Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day017.17 Last-Modified: 2000/07/20 MR IRVING: How did that figure of 2,000 dead on a transport of that size compare with the average for journeys like this? Was the average, am I right in saying, about 20 to 25 per cent? A. This is an extraordinarily high one, but when one looks at the surrounding documents of the Westerman report, one realizes what had happened, that they -- in these previous reports that they had march people from surrounding towns in August, and a very hot August, for three or four days, left them in a collection centre for several days -- these people had not eaten or drunk for nearly a week -- were then crammed into cars in which they had not nearly enough room. So instead of the usual 100 to 120, they were packed in even further, so that you have in a hot summer in suffocating conditions packed totally full of people who have not eaten or drunk for a long time, being shipped in which the guards say they fired off all of their ammunition into the cars. This is not a normal transport and, thus, I concluded that the 2,000 number is not, in fact, unrealistic, given what we know about the nature of . P-149 this transport, that it was not a normal transport. Q. Which would have happened to the 2,000 bodies when they arrived at Belzec? A. They would have been a logistical problem. You would have had -- they do not walk out of the trains, so you have to get people to carry them from the ramp to the pits. Q. And there they would have been buried or cremated or disposed of? A. At this stage they would have been buried. They were not cremating yet at Belzec. Q. And lots of people would have seen this going on, presumably? A. The people inside the camp. The train cars were brought into the camp in the ramp ---- Q. There would have been lots of eyewitnesses, in other words, of 2,000 bodies been buried in Belzec? A. Well, they were burying much more than that, in my opinion because ---- Q. I am asking about these 2,000. A. They would have seen these 2,000 being ---- Q. And that would have remained in the memories of very many of these eyewitnesses? MR JUSTICE GRAY: Well, the railway line runs into the camp, does it? There is a spur? A. The main line runs through and then I believe they pulled off on a ramp which, in effect, is fenced in, a siding, so . P-150 this would not have been at the central train station, this would have been somewhat off, though the Belzec camp lies very close to the train tracks there. MR IRVING: The reason I am saying this is, quite clearly, as you say, it is a logistical problem, it is a human problem. You have 2,000 corpses being carried into a camp in which there are living people, there are guards, there are eyewitnesses, there are prisoners. They are being buried, they are being disposed of. It is an horrific problem, it is an atrocity, there is no question of that, and there are eyewitnesses to it? A. If one is gassing 5,000 people a day, an extra 2,000 bodies in the train cars is not going to be a memorable experience. They are seeing more corpses than that every day, day after day, week after week, month after month. Q. If I take you now to page 46, paragraph 5.3.14? A. Yes. Q. Here you say that the documentary evidence of the killing at Belzec and Treblinka is scant. Have I got it right? A. The scant surviving documentation concerning the purpose of Sobibor. Q. Yes? A. Yes. Q. Do we have documentary evidence about Belzec and Treblinka, about the gassing? A. No, about the kinds of people, this is a section that is . P-151 still dealing with people being sent there who are not sent there to do work and who do not reappear. This is not yet the section in which I say how do we find out what the documents do not tell us and that is how they were killed. Q. Can I take you now to page 48, paragraph 5.4.1? Here we have the talk about the pestilential smell from all the rotting bodies caused by the inadequate burial of the Jews. "No contemporary document specifically states how the Jews sent to these three camp were killed". We have the same kind of documentary problem again, do we not? A. We are dealing with something -- yes, as I have said, that they do not have a document, we do not have a document from Operation Reinhardt that specifies their being killed in gas chambers. Q. So how do we know then? Eyewitnesses? A. This is what we then turn to, yes. At the beginning I said there are numbers of kinds of evidence. Eyewitness is one category among a number. Q. You very honestly state in the same paragraph towards the end: "As in any body of eyewitness testimonies, there are errors and contradictions as well as both exaggerations and apologetic obfuscation and minimisation"? A. Correct. Q. So, in other words, the whole sorry of these three camps which I am not challenging -- I am only challenging the . P-152 scale of the operations -- the whole story is rather hedged in uncertainty and lack of the kind of documentary evidence we have for the killings that went on on the Eastern Front. A. It is evidence of a different quality. The convergence of testimony I think establishes beyond any reasonable doubt what took place in those camps. Q. The convergence of testimony, as I am beginning to believe, is a phrase that people take refuge in when there is no testimony and little evidence? A. Well, I believe it is a very useful concept that we deal with a totality of evidence, and that if one were to argue that we cannot use eyewitness testimony and had to let out every criminal in prison on that ground, we would have a fairly chaotic society. Q. But you would agree that there is are different qualities of eye witness testimony; there is eyewitness testimony gained from somebody who saw something this afternoon, reports this afternoon what he saw this morning or yesterday evening, but eyewitness testimony recalled 30 years later in a West German court is liable to be somewhat more shaky? A. It is liable to have less specificity. My feeling is if somebody had spent six months or 12 months in a death camp, he does not forget the existence of gas chambers. MR JUSTICE GRAY: Mr Irving, can I just go back to something . P-153 you said a while ago which was that you were not challenging -- I am just picking up your quote. MR IRVING: This is quite right, my Lord. I am not challenging the nature of these three camps. MR