Sunday, September 09, 2012

Auschwitz Labour Force Reports as Evidence of Sinister Activity at the Crematoria

Several fragmentary records from the year 1944 are known on the number of prisoners deployed at the crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The known (published) records cover crematoria prisoner’s strength for days in January, February, April, May, July, August and October 1944. Some reports are available online at the Holocaust History Project website.


Date (1944)
Strength of crematoria detail
28.7 - 29.7
1.8 - 8.8
10.8 -19.8
22.8 - 30.8
3.10 - 8.10
9.10 - 26.10
28.10 - 31.10
                       (data from Carlo Mattogno, Auschwitz: Open Air Incinerations [AOAI], p. 80 ff.)

For May 1944, there are in average 25 deaths documented per day in Birkenau according to Revisionist/negationist Carlo Mattogno, AOIA, p. 78, but he estimates the actual figure to be 50 deaths. At such daily rate, the crematoria only needed a small team of stokers as well as corpse stretchers, and even then they were unemployed most of the day (50 corpses were incinerated in a single big crematorium within 3.5 hours, or if all crematoria participated in about 1 hour; all rates without considering multiple cremations and overlapping cremation cycles, which in fact drastically reduced the cremation time further).

There is no apparent reason why any more than 15 workers were required to dispose of the corpses. Indeed, such a figure would also correlate with the 6 corpse stretchers listed in the labour force report of 2 August 1944 and who brought the deaths to the crematoria. To be on the safe side, let us quadruple (!) the figure and assume that 60 workers correspond to the number of prisoners needed to carry out the work at the crematoria if only “natural deaths” were disposed of there.

The actual number of prisoners assigned to the crematoria in 1944 was well above this estimation and in fact 3 to 15 times higher (note that the drop on 14 May 1944 to 90 stokers was due to Sunday and can be ignored here).

The possible explanation of hidden unemployment can be excluded, as crematoria’s stoker is undoubtedly one of the least details one would place unemployed prisoners to hide them in the records and many more suitable details for this supposed purpose did not undergo the drastic increase the crematoria details were  subjected to between May and July 1944.

According to Mattogno, AOIA, p. 75, the total number of employed prisoners in Birkenau increased from 6804 to 8830 between 15 May and 28 July1944. The Kanada detail (collecting and sorting the effects of the deported Jews) increased from 133 to 590 prisoners (Archives of the Auschwitz State Museum, D-AuII-3a, 6a, data supplied by Nick Terry). The crematoria detail increased from 318 to 903 prisoners.

Therefore, the crematoria and the Kanada detail made up 5% and 2% of working prisoners in Birkenau on 15 May 1944 but were responsible for 29% and 23% of the increase of labour force up to 28 July. The selective boost of the strength in these particular details strongly suggests a real need for workforce rather than a policy of hidden unemployment. In fact, the large number of prisoners in the Kanada detail was obviously needed for moving and sorting the vast amounts of effects taken away from the deported Hungarian Jews at the time.

The crematoria detail strength far exceeded what one would expect based on the known or estimated death toll among registered prisoners, which provides a hint that the number of corpses accumulated in Auschwitz exceeded the “natural deaths” among registered prisoners. The same conclusion was already obtained from simultaneous activity of crematoria and open incineration sites on aerial photographs (see The Auschwitz open air incineration photographs as evidence for mass extermination)

In the reports of July - September 1944, 870 workers (i.e. the vast majority) of the crematoria are identified as “stokers”. But also at full load and reduced corpse introduction intervals, this number of prisoners could not have actually worked at the crematoria ovens. The mentioned aerial and ground photographs identify open air cremation behind crematorium 5 as another working place, but even if assuming 30 stokers per crematorium and 100 stokers for the outdoor sites the sum is still way off the actual workforce listed.

Likely, a large part of the 870 “stokers” was not at all involved in firing and loading ovens or open air incineration sites. It should be emphasized that it was not necessary in this kind of reports to identify the actual work of the detail – its location was already entirely sufficient in numerous cases. Hence, it cannot be argued that the term was used simply because a specific job had to be mentioned formally, and stoker would be the one associated first with a crematorium.   

