Part 1, Section 2a
Part 1, Section 2b
Part 2, Section 1
Part 2, Section 2
Part 2, Section 3
Part 2, Section 4
Part 2, Section 5
Part 3, Section 1
Part 3, Section 2
Cremation Devices, Methods and Times
Chełmno – Archaeological Research
Mattogno’s lamentable performance regarding eyewitness and documentary evidence to mass cremation at Chełmno is followed by an illustrated description of the Feist apparatus, an oven for the combustion of carcasses from animals dead from contagious diseases which was conceived by the veterinary Georg Feist in the second half of the 19th century, and which according to Mattogno resembles the cremation ovens used in the 2nd phase (1944/45) of the camp’s operation. Mattogno also repeats his claims regarding the performance of that oven, which will be addressed later on when discussing the capacity of Chełmno’s second phase ovens.
Mattogno then moves to my comments about his writings regarding archaeological finds of cremation objects, namely the relics of a blown-up crematorium discovered in 1986/87 (described as probably rectangular in shape, with a measurable size of 17x17m, walls obliquely narrowing towards the inside, concrete pipes supplying air to the hearth, a depth of 4.5 meters, and a bottom layer of brick and concrete debris) and seven other cremation objects identified (or reclassified) pursuant to archaeological investigations in 2003/04 (objects 2/03, 3/03, 4/03, 5/03, 10/03, 20/03 and 21/03). The descriptions of these objects are available on the site of the Chełmno museum and in a 2004 publication sponsored by the District Museum in Konin and the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom in Warsaw. Mattogno (p. 1349) objects to the description of the crematorium discovered in 1986/87 on grounds that the stated dimensions (17 x 17 m)  "are erroneous because the current archeological reconstruction of the oven measures approx. 6 m × 5 m, and a picture from the time of the survey shows an even smaller excavation". My argument that the reconstruction covers only a part of the object’s identified size, and that the text on the plaque is inaccurately formulated, Mattogno dismisses as "speculation", notwithstanding the fact that such "speculation" is backed up by the object’s description in an archaeological text. It is duly noted that Mattogno yells "speculation" when it suits his argument, while indulging himself in speculations so far-fetched as to make the boldest speculation he objects to seem entirely reasonable by comparison.
As concerns the other seven objects mentioned above, Mattogno quotes their descriptions and presents basically the same arguments regarding each object, which will be exemplified on hand of Object 2/03. The description of the object is quoted as follows:
Exhibit 2/03: It was uncovered fragmentarily during the first excavations carried out by the Museum in the years 1986-87. It was then misinterpreted as a pit for burning useless belongings of the victims. Square on the surface (8 × 8 m), it narrows towards the bottom with the depth slightly exceeding 5 m. The corners reveal slanting furrows, about 1-meter wide, containing traces of preserved concrete pipes, whose tasks was probably to supply air to the furnace interior. It was filled with sandy humus mixed with inclusions of burn waste, ashes, and pieces of burned bones. A few artifacts have been acquired, the most precious of which is a button from a Soviet uniform (the first one comes from the 1986-87 research). Furthermore, pieces of chamotte brick were found. Most likely the furnace had been dismantled.
Mattogno’s comment (p. 1354):
From what does it result that the exhibit was a cremation oven? The only evidence offered is the presence of "traces of preserved concrete pipes", "pieces of chamotte brick" and an unspecified amount of "ashes" and "pieces of burned bones" mixed with the sandy humus filling the object – crematory remains which, as far as we know, may just as well have ended up there at the time of the liquidation of the camp.
The "may just as well" assessment, which denotes equal probability, is of course wrong. It may be possible that the objects described "ended up there at the time of the liquidation of the camp". But that is by far the lesser of probabilities, whereas it is more probable, considering the shape of the structure and the nature of the objects described, that the object is the relic of what was a cremation facility during camp times.
