"Holocaust on Trial"

PBS Airdate: October 31, 2000
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NARRATOR: The Final Solution and the slaughter of millions of Jews during World War II is the defining tragedy of the 20th century. But there are those who claim that the Holocaust is a myth - that the millions who died are mere phantoms, that the few who survived are liars. Today, more than 50 years after those terrible events, the very reality of the Holocaust is being challenged.

In the first days of the new millennium, an extraordinary trial opens at the High Court in London. At stake is the historical truth of the Holocaust. The plaintiff is David Irving, hailed by his supporters as the pre-eminent historian of the Third Reich, reviled by his critics as an apologist for the Nazi's greatest crime.

Irving is fighting a one-man libel action against American scholar Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books over her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust.

She has branded Irving a dangerous revisionist, claiming he bends historical evidence to match his own ideological agenda. Irving counters that Lipstadt has conspired to ruin his reputation and threaten his livelihood.

In a U.S. Court, Irving would have to prove Lipstadt's accusation is not only false, but made with reckless disregard for the truth. In Britain, the burden of proof is the other way round: the law sides with Irving, unless Lipstadt can prove that her statements are true. So the outcome of the case is by no means certain.

No cameras are allowed in court, so this program will reconstruct, with actors, key exchanges from the trial. We will also explore the evidence presented by David Irving and by his opponents to trace the tragic record of the Holocaust. David Irving will represent himself in the trial, mounting his case alone and without legal support. Against him, the defense, headed by Richard Rampton, has martialed a team of historians and experts who have worked for more than a year to assemble a mass of documents and evidence. Defendant Deborah Lipstadt will exercise her right not to speak during the trial since she refuses to debate with people she considers to be Holocaust Deniers. Over the course of 3 months, the trial will raise fundamental issues about the responsibility of historians in recording and interpreting an unimaginable human tragedy.

It will also put on trial the historical truth of the Holocaust itself.


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NARRATOR: What began as a libel case will become a trial of the Holocaust itself.

IRVING: I have never held myself out to be a Holocaust expert, nor have I written books about what is now called the Holocaust. If I am an expert in anything at all, I may be so immodest to submit that it is in the role that Adolf Hitler played in propagating World War II, and in the decisions which he made and the knowledge on which he based those decisions. Since then, I have been obliged willy-nilly to become something of an Holocaust expert through no desire of my own. To my utmost distaste, it has become evident that it is no longer possible to write pure history, untrammeled and uninfluenced by politics, once one enters into this unpleasant field. The word "denier" is particularly evil because no one in full command of his mental faculties and with the slightest knowledge of what happened in World War II can deny that the tragedy actually happened, however much we dissident historians may wish to quibble about the scale, the means, the dates and other minutiae. It is like being called a wife beater, a pedophile. It is a verbal yellow star.

NARRATOR: Irving insists that he is not a denier of the Holocaust, but simply an historian who has asked awkward questions. He challenges 3 key aspects of the Holocaust: Irving has argued that there was no systematic plan to exterminate the Jews; that there is no proof that Hitler ordered a policy of extermination; and that no Jews were killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz.

To win the case, the defense must prove that Irving has knowingly distorted the historical record.

RAMPTON: My Lord, Mr. Irving calls himself an historian. The truth is, however, that he is not an historian at all but a falsifier of history. To put it bluntly, he is a liar.

Mr. Irving has used many different means to falsify history - invention, misquotation, suppression, distortion, manipulation, not least, mistranslation; but all these techniques have the same ultimate effect, falsification of the truth.

Mr. Irving is nowadays a Holocaust denier.

NARRATOR: David Irving has become a hero of far right groups around the world. As this footage played in the court shows, he has spoken to neo-Nazi rallies, where he has challenged the historical record of the Third Reich and the Final Solution.

IRVING: Rudolph Hess, a martyr for Germany.

NARRATOR: In his 30-year journey from controversial historian to alleged Holocaust denier, Irving has cast himself at the center of a bitter drama, marked by fines, arrests and deportations.

From the 1960s, David Irving established his reputation as a formidable researcher into the documentation of the Third Reich in a series of books about the World War II and the Nazi leadership.

