Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 5: Construction Documents, F: Cremation with Simultaneous Special Treatment

Cremation with Simultaneous Special Treatment (I)

On 29 January 1943, the AEG engineer Tomitschek and the member of the SS central construction office Auschwitz Swoboda set up a memo with the following conclusion:
"As a result of this, it is not possible to complete the installation and electricity supply of crematorium 2 in the Prisoner of War Camp by January 31, 1943. It is only possible to complete the crematorium for operation earliest by February 15, 1943 using materials that are in stock for other building projects. This operation can only involve a limited use of the available machines (whereby is made possible burning with simultaneous special treatment), because the main electricity supply to the crematorium is not capable to carry its power consumption."
(Van Pelt Report, my emphasis; note that Van Pelt has misunderstood the memo in his works as meaning that the "Engineer Tomitschek...warned the Auschwitz Builaing Office, the capacity of the temporary system would not allow for simultaneous 'special treatment' and incineration", whereas the document states the very opposite, as pointed out by Carlo Mattogno)

Mattogno disputes that "special treatment" is having a criminal and incriminating meaning in this document, since the ventilation of corpse cellar 1 (the gas chamber) was not yet installed by 29 January 1943:
"Summarizing, the 'available machines' on January 29, 1943, were:
  • three forced-draft units (Saugzug-Anlagen) of the chimney, each with a blower 625 D (Gebläse 625 D), 294 with a 3-phase 380 volts 15 HP motor.
  • five compressed-air devices (Druckluft-Anlagen) of the crematorium ovens, each with a blower 275 M (Gebläse Nr. 275 M) with a 3-phase 380 volts 3 HP motor running at 1420 rpm (Drehstrommotor 3 PS, n = 1420/Min. 380 Volt)
The machines that were planned but were, as yet, non-existent were:
  • Be- und Entlüftungsanlage (aeration/de-aeration) for “B-Raum” (2 motors, 3-phase 380 volts, 2 HP)
  • Entlüftungsanlage (de-aeration) for the furnace hall (1 motor a 3-phase 380 volts, 3.5 HP)
  • Entlüftungsanlage (de-aeration) for Sezier-, Aufbahrungs- u. Waschraum (dissecting, laying-out and washroom) (1 motor 3-phase 380 volts, 1 HP)
  • Entlüftungsanlage (de-aeration) for 'L-Raum' (1 motor 3-phase 380 volts, 5.5 HP)
  • 'Plateauaufzug' (flat-plate elevator).
Hence, the non-existent machines precluded the use of Leichenkeller 1 as a homicidal gas chamber. However, even if the limited use of the existing machines – i.e. those of the forced-draft and the blowers for theovens – had permitted 'incineration with simultaneous special treatment,' then it is clear that this 'special treatment' not only cannot have any connection with the alleged homicidal gas chamber in Leichenkeller 1, but would inevitably have a close relationship with the machines in question, especially with the incineration itself: the 'special treatment' referred to a treatment of corpses, not of people alive."
(Mattogno, ATCFS [2010], p. 196; he developed this argument in the late 90s, repeated it in 2004)

I've rebutted this argument more than 10 years ago at the now defunct and deleted RODOH (Real Open Debate on the Holocaust) discussion forum powered by Yuku:
"Mattogno argues since on 29th January 1943 the ventilation of corpse cellar 1 was'n [sic] installed yet, the "available machines" do not include the ventilation, thus special treatment cannot refer to the use of the ventilation during homicidal gassing. However, he fails to demonstrate Swoboda is actually meaning the 29th January when speaking about the "available machines". An alternative interpretation is he was talking about the "available machines" at the start-up on 15th February 1943. On this date the ventilation was planned to be installed. Thus Mattognos conclusion is unfounded.


Claudia [Rothenbach] is also arguing that while Mattogno is just reading the text, I'm interpreting something into it. However, the term "available machines" is ambiguous. It does neither state "the now available machines" nor "the then available" machines. The meaning doesn't follow conclusively from the text, it needs to be interpreted."

(Post of 27 March 2005 in the RODOH thread "Die unglaublichen Geschichten des Carlo M. aus R.", original URL:

Mattogno thought that the document was referring only to those machines available on the day it was written, on 29 January 1943. But the memo is making a prediction for the power supply at the start-up on 15 February 1943. It is reasonable to assume that the AEG engineer and the SS man were taking into account all machines that were to be available on 15 February 1943, since this was the configuration that practically mattered - and not the one on 29 January 1943. According to a test report from the Topf engineer Kurt Prüfer from the same day, the ventilation of corpse cellar 1 (homicidal gas chamber) was expected to be installed by 15 February 1943. Hence, it is entirely possible that "special treatment" referred to the operation of the homicidal gas chamber.

