Auschwitz: The Dwindling Death Toll

Published: 2003-02-01
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It was not before 1989, that is 44 years after the liberation of the POW and concentration camp complex known as Auschwitz, that an international dispute started about the actual number of victims who had died in this camp complex. For 44 years, the Polish authorities and with them most of the world's mass media had been claiming that some four million inmates had perished there, but in 1989 they suddenly changed their minds and reduced this figure drastically. As a consequence, the memorial plates on display in the camp Auschwitz-Birkenau were removed in 1990, which had propagated the four million figure in many languages. Following this dispute, an investigative commission was formed to come up with a more acceptable number of victims.[1]< When this commission published its results in summer of 1990, it was widely distributed by the international media.[2] The most astounding admission came perhaps from a prominent Polish journalist, who stated that the old, exaggerated figure was an "anti-fascist lie."[3] New memorial plates were installed in Auschwitz in 1995, claiming an alleged "final" victim count of 1.5 millions.

However, this "final" verdict did not end the controversy about the actual death toll of Auschwitz. In 1993 and 1994, the French pharmacist Jean-Claude Pressac, then promoted by the international media as the expert on technical questions surrounding Auschwitz, reduced this figure twice, first down to 800,000, then down to 700,000.[4] The next reduction down to some 550,000 followed in May 2002 by Fritjof Meyer, a leading journalist of Germany's biggest news magazine, the left-wing Der Spiegel. Meyer's article appeared in the German geopolitical magazine Osteuropa, which is published by the German Society for Eastern Europe under the directorship of Prof. Rita Süssmuth, who was once the president of the German parliament.

Since this periodical has a very small circulation, the article went largely unnoticed. Only a few German mainstream media took notice of it, so for example Sven Felix Kellerhoff in the daily newspaper Die Welt, who wrote on August 28, 2002: "[...] the Holocaust deniers and Auschwitz relativizers have a new chief witness." He criticizes Meyer's "flimsy evidence" which he uses for his calculations and that Meyer had selectively ignored evidence that does not fit into his way of arguing. It has some irony that Kellerhoff does not accuse Meyer of the crime of selectivity, but Meyer's adversaries, the Holocaust revisionists: "It is characteristic of Holocaust deniers that they selectively choose their evidence, considering only those arguments which support their viewpoint." Such turnabout criticism of Revisionists has a funny ring to it. Kellerhoff then describes Meyer as "an honorable man" whose article "in and of itself was well intended," but who now receives "approval from the wrong side", i.e., from "diehards and neo-Nazis." Other than that, Meyer's article had an echo only in small German right-wing publications.

The following articles will address the problem of the Auschwitz death toll. As an introduction, the first paper by Prof. Faurisson gives an overview of all major figures that were publicly promoted since the end of World War II. The next two papers critically review Meyer's article, and they refute Kellerhoff's above mentioned claim: It is not the Revisionists who practice selective consideration of evidence and accept only what fits into their world view.


Notes

[1] Cf. for this "Commission try to defuse Auschwitz controversy", The Canadian Jewish News, Oct. 3, 1990, p. 5.
[2] Daily press of July 18, 1990, e.g.: Krzysztof Leski, Ohad Gozani, "Poland reduces Auschwitz death toll estimate to 1 million," London Daily Telegraph, July 18, 1990; UPI, "Poland lowers Auschwitz toll", Toronto Sun, July 18, 1990. In Germany, it was the left-wing radical daily newspaper die tageszeitung which published the lowest new victim figure on July 18, 1990: 960.000.
[3] "'Ich empfinde Verlegenheit.' Der polnische Publizist Ernest Skalski über die neue Auschwitz-Diskussion in Warschau" ("I feel embarrassed." the Polish author Ernest Skalski about the new Auschwitz discussion in Warsaw), Der Spiegel no. 30 (1990), p. 111.
[4] See the article below [by Faurisson], in particular notes 33 and 34.

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Author(s) Germar Rudolf
Title Auschwitz: The Dwindling Death Toll
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Dates published: 2003-02-01, first posted on CODOH: June 7, 2012, 7 p.m., last revision: n/a
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