- Nothing has been more effective in establishing the authenticity
of the Holocaust story in the minds of Americans than the terrible scenes
US troops discovered when they entered German concentration camps at the
close of World War II.
- At Dachau, Buchenwald, Dora, Mauthausen, and other work
and detention camps, horrified US infantrymen encountered heaps of dead
and dying inmates, emaciated and diseased. Survivors told them hair-raising
stories of torture and slaughter, and backed up their claims by showing
the GIs crematory ovens, alleged execution gas chambers, supposed implements
of torture, and even shrunken heads and lampshades, gloves, and handbags
purportedly made from skin flayed from dead inmates.
- US government authorities, mindful that many Americans
who remembered the atrocity stories fed them during World War I still doubted
the Allied propaganda directed against the Hitler regime, resolved to "document"
what the GIs had found in the camps. Prominent newsmen and politicians
were flown in to see the harrowing evidence, while the US Army Signal Corps
filmed and photographed the scenes for posterity. Famous journalist Edward
R. Murrow reported, in tones of horror, but no longer of disbelief, what
he had been told and shown, and Dachau and Buchenwald were branded on the
hearts and minds of the American populace as names of infamy unmatched
in the sad and bloody history of this planet.
- For Americans, what was "discovered" at the
camps -- the dead and the diseased, the terrible stories of the inmates,
all the props of torture and terror -- became the basis not simply of a
transitory propaganda campaign but of the conviction that, yes, it was
true: the Germans did exterminate six million Jews, most of them in lethal
- What the GIs found was used, by way of films that were
mandatory viewing for the vanquished populace of Germany, to "re-educate"
the German people by destroying their national pride and their will to
a united, independent national state, imposing in their place overwhelming
feelings of collective guilt and political impotence. And when the testimony,
and the verdict, of the Nuremberg Tribunal incorporated most, if not all,
of the horror stories Americans were told about Dachau, Buchenwald, and
other places captured by the US Army, the Holocaust could pass for one
of the most documented, one of the most authenticated, one of the most
proven historical episodes in the human record.
- A Different Reality
- But it is known today that, very soon after the liberation
of the camps, American authorities were aware that the real story of the
camps was quite different from the one in which they were coaching military
public information officers, government spokesmen, politicians, journalists,
and other mouthpieces.
- When American and British forces overran western and
central Germany in the spring of 1945, they were followed by troops charged
with discovering and securing any evidence of German war crimes.
- Among them was Dr. Charles Larson, one of America's leading
forensic pathologists, who was assigned to the US Army's Judge Advocate
General's Department. As part of a US War Crimes Investigation Team, Dr.
Larson performed autopsies at Dachau and some twenty other German camps,
examining on some days more than 100 corpses. After his grim work at Dachau,
he was questioned for three days by US Army prosecutors. 
- Dr. Larson's findings? In an 1980 newspaper interview
he said: "What we've heard is that six million Jews were exterminated.
Part of that is a hoax."  And what part was the hoax? Dr. Larson,
who told his biographer that to his knowledge he "was the only forensic
pathologist on duty in the entire European Theater" of Allied military
operations,  confirmed that "never was a case of poison gas uncovered."
- Typhus, Not Poison Gas
- If not by gassing, how did the unfortunate victims at
Dachau, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen perish? Were they tortured to death
or deliberately starved? The answers to these questions are known as well.
- As Dr. Larson and other Allied medical men discovered,
the chief cause of death at Dachau, Belsen and the other camps was disease,
above all typhus, an old and terrible scourge of mankind that until recently
flourished in places where populations were crowded together in circumstances
where public health measures were unknown or had broken down. Such was
the case in the overcrowded internment camps in Germany at war's end, where,
despite such measures as systematic delousing, quarantine of the sick and
cremation of the dead, the virtual collapse of Germany's food, transport,
and public health systems led to catastrophe.
- Perhaps the most authoritative statement of the facts
as to typhus and mortality in the camps has been made by Dr. John E. Gordon,
M.D., Ph.D., a professor of preventive medicine and epidemiology at the
Harvard University School of Public Health, who was with US forces in Germany
in 1945. Dr. Gordon reported in 1948 that "The outbreaks in concentration
camps and prisons made up the great bulk of typhus infection encountered
in Germany." Dr. Gordon summarized the causes for the outbreaks as
- Germany in the spring months of April and May 
was an astounding sight, a mixture of humanity travelling this way and
that, homeless, often hungry and carrying typhus with them ...
