Holocaust denial or Holocaust revisionism as referred to by its supporters, is the belief that the history of the Holocaust as is commonly told is not correct or complete, more specifically some of the points defended are: that far fewer than around six million Jews were killed by the Nazis (numbers below one million, most often around 30,000 are typically cited); that there never was a centrally-planned Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews; and/or that there were not mass killings at the extermination camps.
As the Holocaust is generally considered by historians to be one of the most documented events in recent history, these views are not accepted as credible by scholars, with organizations such as the American Historical Association, the largest society of historians in the United States, stating that Holocaust denial is "at best, a form of academic fraud", nevertheless it would be naive to rely only on the "victors" recount of history and dismiss the long effect of war propaganda and indeed some more extremist movements, especially those that defend Zionism in using the event to promote their views and goals.
Holocaust deniers almost always prefer to be called Holocaust revisionists. Historical revisionism, in the original sense of the word, is a well-accepted and mainstream part of the study of history; it is the reexamination of accepted history, with an eye towards updating it with newly discovered, more accurate, and/or less biased information, or viewing known information from a new perspective. Claiming that revisionists deny the Holocaust is misleading, it puts all views against the status quo in a single label and simplifies it to the absurdity of negating the event.
Holocaust revisionists often further claim that Jews and/or Zionists know that the Holocaust never occurred as is commonly described, yet that they are engaged in a massive conspiracy to maintain the illusion of a Holocaust to further their political agenda. Claiming that the Holocaust is only about the capture and the genocide of Jews is an extremely partial view of the event, since it included millions of people in other groups, including Romani, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet civilians, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses and other political and religious opponents, which occurred regardless of whether they were of German or non-German ethnic origin.
Methods used by "Negationists"/"Revisionists"
Much of the controversy surrounding the claims of "Holocaust deniers" centers upon the methods used to present arguments that the Holocaust allegedly never happened. Numerous accounts have been given (including evidence presented in court cases) of claimed "facts" and "evidence"; however, independent research has shown these claims to be based upon flawed research, biased statements, and even deliberately falsified evidence. Opponents of "Holocaust denial" have compiled detailed accounts of numerous instances where this evidence has been altered or manufactured (see below, also see Nizkor Project). Evidence presented by Holocaust deniers has also failed to stand up to scrutiny in courts of law (see Fred A. Leuchter and David Irving), as well as never meeting the standards of independent peer-reviewed journals.
Ken McVay, an activist who works to counter such claims on the Internet, described the modus operandi of "Holocaust deniers" in a 1994 interview:
"They'll cite a historical text: 'K.K. Campbell says on page 82 of his famous book that nobody died at Auschwitz.' Then you go to the Library of Congress and look up K.K. Campbell, page 82, and what you find he really said was, 'It was a nice day at Dachau.' They get away with this because they know goddamn well most people don't have time to rush off to the Library of Congress. But people read that and say to themselves, 'Who would lie about such a thing when it's so easy to prove them wrong? They must be telling the truth.'" -- Eye magazine (online Web-based magazine), November 10, 1994
In some cases, while some facts presented are sound, the application of those facts to specific arguments is meaningless or distorted. For example, a plaque placed by the Soviet authorities at Auschwitz read that 4 million people had been killed at the death camp. Western historians never believed that figure, as estimates of the number of people killed at Auschwitz were consistently estimated at 1-1.5 million people. After the fall of the Communist government of Poland, the plaque was changed to 1.1 million victims. Holocaust deniers frequently argue that this proves that the numbers of the Holocaust were exaggerated, when the plaque was never part of any historian's calculations of victims at Auschwitz.
In other cases it appears as though the conflation of facts is used to mislead. A frequently-used photo shows a fairly flimsy gas chamber door. The intent is to confuse the inept reader into believing that gas chambers could not be practically used for extermination, because the victims would break down the door rather than be executed. While the photo is a real gas chamber door, it is not a door that was known to be used on an extermination gas chamber; it is a door likely used on a de-lousing gas chamber.
