Jürgen Graf: Auschwitz: Eyewitness Reports and Perpetrator Confessions of the Holocaust—30 Gas-Chamber Witnesses Scrutinized
The history of the notorious Auschwitz Camp as perceived by the general public rests almost exclusively on what witnesses on both sides of the camp fence have reported on it. Libraries and video channels like YouTube are full of experience reports. But how reliable are these reports?
One of the most important duties of the historian is the critique of sources, that is, the critical analysis of the evidence on which our understanding of history is based. For venues like Auschwitz, this means determining to what extent witness accounts are reliable, where witnesses may have erred, lied for any of many powerful reasons or, in some cases, may not even have been witnesses at all.
This kind of source criticism examines statements as to whether they are internally consistent, concur with other statements, are confirmed by wartime documents and/or conflict with material evidence.
The present study applies this technique to 30 of the best-known or most-important witnesses about Auschwitz, including putative former inmates Elie Wiesel, Rudolf Vrba, Filip Müller, Charles S. Bendel, Miklós Nyiszli and Olga Lengyel, as well as former members of the SS camp staff Rudolf Höss, Pery Broad, Johann Paul Kremer, Hans Aumeier, Maximilian Grabner and Richard Böck. Graf reproduces the relevant passages of the pertinent statements relating to mass exterminations at Auschwitz, and subjects them to objective, critical analysis.
No other scholar has ever accepted this thankless challenge, since critique of (purported) Holocaust witnesses is considered sacrilege. As such, this is an important, groundbreaking study that will undoubtedly be followed by many more.