Additional Comments on the Provan booklet "No Holes? No Holocaust?"

A Study of the Holes in the Roof of Leichenkeller I of Krematorium II at Birkenau
Published: 2001-01-01

The Provan study provides for us much more than a telling material study of the concrete ruins of Leichenkeller I of Krematorium II. It is also a valuable compendium of what can only be described as untrustworthy witness descriptions of the necessary "Zyklon B introduction holes" and of the questionable photographic presentations thereof.

I. Wartime Photos of the "Holes"

Provan's assessment of the published wartime construction photos and the air photos of 1944 are particularly devastating. He is of the opinion that none of the published photographs can be said to demonstrate the existence of holes prior to 1945. This is especially devastating because Provan is a conscientious researcher who believes that homicidal gassings occurred in Leichenkeller I of Krematorium II.

Air Photo "Evidence"

Provan gives us a noteworthy and lengthy critique of 'The Holocaust Revisited', the 1979 study of the 1944 air photos published by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He concludes that "some of the [air] photographs of Auschwitz-Birkenau show roof marks where no Zyklon B vents are supposed to be, while others show some 6 marks", and:

"As a personal observation, this author agrees with [revisionist author John] Ball that some of the smudgey marks which show up on the photographs are in fact drawn in".

Provan concludes that the aerial photographs are not a trustworthy "proof that there were roof vents for Zyklon B". However, he avoids the most important analysis of all in determining the evidential value of the air photo roof marks: comparing the relative placement of the marks on the CIA photos to the areas Provan designates as displaying apertures. Clearly, all of the marks on the CIA photos are placed to the north of Provan's areas, and therefore not corresponding with the actual placement of the concrete support pillars as they existed. The marks have not been placed next to the concrete support pillars, but are between pillars 1 and 2, between pillars 3 and 4, and between pillars 5 and 6. All of the marks are also placed clearly to the east of the longitudinal support beam. In Provan's study, the designated areas were directly west of pillar 1 (hole 2), directly east of pillar 3 (hole 6), and directly east of pillar 5 (hole 8).

At scale, several metres of roof separate the marks in the photos from the areas that Provan describes, especially the third mark (Provan's hole 8), which would have been placed closer to pillar 6 than pillar 5. This explains Robert Jan van Pelt's computer graphic "walk through", as seen in the Holocaust on Trial production, opting for a depiction of the fabled "wire columns" as existing between the pillars rather than next to them. Van Pelt tried to reconcile the placement of the holes with the air photos, which Provan has demonstrated cannot be done. Clearly, Provan's conclusion (see above) has been charitable, and should read:

"all of the [air] photographs of Auschwitz-Birkenau show roof marks where no Zyklon B vents could have existed, as no holes exist in those areas of the existing ruins today".

German Wartime Ground Photographic "Evidence"

Charles Provan has also studied the three known wartime photographs of Leichenkeller I of Krematorium II, and reaches a conclusion that is once again favourable to the revisionist thesis.

Of PMO neg. no. 20995 /460 Kamann series (also see Pressac, 1989, p. 341), a photo "taken to show the sewage facility to the south of Krematorium II" according to Provan, he writes:

"This writer cannot see anything on the roof except one vague object on the left side" and he "can make no determination of what it is". What is clear is that the object in the photo cannot be a "Zyklon B hole", and there are no other objects on the roof.

Provan writes that it occurred to him that he "should make a line of sight drawing". He continues:

"The results were surprising, because when the drawing was finished, it became apparent that the object seen under the 8th window was not even on the roof of Leichenkeller I".

Provan acknowledges that his "geometrical analysis" originated with the revisionists (specifically Germar Rudolf), and "the revisionists were correct, and deserve credit for this".

PMO neg. no. 20995 / 494 Kamann series (also in Pressac, 1989, p.340), the famous photo showing three objects on the roof of Leichenkeller I, is correctly described as having been photographed "from the southwest". Provan observes:

"This would mean that, if the Zyklon B holes on the roof were equally spaced, the distance between the vents furthest away from the camera would appear less than the distance between the vents closest to the viewer. But the photo shows the opposite; whatever the objects are, they are not equally spaced, indicating that they are not equally spaced Zyklon B openings".

