Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mattogno, Graf & Kues on the Aktion Reinhard(t) Mass Graves (2)

Last updated on 02.03.2011 due to corrections in Part 1, which affect Table 3.2.1 in section 3.2.

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

3. Mattogno et al’s Claims and Arguments

3.1 Nature and Purpose of Archaeological Investigations

3.2 Human Remains Found

3.1 Nature and Purpose of Archaeological Investigations

In his book about Bełżec, Carlo Mattogno tried to present the archaeological investigations carried out in the area of that camp by Prof. Kola in 1997-1999 as a (failed) attempt to "furnish the ‘material proof’ of the alleged extermination at Bełżec". Prof. Kola is supposed to have been hired in order to obtain corroboration of eyewitness testimonies through physical evidence, and the reason why he restricted his work on the mass graves to core drilling instead of excavating the graves and exhuming the corpses, according to Mattogno, was a concern – motivated by the core drilling results - that excavation would lead to conclusions incompatible with the historical record of Bełżec extermination camp[43].

Mattogno’s insinuations ignored the stated purpose of Prof. Kola’s archaeological work, which not only was not about furnishing material proof but also ruled out excavating graves and exhuming corpses because such would have had the very desecrating effect that Prof. Kola’s employers intended to avoid:[44]

In 1997, the jurors of the competition for the Bełżec memorial selected the work proposed by a team of artists led by Andrzej Solyga. In the selected project, the entire area of the camp becomes the memorial. The artists are of the opinion that the most appropriate way of commemorating the victims is to honour the earth that harbours their ashes. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a more meaningful symbol. For its message, it was necessary to conduct archaeological research in order to thoroughly examine the topography of the former camp, so as to exclude areas with human remnants. So that we, in commemorating, do not violate the memory of those whom we want to commemorate.

Even core drilling was considered a desecration of the dead in violation of religious principles by some Orthodox Jews, one of whom, Rabbi Avi Weiss, spoke of a "monumental failure" under this aspect[45]. Though too late to interfere with Prof. Kola’s archaeological investigations at Bełżec and Sobibór, this protest seems to have had the unfortunate long-term effect of barring further investigations of this nature:[46]

That Kola was allowed to drill mass graves is considered by Orthodox Jews as ‘a monumental failure’ (Weiss, 2003). As it stands now, it seems that mass graves at the Nazi extermination centres will not be excavated in the foreseeable future. Information regarding their location and extension will be obtained by remote imagery and non-invasive geophysical methods that are standard tools of forensic archaeology (Cheetham et al., 2007: 196-206).

Confronted with the fallaciousness of his claims[47], Mattogno brought up a conspiracy theory whereby the "official" purpose had been mere window-dressing for the actual purpose, which was to try finding physical proof of the mass murder at Bełżec, the "official" purpose having had the function of providing an alibi in case the investigation did not yield the desired results.[48]

The chief argument presented in support of this conspiracy theory was that it would not have been necessary to do an archaeological survey of the whole camp area to build a structure covering just one part of that area. However, the above-quoted foreword of Prof. Kola’s book also mentions that the memorial was to cover the entire former camp area, rather than be restricted to a building structure somewhere in that area. Photos of the memorial site show that the memorial was actually implemented in this manner[49], a fact that Mattogno was obviously aware of[50]. This means that identifying the parts of that area containing human remains in order to avoid their disturbance when building the memorial was a pertinent purpose, and that Mattogno’s objection is moot.

In a later blog response[51] to the refutation of his claims about the nature and purpose of the Bełżec archaeological survey[52], Mattogno tried to save his objection by arguing that the only building structure in the area whose construction could have disturbed the mass graves is a kind of trench that runs obliquely from the south-western to the north-eastern side, about 180 meters long and about 5 meters wide. According to Mattogno, it would have been sufficient to check for mass graves in the projected area of the trench, if the purpose of the archaeological investigations had been of an ethical-religious nature as was "officially" stated.

This argument, first of all, flies in the face of professional design and construction procedures, as it postulates that the people in charge of designing and constructing the trench would have put the cart before the horses, planning the location and course of this building structure before checking whether conditions on site fit their planning, thereby risking the inconvenience and expense of having to redo their design every time it turned out to be incompatible with site conditions.

