Some Comments on the Gerstein Reports

Published: 2008-02-05

Yitzhak Arad's use of Gerstein

Yitzhak Arad is the author of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press 1987), which is arguably the standard work on the three Aktion Reinhardt 'death camps'. In this book Arad spends a short chapter on 'The Mission of Gerstein and Pfannenstiel', wherein he quotes a portion of the Gerstein report denoted T III by French revisionist scholar Henri Roques.[1] Interestingly, Gerstein is the only witness quoted in Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka whose reliability Arad deigns to assess. Regarding Gerstein's description of an alleged conversation with SS und Polizeiführer Odilo Globocnik, Arad writes:

This report was one of the first and most important documents relating to Operation Reinhard. It includes facts and events that Gerstein personally witnessed and some that were told to him by Globocnik or Wirth. The report of what Gerstein saw as an eyewitness is reliable; "the facts" based on what his hosts told him were to some extent exaggerated by them or simple boasting. Globocnik's story about the visit of Hitler and Himmler on August 15, 1942, was untrue. Hitler never visited Operation Reinhard headquarters, and it is unlikely that he met Globocnik at some other place. The visit and conversation were Globocnik's own invention, probably to stress his high status and the importance of his mission. There is, however, a possibility that such a conversation transpired with Himmler during his visit to Lublin in the middle of July 1942. Its veracity aside, this story is important as an insight to Globocnik's view and ideological approach to the extermination of the Jews.[2]

Thus Arad concludes that Gerstein is reliable in regards to all that which he claims to have seen with his own eyes, such as a 25 or 40 meter high pile of shoes, or 700 to 800 people pressed into a chamber measuring 25 square meters! Only well then that Arad dismisses the factually impossible notion of a meeting between Globocnik, Hitler and Himmler on August 15, 1942. As a compensation, we are provided with the hypothesis of a conversation between Globocnik and Himmler 'in the middle of 1942'. However, the attentive reader of Arad's book will be surprised to read on page 376 the following lines:

"In January 1944, the question of hiding his crimes began to bother Globocnik, whereas a year and a half earlier, in August 1942, when asked by visiting SS officers whether it would not be better, for reasons of secrecy, to cremate rather than to bury the corpses of the victims of Operation Reinhard, Globocnik had answered, 'We ought, on the contrary, to bury bronze tablets stating that it was we who had the courage to carry out this gigantic task.'"

Compare this with the Gerstein quote found on page 101 of the same volume:

"Dr. Herbert Lindner, who was with us yesterday, asked me [=Globocnik]: 'But wouldn't it be wiser to cremate the corpses instead of burying them? Another generation may perhaps judge these things differently!' I replied: 'Gentlemen, if there were ever, after us, a generation so cowardly and so soft that they could not understand our work which is so good, so necessary, then, gentlemen, all of National Socialism will have been in vain. We ought, on the contrary, to bury bronze tablets stating that it was we who had the courage to carry out this gigantic task!' The Fuehrer then said: 'Yes, my good Globocnik, you are right!'"

The passage quoted from page 376 does not carry any notes with sources. It should not surprise that Arad by this method tries to hide that he is quoting as fact the statements attributed by Gerstein to Globocnik. Thus on one page of the book we are told that Globocnik's words were 'exaggerations', 'simple boasting' or even 'invention' and that the August 15 meeting never took place, and on another page, we are served those boasts, exaggerations and untruths as fact. To further hide this fraudulent use of a source, Arad turns Hitler and Himmler into mere 'visiting SS officers'! On the other hand, he retains the alleged date of the meeting from the Gerstein report and assert that the unnamed SS officers made their inquiry in August. How curious then that Arad roughly two hundred fifty pages earlier states that a hypothetical meeting between Globocnik and Himmler could have taken place in July, but not in August!

Arad's flawed attempt at integrating Gerstein's bizarre prussic acid mission into his 'death camp' narrative has already been thoroughly discussed by Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, to which I refer the curious reader.[3]

Gerstein's description of Treblinka

According to the reports, Kurt Gerstein visited Belzec on August 18, 1942. The reports also unanimously state that Gerstein and Wilhelm Pfannenstiel traveled in SS-Hauptsturmführer Christian Wirth's car to Treblinka on the following day, on August 19. In all reports mentioning the Treblinka visit (as well as in the interrogation protocol from July 19, 1945), the number of gas chambers is given as 8 (eight).[4] Gerstein does not offer many details on what he saw in Treblinka, but clearly imply that he personally witnessed the alleged gas chambers located in that camp. Speaking of the gassing victims, Gerstein tells us:[5]

"At Treblinca, I had the impression that some were still living. Nearly all had their eyes open, a terrible look. But I did not see any movements, in spite of every attention."

