Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thomas Kues on recent archaeological finds at Treblinka

It comes as no surprise that "Revisionist" coryphée Thomas Kues tries to explain the recent finds of Caroline Sturdy Colls at the site of Treblinka extermination camp in accordance with his "Revisionist" theories.

In his first article on the Inconvenient History blog site this year (also the first article after publication of the HC critique of Mattogno, Graf and Kues, about which he is instructively silent), Kues predictably makes a big deal out of the size of the presumable burial/cremation pits so far identified by Caroline Sturdy Colls, which is supposed to vindicate his pet theory that the number of Jews buried at Treblinka is far below the ca. 800,000 known to have been deported to that place in 1942/43 (Kues reckons on "a total of some 40,000 en route deaths" plus "a smaller percentage of the deportees" supposedly "subjected to “euthanasia” due to contageous or mental diseases, or for being too weak for further transport", plus "a smaller number of deaths among the camp inmates caused by epidemics etc, as well as those killed by guards in connection with attempts at escape or uprisings").

Kues’ stance is essentially based on the images shown below, which are included in the BBC news article Treblinka: Revealing the hidden graves of the Holocaust, apparently written by Caroline Sturdy Colls herself. These and other images in this blog can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Kues placed these two composite maps side by side and numbered the yellow areas designating "probable burial/cremation pits":

Regarding the pits numbered "1" and "2", Kues writes that they "together appear to have a surface area of some 600-700 square meters", are clearly outside the Treblinka "death camp" sector and "may be identical with the mass graves mentioned by the witness Abraham Kszepicki, in which the bodies of Jews who had died en route to the camp were buried during the first months of operation".

The mention of Abraham Kszepicki (also spelled Krzepicki) is quite interesting considering this witness's harrowing account of the eighteen days he spent in Treblinka death camp before managing to escape from that place. One need not wonder which parts of this witness's account Kues accepts as accurate and which he dismisses as inaccurate, and what criteria (other than convenience or inconvenience for the "Revisionist" position) the "inconvenient historian" applies to distinguish one from the other.

Regarding the pits numbered "3" to "10", Kues treats his readers to the following wisdom:

Altogether, pits #3-10 as mapped by Sturdy Colls cover a surface hardly exceeding 1,800 square meters. If again, for the sake of argument, we assume the no doubt overly generous average effective depth of 6 meters with vertical pit walls – and once more I want to remind my readers that the pits identified at Belzec and Sobibór averaged some 4 m in depth – this would mean that the “probable burial/cremation pits” in the “death camp proper”/”upper camp”/”camp 2″ [14] had a total volume of some (1,800 x 6 =) 10,800 cubic meters. The pits at Belzec as identified by Kola have a total estimated volume of 21,310 cubic meters,[15] whereas those at Sobibór have a total estimated volume of 14,718.75 cubic meters.[16] The no doubt greatly exaggerated estimate of 10,800 cubic meters could have contained at most some (10,800 x 8 =) 86,400 corpses (assuming instead a more realistic average effective depth of 5 m this figure would change to 72,000 – and this still disregards the likely enlargement of the original grave volumes due to clandestine diggings and other causes).

The antics of Kues and Mattogno about the mass graves at Sobibór and Bełżec have been refuted in Chapter 7 of the critique and need not be addressed here.

Kues' eyeballing and calculations regarding the Treblinka pit areas pointed out by Caroline Sturdy Colls, on the other hand, would be quite interesting - if the archaeologist had stated or there were any reasons to assume that she identified all and/or the complete size of the burial pits existing at Treblinka.

Of course this is not so, as becomes abundantly clear from the archaeologist's statements, some of which are quoted by Kues himself.

The following text, transcribed by Kues, is from the podcast interview on 23.01.2012 that was uploaded by the University of Birmingham "Ideas Lab" (emphases added):

Interviewer: So you’ve now presented your findings to the authorities responsible for the memorial at Treblinka. Does this conclude investigations at the Treblinka site or is it sort of an ongoing project?

Sturdy Colls: It’s absolutely an ongoing project. The survey demonstrated that the site has got huge potential in terms of what we can learn from the application of archaeological method and very much was the tip of the iceberg in terms of being the first survey of what I hope will be many more to come. I hope to return to the site later on this year and there will be subsequent seasons of fieldwork in coming years. As I mentioned, at the moment what we’ve got is a map of what survived at the camp as a result of my findings. However, in order to build up a map of the camp as it existed we need to do more work, we need to survey the site. Only a small proportion of the site has actually been surveyed so there’s huge potential to find out more about the history of this camp in the future.

