We wanted to head our comment to this section "SMOKE INSTEAD OF ARGUMENTS", but then realized that this heading fits the whole of our opponents' "response", and thus dropped the heading.
In this section, our esteemed opponents have once again returned to the topic of the war-time aerial photos of Birkenau, albeit from a very different angle than the one from which they originally broached the subject.
Here the Negationists quietly recognize something that their argument is about to obscure - that we, the Veritas team, cited this particular Allied aerial photograph only in direct response to a specific claim made by them. Yet later they refer to this photograph as a "Rorschach tests for Holocaust Belief", obscuring this context with the implication that we presented this item on our own initiative as singular proof of our overall case, falsely attributing to us the claim that this evidence serves in itself to prove something which it clearly does not show.NT: In response to our Allied aerial photograph from May, 1944 which shows no feverish activity consistent with the liquidation of the Hungarian Jews, Veritas presents an aerial photograph of Birkenau released recently by British Intelligence that purports to show smoke from the open-air burning of bodies behind Krema V.
They are, in effect, employing the same fallacy in the treatment of our argument as we had exposed in refuting their original argument. They are concerned only with what a given piece of evidence can't tell us, using this as a pretext to ignore completely what it can. Such a methodology is not used by someone engaged in a serious investigation of the truth. As there is no such thing as an item of evidence that does not, if taken in isolation, leave unanswered questions, such a methodology is only for those trying to make evidence go away.
In the next paragraph they add a whiff of a silly conspiracy theory:
"Wondering" does not amount to arguing or proving, hence this little bit of empty rhetoric does not merit serious response. We point out, however, what Brugioni and Poirer wrote in their study:One wonders why these wartime aerial photographs were not released to the public or published decades earlier. In any case, one cannot precisely tell what is being burned here.
Their statement indicates that, quite simply, they were the first who had the idea to search for these photos, which had already been unclassified by that time. That answers our opponents' question.[...]Our interest in the subject of Nazi concentration camps was rekindled by the television presentation "Holocaust." In the more than thirty years since VE Day, 8 May 1945, much has happened to these camps. Some, like Treblinka, have been completely obliterated; others, such as Dachau and Auschwitz, have been partially preserved as memorials.
Aerial reconnaissance was an important intelligence tool and played a significant role in World War II. We wondered whether any aerial photography of these camps had been acquired and preserved in government records. If imagery was available, we thought it likely that the many sophisticated advances in optical viewing, and the equipment and techniques of photographic interpretation developed at the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) in recent years would enable us to extract more information than could have been derived during World War II.
We faced two immediate problems as we began our investigation. We knew that the cameras carried by World War II reconnaissance aircraft were limited to about 150 exposures of Super-XX Aerocon film per camera and that this film resolved about 35 lines per millimeter. The film was exposed at "point" rather than "area" targets which were selected for their strategic or tactical importance. Thus, when the reconnaissance aircraft approached the target, the pilot or aerial photographer would switch on the cameras shortly before reaching the target and then turn them off again as soon as the target was imaged. There was nothing like the broad area coverage which modern photoreconnaissance makes available to the photo researcher. To find photos of a concentration camp, therefore, we would have to identify one which was located close to a target of strategic interest.
Since the Nazi concentration camp system was so widespread, we also had the immediate chore of narrowing the scope of the investigation to manageable proportions. Our research revealed that the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination complex was only 8 kilometers from a large I. G. Farben synthetic oil and rubber manufacturing facility. We knew that oil and rubber production plants were high on the Allied bombing list. Auschwitz, then, in addition to providing us with a high degree of name recognition, offered a strong probability of having been filmed as a by-product of tactical reconnaissance. Our research soon produced positive results.
The Defense Intelligence Agency, which is the custodian of World War II aerial reconnaissance records, was given the coordinates for Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Poland, through NPIC's film distribution and control center. DIA ran a computer search against the coordinates within the time frame we had selected and produced a printout of all the unclassified photographic references to film stored in the National Archives' records center at Suitland, Maryland. From this list we were able to order the photography we desired sent to NPIC for photographic analysis. On off-duty hours, we examined all the available unclassified aerial imagery for evidence of the Holocaust at Auschwitz. [...][emphases ours]
We will return to the question of what was burned there shortly. But first let's examine the question of what these photos show or should show.