- Germany was in chaos. The destruction of whole cities
and the path left by advancing armies produced a disruption of living conditions
contributing to the spread of the disease. Sanitation was low grade, public
utilities were seriously disrupted, food supply and food distribution was
poor, housing was inadequate and order and discipline were everywhere lacking.
Still more important, a shifting of populations was occurring such as few
countries and few times have experienced.
- Dr. Gordon's findings are corroborated by Dr. Russell
Barton, today a psychiatrist of international repute, who entered Bergen-Belsen
with British forces as a young medical student in 1945. Barton, who volunteered
to care for the diseased survivors, testified under sworn oath in a Toronto
courtroom in 1985 that "Thousands of prisoners who died at the Bergen-Belsen
concentration camp during World War II weren't deliberately starved to
death but died from a rash of diseases." 
- Dr. Barton further testified that on entering the camp
he had credited stories of deliberate starvation but decided such stories
were untrue after inspecting the well equipped kitchens and the meticulously
maintained ledgers, dating back to 1942, of food cooked and dispensed each
- Despite noisily publicized claims and widespread popular
notions to the contrary, no researcher has been able to document a German
policy of extermination through starvation in the German camps.
- No 'Human Skin' Lampshades
- What of the ghoulish stories of concentration camp inmates
skinned for their tattoos, flayed to make lampshades and handbags, or other
artifacts? What of the innumerable "torture racks," "meathooks,"
whipping posts, gallows, and other tools of torment and death that are
reported to have abounded at every German camp? These allegations, and
even more grotesque ones proffered by Soviet prosecutors, found their way
into the record at Nuremberg.
- The lampshade and tattooed-skin charges were made against
Ilse Koch, dubbed by journalists the "Bitch of Buchenwald," who
was reported to have furnished her house with objects manufactured from
the tanned hides of luckless inmates.
- But General Lucius Clay, military governor of the US
zone of occupied Germany, who reviewed her case in 1948, told his superiors
in Washington: "There is no convincing evidence that she [Ilse Koch]
selected inmates for extermination in order to secure tattooed skins or
that she possessed any articles made of human skin."  In an interview
General Clay gave years later, he stated about the material for the infamous
lampshades: "Well, it turned out actually that it was goat flesh.
But at the trial it was still human flesh. It was almost impossible for
her to have gotten a fair trial."  Ilse Koch hanged herself in
a German jail in 1967.
- It would be tedious to itemize and refute the thousands
of bizarre claims as to Nazi atrocities. That there were instances of German
cruelty, however, is clear from the testimony of Dr. Konrad Morgen, a legal
investigator attached to the Reich Criminal Police, whose statements on
the witness stand at Nuremberg have never been challenged by proponents
of the Jewish Holocaust story. Dr. Morgen informed the court that he had
been given full authority by Heinrich Himmler, commander of Hitler's SS
and the dread Gestapo, to enter any German concentration camp and investigate
instances of cruelty and corruption on the part of camp personnel.
- As he explained in sworn testimony at Nuremberg, Dr.
Morgen investigated 800 such cases, resulting in more than 200 convictions.
 Punishments included the death penalty for the worst offenders, including
Hermann Florstedt, commandant of Lublin (Majdanek), and Karl Koch (Ilse's
husband), commandant of Buchenwald.
- While German camp commandants in certain cases did inflict
physical punishment, such acts had to be approved by authorities in Berlin,
and it was required that a camp physician first certify the good health
of the prisoner to be disciplined, and then be on hand at the actual beating.
 After all, throughout most of the war the camps were important centers
of industrial activity. The good health and morale of the prisoners was
critical to the German war effort, as is evidenced in a January 1943 order
issued by SS General Richard Glücks, chief of the office that supervised
the concentration camps. It held the camp commanders "personally responsible
for exhausting every possibility to preserve the physical strength of the
- Camp Survivors: Merely Victims?
- US Army investigators, working at Buchenwald and other
camps, quickly ascertained what was common knowledge among veteran inmates:
that the worst offenders, the cruelest denizens of the camps, were not
the guards but the prisoners themselves. Common criminals of the same stripe
as those who populate US prisons today committed many villainies, particularly
when they held positions of authority, and fanatical Communists, highly
organized to combat their many political enemies among the inmates, eliminated
their foes with Stalinist ruthlessness.
