Fred Leuchter: Courageous Defender of Historical Truth

by Mark Weber

Until early 1988, Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. -- like most Americans -- basically accepted the Holocaust extermination story. In itself that is not at all remarkable, except that this man also just happened to be the foremost American expert on gassing and gas chamber technology.

As readers of this Journal know, Fred Leuchter was commissioned in early 1988 by German-Canadian publisher Ernst Zündel to conduct a thorough forensic investigation of the alleged wartime gassing facilities in Poland for his defense case in the Toronto "Holocaust Trial."

Zündel was so sure that the Holocaust gassing story would not stand up to expert examination that he sent Leuchter to Europe at considerable expense, completely confident that an independent investigation would confirm the Revisionist view.

In early 1988, Leuchter and his team carefully investigated the so-called gas chambers at, first, the Auschwitz main camp, second, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, which is supposed to have been the most terrible Nazi extermination center, and, third, the Majdanek camp near Lublin, where the Allies claimed at Nuremberg that a million and a half people were killed. As an expert witness testifying under oath in April 1988 in the second Zündel trial, and in his published report of his on-site investigation, Fred Leuchter explained in detail that the supposed gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek could not possibly have been used to gas people as alleged.


Leuchter examining remains of the alleged extermination gas chamber in the crematory building (Krema) II in the Auschwitz-Birkenau caml. (Photo: Samisdat Publishers)

Leuchter's findings demolish the core of the Holocaust legend -- the Auschwitz gassing story. British historian David Irving found Leuchter's forensic investigation so compelling that, as he has publicly acknowledged, it was a major factor in persuading him finally to reject the Holocaust extermination story.

Many tens of thousands of copies of what has become known simply as the Leuchter Report are now in circulation around the world. It has been published in numerous countries and languages. Earlier this year, for example, it appeared for the first time in Russian in a collection of Revisionist writings published in Moscow. More recently, it was published in Hungarian in the August 25 issue of the Budapest intellectual journal Hunnia.

In April 1989, Leuchter returned to Europe to carry out an expert forensic investigation of other alleged extermination gas chambers, this time at Dachau in Bavaria, and at Mauthausen and Hartheim, near Linz in Austria. Accompanying him on this visit, as she had during their 1988 visit to Poland, was his wife Carolyn. The results of this investigation have been published as the Second Leuchter Report, which appeared in the Fall 1990 IHR Journal.

The Institute for Historical Review is proud of its cordial and productive association with Fred Leuchter, who spoke at the IHR Conferences in 1989, 1990 and 1992. In his presentations at the last two conferences, he reported on the relentless international campaign against him.

During the last two years, unfortunately, there has been no let up in the bigoted campaign to discredit Leuchter's work and reputation, and to destroy his career -- all because of his courageous refusal to lie about his professional findings. What his enemies want, apparently, is for Leuchter to violate his conscience, betray his profession, and to lie under oath in a court of law, all for the sake of upholding what has become, in essence, an article of religious belief. It is fair to say that no American has suffered more for his defiance of the Holocaust lobby than Fred Leuchter.

The most insidious (and effective) effort has been has been a behind-the-scenes campaign to destroy his livelihood by pressuring state governments to stop employing him as their execution hardware engineer. To allow Leuchter to continue working for the state, declared Illinois Representative Ellis Levin (D-Chicago), "would be an affront to the Jewish community." (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, August 17, 1990.) Sadly, these underhanded efforts have been successful. The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, for example, confirmed (in August 1990) that "the state [of Illinois] cut its ties with him over statements that Nazi gas chambers, including those at Auschwitz, could not have been used for executing Jews."

In spite of the clearly unfair and bigoted nature of the campaign against him, the normally vociferous champions of civil liberty and freedom of speech in America have, so far, anyway, been noticeably silent about this case.

An important propaganda weapon in this campaign has been a book published jointly by the Klarsfeld Foundation and a group that calls itself "Holocaust Survivors and Friends in Pursuit of Justice." This book bears the pretentious title: Truth Prevails: Demolishing Holocaust Denial: The End of 'The Leuchter Report'.


Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.

