Fred A. Leuchter

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Fred Leuchter

Frederick A. (Fred) Leuchter, Jr. (born 7 February 1943) is an American manufacturer of execution equipment and author of the Leuchter Reports.

He is the subject of a 1999 documentary by Errol Morris, entitled Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.

Education and pre-report career

Leuchter received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Boston University in 1964 and later conducted post-graduate studies at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory.

Leuchter's interests in technology and machinery started as a child, and in 1979 he established Fred Leuchter Associates, with which he sold services to several states to help them maintain, improve, document, and ascertain the effectiveness of their equipment for administration of capital punishment. His initial work was with electric chairs, starting in Tennessee. Leuchter's broader claims are that his work in this area is "humanitarian", providing greater respect for both guards and those to be executed. He also claims that he offered his services at considerable economy: off-the-shelf parts, labor, and a 20% profit. By his own account, consultation between state government agencies spread his reputation from Tennessee to other states, and further assignments followed. Leuchter "aggressively solicited business" and in 1985 the state of New Jersey purchased Leuchter's proposal for a lethal injection system for $30,000.[1]

According to the New York Times, before selling execution equipment Leuchter was a former dealer in military surveillance equipment.[2]

Zündel trial and investigation at Auschwitz

In 1988 Leuchter was hired by Ernst Zündel, who was being tried in Canada for publishing works of Holocaust revisionism, to investigate and testify as an expert witness at his trial. Leuchter was recommended to Zündel by Bill Armontrout, warden for Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri. Leuchter traveled to Auschwitz and Birkenau to examine the structures claimed by the WWII Allies and the Jewish lobbies as gas chambers, and concluded that they could not have been used for mass murder.

Zündel's Samisdat Publications published his findings as The Leuchter Report: An Engineering Report on the Alleged Execution Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek Poland (published in England as Auschwitz: The End of the Line: The Leuchter Report - The First Forensic Examination of Auschwitz) which the court accepted only as evidentiary display and not as direct evidence; Leuchter was therefore required to explicate it and testify to the veracity of his findings under oath in the trial. His report was widely republished and translated by various revisionist organizations, and he has since lectured on it and his subsequent experiences. Protests were organized in response.[3]

In 1988, Leuchter traveled to several sites of structures identified as gas chambers, where, although he did not have permission to do so, he collected samples from walls, ceilings and floors, using a chisel and hammer to chip and scrape off pieces of the masonry. He took copious notes about the floor plans and layout, and all of his actions were videotaped by a cameraman. Leuchter then brought the samples back to Boston, where he presented them to Alpha Analytical Laboratories, a chemical laboratory, for testing. Leuchter told Alpha only that the samples were to be used as evidence in a court case about an industrial accident. The lab tested them for exposure to cyanide and found trace amounts in the crematoria, which Leuchter dismissed in his report:

It is notable that almost all the samples were negative and that the few that were positive were very close to the detection level (1mg/kg); 6.7 mg/kg at Krema III; 7.9 mg/kg at Krema I. The absence of any consequential readings at any of the tested locations as compared to the control sample reading 1050 mg/kg supports the evidence that these facilities were not execution gas chambers. The small quantities detected would indicate that at some point these buildings were deloused with Zyklon B — as were all the buildings at all these facilities.

Leuchter compares the low amounts in the Krema to the higher readings in his positive control sample.

Lab manager James Roth swore under oath to the results at the trial. It was only after he got off the stand that Roth learned what the trial was about. In an interview for Morris' film, Roth states that cyanide would have formed an extremely fine layer on the walls, to the depth of one-tenth of a human hair. Leuchter had taken samples of indeterminate thickness (he is seen in Morris' film hammering at the bricks with a rock hammer). Not informed of this, Roth had pulverized the entire samples, thus severely diluting the cyanide-containing layer of each sample with an indeterminate amount of brick, varying for each sample. Roth offers the analogy that the tests were like "analyzing paint on a wall by analyzing the timber that's behind it."

