Didn't Josef Kramer admit to gassings?

Published: 1998-01-01
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Dear AnswerMan,

How can you ask for proof of one person being gassed? Didn't Josef Kramer admit fully to the gassings?

Tim

AnswerMan!

AnswerMan Replies:

Your question is clearly a response to Bradley Smith's question that appeared in several college newspapers requesting the name of one person that was gassed at Auschwitz with proof. Your "proof" is the assertion that Josef Kramer confessed to the gassings.

We need to start with a bit of background: During his trial, Kramer provided a valuable detailed statement about his wartime career, including his role as commandant of Birkenau and Belsen. He frankly acknowledged that as many as 500 Birkenau inmates died weekly during the period when he was in charge, but stressed that these deaths were due to illness and old age, and were not the result of any policy. In fact, every effort was made to keep sick inmates alive, he said, and reported that the camp's physicians normally worked ten or eleven hours daily. Some 25 or 30 barracks buildings were set aside as hospital or recuperation quarters.

Kramer forthrightly responded to the persistent charges of extermination and gassings:

"I have heard of the allegations of former prisoners in Auschwitz referring to a gas chamber there, the mass executions and whippings, the cruelty of the guards employed, and that all that took place either in my presence or with my knowledge. All I can say to all this is that it is untrue from beginning to end."

Kramer later retreated from this unambiguous stand, perhaps in the hope that a "confession" might save his life. In a "supplementary" statement, he mentioned the existence of a single gas chamber in Birkenau, but added that it was not under his command.

In his 1949 study, Victor's Justice, historian Montgomery Belgion reported that Kramer and other "Belsen" trial defendants were tortured, sometimes to the point that they begged to be put to death (pp.80-81) In many cases defendants were told that their wives and children were in custody and only a confession could save their lives.

While torture may result in the "confessions" that the prosecution seeks, the value of such "confessions" is useless in establishing historical truth.

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Author(s) AnswerMan
Title Didn't Josef Kramer admit to gassings?
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Dates published: 1998-01-01, first posted on CODOH: June 29, 1998, 7 p.m., last revision: n/a
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