Writes Germar Rudolf:
It is true that flesh burned in fire releases fat. But since fat is highly inflammable, one cannot collect it. And fat does not boil, it decomposes and catches fire beyond a certain temperature (184°C/363°F)
The fat from the bodies would, of course be the first thing to be burned, and if, nevertheless, it did run into the grooves, it would have ignited at the first spark.Robert Faurisson:
Clarke, no more conscious in 1982 or 1983 than in 1946 of the enormity of what he forced Höss to confess, goes on to describe a series of fictitious horrors presented here as the truth: Höss went on to tell how after the bodies had been ignited, the fat oozing from them was poured over the other bodies (!).Samuel Crowell:
But in fact what has happened over time is that the exaggerated claims in these sensationalist efforts have multiplied and acquired an authority almost equal to that of the Nuremberg court itself, for the simple reason that, having accepted the claim of mass gassing without adequate documentary or material support, we are in no position to deny the claim of streams of melted human fat gathered from the runoff of burning corpses, which is then either made into soap or ladled back onto the pyre to expedite the burning.Doris Hartmann:
It is just as big a mystery, how one could possibly "pour the fat dripping down from the corpses in the large incineration pits” onto new corpses, when it is physically impossible that fat pouring out of bodies lying in a fire could be collected anywhere. Fat is an excellent fuel and would thus catch fire right away – though not under water, of course.Clement Augustus Lounsberry, Early history of North Dakota: essential outlines of American history, Liberty Press, 1919, p. 295:
General Sully estimated that they burned from forty thousand to fifty thousand pounds of dried buffalo meat, as one item of the destruction that followed the battle. [...] It was their winter supply of meat and represented more than one thousand slaughtered buffalo. Capt. R. B. Mason, wagon master, said the fat ran in streams from the burning mass of meat.Oh, wait. That last bit. Not a denier and doesn't support their contention. Um, nevermind.
Anyhow... a big mystery, right?
First, let's take a look at some testimonies which mention the phenomenon.
Zakhar Trubakov, Babyi Yar Jewish Sonderkommando, from a protocol of interrogation on 14.02.1967 (Babij Jar: chelovek, vlast', istorija, vol. 1, compiled by T. Yevstafjeva, Vitalij Nakhmanovich; Kiev, Vneshtorgizdat Ukrainy, 2004, doc. 51):
We put up to 2-2.5 thousand corpses on such a furnace [i.e. pyre ~SR], ignited it simultaneously from four sides, at first there was much smoke, then it burned without smoke, and below, from under the "ashpit", ran a thick black mass, which flowed into a special pit and then was buried.Zakhar Trubakov, Tajna Babjego Jara, 1997, Tel Aviv, http://amkob113.narod.ru/bkv/, part 4.I):
The burning process itself continued for 36 hours. During this period we, the living corpses, were preparing a new pyramid of dead corpses. And all that time human fat flowed in black streams from the first "brazier" [zharovnya], as inmates themselves called the hellish structure. It was accumulating in a special pit, which had been dug up near the furnace...Joshua Rosenblum, Auschwitz Sonderkommando, R.J. Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, 1986, p. 171:
When the four crematoria were no longer sufficient to exterminate the growing transports, . . . we had to throw the corpses into burning trenches. There the Germans found out that, to save benzine, human fat could be poured on the corpses and drained into a lower trench. We poured the human fat from pails on the people so they would burn faster.(By "benzine" most probably gasoline is meant, which is "Benzin" in German; this is a usual confusion in translations.)
Filip Mueller, Auschwitz Sonderkommando, in his testimony on 08.10.1964 during the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial (translated directly from Czech; the synchronous German translation sometimes differs from the original spoken words), DVD Der Auschwitz-Prozess. Tonbandmitschnitte, Protokolle und Dokumente, Directmedia Verlag, 2004:
The depth of these pits was probably about two and a half meters. [...]Filip Mueller, Auschwitz Inferno, Routledge&Kegan Paul, 1979, pp.130ff.:
And it was made so that at the bottom of these pits was a sloped channel. [...]
