Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIa: Nick Terry scores an own goal while trying to defuse steam chambers

Adjacent to the building lies the steam room (150). Inside the steam room there is a large boiler for the creation of water vapor, and with the help of tubes, which run along the death chambers and which are furnished with a suitable number of openings, superheated water vapor flows out into the chambers.[5]

This account of the Treblinka steam chambers, appearing in a detailed report written in the Warsaw ghetto and dated November 15, 1942, has long been an embarrassment to the holocaust establishment. The report, however, was of fundamental importance to the shaping of the Treblinka story. It was the first report to offer a detailed discussion of the internal layout and workings of the camp (or of any of the Reinhardt camps), and introduced many features that the standard account of Treblinka has retained, such as an old 3-chamber killing building and a new 10-chamber one situated perpendicular to the old building.[6]

Revisionists have made use of the steam chamber report to highlight the willingness of Jewish organizations to invent atrocity tales, and thereby to call into question the testimonial foundation for the Treblinka story. Nicholas Terry attempts to defuse this danger by arguing (p. 62) that the steam chamber report is not particularly important, because at the time there were already two reports of (non-steam) gas chambers, namely those of Rabinowicz and Krzepicki. A closer look at the sources reveals a very different picture. We will take on Terry’s two earlier sources in turn, Rabinowicz first, then Krzepicki.

Terry writes that while there was “much confusion about the precise killing method at Treblinka […] Jacob Rabinowicz’s account had in fact described gas chambers, even specifying the use of a ‘diesel’ engine” (p. 62).[7] While Terry (intentionally?) gives no page number in his citation, the document which he attributes to Rabinowicz,[8] which is only one page long, can be easily located nevertheless. Its text, in fact, says nothing about killing techniques, and the context indicates that the diesel which is mentioned in the document was connected with electrical generation. Apparently Terry’s knowledge of Polish sufficed to read the words ‘diesel motor’ (Polish text: ‘motor Diesla’) but nothing else. Had Terry genuinely wished to investigate the report, given his inability to read the single page of Polish text, he could have checked the published English translation.[9] Instead, he jumped to a conclusion convenient to his thesis on the basis of a document which he was unable to read. As we will see, such negligence is typical of Terry’s “research”.

Not only is Terry’s account of the document’s contents entirely erroneous, but his attribution of its authorship to Rabinowicz is questionable as well. While his source, a document collection edited by Ruta Sakowska, does identify the document as being the work of Rabinowicz, the Ringelblum Archive Catalog and Guide confines itself to saying the author is “probably” Rabinowicz,[10] and there appears to be nothing to tie Rabinowicz to this document other than the rather weak circumstantial fact that he was in more or less the right place at the right time, making it possible that the document could be his work. On the other hand, an article published on September 20, 1942 in the publication Oyf der Wach[11] contains a story which parallels the “Rabinowicz” document very closely, with many corresponding details: an air raid, a blackout in the camp, that the Jews were gathered together and told that Hitler and Roosevelt had agreed to send the Jews to Madagascar starting with that very group (which would be sent onwards to Madagascar the next morning), and that once the air raid was over this deception was dropped and extermination proceeded as planned. If we infer from these similarities that the “Rabinowicz” document and the Oyf der Wach article derive from a common source, then given that Rabinowicz returned to the Warsaw ghetto between September 21 and 25,[12] he cannot be the author of the “Rabinowicz” document.[13]

The above still leaves us with a question about the witness Rabinowicz. Though the document discussed above may not derive from him at all and says nothing about the Treblinka killing method, might he not have offered some information on this subject in some other source? In fact, he did, although that information will not be to Terry’s liking. In the Warsaw ghetto diary of Abraham Lewin, it’s recorded that Rabinowicz stated that the killing was done with steam.[14] Thus, the “Rabinowicz” document which Terry cites as if it spoke of killing in gas chambers with engine exhaust (1) does not have any proven connection with Rabinowicz, (2) does not mention gas chambers, (3) refers to a diesel motor in the context of a generator, not a killing engine,[15] and (4) says nothing about the killing technique at Treblinka. Moreover, Rabinowicz, whom Terry supposed to be the source of this document, is on the record as affirming that the Jews were killed with steam at Treblinka.

