Tuesday, December 19, 2006

If they did it the simple way, they didn’t do it!

That’s the idea our friend denierbud (hereinafter called "Bud") tries to sell throughout clip # 24 of his One Third of the Holocaust video (You Tube version), notwithstanding the inanity of such reasoning and the fact that simple methods are often the best, especially when it comes to a comparatively simple activity such as killing, burying and burning masses of helpless, innocent people.

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The "could-shoulda-woulda" – show starts right after the beginning of the clip, when Bud shows the grill on which he incinerated the leg of lamb in clip # 23 and points out that the grill is warped from the heat and bent, even though «it’s made for heat, just not that much heat», to then claim that for the incineration grids at the AR camps «the Germans» would have used «specially built alloy beams made to hold a lot of weight in high heat conditions». Instead, go figure, they used old railway tracks!

Just what kind of «specially built alloy beams» he has in mind Bud doesn’t specify, neither does he explain why one would need such beams when old railway tracks would do the job or, for that matter, why old railway tracks would not be sufficiently resistant «to hold a lot of weight in high heat conditions» as required. Instead he tries to ridicule the use of old railway tracks through a false analogy, by comparing the Aktion Reinhard(t) murder sites with, of all things, the US Manhattan Project for developing the atomic bomb during World War II. Like the AR camps, Bud tells his viewers, the Manhattan Project was a «high priority, top secret government project» dedicated to research on the mass destruction of human beings, and as the Manhattan Project didn’t make use of such «makeshift» devices as old railway tracks, the AR killing program wouldn’t have used them either. What is more, as the Manhattan Project had a more elaborate security system to preserve secrecy than barbed-wire fences camouflaged with tree branches, the AR camps would have had a similarly elaborate security.

An amusing parallel that is, as it obviously didn’t occur to Bud that there’s a world of difference between one and the other, and that his comparison is a classic apples and oranges proposition.

On the one hand, we have a technically and scientifically most complex endeavor, aimed at what was arguably the most difficult and revolutionary technical achievement in the history of mankind, the mastering of nuclear fission on the scale required to produce a weapon of incomparable destructiveness. This endeavor called for enormous resources; the Manhattan Project would eventually employ more than 130,000 people and cost a total of nearly $2 billion USD or $20 billion in 2004 dollars based on CPI. On the other hand, we have an activity as archaically primitive as killing masses of defenseless human beings and disposing of their bodies, with no technical and scientific complexity at all. So why on earth shouldn’t the latter have made do with comparatively simple devices and no more resources than were absolutely necessary, instead of striving for the pointless technical perfection that Bud fantasizes about?

As concerns the importance of secrecy and the corresponding requirements, the difference was also enormous: the consequence of leaks of information from the Manhattan Project could be as nefarious as the enemy’s also managing to manufacture nuclear weapons, perhaps even before the US had theirs ready. The eventual consequences of the few local inhabitants of the remote areas in which the AR camps were located seeing what was going on behind the saplings-clad fences (which they could guess anyway due to the stench of rotting and burning bodies emanating from the camps and befouling the air for miles around) were comparatively negligible, on the other hand; at worst there would be resistance reports transmitted to the Allied governments that could be used as easily deniable propaganda against a regime that had burned all bridges behind it anyway. What secrecy was deemed necessary for the AR operation was deemed to be achieved by the reduced size and remoteness of the killing centers and, as explained in this article, by the speed with which the operation was carried out.

Following this false analogy, Bud rambles against the «makeshift, shoddy workmanship» that he sees in the way the remains of the incinerated bodies were crushed (as if there were any point in technical sophistication for such labor, or as if there were a something like a «state of the art» procedure for crushing the burned remains of mass murder victims), after which he tries out that «shoddy» method on his burned leg of lamb. He lays the incineration remains on an aluminum sheet and proceeds to crushing them with a wooden stick 5 foot long and 4x4 inches thick; this takes about 10 seconds with the easily crumbled matter until he comes upon «a sizable peace of meat» that survived the burning. Bud comments:

«I burned 135 pounds of wood under a 12.5 pound leg of lamb sitting on a grill by itself, and I get a large piece of meat that didn’t turn into ash.»