For some reason, Negationists do not specify exactly what "feverish activity" we should expect to see on the May 1944 photo (or any other aerial photo of Birkenau, for that matter). Thus they leave the unwary reader with impression that they have said something, when, in fact, they have said nothing at all. The only "argument from ignorance" being invoked, here, then, is theirs - another baseless "coulda, woulda, shoulda" where absence of what "Revisionists", in their ignorance, decide they "would expect" is deemed evidence of absence. But most of this "feverish activity" would have taken place out of sight of aerial cameras, concealed by the walls and roofs of crematoria and gas chambers. We could only hope to see how the people are led in the direction of the gas chambers, and, perhaps, some smoke from chimneys or open pits (it is not entirely clear whether the smoke from the chimneys should be visible on any aerial photos, but for the sake of the argument we will assume that it should). Basically, NT's argument is reduced to the presence or absence of the smoke from cremated bodies on the aerial photos. Since photos clearly do show smoke from the open pits, but no smoke from the chimneys, their argument rests on the smoke from crematoria's chimneys only. "No smoke from the chimneys, no Holocaust", as "Revisionist" guru Faurisson might have said.
The usual arguments of "Revisionists" concerning the aerial photos usually rest on several unstated assumptions. Let's try to list them all:
1) People were gassed each day.
2) The bodies were necessarily burned right after the gassing.
3) The bodies were always burned in crematoria.
4) The photos were necessarily taken after gassings, during the cremation.
Assumptions 1 and 3 are false. Assumptions 2 and 4 are unsubstantiated. Needless to say, that even if one assumption is unjustified, "Revisionists" have no case.
For our analysis of these photos we will use Danuta Czech's "Auschwitz Chronicle, 1939-1945" (1990, Henry Holt and Company, Inc.) as our guide. We will also use the opinions of the following experts in aerial imagery: Dino A. Brugioni and Robert C. Poirer ("The Holocaust Revisited: A Retrospective Analysis of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex", 1979, Washington, D.C.) and Carroll L. Lucas ("An Analysis of the Auschwitz-I, II / Birkenau Complex", in John Zimmerman, 2000, "Holocaust denial: demographics, testimonies and ideologies", pp. 276ff. ).
The Veritas team is aware of the following aerial photos of Birkenau made in 1944 before the gassings ceased: photos made by Allied planes on May 31, June 26, July 26, August 23, August 25 and September 13, and photo made by Luftwaffe on July 8. Let's examine their content and historical context one by one.
May 30: unspecified number of Hungarian Jews are gassed
May 31: unspecified number of Hungarian Jews are gassed.
What the photo shows: "The resolution of the photography does not allow the detection of individual persons, however groups of people cast a shadow that is easily detected if it is not obscured by obstructions, and the shadows are cast upon a light smooth surface such as a road. [...] Within the perimeter of the complex, 21 separate formations of people can be observed. The formations are of different size and shape, some lined up alongside of barracks, and some marching down the various roads to unknown destinations. [...] A long thin smoke plume can be observed emanating from disturbed earth alongside a long rectangular building adjacent to the northwestern perimeter of the Birkenau complex. The plume is drifting to the northwest and is most noticeable where it crosses over the perimeter fence. This building has been identified as Crematorium IV in several reports. [...] The 31 May 1944 photography provides evidence that what has been identified as Crematorium IV may not be functional, but activity in the form of smoke, adjacent to the building, is consistent with collateral data on body disposal by incineration prior to the crematoriums becoming functional. [...] Situated within the northwestern perimeter of the Birkenau complex, across the road from a line of barracks and adjacent to, but south of, the two buildings designated as Crematoria IV &V, are series of narrow trenches excavated in echelon within a large area of bare soil. Twelve of the trenches (having a total length of approximately 800 feet) are open, whereas another 9 trenches (totaling approximately 650 feet) appear to have been filled in. The open trenches appear to be shallow but precisely oriented, with little scattered soil. They appear to have been dug by hand, with the excavated soil stored between the trenches. These have all the appearances of hand dug, mass grave sites used to dispense the residue from the adjacent crematoria. Outside the Birkenau complex, situated in a vegetated area near the northwest corner of perimeter fence, are four, possibly five large, recently bulldozed, linear excavations. They are connected to the complex by a bulldozed trail leading to, and through, the perimeter fence to the area of the above mentioned hand dug trenches. The total length of these excavations is between 1,200 and 1,500 feet. All appear to have been recently covered over, since no shadows are evident. These excavations have the classic appearance of a mass grave site, and their connection with the trenches within the perimeter fence lends credence to their affiliation with the crematoria" (Lucas).
