The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.
[May 12, 1999]
RT: 90 minutes
© 1999, Fourth Floor Productions, Inc.
I became involved in the manufacture of execution equipment because I was concerned with the deplorable condition of the hardware that's in most of the state's prisons, which generally results in torture prior to death. A number of years ago, I was asked by a state to look at their electric chair. I was surprised at the condition of the equipment and I indicated to them what changes should be made to bring the equipment up to the point of doing a humane execution.
Beyond making recommendations for changes, I sat down on my own time and at my own expense and made a new design and new equipment available to the states utilizing electrocution, at a price far lower than they would have to deal with if they hired an engineering firm to re-design a specific item. The equipment is all standardized. It all meets the current electrical requirements for electrocution and the pricing is such that it is similar to what you would pay for an off-the-shelf item, even though it is made up. They essentially pay for the parts, the labor and the installation and a 20 percent mark up, which is more than fair.
We are testing the electrocution system here at the Tennessee State Prison. This is connected to the execution system in place of the electric chair and the system thinks that this is a human body. It consists of a series of heavy duty resistors, cooled by four fans. I will now switch on the fans and begin the cooling process. We then proceed to the power supply and we turn on the main circuit breaker. As you can see the voltage has increased to 2640 volts. We begin the test at the control console for the electric chair. We turn the fail-safe system onto operation. Power up. Computer on. Then I push the button for operation.
The human body is not easy to destroy and it is not easy to take a life humanely and painlessly without doing a great deal of damage to the individual's body. Excess current cooks the tissue. There have been occasions where a great amount of current has been applied and the meat actually will come off the executee's body like the meat coming off a cooked chicken.
The execution must be conducted in two jolts. In one 240th part of a second the first jolt disrupts or destroys the individual's central nervous system. The current is then applied for a time approaching one minute. The adrenaline is being driven out into the blood stream. The second jolt now seizes the pacemaker a second time. There is now no adrenaline left to restart the pacemaker. The person is dead. If the voltage does not exceed 2000 volts throughout the execution, the individual's pacemaker is not permanently seized and some twenty minutes, thirty minutes later, the individual's heart re-starts itself on its own, and the person is now alive again. They would have to call all the witnesses back, strap the vegetable back into the chair, and re-electrocute him.
There is no difference in a life support system and an execution system. The system has to function flawlessly for the time period that it is operating. With a life support system, if it doesn't function, the person dies. With an execution system, if it doesn't function flawlessly, the person lives. But he doesn't live as a human being. He lives as an injured, brain dead vegetable, which is probably far worse than being executed.
My father worked in the Massachusetts Correctional System. He was a superintendent of transportation for many years, first at the old state prison in Charlestown, and then at the new prison in Walpole which has now since been renamed, Cedar Junction. As many youngsters do, I went to work with my father. I'd been accompanying him to work since I was four years old.
I visited all of the cell areas, including the death house area. I was in the same room that people like Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in. I learned a number of things from the inmates that normally would be illegal, but have proved very useful to me in my later life. Things like picking locks and cracking safes. I learned all kinds of strange things as a youngster.
I came into the execution field from a back door standpoint, because I was very concerned about the humanitarian aspects of death by torture, similar to what happened in the state of Florida two years ago with Mr. Jesse Tafero, where they actually set the man's head on fire.
Once the chair broke in half in the state of New York and the individual lay writhing on the floor of the death chamber, crying for 35 or 40 minutes while the carpenters repaired the chair. They burnt the transformer up and fortunately due to the quick thinking of the prison electrician, they had some cable and they ran wires over the prison wall and tapped into the outside power line, without the consent of the power company, but there was no objection at a later time. They had one execution where the transformer caught on fire and blew up and all it did was knock the individual unconscious. Six months later, they repaired the electric chair and they did successfully execute him. But, I mean, he was very lucky. He was hit with a full jolt of electricity, the equipment blew up, burned up, and he walked away from it without any damage, not even a burn.
And one by one I determined that this state's equipment was not functional, this state's equipment was not functional. Then suddenly, one day I said, none of the equipment is functional. Many of the electric chairs were built by inmates and electricians who had no idea of what they were building. They took a picture of another state's electric chair and they made something that looked like it.
Tennessee contacted me with the construction of their new prison. I was asked to inspect the equipment at the old facility, and make a determination of what could be salvaged. The only consideration was that they wanted to maintain the electric chair, which they have had in place since 1898. The reasoning being that the wood from the electric chair not only had the tradition of all of their electrocution executions, but it also formerly served as the wood of their gallows. The chair itself was much smaller than one would expect. It looked more like it was made to accommodate a youngster or a woman. So, we essentially made the chair wider. We made the chair higher. We supplied them with a completely new power supply, so there's no excessive cooking. And then finally, because we were unable to match the old wood with the new oak, it became necessary for us to paint the chair with a special high quality epoxy paint. The same basic paint that's used by NASA on the nose and body of the space shuttle.
