Questions concerning Belzec
Wouldn't your testimony at the Demjanjuk trial have given a fairer view of the dependability of our knowledge of Holocaust events if you had brought to the court's attention some of the Holocaust stories that were once believed but have since been discredited, such as the story of the Belzec electrocutions?
The first two block quotations below are from the February 1987 court transcript of the trial of John Demjanjuk in Jerusalem. Any errors noted in these two quotations can be assumed to have been in the original court transcript, and not to have been introduced by the Ukrainian Archive.
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Belzec According to
Your Demjanjuk Testimony
In your February 1987 role as first witness at the Jerusalem trial of John Demjanjuk for the crime of having been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, you testify that every last trace of Belzec was eradicated, just as was the case at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Babyn Yar:
LEVIN: The camps of Belzec and Sobibor, were they also destroyed, or does anything remain of these camps?|
ARAD: Sobibor and Belzec were totally eliminated, same innihilation. Sobibor was almost an exact duplicate of this and Belzec, the first camp was somewhat different. But, on the basis of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka were built and along the same lines — all three of them were utterly eradicated. Now, afterwards the government of Poland decided to establish monuments but there are no remains of the camp as such. (Morning Session, 17Feb87, pp. 242-243, emphasis added)
And you also testify that the bodies of the Belzec victims were first buried, but later disinterred and burned, also just as at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Babyn Yar:
ARAD: Himmler instituted a special unit under Sturmbandfuehrer S.S. Globl whose job it was to open up all thepits, all these hundreds of thousands of corpses of Jews who, whether it was at Babi Yar, whether it was in Kiev, whether it was in Riga or whether it was in Vilna, open upall these mass graves and burn the corpses.|
And when he found out that Treblinka and Belzec and Sobibor this practice was already instituted earlier. In Treblinka, when in February he found out this had not yet been instituted, he instructed the commander — it was Floss — a German — Fluss put in charge of the incinerating of the corpses. I would say that at the time of the liquidation of the camp was dependent on the incineration of the corpses there. (Morning Session, 17Feb87, pp. 266-267, emphasis added)
Belzec According to
The Jewish Black Book Committee
However, when we consult alternative descriptions of Belzec, we discover that they may clash with your own. For example, here is a description of Belzec that I find in The Black Book: The Nazi Crime Against the Jewish People:
The Belzec camp is built underground. It is an electric crematorium. There are two halls in the underground buildings. People were taken out of the railway cars into the first hall. Then they were led naked to the second hall. Here the floor resembled an enormous plate. When the crowd of men stood on it, the floor sank deep into a pool of water. The moment the men sank up to their necks, a powerful electric current of millions of volts was passed through, killing them at once. The floor rose again, and a second electric current was passed through the bodies, burning them until nothing was left of the victims save a few ashes. (The Jewish Black Book Committee, The Black Book: The Nazi Crime Against the Jewish People, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1946, p. 313, emphasis added)
The above description of Belzec carries particular weight because of the prestigious and diversified membership of The Jewish Black Book Committee which takes credit for the work:
WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS, New York
JEWISH ANTI-FASCIST COMMITTEE, Moscow
VAAD LEUMI (Jewish National Council of Palestine), Jerusalem
AMERICAN COMMITTEE OF JEWISH WRITERS, ARTISTS AND SCIENTISTS, New York
The two images of Belzec above
In connection with the two above images of Belzec, I would like to ask you some questions, but which set of questions it is depends upon whether you think that The Jewish Black Book Committee story of Belzec electrocutions is true or false.
If you think that The Jewish Black Book Committee story of Belzec electrocutions is TRUE:
(1) Belzec must have left traces. If Belzec was "built underground," as is claimed by The Jewish Black Book Committee, then it must have been wholly concrete, and so must also have been difficult — one might imagine almost impossible — to dismantle and move so as to leave no traces. One could readily bury this underground Belzec under a layer of earth, certainly, but then there it would sit, waiting for future investigators to unbury it. Thus we have strong reason to expect that some remains of Belzec must still be in place, and thus available for verification. Therefore, how do you account for your Demjanjuk testimony to the effect that every last physical trace of Belzec had been eradicated, just as it also was at Treblinka and Sobibor and Babyn Yar?
(2) Belzec could not have left bodies to burn. As the bodies of the Belzec victims were so completely incinerated by the "second electric current" that "nothing was left of the victims save a few ashes," then it would not have been necessary to first bury the bodies, and later to disinter them and burn them in open-air fires. Therefore, how do you account for your testimony in the course of the Demjanjuk trial that Belzec bodies were disinterred and burned, just as they similarly were at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Babyn Yar?
