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

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IV: The technical and testimonial blunders of Jason “Myers”

Moreso than Harrison or Terry, the pseudonymous Jason “Myers”, who contributed chapters on resettlement, gas chambers, and witnesses, attempts to attack specific revisionist arguments, many of these of a scientific or technical character. Unfortunately, he does so with such a uniform incompetence that one is almost tempted to suspect that he might be a cryptorevisionist making poor arguments aimed at embarrassing his exterminationist colleagues, and meanwhile benefiting from a fellowship from the famously corrupt ‘Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.’ Unlike another former revisionist whose work performed under Jewish largess gave rise to suspicions that he was secretly a cryptorevisionist,[75] Myers fails to perform any significant original research. In light of the somewhat discursive nature of Myers’ work, and the detailed replies which he has already received from Mattogno, Kues, and Graf, I have opted to treat several brief topics, regarding either technical issues or witness statements, about which the discussion to date has omitted some important points.

First, we consider the question of corpse color, to which Myers devotes a section (pp. 328-333). We will not concern ourselves with arguing the question in general, as Myers’ ill-informed remarks have already received a very good response from Thomas Kues.[76] Our present ambitions are limited to correcting one recurring error. Myers argues (p. 332) that the pressure which the corpses brought to bear on each other prevented the visibility of the red coloration associated with CO poisoning. This argument reveals a total lack of comprehension of the mechanism behind the formation of lividity. What causes lividity? The answer is: blood. In fact, blood also plays a role in the skin color of living people. A simple experiment will illustrate this: press firmly on your arm with two fingers held close together. Upon releasing the pressure, you will find that the areas on which you pressed are pale, while there are red areas between and outside of the pale areas. This occurs because the pressure pushed the blood out of the areas to which it was applied, which consequently appear pale, while the areas into which it was pushed appear red. Simple enough. This illustrates the key fact for interpreting the impact of pressure on lividity. Pressure moves blood around, but it does not remove blood. After death, as the blood settles and thickens, the ability for the color to return to a spot after it has been pressed on wanes, and with more time elapsed the blood sets up to the point where pressure will not move it at all. Kues gave a reply which focused on the timing on this process, which is all very well, but misses a simpler fact: when books say that lividity can be removed (or prevented from forming) by pressure, they are referring to the lividity in the specific regions to which the pressure is applied. As no packing of Jews in chambers could ever attain uniform pressure on all portions of the bodies, the pressure between the bodies could not under any circumstances have led to a disappearance of lividity.[77]

Second, Myers faults revisionists for ignoring research on which aspects of memory are most reliable (p. 351). While it is certainly true that the specific criticisms revisionists have made of witness errors vary widely in strength, this is largely a result of the natural tendency for pioneers in the field to compile arguments, and only later to sift through and separate the truly compelling from the merely suggestive. Given the youth of the revisionist literature on the Reinhardt camps, it is no surprise that it has sometimes only reached the initial phase of compilation of arguments. This said, Myers’ argument on this point is notably feeble, as he fails to draw the distinction between memories of specific events and memories pertaining to an extended period of time or a sequence of repeated events. That recollections of the first type of event are often filled with errors is a familiar fact, but genuine recollections of the second sort should be more reliable. To mistake the color of a car that you saw used in a drive-by shooting is normal. To forget the color of a car that you drove for years is abnormal. Not to know the difference between the two is a sign that you may be a member of holocaust controversies.

Our next issue, intermediate between witnesses and technical questions, is engine type at the Reinhardt camps. This is the domain of the bloggers’ main innovation, namely the attempt to convert Belzec and Treblinka from diesel to gasoline engines. As Carlo Mattogno has already commented on this maneuver in detail, I wish to focus on the less novel, but still interesting, topic of the Sobibor engine. At this camp mainstream holocaust historians had already accepted a gasoline engine, on the basis of statements from the 1960s trial of camp staff. The best known of the statements in favor of a gasoline engine is that of Erich Fuchs, which Myers quotes twice (pp. 283, 317). Fuchs described the engine as being a V-8 water-cooled Russian engine presumably from a armored vehicle or tractor.[78] Myers, however, twice writes (pp. 283, 317), copying a doubtful translation from Jules Schelvis,[79] “traction engine” rather than “engine of a tractor”. In fact, a traction engine is a type of steam engine, not an internal combustion engine at all. While Zugmaschine (tractor) can be used in the sense of Dampfzugmaschine (traction engine), it seems doubtful that Fuchs had this in mind, and if we are to take the interpretation seriously one might well ask how precisely the Jews were to be killed with the exhaust from a steam engine.

As Fuchs gave a rather detailed account of the engine with which he was held to have had such an intimate connection, it is reasonable that we attempt to ascertain its make and model. The results of such investigation are startling: on the basis of reference works on Soviet tanks, tractors, and other vehicles, the engine described in Fuchs’ statement does not appear to correspond to any real engine. To add to the confusion, Fuchs also gave a completely different description of the engine in a later statement. By this latter account, the engine had four inline cylinders, and Fuchs didn’t know whether it was air- or water-cooled.[80] Myers even cites this very document (p. 318) but, in a stunning display of dishonesty, neglects to mention the contradictory description of the engine. Given that holocaust controversies has raised Fuchs to the level of chief witness on the gassing engine, stressing his importance (pp. 34, 291-292) and labeling him a “knowledgeable mechanic” (p. 317) they should explain why he gave two completely contradictory descriptions of this engine, the first of which does not correspond to any real engine. One can only pity the country whose ‘competent mechanics’ are unable to say whether the engines which they have themselves repaired and repeatedly operated have a V-8 or inline 4 engine, and who alternate between knowing that an engine is water-cooled and having no idea whether it is air- or water-cooled.