The second witness that Terry deploys in order to neutralize the steam chamber report is Abraham Krzepicki. Terry refers to “the lengthy description given by Abraham Krzepicki and recorded by Oneg Shabes activist Rachel Auerbach in October 1942”, which he claims referred to a gas chamber (p. 62). Here an immediate correction is necessary. The report to which Terry refers was not written in October, but in the end of December or later, and thus after the steam chamber report. The Ringelblum Archive Catalog and Guide dates it to “after 26.12.1942”,[16] while in early 1946 Auerbach stated that the testimony took weeks for her to record “in the winter of 1942-43.”[17]

Upon examining the details of the Krzepicki document, things get even worse for Terry. First, however, we should examine Terry’s citation. Terry gives the reference “Abraham Krzepicki, ‘Treblinka’, BZIH 43-44, 1962, pp.84-109”.[18] This article does not, in fact, contain the full Krzepicki report, but only its first four chapters. Had Terry actually looked at the journal in question, he would have seen that the article ends with a promise that the remainder of the testimony would appear in the subsequent edition, but that this continuation never came.[19] Consequently, Terry never read the Polish article which he cites. In combination with the fact that, as we have seen, in the years during which the controversial bloggers wrote their manifesto, he was unable to read the single page of Polish text which makes up the “Rabinowicz” report, this suggests that Terry has not properly read any of his numerous Polish-language references.[20]

Terry’s attempt to show off by citing a Polish-language journal also fails on the grounds that the original testimony was written in Yiddish,[21] and that the Polish translation of part of Krzepicki’s statement which he cites is not very faithful to the original, certainly less faithful than the readily available English translation[22] (which in turn takes considerable liberties, in particular with the sectioning).[23] However, Terry could have discovered a vital fact, which remarkably enough appears to have gone completely unnoticed by both orthodox and revisionist writers, just by reading the available English translation of the Krzepicki testimony. While the English translation does discuss “gas chambers”, it also contains some information on how those gas chambers worked, for it relates that Krzepicki says that the killing took place with “hot steam”.[24] This is an accurate translation of the Yiddish original.[25] Thus the gas chambers which Krzepicki mentioned were in fact steam chambers.[26]

Accordingly, the document which Terry thought provided him with a witness reporting on gas chambers prior to the composition of the steam chamber report was actually written after said report, and refers to the killing taking place with hot steam. In light of this, Krzepicki’s statement worsens the very problem which Terry thought it helped to solve. Faced with this dilemma, Terry might attempt to take refuge in the existence of another document (“short Krzepicki”) attributed to Krzepicki,[27] which denies knowledge of the Treblinka killing method, aside from the hint provided by the smell of chlorine. One can readily imagine an argument aimed at promoting this document as the earliest, most authentic Krzepicki statement, free from the influence of Auerbach’s mediation. Such reasoning, however, would not succeed in neutralizing the Krzepicki steam chamber report. First, regarding the authorship, the short Krzepicki document was not composed by a single author[28] and was therefore not written by Krzepicki himself. It is therefore no more directly connected with Krzepicki than is the long Krzepicki statement, and its origin is more obscure.[29] Second, while Sakowska claims that the short Krzepicki account was written before the long one,[30] dating both documents to December 1942,[31] the Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide confines itself to providing limits on the earliest dates the documents could have been written, without placing any bounds on the other end. This indicates that any attempt to place the two documents in chronological order is speculative at best. Third, the short Krzepicki document was written in Polish, while long Krzepicki was written in Yiddish. Given that there was an intention to publish and publicize Auerbach’s version of Krzepicki’s account[32] one could speculate that the short Krzepicki statement is an attempt to create a version to circulate outside the ghetto: the shorter length and composition in Polish would allow for a wider readership, while the uncertainty in killing method could be the result of the authors having come to the realization that given the inconsistency of the available stories, it was best not to be too specific on this count. While this is merely speculation, it shows that there are realistic alternatives to the interpretation that holds the short Krzepicki statement to be some kind of a draft for the long one.