NT uses only this photo because it was made during the time when from 9,000 to 12,000 Hungarian Jews per day were arriving at Auschwitz, and from 6,000 to 11,000 of them were murdered (the numbers are not exact, of course). The plume of smoke most probably comes from the burning of the corpses of the Jews gassed on May 30, and Jews from the transports that have arrived on May 31 are to be gassed and/or burned yet. It is reasonable to assume that most of the bodies were burned in pits near Krema V (where we see the smoke) and near the bunker 2. Chimneys don't smoke either because most of the bodies have been already burnt (and the remaining corpses are burned in the pits) and thus Kremas are no longer working, or because they were photographed during the maintenance period (ovens required at least 3 hours of maintenance each day).
June 25: no gassings mentioned.
June 26: no gassings mentioned.
What the photo shows: open pits.
Since no gassings are mentioned for June 26 or the day before, probably we wouldn't expect any smoke on the photo.
July 7: unspecified number of Hungarian Jews are gassed.
July 8: no gassings mentioned.
What the photo shows: smoke coming from the pit northwest of Krema V.
The smoke probably comes from the burning of the bodies of the Hungarian Jews gassed on July 7.
July 25: 51 prisoners are gassed.
July 26: no gassings mentioned.
We're not aware of any published version of this photo. It is mentioned by Brugioni and Poirer: "Imagery acquired on 26 July 1944 added little new information to the study. The first evidence of Allied bombing at the I. G. Farben complex and a very large transport of prisoners in Birkenau could be identified. While an overall view of the complex was obtained, the exceptionally small scale of the imagery precluded detailed interpretation". Thus we shouldn't necessarily expect to see the smoke on this photo not only because the bodies of 51 gassed prisoners were probably quickly burned on July 25, but because the scale of this photo is "exceptionally small".
August 22: at least 759 Jews from Mauthausen are killed in the gas chambers.
August 23: no gassings mentioned.
What the photo shows: the large plume of smoke.
The smoke probably comes from the burning of the bodies of the Jews gassed on August 22.
August 24: unspecified number of Jews from Lodz ghetto are gassed.
August 25: probably about 1,500 prisoners are gassed in Krema II (aerial photo is given as a source).
What the photo shows: "The classification yard outside of the Birkenau complex is operational and busy, containing well over 100 rail cars. The receiving yard appears as busy as the June coverage. The rail spur to, and the rail yard within, the Birkenau complex are now complete and operational. Approximately 33 freight cars are aligned on the main rail. Two short formations and one long irregular formation of personnel are moving west along the northern edge of the yard toward an open gate to one of the buildings identified by collateral as Crematorium II. The total length of these formations is approximately 200 feet. [...] There is no evidence of smoke emanating from that portion of Birkenau covered by the good quality photography and no evidence of mass grave sites, new construction, or dismantling activities. There is no activity around the three crematoriums that were covered by the good photography" (Lucas).
Most probably, the bodies of the gassed Jews from the Lodz ghetto were incinerated on the same day (August 24) and we shouldn't necessarily expect any smoke on the photo. Brugioni and Poirer say that the line of prisoners is headed to the Krema II gate to be gassed, but we can't be sure of that. Even if these people were gassed, they were gassed (and cremated) later, thus we don't expect to see any smoke yet.
September 12: 300 Jewish children from Kaunas are gassed.
September 13: Probably about 1,500 prisoners are gassed in Krema IV (aerial photo is given as a source).