Based on this observation, he takes issue with the following description on page 176 of Yitzhak Arad’s book Belzec, Sobibor, Trebinka. The Operation Reinhard Death Camps:

The body-burning went on day and night. The corpses were transferred and arranged on the roasters during the day; at nightfall they were lit, and they burned throughout the night. When the fire went out, there were only skeletons or scattered bones on the roasters, and piles of ash underneath.


As explained in my article about Bud’s clip # 23, Bud shouldn’t count the 45 pounds of wood he used for his daytime experiment on the windy beach, as the fire barely touched the incineration object in that failed experiment. As also explained in the same article, most of the flames in Bud’s nighttime camp fire seem to have been unnecessary to burn the leg of lamb and burned idly into the night, which is probably one of the reasons why Bud’s fuel weight to carcass weight – ratio is so much more inefficient than that achieved in the incineration experiments conducted by veterinarians Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé, referred to by German incineration expert Wilhelm Heepke, which can be assumed to have resulted in the carcasses’ being burned as thoroughly as with the "simplest method" described by Heepke, the burning of a carcass on a pyre of firewood inside a pit. So it seems fair to conclude that the piece of meat not turned to ash, which Bud makes a fuss about, is related to the inefficiency of Bud’s arrangement and procedure rather than to the description in Arad’s book being generally inaccurate. This does not exclude larger remains surviving incineration on the Treblinka grids and having to be incinerated again, as Arad mentions on the same page when he writes that

Unburned bones which proved too difficult to fragment were returned to the roaster and re-ignited with a new pile of bodies.


However, bones and even flesh tissue may often have survived incineration and failed to be re-incinerated at Treblinka, judging by the findings of Polish investigation commissions quoted after Mattogno & Graf in my article Polish investigations of the Treblinka killing site were a complete failure … (emphasis is mine):

In the northwestern section of the area, the surface is covered for about 2 hectares by a mixture of ashes and sand. In this mixture, one finds countless human bones, often still covered with tissue remains, which are in a condition of decomposition. During the inspection, which I made with the assistance of an expert in forensic medicine, it was determined that the ashes are without any doubt of human origin (remains of cremated human bones). The examination of human skulls could discover no trace of« wounding. At a distance of some 100 m, there is now an unpleasant odor of burning and decay.


So there may have been cases where the incineration product at Treblinka was similar to Bud’s incineration product – which of course wouldn't help Bud’s contentions at all.

Bud tells is viewers to «imagine how less cooked» the surviving piece of meat would be if it «had been surrounded by other peaces of meat insulating it». Actually other pieces of carcass would have made for a more efficient use of the fire that mostly was not needed to burn the one leg of lamb, as explained in my article about Bud’s clip # 23, and the extent to which they «insulated» would strongly depend on how much fat they contained. On the Treblinka grids, whole bodies consisting of flesh, bones and fatty tissues were surrounded by other whole bodies consisting of flesh, bones and fatty tissues, the fatty tissues of the bodies contributing to each other’s incineration as in mass incinerations of cattle, where this is probably the reason or an important reason why, as shown in the aforementioned article, mass incinerations of cattle have a lower fuel weight to carcass weight – ratio than individual incinerations. So Bud’s «insulation» guess seems to be at odds with the realities of mass-incinerating whole cattle carcasses or human bodies.

Next, Bud shows a loosely woven wire mesh screen and claims that the remains of his leg of lamb wouldn’t even have fit through that screen’s openings let alone those of a tightly woven wire mesh screen. The clip’s own images of Bud’s crushing the friable remains of the leg of lamb alone seem enough to contradict this claim. What is more, the devices used at Treblinka to pulverize the remains left on the grids were probably not sticks of the kind that Bud employed but massive wooden logs, as pointed out in this article. It’s not hard to imagine such logs grinding the burned remains to powder small enough to fit through a tightly-woven wire-mesh screen.