This is from the BBC Radio 4 broadcast "Hidden Graves of the Holocaust" on 23 January 2012, 20:00 GMT (my transcription and emphases):

Rabbi Michael Schudrich:
The work that’s going on at Treblinka, there was no question of convincing, because it’s very important work that’s going on, as we want to know where the graves are.
Jonathan Charles: At the end of this, what do you think we are going to know that we don’t know now?
RMS: I think we are going to know if the method works. That’s the first thing we are going to know. There are graves somewhere, there are graves meaning, both of bones and also of burned bones. They have different compositions. This is a rather horrible thing to say in a calm voice, but that’s what you need to be able to understand when you’re dealing with death camps. There is a very high probability that we will be able to say, OK well we know that the boundaries of the mass graves are from here to there, and now we can properly map it out, and properly preserve it, because there’s a huge chance that right now people are walking over the mass graves, just because we don’t know where they are.
Caroline Sturdy Colls: The effect of burying something in the ground can either boost plant growth or it can limit it, and we’re seeing a lot on this particular site that there are areas where very little grows at all, and the kind of plants that do grow don’t have any roots, they just sit on the surface, so we can tell straight away just by looking that there’s going to be something buried under that, it’s a fact, the actual vegetation …
JC: So that means there’s something under here which preventing vegetation being rooted?
CSC: Essentially, yes, and also if you imagine that what the Germans were doing was mixing the ashes of the victims with the very sandy geology in this area and then putting it back into the earlier graves, then obviously that kind of combination of burned soil, burned sand, ashes, all together, is not a very nice environment for plants to grow, and nothing has reestablished itself since the war.
JC: Let’s walk on and see what else we can see in this forest area, then. Again, there’s almost a pit over there, you can see the indentation in the ground.
CSC: There is, and there is lots of these grouped[?] around this area of woodland, and this is where, a little bit further in, we have seen local families laying candles.
JC: So they obviously think there’s something here.
CSC: They do. I think it’s common knowledge that this part was the death camp, and largely the parts containing the graves are now in this area of forest, and we have actually been urged by a few visitors who’ve come here to look in the forest and not just be drawn to the open area there, which we will follow upon.
CSC: I’ve identified a number of buried pits using geophysical techniques. These are considerable. One in particular is 26 meters by 17 meters.
JC: That’s huge.
CSC: It is huge, that we’re talking a considerable number of bodies could have been contained within pits of that size.
JC: Well that could have contained hundreds, perhaps thousands of bodies. We do not know how deep it is, or do you know how deep it is?
CSC: Unfortunately no, the survey technology doesn’t allow us to go to certain depths. I know that it’s over 4 meters …
JC: Over four meters deep?
CSC: Yes. It’s a considerable pit.
JC: There are quite a few pits that you’ve discovered.
CSC: Absolutely. There are a number of pits, in particular to the rear of what is not the current memorial, five that are actually in a row, again of a considerable size, in an area where witnesses state this was the main body disposal area, this is behind the gas chambers, it was where the majority of victims who were sent there were then subsequently buried, and later where the cremated remains of victims were also placed.
JC: Caroline Sturdy Colls has presented her findings to the authorities responsible for the memorial at Treblinka, and there are many plans now being discussed for altering the site in the future: changes to the camp boundary, excavations of the buildings, but perhaps most important of all, marking out those mass graves, so that visitors won’t disturb them, and relatives can mourn.

And this is from the BBC news article Treblinka: Revealing the hidden graves of the Holocaust (emphases added):

But this work is just the beginning and further work is required to understand the complexity of the site.

This initial survey should be viewed as a start of what will hopefully be a long-term collaboration between myself and the Treblinka museum, aimed at providing new insights into the physical evidence, and allowing the victims of the Holocaust to be appropriately commemorated.

Does any of the above excerpts suggest that Caroline Sturdy Colls' work at Treblinka is considered finished, that all mass graves in the Treblinka area are considered to have been identified in their full extent?

Quite the contrary.

What Caroline Sturdy Colls has presented are the results of an initial survey, which she hopes will be followed by many others. What she has found so far "very much was the tip of the iceberg in terms of being the first survey of what I hope will be many more to come" Only a small proportion of the site has actually been surveyed so far. Vegetation changes suggest that there's much more in places that apparently have not been probed so far by geophysical means.