What the photo shows: "The classification yard near Birkenau appears active and contains well over 100 rail cars. [...] One long line of possibly double filed personnel appear to be heading north along a road from the main gate, outside of, but parallel to, the eastern perimeter of the complex. It stretches for approximately 675 feet. Another long line of people, probably in single file, appear to be moving north along the central main road within the complex, away from the rail yard. It is approximately 750 feet long. A third line of marchers, probably two abreast, appear to be crossing the road that separates the occupied half of the complex from the part under construction. The formation appears to be approximately 200 feet long. Perpendicular to that line is another probable two column formation stretching east/west along the above mentioned road. It is approximately 400 feet long. It is interesting to note that these lines of personnel were marching along during an air raid" (Lucas). "A huge transport of some 85 boxcars is present at the Birkenau railhead. Details of the compound, including the expansion into Section III necessitated by the large influx of Hungarian Jews, were observed. A large column of prisoners, estimated at some 1,500 in number, is marching on the camp's main north-south road. There is activity at Gas Chamber and Crematorium IV, and its gate is open; this may be the final destination of the newly arrived prisoners" (Brugioni & Poirer).
Most probably the bodies of 300 Jewish children were quickly burned on September 12. If Brugioni's and Poirer's guess that the line of about 1,500 people may be marching towards Krema IV is correct, then, again, we don't expect to see the smoke yet, as the people are not yet gassed.
Thus we see that the absence of the smoke from the Krema chimneys on the small number of aerial photos disproves nothing in the historical record of Auschwitz-Birkenau. But the photos do contain details that strongly corroborate eyewitnesses' accounts. They show mass graves, pits and large plumes of smoke near Kremas IV and V.
We thank our opponents for providing us with Carlo Mattogno's article "Flames and Smoke from the Chimneys of Crematoria". Indeed, this article nicely corroborates eyewitness testimony about fires and smoke from Krema chimneys:
The above arguments do not mean that no flames would ever have come from these chimneys; we merely argue that the phenomenon is not directly related to the incineration, i.e., to the burning of corpses. As opposed to this aspect, the phenomenon may well occur as an indirect side-effect of the incineration, i.e., as a result of the combustion of the coke used as a fuel for these furnaces.
It is well known that under conditions of incomplete combustion carbonaceous fuels will produce carbon particles, which will deposit on the walls of the smoke ducts in the form of soot. Under appropriate conditions (if the soot layer is sufficiently thick and the temperature sufficiently high) the soot will ignite and flames will indeed emanate from the chimney.
In pre-war times, when the average European household was using wood, coke, or coal almost exclusively for home-heating, such cases were so common that the phenomenon was, on occasion, produced intentionally for scientific studies. For instance, in early 1933, such experiments were carried out in a nearly abandoned four-story building in Berlin. A diagram shows that 95 minutes after the ignition of the soot on the first floor one meter above ground level the combustion temperature of the soot in the smokestack reached 1060°C. This is not really surprising, for soot consists of carbon having an ignition temperature of 700°C.
Thus witnesses who described the emergence of the flames and smoke from the chimneys were correct, and those "Revisionists" who claimed that chimneys did not smoke or could not produce flames were wrong.Experience shows that the smoke is caused
- either because the combustion gases are cooled down too much in the recuperator or in the flue, to the point that there is no after-burning,
- or because of an inability of the smokestack to handle the gases (as asserted by Keller),
- or (as was the case in the first electric oven built by Topf for the Erfurt crematorium) because the draft in the chimney is too high, causing coal particles, which constitute the visible smoke and the soot, to leave the smokestack unburnt.
With respect to the specific topic of the Topf ovens at Auschwitz, it would be technically erroneous and in contradiction with obvious facts to maintain that they did not smoke.
