For 30 years I have been looking for a Nazi gas chamber – in vain. I have visited Auschwitz and many other camps, but have found no gas chambers. I have read thousands of documents, books and articles but not even in such books as “The Gas Chambers Existed” (Georges Wellers, Les chambres à gaz ont existé: des documents, des témoignages, des chiffres, Paris 1981) or Auschwitz, Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (Jean-Claude Pressac, New York 1989) have I ever seen the slightest photo or drawing of any of those fantastic chemical slaughterhouses supposed to have functioned, most of them, with Zyklon B. Nor have I ever seen a Nazi gas chamber on a television programme.
This is strange.
Zyklon-B is essentially hydrocyanic acid. I know how one should use it in order to disinfect a building, a ship, a library, a mill. I know how the DEGESCH gas chambers worked with Zyklon-B in order to disinfest clothes. I know about gas chambers functioning with a rather innocuous gas in order to train young soldiers in wearing gas masks. I even have a pretty good idea about how American gas chambers are used today in order to execute one person with HCN (hydrocyanic acid).
Of course, I am not making the mistake of confusing a gassing by accident or by suicide with a gassing for an execution. Poison gas, whatever its exact composition, is awfully dangerous to handle and, if I wish to kill someone with gas without killing myself, I must take hundreds of precautionary measures.
Especially with Zyklon-B or HCN. Zyklon-B, first used in 1922 and still used today, adheres to surfaces, and ventilating it is long and difficult. You cannot enter a room full of Zyklon-B or HCN without taking very special precautions. Moreover, in the case of an accident or an execution, Zyklon-B or HCN adheres to the skin and to the hair of human beings – it penetrates the body, it sticks to the body, you cannot get rid of it unless you apply a difficult and special procedure. If a man has been killed in a room filled with this gas, you cannot enter the room, nor can you even touch the body: this body is more or less like the body of an electrocuted man with the electricity still functioning. You would be killed.
I wonder how the Nazis managed to gas millions of people, and I wonder how the Jews working for the Nazis (the Sonderkommandos) could enter an ocean of poison gas and manipulate heaps of dead bodies impregnated with poison gas in order to remove them.
What kind of mechanism did those damnable Nazis devise to handle HCN with such mastery? Please tell me. Please show me.
Gas chambers for tourists
Some of the camps I have visited have alleged Nazi gas chambers. These gas chambers are supposed to be either “in the original state” or “reconstructed” or “in a state of ruins” (ruins have much to tell). Actually, what I saw during my visits were either shower rooms, or mortuaries, or air raid shelters, or disinfection gas chambers, etc. And I noticed that no explanation could be found as to why those premises were called homicidal gas chambers. Whenever I asked for an explanation, I was told by the highest officials of these camps and museums: “We are not scientists.”
I have encountered one exception. In Auschwitz-I, tourists may see on the first floor of Block 4 a model of a crematorium, but this model is so obviously stupid that you cannot find it reproduced in any book, not even in the Auschwitz Museum Guide; the photo of the model is reproduced in that guide in such a way that you cannot see what the gas chamber itself (actually a mortuary) looks like.
Gas chambers in books
The maximum you might see on television, in films, in books or in articles is, for example, a photo of a building with a caption such as: “containing the gas chamber”. Or you may find a photo of a wall or a partition with a caption reading: “partition of the gas chamber”. Sometimes you are shown shower heads, or a door, or a peep-hole, or the mention of “persons gassed”. You will never be shown the totality of a gas chamber, with an explanation of the technique and the operation of the alleged homicidal gassing.
Simone Veil’s theory
Some people, like Simone Veil, a former president of the European Parliament, venture to say that the Germans destroyed all the gas chambers. This theory has many drawbacks. First, what are we to think, then, about the “gas chambers in their original state” that so many visitors are shown in several camps? Next, this theory does not exempt its exponents from telling us what they mean by the words “gas chambers”. Lastly, the theory complicates things: instead of posing one problem (What is a gas chamber?), it poses two problems (What is a gas chamber? What evidence is there that the Germans destroyed the gas chambers?).
No theory, please, but a photo or a drawing
Some claim that there are plenty of proofs, testimonies, and confessions as to the existence and the functioning of the gas chambers. I do not think so at all, but all the more power to them! They should find it all the easier to describe this extraordinary weapon.
Please spare me words and theories. Give me a material description of what is supposed to have been a material reality. You know the story of the young African boy in the Sahara Desert who has never seen a rose. Someone explains to him what a rose is and the young boy says: “Don’t give me words, draw me a rose in the sand!”
The same for me, and this is my challenge: “If you have no photo, then draw me a Nazi gas chamber!” Otherwise I will think that, when you use the words “gas chambers”, you don’t even know what you are talking about, so that the sentence “Gas chambers existed” would in fact be the same as: “Bla-bla existed”.
Although we are living in a “scientific age” and belong to an “age of the image”, we have never been shown this fantastic object. As far as the gas chambers are concerned, people seem to be satisfied with words and seem not to care to see an image or a picture.
An image, please, instead of a mirage
As for me, the gas chambers have for thirty years been like a mirage in the desert. As soon as I’ve thought: “Here’s one!”, it has vanished as I draw near.
I am confident that finally, here in Stockholm, tomorrow morning, thanks to your newspapers and your television stations, the mirage of the Nazi gas chambers will end and I will be presented with an image. Thereafter, within 24 hours, I shall comment on Radio Islam on how you have responded to my challenge.
Stockholm March 17, 1992