And at the ends, farther still - several meters - there were these holes dug up. [...]
Into these holes fell the human fat.[...]
And with this human fat the prisoners were then forced to douse [the corpses].
Together with his assistant, Eckardt, he climbed down into the pit and marked out a 25 centimetres by 30 centimetres wide strip, running lengthways down the middle from end to end. By digging a channel which sloped slightly to either side from the centre point, it would be possible to catch the fat exuding from the corpses as they were burning in the pit, in two collecting pans at either end of the channel.Henryk Tauber, Auschwitz Sonderkommando, during the interrogation by a Soviet investigator on 28.02.1945 (GARF, f.7021, op.108, d.13, l.11):
A group of prisoners had to climb down into the pit. Provided with spades, shovels, hammers, trowels, brick, cement and spirit levels it was intended that they should make a drain channel for human fat.
When the work was finally finished, Moll again ordered a couple of buckets of water to be brought, seized the first one impatiently and again flung the water into the drainage channel. Then he stayed motionless for a few seconds, bending forward, and watched intently as it splashed down the channel. The process was repeated a couple of times, until the last bucket of water had been poured in the opposite direction along the channel. Now Moll ran irritably to the collecting pan at the front end of the pit and noticed with satisfaction that this time the water had drained away completely and collected in the pan. Then he went calmly to the other collecting pan on the opposite side and there too he convinced himself of the success of his experiment.
As the heap of bodies settled, no air was able to get in from the outside. This meant that we stokers had constantly to pour oil or wood alcohol on the burning corpses, in addition to the human fat, large quantities of which had collected and was boiling in the two collecting pans on either side of the pit. The sizzling fat was scooped out with buckets on a long curved rod and poured all over the pit causing flames to leap up amid much crackling and hissing.
The searing heat had burst open their bellies: there was the violent hissing and sputtering of frying in great heat. Boiling fat flowed into the pans on either side of the pit.
Pyres for incineration of corpses were laid in ditches on the bottom of which a channel had been dug up along the length of a ditch to make an access for the air. From this channel there was a branch to a pit measuring 2x2 meters and 4 meters deep. During incineration of corpses on the pyres fat was flowing into this pit. With this fat the corpses on the pyres were doused so that they would burn better.(I should note that unless the pit was lined with something, it couldn't have been 4 meters deep because of the ground water level, but witnesses' estimates are notoriously unreliable. It was probably closer to 3 meters in depth. Deniers will claim that the ground water level at Birkenau was so high (about 1.2 meters, give or take some) that all witnesses must've been lying about the depth of the pits, but those deniers who tried to tackle this issue on the documentary basis ignored or suppressed crucial documents disproving their claims. This is a separate topic with which we will deal in the future. For now we will assume that the ground water level at the time allowed for pits 2-3 meters deep.)
Henryk Tauber, Auschwitz Sonderkommando, in deposition made on 24.05.1945 in Poland, J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, 1989, p. 494:
Another time, the SS chased a prisoner who was not working fast enough into a pit near the crematorium that was full of boiling human fat. At that time, the corpses were incinerated in open air pits, from which the fat flowed into a separate reservoir, dug in the ground. This fat was poured over the corpses to accelerate their combustion. This poor devil was pulled out of the fat still alive and then shot.Dr. Charles Bendel, a doctor in Auschwitz Sonderkommando, Belsen trial testimony on 01.10.1945, Trial of Josef Kramer and forty-four others, 1949, pp.131-132:
After a bit it was found that the results achieved even in these three big trenches were not quick enough, so in the middle of these big trenches they built two canals through which the human fat or grease should seep so that work could be continued in a quicker way.Rudolf Hoess, Auschwitz commandant, Kommandant in Auschwitz: autobiographische Aufzeichnungen, 1994, pp.195-196:
The work to keep the fire in the ditches going, the pouring of the collected fat on the heap, the poking in the mounds of corpses to provide air.Henryk Mandelbaum, Auschwitz Sonderkommando, J. Poludniak, Sonder, 2008, pp.48-49:
[When] bodies were laid one on top of the other the [body] fat started dripping and fuelled [sic] the flames...Shlomo Venezia, Auschwitz Sonderkommando, Inside the gas chambers: eight months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz, 2009, Polity Press, pp.59-60:
The pyres were doused with petrol?
