My Memories of Jean-Claude Pressac

Published: 2003-11-01

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In spring of 1987, the first issue of the journal Annales d'Histoire Révisionniste appeared in France, containing, i.a., a long article authored by me, "Le mythe de l'extermination des Juifs. Introduction historico-bibliographique à l'historiographie révisionniste".[1] Other articles contributed by me appeared in the issues no. 3 and 5.[2] The latter issue also carried a French translation of the Leuchter Report.[3]

In March 1989, Jean-Claude Pressac sent me a brief letter, in which he wrote that he had read the articles referred to above "with interest" and that he wanted to show me his response to the Leuchter Report. Enclosed with his letter was a photocopy of a study with the title "Les carences et incohérences du 'Rapport Leuchter'" (the deficiencies and incoherences of the Leuchter Report), which had just been published in the French periodical Jour J. The subtitle was given as "A scientific study against the gas chamber deniers," but it had been replaced with pencil by "A scientific study in view of the gas chamber deniers". This correction indicated - as I understood later - Pressac's honest desire to discuss with (at least some of) the revisionists and to let arguments decide the outcome of this discussion.

In his letter, Pressac mentioned a work on Auschwitz-Birkenau, which he had concluded in 1988, and he invited me to meet him in Camaiore, a fabulous tourist town in France, where he had rented a mansion during August of that year.

At that time, Pressac had already finished an article with the title "Les Krematorien IV et V de Birkenau et leurs chambres à gaz" (The crematoria IV and V of Birkenau and their gas chambers).[4] A summary of it appeared with the headline "Etude et réalisation des Krematorien IV et V d'Auschwitz-Birkenau" (Study and realization of the crematoria IV and V of Auschwitz-Birkenau) in the French anthology L'Allemagne nazie et le génocide juif.[5] Additionally, Pressac had supplemented the Auschwitz Album[6] with appendices about the crematoria of Birkenau as well as with explanations and comments.

Although I did not agree with his conclusions, it was obvious to me that Pressac was one of the most knowledgeable scholars in the field of Auschwitz. I was therefore glad to accept his invitation, and in August 1989 I finally had the pleasure - if not the honor - to meet him personally.

Pressac and his family welcomed me warmly and let me enjoy their hospitability, of which I have nice memories to this day.

Our discussions unfolded in a very relaxed atmosphere. They mainly revolved around his then upcoming book Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers.[7] With great enthusiasm, Pressac showed me the most important sections of his work. He had written down the French text on huge, 50 cm × 66 cm sheets, which carried photocopies of the documents reproduced for this books. Pressac gave all these sheets to me as a gift, but asked me not to talk about it prior to the release of his book.

The documentation prepared by Pressac was truly impressive, and I diligently started to study it. Pressac was honestly interested in a constructive critique of his book, and shortly after its publication, in March 1990, he invited me again, this time to his home in La Ville du Bois, a small village not far away from Paris. As before in Camaiore, he and his family welcomed me again very cordially.

Pressac lodged me in a small apartment located on top of his pharmacy, which he had turned into his study and where I was allowed to review thousands of documents in his possession. I always felt honored by the faith that Pressac had in me. He also dedicated one copy of his big book to me with the handwritten entry "Pour M. Carlo Mattogno. Le 8 Mars 1990. Jean-Claude Pressac,"

During our lengthy discussion, my astonishment about his attitude grew steadily: it was apparently not important to him to convince me, and once he even recommended that I should remain a revisionist. His sincerity cannot be doubted, and it seemed to me that he was more interested in free spirits, who are capable of objective criticism, than in uncritical followers. He was, of course, himself very much a free spirit, perhaps a little bit to much - in contrast to those official historians, who still cling to the outdated Auschwitz image of 1945. He told me that the Jewish translator who translated his book from French to English interrupted his work several times threatening to reject this project because some of Pressac's "revisionist" views tasted bitter to him.

Pressac's sincere desire for a dialog with those revisionists he considered respectable was also the basis of his friendship with Michel Sergent, a retired teacher who, in the late 1980s, had established an "Association for the Defense of free Historical Research" and promoted a dialog between revisionists and representatives of the official version of history. I had the pleasure to meet Michel Sergent in Pressac's house; Pressac had invited him in order to solve a logistic problem. I had the opportunity to stay at Sergent's home for several days; he treated me with utmost courtesy and gave my all the support I wished for. He also accompanied me on a very revealing visit to the crematoria ovens of the Parisian cemetery Père Lachaise. I recall Michel Sergent as a man sincerely engaged for the concerns of his association.

