Gas Chambers for Robert Faurisson:
Answers to a Challenge

by Friedrich Paul Berg

In an article for the Journal for Historical Review, Robert Faurisson, a leading Holocaust revisionist scholar, repeated the nine-word challenge he had made on other occasions:

“Show me or draw me a Nazi gas chamber!”

Although the challenge may have been a useful prod to the Holocaust believers, Faurisson's article also contained a great deal of nonsense about German delousing chambers. That nonsense was, in effect, a challenge to this author since I had written two articles for the same journal about the German delousing gas chambers that were used during WW2 to keep people alive. When I submitted a four-page answer to Faurisson's challenge, the editor Mark Weber, after a long delay, returned a watered-down version for my approval. I rejected that watered-down version. My original text appeared in two other publications to which Faurisson responded–see Christian News, January 10, 1994, page 17 with more of the same arguments. I replied with a scale drawing of a DEGESCH delousing gas chamber and the following counter-challenge:

“If it is at all possible, please return to me a copy of the accompanying drawing with only one sentence added with signature saying that this is ‘not’ a ‘drawing of a Nazi gas chamber.’”

The only person to answer that counter-challenge was Faurisson himself.

In Faurisson's original article (Journal for Historical Review, July/August 1993), he had claimed that a Zyklon B delousing gas chamber could not have been used as a homicidal gas chamber

“because of the extreme difficulty of removing gas from the skin, mucous membranes, and bodily fluids of a corpse.”

Faurisson was simply wrong! The German DEGESCH company had begun early in the war to manufacture a standardized, 10-cubic meter delousing chamber which certainly could have been easily adapted for mass-murder by the mere addition of some internal screening or metal grating so that people trapped inside could not wreck essential equipment which was readily accessible from within the chambers. That equipment included an automatic can-opener, a wire-mesh basket to hold Zyklon B granules, a radiator and a special four-way valve. No further changes would have been needed. If the intended victims had been strapped into chairs firmly fastened to the floor, the delousing gas chambers would have been just as effective as any American execution gaschamber even without the addition of internal grating or shielding of equipment.


Fig. 1: An illustration of the common and as it turned out, vital, German delousing chamber for clothing and other items. Failure to maintain delousing efforts during the closing months of WWII led quickly to massive outbreaks of typhus, cholera, and other diseases not only in the concentration camps, but all across Europe. Eastern Europe was particularly had hit.

Delousing was an essential control measure against typhus which is generally transmitted by lice. Delousing gas chambers were used to kill lice in clothing to protect the owners of the clothing and people with whom they came in contact. In concentration camps, delousing with gaschambers was quite normal and a perfectly reasonable procedure to keep people alive. Except for their modest size, the standard DEGESCH delousing gas chambers certainly could have been used for mass-murder. The absence of screening or gratings is strong evidence, however, that these real Nazi gas chambers–many of which were actually in concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Maidanek, sometimes within crematory buildings as at Dachau–were never used for mass-murder. The exterminationist believers in the Holocaust are perfectly correct when they show DEGESCH delousing chambers as gas chambers; they are perfectly dishonest, however, when they fail to explain that these chambers would have been completely impractical for mass-murder without some shielding of essential equipment or some kind of restraint–shackling or strapping into chairs–of the intended victims. To use delousing chambers for homicide without any shielding of vital equipment or any additional restraint of the victims would have been comparable to trying to execute someone in an American gas chamber without first forcing them into a chair.

Railroad Delousing Tunnels

Gaschambers were widely used to kill lice in the clothing of people who had come from areas of eastern Europe where typhus was endemic. Usually, people traveled by train. To control typhus, train passengers from infested areas such as the Russian front had to get off their trains at some point and undergo a thorough delousing. They had to take a thorough shower followed by a medical inspection while their clothing was deloused either with steam, or hot air, or cyanide. Delousing of train passengers only made sense, however, if the train was also deloused before the passengers reboardedotherwise, lice which had been in the seats or woodwork would have simply reinfested clean passengers. For delousing trains, large gas chambers were often used. Such chambers existed in about a dozen locations throughout eastern Europe including Budapest, Posen, and Sarajevo.