"Negationism" as anti-Semitism
Many publications and statements by Holocaust deniers have been marked by anti-Semitism. Critics of Holocaust denial have cited many examples where the arguments and proffered evidence have moved from neutral, scholarly presentations to blatant promotion of anti-Semitic ideas and conspiracy theories. As a brief search of the Internet for such terms will reveal, Holocaust deniers have frequently used terms such as "Zionist Collaborator" or "Jew-lover" to describe their opponents. On some internet forums, such as the comments page on YouTube, users claiming to be "revisionists" are so blatantly anti-Semitic that they use terms such as "Zionist liars." On the comments page for a YouTube video titled 'Auschwitz II - The Birkenau Experience: Journey into Hell,' one such user went as far as saying: "Behind every misery, war, lie, deception, bank, greed, and war crime, there is a motherfucking sub-human Jewish retard."
The continuing, persistent efforts by Holocaust deniers to portray mass killings as a mere fiction in the face of overwhelming evidence has led scholars and authorities to question their motives. "Why," it has been asked, "do people deny the Holocaust?" On July 24, 1996, a missive by Harold Covington (the leader of the National Socialist White People's Party) was sent via email to a number of neo-Nazi supporters (many of whom were Holocaust deniers). In this message, Covington explained Holocaust denial in a manner that has been used by its opponents and critics as a definitive answer to the question of why:
"Take away the Holocaust and what do you have left? Without their precious Holocaust, what are the Jews? Just a grubby little bunch of international bandits and assassins and squatters who have perpetrated the most massive, cynical fraud in human history...I recall seeing a television program on revisionism a few years ago which closed with Deborah Lipstadt making some statement to the effect that: the real purpose of Holocaust revisionism is to make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again. I normally don't agree with anything a Jew says, but I recall exclaiming, 'Bingo! Got it in one! Give that lady a cigar!'" -- "On Revisionism" by Harold Covington (writing under the pseudonym Winston Smith), NSNet Bulletin #5, July 24, 1996
Burden of proof
"Holocaust denial" is widely viewed as unreasonable because it has been observed many times that "Holocaust denial," or "negationism," fails to adhere to rules for the treatment of evidence, rules that are recognized as basic to rational inquiry.
To support a proposition or allegation, a claimant must offer evidence. The merits of this evidence, and the conclusion it can support, will depend on its nature; for example, hearsay would not normally be considered good evidence, but an eyewitness account would be. A second-hand story would not, but an official, dated and signed document testifying to the alleged incident would be. After evidence has been adduced, the claimant's case is then considered to have been made, and the evidence can be evaluated. The claimant's burden of proof has been carried. If an interlocutor would then like to call the claimant's evidence into question, that interlocutor will have to make a claim of his own -- for example, that this or that piece of evidence is a forgery. The burden of proof then shifts to the interlocutor, and the standard of proof will be commensurate with the surety with which the original claim was established. The claimant's evidence has, prima facie, whatever force it has in virtue of its merit as evidence. The interlocutor can't simply continue demanding more proof to answer any conceivable skeptical conjecture or hypothetical possibility he can invent to challenge the claimant; this raises the claimant's burden of proof to an unreasonable level.
In the case of the Holocaust, the survivors, eye witnesses, and historians may collectively be considered the claimants. The prevailing consensus among the informed is that their evidence is overwhelming, and that it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the Holocaust occurred, and that it occurred as they say it occurred. It is unreasonable to ask the claimants to prove that their evidence is "really real" any more than they already have, unless there is some particular demonstrably credible reason for thinking that it is suspect. If "negationists" would like to cast doubt on this evidence, the burden of proof shifts to them, and they will have a very high standard to meet. They would have to prove, at least with a balance of probabilities, that the greater part of the entire body of evidence attesting to the Holocaust has been fabricated, misrepresented, or misconstrued by thousands upon thousands of critical evaluators. Until they can do that, they have not satisfied the rules for the treatment of evidence recognized to be integral to reason. In the meantime, "Holocaust denial" will continue to be recognized as an unreasonable position.
All of this makes "negationism" different from conspiracy theories generally speaking, since the latter aspire to play by the rules of evidence, but the evidence they adduce is judged poor. Holocaust deniers attempt to set unreasonable standards for evidence, so that they can judge the historian's evidence as poor. This is why "negationists" portray Holocaust scholarship as a conspiracy theory. Still, Holocaust denial is often accompanied by a conspiracy theory of a different sort, namely that Holocaust scholars are conspiring to depict what they allege to be a fictional event as if it were fact.
Evidence of the Holocaust
Evidence of the existence of the Holocaust was well documented by the heavily bureaucratic German government itself. It was further well documented by the Allied forces who entered Germany and its associated Axis states towards the end of World War II. Among the evidence produced was film and stills of the existence of prisoner camps, as well as the testimony of those freed when the camps were entered.