That was back in '89, I believe it was. At that time I was still in school. I just remember coming home, what is this big box in the front yard? It's an electric chair. Hmmm.
Fred and my uncle were here, you know, he'd come out with the crowbars. They had to break the box open, unscrew all the parts and there's an electric chair sitting in the front yard. It was just very unusual, something that I wasn't expecting. I guess Fred was expecting it. (laughs) It's very difficult getting up and down those stairs with a couple hundred pound piece of oak chair. Of course, before we even brought it inside, had to have Fred sit down in it, strapped him in. I said no thanks.
I had processed a couple of rolls of film; photos that I took for engineering purposes. Detailed stuff so you know how it looked before you took it apart. I went through it and I said, "Wait a minute." I went back and."What the hell is this?" We had a magnifier, and and we were trying to figure out what was there. We saw what appeared to be more than one image. As far as I understand it, certain objects give off auras. And some objects that have been exposed to high intensity electromagnetic fields absorb some of that energy and would give off an aura. I don't know what we photographed. We don't know if we photographed an entity. I mean, we don't know what's there. It may still reside in the parts that are in Tennessee. Or when I tore the chair apart maybe it was freed. I don't know. That's assuming there was something there to start with.
Because of my work in electrocution, I was contacted by the state of New Jersey to consult with them on the construction of a lethal injection machine. They realized that lethal injection is a difficult if not impossible problem, even for trained medical personnel.
They determined that there should be some kind of a machine that could repetitively deliver the necessary chemicals at the proper time intervals for all executions. This completely took the human factor out of it. I studied for several months and I put together a proposal on how this machine should work.
The syringe is driven by a weighted piston that floats on a column of air. This causes a push/pull relationship between the machine and the individual's vascular system and it allows the executee to take the chemical at a rate that his body and vein will accept. The doctors were satisfied. Now they had to make the presentation to the prison officials and the deputy commissioner was sitting there through most of the meeting, very bored. Probably because he didn't understand what I was talking about most of the time.
But then he finally heard something he understood. One of the doctors said, "Fred designed the helmet that's used on the electric chair in the state of North Carolina." At that point the deputy commissioner said, "Stop, wait, stop the meeting." He looked at me and he says, "You designed the helmet, the one that they just used?" I says yes. He said "OK, that does it." He turned around to the doctors and he says, "Do the necessary paperwork, and see that Mr. Leuchter gets the contract." Now what lethal injection has to do with electrocution is beyond me. Simply because I'm capable of building an electric chair, doesn't mean I'm capable of building a lethal injection machine; they're two totally different concepts.
With electrocution, unconsciousness takes place in 1/240 part of a second. Gas chamber within three or four minutes, and with the gallows it doesn't matter because you're being dropped almost immediately after being brought onto the scaffold. None of the procedures require that somebody lay on a gurney for thirty-five minutes looking at a ceiling. You have to have the man immobile, he has to be unable to move or else he's going to move and damage his arm with the catheter. But you certainly can make it more comfortable. You could put him in a contoured chair like they have in a dentist office, that at least he'd be sitting up. You could give him a television, you could give him music, you could put some pictures on the wall. Rather than put him in a concrete room. That's not humane.
Essentially the states talk with each other. We immediately got Illinois and we got Delaware. They had a hanging problem that they totally were not able to deal with. They had a gallows that had been stored for 25 or 30 years. They took it out and they screwed it together and it fell over. The only thing that was left that was functional were the hinges for the trap door. The reasoning here is that I built helmets for electric chairs, so now I could build lethal injection machines. I now build lethal injection machines, so I'm now competent to build a gallows. And since I'm building gallows, I'm also competent to work on gas chambers because I've done all of the other three. And what really makes you competent is the fact that you have the necessary background, you do the investigation, you find out what the problem is and you solve it. It's not anything different than any competent engineer could do. The difference is that it's not a major market. A lot of people are not interested and are morally opposed to working on execution equipment. They think its somehow going to change them.
As you've probably guessed by now, I am a proponent of capital punishment. I am certainly not a proponent of capital torture. We must always remember and we must never forget, the fact that the person being executed is a human being.
One of the things that I've had to deal with is the feelings of the people who are doing the executions. The guards that work with the execution equipment are generally the same guards that have dealt with that inmate for the last five, ten, fifteen, and sometimes twenty years while the man was on death row.
The warden of the institution is in many respects the surrogate father of the inmate who is being executed. He sees that inmate maybe five or six times a week. He is concerned if the inmate is sick, if the inmate doesn't feel well, the general welfare of the inmate. And then at the end of the time he must take that inmate out, strap him into his electric chair, strap him into his gas chamber, strap him into his lethal injection machine, or put a noose around his neck.
Most people think of a hardened criminal and a murderer as someone who is in a cell and going to be executed, but these people are really no different than somebody that we work with every day. The only difference is that the inmate doesn't go home and the guard does. And now at the end of this ten or fifteen year cycle, they now are faced with the task of executing this man with equipment that's defective. With equipment that 's going to cause pain.