Railroad delousing tunnels (400 to 1600 cubic meters in size) for fumigating entire railroad trains, several cars at a time, would have also been ideal for mass murder if that had ever been anyone's intent. Such large gas chambers would not have required any modifications at all; any intended victims would have already been trapped inside cattle-type railcars. These gas chambers would have also had the great advantage that after forced-venting inside the tunnels, the railroad cars filled with corpses could be pulled out and replaced almost immediately with another batch of fresh victims in railcars. What an enormously efficient operation; one could have had dozens of batches per day! Afterwards, the railroad cars filled with corpses could be parked at a rail siding to allow additional open air venting if that was deemed necessary or simply vented with moving air over several hours or days on the way to some isolated ravine or garbage incinerator anywhere in Europe. This technology, however, has never been implicated anywhere in the Holocaust stories. That is indirect but strong evidence that the Holocaust is a hoax. Faurisson's insistence that railroad delousing tunnels could not have been used for mass murder because of the difficulty of handling the corpses is ridiculousand what is even worse he is trying to deny a perfectly good argument against the Holocaust story in general.

Except for the shielding of some of the equipment inside the delousing chambers, the standard DEGESCH delousing chambers and the large railroad delousing tunnels contained all of the features needed for mass-murder. They all had a safe and relatively quick means of producing and dispersing a lethal concentration of cyanide throughout each chamber; specially coated and insulated walls to maintain a minimum temperature and reduce cyanide penetration and loss; and circulation blowers and ductwork to thoroughly ventilate the chambers with fresh air in about one hour after a batch of victims had been killed. The venting phase could just as easily last several hours depending upon the discretion of the operator. During all this time, the entire contents including corpses would have also been heated, contrary to another Faurisson claim, to temperatures at least ten degrees above the boiling point of cyanide. Cyanide boils at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. In this way the amounts of cyanide condensing on walls, clothing, skin, etc., would have been practically nil even before the venting phase began. Some cyanide may, nonetheless, have been retained by moisture near body openings but the danger to workers removing corpses could have easily been minimized with rubber gloves and by keeping the blowers operating while the corpses were removed.


The very existence of crematory ovens in German concentration camps is often used to persuade people that the Nazis were committing atrocities. The facts are quite different however. Cremation only makes sense if one intends to return a portion of the actual ashes of a corpse to the true family membersotherwise, cremation makes no sense at all. The ash is totally worthless compared to the far greater costs of the coal needed to produce itthe claim that the Nazis made fertilizer from the bones is a bad joke indeed. Crematory ovens are specially designed to allow recovery of ashes from one corpse at a time free of any other ash, either from the coal used as fuel or from another corpse. Such a careful recovery of ashes only makes sense if one intends to return something from the deceased to the family. If one intended to merely destroy evidence of murder, incineration as is commonly practiced for garbage disposal would be many times quicker and more efficient in every respect, especially in terms of the amounts of fuel consumed. One could still gather enough ashes to fill urns and deceive family members but, oddly enough, it has never been claimed in any of the Holocaust literature that garbage incinerators were ever used for anything but garbage. Even the incinerators within Kremas 2 and 3 in Birkenau have never been implicated. The startling fact is that by practicing cremation the Nazis and the SS went to considerable lengths and expense to treat the dead with genuine respecteven when many of the dead were Jews.

Faurisson missed my point completely. In his response of January 10, 1994 Faurisson wrote: “I say that cremation makes sense everywhere you decide to save space or whenever, as was the case in Auschwitz, the ground is too marshy for burials or when there are epidemics.” The fact is that if all one wanted to do was save space and avoid burial, incinerators would have been the logical choice, not crematory ovens. The incinerators within Kremas 2 and 3 or even larger incinerators specially built for that purpose certainly could have done the job and far more efficiently in terms of labor, equipment cost and cost of fuel.

The crematory ovens from Topf & Sons at Birkenau could only cremate one normal-sized body at a time. The reasons are fairly simple. If one puts more than one normal-sized corpse into a standard crematory oven, one is likely to make contact between a corpse and the firebrick. This must be strictly avoided because of uneven heating of the firebrick and subsequent exfoliation and rapid deterioration of the firebrick.

During cremation there are essentially three stages. In the first stage, the corpse temperature is raised to the boiling point of water and all moisture is removed. In the second stage the corpse temperature is raised to the temperature at which the dried corpse self-ignites. Finally, the corpse consumes itself from its own fuel. During this last stage, the highest temperatures are reached which consume the bones as well. (The bones are almost totally consumed the exceptions are generally the hip, skull and teeth.) If at this time the corpse is in direct contact with the firebrick, the uneven heating of some of the bricks will cause them to crack.

Cyanide Absorption through the Skin

Faurisson's claims that for mass murder oceans of hydrocyanic acid" would have been required and that the corpses as well as the chambers would have been saturated" with HCN are pure fantasy! He is apparently unaware of the meaning of the word saturate" and of the fact that the amount of HCN needed to kill someone is less than one gram whereas the amount needed to saturate" a corpse is at least a thousand times greater. Practically all of the lethal dosage of HCN would enter through the lungs and not the skin.

