1. Nature and Purpose of Kola’s Archaeological Investigation
2. Location and Form of the Mass Graves
3. Corpses Found
4. Volume of the Mass Graves, Human and Wood Ashes
4.1 The Capacity of the Graves
4.2 Wood Requirements
But the burning of the corpses would have required astronomic amounts of wood, is Mattogno’s next objection, which he explains as follows (pages 85 f):
The cremation of a corpse of 46 kg (average assumed weight, including allowance for presumed children) requires about 160 kg of firewood.262 To burn 600,000 corpses, one would therefore have needed (600,000×160=) 96 million kg of wood, or 96,000 tons; this corresponds to the harvesting of 192 hectares of a 50-year-old fir forest,263 about thirty times (!) the surface of the Belzec camp. Photographs taken of Belzec from the air, published by John C. Ball, show that in 1944 the forests around the Belzec camp were the same as in 1940.264 So where would this immense quantity of wood have come from? Its transportation would have required some 19,000 trucks or over 3,800 freight cars, the equivalent of 95 trains of 40 cars each! However, none of the numerous local witnesses interrogated by the investigative judge of Zamosc between the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946 ever saw such an enormous flow of trucks and/or trains full of firewood.
As we have seen in section 4.1., according to the findings of the Polish courts the cremation of 600,000 corpses went on without interruption for three months, from December 1942 through March 1943. This corresponds to an average of 6,650 corpses per day! For each and every day about 1,064 tons of wood – over 42 freight cars or over 200 trucks – would have been needed.
The stuff about the "allowance for presumed children" should be slapped around Mattogno’s ears, and as to how he arrived at his 46 kg per corpse, footnote 262 leads to page 145 of the above-mentioned Treblinka book by Mattogno & Graf, where one reads the following:
The Jewish US-historian Konnilyn G. Feig comments the following in this regard:425
"The incredible complexity of the mass-grave problem frustrated the Germans. Their dismay was legitimate. Treblinka’s soil contained 700,000 bodies – a volume of 69,000 cubic meters weighing 35,000 tons, the same as a medium size battleship. Even if 1,000 bodies could be burned each day, 700 days would elapse before Himmler’s order had been obeyed.
Franz and Lalka [nick-name of an SS-officer] tried many approaches to the problem. They poured buckets of gasoline on the bodies in one ditch – producing huge flames and slightly singed corpses. They piled one hundred bodies into wide but shallow ditches, and dumped in gasoline again. The resulting fire did not destroy the corpses. They experimented with varying sizes of piles and quantities of gasoline – to no avail. At the end of the first testing period they concluded that Himmler‘s request would take 140 years to fulfill.
As a second experiment, they built huge pyres – alternating bodies and wood and soaking the whole with gasoline. The fire destroyed the bodies but the test could not be repeated, for it was wartime and gasoline and tree trunks were not available in the quantities necessary to burn 700,000 corpses."
Before we continue, we must correct the figures given here. If 700,000 bodies weighed 35,000 tons, then the average weight of a body was 50 kg and it occupied a volume of approximately 0.05 m3; thus, the entire volume was 35,000 m3 and not 69,000 m3.
In our calculations, we are assuming the number of bodies to be 870,000 as given by Y. Arad and the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust and assume the average weight to be 45 kg, since the corpses would have been buried for many months, leading to a loss of weight by desiccation. Thus, the total weight of the bodies would have amounted to 39,150,000 kg and the volume occupied by them would have been 39,150 m3.
As one can see, Mattogno offers no explanation why he considers the 50 kg per corpse assumed by Konnilyn Feig to be an accurate average or how he arrived at the conclusion that dessication of the bodies over many months would reduce their average weight by only 10 % from 50 kg to 45 kg. I therefore consider it more productive to have a look at Charles Provan’s test group, which with two adult men weighing 63 and 62 kg, an adult woman weighing 49 kg, four children weighing 25, 26, 19 and 15 kg and a doll representing a baby with a weight of 7 kg should have roughly corresponded to the age and sex composition of a transport to Belzec as described by Gerstein and Cornides. The average weight of this group was 33.25 kg, and all of them were well-fed middle class Americans, not Jews of eastern Poland emaciated due to the privations of ghetto life under Nazi rule. Weighing this factor against the possibility that a part of the transports to Belzec may not have consisted mainly of children, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to assume, in accordance with the witness Kurt Gerstein, quoted by Provan, that the average weight of the Jews killed and burned at Belzec was about 35 kg, rather than 46 kg as assumed by Mattogno. According to Charles Provan:
After the photographs were taken, I averaged out the weights of the eight subjects. Amazingly, the average was 33.25 kgs. (Gerstein estimated the average of the persons in the gas chamber at 35 kgs "at the most".)
Thus according to Mattogno’s calculation, which is based on a requirement of ca. 3.5 kg of wood per kg of corpse mass for the burning of a corpse, one would have to assume an amount of ca. 122 kg of wood per corpse. Why now 3.5 kg of wood per kg of corpse mass? The answer is given on page 149 of the Treblinka book by Mattogno & Graf, as follows:
The author of the present chapter (Carlo Mattogno) has performed cremation experiments with animal flesh, which produced the following results:438
Quantity of wood needed for the cremation of one kilogram of animal flesh: 3.5 kg of seasoned wood (plus 0.1 liter of ethyl alcohol).