Many of Leuchter's conclusions are based on the assumption that it takes 20 to 30 hours to air a room disinfected with Zyklon-B; since far lower concentrations are required when gassing people than for delousing it actually takes 20 to 30 minutes to air out the room, and the forced ventilation systems used are more than adequate to allow the gas chambers to be operated without endangering the executioners.

Leuchter's opposition to the possibility of gas chambers rests on the relatively low concentration of cyanide residue measured in his sample of the remains of the "gas chambers" in Auschwitz, compared to his sample of the delousing chambers in which clothes were deloused using the same gas, hydrogen cyanide. Leuchter explain his belief that Zyklon-B was used for delousing, in view of his belief that the product would present technical difficulties in ventilating and decontaminating such as to make it impractical for use in a gas chamber.


Jewish protests were organized outside the court house in Canada, and near Leuchter's home in Malden, Massachusetts. However, despite the bad publicity Leuchter remained active until 1990. In the late 1980s, following the Ernst Zündel trial, he was featured in both the Atlantic Monthly[4] and Prime Time Live in items on capital punishment. Also following his involvement in the Zündel trial, Leuchter began giving lectures to Holocaust revisionism groups such as the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) about his research and continued belief in the conclusions to which he testified in the trial.[5]

Charges of practicing without a license

In 1991 Leuchter faced charges of practicing engineering without a license issued by the Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and of Land Surveyors, which regulates professional engineers, a violation of Massachusetts law.[6][7] As a result of those charges, Leuchter signed a consent decree with the board, in which he stated that he was not and had never been registered as a professional engineer, despite having represented himself as one.[7][8] He settled with prosecutors by serving two years of probation and agreeing to stop disseminating documents in which he presented himself as an engineer, including the Leuchter report.[7][9] In a speech given over a year later, Leuchter said that:

a spurious criminal complaint was filed against me in the Massachusetts court system with the intent of destroying my reputation by putting me in prison for three months.

In point of fact, a license is not required in Massachusetts, or any other state, unless the engineer is involved in construction of buildings, and is certifying compliance with specifications. There is also a statutory exemption for engineers who do not deal with the general public.

As confirmation of the spurious nature of this charge, it should be pointed out there are more than fifty thousand practicing engineers in Massachusetts, of whom only five thousand are licensed. Although the state's licensing law has been in effect since 1940, there has been no record of any prosecution for this offense.[10]

Leuchter attributed the actions of the regulatory board against him to pressure from Jewish groups.

See also

External links

Article archives



  1. "Searching for Humane Execution Machines". Wired News. December 1, 1997. Archived from the original on 2013-02-10. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  2. "Making Execution Humane (or Can It Be?)". New York Times. October 13, 1990. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  3. "CASE OF HOLOCAUST REVISIONIST BRINGS PROTESTERS TO MALDEN". Worcester Telegram Gazette. January 23, 1991.,0EADE828220303D7.html. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  4. "A Matter of Engineering". Atlantic Monthly. February 1990. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  5. "HOLOCAUST DENIERS HOLD AREA MEETINGS". Boston Globe. December 9, 1990.,0EADDF1EF8258A34.html. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  6. "Holocaust Skeptic Who Gives Advice on Death Faces Trial". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 20, 1991. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Daly, Christopher B. (June 18, 1991). "Holocaust Revisionist Admits He Is Not Engineer". The Washington Post. 
  8. Staff (June 18, 1991). "Holocaust Revisionist Admits Lying Of Expertise". Roanoke Times.,0EAEA218C67D1DC7.html. 
  9. "Execution 'Engineer' Settles Criminal Case". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 13, 1991. "Mr. Leuchter (pronounced LOOT-cher), a native of the Boston suburb of Malden, builds electric chairs and other execution devices, and he was once one of the nation's leading advisers on the administering of capital punishment. ..." 
  10. Is There Life After Persecution?