Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present
Jan Van Pelt
Published January 17, 1997
Development of Auschwitz camp
I WAS fascinated by David Cesarani's review (January 3) of Robert Jan van Pelt and Deborah Dwork's book, "Auschwitz -- 1270 to the Present."
Praising this work, Professor Cesarani notes that it argues that the camp's function was constantly in flux, and must be studied in the light of the Nazi obsession with "the East."
As the inmate population rose, writes Cesarani, and as epidemics flourished in the appalling and inhumane living conditions, the mortality rate rose, too, necessitating the construction of first one crematorium, then more.
Startlingly, the authors also maintain that, by November, 1941, "many individuals and agencies had taken the initiative to kill Jews."
And, while pointing to the paradox of hospitals and sewage plants being built by Himmler at Birkenau, a death camp, they claim that Auschwitz, even at the time of the Hungarian tragedy, was just an infernal "labour exchange."
In debating Daniel Goldhagen's work recently, Hans Mommsen said the same with such force that the Süddeutsche Zeitung accused the professor of coming close to endorsing my views.
Can it be that Holocaust historians and revisionists are beginning to converge, and may even reach a consensus? Are my "heresies" gradually becoming respectable with time?
David Irving, Duke Street, London W1.
Further notes: see the livid reply which the above letter generated from Dr David Cesarani, director of the Wiener Library