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
4.3 Duration of the Cremations
4.4 The Soil removed from the Graves
4.5 The Ash
4.6 The "Actual" Surface Area of the Graves
4.7 Density of Corpses in the Graves
5. Alternative Explanations
Last but not least, a few words about Mattogno’s attempts to put together another explanation for the mass graves found by Kola and his team than the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people.
Contrary to Mattogno’s triumphant claim:
In conclusion, the mass graves at Belzec are absolutely incompatible with the burial of 600,000 bodies, even if we include a large number of children among the dead. Mass extermination excluded, there is thus only one assumption which could explain the presence at Belzec of mass graves and corpses: the revisionist thesis.
the conclusions of historiography (to which I don’t think Mattogno belongs) about the murder of at least 434,000 people at Belzec extermination camp are compatible not only with the mass graves located by and described by Kola, but also with all the remaining evidence, consisting of eyewitness testimonies, defendants’ depositions, documents and demographic data. Mattogno’s thesis, on the other hand, is based on unproven or wrong assumptions alone. Let us have a look at them (pages 91 f):
As we will see in the following chapter, at Belzec deaths of detainees from epidemics (such as typhus) were recorded as early as the spring of 1940, and many other deaths were recorded in succeeding months, when the site became a very harsh hard labor camp. In later phases of the story of Belzec, the arrival of transports under disastrous conditions – such as the one from Kolomea on September 10, 1942, with 2,000 dead on board – added thousands of bodies to the mass graves of the camp. To this we must add the natural mortality among the approximate 434,000 Jews transferred to Belzec. Although it is impossible to establish the number of these deaths, it is nonetheless possible to infer, from what has been discussed above, an order of magnitude of several thousands, perhaps even some tens of thousands.
4.9. Reasons for Cremation
The cremation of the bodies of the dead constitutes in and of itself neither proof nor evidence in favor of the official theses, because this was the practice in all concentration camps and had a well-established hygienic function. In the area of the Belzec camp, Kola’s findings show that, along a line linking grave 3 and grave 10, about two-thirds of the length of the camp,284 the groundwater level was at a depth of 4.80 meters.285 In the area below, toward the railroad, this level was obviously at a smaller depth; in the area of grave 1, it was 4.10 meters.286 It is probable that the cremation had to do with the danger of contamination of the ground water, as I have discussed elsewhere.287 Fundamentally, however, one cannot exclude the explanation adopted by the official historiography, while giving it a different interpretation. If the Soviets had discovered mass graves full of corpses dead of disease or malnutrition, then they would certainly have exploited them for propaganda against the Germans, as the latter did in Katyn and Vinnytsya against the Soviets.
First of all, why would the SS, for only "several thousands, perhaps even some tens of thousands" of dead bodies, have needed 33 mass graves with a total area of 5,919 square meters and a volume of 21,310 cubic meters, which already according to Mattogno’s own calculations could take in about 170,000 corpses? Why would the SS with considerable effort have created so much grave volume to then use only a fraction of it and therefore waste it? Why would they especially have dug the graves as deep as becomes apparent from Kola’s investigation, down to the ground water level and in places even beyond that? The mass graves from Treblinka I that are the subject of Mattogno’s apples and oranges comparison (see section 4.7 of this commentary) were only about 2 meters deep, little more than the proverbial 6 feet below ground.
Second, what could have been the intended fate of people taken to Belzec in the manner described by Mattogno regarding a transport from Kolomea, in overfilled trains in which a large part of the deportees perished during the voyage already? Was this how one would treat people one intended to "resettle" or use as a labor force? Apparently aware that this question might arise among his readers, Mattogno tried to present this transport as an isolated case and the horrors of the journey from Kolomea as the result of bad organization, while invoking the fact that Jews too old or sick to be transported were shot on the spot as an indication against the destination being an extermination camp (pages 100 f):
On September 14, 1942, Zugwachtmann der Schutzpolizei (railroad guard of the protection police) Josef Jäcklein wrote a report, “Resettlement from Kolomea to Belzec.” He escorted a train of 51 cars loaded with 8,200 Jews that left Kolomea at 20:50 hours on September 10. The Jews quickly sought ways to escape, ripping the barbed wire from the openings of the cars and opening up holes in the walls, which caused Jäcklein to cable ahead to Stanislau station to have boards and nails ready. On arrival at that station, the train stopped one hour and a half for the repairs. A few stations farther along, the Jews had again ripped out the barbed wire and made new holes, so the train stopped again. Jäcklein relates:
“When the train left, I even noticed that in one car hammers and pliers were being used. Questioning the Jews as to why they still had these tools, they declared that they had been told that they would be able to put them to good use at their next destination.”