The most important charges made against Leuchter, which are also included in this widely distributed book, are:

  • First, that Leuchter's motive in concluding that the alleged gas chambers were never used to kill anybody was the professional fee he received from Zündel for his work.
  • Second, that Fred Leuchter has no qualifications as an execution equipment specialist, and
  • Third, that he lied under oath in the 1988 Zündel trial.

What are the facts? Let's take a close look at each of these charges.

First, Leuchter's motives in conducting his forensic investigation of the alleged wartime gas chambers in Poland were entirely professional. While it is true that he was paid a standard fee by Zündel for his work, it cannot be stressed enough that Leuchter was chosen to carry out this investigation not because of any pre-existing views on this subject, but solely because he was the acknowledged expert in this field. His political views or social attitudes were never a consideration. (Just imagine what Leuchter's critics would be saying if he had conducted his forensic examination of the Polish camps on his own initiative, without charge.)

Before he flew to Poland to begin his investigation, Leuchter warned Zündel that if he concluded that the alleged extermination gas chambers were, in fact, used to kill people, or could have been so used, he would so testify in court. Zündel agreed to this condition. Regardless of his findings, Zündel would still have been obliged to pay Leuchter his fee.

In fact, if money and comfort had been primary considerations, and if he is as dishonorable as those who now attack him insinuate, Leuchter would simply have pocketed his fee from Zündel, and then told the court what the prosecution and the media wanted to hear.

Second, Leuchter's qualifications as a technical expert and inventor are actually quite impressive. His adversaries never tire of repeating that his only academic credential is a bachelor's degree in history, which he earned at Boston University in 1964. This has never been a secret. What is not so well known, though, is the full story of his expertise.

For one thing, Leuchter did post-graduate study in celestial navigation mechanics at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Since 1965, he has worked as an engineer on projects having to do with electrical, optical, mechanical, navigational and surveying problems. He holds patents in the fields of optics, navigation, encoding, geodetic surveying and surveying instrumentation, including patents on sextants, surveying instruments and optical instrument encoders.

From 1965 through 1970 he was the technical director for a firm in Boston, where he specialized in airborne, opto-electronic, and photographic surveillance equipment. He designed the first low-level, color, stereo-mapping system for use in a helicopter, which has become an airborne standard.

In 1970, he formed an independent consulting firm. During his period with this firm, he designed and built the first electronic sextant and developed a unique, light-weight, compact and inexpensive optical drum sector encoder for use with surveying and measuring instruments. He also built the first electronic sextant for the US Navy. He has worked on and designed astro trackers utilized in the on-board guidance systems of ICBM missiles.

Because of his work in navigational devices he has had hands-on experience with surveying and geodetic measuring equipment and a thorough knowledge of map-reading and cartography. He is trained in reading and interpreting aerial photographs. He designed a computerized transit for surveying use, and several years ago he developed the first low-cost personal telephone monitor.

During the past 14 years, Leuchter has been a consultant to several state governments on equipment used to execute convicted criminals, including hardware for execution by lethal injection, electrocution, gassing and hanging. In the course of this work, he designed a new gas chamber for the state of Missouri, and he designed and constructed the first lethal injection machine for New Jersey. Leuchter has also been a consultant on execution procedures. He has held a research medical license from both state and federal governments, and has supplied the necessary drugs for use in execution support programs.

In 1987, he formed Fred A. Leuchter Associates, a consulting engineering firm specializing in general consulting and the design and construction of prototype hardware. He has been a forensic engineer consultant, and has testified as an expert in courts in the United States and Canada.

(On a more personal note, Fred Leuchter is an accomplished pianist and musician, as well as a certified small arms instructor and NRA expert marksman.)

More to the point, Leuchter's expertise in precisely the field of execution hardware is a matter of public record, and has been authoritatively and publicly confirmed. Indeed, no one was better qualified to carry out his investigation. At that time, Leuchter was recognized as the foremost American expert on the design and fabrication of gas chambers and other hardware used to execute criminals in the United States. He has worked on and designed facilities used to kill condemned criminals with hydrogen cyanide gas, the same gas supposedly used to kill many hundreds of thousands of Jews at Auschwitz.

