How Kurt Gerstein Exposed Nazis?
Gerstein next decided to take his information to the Vatican. He tried to meet with a representative of the Pope in Berlin, but he was refused. Gerstein claimed to have tried to meet with hundreds of people in the Church and foreign governments over the next few years. But he never seemed to find anyone willing to listen. Eventually, he managed to get a message sent to the Pope. However, if the Pope saw the message, he never mentioned it to anyone. It wasn’t until 1945 that anyone in power actually tried to ask Gerstein about what happened at the camps.
That April, Gerstein surrendered to French troops advancing into Germany. By then, Allied troops had entered the camps and seen the horror themselves. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know exactly what the Nazis had been doing. And Gerstein informed the French that he was an eyewitness to many of the killings. So, they asked him to draft an official report. This Gerstein Report contained everything Gerstein had seen during the Holocaust. And it had everything the Allies needed to bring the top-ranking Nazis to justice. But there were some problems with Gerstein’s story.
The report was mostly accurate. But Gerstein had gotten a few things wrong. He exaggerated the size of the gas chambers. And he eventually reached a figure of 25 million people killed, which we know today is almost twice the actual number. Gerstein’s report eventually helped convict a number of Nazi leaders. But these exaggerations provided ammunition for people who wanted to deny that the Holocaust had actually happened. And of course, his report raised some questions about Gerstein himself. After all, he had helped the Nazis carry out the killings. Soon, Gerstein found himself in prison again.
Gerstein was held by the French at a military prison in Paris as a war criminal. By July, he was found dead in his cell. According to the authorities, he had committed suicide. There’s no obvious reason to doubt that Gerstein killed himself. If Gerstein really had opposed the Holocaust, then he must have felt extremely guilty about the role he played in it. It’s easy to imagine that guilt driving him to suicide. But there are still many questions about the man himself. Had Gerstein really seen himself as a spy of the Church in the Nazi Ranks? Had he really tried to do everything he could to stop the killing?
Obviously, Gerstein didn’t do much to actually slow down the Holocaust. If anything, his efforts made it easier for the Nazis to carry it out. Of course, Gerstein had few options. If he had refused to help gas Jews, he would likely have been killed himself. His efforts to tell the outside world what was happening were already a huge risk. As were the several times he claimed that he purposefully “lost” or tampered with shipments of Zyklon B. But did he really do enough? That’s up to you to decide.
Also Read: Historic Figures Who Set Out to Save Jews From the Holocaust.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial: Dachau
United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial: War Crimes Trials
United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial: Kurt Gerstein
Holocaust Research Project: Kurt Gerstein Report