UNLIKE THE WRITING OF HISTORY chemistry is an exact
science. Old fashioned historians have always conducted endless learned debates
about meanings and interpretations, and the more indolent among them have
developed a subsidiary
Black Art of dreading between the lines", as a substitute for wading into the archives of World War II documents which are now available in embarrassing abundance.
Recently, however, the more daring modern historians have begun using the tools of forensic science -- carbon-dating, gas chromatography, and simple ink-aging tests -- to examine, and not infrequently dispel, some of the more tenaciously held myths of the twentieth century.
Sometimes the public is receptive to the results, sometimes not. The negative result of the laboratory analysis of the ancient Shroud of Turin is one example: it is not a deliberate fake, perhaps, but nor was it nearly as old as the priests would have had centuries of gullible tourists believe.
It is unlikely that the world's public will be as receptive, yet, to the results of the professional and dispassionate chemical examination of the remains of the wartime Auschwitz concentration camp which is at the centre of this report.
Nobody likes to be swindled, still less where considerable sums of money are involved. (Since 1949 the State of Israel has received over 90 billion Deutschmarks in voluntary reparations from West Germany, essentially in atonement for the "gas chambers of Auschwitz".) And this myth will not die easily: Too many hundreds of millions of honest, intelligent people have been duped by the well-financed and brilliantly successful postwar publicity campaign which followed on from the original ingenious plan of the British Psychological Warfare Executive (PWE,) in 1942 to spread to the world the propaganda story that the Germans were using "gas chambers" to kill millions of Jews and other "undesirables".
As late as August 1943 the head of the PWE minuted the Cabinet secretly that despite the stories they were putting out, there was not the slightest evidence that such contraptions existed, and he continued with a warning that stories from Jewish sources in this connection were particularly suspect.
As a historian I have, on occasion, had recourse to fraud laboratories to test controversial documents for their authenticity. In the late 1960s I discarded certain diaries of Vice Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, offered to myself and the publishers William Collins Ltd., since Messrs. Hehner & Cox Ltd. of the City of London advised me that the ink used for one signature did not exist during the war years. It was I who exposed the "Hitler Diaries" as fakes, at Der Stern's famous international press conference in Hamburg in April 1983.
And yet I have to admit that it would never have occurred to me to subject the actual fabric of the Auschwitz concentration camp and its "gas chambers"--the holiest shrines of this new Twentieth Century religion--to chemical tests to see if there was any trace of cyanide compounds in the walls. The truly astounding results are as set out in this report: while significant quantities of cyanide compounds were found in the small de-lousing facilities of the camp where the proprietary (and lethal) Zyklon B compound was used, as all are agreed, to disinfect the plague-ridden clothing of all persons entering these brutal slave-labour camps, no significant trace whatsoever was found in the buildings which international opinion -- for it is not more than that--has always labelled as the camp's infamous gas chambers. Nor, as the report's gruesomely expert author makes plain, could the design and construction of those buildings have made their use as mass gas- chambers feasible under any circumstances.
For myself shown this evidence for the first time when called as an expert witness at the Zündel trial in Toronto in April 1988, the laboratory reports were shattering. There could be no doubt as to their integrity. I myself would, admittedly, have preferred to see more rigorous methods used in identifying and certifying the samples taken for analysis, but I accept without reservation the difficulties that the examining team faced on location in what is now Poland: chiselling out the samples from the hallowed site under the very noses of the new camp guards. The video tapes made simultaneously by the team--which I have studied--provide compelling visual evidence of the scrupulous methods that they used.
Until the end of this tragic century there will always be incorrigible historians, statesmen, and publicists who are content to believe, or have no economically viable alternative but to believe, that the Nazis used "gas chambers" at Auschwitz to kill human beings. But it is now up to them to explain to me as an intelligent and critical student of modern history why there is no significant trace of any cyanide compound in the building which they have always identified as the former gas chambers.
Forensic chemistry is, I repeat, an exact science.
The ball is in their court.
David Irving London, W. 1 May 1989
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