Rather, the misleading and partially false designation suggests it was explicitly (but rather clumsy) attempted  to provide an innocent job description (as, in principle, stoker is a perfectly normal occupation in a crematorium), which indicates the crematoria details were not that innocent at all and there was something special about it. Indeed, the Jewish crematoria prisoners were referred to as Sonderkommando (special squad) in a contemporary German document (see Carlo Mattogno and crematoria Sonderkommandos) and this is well confirmed by numerous testimonies (including SS personnel and the crematoria workers themselves).

There is no documentary evidence known so far when exactly the massive increase of the crematoria personnel by almost 300% between 15 May and 28 July did take place. But according to testimonial evidence from former members of the detail (Milton Buki [Frankfurt Auschwitz trial], Filip Müller [Frankfurt Auschwitz trial], HenrykTauber) the increase was carried out during the deportation of Hungarian Jews (16 May - 11 July 1944), according to the latter two early during the operation. Indeed, a Hungarian prisoner employed in the crematoria detail (Dov Paisikovic [Frankfurt Auschwitz trial]) testified that 250 Hungarian Jews (including him) were added to the crematoria detail in late May 1944.


The labour force reports also list the number of guards assigned to work details. At first sight, the assignment of 22 guards to the 903 prisoners of the crematoria detail (1 guard per about 40 prisoners) on 2 August 1944 seems not particularly high and suspicious. However, this changes dramatically if compared against other work details. In fact, the vast majority of commandos employed at the Birkenau camp or in the SS garrison were not provided with any specific guarding in the labour force reports at all.

For example, the 2August 1944 male labour force report of Birkenau indicates that - as a rule - only outside work details (e.g. in Auschwitz sub camps) were given guards, while work details in the camp or in the SS garrison were not - with three exceptions: the flusher detail (Kanalreiniger), the side track detail for Birkenau (Gleisanschluss KL. II)…and the crematoria detail.

It stands to reason that usually only details operating beyond the chain of guards were provided with specific guarding in the labour force reports, which is obvious for the outside details, but may very well be also the case for the flusher detail and sidetrack detail. Although they were listed as working in or at the camp, for all we know they were also operating in a less secured area.

However, this was certainly not the case for the crematoria details. Quite contrary, the crematoria were located within the inner chain of guards, enclosed by electrically loaded barbed wire fence and guard towers. There was even a second camouflage fence around them.

Thus, the crematoria detail was intrinsically well secured and according to the rule and logic of the labour force reports, did not require any additional guarding. As a matter of fact, the Kanada detail, which was of comparable size or only half the strength of the crematoria detail (depending on the date in summer 1944) and located just next to the crematoria sites, was not provided with a single guard in the reports.

In terms of percentages, the crematoria detail consisted of about 10% of the prisoners employed in the camp or in the SS garrison according to the 2 August (or 28 July) 1944 labour force report, but was guarded by 75% (or 30%) of the SS guards assigned - while one would expect 0% (thus, zero guards) since the detail was already secured by the barbed wire fence and an (inner or outer) chain of guards.

It is also noteworthy that the number of guards increased about twice as much as the numbers of prisoners between 15 May and 28 July 1944, indicating that their number was not only scaled with the number of prisoners but also with certain activity at the site.

Revisionist arguments

Carlo Mattogno was rather vague in his explanation of the excessive crematoria strength in summer 1944 (“the most plausible motive is an administrative one”, “it was necessary…to reduce the number of those unemployed”, AOAI, p. 75), but it smells like the hidden unemployment hypothesis, originally expressed by “Cat Scan” in 2001 at the old CODOH discussion forum.

What exactly the 903 prisoners (minus few dozens needed for body disposal of “natural death” among registered prisoners) were supposed to do all day long (and night!) or why one of the least suitable details making up less than 5 % of the workforce was picked to carry more than 1/3 of the supposed hidden unemployment between 15 May and 28 July 1944, Revisionist did not bother to explain.

