January 17, 1985
scholar quoted 'madman,' publishing trial told
OF the world's leading authorities on the Holocaust has
quoted selectively and extensively a German SS officer
who was obviously a madman, the defence at the Ernst
Zundel trial has alleged.
claims sworn to by the Nazi, who ultimately hanged
himself while awaiting trial for war crimes, was a
statement that 25 million Jews were killed in two small
extermination camps and that 700 to 800 people could be
crammed into a 25-square metre gas chamber.
you think it reflects on an author that some statements
are absolutely ridiculous?" defence counsel Douglas
Christie asked Raul Hilberg, a professor at
the University of Vermont who has spent more than 35
years studying the Holocaust.
is charged with two counts of publishing false news which
caused or was likely to cause racial or social
intolerance. His articles question the Holocaust and
postulate an international conspiracy of Communists,
Zionists, bankers and secret societies. The Crown must
prove Mr. Zundel knew the information was
Hilberg agreed that Obersturmbanfuehrer Kurt
Gerstein, the SS officer, was most unreliable on some
topics covered in sworn affidavits. But Prof. Hilberg
defended his decision to quote the officer on other
subjects in a book he wrote on the Holocaust.
Gerstein was one of the few people who could provide
information about gas chambers at the Treblinka and
Belzec camps in Poland, Prof. Hilberg
officer said he was responsible for dispensing poison to
several camps in Poland to be used to kill
that, I realized, of course, what kind of person he
was and I did not rely on any statements I regarded as
imaginative or incredible," the witness said. "I think
he was given to great excitability. What can you
say he was crazy," Mr. Christie said crisply. The lawyer
accused Prof. Hilberg of quoting only those statements
from the "madman" which bolstered conventional ideas on
making diagnoses here," Prof. Hilberg replied. "I would
not characterize him as totlally rational, but I'm not
here making those kinds of judgments."
Hilberg has been accepted as an expert witness. He has
testified that about five million Jews were exterminated
by the Nazis.
he said some of the SS officer's claims were outrageous,
while others, such as the number of people who could fit
into a chamber warranted skepticism.
He said it
was intellectually sound to use the portions which
withstood scrutiny or seemed plausible, while making no
mention of the outlandish statements. "For my purposes,
it sufficed that there were gas chambers," he
Christie maintained that if Prof. Hilberg can quote
selectively with impunity, then his client is not guilty
of any sin either.
of the morning session, Mr. Christie engaged in a grim
battle over what really took place during the last days
of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and whether documents exist
to show Adolf Hitler actually ordered the extermination
of the Jews.
Hilberg said nobody has to believe or try to verify
there was such an order just because he concludes in
his book there was.
Christie then asked if that statement could not also
apply to the articles Mr. Zundel is charged with
"No, it is
not the same," Prof. Hilberg said.
argument was typical of the strenuous going-over Prof.
Hilberg's writings and previous testimony are getting at
the hands of Mr. Christie. The lawyer demands precise
sources for everything and then frequently criticizes
protracted argument concerned the use of the word
"resettle" in Nazi reports and whether it was a euphemism
for annihilate, as Prof. Hilberg fiercely
used was relocate," Mr. Christie said at one point. "To
me that doesn't mean annihilate."
the difference between you and me," the witness replied
hotly. "I've read thousands of documents. I know what it
means in the context."
understand, right?" Mr. Christie asked
Christie questioned whether crematoria Prof. Hilberg saw
on a recent trip to Poland were really as the Germans
as you've been told the Germans left them, right?" he
"I was not
present when these buildings were blown up," Prof.
Hilberg said in exasperation.