What is more, it seems that the areas covered by the memorial have not yet been subjected to geophysical probing, for none of the pits so far identified by Caroline Sturdy Colls are in these areas, and she doesn't mention whether she has already probed these areas with geophysical equipment, as Kues himself points out. In these areas one can expect a lot of ground disturbance that resulted from the construction of the memorial, thus making it more difficult to establish what subsoil changes correspond to original graves, and this may be the reason why geophysical assessment of these areas was not yet carried out but will be done only in the course of one or more future surveys. Caroline Sturdy Colls pointed out the identification problems resulting from subsequent soil changes in her podcast interview partially transcribed by Kues:

Issues such as post-war looting and the construction of the memorial itself and a number of other forms of landscape change that have taken place at the site, you know, could confuse interpretation so it was essential that all of these were considered when the results from the geophysical survey in particular were being assessed.

It being thus clear that the search for the Treblinka mass graves (and other archaeological features) is far from finished according to those carrying out the work or interested in seeing it done, are there any reasons to expect that the "presumable burial/cremation pits" pinpointed so far are the only such pits in the area of Treblinka extermination camp?

The answer to this question is clearly "no", if all relevant evidence is taken into consideration.

Besides the eyewitness testimonies (both from former inmates and former members of the camp staff), which mention burial pits much larger than those identified so far, this evidence includes air photography and postwar crime site investigation reports.

One of Caroline Sturdy Colls' superimposed maps:

clearly shows a vast expanse of churned-up soil between and around the place where the gas chamber builings are mapped and the five pits found to the rear of the current memorial. This area, which I have outlined in the image below, is partially covered by the memorial, while other parts of it are outside the memorial and largely covered by forest at present.

In an earlier blog, I argued that a part of this area is identical with the "area of cremation" shown in a 1945 survey map, where it was stated to be 1.8 hectares large. This was obviously the area described as follows in Judge Łukaszkiewicz' report of 29 December 1945:

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.

It must have been in this area that Łukaszkiewicz had ordered digging in a bomb crater (made by robbery diggers using explosives) in order to establish the depth of at least one of the former burial pits in this part of the camp, which he described as follows in his report of 13 November 1945:

The largest of the craters produced by explosions (numerous fragments attest to the fact that these explosions were set off by bombs), which is at maximum 6 meters deep and has a diameter of about 25 meters – its walls give recognizable evidence of the presence of a large quantity of ashes as well as human remains – was further excavated in order to discover the depth of the pit in this part of the camp. Numerous human remains were found by these excavations, partially still in a state of decomposition. The soil consists of ashes interspersed with sand, is of a dark gray color and granulous in form. During the excavations, the soil gave off an intense odor of burning and decay. At a depth of 7.5 meters the bottom was reached, which consisted of layers of unmixed sand. At this point the digging was stopped here.

It beggars belief that this area, visibly churned up on a 1944 air photograph and later described by Łukaszkiewicz as being covered with ashes and larger human remains, contains only the pits so far identified by Caroline Sturdy-Colls to the rear of the current memorial and those at the area's opposite end. What is far more probable is that these pits are part of larger pits now covered by the memorial or by forest, whose position and original shape - notwithstanding Kues' derisive remarks against Alex Bay and the eyewitness Wiernik - might well have been similar to those of the pits projected by Bay in Figure 42 of his article The Reconstruction of Treblinka.

Also in the area of the pits numbered "1", "2" and "3" by Kues, one sees significant ground disturbance on the 1944 air photo, suggesting the presence of further pits. Peter Laponder, as pointed out in my aforementioned blog, pointed out several rectangular pit shapes in this area, which overlap only partially if at all with the burial pits identified by Caroline Sturdy Colls in this part of the former camp:

Thus it's altogether reasonable to conclude that there is much more pit space in the Treblinka area than has so far been detected by geophysical means, and that at least some of the pits thus detected are parts of much larger pits.

It is accordingly reasonable to expect that much larger pit areas will be identified in the course of future surveys, if Caroline Sturdy Colls should be allowed to continue her excellent work, as seems likely and as I hope she will.

That being so, what's the point of Thomas Kues' making such a fuss about the results of what has expressly been called an initial survey?

The "Revisionist" coryphee's behavior is aptly characterized, in my opinion, by the remark made by RODOH poster "Balmoral" in connection with a similar undertaking by another "Revisionist":

Interesting how one radio show about an incomplete and ongoing incomplete, un-reviewed study can provoke chimps to paroxysms of auto head-slapping.