Or to provide evidence that there was substantial (non-sinister, see below) hidden unemployment in Birkenau to begin with…and why. As a matter of fact, it is far from evident in the framework of this hypothesis, why the Auschwitz SS was not transferring people fit for work to labour camps, where they were actually needed and requested, and people unfit for work to one of those numerous family camps that existed somewhere and somehow according to the Revisionist narrative and where hundreds of thousands of sick, children and elderly were already sent to (for the sake of argument).

Mattogno also thought he could disprove the massive crematoria strength was due to mass extermination. He argued that the strength of ≈ 400 crematoria workers in January and February 1944 with only claimed 190 average gassed victims per day “clearly shows that there is no relationship between the workforce in the crematoria and the claimed gassings” (AOAI, p. 72), if compared against the 360 prisoners testified by Henryk Tauber working in the crematoria in summer 1944 with “9,200 victims per day”.

First of all, Mattogno is comparing apples with oranges by contrasting the daily average of early 1944 to the peak figure of summer 1944.

But more importantly, the entire argument is based on a misconception of the Sonderkommando history. Mattogno assumes that if the mass extermination is true, the Sonderkommando strength would have been adjusted daily or weekly or monthly to the actual number of victims. But it is a priori not clear why the assumption should be reasonable from the perspective of the Auschwitz SS in charge of the mass extermination, but it is also contradicted by the available evidence on the Sonderkommando history. 

From the testimonies of SK members such as Filip Müller, Henryk Tauber, Shlomo Dragon and Stanislaw Jankowski, it can be deduced that the policy was to provide the crematoria detail with a prisoner’s strength to handle mid-term peak activity in 1943 - 1944. Several concerns of the camp administration about the Sonderkommando can be guessed: a) having a reliable team of workers, b) who can cope with the dirty work and c) who are separated from the other prisoners as they were “secret carriers” directly involved in the mass murder.

A practice of daily or weekly large scale transfers and liquidations among the SK prisoners - as assumed by Mattogno - was conflicting with concerns a) and c). Their inevitable unemployment during periods with lesser extermination activity as well as regularly high strength (and related increased impact of a possible revolt) was apparently accepted as the lesser evil. Ironically, this can be seen as a real case of “hidden unemployment”, but not in a sense Revisionists would like it to be and only reasonable in the context of mass murder or some other highly sinister activity.

The small fluctuation of the crematoria strength in January and February 1944 remains unexplained in this context but is also less relevant given the small scale and few data points. 

More significant is the drop between 15 February and 20 April 1944 by 187 prisoners, which is most likely explained by the deportation of about 200 members of the Sonderkommando to Majdanek concentration camp and transfer of 19 Russian POWs and a capo from Majdanek to the SK in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Russian POWs revealed the 200 Sonderkommandos were liquidated in Majdanek. 

These incidents were described by Salmen Lewenthal (buried handwriting of October/November 1944, Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 230, anachronistically placed in summer 1944), Chaim Herman (buried handwriting of 6 November 1944, Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 264, dated it 24 February 1944), Stanislaw Jankowski (testimony of 16 April 1945, Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 50), Henryk Tauber (testimony of 24 May 1945, note the exaggerated figure of 300 prisoners transferred to Majdanek), Filip Müller (Auschwitz Inferno, p. 90, however, at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial Müller placed the event in summer 1943 and remembered only 30 SK sent to Lublin).

The episode indicates that the camp administration anticipated a lower short but also mid term peak activity for the extermination sites in February 1944 and adjusted the Sonderkommando strength accordingly. 

In May 1944 the Jewish transports from Hungary were about to roll to Auschwitz and triggered a drastic change in the normal extermination activity. The Sonderkommando was not only strengthened to operate the crematoria at full capacity again, but additional outdoor extermination and body disposal sites were employed.

