MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Leuchter Report

The best known “expert analysis” of this variety is the so-called “Leuchter Report,” issued by an American manufacturer of execution equipment and proclaimed by the deniers in 1988 as a revelation on an international scale and a watershed in perceptions of Auschwitz. Leuchter states that there were far fewer compounds of hydrogen cyanide in the walls of the gas chambers at Auschwitz than in the walls of the disinfection chambers, and concludes that Zyklon B was not used to kill people, but rather, only sporadically, for disinfection.

In fact, the causes of these discrepancies include the different time periods for exposure to hydrogen cyanide in the disinfection chambers and the gas chambers. The gas was used to kill people in the gas chambers for half an hour a day, while the duration of disinfection in the disinfection chambers was, in line with the standard procedure, 24 hours—that is, 48 times as long.

Furthermore, the disinfection chambers are located inside buildings that are still intact, while the walls of the Birkenau gas chambers are in ruin and have been exposed constantly to the weather, which dilutes the concentration of the compounds of hydrogen cyanide. 

The “Leuchter Report” contains a range of other mendacious assertions and speculation intended to call into question the fact that the gas chambers were used to kill people, and the crematoria to burn corpses on a mass scale.

Leuchter claims that only 278 people could fit in one gas chamber. He came up with this figure on the basis of the fictitious assumption that a person in a standing position takes up almost a square meter of floor space (0.836 sq. m.), while in fact many people were squeezed into each square meter of the gas chamber.

Even if the gas chambers did in fact exist, according to Leuchter, only 278 people could be killed in one of them, and not 2 thousand. Furthermore, he claims that this could not be done every day, but rather once a week. According to Leuchter, it took a week to air out the gas chamber. This is a totally groundless assumption with no support either from experiments or from the historical sources. Regardless of the fact that the use of gas masks made it possible to start dragging the corpses out of the gas chamber only 20 to 30 minutes after the introduction of the gas, and that some of the gas chambers were equipped with mechanical ventilation, the claim that it took a week to air out a gas chamber is contradicted by extant regulations, issued by the camp administration, about the safety measures to be used during disinfection with Zyklon B. An order from the commandant on August 12, 1942 reminds SS men that they are forbidden to enter rooms being aired out after the use of Zyklon B for 5 hours.

The “Leuchter Report” also questions the capacity—the throughput—of the crematoria.  On the basis of data about the procedures used in civilian crematoria, where the corpses are burned one at a time and completely (as opposed to the way they were burned in Auschwitz—several at a time and not completely, with mechanical grinding used to reduce unburned bones to powder), Leuchter states that 714 bodies per week could be burned in one crematorium (II or III), and, “realistically,” 315 per week.

This is contradicted not only by statements from former prisoners and Auschwitz commandant himself. The basic German document on crematorium throughput, prepared by the Central Construction Board in Auschwitz on June 28, 1943, states that the five crematoria in the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, together, can burn 4,756 corpses in a 24-hour period. This document indicates that the Birkenau crematoria could burn 1.6 million bodies per year.

These facts make it clear that the “Leuchter Report,” allegedly a watershed in understanding Auschwitz, is in fact nothing more than an attempt, concealed beneath an academic-looking smokescreen of graphs, analyses, and calculations, at misinforming readers who have no access to the scholarly literature—or who are looking for precisely the sort of conclusions that Leuchter offers.