The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day017.17

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
        arrived at Belzec?
   A.   They would have been a logistical problem.  You would
        had -- they do not walk out of the trains, so you have
        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
        cremating yet at Belzec.
   Q.   And lots of people would have seen this going on,
   A.   The people inside the camp.  The train cars were
        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
        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
        of these eyewitnesses?
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Well, the railway line runs into the
        does it?  There is a spur?
   A.   The main line runs through and then I believe they
        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
        lies very close to the train tracks there.
   MR IRVING:  The reason I am saying this is, quite clearly,
        you say, it is a logistical problem, it is a human
        problem.  You have 2,000 corpses being carried into a
        in which there are living people, there are guards,
        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
        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
        experience.  They are seeing more corpses than that
        day, day after day, week after week, month after
   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
        at Belzec and Treblinka is scant.  Have I got it
   A.   The scant surviving documentation concerning the
        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

.          P-151

        still dealing with people being sent there who are not
        sent there to do work and who do not reappear.  This
        not yet the section in which I say how do we find out
        the documents do not tell us and that is how they were
   Q.   Can I take you now to page 48, paragraph 5.4.1?  Here
        have the talk about the pestilential smell from all
        rotting bodies caused by the inadequate burial of the
        Jews.  "No contemporary document specifically states
        the Jews sent to these three camp were killed".  We
        the same kind of documentary problem again, do we not?
   A.   We are dealing with something -- yes, as I have said,
        they do not have a document, we do not have a document
        from Operation Reinhardt that specifies their being
        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.
        is one category among a number.
   Q.   You very honestly state in the same paragraph towards
        end:  "As in any body of eyewitness testimonies, there
        errors and contradictions as well as both
        and apologetic obfuscation and minimisation"?
   A.   Correct.
   Q.   So, in other words, the whole sorry of these three
        which I am not challenging -- I am only challenging

.          P-152

        scale of the operations -- the whole story is rather
        hedged in uncertainty and lack of the kind of
        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
        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
        is no testimony and little evidence?
   A.   Well, I believe it is a very useful concept that we
        with a totality of evidence, and that if one were to
        that we cannot use eyewitness testimony and had to let
        every criminal in prison on that ground, we would have
        fairly chaotic society.
   Q.   But you would agree that there is are different
        of eye witness testimony; there is eyewitness
        gained from somebody who saw something this afternoon,
        reports this afternoon what he saw this morning or
        yesterday evening, but eyewitness testimony recalled
        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
        somebody had spent six months or 12 months in a death
        camp, he does not forget the existence of gas
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Mr Irving, can I just go back to

.          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
        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
        clear from you, you do accept that gas was used to
        Jews at all these three camps, as I recall; is that
   MR IRVING:  I think it is immaterial what way they were
        or the way I accept they were killed at these three
        There is a lot of debate about it.  But in order to
        this trial far shorter than it could be if we really
        wanted to challenge everything in it or debate
        in it ----
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Well, if that is right, you need not
        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
        it is the eyewitnesses that we are relying upon for
        and I am using this as a way of undermining the
        credibility of eyewitnesses or eyewitness evidence as
        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
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Does Gerstein deal with gassing at
        Sobibor or Treblinka?
   MR IRVING:  Indeed, yes.  He claims to be an eyewitness and
        introduced -- Your Lordship will remember the pretrial
        hearing on November 4th where we learned that
        Browning had desired to incorporate subsequent
        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
        gas chambers were used to kill Jews at these three
        in a sense, there is not terribly much to be gained by
        challenging the credibility of Mr Gerstein who says

.          P-155

        Is that unfair?
   MR IRVING:  It is a general attack on eyewitness evidence
        is important for the main plank of my case which is
        Auschwitz where we have established, I think ----
   MR IRVING:  --- from Professor van Pelt that the only
        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
        and attacking am attacking the eyewitnesses.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  All right.
   MR IRVING:  It is an indirect attack.  (To the witness):
        of the eyewitnesses that you rely on is, of course,
        Eichmann.  He saw, he visited, some of these camps,
did he
   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
        understates, but, in general, his memory of sequence
        events and things seems to be better than most
   Q.   Did he describe once visiting a scene of executions
        seeing blood spurting from the ground like in geysers?
   A.   Yes, and then when we have the -- when you have lots
        bodies like that, I believe that coming up of blood

.          P-156

        testified to by others as well.
   Q.   Did he once testify or write in his papers -- in fact,
        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
        routinely with their uniform saturated in blood.  When
        shoot people at point blank range, you get bloody.
   Q.   Eichmann, of course, testified that he was told there
        a Hitler order, and perhaps we ought to ask your views
   A.   He consistently says that he learns from Heydrich, so
        is second-hand, that he learns from Heydrich that
        has issued the order for the physical annihilation of
        Jews of Europe.
   Q.   Is it second-hand or third-hand or fourth-hand?  If
        has Himmler who has told Heydrich or Himmler has told
        Muller who has told Heydrich or Himmler has told
        who has told Muller?
   A.   We only know that it goes from -- all we know is what
        says and that is that Hitler -- that Heydrich tells
        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
   A.   He says that from beginning to end, and I think that
he is
        probably accurately relating a meeting with Heydrich
        which this issue was clarified.
   Q.   The end was, presumably, 1963 when he was hanged, and
        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
        of footnotes saying that the person he was publishing
        mistaken on this -- a strange thing for the editor to
        So I believe that -- sometimes I do not remember
        which one says which, but my recollection is that the
        published Adolf Eichmann which based on some Sassen
        does stipulate that he was told there was a Hitler
   Q.   I secured the publication of those actually.  I am the
        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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