In 1991, Pressac announced to me that he would travel to Moscow in order to evaluate documents captured by the Red Army in 1945 in Auschwitz. His research in Russia's capital initiated his second book Les crématoires d'Auschwitz. La machinerie du meurtre de masse, which was published in 1993[8] and of which I received a dedicated copy as well. I assume that he thought to have finally proven the existence of gas chambers in Auschwitz. My subsequent merciless response to his second book, Auschwitz: Fine di una leggenda,[9] of which I sent him a copy in March 1994 - the book was also published in English and German[10] - was most likely the reason for the sudden deterioration of our relationship. Pressac never responded to my critique, neither in writing nor privately. In an interview given to French journalist Valérie Igounet on June 15, 1995 (he later changed the wording of this interview), he expressed the following bitter and unfair judgment about me:[11]

"I met Carlo Mattogno several times. Our discussions were interesting and instructive. After I noticed that, instead of taking notice of the undeniable documents of the Topf company that I had published, he had resorted to dishonest arguments in order to reject them, I ended all dialog with him."

If I really had resorted to "dishonest arguments," it would have been a breeze for Pressac to publicly destroy me. But I was - and still am - absolutely convinced that I had written a technical critique, which objectively investigated all essential arguments brought forward by Pressac and refuted them with technical arguments. I showed for instance that the alleged gas chambers of the crematoria II and III at Birkenau were equipped with a ventilation system allowing just as many air exchanges as it was (and is) common for normal mortuaries and that the ventilation systems of the alleged undressing cellars were even slightly more powerful than those of the claimed gas chambers - a fact which finally clarifies the unsuspicious nature of these ventilation systems. I also proved that those famous "Gasprüfer" (gas testers) were nothing but plain normal instruments to analyze exhaust gases and that the device to measure remnants of hydrogen cyanide were actually called "Gasrestnachweisgerät für Zyklon" (gas residue detection device for Zyklon).

Apart from general technical literature quoted, all of my arguments rest exactly on those documents of the Topf company, which Pressac called "undeniable," but what he really meant with "undeniable" was his flawed interpretation of these documents. Facing such a well-founded and well-documented criticism as mine, one can understand Pressac's bitterness, although it cannot be justified.

His bitterness might also have been increased be the fact that his second book shattered the foundations of the official Auschwitz image even more than did his first book, so that the Guardians of the 'Holocaust' Grail finally stated turning against Pressac. After the initial praise accompanying the launch of his book had subsided, Pressac was more and more ostracized. He was no longer a valuable goldmine to the guardians of the 'Holocaust' orthodoxy, but had turned into a more and more rebellious and uncontrollable Goy, jeopardizing the official historiography with each new publication. An Italian Shoa-Pharisee called him "reductionist", which reminds us in a fatal way at the term "negationist" used for all revisionists scholars by the most imbecile under the polemicists. Thus, Pressac had been banned to the purgatory of historiography, located somewhere in the middle between the revisionist hell and the 'Holocaust' paradise.

For this reason, the position as the "world's leading Auschwitz expert," until then occupied by Pressac, was taken by a trustworthy Yehudi, who was to take Pressac's theses - cleaned from all revisionist waste - and embed them into an unalterable, definitive version of Auschwitz.

The new rising star on the Holocaust firmament was Robert Jan van Pelt, a scholar who is clearly inferior to Pressac both intellectually as well as regarding his critical attitude, but who brings with him the prerequisites necessary to play the role assigned to him. I remember my disappointment and even anger after I had read the book Auschwitz 1270 to the present, which was authored by him and Deborah Dwork.[12] Van Pelt was so brazen as to repeat Pressac's essential arguments as if he had invented them, and reproduce the plans as if he himself had discovered them. Beyond that, he mentions Pressac only once in his 403 pages book (on page 304), and then only in a totally irrelevant context!

The anthology Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp,[13] which was edited by Y. Gutman and M. Berenbaum and was published in 1994, contains an article with the title "The Machinery of Mass Murder at Auschwitz" with Pressac and van Pelt given as the authors, even though it is merely a summary of Pressac's book Les crématoires d'Auschwitz. It is a riddle to me what van Pelt's contribution to this article is and why Pressac agreed to this kind of procedure.

The most positive aspect of Pressac's personality was his passion for research. This passion was genuine through and through and led him to obtain new documents and to make new discoveries, most recently in the archives of the German company Topf in Erfurt.