- Two US Army investigators at Buchenwald, Egon W. Fleck
and Edward A. Tenenbaum, carefully investigated circumstances in the camp
before its liberation. In a detailed report submitted to their superiors,
they revealed, in the words of Alfred Toombs, their commander, who wrote
a preface to the report, "how the prisoners themselves organized a
deadly terror within the Nazi terror." 
- Fleck and Tenenbaum described the power exercised by
criminals and Communists as follows:
- The trusties, who in time became almost exclusively Communist
Germans, had the power of life and death over all other inmates. They could
sentence a man or a group to almost certain death ... The Communist trusties
were directly responsible for a large part of the brutalities at Buchenwald.
- Colonel Donald B. Robinson, chief historian of the American
military government in Germany, summarized the Fleck-Tenenbaum report in
an article published in an American magazine shortly after the war. Colonel
Robinson wrote succinctly of the American investigators' findings: "It
appeared that the prisoners who agreed with the Communists ate; those who
didn't starved to death." 
- Additional corroboration of inmate brutality has been
provided by Ellis E. Spackman, who, as Chief of Counter-Intelligence Arrests
and Detentions for the US Seventh Army, was involved in the liberation
of Dachau. Spackman, later a professor of history at San Bernardino Valley
College in California, wrote in 1966 that at Dachau "the prisoners
were the actual instruments that inflicted the barbarities on their fellow
- 'Gas Chambers'
- In December 1944 US Army officers Colonel Paul Kirk and
Lt. Colonel Edward J. Gully inspected the German concentration camp at
Struthof-Natzweiler in Alsace. They submitted their findings to their superiors,
who subsequently forwarded their report to the US War Crimes Division.
While, significantly, the full text of their report has never been published,
it has been revealed, by a historian supportive of Holocaust claims, that
the two investigators were careful to characterize equipment exhibited
to them by French informants as a "so-called lethal gas chamber,"
and to claim it was "allegedly used as a lethal gas chamber."
 (Emphasis added)
- Both the careful phraseology of the Natzweiler report,
and its effective suppression, stand in stark contrast to the credulity,
the confusion, and the blaring publicity that accompanied official reports
of alleged gas chambers at Dachau. At first, a US Army photo depicting
a GI gazing at a steel door marked with a skull and crossbones and the
German words for: "Caution! Gas! Mortal danger! Don't open!,"
was identified as showing the murder weapon. 
- Later, however, it was evidently decided that the apparatus
in question was merely a standard delousing chamber for clothing, and another
alleged gas chamber, this one cunningly disguised as a shower room, was
exhibited to American congressmen and journalists as the site where thousands
breathed their last. While there exist numerous reports in the press as
to the operation of this second "gas chamber," no official report
by trained Army investigators has yet surfaced to reconcile such problems
as the function of the shower heads: Were they "dummies," or
did lethal cyanide gas stream through them? (Each theory has appreciable
support in journalistic and historiographical literature.)
- As with Dachau, so with Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and
the other camps liberated by the Allies in western Germany. There was no
end of propaganda about "gas chambers," "gas ovens,"
and the like, but so far not a single detailed description of the murder
weapon and its function, not a single report of the kind that is mandatory
for the successful prosecution of any assault or murder case in America
at that time and today, has come to light.
- Furthermore, a number of Holocaust authorities have now
publicly decreed that there were no gassings, no extermination camps in
Germany after all. (We are now told that "gassing" and "extermination"
camps were located exclusively in what is now Poland, in areas captured
by the Soviet Red Army and made off-limits to western investigators.)
- Dr. Martin Broszat of the Munich-based Institute for
Contemporary History, which is funded by the German government, stated
categorically in a 1960 letter to the German weekly Die Zeit: "Neither
in Dachau nor in Bergen-Belsen nor in Buchenwald were Jews or other prisoners
gassed."  Professional "Nazi hunter" Simon Wiesenthal
stated in 1975 and again in 1993 that "there were no extermination
camps on German soil." 
- Dachau "gas chamber" No. 2, which was once
presented to a stunned and grieving world as a weapon that claimed hundreds
of thousands of lives, is now described in the brochure issued to tourists
at the modern Dachau "memorial site" in these words: "This
gas chamber, camouflaged as a shower room, was not used." 