Time required for the incineration of one kilogram of animal flesh: approximately 6 minutes.
Amount of wood burned per square meter per one hour (until flames extinguish): approximately 80 kg.
Wood ashes resulting: approximately 8% of the total weight.
Specific weight of wood ashes: approximately 0.34 g/cm3.
On the basis of this data one can calculate that the cremation of one body of 45 kg requires approximately 160 kg of seasoned wood.
Why did Mattogno conduct experiments with presumably relatively small amounts of animal flesh, when there are data about the experiences of the pertinent line of business in mass incinerations of animal cadavers, i.e. situations more similar to the mass incineration of human corpses at Belzec?
In a paper presented at a conference on agricultural engineering in Adelaide, Australia from 2 to 5 April 2000 by R.D. Lund, I. Kruger and P. Weldon, with the title «Options for the Mechanised Slaughter and Disposal of Contagious Diseased Animals – A Discussion Paper», an incineration of sick pigs is described as follows (page 6):
«Disposal trial, Brucellosis infected pigs, Texas, USA. In 1994 the US Department of Agriculture and the Texas Animal Health Commission cooperated in a trial to dispose of 504 pigs (Ford, 1994). In this trial the pigs were transported to a specially prepared site where a portable air curtain incinerator (Figure 1) was installed as a pit burner (10.6 m long x 2.4 m wide x 3.0 – 4.5 m deep). The pigs were euthanased using a captive bolt device (chemical and electrical methods were also considered). The incinerator was fueled using seasoned firewood. 40 m3 of firewood was used. Temperatures achieved ranged between 980º C to 1100ºC. All 504 pigs (41,300 kg) were completely destroyed over three, seven hour periods, a total of 21 hrs, although the report suggests an incineration rate of up to 40 t in a 10 hr period. The report also suggests higher incineration temperatures can be obtained using coal or oil. It was observed that carcass fat added significantly to incineration rate.»
The emphasis in the above quote is mine.
Thus 40 cubic meters of firewood were required in this incineration to burn 41,300 kg of swine carcasses. According to an online table about wood heating values the wood with the highest heating value, oak wood, has a dry weight of 3,766 to 4,840 pounds (= ca. 1,708 – 2,195 kg) per cord. 1 cord = 3,625 cubic meters, so 40 cubic meters of firewood correspond to ca. 11 cords, which means that the weight of the wood used for burning these 41,300 kg of swine carcasses was at most ca. 11 x 2,195 kg = 24,145 kg – 0.58 kg of wood per kg of carcass! On the other hand, the data in a report by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) on the same incineration suggest that 40 cubic meters may have been the amount of wood used on each of the three days that this incineration lasted. This would mean that the average calculated before would have to be multiplied by 3, leading to a firewood amount of 1.74 kg of wood per kg of carcass. Yet the data in the USDA/TAHC report are contradictory insofar as under "Incineration Efficiency Factors" on page 9 of the report it is stated that there were used 11 cords or 40 m3 of firewood per seven hour burning period, while under "Project Cost" on page 7 only 40 cubic meters of firewood are mentioned. I therefore asked the company Air Burners LLC in Florida, USA, on whose website this report is to be found, for clarification of this contradiction. By e-mail of 11 August 2005 I thereupon received the following reply from Mr. Norbert Fuhrmann, Sales Manager of Air Burners LLC:
Dear Mr. Muehlenkamp,
Thank you for your message regarding the Swine Report. It was not written by us, but by the USDA, so we really cannot comment on any discrepancies in its contents. Since this report was published, we have gained much more experience with carcass disposal and the use of our machines, usually fireboxes. A good rule of thumb is that you need roughly in tons the same amount of wood waste as the weight of the carcasses for bovines, pigs, horses, sheep, etc. For 5 tons of carcasses you need 4-5 tons of wood waste. Bones have a BTU of about the same as brown coal (ca. 11,000 BTU per pound). If you were to incinerate a lot of bones, much less wood waste would be needed. You could substitute coal for wood waste, but you would use wood to get the fire going in the pit. Of course, in terms of weight, the amount of coal would no longer be 1:1, as the hot coals would stay in the fire box for a long period of time.
This statement refers to air curtain incinerations, which involve a machine that fan-forces a mass of air through a manifold, thereby creating a turbulent environment in which incineration is accelerated up to six times faster than in open-air burning. So the question arises whether the incineration of corpses on grids made of railway tracks, as performed in the camps of Aktion Reinhard(t), is comparable to air curtain incineration in what concerns the amount of fuel required. Air curtain incineration combines the advantages of avoiding heat loss, as the incineration takes place inside a trench or firebox, with the advantage of having a lot of oxygen around to assist the burning, which was a feature of structures like those used at the AktionReinhard(t) camps, so it is arguably more fuel-efficient than open-air incineration on a grid. On the other hand, in papers dealing with various means of handling carcasses of deceased or slaughtered animals, like the TAHC’s General Guidelines for the Disposal of Carcasses dated January 2005, air curtain incineration is not noted for its fuel-efficiency, but stated to be fuel-intensive, the wood-carcass-ratio being between 1:1 and 2:1:
Fuelled by diesel engines, high velocity air is blown into either a metal refractory box or burn pit. The materials required are wood (in a wood: carcass ratio of from 1:1 to 2:1), diesel fuel for both the fire and the air-curtain fan, and properly trained personnel. For incineration of 500 adult swine, the requirements are 30 cords of dry wood and 200 gallons of diesel fuel.