Second, a look at an air photo of the Bełżec camp memorial area (Image 3.1.1)[53] shows that, besides the trench (= item 8: The Interstice) there are the museum buildings and a perimeter walkway surrounding the area covered by stones, and that inside this area there are darker spots marking the location of mass burial pits.

Image 3.1.1 (click to enlarge)

It is hard to imagine for whoever has seen construction work in progress how all this could have been made without disturbance of the mass graves if their location had not been known. For some reason, as can be seen on at least one of a series of photographs taken of the site during the memorial’s construction[54], the mass grave areas were marked while the memorial was under construction.

Third, the building of the Interstice was closely connected to the mass graves in the area, insofar as the soil excavated from the "trench" seems to have been placed above the graves and sealed together with them[55]. And fourth, honoring the earth that harbors the victims’ ashes also implied giving the mass graves a special treatment as concerns protection after the memorial’s completion, through measures described by the geotechnical consultant hired for implementing them[56]. Mattogno may want to explain how this desired protection could have been achieved without identifying the mass graves.

Mattogno furthermore claimed that the religious/ethical considerations of respect for the peace of the dead underlying the "official" reason for Prof. Kola's investigation were a mere pretext, arguing that, as it is desirable for Jews to be buried in Israeli land or with some soil of Israel if in the Diaspora, it would make more sense, from the point of view of Jewish religious beliefs, to exhume the corpses in wax-fat transformation buried in the Bełżec mass graves and rebury them according to Jewish rites.[57]

Notwithstanding the considerations of this self-appointed expert in Jewish religious matters, the fact is that regarding the victims of the Nazi genocide of the Jews there are rulings of Orthodox Jewish courts whereby their remains should be left in peace. These rulings, which may have been related to the fact that exhuming and duly reburying the remains of millions interred throughout Eastern Europe was an impracticable task, were explained to Father Patrick Desbois by Orthodox Jewish legal experts including Rabbi Schlesinger, "people determined to scrupulously respect the prescriptions emerging from the laws of Judaism"[58].

In his aforementioned blog response[59], Mattogno saw it fit to lecture Rabbi Schlesinger about the permissiveness of exhumation under certain circumstances according to Jewish religious laws, and to this effect quoted a related article by Rabbi Myron S. Geller[60] and four web pages containing photos and/or accounts of postwar exhumations of Jews murdered by the Nazis[61].

The article by Rabbi Geller doesn’t help Mattogno’s argument, for it summarizes the applicable halakhah rules as follows:

From the perspective of halakhah, the removal of remains from a grave is generally barred because of concern for the dignity of the dead. Under certain circumstances, remains may be transferred
A. to move the remains to a family burial plot;
B. to move the remains to Eretz Yisrael;
C. for the security of the remains against vandalism or natural catastrophe;
D. for public need; or,
E. if the remains were buried in a plot belonging to someone else.

Mattogno may want to explain which of the above-mentioned exceptions could have justified disinterring the remains of the victims buried in the Bełżec mass graves within the scope of an archaeological investigation connected with preserving the graves on site.

As to the websites containing photos and/or accounts of postwar exhumation of Jews buried by the Nazis, in all these cases the purpose of exhumation was or included burying the dead in the Jewish cemetery of the location to which they presumably belonged, thus arguably matching one of the exceptions ("move the remains to a family burial plot") mentioned by Rabbi Geller. But even if that were not so, if the reburials in question had been at odds with the Orthodox rulings referred to Father Desbois by Rabbi Schlesinger, this would only mean that, like in religious matters everywhere and at all times, there are different views and interpretations within the Jewish religious community, with more restrictive ones being currently entertained by more influential members of that community like Rabbi Schlesinger and his sources. Such differences also become apparent from the aforementioned protests of Rabbi Avi Weiss against what he considered a desecration, which Mattogno tried to use to his advantage omitting that, in the very article he referred to for this purpose[62], Weiss laments disagreeing with other Jewish religious leaders and what he considers insufficient care and diligence in safeguarding compliance with Jewish religious principles.