Even with a good execution, you get some burning at the electrodes. It's a very distasteful thing for the guard who has to unstrap the inmate from the electric chair after the execution. Normally if we think of a belt with holes in it and the pin that goes through the holes, that guard has to then compress all the flesh and everything on the body. It's oozing because it's been cooked. He has to get the body fluids on his hands.
With the equipment we designed, all of the straps are instant release. They're the same as the safety belt in your car. You hit a button and the strap opens. Another thing that we do is that our electric chair contains a drip pan. All executees, during the execution, lose control of their bodily functions. They urinate and defecate in their pants, on the chair. This normally winds up on the chair and on the floor directly beneath the chair. This is a disgusting thing when it occurs. Its a very inhumane thing to allow a person who's being executed, a human being and who should be afforded the greatest dignity of all, because he is losing his life. It's a disgusting and a degrading thing to allow him to defecate and quite frankly, piss on the floor.
Additionally, the urine, when it hits the floor and I think everybody knows that urine is highly conductive, it's normally mopped up. If there's a second execution, or a third execution, and this sometimes occurs when they have more than one execution at the same time, the guards in the death house now have to work and stand on a floor that is dampened and wet with this highly conductive urine, and fortunately there has never been an accident, but It's quite possible for the urine to conduct the electricity and shock a guard. And nobody should have to place his life in jeopardy because an execution is being conducted.
This is much the same thing that goes on with the gas chambers, with the defective equipment that exists. Every time there's a gas execution, it's an accident waiting to happen. There is a major danger of leakage. And I honestly believe and I wish that those remaining few states that are utilizing gas would do away with the gas chamber and go to lethal injection or some other procedure which wouldn't place in danger the lives of witnesses and prison officials who have to be at that execution to see that the execution conforms with the law.
Being familiar with all of the four systems that we use, I would much rather be electrocuted, providing you were going to electrocute me on the system that's in Tennessee. I don't want to be electrocuted in Virginia. I don't want to be electrocuted in Florida. I don't want to be electrocuted in Alabama. I don't want to be Mr. Tafero or I don't want to have my eyeballs blown across the room. I would like the execution procedure to go smoothly.
I have often been asked, generally by some type of adverse party, whether I sleep at night or how well I sleep at night. And my answer is always the same. I sleep very well at night and I sleep with the comforting thought of knowing that those persons that are being executed with my equipment, that these people have a better chance of having a painless, more humane and dignified execution.
I've been drinking coffee for a long time, since I was probably around 4 or 5 years old. It's still true, I love coffee. I think it's running through my veins. Coffee never bothers the ulcer, but I remember, must be 15, 20 years ago when I went to the doctor, he was asking me, how much coffee do you drink a day, and I says, about 40 cups, so he's writing down. He says, how much coffee you drink a day? And I says about 40 cups. He says, how much coffee do you drink a day? and I says about 40 cups. He says, look, I am not kidding. I says, I'm not kidding either. He said, Oh? How much do you smoke a day? I said about six packs. He said, six packs of cigarettes, 40 cups of coffee a day, he says, you should be dead by now. (laughs)
If I don't drink the coffee, I get headaches. They are terrible. My body is so used to the caffeine that it doesn't bother me. I'm asleep before my head hits the pillow.
Somewhere along the line, she just appeared. I was a good tipper and she used to bring me extra coffee.
I was a waitress, he was a customer. I was working nights. He came in on his way to the gun club. He taught me how to shoot. I have a .22. This guy, Joe, asked me if I knew what Fred did for a living, and I said no. And he said, he kills people. That kind of surprised me until he explained exactly what he did. Which wasn't that he killed people, but he made things that killed people. He was having problems at home with his mother and she wasn't talking to him and we just got married.
Because of my expertise in the construction of execution equipment, I was asked to testify by the defense team of Mr. Ernst Zundel, a German national living in Canada, for some 20 odd years, who published a pamphlet, "Did Six Million Really Die?".
As in most of his public appearances, Ernst Zundel arrived at court surrounded by supporters wearing hard hats. They are bodyguards for a man who says the Holocaust is a myth, and who is prepared to argue that before a judge and jury. Zundel is charged under a rarely used section of the criminal code, that he published statements he knew were false, statements that could cause racial intolerance.
Forty-five years of anti-German hatred is enough. The Holocaust is nothing but anti-German hate propaganda posing as history. And I, with the help of my friends from around the world, Jews and Gentiles, am going to finish the Second World War, I guarantee you.
We can solve the mystery of the gas chambers in Auschwitz and all these other places if we find an American expert, because America is the only country that dispatches people with gas.
You can't open up the telephone book and say gas, and then chamber, and then experts, and out come ten Fred Leuchters. No. There's nobody. Fred Leuchter was our only hope.
This was the first time that the scene of the crime of mass murder, industrial mass murder, was examined forensically.