Air-curtain incineration is mobile, usually environmentally sound, and suitable for combination with debris removal. However it is fuel intensive, logistically challenging, and is not validated to dispose of TSE infected carcasses. Air curtain technology in general has been shown to cause little pollution with fire boxes burning cleaner than trench burners. It has higher combustion efficiencies with less carbon monoxide and particulate matter emissions.
This wood-air ratio is similar to that which is required when burning carcasses in open-air pyres, judging by the following data contained in an e-article from the IAEA’s Food Contaminant and Residue Information System on the Burning of carcasses:
To destroy 250 carcasses the following are required:
-- 250 railway sleepers
-- 250 bales of straw
-- 6,250 kg of kindling wood
-- 50,750 kg of coal
-- 1 gallon of diesel oil per metre length of pyre
In order to establish to how much firewood the above-stated amounts of various different burning materials correspond, these amounts must be converted to a common denominator, as which the British Thermal Unit (BTU) will be used. The following conversion calculations, in which all BTU values are rounded to the next full unit, include the railway sleepers mentioned in the above-quoted source, assuming that they are wooden and not concrete railway sleepers, i.e. that they are also meant to be consumed by the fire during incineration.
The most common measurements of a European wooden railway sleeper are 2.6 meters (length) x 0.25 meters (width) x 0.15 meters (depth), thus the volume of such a sleeper is 0.0975 cubic meters. 1 cord of oak wood (the best there is for burning and also used as railway sleeper material) has a thermal value of up to 36,600,000 BTU. 1 cord equals 3.624556416 cubic meters . So the thermal value of one cubic meter of oak wood is equal to 36,600,000 ./. 3.624556416 = 10,097,787 BTU, and if an average oakwood sleeper has a volume of 0.0975 cubic meters, then it has a thermal value of 10,097,787 x 0.0975 = 984.534 BTU.
Bales of straw: 1 bale of hay weighs up to 1,500 pounds, and hay has a thermal value of 6,000 BTU per pound. So the thermal value of 1 bale of hay = 6,000 x 1,500 = 9,000,000 BTU.
Kindling wood: A cord of dry oak wood weighing up to 4,840 pounds has a thermal value of up to 36,600,000 BTU. 4,840 pounds = 2,195.3870708 kilograms . So the thermal value of 1 kg of dry oak wood is equal to 36,600,000 ./. 2,195.3870708 = 16,671 BTU.
Coal: 1 pound of coal has a thermal value of 11,200 pounds. 1 kilogram = 2.204 622 622 pounds, so the thermal value of 1 kg of coal is 11,200 x 2.204 622 622 = 24.692 BTU.
Diesel oil: 1 gallon of diesel oil has a thermal value of 140,400 BTU.
Multiplying the quantities of each type of material stated in the above-quoted source with the BTU value of each unit of the respective material, we get the following:
-- 250 railway sleepers: 1 sleeper = 984,534 BTU; 250 sleepers = 246,133,500 BTU;
-- 250 bales of straw: 1 bale = 9,000,000 BTU; 250 bales = 2,250,000,000 BTU;
-- 6,250 kg of kindling wood: 1 kg = 16,671 BTU; 6,250 kg = 104,193,750 BTU;
-- 50,750 kg of coal: 1 kg = 24,692 BTU; 50,750 kg = 1,253,119,000 BTU;
-- 1 gallon of diesel oil per meter length of pyre: 1 gallon of diesel oil = 140,400 BTU. If the pyre is twice as long as the number of carcasses, then 500 gallons of diesel oil are used, with a thermal value of 70,200,000 BTU.
Total energy required to burn 250 carcasses: 3,923,646,250 BTU. This would correspond to 3,923,646,250 ./. 16,671 = 235,358 kg of kindling wood.
Now, what’s the weight of the 250 carcasses?
Though it’s not stated in the above-quoted data, the context of the article allows for the conclusion that bovine cattle carcasses are being referred to. The weight of a moderately fat cow is ca. 1,100 pounds, which corresponds to 498.951607 kg. Make it 500 kg, then 250 such cows weigh 125,000 kg, and our wood weight to carcass weight ratio is ca. 1.9 to 1. This ratio corresponds to the upper range of the wood carcass ratio stated in the TAHC’s General Guidelines for the Disposal of Carcasses for air curtain incinerations.
The above suggests that there is no substantial difference in fuel consumption between open air burning of carcasses on pyres and air curtain incinerations. Hence the wood to carcass – ratio mentioned for the latter in the TAHC’s General Guidelines for the Disposal of Carcasses, i.e between 1:1 and 2:1, will be used for the following calculations.
