Leuchter report

The Leuchter report is a document authored by Fred A. Leuchter, an American who claimed to be an execution technician. In the defense of Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel at his trial, Leuchter compiled the report in 1988 with the intention of investigating the feasibility of mass homicidal gassings at Nazi extermination camps; in particular, at Auschwitz. However during the trial, Leuchter was dismissed as expert witness due to the fact he had neither the qualifications or experience to act in such a position, and the document was completely discredited in court. Critics of the report describe it as "pseudo-scientific", and "the most important document in the history of denial."Fact|date=September 2008


Zündel and his lawyers were joined by Robert Faurisson, who came to Toronto to advise the defense at the second trialLipstadt, p. 160.] (having previously testified as expert witness at the first).Lipstadt, p. 161.] He was also joined by David Irving who was to assist in preparing the defense and to testify on Zündels behalf. After having expressed interest in getting an American prison warden who had participated in executions by gas to testify, Irving and Faurisson (Faurisson, a staunch believer that it was technically and physically impossible for the gas chambers at Auschwitz to have functioned as extermination facilities based in comparison with American execution gas chambers) and Irving invited Bill Armontrout, warden of the Missouri State Penitentiary.Lipstadt, p. 162.] He agreed to testify and suggested they also contact Fred A. Leuchter, a Bostonian execution equipment designer. According to Faurisson, Leuchter accepted the Holocaust, but after two days, he then stated that Leuchter was convinced that homicidal gassings never occurred. In agreement to serve as expert witness for the defense and having met Zündel in Toronto, Leuchter shortly left to spend a week in Poland. He was accompanied by his draftsman, a cinematographer supplied by Zündel, a translator fluent in German and Polish, and his wife. Newly married for less than a month, Leuchter told her that this was her honeymoon.cite news | url=http://www.errolmorris.com/film/mrd_transcript.html| title=Mr. Death: Transcript|publisher=| date=2006 | first=Errol | last=Morris | accessdate = 2008-05-17] While Zündel and Faurisson could not accompany them, Leuchter stated they were with them "every step of the way" in spirit.

Once in Poland, the group spent three days in Auschwitz and one in Majdanek. As the cement and bricks they collected were procured illegally, Leuchter's wife and the translator acted as lookouts, while Leuchter was being filmed taking what he called "forensic samples".Lipstadt, p. 160.] Drawings of where the samples were taken from, the footage of their collection and Leuchter's notebook were surrendered as permanent evidence to the court, and Leuchter concluded that his findings were based on his "expert knowledge" for gas chamber operation, his visual inspections of what remains of the structures at Auschwitz, and "original drawings and blueprints of some of the facilities". Leuchter claimed that the blueprints had been given to him by Auschwitz museum officials.


The compiled report was published as "The Leuchter Report: An Engineering Report on the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek, Poland", by Zündel's Samisdat Publications, and as "Auschwitz: The End of the Line. The Leuchter Report: The First Forensic Examination of Auschwitz" by Focal Point Publications, David Irving's publishing house. However, the court accepted the report only as evidentiary display and not as direct evidence; Leuchter was therefore required to explicate it and testify to the veracity of his findings under oath in the trial.

Before Leuchter could do this, he was examined by the court. It soon became apparent that Leuchter's credentials were seriously lacking. He admitted that he was not a toxicologist and dismissed the need for having a degree in engineering, to which the judge responded abruptly:

cquote|THE COURT: How do you function as an engineer if you don't have an engineering degree?

THE WITNESS: Well, I would question, Your Honour, what an engineering degree is. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree and I have the required background training both on the college level and in the field to perform my function as an engineer.

THE COURT: Who determines that? You?|quote width in pixels|quote height in pixels|Exchange between Leuchter and Judge Thomas|"Her Majesty the Queen vs. Ernst Zündel", District Court of Ontario 1988, p. 8973.Lipstadt, p. 164.]

Leuchter admitted under oath that he only had a bachelor of arts degree and implicitly suggested that an engineering degree was unavailable to him by saying that his college did not offer an engineering degree during his studies. Boston University actually offered three different kinds of such qualification when he was a student there.Lipstadt, p. 165.] The defense continued to obfuscate Leuchter's credentials. When asked by the court if the B.A. he obtained was in a field that entitled him to operate as an engineer, he confirmed that this was so, even though his degree was in history. Similarly, Leuchter claimed that he obtained most of his research material on the camps (including original crematoria blueprints) came from the Auschwitz and Majdanek camps' archives, and testified that these documents had a far more important role in shaping his conclusions than the physical samples he collected did, yet after the trial, the director of the Auschwitz museum categorically denied that Leuchter had received any plans or blueprints.

