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Holocaust Denial & The Big Lie

Disparities in Hydrocyanic Compound Levels

Holocaust deniers often claim that since more hydrocyanic compounds were found in the delousing chambers than in the ruins of the so-called "extermination" chambers at Auschwitz, and the reverse would be true if people were actually gassed there, it is clear that no mass gassings occurred.

But - HCN is far more effective on warm-blooded animals (including humans) than on insects, so the period of exposure to HCN is far longer for delousing clothes than that required for homicidal gassings, and a much lower concentration is necessary to kill people as compared to lice.

A concentration of up to 16,000 ppm (parts per million) is sometimes used, with exposure times of up to 72 hours, to kill insects, but as little as 300 ppm will cause death in humans within fifteen minutes or so.

Breitman offers background information about the development of Zyklon B as a killing device, and provides clear evidence that the Nazis determined the effective Zyklon B concentration through a process of trial and error.

When the difference in the concentration of gas required to kill insects and humans was mentioned in Leuchter's cross-examination in the Zundel trial, Leuchter responded: "I've never killed beetles. I, you know, I don't know. I haven't made computations for killing beetles" - Hardly the response one would expect from an "expert" on the subject...

Because of the relatively small concentrations required to exterminate humans as opposed to lice, and because of the far shorter exposure time required, the HCN in the gas chambers used to kill humans hardly had time to form chemical compounds on the walls.

The gas chambers were not very large (those in Kremas II and III were about 210 square meters), and the Zyklon B was dropped through four openings in the roof, spreading the gas very quickly. These openings are still visible in the ruins of the gas chambers, and rare photographs of them, taken while the camp was in operation, exist, and copies are readily available (Brugioni et al) from the sources noted.

Openings On The Roof of Auschwitz Gas Chambers On Ruins Of Krema I

Opening In The Celiling Of Gas Chamber Through Which Zyklon B Pellets Were Dropped

Opening In The Celiling Of Gas Chamber Through Which Zyklon B Pellets Were Dropped

 Since the concentration used was higher than the lethal one, death was swift. (See picture. Krema IV was above-ground, and the Zyklon B was introduced through clearly visible slits in the walls. See also picture Krema401.gif, which provides a close-up of the wall openings.)

A Krema IV Opening In Which Zyklon B Was Dropped Into Gas Chamber Below

Leuchter's data is further suspect because the delousing chambers where he obtained his samples were left intact by the SS, while the extermination chambers were destroyed. Clearly, their walls were exposed to the elements for forty-five years, which would certainly influence the validity of the samples taken. (The ruins of Krema II are covered with about three feet of water during certain periods of the year, and HCN compounds would eventually dissolve under such conditions. Nonetheless, so many gassings occurred there that some of the compound did remain).

Picture of ruined creatorium Krema II in 1945
Picture of Ruins of Krema II in 1945. It was destroyed by the SS before the Russians Arived.

Summarizing, the walls of the extermination gas chambers were in contact with HCN for a much shorter time then those of the delousing chambers, and for the last 45 years were exposed to surroundings which dissolve the compounds, while the delousing rooms were not. Therefore it is obvious that less traces of compounds would remain in them. This debunks the major "amazing discovery" in Leuchter's report, which, in retrospect, wasn't "amazing" at all.

This fact - that all, or most, of the compounds would vanish during 45 years of exposure - is quite clearly stated in the report written by the experts at the Cracow Institute of Forensic Research:

In the name of Prof. Dr. Jan Sehn, Krakow
Division of Forensic Toxicology
Krakow, 24 Sept. 1990 Westerplatte 9 / Code 31-033 Tel. 505-44, 592-24, 287-50 Telex 0325213 eksad ...

The hydrocyanic acid (HCN) that is released from the Zyklon B preparation is a liquid with a boiling point of about 27 degrees Celsius. It has an acidic character, and therefore forms compounds with metallic salts, which are known as cyanides. The salts of alkaline metals (such as sodium and potassium) are water soluble.

Hydrocyanic acid is a very weak acid, and accordingly its salts dissolve easily in stronger acids. Even carbonic acid, which is formed as a reaction of carbon dioxide with water, will dissolve ferro-cyanide.

Stronger acids, such as sulfuric acids, easily dissolve the cyanides. The compounds of cyanide ions with heavy metals are longer lasting. This includes the already mentioned Prussian blue, although this will also slowly dissolve in an acidic environment.

Therefore, one can hardly assume that traces of cyanic compounds could still be detected in construction materials (plaster, brick) after 45 years, after being subjected to the weather and the elements (rain, acid oxides, especially sulfuric and nitrogen oxides). More reliable would be the analysis of wall plaster [samples] from closed rooms which were not subject to weather and the elements (including acid rain). The discovery of hydrocyanic acid compounds in samples of material which had been subject to the elements can only be accidental.

