and so the Germans worked with what they had. Q. Yes, but the Germans were constantly building new buildings, were they not, and you and I, we have probably never visited a slaughterhouse, I am glad to say -- am I right in suggesting you have not visited a slaughterhouse in your life? I certainly have not. A. No, I have only read about it. Q. Will you take it from me that a slaughterhouse is built all on one level, all on ground level, so that there are no ups and downs for obvious reasons? A. I cannot comment on it. It would make a logical proposition, but I remember reading about the slaughterhouses in Chicago where actually things, the cows are moved through the air, but that is just a memory from a thing ---- MR JUSTICE GRAY: Anyway, you say crematorium (ii) was not originally designed as a ---- A. Yes, and crematorium (iv) and (v) were and there everything is at the same level. Q. --- killing chamber? MR IRVING: The point I am making, my Lord, is if one is building a factory of death for a systematic killing of people and you are constantly erecting new buildings, it would not have been built in this extremely awkward way. MR JUSTICE GRAY: Yes, but this was conversion from another . P-96 use. That is what Professor van Pelt is saying. MR IRVING: I think your Lordship appreciates the point I am trying to make MR JUSTICE GRAY: Yes, I do. THE WITNESS: May I add to this that the Germans were not constantly building other buildings. There was a general build stop in Germany from 1942 onwards. In fact, very little construction was being done in Birkenhau. The two crematoria (ii) and (iii), they are identical exactly for the reason that they could not get crematorium (iii) built any otherwise since the building (ii) had been approved for another site for ---- Q. Who applied the building stop? Was this the four year plan or? A. The general, as relative to what has happening in the war, the only buildings which could be constructed in Germany from 1942 onwards were really buildings for the Wehrmachts, I mean for the Army or the armed forces, and the SS did not count on that at that moment under that general umbrella. Q. So the factory was destroyed; it was not rebuilt? A. And then there were buildings which had been destroyed by bombing. Q. Yes, so ---- A. That was the other thing, and the Behaltsheimer which means provisional housing for people, but, in general, . P-97 there was a building stop. One of the reasons there are so many documents in the Auschwitz archives was because every building was by its very nature an exception which had to be approved at many different levels. So the SS had great difficulty to get anything built in Birkenhau or Auschwitz during the war. Q. And they could not say, "Hey, we are carrying out the Fuhrer's orders here. This is the annihilation of millions of Jews that the Fuhrer has personally ordered. We demand top priority. This is the main plank of the national and socialist programme", is what you are saying? A. What I would like to say is that probably bureaucracy works in the same way in Germany in 1943 as it works anywhere else. If there is a general building stop -- I would like to imagine the situation where an SS man comes with your story to an official of the building department and what this German official will say to this man. Q. Well, normally, when people mention the Fuhrer's name, there will be a clicking of heels and "Ja Woll" and they would get that priority? A. Mr Irving, if you had read my book carefully, you would have read in the book that at a certain moment there was a number of low ranking civilians in the Upper Silesian planning office who threatened to close the camp in late 1942 because of building code violations. This is one of . P-98 the reasons that the sewage treatment plant was built. So I think that the relation between bureaucrats at whatever level and at a certain moment the SS is a little bit more complex than you suggested. Q. I think you are stretching the court's credulity if you suggest that a planning official in Upper Silesia could overrule the Fuhrer of the Greater German Reich and Heinreich Himmler in their dedicated desire, which we are constantly being told by the Defence, Hitler had ordered the systematic liquidation of the Jews, top priority, main purpose of the Nazi party, kill all the Jews, and you are telling us they could not get building priority? MR RAMPTON: That is, my Lord, to misrepresent any question I have ever asked Mr Irving. MR JUSTICE GRAY: I was going to ---- MR RAMPTON: I never said anything about priority at all. MR JUSTICE GRAY: No. Professor van Pelt, did you investigate, have you regarded it as part of your brief, as it were, to investigate the extent to which Hitler knew and authorized what was going on, you say, at Auschwitz? A. No. This has not been part of my brief. MR IRVING: I appreciate what you are trying to say, my Lord, that I am wrong yet again. I am familiar with ---- MR JUSTICE GRAY: Mr Irving, I was not saying you were wrong; I was simply saying that this is something that Professor van Pelt says is outside his remit. . P-99 MR IRVING: I do apologise for the inference, my Lord, but, in fact, if you are an objective historian and you are looking at the files, as I have, for example, in a parallel programme, the German V weapons programme, the V1 and the V2 rockets with which your Lordship is probably also brutally familiar during the war years. I wrote a history of that project. They ran into similar kinds of priority problems for scarce materials, and the Fuhrer's order that this programme would get a "DE" which was the highest stufe or priority, was marked on all the appropriate contracts. "This is the Fuhrer programme, the Fuhrer's programme for construction of locomotives", and so on. So you did not have to be a genius or specializing in Adolf Hitler personally to find traces of the priority attached to a programme very low down in the documentation. The magic words would be uttered on the contracts and that would cut through the all red tape. MR JUSTICE GRAY: I was simply making the observation that you cannot really put to this witness the extent of Hitler's involvement in the Auschwitz programme, if there was one, because it is just not within his knowledge. MR IRVING: With your Lordship's permission, I will now do precisely that. (To the witness): Professor van Pelt, on any of the documents you saw in the Auschwitz construction office, did you see any reference at all to a special priority being attached to this by Adolf Hitler? . P-100 A. No. Q. Or to anybody between Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler? A. No. Q. There was no reference to Adolf Hitler on any of the document you saw in Auschwitz, in other words? A. No. Q. I am indebted to your Lordship for having prompted that line of enquiry. MR JUSTICE GRAY: That is a much better way of dealing with the point, if I may say so. MR IRVING: My Lord, I am totally unversed in the art of cross-examination and I am learning as I go along. MR JUSTICE GRAY: I think you are doing, as I said before, very well. MR IRVING: Thank you very much. (To the witness): Coming back to the eyewitnesses, you have a number of eyewitnesses you referred to. You mentioned German eyewitnesses of the activities of sonderkommandos. Can you remember the names of any of these eyewitnesses? Would it be Perry Broad or someone like that? A. Yes. Q. So these eyewitnesses are people on whom, as the Germans say, you would take poison on them, you would go into the jungle with them; these are witnesses who you implicitly trust? They have not lied to us? A. To be very honest, I would not want to go into the jungle . P-101 with either Mr Pery Broad or Mr Hirst. Q. Or Mr Hirst or Mr Bendel or any of those people; they are all rather ---- A. I would not want to trust them with my life, no. But I must say that given ---- Q. Would you like just to expand on that? What was wrong about these people then? A. They were thoroughly unpleasant people and they were in charge of a very evil operation. Q. Would you say that someone like Perry Broad or Mr Bendel, I think his name was, another of the eyewitnesses ---- A. Mr Bendel is not an SS man. Q. Yes, but would you say they were lucky to survive very long after the war was over? If you were an insurance company, you would not have been inclined to offer life policy on them? A. I did not say that at all. I think, as we know, many ex-Nazis made good careers in the various German states after the war. Q. If they survived ---- A. One of them actually became a State Secretary to Mr Ardenal, so...
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