The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Response to "Tender Hearts"


Books about Holocaust denial:

Three days ago, on October 15, 1995, Greg Raven put up a new web page at his web site. This web page is a conversion of a plaintext Usenet article written by a user who goes by the pseudonym "Yggdrasil."

It took me three days to notice that Mr. Raven had posted this page on his web. Given that my name is mentioned in the article, I wish he had notified me that he was posting it. If he had, I might have made this response earlier.

Mr. Raven has chosen to dig through the archives of the alt.revisionism newsgroup to find an anonymous article which he wishes to distribute. I think it unfair that he does not even mention that I had responded to this Usenet article shortly after it was written, many months ago -- much less include my response.

I have written email to Mr. Raven, asking him to cross-link "Yggdrasil"'s article with the answer I gave to it so long ago. If Mr. Raven responds to this email, I will update this web page to reflect that fact.

Below is a conversion of my response to that article. (I've made only minor editing changes.)

See also: the original plaintext version of "Yggdrasil"'s article, and Greg Raven's conversion of that article.

Jamie McCarthy's original response:

Date: Sat, 18 Mar 1995 19:51:42 GMT
From: k044477@hobbes.kzoo.edu (Jamie R. McCarthy)
Subject: Re: ** TENDER HEARTS OF THE SS **
Message-ID: <1995Mar18.195142.16299@hobbes.kzoo.edu>

Our old anonymous friend Yggdrasil writes about the "Tender Hearts of The SS." It doesn't matter where it came from, that's not important. I shall address its content, which is important. Once again I apologize for my late and erratic newsfeed; I hope I'm not beating a horse that's already been killed.

Actually, I'm impressed by this article. Yggdrasil managed to actually quote me, Danny Keren, Mike Stein, and Barry Shein. Attributions were given. I think that is the first time I've ever seen a Holocaust-denier do that. One brownie point.

But that brownie point gets immediately taken away for quoting out of context, and using quotes that don't go more than halfway toward making his or her point. Twice. Faulty logic removes an additional point. That makes negative two...sorry.

To the popular mind, the chambers were large structures dispensing hydrogen cyanide gas through automated dispensers camouflaged to resemble stainless shower heads. The hundreds of corpses produced by each gassing were then fed by automated conveyor belts to huge, blast furnace style crematoria.

The shower heads were never connected to anything; they were decorative only. At least in Auschwitz. There were elevators, but -- if one will stop to think about it for even a moment -- the corpses had to be loaded into them by manual labor. The gas chambers didn't have mobile floors or anything like that. (For one source on the elevators, see _Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camps_, Gutman/Berenbaum, 1994, pp. 227-228. Page 228 is a picture of a blueprint for the elevator in Krema III.)

The problem with this Hollywood view of the "instruments of mass murder" is that there are no remains, either physical or documentary, of any such high-tech structures.

Oh, you mean like the blueprint of the elevator on p. 228 of _Anatomy_? We know how much the elevators _cost_. (968 Reichsmarks for a temporary elevator in Krema III, and 9371 RM apiece for permanent elevators in Krema II and III. Footnote for this: Central State Special Archives of Russia, Moscow, 502-1-327, reminder notice Topf April 16, 1943.)

What happened, apparently is that some of the delousing chambers were converted into gas chambers. In the words of one proponent of the gas chamber story:

From: dzk@cs.brown.edu (Danny Keren)
Date: 27 Sep 1994 21:06:09 GMT

"The delousing chambers at Auschwitz used cyanide gas, and the SS had no problems with them. Obviously, it's no big deal to use Zyklon-B (which releases the HCN gas) for delousing. Using it for killing people is almost exactly the same. Only differences are: the Zyklon has to be inserted from the outside, and the door has to be reinforced so the people being gassed won't break out.

"I'm sure you'll agree with me that it was no big problem to reinforce the doors, and to insert the Zyklon from the outside."

Ok, so we now have makeshift conversions of delousing chambers at Auschwitz. Fair enough.

Dr. Keren wrote this with the intent of demonstrating that it was in fact rather easy to make a gassing chamber, hypothetically speaking. He was not asserting that the delousing chambers were _actually_ converted into homicidal gas chambers. That simply didn't happen; the homicidal gas chambers at Kremas II-V were designed for murder, not as morgues. Yggdrasil has cleverly deleted the context.

Specifically, s/he deleted Bob Hunt's line immediately preceding what Dr. Keren wrote, and Dr. Keren's first line that referred to that comment:

You could not, as I think popular opinion concludes, simply choose and use some random building, special equipment is needed.

What exactly do you mean by "special equipment"?

