Tuesday 28 January 2020

Eyewitnesses to the Holocaust

An article by a revisionist on David Irving's site argues that the atrocity at Babi Yar, a ravine near Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed according to German statistics, was a Soviet invention. There were no bodies, because of a landslide, and according to the revisionist there were only two supposed witnesses, both of whom died very long ago under Soviet rule. The writer made a superficially attractive case.

Then I read more and learnt that there were 29 survivors, not two, and as well as the account of Dina Pronicheva, which I knew because Timothy Snyder uses it in his Bloodlands, there are seven other eyewitness accounts. I have just now read this recent account by the last living survivor, which settles the matter.

I do not mean that she is a reliable witness to what happened to her at the age of three, though I remember things from when I was half that age, but because her parents were killed at Babi Yar and she then lived 
with her grandmother (in hiding, until the Soviet army retook Kiev) who rescued her at Babi Yar. The idea that she is lying or has been deluded all her life or was somehow tricked is absurd.

The Babi Yar massacre did happen, as the non-revisionist historians say it did.

I once went to a talk, in the mid-1990s, given by an elderly Jew who had survived a concentration camp (was he in Treblinka? Auschwitz?), in order to be able to tell people what he said in years to come. Alas, I find, to my chagrin, that though I usually have a remarkably good memory for conversations decades ago, I can remember nothing that he said except at the end, when he was asked questions. Asked about how he felt about Germans, he said that when he was in London German voices on the bus had made him go cold. He added that he had no time for Pakistanis. 'Pakistanis are Arabs.'

A friend of mine suggested that I forgot his story because it was too painful to remember. Perhaps, who knows?

And one other thing I remember - he said he shared a cell with Tomas Bata, owner of Bata shoes. This must have been a false memory as, according to the internet, Tomas Bata senior, the founder of the firm, had died in a plane crash in 1938 and his son, Tomas J. Bata, had fled to Canada in 1939.

Historians and policemen know there are plenty of false memories in eyewitness accounts. However, the clinching argument against people who doubt that the Holocaust happened is that it is beyond dispute that very large numbers of Jews in the war were herded into trains by Germans and sent to Poland. There were very many witnesses to this. It is beyond doubt that most did not return. Revisionists have to explain what happened to them.

You only have to speak to Jews today, in fact, to hear stories of family members who were taken away and never returned.

If you doubt that millions of Jews were murdered by the Germans, read this. Himmler asked his statistician Richard Korherr in 1942 for reliable figures about the Jews who had inhabited the areas under German rule, broken down into those who were alive, those who had died due to “natural attrition”, those who had emigrated and those who were "abgang"— which means "departed". Korherr, reporting in early 1943, counted 2.4 million Jews who were "departed".

The "departed" were divided into those who had received "sonderbehandlung" (“special treatment”) in the General Government (part of German occupied Poland) and those who were listed as "fallen" in the Ostland.

"Fallen" means dead. The phrase “special treatment” was a SS euphemism for killing and was removed from the document on Himmler's orders, because he intended to show it to Hitler, and replaced by "processed".

Leaving aside the meaning of "special treatment", no-one has come up with a theory that explains what happened to those 2.4 million and the other Jews who were sent to the East later, other than that they died. 

Some survived, some died from sickness, including many at the end from typhus, some died from malnutrition, but what happened to most of them if they were not killed?

As the lawyers say, res ipsa loquitur - the thing speaks for itself.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B6fle_Telegram

    Recorded figures and coded letters with their true meaning [5]
    Transports for 2 weeks
    prior to 31 December 1942
    Sum total as of
    31 December 1942
    L (Lublin, i.e. Majdanek)
    B (Bełżec)
    S (Sobibor)
    T (Treblinka)

  2. The revisionist sites quote Raul Hilberg: "The wartime aerial photos of Kiev provide incontrovertible proof that the so-called historic documentation of the Babi Yar massacre represents fabricated wartime propaganda and post-war martyr mythology. Perhaps the Nazis had, as promised, deported the missing Kievans away from Kiev. If so, their remains and burial sites should be sought elsewhere." I strongly suspect this quotation is invented, as it appears only on revisionist sites. https://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?t=6833

    1. In general I don't have a problem with historical revisionism, if the revisionists can actually make their case (which they rarely can).