- The Propaganda Intensifies
- More than 50 years after American troops entered Dachau,
Buchenwald and other German camps, and trained American investigators established
the facts as to what had gone on in them, the government in Washington,
the entertainment media in Hollywood, and the print media in New York continue
to churn out millions of words and images annually on the horrors of the
camps and the infamy of the Holocaust. Despite the fact that, with the
exception of the defeated Confederacy, no enemy of America has ever so
suffered so complete and devastating defeat as did Germany in 1945, the
mass media and the politicians and bureaucrats behave as if Hitler, his
troops, and his concentration camps continue to exist in an eternal present,
and our opinion makers continue to distort, through ignorance or malice,
the facts about the camps.
- Time for the Truth
- It is time that the government and the professional historians
reveal the facts about Dachau, Buchenwald and the other camps. It is time
they let the American public know how the inmates died, and how they didn't
die. It is time that the claims of mass murder by gassing are clarified
and investigated in the same manner as any other claims of murder. It is
time that the free ride certain groups have enjoyed as the result of unchallenged
Holocaust claims be terminated, just as it is time to end the scapegoating
of other groups, including Germans, eastern Europeans, the Roman Catholic
hierarchy, and the wartime leadership of America and Britain, either for
their alleged role in the Holocaust or their supposed failure to stop it.
- Above all, it is time that the citizens of this great
Republic have the facts about the camps, facts they have a right to know,
a right that is fundamental to the exercise of their authority and their
will in the governance of their country. As citizens and as taxpayers,
Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, of all faiths, have a basic right
and an overriding interest in determining the facts of incidents that are
deemed by those in positions of power to be significant in determining
America's foreign and educational policy, as well as its selection of past
events to be memorialized in our civic life.
- Today the alleged facts of the Holocaust are at issue
all over the civilized world. The truth will be decided only by recourse
to the facts, in the public forum: not by concealing the facts, denying
the truth, stonewalling reality. The truth will out, and it is time the
government of this country, and governments and international bodies throughout
the world, make public the evidence of what actually transpired in the
German concentration camps in the years 1933-1945, so that we may put paid
to the lies, without fear or favor, and carry out the work of reconciliation
and renewal that is and must be the granite foundation of mutual tolerance
between peoples and of a peace based on justice.
- The conclusions of the early US Army investigations as
to the truth about the wartime German concentration camps have since been
corroborated by all subsequent investigators and can be summarized:
- 1. The harrowing scenes of dead and dying inmates were
not the result of a German policy of "extermination," but rather
the result of epidemics of typhus and other disease brought about largely
by the effects of Allied aerial attacks. 2. Stories of Nazi supercriminals
and sadists who turned Jews and others into handbags and lampshades for
their private profit or amusement were sick lies or diseased fantasies;
indeed, the German authorities punished corruption and cruelty on the part
of camp commanders and guards. 3. On the other hand, portrayals of the
newly liberated inmates as saints and martyrs of Hitlerism were quite often
very far from the truth; indeed, most of the brutalities inflicted on camp
detainees were the work of their fellow prisoners, in contravention of
German policy and German orders. 4. The alleged homicidal showers and
gas chambers were used either for bathing camp inmates or delousing their
clothes; the claim that they were used to murder Jews or other human beings
is a contemptible fabrication. Orthodox historians and professional "Nazi-hunters"
have quietly dropped claims that inmates were gassed at Dachau, Buchenwald
and other camps in Germany. They continue, however, to keep silent regarding
the lies about Dachau and Buchenwald, as well as to evade an open discussion
of the evidence for homicidal gassing at Auschwitz and the other camps
captured by the Soviets.
- 1. John D. McCallum, Crime Doctor [a biography of Dr.
Charles P. Larson]
- (Mercer, Wash.: The Writing Works, 1978), pp. 44-46,
59, 69; See also: J. Cobden,
- "The Dachau Gas Chamber Myth," The Journal
of Historical Review, March-April
- 1995, pp. 17-18.
- 2. Jane Floerchinger, "Concentration Camp Conditions
Killed Most Inmates,
- Doctor Says," The Wichita Eagle, April 1, 1980,
- 3. J. D. McCallum, Crime Doctor (1978), p. 46.
- 4. The Wichita Eagle, April 1, 1980, p. 4C.
