MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Holocaust denial

Denial of the Holocaust and the genocide in Auschwitz

The concealment of the crime and removal of evidence by the perpetrators

Despite the fact that the tens of thousands of prisoners who survived Auschwitz were witnesses to the crimes committed there; despite the fact that they left behind thousands of depositions, accounts, and memoirs; despite the fact that considerable quantities of documents, photographs, and material objects remain from the camp—despite all of this, there are people and organizations who deny that hundreds of thousands of people were murdered in this camp, that gas chambers operated there, or that the crematoria could burn several thousand corpses per day. In other words, they deny that Auschwitz was the scene of genocide.

Auschwitz is, in many ways, the main target of attacks by deniers, yet the denial of genocide, the existence of the gas chambers, and mass murder nevertheless extends to all the camps, the death camps, and, generally, the mass killing of the Jews.

The scale of this phenomena and its social harmfulness have been acknowledged in many countries as a threat to the social order and made punishable under the law. The legal procedures launched every so often against the deniers prove that the problem is real. It a problem not only for public prosecutors, but also a challenge for historians and educational institutions.

There is nothing new about denial of the crime of genocide or silence about genocide. From the beginning of the war, mainly for political reasons, the Nazis themselves did everything they could to keep international public opinion, and above all the Allied and neutral countries, but also the potential victims, in the dark about the extermination of people in the occupied countries.

Among themselves, however, the narrow circle of the Nazi ruling elite did not conceal these criminal acts.

Addressing high ranking officers in Poznań on October 4, 1943, Himmler, the head of the German police and the SS, said that “Most of you here know what it means when 100 corpses lie next to each other, when 500 lie there. . .. This is an honor roll in our history which has never been and never will be put in writing” (IMT translation).

What did the Nazis do to conceal the crime they had committed? What did they do so that this “honor roll in our history”—or roll of shame—would never be put in writing?

First: they limited the written record of their crime to a minimum;

Second: they falsified the record, to the degree that technical and organizations made its existence necessary;

Third: they destroyed the superfluous and the most incriminating part of the record, once it had served its purpose, in the final phase of the Third Reich. They destroyed not only documents. They also destroyed the mass killing apparatus and liquidated the witnesses.