4. A Brief History of Forensic Examinations of Auschwitz

4.1. Introduction

In late spring 1993, the Max-Planck-Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart issued an internal memorandum informing its employees that a doctoral candidate there-the author of this book-had been dismissed because of private research he had done on Auschwitz. The institute explained that in view of the horror of the National Socialists' crimes against the Jews, it was morally repugnant to discuss the specific manner, in which the victims had been killed, or to try to determine the precise number of the dead. That one of the world's leading scientific research institutes stated to its personnel that to determine accurate quantities is not only unethical, but reprehensible, and cause for dismissal, is not without its own irony. However, many people are deeply moved by the question whether or not the monstrous crime alleged should be subject to careful scrutiny by means of thorough forensic analysis. The following attempts to answer this question and offers a brief overview on forensic examinations of the purported crimes scenes at Auschwitz which have been conducted thus far.

4.2. The Moral Obligation of Forensic Examination

Does it really matter how many Jews lost their lives in the German sphere of influence during the Second World War? Is it so important, after so many years, to attempt painstakingly to investigate just how they died? After all, it is surely morally correct that even one victim is one too many; and nobody seriously denies that many Jews died.

To affirm these things, however, is not to raise a valid objection-moral or otherwise-to the scientific investigation of a crime held to be unique and unparalleled in the history of mankind. Even a crime that is alleged to be uniquely reprehensible must be open to a procedure that is standard for any other crime: namely, that it can be-must be-subject to a detailed material investigation. Further: whoever postulates that a crime, alleged or actual, is unique must be prepared for a uniquely thorough investigation of the alleged crime before its uniqueness is accepted as fact.

If, on the other hand, someone sought to shield so allegedly unparalleled a crime from investigation by erecting a taboo of moral outrage, the creators of that taboo would, at least morally, themselves commit a singular offense: imputing unparalleled guilt, beyond any critique and defense, in this case to an entire people, the Germans.

To demonstrate just what kind of double standard is being applied to 'the Holocaust' (generally defined as the purposeful annihilation, chiefly by gassing, of millions of Jews by the National Socialists), let us note the international reaction to several recent examples of mass murder or 'crimes against humanity.'

In 1949, a trial started in southwest France which caused as much attention in France as did the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial: Mdm. Marie Besnard was accused of having murdered twelve people with arsenic. During this extraordinary court battle, 15 experts on medical, chemical, geological and analytical forensic experts made exhaustive analyses and long-lasting, extensive experiments with the aim to verify whether the arsenic traces found in the buried victims stemmed from poison or are the result of yet unknown concentration processes in buried corpses. Finally, after twelve years of research and arguing of the fifteen experts, of which eight were professors and one even a Nobel Price laureate, Mdm. Besnard was acquitted due to lack of evidence.[72]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, numerous mass graves, containing altogether hundreds of thousands of bodies of victims of the Soviets, were discovered, excavated, and investigated. Not only was the number of victims determined, but in many cases the specific cause of death as well. In the same regions where many of these mass graves were found, one million Jews are said to have been shot by the Einsatzgruppen: yet no such grave has ever been reported found, let alone dug and investigated, in the more than half a century during which these areas have been controlled by the USSR and its successor states.

During the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, rumors about mass killings by Serbs spread around the world. After the fighting was over, an international forensic commission arrived in Kosovo, searching, excavating, and forensically investigating mass graves. These graves proved to be not only fewer than the Serbs' Albanian opponents had alleged, but to contain small fractions of the number of victims claimed.