If we are to believe orthodox historiography, all three Reinhardt camps were originally equipped with one single small gas chamber building, constructed in wood and containing three gas chambers. Later in 1942, starting with Belzec, all camps had new, larger gas chamber buildings erected. Those were allegedly built of concrete or bricks. At Belzec, the gas chamber building of the first phase is said to have been demolished in mid-June 1942, with a new concrete building containing six chambers replacing it in mid-July.[6] At Sobibor, the first building was supposedly replaced with a similar six-room gas chamber building in October 1942. At Treblinka, the old three-room building was not dismantled, but a new gas chamber building in concrete was allegedly built in close proximity to it. The work on the new building was supposedly started in early September 1942. The number of gas chambers inside this new building is given either as ten, six, or eight (with ten being the most commonly appearing number). The old gas chambers are alleged to have continued functioning during the construction of the new building, only to be converted into a tailor's shop at the completion of the construction work. The new gas chambers are said to have been inaugurated in mid-October.[7]

Since Gerstein claims to have visited Treblinka on August 19, at least two weeks before the construction of the new gas chamber building was even begun, it follows that he could not have been able to see the new gas chambers, regardless if those numbered ten, eight or six. He could, if we are to believe all established historiography, only have seen three gas chambers housed in a simple wooden building or barrack. Yet, Gerstein not only tells us that the gas chambers at Treblinka numbered eight, but also that 'the setup at this place was almost the same as at Belzec.'[8] However, at Belzec, the gas chambers were supposedly housed in a large concrete building disguised as a bathing installation (the 'Stiftung Heckenholt')!

Apocryphal Gerstein – The Dutch Report

In his thesis, Henri Roques draw the conclusion that there exists no report written by Gerstein prior to 1945.[9] Exterminationist writers on the other hand, often assert that Roques purposely neglected the existence of a text written in Dutch and dated 25 March 1943. Roques writes in a note that he is aware of this text, but dismiss it as a possible antedated forgery, "so suspect that none of the biographers of Gerstein have seen fit to mention it."[10] Below, I will demonstrate why Roques was justified in dismissing this document as a possible forgery.

To begin with, the document is not penned by Gerstein himself. The report is said to have been written down on March 25, 1943, by Cornelis van der Hooft, a member of the Dutch resistance who worked for the banned newspaper Trouw. The contents of the report supposedly derived from another Dutch, J.H. Ubbink, who claims to have met with Gerstein in Berlin in February 1943. According to the official narrative, neither Ubbink nor van der Hooft gave the account much credit during the remaining years of World War II. Thus, the "report" was never sent to the editor of Trouw. Its existence was, in fact, completely unknown to the world until after the war.[11]

The document, entitled Tötungsanstalten in Polen (Killing centers in Poland), consists of three pages with finely written text in Dutch.[12] On the bottom of the third page is written the date March 25, 1943. The document carries no signature. Also, Gerstein is not mentioned by name. Instead, at the top of page one, we read:

The report that follows here, in all its awesomeness, fantastic crudity and cruelty, has reached us from Poland, with the urgent plea to inform humanity about it. The truth is guaranteed by a highly ranked German SS officer, who under oath and with the request to publish it, has told us the following

Regarding the title of the document, one may note that the Dutch text uses the German Tötungsanstalten throughout. The reader is given the impression that this is an authentic German term, possibly used by the SS to refer to the alleged mass killing installations at the Reinhardt camps and elsewhere.[13] However, in the Gerstein reports documented by Roques, the only German words used in this context are Anstalten (centers or installations) and Anlagen (installations).[14]

The apocryphal Gerstein account opens thus:

"Because of conversations that I had with German officers that served in Poland and in Russia, I heard the most fantastic horror stories. When after that the sudden death notice of my mentally ill sister in law was received, I decided not to rest before I had discovered what was true of all the horror stories and of the killing of the insane. All my effort was now to get in touch with prominent SS-men in Poland and to completely gain their trust. After months I thus succeeded to visit two so-called Tötungsanstalten. The first one that I visited was in Belsjek on the road Lemberg-Lublin; the second one in Treblinka about 80 km north of Warsaw. There are two more in Poland, but I did not succeed in obtaining access there.