Mattogno claimed the "it is not known when it rose to 900 detainees" [AOAI, p. 70]. I would like to put it more precisely: he does not know, because he prefers to stuff his fingers into his ears not to hear what people who were actually there at the time had to say. From testimonial evidence (Tauber, Müller, Paisicovic), we know that most likely the boost occurred early during the Hungarian operation.

Between September and early October 1944, the Sonderkommando strength dropped by about 200 prisoners again. Mattogno thinks "nothing prevents us from believing that the 212 missing detainees were transferred to another camp or assigned to other Kommandos". This is not entirely correct. There is actually something which prevents us from believing this - it is called evidence.

On 26 September 1944, the camp resistance reported that 200 Sonderkommandos were gassed in a delousing facility in Auschwitz main camp (Danuta Czech, Kalendarium).

Jozef Bialostocki testified on 25 February.1945 that 200 members of the Sonderkommando were gassed in the Auschwitz main camp in July 1944 (State Archive of the Russian Federation, f. 7021, op. 108, d. 6, l. 142, courtesy of Sergey Romanov). Santiu (?) Colette testified on 6 March 1945 that 200 - 220 Sonderkommando prisoners were gassed in the main camp in August or September 1944 (State Archive of the Russian Federation, f. 7021, op. 108, d. 10, l. 91, courtesy of Sergey Romanov).

Pery Broad wrote in a report written in May 1945 that several hundreds of SKs were gassed in autumn 1944 (Auschwitz in den Augen der SS). The report is fairly reliable by the way. Filip Müller testified on 8 October 1964 that he heard the Sonderkommandos selected some weeks prior the uprising (early October 1944) were gassed in the main camp. Jacov Gabai stated 200 Sonderkommandos were killed on 18 September 1944 (Greif, We wept without tears, p. 194).

One of the most serious but also blatant flaws throughout Mattogno's works: if something is not written in a German document, we do not know about it; a contemporary Polish or Jewish document is usually worth "nothing" for him. And a post-war testimony anyway. The inevitable result is a highly selective and distorted narrative of the events full of gaps and holes.

Another hole in his narrative is what happened in Auschwitz on 7 October 1944, when three SS men were killed. Two days later the Sonderkommando strength dropped by 449 prisoners and the next day crematorium 4 was not manned at all anymore indicating massive damage at its site. Mattogno does not know exactly what was going on here since it is not explained in any contemporary German document and well, you know where his fingers still stuck.

The killing of the SS men, the destruction of crematoria 4 and the reduction of of the largest part of the crematoria detail were the result of the Sonderkommando revolt. The incident was - for example -  described by SS men Josef Erber, Stefan Baretzki, Karl Broch, Pery Broad and prisoners Maximilian Sternol, Eliezer Eisenschmidt, Milton Buki, Shaul Chasan, Jiri Beranovsky, Filip Müller, Leon Cohen (see appendix S here) and in the 1944 buried handwriting of Salmen Lewenthal  (Inmitten des grauenvollen Verbrechens, p. 240 f.).

Of course, testimonial evidence needs to be carefully analysed (as does documentary evidence by the way, even - or especially - German documents may contain selective and falsified information, see for instance Evidence on the systematic falsification of death causes in Auschwitz). But simply ignoring or dismissing without any profound reason is certainly not what is commonly understood under proper evaluation of evidence.

Both the numbers of prisoners working at the crematoria as well as the number of guards assigned to them were extraordinary and anomalously high, which is evidence of heavy body disposal or some extremely sinister activity at the sites - or both.

On the other side, Revisionists failed to provide reasonable explanations for the huge and highly secured "Sonderkommando" at the crematoria within the framework of their hypothesis that no mass murder occurred in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

21 November 2018: updated dead links.

1 comment:

  1. Despite their vein attempt to keep the death factories at Birkanau a 'Reich Secret', the inevitable Nazi O.C.D for record keeping and progress reports sent by sycophants (despite being fragmentary) build a clear picture of events on the ground that corroborate eye-witness accounts from both sides. Articles like this rip Revisionist lies to shreds. Thank you for sharing.


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