Leuchter's expertise as the nation's foremost specialist of execution hardware, including gas chambers, has been abundantly confirmed. William Armontrout, warden of the Missouri State Penitentiary, testified on this matter during the 1988 "Holocaust Trial" of Ernst Zündel. As warden, Armontrout supervised the state's execution gas chamber. He testified under oath that he had consulted with Leuchter on the design, maintenance and operation of the Missouri gas chamber, and confirmed that, to the best of his knowledge, Leuchter is the only such consultant in the United States.

Leuchter's expertise has also been recognized by prominent periodicals, including The Atlantic in a four-page article in its February 1990 issue. An article in the weekly national news magazine Insight of July 2, 1990, called Leuchter, "the nation's leading expert in the mechanics of execution." Finally, Leuchter's expertise was acknowledged on the ABC television news program "Prime Time Live," broadcast on May 10th, 1990, and by The New York Times in a prominently featured article in its issue of October 13, 1990, which was accompanied by a front-page photo of Leuchter.

No matter what the long-term outcome of the still unfolding Leuchter affair may be, the indisputable fact will remain, that on the basis of a careful on-site inspection, the man who is America's acknowledged foremost expert on gas chamber technology has categorically declared under oath that the alleged mass extermination gas chambers were never used, and never could have been used, as execution devices.

With regard to the third charge -- that Leuchter lied under oath in the 1988 Zündel trial -- it might first be pointed out that the laws of physics have not been suspended for the sake of the Holocaust story. To repeat: If Leuchter is wrong, it should not be difficult to prove it. And if he is right, his work and his findings will stand the test of time, and his courage will be vindicated.

At the 1989 IHR Conference, Leuchter dramatically called for a neutral, international commission of engineers, historians and scholars to go to Auschwitz and the other camps, and to either confirm or repudiate his findings. Not surprisingly, those who have been trying so hard to silence and discredit Leuchter have ignored his challenge. Indeed, the very nature of this insidious campaign, including the unwillingness of his adversaries to seriously come to grips with his work, implicitly confirms the soundness of Leuchter's findings.

In this regard, it is highly significant that Leuchter's findings have recently been authoritatively corroborated and confirmed:

First, the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow, Poland, corroborated Leuchter's findings in a confidential September 1990 forensic report. Although it was not meant to be made public, Revisionists were able to obtain a copy. An English-language translation of the complete text was published in the Summer 1991 issue of the IHR Journal.

Second, Austrian engineer Walter Lüftl explicitly endorsed Leuchter's findings in a March 1992 report, which appears elsewhere in this issue of the Journal.

Third, German engineer Germar Rudolf, a highly qualified professional, has thoroughly supported Leuchter's findings in an exhaustive report that will probably be published in 1993.

Another German engineer, Wolfgang Schuster (Dipl.Ing.), pointedly defended the validity of Leuchter's findings against the criticisms of French pharmacist Jean-Claude Pressac in a five-page essay published in the German quarterly journal Deutschland in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tuebingen, June 1991).

Finally, it is worth noting that Dr. William B. Lindsey, an American research chemist (now retired) who was employed for 33 years by the Dupont Corporation, anticipated Leuchter's findings during testimony given in the first Zündel trial in 1985. Based on his own careful on-site examination of the alleged extermination gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek, and on his years of experience as a chemist, Lindsey declared under oath: "I have come to the conclusion that no one was willfully or purposefully killed with Zyklon B [hydrogen cyanide gas] in this manner. I consider it absolutely impossible." (The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Feb. 12, 1985, p. M3.)

In spite of the vicious campaign against him, Leuchter has remained defiant and confident of ultimate vindication. As he has put it:

I have been vilified by the caretakers of the Holocaust dogma whose desperate tactics prove the failure of their arguments. My livelihood has been destroyed, my character has been impugned and my life turned upside down. But I will not bend the knee: Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Time and reason will vindicate the Leuchter Report.

One day, after the dogmatic passions of our era have given way to open-mindedness on this most emotion-charged of issues, Fred Leuchter will be admired as a most remarkable man of integrity and courage who defied powerful forces of bigotry and close-mindedness. He will be remembered as a man who, in striking a mighty blow for historical truth and understanding, has himself made history.


From The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1992-93 (Vol. 12, No. 4), pages 421-428. This essay is based on the introduction of Fred Leuchter at the Eleventh IHR Conference, October 1992.