The two Anstalten named above are situated in sparsely populated forests and heaths. From the outside, these do not look different from the normal concentration camps. A wooden gate with some inscription ending on '-heim' gives passers-by no reason to suspect a murder lair."

In the reports documented by Roques, Sobibor and Majdanek are named as the two other installations. In the Dutch report, it is stated by 'Gerstein' that he managed to get access only to Belzec and Treblinka, and not the other two camps. However, five of the six non-apocryphal texts have Gerstein seeing Majdanek 'in preparation'; only in the text denoted as T Va by Roques does the writer state that he has not seen Majdanek. The same text has Gerstein visiting all Belzec and Treblinka as well as Sobibor.[15] In the six texts documented by Roques, Treblinka is consistently described as being located "120 km NNE" of Warsaw.[16] In reality, Treblinka is located approximately 80 kilometers north-east of Warsaw, less than ten kilometer south of the Bug River and the town of Malkinia. It seems strange that the Dutch apocrypha would have the Warsaw-Treblinka distance correct, while Gerstein, in all of his own texts gave an incorrect distance. A likely explanation is that the author(s) of the Dutch report had the opportunity to consult other writings on Treblinka, or possibly a detailed map of Poland.

As has been noted by Jürgen Graf and Carlo Mattogno, neither Belzec nor Treblinka were located inside a forest or in a 'sparsely populated area'.[17] The Dutch report has it that the wooden gate at the camp entrance bore an inscription ending with '-heim' ('home'; a common element in German orthography). In none of the six Gerstein reports there appear an inscription ending with '-heim'. In the texts denoted by Roques as T III, T Va, and T VI, the sign at the Belzec camp entrance is said to have read Sonderkommando Belzec der Waffen-SS.[18] It is possible that the author(s) of the Dutch text choose '-heim' in order to have readers form associations with Hartheim, the name of one of the most well known German euthanasia centers.

Next in the Dutch report follows a description of the arrival of the victims to Belzec:[19]

"From all occupied territories of Europe arrive trains with victims. The trains consist of cattle wagons, the openings covered with barbed wire. Every wagon contains 120 persons. In normal weather conditions approximately 90 % arrive alive, although it had happened once last summer that 50 % had died because of lack of water. If the wagons arrived in the camp, the people are beaten out with a whip and then driven into surrounding barracks and then locked up. The next day or a few days later, depending on what the supply has been, 700-800 people are rounded up on a court-yard. They are then ordered to undress completely, clothes are to be put in neat piles, while shoes are to be put in rows beside each other."

The number of persons per train wagon – 120 – is slightly lower than the figure stated in the six documented Gerstein reports. According to those texts, Gerstein witnessed a train with 45 cars arrive at Belzec, carrying 6,700 people, which means approximately (6,700/45=148.9) 150 people per train wagon.

None of the documented reports talks about victims being locked up in barracks for one or more days prior to their gassing. The Jews, according to Gerstein, were gassed the very same day that they arrived to Belzec. One may note that a 1944 report on Treblinka has the victims locked up in three 'camps' – one for women, one for men and one for children – for one or several days before it was their turn to be sent to the 'steam chambers.'[20] This report, written in German and published in Geneva, Switzerland, may have served as inspiration for the author(s) of the Dutch report, assuming that we are dealing with an antedated forgery.

After the description of the arrival, we are told of the 'tube' – the camouflaged pathway leading up to the alleged gas chamber building – and the cutting of the women's hair:

Entirely naked, the man, women and children are now driven in a long corridor fenced in with barbed wire. Ukrainian criminals now start to cut and shave the hair of the the women and children, the hair is carefully collected and serves later as "Dichtungen" (gaskets) for submarines. For many hours these miserable people are forced to stand in this way in the bitter cold or the burning sun.

None of the six Gerstein reports states who exactly did the haircutting. We are simply told that women and girls were sent to the 'hairdresser'. Orthodox Treblinka historiography however unanimously states that the haircutting was carried out by a work detail consisting of Jewish prisoners, not by Ukrainian guards.[21]

This is how the Dutch report describes the alleged gas chambers:

"The corridor ends at an iron door of a brick building. The door [De deur] is opened and 700-800 death-doomed are beaten in with the whip till they like sardines in a tin cannot move anymore. A little boy of three years old that tried to run out was met with whips and driven back. After that, the doors were closed hermetically. Outside the building now a big tractor [een grooße tractor] is started, the exhaust of which enters the building."