Did the Allies attempt, during the Second World War and in the years immediately following, to find and to investigate mass graves of persons said to have been victims of the Germans? So far as is known, only once: at Katyn. But the findings of the Soviet forensic commission, which blamed the mass murder of several thousand Polish officers buried there on the Germans, are today generally considered a fabrication. The report of the international forensic commission invited by the Germans in 1943, on the other hand, which found that the Soviets had carried out this mass murder, is today considered accurate even by the Russian government.[73]

4.3. A Definition of Forensic Science

Forensic science is generally regarded as a supporting science of criminology. Its aim is to collect and to identify physical remnants of a crime, and from these to draw conclusions about the victim(s), the perpetrator(s), the weapon(s), time and location of the crime as well as how it was committed, if at all. This science is relatively new and entered the court rooms only in 1902, when fingerprint evidence was accepted, in an English court, for the first time. The 1998 CD-ROM Encyclopedia Britannica writes about forensic science:

"A broad range of scientific techniques is available to law enforcement agencies attempting to identify suspects or to establish beyond doubt the connection between a suspect and the crime in question. Examples include the analysis of bloodstains and traces of other body fluids (such as semen or spittle) that may indicate some of the characteristics of the offender. Fibres can be analyzed by microscopy or chemical analysis to show, for instance, that fibres found on the victim or at the scene of the crime are similar to those in the clothing of the suspect. Hair samples, and particularly skin cells attached to hair roots, can be compared chemically and genetically to those of the suspect. Many inorganic substances, such as glass, paper, and paint, can yield considerable information under microscopic or chemical analysis. Examination of a document in question may reveal it to be a forgery, on the evidence that the paper on which it is written was manufactured by a technique not available at the time to which it allegedly dates. The refractive index of even small particles of glass may be measured to show that a given item or fragment of glass was part of a particular batch manufactured at a particular time and place."

Hence, forensic research is exactly what revisionists, starting with Robert Faurisson, have called the search for material evidence. The revisionists' demand for such material evidence is entirely consistent with the normal practice of modern law enforcement. Also, as is generally acknowledged, forensic evidence is more conclusive than eyewitness testimony or documentary evidence.

Even though forensic methods have hardly been applied with regards to Auschwitz, there are a few examples which I shall discuss briefly in the following chapter.

4.4. Forensic Science and Auschwitz

4.4.1. Forensics in the Courts The 1946 Cracow Auschwitz Trial

The 1946 Cracow Auschwitz Trial. In 1945, the Jan Sehn Institute for Forensic Research (Instytut Ekspertyz Sadowych) prepared a report on a forensic investigation of Auschwitz that was submitted in evidence in the 1946 Auschwitz trial in Cracow, Poland.[74] This expert report should be treated with caution, because forensic examinations and judicial procedures under the Communists have been anything but trustworthy, and in 1945, Poland was a Stalinist satellite. One need only point to the example of Katyn, the Soviet account of which was fully endorsed by Poland's Communist regime.[73]

The Cracow forensic investigators took hair, presumably cut from inmates, and hair clasps from bags found by the Soviets in Auschwitz. Tested for cyanide residues, both hair and clasps showed positive results. Additionally, a zinc-plated metal cover was tested for cyanide and found to have a positive result as well. The Cracow Institute claims that this metal cover once shielded the exhaust duct of a supposed homicidal gas chamber at Birkenau.

The tests conducted by the institute were qualitative, not quantitative, analyses. In other words, they could only determine whether or not cyanide was present, not how much of it was there. As to whether or not homicidal gassing with hydrogen cyanide took place in Auschwitz, these analyses are worthless, for three reasons:

  1. There is no way of determining the origin and history of the hair and hair clasps obtained from bags in Auschwitz. Assuming that the analytic results are correct, from a chemical point of view the following can be noted: A positive test for cyanide in human hair proves only that the hair has been exposed to HCN (hydrogen cyanide). But that result does not suffice to establish that the persons from whom the hair came were killed by cyanide. It is a good deal more likely that the hair had already been cut when it was exposed to the gas: in German as well as in Allied camps, it was standard to cut off prisoners' hair for hygienic reasons. When hair over a certain length was later reused,[75] it had to be deloused beforehand (often with Zyklon B, the active ingredient of which is hydrogen cyanide). Hence, positive cyanide results from loose hair do not prove human gassings.
  2. We face a similar problem with the zinc-plated covers allegedly used to cover the ventilation ducts of the supposed gas chambers: their exact origin and history is unknown. It would have been much preferable for the Cracow Institute to have analyzed samples from the walls of the alleged gas chambers instead of obtaining samples from pieces of metal:
    1. Whereas the origin and history of these metal covers was uncertain, the origin and (at least partly) the history of the walls of the morgues allegedly used as gas chambers was known.
    2. In contrast to cement and concrete, zinc-plated metal covers prevent the formation of stable iron cyanide compounds.[76] The developing zinc cyanide compounds are relatively unstable and must be expected to vanish in a short period of time.[77]
    3. The tendency of porous wall material in moist underground rooms to accumulate and to bind hydrogen cyanide, physically as well as chemically, is hundreds of times higher than that of sheet metal.[78]
    4. As a matter of fact, the letter accompanying the samples sent to the Cracow Institute actually mentions that a mortar sample allegedly taken from a so-called gas chamber is enclosed as well and should also be tested for cyanide. However, for unknown reasons, the Cracow Institute did not mention this mortar sample in its report, perhaps because it did not show any positive result.

