The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Lipstadt on Leuchter's Qualifications as a Witness

Lipstadt discusses the demolition of Fred Leuchter's qualifications as an "expert" at the trial of Zündel:

"With the jury out of the room, the court began to determine Leuchter's qualifications as an expert witness. When the Crown Counsel questioned him about his training in math, chemistry, physics, and toxicology, he acknowledged that his only training in chemistry was "basic ...on the college level." The only physics he had studied likewise consisted of two courses taken when he was sutdying for a bachelor of arts (not sciences) degree at Boston University. Admitting that he was not a toxicologist and had no degree in engineering, he rather cavalierly dismissed the need for it.<36> To this the judge responded sharply:

THE COURT: How do you function as an engineer if you don't have an engineering degree?

THE WITNESS: Well, I would question, Your Honour, what an engineering degree is. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree and I have the required background training both on the college level and in the field to perform my function as an engineer.

THE COURT: Who determines that? You?<37>

Throughout the trial [the judge] made it clear that he was appalled by Leuchter's lack of training as an engineer as well as his depreciation of the need for such training. The judge was particularly taken aback by Leuchter's repeated assertions that anyone who went to college had "the necessary math and science" to be an electrical engineer and to conduct the tests that he conducted at Auschwitz.<38> The judge ruled that Leuchter could not serve as an expert witness on the construction and functioning of the gas chambers. The judge's findings as to Leuchter's suitability to comment on questions of engineering was unequivocal:

THE COURT: I'm not going to have him get into the question of what's in a brick, what's in iron, what is in - he has no expertise in this area. He is an engineer because he has made himself an engineer in a very limited area.<39>

Unknown to the court, Leuchter, who admitted under oath that he had only a bachelor of arts degree, was not being entirely candid regarding his education. Implying that an engineering degree had been unavailable to him, he told the court that when he was a student at Boston University, the school did not offer a degree in engineering. In fact it did, three different kinds.<40> Later in the trial, when the jury returned to the room, Zündel's lawyer and Leuchter obfuscated the paucity of his training:

Q. And you are, I understand, a graduate of Boston University, with a B.A. in a field that entitles you to function as an engineer. Is that right?

A. Yes, sir.<41>

That field was history.

Leuchter was also less than candid about his methodology. He repeatedly asserted that he obtained the "bulk" of his research material on the camps - including maps, floor plans and "original blueprints" for the crematoria - from the official archives at Auschwitz/Birkenau and Majdanek. He testified that these drawings and blueprints played a far more important role in shaping his conclusions than the samples he collected at the camp.<42> After the trial Kazimierz Smolen, the director of the Auschwitz museum, unequivocally denied that Leuchter had received any plans or blueprints from the museum.<43> He may have procured tourist materials sold in the official souvenir kiosks in the camps....


As citations from Leuchter's report were read, the judge's impatience intensified. He characterized Leuchter's methodology as 'ridiculous' and 'preposterous.'<46> Ruling that 'this report is not going to be filed,' the judge dismissed many of his conclusions as based on 'second-hand information.' He refused to allow Leuchter to testify about the impact of Zyklon-B on humans because he was neither a toxicologist nor a chemist and had never worked with the gas.<47> Again and again the judge kept coming back to Leuchter's capabilities and credibility:

THE COURT: His opinion on this report is that there were never any gassings or there was never any extermination carried on in this facility. As far as I am concerned, from what I have heard, he is not capable of giving that opinion.... He is not in a position to say, as he said so sweepingly in this report, what could not have been carried on in these facilities.<48>

On the question of the functioning of the crematoria, despite the defense attorney's opposition, the judge's decision was unequivocal. He could not testify on this topic for a simple reason.

THE COURT: He hasn't any expertise.<49>

The judge might have been even more irritated had he known that Leuchter misrepresented the extent of his familiarity with the operation of hydrogen cyanide. He told the court that he had discussed matters relating to the gas with the largest U.S. manufacturer of sodium cyanide and hydrogen cyanide, Du Pont, and that such consultation was 'an on-going thing.' Leuchter was again being less than accurate. He may have obtained Du Pont's published guidelines about the care needed in using hydrogen cyanide or oany other of the myriad of substances the company manufactured. But Du Pont, denying Leuchter's claims of ongoing consultations, stated that it had 'never provided any information on cyanides to persons representing themselves as Holocaust deniers, including Fred Leuchter. Specifically, Du Pont has never provided any information regarding the use of cyanide at Auschwitz, Birkenau, or Majdanek. <50>