After the wire screen show, Bud turns to wasting space. He portrays an imaginary black circle in the middle of a football field, representing a pile with the burned remains of 1,600 people. The measurements of the circle seem to have been taken out of thin air, for Bud doesn’t explain how he established them. Around that imaginary circle, he portrays eight stations for crushing the burned remains on tin sheets with two workers per station, represented by smaller blue circles somewhat removed from each other. The first thing I asked myself when I saw this was: why the huge black circle in the middle? Why would they make piles of burned remains at Treblinka for the crushers to take the remains to be crushed from, when these remains could be taken to the crushing stations directly from the grids? Also, why so much space between the crushing stations, why waste space by arranging these stations in circle rather than lining them up right next to each other? It seems obvious that Bud considered a scenario for the crushing work that would require a lot more space than was actually required for this purpose at Treblinka.

Generosity also characterizes Bud’s guesses regarding the crushing stations' capacity: 1 body every 3 minutes, 20 per hour and 200 per 10 hour working day, so in 10 hours the 8 stations would be through with 1,600 bodies, and to crush the remains of 4,800 bodies per day or 750,000 bodies within 156 days, 3 piles and 24 stations would be required. Bud seems to have forgotten his own crushing exercise in the same clip, in which he managed to crush the friable remains of the leg of lamb within about ten seconds; had he used a wooden log of the kind that was probably used at Treblinka instead of his 4x4 inches stick, he would certainly have taken less time. Let’s discount a pound from the original weight of the leg of lamb for the peace of meat not burned to ashes, and we have ten seconds to crush the burned remains of about 5 kg of meat and bone, or 70 seconds to crush the remains of 35 kg of live body weight, which is likely to have been the average live weight of deportees to Treblinka or Belzec. If we instead take the too high average weight of 45 kg assumed by Mattogno, the time required to pulverize the remains of one body would be 90 seconds, i.e. half the time that Bud assumes. Bud's 24 stations would thus not process the remains of 4,800 bodies per day, but twice that many, and in order to process the remains of 4,800 bodies only 12 crushing stations would be required. Of course there are also more than just 10 daylight hours in Poland in the summer, when much of the burning and crushing took place, and the SS could have their slaves work around the clock if required anyway. What is more, the period during which incineration remains were crushed at Treblinka was probably longer than five months. On pages 170 of his book, Arad writes that

The cremation of the corpses in the camps of Sobibor and Belzec began in the autumn of 1942 and in Treblinka in March 1943.


The process of removing decomposed corpses from the mass graves and burning them lasted from April to the end of July 1943, according to Arad, who on page 177 writes that

In Treblinka, the camp command faced the most difficult task – unearthing over 700,000 corpses and cremating them while at the same time continuing to receive new transports with Jews for extermination. In this camp the entire operation lasted about four months, from April to the end of July 1943.


Yet the burning of bodies and crushing of remains went on well beyond the uprising in early August 1943, as Arad writes earlier on the same page:

The burning of the bodies, the scattering of ashes, and the refilling of the ditches went on for months. The mass graves, emptied of the victims’ bodies and refilled with the victims’ ashes and bits of their bones, were covered with a thick layer of earth. The cremation of the corpses in the death camps of Operation Reinhard continued until the last days of activity there.


Information provided later in the book suggests that even the removal and incineration of the bodies lying in the mass graves was far from finished at the end of July 1943. On page 280 we read the following:

During the second half of July, work in the extermination area was close to termination. There were no new transports, with the exception of a group of Gypsies and a transport of Jewish prisoners from Treblinka labor camp, both of which were taken straight to the gas chambers. More than three quarters of the burial pits in the camp had been opened, and the corpses extracted and cremated.


So about a quarter of the buried bodies still lay in the burial pits in the second half of July 1943, and it seems unlikely that they had all been removed by the end of the month. This assumption is confirmed by the following statement on page 288, which refers to the day of the uprising, 2 August 1943:

The prisoners employed at removing the bodies from the last ditches worked particularly hard that day so that the number of bodies they brought to the grills was far greater than that morning’s cremation capacity. The excess corpses remained lying near the grills.


The latter two excerpts Bud knows very well, for he referred to them in clip # 2 of his video. How come he forgot them when estimating the period during which incineration remains were being crushed at Treblinka?