In summary, Nick Terry attempted to neutralize the November 15 steam chamber report by appealing to the steam chamber witnesses Rabinowicz and Krzepicki. A more self-defeating argument is hard to imagine.


[5] “Likwidacja Żydowskiej Warszawy”, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 1951, No. 1, pp. 59-126, here p. 95. The “150” is a misprint for “15a”.
[6] With regard to the location and orientation of the gas chamber buildings, there also exists a tradition giving a considerably different camp layout. See Ghetto Fighters House archives online, Catalog No. 4441, as well as the map in Donat, The Death Camp Treblinka, unnumbered page, which seemingly derives from the former map but differs somewhat in its depiction of the gas chambers.
[7] Terry is unconcerned by the reference to a technically unsuitable diesel, despite the fact that he and his fellow bloggers have long occupied themselves with the attempt to switch the Treblinka killing method from a diesel to a gasoline engine, because he wishes to interpret references to diesel engines as part of the local Lagerjargon.
[8] Ruta Sakowska (ed), Archiwum Ringelbluma: Getto Warszawskie lipiec 1942 – styczeń 1943, Warsaw, 1980, pp. 122-123.
[9] Joseph Kermish (ed), To Live with Honor and Die with Honor: Selected documents from the Warsaw ghetto underground archives “O.S.”, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1986, p. 709f.
[10] Robert Moses Shapiro and Tadeusz Epsztein (eds), The Warsaw Ghetto Oyneg Shabes–Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide, p. 394.
[11] quoted in Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, 1987, p. 244ff.
[12] Ruta Sakowska (ed), Archiwum Ringelbluma: Getto Warszawskie lipiec 1942 – styczeń 1943, Warsaw, 1980, p. 123. The basis of these dates is the diary of Abraham Lewin, who records one returnee from Treblinka on September 21, and a second returnee on the 25th, the second returnee being Rabinowicz.
[13] If the “Rabinowicz” document and the Oyf der Wach article derive from a common source, then that source cannot be Rabinowicz on account of being chronologically too early. What about bounds for the date in the other direction? Do we know that the document was indeed written before the steam chamber report? Sakowska dates it to September 25, apparently on the basis of her identification of its author as Rabinowicz. The Ringelblum Archive Catalog and Guide dates it to September. In neither case is it clarified how the date was obtained; the dates may be assumptions made on the basis of the document’s description of the events of late August. The document collection To Live with Honor and Die with Honor refrains from assigning the document a date at all. On the whole, it is unclear whether there is anything to pin down the date with certainty, unless it is the seeming connection with the Oyf der Wach article.
[14] Abraham Lewin, A Cup of Tears: A Diary of the Warsaw Ghetto, entry for September 27, 1942. In the manifesto, Terry references this very diary several times just a few pages prior to his mention of Rabinowicz, raising the question of whether he knowingly suppressed Lewin’s mention of the fact that Rabinowicz reported killing with steam at Treblinka.
[15] Terry might be tempted to excuse himself with the quibble that he only said that Rabinowicz mentioned “the use of a ‘diesel’ engine” without claiming that this was the killing engine. In light of the context in which Terry makes this statement, and given the reference to the killing engine in the sentence immediately after and to the question of the killing method in the sentence immediately before, such an argument would be thoroughly duplicitous.
[16] Robert Moses Shapiro and Tadeusz Epsztein (eds), The Warsaw Ghetto Oyneg Shabes–Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide, p. 394.
[17] Rachel Auerbach, In the Fields of Treblinka, in: Alexander Donat, The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary, 1979, pp. 20-73, here p. 25.
[18] BZIH is Terry’s abbreviation for Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego – which should really be abbreviated at BŻIH. While this is a minor point, it is the equivalent of referring to ‘Zoos’ rather than ‘Jews’.
