Reflections on Auschwitz and West German Justice

Thies Christophersen

My booklet, The Auschwitz Lie, has become an under-the-counter bestseller. It has appeared in French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish and even Hungarian, as well as in several English language editions. Actually, there's nothing very remarkable about The Auschwitz Lie except that it was written by someone who was in Auschwitz and who recorded his experiences and recollections. People generally prefer to read sensational reports, and my booklet is certainly not that.

In the spirit of Martin Luther, I try to speak positively and influence things for the best. But I was accused of "popular incitement" (Volksverhetzung) for doing that. I spent a year in prison, even though the charge of popular incitement was eventually dropped. However, the charges of "contempt against the state" and defamation of the Jews, who now enjoy special protection in this regard, were not dropped. I was also accused of defaming the memory of the dead. In this regard, the son of Count Schenk von Stauffenberg appeared as a co-plaintiff against me because I had called his father a traitor. Well, I wouldn't like it either if my own father had been insulted, and so I wasn't offended when Stauffenberg junior sought to rehabilitate his father's reputation. All the same, there wasn't any need for a criminal indictment. If he had sent me a letter justifying his father's actions, I certainly would have published the complete text of it in my magazine. Of course, I would also have commented on it, as I always do with critical letters from readers.

I'd like to describe my experiences and observations since the publication of my first-person report about Auschwitz. When I wrote my report, I was criticized on the grounds that, although I was in the camp and saw nothing of mass gassings, that fact did not necessarily mean that there were none. All the same, I can say with certainty that there were no mass gassings at Auschwitz. I don't write under a pen name. I even gave my address and telephone number. I have received thousands of letters and calls. Many of those who contacted me can confirm my statements, but are afraid to do so publicly. Some of those are SS men who were brutally mistreated and even tortured in Allied captivity. I also immediately contacted those who claimed to know more about mass gassings. My experiences were precisely the same as those of French professor Paul Rassinier. I have not found any eyewitnesses. Instead, people would tell me that they knew someone who knew someone else, who talked about it. In most cases the alleged eyewitnesses had died. Other supposed eyewitnesses would quickly begin to stammer and stutter when I asked a few precise questions. Even Simon Wiesenthal had to finally admit before a Frankfurt district court that he was actually never in Auschwitz. All of the reports I have heard about are contradictory. Everyone seemed to tell a different story about the gas chambers. They couldn't even agree about where they were supposed to have been located.,This is also true of the so-called scholarly literature, which is full of contradictions. But they know more about that than I do.

I want to try to explain how such stories get started. When I tell fairy tales to my grandchildren, I often speak as if I am there in the story myself, so that the children will believe them. Many people also have a tendency to embellish what they say. Some enjoy getting others to believe their false tales. And then there are the so-called "bull stories" (Latrinenparolen). Every veteran knows about these. Those interned in prison camps particularly like to invent and spread such stories.

So I have an explanation for how the story got started that corpses were burned in open fires at Auschwitz. There were also "bull stories" at Auschwitz. My maid, Olga, once told my mother, who was visiting me at Auschwitz, about a fire in which people were being burned. I asked Olga about that. She didn't know anything for sure, but she said that a fire could always be seen in the direction of Bielitz. I drove in that direction but found only a large industrial plant where inmates were also working. I looked over the entire camp and inspected all the fires and smoking chimneys. But I didn't find anything suspicious. I asked my colleagues, but they answered merely by shrugging their shoulders and saying that I shouldn't believe "bull stories." There was indeed a crematory at Auschwitz. After all, 200,000 people lived there and every city has a crematory. Of course, people died there as well -- and not just inmates. The wife of SS Lt. Col. Caesar, for example, died there of typhus. I was satisfied with those answers at the time.

Today I know much more about this matter. At first, those who died at Auschwitz were buried, but because of the high ground water level (one meter) in this area between the Vistula and Sola rivers, that practice couldn't be continued. A labor team headed by SS Staff Sergeant Moll (who had been in charge of the agricultural nursery at Raisko) was assigned to dig up the buried corpses and burn them. This was done on an open fire. The most unbelievable stories were told about this procedure. West German television even broadcast a film of this which was supposedly made in secret by an SS man.

There's another factor which has played a role in all this. The defense attorneys for the so-called German war criminals were not entirely blameless. Every defense attorney wants freedom for his client and, as a result, the attorneys often argued that persons who were already dead were guilty of the alleged crimes. SS Sergeant Moll was killed in action in the final days of the war.