  3. It is unknown where those zinc-plated metal covers are today. It is furthermore impossible to identify them, since the Cracow report does not include a description or photo of them. Therefore, this analysis cannot be reproduced. The 1964-1966 Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial

Several expert reports were prepared during the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, the best known being those of the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute for Contemporary History).[79] However, none of these reports was forensic in nature. They addressed legal, historical, or psychological topics. Throughout this mammoth trial, the court, the prosecution,[80] and the defense[81] never suggested that material traces of the alleged crime be secured and investigated. The prosecution had at its disposal numerous statements by eyewitnesses and confessions by perpetrators, and it considered this material entirely sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt the existence of a program to exterminate Jews in Auschwitz and elsewhere during the Third Reich.[82] The abundance of such evidence has since been used to argue that the lack of documentary and material evidence was irrelevant.[83] That no material evidence was presented during the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial was freely conceded by the court in its ruling:[83]

"The court lacked almost all possibilities of discovery available in a normal murder trial to create a true picture of the actual event at the time of the murder. It lacked the bodies of the victims, autopsy records, expert reports on the cause of death and the time of death; it lacked any trace of the murderers, murder weapons, etc. An examination of the eyewitness testimony was only possible in rare cases. Where the slightest doubt existed or the possibility of a confusion could not be excluded with certainty, the court did not evaluate the testimony of witnesses [...]" The 1972 Vienna Auschwitz Trial

Between January 18 and March 10, 1972, two architects responsible for the design and construction of the crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Walter Dejaco and Fritz Ertl, were put on trial in Vienna, Austria.[84] During the trial, an expert report on the possible interpretation of the blueprints of the alleged gas chambers of the Auschwitz and Birkenau crematoria was presented to the court. The report concluded that the rooms in question could not have been gas chambers, nor could they have been converted into gas chambers.[85] Thanks to this first methodologically sound expert report on Auschwitz, the defendants were acquitted.

4.4.2. Forensics Outside the Courts In Search of Mass Graves

In 1966, the Auschwitz State Museum commissioned the Polish company Hydrokop to drill into the soil of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and to analyze the samples. It is not known whether this research was done in the context of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial. The results, however, vanished into the museum's archives: they have never been released, which by itself is revealing enough. Years later, however, several pages from this report were photocopied and sent to the German revisionist publisher Udo Walendy, who published them with commentary in an issue of his periodical.[86] Traces of bones and hair allegedly found at several places might indicate mass graves. The few pages published by Walendy, however, do not reveal whether these findings led to an excavation or a subsequent forensic study of the traces. It is not even evident whether the bone and hair samples collected are human or animal remains. Faurisson and the Consequences

As a result of Prof. Faurisson's activities as described in chapter 3., forensic research on Auschwitz boomed since 1988. Each time a researcher came to a conclusion contradicting the widely held views, he was socially ostracized and persecuted, like Prof. Faurisson, Fred Leuchter, and Germar Rudolf, but when the results confirmed the reigning paradigms, the researchers were darlings of the media and politicians, like Jean-Claude Pressac, the researchers from the Jan-Sehn-Institute in Cracow, and more recently Prof. Robert van Pelt.[69]

It must therefore be stated that forensic research on Auschwitz is not at all reprehensible, as stated by the Max-Planck-Institute in Stuttgart. Such research was always done, more or less intensively. What is often considered to be reprehensible, however, is a research result that is unwanted by the public. This is an unfortunate bias, because science can prosper only where any result is openly and freely published and discussed without researchers fearing punitive measures.