We were married for less than a month when we went. Although she doesn't like to hear it, I normally tell her that was her honeymoon. That is not a particularly good place to go for a honeymoon, Poland. Every American, it would have done them good to visit there, and then they would have appreciated what we've got here. Specifically I brought Carol and my draftsman, Howard Miller. Sent with us from Canada was a cinematographer who videotaped everything we did, and a translator who was fluent both in German and particularly in Polish. We were small but we had everything we needed.
Our first night there we stayed at the Auschwitz Hotel which apparently was the officer's quarters for the German military at Auschwitz. They had a cafeteria-style dining area and our first meal there was starch soup. What they did is they boiled noodles in water, removed the noodles and served the soup. It was terrible. And, unfortunately, I received a double portion because when I wasn't looking my wife dumped hers into my dish.
Good morning. My name is Fred Leuchter. I am an engineer from Boston in the United States. And I'm here this snowy morning, here at Auschwitz in Poland. The date is February, 28 it's approximatly 10:30 A.M. and I'm here to examine this alleged gas chamber. Some people feel that it was an air raid shelter, other people feel that it was simply a morgue. And then there are those that feel the structure functioned as a gas chamber, for gassing people and sending them on their way to their death.
Carol was outside at one of the entrances, essentially freezing. She was one of our lookouts. We had her at one door, the translator was at the other door. Howard, my draftsman and myself were inside taking measurements and recording the locations and bagging the samples and the cinematographer was making the videotapes. So everybody was busy at what they were supposed to do and we didn't have any extra people.
We made paint scrapings and chiseled plaster from locations that are not immediately noticeable, but still were proper locations for condensation of cyanide gas.
We made detailed scale drawings of the rooms with arrows showing the location it was removed. The notebook, videotape and the drawings were given to the court and became part of the permanent evidence.
Robert-Jan Van Pelt
Zündel is on trial for publishing false history, for publishing books of Holocaust denial. He needs to prove that what others see as false history is true history. Fred Leuchter is his trump card. He will be the scientist who will reclaim from those ruins evidence the killing didn't happen there.
Holocaust denial for me is so revolting, and the way for me not to immediately become sick with having to deal with Leuchter, was by saying, OK, I am going to map his journey.
I have a job to do and my job, my first job, is to try to understand where this guy was at what time. To take that tape and to record every camera angle, where it was, what piece of wall they were looking at, where he took the samples. It was important to be able to follow that trail very, very precisely. I wanted to see how he had done it.
Sixty-one feet. Sixty-one feet from the rear wall.
Robert-Jan Van Pelt
Leuchter is a victim of the myth of Sherlock Holmes. A crime has been committed. You go to the site of the crime and with a magnifying glass you find a hair, or you find a speck of dust on the shoe. Leuchter thinks that is the way reality can be reconstructed. But he is no Sherlock Holmes. He doesn't have the training. It was not that he brought any experience, the specific experience needed to look at ruined buildings. The only experience he had was design modifications for the Missouri gas chambers in Jacksonville.
Birkenau, I never went in. I stayed in the car with no keys and froze my whatever off, feet. I was in the car for hours. I brought books to read, mystery books. And crossword puzzles. I do a lot of crossword puzzles. I didn't consider it my honeymoon, let's put it that way. I don't know that we ever slept in the same bed while we were there. I try to forget about going there.
I should note that everything that was done was done in the best possible taste, understanding that these things are national shrines and national monuments. The only thing that was a little bit harrowing or frightening is that I didn't want to get caught and unfortunately you have to make a lot of noise when you're chiseling brick out of walls.
Robert-Jan Van Pelt
Auschwitz is like the holy of holies. I prepared years to go there and to have a fool come in, come in completely unprepared, it's sacrilege. Somebody who walks into the holy of holies and doesn't give a damn.
I expected to see facilities that could have been used as gas chambers. I expected to see areas that were explosion-proof. I expected to see areas that were leak-proof. There have to be holes in walls or areas where they had exhaust fans and pipes. There has to be something to remove the gas after it has been put into the room. There has to be some kind of a device to heat the chalk pellets and sublimate the gas to get it to go into the air. These things didn't exist.
Robert-Jan Van Pelt
Auschwitz is very, very different from the place it was during the war. Everything has changed three or four times since that camp operated as an extermination camp. The barracks are fifty years old, they're moldy, they smell bad. It's not the smell of the war -- it's the smell of decay, of fifty years of being exposed to the elements. There's no way that when you go to the crematoria you really can understand what it was to be led there as a victim, to have to undress and be led in the gas chamber. But when you are in the building archive it is possible to re-imagine what the place was like during the war.
The first time I came into the archive I was stunned. I had found a mission, I had found a task, I'd found a vocation. When you go to Birkenau there is very little left and to suddenly have in that room that concentration of evidence. There is a tactile reality, an incredible texture, the texture of making that camp.