In all of the six Gerstein reports the Belzec gas chamber building is described as consisting of six rooms, measuring 5x5 meters and arranged three and three along a corridor. Further according to Gerstein, each of those individual chambers could hold 700-800 victims.

The gas chamber building described in the Dutch report seems, however, to consist of a single chamber able to hold 700-800 victims. We are told that at least 700-800 persons were driven from the outside (the end of the 'tube') to the inside of the building before the door was closed. Likely the author(s) of the Dutch report found Gerstein's figures (whether they heard them from him personally in 1943 as claimed, or later, through his written reports) – i.e. thirty people standing on one mere square meter – too unbelievable and decided to alter them. Thus the figure 700-800 was retained, but used to refer to the total number of victims per gassing, not per individual gas chamber and gassing.

The mention of a three year old boy trying to escape the gas chamber and being whipped back in is reminiscent of the following passage in text T III:[22]

"I think of […] a little coral chain which a little girl lost one meter from the entrance to the gas chamber. I recall that a little boy of perhaps three bent down to pick it up, what pleasure it gave him, and that he was afterwards pushed – no, in that instance he is gently urged – to make him go into the gas chamber."

In T IV the same boy is 'thrown into the chamber', while in T Va he is 'gently urged' by 'a guard preserving a remnant of feeling.'[23] None of the six reports however mentions any attempt – successful or failed – at escaping the gas chambers.

In the six Gerstein reports, the murder weapon is consistently described as exhaust gas emanating from a diesel engine.[24] In the Dutch report the type of engine is not specified. We are however told that the exhaust comes from 'a big tractor' parked outside the gas chamber. No such tractor is mentioned in any of the non-apocryphal texts. The same texts offer no exact location for this diesel engine, but we can infer that it is placed inside the alleged gas chamber building:[25]

"But the diesel does not work! Captain Wirth arrives. One sees that it is painful to him that it should have to happen today just when I am here. Yes, I see everything and wait. […] Captain Wirth beats the Ukrainian who has to help Unterscharführer Heckenholt get the Diesel going 12 or 13 times on the face with his horsewhip.

Gerstein, while watching and timing the gassing by the observation window in the gas chamber door, witnesses Wirth beating a Ukrainian guard working on the diesel engine. It is thus certain that Gerstein places the engine inside the building, and not on the outside – especially not mounted in a 'big tractor'. The Belzec witness Reder on the other hand places the engine in a small shed located at the far end of the gas chamber building.[26]

This is how the Dutch report describes the gassing which Gerstein claims to have witnessed:

"Through a small glass window I now was allowed to observe from outside the effect on the inside. Packed the poor people awaited their last moments. There was no panic, no screaming, just a weak mumbling was heard outside, as if a common prayer rose to heaven. Within an hour [Binnen het uur], everybody was dead. Sashes were raised from the outside, so that the carbon monoxide could escape. After half an hour, a number of Jews arrived – they thank their lives to the lugubrious work that starts now. They open a back door [een achterdeur], and have to take out the bodies of the gassed. Before taking them to the prepared lime pits, they have to take the rings from the fingers, open the mouths and take out the gold teeth if there are any."

In the documented reports Gerstein describes a very flawed gassing. The diesel engine will not work. Gerstein uses a stopwatch to time the gassing. It takes 2 hours and 49 minutes for Heckenholt and his assistant to start the engine, 32 more minutes will pass before all persons shut inside the chambers are dead.[27] Yet, in the Dutch report no such delay is mentioned. One might argue that Gerstein perhaps witnessed a flawlessly carried out gassing at Treblinka instead of Belzec, or that he gave an average derived from some unknown source – but then how come a gassing is stated by the Dutch report to have taken 'within an hour', while Gerstein at Belzec – according to his own words – clocked the actual gassing at exactly 32 minutes?