- 5. John E. Gordon, "Louse-Borne Typhus Fever in
the European Theater of
- Operations, U.S. Army, 1945," in Forest Ray Moulton,
editor, Rickettsial Diseases
- of Man (Washington, DC: American Academy for the Advancement
- 1948), pp. 16-27. Quoted in: Friedrich P. Berg, "Typhus
and the Jews," The Journal
- of Historical Review, Winter 1988-89, pp. 444-447, and
in Arthur Butz, The
- Hoax of the Twentieth Century (IHR, 1993), pp. 46-47.
- 6. "Disease killed Nazis' prisoners, MD says,"
Toronto Star, Feb. 8, 1985,
- p. A2. On Barton's similar testimony in a 1988 Toronto
trial, see: Barbara
- Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die? (Toronto:
Samisdat, 1992), pp. 175-180,
- and, Robert Lenski, The Holocaust on Trial (1990), pp.
157-160, and, M.
- Weber, "Bergen-Belsen Camp: The Suppressed Story,"
The Journal of Historical Review
- , May-June 1995, pp. 27, 30 (n. 30).
- 7. "Clay Explains Cut in Ilse Koch Term,"
The New York Times, Sept. 24,
- 1948, p. 3.
- 8. Interview with Lucius Clay, 1976, Official Proceeding
of the George C.
- Marshall Research Foundation. Quoted in M. Weber, "Buchenwald:
- Reality," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter
1986-87 (Vol. 7, No. 4), pp.
- 9. International Military Tribunal (IMT), Trial of the
Major War Criminals
- Before the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg:
- series"]), Vol. 20, pp. 489, 438.
- 10. Eugen Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell (New
York: Berkley Books
- [pb.], 1984), pp. 108-109. See also: "Punishment
for Mistreating SS Camp
- Prisoners," The Journal of Historical Review, Jan.-Feb.
1995, p. 33.
- 11. Nuremberg document NO-1523. Published in Trials of
War Criminals Before
- the Nuernberg Military Tribunal (NMT "green series"),
Vol. 4, pp. 372-373.
- 12. Egon W. Fleck and Edward A. Tenenbaum, Buchenwald:
A Preliminary Report,
- US Army, 12th Army Group, April 24, 1945. National Archives,
RG 331, SHAEF,
- G-5, 17.11, Jacket 10, Box 151. Quoted in: M. Weber,
"Buchenwald: Legend and
- Reality," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter
1986-87, pp. 408-409.
- 13. Donald B. Robinson, "Communist Atrocities at
Buchenwald," American Mercury
- , October 1946, pp. 397-404.
- 14. San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, March 13, 1966. Quoted
in: James J. Martin,
- The Man Who Invented 'Genocide' (IHR, 1984), pp. 110-111.
- 15. "Concentration Camp at Natzwiller [sic],"
RG 331, Records of Allied
- Operations and Occupation, SHAEF/G-5/2717, Modern Military,
- (Washington, DC). Quoted in: Robert H. Abzug, Inside
the Vicious Heart (New York:
- Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 9-10, 181 (n. 5).
- 16. John Cobden, Dachau: Reality and Myth (IHR, 1994),
pp. 25-29. See also:
- The Journal of Historical Review, May-June 1993, pp.
9-11; The Journal of
- Historical Review, March- April 1995, p. 16.
- 17. "Keine Vergasung in Dachau," Die Zeit (Hamburg),
August 19, 1960.
- Facsimile reprint, and English-language translation,
in The Journal of Historical
- Review, May-June 1993, p. 12.
- 18. Letters in Books & Bookmen (London), April 1975,
p. 5, and in The Stars
- and Stripes (European edition), Jan. 24, 1993, p. 14.
Wiesenthal's 1993 Stars
- and Stripes letter is reprinted in facsimile in The Journal
of Historical Review
- , May-June 1993, p. 10.
- 19. Memorial Site Concentration Camp Dachau. Leaflet
published by the
- International Dachau-Committee (Dachau, Germany), no
- The original version of this revised and updated essay
first appeared in The Journal of Historical Review, July-August 1995 (Vol.
15, no. 4), pp. 18-23.
- Theodore J. O'Keefe, educated at Harvard University,
is the author of numerous published articles, essays and reviews on historical
and political subjects. For some years he served as editor of The Journal
of Historical Review, which is published by the Institute for Historical