Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Animal Carcass Burning Experiments by Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé

In his persistent attempts to get rid of historical facts inconvenient to his ideological beliefs, "Revisionist" coryphée Carlo Mattogno sometimes unwillingly divulges material that helps the deconstruction and exposure of "Revisionist" nonsense.

A case in point is the translation in Mattogno&Graf's Treblinka Extermination Camp or Transit Camp of the reports dated 13.11.1945 and 29.12.1945 by Polish examining judge Zdzisław Łukaszkiewicz about his investigations of the Treblinka extermination camp crime site.

Another is the translation in Mattogno's Belzec book of Regional Investigative Judge Czeslaw Godzieszewski's report of 12 October 1945 and the related coroner's report of 13 October 1945, both about mass graves and human remains found in the area of Belzec extermination camp, which is mentioned as a favor of Mattogno's to historiography in my blogs "Muehlenkamp accepts nafcash's challenge" - 10th Update and Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (3).

Yet another is found in Mattogno's article about his Combustion Experiments with Flesh and Animal Fat.

In this otherwise unremarkable article (the fallacies of one of Mattogno’s experiments described in this article have been exposed on the Axis History Forum by the poster "Pangea" in his post of 13 Dec 2004, 21:35; see also Sergey Romanov's blog Recovery of liquid human fat from pyres is impossible...), Mattogno did me the favor of copiously quoting the writings of German engineer Wilhelm Heepke, which I took advantage of for my blogs Incinerating corpses on a grid is a rather inefficient method … and Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (4,2).

Particularly interesting in Heepke's writings quoted by Mattogno is the reference to burning experiments carried out in the early 20th Century by two German veterinarians, Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé of Cologne. These professionals managed to burn carcasses on grids over pits in a rather short time and with rather low fuel expenditure, their most satisfactory results being achieved by a method in which a pit was excavated inside a larger pit and the carcass was placed on a grid upon the inner, smaller pit (which contained the burning material ignited to set the carcass on fire) below ground inside the outer, larger pit. In my blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (4,2) I pointed out the similarities between the carcass burning methods applied by Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé on the one hand and the methods applied for burning the corpses of those murdered at the Aktion Reinhard(t) extermination camps Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, which come across as applications on an enormous scale of Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé’s methods, or some of those methods. I observed that

A lot of fuel might be saved in future epidemics or other catastrophes requiring cremation of carcasses or human corpses if someone took a closer look at these experiments made in the early 20th Century and adopted the methods successfully applied there. SS-Unterscharführer Floss may have done just that at the Aktion Reinhard(t) camps.

Mattogno has a problem with Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profe’s experiment results referred to by Heepke, insofar as they pointed to the possibility of burning animal carcasses and human corpses with much less wood than would correspond to the ratio (3.5 kg of wood per kg of carcass/corpse) that Mattogno assumed on the basis of his own experiments. He tried to solve that problem by assuming that Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé had not achieved a complete combustion of the carcasses but only "more or less complete carbonization". From his aforementioned article:

It can be seen from the experiments described by Heepke that the ratio of fuel to flesh is always less than one; in other words, the combustion of one kilogram of flesh requires less than one kilogram of fuel - more precisely, between 0.39 and 0.80 kilograms of wood. We have to state, though, that the aim of the experiments was only to render hygienically harmless the carcasses of animals that had died from infectious diseases; for this, a more or less complete carbonization was all that was required. That the result was not an incineration, i.e., a complete reduction of the carcass to ash, can be deduced from the fact that Heepke published a table reflecting the practical results of animal incinerators built by the H. Kori company of Berlin (see document 4). The results show that the largest type of equipment of this kind, oven 4b, was able to incinerate 900 kg of flesh in 12 1/2 hours using 300 kg of hard coal. This fuel has a heating value 2.5 times that of ordinary wood; hence, such an oven would have required as much or even more wood than a burning pit - which is obviously impossible.

