The following are excerpts from a very lengthy article published by the IHR in 1989, entitled Lessons from Dachau, by John Cobden, in which he reviewed the book DACHAU: 1933-45, THE OFFICIAL HISTORY by Paul Berben. London: The Norfolk Press, 1975, Hardcover, 300 pages. The book is still in print and available on Amazon. The article is far too long to re-post in its entirety within a single blog post, however, I hope this will provide a decent overview of the contents and inspire the reader to further explore the facts presented. Mr Cobden wrote:
“Sometimes important “revisionist” works are produced, not by the revisionists, but by believers in the “exterminationist” view. A case in point is Arno Mayer’s Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, which downplays Auschwitz as a center of gassings and admits that most deaths in the camps, including the so-called “death camps,” were the result of “natural” causes and not from gassings or executions. Another book that, remarkably, helps the revisionist case is Paul Berben’s Dachau: 1933-45, The Official History. It begins by positing that Dachau was an “extermination camp,” then implicitly demolishes its own thesis. Berben’s Dachau was first published in 1968 in Belgium, then republished by the Norfolk Press in 1975 “on behalf and under the auspices of the Comité International de Dachau.” The C.I.D. represents the tens of thousands of deportees who were exterminated in the death camp and also those who survived.” (p. xiv) It is incontestably an official history: the 1975 edition, which is reviewed in this article, contains the statement that it was “published for sale only at the Dachau Camp Memorial Site.”
NOTE: This, chart reprinted from page 281 of Berben’s “Dachau,” illustrates some interesting facts. Note that the death rate in Dachau fell slightly in 1942. In 1943 the death rate fell almost 50 per cent. In 1943 the death rate was at an all-time low, yet according to “exterminationist theory” the “final solution” should have been in full swing. In 1944, with the reappearance of typhus in the camp, deaths rose dramatically. Note that 66 per cent of all deaths at Dachau took place in the last seven months. It should also be noted that in the winter months of 1942-43 another typhus outbreak hit the camp. There is also an unusually high number of deaths for March 1944, due to Allied bombings of Kommandos which resulted in the deaths of 223 prisoners. (See p. 95).
It seems very unlikely that many men in this group (even after thousands had been transferred for various reasons out of Dachau, there were still 759 criminals in the camp on April 26, 1945) were there because they were fighters for human rights.
It also seems unlikely that many of the political prisoners, especially the Communists, were advocates of individual rights. In light of the atrocities committed by Communists throughout Europe and Asia from 1917 to 1945, and beyond, it is certainly naive at best, and a lie at worst, to paint these people as freedom fighters. Yet most of the prisoners in the camp were political prisoners, of whom a large percentage were Communists or Communist sympathizers. A camp census taken on April 26,1945 showed that 43,401 prisoners were there for political reasons. In contrast, the number of Jews in the camp was 22,100; 128 prisoners had been purged from the Wehrmacht; 110 were incarcerated for being homosexual; 85 were Jehovah’s Witnesses; and 1,066 were classed as “anti-socials.” (p. 221)
What of “the tens of thousands of deportees who were exterminated in the death camp,” according to the author’s claims? In the first place, Berben, while alleging that there was a homicidal gas chamber at Auschwitz, states at the outset that “the Dachau gas-chamber was never used.” (p. 8) Like virtually all “exterminationist” writers who claim that the Dachau “gas chamber” was never completed, or completed but never used, Berben neither offers believable evidence that there actually was such an installation at Dachau, nor explains why numerous Dachau inmates swore that thousands had been gassed in it.
Dachau does, nonetheless, offer a precise figure for deaths during the war years at Dachau. According to a chart (p. 281), the number of deaths at the main Dachau camp and its smaller outstations totalled 27,839 for the years from 1940 through 1945 (again, the claim that some 238,000 inmates perished at Dachau, once exhibited on a sign at the entrance to the camp, is passed over by Berben in silence).
An analysis of this figure affords some interesting insights. Of the 27,839, 2,226 are said to have died in May 1945, after the Americans liberated the camp. In other words, fully eight per cent of the wartime deaths at Dachau took place in a month that the camp was in the hands of Allied forces.
If one were disposed to citing such figures without regard to their context (that is, disregarding the reason for the deaths), a damaging case against the American occupiers could be made. According to the figures Berben provides, during the 65 months from January 1940 to May 1945 27,839 prisoners died from all causes, working out to an average of 428 per month (see Chart 1). During the first month of Allied control of Dachau, therefore, the death rate was 400 per cent higher than average.
Doubtless someone who felt compelled to defend the American “liberators” of Dachau would quickly establish, and argue, that the cause of death was not an American extermination program, but the continuation of the contagion which had racked Dachau in the months before the camp’s capture at the end of April 1945. Exactly! Dachau fell prey to a devastating epidemic (of chiefly typhus) from the end of 1944. From November of that year through May 1945, 18,296 inmates died, 66 per cent of the deaths during the war years. If one includes the deaths which took place from November 1943 to March 1944 (another epidemic), the number of the victims rises to 19,605, or 70 per cent of the wartime victims.