Judge Ronald Thomas began to label Leuchter's methodology as "ridiculous" and "preposterous", dismissing many of the report's conclusions on the basis that they were based on "second-hand information", and refused to allow him to testify on the effect of Zyklon B on humans because he had never worked with the substance, and was neither a toxicologist nor a chemist.Lipstadt, p. 166.] Mr. Thomas dismissed Leuchter's opinion because it was of "no greater value than that of an ordinary tourist", and in regards to Leuchter's opinion said:

When questioned on the functioning of the crematoria, the judge also prevented Leuchter from testifying because "he hasn't any expertise". Leuchter also claimed that consultation relating to sodium cyanide and hydrogen cyanide with DuPont was "an on-going thing". DuPont, the largest American manufacturer of hydrogen cyanide, stated that it had "never provided any information on cyanides to persons representing themselves as Holocaust deniers, including Fred Leuchter", and has "never provided any information regarding the use of cyanide at Auschwitz, Birkenau or Majdanek."

Claims and criticism

The contents of the report, in particular, Leuchter's methodology are heavily criticised. James Roth, the manager of the lab that carried out the analysis on the samples Leuchter collected swore under oath to the results at the trial. Roth did not learn what the trial was about until he got off the stand. He later stated that cyanide would have only penetrated to a depth of around 10 microns: a tenth of a human hair. The samples of brick, mortar and concrete that Leuchter took were of indeterminate thickness: not being aware of this, the lab ground the samples to a fine powder which thus severely diluted the cyanide-containing layer of each sample with an indeterminate amount of brick, varying for each sample. A more accurate analysis would have been analysing the surface of the samples Leuchter collected. Roth offered the analogy that the investigation was like analyzing paint on a wall by analyzing the timber behind it.

Prussian blue

Leuchter's opposition to the possibility of homicidal gassings at Auschwitz relies on residual cyanide remains found in the homicidal gas chambers and delousing chambers at Auschwitz.Lipstadt, p. 167.] While both facilities were exposed to the same substance (Zyklon B), many of the delousing chambers are stained with an iron based compound known as Prussian blue, which is not apparent in the homicidal gas chambers.cite news|url=http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/chemistry/blue/|last=Green|first=Richard J.|work=Leuchter, Rudolf, and the Iron Blues|title=Leuchter, Rudolf, and the Iron Blues|accessdate=2008-05-26] It is not only this disparity that Leuchter cites, but accordingly from his samples (which included measurements of it) that he claims he measured much more cyanide in the delousing chambers than in the gas chambers, which he argues is inconsistent between the amounts necessary to kill human beings and lice. This argument is often cited by Holocaust deniers, and similar claims are also made by Germar Rudolf.

According to Dr. Richard Green:

This means that if it is claimed that the absence of Prussian blue proves that no gassing took place, the burden of proof falls on the claimant to demonstrate that their proposed method was in operation. In other words, the claimant must prove that the conditions and method for its formation where it did occur were exactly the same in places where it did not. If the claimant cannot substantiate this, then the claim of no gassing has not been corroborated because the claimant has not ruled out its impossibility.cite news|url=http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/chemistry/|last=Green|first=Richard J.|work=The Chemistry of Auschwitz|title=The Chemistry of Auschwitz|accessdate=2008-05-26]

The problem with Prussian blue is that it is by no means a categorical sign of cyanide exposure. One factor necessary in its formation is a very high concentration of cyanide. In terms of the difference between amounts measured in the delousing chambers and homicidal gas chambers, critics explain that the exact opposite of what deniers claim is true. Insects have a far higher resistance to cyanide than humans, with concentration levels up to 16,000ppm (parts per million) and an exposure time of more than 20 hours (sometimes as long as 72 hours) being necessary for them to succumb. In contrast, a cyanide concentration of only 300ppm is fatal to humans in a matter of minutes.cite news|url=http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/chemistry/not-the-science/|last=Green|first=Richard J.|work=Chemistry is Not the Science: Rudolf, Rhetoric, and Reduction|title=Chemistry is Not the Science: Rudolf, Rhetoric, and Reduction|accessdate=2008-05-26] This difference is one of the reasons behind the concentration disparity. Another exceedingly sensitive factor by which very small deviances could determine whether Prussian blue may form is pH. This element could be affected even by just the presence of human beings. Also, while the delousing chambers were left intact, the ruins of the crematoria at Birkenau had been exposed to the elements for over forty years by the time Leuchter collected his samples. This would have severely affected affected his results, because unlike Prussian blue and other iron based cyanides, cyanide salts are highly water soluble.