The deniers often claim that the gas chamber in Krema I was left intact, and therefore its walls were not exposed to the elements. Curiously, they also make great issue of the fact that Krema I was converted into an air-raid shelter, and then rebuilt by the Soviet Army, after the liberation of the camp, to reproduce its original shape, saying that it has been used to mislead the public, who were told that people were gassed in the building. (The logic of their holding both views when it seems advantageous to do so will perhaps escape you, but then logic has not been a demonstrated asset when it comes to Holocaust denial.)

Interior Of "reconstructed" Krema I Gas Chamber As It Appears Today
Interior Of "reconstructed" Krema I Gas Chamber As It Appears Today

The modification consisted of essentially removing some partitioning walls inside the gas chamber, which were added as a common feature of bomb shelters. Nonetheless, this is the room in which people were gassed; there are still traces of cyanide on its walls, as Leuchter admits (he found traces in 6 of 7 samples).

But - the gas chamber of Krema I was used only for a short time, before the conversion. This, and the fact that "only" about ten thousand people were murdered inside it, compared to three-hundred-fifty-thousand and four-hundred-thousand in Kremas II and III, explains why relatively small amounts of cyanide compounds remain. The other Kremas were destroyed by the SS prior to the Soviet liberation.

Finally, cyanide compounds were found on the ventilation grills of the extermination chambers, proving beyond doubt that gassing did take place within.

The Explosive Property of Zyklon B & Furnace Proximity

Holocaust denial often asserts that Zyklon B could not have been used for killing in the gas chambers, because it is explosive, and the furnaces were nearby.

They overlook, however the fact that the concentration of HCN necessary to cause death is nearly 200 times lower than that necessary to cause an explosion. Although the SS used a concentration higher than the lethal one, it was far less than what would be required to cause an explosion.

As a reference, one can look at "The Merck Index" and the "CRC handbook of Chemistry and Physics", or consult any manual dealing with toxicity and flammability of chemicals. For HCN, a concentration of 300 ppm (parts per million) kills humans within a
few minutes (Merck, 632, entry 4688), while the minimal concentration that can result in an explosion is 56,000 ppm.

Gas Chambers Could Not Have Been Opened Safely in 20-30 Minutes

The claim is often heard that it takes 20 hours to air a room which was disinfected with Zyklon-B, and therefore the eyewitness accounts giving a time of 20-30 minutes from when the gassing started to when the bodies where carried out is impossible, because the people carrying out the bodies would perish.

It is true that if one disinfects a building in ordinary commercial use, it should not be reentered within 20 hours. That figure, however, has no meaning relative to the extermination chambers, which were forcibly ventilated. Fifteen minutes was ample time to replace the air after a gassing. When ventilation was not used, the Sonderkommando (prisoners used as forced labor) who removed the bodies wore gas masks.

The Germans had plenty of experience with gas, especially HCN, which was widely used for delousing. They knew how to work with it safely. It is absurd to use the 20 hour figure in this context, as it does not assume forced ventilation and takes a huge safety factor into account. The SS didn't care much for the safety of the Sonderkommando who had to enter the gas chambers to take the corpses out in any event. In some cases, these people did suffer from the remaining gas (see, for instance, Pressac, p. 473)

Furthermore, what makes ventilation difficult and lengthy is the presence of rugs, furniture, curtains, etc. Needless to say, these were not present in the gas chambers - there was just bare concrete, making ventilation very fast and efficient.

If the "20 hours ventilation period" above was true, this would mean that the corpses of people executed using cyanide gas in US prisons would remain tied to the chair 20 hours after they were killed... clearly nonsense, as Fred Leuchter, who claims expertise in gas chamber operation, would hopefully know.

The "Extermination" Chambers Were Actually Morgues

Holocaust denial often claims that the "alleged" extermination chambers were actually morgues, and that Zyklon-B was used in them as a disinfectant.

This claim stems from the fact that Hydrocyanic compounds were found on the ventilation grills of the gas chambers in Krema II and III (the chemical analysis was carried out by Dr. Jan Robel of the Cracow Forensic Institute in December 1945, and was part of the evidence in the trial of Auschwitz commander Hoss). This proves that gassing did take place in that chamber - but since this runs contrary to the deniers claims that it was an underground morgue, they claimed "a morgue is disinfected with Zyklon-B."

Unfortunately for the people offering this assertion as truth, Zyklon-B is useless for disinfecting corpses, as it does not kill anaerobic bacteria - it kills only aerobic organisms. The absurdity, typical in arguments Holocaust deniers make, is clear. They keep claiming using Zyklon-B in the gas chambers of the Kremas would have been dangerous. Then they say it was used in the very same chambers for delousing.