Again and again, at every stop, the train had to stop for repairs to the car walls. Finally the train arrived at Lemberg/Lwów, where Jäcklein turned over “9 cars marked L and destined for the forced labor camp at Lemberg” to SS Obersturmführer (senior lieutenant) Schulte, but another 1,000 Jews came on board. When the train moved on, escape attempts resumed. As the escort had expended all their ammunition, they had to use “stones” and “bayonets” to prevent escapes. The transport took place under catastrophic conditions. Jäcklein writes in this respect:
“The ever increasing panic among the Jews, caused by the strong heat, overloading of the cars with up to 220 Jews, the smell of corpses – 2,000 dead were counted when the train was unloaded – made the transport nearly impossible.”
The train arrived at Belzec at 6:45 p.m. the following day and was turned over to the camp authorities at 7:30 p.m.. Unloading the cars took until 10 p.m.324
324 RGVA, 1323-2-292b, pp. 61f.
This transport was also the topic of another report, drawn up at Lemberg on September 14, 1942, by Leutnant der Schutzpolizei der Reserve (lieutenant of the reserve protection police) Wassermann.325 The train carried 8,205 Jews, and most cars contained 180 to 200 persons. The guard detail traveled in 2 passenger cars so that the average load per car was (8,205÷49=) 167 persons. In the first portion of his report, Wassermann describes a transport from Kolomea to Belzec on September 7, 1942. The security police gathered some 5,300 Jews at the “Sammelplatz des Arbeitsamtes” (collection site of the labor office), and another 300 were rounded up in the Jewish sector. Wassermann “The transport was fully loaded at 19 hours. Altogether, 4,769 Jews have been resettled, once the security police had released about 1,000 of the Jews who had been rounded up.”
Each car was loaded with 100 persons. Other Jews were, however, shot: “On September 7, 300 old, infected, frail, or untransportable Jews were executed.”
During the days following there were more shootings:
“During the actions in the Kolomea area on September 8, 9, and 10, 1942, about 400 Jews had to be liquidated by shooting for the usual reasons.”
The catastrophic transport of September 10-11, 1942, was caused by logistical deficiencies rather than homicidal intent; when it was possible, transports took place under more humane conditions, like the one on September 7, when the deportees traveled 100 per car. Before the transport left, the security police released about 1,000 Jews who could have easily been transported on the train, by simply increasing the load from 100 to 123 persons. During thetransport of September 10-11, 1942, nine cars with detainees were unloaded “for the forced labor camp.” This does not jibe with an alleged program for the total extermination of the Jews.
The shootings of various groups of Jews were motivated by the fact that they were “old, infected, frail, or untransportable” persons – but if the direct transports to Belzec were carried out for the purpose of extermination, then why these preliminary shootings?
In case anyone was still in doubt where Mr. Mattogno comes from, the fellow considers the above as showing a very "severe" German attitude towards the Jews (page 99).
Apparently it didn’t occur to someone who uses the euphemism "severe" for the charnel-house of the Kolomea transport that
• The killing on the spot of the "old, infected, frail, or untransportable Jews" might have served the purpose of speeding up both the loading of the train and the unloading and "processing" of the deportees at Belzec extermination camp, while the fact that the infirm were killed and not just left behinds indicates a policy of extermination towards those Jews deemed "useless" by the Nazis;
• There is nothing "humane" about transporting 100 people in a railroad car as in the transport on 7 September 1942, especially when they are given no and even kept from receiving water during the whole journey (See Cornides’ description, quoted in section 4.1, of what Mattogno would probably consider one of the more "humane" transports to Belzec: «As soon as the train halted, the Jews attempted to pass out bottles in order to get water. The train, however, was surrounded by SS guards, so that no one could come near.». Ever travelled like that, Mr. Mattogno?), the likely reason why the cars were not loaded further on that transport being an endeavor to carry out the deportations as quickly and efficiently as possible, to which the overloaded and crawling Kolomea transport did not exactly contribute;
• The unloading of the deportees deemed able to work at a forced labor camp is no indication against an extermination policy but merely emphasizes the fact that the Jews taken to Belzec were those considered unable to work and therefore useless;
• The constant and desperate breakout attempts in the Kolomea transport, to such an extent that the train guards had fired all their ammunition well before the train arrived at its final destination, is an indication not only of the horrendous conditions of the transport itself but also of a certain awareness or suspicion on the part of the Jews that they were being taken to their deaths.