As I pointed out in my previous review,[81] Myers neglects to mention key portions of the testimonies of the witnesses he uses to give his depiction of the gas chambers. For example, he neglects to mention that three witnesses (Shalayev, Shevchenko, and Leleko) which he proffers in connection with his account of the Treblinka gas chambers (two of which he relies on heavily) reported that the larger gas chamber building at that camp was built in 1943, a date clashing dramatically with the standard story. This pattern of selective use of witness testimonies on Myers’ part extends also to another of his favorite witnesses, Abraham Goldfarb. Despite repeatedly citing Goldfarb’s testimony, Myers neglects to mention Goldfarb’s statement that due to the inadequacy of the motor initially supplied, the killing in the new gas chambers was done with chlorinated lime until April 1943, when the killing method was switched to engine exhaust.[82] This account obviously contradicts the standard version of Treblinka’s history. In another convenient omission – although here he may be excused by ignorance – Myers hushes up Goldfarb’s later attribution of a diesel engine to Treblinka.[83]

Finally, Myers makes much of the testimonies of railroad workers (pp. 250-251). His arguments on this front have received an excellent reply from Thomas Kues,[84] but recently digitized sources allow for a few additional remarks. One minor point is that, copying an error from Alfred Mierzejewski, Myers attributes a testimony actually given by a ‘Kurt M’ to Eduard Kryschak.[85] More serious is the case of Myers’ appeal to the testimony of railroad worker Hans Prause (p. 251). Myers recounts how Prause was supposedly told about extermination in Treblinka by an SS officer whom Myers identifies as Georg Michalsen, and invited to tour the camp. The impact of this story is rather blunted by the fact that Prause reports being told of killings with cyanide in showers at Treblinka.[86] Moreover, Myers’ attempt to identify the “Michaelson” with whom Prause spoke as Georg Michalsen founders on the fact that Prause clearly stated that he was uncertain of the man’s name.[87] If Prause himself didn’t know the name, how can Myers be so certain? Prause also remembered the SS officer as appearing younger than he, while Georg Michalsen was a year older.[88] Thomas Kues has already pointed out to the absurdity of supposing that random railroad workers were invited to tour Treblinka,[89] but on examining Prause’s testimony the story becomes still more absurd. The conversation about Treblinka also included the mother of the local stationmaster, who happened to be visiting, and the invitation to visit Treblinka and see how humanely the killing was carried out (with hydrogen cyanide) extended to her as well. Apparently Myers imagines that Georg Michalsen enjoyed inviting not only random railroad personnel to tour Treblinka, but also the visiting mothers of stationmasters.

While Myers might point to his own ignorance of the sources to defend his silence on the fact that Prause claimed that Jews were killed with hydrogen cyanide at Treblinka, this excuse would not extend to Prause’s interview with Claude Lanzmann, which has been online since before the bloggers published their manifesto, in a collection which the controversial bloggers knew perfectly well. In this interview, Prause’s story is a little different: now the invitation to visit the extermination camp came from the Treblinka commandant, and was relayed to Prause by the Malkinia stationmaster, who also told him about the extermination with hydrogen cyanide in Treblinka.[90] The main lesson that can be drawn from such accounts is just how extraordinarily weak late testimony is as evidence, particularly concerning a widely publicized topic which has been the focus of ‘re-education’ and ‘politische Bildung’.

——

[75] Namely Jean-Claude Pressac. For suspicions of Pressac’s cryptorevisionism, see: In Memoriam Jean-Claude Pressac, Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, Vol. 7, Nos. 3&4, 2003, pp. 406-415, here p. 407.
[76] 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, pp. 856-868, cf. Carlo Mattogno’s remarks on pp. 842-843.
[77] The only circumstance in which pressure is likely to remove lividity from the entire corpse is when the body is submerged in deep water, as in this case there is uniform pressure on all portions of the skin.
[78] Fuchs statement, 2.4.63, ZStL 208 AR-Z 251/59, Vol. 9, p. 1784, copy in NIOD, archive 804, inventory 47.
[79] Myers quotes the passage from Schelvis on p. 283, while on p. 317 he claims to have taken it directly from an archival source but still copies Schelvis’ translation.
[80] Protokoll vom 15.11.1965, Staatsanwaltschaft Dortmund 45 Js 27/61 Ordner Novemb. ’65/NO, p. 559, copy in NIOD, archive 804, inventory 46.
[81] Friedrich Jansson, The Extermination Camps of Aktion Reinhardt, Inconvenient History, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2014. Online: http://inconvenienthistory.com/archive/2014/volume_6/number_1/the_extermination_camps_of_aktion_reinhardt.php
[82] Goldfarb statement, 21.9.44, USSR-380.
[83] Elizabeth Loftus, Witness for the Defense, 1992, p. 217.
[84] 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, pp. 653-659.
[85] YVA P.26.126, pp. 434-438, here p. 435. The full surname is blacked out in the document, but the Yad Vashem staff have written in ‘Meyer’. The testimony of Eduard K. (presumably Kryschak) comes directly after, pp. 438-439.
[86] YVA P.26.126, pp. 37-46, here p. 40.
[87] YVA P.26.126, p. 40.
[88] YVA P.26.126, p. 41.
[89] 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. 653.
[90] USHMM RG-60.5029.

