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Arthur R. Butz archive

Vergasungskeller: Final Chapter?

by Arthur R. Butz

The Nuremberg trials document NO-4473 has been a nagging problem for decades. I have offered three interpretations of the word Vergasungskeller that appears in that document , dated 29 Jan. 1943, from the Auschwitz construction department and dealing with Crematorium II. In order not to be repetitive, I refer the reader to my 1997 paper [1] presenting the third interpretation, whose web version first appeared in August 1996.

My first interpretation, published in 1976 in my book Hoax of the Twentieth Century, was wrong though linguistically correct, and the second was probably wrong. The above mentioned third interpretation was that the Vergasungskeller was a gas shelter, constituting a secondary usage of what was otherwise a Leichenkeller (morgue) in the crematorium. The case that this is the correct solution is now considerably strengthened by accepting something that the orthodox historians have claimed.

I note in passing that the first known interpretation of features of an Auschwitz crematorium, in terms of gas and bomb shelters, was offered by the late Wilhelm Stäglich.[2]

Shortly after the appearance of my gas shelter interpretation of NO-4473, the theory that the crematoria were designed and built with air-raid and gas attack defense in mind was presented in depth and breadth by Samuel Crowell.[3]

In my 1996 web posting, I documented that the meaning of the word Gaskeller is, or at least was in a military or civil defense context, gas shelter. However the word in the document is Vergasungskeller, and criticisms of my gas shelter interpretation raised linguistic objections. For example, the delousing gassings elsewhere at the camp were done in a Vergasungsraum. [4] Even Samuel Crowell expressed discomfort to me over such an interpretation of the word Vergasungskeller but I believed that his research left little room for any other interpretation.

Gas shelters are routine as wartime defense measures, and the Germans were industrious in building them. Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Israel has had a law requiring that every newly constructed domicile have a room equipped as a gas shelter.[5]

Only two months after my web posting, on 16 Oct. 1996, an anonymous article appeared in the French magazine L'autre Histoire. The author was understood at the outset to be Jean-Claude Pressac.[6] The article triumphantly announces (p. 13) the discovery of a Topf company document, dated 17 Feb. 1943, showing that there was a Gaskeller in what was clearly Crematorium II at Auschwitz. Pressac interpreted the Gaskeller as a gas chamber.

The Gaskeller document remained unpublished until 2005, when it was published by the Buchenwald museum, which had been bequeathed Pressac’s papers. The matter is well summarized elsewhere.

The document NO-4473 [7] as it comes to us shows that, when it was reviewed at Auschwitz, the word Vergasungskeller was underlined by hand and Kirschneck! written in the top margin. The orthodox interpretation of the notations has been advanced by Robert Jan van Pelt, Deborah Lipstadt’s expert witness in the 2000 Irving-Lipstadt trial. According to him the notations were intended to draw Kirschneck’s attention to the underlined word because the use of the word Vergasungskeller was a slip that the authorities objected to, because it exposed the criminal intent of the building.[8]

The idea that the construction workers at Auschwitz engaged in a systematic masquerade to conceal evidence of mass exterminations, going about their daily business there while figuratively winking at one another, is both a staple and a necessity of the Holocaust legend, but I consider it completely ridiculous. Could I calculate that the burning down of New York City could be concealed by hiding the matches? Would I calculate that my accomplices would be equally diligent?

However the interpretation of the hand notations as expressing objections to the use of the word Vergasungskeller is completely reasonable, and I wonder why it took me so long to see it. Interpretation of the document must take into account that the critical word is the only word so highlighted. Those who accept van Pelt’s interpretation of the notations thereby also accept the crucial point of my present theory, which is actually just a clarification and reinforcement of the third interpretation referred to above.

My proposal is that we accept that the use of the word Vergasungskeller was in fact inappropriate, and that in the opinion of the management at Auschwitz the word should not have been there. In this restricted sense, van Pelt was right, and critics should thus note that the basis of the present theory does not originate on the revisionist side.

What should have been there does not follow. However, I think it is reasonable to propose that something like Gaskeller or Gasschutzkeller should have been there, because the use of a related concept mitigates the document author’s error, because there was in fact a Gaskeller there, and because of the many other indications we have that the crematoria were designed and built with air-raid and gas attack defense in mind. Those are strong reasons.

I hope this is the final chapter on NO-4473. We appear to have been struggling, I since 1972, with a factually wrong document!

Posted 7 January 2007.


[1] A.R. Butz, The nagging 'gassing cellar' problem, Journal of Historical Review, July/August, 1997; v16 n4 p20.

[2] Wilhelm Stäglich, Der Auschwitz-Mythos: Legende oder Wirklichkeit?, Grabert-Verlag, Tübingen, 1979, p. 79. English tr. The Auschwitz Myth, Institute for Historical Review, 1986, p. 53.

[3] Samuel Crowell. Wartime Germany’s Anti-Gas Air Raid Shelters: A Refutation of Pressac’s 'Criminal Traces', Journal of Historical Review, volume 18 no. 4 (July/August, 1999), p. 7.

[4] Carlo Mattogno, Auschwitz: The End of a Legend, Institute for Historical Review, Newport Beach, CA, 1994, p. 64.

[5] Chicago Tribune, 7 Sept. 1996, sec. 1, p. 2.

[6] I find it intriguing that Pressac may have delivered his swan song as early as 1995, about a year before his L'Autre Histoire article, in an interview which Valérie Igounet published in her 2000 book Histoire du négationnisme en France (pp. 613-652). Since Pressac was allowed to edit the text before its publication it is not clear when he made or wrote the remarks despairing of the irreparable mess of the historiography on the orthodox side.

[7] Copied from an anti-revisionist web page.

[8] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence From the Irving Trial, Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington, 2002, p. 297. In the trial, David Irving was ambiguous on whether the Vergasungskeller was a delousing facility or a gas shelter. The word Gaskeller does not seem to have come up there.

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