Further evidence of "the falseness of the officially stated purpose" was seen by Mattogno in the archaeological work done by Prof. Kola on the remains of former camp buildings. Why, Mattogno rhetorically asked, was excavation done in these buildings if the construction of the memorial was the sole motive behind the archeological investigations?[63]

Indeed the excavations in question seem to have resulted from a posterior "as we’re at it, let us also" – extension of Prof. Kola’s original task, as is suggested by the following passage of the latter’s book[64] (emphases added):

The archaeological works at the Bełżec camp area taken up by The Council of Protection of Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom had originally the only aim to locate the mass graves by probing drills. The method, which in a minimum degree touched anthropogenic structures, enabled us to obtain the basic knowledge on the subject. Revealing the other structures, coming from the camp building, which traces were not visible on the surface, because of the complete decomposition during the camp closing 1943, opened a chance to widen the research programme. Archaeology could be helpful to reconstruct the camp building and establish the functions of located objects.

This doesn't validate Mattogno’s conjectures and insinuations, however. For independently of whether identifying the mass grave areas was Prof. Kola's only task or he was eventually also commissioned to attempt an archaeological reconstruction of the camp’s buildings, the archaeologist was bound by his employers' religiously motivated concerns about disturbing the dead to keep physical contact with human remains to the minimum indispensable for identifying the areas containing such remains.

As concerns Prof. Kola’s archaeological investigations at Sobibór, Mattogno, Graf & Kues briefly hint at similar conspiracy theories when writing that, while the "officially stated purpose" of the survey was "basically the same as for the 1997-1999 excavations at Bełżec", the search for "artifacts ‘linked to the organization of the genocide’ – in other words remains of the alleged gas chambers - is also recognized as ‘important’" in Prof. Kola’s report[65].

Regarding the ongoing archaeological investigations at Sobibór, Gilead et al forestalled such conjectural humbug by stating very clearly that they consider Sobibór and the other Nazi extermination camps a past reality amply supported by written and oral documentation, which does not need to be proven by archaeological excavations, that archaeology has "the role of supplementing information on the layout of the sites, structures and artefacts in use there, thus providing data for the historical reconstruction of the sites" but "is not and cannot be an instrument to show deniers how wrong they are", and that "professors of geography, and archaeologists as well, should not waste time debating with people who think that the earth is flat"[66].

This wholly reasonable approach – assuming that archaeological research is required to prove that Sobibór was what all known eyewitness, documentary and physical evidence show it to have been, i.e. an extermination camp, would be at least as far-fetched as assuming that archaeological excavations were required to prove the amply documented existence of Pompeji – is attacked in the strongest terms by MGK, who accuse Gilead et al of dishonesty and "pseudoscience"[67] - apparently unaware of what they are thereby calling themselves. For if duly taking into account all known evidence in establishing the purpose and importance of an archaeological survey is pseudoscience, what should one call ignoring, distorting or unreasonably dismissing all known evidence, in support of a thesis that is not supported by any and at odds with all known evidence and based on mere preconceived notions and conspiracy theories?

3.2 Human Remains Found

The term "human remains" is used in this section as referring only to whole corpses or larger human body parts not or only partially burned, to the exclusion of the human cremation remains like ashes and bone fragments that most of the Nazi extermination camps’ victims were turned into.

In his Bełżec book Mattogno claimed that out of 137 core drilling samples from mass graves visually represented in Prof. Kola’s book, "obviously the most significant ones of the 236 samples taken altogether" in mass graves, only 5 out of 17 visualized samples from graves nos. 3, 10 and 20 contained human remains - "Thus, from all 236 drilling samples, we have only 5 ‘positive’ cases, that is, 2%!". These 5 samples resulted from the drill penetrating a layer of 3 or 4 corpses on each occasion, 15 to 20 corpses in total. Allowing for "the presence of other layers of corpses near those identified by Kola", one may conclude that "the most probable interpretation is that the graves contained at most several hundred corpses", rather than many thousands as considered by Robin O’Neill or at least 15,000 as estimated by Michael Tregenza. These meager core drilling results, in the conspiracy theory discussed in section 3.1, were the reason why Prof. Kola or his employers refrained from excavating the graves and exhuming the corpses, because they feared discoveries contrary to what Mattogno calls the "official historical version".[68]

Just about everything in Mattogno’s above-mentioned claims is wrong if not a downright falsehood.