If the figures in the official history are correct, and deaths during epidemics taken into account, we are left with 8,234 possible victims of extermination. But Berben makes it quite clear that sickness and disease was a constant problem, and that many people died year in, year out of such natural causes. He also points out that numerous individuals committed suicide, that some prisoners believed to be working for the Nazis were murdered by fellow prisoners, and that some were killed in Allied bombings. Bergen notes that in March 1944 one Allied bombing of a factory where prisoners worked killed 223 prisoners. In another case a tunnel collapsed in a factory, killing 22 prisoners. An Allied bombing at the same site later killed an additional 6. These two incidents alone account for another 251 deaths in the camp, almost one percent of the total deaths. Bergen also claims that some executions took place, mostly by firing squad. But these executions only account for a very small percentage of the deaths in the camps about .0087 per cent (p. 271)
Berben also notes that Himmler wanted to lower the death rate in the camps as much as possible, which seems odd if the extermination of prisoners was the goal.
The death-rate in the camps forced the S.S. to take notice. With the help of copious statistics they watched its progress, not to save human lives, but to economize on man-power. On 30th September 1943 Pohl informed Himmler that the number of deaths in August was 40 out of an average work force of 17,300, that is 0.23 per cent, whereas the previous month the percentage had been 0.32 per cent They had achieved a reduction of 0.09. Results were obtained from other camps too. Out of a total strength estimated at 224,000 in August, there had been 4,699 deaths, that is 2.09 per cent, compared with 2.23 per cent in July: the improvement was therefore 0.14 per cent. Himmler congratulated Pohl on the results he had obtained even though they were difficult to check! (p. 94-95)”
What one finds in this official history of Dachau is not confirmation of the “exterminationist” view, but a repudiation of it. It is quickly evident that a very high percentage of the total deaths can be accounted for in terms other than an “extermination.” While we don’t know how many of the remaining non-epidemic deaths fell into “natural” categories, we can rationally assume that many of them were caused by disease, accidents, suicides, and natural causes. The last category is important because Dachau housed quite a few older prisoners. “Statistics made by the camp administration on 16th February 1945 list 2,309 men and 44 women aged between 50 and 60 and 5,465 men and 12 women over 60.” (p. 11) This admission is rather significant, since, according to general “exterminationist” theory, older prisoners often were not even admitted to the camps, but were separated from the other prisoners immediately upon arrival, then gassed. At a camp which its official survivors’ committee calls a “death camp,” however, we find 2,910 prisoners of advancing years who had evidently not been exterminated.
The “exterminationist” view, either that focusing on the Jews or the broader version, has long told us that, like the elderly, children were singled out for death immediately, because they were incapable of working. Dachau, however, also housed an unstated number of children. Berben states that a group of prisoners formed an unofficial governing body, called the International Committee, and that this group started a school in the camp for the children.
As has already been mentioned, there were times when even children were imprisoned in Dachau. The International Committee saw to it that they were not abandoned. A school was organized for Russian children under a Yugoslavian teacher, and the older ones were placed in Kommandos [subsidiary work camps of Dachau] where they were looked after by prisoners who tried not only to keep them in good health but to teach them the rudiments of a trade as well (p. 175).
While the older children were old enough to work, it is unlikely that the younger children in the school were doing so. Thus, according to the “exterminationist” view, they too should have been immediately killed.
An important component of the “extermination” theory is the notion that prisoners not killed immediately were subject to “extermination through work,” in which brutal on-the-job drudgery and miserable living conditions made the life in the camps nasty and short. Under a regime intent on the death of all Jews and other “undesirables” we would expect very little food, medical care, and other necessities to be available to the prisoners. There would certainly be no orders to lower the death rate, just as there would be no elderly or sick prisoners sitting around: Those capable of working would work; the others would have been put to death, the sooner the better. But, as described in this official history, at Dachau the Germans were intent on keeping the prisoners alive, even the sick and the elderly.
Living conditions in the camp didn’t suddenly worsen as a result of a decision to exterminate. For most of the camp’s history conditions were fairly good, considering that it served as a type of prison. Berben quotes Wolfgang Jasper, legation counselor and member since 1935 of an S.S. cavalry unit
We found the camp [in 1937] and the huts in faultless condition and perfectly clean. The prisoners made a very good impression on us and did not seem to be at all hungry. They were allowed to receive letters and parcels and had a canteen where they could buy things. There were also cultural activities available. (p. 43)
“In addition to regularly scheduled meals and the second breakfast, and what prisoners could purchase at the canteen, other food was available as well. “From the end of 1942, however, large consignments of food and other useful things did reach the camp … ” Family and friends of prisoners were sending parcels of food into the camp. In addition to these parcels, “The consignments sent to the Red Cross also brought assistance whose beneficial efforts cannot be over-emphasized.” Berben said that the Red Cross shipments alone consisted of “thousands” of parcels. Dachau served as the main camp for all prisoners who were clergy, about 2,700 prisoners. According to Berben:
Food parcels could be sent to clergy and the food situation improved noticeably. Germans and Poles particularly received them in considerable quantities from their families, their parishioners and members of religious communities. In Block 26 one hundred sometimes arrived on the same day. (p. 151)
The clergy continued to receive the “considerable quantities” of food until nearly the end of the war.