Faurisson has repeatedly overstated the danger of HCN absorption through the skin. Although skin certainly does absorb HCN, it does so rather slowly. According to a source which Faurisson has himself used, 10 minutes are required to overcome a man with a gas mask whose skin is exposed to a concentration of 2% HCN in air.

“(2) It should also be remembered that a man may be overcome by the absorption of hydrocyanic acid gas through the skin; a concentration of 2 percent hydrocyanic acid being sufficient to thus overcome a man in about 10 minutes. Therefore, even if one wears a gas mask, exposure to concentrations of hydrocyanic acid gas of 1 percent by volume or greater should be made only in case of necessity and then for a period not longer than 1 minute at a time. In general, places containing this gas should be well ventilated with fresh air before the wearer of the mask enters, thus reducing the concentration of hydrocyanic acid gas to low fractional percentages.” (See: The Gas Mask, Technical Manual No. 3-205, War Department, Washington, October 9, 1941, p. 144, NA RG 407, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1917 TM 3-205.)

The typical lethal concentration for an execution chamber and for delousing is only 0.1% HCN in air, in other words, the lethal gas need only be one-twentieth as strong as the gas discussed in Faurisson's reference. If one applies a rule of thumb or reciprocity known sometimes as Henderson's Rule, one would need twenty times as long to cause the same toxic effect. In other words, approximately 200 minutes or three hours of exposure to 0.1% HCN would be needed to overcome a worker wearing a gas mask but whose skin is exposed. It is almost inconceivable, however, that workers removing corpses would be exposed to anything near these concentrations after the doors were opened. Depending upon the duration of the forced-venting of the chamber, the cyanide levels confronting workers would be far, far less than 0.1%; that was why, after all, the chambers would have been force-vented in the first place before the doors were opened. The principal danger to workers removing corpses is from cyanide vapors gradually leaving corpses and walls and then mixing with air surrounding the workers. However, with the circulation blowers continuing to bring fresh air into the chambers, the cyanide levels in air would be maintained easily enough at extremely low levels, safe enough for workers wearing rubber gloves to remove corpses without also wearing gas masks. In other words, the danger of HCN absorption through parts of the skin not covered with rubber gloves is negligible in a DEGESCH delousing chamber or tunnel if it is operated correctly.

American Execution Procedures with Cyanide

Although cyanide gas leaving an American execution chamber is neutralized chemically before it is discharged to atmosphere, the DEGESCH chambers from all I have seen in the German literature never used any neutralizing equipment although the cyanide concentrations for delousing were about the same as for US executions. The delousing chambers discharged 0.1% HCN directly to atmosphere and apparently relied on dilution with outside air as well as the fact that cyanide rises in air. There were no forty feet high chimneys either! Fred Leuchter, an American expert on the use of gaschambers for executing criminals, has often claimed that forty-feet-high chimneys are needed for venting. DEGESCH never made any such recommendation, even though the cyanide concentrations for delousing are just as dangerous as those used for executions in America.

As to the airing and sometimes beating of items outdoors after a normal delousing procedure in a DEGESCH standard delousing gas chamber, Faurisson fails to understand that the need to remove every last trace of cyanide is far greater for deloused clothing than it would have been for victims of mass-murder. Among the items most often deloused were blankets and bed sheets and undergarments which would subsequently remain in intimate contact with people for many hours at a time. Dangerous amounts of cyanide would, if they were present, slowly leave those items and could enter an individual, especially if they were asleep, either through the lungs or the skin; no comparable danger is likely from corpses of murdered Jews.

The execution procedures employed in the US are quite elaborate for many reasons having nothing whatever to do with any likely requirements for mass-murder. One goal of US execution procedures is to kill quickly and painlessly. The executee must also be easily observable during his or her agony through a large window by a host of witnesses, ordinary citizens generally, who, if the spectacle makes them uncomfortable or puts anyone (other than the executee) in the slightest danger, may appeal to whomever to disallow executions in the future. To insist that the Germans would have had to employ similar or even more elaborate procedures for mass-murder is ridiculous. Executions in the US by hanging or firing squads are also elaborate. Murder, or better yet, war must be impossible because of the complex procedures used to execute people in Missouri and Maryland. Accounts of hundreds of thousands of soldiers dying from poison gas during World War I must, according to Faurisson, be fabrications as well.