(3) Is Belzec methodology plausible? Are you aware if the report of the Belzec electrocution and incineration has ever been submitted to the scrutiny of scientists and engineers knowledgeable about such matters for verification as to plausibility? (One imagines that because scientists were among the members of The Jewish Black Book Committee, that your answer would be in the affirmative.) Are you aware that to get an electric current to pass through a human body, one needs to attach to the body both a cathode and an anode (as at the head and ankles in an electric-chair execution), and that the Belzec scenario appears to have no way of achieving this? Are you aware that if water contains a low concentration of ions, then it is a poor conductor of electricity, and that if it contains a high concentration of ions, then it will conduct electricity around a human body that is immersed in it — such that it is unclear what role the water was supposed to have played in the Belzec electrocutions? Are you aware of any cremation technology which today employs electric current rather than flame, and which leaves only "a few ashes" for each crowd of individuals cremated rather than several pounds of unburned bone for each individual cremated?
(4) Belzec high-tech infrastructure costly. In your Demjanjuk testimony, you refer to the carbon monoxide gas chambers used at Treblinka as introducing efficiency, and in my letter to you of 9Mar99, I pointed out that one way in which their use was inefficient is in requiring the construction and maintenance of an infrastructure. And if The Jewish Black Book Committee is to be believed, then the Belzec infrastructure would have been so much more complex both to build and to maintain that one wonders whether any subsequent advantage could have offset the astronomical initial outlays — outlays attendant upon building platforms that sank into water and then rose again, and upon engineering electric currents powerful enough to first kill a crowd of people, and after that to incinerate their bodies so as to leave no more than "a few ashes." Therefore, how do you reconcile your claim that the Nazi development of methods of mass execution was guided by the motive of efficiency when the building of the high-tech underground Belzec complex must have been both frustratingly slow and dauntingly costly?
And I might ask you to explain too why Nazi planners did not immediately see ways of reducing the cost of executions at Belzec. For example, instead of "an electric current of millions of volts" to electrocute the victims which would have been costly to implement, not to mention susceptible to interruptions, Nazi planners would have immediately realized that the same facilities could be used to kill without any electricity at all — simply lower a screen to water level above the victims, and they will all drown. Thus, doing without the millions of volts at the execution stage would have provided one enormous saving. And why have a platform going up and down at all? — Simply have the victims step into the pool. Thus, doing without a platform big enough to hold a "crowd" (as well as doing without the giant motors needed to move that platform up and down) would have provided a second enormous saving. Not to mention how much cheaper it would have been to build above ground — and on and on. Thus, what needs to be explained is why the Nazis would have favored a needlessly complex and expensive method of execution, when one glance at the plans would have suggested simpler and more frugal alternatives.
If you think that The Jewish Black Book Committee story of Belzec electrocutions is FALSE:
(1) How could belief have been unanimous? If the story of the Belzec electrocutions is false, then how would you account for such a prestigious and diverse array of Jewish institutions having vouched for it?
(2) Don't we need a truth squad? Could you bring to my attention any Jewish institution which recognizes the harm done to Jewish credibility and prestige from allowing fantastic stories of the Jewish Holocaust to be disseminated, and which sets as its task the publication of corrective information debunking such stories? Might it be the case, for example, that Yad Vashem already devotes some of its resources to debunking the many things that have been said about the Jewish Holocaust which have subsequently proven to be untrue? And might it be the case that agencies such as the World Jewish Congress which sponsored The Black Book have since published an erratum retracting some of its contents? Or might you yourself have published a refutation of the Belzec electrocutions story?
(3) Don't we need to improve education in detecting incongruities? The story of the Belzec electrocutions reveals itself to be false merely by its internal contradictions. Therefore, people who believe such stories must be insensitive to incongruity, and thus might fall easy prey to every fabulist and mountebank who comes across their path. Their education has been defective in that it taught them to trust and to believe while at the same time neglecting the indispensible skills of doubting and questioning.
(4) A reflection on Israeli justice? Are you secure in your confidence in Israeli justice when it is able to convict a man of capital crimes set during events concerning which there is as much uncertainty and contradiction as there appears to be concerning Belzec? Wouldn't your testimony at the Demjanjuk trial have given a fairer view of the dependability of our knowledge of Holocaust events if you had brought to the court's attention some of the Holocaust stories that were once believed but have since been discredited, such as the story of the Belzec electrocutions?