Armed with an outstanding command of the German language, he repeatedly unearthed important new evidence which he regularly shared with other scholars.

NOAKES: He has been praised by reputable historians for - at that time - not accepting as some historians did that everything was known already, and, you know, simply regurgitating what had been said already.

NARRATOR: In 1977, Irving published Hitler's War which established his reputation with a wide popular audience. In the book, he accepted the historic reality of the Holocaust; but he argued that there was no documentary proof that Adolf Hitler had ordered the Final Solution.

Irving's reputation was further enhanced when he successfully challenged the authenticity of the so-called Hitler Diaries in 1983.

But by the time of publication of the second edition of Hitler's War in 1991, all trace of the Holocaust had disappeared. Auschwitz was no longer a monstrous killing machine but merely a slave labor camp.

REPORTER: Why are you being criticized then?

IRVING: Because pressure groups want to deny me freedom of speech.

NARRATOR: Irving was deported from Canada, refused entry to Australia and threatened with arrest in Germany. But as a skilled publicist for his views, he has become the most notorious historian of the Third Reich, and the most effective spokesman for the revision of the Nazi record.

IRVING: According to the evidence that I have seen, there were no gas chambers anywhere.

CESARANI: David Irving was a kind of Holocaust denier who could get into people's living rooms through books, through articles, through television appearances. I think he was probably the only one who could have made a real dent on public opinion.

NARRATOR: Today, a determined campaign in Europe and America echoes Irving's belief that the historical record of the Final Solution is a lie, orchestrated by the international Jewish lobby.

The communications between Holocaust deniers have become more sophisticated; but their methods are well established. Exploiting public ignorance and fading memories of the details surrounding the extermination of Europe's Jews, the deniers distort documents and misquote records, challenging legitimate historians to validate the established record of the Final Solution.

HILBERG: They kind of say you've got to prove everything. Prove that you are alive. Prove you were born. Prove that you breathe. Prove, prove, prove.

NARRATOR: The defense insist that Irving's work as a scholar has been warped by his politics. Central to their case is their attempt to portray him as a racist.

In preparation for the trial, the defense has had access to all of Irving's private diaries, compiled over a forty-year period. They are able to make use of some of this material in their cross-examination.

RAMPTON: "A quiet evening at home", etc, "Jessica", who is Jessica?

IRVING: My little infant child.


IRVING: She was nine months old at this time.

RAMPTON: Nine months old in September 1994. "Jessica is turning into a fine little lady. She sits very upright on an ordinary chair. Her strong back muscles, a product of our regular walks in my arms to the bank, etc. etc. On those walks we sing the binkety-bankety-bong song." And, more scurrilously, "when half breed children are wheeled past" and then you go into italics, "I am a baby Aryan, not Jewish or sectarian. I have no plans to marry an ape or a Rastafarian"?


RAMPTON: Racist, Mr. Irving? Anti-Semitic Mr. Irving, yes?

IRVING: I do not think so.

RAMPTON: Teaching your little child this kind of poison?

IRVING: Do you think that a nine-month-old can understand words spoken in English or any other language?

NARRATOR: To emphasize Irving's right-wing connections, the defense show a video of a speech he gave to the National Alliance, an American right-wing political group. He is recounting his response to a Jewish questioner at one of his meetings.

IRVING: You are disliked - you people, you have been disliked for 3,000 years, you have been disliked so much that you have been hounded from country to country, from pogrom to purge, from purge back to pogrom. And yet you never ask yourselves why you are disliked, that's the difference between you and me. It never occurs to you to look in the mirror and say why am I disliked, what it is it that the rest of humanity doesn't like about the Jewish people to such an extent that they repeatedly put us through the grinder, and he went berserk he said are your trying to say that we are responsible for the Auschwitz, ourselves? I said well the short answer is yes, the short answer I have to say is yes.

NARRATOR: Irving has never sought to deny that anti-Semitism was at the heart of Hitler's ideology. "In standing guard against the Jew," Hitler wrote, "I am defending the handiwork of the Lord." Irving has also never hidden his admiration for Hitler.

