The Non-Existent "Auschwitz Gas Chambers" of Deborah Lipstadt and Robert Jan van Pelt

Published: 2006-01-01

Preliminary note:

This essay is dedicated to the Holocaust revisionist scholar, Dr. Robert Faurisson. He was the first to point out the chemical and toxicological impossibility of these Auschwitz gas chamber stories.

Part 1


In her 1993 critique of the Holocaust revisionist movement, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, prominent Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt labeled British historian David Irving a "Holocaust denier" and "one of the most dangerous spokespersons of the denial movement." In response, Irving sued Lipstadt and her publisher for libel. The subsequent trial in London, beginning in January 2000, received worldwide coverage, as the media spotlight fell upon the ongoing battle between traditional and revisionist views of the Jewish tragedy in WWII. After a ten-week trial, Irving lost his case and Lipstadt's victory was front-page news worldwide.

The Irving-Lipstadt saga continued well into 2005. In the early part of the year, Lipstadt published her version of events, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving.[1] The book was generally favorably reviewed and widely hailed as a "publishing event." In her tome, she put forth in laymen's terms that everyone could understand, straightforward reasons as to why one should reject Holocaust revisionist theories and accept the existence of the homicidal Auschwitz gas chambers.

As most readers of this essay are already probably aware, Irving was arrested in Vienna, Austria, in November 2005, and will stand trial for "denying the Holocaust." According to a British press report, "Irving's Austrian lawyer claimed that his client has recanted and now asserts belief in the existence of the Nazi gas chambers."

Let us assume for the sake of argument that David Irving has recanted, and now believes the gas chambers were for real. Does this mean that Deborah Lipstadt has finally and conclusively won the Irving-Lipstadt war? Does this mean that she has proven the Nazi gas chambers actually existed?

In view of this ongoing, headline grabbing story, we should investigate exactly what "proof" Lipstadt has offered her readers in History on Trial to show the Auschwitz gas chambers actually existed.


In January 1988, the second trial of Ernst Zundel began in Toronto, Canada. The intrepid, German-born revisionist was charged with spreading false news; he published a booklet that challenged the prevailing view that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis, primarily through the use of gas chambers that used hydrogen cyanide (HCN) as the killing agent.

Fred A. Leuchter specialized in the design, construction, and maintenance of execution hardware such as gas chambers. He was a consultant to several states and penitentiaries, had worked on and designed facilities used to kill condemned criminals with hydrogen cyanide, and in the late 1980s designed the new Missouri State Penitentiary Death House and gas chamber. It would not be stretching the truth a bit to say that at one time he was America's foremost expert on gas chamber technology.

Zundel contracted Leuchter to prepare an expert opinion on the alleged murder facilities at three sites in Poland. In early 1988, the American execution hardware expert carried out the first-ever forensic investigation of the alleged extermination gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek. His sensational conclusion—that these structures were never used as gas chambers to kill people—set off an international controversy that is still continuing.

Leuchter took forensic samples of brick, mortar and sediment from the alleged extermination gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau, as well as a control sample from a camp delousing facility. It is agreed that no one was ever gassed at the latter location; it was used only to delouse clothing and other belongings. Here is Lipstadt's description of Leuchter's activities:

"Leuchter chiseled chunks of concrete from the walls of the gas chambers. He also took samples from the walls of the delousing facility in which clothes and objects were fumigated. Leuchter intended to compare the amount of gas residue in each facility."[2]

Leuchter smuggled the samples out of Poland, and back in Massachusetts he had a chemical lab test them. Lipstadt reports on Leuchter's findings:

"The lab found there was more gas residue in the delousing chamber samples than in the gas chamber samples. Based on this, Leuchter concluded that no humans were gassed at Auschwitz."[3]

Lipstadt's description of Leuchter's findings is very misleading. The amounts of gas residue found in the alleged homicidal gas chamber samples were minuscule (!) as compared with that found in the non-homicidal delousing facility sample.[4]

