The Mermelstein Lie

By Doris Hartmann

One of the most active German opponents of revisionism, Jürgen Langowski, has a website named “Holocaust Reference. Arguments against Auschwitz Deniers” (h-ref.de). It is cooperating closely with another German website called “Information Service against Right-Wing Extremism” (idgr.de), mastered by Margret Chatwin, a page dedicated to slander anyone deemed to be a right-winger by the left-wing extremists that operate the site.

Under the title “The ‘Institute for Historical Review’ – the Californian think tank of Holocaust deniers”1 one can read on Langowski’s site:

“German ‘revisionists’ want to talk us into believing that German laws would be in the way of objective research and that the great breakthrough will come as soon as one can investigate the history of the extermination of the Jews without constraints. They overlook, however, that the IHR [Institute for Historical Review] has been able to research this issue ever since its founding, and which was even established for that very reason (‘research’). In contrast to Germany, no laws can disturb the ‘revisionists’ in the USA with their lying.

The Mermelstein case would have been a first-class opportunity. The IHR had promised to pay 50,000 dollars to anyone who could prove that gassings took place in Auschwitz.

Mel Mermelstein, a Auschwitz survivor and thus an eyewitness, had demanded the reward. What suffices in every murder case – an eyewitness – was not enough for those ‘revisionist’ gentlemen. The IHR refused to pay.

Mel Mermelstein sued, and the IHR was ordered to pay $90,000 dollars (the awarded sum plus $40,000 damages).

This trial would have been an excellent opportunity for the IHR to present convincing material and prove that the mass gassings did not happen – as the IHR claimed.

But as it looks like, after more than two decades of so-called ‘research,’ the IHR should start to consider closing the case: for lack of evidence.”

On August 29, 2000, the German TV station TM3 broadcast the documentary “Die Schmach des Vergessens” (The Disgrace of Forgetting) labeled as “authentic,” which reported on this “Mermelstein trial” and the judge’s verdict. It was a documentary worth watching, but it did not quite agree with what the German website claims.

The IHR had offered a sum of $50,000 to anyone who could present “provable physical evidence for the extermination of Jews in gas chambers.” Because Mel Mermelstein only offered his testimony, the IHR claimed that the condition was not met and rightly refused to pay Mermelstein. Mermelstein subsequently sued the IHR for this sum.

In civil law suits in the USA, the plaintiff has to prove its case. It was therefore not the task of the defendant to present “convincing material” that the mass gassings claimed by the plaintiff did not take place. The argument that a simple eyewitness statement already suffices in every murder case is not necessarily true either, in particular, if it is contradicted by the defendant or other witnesses, or if there are “material and technical facts” contradicting the claim. For example, I may quote from the records of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial held in 1964/1966:2

“25,000 murdered within 24 hours

Filip Müller, a 42 years old official from Prague, who was forced to work in the real center of the extermination camp Birkenau at the gassing facilities and the cremation ovens, reported as witness:

[...] in 1944, at the time when the Jewish transports from Hungary arrived, the death factory operated at full force. The special command included some nine hundred men. Work was done uninterruptedly at various working sites.

Within twenty four hours, 25,000 people were gassed. The corpses were burned in 46 large ovens.’

(To the question) Was there another way by which children were killed?

‘It was in 1944 that such scenes occurred under Oberscharführer Moll. He took the child away from the mother, carried it away, which I saw in crematorium IV,where two large pits existed. He threw the child into the boiling fat of these people.’

[...] Public prosecutor Kügler: Is it true that inmates had to pour the fat dripping down from the corpses in the large incineration pits onto new corpses?

‘That is absolutely correct.

The pits were forty meters long and roughly six to eight meters wide and two and a half meters deep. They had deepenings at the ends, into which the human fat flowed. We had to pour this fat over the corpses so that they would burn better.’”

Now let us read another account of the same “eyewitness” about the ground water in Auschwitz. In his book Sonderbehandlung, which was published some eleven years after the conclusion of the above mentioned Frankfurt trial, Müller reports of a different pit, in which ground water had accumulated. He tells us how they tested how deep the water actually was:3

“Then we were ordered to throw the corpses into the pit. [...] We grabbed the dead bodies at their hands and feet and threw them with verve as far as possible into the pit. The water splashed in all directions as the corpses hit the water surface. Then the water closed over the corpses as they sank to the leveled ground.”

