Awhile back I encountered at a local NYC blog a form of Holocaust Denial that was new to me: the claim that yeah the Holocaust happened and Jews were killed (among other targeted groups, I would add) but there were no gas chambers.
Now you'd expect the Nazi perpetrators to kind of fit in with this denial, but the truth is they don't. In fact they remember family photographs that document the proximity of the gas chambers and they are remembered by their descendants.
Now there are many sources of evidence for the gas chambers. And I have discussed them before.
There are two main sources of evidence in any crime scene, and the gas chambers were, quite simply, massive crime scenes. Those types of evidence are eyewitness testimony and forensics. Good criminal cases are built up using both.
Eyewitness testimony is in itself almost overwhelming. Eyewitness testimony doesn't just come from the perpetrators or inmates so much as liberators who may have misinterpreted what was a crime scene where the perpetrators tried hard to cover their tracks. But there are camps like Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka where the evidence is very strong, where both the number and consistency of eyewitness testimony is overwhelming. You can find eyewitness testimony here in some detail.
Further testimony can be found here:
More confessions by perpetrators can be found here:
And of course an excellent eyewitness testimony by an inmate can be found in Elie Wiesel's Night, where he describes the journey he and his family through the concentration camps.
As the allies closed in on Germany in 1945, there was a concerted effort to destroy evidence. Even before that, in cases where things went wrong the Germans systematically destroyed evidence of their crimes. The prime example of this is the extermination camp at Sobibor which was the scene of one of the very few successful prisoner revolts which led to a mass breakout. To cover up, the Germans dismantled the camp with the stated intent of hiding what had gone on there. This makes it harder to prove by forensics what happened. Archaeological analysis can identify areas that look like they were gas chambers and crematoria and basically give evidence completely consistent with the eyewitness testimony. That alone helps, given the overwhelming and consistent eyewitness testimony from inmates, perpetrators and liberators.
Some of the forensic evidence (documents, film footage, etc) supporting the eyewitness testimony can be found in this article on forensic science used in Holocaust investigation..
Forensics also shows traces of cyanide gas in the very remains that eyewitnesses claim were gas chambers and that archaeology suggests were gas chambers. These chemical data basically prove they were gas chambers. The key study was done by Polish scientists at the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow. The authors are chemists. The first author became Director of the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow.
But there is another bit of evidence that I didn't take into account the last time I wrote about this. The evidence that may not be direct eyewitness testimony but is direct testimony of those who lived in the shadow of and prospered from the extermination camps. BBC News has an article on descendants of Nazi war criminals that directly addresses this issue. From BBC News:
When he was a child Rainer Hoess was shown a family heirloom.
He remembers his mother lifting the heavy lid of the fireproof chest with a large swastika on the lid, revealing bundles of family photos.
They featured his father as a young child playing with his brothers and sisters, in the garden of their grand family home.
The photos show a pool with a slide and a sand pit - an idyllic family setting - but one that was separated from the gas chambers of Auschwitz by just a few yards....
His grandfather Rudolf Hoess (not to be confused with Nazi deputy leader Rudolf Hess), was the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. His father grew up in a villa adjoining the camp, where he and his siblings played with toys built by prisoners.
It was where his grandmother told the children to wash the strawberries they picked because they smelled of ash from the concentration camp ovens.
So family members not only admit to the existence of the gas chambers, but washed their produce because of the ashes that came from the crematoria,,,I mean how much more evidence does anyone need??? Eyewitness testimony from BOTH sides, forensic evidence, AND documentary evidence running through the families descended from the war criminals.
It is rare that you get such clear evidence of a crime!
Recently I got into an argument on Room 8 with a Holocaust denier who at least was willing to admit some aspects of the Holocaust happened, but denied that there ever were actual gas chambers and crematoria. Like arguing with Creationists, 9/11 Truthers and Global Warming deniers, arguing with Holocaust deniers is frustrating work...and never gets you very far. Yet I am the sort who cannot stand letting lies and misinformation stand unchallenged.
The misconception that concentration camps didn't have gas chambers, Stormfront holocaust denial aside, first arose because people expect all concentration camps to be the same. Since many concentration camps have no sign of gas chambers, people started to believe that none of them did. The gas chambers were part of the dedicated extermination camps where work was only secondary and extermination the primary role of the camp. Many concentration camps reversed that priority...death of the inmates was considered a good thing, but using them as slave labor was primary. Gas chambers were used at the extermination camps. These were mostly in the East in places like Poland, so the main US, UK and French military advances liberated mainly concentration camps where slave labor and oppression were the dominant themes while the Soviets liberated most of the extermination camps. Neo-Nazis often claim that Eisenhower, Churchill and de Gaulle never mentioned liberating gas chambers and claim that shows they didn't exist. This claim completely ignores that it was primarily the Soviet army that liberated the extermination camps that had gas chambers. So that Neo-Nazi claim is easily contradicted.
A breakdown of the main concentration camps and their primary purposes can be found here:
The definitive book on Nazi Germany is the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. I recommend this book to ANYONE who wants to know just how and why Hitler's regime could come into existence. Shirer was a direct witness to some of the rise of Hitler and he describes the era in extreme detail, including the evolution of the concentration camps from mainly housing political prisoners to ultimately being part of the Final Solution, complete with dedicated extermination camps with gas chambers. Shirer's analysis used every scrap of evidence available at the time, meaning the one flaw in the book is that Soviet records were not available at the time, giving the Eastern Front a more sketchy coverage than what happened in the West and in Germany itself. But it still gives most of what you need to know about the policies towards the Jews. Even though I am up on my history of Nazi Germany I learned a lot from this book.
There are two main sources of evidence in any crime scene, and the gas chambers were, quite simply, massive crime scenes. Those types of evidence are eyewitness testimony and forensics. Good criminal cases are built up using both. read more »