The delousing chambers at Auschwitz used cyanide gas, and the SS had no problems with them. [...etc.]

In other words, Yggdrasil has completely distorted Dr. Keren's meaning. This is Lesson #1, Distorting Via Context-Removal. Let's move on to the next lesson.

But as one proponent of the gas chambers points out, these structures are underground, thus making disposal of hundreds of thousands of bodies even more difficult.

From: k044477@hobbes.kzoo.edu (Jamie McCarthy)
Date: Fri, 30 Sep 1994 03:35:13 -0400

"The underground gas chambers, both homicidal and delousing, were located in a swamp and frequently stand for many months with a few feet of water."

Note the present tense in what I wrote -- that's important. In that article, I was pointing out that analyzing the chemistry of the 50-year-old walls was very difficult, because of the omnipresent water. But the swamp was drained when it was in use as an extermination camp; the Nazis dug canals to divert the water elsewhere. So while it was in operation, there was no standing water in underground buildings.

Indeed, I've commented publicly on reasons why it would be best that the gas chambers should be underground. For example, it muffles the sounds; it makes it easier to drop in the pellets; it makes it impossible for the victims to knock the walls down (very important); it keeps the building warmer in the wintertime (also important, warmth speeds the circulation of the poison).

Why didn't you bother to quote me saying those things, Yggdrasil? Didn't feel it would help your case, maybe?

This has been Lesson #2, Selective Quoting.

And indeed, the low-tech nature of these "homicidal instruments of mass murder" helps explain the lack of any documentation similar to that which we have for the civilian style crematoria

Excuse me -- civilian-style crematoria? You make it sound like they were "off-the-shelf." On the contrary, the Nazis went through much trial and error to get the crematoria to be as effective as possible. Conversion from oil-burning to coke-burning; replacement of the worn-out liner of the chimney; using compressed air to conserve heat energy, so multiple-corpse burnings would be as efficient as possible; a special double-muffle furnace to incinerate two corpses at once.

That last item speaks for itself. Perhaps you think an oven that has room for two bodies is "civilian-style"? This is ludicrous. How do you expect anyone to take you seriously?

or any eyewitness testimony of construction workers who built them. Apparently, they were built on the sly, so that nobody, including the construction crews, knew what was being built:

From: mstein@access3.digex.net (Michael P. Stein)
Date: 2 Oct 1994 03:56:51 -0400

"The gas chamber was often referred to as a morgue. It may indeed have been planned that way, before the order for the "Final Solution" was issued. In part this camouflage was because the construction workers were to be kept in the dark as to what they were building - "

I couldn't put my finger on a source to confirm this claim of Mr. Stein's, but I have no doubt that secrecy played a role in the code-names. Secrecy turned out to be almost a joke later in the war, but in '41 and '42 when the gas chambers were being built, it was taken quite seriously.

As far as the gas chamber being planned as a morgue, that may have been true for Krema I, which served duty as an air-raid shelter as well. But the homicidal gas chambers of Krema II-V were constructed for the purpose of killing.

But now we have the low-tech specter of hundreds of workers having to go down into underground buildings, coming into contact with poison gas, and having to carry hundreds of corpses to slow, civilian style crematory ovens. We are asked to envision such a means of killing millions of people.

Well, the workers had gas masks to protect them from the poison gas; they ended up getting an elevator to carry corpses up to the ovens; and the ovens were decidedly not "civilian style." Apart from that, you've described it pretty well.

...the low-tech image is even more troublesome for camps such as Treblinka, where there were no crematory ovens, and where the gas chambers are alleged to have been wooden rooms in which prisoners were suffocated with diesel exhaust. The battalion size work crews which apparently emptied the rooms of corpses carried them away to open pits where they were buried.

All of which prompts skeptics over and over to ask why simpler and easier low tech means were not employed. Namely, why did the SS not simply shoot them?

This is unbelievable that you're taking this line of reasoning, but I'll grit my teeth and argue it with you.

For which the proponents of the "homicidal gas chambers" have a ready answer:

From: bzs@world.std.com (Barry Shein)
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 1994 07:43:28 GMT

"Actually, the reason for not using bullets was because it took a lot of soldiers to shoot that many people every day and yes indeed the SS tried this and had "morale problems" which are also documented in their memos etc. Ordinary soldiers had a problem with mowing down men, women and children all day for very long."

So the reason the SS had to resort to crude, low-tech gas chambers to kill jews is that they could not find anyone in the SS willing to shoot them!

Barry Shein is, of course, exactly right.