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A little more on Ausrottung

My recent discussion of Ausrottung has provoked a series of hasty and unthinking replies from the bloggers of holocaust controversies, none of which do much to touch the arguments made. The bloggers seem to be employing a style of “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” – that is, they quickly post any objection which occurs to them without any attempt to think things through, just so as to be able to say that they had responded. Harrison had already set this pattern of replies with his total inability to comprehend my arguments regarding the November 15 steam chamber report. While this strategy may succeed in creating a diversion, it ultimately only causes the bloggers to humiliate themselves further with their ill-thought replies. In this post I will reply to several of their arguments, and will also introduce some additional examples in which ausrotten is used with a rather broad meaning.

The meaning of Genesis 17.14 and other occurrences of ausrotten in the Luther bible

Roberto Muehlenkamp contests my reading of Genesis 17.14, which is rendered with ausrotten in the Luther bible. I had stated that

In the Luther Bible translation of Genesis 17.14, it is commanded that the uncircumcised be ausgerottet, with the meaning that they be removed from the people, or exiled.

He appeals to a dictionary which lists this passage as meaning killing. Yet appeals to dictionaries are no way to settle the meaning of a passage. The question is, what does the verse actually mean? In English translations of Genesis 17.14, what the Luther bible renders as “ausgerottet aus seinem Volk” is generally rendered as “cut of from his people”. For example, in the ESV the verse is rendered

Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

What does “cut off” mean? Does it mean killing? No, at least not directly. First of all, it makes little sense to say that someone will be “killed from his people”. The element of “from” the people conflicts with the meaning of killing. Second, we can examine other passages regarding being “cut off” from the people – which are also translated with ausrotten. Take Leviticus 20 in English and German. Here, the punishment of being put to death is contrasted with the punishment of being cut off [ausgerottet] from your people. Adultery with another man’s wife gets you (and her) put to death, while sex with a menstruating woman and “uncovering her nakedness” only gets you (and her) cut off from your people. Giving your children to Molech gets you death, but if the people should fail to kill you God will cut you off from the people. Being cut off from the people is a different punishment from death. In its most literal and natural interpretation, it means being deprived of membership in the people, and of all the attendant benefits. As I said, this is removal from the people. My use of the word “exile” is perhaps a slight over-interpretation, as it gives particular emphasis to the territorial aspect of having your status as a member of a people removed, but this is a subtle distinction. The point is that being cut off from the people does not, in itself, mean being killed.

There are further such passages in, for instance, Leviticus 7 and 19. For the sake of completeness, I should mention that these mention being ausgerottet von your people rather than aus. Also, one of the passages in Leviticus 20 had vor: Die sollen ausgerottet werden vor den Leuten ihres Volks.

Finally, what Muehlenkamp calls my “self-serving interpretation” (that this passage does not imply killing) is in fact by no means original to me, but is quite common in the literature, as Muehlenkamp would have discovered had he done any actual research.

Incidentally, it’s not only the Luther bible that uses “ausrotten” in this context. Moses Mendelssohn’s translation uses “ausrotten” here as well.

Two more examples of ausrotten being used in a broader sense

In my previous discussion of Ausrottung, I gave a number of examples of the word’s non-homicidal use, including a particularly explicit one from “Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb”. That particular passage is so explicit in stating that an expulsion counts as an Ausrottung that we can expect Muehlenkamp and Harrison to continue to ignore it, as it is so clear in its meaning that they will not be able to creatively misinterpret it. While we wait for them to address this most explicit of examples, here are two more cases of ausrotten being used with respect to Jews, in a sense broader than that which the bloggers attach to it.

In an 1806 letter quoted in the 1912 book “Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preußen” by Ismar Freund (vol. 1, p. 111), the Prussian reformer Friedrich von Schrötter wrote, speaking of the Jews (“diese ungluckliche Menschenrasse”) “Ausrotten läßt sie sich nicht, aber einschränken und bessern”. Was it really just the possibility of killing all the Jews which he rejected? No. The meaning of the rejected Ausrottung is clearly broader than this, and encompasses any sort of project designed to eliminate the Jewish population.

The second example comes from the book Preußen in seinen religiösen Verhältnissen. In addressing the Jewish question, the author states that there were only two possibilities: to educate the Jews, or to violently ausrotten them. What did the author mean by violent Ausrottung? This becomes clear by the continuation: the author states that a violent Ausrottung seems to him wrong, because “[the Jews] are, after all, residents of the land, and have a right to continue to live in the land in which were born”. That is to say, an Ausrottung simply consists of denying the Jews the ability to continue to live in a given land. Hence the author’s insistence that there are precisely two possibilities. Those are: either the Jews will continue to live in our land or they will not. If they do continue to live in our land, we must educate them so as to make them less of a menace. Getting rid of them would require force (the Jews being unwilling to leave voluntarily) which the author found morally unacceptable. Indeed, as he sums up his position:

1) Es wäre zu wünschen, wir hätten gar keine Juden im Lande.
2) Die wir einmal haben, müssen wir dulden, aber unablässig bemüht sein, sie möglichst unschädlich zu machen.

The two possibilities are either to make the land Judenfrei, or to continue to live with the Jews. The former possibility would require an Ausrottung – rooting out the Jews – and while the author recognizes that the absence of Jews would be desirable he rejects such an action on moral grounds. Again, ausrotten has been used in the sense of the removal of a population, independent of the means employed in that removal, and without implying killing.

What about National Socialist usages of ausrotten?

Jonathan Harrison quotes Peter Longerich to the effect that while Ausrottung applied to groups of people need not mean killing in general, it does always mean killing when used by National Socialists. This claim ignores some rather blatant counterexamples. In his January 30, 1942 speech at the Berlin Sportpalast, Hitler characterized the war as having two possible outcomes, one of which was that the European peoples would be ausgerottet. He expressed the same idea in other speeches as well – that the war was a choice between the Ausrottung of the Jews or the Aryans. At Nuremberg, Alfred Rosenberg confirmed that statements like this did not mean a general slaughter:

this word [Ausrottung] has been used with respect to the German people and we have also not believed that in consequence thereof 60 millions of Germans would be shot.