The present book is an attempt to give the reader an update about the results of the ongoing forensic research on the two major camps of Auschwitz, the Stammlager or main camp close to the town of Auschwitz itself, and the Birkenau camp some 3 km to the northwest of the town. May it not lead to more persecution and ostracism of its author than he already has experienced.[87]


[72]Michael D. Kelleher, C. L. Kelleher, Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer, Praeger, Westport, Conn., 1998.
[73]Cf. F. Kadell, Die Katyn Lüge, Herbig, Munich 1991.
[74]Published in German, op. cit. (note 52), pp. 36-40; the original is in the Auschwitz State Museum.
[75]Letter from the SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt, Oranienburg, to concentration camp commanders, August 6, 1942, IMT Document 511-USSR, cited in: Der Prozeß gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof (Nuremberg, 1949), pp. 553f. The letter ordered the recycling of prisoners' hair twenty centimeters or more in length.
[76]Zinc prevents the formation of rust, which is required to form long-term stable iron cyanides.
[77]Like earth alkaline cyanides, zinc cyanides are slowly decomposed by humidity.
[78]For this, see chapter 6.7.
[79]H. Buchheim et al., Anatomie des SS-Staates, Walter, Freiburg 1964.
[80]Throughout his writings, Adalbert Rückerl, one of the most prominent German prosecutors in 'Holocaust cases', dispenses with any mention of material evidence. Instead, he declares documentary evidence the best and most important form of evidence, even in the absence of material evidence for the authenticity and correctness of the documents themselves (in J. Weber, P. Steinbach (eds.), Vergangenheitsbewältigung durch Strafverfahren?, Olzog, Munich 1984, p. 77). Rückerl reports that it is practically impossible to find a suspect guilty solely on documentary evidence, so that, especially given the increasing time span separating alleged crimes from trial, it is almost always necessary to fall back on eyewitness testimony, even though its unreliability is clear, particularly in trials of so-called 'National Socialist violent crimes' (A. Rückerl, NS-Verbrechen vor Gericht, C. F. Müller, Heidelberg 1984, p. 249; Rückerl, Nationalsozialistische Vernichtungslager im Spiegel deutscher Strafprozesse, dtv, Munich 1978, p. 34; Rückerl, NS-Prozesse, C. F. Müller, Karlsruhe 1972, pp. 27, 29, 31).
[81]Such total naiveté, combined with legal incompetence, on behalf of the defense is best exemplified in Hans Laternser, Die andere Seite im Auschwitzprozeß 1963/65, Seewald, Stuttgart 1966.
[82]One of the most prominent German advocates of this thesis is Professor Ernst Nolte in his book Streitpunkte, Propyläen, Berlin 1993, pp. 290, 293, 297.
[83]Ref. 50/4 Ks 2/63; cf. I. Sagel-Grande, H. H. Fuchs, C. F. Rüter (eds.), Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, vol. 21, University Press, Amsterdam 1979, p. 434.
[84]Ref. 20 Vr 6575/72 (Hv56/72), Jan. 18-March 10, 1972; this reference number is different from the one Robert Van Pelt quotes in his report: The Pelt Report, op. cit. (note 66), p. 135 n. 59: 20 Vr 3806/64 and 27 C Vr 3806/64).
[85]Personal communication from the expert, who must, for the time being, remain anonymous for fear of persecution and prosecution. See Michael Gärtner, "Vor 25 Jahren: Ein anderer Auschwitzprozess," VffG, 1(1) (1997), pp. 24f. (online: www.vho.org/VffG/1997/1/Gaertner1.html)
[86]Udo Walendy, Historische Tatsachen, no. 60, Verlag für Volkstum und Zeitgeschichtsforschung, Vlotho 1993, pp. 7-10.
[87]For this, see the appendix at the end of this book.

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