The Execution Protocol: Inside America's Capital Punishment Industry, by Stephen Trombley. New York: Anchor Books, 1993. Softcover. 342 pages. $11.95. ISBN 0-385-47178-5.
Reviewed by Richard Widmann
Stephen Trombley's volume is a valuable overview of the American system of capital punishment. Trombley has conducted extensive interviews with those on both sides of what he calls "America's Capital Punishment Industry." The Execution Protocol is presented as an objective analysis of the capital punishment system in the United States but Trombley's personal "liberal" views slip in throughout the volume. Typically Trombley appears sympathetic to the prisoners while painting those involved with the executions as "strange," hypocritical or unbalanced.
This volume discusses all five methods of execution which are currently used in the United States: lethal injection, hanging, firing squad, electric chair, and gas chamber. At times grisly but always fascinating Trombley discusses the history of the various methods and explains the difficulties and problems with each.
Of special interest to Revisionists is his lengthy interview with Fred Leuchter who is described on the back cover of this volume as "the leading inventor of execution technology." Trombley calls Leuchter, "American's first and foremost supplier of execution hardware." (p.9) Leuchter figures prominently throughout the volume. Trombley discusses Leuchter's business which includes selling products and offering consultation. Trombley explains:
"His products include electric chairs, gas chambers, gallows, and lethal injection machines. He offers design, construction, installation, staff training and maintenance." (p.9)Trombley writes of many of Leuchter's inventions including his "modular electric chair - the most advanced ever built," (p.35) and the lethal injection machine "by which executions are now carried out in five states." (p.71) This volume also includes photographs of Leuchter and his equipment.
Interestingly, Trombley does not avoid discussion of Leuchter's revisionist work. The Execution Protocol includes information on The Leuchter Report and Leuchter's professional difficulties resulting from its publication. Trombley does not condemn, nor does he directly state his opinion of The Leuchter Report. Unfortunately many of the facts offered regarding Leuchter's revisionist work are not correct. Trombley provides background to the Leuchter Report by discussing the 1988 trial of Ernst Zündel.
Trombley makes the claim that British historian David Irving "had long maintained that a study of executions by lethal gas in the United States would help to 'prove' that the Nazi gas chambers never existed." He further claims that Irving had argued,
"[...] that American prisons are the only place where cyanide gas has been used to kill human beings deliberately; and that American prison wardens who have carried out gas executions could be important sources of evidence which could disprove the Holocaust 'myth'." (p.85)Here clearly, Trombley has confused or substituted Irving for Prof. Robert Faurisson. Even a quick reading of the Leuchter Report would have shown Trombley that Faurisson, and not Irving, had researched the use of gas chambers in American executions.
Although most of Trombley's information seems to come from Robert Faurisson's, "Foreword to The Leuchter Report," various additions are made. For example, Faurisson wrote,
"[...] I was in Toronto, Canada, assisting in the defence of Mr. Ernst Zündel, a German- Canadian who was on trial for spreading false news by publishing "Did Six Million Really Die?", a booklet which challenged the prevailing view that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II, primarily through the use of gas chambers using hydrocyanic gas (Zyklon B gas.)" (Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report, Focal Point Publications, London 1989, p. 7.)Under Trombley's pen, this becomes,
"In 1985, Zundel (sic) was tried for publishing a pamphlet entitled, "Did Six Million Really Die?", in which he argued that the Holocaust was a fiction (his previous works include "The Hitler We Loved and Why"). (p. 84)One wonders who gave Trombley the information regarding the title, The Hitler We Loved and Why. This title is not mentioned in either edition of The Leuchter Report (Focal Point - or Fred Leuchter, The Leuchter Report, Samisdat Publishers Ltd., Toronto 1988.). Trombley does not mention that Zündel testified in 1985 that he had written none of the text of this pamphlet and he never published that title. (B. Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die?: Report of the Evidence in the Canadian "False News" Trial of Ernst Zündel - 1988, Samisdat Publishers, Toronto 1992, p. 2.) Similarly all familiar with Revisionism know that Richard Harwood and not Ernst Zündel wrote the booklet, Did Six Million Really Die?. (Richard Harwood, Did Six Million Really Die? Historical Review Press, Sussex, 1987)
Trombley, who obviously did not do his homework, also goes on to claim that The Leuchter Report was published in the United States by "Aryan Nation" and by "the Institute for Historical Research" [Review]. (p.87) Neither of these groups had anything to do with the publication of The Leuchter Report. The original version of the report was published by Ernst Zündel's Samisdat Publishers and a later edition by David Irving's Focal Point.