They were doused with crude oil and with this [other] oil from those bodies, with the fat. The fat dripped down...
The fat would flow from the stocky one and fuel the flames. It would flow down, you see, and would make the fire burn; it'd make it burn quicker. But with the thin one it was difficult to make it burn, well, because there were mainly bones. There was nothing to fuel the flames... so, well, in order to make the corpses burn faster we'd pour on them the fat from the other bodies in the ditch; the fat that was in the ruts. On the sides there were these ruts and wells for the fat.
Every so often corpses were thrown, and then wood, fir trees would be thrown, and fat would be poured over this to make the bodies burn better.
The ditches sloped down, so that, as they burned, the bodies discharged a flow of human fat down the ditch to a corner where a sort of basin had been formed to collect it. When it looked as if the fire might go out, the men had to take some of that liquid fat from the basin, and throw it onto the fire to revive the flames. I saw this only in ditches of Bunker 2.Shlomo Dragon, Auschwitz Sonderkommando, during the interrogation by a Soviet investigator on 26.02.1945 (GARF, f.7021, op.108, d.12, l.185):
To sustain flames of the pyres firewood was doused with a liquid - bad-quality gasoline and also human fat. Human fat came from the trenches where people were incinerated through special little ditches which led to another small pit into which the fat flowed and then was gathered by the SS themselves.This is not an exhaustive collection. Although the witnesses cited above differ in reliability, I think it is fair to say that it is an established fact that the human fat was used for "fuel redistribution" during the open-air incinerations in Auschwitz. It may not have been used in Babiy Yar for whatever reason, as witness Trubakov says that this fat was being buried (but let's not forget that a witnesses' perspective is always limited, so this testimony does not prove that this was done in every case), but the phenomenon of the liquid human fat exuding from pyres was also apparent there.
But, as we've seen, the deniers strenuously object to this. Why? I really don't know. That fat will flow out of a corpse when the corpse is being incinerated is a completely uncontroversial fact. Even deniers' own "expert", crematorium operator Ivan Lagace confirmed it during the Zuendel trial (B.Kulaszka, Did Six Million Really Die? Report of the Evidence in the Canadian 'False News' Trial of Ernst Zündel, 1988, ch.26):
Lagacé explained the importance of this procedure, especially in the case of obese cases, where incomplete combustion of body fats occurred. In such an event, the burning body fats dripped into the waterproof ash pan and continued to burn there. If the ash pan wasn't there, however, the fluid would leak outside of the retort and cause a fire outside the crematory.Even if a pool of liquid fat is burning, this burning fat can still be collected and poured back on the pyre. So this is much ado about nothing.
The only half-controversial issue here is the description of merely "boiling" and "sizzling" fat, apparently without large-scale burning, as seems to be implied by only two witnesses, Tauber and Mueller. Even if one were to prove that these descriptions are inaccurate or embellished, this wouldn't impeach the rest of the testimonies, which merely mention the use of fat but don't dwell on the question of whether it was burning or not. But are Tauber's and Mueller's descriptions trustworthy?
Carlo Mattogno performed a series of incineration experiments, which he describes in his article "Combustion Experiments with Flesh and Animal Fat". First he explains why such descriptions cannot be true even theoretically:
Such a tale appears absurd for the following reasons:
The boiling temperature of animal fat is around 200°C, which is considerably higher than the flash point of animal fat, which is 184°C. This means that boiling animal fat catches fire in the presence of flames of sparks.