JUSTICE GRAY: You are not challenging that? MR IRVING: As killing centres. MR JUSTICE GRAY: Yes, you do not have to put it quite like that, but you are challenging the scale of operations? MR IRVING: Yes. MR JUSTICE GRAY: I understand that completely. But at paragraph 5.4.1 what Professor Browning is dealing with is the way in which Jews were killed. I just wanted to have clear from you, you do accept that gas was used to kill Jews at all these three camps, as I recall; is that correct? MR IRVING: I think it is immaterial what way they were killed or the way I accept they were killed at these three camps. There is a lot of debate about it. But in order to keep this trial far shorter than it could be if we really wanted to challenge everything in it or debate everything in it ---- MR JUSTICE GRAY: Well, if that is right, you need not bother with paragraph 5.4.1 because that is where Professor Browning says that they were basically killed in gas chambers at those three camps ---- MR IRVING: It goes to the whole problem of ---- no. . P-154 MR JUSTICE GRAY: --- and, as I understand it, you are not challenging that. MR IRVING: --- reliability of eyewitnesses. We have now established since that concession or statement by me - - I hate to say "concession" because it implies that ---- MR JUSTICE GRAY: Do not worry about that, yes. MR IRVING: --- we have now established since that once again it is the eyewitnesses that we are relying upon for this, and I am using this as a way of undermining the credibility of eyewitnesses or eyewitness evidence as a general source. We are later on coming to quite an important eyewitness who is a man called Gerstein who I shall spend a few minutes assailing the credibility of. MR JUSTICE GRAY: Does Gerstein deal with gassing at Belzec, Sobibor or Treblinka? MR IRVING: Indeed, yes. He claims to be an eyewitness and he introduced -- Your Lordship will remember the pretrial hearing on November 4th where we learned that Professor Browning had desired to incorporate subsequent material relating to one particular man. MR JUSTICE GRAY: Yes. All I am getting at this is -- I am sorry to interrupt you because I want to keep the interruptions to a minimum -- if you are accepting that gas chambers were used to kill Jews at these three camps, in a sense, there is not terribly much to be gained by challenging the credibility of Mr Gerstein who says that. . P-155 Is that unfair? MR IRVING: It is a general attack on eyewitness evidence which is important for the main plank of my case which is Auschwitz where we have established, I think ---- MR JUSTICE GRAY: I see. MR IRVING: --- from Professor van Pelt that the only evidence one can really rely on is the eyewitness evidence. MR JUSTICE GRAY: So you are using Gerstein as a sort of example of the fallibility? MR IRVING: Rather like Rommel, I am coming round from the rear and attacking am attacking the eyewitnesses. MR JUSTICE GRAY: All right. MR IRVING: It is an indirect attack. (To the witness): One of the eyewitnesses that you rely on is, of course, Eichmann. He saw, he visited, some of these camps, did he not? A. Yes. Q. Yes. We have talked a bit about his reliability. Does he ever have a tendency to exaggerate, do you think? A. Much less than others and I think sometimes he probably understates, but, in general, his memory of sequence of events and things seems to be better than most witnesses. Q. Did he describe once visiting a scene of executions and seeing blood spurting from the ground like in geysers? A. Yes, and then when we have the -- when you have lots of bodies like that, I believe that coming up of blood was . P-156 testified to by others as well. Q. Did he once testify or write in his papers -- in fact, in my collection of papers too -- did he write that he got so close to one shooting that bits of babies' brain were splattered across his nice leather coat? A. He complained that at Minsk that happened and, of course ---- Q. Is that credible in your view? A. I have written on police battalion 101 where the men came routinely with their uniform saturated in blood. When you shoot people at point blank range, you get bloody. Q. Eichmann, of course, testified that he was told there was a Hitler order, and perhaps we ought to ask your views on that. A. He consistently says that he learns from Heydrich, so this is second-hand, that he learns from Heydrich that Hitler has issued the order for the physical annihilation of the Jews of Europe. Q. Is it second-hand or third-hand or fourth-hand? If Hitler has Himmler who has told Heydrich or Himmler has told Muller who has told Heydrich or Himmler has told Heydrich who has told Muller? A. We only know that it goes from -- all we know is what he says and that is that Hitler -- that Heydrich tells him Hitler has ordered. Heydrich does not give details of what may or may not have intervened. . P-157 Q. What importance do you attach to that particular piece of evidence? A. He says that from beginning to end, and I think that he is probably accurately relating a meeting with Heydrich in which this issue was clarified. Q. The end was, presumably, 1963 when he was hanged, and when was the beginning in the 1950s, late 1950s? A. Certainly from the ---- Q. The Sassen papers? A. I am not sure what he says in the Sassen papers except I think it must be included because Aschenal wrote a bunch of footnotes saying that the person he was publishing was mistaken on this -- a strange thing for the editor to do. So I believe that -- sometimes I do not remember exactly which one says which, but my recollection is that the published Adolf Eichmann which based on some Sassen papers does stipulate that he was told there was a Hitler order. Q. I secured the publication of those actually. I am the one who found a publisher because I thought they needed a publication, a publisher. I insisted that they should be published in their original form because they did contain these very odd passages. But can you see any reason why Adolf Eichmann in the 1950s, living in the underground in Argentina, should have wanted to state in his writings that he remembered a Fuhrer order in that way? Can you think of any reason why should he have written that? . P-158 A. I think he was absolutely convinced there was an order, that he was carrying out state policy.
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