A far better line of argument which is technically correct is the following: Since the Germans actually had equipment and technology easily adaptable for mass-murder in their concentration camps and in major railroad centers such as Budapest, why didn't they use it for mass-murder? Why wasn't this technology used in Auschwitz or Dachau or Budapest? Why would the Nazis have employed rather ordinary, dreary cellars with little holes in the ceilings instead of well-designed delousing chambers or at least large-scale variations of those chambers? To be consistent with the extermination theory, the answers to the above questions must of necessity be so bizarre that no one could possibly believe them.

The Danger of Explosion with Cyanide

Another false argument Faurisson has repeatedly used is that cyanide gas is explosive and, therefore, could never have been used near crematory ovens. Fred Leuchter was apparently persuaded to fall in line and used the same argument. The fact is that cyanide in air is only explosive in concentrations higher than 5.6%in other words, the concentration of HCN in air must be at least 56 times greater than the 0.1% one is likely to use in a homicidal gas chamberbefore it can even begin to become explosive! If the cyanide level exceeds 6% in only a small areajust above an opened can of Zyklon B, for examplethe worst that one can get is a flame, but no explosion! For an explosion, an enclosed volume filled with a cyanide concentration far above anything one is likely to use during a fumigation or execution is needed.

Faurisson responded to these facts with some very poor counter arguments. It would be nice if one could totally remove all potentially explosive substances from the world but that is still impractical. We drive automobiles with an explosive substance all the time and yet, generally, automobiles are also equipped with ashtrays and cigarette lighters. In his response, Faurisson cited one source from the American Cyanimid Co. which mentions “heat, sparks, open flame” within a precautionary context but apparently the words “explosion” or “explosive” appear nowhere.

In the “Military Fumigation Manual” from the American Cyanimid Co. from 1943 which Faurisson also cited, there is indeed a brief discussion on page 12 as follows:

“If a mess hall is equipped with gas, blower-type heaters, these may be used for heating prior to fumigation, but they should be extinguished (including the pilot light) just before applying the fumigant. All pilot lights in boilers, ranges, etc., should be extinguished. Coal fires in cooking ranges should be banked so there will be no live flame during the fumigation.”

That text may look at first glance as if it is some evidence for a danger of explosion but note that there still is no mention of explosion" or anything explosive." In fact, nowhere within the entire manual is there any mention of any danger of explosion. Although the word boiler" appears, that is probably a typo and the word should probably be broiler" since the paragraph is about a mess hall. Pilot lights would have consumed some of the cyanide by ordinary combustion (just as they would consume oxygen) and would have reduced the amount of cyanide remaining in the air to kill infestation.

Faurisson chose to ignore some extremely important text which appears just prior to the above and which reads as follows:

“When outdoor conditions cause the indoor temperature to fall below 65 degrees F., it is desirable to heat the building for two or three hours before the Discoids are applied and during the fumigation so the insects will be warmed and therefore more susceptible to the gas.

Furnace rooms should not be sealed but the door should be locked and barred to prevent entry... The furnace (if coal) should be stoked so that heat will be satisfactorily maintained for the short period of exposure required, if possible. If not possible, the furnace tender should wear a gas mask when tending the fire.”

The reader should note that according to the above text, whenever the outdoor temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the building should be heated “during the fumigation” to keep the building and insects warm. Also, if the furnace is in a room adjoining the room to be fumigated, ventilator openings above the furnace room door should be sealedbut not the door itself; it should simply be closed and lockedbut not sealed. The furnace may continue to operate to maintain room temperature provided that the furnace tender wear a gas mask when tending the fire." That key phrase totally refutes one of Faurisson's most often used arguments against the use of crematory furnaces near alleged gas chambers. Obviously, the danger that the furnace tenders might also bring about their own destruction in an explosion is not significant at all.

Faurisson the Revisionist

No one deserves more admiration for his courage than Robert Faurisson, but we must not let our respect and sympathy for a great man blind us. If Holocaust revisionists can not come to their senses and separate themselves from seemingly easy but thoroughly false, pseudo-scientific arguments, more Jean-Claude Pressacs will emerge and with good reason.

As to Faurisson's challenge to show him a Nazi gas chamber for mass murder, the answers were there all the time. The German delousing chambers with only minor modification and the large railroad delousing tunnels without any modification at all would have served the purpose perfectly wellbut, they were used only to keep people alive! The great killer was disease. The DEGESCH delousing chambers and the railroad delousing tunnels and Zyklon B were essential to keeping disease, especially typhus, under control.

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