The Holocaust was a massive undertaking that lasted for years across several countries, with its own command and control infrastructure. Although the Nazis made attempts to destroy the evidence of the Holocaust when they could see that their defeat was imminent, they left many tons of documents relating to the Holocaust. Due to the extremely rapid collapse of the Nazi forces at the end of the war, attempts to destroy evidence in Germany were for the most part unsuccessful.
After their defeat, many tons of documents were recovered, and many thousands of bodies were found not yet completely decomposed, in mass graves near many concentration camps. The physical evidence and the documentary proof included records of train shipments of Jews to the camps, orders for tons of cyanide and other poisons, and the remaining concentration camp structures. Interviews with survivors completed the picture.
As a result of the records produced, all mainstream historians agree that Holocaust denial is contrary to the facts of history.
Evidence for Hitler's complicity in the Holocaust
- Argument: There was no specific order by Adolf Hitler or other top Nazi officials to exterminate the Jews.
Holocaust deniers often cite the fact that there was never a blatant, unquestionable order written or signed by Adolf Hitler that specifically ordered the death of the Jewish populations of Germany or Poland. Critics counter this argument by noting that very few Nazi documents used such obvious terms as "murder" or "death" when addressing their actions. Almost always, they spoke and wrote with suggestive phrases such as "the final solution to the Jewish question" rather than "the destruction of the Jewish people." The most often-cited quotation from Hitler regarding the intention to eliminate the European Jewry comes from his January 30, 1939 speech to the Reichstag, where he is quoted as saying:
- "Today I want to be a prophet once more: If international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war, the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and with it the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe." (Source: )
Provided here is a photographic image of a report from Himmler to Hitler regarding the executions of 363,211 Jewish prisoners in Nazi-occupied Białystok, Poland. This was presented as evidence during the Trials of War Criminals Before the Nürnberg Military Tribunals, of Hitler's knowledge and approval of the executions of Jews and other targeted groups. A translation of the report can be found by clicking on the image.
Evidence that gas chambers were used for killing
- Argument: Nazis did not use gas chambers to mass murder Jews. Small chambers did exist for delousing and Zyklon-B was used in this process.
There have been claims by Holocaust deniers that the gas chambers built to massacre civilians never existed, and the structures identified as gas chambers actually served other purposes.
One such claim, is that the "alleged" gas chambers at Auschwitz where actually morgues. However, much evidence contradicts the assertion that these chambers where in fact morgues. An inventory discovered after the liberation of the Auschwitz camp, revealed fourteen shower heads and one gas-tight door listed for the cellar in Krema III. On top of all of this, a memo prepared by the Auschwitz construction office on March 31, 1943 is available which reads:
"We take this occasion to refer to another order of March 6, 1943, for the delivery of a gas door 100/192 for Leichenkeller 1 of Krema III, Bw 30a, which is to be built in the manner and according to the same measure as the cellar door of the opposite Krema II, with peep hole of double 8 millimeter glass encased in rubber. This order is to be viewed as especially urgent."
"Revisionists" have yet to offer any credible explanation as to why a morgue would have an "urgent" need for 14 shower heads and one gas-tight door equipt with rubber encased peepholes made out of a double layer of 8 millimeter thick glass, especially in a room that is not connected to running water (as pointed out by Jean Claude Pressac.)
To add to this, another document, a memo from the Auschwitz construction office, dated January 29, 1943, explicitly refers to the cellar of Krema II as a "Vergasungskeller," or "gassing cellar," which most likely refers to an underground gas chamber. Holocaust denier Arthur Butz once claimed that "Vergasung" cannot refer to killing people with gas, but only to the process of converting a solid or liquid into gas. Therefore, he says the "Vergasungskeller," must have been a special room where the fuel for the Auschwitz ovens was converted into gas -- a "gasification cellar." However, this is invalid, given the fact that the Auschwitz ovens where fueled using solid fuel, specifically coke, and therefore did not require any gasification processess what so ever.