If Leuchter had gone to the archives, if he had spent time in the archives, he would've found evidence about ventilation systems, evidence about ways to introduce Zyklon B into these buildings, evidence of gas chambers, undressing rooms. But then of course, I don't think he knows German, so it wouldn't have helped very much.
"26th of February 1943, 20 after 6:00 p.m. Telegram to Topfwerke Erfurt.
'Send immediately ten gas detectors. Invoice us later. Signed, Pollok, S.S. Untersturmfuhrer."
"Auschwitz, 6 March 1943. Subject: Krematoria 2 + 3. 'In accordance with your suggestion, Cellar I should be preheated. At the same time we would ask you to send an additional quotation for the modification of the air extraction installation in the undressing room.' S.S. Sturmfuhrer, Bischoff."
"31st March 1943. 'Three gas tight doors have been completed. We remind you of an additional order for the gas door from Krematorium III. This must be made with a spy-hole, with double 8 millimeter glass. This order is particularly urgent.' Signed, SS Major Bischoff."
There was a code. The Germans had a coded language. You never talk about extermination, you always talk about "special action," or "special treatment." There was a very clear policy; words like gas chamber would not be used. The letter of Bischoff of the 29th of January, is a kind of exception in this, because it is a letter which is written by a person who manages the whole operation, and who himself had established a policy that you would never use the word 'gas chamber.' Somebody in the architecture office underlined the word vergasungskeller, literally Ůgassing basementÓ, and put on top a note: "SS Untersturmfuhrer KirschneckÓ exclamation mark. Which means, Kirschneck should be informed about this slip. And it doesn't occur after that. The Nazis were the first Holocaust deniers. Because they denied to themselves that it's happening.
When my doubt about the Holocaust first came to me, it took me two and a half years, and I was like a reforming alcoholic. I was like one yo-yo, back and forth: believe, not believe, maybe believe, false belief, true belief. Fred was able to purge his own mind within a matter of a week. That's amazing to me. So I said: "Fred, what convinced you?" He said: "Ernst, it wasn't what I found, it was what I didn't find." That blew me away. It never, ever occurred to me that a man could be convinced by something that is not there. That's what Fred said.
Before I went I had no idea of their purpose, I just knew that there were concentration camps. I knew because I was taught that they had gas executions there, but I subsequently found out that the concentration camps were, in effect, slave labor camps. It doesn't make much sense that they would take an entire force of slave labor and execute them. So, I mean you get into a situation where you start thinking about what happened, you look at the facilities and none of it seems to make any sense.
If I were to take any one of the facilities and attempt to conduct a gas execution in them today, and the facilities haven't changed at all since 1942 or 1941, then what in effect I'd do is I'd kill myself and everybody else that was helping me do the execution.
I certainly don't have a death wish, and I don't think the German SS had a death wish. If those facilities could be made competent for an execution, I would be the one that would be able to do that, and I assure that you nobody could do that better than I could.
Robert-Jan Van Pelt
Leuchter has said a number of times that the place was untouched. I mean, you just open your eyes, you realize that this is utter nonsense. Virtually every brick which was located in 1944 in one place has been relocated to another place.
Where are all the bricks of the crematoria? It's an interesting question. There is some mountain of bricks in Crematorium 5, but for the rest, there are no bricks.
I think I know where they are. The real places to sample are the farmhouses to the west of the crematoria, the farmhouses where people are living, children are playing, dogs are barking. These were rebuilt after the war, with bricks of the crematoria.
The site has been turned inside out: what was inside the camp is now outside the camp, and inside, you have a big void
We're standing at Krema II, at one of the alleged holes where the SS officers threw in the hydrogen cyanide material. As you can see, it is a rough-cut opening with metal reinforcing rods.
I'm about to descend through a hole in the roof in the gas chamber at Krema II to retrieve samples from below the structure.
I was saying to myself, " Fred, do you really want to go down in there?" It came with the territory, so I had to go down in the hole. Not sure if the whole thing is going to come down on me.
Beautiful. Got a beautiful piece of a roof. I guess you're... I guess you're getting me in here. Sample from the roof. I am now bagging. Now I will find another sample of brick from the wall we were not able to get at from the surface, which is over here. I am again going out of view, and I will see what I can find.
It was cold, it was wet, it was kind of spooky. It must feel like the same way somebody feels when they go into a tomb that they've opened after a couple of thousand years. And you don't know what you're going to see. I didn't know if I was going to see somebody's skeleton or bones, or whether or not there were going to be animals in there. That would not have been a particularly good place to encounter some kind of a wild animal.
I have a sample of the concrete from the alleged pillar that carried this hydrocyanic acid into the chamber. It would be nice if I could obtain a floor sample, which I will seek in the lowest spot. I am at floor level. The floor is covered with water. I will obtain some of the material from the bottom... bottom of the... the sediment from the bottom which should contain residual cyanide. O.K., there not being much more I can do down here, I will ascend to the surface.
Robert-Jan Van Pelt
OK, let's go slightly back.