This period of relative plenty lasted till the end of 1944 when the disruption of communications stopped the dispatch of parcels. Nevertheless the German clergy continued to receive food through the Dean of Dachau, Herr Pfanzelt, to whom the correspondents sent food tickets: the priest brought bread and sausage with these and sent the parcels by the local post. (p. 151)
Thus Berben, while lamenting the lack of food, tells us that prisoners had regular meals, some had a second breakfast, that “large consignments” were mailed to prisoners, that Thousands” of parcels arrived from the Red Cross, that food could be purchased at the canteen, that the clergy received “considerable quantities” from parishioners and that this “period of relative plenty lasted till the end of 1944.” All of this came to an end, not because the Nazis decided to starve people, but because “the disruption of communications stopped the dispatch of parcels.” Yet, in spite of these admissions that large quantities of food were available to the average prisoner, Berben says that “legitimate means of obtaining extras were available to only a limited number of privileged prisoners.” (pp. 164-165)
Berben tells us at length how the National Socialist government continually expanded medical services throughout the war. He notes that when the camp was first built in 1933 very few medical services were available. But as the camp was expanded, a hospital was included:
… Blocks A and B: they consisted of an operating theatre with modern equipment. Visitors were invariably shown these buildings, because they proved “the interest taken by the S.S. in the prisoners health.” (p. 104) As the war progressed the demand for health services in the camp increased. In 1940 the hospital was extended to Blocks 1, 3 and 5. But it was mainly from 1942 onwards that increasing numbers caused the sick block to be extended: in September of that year it comprised 7 blocks, one of which had no wards and was reserved for offices, the pharmacy, the laboratory and the rooms occupied by the experimental departments. In the second half of 1944, the seven blocks were linked by a long closed corridor, and then the three blocks. 11 to 15. were added … (p. 104)
The hospital care given to prisoners is praised continually in Berben’s official history.
The accommodation was complete and modern, and in normal conditions specialists could have treated all the diseases efficiently. Operations were performed in two well-equipped theatres. The laboratory was well appointed, and all the necessary analyses could be made there until, at the end of 1944, the service was overwhelmed. There was an electrocardiograph and the very latest model of a Siemens X-ray apparatus. (p. 104)
The author states that the increase in hospital service was beneficial to the prisoners.
The effect of these changes on the prisoners situation was beneficial. Generally speaking, there was good understanding between the doctors and prisoner-nurses, and their co-operation achieved good results. Thanks to the doctors’ initiative, backed up by the nurses and with the help of workmen, a special hut was built between Blocks 11 and 13 for the tuberculosis patients to take open-air cures. Sputum was examined in the laboratory and most of those prisoners in whom it was found to give a positive reaction were hospitalized and treated by rest and fresh-air cures and given extra rations. (p. 106)
Dachau: The Official History makes clear that the camp officials attempted to keep disease to a minimum. They attempted to enforce certain hygiene standards, which of course became increasingly difficult as the war progressed. Berben writes:
It is obvious that in a camp where thousands of men live in a far too confined area and in deplorable conditions very strict hygiene was vital. In the early years, when numbers were still relatively low and arrivals were in small groups, adequate precautions could be taken. “The newcomers went to the showers, were cropped, given clothes and underwear, wretched, it is true, but laundered.” The rooms were not overcrowded. The orders concerning the upkeep of the premises, clothing and bodily cleanliness were irksome and prompted the bullying of prisoners, but all in all they were useful because the vast majority of the prisoners realized that if they were to stand any chance of survival they would have to conform to strict rules. They knew that they could of course expect nothing from the camp authorities; when hygienic precautions were laid down, it was merely to protect the S.S. staff and to have the maximum labour force. (p. 109)
Even a cursory read of Dachau: The Official History shows that conditions were fairly decent and only fell apart near the end of the war, when all of Germany was in chaos.”
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v09/v09p485_Cobden.html
Military Police Service (Austria) circular from 1948 confirms no one was killed by poison gassings at any of the here mentioned KZs (Concentration Camps), including Dachau, and adds that it is proven that any admissions to alleged gassings in these camps were derived from torture, and furthermore, that witness statements alleging gassings were false. This document was accepted as evidence by the EU Commission for Human Rights in a case involving an Austrian who was charged under holocaust denial laws, and he was exonerated, while German Revisionist Historian Udo Walendy was not.