The Dutch report's thirty minute delay between the end of the gassing and the opening of the gas chamber (note the singular form of 'door', implying once again a single gas chamber) is not present in the six documented texts. Rather, it is implied that the doors were opened immediately following the end of the gassing.[28]

Furthermore, we read in T I and T II (both of which Roques classify as 'undisputably written by Gerstein') that the victims inside the gas chambers are 'crying.'[29] In T III they are described as weeping and sobbing.[30]

Finally, the report tells us that:

"In every Anstalt statistics are kept of the number of Tötungen. Per day i.e. per 24 hours three or four Tötungen are executed. For the four Anstalten together, this amounts to 8-9000 per day. In total, already 6 million people have been killed this way, of which 4 million Jews and 2 million insane and so-called Deutschfeindlichen. The program encompasses 16 million people, these are all Jews in the occupied territories and all Polish and Czech intellectuals. From higher up there is pressure to hurry up and the possibility is considered of finding a more efficient way of killing. Cyanide gas has been proposed, but does not seem to have been used thus far, so that killing still takes place in the cynical way described here."

Assuming a similar capacity for all four 'Anstalten' this would mean 2,000-2,250 killed per camp and day. Divided by 'three or four Tötungen' this would mean approximately 600 victims per gassing, a figure more or less consistent with the claim made by the Dutch report that the gas chamber building could hold 700-800 people at a time.

The claim that 6.5 million people had been executed at the Anstalten as of February 1943 – the time when Gerstein supposedly related those data to Ubbink – is ridiculous. To gas this amount of people, with a total capacity of 8,000-9,000 victims per day, would have taken more than two years. At the time none of the camps had existed for more than a year, and Treblinka and Sobibor had their new gas chamber buildings erected only the previous autumn. At Majdanek, no regular gassings were allegedly carried out until October 1942.[31] Even if we assumed that the figure referred to all (alleged) gassing victims in all camps, the figure of 4 million Jews gassed up until February 1943 would not be consistent with the 'official' figures given today. According to orthodox historians, the Germans had gassed less than 2 million Jews up to that date.

As the attentive reader has undoubtedly already noticed, the capacity figures given in the Dutch report flagrantly contradicts those found in the six documented reports and the protocol from the June 1945 interrogation with Gerstein: a maximum of 15,000 daily victims at Belzec, with the corresponding figures for Sobibor and Treblinka being 20,000 and 25,000 respectively. In texts T V and T VI, it is stated that the 'average utilization' at Belzec was 11,000 dead per day, whereas at Treblinka on average 13,500 people were killed per day. As we have already seen, Arad tries to explain away the figures given by Gerstein in his 1945 reports as propaganda originating with Globocnik. But why would Gerstein state a total daily victim count of 8-9000 people in a report from 1943, and then two years later write that the figure was between three and eight times higher? If the figures found in the documented reports really originated with Globocnik, why would Gerstein believe them to be correct in 1945, but not in 1943?

The reason for this discrepancy becomes clear if we assume that the document was in fact written in 1945 (or sometime during the following years) by forgers with access to copies of one or more of Gerstein's reports. Surely they would have hesitated to copy any of Gerstein's claims that the gassing victims numbered 20 or even 25 million.[32] They would likewise not have copied the capacities given for the Reinhardt camps, since those would imply an implausibly high total figure of approximately 24-30 million victims, that is, 12-18 times higher than the one usually given today (1,750,000).[33] The lower figure of the Dutch report was likely chosen to seem more believable than Gerstein's own.

It is furthermore surprising that Gerstein, the SS hygiene expert, in February 1943 would be completely unaware of the mass gassings utilizing Zyklon B (that is, gypsum pellets soaked with prussic acid) which, supposedly, had been carried out at that time for more than half a year at Auschwitz Stammlager and the (alleged) Birkenau 'bunkers', as well as at Majdanek since at least four months previously.

Carlo Mattogno concludes about the Dutch report:[34]

"This is in all probability the translation of a text originating from Gerstein."

However, as demonstrated above, there exists compelling reasons to believe the Dutch Gerstein apocrypha to be, as Roques puts it, 'an antedated forgery' written by individuals at a time when the first orthodox Holocaust narrative had begun to crystallize, or at the very least a conscious distortion of an oral report made by Gerstein.