Mattogno’s comments regarding almost all of the other objects are fraught with the same logical fallacy and therefore need not be addressed. Only in regard to Object 21/03 does Mattogno produce an additional argument:
I remind the reader that in the previous survey, exhibit 21/03 was "probably" (prawdopodobnie) a cremation oven measuring 5 m × 4 m; then it became a rectangle of 25 m × 9 m.
And so? More thorough investigation of the object led to a revision of previous findings.
In the critique (p. 455) I had argued that Mattogno had miscounted the number of probing excavations regarding some objects, based on an assessment shown in an earlier blog:
Object 2/03: 1 probing excavation (nº XV). Mattogno claims zero probes. , the number of probing excavations corresponding to a given object is the following: Object 3/03: 2 probing excavations (nos. XVI and XXVI). Mattogno claims just one probe. Object 4/03: 1 probing excavation (nº XVII). Mattogno claims zero probes. Object 5/03: 1 probing excavation (nº XIV). Object 20/03: 2 probing excavations (nos. XXVII and XXVIII). Object 21/03: 4 probing excavations (numbers XLV, XXXIX, XLVI and XLIV), with probing excavations XLIII and XLVII possibly also belonging to this object. Mattogno claims just one probe.
After some of the rhetorical bluster that Mattogno usually sends his opponents’ way ("Poor Muehlenkamp has not understood anything about the matter."), Mattogno reveals the difference in criteria that is supposed to account for the different probing excavations’ count regarding objects 2/03, 3/03 and 4/03: whereas I had also counted cross excavations related to the respective object, Mattogno had only admitted excavations in the object proper as "valid" probing excavations. Mattogno says nothing about Object 21/03, where according to the map on p. 1352 three probing excavations (XLVII, XLIV and XLV) apparently meet his criterion (he had previously claimed just one).
And as concerns Object 5/03, there is one other probe besides nº XIV that meets Mattogno’s criterion: probe nº XLIX, which I had not previously mentioned.
Besides, is the (apparently post hoc) criterion that doesn’t count cross excavations regarding an object (probes XV, XVI and XVII are obviously related to, respectively, Object 2/03, 3/03 and 4/03) even an appropriate criterion? Hardly so, if one considers that the outline of Object 20/03 "was determined through a cross excavation", suggesting that cross excavations were as relevant to establishing an object’s layout as excavations in the object proper. Besides, probing excavations seem to have preceded an object’s (further) exploration, where not otherwise stated.
In her articles about archaeological investigations at Chełmno, archaeologist Łucja Pawlicka Nowak (who Mattogno for some reason calls Pawlicka Kamiński) mentions that the rectangular shape of the objects considered field furnaces contradicts the depositions of two witnesses, H. May and Walter Dejaco, who recalled round cremation pits. It is possible that what these two witnesses described were provisional facilities that Blobel carried out experiments with, while the objects identified by archaeological research were those eventually used for the camp’s body disposal on a large scale, although May seems to have assumed that what he witnessed were the final facilities. Incidentally, the witness H. May, whose account of Chełmno has been reproduced on the HC blog site, is conspicuously absent from Mattogno’s Chełmno book and was mentioned for the first time (after Łucja Pawlicka Nowak article on the Chełmno museum’s website) on p. 1356 of MGK’s magnum opus.
As to the nature of the objects identified in 2003/04, I had considered several possibilities (Critique, pp. 456f.):
Moreover, if Mattogno were right about the object found in 1986/87 being a cremation device without a brick chimney rather than one of the 1st phase crematoria (which is unlikely insofar as the object was a construction with a concrete foundation that could not be fully destroyed by explosions), it would still be entirely possible that objects 10/03 and 21/03 are the remains of the crematoria with chimneys observed by witnesses in the 1st phase. The other oven similar to the one uncovered in 1986/87 would then be Object 2/03, which like the former object is described as narrowing towards the inside, thus matching the description of the second-phase furnaces in the Central Commission’s report, whereas objects 3/03, 4/03, 5/03 and 20/03 would be traces of open-air cremation grates similar to those used at the Aktion Reinhard camps, corresponding to the above-mentioned descriptions of Frank Sch. and Fritz Ismer. Another possibility (considering that Object 20/03 has the same square surface area as Object 2/03, though unlike the latter it is not described as narrowing towards the inside) would be that the second-phase furnaces were objects 02/03 and 20/03, that only three objects (3/03, 4/03 and 5/03) correspond to grate structures described by Ismer and Sch. (which doesn’t exclude the possibility of there having been more such structures, considering the above-mentioned traces of open-air cremation found in the second grave), and that besides the crematoria with chimneys (objects 10/03 and 21/03) there was another furnace (the 1986/87 object) also used for cremating corpses right after gassing in the latter stages of the first phase.