NOAKES: He seems to want to exculpate Hitler, that seems to be a key element of his agenda. He has himself said, I believe, that Hitler had said to his doctor, I think it was, that at some point a historian would come along and it would be an English historian who would write a true account of these events and he seems to think that he is that historian.

NARRATOR: One of Irving's central challenges to the generally accepted view of the Holocaust is that there is no documentary evidence that Hitler planned or ordered it. For years, Irving has been offering a thousand dollars to anyone who can produce a document.

Irving claims that the absence of an early order from Hitler demolishes the vision of the Holocaust being planned and organized at the highest levels of the Reich. But most historians insist that in fact Hitler's plans for the Final Solution evolved over time and were not the result of a single decision.

HILBERG: I would suggest now, after 50 years of research, that Hitler's decision was made in stages, that his thinking evolved, and that his pronouncements became ever more drastic and ever more specific with this evolution.

NARRATOR: The trial will follow in detail the developing stages of the Final Solution. Seven months before the outbreak of World War II, Hitler spelled out the nightmare awaiting the Jews.

HITLER: If Jewish finance, inside and outside Europe succeeds in plunging the world into war, then the result will not be victory for Bolshevism and Jewry, but the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.

NARRATOR: With the German invasion of Poland and the beginning of the Second World War the ominous threat delivered by Hitler against the Jews was to become real.

Up until the end of 1939, 7,000 Jews had been killed in 6 years of Nazi rule. With the rapid Nazi advances, and with millions of Jews in Eastern Europe now falling under Nazi control, the leadership debated how to resolve what they called The Jewish Question.

NOAKES: Suddenly they found themselves with several million more Jews, and what's more Jews who were felt to be dangerous in the sense that they were associated with Bolshevism. And that they were Orthodox Jews, many of them, and that created a kind of other-ness which to some extent fuelled and made it easier, fuelled the kind of hostility and the feeling that, you know, the Jews were somehow not like us, they are sub-human if you like.

NARRATOR: The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 signaled the launch of a new and more savage stage of the Final Solution. The German army high command had been instructed to prepare for a brutal conflict of ideology and racial opposition. Hitler insisted that the struggle would have to be conducted "with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness."

Four motorized task forces known as the Einsatzgruppen were set up to follow the German Blitzkrieg. Their highest priority was the massacre of Soviet Commissars and Jews. The Holocaust had begun.

BREITMAN: There was a prescribed method for carrying out mass shootings of Jews. Often, pits were dug ahead of time, sometimes days in advance. Jews were marched to these usually isolated locations where they were either placed in the pits and shot there or shot into the pits. The whole process was so similar in different places at different times that it suggests a considerable degree of forethought and planning.

CESARANI: It is inconceivable that the Einsatzgruppen could have set out on their missions without preparation, briefing, organization and agreement at the highest level. The Einsatzgruppen and the army were tasked with Führer orders, orders issued in the name of the Führer. They sent back reports to Himmler, routine weekly reports on the scale of the killing of Jews, Commissars and other groups that they targeted.

NARRATOR: Irving claims the Einsatzgruppen massacres of up to 1.5 million victims were arbitrary actions by criminal individuals.

To challenge Irving's claim the defense presents in evidence a report from the chief of Einsatzkommando 3, SS Colonel Karl Jaeger. Dispatched to Berlin in December 1941, it listed the numbers of executions carried out by his squad since July of that year.

RAMPTON: Of 137,000 people executed, about 98.5 percent are identified as having been Jews; men, women and children?

IRVING: That is correct, yes.

RAMPTON: And this report goes back to Berlin?


RAMPTON: What happens to Herr Jaeger, the head of this Einsatzgruppen squad? Was he sacked?

IRVING: That I do not know.

RAMPTON: Imprisoned?

IRVING: That I do not know.

RAMPTON: This is completely at random, really, because one can take any number of examples; the massacre of 33,000 Jews from Kiev in one go, in two days 29th and 30th September 1941, at Babi Yar?

IRVING: I do not know in detail about it.

RAMPTON: Do not these things jump out at you Mr. Irving? These vast number of recorded deaths is being shipped back laboriously and carefully typewritten reports by the murderers to the head of the security service?

IRVING: I accept that, but this is of great interest to a Holocaust historian, not to a Hitler historian. I am a Hitler historian, if you appreciate the difference.