One wonders why Mattogno would shoot himself in the foot as he did with his detailed and lamely apologetic descriptions of what transports reflecting the Germans "severe" attitude towards the Jews looked like. The possible reason is that a lack of basic humanity, which is especially suggested by his invoking the shooting of the infirm on the spot as an indication against exterminatory intent, kept Mattogno from realizing the horror of these descriptions and what they revealed about the Nazis’ intentions towards the Jews deported to Belzec. One of Mattogno’s problems, apparently, is that he can’t help being who he is.
Now to another of Mattogno’s poor arguments in trying to explain away the Belzec mass graves and their contents: if, as Mattogno claims, the incineration was related to avoiding contamination of the ground water (this was actually one of the reasons for the incineration operations at the camps of Aktion Reinhard(t), according to evidence presented at trials before West German courts), why were the mass graves dug as deep as the ground water level in the first place, although for "several thousands, perhaps even some tens of thousands" of dead bodies one really didn’t need pits that deep?
Next one: if, as Mattogno also surmises, concern about the Soviets using for propaganda purposes "mass graves full of corpses dead of disease or malnutrition" was what led to the incineration operation, what other cases are known of work-, transit or POW camps with a high mortality at which this measure was adopted? Why, then, were the corpses of Soviet prisoners of war at a number of camps where there were tens of thousands of them, victims of executions, starvation or exposure, not removed by incineration? Why were the mass graves found by the Soviets or Poles at Treblinka I labor camp, which Mattogno mentions, not removed by incineration? Why would the Germans at Belzec make an effort they obviously didn’t consider necessary at Treblinka I, in the face of considerations that according to Mattogno’s thesis would have been exactly the same?
Finally, why would ca. 434,000 Jews have been transferred to Belzec, a camp with an area of no more than 6 ha? And where are they supposed to have been taken from there?
This is an essential question one would expect Mattogno to dedicate most of his book to answering, for unless he is able to plausibly account otherwise for the fate of ca. 434,000 deportees he claims were not murdered at Belzec, all his nitpicking against his selection of the evidence to Belzec extermination camp is rather pointless. Yet Mattogno dedicates a full six pages (103 to 106) to "Belzec as Part of the German Policy of Deporting Jews to the East", and nowhere in this chapter does he even attempt to trace the trajectory of any part of those 434,000 "to the East" he claims they went to, i.e. to the occupied territories of the Soviet Union. Most of this chapter is filled with irrelevant mumbling about "western" Jews having ended up in places other than Belzec or one of the other Aktion Reinhard(t) camps, as if that were an indication against the exterminatory purpose of these camps which, as the "official historical version" has documented, were essentially meant for wiping out the Jews of the General Government. Of the few documents Mattogno quotes, one obviously relates to the settlement of Jews from the Reich at places in the General Government from which local Jews had been previously "evacuated", while another on pages 103 f. – Fritz Reuter’s notes of 17 March 1942 about a conversation with Hauptsturmführer Höfle on the previous day – is one more shot in Mattogno’s own foot:
"I arranged for a talk with Hstuf. Höfle for Monday, the 16th of March 1942, namely at 17:30 hours. In the course of the discussion the following It would be expedient to divide the transports of Jews arriving in the Lublin district at the station of origin into employable and unemployable Jews. If it is not possible to make this distinction at the departure station, then the transport will have to be divided in Lublin in the manner mentioned above.
All unemployable Jews are to come to Bezec [Belzec], the outermost border station in the Zamosc district.