Assuming a 1:1 wood to corpse – ratio, the amount of wood required for the burning of 600,000 corpses with an average weight of 35 kg would have been ca. 21,000,000 kg = 21,000 tons, instead of the 96,000 tons assumed by Mattogno. For the corpses of the ca. 434,000 Jews whose delivery at Belzec can be established with absolute certainty, the amount required at this ratio would have been 434,000 x 35 = 15,190,000 kg or 15,190 tons of firewood. Assuming 2 kg of wood per kg of corpse mass, the amount would have been 30,380 tons.
The calculations so far are based on the assumption that the corpses which were burned in Belzec from November 1942 to March 1943, according to Heinrich Gley, and which had not yet been partially burned in the manner described by Prof. Pfannenstiel, were fresh corpses, which still had more or less the weight and the water content of a living body. This, of course, was the case only with the people killed shortly before the cessation of the gassings, if at all. The other corpses placed in the mass graves must have been in various stages of decomposition.
In order to understand how a human body changes in the course of the decomposition process, we will have a look at the animal most similar to the human organism in this respect, the pig. On hand of a piglet accidentally crushed by the mother sow the various stages of decomposition are well explained on an Australian Museum website:
At the stage of putrefaction, the corpse or carcass bloats up. This phenomenon, which in Belzec and other camps of Aktion Reinhard(t) led to the phenomenon described for Belzec by Franz Stangl (see quote in section 4.1) is due to the formation of gasses inside the body, the characteristics of which will be addressed more closely further on: methane, hydrogen sulphide, cadaverine and putrescine.
At the stage of black putrefaction, the bloated corpse collapses, and a large volume of body fluids drain from the body and seep into the surrounding soil.
At the stage of butyric fermentation , the body loses the remaining flesh and dries out. At this stage the body issues a cheesy smell due to the formation of butyric acid – also a substance the characteristics of which are worth having a closer look at.
Finally, at the stage of dry decay, the body is reduced to just bone and hair.
The four phases described above take place in the open air respectively 4 to 10 days, 10 to 20 days, 20 to 50 days and 50 to 365 days after death. If the corpses are buried, these processes take longer, according to Dr. Trisha McNair:
Decomposition in the air is twice as fast as when the body is under water and four times as fast as underground. Corpses are preserved longer when buried deeper, as long as the ground isn't waterlogged.
According to a paper from the Department of Forensic Medicine of the University of Dundee about the stages of the delay cycle, the time difference between decomposition in the air and decomposition underground is somewhat larger:
After normal burial, the rate at which the body decomposes will depend to a large extent on the depth of the grave, the warmth of the soil, the efficiency of the drainage, and the permeability of the coffin. The restriction of air, in deep burials, particularly in clay soil, will retard decomposition, but never prevent it altogether. Buried in well drained soil, an adult body is reduced to a skeleton in about 10 years, and a child's body in about 5 years. (Ref. 6 at p. 91). Immersion of the body in faeces-contaminated water, such as sewage effluent will enhance putrefaction; however, it is generally accepted that in the first 48 hours after death changes are in the main due to organisms already present in the body. (Ref. 5 at p. 105). According to an old rule of thumb (Casper's dictum) one week of putrefaction in air is equivalent to two weeks in water, which is equivalent to eight weeks buried in soil, given the same environmental temperature. (Ref. 5 at p. 108)[my emphasis – RM].
The apparently differing information from these two sources can be reconciled by taking into account the following fact mentioned in the latter source:
The putrefactive changes which have taken place up to this time are relatively rapid when contrasted with the terminal decay of the body. When the putrefactive juices have drained away and the soft tissues have shrunk, the speed of decay is appreciably reduced.
It thus seems reasonable to assume that the information about the environment-dependent differences in decomposition time, provided by Dr. Trisha McNair, is accurate in what concerns the stages of decomposition until "the putrefactive juices have drained away and the soft tissues have shrunk", i.e. until the end of the black putrefaction or the butyric fermentation stage, and that after this the environment-dependent time difference becomes more marked, leading to a larger average time difference regarding the whole process until the body is reduced to just the skeleton. It is also possible that Casper’s dictum, about which I unfortunately found no further details on the web, refers to a body buried or submerged inside a coffin, which slows down decomposition, according to Dr. McNair:
The whole process is generally slower in a coffin, and the body may remain identifiable for many months. Some tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, are more resistant to decomposition while the uterus and prostate glands may last several months.
But within a year all that is usually left is the skeleton and teeth, with traces of the tissues on them - it takes 40 to 50 years for the bones to become dry and brittle in a coffin. In soil of neutral acidity, bones may last for hundreds of years, while acid peaty soil gradually dissolves the bones.
What is decisive for our topic is that the corpses buried at Belzec should have had hardly any water left in them by the end of the stage of black putrefaction, which according to the above lasted between the 40th and the 80th days after they had been placed in the burial pits. The weight and mass of these corpses was reduced accordingly, as it is known that 60 – 70 % of the human body is water. According to a German encyclopedia site , a human being weighing 70 kg carries around 42 kg of water, which means that its corpse, after the water has left it, will weigh only about 28 kg or about 40 % of its original weight. Young women and elderly people have percentually less water in their bodies than young males, whereas children have more [Note: link expired; here is confirmation that the information was at that site]:
Several physiology texts place average young men at 60% water, and young women at 50% water, the difference due to relatively more fat in females. Thus, a 70 kg young man has about 42 kg (or 42 liters) or water. With age fat increases and muscle decreases, so that in old age the body may contain only 45% water. Infants, by contrast, average 73% or more.