RAMPTON: I do not think there is a difference.

JUSTICE GRAY: We are not so much concerned with Hitler at the moment, but with Berlin. Berlin must have known that the shootings were continuing on - as you would accept - a massive scale.

IRVING: I accept this my Lord, yes.

RAMPTON: Do I now have a clear concession that what the SS did in the East to the Russian Jews, and the Baltic Jews, to a total of perhaps 1.5 million, was done on the authority of and with the knowledge of Berlin?

IRVING: Yes, quite clearly.

NARRATOR: In October 1941, the first deportations of German Jews to the East took place. Although the Nazis were murdering thousands of Soviet Jews, it was not yet a matter of policy to kill Jews from their own country. With America, which was seen by Hitler as a Jewish-controlled nation, still not in the War, the Nazis had a powerful reason to preserve the German Jews.

CESARANI: Hitler had a specific interest in the Jews from Germany because he wanted to keep them as hostages to keep America out of the War and because there was a certain amount of unease amongst the killers in the SS and their aides in the East when it came to killing Jews from their own cultural circle.

Killing East European Jews was one thing, Bolshevik Jews as they understood them to be, or religiously orthodox Jews who they despised. That they did without any qualms.

But the Jews who spoke German, who came from Berlin, that caused a certain amount of unease, and Hitler didn't want to unsettle his men at the front line.

NARRATOR: A mansion near a lake south of Berlin is accepted by most historians to be the place where the organization of the Final Solution was planned.

HARRIS: It's a very moody, atmospheric sort of place. Something has seeped into the soil or into the brickwork there. It's quite easy to imagine this conference in the winter with the big, black Mercedes waiting outside, and the chauffeurs waiting, and the civil servants and the uniformed Gestapo and SS men coming out, having had lunch, I believe. And you could see then the way in which a modern, European, sophisticated state could descend into this kind of Al Capone style gangsterism. It's a very haunting place.

The significance of the Wannsee conference was really, that was the point at which everyone was painted with the same brush. They all dipped their hands into the blood.

NARRATOR: On January 20 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Nazi Security Service summoned a meeting of 15 Nazi functionaries, including Adolf Eichmann, to gather here. The entry of America into the War in December 1941 meant that the bureaucrats were gathering to discuss how best to fulfil Hitler's prophesy of the extermination of all 11 million Jews in Europe.

OVERY: I think Wannsee was a conference which came at a point where Himmler and the racist apparatus had already begun a program of what one might call the rationalism of racism.

I think that Himmler and others were shocked, in the end, by the brutality and violence of the wild killings across the summer and were keen to bring the whole thing under control.

It was very much Himmler's habit, of course, he liked order, he liked to have rational structures for carrying things out. He was very keen to do things the German way. So building up factories of death, extermination camps, liquidating Jews systematically, using bureaucrats as much as soldiers.

NARRATOR: Irving disputes what happened at Wannsee. The transcript of the meeting, he insists, contains no reference to 'liquidation' or to Hitler's approval. It was, he says, a low-level conference concerned with a shift in Nazi policy towards the Jews from deportation overseas to evacuation to the East.

But as one of the principal architects of the Final Solution, Adolf Eichmann, confirmed at his trial in 1961, the talk at Wannsee had all been of killing and liquidation, disguised in the minutes - written by Eichmann himself but checked over and amended by Heydrich.

EICHMANN: "Different methods of killing."

JUDGE: Methods of killing?"


NARRATOR: Moreover, Eichmann said, the Wannsee Conference was in fact a high-level meeting of a wide range of Senior Officials to plan the implementation of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe.

EICHMANN: "They talked about it in very blunt terms, without circumlocution."

NARRATOR: Early in 1942, the Final Solution of the Jewish Question entered a new and more lethal phase with the introduction of a technology of mass slaughter.

NOAKES: Himmler visited Minsk and witnessed a mass execution and was very shocked. Allegedly some brains spattered onto his coat - and he realized that this was imposing quite a burden on the people who were doing it, and he decided that attempts should be made to produce a killing process that was easier for those carrying it out.