Animal fat has an ignition point of ca. 280°C, which means that at temperatures of 280°C or more it ignites even without any external help from flames, sparks, or embers. Since the minimum temperature of a carcass combustion is 600-700°C, any fat would ignite instantaneously. If the temperature is lower than 600°C, "at the start of the cremation a distillation accompanied by a carbonization" occurs.
The members of the so-called 'Sonderkommando' would have had to carry out their recovery of human fat on the edge of a cremation trench of at least 320 m2, the surface of which was aflame at a temperature of at least 600°C! As we have seen above, during my small-scale experiment the temperature near the edge of the small pit reached some 120°C! An experiment aimed at studying prehistoric pyres was carried out by Dr. Alistair J. Marschall, who reports that he used a pyre made from one ton of wood to burn the carcass of a sheep. According to his statements, the fire became so intensive that after about one hour it was impossible to move closer than 3 meters to the pyre.
Then he proceeds to the physical experiments:
5.1. Experiment Involving Direct HeatingHis conclusion:
On the combustion grid of a furnace open in front and at the top, I placed an aluminum pan containing 500 grams of lard (see photograph 18). The combustion grid was situated at a level of 35 cm above the hearth grid. Once the firewood had been ignited, the fat melted rapidly and started to boil. The vapors caught fire, producing intensive flames that reached a height of some 80 cm (see photograph 19). Combustion lasted about 2 minutes.
5.2. Experiment with Heating by Radiation
The experiment was carried out in a furnace made of tuff blocks, open to the front and at the top.
On the bottom of the ash compartment I placed an aluminum pan containing 250 grams of lard. The hearth grid was at a level 25 cm above the ash compartment. It consisted of a metal wire-mesh net having openings 2 by 1 cm in size; thus, only small pieces of embers fell into the pan. The fat in the pan melted and started to boil under the influence of the heat radiating from the hearth; the vapors emanating from the fat caught fire rapidly and burnt with bright flames (see photograph 20).
5.3. Experiment with Heating by Conduction (and Radiation)
The experiment was carried out in a furnace made of tuff blocks, open to the front and at the top (see photograph 21).
I placed a pan containing 250 grams of lard on the bottom of the ash compartment as in the preceding experiment, but I installed a grid of a metal wire-mesh with larger mesh size (10 by 10 cm) at a level 28 cm above the ash compartment. Then I lit the wood on the hearth. When the combustion had become strong enough, the embers began to fall into the pan below; the fat contained therein first melted, then was absorbed by the ash particles and burned with a flame less bright but for a longer period of time (about 15 minutes), in the way the wick of a petroleum lamp would burn (see photograph 22).
1. The experiments show that animal fat, when heated to a temperature that can be reached by means of a wood fire, will burn readily.So many words. But what exactly did Mattogno prove? At best that the fat dripping from a burning corpse would probably ignite, if it was also surrounded by sufficient heat. Though it should be kept in mind that in certain situations fat would also flow without igniting; for example, if a corpse is burning and corpses next to it are not yet aflame and have wounds in "fatty" areas, the fat may flow out of these wounds without igniting just on account of nearby heat, because the melting temperature would be reached, but not necessarily the ignition temperature, and the corpse skin wouldn't have to be burned in order to free the liquid fat; in the initial phase of incineration this fat probably would not meet a "bed of embers" below. But let's assume for the sake of the argument that Mattogno is correct in that the liquid fat exuding from a burning corpse will immediately catch fire.
2. Experiment 3 demonstrates that animal fat, when in contact with glowing embers, will ignite. Consequently, in a cremation trench, the human fat oozing out of the corpses and dripping through the burning wood, possibly reaching the layer of embers at the bottom of the trench, would burn without being able to flow over the bed of embers towards the alleged reservoirs. This was confirmed later by the experimental incineration in a furnace as described above, during which the fat dripping from the flesh into the ash tray ignited immediately and burned.
3. Experiment 2 demonstrates that any liquid fat, hypothetically dripping down below the embers into the alleged recovery channels, would burn under the effect of radiation from the glowing embers and by contact with them.