First of all, Mattogno himself mentions two samples (482/XV-30-60 and 486/XV-25-50, both from grave no. 10) bearing the explicit designation "human corpses", plus another four samples ("485/XV-30-50, grave 10, 286/XVI-90-40 and 332/XVI-85-40, grave 3, and finally 1042/XIV-45-80, grave 20") that contain the symbol designating "human bones and wax-fat mass". That’s 6 and not 5 samples.

Second, there is another core sample - 484/XV-30-55 in grave 10, visualized in Kola's Figure 13[69] – that shows the stylized "x" shapes designating "human bones and wax-fat mass", and mentions a "canine tooth" and a "blockade". The "blockade" in sample 484/XV-30-55, although this is not expressly mentioned as it is in sample 486/XV-25-50, is probably also a spot where the drill couldn't go further because of bodies in wax-fat transformation, as such blockades were encountered at various depths of grave # 10 according to the grave's description ("The grave was very deep (the drills in particular places were stopped at the depth of 4,25 to 5,20 m, because of bodies in wax-fat transformation and underground waters presence)."[70]). It is unlikely that the blockade in sample 484/XV-30-55 is due to underground waters, because the adjacent drills came upon bodies in wax-fat transformation at a greater depth and only 485/XV-30-50 touched ground water (after passing at least two layers of bodies in wax-fat transformation). An omission of the mention "human corpses" behind "blockade" in the drawing of sample 484/XV-30-55 is more probable. This would mean that 7 out of the core samples visually represented in Prof. Kola’s book, and not 5, contain human remains.

Third, there is no indication that the 137 visually represented samples are necessarily "the most significant ones of the 236 samples taken altogether" in mass graves. On the contrary, they are
a) Expressly stated to be "examples of graphic illustration of the results",
b) Not samples from all graves – they include samples showing corpse layers from only 3 out of 10 graves in which corpse layers were found, and samples from only 11 out of 33 graves altogether – , and
c) Not exclusively samples from graves. Actually only 77 of the 137 samples are from graves, whereas the other 60 are from areas other than graves. Mattogno’s claim to the contrary was obviously made against better knowledge.

Fourth, by far not all drillings were so deep that they could even have hit layers of corpses, which as a rule were at the bottoms of the graves. For instance, in the case of grave # 10, only 4 of the 7 drills were so deep that they could hit corpses lying at the bottom of the grave, and all of these four (including sample 484/XV-30-55 according to the above considerations) actually did hit layers of corpses. In the case of grave # 20, one notes in Kola’s Figure 16[71] that only the drill that hit a corpse layer (sample 1042/XIV-45-80) actually penetrated to the depth in which this corpse layer was located. The drill samples shown on either side of this sample stop at the very place at which the corpse layer starts in the "neighboring" sample, which suggests that in this case Kola tried to avoid again drilling into a corpse layer, perhaps mindful of "desecration" criticism such as was made by Avi Weiss.

Mattogno’s "5 out of 236 = 2%" – juxtaposition is thus not only as wrong as can be, but also highly dishonest. An honest juxtaposition would have been to set the shown samples containing human remains only against those out of the shown samples from graves 3, 10 and 20 that were deep enough to reach layers of human remains at the bottom of the graves, which was the case with only 4 of the drills in grave # 10 visualized in Figure 13 (all of which hit layers of corpses, a "positive" ratio of 100 %), 1 of the drills in grave # 20 visualized in Figure 16, which hit a corpse layer (a "positive" ratio of 100 %), and the two drills in grave # 3, visualized in Figure 15, which hit human remains (286/XVI-90-40 and 332/XVI-85-40 – again a "positive" ratio of 100 %).

What is more, Mattogno high-handedly ignored the corpse layers in graves 1, 4, 13, 25, 27, 28 and 32, for which no visual representations of core samples are shown but which are clearly mentioned in Prof. Kola’s descriptions of these mass graves. When the fallaciousness of this approach was pointed out[72], Mattogno retorted that his exclusive focus on the published core sample drawings was due these being the only documents from which he could derive quantitative indications to refute the estimates of O’Neill and Tregenza with[73]. How he derived these quantitative indications from the core sample drawings Mattogno didn’t reveal, and it's also rather hard to understand why the core sample drawings are considered a source to derive quantitative indications from but Prof. Kola's precise descriptions of the mass graves' contents are not.