NARRATOR: Gassing technology had been developed as part of the Nazi program of euthanasia, directed against mentally and physically handicapped people, and claiming 70,000 lives. Now it was to be used against the Jews.

Mobile gas vans first appeared on the Eastern Front early in 1942. Carbon monoxide was pumped from the vans' engines to suffocate the victims locked inside.

Irving has previously conceded the existence of these gas vans, acknowledging an eye-witness account from the SS Colonel responsible for "Jewish Affairs", Adolf Eichmann. But he continues to claim that they were used only on an experimental basis. The defense enters into evidence an SS document of June 1942.

RAMPTON: "Since December 1941, for example, 97,000 were processed by three trucks in action, without any defects in the vehicles being encountered"

IRVING: Shall we go straight to the bottom line and say yes, I fully accept the innuendo you are placing on that document.

RAMPTON: Innuendo?

IRVING: It is not stated clearly but quite clearly 97,000 people have been liquidated in these trucks.

RAMPTON: In three trucks?

IRVING: Over the months concerned.

RAMPTON: No, it is actually just about a month and a week. 97,000 people in three trucks during the course of five weeks.

IRVING: That is a very substantial achievement if you work it out with a pocket calculator.


JUSTICE GRAY: Is it very experimental?

IRVING: My Lord, I did not have this document at the time I said that. I had this document five or six months ago.

JUSTICE GRAY: Answer the question even so. Would you describe it as "very limited" and "experimental"?

IRVING: Not on this scale. This is systematic.

RAMPTON: It is systematic, huge scale, using gas trucks to murder Jews.

IRVING: Yes. No question at all, but you have failed to establish the link upwards to Hitler.

TREVOR-ROPER: I do not imagine that Himmler, at that stage, could have even thought of acting independently of the Führer.

As he himself said, his whole life had been, his whole program had been based on loyalty to the Führer.

The idea that Himmler had an independent policy, I think, is absurd.

There's no question in my mind that the policy came from Hitler.

CESARANI: I think only the most amateurish of researchers could believe that a political set up like the Third Reich, every action that took place was authorized from above by a written order.

This was a criminal regime that was aware it was in engaging in criminal acts. It played fast and loose with - with the law. And there are a series of other orders given by Hitler that we know about which were never actually put on paper, these were known as Führer wishes. His underlings would turn up at a place and say it is the will of the Führer that something should happen. And everybody knew exactly what that meant. It was an order from on high. It was not to be written down. What we would call today complete deniability was to be preserved.

IRVING: There are no orders. They have not been found. We have now been in the archives, in and out of the archives of the world for the last 50 years since the end of World War II.

RAMPTON: The case is not that there is a piece of paper from Himmler to Hitler, saying here Adolf are the statistics. The case is simply this. The scale of the operation is vast. It must have involved what must have been very considerable disruption to military operations amongst other things. It involved a lot of economic and manpower resources. In the light of what we do know that Hitler did know, in the light of all the information we have about Hitler's anti-Semitism and, as one of the foundations of Nazi ideology, it would be amazing if Hitler did not know, in broad terms - I am not saying he was interested in numbers or anything like that - what was going on.

CESARANI: The European wide genocide against the Jews reaches its climax in 1942.

The ghettos of Poland are systematically emptied out, the great centers of population, Lublin, Lodz, Warsaw.

It's also during this year that the round-ups begin in France, the Netherlands, Belgium.

All over Europe during 1942 Jews are being counted, listed, marked with a yellow star, rounded up, then loaded on trains and sent eastwards and most of them murdered on arrival.

NARRATOR: In the summer of 1942, the ultimate stage of the Final Solution began to unfold: the use of Hydrogen Cyanide - Zyklon B - in the Gas Chambers of Polish extermination centers. Some camps, like Auschwitz, were large complexes - part slave labor camp. Others, like Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, were designed purely as factories of death. But whatever their destination, Jews who were sent to the camps were not expected to survive.

The trial moves on to Auschwitz, the largest and most notorious of all Nazi death camps where at least a million Jews were murdered. On the ramp at Birkenau selections were made from the thousands arriving daily.

Those who could be worked to death were separated from those - the old, the very young, the sick - who were to be marched to the crematoria and gassed soon after arrival.