Hstuf. Höfle is thinking of building a large camp in which the employable Jews can be registered in a file system according to their occupations and requisitioned from there.
Piaski is being made Jew-free and will be the collection point for the Jews coming out of the Reich.
Trawnicki [Trawniki] is not at present occupied by Jews.
H. asks where on the D blin-Trawnicki route 60,000 Jews can be unloaded. Informed of the Jewish transports now departing from here, H. explained that of the 500 Jews arriving in Susiec, those who were unemployable could be sorted out and sent to Bezec. According to a government teletype dated March 4, 1942, a Jewish transport, whose destination was the Trawnicki station, is rolling out of the Protectorate. These Jews are not unloaded in Trawnicki, but have been brought to Izbiza. An inquiry of the Zamosz district, asking to be able to request 200 Jews from there for work, was answered in the affirmative by H.
In conclusion he stated that he could accept 4-5 transports of 1,000 Jews to the terminal station Bezec daily. These Jews would cross the border and never return to the General Government."
Emphases in the above quote are mine.
Despite Mattogno’s feeble attempts to relate the statement "Hstuf. Höfle is thinking of building a large camp in which the employable Jews can be registered in a file system according to their occupations and requisitioned from there." to Belzec and sell his readers the idea that
Belzec was to become a camp in which the Jews fit to work were “registered in a file system according to their occupations.”
(page 104), what becomes clear from the document is that Belzec had nothing to do with labor employment, but was a place to where the unemployable were sent, ostensibly to "cross the border and never return to the General Government" – a feeble euphemism for their actual fate considering that beyond the "border" there were the Nazi-occupied territories of the Soviet Union, whose governing officials would not exactly have been delighted to receive hundreds of thousands of unemployable Jews as additional useless mouths to feed on top of the local Jews they were already saddled with, quite apart from the fact that these local Jews, insofar as they could not be used for forced labor, were being bumped off by SS and police formations at that time. The pretense that Belzec was some sort of transit station for Jews from the General Government bound for "the East" is also belied by the fact that Jews were being shipped to Belzec also from places east of there, as Prof. Browning pointed out in his previously quoted expert opinion submitted in the course of the Irving-Lipstadt lawsuit:
[…]5.3.6 In short, the German documents make clear that tens of thousands of Jews were being sent to the camp at Belzec in the spring months of 1942. There was no pretense that this was a work camp, for only non-working Jews were sent there. There was no pretense that such numbers of Jews could all remain in Belzec, in a tiny village guarded by a mere 60 men. Thus the explanation given by the SS was that these Jews were "expelled over the Bug," that is sent across the border into the district of Galicia, with the guarantee that they would never return. Two factors make the acceptance of such an explanation utterly untenable.
5.3.7 First, on March 27, 1942, shortly after the clearing of the Lublin ghetto began, Josef Goebbels confided to his diary about the fate of the non-working Jews, i.e. precisely those sent to Belzec:
Beginning with Lublin, the Jews in the General Government are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said about 60 percent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only about 40 percent can be used for forced labor.
5.3.8 Second, German documents from the district of Galicia make clear that not only were Jews not arriving in their district from the Lublin district via Belzec, but on the contrary, Jews were simultaneously being deported from the district of Galicia westward to Belzec. The Oberfeldkommandant in Lwow (Lemberg) reported on March 19, 1942:
Within the Jewish population of Lemberg a noticeable unrest has spread in regard to a deportation action that has begun, through which some 30, elderly and other unemployed Jews shall be seized and allegedly transferred to a territory near Lublin. To what extent this evacuation can be equated with a decimation remains to be seen.
5.3.9 The Oberfeldkommandant reported the following month:
The Jewish population displays the deepest depression, which is completely understandable because on the one hand in various locations in the district the well-known actions against the Jews occur again and on the other hand in Lemberg the temporarily interrupted resettlement of Jews resumes; in the meantime it is whispered also among the Jews that the evacuees never reach the resettlement territory that is alleged to them as the destination.
5.3.10 The deportations from Galicia broke off during the months of May, June, and July 1942, but resumed in August. In October the Oberfeldkommandant reported again:
The resettlement actions continue undiminished. The Jews are informed of their fate. Indicative is the statement of a member of the Lwow Jewish council: We all carry our death certificates in our pocket--only the date of death is not yet filled out.