Thus, the National Socialist use of “Ausrottung” has a broader set of meanings than Harrison or Muehlenkamp – or Longerich – would like to believe.

Rosenberg’s diary

As I have explained, Alfred Rosenberg’s diary fully confirms his postwar statements to he effect that he knew nothing of an extermination of the Jews in the sense which allegedly occurred. Without acknowledging this fact, Jonathan Harrison has taken exception to one particular observation which I made regarding Rosenberg’s diary. In reply to my mention of Rosenberg’s diary entry discussing the proposal to put the Ukrainians on the same legal footing with the Jews and Gypsies, Harrison claims that I have “misinterpreted” the entry. In fact, I did not offer any interpretation. I only stated that according to the interpretations of holocaust controversies, this would mean a proposal of extermination. If the policy towards the Jews was “kill them all” then putting the Ukrainians on the same legal footing would mean “your position before the court is a bullet through the skull – for every Ukrainian.” Obviously that is not what was proposed. Harrison tries to get around this by claiming that the inclusion of the Jews is “moot” because he believes they were already dead. This simply begs the question; i.e. Harrison assumes his own desired conclusion. Rosenberg evidently did not consider the inclusion of the Jews moot, because, well, he included them. Despite his well-known sympathy for the Ukrainian cause, Rosenberg did not respond with shock at the idea of putting Ukrainians on the same legal footing as a Jewish population that (allegedly) had already been killed off, but simply with strong disapproval and the sentiment that such a policy would worsen German-Ukrainian relations. This indicates that the Jews’ legal standing, while not very good, was not simply that of being subject to a policy of extermination.

Harrison also notes Rosenberg’s other uses of ausrotten, which completely misses the point again, namely that ausrotten has a range of meanings, so that its meaning is not confined to the narrow sense to which Harrison wishes to limit it, and therefore its usage cannot be used to deduce a Nazi policy of killing the Jews.

(A side issue: does Harrison even read German? In the manifesto he generally relies on other authors’ translations – sometimes their mistranslations – even when he claims to have used an original German source. And by “read German” I don’t mean “type stuff into Google translate” – the way that Nick Terry seems to “read Polish”, although as I showed in my discussion of Terry’s error concerning the “Rabinowicz” document, sometimes he doesn’t even bother to do that.)

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIIb: Ausrottung and back to Rosenberg, with a cameo by Julius Streicher

Just like Vernichtung, Ausrottung has a long history of non-homicidal use. In the Luther Bible translation of Genesis 17.14, it is commanded that the uncircumcised be ausgerottet, with the meaning that they be removed from the people, or exiled. In 1816, an author going by the name of Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb considered Ob wir die Juden ausrotten sollen (whether we should ausrotten the Jews) – a question which he answered in the negative. He stated that an Ausrottung could be achieved in either of two ways. The first, harder way was to round up the Jews and kill them all – a possibility which he expressed with the highly explicit verbs niederschießen, totschlagen, and ersaufen. The second, milder way was to round up the Jews, take them to the border, drive them across it and force back any who dared to return.[59] In short, his milder form of Ausrottung was simply forcible expulsion. While Christlieb rejected even this milder form of Ausrottung, dwelling on the suffering it would cause, he understood that Ausrottung does not imply killing, and that expulsion is a form of Ausrottung.

Nor was it only authors who, like Christlieb, opposed harsh measures against the Jews that understood Ausrottung as including expulsion. Writers who opposed the Jews in the strongest of terms also distinguished between Ausrottung and killing. For example, Hartwig von Hundt-Radowsky, author of Judenspiegel, whose final chapter Betrachtungen über Verbesserung, Ausrottung und Vertreibung der Juden ultimately advises (despite its aggressive rhetoric) against killing the Jews, lays out a plan whereby Napoleon Bonaparte should return from Saint Helena, become King of the Jews, and lead them (armed with 1000 canons and transported to Palestine) in war against the Turks, in which campaign with any luck they would be vertilgt, although plainly Hundt-Radowsky did not envision the realization of this hope, as he set out observations on and plans for Napoleon’s future Jewish Reich.[60] Despite his strongly anti-Jewish position, Hundt-Radowsky used the word Ausrottung in a sense that did not imply killing.[61] One can also find Ausrottung used non-homicidally in late 19th century authors critical of the Jews.[62] Ausmerzung, also used by Rosenberg, found similar usage.[63] Jewish organizations spoke of Ausrottung already in the 1930s, just as they spoke of Vernichtung. This can be seen in the book Der Gelbe Fleck, whose subtitle spoke of the Ausrottung of 500,000 German Jews,[64] and in the words attributed to a 1936 speech of Julius Streicher.[65] Compounds with Ausrottung can also take a range of meanings . For example, in Mein Kampf Hitler mentions that the SA was accused by political opponents of waging an Ausrottungskrieg against the “peaceful workers”.[66] Clearly this did not mean that the SA was accused of having started killing off all the German workers. It does, however, show how easily words like Ausrottung can be used when employing a language of conflict. Such language was part and parcel of typical NSDAP rhetoric, likely having its source partly in the party’s origins in street politics, as well as the long tradition of usages of words like Vernichtung and Ausrottung already alluded to. Given the usages listed above, it’s easy to see why the US Government official Landreth M. Harrison understood that Ausrottung need not mean killing, and believed that Jewish reports of mass gassing could have derived from their mistranslations of such words.[67]