On page 372, Arad mentions the last transports of Jews that were exterminated at Treblinka: sixty-seven freight cars from the Bialystok ghetto, which arrived on 18 and 19 August. There followed the dismantling of the camp during September/October 1943, and on November 17, the last transport, carrying equipment from the camp, departed. At the end of November, the last Jewish workers at Treblinka were shot and burned before Kurt Franz and his men left Treblinka (Arad, page 373).

If, as the above-quoted passage from page 177 of Arad’s book suggests, cremation of corpses and related activities at Treblinka lasted until the last days of activity there, and if bodies started being burned in March 1943, as Arad writes on page 170, it is possible that burned remains were being crushed at the camp until the end of October 1943 at least, about 7 months after they started incinerating bodies at Treblinka. So Bud’s calculations probably require correction also in this respect.

But there was no space anywhere in the Treblinka death camp section for this crushing activity, Bud now claims. His claim is based on, guess what, the map of Treblinka on page 39 of Arad’s book, which shows little room for a crushing area indeed. However, who said that this map is drawn to scale and meant to accurately portray the relative sizes and distances of the camp’s areas and the objects located thereon? Bud is again indulging in his by now familiar, rather primitive and transparent fallacy of using such un-scaled maps in order to determine areas and distances, the most egregious example of which was addressed in my article about clip # 13. What was said in regard to the map discussed there can also be said in regard to the Treblinka map on page 39 of Arad’s book: even a ten-year-old kid might realize, when looking at this map, that the same was meant to be not an accurate depiction of the relative sizes and distances of the areas and objects shown on it, but a mere means of visualizing the camp’s areas and objects so that accounts of events occurring in the camp could be more easily followed, and that the relative sizes and distances of the areas and objects shown on this map can therefore not be understood as corresponding to reality.

Maps of Treblinka drawn to scale are hard to come by; this map drawn by Peter Laponder is stated to be «probably the first map of the camp in which the features are drawn to scale (as close as possible) and the actual shape and size of the camp taken in consideration». As can be easily seen, this map shows plenty of space in the death camp sector, not occupied by mass graves, piles of sand, buildings or incineration grids, that could be used for an activity which, as we have seen above, did not occupy nearly as much space as Bud tries to make believe.

In his article The Reconstruction of Treblinka, Alex Bay shows the results of his reconstruction of the camp’s outlines and features based on analysis of air and ground photographs, for instance in Figure 14. On the basis of this figure, Sergey Romanov made this AutoCad calculation, which shows the area inside the camp’s inner perimeter identified by Bay (violet line and characters) to be ca. 85,840 square meters, as well as this calculation, which shows the death camp section of Treblinka (red line and characters) to have occupied an area of ca. 40,500 square meters. In his Figure 42, Bay demonstrates that the death camp section could hold nine pits with an area of 50 x 25 meters each, which according to his calculations would have been sufficient for 900,000 dead bodies; Bay’s simulative projection leaves a lot of space in the death camp for buildings, incineration grids and the crushing of the burned remains. And the area of the death camp section that can be deducted from Bay’s air photo analysis is smaller than the area of that section mentioned on page 41 of Arad’s book:

The extermination area, or "Upper Camp", as it was called by the Germans, was in the southeastern section; there the mass murders were carried out. This area was completely isolated from the rest of the camp by a wire fence camouflaged with branches, which prevented observation from the outside. The entrances were hidden by a special screen. The upper camp was approximately 200 x 250 meters.


To be sure, Bay’s and Laponder’s representations of the camp's areas and the sizes and distances of objects located thereon are but approximations, and in regard to the latter the following is expressly stated:

Note: This redrawn map should by no means be considered as an exact representation of the camp - this would never be entirely possible. There are simply too many discrepancies in all of the maps and witnesses' reports (due to causes as explained in points above).


However, these assessments show that both researchers made a considerable effort to reconstruct the camp’s features as accurately as data permitted. Not so our friend Bud, who simply looks at a map not drawn to scale and not purporting to contain an even approximately accurate rendering of relative sizes and distances in the camps, and uses this obviously unsuitable tool to draw conclusions that fit his pre-conceived notions.

