the actual evidence to prove the Nazis operated homicidal gas chambers,
is virtually non-existent. Following are a few of their admissions of this fact:
"Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable." (A)
"Most of what is known is based on the depositions of Nazi officials and executioners at postwar trials and on the memory of survivors and bystanders. This testimony must be screened carefully, since it can be influenced by subjective factors of great complexity." (B)
"In the meantime, there is no denying the many contradictions, ambiguities, and errors in the existing sources." (C)
on the Holocaust, appeared as an expert witness at the 1985 trial of Revisionist Ernst Zundel,
during which Hilberg had the following exchange with Douglas Christie, Zundel's barrister:
"Can you give me one scientific report that shows the existence of gas chambers anywhere in Nazi-occupied territory?" defence counsel Doug Christie asked Hilberg in a day-long rapid fire of cross-examination.
"I am at a loss," Hilberg replied.
"You are (at a loss) because you can't," Christie said.
(Interviewer:) "By allowing nature to take over the site (Auschwitz-Birkenau), do we run the risk of allowing humanity to forget what happened and set the stage for future questioning of the Holocaust?(van Pelt:) Ninety-nine per cent of what we know we do not actually have the physical evidence to prove . . . it has become part of our inherited knowledge."
"In particular, the documentation of mass killing by shooting in the territories occupied by Germany after June 1941 is quite extensive, while documents relating to gassing in Poland is scant. For gassing, therefore, witness testimony and circumstantial evidence play a much larger role."
references during the trial and in his judgment, to the lack of evidence for gas chambers:
"The consequence of the absence of any overt documentary evidence of gas chambers at these camps, coupled with the lack of archaeological evidence, means that reliance has to be placed on eye witness and circumstantial evidence."
"In the absence of any “direct”, i.e. palpable, indisputable and evident proof (lacking so far as we know at present) such as a photograph of people killed by a toxic gas in an enclosed space that can be perfectly located and identified, or of a label on a Krematorium drawing of a “Gaskammer um Juden zu vergiften / gas chamber for poisoning Jews” an “indirect” proof may suffice and be valid. By “indirect”, proof, I mean a German document that does not state in black and white that a gas chamber is for HOMICIDAL purposes, but one containing evidence that logically it is impossible for it to be anything else."
"The possibility exists that some of these witnesses invented some or even all of the experiences which they describe. Irving suggested the possibility of cross-pollination, by which he meant the possibility that witnesses may have repeated and even embellished the (invented) accounts of other witnesses with the consequence that a corpus of false testimony is built up. Irving pointed out that parts of some of the accounts of some of the witnesses are obviously wrong or (like some of Olère’s drawings) clearly exaggerated. He suggested various motives why witnesses might have given false accounts, such as greed and resentment (in the case of survivors) and fear and the wish to ingratiate themselves with their captors (in the case of camp officials). Van Pelt accepted that these possibilities exist. I agree."
"most of the memoirs and reports are full of preposterous verbosity, graphomanic exaggeration, dramatic effects, overestimated self-inflation, dilettante philosophizing, would-be lyricism, unchecked rumors, bias, partisan attacks and apologies."
"Three classes or kinds of evidence were presented to us. (see link for first & second types)... The third kind of evidence was what may be called the common knowledge of the camp, that is to say, evidence of things done in the camp which were not done publicly but which, nevertheless, all prisoners were aware of. This is similar to certain knowledge possessed by prisoners generally in legitimate institutions like State penitentiaries. These prisoners, from custom and experience, from the conversation with the guards and among themselves, and from a very plain and almost mathematical kind of circumstantial evidence, have accurate knowledge of certain things which they have not actually seen with their own eyes. The prisoners at the camps speak about these things as though they had actually seen them. It was the unanimous opinion of our committee after talking to hundreds of prisoners that this third kind of evidence was often as accurate and reliable as the two kinds of direct evidence above referred to. An example of this kind of evidence will be found in that part of our report dealing with the torture chamber at Buchenwald, where no one actually saw the strangulations perpetrated in this chamber, but where the circumstantial evidence of it was so complete and clear as to leave no doubt in the mind of anyone."
to the Congress of the United States Relative to Atrocities and Other Conditions in Concentration Camps in Germany
"A certain degree of reserve is necessary in handling all this material, and particularly this applies to the last section ("survivor narratives"). For instance, the evidence concerning the Polish death camps was mainly taken after the war by Polish State Commissions or by the Central Jewish Historical Commission of Poland. The hardy survivors who were examined were seldom educated men. Moreover, the Eastern European Jew is a natural rhetorician, speaking in flowery similes."