But it was not only Leuchter's scientific expertise, or lack thereof, which was questioned by the court. The judge also expressed serious doubts about Leuchter's historical knowledge, which, as it emerged at the trial, was limited and often flawed. Leuchter was unaware of a host of documents pertaining to the installation and construction of the gas chambers and crematoria. He did not know of a report filed in June 1943 by the Waffen-SS commandant of construction at Auschwitz on the completion of the crematoria. The report indicated that the five crematoria had a total twenty-four-hour capacity of 4,756 bodies.<51> Leuchter had stated that the crematoria had a total capacity of 156 bodies in the same period of time. <52> Even if the SS's calculation was overly 'optimistic,' the difference between it and Leuchter's was staggering. He also had to admit that he did not know that there existed correspondence and documentation regarding powerful ventilators installed in the gas chambers to extract the gas that remained after the killings. After hearing these and other admissions by Leuchter, Judge Thomas expressed his dismay that Leuchter had reached his conclusions despite the fact that he had only a 'nodding acquaintance' with the history of the gas chambers. To suggest that he had any more than that, the judge declared, would be an insult.<53>" (Lipstadt, 164-167)

Even in history, the field in which Fred Leuchter gained his degree, it seems he lacks expertise. As an engineer, he is clearly unqualified to submit opinions to the court or anyone else.

... and regarding Leuchter's shakedown scam:

"On July 20,1990, Alabama Assistant Attorney General Ed Carnes sent a memo to all capital-punishment states questioning Leuchter's credentials and credibility. Carnes stated that not only were Leuchter's views on the gas-chamber process "unorthodox" but that he was running a shakedown scheme. If a state refused to use his services, Leuchter would testify at the last minute on behalf of the inmate, claiming that the state's gas chamber might malfunction <68>. According to Carnes, Leuchter made 'money on both sides of the fence' <69>. Describing Leuchter's behavior in Virginia, Florida, and Alabama, Carnes observed that in less than thirty days Leuchter had testified in three states that their electric-chair technology was too old and unreliable to be used. In Florida and Virginia the federal courts had rejected Leuchter's testimony as unreliable. In Florida the court had found that Leuchter had 'misquoted the statements' contained in an important affidavit and had 'inaccurately surmised' a crucial premise of his conclusion <70>. In Virginia, Leuchter provided a death-row inmate's attorney with an affidavit claiming the electric chair would fail. The Virginia court decided the credibility of Leuchter's affidavit was limited because Leuchter was 'the refused contractor who bid to replace the electrodes in the Virginia chair'<71>." (Lipstadt, 170)

Lipstadt's Footnotes:

<36> Her Majesty the Queen vs. Ernst Zündel, District Court of Ontario, 1988 (hereafter referred to as Zundel), pp.8962, 8969, 8972, 8978
<37> Ibid., p. 8973
<38> See testimony of Raul Hilberg at the first Zundel trial. Her Majesty the Queen vs. Ernst Zundel, District Court of Ontario, 1985, p. 1112; Zundel, 1988, pp. 9010, 9011, 9013.
<39> Zundel, p. 9048
<40> Shelly Shapiro, "An Investigation," in _Truth Prevails: Demolishing Holocaust Denial: The End of "The Leuchter Report"_ ed. Shelly Shapiro (New York, 1990), p. 14; Arthur Goodman, "Leuchter: Exposed and Discredited by the Court," in Shapiro, "Truth Prevails," p. 78
<41> Zundel, p. 9056
<42> Ibid., pp. 8984, 9017, 9061, 9097, 9125, 9154, 9210, 9223
<43> Shapiro, "Truth Prevails," p. 56
<44> Zundel, pp. 8894-95
<45> Ibid., p. 8983
<46> Ibid., pp. 9052-53
<47> Ibid., pp. 9034-9038
<48> Ibid., pp. 9049-50
<49> Ibid., pp. 8976, 9052
<50> Ibid., p. 8951; Statement by E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company, Oct. 2, 1990, cited in Shapiro, p. 28
<51> Zundel, pp. 9028-9034
<52> Leuchter Report, p. 10
<53> Zundel, pp. 9028, 9034
<68> Memorandum from Ed Carnes, Alabama Assistant Attorney General, to all Capital Punishment States July 20,1990 (hereafter cited as Carnes); Shapiro "Truth Prevails" pp. 17 and 21; Newsweek, Oct. 22, 1990, p. 64; Swampscott Journal, Nov. 1, 1990.
<69> Associated Press, Oct. 24, 1990.
<70> Carnes, Op.Cit., 2
<71> Shapiro, "Truth Prevails", p.22.

Work Cited

Lipstadt, Deborah. Denying The Holocaust. New York: Macmillan, 1993. Toronto: Maxwell MacMillan Canada. ISBN: 0-02-919235-8

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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