"Irving v. Lipstadt" Trial for Movie Theaters, Part III

Published: 2015-10-10
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(…continued from SR 216)

As Judge Gray wrote:

“Although Irving spent hardly any time in his cross-examination of van Pelt on the evidence that gassing took place elsewhere at Auschwitz, it is the Defendants’ case that gassing took place in other gas chambers, notably at crematorium 3.”

Irving’s main objections were the Leuchter Report and the lack of any holes in the roof of Morgue 1, Krema II.

The Leuchter Report

Again Irving was overwhelmed by the Defense’s expert witnesses. Judge Gray wrote:

“Irving was unable to controvert the evidence of Dr Roth that the results on which Leuchter relied had effectively no validity.”

Gray continued:

“What is more significant is that Leuchter assumed, wrongly as Irving agreed, that a greater concentration of cyanide would have been required to kill humans than was required to fumigate clothing. In fact the concentration required to kill humans is 22 times less than is required for fumigation purposes… Irving was constrained to accept Leuchter’s false assumption vitiated his conclusion.”

Irving was unaware that there was a vast difference between the amount of cyanide gas need to kill one person (120mg/m³), and the amount needed to kill a roomful of people in minutes. The believer-researcher Jean-Claude Pressac calculated the amount of cyanide gas that would have been used in the “gas chamber,”: “Concentration used in homicidal gassing in Birkenau: 12g/m³ (1%), or 40 times the lethal (or mortal) dose.” Hence Leuchter’s assumption was correct, but Irving missed it.

Leuchter’s findings had been replicated by a brilliant researcher, Germar Rudolf. But Judge Gray ruled that Rudolf’s, “report was not produced at the trial so it is impossible for me to assess its evidential value.”

Holes in the Roof of Morgue 1 at Crematorium 2?

Judge Gras framed the question as follows:

“Irving argues that there is no evidence of the presence of the chimneys or ducts by means of which, on the Defendants’ case, Zyklon-B pellets were poured down from the roof of morgue 1 into the gas chamber below (where the Defendants claim most of the deaths occurred).”

During the trial Irving made an attempt at showing the present state of the roof of the morgue by showing a photograph,

“of the underside of the concrete roof and you can see—exactly, my Lord—you can see the condition of the concrete roof underneath this messy slab is in. You can see the wooden markings on the concrete where formwork was all these years ago when they built crematorium No. 2 in Auschwitz. You can appreciate that if there had been those holes in the roof, which are the cardinal linchpin of the Defense in this action, they would have been found by now. This is, by the way, the origin of the Revisionist slogan, No Holes, No Holocaust.”

At the trial, Van Pelt admitted that no vent holes could be found in the roof and nervously fumbled around claiming the Germans might have concreted the holes up or the holes were buried under rubble, or that they had disappeared over time. But Irving did not rebut these various explanations either by a more detailed analysis of the roof or even by showing that no vent holes were shown in the German construction records. (For example Drawing 2197 of March 1943.) Judge Gray was able to find:

“In my view van Pelt is right in his opinion that it is after so many years difficult to verify whether or not holes at one time existed in a roof which collapsed as long ago as 1944. It is unclear how much of the roof can be seen in the photograph on which Irving relies. The roof is in a bad state, so that it is hard to tell if there were holes in it. There is a possibility that the holes were backfilled.”

Again, Irving was not prepared.

Lipstadt’s Arguments in History on Trial

It is interesting to leave the trial judgment and examine some of Lipstadt’s arguments about the alleged gas chambers given in her book. One needs to remember that the earliest presentation of the large collection of German construction documents was in Jean-Claude Pressac’s 1989 work Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, published in French and English by The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation. Van Pelt seems to have copied/repeated what Pressac had found. The best work on the subject today is Carlo Mattogno’s The Real Case for Auschwitz, a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the debate.

The matter is complicated because Lipstadt is repeating arguments made by Van Pelt, who, in turn, is repeating facts reported by Pressac. However, since the subject of Denial is Lipstadt’s battle to “defend the veracity of historical facts,” it seems fair play to fact-check Lipstadt. Correcting Lipstadt’s distortions requires the review of documents on what was known to have been built, so only two of Lipstadt’s claims are addressed:

  1. that the construction plans for the cremation buildings and morgues were “secret,” and
  2. the significance of the corpse chute.

1. Secret Plans

Lipstadt claims that the modifications to the crematorium plans were “something unique” and hidden from the normal drafters of the plans:

“Why, Robert Jan wondered, such strict secrecy, if the buildings were just morgues?”

The question is really: How could Lipstadt or Van Pelt make such a claim if they read what Pressac wrote?

“With a covering letter of 2nd August 1942 [Document 1], Huta was sent ten Bauleitung drawings of the building. All of these have survived, except for drawing 1341 of the doors and dormer windows. This letter, signed by the head of the Bauleitung Bischoff, and signed on receipt on 4th August by a Huta person (left-hand signature), is material proof that, contrary to what was thought after the war, there was nothing secret about the drawings of Crematorium II, for they were sent to a civilian firm with no particular instructions. […]

The Huta number 7015/IV was inscribed on two Bauleitung drawings: 936 (Elevations) [Document 3] and 980 (Roof frame). This irrefutably confirms that Huta’s civilian employees, who were perfectly free to talk of their work outside, were fully conversant with the drawings of Crematorium II, and studied them carefully, as proved by the static studies carried out, In the face of such evidence, it is difficult to go on talking about ‘secrecy’.” (tinyurl.com/qepp7rd)

2. The Corpse Chute

“Robert Jan also took note of what had been removed from the original plans. There had been a concrete slide on the side of the building... It had been replaced with a staircase. This was presented as proof of a sinister plan since it meant that the corpses would have “walked into the morgue.”

This argument was specifically referred to by Judge Gray.

Van Pelt was looking at a general and undefined plan, Drawing 2003. The corpse chute appears in the latter, though, Drawing Set 2791. What Van Pelt also ignores is that the corpse chute was built in both Krema II and III. Not only was the chute built, but it would have interfered with passage of people from the “undressing room” (Morgue 2) to Morgue 1, the alleged gas chamber. Pressac writes:

“This drawing was made at a time when work on Crematorium II was well advanced, and the main structure was completed, so only part of the modifications were actually realized in the building. The stairway was built, as can still be seen in the ruins, but the corpse chute was also built, no doubt because it was already in place when drawing 2003 was made. (tinyurl.com/tv699)


“The corpse chute was built in Krematorium III and can still be seen in the ruins. As in Krematorium II, it was closed off by a wooden wall (Bauleitung order of 0/4/43, completed by the DAW workshops on 14/4/43).” (tinyurl.com/plybdt5)

The Judgment

The defendants peppered their trial presentation with similar misstatements of facts, and, to be fair to David Irving, it required detailed knowledge to spot defendants’ many distortions. Worst of all, Irving did not bring any experts to trump Van Pelt, scholars like Germar Rudolf, Jürgen Graf or Carlo Mattogno.

Judge Gray’s gruling on Auschwitz was generally reasonable given the (lack of) evidence Irving had presented. He came to the Irving v. Penguin case with a string of prior-determinative court decisions and the doctrine of Stare Decisis to direct him (determining points in litigation based on precedent). Given the politics and common information of the matter, it would have been hard for Gray to find other than he did. As he wrote:

“I have to confess that, in common I suspect with most other people, I had supposed that the evidence of mass extermination of Jews in the gas chambers at Auschwitz was compelling. I have, however, set aside this preconception when assessing the evidence adduced by the parties in these proceedings.”

He seemed to consider Irving’s points, but only when presented with ample evidence. On the matter of Auschwitz, it was the defendants’ experts who presented evidence.

David Merlin, CODOH

Additional information about this document

Author(s) David Merlin
Title "Irving v. Lipstadt" Trial for Movie Theaters, Part III
Sources Smith's Report, no. 217, November 2015, pp. 5-7
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Dates published: 2015-10-10, first posted on CODOH: Oct. 10, 2015, 10:11 a.m., last revision: n/a
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