Crematorium II is the most lethal building of Auschwitz. In the 2500 square feet of this one room, more people lost their lives than any other place on this planet. 500,000 people were killed. If you would draw a map of human suffering, if you created a geography of atrocity, this would be the absolute center. Every year, remains of human beings are found. Bones, teeth. The earth doesn't rest.
What happened in all of these facilities is undoubtedly a mystery. Whether or not these facilities were used for gas execution, that's not a mystery; I don't believe they were, because in my best engineering opinion I don't think they could've been.
It's a tough job, to execute several hundred people at once. We have a hard job executing one man. I think it'd be easier to shoot them or hang them. I probably could do a reasonably good job by building a multiple gallows and hanging fifty people at once. I probably could execute more people within a shorter time frame. Why didn't they just shoot them? Bullets would've been cheaper than doing this. Why didn't they just blow them up? Why didn't they take them down into a mine and seal the mine off? Maybe we're going to find an execution chamber under Berlin with three thousand electric chairs lined up. I don't know. It just doesn't seem to make any sense.
I had a couple of heavy bags of samples which we mixed with our dirty linen, dirty underwear, and all sorts of things because we figured the customs people would not be willing to go through our dirty laundry.
If in the event we got caught, we did have a contingency plan. I had maps of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany, and we would have made some kind of a ground flight across one of those countries to either get to Austria or to West Germany. We would've just essentially taken off and hopefully made it to a border before somebody figured out what was going on.
They probably wouldn't have chased me immediately because I would've, from a practical standpoint, just been a vandal chiseling holes in their wall.
I was never so relieved when we passed through the West German passport control, because at least I hadn't chiseled at any of the West Germans' national shrines.
All of the forensic samples that I took were brought back to the United States and sent to a lab, here in Massachusetts, that was highly recommended. They were not told what the samples were or where they came from. They were told that they were materials that would be involved in a court case relative to an industrial accident, and they should be prepared to testify, and they should certify all of the samples.
All of their tests came back, and they did several types of tests to determine whether or not there was any hydrogen cyanide. They were negative. These facilities never saw any gas.
And for virtually 40-odd years, I believed unquestionably that there were gas chambers at these concentration camps, and when I found that they weren't, my next question is, what do I do about it?
I completed my report and I testified at the trial. The judge would not accept the report into evidence, so what the judge did is he accepted the report as an informational exhibit as opposed to an evidentiary exhibit, and every bit of the information in that report had to be testified, under oath, into the record.
My publishing imprint in England, Focal Point Publications, we published the Leuchter Report. I can't remember where I first met him. He's not the kind of person that would strike you. He is a mouse of a man. He's also a man who is totally honest and totally innocent; innocent in the sense of being a simpleton. He went into this as a glorious adventure. He was taken out of oblivion. He was given this task to perform. He traveled abroad, probably for the first time in his life, to Poland. He came back with these earth-shattering results. The big point: there is no significant residue of cyanide in the brickwork. That's what converted me. When I read that in the report in the courtroom in Toronto, I became a hard-core disbeliever
On April the 20th, 1988, Adolph Hitler's birthday. Fred Leuchter, not knowing he was going to be delivering a birthday present to the Fuhrer, steps into the witness box in Toronto. Devastation reigns all around. The prosecution and the judge were in a visible state of panic. I could see the facial muscles working in the judge. I could see the pale face of the prosecutor. This was history making, that was clear to everybody present.
So, they cross-examined Fred. Immediately, of course, they zeroed in on his soft, or inadequate, academic credentials for what he was doing.
The judge made a decision that could have been very dangerous to us, in that he said: these samples by themselves are worthless, unless the defense can bring the man who did the testing.
I went up to Toronto, on very short notice, not knowing any of the background, at all, of what was going on. They wanted somebody from the laboratory to say, yes, we analyzed these samples, yes, we produced this report on the analysis, and that's what I was there to do.
I don't think the Leuchter results have any meaning. There's nothing in any of our data that says those surfaces were exposed or not.
Even after I got off the stand, I didn't know where the samples came from. I didn't know which samples were which. And it was only at lunch that I found out, really, what the case involved.
Hindsight being 20/20, the test was not the correct one to have been used for the analysis.
He presented us with rock samples anywhere from the size of your thumb up to half the size of your fist. We broke them up with a hammer so that we could get a sub-sample; we placed it in a flask, add concentrated sulfuric acid. It undergoes a reaction that produces a red-colored solution. It is the intensity of this red color that we can relate with cyanide concentration.
You have to look at what happens to cyanide when it reacts with a wall. Where does it go? How far does it go? Cyanide is a surface reaction. It's probably not going to penetrate more than 10 microns. Human hair is 100 microns in diameter. Crush this sample up, I have just diluted that sample 10,000; 100,000 times. If you're going to go look for it, you're going to look on the surface only. There's no reason to go deep, because it's not going to be there. Which was the exposed surface? I didn't even have any idea. That's like analyzing paint on a wall by analyzing the timber that's behind it. If they go in with blinders on, they will see what they want to see. What was he really trying to do? What was he trying to prove?