4. Experiment 1 demonstrates that human fat, hypothetically flowing into the recovery reservoir would, on account of the heat radiation from the fire, burn with bright and high flames, making it impossible not only to recover the fat, but also to get anywhere near the edge of the trench.
The main problem with Mattogno's experiments is that he doesn't really consider the situation described by the witnesses. Let's try to reconstruct it.
We have an incineration pit with a sloped trench running through it which connects to a separate smaller collection pit. At different times in different pits the configurations might have varied slightly (two collection pits, two trenches, etc.). The pyre is built in the incineration pit proper, above the trench. The pyre is lit and after some time the fat begins to flow from the corpses. To repeat, let us assume that it immediately ignites.
As we know, just because the fat is ignited does not mean that it is immediately destroyed. The burning fat still flows. Thus, Mattogno's contention that it wouldn't be able to reach the collection pits because of a bed of embers is strange, to say the least. It would flow between the embers. Maybe in late stages of incineration there would be so many embers on the bottom that they would absorb all the fat, but we're not talking about late stages. Not to mention that it takes time for a bed of embers to form in the first place.
The burning fat would flow to the trench from the presumably sloped sides of the bottom of the incineration pit. Then it would flow in the sloped middle trench in the direction of the collection pit.
How much burning liquid fat would flow in the direction of the collection pit? We can't know for sure, but let's consider a pyre of 2000 bodies, with an average body being 45 kg. This body mass accounts not for emaciation (clearly, you won't get much fat from an emaciated person) but for children's bodies. I should note here that most Jews arriving in Auschwitz-Birkenau in the periods in question weren't in the best shape, but they weren't emaciated either, probably unlike the majority of Jews taken to the Aktion Reinhard(t) camps.
In L.F.Barker's Monographic Medicine, vol. IV: The Clinical Diagnoses of Internal Diseases, New York/London, D. Appleton and Company, 1917, p.793; sub-section "States of Over-nutrition"; sub-sub-section "The Fatty Tissues and the Fat Metabolism in Healthy Persons That Eat and Exercise Normally") we read:
The amount of fat in the body of an adult person, who is neither obviously thin nor fat, may vary within tolerably wide limits (10 to 20 per cent. of the body weight), women being normally a little fatter than men.To be ultra-conservative, let's take 7% as our average. Then we're already dealing with at least 6300 kg of fat. That's quite a lot and it is probably an underestimate (it would be 9000 kg if we assumed 10%, 13500 kg for 15%, and so on). Much of this fat, maybe even most of it, would undoubtedly burn before reaching the collection pit. But there is nothing to suggest that hundreds, if not thousands of kilograms of fat would not reach it.
The burning fat has reached the pit. What happens now?
One of the leading specialists in forensic investigation of fires, Dr. John DeHaan, who, together with his colleagues, has burned quite a lot of corpses, both animal and human, in controlled environment, has this to say about combustion of human fat in his and Elayne Pope's presentation "Combustion Properties of Human and Large Animal Remains" [Powerpoint file]:
Fat only burned where it had been rendered and absorbed into carpet, towel, blanket, clothing or charred wood.And under the figure 6 (my emphasis):
Charring of carpet or wood flooring supports the wick effect necessary to sustain combustion of rendered body fat.In the concluding section of their article "Combustion of animal fat and its implications for the consumption of human bodies in fires" ([PDF], DeHaan, Campbell and Nurbakhsh, Science&Justice, 1999, vol. 39, no. 1), DeHaan and co-authors state (p.38):
It is clear that animal fat (and by extension human body fat, which is said to be very similar to the subcutaneous pork fat used here) can contribute to the fuel of a compartment fire. Its combustion depends on substantial preheating by an external heat source and the availability of a porous wick (such as charred cellulosic material).In an e-mail correspondence Dr. DeHaan further elaborated on this point (message dated 11.11.2009):
Yes, unless there is a great deal of external radiant heat flux to keep the pool of fat at a very high temperature, it will not sustain combustion on a flat, non-porous surface. Just like candle wax will only burn on a smooth table top if you continually play a blow torch across it. We have had instances where a very corpulent body has released so much rendered fat that it forms a pool or stream that supports flame in the fire environment that a pool fire existed it is because the external fire was able to heat the liquified fat well past its flash point. (One commercial crematorium was burned down as a result, and others have been damaged!) Charred wood flooring or very porous concrete or lava-stone have been seen to act as a wick, so the nature of the floor is important.Thus, animal fat, although a good fuel, is unable to sustain its own combustion unless there is a sufficent external source of heat or a suitable porous wick is present.