Kues also kindly showed that the ten pit areas so far identified by geophysical methods occupy only the smaller part of 1 hectare:

According to my earlier calculations regarding the capacity of the graves, the burial of 721,555 corpses at Treblinka would at most have required a volume of 60,130 cubic meters and an area of 8,841 m² - less than one hectare, and roughly 21-22 % of the "Death Camp" sector’s entire area.

Now to Kues' pit volume calculations. Assuming that his eyeballing of the yellow areas signaling "presumable burial/cremation pits" is fairly accurate, these calculations leave much to be desired.

It having been established in Judge Łukaszkiewicz' postwar crime site investigation (see the above quote from Łukaszkiewicz' report of 13 November 1945) that the depth of a burial pit in the "death camp" sector of Treblinka was 7.5 meters, assuming the witness Rosenberg's depth estimate of 6 meters for volume calculations is not "generous" but overly conservative. If pits "3" to "10" identified by geophysical methods have a total area of 1,800 square meters, as Kues claims, their arithmetic volume must be assumed to be (1,800 x 7.5 =) 13,500 cubic meters. If this volume is corrected for sloping with the factor 0.68, pursuant to Alex Bay's calculations for a pit 50 meters long, 25 meters wide and 10 meters deep, the volume available for burial in these pits would be 9,180 cubic meters.

Assuming a density of 8 corpses per cubic meter is exceedingly conservative if one takes into account the factors considered in my aforementioned grave capacity calculations, namely the relatively small size and malnutrition of most deportees, the presence of many children among them and the fact that they were not all buried at the same time and body volume reduction due to decomposition must thus have influenced the volume available for burial to some extent.

If the density of corpses in these 9,180 cubic meters of pit volume was 21 corpses per cubic meter (as it was at Bełżec according to my calculations, if all corpses were buried in the 33 pits discovered there by Prof. Andrzej Kola), these 8 pits (or parts of pits) alone contained (21x9,180=) 192,780 dead bodies. At the density considered by Alex Bay (ca. 12 corpses per cubic meter), they would have contained (12x9,180=) 110,160 dead bodies.

The pits numbered "1" and "2" have a surface area of 600 to 700 square meters, according to Kues. Let's take the lower value, multiply it by 7.5 and apply the sloping correction factor of 0.68, and we have a volume of 3,060 cubic meters available for burying corpses, which would take in between (12x3,060=) 36,720 and (21x3,060=) 64,260 dead bodies.

It is thus realistic to assume that the burial pits (or parts of pits) so far identified by geophysical methods contained at least 146,880, but perhaps as many as 257,040 dead bodies before the bodies were exhumed for cremation.

I'd like to see how Thomas Kues tries to marry either figure with his pathetic "deaths in transport plus euthanized deportees" conjectures (which, by the way, are not likely to make him friends in certain more wild-eyed circles of "Revisionism").

Considering the above, the pious wish expressed by Kues at the end of his article (that "the information revealed seems to hint that the findings of Caroline Sturdy Colls may well spell the doom of the official historiography on Treblinka") can - to use an expression of Kues' associates Mattogno & Graf - only evoke amusement.

Update, 29.01.2012:

CODOH comments about this article are discussed on the RODOH thread A message to Jonnie Hannover Hargis .... Regarding the recent comment posted by "Werd" (aka "Drew J", aka "Dr Jew"), see my post 13339.

Update, 02.02.2011:

See my RODOH posts 13342, 13343 and 13344.

Update, 03.03.2011:

See my RODOH post 13349.

1 comment:

Jonathan Harrison said...

Colls should be given credit for genuinely revising the history, such as when she says:

"Also with the topographic survey we’ve demonstrated that the camp as it’s marked currently on the ground by the modern memorial was actually much larger, that the boundaries of the camp should have been 50 metres further north and this has a knock-on effect for a number of structures within the camp itself. So we can examine it from a spatial point of view and look at all of these features in relation to each other and hopefully eventually start to build up a more detailed map of the camp as it existed during its operation."

That kind of genuine revision shows that she is not simply confirming earlier studies. Thomas Klueless has no idea how to deal with that.

Klueless also displays sincere or insincere stupidity, such as his assumption that surface area alone can be used to gauge volume, with no regard to depth. He also ignores Colls' brilliant observation that the Nazis used different burial and reburial methods in different parts of the camp: there was no "one size fits all" method. She also rejects the Straw Man that all bones had to be successfully cremated; she even notes that the Germans left fully intact bodies in some areas, as they did in the T1 labour camp.

Kues has not confronted even a small fraction of the complexity of Colls' work; partially because he is a liar and partially because he is intellectually incapable of grasping the underlying science.