However, considering the high proportion of children among the deportees to Belzec on the one hand and the loss of fat among the other predominant age and sex groups (women and elderly people), due to the emaciation caused by ghetto life, on the other (see section 4.1), it seems reasonable to assume that the differences in body water content according to the above-quoted source balanced each other out among the victims of Belzec, and that 60 % water in the bodies of these victims can thus be taken as an average.
Applied to our case this means that the average weight of the corpses buried in the Belzec mass graves would have diminished from 35 kg to 14 kg by the stage of butyric fermentation. If, as seems plausible and could even be calculated more precisely on hand of a schedule of the transports to Belzec, about two thirds of the corpses of the ca. 434,000 people mentioned in Höfle’s report were in the advanced phases of decomposition when the general clearing of the mass graves started, while the rest was still at the stage of putrefaction, the average weight of the corpse mass to be incinerated was (289,000 x 14 + 145.000 x 35) ./. 434.000 = 21 kg. If, on the other hand, one assumes the comparatively improbable scenario of an equal distribution between corpses at the stage of putrefaction and corpses at the advanced stages of decomposition, the calculation is (217,000 x 14 + 217,000 x 35) ./. 434,000 = 24.50 kg. I will here – also without taking into account the diminuition of the corpse mass through the burning process described by Prof. Pfannenstiel, as I have no data that would allow for quantifying the effects thereof – assume the more improbable scenario, which is more favorable to Mattogno. In the following I thus assume that the average weight of the corpses burned at Belzec between November 1942 and March 1943 was 25 kg. Assuming a requirement of 1 kg of wood per kg of corpse mass, this would mean an amount of 25 x 434,000 = 10,850,000 kg = 10,850 tons of wood. Assuming 2 kg of wood per kg of corpse mass, the amount would have been 21,700 tons.
As there is the possibility that a significant part of the bodies, namely in the lower layers of the graves, entered into a state of wax-fat transformation (Layers of bodies in wax-fat transformation were found in 10 graves, but Kola provides data about the height of these layers only for some of the graves:
Grave # 13: 1 meter
Grave # 25: 0.40 to 0.50 meters
Grave # 20: 0.40 meters
Grave # 27: 1 meter
If we take these limited data and assume an average pit depth of 5 meters, wax fat transformation would have occurred in 8 % to 20 % of the bodies, i.e. 34,720 to 86,800 out of ca. 434,000 dead bodies.), it must yet be examined to what extent this phenomenon would affect the above calculations.
The influence on the body mass and weight of the formation of wax-fat, also known as grave wax or adipocere, would depend on whether it occurred before or after most liquids had left the dead bodies. On a website dedicated to adipocere, the time involved in the formation of this substance, as well as the stages preceding it, are explained as follows:
Typically, visible adipocere formation will begin about one or two months after death, continuing to whatever degree of ultimate completion after about two years. In bodies submerged in water, adipocere may form sooner, possibly within three weeks of death. Prior to any possible adipocere formation, the corpse goes through several stages of decomposition. Although there can be some variation with these, the basic stages are, in usual order:
Algor Mortis- Life ceases. Higher and lower brain functions cease, as does respiration. The heart stops beating. The body's temperature starts to drop to whatever the ambient temperature is. Body is limp. Urine or feces may be expelled if gravity allows for it.
Livor Mortis- Within a few hours of death, blood pools at the lowest portion of the anatomy; often referred to as "lividity". Characterized by large dark red splotches on the corpse. The rest of the body appears much paler than normal. The embalming process will, among other things, remove this blood and substitute a preservative solution.
Rigor Mortis- A stiffening of body muscles due to a build up of lactic acid, among other chemicals, as a result of the early decomposition of muscle fiber. Passes as quickly as it comes, usually a day or so, starting within the first day after onset of death. Insects may begin to lay eggs in the corpse. There may be an anal discharge of any remaining stools.
Putrefaction- Certainly the least pleasant stage of the decomposition process. Begins within three days of death. Many insects visiting and laying eggs. Corpse starts to change color with "streaking" along near-skin surface arteries and vessels, as blood begins to decompose. Skin color also darkens. After several days, insect larvae may begin to crawl out of the body. Scavenging animals (former pets, rodents, etc.) begin to partake of the meal. By a week after death, gases produced by bacterial and chemical processes begin to cause bloating of bodies. Internally, the bacteria that all humans live with every day, such as those found in the digestive tract, continue working on. But instead of the friendly bacteria's food source being what humans eat for food, it is now the dead human body itself which is consumed. Internal organs begin to liquefy. Within two weeks from onset of death, there is a bloody purge of putrefying liquid from the mouth, nose, anus, or any other opening. The stench from the rotting corpse is overwhelmingly powerful, if within an enclosed space. Soon, within weeks, the body bursts open under pressure, spilling its contents. Reeking liquids sink into whatever is under the corpse, be it a casket lining, a bed mattress, a floor, or soil. Vast quantities of insect larvae may pour out of the body, if insects have had prior access to it. Scavengers may pick apart the corpse, which tends to fall apart quite easily in this stage. At this point the dead body has become a very messy and nasty object, not one likely to endear any nearby living human.