The witnesses don't give precise distances of the collection pits from the pyres (Mueller seems to have indicated "several meters", although he is vague), thus we have a right to assume that the collection pits were far enough from the pyres for the fat in them not to have been re-ignited by heat radiation.
This is a crucial point, since in none of his experiments has Mattogno considered a situation in which the external source of heat radiation is absent. Moreover, his point about the impossibility of collecting the fat because of the high temperature of the pyre is also moot.
Thus without a suitable porous wick and without the external heat source the fat would stop burning soon. If there was nothing to serve as a wick in the collection pits, and if they were far enough from the pyre, then the fat in them would not have been ignited by an incoming burning stream.
Now let's consider the case in which a wick would be present. In this case a candle can be a good analogy. In fact, in old times quite a lot of candles were made out of fat. You can make your own lard candle and verify that when the fat around the wick melts and forms a pool, this liquid fat does not ignite, despite the flame being near it. Rather, only the wick itself burns, while absorbing the liquid fat.
What could serve as a wick in our situation? It is possible that as the incineration process went on, a certain amount of wooden ashes and maybe small embers would flow into the collection pit together with fat from time to time. If they indeed could serve as wicks, in such a case they would not cause the whole pool of fat to ignite. Rather, they would burn locally for a while, somewhat like candles.
The amount of this "wick matter" possibly flowing into a pool is difficult to determine theoretically and would obviously depend on the phase of incineration and configuration of the pyre. Generally speaking, in the initial phase one wouldn't expect much ash and embers flowing into the pit, and in the later stages one wouldn't expect much fat flowing into the pit (as discussed above). This question is better resolved experimentally. It should be stressed that this "wick matter" likely would not accumulate, since the fat was being retrieved from the pit and poured on the pyre. And probably there would be periods when almost no "wick matter" would be present in the pit.
Why does it seem to us that Mueller and Tauber are describing the pits without large-scale flames? Because they're describing the fat as "sizzling" and "boiling", while omitting what would have been its main feature - the hot, scorching flames all over the pool surface. Tauber even describes a person being chased into such a pit, and being retrieved from there still alive (although immediately shot) - if there was large-scale burning in the pit, he would burn alive.
But the two witnesses do not state that there were no flames at all. Temporary small-scale burning, such as the one sustained by the "wick matter" - is absolutely compatible with these testimonies, as it cannot be argued that Mueller and Tauber would have necessarily described it. Quite possibly, as witnesses, they saw it as a phenomenon of secondary importance (they also did not describe the color of the fat, its exact amounts, etc.). They were not writing a scientific report.
This is especially true for Tauber. Let me stress here that Tauber did not claim that the fat in the collection pit was always just "boiling". He described a specific single case in which there was "boiling" fat in the collection pit. He never said that the fat was always merely boiling in that pit.
Now, what about the claim that fat does not boil? After all, that Boy Wonder, "master chemist" Germar Rudolf states point blank that "fat does not boil" (ergo witnesses are liars), and he should know, right?
But Carlo Mattogno himself claims that in his experiments the fat "started to boil", thus making a fool of his "respected" co-author.
What we see as "boiling" or sizzling fat in common kitchen experience is actually the boiling water content of the fat. This is most probably what the witnesses had seen and later described as "boiling" or "sizzling" fat.
All in all, the deniers have done nothing to show that witnesses' testimonies about the recovery of human fat are incompatible with reality or that the descriptions of (just) two witnesses about pits of boiling fat are incredible.