[rhetoric about Nuremberg and Ivan the Terrible deleted, irrelevant]
[discussion of various models machine guns deleted, granted]

Proponents of the "homicidal gas chamber" argue that the capacity of the crematory ovens at Auschwitz was from 1200 to 1400 per day if run day and night.

One belt-fed machine gun can kill all 1400 in 5 minutes. All it takes is one man to fire the gun, one to clip belts, and one on a bulldozer to move the bodies.

Soldiers in wartime do what they are trained to do, and that is to use their rifles and machine guns.

What the proponents of these low-tech "homicidal gas chambers" are asking us to believe is that the SS could not find one anti- semite willing to stand back 200 meters from a 100 meter rank of souls 14 deep and shoot them for 5 minutes. Each bullet would pass through several bodies. That is all it would take. One anti-semite SS soldier in each of the four "death camps" five minutes per day.

And such persons could not be found?

Don't argue this point with me; argue it with the Nazis. Their memos reflect that morale suffered tremendously when such violent means of mass murder were used.

Not that I think killing thousands of people with Zyklon-B was humane, but:

(Take a deep breath with me, here. It isn't my personality type to go into such things.)

...shooting bullets randomly into a crowd is about the cruelest form of death I could envision. Bullets fly through peoples' bodies without killing them, at least not immediately. Blood of course flies everywhere, and the screams are louder than the gun. The lucky ones are shot through the heart and die in a few seconds. Most acquire sucking chest wounds and drown slowly in their own blood. Many are gutshot, fall, and suffer exquisite pain until they are shot again or burnt alive. Many are hit in the arms or legs once or twice. Those who fall, alive, fall on corpses, and corpses fall on them.

The crowd, of course, starts running when the shots begin, or before. If they're near the ditch, they jump in and hide. If not, they try to break through the barbed wire, but, shot, they hang there, dead or dying. After all have fallen, one or more guards walk through the crowd with their revolvers, shooting the still-living in the head. Most plead to be put out of their misery; it is these, the endless succession of people that must be executed, who the guards remember at night. Finally, when there are no more sounds of breathing, the guards step to the wire, pull the corpses' flesh off the barbs, and let them fall to the ground.

All this is not merely witnessed from 200 meters away by one man with a gun. There are two men at a machine gun, of course, one to feed the bullet belt and to be sure that the other doesn't go crazy and begin shooting his comrades (a very real possibility). Two hundred meters is an insane distance. If the prisoners simply laid down, they'd be nearly impossible to kill from that distance; many bullets would whiz over their heads and the rest would kill only those in the front. How close? Fifty meters? Thirty? Who prevents the prisoners from lying down? More men with guns, on the sides. Who goes in with the pistol and executes the still-living? Who drives the bulldozer? Who gives the orders to fire? Who gives the orders to undertake the operation in the first place? Who oversees it to report on its efficacy? This is not a long-distance, single-person operation; it is up-close-and-personal for quite a few soldiers.

You think it takes a "tender-hearted" SS man to be moved by this?

The Nazis were not animals. They were human beings, homo sapiens, people like you and me. I submit that, while the human kind is capable of rationalizing that dropping Zyklon-B into a room is somehow better than pulling the trigger on a machine gun, no one, no matter how cruel, no matter how brainwashed, can put lead through human beings day in and day out. Anyone who can do so is a sociopath, a psychopath. And those diseases are rare and probably chemical, and they cannot be taught or induced by any military training program.

As the Nazi memos indicate, incredible quantities of vodka were required to get the SS to butcher hundreds of people with bullets. Your twisted mind may think that this is an indication of the "tender-heartedness" of the SS. I say loudly, this is because the Nazis were human beings. Human beings were not made to kill other human beings. We don't like to do it. Hate, yes; we learn to hate early on, and we seem to be quite good at it. But mass killing is not how we humans work.

It is yet another example in which proponents of the Holocaust take positions that are fundamentally and profoundly contradictory.

How is it that the SS is a "criminal organization" filled with anti-semitic murderers such as "Ivan the Terrible" one moment, but in the next, when the ease of shootings has to be dismissed, no SS troops could be found who were willing to kill?

Plenty of SS troops were found who were willing to kill -- they were sent through a special training camp where they were desensitized to such things.

But to pull the trigger and kill, cruelly, thousands of people, day in and day out...no human being, no matter how well-taught, will sleep well after much of that. No matter how much vodka.
--
"...there is no evidence that the Nazis had a plan or policy..." - Raven
"The Jewish people will be exterminated...it's in our program." - Himmler
"Himmler makes no reference to gas chambers. Until you find a reference to
gas chambers, you can forget about long, drawn-out discussions..." - Raven


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