Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIb: more about the steam chambers

Having reached the end of our analysis of Nick Terry’s failed attempt to deal with this problem, we will take the opportunity to record some additional information relevant to the steam chambers. The steam story remained dominant in Warsaw, as seen by its mention in a contemporary diary[33] and in a December 1942 poem written in the Warsaw ghetto,[34] and was promoted by such figures as Rachel Auerbach[35] and Adolf Berman[36] well into 1943. Treblinka steam chambers continued to be referenced in the press in Poland[37] as well as in Polish-language publications outside Poland. In one of these, a journalist even suggested that he had received his tale of the Treblinka steam chambers directly from an eyewitness,[38] and the story was subsequently re-reported in that form – as a direct witness account.[39] A later article in the same publication reported on both the Treblinka steam chambers and the Belzec electric chambers.[40] Meanwhile, the Poles in London repeated, reworked, and recirculated the steam chamber report.[41]

The fabrications of the steam chamber report cannot be dismissed as being the typical errors which work their way into initial reports in a limited-information environment. On the contrary, the steam chamber report was not an initial report but supplanted the early speculative reports. It was a given from the beginning of the deportation that a story of killing would be told. Within a few days of the onset of deportations from Warsaw there were reports that the resettlers were going to their death.[42] What killing method would be claimed took some time to determine. While some initial reports suggested that the deported Jews were shot, the idea of gas was not far behind, albeit in rather vague form: in the August 1942 edition of Trybuna Chłopska, the killing method was given as shooting with machine guns, but gas was suggested as being another possible method.[43] Here the context appears to indicate that gas is to be understood as meaning war gas, without the mention of an enclosed environment as in accounts of gas chambers. The steam chamber report was not one of these hasty, early reports, but a propagandistic attempt to write an official version of the Treblinka extermination story. It was the version promoted as the official truth; even in 1944, sources insisted that at Treblinka “The victims were in general killed by steam and not by gas as had been at first suspected.”[44] While its chosen killing method was ultimately revised, it was nevertheless instrumental in shaping the Treblinka story (in particular in determining the accepted depiction of the two gas chamber buildings). Other reports, not being ancestors of the now-sanctioned Treblinka story, are even more distant from that account. For example, another circulating account of Treblinka reported that the killing took place in movable, wheeled steam chambers.[45]

While some authors, such as Arthur Koestler channeling Jan Karski, tried to reconcile the steam chambers with the other reported killing methods,[46] this big-tent approach was rather awkward. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and too many killing methods make the propaganda look ridiculous. Although the essential contents of the steam chamber report eventually made it into a pertinent Nuremberg document,[47] other individuals and organizations clearly thought, even at an early date, that the steam chamber story was something of an embarrassment: when a version of the steam chamber report was published in a New York Jewish periodical in August 1943 (complete with the famous map of Treblinka), ‘steam’ was unceremoniously replaced by ‘liquid gas’,[48] and when in December 1944 the steam chamber report was circulated to the United Nations War Crimes Commission, it was with simple ‘vapour’ acting as the killing agent, the explicit reference to ‘water’ having been removed.[49]

——

[33] Diary of Eugenia Szajn-Lewin, quoted in Carlo Mattogno & Jürgen Graf, Treblinka, 2010, p. 51.
[34] Ruta Sakowska (ed), Archiwum Ringelbluma: Getto Warszawskie lipiec 1942 – styczeń 1943, Warsaw, 1980, pp. 230-231.
[35] Rachel Auerbach, “Oni to nazwali wysiedleniem”, Ghetto Fighters House archives online, Catalog No. 3168, Registry No. 11237, p. 23; cf. 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, p. 797.
[36] Text for a radio broadcast written by Adolf Berman, 16.4.43, Ghetto Fighters House archives online Catalog No. 6140, Registry No. 20104.
[37] “Przegląd Wydarzeń”, Walka Młodych, 1.5.43, reproduced in Dokumenty i materiały o powstaniu w getcie warszawskim, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, No. 5, 1953, p. 26.
[38] Janusz Laskowski, Żniwa Zbrodni, Wiadomości Polskie, Polityczne i Literackie, No. 32, 8.8.43, p. 2.
[39] Elma Dangerfield, The Tale of Warsaw and Treblinka, The Menorah Journal, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1943, pp. 284-295, cf. p. 290.
[40] Tymon Terlecki, Alle Juden Raus!, Wiadomości Polskie, Polityczne i Literackie, No. 45, 7.11.43, pp. 1-2.
[41] Extermination of the Jews in Poland, 18.5.43, PRO FO 371/34550 C5628; PRO FO 371/42806 WR823.
[42] Biuletyn Radiowy, No. 34, 27-30.7.42, reproduced in Dokumenty i materiały o powstaniu w getcie warszawskim, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, No. 5, 1953, p. 12; Trybuna Wolności, No. 13, 1.8.42, quoted in Klaus-Peter Friedrich, Der nationalsozialistische Judenmord in polnischen Augen: Einstellungen in der polnischen Presse 1942-1946/47, p. 361.
[43] Trybuna Chłopska, No. 6, August 1942, reproduced in Dokumenty i materiały o powstaniu w getcie warszawskim, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, No. 5, 1953, pp. 12-13.
[44] P.I.D. Annexe III to Weekly Guidance: The Liquidation of the Jews in Poland, 13.4.44, FO 371/39451 C4955.
[45] Press Reading Bureau, Stockholm, to Political Intelligence Dept., 5.11.43, PRO FO 371/34551 C13195. Terry mentions (p. 58) two versions of the movable Treblinka gas chamber story, but tries to dismiss them as unconfirmed. Needless to say, he ignores the mobile steam chambers altogether.
[46] Alexei Tolstoy, A Polish Underground Worker, and Thomas Mann. Terror in Europe: The Fate of the Jews. National Committee for Rescue from Nazi Terror, 1943, p. 11; cf. Friedrich Jansson, Jan Karski’s Visit to Belzec: a reconsideration, Inconvenient History, Vol. 6, No. 4, 2014. Online: http://inconvenienthistory.com/archive/2014/volume_6/number_4/jan_karskis_visit_to_belzec.php
[47] 3311-PS
[48] The Tremblinka Death Camp in Poland, The Ghetto Speaks, 1.8.43, pp. 2-4, here p. 3; see also ‘Representatives of Polish Jews in America Publish Reports on Nazi “Death Camp”’, JTA, 12.8.43.
[49] Annexe III to UNWCC Summary of Information No. 11: The Planned Extermination of European Jews, p. 12.

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4 Responses to Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIb: more about the steam chambers

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

  2. Per says:

    Hi Jansson

    Would you debate Muehlenkamp in radio?

    Best regards
    Per

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

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

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