The above description, especially the passages I bolded therein, suggests that the formation of adipocere coincides with the decomposition stage of black putrefaction, which as explained above should have lasted between the 40th and the 80th days after the bodies had been placed in the burial pits at Belzec. The time for adipocere formation to set in according to the above source is confirmed by information in the previously mentioned University of Dundee paper, where it is stated that
The presence of adipocere indicates that the post mortem interval is at least weeks and probably several months.
So it can be concluded that the possibility of adipocere formation on a large scale does not affect the above calculations about the average mass and weight of the bodies disinterred from the Belzec mass graves, as bodies in which adipocere had formed would have been dried out just like other bodies in the advanced stages of decomposition in which adipocere formation had not occurred.
The general clearing of the graves and burning of the corpses was carried out between November 1942 and March 1943, according to the deposition of Heinrich Gley in the course of the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office’s investigation StA München I, AZ: 22 Js 64-93/61, quoted in the following after Kogon et al, as above, page 188:
Dann begann die allgemeine Exhumierung und Leichenverbrennung; sie dürfte vom November 1942 bis März 1943 gedauert haben. Die Verbrennungen wurden Tag und Nacht ununterbrochen durchgeführt, und zwar zunächst an einer, dann an zwei Feuerstellen. Eine Feuerstelle bot die Möglichkeit, binnen 24 Stunden etwa 2000 Leichen zu verbrennen. Etwa 4 Wochen nach Beginn der Verbrennungsaktion wurde die zweite Feuerstelle errichtet. Im Durchschnitt wurden demnach an der einen Feuerstelle etwa 5 Monate lang insgesamt 300 000 Leichen, an der zweiten etwa 4 Monate lang 240 000 Leichen verbrannt. Es handelt sich hier natürlich nur um durchschnittliche Schätzungen. Die Gesamtzahl der Leichen auf 500 000 zu beziffern, dürfte richtig sein.
Es handelte sich bei den Verbrennungen der wieder ausgegrabenen Leichen um einen menschlich, ästhetisch und geruchsmäßig so schauerlichen Vorgang, daß die Phantasie jener Menschen, die heute in bürgerlichen Verhältnissen zu leben gewohnt sind, wohl nicht ausreicht, dieses Grauen nachzuempfinden.
Then began the general exhumation and burning of the corpses; it should have lasted from November 1942 until March 1943. The burnings were carried out day and night without interruption, first at one and then at two fireplaces. One fireplace allowed for burning about 2,000 corpses within 24 hours. About two weeks after the beginning of the incineration action the second fireplace was erected. Thus on average there were burned about 300,000 bodies at the one fireplace over a period of 5 months and 240,000 bodies at the other fireplace over a period of 4 months. Of course these are only approximate estimates. It should be correct to put the total number of corpses at 500,000.
The incineration of the corpses again dug out was a process so abominable humanly, esthetically and in what concerns the smell, that the phantasy of people who today are used to live under civil conditions probably is not sufficient to imagine this horror.
This deposition, also partially quoted by Mattogno, was made by Gley on 7 January 1963, and I prefer it, especially in what concerns the period stated therein, to Gley’s deposition of 8 May 1961 that is Mattogno’s preference, see on page 84 of Mattogno’s book (for reasons easy to understand, i.e. because it states a shorter incineration period that better allows Mattogno to make a fuss), this because Höfle’s report to Heim of 11 January 1943, according to which there were no more transports to Belzec at least in the second half of the month December 1942, indicates that the general clearing of the graves and incineration of the corpses was already going on at Belzec in December 1942. For why should they have cancelled the deportations to Belzec while deportations to the other Aktion Reinhard(t) camps were still going on, except to allow for an undisturbed processing of the clearing of the graves and incineration of the corpses at Belzec?
Thus the average number of corpses burned daily at Belzec within five months = 150 days was ca. 434,000 ./. 150 = 2,893, for which with an average weight of 25 kg per corpse and firewood requirements of 1 kg per kg of corpse there would have been required 72,325 kg = 72.3 tons of wood, instead of the 1,064 tons assumed by Mattogno. The number of truckloads à 5 tons required to bring in this wood from outside – the air photo analysis showing no deforestation in the surrounding woods by Mattogno’s "colleague" John Ball, about whose reliability one can inform oneself in an article by Jamie McCarthy on the THHP website, may be the subject of a later commentary – is thus reduced from Mattogno’s 200 to 14 ½ . If one assumes 2 kg of wood instead of 1 kg of wood per kg of corpse mass, the amount of wood per day would be 144.6 tons instead of 72.3 tons, corresponding to ca. 29 instead of 14 ½ truckloads.