Due to the fact that this argument has fallen under intense scrutiny and failed to withstand, "revisionists" have started to alter their story. The majority of "revisionists" now claim that gas was not used to murder Jews and other victims, and that many gas chambers were also built after the war just for show. An often-quoted document advancing this theory is the "Leuchter Report" by Fred A. Leuchter, a paper stating that no traces of cyanide were found when he examined samples taken from one of the Auschwitz gas chambers in 1988. This paper is used to further a common debating tactic, namely the suggestion that because no traces of cyanide were found in 1988, then no cyanide was used at all in Auschwitz, over forty years earlier. Even with the difficulty of finding traces of this material 50 years later, in February of 1990, Professor Jan Markiewicz, Director of the Institute of Forensic Research in Kraków, redid the analysis. Markiewicz and his team used microdiffusion techniques to test for cyanide in samples from the suspected gas chambers, from delousing chambers, and from control areas elsewhere within Auschwitz. The control samples tested negative, while cyanide residue was found in both the delousing chambers and the gas chambers. The amount of cyanide found had a great variability (possibly due to 50 years of exposure to the elements to varying degrees), but even so, the categorical results were that cyanide was found where expected, and not in the control samples.
The cyanide used in Auschwitz and other extermination camps was created through activation of the pesticide Zyklon B, which was used to exterminate prisoners by the thousands. Further investigation into the death camps revealed that the most difficult part of the operation was the disposal of thousands of corpses after the executions had taken place; this required the construction of huge ovens to cremate the corpses.
Another claim made by Holocaust deniers is that there were no vents in the gas chambers through which Zyklon B could be inserted, in the words of Leuchter, "No holes - no Holocaust." The BBC offers a response showing that this requires disregard of much documentation:
Deniers have said for years that physical evidence is lacking because they have seen no holes in the roof of the Birkenau gas chamber where the Zyklon was poured in. (In some of the gas chambers the Zyklon B was poured in through the roof, while in others it was thrown in through the windows.) The roof was dynamited at war's end, and today lies broken in pieces, but three of the four original holes were positively identified in a recent paper. Their location in the concrete matches with eyewitness testimony, aerial photos from 1944, and a ground photo from 1943. The physical evidence shows unmistakably that the Zyklon holes were cast into the concrete when the building was constructed.
Another piece of evidence Holocaust deniers frequently question is what happened to the ash after the bodies were cremated (see, for example the IHR's list of questions about the Holocaust). The amount of ash produced in the cremation of a person is about a shoebox full, and disposing of it was not difficult. Aerial photographs of Auschwitz indicate that some ash was piled into the nearby river and marsh, and there is well-documented evidence that other ash was used as fertilizer in nearby fields. Photographs of Treblinka taken by the camp commandant show ash piles being distributed by steam shovels.
A number of other common Holocaust denial claims about gas chambers rely on misdirection, similar to the Auschwitz plaque example given above. For example, the Institute for Historical Review has claimed that Holocaust testimony on gas chambers is unreliable, because, in the words of the IHR: "Hoss said in his confession that his men would smoke cigarettes as they pulled the dead Jews out of the gas chambers ten minutes after gassing. Isn't Zyklon-B explosive? Highly so. The Hoss confession is obviously false." This claim is clearly false, as the Nizkor Project and other sources has pointed out, the minimal concentration of Zyklon-B to be explosive is 56,000 parts per million, while the amount used to kill a human is 300 parts per million, as is evidenced in any common reference guide to chemicals, such as the "The Merck Index" and the "CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics". In fact, the Nazis' own documentation stated "Danger of explosion: 75 grams of HCN in 1 cubic meter of air. Normal application approx. 8-10 grams per cubic meter, therefore not explosive." (Nuremberg document NI-9912)
Another example is the claim that "at Birkenau (part of Auschwitz), on the site of the so-called gas chamber and incinerator, there is not nearly enough rubble to represent the remains of a building that size." Historians point out that after liberation the local Polish farming population returned, and, needing materials to rebuild houses before winter, removed large amounts of re-usable bricks from the ruins. There is by the crematorium site a big pile of waste that the salvagers threw aside as they searched for usable bricks.
The Institute for Historical Review publicly offered a reward of $50,000 for verifiable "proof that gas chambers for the purpose of killing human beings existed at or in Auschwitz." Mel Mermelstein, a survivor of Auschwitz, submitted proof, which was then ignored. He then sued IHR and won the $50,000 reward, plus $40,000 in damages for personal suffering as well as having the court declare the occurrence of the Holocaust a legally indisputable fact.
- External Link: Gassing as a "remedy" for Jews
- External Link: A detailed refutation of the Leuchter-Report
Evidence for the death toll
Argument: The figure of six million Jewish deaths is an irresponsible exaggeration, and many Jews who actually emigrated to Russia, Britain, Israel and the United States are included in the number.
