The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes
 
An Attempt at a Literary Analysis of the Holocaust Gassing Claim

 
by Samuel Crowell
 
 
"In Memoriam!"

Dec 22, 1997: Revised Jan 10, 1999

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Original nature of the gassing claim in 1945-1946.-- Criticism of the claim since then.-- Current calls for censorship. -- The need for free speech and free expression in this domain. -- Methodology: Literary analysis, or a chronological and comparative method.

2. The First Reports

The first reports emanate from Polish Jewish underground newspapers in the winter and spring of 1942. -- Conveyed to England, widely publicized from the summer of 1942. -- The first BBC broadcasts. -- Concept of a feedback loop for developing and legitimizing rumors. -- Nature of rumors. Extermination in a bathhouse by: steam, electricity, a vacuum, a hammer, or poison gas. -- Evolution of the typical shower-gas-burning sequence. -- The Katyn Forest Massacre: a model of forensic investigation. -- Soviet response: gas vans in Krasnodar, massacre at Babi Yar. -- Possible origins of rumors: German secret weapons technology, German experiments with cyanide gas after discovery of Soviet plans to use it in 1941, analogy with Western execution techniques (electrocution, gas), and disinfection procedures.

3. German Disinfection Procedures

Western disinfection procedures developed in 19th Century to combat cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and typhus. -- German methods very systematic, constant exposure to cholera and typhus because of Eastern European immigrants fleeing persecution. -- Hamburg epidemic in 1892. -- Mary Antin's passage in 1893. -- American procedures, 1892, and the fear these evoked in Jewish community. -- German disinfection procedures in World War One in Turkey. -- In Poland. -- English procedures in Poland in 1919. -- American procedures in Poland. -- German technological developments in the 1920's and 1930's. -- The mechanics of disinfection: shaving, showering, and fumigating. Zyklon B. -- Double-doored Apparate for disinfection. -- Railway car gassing tunnels. -- Typical responses among Eastern Jews and others: non-comprehension, fear, anxiety, evasion, and destructive rumors of extermination.

4. The First Reports from Auschwitz and Majdanek

First claims of mass gassing at Auschwitz sandwiched around Soviet occupation of Majdanek camp. -- The first inaccurate Auschwitz memo, July, 1944. -- Soviet guided tour of Majdanek, August 1944, and Special Commission. Gassing motifs emerge. -- Double doored disinfection Apparate identified as gas chamber. -- Fascination with the peephole on the door: fundamental proof of the gassing claim. -- Peephole then figures in Auschwitz claim, in War Refugee Board Report, November, 1945. -- An apparent convergence of fact is perhaps merely a convergence of rumor.

5. The Eastern Camps, Polevoi's Report, and the Gerstein Statement

Soviet propagandists begin gathering gassing stories in August, 1944, these are published in Yiddish. -- Soviet Special Commissions in fall. -- Deposition of Leleko, February, 1945, summarizes these claims. Close linkage of Leleko deposition with descriptions for Majdanek, therefore probable derivation. -- Gerstein statement from April of 1945. -- Contains many fantastic elements, gassing elements in turn derivative of Leleko, Majdanek, and initial Pravda reports on Auschwitz. -- Gerstein illustrates absolute identity of Zyklon B with an extermination program in allied thinking. Gerstein's story widely publicized in France in July, 1945. -- His suicide follows.

6. The Canonical Holocaust

The gassing claim as we understand it today is double-rooted: first, in the photographs and newsreels of the dead at Belsen, who perished from typhoid, typhus, and tuberculosis, and second from the Soviet Special Commission on Auschwitz, which concluded four million dead with no direct documentary evidence. -- Analysis of the Soviet claim. -- Influence of Soviet report on allied interrogators. -- Influence of Soviet report on eyewitnesses: Bendel and Bimko. -- Influence of Soviet report on German confessions: Maximillian Grabner and others.

7. The Nuremberg Trials

The aim of the Nuremberg Trials to discredit National Socialism and German militarism: the future pacification of Germany. -- Evidence provided for incriminating value. -- No attempt at putting documents in context. Soviet Union oversees most of the gassing claim presentation. -- Soviet record in 1930's show trials indicates mass hysteria, conspiratorial thinking, forced confessions. -- Hysterical atmosphere at Nuremberg: Judges, who privately doubt, fail to maintain a rational atmosphere.

8. The Confessions of Rudolf Höß

Höß captured and interrogated by British after Soviets conclude gassing claim presentation. -- Höß' confessions clearly coerced. Analysis of April 5, 1946 affidavit. -- Content of that affidavit derives from Soviet presentation. -- Errors in that affidavit.

