NEWS ITEM in the Westfalische Nachrichten Mar. 10, 1997 shows one Kasimierz Smolen, 76, identified as a former director of the Auschwitz museum 1955 to 1991, lecturing to two hundred innocent teenaged school boys and girls in an indoctrination class at the Friedensschule (Peace School) in Münster, Germany.
The item reports that from 1940 to 1945 Smolen was an inmate of the Auschwitz camp, with registration number 1327. Nuremberg's records reveal that Smolen, born in Chorzow on April 19, 1920 was arrested on Apr. 15 1940 by the Gestapo as a member of the Polish underground.
He deposed in testimonies sworn in Polish communist Kraków on Dec. 15 and 16, 1947 (National Archives microfilm M.1019/7) that he was incarcerated at Auschwitz on Jul. 6, 1940 with the note: "Return not wanted."
From July 1941 he became a clerk in the camp's Political Section, and from Aug. 1942 he was, he admitted, one of the hated "kapos". Given the choice, as the Red Army approached the camp, of staying behind to be "liberated" or retreating with the Nazis, Smolen chose the latter and was evacuated on Jan. 18, 1945 to Mauthausen somehow taking the vital "lists" of numbers with him. His powers of recall, instead of fading with the passing years, became ever more vivid - a cerebral phenomenon shared by many witnesses to the Holocaust. At Nuremberg he stated in this 1945 affidavit that of ten thousand Soviet prisoners imprisoned in the camp in October 1941, some 8,500 died of disease and the rest were transferred to the camp at Birkenau, some three miles away.
Three hundred were singled out as fanatical communists and executed. By Mid 1942, he testified, all but 150 had been executed in this way or had died of the typhus plague that swept the camp.
At Auschwitz, testified Smolen - evidently a book-keeper par excellence - the first prisoner was No. 1, the last No. 202,499. He claimed to have copied out a twenty-eight page summary of the arriving prison transports: the first rosta showed prisoner No. 1 arriving on Jun 20, 1940; it ended at No. 159,920 on Nov. 2, 1943.
The second list of male prisoners, thirteen pages, continued with No. 159,921 on Nov. 2, 1943 and ended with No. 199,531 on Sep. 18, 1944.
There were twenty-six pages of Frauentransporte (women's transports) - No. 1 arrived on Mar. 23, 1942 and No. 75,697 on Feb. 26, 1944. (Smolen thus seemingly discounts the heart-rending stories of separations of man from wife as they stepped off the train onto the dread "Ramp" at Auschwitz.) Testifying two years after the war's end at the U.S. trial of the OKW (German High Command) at Nuremberg, Smolen's "memory" had enlarged to include "the first test gassings" of Russian prisoners of war - allegedly conducted early in 1942 at Auschwitz. He had not recalled these earlier.
He now testified that he was a clerk at the camp from 1940 45, and made no mention of having been a "kapo".
As for the fate of the ten thousand Russian prisoners arriving in October 1941, he was now capable of providing detail he had not two years earlier - namely that "8,337 of them had been entered in the camp's death book by the end of February 1942. The cause of death was in most cases falsified."
Falsified? But he, Smolen, was the book-keeper! Smolen further testified that the last Russian children, including even newborn babes, were gassed at Auschwitz in February 1944" (Deutscher Depeschendienst, March 1948: Public Records Office, WO.208/4294).
By the time he addressed the school-children in Germany this year, Smolen's knowledge had mysteriously expanded. Until the end of 1941, he now stated to the school children, only Poles were being executed there, beginning with 240 tubercular cases in September 1941 killed "by Zyklon-B gas." (No mention of them in his earlier depositions either).
After the decision to go for the final solution, taken, Smolen assured the teenagers, at the (Jan. 1942) Wannsee conference, a death machine without parallel had been installed at his camp, with between seventy and ninety percent of arriving Jews taken direct from the railroad ramp to the gas chambers as they were unfit for work. (Anne Frank's family evidently escaped this drama: all three members survived at the camp from 1944 until her father fell ill; he was being cared for in the S.S. hospital, when he was liberated in Jan. 1945; and her sister died of typhus, to which plague the wretched Anne herself, like hundreds of thousands of others, also succumbed after being evacuated from the camp in 1945 to Bergen-Belsen.)
As the crematoria had been unable to cope with the huge number of bodies, Smolen persisted, punishment companies had burned the remaining bodies with gasoline on giant pyres. He himself had escaped with one of the last death marches westwards to the Mauthausen camp, Austria, where he was liberated by the Americans.
The German newspaper reports alas little of the subsequent discussion: no doubt some of the brighter children will have asked Smolen - who miraculously survived Hitler's Final Solution although languishing five years within Auschwitz as a Pole, a Jew, a resistance fighter, and a communist - about his different evidence at the Nuremberg Trials, about the fake ("reconstructed") gas chamber and crematorium chimney erected at the Auschwitz museum site in 1948, and about why he continued to pass this building off as genuine for thirty-five years; and about that tablet of stone erected under his stewardship commemorating "over four million" liquidated at the camp, a figure which the communist Smolen defended rigidly until his enforced resignation in July 1990.
The figure on the stone tablet was erased immediately, and replaced some years later, grudgingly, with one alleging the deaths of one million. There is no doubt that large numbers of Jews and other innocents died at Auschwitz. The circumstances are however very much in dispute, and the true figure is coming down with each week that passes.
Some children may even have asked about the forensic tests conducted by Fred Leuchter, by Germar Rudolf, by the Jan Sehn Institute of Kraków and by other bodies, all of which show no trace of cyanide-compound residues in the alleged homicidal structures.
Right: Memorial to "four million" dead, since removed by embarrassed Auschwitz authorities