During this period I also received a report from the brother-inlaw of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss. He lives in Flensburg, not far from my home. Hits report generally confirmed my own statements. Death sentences were certainly carried out and hostages were also shot. I pointed this out in my booklet. But these executions were not carried out in the camp itself. otherwise they would have been heard.

I can't understand why Auschwitz is called a concentration camp. I consider it an internment camp. It's well known that enemy aliens are normally interned during wartime. In order to keep them from fighting against their host country, they are normally not expelled. Of course, one can argue about whether the Jews should have been considered members of an enemy nation. After all, the state of Israel wasn't founded until after the war. Nevertheless, the Jews had already declared war against us in 1933, as the London Daily Express reported on 24 March of that year. On that basis, internment would have been justified even then. But the Jews weren't interned until after the outbreak of war in September 1939, and even then not all at once.

I am thus one of the few who can report on the actual situation in the Auschwitz camp, and I have done so. What has it brought me? Two years of living in exile and one year in prison. Even though, prudently enough, there wasn't anything about it in my verdict, I would never have been imprisoned if I had not written The Auschwitz Lie. The charge of "contempt against the state" was only a pretense. There's no parallel for such a charge in any other country of the western world, not even in those that are still monarchies.

I lived in Belgium for two years. Even though I was not recognized as a political refugee, I nevertheless received an official residence permit. The Belgian authorities knew that I was wanted in the German Federal Republic on a charge of "contempt against the state." I was extradited at the request of the German legal authorities. I brought suit against the Belgian government for damages of one million Belgian francs, or 50,000 German marks. And how did the Belgian authorities respond? They began legal proceedings against me to determine whether or not I had broken any Belgian laws. My apartment in Belgium was searched while I was away. Many of my papers were confiscated. That was two years ago. It was discovered that I had once stayed overnight in an Antwerp hotel under the name of Tetje Paulsen. I didn't know anything about that because the room had been reserved for me by a friend who knew me only under the pseudonym Paulsen. A Belgian judge told me that it was dishonorable to stay overnight in a hotel with a strange women, and that doing so made me suspect. It didn't matter that the woman I spent the night with there was my own wife.

But the greatest violation was committed by the German legal authorities. They issued a false report to the news media that I had been arrested while trying to enter the German Federal Republic without a valid passport. Actually, I was arrested in my apartment in Belgium on 26 August 1983 by Belgian police and taken in handcuffs to the border where I was turned over to German police who were waiting for me. I then got to learn how justice is carried out in German prisons. I must say that Auschwi; inmates had more freedom. There were no individual cells or isolation confinement. Even during the war the inmates received unlimited numbers of very welcome "Care" packages. There was even a brothel in Auschwitz for the inmates. In the Flensburg prison not even a chaplain was made available to me.

Around the world, and especially in Germany, people protest against injustice, oppression and persecution of minorities. The injustices during the Third Reich, and there certainly were injustices, are condemned and denounced most loudly of all. I have made it my duty to criticize not the mistakes of the past, but rather the mistakes of the present. I did the same during the Third Reich, but I wasn't imprisoned as a result.

Nowadays there's an awful lot of talk about democracy, or the "rule of the people." That doesn't exist for us today. We are still West German Justice living under the rule of the occupation powers. In our homeland there is only room for aliens and for those who serve foreigners. There was once a time when more than 90 percent of the population supported its leadership. I remember that time very well. There was no government peevishness, no unemployment and no fear about the future. Anyone who lived during that time will never forget those things, despite the many lies which have been spread about that time and which are unfortunately believed. The right of national self-determination became a reality. It was never so disregarded as it has been since 1945.

A national socialism could have been a model and guide for the entire world. But it was precisely those powers which ruled over and oppressed other nations which could not tolerate the right of national self-determination. And although many of the colonial empires have disappeared, the nations have been forced into a new and far more terrible form of dependency. U.S. capitalism, and those behind it, have won the struggle for world supremacy.

Surveillance grows more and more pervasive. Orwell was thus not completely wrong. I have experienced it and I believe we all experience it. Terror is now also being used.

What can we do? Nothing? Should we remain silent? Should we smother the cry of outrage in our hearts? Our writings may be banned. We may be thrown into prison. Our mail may be inspected. We may be attacked with fire and bombs. Our homes may be searched. We may be kept from obtaining employment or fired from our jobs. We may be slandered, ridiculed and persecuted like the early Christians. But we will suffer and endure it all, and our enemies will thus achieve precisely the opposite of what they intend. Their actions make others interested in what we do. I believe in truth and in justice, and I know that one day they will prevail.

From The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1985 (Vol. 6, No. 1), pages 117-121.