Returning to Alfred Rosenberg, whose words offered Harrison an opportunity to theorize about Hitler’s supposed decision to kill all the Jews, we know that while Rosenberg was quite ready to discuss the reality of anti-Jewish measures, he was unaware of an extermination in the sense in which Harrison believes it occurred. In a postwar interrogation, he stated that

I would assume that in such a gigantic struggle there would be many victims but I still don’t believe this part where you allege to prove that deliberate mass extermination was practiced in this manner. I did, of course, know that in connection with our struggle there were many executions. I did not know anything about mass extermination to the extent and in the manner as you say.[68]

During the IMT, Rosenberg maintained this position and – with reference to the very document on which Harrison grounded his belief in an extermination decision – made a creditable attempt to explain “the various meanings ‘Ausrottung’ may have in the German language”, though his sincere explanation made little impact in the face of the deliberate thickheadedness of his interlocutor.[69] Nor was Rosenberg the only defendant at the IMT to address this question. Julius Streicher also explained at the IMT that the interpretation of Vernichtung and Ausrottung depends on the context, and that the words do not necessarily mean killing.[70]

Rosenberg’s diary, rediscovered in 2013, fully confirms his postwar statements. As the holocaust establishment was forced to admit, the diary contains no reference whatsoever to a German plan or practice of killing off all the Jews.[71] Rosenberg did not hesitate to record a meeting concerned with specific killings of Jews by the Lithuanians,[72] and also felt free to allude to his frustration at opposition to the euthanasia program from the Churches.[73] Despite this openness, he says nothing about the supposed extermination of the Jews. Furthermore, Rosenberg mentions a proposal that would have put Ukrainians on the same level as Jews and Gypsies.[74] According to the interpretations of holocaust controversies, this means that there was a German proposal to exterminate the Ukrainians. Does Harrison believe that such a proposal existed, and if not how does he explain this diary entry?

—–

[59] Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb (pseud?), Warum versagt ihr den Juden das Bürgerrecht, in: Ueber das Judenthum und die Juden: Drei Abhandlungen, in: Heinrich Luden (ed). Nemesis: Zeitschrift für Politik und Geschichte. Vol. 8, No. 1, Weimar, 1816, here p. 64.
[60] Hartwig von Hundt-Radowsky, Judenspiegel: Ein Schand- und Sittengemälde alter und neuer Zeit, 1819, p. 146. There is a strong element of humor in Hundt-Radowsky’s plans, though this has been missed by most scholarly commentators.
[61] This has been acknowledged even by Paul Lawrence Rose, who writes from a position of intense Jewish partisanship. See that author’s Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner, 1990, p. 33, fn. 25.
[62] Christoph Cobet, Der Wordschatz des Antisemitismus in der Bismarckzeit, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, München, 1973, p. 213. In a footnote, Cobet correctly explains that the use of Ausrottung in the quoted excerpt does not mean killing.
[63] Christoph Cobet, Der Wordschatz des Antisemitismus in der Bismarckzeit, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, München, 1973, p. 212. In a footnote, Cobet notes the agricultural origins of the word, and observes that it has a long history of being applied to humans.
[64] Der Gelbe Fleck: Die Ausrottung von 500,000 deutschen Juden, Editions du Carrefour, 1936. Authorship or editorship of this work is often credited to Lion Feuchtwanger. In fact, he merely wrote a one-page foreword from whose text it is clear that he had no such role. In his foreword he stated that the persecution of the Jews, which he characterized as the systematic Vernichtung of half a million ‘highly civilized Europeans’, was certainly less atrocious than other things that were happening in Germany. Neither the reference to Ausrottung in the title, nor the Vernichtung in Feuchtwanger’s foreword, referred to the killing of all these Jews.
[65] Dokumentensammlung über die Entrechtung, Ächtung und Vernichtung der Juden in Deutschland seit der Regierung Adolf Hitler, 1936, p. 23.
[66] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Munich, 1936, p. 616.
[67] Records of the War Refugee Board, 1944-1945. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum. Box 64: Jews in Europe (1), July-August 1944.
[68] Rosenberg interrogation, 5.11.45, US Government microfilm publication M1270, roll 17.
[69] Rosenberg testimony, 17.4.46, IMT Vol. XI, pp. 554.
[70] IMT, Vol. XII, pp. 357-378.
[71] Richard A. Widmann, No Smoking Gun, No Silver Bullets: The Real News of Rosenberg’s Diary, Inconvenient History, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2014.
[72] Rosenberg diary, 3.7.42.
[73] Rosenberg diary, 14.12.41.
[74] Rosenberg diary, 9.10.42.

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Mit der Dummheit…

As Schiller wrote, Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens. Anyone engaging in debate with Roberto Muehlenkamp is well advised to keep this saying in mind. The effort of painstakingly correcting his errors only to receive yet another batch of nonsense is not a good investment. Therefore while I will reply to the latest installment of his response to my observations on some of his nonsense about cremation, I will be brief, confining myself to the essential corrections without spelling out the context at length. I will also ignore a number of stupid things that Muehlenkamp says so as to keep some focus to the debate.