The jury said Ernst Zundel is guilty of publishing news he knew to be false about the Holocaust. In spite of that, when he emerged from the court late this afternoon, Zundel still maintained the Holocaust was a hoax.
(ON THE NEWS)
This is just one more hurdle to overcome, and I have always looked upon boulders in the path of my life not as stumbling blocks but as stepping-stones.
On my return from Canada, I went about my work and business as I normally did, and I began to notice that not as many prison officials were talking with me. Orders weren't coming in as expected. The wardens and commissioners were receiving very heavy pressure from Jewish groups.
There is no slippery slope for Mr. Fred Leuchter. The man is an anti-Semite. There are hate-mongers in this country, and he's one of them. He handed over his entire life and reputation to the cause of spreading hatred. He didn't stop, he kept on going. He could've gotten out any time.
You know, what kind of man is he? and why is he doing this? And what kind of reflection is this upon our community?
To me, looks like he's almost under a spell. I think he is. He's under his own spell. He truly believed what he was doing was right.
I testified in Canada for two reasons: First, the trial was an issue of freedom of speech and freedom of belief. As an American, one who supports the Bill of Rights, I believe that Mr. Zundel has the right to believe and say what he chooses. I have this right in the United States.
Secondly, Mr. Zundel was not on trial for a misdemeanor. This was a major felony. He could have faced up to 25 years in prison for printing a document stating that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. I believe that any man, no matter what he's done, has a right to a fair trial, and the best possible defense that he can muster.
I, unfortunately, was the only expert in the world who could provide that defense. There was no one else.
I don't think he's naive. I think he was empowered by being part of this group. Who is this guy? The bottom line here, is you got a guy who basically made a deal with the devil.
Fred Leuchter is a hero. Not every generation gets a George Washington or a Thomas Jefferson. Our generation's heroes maybe are more humble.
Fred got involved in this and wanted to play this game, and I think he thought it was a game at first, I really believe he did. How nice to fly to Canada, to go to Poland, get paid a lot of money, and come back and have a lot of attention brought to him. I think he really dug it, I think that he really thought that that was great. I pity him.
Robert-Jan Van Pelt
In April, 1988, there was still opportunity for Fred to redeem himself, to apologize, to apologize for having gone down in that hole. But he chose not to consider the evidence of his own foolishness.
Holocaust denial is a story about vanity. It is a way to get in the limelight, to be noticed -- to be someone -- maybe to be loved. I have a sympathy to Fred, who's lost in Auschwitz, because I think he's lost. But not any more with the Fred who appears in these conferences.
You're ignored, you're despised by many people, and then there is a home, and the home is the Institute for Historical Review. You make new friends. Go to one conference, and you go to the second one, and a third and a fourth. And it's nice to get up and stand behind a lectern and have people applaud. They compare your logic with that of any university professor. Maybe it's about choosing the right friends.
Please welcome a man, whose work is a mighty blow for historical understanding, Mr. Fred Leuchter. (Audience applause)
My paper is entitled the Leuchter Report, the How and the Why. In 1988, 1988 was a very informative and likewise disturbing year for me. I was appalled to learn that much of what I was taught in school about twentieth century history and World War II was a myth, if not a lie.
I was first amazed, then annoyed, and then aware that the myth of the Holocaust was dead.
Fred Leuchter put blinders on himself; he sat through all of those speeches and neo-Nazi rallies in Europe, as he heard Jews vilified. Whether he belonged to a group beforehand has no relevance. He joined, and he took part, for many, many years.
I think Fred Leuchter, when he was called upon, became one of them.
...But because of what I have seen, I have a compelling urge and perhaps a responsibility to countless generations who come after me. A responsibility to the truth.
(Audience applause: 'Hear, Hear.')
I thank you ladies and gentlemen, I hope I've lived up to your expectations and I will entertain any questions.
The Leuchter Report, about five hundred thousand circulate in Germany. There have been translations; a Leuchter edition appeared in Russian. In Latvia, in Hungary, in Spanish. The Leuchter Report is out there in dozens of languages, and I would dare say in millions of copies.
We will not go down in history as being a nation of genocidal maniacs. We will not. We can, with historical truth, detoxify a poisoned planet.
Holocaust Survivors and Friends has asked the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Engineers to investigate whether Leuchter is properly credentialled. Last week, the Board's chief investigator told us that Leuchter is not certified as an engineer in Massachusetts, and if he's working, or soliciting business here, he could be liable for criminal charges.
I have no question that it's a conspiracy. They even pressured the engineering board here in Massachusetts into bringing a criminal complaint against me for practicing engineering without being registered. Less than ten percent of the engineers in this state are licensed or registered, but I'm the only one that was ever prosecuted for practicing without a license.