The corpses in the advanced phases of decomposition not only weighed much less than "fresh" corpses, they also had no or hardly any water left in them. It is easy to understand that the burning of human corpses requires additional flammables mainly because the water, of which the human organism mainly consists, must be evaporated. But if – as can be assumed at least at the end of the stage of black putrefaction and especially at the stage of butyric fermentation, not to mention the stage of dry decay – there is no more or hardly any water around, if the substance to be burned consists of dried-up skin, rotten flesh, hair and bones, one can expect a considerable reduction of the amount of external fuel required. According to the above-quoted statement by Norbert Fuhrmann bones have about the same heating value as brown coal, for which reason the burning in the open of carcasses consisting mainly of bones requires much less wood waste than the burning of carcasses not yet decayed to little more than skin and bones:
Bones have a BTU of about the same as brown coal (ca. 11,000 BTU per pound). If you were to incinerate a lot of bones, much less wood waste would be needed.
An additional factor aiding incineration are the flammable, even explosive substances set free by the decomposition process itself. These are mainly the substances methane, hydrogen sulphide, cadaverine and putrescine, which form in the phase of putrefaction, but also the butyric acid that forms in the phase of butyric fermentation.
In what amounts methane forms in a decomposing human body is illustrated by the following statement in an American Rescue Team report on the aftermath of a 1986 earthquake in El Salvador:
This 'rescuer' had been working on top of this collapsed building for 3 days... removing decomposing corpses. The fumes were so strong from the decomposing bodies that the methane actually made the fibers in Copp's canvass shirt crumble into dust.[my emphasis - RM] This worker had seemed mentally O.K. to Copp. We had just finished dragging out a corpse 5 minutes before.
I haven’t yet found a site quantifying the methane set free during the decomposition of corpses, but we may obtain guideline values from a similar process – the decomposition of animal waste: 5.9 lbs (= 2.676195 kilograms) of cattle manure produce 30 cubic feet of biogas per day, consisting of 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide, with a caloric value of 600 BTU per cubic feet or 18.000 BTU in total (the caloric value of natural gas, which consists mostly of methane, is a little higher, 850 to 1,000 Btu/ft3). Assuming that a decomposing human body generates half the amount of biogas per weight unit that a load of cattle manure does, and assuming an average weight of 35 kg per dead body (see above), every one of the victims buried in the mass graves of Belzec would during his or her putrefaction phase produce 35 ÷ 2.676195 * 15 = 196,17 cubic feet of biogas per day with a caloric value of 35 ÷ 2.676195 * 9000 = 117.704,43 BTU, the equivalent of ca. 0.003 cords of live oak wood (apparently the best there is, with a caloric value of 34.4 to 36.6 million BTU per cord, according to the above-mentioned online table about wood heating values. At the above mentioned incineration described by Lund, Kruger and Weldon and in the USDA/TAHC report they used at maximum 33 cords of dry oak/gum firewood to burn 504 carcasses weighing a total of 41,300 kg. Assuming the wood used in this experiment had the same caloric value as the live oak wood according to the aforementioned table, these 33 cords had a heating value of at most 33 x 36,600,000 = 1,207,800,000 BTU, or 1,207,800,000 ÷ 41,300 = ca. 29,245 BTU per kg of carcass weight, or 29,245 x 35 = ca. 1.023.575 BTU for each 35 kg of carcass weight. That would be 8.7 times the amount of BTU of the biogas generated per day by a corpse weighing 35 kg, according to my above calculation. In other words: the amount of biogas produced by a decomposing body weighing ca. 35 kg within roughly 9 days would have been enough to incinerate that body without recourse to other sources of fuel. If one assumes that, as stated in the paper by Lund, Kruger and Weldon and corroborated by the information about "Project Cost" on page 7 of the USDA/TAHC report and the above-quoted information from Mr. Norbert Fuhrmann, the amount of wood required for burning 41,300 kg of swine carcass in said experiment was only about 40 cubic meters or 11 cords of wood, these 11 cords had a heating value of at most 11 x 36,600,000 = 402,600,000 BTU, or 402,600,000 ÷ 41,300 = ca. 9.748 BTU per kg of carcass weight, or 9,748 x 35 = ca. 341.180 BTU for each 35 kg of carcass weight. That’s 2.9 times the amount of BTU of the biogas generated per day by a corpse weighing 35 kg, according to my above calculation. In other words: the amount of biogas produced by a decomposing body weighing ca. 35 kg within roughly 3 days would have been enough to incinerate that body without recourse to other sources of fuel!
The putrefaction lasts from day 4 to day 10 after death in the open and 4 times as long under ground, as explained above. So we can assume that the putrefaction phase of the corpses in the Belzec mass graves lasted from day 16 to day 40 after they had been placed into these graves. About halfway through that phase at the latest, according to my above calculations, each corpse would have accumulated enough biogas to sustain its own combustion.
And that’s only the presumable contribution of methane to the combustion process. Other flammable substances are created during the putrefaction phase, like hydrogen sulphide, putrescine and cadaverine. Butyric acid, created during the butyric fermentation phase in which the body is dried up and consists of little more than skin, hair and bone, is also a flammable substance.