[19] That the Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego only published a fragment of the Krzepicki account is also confirmed in the Ringelblum Archive Catalog and Guide, p. 395, and in Sakowska, Archiwum Ringelbluma, p. 152.
[20] One should also mention the fact that Terry copied references to Polish-language sources complete with telling errors directly from the books of Mattogno, Graf, and Kues, as well as from Yitzhak Arad. See Carlo Mattogno, Thomas Kues, and Jürgen Graf, The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”: An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious “Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers, 2013.
[21] A. Krzepicki, Treblinka, Bleter Far Geszichte, Vol. 9, No. 1-2, 1956, pp. 71-141.
[22] Alexander Donat, The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary, 1979, pp. 77-144.
[23] Although I will not insist on this point, as my knowledge of Yiddish is quite rudimentary, in the Yiddish original Krzepicki appears to me to refer not to gas chambers but to gas ovens. There is also another document authored by Rachel Auerbach, written after the Krzepicki account, which also mentions ovens at Treblinka: Rachel Auerbach, “Oni to nazwali wysiedleniem”, Ghetto Fighters House archives online, Catalog No. 3168, Registry No. 11237, p. 23.
[24] Abraham Krzepicki, Eighteen days in Treblinka, in: Donat, Alexander Donat (ed), The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary, pp. 77-144, here p. 130.
[25] A. Krzepicki, Treblinka, in: Bleter Far Geszichte, Vol. 9, No. 1-2, 1956, p. 127.
[26] Steam is, after all, a gas, albeit one considerably different from engine exhaust.
[27] Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, No. 40, 1961, pp. 78–85; English translation in Joseph Kermish (ed), To Live with Honor and Die with Honor: Selected documents from the Warsaw ghetto underground archives “O.S.”, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1986, p. 710ff.
[28] Robert Moses Shapiro and Tadeusz Epsztein (eds), The Warsaw Ghetto Oyneg Shabes–Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide, p. 394.
[29] Sakowska claims that this account was also taken by Auerbach, but this is doubtful in light of the fact that it is not written in a single hand. The Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide does not endorse Sakowska’s view. The editors of the Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego simply state that the authorship is unknown.
[30] This, however, is under the above-mentioned assumption that both are the work of Rachel Auerbach.
[31] Ruta Sakowska (ed), Archiwum Ringelbluma: Getto Warszawskie lipiec 1942 – styczeń 1943, Warsaw, 1980, p. 152.
[32] Samuel Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?, 2007, p. 309.

UPDATE: The impression alluded to in note 23 regarding the text rendered as “gas chambers” is inaccurate. The word in question in fact derives from the Polish “gazownia”, meaning literally “gas plant” or “gas works”. Thanks to Andrew Mathis for this information.

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7 Responses to Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIa: Nick Terry scores an own goal while trying to defuse steam chambers

  1. Mr. Jansson, I would be grateful if you could provide the Yiddish originals for your notes 21, 23, and 25, either by scanning and posting the relevant pages here or by e-mailing them to me (I assume you can see my e-mail address as a commenter). Thanks in advance.

  2. Pingback: Reply to Jonathan Harrison’s “Personal Notes” | Holocaust History Channel

  3. Pingback: Jonathan Harrison misses the point again | Holocaust History Channel

  4. Pingback: A little more on Ausrottung | Holocaust History Channel

  5. Pingback: Further sources on steam chambers, with a response to Harrison’s feeble flailing | Holocaust History Channel

  6. Pingback: Ausrottung yet again | Holocaust History Channel

  7. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

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