The 1953 German Publication of Gerstein and the Pfannenstiel Case

The first official German language publication of a Gerstein report appeared in the second issue of the major West German historiographical journal Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, published in April 1953.[35] In an article entitled "Augenzeugenbericht zu den Massenvergasungen" (Eyewitness account regarding the mass gassings), the text of the typewritten document later the designated by Henri Roques as T III was presented for the first time to a German readership. The editor – apparently Hans Rothfels, since the commentary is signed 'H.R.' – acknowledges the existence of ten pages of addenda ('Ergänzungen') but dismisses them as consisting only of hearsay and does not publish them.[36] Regarding the background of the document, it is stated that

The authenticity of [the document] as well as the consistent subjective will towards preciseness and truthfulness, is beyond any doubt.[37]

The editor briefly discuss the factual reliability of the text, focusing on the inclusion of information based on hearsay (regarding Auschwitz &c.) and dismisses Gerstein's victim estimate (the infamous '25 million') as grossly exaggerated, but does not mention any of the numerous other implausibilities contained within the text.[38] The daily capacity ascribed to Belzec by Gerstein – 15,000 – is accepted as 'not impossible'.[39] As a summary, we are told that[40]

"[…] on the whole, all assumptions speak unanimously for the objective reliability of the Gerstein report."

After some pages discussing Gerstein's personal background, the text of the report is presented, starting at the foot of page 185. Below, I will list all discrepancies (excluding simple changes of spelling, such as ß being substituted for 'ss', as well as corrections of obvious mistypes and other examples of 'cosmetic' editing) between the text as presented by the editors of Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte and the actual document, as reproduced in facsimile by Henri Roques. The English translations are based on those found in the English language edition of Roques' thesis published by the Institute for Historical Review in 1989.

  1. The passage on the first page of the manuscript stating the names of Gerstein's parents, wife and children has been deleted. This deletion is noted by the editor.
  2. In Globocnik's list of the killing installations and their capacities, Treblinka and Sobibor has changed places with each other, so that Treblinka is number two in the list.
  3. Pfannenstiel's comment on the weeping and sobbing of the Jews locked inside the gas chambers ('Wie in der Synagoge' bemerkt der Professor Pfannenstiel, das Ohr an der Ho[l]ztür – "'Like at the synagogue,' remarks the professor Pfannenstiel, his ear against the wooden door")[41] has been excised from the text. This deletion has been noted by editor, who simply writes: 'Here follows a strictly personal comment.'[42]
  4. A longer passage found on half-page number 16 of the document has been deleted. This reads as follows in original and in translation:[43]

    "Ausserdem Juden aus aller europäischen Herren Ländern wurden insbesondere Tschechen und Polen Nr.III in den Gaskammern getötet. Kommissionen von SS-Mnnern – teils nicht einmal mit kompletter Volksschulbildung – fuhren mit feinen Limusinen und ärztlichem Gerät in weissen Mänteln von Dorf zu Dorf, liessen die Bevölkerung vorbeidefilieren, taten, als wenn sie sie ärztlich undersuchten und bezeichneten diejenigen, die biologisch wertlos und darum zu töten seien, in der Hauptsache Alte, Schwindsüchtige und Kranke. – Ja, sagte mir ein SS-Sturmbannführer, ohne diese Massnahmen wäre das übervölkerte Polen für uns völlig wertlos. Wir holen nur nach, was die Natur überall im Tier- und Pflanzenreich von selbst besorgt und beim Menschen leider versäumt."

    "Over and above the Jews coming from all the sovereign states, above all the Czechs and the Poles No.III were killed in the gas chambers. Commissions of SS men – some of them without even a full primary school education – went from village to village in fine limousines and with medical equipment, in white coats, making the population march by in front of them, making a show of examining them, and designating those who were alleged to be without biological value and should for this reason be killed, principally the old, the consumptives, and the sick. Yes, a Sturmbannführer of the SS told me, without these measures, Poland, overpopulated, would be for us devoid of all value. We are only carrying out after the event that which nature looks after for herself in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and unfortunately omits to do with mankind."[44]

    As reason for this omission the editor writes that the passage 'obviously does not belong to the eyewitness testimony.'[45] Anyhow, it is stated in this passage that an SS-Sturmbannführer at Belzec told Gerstein about the alleged 'measures' taken in Poland.

  5. The passage describing Pfannenstiel's speech at the banquet at Treblinka has been omitted. This reads as follows in original and translation:[46]

    "Professor Pfannenstiel hielt eine Rede, in der er den Männern die Nützlichkeit ihrer Aufgabe und die Wichtigkeit ihrer grossen Mission klar machte. Zu mir selbst sprach er von "echt humanen Methoden und von Schönheit der Arbeit!" Ich verbürge mich dafür, dass er dies unglaubliche wirklich gesagt hat! – Den Mannschaften sagte er inbesondere: Wenn man diese Judenkörper sieht, dannwird einem erst recht klar, wie dankenswert eure Aufgabe ist."