According to the already quoted University of Dundee paper, the putrid gases formed during the putrefaction process also include hydrogen, generally known to be a highly flammable, explosive gas:
Putrid gas formation also occurs in the stomach and intestines causing the abdomen to distend and become tense. The increased pressure within the torso causes a purge of putrid, blood-stained fluid from the nose, mouth and vagina, and expulsion from the rectum of similar fluid admixed with faeces. Gas formation within the tissues causes generalised swelling of the body which is crepitant on palpation. The distention is greatest where the tissues are loose, particularly involving scrotum, penis, labia majora, breasts, and face. The gases produced include hydrogen sulphide, methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen. The offensive odour is caused by some of these gases and by small quantities of mercaptans.[my emphasis – RM] (Ref. 19 at p. 44).
The same paper also contains information about the flammable properties of adipocere, which as explained above may have formed in a significant part of the corpses inside the Belzec mass graves:
It floats on water, and dissolves in hot alcohol and ether. When heated it melts and then burns with a yellow flame.
In conclusion of the above, it seems plausible to assume that in the case of the corpses at the stage of putrefaction the flammable substances contained in the corpses provided an essential contribution to the incineration; in mainly female corpses that still had a more or less high fat content there was also the body fat as additional fuel. In the case of the more or less waterless corpses in the more advanced stages of decomposition their dryness, in the case of the corpses in butyric fermentation together with the flammable properties of the butyric acid and in corpses in which adipocere had formed together with the flammable properties of adipocere, should have decisively promoted the incineration process.
It can therefore be assumed that the wood requirements for burning the corpses taken out of the Belzec mass graves were even much lower than results from my above calculations. Additionally it must be considered that not only wood can be expected to have been used as incineration fuel, but also liquid flammables like gasoline, alcohol or diesel fuel, if necessary in larger amounts than those required to light the fires.
The following excerpt from Yitzhak Arad’s book about the extermination camps of Aktion Reinhard(t) shows that my above assumptions and conclusions are not merely of a theoretical nature but correspond to the experiences with the burning of the corpses testified to by camp staff and permanent inmates of the "Reinhard(t)" camps, on which Arad’s description is presumably based. Thus from Treblinka it was reported that, unlike the corpses burned right after the gassing in the camp’s final phase, which had to be sprayed with considerable amounts of liquid fuel, the corpses taken out of the mass graves required no additional flammables beyond those that were laid under the incineration grids for lighting the fire:
[…]After the cremation installation had been constructed, the process of removing the bodies from the pits began. The work was initiated by a single excavator; later, a second excavator was brought in. The shovel’s scoop removed six to eight corpses with each dip and dumped them on the edge of the pit. A special team of prisoners, working in twos, transferred the corpses to the crematorium on stretchers. There, another special team, called the "burning group" (Feuerkolonne) removed the corpses from the stretchers and arranged them in layers on the roaster to a height of two meters. Between 2,000 and 2,500 bodies – sometimes up to 3,000 – would be piled on the roaster. When all was ready, dry wood and branches, which had been laid under the roaster, were ignited. The entire construction, with the bodies, was quickly engulfed in fire. The railings would glow from the heat, and the flames would reach a height of up to 10 meters.
At first an inflammable liquid was poured onto the bodies to help them burn, but later this was considered unnecessary; the SS men in charge of the cremation became convinced that the corpses burned well enough without extra fuel.
The bodies of victims brought to Treblinka in transports arriving after the body-burning began were taken directly from the gas chambers of the roasters and were not buried in the ditches. These bodies did not burn as well as those removed from the ditches and had to be sprayed with fuel before they would burn.[…]
Source: Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, pages 173 f. Emphases are mine.
Thus Mattogno’s objections regarding the wood requirements can be dismissed.
4.3 Duration of the Cremations
Mattogno’s stuff regarding the duration of the cremations (page 86):
No witness has described the structure of the pyres or the technique of cremation. Assuming that the pyres were identical to those allegedly used at Treblinka, the corpses would have been cremated on two or three grids made of railroad rails and measuring 90 square meters each.265 Let us assume that there were three grids. The amount of wood which can be burnt per square meter of such a grid is approximately 80 kg per hour, hence (90×80=) 7,200 kg per hour for one such grid, or 21,600 kg/h for three. This means that in order to burn the 1,064 tons of wood which were needed every day, the time taken would have been (1,064,000÷21,600=) 49 hours of continuous combustion. If we add another day for the cooling of the pyre, the removal of the ash, and the construction of a fresh pyre, the cremation of 6,650 corpses would have taken no less than three days, and the whole undertaking would have stretched out over at least 9 months. The cremation would, therefore, not have ended in March of 1943 but in September of that year! If, on the other hand, we assume only two grids, the cremation would have lasted more than 13 months!
can be dealt with already on hand of my wood requirements calculations before consideration of the factors last mentioned (dryness of the corpses, methane and other flammables contained in the corpses), without it having to be examined whether Mattogno’s hypothetical calculations, based on much exaggerated assumptions, are consistent in themselves and whether the one day he counts "for the cooling of the pyre, the removal of the ash, and the construction of a fresh pyre" holds water. If ca. 72.3 tons of wood were required for burning 2,893 corpses per day, these could, according to Mattogno’s calculation method, be burned on one grid within about ten hours and on two grids within about five hours. With ca. 144.6 tons of wood, assuming a wood to corpse – ratio of 2:1 instead of 1:1, the time would be about twenty hours on one grid and about ten hours on two grids.
4.4 The Soil removed from the Graves
4.5 The Ash