      In the case of the Holocaust, in my experience the revisionists are almost invariably people who dislike Jews or people who admire the Nazis. Which leads me to doubt that they are arguing in good faith. They seem to be trying to provide a moral justification for their dislike of Jews or their admiration for the Nazis.

  3. I have no problem with any historian from whom I can learn, regardless of whom he likes or dislikes. But the first question to ask is - is this man talking in good faith or trying to persuade me of something regardless of whether or not it is true? All historians get things wrong but does he get things wrong because he deliberately chooses to ignore evidence? David Irving admires Hitler, which might give him an interesting perspective, but do all his mistakes tend to benefit the case for the Nazis, as Sir Richard Evans testified at the libel trial? I cannot answer this as I have not read Irving. Eugene Genovese was a Marxist and a fine historian of the American South and American slavery. I went to Eric Foner's lectures on American history at Cambridge but now after reading him would not trust his historical judgement. He likens illegal immigrants in the USA now to escaped slaves before 1860! He does not object - in an interview with him that I read - to being described as a Marxist.

  4. The article on Babi Yar to which I referred was on Mr. Irving's site and was at first reading very convincing but it suppresses vital evidence.

  5. I recommend the 1985 9h40 documentary "Shoah" by Claude Lanzmann (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090015/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoah_(film) ) It's an "oral history of the Holocaust". It contains interviews with Polish villagers who lived in Belzec, Treblinka etc, with German personnel operating the camps, and with survivors.

    1. Thank you. I find it hard to watch films or TV in this age of constant clicking but that looks very interesting. Even pre-internet I watched little TV but I did catch quite a lot of The Nazis A Warning From History. It is fascinating and invaluable. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xq1ym0

  6. Just before the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Baťa helped re-post his Jewish employees to branches of his firm all over the world. Germany occupied the remaining part of pre-war Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939; Jan Antonín Baťa then spent a short time in jail but was then able to leave the country with his family. Jan Antonín Baťa stayed in America from 1939–1940, but when the USA entered the war, he felt it would be safer for his co-workers and their families back in occupied Czechoslovakia if he left the United States. He was put on British and US black lists for doing business with the Axis powers, and in 1941 he emigrated to Brazil. After the war ended, the Czechoslovak authorities tried Baťa as a traitor, saying he had failed to support the anti-Nazi resistance. In 1947 he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison. The company's Czechoslovak assets were also seized by the state – several months before the Communists came to power. He tried to save as much as possible of the business, submitting to the plans of Germany as well as financially supporting the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile led by Edvard Beneš.

    In occupied Europe a Bata shoe factory was connected to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The first slave labour efforts in Auschwitz involved the Bata shoe factory. In 1942 a small camp was established to support the former Bata shoe factory (now under German administration and renamed "Schlesische Schuh-Werke Ottmuth, A.G") at Chełmek with Jewish slave labourers. The prisoners, mostly from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, were tasked to clean the ponds from which the plant drew the water it needed. Also slave workers from the ghetto of Radom were forced to work at the Bata factory for a soup a day.

  7. "I would say that of this 5.1 million rounded figure [of Jews who died in the Holocaust]in which the term 'Jew' is taken as the one adopted by the Germans, roughly up to 3 million were deaths in camps. The vast majority of them, of course, were gassed, but several hundred thousands in these camps were shot or dying of privation, starvation, disease and so forth; that a 1.3 million or a 1.4 million were shot in systematic operations... such as those of the Einsatzgruppen, but not limited to Einsatzgruppen operations, shot in primarily the occupied USSR, Galicia, but also Serbia and other localities, and that the remainder, deaths from conditions in the ghettos, which can also be calculated because the Korherr reports has numbers about such deaths, and because individual ghettos, Jewish councils in these ghettos sent reports to German agencies. We have these reports indicating the monthly death tolls in such places as Warsaw, which was the largest ghetto, and Lodz, which was the second largest ghetto. We also have data about Lvov, which was the third largest ghetto. Thus we do have a pretty good idea of the death rate in the ghettos which, at the peak, in 1941, was one percent of the population per month."

    Raul Hilberg, testifying at the trial of the Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel for hate speech.

  8. Nazi documents mention repeated trains full of Jews sent to Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor, returning empty, but no trains took Jews back or further on.