    "Professor Pfannenstiel made a speech in which he explained to the men the usefulness of their task and the importance of their great mission. Talking to me, he spoke of 'the very humane methods' and of the beauty of the work. I guarantee that he really said this incredible thing to me. He said in particular to the teams: When one sees the bodies of the Jews, one then understands truly how much your task is worthy of recognition."[47]

    The omission is noted by the editor, who states: 'Here follows some sentences containing strictly personal comments.'[48]

  6. The following two sentences – describing how the visitors are offered several kilos of butter and 'many liqeurs', Gerstein declines the offer and Pfannenstiel then grabs also Gerstein's share – have likewise been omitted.
  7. The half-pages numbered 21 and 22, as well as the first seven lines of half-page 23 have been omitted. Here is given information allegedly related to Gerstein by a Dr. Peters concerning the killing of people with ampoules containing prussic acid, as well a question ascribed to Günther concerning the feasibility of gassing people in moats(!) at Theresienstadt; Gerstein's evaluation that the worst concentration camps were Mauthausen-Gusen and Auschwitz, were 'millions' of victims were killed either in gas chambers or in 'death vans', and where children were killed by holding pads soaked with prussic acid to their noses; statements regarding experiments on living prisoners; the killing and incineration of homosexuals, and the killing of prisoners at Mauthausen by means of pushing them down a steep quarry\.

    The reason for this large omission is not clearly stated by the editor. Instead a short summary of the contents of the passage is given.[49] With the reason for omission number 4 in mind, it seems likely that it was dismissed as simply repeating hearsay. However, in the text Gerstein states that he saw the medical experiments conducted at Ravensbrück with his own eyes, and that at Oranienburg he personally witnessed how 'in just a few days, all the homosexuals disappeared by hundreds, and this in the ovens.'[50]

  8. Half-page 24 of the document, containing Gerstein's references, has been omitted. This is noted by the editor.
  9. As related above, all Ergänzungen have been omitted. The explanation given for this omission does not hold up, when one consider that in Ergänzungen No. 1 Gerstein relates his own observations of the dead gas chamber victims at Belzec and Treblinka; while in No. 5 and 6 he relates further observations of his own from Belzec.[51]

Of the nine discrepancies listed above, the most confounding ones are without a doubt the omissions of the three passages containing incriminatory or defamatory statements concerning Wilhelm Pfannenstiel (No. 3, 5, and 6). Why was this curious edit work carried out? In the explanatory notes, the passages in question are described as 'strictly personal comments', with no hint given as to their contents. The attentive reader however will find attached to the place in the text where Pfannenstiel first meets up with Gerstein a footnote, in which the supposed explanation for the omissions is offered:[52]

"This accompaniement [of Pfannenstiel to Belzec] was attested to by Prof. Pfannenstiel in his examination at the I.G. Farben Trial (Interrogation No. 2288). Despite some internal contradictions this statement also confirms other details of [Gerstein's] eyewitness account. Since we are here concerned with the facts and not with persons, further statements regarding P[fannenstiel] in the concluding part of the report has been left out."

Yet this explanation makes no sense at all! If the editors were not concerned with information on individual persons, why were not all such passages excised from the text? Or to put it in other words, why only excise remarks concerning Pfannenstiel and not, for example, Günther or Linden? There is no cause to believe that Hans Rothfels had any personal reason to leave out the negative remarks about Pfannenstiel. There remains then only one possible reason: that the aforementioned expungement of passages was granted to Pfannenstiel as a favor or reward for some accomplished action – and this action can only have been his confirmation of the essentials of Gerstein's eyewitness account – i.e. the allegations of mass gassings at Belzec – in connection with the I.G. Farben Trial in 1947 and the DEGESCH Trial in 1950. It may also have served as additional incentive (besides being acquitted of all charges in the proceedings against him) for Pfannenstiel to continue his affirmation in court of gas chamber allegations, something which happened the next time in 1959, at the start of the West German government's investigations into the Aktion Reinhardt 'death camps', and again in 1965, in connection with the Munich Belzec-Oberhauser Trial, where he appeared as a witness for the prosecution.[53]

The possibility exists that Rothfels struck some kind of deal directly with Pfannenstiel, but it is perhaps more likely that judicial or political authorities requested the omissions from Rothfels. A third possibility would be that Rothfels acted more or less on his own without bothering to contact Pfannenstiel, in a kind of private attempt to 'encourage' the his now complacent court behavior.