5.3.11 The trains deporting Jews from Galicia did indeed go to Belzec, as can be seen in the report of Reserve Lieutenant Westermann of the 7th company of Police Regiment 24, whose men helped round up the Jews in Kolomyja and nearby towns and then guarded two transports to Belzec on September 7 and 10, 1942. The first contained 4,769 Jews in 50 train cars and went without incident. The second involved 8,205 Jews. Many had been held for days without food and force-marched 35-50 kilometers to the train in blistering heat. They were then packed into train cars, in many cases 180-200 per car, virtually without ventilation. As Lieutenant Westermann concluded: "The ever greater panic spreading among the Jews due to the great heat, overloading of the train cars, and stink of the dead--when unloading the train cars some 2, Jews were found dead in the train--made the transport almost unworkable." Nevertheless the train that left Kolomyja at 8:50 pm. on September 10 finally crawled into Belzec at 6:45 pm on September 11.[…]
Emphases in the above quote are mine. Mattogno mentioned neither Goebbels diary entry of 27 March 1942 (for reasons that should be easy to understand for who reads Browning’s translation of its first paragraph) nor the other documents quoted by Browning, except for the report by Reserve Lieutenant Westermann, who seems to be the same person as "Leutnant der Schutzpolizei der Reserve (lieutenant of the reserve protection police) Wassermann" quoted on page 101 of Mattogno’s book. Apparently Mattogno didn’t realize that Kolomea is located in Galicia, to the east of Belzec, and that the reports on this transport are therefore documents showing the pretense that Belzec was a place from where unemployable Jews would "cross the border and never return to the General Government" to be the cynical lie that it was.
Of course there is a reason why Mattogno fumbles and fudges with supposed documentary indications that Belzec was not an extermination camp, instead of trying to account for the fate of ca. 434,000 Jews deported there, as he should: except for a possible transport of 1,700 people mentioned on page 107 of his book, which according to a 1969 Polish source would have left Belzec for Majdanek in October 1942 (i.e. at a time when Belzec was about to finish gassing operations to start with the cleanup of the graves while Majdanek started operating homicidal gassing installations, according to what Mattogno calls the "official historical version"), Mattogno seems to have found no evidence, or even indication, that any number of the Jews deported to Belzec in 1942, mentioned in Höfle’s report to Heim of 11 January 1943 , ever left the place to "the East" or in any direction at all.
It stands to reason that the transportation of hundreds of thousands of people from Belzec to any other destination, especially across "the border" to the Nazi-occupied territories of the Soviet Union, would have left behind a huge paper trail and a very large number of witnesses to tell the story. Thus the absence of any such evidence, despite presumable painstaking attempts by Mattogno to find it throughout archives in Eastern Europe, leaves room for only one conclusion: that such transports out of Belzec never took place.
This, in turn, is further evidence that shows the "official historical version" to be right, and Mr. Mattogno to be full of shit.
I am confident to have sufficiently demonstrated that Mattogno’s assessment of the results of Prof. Kola’s archaeological investigation of the Belzec mass graves is what I consider it to be: a charlatan’s attempt to sell to a gullible-faithful readership apologetically distorted descriptions and interpretations of a certain historical event or phenomenon in support of "Revisionist" articles of faith.
Which is not surprising, of course, for Mr. Mattogno, comparatively talented though some may consider him to be, is just another hoaxing "Revisionist".
I would like to thank all who contributed to the making of this commentary, especially my fellow bloggers Nick Terry and Sergey Romanov, who provided much useful constructive criticism, and all "Revisionsists" who helped to "battle test" this commentary on the thread Mattogno on Prof. Kola’s Belzec archaeology of the RODOH forum, where previous versions of the commentary were published.
I would also like to thank the "Revisionist" RODOH poster "ClaudiaRothenbach" for his spam-posting, on the RODOH thread Belzec, of the German text of Mattogno’s "analysis" of Prof. Kola’s archaeological investigation, because it was this spam-posting that unleashed my undertaking. I’m not sure, though, if Mr. Mattogno will also be grateful to Mr. "ClaudiaRothenbach" for having spurred this initiative.