Posted May 9, 2003
The real Gilbert and Gerstein comedy
"R. D. Jaeger" has this scathing commentary on historian Sir Martin Gilbert's treatment of the "Gerstein Report". Gilbert has made a number of errors in his treatment of this document, all of which Jaeger set down in his unpublished "Work in Progress" (of which this is an extract).
SIR MARTIN GILBERT (left), in an analysis of the "Gerstein Report" in his epic The Holocaust, has tried to get around the contradictions concerning the killing of 700-800 people in an area of 25 square metres by putting the surface area of the Belzec "gas chamber" at ninety-three square metres instead of the usually cited twenty-five, while at the same time craftily omitting Kurt Gerstein's reference to the volume of forty-five cubic metres, the size of a small living room. Gilbert's source for the figure of ninety-three square metres appears to be his fellow exterminationist, the late Leon Poliakov, who makes this same "error".
Even if we choose to give Gilbert the benefit of the doubt concerning the figure of ninety-three square metres and place the blame for the "production" of this fragment of misinformation squarely on Poliakov, we can find no excuse for his omission of Gerstein's figure of forty-five cubic metres, which is mentioned clearly -- twice -- in the "report".
On cursorily examining the figures, the reason for Sir Martin Gilbert's omission of this figure becomes patently obvious -- one does not have to hold a degree in geometry or mathematics to work out that a structure with both a surface area of ninety-three square metres and a volume of forty-five cubic metres would had to have had a height of some forty-eight centimetres, around 18 inches, which would hardly have been the optimum specifications for a homicidal "gas chamber".
By falsifying Gerstein's figures, Gilbert appears to have succeeded only in making an already absurd story even more ridiculous. In the light of the conclusions drawn by Walter Lüftl in the Lüftl Report, such subtle changes should not make the story any more acceptable; nevertheless, a reader unaware of the scientific facts may well be tricked into believing Gilbert's variation of the story by dint of the fact that filling an area of ninety-three square metres with around 750 people is just about physically possible (whereas getting the same amount of people into a bit more than a quarter of this area is certainly not).
On calculating this, he or she would probably accept the story as being feasible from that point on and leave it at that, without attempting to examine the issue any further: a simple case of applying the maxim "if 'A' is believable, then 'B' must be also".
On the figure of ninety-three square metres, it is this author's contention that if indeed it means anything at all, it might well have been the total area covered by the complete installation (i.e. the four "gas chambers" to which Gerstein refers, each of which, according to the report, had held between seven and eight-hundred people). Of course, this in turn creates yet more problems, for then we have the even more improbable scenario of three thousand people (that is the four lots of seven-hundred and fifty) being crammed into an area of ninety-three square metres. The conclusions are obvious.
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