Further sources on steam chambers, with a response to Harrison’s feeble flailing

Jonathan Harrison has come out with a successor to his previous failed attempts to snipe against particular elements of my two part takedown of Nick Terry’s failed attempt to defuse the November 15 steam chamber report. Harrison’s blog hardly merits a reply in itself, but I will take the opportunity to discuss some further sources on the steam chambers (although Harrison still has not given any sign of having read the sources which I cited in my initial discussion), which give the lie to the mantra that reports of steam all originated from a single source, before returning to briefly respond to Harrison’s latest quips. Specifically, these are reports from the underground publication Wiadomości. Issues 1-3, 5, and 6 of this paper have been published by Szymon Datner; they date to between mid-November 1942 and mid-January 1943, and contain numerous mentions of Treblinka.

Issues 1 and 2 mention Treblinka, but without specifying a killing method at Treblinka (issue 2 says that Treblinka is still operating at full steam, but that’s not a description of the killing method). Wiadomości no. 3 describes killing with steam, but with different details from the November 15 report, which had described a transition from a first-phase 3-chamber steaming building to a second-phase 10-chamber steaming building (both of which were later remodelled as gassing buildings by Treblinka story-tellers). Wiadomości no. 3, however, says that reports leave no doubt about the following: at the beginning of the resettlement action, the deportees were simply mowed down with gunfire, probably because there was not yet adequate technical preparation for a different killing method. Wiadomości is keen to work in the “buried alive” meme, regarding the horrible suffering of those who were merely wounded by the gunfire but were buried anyway. From the modern orthodox standpoint, the idea that the Germans started the resettlement action before they had finished building a gas chamber is absurd. (On the other hand, the accepted notion that having built a too-small gas chamber building at Belzec, which they then had to replace by a larger one, the Germans proceeded to build too-small gas chamber buildings at Treblinka and Sobibor is almost equally absurd.)

Wiadomości goes on to explain that in August and September the flow of deportees exceeded the capacity of the Treblinka steam chambers, causing the Germans to adopt a system of killing all the deportees on the trains with lime and chloride (?). It does not explain when the steam chambers were built – they weren’t there initially, when the deportees were all shot, but in August and September they were overloaded.

Datner did not publish Wiadomości no. 4, while no. 5 refers back to a story in no. 4 regarding hair cutting before being sent to the steam chambers, but without any further details on the killing. No. 5 also mentions that further letters from deportees in the east had been received. Such letters were also mentioned in the September 20 Oyf der Wach article. In both cases, Warsaw ghetto resistance groups were eager to dismiss the letters as forgeries so as to promote the extermination story which they were telling, in order to encourage the Jews to engage in armed resistance. No. 6 mentions steam chambers as well, but without further details, though it does mention that at other camps Jews are burned alive.

In summary, Wiadomości discussed the Treblinka steam chambers repeatedly, but with details that distinguished the story from that found in the November 15 report to some extent.


We now return to Jonathan Harrison’s blog post. Let the reader recall the issue in question. In the first part of my piece on this matter, I showed (among other things) that Nick Terry’s two gas chamber witnesses who were supposed to have antedated the November 15 steam chamber report were in fact steam chamber witnesses. In the second part, I gave some further information on where this report fit in the broader pool or Treblinka extermination stories, and made the fundamental point that the November 15 report introduced the description of Treblinka which is accepted today, in which there were a first-generation death chamber building with three chambers and a second-generation death chamber building with ten chambers, five on each side of a central corridor. Other, earlier reports had offered very few details on killing methods, sometimes opting for shooting, sometimes some other method, but without any details of this nature. Therefore, orthodox holocaust historians are in the uncomfortable position of having to insist that the November 15 report’s detailed description of the production of steam and the after-effects of that method of killing are pure inventions, while simultaneously having to insist that the other details in the report are accurate, and indeed represent by far the most accurate of the early accounts of Treblinka’s killing system.

Unable to deal with my argument as I actually laid it out, Harrison attempts to reduce it to a single sentence that he quotes, to which he offers a non-rebuttal:

the Critique already addressed this point, noting that “steam is, after all, a gas, and it is not difficult to see how the anonymous source describing steam to Wasser could have deduced that the victims were being killed with steam when witnessing the opening of a gas chamber and mistaken the emanation of exhaust fumes from the chamber for a lethal sauna.”

First, the argument which Harrison cites from the manifesto is not in any way a response to my argument, which concerns the genealogy of Treblinka extermination stories. It is merely a response to the argument “there was a report that mentioned killing with steam at Treblinka.” This is not what I argued. Rather, I pointed out (among other things) that it was this very steam chamber report that invented the accepted account of the structure of the Treblinka killing facilities.