Of course, Mattogno wouldn't be a "Revisionist" if he didn't try to put his own spin on obvious facts. He writes concerning the chimney flames:
If Mattogno's statements in part 1 of his article are correct, they only prove that Tauber had an incorrect understanding about the relation between the phenomenon in question and the incineration of corpses. It does not affect his credibility as an eyewitness in the least.Obviously, this phenomenon will not occur continuously, but only at times, because it depends essentially on the accumulation of a sufficiently thick layer of soot, and that requires some time. It is clear that this phenomenon is unrelated to the reports of eyewitnesses who speak of flaming smokestacks as a direct consequence of the incineration of corpses. The most telling of such statements is that of Henryk Tauber who declared on 24 May 1945:
"It was possible to charge up to eight 'muselmans' [in one muffle]. Such big charges were incinerated without the knowledge of the head of the crematorium during air raid warnings in order to attract the attention of airmen by having a bigger fire emerging from the chimney"
The purpose of such false statements was obviously to give credence to the falsehoods concerning the mass incineration of purportedly gassed victims, such gigantic incinerations causing flames to shoot from the smokestacks.
For some reason our esteemed opponents still do not see photographic evidence as compelling:
It is curious that Negationists themselves mention the presence of trash incinerators in Kremas II and III. This fact lessens the probability of their explanation - there would be no reason to burn trash in the open. But even that is beside the point.NT: As Krema IV and V were located near the Kanada section of the camp, where baggage and valuables were stored, sorted, recycled, or disposed of, we do not see any reason to suppose that it must necessarily be the burning of bodies. The Sauna or camp delousing installation is located near here as well. It might as well be trash burning, or infested clothing from cadavers that is not destined for fumigation and recycling. We know that garbage was incinerated in the trash incinerators inside each of the chimney structures of Kremas II and III.
Of course, the Negationists are once again engaged in the well-worn "Revisionist" tactic of straw-man building. If they can't refute normative history, or their opponent's arguments, at least they can try to misrepresent them into something silly so as to at least appear to be scoring points against absurdities of their own creation. But it might well benefit the reader to recollect the precise circumstances under which the evidence the NT is challenging was first brought to the table. The Negationists had cited a single aerial photo, taken some time during the Hungarian action, and claimed that the lack of activity on this photo stood as evidence against the theory that mass gassings were being undertaken during that period. Veritas' response was presented simply to highlight the absurdity of this argument. Once again, as with the eyewitnesses, the Negationists were demanding that a piece of evidence provide information that, by its nature, it was ill equipped to provide, then drawing spacious conclusions from its failure to do so. Just as eyewitnesses, as flawed human beings, cannot be faulted for their failure to reliably testify to intricate details such as ventilation systems and the medical properties of HCN, a photograph is capable of recording only a single moment in time from a single vantage point. Therefore, drawing conclusions about a broad range of activities during the whole of May, 1944 based only on what a single isolated photograph does not show is the act of a very shoddy researcher.NT: Even if this is the open-air burning of cadavers, and does corroborate the famous Sonderkommando "spaghetti" photograph, we know that the crematoria ovens were frequently broken down. Krema IV appears to have been defective and hardly to have worked at all, for example.
According to Revisionist Carlo Mattogno, "Flames and Smoke from the Chimneys of Crematoria: Optical Phenomena of Actual Cremations in the Concentration Camps of the Third Reich," The Revisionist v. 2:1 (2004), pp. 73-78, the crematories might produce smoke when operational. Since no smoke from the crematories is observable, it is possible that all were broken down at the same time and they are burning cadavers in the photo or the Germans are simply burning trash.
We are not disputing the occasional open-air cremation of bodies, particularly before sufficient crematoria capacity was constructed, nor that human remains can be found forensically at the camp.
What we dispute is the Genocide of millions, primarily employing homicidal gaschambers. We feel that the forensic analyses come far short of quantifying the remains in a manner consistent with this primary claim.
In particular, what is more important than an aerial picture showing smoke is the LACK of it in all the other pictures available, including the one from May, 1944 at the height of the Hungarian action. We therefore consider these photographs inconclusive to the topic question, that thousands were murdered in homicidal gaschambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Fuzzy pictures, while interesting and (unfortunately) rare, serve mainly as Rorschach tests for Holocaust Belief.
The Veritas team introduced a second aerial photo simply to illustrate this point, for this second photo contained several elements consistent with eyewitness testimony the lack of which in the first photo caused the Negationist Team to draw its hasty and unwarranted conclusions. What does the Negationist team do then? Barely even making reference to their earlier argument, the absurdity of which stood exposed, they respond to this second photograph as though we had portrayed it, in itself, as proof of our case - in effect, mischaracterizing the context in which this evidence was presented and ridiculing us for an argument we never made.