By 2010, Mattogno became aware of this objection, probably because he learnt about it in some thread at RODOH called to his attention. The issue with the "existing machines" was also indicated by Sergey Romanov, to which Mattogno published a reply in July 2010. He also addressed it in Auschwitz: The Case for Sanity (ATCFS, 2010), but carefully avoiding any reference to Anti-Revisionist critiques:
"For completeness’ sake the hypothesis should also be examined whether “available machines” referred to the entire equipment supplied to the crematorium for its operation (and not just that present on January 29, 1943), i.e. all the machines eventually provided for this building, including the ventilation systems for Leichenkeller 1 and 2, for the oven rooms, the dissection room, the laying-out and washing room, and the freight elevator. In this case, as I explained above, no “overlap” of electricity use between cremations and hypothetical homicidal gassings in Leichenkeller 1 would have occurred."
(Mattogno, ATCFS, p. 199)
And "explained above":
" 'overlap' of electricity needs for the presumed homicidal gassings and subsequent cremations would have been both irrational and at once perfectly avoidable, because the only thing needed to circumvent this alleged problem was to begin heating the furnaces before the gassing, so that the furnaces were ready for use after the gas chamber had been ventilated" 

(Mattogno, ATCFS. p. 194).

Suppose the "special treatment" was taken place in the gas chamber, the memo says that both blowers/forced air draft of the cremation ovens and the ventilation of the homicidal gas chamber can be turned on at the same time, without blowing a fuse or overheating the supply cable. This was already an important information from a practical point of view. You can start the blowers of the ovens without worrying if the ventilation of the gas chamber is really turned off, and vice versa.

Furthermore, the possibility to use the cremation devices and the ventilation of the gas chamber at the same time did actually make the extermination process faster and more efficient - or safer. If the ventilation had to be turned off as soon as the Sonderkommando prisoners started dragging out the corpses, there had to be either an extended ventilation time before opening the door (taking into account that HCN concentrations not harmful upon short time exposure may be harmful upon exposure for hours, desorption of HCN from the corpses and Zyklon-B pellets and poorly ventilated gas pockets in between the corpses), or there was a higher risk for the Sonderkommando prisoners as well as for anybody else in the building. On the other hand, if the ventilation could be kept running the whole time, a reduced ventilation time before opening the door could have been realised (because HCN concentrations, not harmful upon short time exposure but upon long time exposure, are reduced with increasing time, the number of outgassing corpses and Zyklon-B pellets are decreased over time and an increasing number of gas pockets are made more accessible for the forced ventilation).

Moreover, turning off the ventilation while the chamber is still filled with corpses and body fluids would have accumulated unpleasant smell in the chamber, that might have made the work for the Sonderkommando impossible without gas masks in the extreme case, but could also leak into the rest of the crematorium. In addition, the Germans would have needed to stop the cremation way before the next batch of victims arrive in order to ventilate the gas chamber before the actual gassing to remove the foul air. 

Therefore, having both cremation and ventilation working at the same time with considerable overlap was not an essential but a desired feature for the most efficient and safe operation of the extermination site, which - in addition to its technical relevance - explains why the issue was raised by Swoboda in the memo if the special treatment was taken place in the gas chamber basement.

To sum up what we got so far, in contrary to what Mattogno says, it is entirely possible that "special treatment" was referring to homicidal gassing in the basement of crematorium 2 (via the power consumption of its ventilation) in the memo. In the next step, we need to check if this is not only possible but also most likely according to the available evidence. 

Excursus: Special Treatment in Contemporary Documents from the German Paramilitary Forces

A priori, "special treatment" might mean anything, but a lot is already learnt by taking into account the provenance of the document. The memo was authored by a member of the central construction office Auschwitz, which belonged to the SS-WVHA, which was a branch of Himmler's SS.

The term "special treatment" had a well defined meaning on people in custody of the German paramilitary and police forces. After the beginning of the war in 1939, the head of the SS-RSHA (Reich Security Main Office) Reinhard Heyedrich coined the bureaucratic process for extrajudicial executions as Sonderbehandlung (special treatment):
"To clear up all misunderstandings, I inform you of the following: ... a differentiation is to be made between those who can be finished off in the hitherto usual way, and those to whom a special treatment applies. In the latter case, we are dealing with circumstances that because of their degradation, their danger or their propaganda consequences, it is appropriate without regard to the person, to eliminate him through a ruthless procedure (namely by execution)."
 (Letter of Heydrich of 20 September 1939, english)

The term was soon established as synonym and euphemism for extrajudicial executions:
"Special treatment (execution) 

Special treatments are in principle handled by [office] IIA3 except for the special treatment against clerics, theologians and bible researchers, for who [office] IIB4 is responsible"
(Reinhold Heller on 26 September 1939, NO-905, my translation)

"Executions should not be carried out in the camp or in the vicinity of the camp. For camps in the general gouvernement close to the border, the prisoners should be sent to the former Soviet-Russian territory for the special treatment. If it is necessary to carry out executions to maintain the discipline of the camp, the leader of the operation commando should contact the camp commandant. The commandos have to record lists on the carried out special treatments, they have to include:

Sequential number
Family name and first name, time and place of birth, military rank, profession
last resident
reason for the special treatment
day and place of the special treatment"
(Regulation of 17 July 1941, my translation)