The only description Mattogno briefly mentioned in his book (before stating that he had not taken it into account "because A. Kola has not provided the diagram of his probes, and verification is thus impossible"[74]) was that of mass grave # 27. The reason why he mentioned this description but omitted those of mass graves nos. 1, 4, 13, 25, 28 e 32, thereby creating the impression that they contain no mention of corpse layers and thus contradict Kola’s assertion that corpses were found in these mass graves, is supposed to have been that the description of grave # 27 is the only one that contains quantitative information (1 layer of corpses in wax-fat transformation 1 meter thick), whereas the others do not. Actually Prof. Kola’s descriptions of 5 graves (numbers 3, 13, 25, 27 and 32) contain information about the thickness of the corpse layers, which together with information about the area of these graves allows for estimating the number of corpses contained therein, under the assumption that the layers of corpses are as extensive as the graves’ surface area[75] (see Table 3.2.1).

Table 3.2.1 Volume of Corpse Layers in Bełżec Mass Graves

The total volume of corpse layers in these five mass graves is 607.75 cubic meters. Assuming a density of 15 corpses per cubic meter[76], this volume corresponds to 9,116 corpses. Even with the density of 8 corpses per cubic meter that Mattogno proclaims to be a maximum assuming that one third of the deportees were children[77], it corresponds to 4,862 corpses.

These are only five of the ten graves in which layers of corpses in wax-fat transformation were identified, and they do not include the biggest such graves. The other five graves containing human remains, in layers the thickness of which is not clearly stated in Kola’s book, have a total area of 1,319 square meters. If the layer of corpses in each of these graves was only 40 cm thick as in grave # 32, the volume of the corpse mass in these graves would be 527.60 cubic meters, corresponding to 4,221 corpses at a density of 8 corpses per cubic meter or 7,914 at a density of 15 corpses per cubic meter. All 10 graves would thus contain 9,083 to 17,030 corpses, the latter a higher figure than the estimate of Michael Tregenza that Mattogno decried as wildly exaggerated. Prof. Kola’s descriptions of graves nos. 1 ("The pit was filled with bodies in wax-fat transformation; from the depth of about 2,00 m burnt human bones and charcoal were mixed together."), 4 ("The drilling was given up here at the depth of 2,30 m, because of a layer of bodies in wax-fat transformation."), 10 ("The grave was very deep (the drills in particular places were stopped at the depth of 4,25 to 5,20 m, because of bodies in wax-fat transformation and underground waters presence") and 28 ("In the drill in its bottom part 2 clear layers of bodies in wax-fat transformation covered with lime were reported […]") suggest that the corpse layers in these graves were way thicker than 40 cm. In his description of the archaeological work Prof. Kola mentions that in some of the graves the layer of corpses reached a thickness of ca. 2 meters[78].

Mattogno of course knows why he wants the Bełżec mass graves to contain "at most several hundred corpses" rather than the more than 15,000 they probably contain. Several hundred corpses he thinks he can explain as being from the labor camps in the Bełżec area in 1940, where several hundred Gypsies and Jews perished as forced laborers[79] (though it’s somewhat harder to explain why over 8,000 cubic meters of graves space – the combined volume of graves nos. 1, 3, 4, 10, 13, 20, 25, 27, 28 and 32 – would have been created to dispose of just several hundred corpses, and matching the scattering of these graves with Mattogno’s "proverbial German pedantry" also calls for some mental gymnastics on his part). For over 15,000 corpses buried in the Bełżec mass graves, together with the cremation remains of many more, an explanation compatible with the "Revisionist" thesis is impossible to come by.

Human remains in wax-fat transformation were also found in the lower layers of graves nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 at Sobibór. Their quantity cannot be estimated because Prof. Kola’s comparatively brief report[80] contains no information about the thickness of the layers of human remains. These four graves have a total area of 2,310 square meters, so if the corpse layers in each are only 40 cm thick (as in Bełżec grave # 32) and cover the same area as the graves’ surface, the graves contain 924 cubic meters of corpse mass, i.e. 7,392 to 13,860 corpses considering the same densities (8 or 15 corpses per cubic meter) that were considered above regarding the Bełżec mass graves.