In my aforementioned blog I questioned Mattogno’s reasoning as follows:

Mattogno’s claim that the grid burning trials described by Heepke resulted only in a "more or less complete carbonization" rather than a complete reduction of the carcass to ash is somewhat less than convincing for several reasons. One is that Heepke obviously doesn’t mention such restriction, and the methods involving a grid that he describes are obviously understood as alternatives to the "simplest procedure", that of burning the carcass directly on the fuel inside a pit 2.5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide and deep, which leads to the carcass being "completely consumed". It stands to reason that this must also have been the result of the methods Heepke described as alternatives to this "simplest procedure". Another reason is that open-air pits may have a better draft than the animal incinerators operating at the time of Heepke’s studies, which may have accounted for similar or lower fuel consumption in the former, even though Mattogno considers this "obviously impossible". Yet another reason is that the open-air burning experiments described by Heepke made use not only of wood, but also of highly flammable substances like straw, tar and resin, the calorific contributions of which must be added to that of the wood for a proper comparison. It thus seems arguable that the result of Heepke’s grid burning experiments was the same as that of the "simplest procedure" of pyre burning or that of the burning in a contemporary animal incinerator, i.e. a complete combustion of the carcass. Earlier in this section I quoted present-day sources about open-air incineration of carcasses, which clearly show that the desired result is reducing the carcasses to ashes, and not merely carbonizing them.

As I recently found out through various articles kindly made available to me by Sergey Romanov (who is indebted to Prof. John Zimmerman and Christian Mentel for the German articles), my reasoning that Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé must have achieved a complete reduction of their carcasses to ash is confirmed by none other than Dr. Lothes and Dr. Profé themselves, in the article in which they described their experiments. My English translation of that article (Dr. Lothes und Dr. Profé, "Zur unschädlichen Beseitigung von Thiercadavern auf dem Wege der Verbrennung", in: Berliner Thierärztliche Wochenschrift, Year 1902, No. 37, pp. 557 to 560) can be read in my post of 03/03/12 18:31:14 on the HC forum. [Updated on 03.03.2012 to replace broken link - RM.]

The results of Lothes & Profé's experiments are described throughout as "complete combustion" (vollständige Verbrennung) of the respective carcass. What exactly is meant by "complete combustion" becomes apparent from the authors' detailed description of one of their experiments on 15 July 1902 (my translation, emphasis mine):

On 15 July the skinned carcass of a horse together with the viscera, weighing 12 cwt, was burned in an open fire. The fire was burning inside a pit about 1 meter deep. The carcass was placed on two iron T-carriers two meters long placed across the pit. Besides low amounts of straw 2 cwt of wood, 3 cwt of briquettes and 25 kg of coal tar served as burning material. At first a ½ cwt of wood and 1 cwt of briquettes were set on fire below the carcass drenched in tar, the remaining part of the burning material being gradually added as necessary. The whole thing was set on fire at 6 hours in the afternoon. In the following afternoon at 2 hours, that is 20 hours later, only a weakly smoking heap of ashes was left. The smoke developed was considerable only as long as the tar was burning. The costs were 2.40 marks for 2 cwt of wood (at 1.20 marks per unit), 2.10 marks for 3 cwt of briquettes (at 0.70 marks per unit) and 2.25 marks for 25 kg of coal tar (at 0.09 marks per unit), altogether 6.75 marks.

The carcass was reduced to a weakly smoking heap of ashes, and it is unlikely than any lesser result would have satisfied Lothes & Profé, considering that they were looking for a means to render harmless the carcasses of animals killed by anthrax. As the authors pointed out and in their article, anthrax bacilli can form extraordinarily resistant spores, which can remain in the soil for "years and decades". As experimentally demonstrated by Lothes & Profé, these bacilli are able to survive in dry spleen pulp and to pass with the help of water through strata six feet thick of very compact sand and gravel in about thirty hours. One therefore shouldn't take any chances with anthrax bacilli, but Lothes & Profé were confident of having developed a method whereby it would be possible to safely destroy anthrax carcasses with relatively limited means – and also in a rather short time, at least when applying the "double pit" burning method they recommended. The experiments of Lothes & Profé were duly noted at the time also outside Germany, as is shown by an excerpt from the 1902 Eighth Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture transcribed in my post of 03/03/12 19:08:23 on the HC forum. [Updated on 03.03.2012 to replace broken link - RM.]

So Mattogno could have saved himself the trouble of his own experiments, the results of which (if accurately rendered by Mattogno) are irrelevant because the experiments were carried out with small amounts of flesh and bone (data from mass cremation of animal carcasses would have been a better basis) and according to methods somewhat different and obviously much less efficient than those applied by Lothes & Profé. All Mattogno needed to do was to obtain Lothes & Profé’s article, like Sergey did with the kind help of Christian Mentel and Prof. Zimmerman. But of course this was not in Mattogno's interest, as it would have kept him from assuming that Lothes & Profé had not achieved complete combustion and from using his own experiments to claim a wood weight to corpse weight ratio that supported his preposterous calculations of wood requirements for burning hundreds of thousands of corpses at Belzec and Treblinka.