"Survivor accounts of critical events are typical of all testimony, that is, they are full of discrepancies. About all matters both trivial and significant, the evidence is nearly always in dispute. In part the unreliability of these accounts derives from imperfect observation and flawed memory, but in larger part from the circumstance that they are not constructed exclusively on the basis of firsthand experience. In order to present a coherent narrative, the author has likely included a large measure of hearsay, gossip, rumor, assumption, speculation, and hypothesis."
"It is natural and obvious that the most substantial material for the reconstruction of truth about the camps is the memories of the survivors. Beyond the pity and indignation these recollections provoke, they should also be read with a critical eye. For knowledge of the Lagers (camps), the Lagers themselves were not always a good observation post: in the inhuman conditions to which they were subjected, the prisoners could barely acquire an overall vision of their universe. The prisoners; above all those who did not understand German, might not even know where in Europe their Lager was situated, having arrived after a slaughterous and tortuous journey in sealed boxcars. They did not know about the existence of other Lagers, even those only a few kilometers away. They did not know for whom they worked. They did not understand the significance of certain sudden changes in conditions, or of the mass transfers. Surrounded by death, the deportee was often in no position to evaluate the extent of the slaughter unfolding before his eyes. The companion who worked beside him today was gone by the morrow: he might be in the but next door, or erased from the world; there was no way to know. In short, the prisoner felt overwhelmed by a massive edifice of violence and menace but could not form for himself a representation of it because his eyes were fixed to the ground by every single minute's needs."
camp survivors who testified at the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem:
"the prosecution called upon a writer, well known on both sides of the Atlantic under the name of K-Zetnik—a slang word for a concentration-camp inmate—as the author of several books on Auschwitz that dealt with brothels, homosexuals, and other "human interest stories." He started off, as he had done at many of his public appearances, with an explanation of his adopted name. It was not a "pen name," he said. "I must carry this name as long as the world will not awaken after the crucifixion of the nation ... as humanity has risen after the crucifixion of one man." He continued with a little excursion into astrology: the star "influencing our fate in the same way as the star of the ashes at Auschwitz is there facing our planet, radiating toward our planet." And when he had arrived at "the unnatural power above Nature" which had sustained him thus far, and now, for the first time, paused to catch his breath, even Mr. Hausner (barrister for the prosecution) felt that something had to be done about this "testimony," and, very timidly, very politely, interrupted: "Could I perhaps put a few questions to you if you will consent?" Whereupon the presiding judge saw his chance as well: "Mr. Dinoor, please, please, listen to Mr. Hausner and to me." In response, the disappointed witness, probably deeply wounded, fainted and answered no more questions."
This, to be sure, was an exception, but if it was an exception that proved the rule of normality, it did not prove the rule of simplicity or of ability to tell a story, let alone of the rare capacity for distinguishing between things that had happened to the story teller more than sixteen, and sometimes twenty, years ago, and what he had read and heard and imagined in the meantime. These difficulties could not be helped, but they were not improved by the predilection of the prosecution for witnesses of some prominence, many of whom had published books about their experiences, and who now told what they had previously written, or what they had told and retold many times."
"For the scientific historian a witness statement does not represent real history. It is an object of history. A witness statement counts for little, many witnesses' statements count for no more, if there is no solid document to support them. One could say without much exaggeration, the principle of scientific historiography is, No paper(s), no proven facts."source
"The postwar German government provided compensation to Jews who had been in ghettos or camps. Many Jews fabricated their pasts to meet this eligibility requirement. "If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one," my mother used to exclaim, "who did Hitler kill?" Indeed, many scholars have cast doubt on the reliability of survivor testimony."