Concerning Leuchter's findings, Lipstadt again writes:

"Leuchter had made a number of fundamental mistakes that destroyed the validity of his conclusions. In the fall of 1944, as the Soviet forces approached Auschwitz, the Germans blew up the gas chambers in order to camouflage their genocidal activities. The piles of rubble had been exposed to years of rain, snow, sun and mud. The water-soluble HCN residue on the chambers' exposed walls and floors had been severely diluted by the time Leuchter arrived with his chisel, Baggies, and running commentary."[5]

In other words, she is saying that one reason that Leuchter found minuscule HCN residue in the alleged gas chamber samples is because over 40 years of harsh weather—sun, rain, snow, heat, cold, wind, mud, etc.,—washed virtually all of the residue away.

The revelation of the late Jean-Claude Pressac disproves her claim. French pharmacist Pressac—one of the major researchers in Lipstadt's ideological camp, whose work attempted to prove the existence of the Auschwitz gas chambers—has been described by Lipstadt's allies as "one of the rare research specialists in gas chamber extermination technique."[6]

In his widely hailed, 1989 tome, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, he published the picture of the outside wall of a non-homicidal, HCN delousing chamber. Referring to this structure, he wrote:

"[F]rom ground level to just below the chimney, bluish stains can be seen on the bricks of the wall, showing that hydrocyanic acid [HCN] was used there (in 1942-1944), for delousing purposes."[7]

Thus, the findings of Pressac discredits Lipstadt's claim that all or even most of the HCN residue on the alleged gas chamber walls would have been "severely diluted" by the elements or "weathered away." Despite being subjected to over 40 years of weathering, the highly visible HCH residue is still very much present. (There are other examples of visible HCN residue remaining despite many decades of being subjected to harsh weather.[8])

Furthermore, it is not true, as Lipstadt claims that all of Leuchter's samples had been subjected to years of rain, snow, sun and mud. Leuchter took some samples from the inside walls of the alleged homicidal gas chamber of Crematorium I. As Pressac pointed out, these inside walls were protected from the harsh, outside elements:

"[The] morgue/gas chamber inside walls have never been exposed to sun, rain, or snow (factors which contribute to cyanide content diminishing) as the other [alleged gas chambers] were and are."[9]

The important point here is this. The findings of one of the most prominent experts on the alleged Auschwitz gas chambers can be used to discredit the theories of Deborah Lipstadt! Pressac's evidence contradicts Lipstadt on these points.

Lipstadt again explains another alleged consequence of Leuchter's supposed most serious "error." She writes:

"He assumed that because he found higher levels of HCN residue in the chambers for delousing clothing and objects than in the homicidal gas chambers, humans were not killed in the latter. But vermin are far more resistant to cyanide than humans. Therefore, in order to kill them, far higher concentrations of gas are needed for substantially longer periods of time. Therefore, there should be more gas residue in a clothes delousing chamber than in a homicidal gas chamber. Furthermore, when humans are packed tightly into a room—such as they were in the gas chambers—lower amounts of the gas will kill them more rapidly than in other circumstances. Given these conditions, it is surprising that he found any gas residue at all in the homicidal gas chambers."[10]

Once again, an assertion of Pressac undermines the claim of Lipstadt. Pressac claimed that twelve to twenty grams per cubic meter is the concentration of the HCN allegedly used in a homicidal gassing; two to five grams per cubic meter was the concentration used in a non-homicidal disinfestation/delousing.[11] Contradicting Lipstadt, Pressac is claiming that a greater concentration of gas would have been used to kill humans in each gassing than that used to kill vermin in each delousing. Pressac's claim contradicts Lipstadt, which suggests that she and her fellow promoters of the Holocaust ideology change their story according to the propaganda needs of the moment.