SWIEBOCKA: In the case of Jews they sent to Auschwitz the whole generations, grandparents and grandchildren, and among them the Nazis carried out selections because they didn't want to have so many people in the camp who were not able for work.

NARRATOR: Central to Irving's revisionist claims about the Holocaust is his belief is that there were no homicidal gas chambers in Auschwitz. He claims that the gas chambers were a piece of atrocity propaganda invented by the British Political Warfare Executive; and he insists that all eye-witnesses are liars. The reason for his rejection for the gas chambers in Auschwitz can be described in one word - Leuchter.

LEUCHTER: "Good morning. My name is Fred Leuchter. I'm an engineer from Boston in the United States. And I'm here this snowy morning here at Auschwitz in Poland and I'm here to examine this alleged gas chamber."

NARRATOR: Self-styled gas chamber "expert", Fred Leuchter, shot to notoriety in 1988 at the trial in Canada of Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel.

LEUCHTER: "I am standing in a fumigation building."

NARRATOR: At Zundel's request, Leuchter went to Auschwitz to test for hydrogen cyanide deposits both in a chamber used to de-louse clothing and in Crematorium 2, the largest of the 4 main gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

LEUCHTER: "Stick your hand under that"

NARRATOR: Leuchter concluded that Crematorium 2 could not have been used as a Homicidal Gas Chamber. For Irving, it was a decisive moment. He pronounced himself entirely converted by Leuchter and even published a glossy version of the report in June 1989.

But the Defendants say that Leuchter's methodology was fatally flawed. He had chiseled into the walls to take his samples when hydrogen cyanide only reacts on the surface of the brick work.

Leuchter also made a fundamental mistake in the analysis of his own results. He took the fact that there were far greater quantities of cyanide in the de-lousing chamber than in the gas chamber to mean that there had been no gassing of humans.

In fact, a far greater quantity of cyanide is necessary to kill lice than to kill humans and so the results were entirely consistent with the presence both of de-lousing chambers and of homicidal gas chambers.

LEUCHTER: "That's a nice one."

NARRATOR: Leuchter's methods and his conclusions have been totally discredited.

LEUCHTER: "I've got a beautiful piece of a roof."

NARRATOR: Irving accepts this, but continues to use the report to back his denials of the gas chambers.

LEUCHTER: "A sample from the roof"

NARRATOR: The SS abandoned Auschwitz in January 1945 shortly before the advancing Red Army reached the camp.

By destroying the physical evidence of the gas chambers, the SS may have believed they were erasing all traces of their crimes.

In fact a large body of documentary evidence survived in the form of official correspondence, architect's blueprints and plans. As ever the true nature of what was being done was obscured by the use of euphemistic phrases and coded language.

SWIEBOCKA: The whole process of extermination together with the other aspects of life in a concentration camp were top secret, and official documents dealing with the matter were full of code words. For example, the Nazis never wrote "People killed by means of Zyklon-B." They used special terminology.

NARRATOR: A document of October 2, 1942, requests a supply from the manufacturers of Zyklon B gas, calling it "material for resettlement of Jews". In the blueprints for Crematorium 2, the gas chamber was always referred to as Leichenkeller 1 - the underground 'mortuary'.

But there are a few gaps in the Nazi camouflage. The defense refers Irving to a document from the Auschwitz archive, dated January 29, 1943. The letter is one of the few surviving documents that refers to 'gassing'. The crucial word in this case is Vergasungskeller, literally "gassing cellar".

The expert witness for the defense is Professor Robert Jan van Pelt, the world's leading authority on the history and architecture of Auschwitz. Van Pelt has presented blueprints and documents showing that 4 new crematoria were built during the summer of 1942, increasing the camps incineration capacity for the following year by over 2000 percent, and providing confirmation, the defense insists, of the development of Auschwitz from a slave labor camp to a death camp. Irving claims that the crematoria were built in response to a typhus epidemic which ravaged the camp that year.

IRVING: Professor van Pelt, what figures do we have here? How many people?

VAN PELT: It is 120,000. Projected incineration capacity for 120,000 people per month.