Regarding the fact that he bungled his comparison of the energy density of green and seasoned wood, Muehlenkamp – amazingly – still fails to get the point. He reiterates his comparison between the energy content of wet and dry cords, not realizing that they have different weights so that this difference does not translate to an equal difference in energy density, despite the fact that I explained this fact quite clearly. Perhaps an analogy will make things clearer. The Smith family buys a 100-square-inch pizza, while the Jones family buys a 110-square-inch pizza – a difference of 10% – and the members of each family split their respective pizzas equally. Is it then true that each member of the Jones family gets precisely 10% more pizza (in area terms) than each member of the Smith family? Not if the Smith family has six members while the Jones family has only four members – then the difference is considerably larger. Perfectly simple – but Muehlenkamp has proved unable to work out simple problems like this – even when his errors are explained to him.

Regarding the fuel requirements for Indian funeral pyres, Muehlenkamp quotes a number of sources alluding to the fact that they are fuel intensive. This, however, merely reflects a general truth about pyre cremation. Consider, for example, these experimental cremations, or Jacqueline McKinley’s use of 700-900 kg of wood for her experimental pyre cremations (see The Analysis of Burned Human Remains). Their fuel requirements are even higher than Hindu funeral pyres, because pyre cremation is fuel intensive in general. Hindu funeral pyres are “inefficient” only in the sense that all pyre cremation is inefficient.

Regarding the Mokshda Green Cremation System, Muehlenkamp bumbles about looking at newspaper articles and fails to find the reference which I cited perfectly clearly from Mattogno, namely this:

India_Mokshda_Green_Cremation_System

It’s a request for funding for the project (hardly a source likely to understate said project’s achievements) and it reports a fuel consumption of 150 kg per body, as I stated. The newspaper or magazine accounts which Muehlenkamp sets against this are of little value in dealing with such a question. Furthermore, the system is entirely different from the kind of open air burning alleged to have taken place at the Reinhardt camps, making it useless for Muehlenkamp’s purposes.

Muehlenkamp’s main line of argument – or rather line of defensive speculation – is that AusVetPlan’s statement regarding the 1:3 fuel ratio between cremating unshorn sheep and cattle, and the 1:4 ratio between cremating pigs or shorn sheep and cattle must have been based on very high assumed weights for the pigs and sheep. In fact, these ratios were observed in actual cremations during the 2001 UK FMD epidemic:

According to a USDA veterinarian who helped during the U.K. outbreak, a 200-meter funeral pyre was used to incinerate 400 cows or 1,200 sheep or 1,600 pigs. Such a pyre required 1,000 railway ties, 8 tons of kindling, 400 wooden pallets, 4 tons of straw, 200 tons of coal, and 1,000 liters of diesel fuel.

The ratios of 1:3 and 1:4 match those given in AusVetPlan for unshorn sheep and pigs to cattle. Yet weights of cattle/pigs/sheep were estimated at 500/100/50 kg during the 2001 UK FMD epidemic, not at the much higher figures that Muehlenkamp wants to assume. Thus, Muehlenkamp’s assumptions that AusVetPlan’s statements regarding fuel requirements are founded on the assumption of giant sheep and pigs is unfounded. On the contrary, these fuel requirements were observed in real-life cremations during the 2001 UK FMD epidemic, with ordinary-size sheep and pigs, with weights generally estimated at 50 and 100 kg. In fact, one source (report on Throckmorton) gives weight estimates of 500/80/40, which is even more in my favor.

Screenshot-10

No doubt Muehlenkamp will persist in his unreasonable assumptions despite this information. Such is his custom. As the facts close in around him, he resorts to more and more absurd speculative numbers to make things work, at least in his fantasy world. Such is the case not only with his cremation analysis, but also in his discussion of burial space. After all, some time ago he was making much more reasonable assumptions on burial space:

How much space does a dead body occupy? […] I’ve done some calculations in this respect and reached the following conclusions [blah] the average volume of a deportee taken to Treblinka, in cubic meters, would be [blah] 0.12, which means that one cubic meter of burial space could take ca. 8 dead bodies

In short, in 2002 Muehlenkamp endorsed a maximum burial density of 8 corpses per cubic meter – the same figure revisionists have used. His more recent – and absurd – figures are the result of making stuff up as he goes along in order to defend his a priori conclusions.

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Jonathan Harrison misses the point again

Jonathan Harrison has made a short update to the post to which I recently replied. Harrison, incidentally, made his update silently, without any sort of announcement. Roberto Muehlenkamp has recently adopted the same practice, updating posts without any announcement that he was doing so. Harrison’s update reveals that he has still not understood what I in fact wrote in the two parts of my discussion of the steam chambers.

1. The issue at hand

In my initial discussion of Nick Terry’s failed attempt to neutralize the November 15 steam chamber report, I showed Terry was wrong about both of the witnesses he believed to have given accurate accounts of the Treblinka gas chambers prior to the November 15 report. In the case of Krzepicki, the source in question actually described steam as the killing method, though it in fact dates to after the November 15 report. In the case of Rabinowitz, a contemporary diary recorded that he had reported steam as the killing method. Moreover, the document which Terry thought derived from Rabinowicz cannot be connected with him with any certainty, and its story was related in the Warsaw ghetto press prior to Rabinowicz’s return to the Warsaw ghetto.

In the second portion of my discussion of the steam chambers, I briefly delineated where the steam chamber report fit in the overall picture of reports on Treblinka, what influence it had on later reports, and how the killing method it described was suppressed. In brief, there were many very early reports about deportations implying death. These reports came even before Treblinka had been identified as a destination, and they described a variety of killing methods, often in rather vague terms and without details. As I explained, these vague early sources were supplanted by the November 15 report, which laid out a specific map and description of the internal layout of the “death camp”. The currently accepted description of Treblinka is based on this account, with the exception of replacing steam with engine exhaust. In fact, even the accepted descriptions of the Belzec and Sobibor upper camps (in the story of the move from a first gas chamber building to a second gas chamber building based on a central-corridor system) are based on the November 15 report.