After pulling the same cheap trick on Arad’s maps of Sobibor and Belzec, Bud then decorates his charlatanism with one of the most hilarious conspiracy theories of the whole movie: maps are supposed to reveal the «falsehood» of the whole «story», and this, Bud believes, may be the reason why Hilberg’s revised and definitive edition of The Destruction of the European Jews contains no map of any camp! One can only feel sorry for the deluded kindergarten reasoning that derives such puerile fantasies from obviously fallacious conjectures.

Bud seems to think that historians should be especially concerned with the mechanics of a killing and body disposal process rather than their task of reconstructing the background and development of events past, for he expresses profound shock at Hilberg’s having allegedly dedicated only one paragraph of the 1274 pages of his work to the crushing of «millions of human bodies». As I don’t have Hilberg’s three volumes at my disposal, I cannot check this claim. However, the paragraph on page 977 of Hilberg’s work that Bud takes issue with provides further examples of Bud's nonsensical reasoning and intellectual dishonesty. This paragraph, which I transcribed from a still of the video clip, reads as follows:

In addition to these devices, Kulmhof had something special – a bone crushing machine (Knochenmühle). On July 16, 1942, the deputy chief of the Gettoverwaltung, Ribbe, sent a letter to "Eldest of the Jews" Rumkowski requesting a canvass of the Lodz ghetto for a bone crusher, "whether manually operated or motor driven". He added openly, "The Sonderkommando Kulmhof is interested in this crusher" [Footnote 101]. The ghetto apparently had no such machine, for a few months later Biebow sent to the Lodz Gestapo the papers concerning the purchase of a mill from the firm Schriever and Company in Hamburg. Biebow asked the Gestapo to keep the sales record. "For certain reasons" he himself did not wish to keep it [Footnote 102]. When Höss visited Kulmhof, Blobel promised the Auschwitz commander that he would send him a mill "for solid substances" [Footnote 103]. However, Höss preferred to destroy his bone material with hammers [Footnote 104].


As we can see, Hilberg provides a sourced description of documented endeavors to obtain a bone crushing machine for the «Sonderkommando Kulmhof», which are further damning evidence to the murderous purpose of that special detachment and the extermination camp it ran. True to the German saying «Warum in die Ferne schweifen, wenn das Gute liegt so nah?» («Why go far away if good things are right next to you?»), the operators of Chelmno obviously procured a device they needed to remove the traces of their crimes at the nearest place at hand, the Lodz ghetto from which most of Chelmno’s Jewish victims came, and which had no fewer than 96 workshops and factories wherein Jews toiled at their German masters’ behest. An element of macabre irony in having the Jews contribute to their own destruction may also have been present in Gibbe’s request to Rumkowski. But the evidence to such both practical and callous thinking means nothing to good old Bud, who makes another idiotic fuss about the supposed absurdity of the SS not having procured a solution as elaborate and sophisticated as he believes the Manhattan Project would have. In doing so, he conveniently omits the fact that, when the effort to obtain the bone crushing machine from the Lodz ghetto failed, a mill (probably some kind of industrial crusher) was procured from a specialized German company. Once again, intellectual dishonesty meets inane "coulda-shoulda-woulda" – reasoning in Bud’s video.

Finally, as if he had not yet packed enough mendacious nonsense into this clip, Bud muses about the noise that crushing burned remains on tin sheets would have made and the fact that no eyewitness mentioned «constant pounding», and speculates that the tin sheets are in the «story» because «The storytellers didn’t always think of the best solution for things».

First of all, why would this pounding necessarily catch any eyewitness’s particular attention, assuming that the wooden logs they probably used made as much noise on tin sheets as Bud’s stick on his aluminum sheet, and that such noise was even all that noticeable among the noise of burning flames and excavators taking decomposed bodies out of mass graves? These people certainly had a number of more «interesting» things around them to catch their attention and stick in their memory.

Second, why are the tin sheets on which the burned remains were crushed supposed to have been an inadequate solution?

Because of the noise? Big deal.

Or because they were too «simple» a solution for our sophisticated Bud, who would have expected to see something more Manhattan Project – like instead?

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