9. Interpreting Documents and the Postwar Literature

Quality of documents offered at Nuremberg. -- Documents offered as indicative of gassing actually indicate something else. -- The Wetzel-Lohse correspondence. -- The Diary of Dr. Kremer. -- Post-war literature emerging in this period: Olga Lengyel, Miklos Nyiszli. -- Clear influence of claims in Soviet report. -- Inaccuracy of details and unreliability of descriptions. The main conduit for cultural awareness of the gassing claim. -- The absence of evidence is considered the proof of the gassing claim: the conspiratorial nature of the gassing claim.

10. Retrofitting the Euthanasia Campaign

Euthanasia program begins 1939, evidence indicates lethal injections were used. -- German people began to rumor poison gas and death ray usage because the bodies were cremated, by 1940. -- Strong opposition of German people. -- In summer, 1946, narratives of euthanasia killings emerge, these use the same materials (Double-doored Apparate) and procedure for the now familiar shower-gas-burning sequence. -- Shower element does not fit the euthanasia procedure. -- Confusion of deceptions. -- Concept transference, compare World War One. -- Conclusion is that Euthanasia gassing narratives derived from extermination gassing narratives, but rumors of gas usage came first. -- Demonstrated German fear of poison gas and cremation.

11. The Fear of Cremation and Poison Gas

Cremation still relatively modern in the 1930's and 1940's. Resistance by many social elements, gives rise to bizarre ideas of concealing crimes and corpse recycling. -- National Socialism advocates cremation because of over-crowding and disease control. -- Cremation fears mirrored in many instances of Allied fear about German secret weapons, technological abilities -- Fear of poison gas and its disfiguring effects common in Interwar culture. -- Vicki Baum. -- Pabst's Kameradschaft. Poison gas and mass hysteria: Israel, 1991; Florida, 1971; D-Day, 1944; The "War of the Worlds" panic of 1938. -- Disfigured bodies, from fire or putrefaction, are conceived as victims of poison gas: Germany, Cassell bombing raid, 1943, concentration camps, 1945. -- Poison gas often conceived as air-borne: German civil defense.

12. German Civil Defense

German air raid shelters meant to serve also as anti-gas shelters. -- Therefore equipped with gastight doors. -- Air raid shelter doors also equipped with peepholes, to allow inspection without breaking the gastight seal. -- The doors at Majdanek are air raid shelter doors, the bathing facility meant to double as a decontamination center. -- The main fear is from disfiguring mustard gases, therefore Germans equipped laundries and public baths to serve as decontamination centers in the event of a gas attack. -- Bombing assault on Germany killed perhaps 3/4 million people, most perished from gas poisoning (CO) and were at least partially cremated by dry heat. -- But this event would be inverted into an accusation against the German people after the war.

13. Civil Defense in the Concentration Camps

Concentration camps important to war industry. -- Therefore require air raid and anti-gas protection, according to German guidelines. Review of evidence for air raid shelters and gas protection in the concentration camp system. -- Himmler Order of February 8, 1943, directly precedes flood of work orders for gastight fixtures at Auschwitz Birkenau.

14. Pressac's "Criminal Traces"

Material or documentary evidence in the present day rests almost entirely on the "criminal traces" of J. C. Pressac, developed by the Polish communists for their Auschwitz trials in 1946 and 1947. -- But this evidence, when viewed in the light of civil defense literature, does not indicate gas chambers, but rather gastight bomb shelters and delousing chambers. -- Since most of this evidence clearly argues for gastight bomb shelters, but was developed, and has been presented, as proof of gas chambers, it follows that there is no material or documentary evidence for gas chambers at all, and it follows further that there is a strong likelihood of a Polish and Soviet communist hoax in developing this particular evidence.

15. The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes

Gassing narratives from World War Two reflected in literature prior to the war, including Sinclair Lewis (1936), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1924). -- Analysis of the shower-gas-burning concept in its parts: disinfection procedures (Mayakovsky), poison gas usage (H.G. Wells, Sax Rohmer, E. R. Burroughs). -- Elements of the gassing claim directly pertinent to Jewish traditions: longstanding conceptions of "extermination" and its meanings, "six million", and the concept of a secret central conspiracy to destroy the Jewish people. -- The conclusion is that the cultural script for the shower-gas-burning sequence as well as the extermination-six million-central conspiracy concepts are all very old and deeply rooted.

16. Conclusions

There is no material or documentary evidence that unambiguously supports the gassing claim. -- The evidence put forward overwhelmingly refers to either disinfection or civil air defense, including gas protection. -- Furthermore, fictional accounts of gassing antedate the gassing claim by many years. -- The gassing claim as a mass delusion. -- As a rumor. -- As a legend. -- As a hoax. -- Analogy to UFO abductions. -- The gassing claim as a cultural construct. The need for nationalities to perceive their history as unique. -- The general nature of 20th Century history in Eastern Europe. -- The Jewish ordeal along the continuum of war, revolution, collectivization, dekulakization, and the German expulsions. -- The gassing claim created by, and reinforced by, delusional pressures of social and cultural change as well as by censorship.

First Chapter


Back to Index