In all fairness to Lipstadt, though, Pressac does claim that the gas was in contact with the delousing chamber walls for much longer periods that it was in contact with the walls of the homicidal gas chambers.

Before we can proceed with our critique of Lipstadt's claims, we must understand a few facts about the Holocaust story and the properties of HCN.

The standard Holocaust story insists that large numbers died in each gas chamber. Allegedly, approximately 400,000 were gassed in Crematorium II, 350,000 in Crematorium III.[12] And it is still a part of the standard Holocaust history that the alleged gas chambers were in operation for long periods of time. Crematorium II allegedly functioned as a homicidal gas chamber from March 1943 to November 1944; Crematorium III was supposedly used in a similar fashion from June 1943 to November 1944.[13]

Enter Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, professor of architecture at the University of Waterloo, Canada. In connection with Lipstadt's defense at the Irving-Lipstadt trial, van Pelt testified as an expert witness on the alleged execution Auschwitz gas chambers.

Dr. van Pelt points out that "Hydrogen cyanide is very soluble in water."[14] The authoritative Nuremberg document, "Directives for the Use of Prussic Acid [Hydrogen Cyanide] for the Destruction of Vermin (Disinfestation)," also confirms that HCN is water-soluble and has extraordinarily great penetrating powers.[15] Dr. van Pelt estimates that 350,000 people were killed in the alleged gas chamber of morgue I. At 2,000 people per gassing, that comes out to 175 gassings, or approximately 117 hours of the gas chamber being exposed to HCN.[16]

For the sake of argument, let us give Lipstadt and her allies the benefit of doubt and assume what they say about the alleged operation of the gas chambers is 100% correct. That is, let us assume A) far less gas was used in a homicidal gassing than in a non-homicidal delousing; B) the gas chamber ventilation systems insured that the HCN was in contact with the gas chamber walls for only short periods of time during each homicidal gassing; and C) the chambers were washed down after the gassings with water.[17]. Most importantly, Lipstadt is claiming that the main reason there was no long-term buildup of cyanide residue in the "gas chambers" is because only small amounts of the HCN were in contact with the walls, pillars and ceilings for only very brief periods of time.

Even if we assume all of these to hold, the conditions would still have been conducive to the development of the long-term buildup of cyanide residue.

Since HCN has great penetrating powers, at least some of the gas used during the mass gassings would have penetrated far enough into the brickwork to escape being washed away after each gassing. Furthermore, HCN is water-soluble. After the hosing down, numerous water droplets containing dissolved HCN would have remained on the walls, floors, and ceilings to react with the iron in the walls, ultimately leading to a cyanide residue buildup. Finally, the natural moisture in the damp mortar and brickwork would have dissolved the gas, thus keeping even more of the HCN within the chamber, ultimately leading to even more of a cyanide residue buildup.

We repeat: Lipstadt's allies claim that the gas chamber of morgue I, for example, was exposed to HCN for approximately 117 hours and it was hosed down with water after each gassing.[18]

Enter Germar Rudolf, a former Max-Planck Institute chemistry doctoral candidate. Correcting the deficiencies of Leuchter's pioneering study, he undertook a far more thorough forensic study of the alleged Auschwitz gas chambers. Certified chemist Rudolf uncovered the case of a German church that had visible hydrogen cyanide residue staining after only one (!) fumigation with HCN gas.[19]

Considering all of the aforementioned facts, one is justified in concluding the following: if the structures in question were actually used as homicidal gas chambers, the conditions would have been conducive for the long-term buildup of considerable hydrogen cyanide residue. The point is not that the cyanide traces at the alleged homicidal gassing sites are "somewhat less" than those found at the non-homicidal delousing sites, but that they are negligible or nil in comparison. As Rudolf points out, if the structures in question were actually used as homicidal gas chambers, there would have been a considerable and significant cyanide residue buildup.[20]

It is important to note that Rudolf, in his forensic analysis of the alleged Auschwitz gas chambers, found this:

"Quantities of cyanide on the order of magnitude of those found by Leuchter in the alleged 'gas chamber' can apparently also be found in the wall material of the inmate barracks."[21]

In other words, the amount of cyanide residue found in the alleged gas chambers is similar to that found in the inmates' barracks where no homicidal mass gassings ever occurred! If the structures in question were actually used as homicidal gas chambers, one would expect to find a significantly greater cyanide residue buildup in their walls than in the walls of the inmates' barracks. This is further evidence that supports the revisionist claim that the alleged "Auschwitz gas chambers" never existed.

