[Images added by this
January 24, 1985
'An Artistic Picture'
Survivor never saw actual gassing
by Dick Chapman
A CONCENTRATION camp survivor
yesterday admitted he never witnessed anybody being
gassed to death and his book about Auschwitz-Birkenau is
only "an artistic picture...not a document for a
Rudolf Vrba, now an
assistant professor at the
University of B.C., told the Ernst Zündel
trial that his written and pictorial descriptions of the
Auschwitz crematoria and gas chambers are based on "what
I heard it might look like."
Zündel is charged with knowingly publishing false
information about the Holocaust that harmed or was likely
to harm racial or social tolerance.
attorney Doug Christie, of Victoria (left),
challenged Vrba's earlier testimony that he saw a Nazi SS
soldier in a gasmask pouring poison gas into a low bunker
conected to a Birkenau crematorium.
yesterday admitted he was never inside that particular
bunker, after Christie suggested it was the roof of a
mortuary Vrba had seen, not a gas chamber.
Vrba also admitted some of the thousands of women,
elderly and children he claimed were marched directly to
gas chambers upon arrival might have been going to the
"Yes. Some of them actually went there (bathhouse) and
more went to the gas chambers," said Vrba, who claimed
many babies were gassed to death.
Vrba said his 1944 drawings of the Auschwitz camp
layout were inexact and Christie suggested Vrba didn't
even know where the bathhouse was located.
Christie said new arrivals had to march between two
crematoria to get to the bathhouse, but Vrba insisted the
area ended in a "closed road" and "nobody ever came out
of there except smoke."
Vrba, who escaped the camp in Poland in
1944 [see below]
with a mission to warn one million Hungarian Jews of
their impending slaughter, insisted he'd made accurate
("within 10%") estimates of 1,765,000 mass-murder victims
up to that point.
He said some narrative passages in his
book I Cannot Forgive are
based on accounts from others.
One Vrba acount says it took 90 minutes to burn a
corpse, another said it took 20 minutes.
"I also include things I heard from reliable sources,"
Vrba said, explaining the changes in his later
Vrba's 1961 affadavit quotes a Nuremberg War Crimes
Trial document as relating to Auschwitz gas chambers and
claims it backs up Vrba's account.
When Christie pointed out that ("Nazi government")
documents say nothing about gas chambers, Vrba replied:
"It might be a typing error."
Vrba, whose book states the total Auschwitz death toll
was 2.5 million, testified Holocaust historians Raul
Hilberg and Gerald Rietlinger were
limited by "historical
discipline" when they made lower estimates - 1
million and about 850,000 respectively - and did not have
the benefit of Vrba's eyewitness experiences.
Vrba also said increasing estimates of the Auschwitz
death toll in the decades after World War II "just shows
that better scholars with better methods are constantly
improving the information."
He defended "errors in good faith" in his 1944
Auschwitz accounts, which he made two weeks after
escaping, as due to "great urgency" to warn Jews.