Now another excerpt from Bernd Naumann’s book Auschwitz with a description of the area where the camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was located:4

“On June 7th, the Broad report is read [into to record], the one description of the concentration camp Auschwitz, which the defendant Pery Broad had written down and given to the British shortly after the end of the war. After some hesitation, Broad admits that he is the sole author of this report, though he claims that he could not vouch for the entire content, because he wrote some of it only from hearsay.

[...] The situation in Birkenau was far worse than it had already been the case in Auschwitz. With every step one sank deeply into the tenacious morass. [...] For the inmates, the roll call that took place twice a day meant standing for hours in the wetness, coldness, and swamp. [...]

Finally the camp leaders decided by themselves to put an end to this. Thousands of prisoners of war were shot in a forest close to Birkenau and buried in several layers on top of each other in large mass graves. The graves were 50 to 60 meters long, four meters deep and might have been just as wide.”

How one could possibly dig deep pits in a swampy area (2.5 meters deep according to Filip Müller, but according to Pery Broad even four meters deep) and even “burn” corpses in them (the ground water level was only 30 to 120 centimeters below the ground level according to camp drainage maps5) is a physical mystery yet to be solved.

It is just as big a mystery, how one could possibly “pour the fat dripping down from the corpses in the large incineration pits” onto new corpses, when it is physically impossible that fat pouring out of bodies lying in a fire could be collected anywhere. Fat is an excellent fuel and would thus catch fire right away6 – though not under water, of course.

So much about the value of “unverified” statements of “eyewitnesses” who testified under oath. During the Mermelstein trial, the plaintiff could not present any “physical” evidence to support his claim. But the judge took “judicial notice” that the Holocaust and the killing in gas chambers with Zyklon B is a fact and that there is no appeal to a higher court:7

“Under Evidence Code Section 452(h), this court does take judicial notice of the fact that Jews were gassed to death at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland during the summer of 1944 [... ] It is not reasonably subject to dispute, and it is capable of immediate and accurate determination by resort to sources of reasonably indisputable accuracy. It is simply a fact.”

With this decision, the judge declared as inadmissible any evidence to the contrary, which the defendant intended to present. Can a judgment be called a “confirmation of a historical fact” that is based on a hearing, during which no evidence was accepted other than the verbal claim of the plaintiff? Does such a verdict comply with the scholarly standards expected from the IHR by their German critics?

But that is not even the most important part of the entire affair, because this trial had an aftermath. A few years after this trial, Mermelstein and the IHR met again in court over the same issue. In an article on the above trial, published in a newsletter of the IHR, Bradley R. Smith, at that time a co-worker of the IHR, had called Mel Mermelstein a liar.8 Mermelstein promptly sued IHR anew, this time to pay him eleven million dollars for the mental and emotional damages the IHR had allegedly done to him. But this time the case was not about the Holocaust but whether or not Mermelstein was a liar. During this trial, which took place in 1991, the IHR could prove convincingly with an abundance of evidence that Mermelstein was indeed a multifold liar, so that Mermelstein lost the case on Sept. 19, 1991. It resulted in quite an echo in the U.S. news media.9 Mermelstein’s application for appeal was rejected on Oct. 28, 1991.10 This underscored the worthlessness of Mermelstein’s statements as a historical witness for the alleged gas chambers of Auschwitz sufficiently.

The German website trying to ridicule the IHR by referring to this case does not mention Mermelstein’s thunderous defeat at all, just as other opponents of revisionism fail to mention it.11

So who exactly is it that tries to “falsify history”? Who is it that offers only defaming labels about their opponents instead of coming up with provable facts? And who is the liar here? Is the “Holocaust reference” of the “Information Service against Right-Wing Extremism” measuring up their own scholarly expectations, or is this service just another organ of those whose only goal it is to prop up the established version of the Holocaust with all means possible?

The reader can form his or her own opinion.

One final remark about the false claim that historical research in the U.S. is free to find and present all the evidence required to refute the Holocaust. Fact is that the free market does not finance historical research, but governments do. Almost all historians therefore depend on public funding. Any historian voicing skepticism about the Holocaust would lose his job. That is basically true for all western societies. Legal persecution is not required to suppress revisionists. Ostracizing and financially ruining them works just as well, and if that does not help, physical attacks, bombs, and arson have quite a convincing effect, too, as many revisionists have had to experience over the last three decades, including the IHR. Though it once used to be the flagship of revisionism, the IHR never had either the resources or the staff to do the research it should have done. It never really got beyond being an outlet for revisionist publications. Research has always been the focus of maverick scholars like Prof. Butz, Robert Faurisson, Germar Rudolf, and Carlo Mattogno.

Notes