More errors abound in the index. The Institute for Historical Review is listed as "Institute for Historical Research (IHR)." Those with a taste for conspiracy might wonder if this name alteration was purposeful. More credence is added to that view when one searches for "Fred Leuchter" in the index. His name is strangely omitted. In its place, one finds his (then) wife Caroline with two listings. Some might suggest that this is merely the result of sloppy editing.
Despite these errors, Trombley dedicates a couple of chapters to Leuchter's Report and generally expresses Leuchter's conclusions fairly. Trombley even publishes Leuchter's response to his question, "do you believe that the Holocaust happened?" Leuchter responds in part,
"I believed there had been a Holocaust. I believed I would find gas chambers. I told Ernst Zundel (sic) - he was positive I wouldn't find them - I told him that if I did find them, or even that these facilities had the capability of being gas chambers, I was going to report such. I was like most Americans and probably most people all over the world, they believed that it happened. I believed what I'd been taught in school. I know that the facilities that everybody points to weren't gas chambers..." (p. 94)Later in the book one reads how Trombley discovered David Irving's "change" of opinion after reading the diaries of Adolf Eichmann. Trombley writes:
"Irving was reported as saying ... that the diary... proved that Eichmann did participate in the Holocaust. As a result, Irving had done a total about-face and now believed that the Holocaust had indeed taken place." (p.268)Trombley apparently did not read what David Irving actually said on the matter of the Eichmann diaries. As Irving related in October of 1992, "Well, Eichmann says he witnessed mass shootings in Russia, but Eichmann's papers were quite plain: there's no mention at all of gas chambers." (For complete analysis of David Irving's position of the Eichmann papers, please see: David Irving "The Suppressed Eichmann and Goebbels Papers," The Journal of Historical Review, JHR 13(2) (1993) pp. 14 -25).
Trombley wonders if Irving's "change of heart" will cause Leuchter to change his mind. He writes:
"I wondered what Fred would make of that news, and if he would continue to stand by The Leuchter Report." (p.268)We learn later in the book, that The Execution Protocol was also made into a film (which this author has not seen.) Although Trombley mentions returning to Massachusetts to film Fred Leuchter, he never poses the question regarding David Irving to Leuchter. If Trombley did indeed ask the question, he chose to not publish Leuchter's response.
We are brought up to date on the inmates and other execution team members but no update on Fred Leuchter. We are left to assume that all is status quo. Those familiar with the case of Fred Leuchter know that the truth is far from that. The persecution that Leuchter experienced which led to marriage problems, moving from his home state of Massachusetts, his inability to work in his profession, etc. are all omitted from this volume.
Instead of an update on Leuchter, we meet a final character, Lloyd Schlup. Schlup is described as "a member of the Aryan Nation Church." Perhaps this is how Trombley decided to bring closure to his volume. He begins with a man on the outside, Leuchter, who Trombley tries to connect with the far right and he concludes with a guy on the inside associated with "Aryan Nations."
Trombley's thesis is that there is no real difference between those on the inside and those on the outside. Tragic environmental happenings and fate take over to take us to where we wind up. When Trombley's mother is concerned abut his spending so much time "with those people," Trombley responds, "Which people? The inmates or the execution team?" (p.267) Reminiscent of the existential novel, L ' Étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus, The Execution Protocol tries to bring out the similarities between the inmates and the execution team. In the preface, Trombley even goes so far as to write (incorrectly), "All the principal real-life characters of this book have one thing in common: They have taken human life." There are various figures in the book, including Leuchter who have never taken a human life.
Why is this volume important for Revisionists? This volume, while not the work of a starry-eyed admirer of Fred Leuchter proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Fred Leuchter was indeed "America's first and foremost supplier of execution hardware."(p.9) Leuchter is revealed in this book to be what the revisionists always claimed he was, the one and only consultant in the United States in the design, operation, and maintenance of gas chambers.