Since it is important to understand that Provan could only find displaced areas of the roof that would have originally been placed directly next to the concrete support pillars (approximately 7.6 metres apart centre to centre), the objects on the photograph cannot have been the fabled holes, and indeed may not have been original features of that photo.

Provan also analyzes PMO neg. no. 20995/506 Kamann series (in Pressac, ibid, p.335), a photograph taken in late January 1943. He writes: "The roof is covered with snow, and no vents for Zyklon B are visible". In Provan's opinion, holes were subsequently "knocked" or "punched" through the solid concrete after the concrete roof was poured. He refers to the testimony of Rudolf Höss regarding the conversion of the Leichenkeller (morgue) of Krematorium I at the Auschwitz main camp as evidence of an alleged homicidal conversion. However, the problem arises that Krematorium I was built and used as a morgue, and is alleged to have only later been converted for homicidal usage in 1941. Krematorium II was also supposedly designed for non-homicidal usage, but, according to van Pelt, was designated for homicidal adaptation in August 1942, more than 5 months prior to the concrete pour of the Leichenkeller roof.

In the case of Krematorium II, the alleged planning for homicidal adaptation preceded the actual construction of the building, which means that there should have been these details in the architectural drawings and/or specified in addenda created after August 1942. There is no such drawing or addendum. The provisions for the holes should also have been incorporated into the concrete formwork, and these holes should have appeared – but do not – on the photo of January 1943. That is only logical.

The shaky foundation for Provan's argument is that Kommandant Höss could not even tell his architect about the building's real purpose, and we can observe that all of the blueprints call the gas chamber 'Leichenkeller I'". Provan does not realize that his "conspiracy of silence" theory is dangerous for his extermination thesis. For if the crematoria archtitects did not know what the "real" purpose of the building was, then all of the so-called "criminal traces" of Pressac such as the alleged removal of the corpse chute, the word "Vergasungskeller" appearing in a civilian firm's worksheet, the design of the ventilation system, and all provisions for gas-tightness, etc., must then also have necessarily been understood by the architects as non-homicidal in purpose. If the holes were deliberately excluded from an alleged criminal conversion as a matter of secrecy, then no aspect of the alleged criminal conversion could have preceded the completion of the building's construction.

Either the building was adapted for criminal use prior to completion or it was not. If it was, there should be evidence of "Zyklon B holes" in the constuction photographs of 1943, but there is not.

Summary of the Photographs

Provan provides a useful analysis of the photographic record of Leichenkeller I of Krematorium II. His considered opinion is that none of the photographs – ground or air – can be said to prove the existence of "Zyklon B holes". Our analysis shows that the problematic nature of these materials is greater than has been conceded. The air photos show marks which do not correspond with even the smashed areas next to the support pillars 1, 3, and 5, where Provan and others have photographed cracks and apertures recently, and which we have already analyzed in our Preliminary Observations.

Two of the three known ground photos do not show the necessary "low chimneys" or holes, nor raised lids, despite having been taken prior to the completion of the building's construction and long after the alleged homicidal adaptation is said to have taken place, according to van Pelt and Pressac. There is only one ground photo which shows objects on the roof, and Provan has verified that they would not have corresponded with the "candidate" areas he has studied.

The photographic "evidence" favours the revisionist thesis, even in the hands of an honest researcher who believes that homicidal gas chambers existed.

II. The Testimonies

Provan provides for us a compendium of witness testimony regarding the alleged method of introducing Zyklon B pellets and of the necessarily corresponding introduction ports themselves.

We are given a list of sixteen witness descriptions. Nine of these are considered valuable, and seven are considered to be "some other testimonies of lesser value".

Testimonies "of Lesser Value"

It is easy to see why Provan has designated almost one-half of the witness descriptions as being "of lesser value". For various reasons, these descriptions cannot be reconciled with what Provan considers to be plausible, or likely, according to his reading of the evidence.