IRVING: Approximately, so we get an idea what we are talking about here, that is four times Wembley stadium, that is 12,000 tons of people, 12,000 tons of cadavers, that you are going to have to cremate using these very limited installations?

VAN PELT: I do not want to speculate on how many tons and how many at Wembley stadium.

IRVING: You do the calculation yourself. What does the human body weigh? 100 kilograms? Say 10 people per ton?

VAN PELT: I do not think you have been in Auschwitz very long if you weigh 100 kilograms.

IRVING: Say 12 people per ton if you want to cavil, you are still going to end up with 10,000 tons of bodies to dispose of. If you take it from me, it takes 30 kilograms of coke to incinerate one body, can you work out how many tons of coke we are going to put into those tiny coal bunkers you see on the aerial photographs to destroy, to incinerate, to cremate 120,000 bodies? We are talking about train loads, if not ship loads of coke that are going to have to go into Auschwitz, and there is no sign of the mountains of coke in the photographs do you agree?

VAN PELT: First of all, we do not know how much coke was delivered to Auschwitz in 1944. We do know how much coke was delivered to Auschwitz in 1943. We have two documents, one which talks about incineration capacity, and one which talks about the coke use. On the basis of that we can calculate the amount of coke which is going to be used per corpse which is not a happy calculation, I must say, but the bottom line is three-and-a-half kilos of coke per corpse.

IRVING: Do you really sincerely believe that you can burn one corpse with enough coke you could fit in one of these water bottles here?

NARRATOR: In re-examination for the defense, Richard Rampton produces the patent application for the Topf ovens supplied to Auschwitz for incineration purposes.

RAMPTON: The case sought to be made is that this explains how they were able to incinerate as many corpses as they could and also how they managed to use as little fuel as they did.

VAN PELT: This is what it says here at page 540, it says: "Pre-heating of such an oven should take at least two days. After this pre-heating the oven will not need any more fuel due to the heat produced by the corpses."

RAMPTON: Read on, will you?

VAN PELT: "It will be able to maintain its necessary high temperature through self-heating."

RAMPTON: Carry on.

VAN PELT: "But to allow it to maintain a constant temperature it would have become necessary to introduce at the same time so-called well-fed and so-called emaciated corpses because one can only guarantee continuous high temperatures through the emission of human fat."

NARRATOR: The ruins of Crematorium 2 at Auschwitz are the ultimate focus of the struggle in the courtroom. It is at this place that Irving's denials must confront the evidence that half a million people were systematically exterminated here.

SWIEBOCKA: Before the liquidation of the camp and before removing the camp the Nazis ordered them to obliterate all traces of the crimes, so they ordered them to dismantle the gas chambers, the ovens in November and in December in 1944. And one week before the liberation they destroyed the buildings, they dynamited them. That's why we can see only the ruins now.

NARRATOR: The complex of buildings which made up Crematorium 2 has been meticulously studied by defense witness Professor Van Pelt. Based on his research, it is possible now to reconstruct the horrifying details of a factory of death.

The victims were herded, more than a thousand at a time, into the undressing room, where they were told to prepare for a mass shower.

They were then ordered to go towards the gas chamber.

With the victims packed inside the gas chamber, SS guards dropped Zyklon B capsules down through 4 wire mesh columns from holes in the roof. The body heat of the victims released the deadly hydrogen cyanide gas into the room. After a few minutes, the corpses were taken up in a lift to the cremation room, where a gallery of 5 ovens worked ceaselessly.

For Irving, the roof of Crematorium 2 provides the linchpin of his case against the gas chambers. Eye Witness accounts speak of gas pellets being poured into the gas chambers through holes in the roof. But according to Irving, there is no sign of these holes.

IRVING: Professor van Pelt, we are wasting our time really, are we not? There were never any holes in that roof. There are no holes in that roof today. There were never four holes through that roof. They cannot have poured cyanide capsules through that roof. The concrete evidence is still there. You yourself have stood on that roof and looked for those holes and not found them. Our experts have stood on that roof and not found them. The holes were never there. What do you have to say to that?

VAN PELT: I would just say why don't put up the picture of the roof and look at the roof in the present condition? The roof is a mess. The roof is absolutely a mess. A large part of the roof is in fragments. The concrete has many different colors. You pretend that you are talking about a piece which is intact. It is not.