Since the formation of Prussian blue is not an unconditional outcome of exposure to cyanide, it is not a reliable indicator. Leuchter and Rudolf claim to have measured much more cyanide in the delousing chambers than in the homicidal gas chambers, but since they did not discriminate against an unreliable factor, critics maintain that instant bias is introduced into their experiments. Similarly, Rudolf acknowledges that Prussian blue does not always form upon exposure to cyanide and is thus not a reliable marker, yet continues to include the iron compounds in his analysis. Critics describe this as "disingenuous". Since a building that contains Prussian blue staining would exhibit much higher levels of detectable cyanides than one without anyway, Leuchter's and Rudolf's measurements reveal nothing more than what is already visible to the naked eye.


In February 1990, Professor Jan Markiewicz, director of The Institute for Forensic Research in Kraków conducted a fair experiment where iron compounds were excluded. Given that the ruins of the gas chambers at Birkenau have been washed by a column of water at least 35m in height based on climatological records since 1945,cite news
first = Jan
last = Markiewicz
coauthors = Gubala, Wojciech. Labedz, Jerzy
title = Cracow (Post-Leuchter) Report: Introduction
url = http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/polish/institute-for-forensic-research/introduction.html
work = A Study of the Cyanide Compounds Contentin the Walls of the Gas Chambersin the Former Auschwitz & Birkenau Concentration Camps
publisher = Institute of Forensic Research
location = Cracow
accessdate = 2008-05-29
] Markiewicz and his team were not optimistic at being able to detect cyanides so many years later, nevertheless, having the legal permission to obtain samples (which Leuchter and Rudolf did not), they collected samples from areas as sheltered from the elements as possible.

Leuchter's report states that the small amounts of cyanide he detected in the ruins of the crematoria are merely the result of fumigation. However the IFRC points out that the controlled samples they took from living areas which may have been fumigated only once as part of the 1942 typhus epidemic tested negative for cyanide, and that the typhus epidemic occurred before the crematoria at Birkenau even existed.cite news
first = Jan
last = Markiewicz
coauthors = Gubala, Wojciech. Labedz, Jerzy
title = Cracow (Post-Leuchter) Report: Final Remarks
url = http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/polish/institute-for-forensic-research/final-remarks.html
work = A Study of the Cyanide Compounds Contentin the Walls of the Gas Chambersin the Former Auschwitz & Birkenau Concentration Camps
publisher = Institute of Forensic Research
location = Cracow
accessdate = 2008-05-29

Accordingly, the IFRC demonstrated that cyanides were present in all of the facilities where it is claimed that they were exposed, i.e. all five crematoria, the cellars of Block 11 and the delousing facilities. Critics state that any attempt to demonstrate that the crematoria could not have functioned as homicidal gas chambers on the basis that they were not exposed to cyanide is unsuccessful, given that its presence in what remains of these facilities is incontrovertible, and write that all of the gas chambers were exposed to cyanide at levels higher than background levels elsewhere in the camp, such as living areas, where no cyanides at all were detected. In addition, tests conducted at Auschwitz in 1945 revealed the presence of cyanides on ventilation grilles found in the ruins of Crematorium II (thus also demonstrating that the Leuchter report was not the first forensic examination of the camp as purported in the title of the London edition). Due to Leuchter's ignorance of the large disparity between the amounts of cyanide necessary to kill humans and lice, instead of disproving the homicidal use of gas chambers, the small amounts of cyanide which Leuchter detected actually tended to confirm it.Evans, Richard J. "Telling Lies about Hitler: The Holocaust, History and the David Irving Trial". Verso, 2002, p. 133.]


*Lipstadt, Deborah. "Denying the Holocaust -- The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory". Free Press, 1993, ISBN 0-02-919235-8
*Jean-Claude Pressac, Serge Klarsfeld. "THE STRUTHOF ALBUM. Study of the gassing at Natzweiler-Struthof of 86 Jews whose bodies were to constitute a collection of skeletons. A photographic document". New York : Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1985

ee also

*Jean-Claude Pressac

External links

* [http://www.phdn.org/negation/pressac-leuchter.html Jean-Claude Pressac. Les carences et incohérences du Rapport Leuchter, Jour J., la lettre télégraphique juive, December 12, 1988]


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