Friedrich Pradel (16 April 1901 – 24 Sept. 1978), SS Sturmbannführer, was head of Subdepartment II D 3a of Germany’s Department of Homeland Security (Reichssicherheitshauptamt), which dealt with the Security Police’s motor pool. As such, he is said to have organized the procurement of trucks that, according to his specifications, were allegedly changed into homicidal gas vans.
Together with his subordinate Harry Wentritt, who is said to have been the mechanic of this subdepartment who made the changes to the vehicles, he was put on trial in West Germany in 1966. At the end of it, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for aiding in the murder of at least 6,000 persons (hence 2.3 days per life taken). During this trial, other Germans testified who are said to have been involved in either maintaining, using or testing these vehicles. For this reason, this should have been the trial during which all uncertainties about these vehicles should have been settled.
However, we instead find a hodgepodge of mutually contradicting statements, and a court procedure that was one of the most outrageous in the history of West Germany:
- The main defendant Pradel was arrested in 1961 and was kept in pre-trial detention for five years before the trial started. This in itself amounts to coercion.
- The affidavit of another defendant was read out as evidence, although this affidavit was unsigned, and the defendant had committed suicide during his prolonged pre-trial detention.
- Each time the court faced conflicting testimonies, it didn’t rule in dubio pro reo (if in doubt, rule for the defendant), but pro dogma.
- Two witnesses testified that they had sent two gas vans with leaky cargo boxes back to Berlin (to Wentritt) for repairs to make them airtight again. (Wentritt denied this.) However, gas-van cargo boxes could not function if airtight, hence repairing leaks was pointless. These witnesses did not report their experiences, but a myth created by a fabricated document said to have been written by August Becker, an alleged inspector of gas vans, which was used as evidence by the court.
- Harry Wentritt described the way he connected the vans’ exhaust system to the cargo box. However, this contradicts the orthodox narrative on how it was done, and it is technically absurd. (See the entry on Harry Wentritt.)
- Two chemists testified about tests on a gas van’s exhaust for its suitability to kill. German engineers knew which type of engines produced exhaust gases suitable to kill. There was no need to test this. However, the Saurer trucks allegedly used had diesel engines, whose exhaust gases were unsuitable for homicides. That would have been known as well. Hence, these chemists’ testimonies were a charade.
- During pretrial detention, Pradel claimed that he was ordered by his superior Walter Rauff to construct the gas vans in September 1941, and that he realized that this was part of the ordered mass extermination of the Jews. During the trial, however, he denied ever having had any knowledge that the vans were to be used to kill Jews (but the court did not believe him). However, the orthodoxy insists that, by September 1941, no gas vans had been conceived yet, and no decision for the extermination of the Jews made either. (This decision is usually dated to late October 1941.)
- The court had at its disposal the documentation of the Gaubschat Company showing the truck’s features, which made them unsuitable for homicide. Yet the court misrepresented them in a way to make the story of gas vans credible.
This trial shows how malleable human memory is, if subjected to a long time of exposure to manipulative information and traumatizing pressure and coercion. These defendants’ and witnesses’ assertion that, yes, gas vans existed, can only be compared to medieval witch trial testimonies, in which doomed defendants admitted the existence of the devil and his minions.
(For more details, see Alvarez 2023, pp. 211-219.)