IRVING: You do accept, do you not Professor Van Pelt, that if you were to go to Auschwitz the day after tomorrow with a trowel and clean away the gravel and find a re-enforced concrete hole where we anticipate it would be on your drawings, this would make an open and shut case and I would happily abandon my action immediately?

VAN PELT: I think I cannot comment on this. I am an expert on Auschwitz and not on the way you run your case.

NARRATOR: After 31 days, David Irving lost his libel action. Deborah Lipstadt's defense had cost 3 million dollars. In his verdict, The Honorable Mr. Justice Gray said:

Irving has, for his own ideological reasons, persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence. For the same reasons, he has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favorable light, principally in his relation towards and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews. He is an active Holocaust denier. He is anti-Semitic and racist and he associates with right wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.

CESARANI: I think it's taken David Irving and his ilk out of the equation. We can now see that Holocaust denial is on a separate planet. It has nothing to do with genuine scholarly research. Amongst genuine scholars and researchers, arguments are going to go on. One of the best memorials to the Holocaust and to the fate of the Jews under Nazi rule is to argue about what happened, to do the research, to write the books, to have scholarly conferences because this history is not cut and dried. New documents are appearing, new interpretations are being put forward, respectable interpretations by good young scholars.

Relating those events to the abuse of human rights that's happening in the world today, atrocities and mass murders that are being committed even in Europe is a very good way of remembering the Jews who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

Visit NOVA's Website for an extensive timeline covering Nazi abuses from 1933 to the end of World War II at or America Online keyword PBS.

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Holocaust on Trial

Narrated by Ian Holm

Written & Directed By
Leslie Woodhead

Daniel Korn

Associate Producer
Mark Radice

Edited by
Ian Meller
Julian Rodd

Director of Photography
Roger Chapman

King Camera

Sound Recordist
David Welch

Dubbing Mixer
Steve Crook

3D Animation
Proedi, Milan

Production Managers
Helen Kelsey
Glynis Robertson

Online Editor
Tom Jones

Film Research
Rosalind Bentley
Polly Pettit
Evgueni Nagajtsev

Programme Consultant
David Cesarani

Set Designer
Jim Glen

Costume Designer
Robert Kyle

Casting Director
Doreen Jones

Executive Producer For 3BM Television
Jeremy Bennett

Reconstruction Cast
John Castle

Michael Byrne

Jeremy Clyde

Lex Van Delden

Archival Material
BBC Broadcast Archive
British Pathe
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
ITN Archive
Kaleidoscope, Moscow
National Archive, Washington
Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Central Zionist Archives
"The Truth Shall Make Us Free" - SVT
"Zundelsite" - Dr. Ingrid Rimland
Bundesarchiv Koblenz
Gerald Fleming
PA Photos
State Museum, Auschwitz-Birkenau
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Ullstein Bilderdienst
Focal Point Publications
Penguin Books
Samisdat Publications
Archivum Instytutu Pamieci Narodowej

NOVA Series Graphics
National Ministry of Design

NOVA Theme
Mason Daring
Martin Brody
Michael Whalen

Post Production Online Editor
Spencer Gentry

Closed Captioning
The Caption Center

Production Secretaries
Queene Coyne
Linda Callahan

Diane Buxton
Katie Kemple

Senior Researcher
Ethan Herberman

Unit Managers
Jessica Maher
Sharon Winsett

Nancy Marshall

Legal Counsel
Susan Rosen Shishko

Business Manager
Laurie Cahalane

Post Production Assistant
Lila White Gardella

Assistant Editor
Post Production
Regina O'Toole

Associate Producer
Post Production
Judy Bourg

Post Production Editor
Rebecca Nieto

Production Manager
Post Production
Lisa D'Angelo

Senior Science Editor
Evan Hadingham

Senior Producer
Coproductions and Acquisitions
Melanie Wallace

Managing Director
Alan Ritsko

Executive Producer
Paula S. Apsell

A 3BM Television Production for NOVA/WGBH and Channel 4
© 2000 WGBH Educational Foundation
All rights reserved


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