Further on, Lipstadt makes an important concession to Holocaust revisionism, confirming that at least one of its claims are indeed correct, while simultaneously, she undermines the testimony of one expert in her own camp. Her rebuttal to Dr. James Roth is most certainly revisionist in nature.

As stated earlier, Fred Leuchter took samples from the alleged gas chamber walls. The laboratory that evaluated his samples pulverized them for the tests. When Roth, the chemist who conducted the tests, learned the samples were from gas chamber walls, he declared that Leuchter's findings were meaningless because hydrogen cyanide only reacts on the surface. Roth said that the HCN "would probably not penetrate more than 10 microns. Human hair is 100 microns."[22] Ergo, according to his viewpoint, by pulverizing Leuchter's samples, the laboratory had diluted any HCN residue.

In a footnote, Lipstadt undermines Roth's claims, and implicitly admits that at least one of the findings of Holocaust revisionist chemist Germar Rudolf is indeed correct. She writes:

"[T]he HCN most likely penetrated far deeper than 10 microns."[23]

This is precisely the point that Rudolf demonstrated elsewhere. Rudolf pointed out that there are blue hydrogen cyanide residue stains on the outside walls of the Auschwitz delousing facilities. This shows that "hydrogen cyanide can rather easily reach deep layers of plaster and mortar."[24]

So let's get this perfectly straight. Establishment chemist Dr. James Roth, who now apparently agrees with Lipstadt's view of the Nazi gas chambers, was wrong about how far the HCN gas would have penetrated into the walls of the gas chambers. But the so-called Holocaust denier Germar Rudolf was actually correct on this issue.

Thank you Deborah Lipstadt for bolstering the credibility of Holocaust denier Germar Rudolf and undermining the credibility of Holocaust true believer James Roth.


© 2006

Deborah E. Lipstadt, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving ( HarperCollins, 2005).
Ibid, p. 35.
Fred A. Leuchter, jr., Robert Faurisson, Germar Rudolf, The Leuchter Reports: Critical Edition (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2005), p. 58. Online:
Lipstadt, p. 35.
Shelly Shapiro, ed., Truth Prevails: Demolishing Holocaust Denial: the end of "The Leuchter Report" (The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1990), p. 29.
Jean-Claude Pressac, Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1989), p. 59. Online:
See the photographs in Germar Rudolf, The Rudolf Report: Expert Report on Chemical and Technical Aspects of the "Gas Chambers" of Auschwitz (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2003). Online:
Pressac, p. 44.
Lipstadt, pp. 35-36.
Pressac, pp. 16, 18, 31. Online: Shapiro, ed., pp. 36-37.
Pressac, p. 183. Online:
Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 363.
Document printed in full in Pressac, pp. 18-20. Online:
Ibid. Dr. Green makes claim "C" in his report. See page 43.
footnote 16.
Rudolf, pp. 20-22. Online:
Ibid, passim.
Ibid, p. 258.
Lipstadt, p. 131.
Rudolf, p. 274. Online:

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Author(s) Paul Grubach
Title The Non-Existent "Auschwitz Gas Chambers" of Deborah Lipstadt and Robert Jan van Pelt
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Dates published: 2006-01-01, first posted on CODOH: Dec. 30, 2005, 6 p.m., last revision: n/a
Comments Review of: "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving"
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