The Pressac of the 1980s was critical and open to a debate with persons of different views. This openness was most intensively expressed in Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers. His second book, however, published four years later, displays an uptight and dogmatic Pressac. Little was left of his original critical spirit, and at that time he handled documents far less carefully than he did in 1989. In my introduction to Auschwitz: The End of a Legend I wrote accordingly:[14]

"But in fact, reading his Les crématoires d'Auschwitz [in comparison to his prior work], one senses an uncomfortable reversion: Jean-Claude Pressac returned to the worst clichés of the worst traditional historiography."

The author had changed his style from writing a critical history of the camp to writing novel-like stories.

In my eyes, Pressac's most severe mistake was that he never seriously studied the structure and operation of crematory ovens in general and those installed in Auschwitz by the Topf company in particular. This restricted his research tremendously and distorted his assessment of witness testimony and interpretation of documents. I remember the difficulties I had while staying at his house to convince him that corpses in a coke-fired furnace are not incinerated directly by the flames produced by the fuel, but by burning gas produced in the gas generator (the fireplace) by the process of gasification of coke (resulting mainly in a mixture of oxygen and carbon monoxide). If Pressac had acquired the knowledge needed to understand the cremation ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau, his interpretation of documents and his assessment of witness counts would have been totally different.

Pressac's impact on the historiography of the Auschwitz camp is well known, so I will not repeat this here. But to be quite honest, I have to point out that the main aspects of his research (the so-called "criminal traces," which in his opinion prove the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz) go back to Roman Dawidowski, who listed most of those "traces" and quoted many of Pressac's documents in his expert report concluded on September 26, 1946, in preparation of the Höß-Trial.

Pressac also had some influence on revisionist scholars. In my case Pressac stimulated me to widen the horizon of my research, which was still quite narrow at the time of our meetings. He initiated my love for archival research and therefore paved the way for me in this regard. My first visit to the archive of the Auschwitz museum took place in summer 1990, after my second visit to Pressac, and his personal dedication in the book he gave me served quite well as a door opener.

In 1995, when I traveled for the first time to Moscow together with Jürgen Graf and Russell Granata, I was still following Pressac's trail, but after that Jürgen Graf and I took the initiative in that field of research. We have visited archives that Pressac never entered: in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Ruthenia, Ukraine, and the Netherlands, and we discovered a huge amount of hitherto unknown documents.

Official historiography owes Pressac many reviving impulses, keeping it afloat at least for a while; but even those impulses can no longer prevent its fossilization and internal crumbling, to which it has been condemned as a result of the dull dogmatism of its proponents.


[1] An English version "The Myth of the Extermination of the Jews" appeared in two installments in the Journal of Historical Review vol. 8(2) (1988), pp. 133-172, and 8(3) (1988), pp. 261-302.
[2] "Comment on falsifie l'histoire", "Reponse à Jean-Amrie Braitenberg", AHR, 3 (1987), pp. 89-95; 96-101; "Auschiwtz: Un cas de plagiat", "Auschwitz : Deux faux témoignages", AHR, 5 (1988), pp. 119-140, 141-165 ; for the latter two, cf. "Two false testimonies from Auschwitz", "Auschwitz: A case of plagiarism", JHR 10(1) (1990), pp. 5-24, 25-47.
[3] "Fred A. Leuchter. Rapport technique", AHR 5 (1988), pp. 51-102.
[4] Le Monde Juif, No. 107.
[5] Gallimard-Seuil 1985.
[6] L'album d'Auschwitz, Seuil, 1983.
[7] Beate-Klarsfeld-Foundation, New York 1989.
[8] CNRS, Paris. Germ.: Die Krematorien von Auschwitz, Piper, Munich 1994.
[9] Edizione di Ar, Padua 1994.
[10] Auschwitz: The End of a Legend, Granata Publishing, Palos Verdes, CA, 1994 (online:; Germ.: in: Herbert Verbeke (ed.), Auschwitz: Nackte Fakten, Vrij Historisch Onderzoek, Berchem 1995.
[11] V. Igounet, Histoire du négationnisme en France, Seuil 2000, pp. 645f.
[12] W. W. Norton & Company, New York-London 1996.
[13] Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1994.
[14] C. Mattogno, Auschwitz: The End of a Legend, op. cit. (note.[10]), first chapter; Germ.: p. 102.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Carlo Mattogno
Title: My Memories of Jean-Claude Pressac
Sources: The Revisionist 1(4) (2003), pp. 432-435
Published: 2003-11-01
First posted on CODOH: June 23, 2012, 7 p.m.
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