Six million figure
The figure "six million" (which refers only to Jewish victims, and is larger when counting the other ethnic, religious, and minority groups targeted for extinction) is often downgraded by claims to a figure of only one million deaths, or only three hundred thousand "casualties." Numerous documents archived and discovered after the war gave meticulous accounts of the exterminations that took place at the "death camps" (such as Auschwitz and Treblinka). Deniers claim that these documents are based on Soviet propaganda, primarily from Ilya Ehrenburg's Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, and are therefore unreliable.
Complicating the matter is that various instances have been reported where the death tolls of particular death camps were claimed to be overstated. Any possible ambiguity in death toll figures has been seized upon by deniers as evidence for their position. Deniers make the mistake of trying to show that debate on the exact number of deaths is somehow evidence that no one died at all. Nevertheless, the evidence for the large death figures quoted by mainstream sources is overwhelming.
A much-quoted instance of disputing the toll is the "Breitbard Document" (actually a paper by Aaron Breitbart),  which describes a commemorative plaque at Auschwitz to the victims that died there, which read, Four million people suffered and died here at the hands of the Nazi murderers between the years 1940 and 1945. In 1990, a new plaque replaced the old one. It now says, May this place where the Nazis assassinated 1,500,000 men, women and children, a majority of them Jews from diverse European countries, be forever for mankind a cry of despair and of warning. The lower numbers are due to the fact that the Soviets "purposely overstated the number of non-Jewish casualties at Auschwitz-Birkenau," according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Holocaust deniers seize on this discrepancy and insist that the number of Jews killed must be immediately brought down at least 2.5 million. If their presumption that historians had used this statistic to reach their overall estimate was correct and that all demographical statistics where inaccurate they would be partly right, however, they ignore the facts that
- The 4,000,000 figure of the Soviets included almost 2,000,000 non-Jews.
- Historians rarely if at all used the 4,000,000 figure in calculating the total number of Jews killed.
- The widely quoted figure of "six million" was actually achieved through the use of demographical statistics, rather than by tallying the number of casualties per camp.
Deniers consider one of their stronger arguments to be the population of Jews before and after the Holocaust. They claim that the 1940 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 15,319,359, while the 1949 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 15,713,638. In their view this makes it impossible that 6 million Jews died, even given an extremely high birth rate. They therefore claim that either the figures are wrong, or the Holocaust, meaning the deliberate extermination of millions of Jews, cannot have happened.
In fact, contrary to the claims of "revisionists," the 1949 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 11,266,600. Moreover, it revises its estimate of the World Jewish population in 1939 upwards, to 16,643,120. Thus, according to the 1949 World Almanac the difference between the pre and post war populations is approximately 5,376,520.
In addition, rather than using more accurate census figures and other records, Holocaust deniers rely on a popular compendium whose methodology of assessment is unknown, and whose estimates have varied significantly. For example, the 1982 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 14,318,000, while the 1990 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 18,169,000, and the 1996 World Almanac gives the world Jewish population as 13,451,000. Either 3.7 million Jews appeared unnoticed between 1982 and 1990, and then 4.5 million Jews disappeared equally unnoticed between 1990 and 1996, or the World Almanac is not a particularly reliable source for accurate estimates of worldwide Jewish population.
Finally, Holocaust deniers are often very subjective when citing sources; other sources give very different figures for the Jewish population before and after the war. For example, the 1932 American Jewish yearbook estimate the total number of Jews in the world at 15,192,218, of whom 9,418,248 resided in Europe. However, the 1947 yearbook states: "Estimates of the world Jewish population have been assembled by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (except for the United States and Canada) and are probably the most authentic available at the present time. The figures reveal that the total Jewish population of the world has decreased by one-third from about 16,600,000 in 1939 to about 11,000,000 in 1946 as the result of the annihilation by the Nazis of more than five and a half million European Jews. In Europe only an estimated 3,642,000 remain of the total Jewish pre-war population of approximately 9,740,000."