  • The "witness" Egon Ochshorn describes a single "gas bomb" as having been thrown "through a hole in the roof" by a single SS man, having "prepared the bomb" before throwing it in. He also describes "things impossible to see [such as handing out soap and towels in the "undressing halls"], unless he was allowed inside the Krematorium". The problem: Ochshorn claimed to see these things from Barracks 27 in Birkenau camp B1.
  • The "witness" Janda Weiss described a sign "written in all languages" in the building which allegedly read: "Put shoes into the cubbyholes and tie them together so you will not lose them. After the showers you will receive hot coffee"\.
    Provan knows that this is a vividly detailed description of a sign which only existed for Janda Weiss. The witness also stated that "small children were thrown in through a window", but there were never any windows in this underground room. More importantly, Weiss claimed that "there were three columns for the ventilators, through which the gas poured in". The number of holes (three, not four) and the method of introduction (gas pouring in through ventilators) contradict the testimonies which Provan favours, as we shall see.
  • The "witnesses" Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, authors of the 1944 War Refugee Board Report, also describe "three traps", and their brief description of the interior is entirely muddled and inventive. They describe "simulated entries [doors painted on walls] to show rooms in order to mislead victims" and "a door and a few steps lead down into the very long and narrow gas chamber", an entry and procession which cannot be reconciled with the architectural layout, as there was no door above the steps to the "undressing room", which itself has been altogether forgotten in this description\.
    Provan charitably writes that these descriptions were "gathered information from various camp sources".
  • The "witness" Filip Friedman wrote of "hollow pillars in all four corners, and when the chamber was full, gas bombs were dropped into the pillars from above. Friedman gave the dimensions of the chamber as 12 metres by 6 metres in size (the Leichenkeller was 30 metres by 8 metres), which he said "could be divided into two halves". Thus, Friedman wrote of two distinct chambers of 6 metres by 6 metres, each with two holes in the corners to one side\.
    Provan writes that "it neither accords with the accounts of the eyewitnesses, nor with the ruins of the gas chambers".
  • The "witnesses" Krauss and Kulka mention "two iron pillars, 1 ft x 1 ft, covered in thickly plaited wire" that were supposedly placed "between the concrete pillars". Provan knows that there is no evidence holes existed between the concrete pillars, as we have already shown. Also, the number (two) between each pillar is a problem, "since the blueprints show 7 concrete pillars, there would [then] be 12 gas pillars", Provan observes.
  • The "witness" Werner Krumme writes: "Above the ground level the building had small windows through which the SS guards then threw a substance developing into poisonous gas. It was here that the Nazis tried all kinds of new poisonous gases which they needed for their war efforts"\.
    Provan points out that the claimed experimentation with poisonous gases is not ratified in any other known account, and that Krumme's description of "windows" is once again false (as with Weiss, above). These are described as "dubious" points. Once again, the "throwing" of the gas is also noted.
  • Provan also mentions the account attributed to "witness" Franke-Gricksch, known as the "Franke-Gricksch Report", for which no semblance of an original document has ever been found. There are many problems with this account, including mention of "three big pillars" into which "containers with the products are lowered", and how the "substances put the people to sleep in one minute". The account also states that "the doors are closed", but there was only one door to and from Leichenkeller I. For more on this, see my article in the Journal of Historical Review, vol. 11, no. 3 (Fall 1991).

Testimonies "of Greater Value"

Charles Provan provides us with what he considers to be the testimonies of greater value on this problem. They are:

  • Rudolf Höss
  • Henryk Tauber
  • Karl Schultze
  • Salman Lewenthal
  • Konrad Morgen
  • Miklos Nyisli
  • Paul Bendel
  • Josef Erber
  • and Filip Mueller.

The testimony of Höss typifies the kind of testimony which Provan considers credible. The Höss description is carefully rendered, and serves as a paradigm:

"In the ceiling of the gas chambers, there are three or four openings that were fenced around with a grating that reached the floor of the gas chamber, and through these openings the gas was poured into the gas chambers".

The number of holes is not too controversial. The number is given as "three or four". With this statement the glaring discrepancy on the alleged number of holes can be seen to correspond with either Weiss, Vrba and Wetzler, and Franke-Gricksch (three) or with Tauber, Schulze, Lewenthal, Nyisli, Erber, and Friedman (four). But not together. Other witnesses are either more vague about the number (Mueller and Krumme), or claim two or greater multiples thereof (Erber and Kraus/Kulka), or claim only a singular hole (Ochshorn and Morgen).

At least it can be said that the Höss testimony separately corresponds with either three or six of the fifteen other testimonies regarding the alleged number of holes.

