Roques Henri - The 'Confessions' of Kurt Gerstein

Author : Roques Henri
Title : The 'Confessions' of Kurt Gerstein
Year : 1989

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The Thesis. The reader who enjoys history-told-as-a-story might at first find this a difficult book to read, for this is history-told-as-research. Putting it in medical terms, it is a diagnosis rather than a case history, and what Henri Roques has diagnosed is not one but two maladies: — the improbability of Gerstein's evidence when tested against the ordinary rules of common sense, and —how Gerstein's "confessions" have been manipulated by historians, journalists, dramatists, and other writers for the last forty years. In compiling a thesis of this type in France, various conditions have to be met, and these explain the form in which the thesis is laid out. Two examples might anticipate the puzzlement of a reader not familiar with this process: —The candidate must demonstrate the relevance of his study. For instance, he will not succeed if all he can say is: "I have discovered that the evidence of an obviously neurotic junior SS officer in charge of a small disinfection operation, who ran to the Allies when he saw Germany being defeated, was accused of war crimes, and then committed suicide, is unreliable." The reply of the director of studies would be the French equivalent of "So what?" The candidate has to show that what he has discovered is relevant: namely, that the SS officer was believed; that his allegations were used at trials; have been quoted countless times in newspapers, magazines, books and even the theatre; that his evidence has been a main support of the Holocaust concept; and, finally, that the candidate 's study of the texts shows that the evidence is, for any practical purposes, worthless. — Following from this, the thesis has to include a continuing review of the use and abuse of Gerstein's "confessions" by contemporary historians. The purposes of this review is not to denigrate other historians but to demonstrate that all the appropriate authorities have been studied; to explain what has been found wrong in their books, and therefore how modem history has been warped and misinterpreted. Unfortunately, for the English-speaking reader, the historians quoted in the thesis are mostly French or German, whose books have not always been translated into English. The reason for the choice is obvious: the three professors on Henri Roques' jury were more famliar with French and German writers and English writers. But if this practical reason had not existed and Henri Rocques had had to review every English-language book containing a distorted version of a Gerstein "confession," his task could have been overwhelming, and a grossly disproportionate share of the thesis taken up merely with reference to other writers. To balance the record though, let us quote one example of a British writer whose manipulation of Gerstein's "confession" of 26 April 1945 (referred to in the thesis as T H ) is typical of so many other historians writing in English. On pages 90-92 of his book Final Journey, Martin Gilbert tells the reader: "... Dr. Kurt Gerstein, whom Eichmann employed as a poison gas expert..." In fact: — Gerstein never was a doctor of any sort. In the text quoted by Gilbert, Gerstein is not said to have been a doctor. — The text used by Gilbert does not mention any person named Eichmann. —Assuming that Gilbert means A*fo//Eichmann, then neither in this text nor in any other does Gerstein claim to have met or to have worked for Adolf Eichmann; Gerstein knew so little about Adolf Eichmann that he could not even spell his name properly. — Gerstein was never employed as a poison gas expert, by anyone. He says he witnessed one gassing by Diesel fumes at Belzee; he says he was instructed to change over the gassing method to cyanide, which he did not do; but throughout every version of his "confessions" and his interrogations by the French military, he states again and again and again that he personally was never involved in the use of poison gas. Martin Gilbert continues: "... the Belzec camp had a special compound for the SS, above the entrance of which was the sign: 'Entrance to the Jewish State.' " —Again we meet that famous and so abused word "special," the ominous implications of which are discussed by Henri Roques on page 132 of his thesis. All the military units in the camp have special quarters. How could the fire-fighting unit, for example, function properly if the personnel and equipment were scattered higgledy-piggledy around the cook-house, the hospital, the transport yard, the operations office, and so on? There is nothing "special" or sinister in the SS having their own quarters; on the contrary, it is one of the basics of everyday camp management. But according to the Gerstein text which Gilbert was using, the sign outside the SS premises read: "Place of service Belcec of the SS Army." Whence, then, Gilbert's "Entrance to the Jewish State" outside the SS quarters? There is yet more arrangement of the scenery to come. Martin Gilbert goes on: "...from their compound...the SS men could actually see the entrance to the gas-chamber, the doors to which had been draped with synagogue curtains bearing the Hebrew inscription: 'This is the gate of the Lord into which the righteous shall enter. '" —Where did these curtains come from? This colorful bit of stage property does not exist in any Gerstein text. In his own description, Gerstein states that the entrances to his alleged six gas-chambers (not one gas-chamber) were on either side of a corridor inside a building, where they could hardly be visible from any separate SS compound. The wooden exit doors, through which the bodies were dragged and thrown into enormous graves, were obviously in the outside walls of the building and, self-evidently, the outside of a building has to be the visible side. If we take Gilbert's reconstruction of the building seriously, are we to believe that someone who could not read Hebrew had put welcoming curtains over an exit door? And over only one of the six exit doors (leaving the other five bare) where the victims would be most unlikely to see it, being dead? But first prize for fiction-writteh-as-history must surely go to Dr. Stefan Szende who, being unaware in 1944 that gas was the fashionable thing at Belzec, published a book describing a shed about the size of an aircraft hangar, with a steel floor; several thousands of Jews at a time were crowded in; the floor dropped like a lift into a sort of reservoir or swimming pool; a terrific electric current was passed through the water and the victims were electrocuted (not drowned); then the lift rose again; the metal floor turned red hot and incinerated everyone; and then the floor tilted and the ashes slid off into receptacles provided for the purpose. Neat, hygienic, and unadulterated poppycock from start to finish. No trace of this wonderful machine has ever been found because it never existed. But it is interesting to note how, before the war was even finished, propagandists were laying the ground for sensational revelations. When Gerstein walked on the scene, the audience was already applauding. Gilbert at least did stay within hailing distance of a Gerstein "confession" even though he has taken unpardonable liberties with the truth. But trying to understand his inventions and distortions, one is driven to the conclusion that if he had wished to preserve some tatters of credibility, he hight have been wiser to follow the more clear-cut example of another Holocaust expert, Raul Hilberg, who, testifying before a Toronto court, is quoted as saying: Some of the SS officer's (Gerstein's) claims were outrageous; while others, such as the number of people who could fit into a gas-chamber, warranted scepticism. (Nevertheless) it was intellectually sound to use the portions which withstood scrutiny or seemed plausible, while making no mention of the outlandish statements. Law-abiding citizens everywhere should feel grateful that Professor Hilberg is not a judge in any of our criminal courts. Such an eclectic approach to evidence would cause chaos in the real world where testimony has to be assessed as a composite whole and not picked over, like a plate of hors d'oeuvres, for only those bits which seem palatable. ...

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