Harrison’s pointless criticisms begin from a completely false picture of what I argued. While I did not previously go into detail about this, as Harrison had posted prior to the second part of my presentation, and I assumed that he might have in the meantime read that post and come to understand what I was arguing, I now see that he still does not understand, and will consequently make things even more explicit. After briefly quoting my reference to the early reports, Harrison states that

Jansson fails to explain why this should be unusual. It was easy to determine that Jews were being killed, from the fact that masses of Jews were entering the camp daily but never leaving, and that some of the escapees were gravediggers. It was far harder to determine how they were being killed, because nobody was being given a grand tour of the killing facilities.

Harrison implies that my argument relies on the mere fact that there were various killing methods reported. This is inaccurate, and before further attempts at critique he should try reading – and understanding – what I actually wrote. My argument – which was given largely in the very same paragraph from which Harrison quotes – actually concerned the fact that early unreliable rumors were supplanted by the steam chamber report, which gave a detailed depiction of the interior of Treblinka and in particular of the two gas chamber buildings, which depiction forms the foundation for the currently accepted portrayal of Treblinka. Thus the early vague and unreliable rumors were replaced by the detailed steam chamber report, whose description of the killing buildings is the foundation of all later accounts. If Harrison cannot be troubled to understand what I have written, his attempts at critique serve no purpose beyond demonstrating his effective illiteracy.

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.

Harrison also claims that what he takes to be evidence of very early mentions of killing with gas “refute any notion (which Jansson appears to imply) that steam preceded or exceeded gassing as the method claimed in the sources.” As I have explained above – and as should have been evident to anyone who read what I wrote – this is not what I implied. I said nothing about reports of steam preceding reports of gas, and in fact cited a considerably earlier source than the Oyf der Wach article mentioning gas as a possible killing method for the deported Jews. In fact, there was plenty of talk in the Warsaw ghetto – I recently gave one example, there are many more – about killing with gas even prior to the mass deportations to the East. As for “exceeded” – exceeded in what sense? I certainly made no claim that reports of steam exceeded reports of the generic “gas” in number. Rather, what I said was that the steam chambers are described in detail in the very report that contains a detailed account of the internals of Treblinka, that this detailed report supplanted the early vague and variable accounts, and that this description forms the foundation for the currently accepted depiction of Treblinka.

One further point: reports of gas do not amount to reports of killing with engine exhaust, but are compatible with the killing method being steam, as in the case of Krzepicki’s story. For example, consider the example, which I have already cited, of a poem discussing the steam chambers. The same poet wrote another poem (same source, 2 pages earlier) in which he described the killing method as gas. There was no contradiction between the two: steam is a kind of gas. (He also chose “gas” so as to rhyme “gazie” with “razie”.) “Gas” and “steam” are not opposed killing methods; rather, the opposition is between steam and engine exhaust.

2. The September 20 Oyf der Wach article as a source

While Harrison gives the September 20 Oyf der Wach article a prominent position, it is not clear what argument he wants to make. If it is simply that there were rumors about gas as a killing method from an early date, this is not anything I have contested. Harrison argues that the content of the September 20 Oyf der Wach article dates back to July. It is evident, however, that the article incorporates more recent sources. For instance, its story about a blackout in the camp – also told with precisely the same details in the “Rabinowicz” document – is dated to August 29-30, over a month after Harrison believes the article’s information to have arrived in Warsaw.

The Oyf der Wach article also mentions talk of Jews surviving the gassing, which somewhat resembles the tale previously reported in the Polish underground press that the gassed Jews continued to walk for some time after their gassing. This suggests that the article agglomerated rumors from a variety of sources.

All in all, I am puzzled at Harrison’s attempt to attach particular importance to this source, or to regard it as anything more than a collection of the then-current rumors and propaganda. After all, the controversial bloggers have been very eager to dismiss reports of the floor of the Sobibor gas chambers opening up as mere hearsay. Logically, Harrison must treat this report, which claims that the floor of the killing-barracks at Treblinka opened up, in the same way: as inaccurate rumor. How, then, does he imagine that this source is in any way damaging to my argument? On the contrary, it is a fine example of the kind of early vague and contradictory rumors which were swept away by the detailed depictions given in the November 15 report, and therefore fully supports my argument.

3. The Bund, Oneg Shabes, and the “Rabinowicz” document

Alluding to my mention of the fact that that the “Rabinowicz” document and the Oyf der Wach article tell an identical story, and that the latter antedates Rabinowicz’s return to the Warsaw ghetto, Harrison writes that “Jansson is also still blissfully unaware that two organizations were involved in gathering the information, the Bund and OS, and their sources were different.” By “is blissfully unaware” he evidently means “does not mention.” Yes, I didn’t mention that – so what? I also didn’t mention that water is wet – am I therefore “blissfully unaware” of that? Certainly they were different organizations, but again, so what? Saying that “their sources were different” accomplishes nothing: if Harrison genuinely intends to argue that the fact that the Bund and Oneg Shabes were different organizations precludes the connection which I suggest, he would need to show that the two organizations operated in total informational isolation. This is obviously false.

The question of the origin of this document is a side issue. As the document says nothing about killing methods, even if it did derive from Rabinowicz this would do nothing to help Nick Terry’s argument, or to excuse his error of fabricating the content of a document which he was unable to read. It’s not even clear whether Harrison believes that the document was authored by Rabinowicz or not. That said, as the matter has come up, I will add a few more relevant details. The document is not written in the form of a witness account. It is not in the first person, and there is no indication of who observed the events described. The document therefore seems as likely to be the work of a chronicler as that of a witness. But even if it were a witness account, and even if it were totally unconnected with the Oyf der Wach article, my main points would be unaffected. If Harrison genuinely wants to critique my two part takedown of Nick Terry’s failed attempt to neutralize the steam chambers, he should start by addressing my actual arguments.

