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The Holocaust History Project.

Re: I. The Central Construction Office and Himmler's Dismantling Order (174-175)

In this section Rudolf attempts to poison the well by suggesting that there is no evidence that the Nazis tried to destroy evidence about what had occurred in Auschwitz, and that the lack of documents must be the result of Soviet "culling" of the records of the Central Construction Office.

An important question to ask when confronted with a wild allegation like the one offered by Rudolf is this: if it were true that the Russians would have destroyed evidence, what would this evidence have been? Usually, when one searches for evidence, cannot find it, and then assumes that it was destroyed, one has a hypothesis of the nature of this evidence. In our case, we assume that the evidence that was destroyed concerned the mass gassings of Jews in Auschwitz. And our assumption is based on considerable eyewitness testimony that such destruction of evidence occurred, not only at the end of the war, but also during the whole operation. Rudolf does neither offer a hypothesis of the nature of that evidence nor any evidence such as eyewitness testimony that indeed the Russians engaged in such destruction of evidence.

And even Rudolf is right that the Russians had destroyed evidence - and he has offered no more than an unsubstantiated suggestion on this point - the question still remains what about the Poles? Most of the evidence about the war-time history of Auschwitz has been since 1945 in Polish hands. It was collected in 1945 by Judge Jan Sehn, and used during the trials of Rudolf H&oumlss (1946-7) and the Auschwitz SS (1947). Did a Soviet commissar arrive one day in Sehn's office, or for that matter in the archives in Oswiecim, and begin to cull those archives also? And then, if he was so eager to remove evidence of an exclusively benign use of Auschwitz, why did he not go through the effort to produce some useful forgeries using available German typewriters and German paper? Why did the Russians not match their policy of destroying documents with one of producing some incriminating evidence, such as documents discussing the actual (opposed to the planned) cremation rates of the incinerators, or documents prescribing the procedures to be followed when gassing people? Indeed, if the Russians would have bothered at all to cull the archives, one would have expected that they also would have produced some useful documents, and that today we would not be confronted with a total absence of, for example, documents concerning cremation.

In my expert report, I quoted Tauber on the destruction of documents in the crematoria (p. 185 ). For ease of reference, I will reproduce the passage once again.

Facing the entrance gate to the crematorium grounds, in the centre of the building, was a wing in which rubbish was burnt in an incinerator. It was called "Müllverbrennung." It was separate, reached by going down a stairway. It was surrounded by an iron platform and was coal fired. The entrance to the waste incinerator wing faced the crematorium access gate. This wing had, in addition to its entrance door with a transom window over it, two windows, one on the right and one on the left of the entrance. In the left corner of the entrance, there was an opening through which, from a walled-off area on the outside, the objects to be burned were passed inside. The incineration hearth for these things was to the left of the entrance and the firebox on the right. I would point out that it was in this particular furnace that the documents of the Political Section of the camp were always burned. From time to time, the SS would bring whole truckloads of papers, documents and files that had to be burned under their control. During the incineration of these papers, I noticed great stacks of records of dead people and death notices. We were not able to take any of these documents because we were operating under the close and direct surveillance of the SS.

In my report, I also presented what Pery Broad had to say about the destruction of evidence in his 1945 statement:

When information was requested by the Reich Main Security Office concerning a past transport, as a rule nothing could be ascertained. Former transport lists were destroyed. Nobody could learn anything in Auschwitz about the fate of a given person. The person asked for "is not and never has been detained in camp," or "he is not in the files" - these were the usual formulas given in reply. At present, after the evacuation of Auschwitz and the burning of all papers and records, the fate of millions of people is completely obscure. No transport or arrival lists are in existence any more.

Broad's statement was confirmed by Commandant Rudolf H&oumlss, who wrote after the war in a document that was submitted and accepted as evidence in the Eichmann Trial that he had not been allowed to keep records. In my expert report, I quoted H&oumlss's statement that Eichmann was "the only SS officer who was allowed to keep records concerning these liquidation operations, according to the orders of the Reichsführer-SS. All other units which took part in any way had to destroy all records immediately." (p. 306)

Rudolf claims that there is no evidence for Himmler's order to dismantle the extermination installations. I admit that we do not have direct documentary evidence, but we do have powerful circumstantial evidence that converges on the conclusion that he did indeed order the dismantling of those installations. First of all there is the affidavit made by SS-Standartenführer [Colonel] Kurt Becher, made on March 8, 1946 in Oberursal. The crucial part of Becher's affidavit reads as follows:

Sometime between middle September and middle October 1944 I received from Reichsführer Himmler the following order, which I received in two originals, one for SS-Obergruppenführer Kaltenbrunner and one for SS-Obergruppenführer Pohl, and a copy for myself:

"I stop with immediate effect any extermination of Jews and order, in contrast [to that policy] the care of weak and sick persons. I hold you (and with this he referred to Kaltenbrunner and Pohl) personally responsible for this, even if this order is not strictly obeyed by the lower echelons."  77

A second piece of circumstantial evidence is that the great negative publicity generated by the Soviet liberation of Majdanek had caused great embarrassment in Berlin in late October 1944. Majdanek was "a public relations" disaster, and as the "Jewish Question" had been "solved" as much as it was in Himmler's power to do at that time, he could easily order the cessation of gassing in Auschwitz and the dismantling of the extermination installations in the crematoria (see my expert report, p. 133).

The third piece of circumstantial evidence that suggests that Himmler ordered the demolition of the killing installations is that there is substantial eyewitness evidence that selections ceased in Auschwitz, and that these installations were indeed dismantled. Such a radical shift in policy would not have occurred without Himmler's explicit approval.


Last modified:May 23, 2002
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