"Special treatment takes place by hanging."
 (Himmler on 20 February 1942, PS-3040)
"In Witebsk, 397 Jews were handed over to the operation commando 9 by the Wehrmacht after screening the civilian prisoner's camp. The adjudant Generaloberst v. Strauß and Major Brobrück and another officer were present during the special treatment at their own wish. The special treatment was carried out as usual. Major Brobrück acknowledged the soldierly attitude of the commando and stated that the practice of liquidations by the security police is no doubt a human way of carrying out."
(Police report for 17 to 23 August 1941, Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 3, 2004, p. 537, my translation)


Since the term "special treatment" was occupied by such a critical and delicate meaning, which did not tolerate any mistake (suppose a person "subjected to special treatment" gets executed, but was actually meant to get a first class cell), one can presume that 

a) it was mostly used in the sense of killing and that a different use would have been avoided and 

b) if it was nevertheless used with some other meaning than this can be expected to be quite clear.

On the other hand, if a source from the German paramilitary and police forces was using the term "special treatment" on people in their custody without clarifying that it did not concern execution, it is most reasonable to assume that it referred to the killing of people.

Excursus: Special Treatment in Contemporary German Documents from Auschwitz Concentration Camp

This euphemism for killing also penetrated the SS-WVHA and was extensively used in the jargon of the concentration camps, including Auschwitz (see also Mattogno's special treatment of evidence, if time permits, Mattogno's further misinterpretations of Auschwitz documents on "special treatment" in his book Auschwitz: Assistenza Sanitaria will be addressed at this blog). It was strictly used in this sense - for obvious reasons - when the SS clerks were directly dealing with prisoners (e.g. in the strength reports of the female prisoner's camp, the reports from the head of the labour department Schwarz to the SS-WVHA on the fate of Jews selected as unfit for work and the concentration camp Euthanasia orders). 

However, there is reason to think that this strict meaning was softened in some cases when it did not directly concerned the fate of people. In such cases it was used more lax in bureaucratic processes also on something only indirectly or partly related to killings. The prime example is a list of construction projects for Auschwitz-Birkenau of 28 October 1942. It lists the entire expansion of the Birkenau camp as "carrying out the special treatment", including the crematoria, but also housing, hygienic facilities and infrastructure (see Florian Freund, Bertrand Perz, Karl Stuhlpfarrer, Der Bau des Vernichtungslagers Auschwitz-Birkenau, Zeitgeschichte, 1993). The delousing facility later known as "central sauna" is explicitly labelled as "for special treatment", but this was obviously not because "special treatment" meant hygienic measurements, but simply to assign it to the Jewish transports and to discriminate it against the delousing facility planned for the SS personnel.

This bureaucratic terminology might be a hint to the driving force, genesis, context, trigger of the camp expansion. Because the European Jews unfit for work were to be physically exterminated in Auschwitz ("special treatment" in its strict sense), the camp had to be provided with the infrastructure and facilities to take up those that were temporarily spared from the killing for forced labour activities as well. The non-homicidal facilities were conditioned by the implementation of the mass extermination, and the latter could not be realistically carried out without the former. In this sense, the entire camp expansion served - directly or indirectly - the "carrying out of the special treatment" of the European Jews in Auschwitz.

Cremation with Simultaneous Special Treatment (II)

Now it's possible to narrow down the meaning of this "special treatment", which was supposed to take place in crematorium 2: it was directly or indirectly related to the killing of prisoners in Auschwitz. 

What is left is to identify what was supposed to take place in crematorium 2 a) directly (or indirectly) related to killings and b) pulling quite some electrical power. Mattogno's hypothesis that an emergency disinfestation chamber was installed in the basement will be rebutted in one of the next postings and taking into account the overwhelming evidence that a homicidal gas chamber with a ventilation driven by two 3.5 HP engines consuming considerable electricity was implemented in the basement of crematorium 2, the most likely interpretation is that in this memo the term "special treatment" referred to killing (by poison gas in this specific case), in accordance with its usual strict meaning (it does not seem that the term is used as a bureaucratic classification/designation in this memo anyway).


Unknown said...

There are some arguments against your thesis.
But the most decisive is :
"The temporary elevator had not yet been installed. It was ordered by ZBL to Häftlingsschlosserei on January 26, 1943, but it was terminated only on March 13" (ATCFS, p.196).
Obviously, it should not be available for February 15, but it should be essential for mass gassings.
The "simultaneous special treatment" was a treatment of corpses in the ovens.

Root Ofall said...

There are some arguments against your thesis.
But the most decisive is :
"The temporary elevator had not yet been installed. It was ordered by ZBL to Häftlingsschlosserei on January 26, 1943, but it was terminated only on March 13" (ATCFS, p.196).
Obviously, it should not be available for February 15, but it should be essential for mass gassings.
The "simultaneous special treatment" was a treatment of corpses in the ovens.

Hans said...

Root Ofall,

you can find my response here: