AnswerMan “debunkers” Edith Stein Gassing Claims

Published: 1998-11-01
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As SR readers will recall, AnswerMan is the persona of an active revisionist historian who shies from neither showmanship nor controversy (see SR 58). Here’s what college students visiting his page on CODOHWeb are reading regarding the recently canonized Jewish Carmelite, Edith Stein:

Question: Press reports have made it seem as if Edith Stein’s recent elevation to saint and martyr by the Catholic Church somehow validates the “gas chambers.” What is actually known about her death?

AnswerMan: Edith Stein was among a group of 987 Dutch Jews who were deported from Westerbork and who arrived at Auschwitz on August 8, 1942. Her arrest and confinement were directly related to the actions of the Dutch Roman Catholic hierarchy, which had spoken out against the German policy of deportations. Although Jewish by birth, there is no reason to believe that Stein was persecuted merely for that reason: on the contrary, the decision to deport the Jewish converts to Roman Catholicism was directly related to the public stand of the Dutch church. As a result, while Edith was in one respect yet another Jewish victim of Nazi persecution, the immediate cause of her deportation cannot be separated from her adopted Christian faith.

Of the transport of 987, the records show that 464 of the deportees, men and women, were registered at Auschwitz, the remainder—including Edith Stein—were sent to Birkenau.

The standard explanation is that she was gassed the day after her arrival, but there is simply no evidence—either documentary or in terms of credible testimony—of this. “Gas chambers” are usually described as attached to crematoria, and there were no crematoria at Birkenau until the following spring of 1943. Therefore, the site of her supposed gassing is placed at one of the “Bunkers” where gassings are said to have taken place, hence the waggish characterization of Stein as “Saint Edith of the Bunkers.”

But there’s a problem here, too. “Bunkers” in German terminology were simply air raid shelters, above, or below ground, and at the camps they would be located at the fringes and would serve a variety of purposes: temporary isolation for incoming transports, holding pens while clothing was disinfested or recycled, security in the event of bombing raids, potential security in the event of an enemy aerial gas attack, and finally as strong points in the event of a prisoner insurrection. Such bunkers—some still exist at the camps, witness Neuengamme—were not designed for homicidal gassing and there is no evidence beyond assertion that they were ever used for that purpose.

It is hard to see exactly where Edith, known as Sister Theresia Benedicta of the Cross, would fit in at Auschwitz. As a fifty year old woman, she would probably not have been pressed into labor; as an unregistered woman she would probably be sent to Birkenau, and as a western European with no prior exposure to typhus she would quite likely be exposed to, and devastated by, that disease. In this respect it is interesting to note that in World War One, Stein had volunteered as a nurse at a “Seuchenlazarett” (hospital for infectious diseases) in Moravia, where she treated Austrian soldiers recuperating from typhus, cholera, and other diseases. Based on the above data, it seems probable that she would have been sent to Birkenau, where her experience and her calling would have been useful in treating the ill and dying inmates in the typhus epidemic that was raging there at the time of her arrival.

Whether the official position on her death creates a problem for Roman Catholic revisionists is arguable. The death date for many martyrs is quite arbitrarily assigned, because no one really knows: hence we frequently find saints whose birth days and dates of martyrdom are juxtaposed if not identical. Similarly, Church traditions often contain alternate versions of how a saint met his or her end; the variations are partly a function of tradition and local advocacy. In the final analysis there is nothing binding about the characteristics of Stein’s beatification.

The possibility exists that she did not even die there: Dutch Jewish deportees stopped at Auschwitz, but have also been recorded at such points farther east as Lodz, Sobibor, and Kovno. However, on balance it seems likely that Edith Stein’s personal Calvary would have come at Auschwitz, where her training as a nurse and her vocation as a nun would find their fulfillment in the treatment and care of the sick and dying inmates, until she too, in the tradition of the priests and nuns during the time of the Black Death, would finally succumb. In such a case she would yet be a worthy martyr in the best traditions of the Church, as well as an exemplar of compassion in the midst of the relentless Innocenticide of the first half of the twentieth century.

[We have a complete (to date) package of AnswerMan’s replies to questions on the Holocaust controversy. See page one of our catalog.]

The Holocaust Controversy: The Case for Open Debate.

Bradley R. Smith. The most widely read revisionist article ever published. Put them in those postage-free junk mail envelopes you otherwise throw away. Leave them at libraries, schools, cantinas, wherever you pass your time. Eight panels.

10 copies $2. 50 copies $5.

100 or more copies 8 cents ea. (postpaid). [offer no longer valid; ed.]

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Author(s) AnswerMan
Title AnswerMan “debunkers” Edith Stein Gassing Claims
Sources Smith's Report, no. 59, November 1998, pp. 1, 5
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Dates published: 1998-11-01, first posted on CODOH: Oct. 28, 2015, 5:57 a.m., last revision: n/a
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