Did Christ have a diploma in Christianity? Did Marx have a diploma in Marxism? Did Adolf Hitler have a diploma in National Socialism? No, they did not. But they knew one hell of a lot about their field.
I have a half of a lethal injection machine, which belongs to the state of Delaware. We had a contract to repair their lethal injection machine, and to repair their gallows, and to write their protocol for hanging. I was told that the deputy attorney general, Fred Silverman, would not allow me to complete the contract. A conference call was set up between correction officials and the deputy attorney general and several other attorney generals whom I had worked with in terms of the development of the hanging procedure. And Fred Silverman told me that I would not be allowed to deal with the state of Delaware because I testified in Canada.
They did not pay me for the seven thousand dollars work that I put in to the repair of the machine, I lost all of the contract work for the gallows, and the state has effectively said, "Take the half of the machine that you've got, and stick it someplace."
I put an ad in the Want Advertiser. The second week that the ad was running, someone saw the ad, determined that the instrument shouldn't be sold, because I was the one that was selling it.
Subsequently there was write ups in both major Boston newspapers, and pressure was again applied to the district attorney's office and the attorney general's office to prosecute me for selling the machine. And it was necessary for the attorney general's office to explain, in the newspaper, that it is not illegal to sell a lethal injection machine to anybody.
Delaware turned out to be a major problem, but I still have their machine. And anybody who's interested in buying half a lethal injection machine, can contact me, and it's available for the cost of the repairs.
I went a lot of places that I probably wouldn't have gone, but basically, it was a nightmare.
He had a job offer in California. He thought I was going with him. I told him that he could give his speeches, he could do whatever he wanted, but I would not be there. And I told him, I went to a lawyer, and I explained to him that yes, I could get a divorce, and yes you have to leave here; I don't want you here. And he hemmed and hawed and whatever, but he left like a week later.
And when he left, he took his phone; the other phone was being shut off, the gas and the electric was being shut off, and that was how he left it.
If I never saw him again, that'd be fine.
The guy that brought me out there didn't have any money. He wound up with everybody suing him and all kinds of stuff, so I said: "Well, you know, I'm not getting anywhere." I was locked out of my hotel room three times. Kind of tough when they take your car away and they drop you off on the freeway, and you're looking around trying to figure out how the hell you get back to your apartment, then you get back to your apartment and you find out you've got this super-sized doorknob on your knob so can't get the key in and all your clothes and razors are inside.
I had a car taken away from me while I was driving it on the freeway; I had another car taken away in a garage. These were rental cars that had been assigned to me. It's pretty tough when you're out in the middle of nowhere all by yourself.
He's been destroyed as a human being; he's had his marriage destroyed, he's had his life destroyed. I frankly am surprised he didn't go and commit suicide, jump under a train. He saw everything that he had built up in his own quiet, humble way, destroyed by these people he had never met, whom he had offended. All he did was take the bucket and the spade and go over to Auschwitz and come back with the samples, and that was an act of criminal simplicity.
He had no idea of what he was blundering into. He wasn't putting his name on the line because he had no name. He came from nowhere and he went back to nowhere.
Of course I'm not an anti-Semite. I have a lot of friends that are Jewish. I've lost Jewish friends, too, because of what's happened. I bear no ill will to any Jews any place, whether they're in the United States or abroad. I bear a great deal of ill will to those people that have come after me, those people who have persecuted and prosecuted me, but that's got nothing to do with them being Jewish. That only has to do with the fact that they've been interfering with my right to live, think, breathe, and earn a living.
As far as being a Revisionist, at this point, I'm not an official Revisionist, but I guess I'm a reluctant Revisionist. If my belief that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek makes me a Revisionist, then so be it.
They've expressed their unquestioned intent of destroying me simply because I testified in Canada, not because I have any other affiliation with any anti-Semitic organization, not because I'm affiliated with any Nazi or Neo-Nazi organization.
I have no work. I haven't sold a piece of equipment in almost three years, and I have no idea if this situation is going to change.
Have you ever thought that you might be wrong, or do you think that you could make a mistake?
No, I'm past that. When I attempted to turn those facilities into gas execution facilities and was unable to, I made a decision at that point that I wasn't wrong. And perhaps that's why I did it. At least it cleared my mind, so I know that I left no stone unturned. I did everything possible to substantiate and prove the existence of the gas chambers, and I was unable to.
In 1957, I actually had the opportunity for the first time to sit in the chair. There's a legend that goes with the chair, relative to prison personnel and their families. There was a youngster, much the same age as I was when I sat in the chair, whose father was a guard at the institution, who toured the institution, and who sat in the electric chair.
Some ten or twelve years later, he was executed in that same chair for the commission of a murder during an armed robbery. And so the legend grew that prison officials shouldn't allow their children to sit in the electric chair. I kind of sat in the chair waiting for something to happen. But, some twenty years later, I wound up making execution equipment instead of being the person the execution equipment was used on. So maybe the legend got turned around, and maybe we created a new legend, and some good came out of it after all.