Finally, the "morgue" is specifically referred to as a "gassing cellar" in a letter from the Auschwitz construction department to SS General Kammler, January 29, 1943. Why call a morgue "gassing cellar?" And why is the other underground room called "undressing cellar?" (see Pressac, p. 221; also The Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945 - G. Reitlinger, South Brunswick, T. Yosellof, 1968, p. 158.

Ruins Of Underground Gassing Chamber Of Krema II, The "Gassing Cellar"
Ruins Of Underground Gassing Chamber Of Krema II, The "Gassing Cellar"

Ruins Of Underground Undressing Cellar of Krema III

Picture of Ruins of Underground "Undressing Cellar of Krema III

The following correspondence between an SS officer and the firm which manufactured the crematoriums shows that the underground cellars in Kremas II and III were to be preheated. Needless to say, this proves that they were not designed to serve as morgues; it does not make much sense to heat a morgue. It does make sense to heat a homicidal gas chamber, to facilitate the evaporation of the Zyklon-B.

Letter from SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Jahrling to Topf & Sons, March 6 1943 [Pressac, p. 221]
Subject: KL Auschwitz Krematorien II and III

In accordance with your suggestion, the service agrees that cellar 1 should be preheated with the air coming from the rooms of the 3 forced draught installations. The supply and installation of the ductwork and blowers necessary to this end are to be effected as soon as possible. As you point out in your above-mentioned letter, execution should commence this week. We would ask you to send in triplicate detailed quote for supply and installation.

At the same time, we would ask you to send an additional quotation for the modification of the air-extraction installation in the undressing room.

It Was Impossible to Kill 6 Million People at Auschwitz

"Judging by the amount and area of the gas chambers, and the number of the Kremas, it was impossible to kill 6 million people in the time interval in which the concentration camps existed."

Jews being shot by NazisNo one claims that 6 million people died at Auschwitz. Many died in other death camps, in the ghettos and in occupied Soviet territory. Estimates of the number of people who were gassed to death in Auschwitz vary, but the lowest is 900,000, and the highest about 1,600,000. It is obvious that the extermination and cremation facilities in Auschwitz could take care of such a number.

 There were five Kremas in Auschwitz. Number II, for instance, had 15 huge furnaces, especially designed to burn efficiently and quickly. Each could consume 3 to 4 bodies at once (remember that many children were present, and many of the people were emaciated), and do so in a maximum of 45 minutes. The SS experimented with different combinations of corpse types and coke to determine which would provide the most cost-efficient results! (Müller, 60-61; Klarsfeld, 99-100).

The figure Leuchter gives as the maximum number of people that could be executed in a week - 1693 - is absurd, as is demonstrated by the following calculation for a single Krema, number II: One gas chamber, about 210 square meters (2220 square feet) in area, easily accommodated a few hundred people, who were crammed into it. Fifteen furnaces, each capable of incinerating at least 3 bodies in 45 minutes, could dispose of at least 720 bodies in a 12-hour day.

In a single year, Krema II could incinerate over a quarter-million bodies. Add that to the capabilities of Kremas III, IV, and V, and you begin to get the picture. In addition, bodies were also burned in massive pits. Two gruesome photographs of these "burning pits", taken in secrecy in Auschwitz-Birkenau, have survived. They are of reasonable quality, and show men standing inside a pile of naked bodies, with the smoking pit in front of them. Some bodies are being dragged into the pit. The photographs are reproduced in Pressac, (422), see picture Pit.gif.

As a reference, one can look at a letter dated June 20 1943, sent to SS General Kammler in Berlin, citing the number of bodies that can be disposed of in 24 working hours as 4,756. A photograph of the letter and its serial number in German archives appears in Pressac (247). (This is lower than 5 x 1440 = 7,200 because some of the Kremas had fewer furnaces than II and III. The exact breakdown, specified in the letter from Jahrling to Kammler, is 340 corpses for Krema I, 768 for IV and V, 1440 for II and III. ).

It is naive at best, and contemptuously dishonest, to claim that such a number of crematoriums were provided for anything other than the disposal of bodies created by the mass murder of helpless victims.

Leuchter arrives at his figures assuming that the people could occupy the gas chambers at a density of maximum 1 person per 9 square feet (!!) and that it would take a week (!!) to ventilate the gas chambers before they could be used for another mass execution. These assumptions are absurd.

Lastly, two other gassing installation existed in Auschwitz - the so-called "Bunker I" and "Bunker II". They were also demolished by the fleeing SS.

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