This subjectivity, commonly stemming from biases or selectivity of available sources, usually means that Holocaust deniers often ignore the documents produced by the Nazis themselves, who used figures of between 9 and 11 million for the Jewish population of Europe, as evidenced in the notes of the Wannsee Conference. In fact, the Nazis methodically recorded the ongoing reduction of the Jewish population, as in the Korherr Report, which gave the status of the Final Solution through December, 1942:
The total number of Jews in the world in 1937 is generally estimated at around 17 million, thereof more than 10 million in Europe... From 1937 to the beginning of 1943 the number of Jews, partially due to the excess mortality of the Jews in Central and Western Europe, partially due to the evacuations especially in the more strongly populated Eastern Territories which are here counted as off-going, should have diminished by an estimated 4 million. It must not be overlooked in this respect that of the deaths of Soviet Russian Jews in the occupied Eastern territories only a part was recorded, whereas deaths in the rest of European Russia and at the front are not included at all.... On the whole European Jewry should since 1933, i.e. in the first decade of National Socialist German power, have lost almost half of its population.
The Nazis themselves documented many of their crimes. For example, the Höfle Telegram sent by SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle on January 11, 1943 to SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann in Berlin listed 1,274,166 Jews killed in the four camps of Aktion Reinhard during 1942 alone, while the Korherr Report compiled by an SS statistician, gave a conservative total of 2,454,000 Jews deported to extermination camps or killed by the Einsatzgruppen. The complete status reports of the Einsatzgruppen death squads were found in the archives of the Gestapo when it was searched by the U.S. Army, and the accuracy attested to by the former Einsatzgruppen members who testified during war crime trials and at other times. These reports alone list an additional 1,500,000 or so murders during mass shootings, the vast majority of these victims were Jews. Further, surviving Nazi documentation spells out their plans to murder the Jews of Europe (see the Wannsee Conference), recorded the trains arriving at various death camps, and included photographs and films of many atrocities.
The most telling evidence is the testimony of thousands of survivors of the Holocaust, as well as the testimony of captured Nazi officers at the Nuremberg Trials and other times. Holocaust deniers discount these testimonies claiming that these witnesses were tortured, or that Rudolf Hoess allegedly signed a "blood stained confession" written in a language he did not understand (English) or that the Nuremberg Trial did not follow proper judicial procedures. This argument again ignores publicly available material, including the fact that Hoess's testimony did not consist of merely a signed confession; he also wrote two volumes of memoirs before being brought to trial and gave extensive testimony outside of the Nuremberg proceedings. Further, his testimony agrees with that of other contemporary written accounts by Auschwitz officials, such as Pery Broad, an SS man stationed at Auschwitz while Hoess was the commandant and the diary kept by SS physician at Auschwitz Johann Kremer, as well as the testimony of hundreds of camp guards and victims. The result is that Holocaust deniers have needed to construct an elaborate conspiracy theory involving a massive "Jewish plan" to plant forged documents across the continent of Europe, aided by the torture and forced confession of every captured Nazi officer, soldier, and worker who testified at the war crimes tribunal.
Sonderkommandos provide another key piece of testimony. There were Jewish prisoners who helped march Jews to the gas chambers, and later dragged the bodies to the crematoria. Since they witnessed the entire process, their testimony is vital in confirming that the gas chambers were used for murderous purposes and the scale to which they were used. 
Body disposal arguments
Body Disposal at Auschwitz
- Argument: The facility at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) did not have the means to dispose of the remains of the 1,100,000 alleged victims.
It is commonly claimed by Holocaust deniers that Auschwitz was incapable of disposing of the corpses of the estimated 1.1 million killed at the camp during its operation, so therefore the bodycount needs to be lowered considerably. This argument seldom stands to scrutiny, and is one of the more frequently disputed assertions made by holocaust deniers.
Robert Faurisson propagated a number of similar arguments, beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many of these arguments would be incorporated by Fred Leuchter, in The Leuchter Report. However, The Leuchter Report stood to little scrutiny, and Holocaust deniers turned to body disposal arguments and theories.
It is well known by most historians, that the Auschwitz Construction Agency, known as the Bauleitung, began to upgrade its body disposal system as to increase the camp's body disposal capabilities. In the summer of 1942, the Bauleitung started to build four new crematoria in the Birkenau area of the camp, also known as Auschwitz II. These four crematoria housed 46 coke fired ovens. Kremas II and III each had five triple muffle furnaces (15 ovens in each) while Kremas IV and V each had a single eight muffle furnace (eight ovens in each). Like the six ovens in the Auschwitz main camp, the 46 new ovens were built by the firm of Topf and Sons and used coke as fuel. None of these facts are disputed by deniers or their critics. These 46 new ovens, coupled with the 6 original ovens at Auschwitz I (main camp), made for a total of 52 ovens for Auschwitz-Birkenau, plus the burning pits which would later be employed during the camp's operation. In June of 1943, after the ovens had been in use for several months, a report was prepared by the Bauleitung on the capacity of the crematorium. The report placed the total capacity of all 52 Auschwitz ovens at 4,756 bodies per 24 hour day.