Lothes & Profé's article allows for calculating the wood equivalent weight per kg of carcass according to the authors’ own method, i.e. with Verdampfungseinheiten (evaporation units) as common denominator and ignoring the flammable substances used for ignition (coal tar or resin) because their amount was negligible. An evaporation unit is the amount of water that a combustible substance can evaporate. 1 kg of wood can evaporate 9 kg of water, thus 1 kg of wood corresponds to 9 evaporation units. 1 kg of brown coal corresponds to 12 evaporation units as it can evaporate 12 kg of water. The fuel efficiency of Lothes & Profés experiments is expressed in evaporation units (E.U.) per kg of carcass, which I convert into kg of wood per kg of carcass by dividing through 9:

Experiment I (carcass placed on pit above ground): 4.5 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.5 kg of wood per kg of carcass)
Experiment II (carcass placed on pit above ground): 3.88 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.43 kg of wood per kg of carcass)
Experiment III (carcass placed on pit above ground): 6.75 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.75 kg of wood per kg of carcass)
Average of experiments I to III: 5.04 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.56 kg of wood per kg of carcass)
Experiment IV (carcass placed on inner pit below ground): 3.65 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.41 kg of wood per kg of carcass)
Experiment V (carcass placed on inner pit below ground): 4.76 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.53 kg of wood per kg of carcass)
Experiment VI (carcass placed on inner pit below ground): 4.50 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.5 kg of wood per kg of carcass)
Average of experiments IV to VI: 4.30 E.U. per kg of carcass (= 0.48 kg of wood per kg of carcass)

As I demonstrated in my blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (4,1), the average weight of the mostly malnourished Jews transported from Polish ghettos to Belzec extermination camp was 34 kg. This means that the 434,508 Jews transported to Belzec according to Höfle’s report to Heim of 11 January 1943 had a total life weight of 434,508 x 34 = 14,773,272 kg. Burning this mass of human corpses would have required 14,773,272 x 0.56 = 8,278,504 kg or 8,279 tons of wood at an average wood weight to corpse weight ratio like that of Lothes & Profé's experiments I to III, 14,773,272 x 0.48 = 7,063,813 kg or 7,064 tons of wood at a ratio like that of Lothe & Profé's experiments IV to VI.

As the corpses were mostly not burned when having their life weight but in a state of advanced decomposition with related dehydration, the average corpse weight at the time of burning was much lower than 34 kg. According to the calculations in my blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (4,2), the average weight of a Belzec corpse at the time of burning was 17 kg, which puts the total weight of Belzec corpse mass to be burned at 434,508 x 17 = 7,386,636 kg and the required amount of wood at 7,386,636 x 0,56 = 4,139,252 kg = 4,139 tons or 7,386,636 x 0,48 = 3,531,906 kg = 3,532 tons of wood. Bringing this amount of wood into the camp by truck (the actual amount to be brought in would be somewhat lower considering that much wood was obtained in the camp's forest neighborhood) would require ca. 706 to 828 truckloads of 5 tons, which, assuming that the burning process lasted for a total of 135 days, would mean ca. 5 to 6 truckloads of wood per day on average.

Mattogno (who, to be fair, also exaggerated the number and average life weight of the corpses and neglected the effect of decomposition on the corpses’ average weight, besides low-balling the number of days of cremation operations at Belzec) tried to make the readers of his Belzec book believe that 96,000 tons of wood would have been required to dispose of Belzec’s victims by burning, and that 42 freight car loads or over 200 truckloads of wood would have had to be brought into the camp every day.

96,000 vs. 3,532 to 4,139 tons of wood, 200 vs. 5 to 6 truckloads per day. As Sergey aptly put it in another blog, Mattogno has so much egg on his face he could sell it for a decent sum of money.


Sergey Romanov said...

"The smoke developed was considerable only as long as the tar was burning."

This is relevant to Wahrheit's question about smokes from pyres at

Wahrheit said...

Indeed, very relevant.

So, the cremation of a horse carcass only produced "considerable" smoke from one of the burning materials, and only for a limited time?

I think this cements the view that the smoke/or non smoke from a cremating corpse depends entirely on the material used to cremate the corpse. Oil and coal tar would smoke, as would certain types of wood depending on its moisture level and type.

How long this smoke would last for maybe another issue, but I think, much like with Drs. Lothes and Profe's experiment, the smoke would only be considerable until that material is burned away, or heated to a significant degree.

Richey said...

I think we need to be very careful to make sure that none of the materials being used in these animal incinerators are harming the environment in any way.