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIIa: Jonathan Harrison: the master of misinterpretation – Rosenberg and Vernichtung

Both in his contribution to the manifesto and in many of his blog posts, Jonathan Harrison has specialized in the dogmatic insistence that even the most innocent of documents serve as proof of the extermination of the Jews, a matter on which he is far more rigid-minded than mainstream holocaust scholarship. Even when forced to read documents completely against the grain, he consistently finds a way to insist not merely that the documents are compatible with the extermination thesis, but that they can only be interpreted in that way. Given his readiness to insist that innocuous document cannot be read in a straightforward fashion, but must be interpreted through a conspiratorial lens that sees coded-language and cover-ups everywhere, it is no surprise that when confronting documents that use somewhat ominous language, Harrison assumes that they must without question refer to extermination. Precisely this type of reasoning was engaged in by Allied prosecutors[50] and early Jewish commentators[51] and consistently led to conclusions now acknowledged to be false. We will examine how Harrison’s analysis goes awry in one example, pertaining to Alfred Rosenberg, before entering into a more general discussion of the interpretation of certain German words, and then finally returning to Rosenberg.

Referring to a November 1941 speech in which the Ostminister called for a biologische Ausmerzung of Jewry and to a subsequent note in which he referred to an Ausrottung of Jewry, Harrison assumes that he has found key evidence that Hitler had announced ‘the decision’ to kill all the Jews (p. 118). While a naive interpreter like Harrison may imagine that the ‘biological’ in biologische Ausmerzung is a reference to killing, this is not its true meaning. As would have been entirely clear to individuals familiar with nationalist thinking, behind Rosenberg’s statement is an implicit distinction between biological and cultural solutions. For the Jews to be culturally extirpated in Europe would mean that Jews abandoned their separate Jewish identity – in other words, it means nothing more than assimilation. For an example of this distinction, one should think of Richard Wagner’s statements in Das Judenthum in der Musik, in which he recommends Selbstvernichtung and Untergang to the Jews. Despite the presence of the word Vernichtung, his remarks allude to nothing more than assimilation. While Wagner had not fully conceived of the Jewish problem in biological terms, and could therefore recommend assimilation, Rosenberg, and National Socialism in general, understood the Jewish problem as being, though manifested in culture, ultimately rooted in race. Consequently, what was needed was not cultural extirpation/eradication (assimilation) but biological extirpation (removal of the population from the territory in question, by one means or another). This is the meaning of Rosenberg’s speech.

Moving beyond this particular context, there is a need for some general remarks and examples concerning two of the words most often interpreted as implying extermination: Vernichtung and Ausrottung. In truth, these words have a wide range of meanings. They are more expressive and evocative than they are precise. Some concrete instances will help to illustrate this point. In September 1934 the Jewish Central Information Office complained of a Vernichtungsfeldzug against German Jewry.[52] With the standard holocaust-style translation, this would be a “campaign of extermination” – already in 1934. Even if one wished to play up the distinction between Judentum and Juden to explain this particular source, this would not account for the fact that a 1936 document collection spoke of the Vernichtung of the Jews in Germany, and was certainly not saying that they were being killed.[53] Nor was it only the Jews who were said to be suffering Vernichtung. One can find complaints in the early 1930s of the Vernichtung of the Germans in eastern Europe, which state that the process of Vernichtung began in 1914.[54] Such language was widespread among National Socialists. For example, in a 1925 speech, Julius Streicher stated that Jews had vernichtet the Völker for millenia and called for for preparation so that the people could vernichten the Jews.[55] In neither case did vernichten mean killing all of the people in question. Likewise, in Mein Kampf Hitler wrote that the SA existed to protect the German nation against those who threatened to vernichten Volk and Staat,[56] characterised the goal of the Jews as the Vernichtung of all non-Jewish Völker,[57] and stated that German objectivity risked the Vernichtung of their own Volk.[58] When he thus spoke of a Vernichtung of a Volk, he was not implying that all of its members would be killed.

——

[50] See the December 1944 UNWCC Summary of Information No. 11: The Planned Extermination of European Jews, in which statements going back to 1933 are interpreted as implying a policy of extermination.
[51] See for instance the argument that the Germans already intended to exterminate the Jews in September 1939 in Josef Guttman, The Fate of European Jewry in the Light of the Nuremberg Documents, YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Science 1947-48, pp. 313-327, here pp. 320-321.
[52] Various Reports from the Jewish Central Information Office: Der Vernichtungsfeldzug gegen das deutsche Judentum, in: Testaments to the Holocaust: Series 1: Archives of the Wiener Library, London, Reel 66.
[53] Dokumentensammlung über die Entrechtung, Ächtung und Vernichtung der Juden in Deutschland seit der Regierung Adolf Hitler, 1936.
[54] Heinrich Schröder, Die Systematische Vernichtung der Rußland Deutschen, Julius Beltz, Langensalza, 1933, esp. pp. 9-15, 20-25.
[55] Die Zukunft Wird uns die Rettung bringen, 3.4.25, in Julius Streicher, Kampf dem Weltfeind: Reden aus der Kampfzeit, Verlag Der Stürmer, Nürnberg, 1938, pp. 40-43, here p. 42.
[56] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Munich, 1936, p. 601.
[57] ibid, p. 351.
[58] ibid, p. 201.

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