Though perhaps it is hasty for us to accuse them of intentional subterfuge. This treatment of our argument may just as well stem from their constitutional failure to understand how evidence is approached in a real historical inquiry. In their world, if a single piece of evidence cannot single-handedly prove the whole of the case - if an item, in isolation, leaves any unanswered questions - it is entirely worthless. Therefore, in such a world, it makes perfect sense for them to presume that we think that every item of evidence we present itself proves the whole of the case to that standard. They are incapable of seeing items of evidence as pieces of a puzzle, each with their own strengths, each adding new and different segments to the overall picture, each supporting and corroborating each other (which is, perhaps, why they have not even bothered to try and challenge our argument to that effect).
In other words, no, the Veritas Team does not claim that an aerial photograph showing smoke coming from the vicinity of Krema V proves, in and of itself, that it was the bodies of gassed Jews being burned. However, we do claim that the Negationist Team is being manipulative if they are implying that this is the only item of evidence that has been presented further to that conclusion. Once again, Negationists are unable to grasp the simple idea such as underlies any historical inquiry: by themselves, none of the facts that we present prove the existence of homicidal gas chambers. Only taken together do they conclusively prove that there were such chambers. Of course we don't know from the photo itself what is being burned there. But when we look at these photos in connection with:
1) the documentary evidence showing which days transports of Jews did and did not arrive at Auschwitz;
2) the testimonies of numerous witnesses relating to the incineration pits near Kremas IV and V;
3) the photos [1, 2] of such incineration, secretly taken by a group of Sonderkommandos, consisting of the Greek Jew Alex, David Szmulewski , Shlomo Dragon, his brother Josel and Stanislaw Jankowski (Dan Stone, "The Sonderkommando Photographs", Jewish Social Studies, Spring/Summer 2001, vol. 7, no. 3, p.132);
4) the information provided by Franciszek Piper about the geological tests at Birkenau, which were aimed at determining the locations of incineration pits and pyres, and during which traces of human ashes, bones and hair turned up in 42 sites (F. Piper, "Gas Chambers and Crematoria", in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, p. 179n39)
... we have a pretty good idea of what the smoke shown in the May, 1944 aerial photograph represents. Never mind placing this evidence into the even broader context of the network of evidence already presented, to which we can now add, on top of the 109 items listed in our previous response:
110. letter from the Auschwitz Construction Office to Topf & Soehne of 11 February 1943;
111. letter from Topf & Soehne of 2 March 1943 quoted by Pressac;
112. letter from the ZBL to Topf & Soehne dated 06.03.1943;
113. SMERSH interrogations of Kurt Pruefer;
114. SMERSH interrogations of Fritz Sander;
115. SMERSH interrogations of Karl Schultze;
116. evidence for existence of the holes in the roof of crematorium II (Daniel Keren, Jamie McCarthy, and Harry W. Mazal, "The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau", Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 18, no. 1, Spring 2004, pp. 68-103);
117. evidence for existence of the holes in the roof of crematorium I (ibid.).
Some of these items reliably provide or corroborate only specific details of the picture, others help to work these details into an overall context. But all of them are consistent with and converge towards proving that mass homicidal gas chambers existed and were used at Auschwitz on hundreds of thousands of people at a minimum. No evidence has yet been presented disproving this theory, and no alternative explanation for the evidence has even been offered. Hence this aerial photo is not merely a "Rorschach test" whereby we look at a photograph of smoke and see what we want to see. On the contrary, we have 117 items of evidence all of which, taken together, serve to tell us that we are looking at the incineration of gassing victims. The photo itself merely serves to corroborate this evidence while providing, as well, a reliable source untainted by bias or human fallibility from which additional details can be culled. In contrast, the Negationist team's alternative theory of "burning garbage", unsupported by even a shred of direct evidence, remains wholly a matter of speculation and wishful thinking.
Which neatly summarizes the difference between our argument and theirs.
... and the difference between real history and "Revisionism".