From the above examination, it follows that Carlo Mattogno in his study on Belzec had good reasons to write that[54]

"[...] all passages placing [Pfannenstiel] in a bad light were expunged from the first official German publication of Gerstein's report of May 4, 1945, prepared by historian Hans Rothfels in 1953 (a small act of gratitude on the part of historiographers)."

Indeed, the curious editing of the first German publication of Gerstein's testimony shines as an example of how post-war West German authorities and institutions through judicial leniency and other 'favors' managed to acquire 'confessions' and 'admissions' from accused Germans, who on their part understandably could only think of saving themselves and their families from the dire consequences of long prison terms.[55]


Henri Roques The "Confessions" of Kurt Gerstein, Institute for Historical Review, Costa Mesa 1989
Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1987, p. 101.
J. Graf & C. Mattogno, Treblinka. Extermination Camp or Transit Camp?, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2004, p. 126-132.
Roques, p. 24, 33, 44, 81, 65, 107.
Roques, p. 53. This quote is from T IV, a text which Roques qualify as 'undisputably written by the Author [i.e., Gerstein]'.
Arad, p. 73.
Ibid, p. 119-120; Claude Lanzmann, Shoah. The Complete Text of the Acclaimed Holocaust Film, Da Capo Press, New York 1995, p. 51.
Roques, p. 33.
Ibid, p. 5-6.
Ibid, p. 17, note 5.
On the alleged history of the document, cf. L. de Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, Deel 7, mei '43 – juni '44, eerste helft, Staatsuitgeverijns-Gravenhage 1976.  
The document may be viewed online at
Cf. the wording 'so-called Tötungsanstalten' in the following quoted portion of the text.
Cf. p. 232, 276. The texts in French do not use the German word, but the French equivalent installations; ibid, p. 212, 223, 250, 260.
Roques, p. 58; for a discussion on the authencity of this text, cf. ibid, p. 126-129.
Roques, p. 21, 29, 39, 52, 58, 75. 
J. Graf & C. Mattogno, Treblinka. Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? , Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2004, p.10.; C. Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2004, p.42-43.
Roques, p.40, 59, 76.
Roques, p.22, 30, 40, 76-77, 99.
Graf & Mattogno, Treblinka. Extermination Camp or Transit Camp?, p.57-61.
Arad, p.109.
Roques, p.49.
Ibid, p.55, 72.
Ibid, p.23, 31, 42, 62, 79.
Ibid, p.42.
Cf. Arad, p.74.
Ibid, p.42.
Cf. ibid, p.79: 'Finally, at the end of 32 minutes, all are dead. At the other side, the men of the working party open the wooden doors!'
Ibid, p.23, 31.
Ibid, p.23, 31, 42, 62-63, 79.
J. Graf & C. Mattogno, Concentration Camp Majdanek. A Historical and Technical Study, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2003, p.138.
Roques, p.33, 64.
Cf. Roques, p.148.
Graf & Mattogno, Treblinka…, p.127, note 346.
Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 1 No. 2 (1953), pp.177-194. Back issues of this journal are available online for free download at
Ibid, p. 179, note 5.
Ibid, p. 180.
Ibid, p. 180-181.
Ibid, p. 181.
Ibid, p. 182.
Roques, p. 235, 42.
Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 1 No. 2 (1953), p. 191, note 45a. "Hier folgt eine reine persönliche Notiz."
Roques, p. 237.
Ibid, pp. 43-44.
Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 1 No. 2 (1953), p. 192, note 49.
Roques, p. 237.
Ibid, p. 44.
Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 1 No. 2 (1953), p.192, note 49a.
Ibid, p. 193, note 52.
Roques, p. 46.
Ibid, p. 242-245, 47, 49.
Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 1 No. 2 (1953), p. 188, note 36a. 'Das es hier um die Sache und night um Personen geht, sind weitere Angaben über P. im Schlußteil des Berichts ausgelassen worden.'
Cf. Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2004, p. 53-54.
Mattogno, Belzec…, pp.54-55.
As Henri Roques points out, Pfannenstiel had a wife and five children to care for.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Thomas Kues
Title: Some Comments on the Gerstein Reports
Published: 2008-02-05
First posted on CODOH: Feb. 3, 2008, 6 p.m.
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