Mattogno objects to my assessment of objects 3/03, 4/03, 5/03 and 20/03 on grounds of their being described by "Pawlicka Kamiński" as "field furnaces", semi-subterranean like the two ovens of 1944, whereas "Schalling speaks of “three or four pits [drei oder vier Gruben],” which were simple cremation pits without grids and in which the cremation was performed after having covered the corpses “with a powder [mit einen Pulver]”", while "Ismer mentions neither “field furnaces” nor cremation pits, but limits himself to refer generically to a generic reference to “a certain technique for the cremation of corpse on the grids [eine gewisse Technik bei der Leichenverbrennung auf den Rosten].”". One fallacy of this argument lies in that it treats the descriptions of Schalling and Ismer in isolation from each other, as if each of these two witnesses were describing different facilities. It is far more likely that either witness was describing different aspects of the same facilities, Schalling their pit construction and Ismer the roasters inside or on top of the pits on which the bodies were placed. The other fallacy lies in assuming that Schalling would not call a semi-subterranean structure with some brickwork a pit, which is not necessarily the case considering the brevity of Schalling’s description.
Mattogno further contrasts the dimensions stated by Schalling for the three or four cremation pits he described (5 x 4 m) with the dimensions of the four objects established by archaeological research, noting that "only one of the exhibits is somewhat compatible with Schalling’s declarations". That may be so, but it doesn’t rule out that objects 3/03, 4/03, 5/03 and 20/03, or at least the former three, were the "pits" described by Schalling with the roasters mentioned by Ismer, for Schalling could no more than estimate the dimensions of the "pits" and may well have been mistaken about their measurements, without that ruling out the essential accuracy of his testimony.
That leaves the crematorium, or crematoria, of the camp’s 1st phase. Schalling mentioned one big furnace with a chimney 4 or 5 meters high, whereas witnesses interrogated by Judge Bednarz mentioned two crematoria "whose chimneys overtowered the forest". Mattogno argues (p. 1359) that the latter description suggests a chimney 15 meters tall, but that depends on the height of the trees surrounding the chimney, and besides the smoke emanating from the chimneys may have given the witnesses a mistaken impression.
Earlier on the same page Mattogno asks why the 1942 ovens would have chimneys if the 1944 ovens had none, overlooking the differences between conditions in either year: in 1944, unlike in 1942, the Chełmno area was within the range of enemy reconnaissance and bombing planes, which would make a chimney too conspicuous and thus not recommendable.
As concerns the construction of the chimney, Mattogno argues that a chimney 15 meters tall or taller would have required proper foundations and accurate static calculations, and could have been built only by specialized personnel under the supervision of an engineer. Yet Mattogno provides no indications that these conditions were not complied with, while the description of the structure identified in 1986/87, including fragments of concrete blocks from the crematorium’s foundation, suggest a massive construction.
Regarding the possibility of cremation ovens with chimneys 4-5 meters high, like the one described by Schalling, Mattogno argues that such "would have required the involvement of a specialized company, like J-A. Topf & Söhne or Hans Kori, for which there is no trace, whether documentary or testimonial". Absence of evidence might be considered evidence of absence if (like in the case of Auschwitz-Birkenau) a considerable body of documentary evidence regarding construction activities had survived, however there is no such body of documentary evidence regarding Chełmno, as no internal documents pertaining to the camp’s administration (and but a few external documents mentioning the place) have been recovered. Eyewitness testimonies are also no indication to the contrary of a specialized company’s involvement, given their paucity of detail.