Höss also describes a "[wire] grating that reached to the floor of the gas chambers" and how "through these openings the gas was poured into the gas chamber". This relatively vague detail corresponds with the testimony of Henryk Tauber, but not of Morgen (a single "special shaft"), Nyisli ("ventilation valves going down to the bunker"), Bendel ("two mesh tubes"), Mueller ("hollow pillars made of sheet metal"), Ochshorn (a single "gas bomb"), Friedman ("gas bombs were dropped" into "hollow pillars in all four corners"), Weiss ("ventilators through which the gas poured in"), Kraus and Kulka ("between the concrete pillars were two iron pillars"), Krumme ("windows"), Franke-Gricksch ("containers with the products are lowered" into "three big pillars"), Erber ("two ducts") and Schultze, Lewenthal, and Vrba and Wetzler (no mention of wire mesh pillars at all).

What is clear from all of this is that Provan believes there were four holes next to support pillars 1, 3, 5, and 7. (It needs be mentioned that Provan did not attempt to draw any conclusions about the state of the physical evidence at pillar 7 simply because the roof is extremely damaged in this area).

He considers the testimonies of Höss, Tauber, Schultze, Nyisli, and Lewenthal to be "of greater value" because they do not exclude this number from their testimonies. But Höss' testimony could equally be cited to verify the actual number as three, and is notable for its circumspection regarding details. Schutlze claimed that "inside it [the room] was completely empty", suggesting that there were no wire pillars, only "four square openings". Nyisli does not mention wire pillars, only "four valves" into which "chlorine" was poured. Tauber explicitly mentions four pillars "of heavy wire mesh", but he places the holes and wire pillars "on either side of the [concrete] pillars, two on each side". It is suggested that these features would then have been staggered on either side of the longitudinal support beam. But Provan has examined two successive features (at central support pillars 3 and 5) which are both to the immediate east of the pillars. Notably, Tauber's description of staggered holes mysteriously corresponds with the marks on the roof of Leichenkeller I of Krematorium III in the CIA-published air photos. Problem: Tauber is said to have worked in Krematorium II, and in the air photos, the marks are all to the east of the longitudinal support beam in a relatively straight line. This also does not fit with Provan's insistence that at least one of the holes was originally placed to the west of the beam at pillar 1, as discussed earlier.


A preliminary study of the material evidence demonstrates that none of the existing features described as "holes" can be shown to have existed prior to 1945, and that the number, placement, and attributes of these features (or lack thereof) do not correspond with the testimonies exhaustively cited by Provan, nor with the marks on the air photos, nor with the wartime ground photographs. There are exceptions, but in each particular case, there exists at least one detail which is contradicted by another account or photographic feature. There is no material evidence that "wire mesh", "sheet metal", iron pipe, tube, or vent-like attributes even existed. Witness descriptions and photographic features corresponding in number contradict one another on physical attributes, placement, and on alleged method of introduction. Where witnesses can be said to agree on method, the numbers, placement, or attributes are wrong. Where attributes can be said to correspond, placement, numbers, methods, or other attributes are in contradiction.

Since none of the wartime photos can be cited as verification of the material existence of holes or their presumed attributes, and since the existing ruins of the building do not show that any of the present features ("holes") can be said to have existed prior to 1945, only the questionable witness descriptions of them remain.

The most frequently cited witnesses such as Höss, Tauber, Nyisli, Mueller, and Bendel, are deliberately misleading on so many other points. These witnesses have also claimed that three-four million were killed in Auschwitz and that 10,000-20,000 were cremated in the ovens each day [!]. Most of these statements were given to the post-war Report of the Soviet War Crimes Commission on Auschwitz, and must be understood within that context. After all, at least two of the members of the 1945 Auschwitz investigative Commission (Burdenko and Nicholai) masterfully assembled false testimonies regarding the fraudulent Report on the "German" responsibility for the Katyn Forest Massacre.

The Provan study shows us that there is only a very suspect "convergence of evidence" with regard to the alleged holes in Leichenkeller I of Krematorium II in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and that each piece of evidence (material, photo, and witness) is in itself suspect for various reasons. This is the opposite of what we should expect from an "unquestionable" story.

Additional information about this document

Author(s) Brian A. Renk
Title Additional Comments on the Provan booklet "No Holes? No Holocaust?", A Study of the Holes in the Roof of Leichenkeller I of Krematorium II at Birkenau
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Dates published: 2001-01-01, first posted on CODOH: June 29, 2001, 7 p.m., last revision: n/a
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