What is largely disputed by deniers is that the Bauleitung expanded the camp's body disposal capacity as to facilitate the industrial mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, mainly Jews, and that the total capacity of all furnaces was as great as the Bauleitung suggested in the June 1943 report. Well known "revisionists" Carlo Mattogno and Arthur Butz give figures of around 1,000 bodies per day as the capacity of the Auschwitz furnaces.
"Revisionists" often theorize that factors other than mass murder account for the expansion of the body disposal facilities. One common theory, first proposed by Carlo Mattogno in 1994, is that typhus epidemics at the camp led to an abnormal death rate among the prisoners, and plans to expand the camps prisoner capacity to 200,000 accounted for the massive upgrades undertaken by the Bauleitung. Although Mattogno and other deniers often argue that a planned expansion of the camp to 200,000 was the main rationale behind the new crematoria, the Bauleitung began negotiating with firms for construction of the four crematoria in July 1942, while the first evidence of the planned expansion, is on August 15.
Obviously a plan to extend the camp's population to 200,000 would not have called for the construction of 46 additional ovens. During the first planned expansion of the Auschwitz camp in the summer of 1941, which called for 130,000 prisoners, there were only two double muffle furnaces, or four ovens in Auschwitz. The only plan for the installation of ovens coinciding with the camp's expansion, was to order another double muffle furnace in September 1941. This may give a true picture of the real cremation needs of the camp.
In 1944, the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp in Austria underwent a similar expansion to the one proposed at Auschwitz, which denier Carlo Mattogno cites as being the catalyst behind the Bauleitung's expansion of the cremation facilities. This expansion made at Mauthausen allowed for the prisoner population to expand from 17,000 to 90,000. The only additions made to camp's crematorium deemed necessary by Mauthausen staff to facilitate this influx of prisoners, included the installation of two ovens to the additional one. Similarly in 1944, the Mauthausen-Gusen Complex expanded from two camps to three camps, and no additional ovens where installed.
A brief examination of the evidence would suggest that typhus would not have been a likely catalyst either. Less than 2.9915% of the deaths registered in the Auschwitz death lists between 1941 and 1945 where attributed to typhus. This is likely attributed to the fact that measures where taken on the part of the Auschwitz staff, to quell the epidemic, including massive delousing operations.
It can be inferred by examining the evidence, that neither the typhus epidemic nor the proposed expansion of the camp where likely catalysts for the new crematorium, contrary to deniers claims. It is also most probable given the evidence, that that the Auschwitz staff was infact preparing for the cremation of several hundred thousand corpses at the very least. This is backed up by various documents, including a letter dated October 13, 1942 from the head of the Bauleitung that reads: "As regards the construction of the new crematorium buildings, it was necessary to start immediately in July 1942 because of the situation caused by the special actions."
It is argued by deniers that "special actions" referred to anti-typhus operations. This is hardly valid, considering that effective measures against typhus would have been available to Auschwitz staff, which would imply that "special actions" involving the expansion of the crematorium would have hardly been necessary. As demonstrated by the available information, an expansion of the camp's prisoner capacity to 200,000 would hardly require the installation of 46 additional ovens in the name of "special actions." The expansion of the crematorium would imply that body disposal problems arose. Considering that body disposal problems where attributed to "the situation caused by the special actions," it can be inferred that "special actions" carried out by Auschwitz staff must have involved mass death on such a scale that it would be necessary to incinerate between 1,000 and 4,756 bodies per 24 hour day, which must imply mass killings.
Body Disposal Elsewhere
- Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Plume (The Penguin Group), 1994.
- Richard J. Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, Basic Books, 2002 (ISBN 0-465-02153-0).
- Holocaust Educational Resource (Nizkor)
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- BBC History
- The Holocaust History Project
- Videos compiled by Holocaust deniers
- False Prophets, Fake Skeptics: Holocaust denial in our time - by New England Skeptical Society, Hajime Tokuno, discusses the style of arguments used by holocaust deniers