Finally Mattogno argues that "no technician would have constructed true cremation ovens in the open, without the necessary foundation, flues and chimney", yet he does not demonstrate that the archaeological evidence points to the absence of these features.
Therefore, and contrary to his conclusion (p. 1360), Mattogno failed to demonstrate that Schalling’s testimony cannot be truthful and that there was not at least one crematorium with a brick and mortar chimney in the camp’s 1st phase.
So much for Mattogno’s response to the narrative/descriptive part of the critique’s chapter 8. To the roughly 17 pages (440-457) of this narrative/descriptive part, with a word count of about 5,800, Mattogno responded with about 64 pages of text (1296-1360) and a word count approaching 25,800. Consequently Part 1 of this series is almost as long as the critique’s chapter 8 (ca. 22,000 vs. ca. 24,000 words), though I managed to stay below the volume of Mattogno’s verbiage.
The next parts of this series will deal with the remaining 113 pages of Mattogno’s "encyclopedia", which address the technical aspects of cremation. I shall try to publish my assessment thereof within the next few months. As mentioned at the beginning of this Part 1, some weak spots of Mattogno’s cremation chapter have already been pointed out in discussions with Friedrich Jansson, especially in the articles collected under the label "Dresden". Readers interested in the subject of cremation at the Aktion Reinhard(t) camps and at Chełmno are invited to look up these articles.
 Museum of the former Extermination Camp in Chełmno-on-Ner ([link])
Chelmno Witnesses Speak by Łucja Pawlicka-Nowak (Editor), Juliet D. Golden (Translator), Arkadiusz Kamiński (Translator). Konin and Łódź, 2004. The descriptions, maps and photographs regarding archaeological research in this book are digitalized in the HC reference library’s thread "Archaeological Research in the Grounds of the Chełmno-on-Ner Former Extermination Center" ([link])
Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 44.
Case in point, Mattogno’s baseless speculation that Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka and Chełmno were transit camps, which he upholds although it is at odds with all known evidence and supported by none. Mattogno isn’t able to produce a single name of a deportee "transited" via these camps to the Nazi-occupied territories of the Soviet Union, which alone should – for the reasons explained in my "Challenge to Supporters of the Revisionist Transit Camp Theory" ([link]) – persuade him that his theory is hollow humbug.
"Mattogno on Chełmno Cremation (Part 1)" ([link])
Mattogno, Il Campo di Chełmno tra storia e propaganda, p. 128. Apparently Mattogno didn’t feel comfortable with his count of probing excavations, judging by his having dropped it in the English version of his book, where be merely stated the following: "A comparison with Lorek’s map shows, however, that the findings 2/03, 3/03, 4/03 and 5/03 had already been examined before, but at that time they had not been considered to be cremation sites so that here only the interpretation has changed. But for the findings 20/03 and 21/03 the function as a cremation site is only alleged." (Mattogno, Chełmno, p. 100).
The object’s description (Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 66) mentions that "The rectangular outline of the object was established on the basis of two probing excavations."
Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 65.
Regarding Objects 5/03 and 10/03, it is expressly stated that exploration was not carried out (Chelmno Witnesses Speak, pp. 65 and 66). On the other hand, in the descriptions of Object 3/03 and 4/03 (p. 65) the process of uncovering the object is expressly mentioned.
Chelmno Witnesses Speak, p. 64.
See the blog "A Great Lie" ([link]). May’s description of the burning pits translates as follows: "After many attempts, cremation of the bodies was performed in pits about three meters deep (10 feet) and four meters in diameter (13 feet), reinforced with stones on the sides. The corpses were burnt in the fire inside the pit. The remaining long bones were pulled out and ground in a motor grinder placed in a wooden barrack."
 As already mentioned in this series (see note 32), measurements and other numbers are details that eyewitnesses tend to be mistaken about.