Second, the explanation which Harrison quotes from the manifesto (to the effect that the idea of killing with steam derived from a misinterpretation of what was seen when opening an engine-exhaust gas chamber) is no good. As Carlo Mattogno has already pointed out, the November 15 report described the kettle and boiler involved in generating the water vapor (the description is more explicit in the Polish original than in the English translation published in the Black Book of Polish Jewry). These descriptions cannot have been justified by simply seeing fumes being vented.

Third, Harrison carefully avoids quoting the sentence directly preceding what he quoted from the HC manifesto. In fact, Nick Terry wrote

As both Rabinowicz and Krzepicki had referred to gas chambers, it is mildly hard to understand why the long report compiled by Oneg Shabes activist Hersz Wasser on the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto and the extermination camp at Treblinka, dated November 15, 1942 referred to steam chambers.

In fact, as I have shown, both Rabinowicz and Krzepicki referred to steam chambers. Terry was completely wrong about both of his key witnesses.

Harrison continues by noting the manifesto’s mention of the Milgroim testimony’s reference to gas, and adds that

I am therefore entitled to conclude that Jansson is engaging in a “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” fallacy that tries to reduce the whole of Treblinka witness accounts in 1942-43 to “steam”, and attempts to claim that “steam” invalidates all the other details the witnesses supplied.

This is wrong on all counts. First of all, Milgroim was not a direct, upper-camp witness. Second, as I have already explained, the opposition is not between gas and steam, but between engine exhaust and steam. Third, Milgroim’s testimony dates to over nine months after the period which we are discussing, and is therefore irrelevant to my argument, which concerns the genealogy of Treblinka extermination reports. That is, I pointed out that the first claims of extermination were made (on communist radio broadcasts, no less) without knowledge of the fate of the deportees (not even that they went to Treblinka), and that the source that invented the accepted description of the Treblinka killing facilities (old 3-chamber building, new 10-chamber building with central corridor, etc.) also gave a detailed description of the generation of steam in those facilities and the effects of the use of that steam for killing the Jews in the chambers. Milgroim’s testimony has nothing to do with any of this.

Fourth, Harrison’s claim of a “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” fallacy is totally unfounded. Such a fallacy would only appear if I had argued simply “the November 15 report is false, therefore there was no extermination at Treblinka.” Anyone who will actually read what I wrote can easily see that this was not the structure of my argument. What does Harrison think he is accomplishing by repeatedly misrepresenting my position and responding to strawmen of interest only to himself? Is this the result of incompetence or malice? Perhaps both.

(Strictly speaking, the “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” principle applies to dismissing a particular witnesses because of a particular falsehood in his account, not to dismissing other witnesses because of a particular witness’ false account – but I have accepted Harrison’s broader use of the phrase for the sake of argument.)

Finally, Harrison claims that

Jansson also gaffes in his assumption that we can only be sure that nobody left Treblinka eastwards if there was “a 24/7 watch on Treblinka to make sure that Jews never left the camp.” Jansson seems unaware that Polish railway workers were reporting to the underground, despite this fact being noted in the Critique.

His paraphrase of my argument completely misrepresents what I said. The passage he quotes comes from the following paragraph:

As for Harrison’s argument that death was deduced from the fact that Jews never left the camp, he has evidently not read the sources which I cited, as they included articles which claimed that the deportees were killed without even mentioning Treblinka as a destination. Nor is there anything to support Harrison’s idea that claims of killing were based on a 24/7 watch on Treblinka to make sure that Jews never left the camp. Indeed, the “investigator” which he cites merely travelled to a destination some 20 miles from Treblinka – hardly suitable for such monitoring.

The context for this was that Harrison had quoted me referencing the earliest Treblinka extermination reports, and had attempted to justify their knowledge of extermination (but not the method whereby it was carried out) on the grounds that they had observed that the Jews went into Treblinka but never came out. I then replied with the above-quoted paragraph, pointing out that the earliest reports did not even identify Treblinka as a destination. Because Harrison had also made reference to an investigation which is said to have taken place in late-July 1942, I pointed out that this investigator could not be a source of monitoring, as he got nowhere near Treblinka. Harrison’s attempt to change the subject to reports of Polish railwaymen is irrelevant, for it concerns the question of whether in principle observations regarding Jews never leaving Treblinka could have been reported – something I never contested – rather than the issue we were discussing, namely whether the earliest reports that the Jews deported from Warsaw were killed were actually supported by such observations (they manifestly were not).

There is nothing in Harrison’s blog post that could not have been refuted by anyone who troubled to actually read my posts – that is, to read with an aim of comprehension. As Harrison has still not bothered to do this, I am as before puzzled as to what he imagines his blogs are achieving. They do not even attempt to rebut my actual arguments, and really deserve no response beyond


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s