Mattogno, Graf & Kues claim that corpses are not distributed over the entire area of the mass graves, in support of which they invoke Kola’s preliminary survey report from 2000, which is supposed to contain the information that "Of the initial 15 core samples taken on the eastern side of the memorial mound, 6 encountered human remains; 4 of those contained ‘fragments of burnt human bones and charcoal,’ whereas 2 contained both human ashes and remains of saponified corpses"[81].

This argument is fallacious for various reasons. First of all, the only conclusions that can be derived from preliminary coring were those presumably derived by Prof. Kola: that there were human remains in the area and further coring was therefore necessary. Second, without knowledge of the depth of each preliminary core drill (as in Bełżec, only such core drills could hit human remains that went to a depth at which there are layers of human remains), juxtaposing the number of drills that also found saponified corpses with those that only found cremation remains is meaningless. Third, Prof. Kola's description of the graves, quoted in section 2.2, suggests that unburned corpses are present throughout each grave. One should bear in mind that it would be rather improbable and coincidental to hit such remains by core drilling, moreover in a reduced number of drills, if they were only scattered here and there.

MGK try to explain the corpses in the Sobibór mass graves as being those of the 380 to 420 "detainees" of Sobibór who were shot during the revolt on 14 October 1943 or executed afterwards.

The first problem with this scenario is the number, for it is reasonable to assume that the number of corpses lying in the Sobibór graves is in the thousands rather than the hundreds.

The second, as the corpse layers are at the bottom of the graves, is the counterintuitive and illogical notion that the SS should have emptied the graves, after they had already been backfilled with soil and cremation remains, in order to place a few hundred corpses at their bottom, instead of simply placing the corpses on top of what was already in the graves. MGK try to save their scenario by arguing that it might have saved time and labor to dig to the bottom of existing graves rather than open new ones because "infill soil is significantly less compact than undisturbed soil; it takes less time and effort to dig through it, and there are no roots in the way"[82]. Now, the sandy soil of the swampy Sobibór area was never hard to dig into in the first place[83], so MGK are asking their readers to believe that it was easier to dig down to 5 or even 5.8 meters (the respective depths of the two largest graves, nos. 3 and 4), through a mixture of loosened sandy loam mixed with cremation remains, than to dig a fresh grave just two meters or so deep like the graves found by the Soviets at the Treblinka labor camp[84].

Apparently aware that this dog won’t hunt, MGK suggest another reason why the bodies were buried at the very bottom of the graves: "after the discovery of the Soviet massacre victims in the Katyn forest, the Germans would have been careful when carrying out mass burials of their own, so as not to risk having mass graves with corpses usable for atrocity propaganda fall into Soviet hands"[85]. What a big deal for just 380 to 420 corpses, relatively easy to hide on account of their small number already! Where else did the Nazis go through such pains (digging up 5 meters of soil and human cremation remains) just to hide a few hundred corpses of murdered people? Certainly not at Treblinka I labor camp, where the Soviets found 305 bodies in comparatively small mass graves no more than 2.5 meters deep and the Poles found mass graves no more than 3 meters deep that they estimated to have contained at least 6,500 dead bodies. Certainly not at many killing sites throughout the occupied territories of the Soviet Union where the advancing Soviets found corpse-filled pits as they re-conquered their territory[86]. The genocide of the Jews in the occupied Soviet and Polish territories had been largely accomplished by the time the Katyn graves were discovered in April 1943, but many Nazi massacres of now mostly non-Jewish civilians took place after that time in the occupied Soviet territories, especially in the context of anti-partisan operations in Belorussia [87]. Yet there’s no documented instance from all these killings in which the Germans tried to hide a few hundred corpses 5 meters deep or deeper let alone dug to such depths in a backfilled mass grave for this purpose. Concern about what might happen if the Soviets discovered these atrocities becomes apparent from at least one surviving contemporary document[88]:

The attached special reports that came in from General Commissar Kube require very special attention.
The fact that Jews receive special treatment requires no further discussion. However, it appears hardly believable that this is done in the way described in the report of the General Commissioner of 1 June 1943. What is Katyn against that? Imagine only that these occurrences would become known to the other side and be exploited by them! Most likely such propaganda would have no effect only because people who hear and read about it simply would not be ready to believe it.
Also the fight against the bandits it taking forms that give reason for much concern if pacification and exploitation of the various regions is the goal of our policy. Thus the dead banditry suspects, which according to the report dd. 5.6.43 from Operation "Cottbus" number 5,000, could in my opinion with few exceptions have been used for labor service in the Reich.
It shall not be denied that due to communication difficulties and generally in such mopping-up operations it is very hard to tell friend from foe. But it should nevertheless be possible to avoid cruelties and to bury those liquidated. To lock men, women, and children into barns and to set fire to them does not appear to be a suitable method of combating bands, even if it is desired to exterminate the population. This method is not worthy of the German cause and hurts our reputation severely.

Sometimes those liquidated weren’t buried, even when they numbered in their thousands. Yet at Sobibór the Nazis are supposed to have dug 5 meters and deeper through soil and cremation remains to bury a mere 400-odd people killed during and after a revolt. MGK must be counting on their readers’ ignorance.

Besides being implausible to the point of absurdity, MGK’s theory as to the corpses found in the Sobibór mass graves is also contradicted by evidence that the Jews who remained in the camp after the revolt on 14.10.1943, as well as the Jews later brought from Treblinka to work in the dismantling of Sobibór, were not buried but cremated after being shot by the SS.[89]

Unlike the other two extermination camps of Aktion Reinhard(t), Treblinka has not yet been subject to an archaeological investigation. Yet is it known from site inspection and investigation reports what the extermination camp site looked like in late 1945, with cremation remains as well as skulls, bones and other parts of human bodies covering an area of at least 1.8 hectares and saturating a huge bomb crater in which Judge Łukaszkiewicz ordered further digging in order to establish how deep the mass graves in the camp’s extermination sector had been (see section 2.3). Mattogno & Graf felt that this enormous mess of human remains required an explanation, and in trying to put together one that fit "Revisionist" notions they concocted the amusing theory that the skulls and body parts described by Łukaszkiewicz were from inmates of the Treblinka I labor camp who had died during a typhus epidemic in 1943, musing that this could also "furnish an explanation for the odd circumstance that Treblinka II was bombed".[90] What readers are asked to believe here is that the Soviets used explosives to scatter the body parts of a few hundred typhus victims from the Treblinka I labor camp over an area of at least 1.8 ha (the size of the "area of cremation") and to a depth of 7.5 meters (the depth to which human ashes and larger body parts were found in the crater that Judge Łukaszkiewicz ordered to be further excavated) at Treblinka II, which was located around 2 km to the south of the Treblinka I labor camp[91]. This is supposed to have made for the countless human bones found throughout those 18,000 square meters that are mentioned in the judge’s report of 29 December 1945. And what is more, it seems that the Soviets are also supposed to have covered this huge area with ashes and bone fragments as described by Łukaszkiewicz (see section 2.3), even though the bodies at Treblinka I labor camp had not been cremated.

Two pages later Mattogno & Graf indulged in further musings about the bomb craters. In their tortuous reasoning the Soviets may have tried to lay "false tracks" by doing exactly what the Germans would not have done because "the craters produced by the bombs would have rendered visible the traces of the alleged mass murders". M&G may want to explain how those manipulating Soviets could possibly have spread "false tracks" over 18,000 square meters and to a depth of 7.5 meters by bombing an area which the SS had made all efforts to give the look of innocuous agricultural or forest land, unless the human remains later found by Łukaszkiewicz were already there when the bombs exploded. It is also hard to understand what "traces which could in no way be made compatible with the thesis of mass extermination" those manipulating Soviets could have hoped to "obliterate" by bombing that area.

The only reasonable explanation for the aspect of the site described by Łukaszkiewicz is that the bombs brought to the surface ashes and larger human remains buried where the bombs had exploded, as was recognized by Rachel Auerbach. This lady, who as member of a delegation of the Jewish Central Historical Commission had toured the site with Łukaszkiewicz on 6 November 1945[92], was quite explicit in this respect in a vivid account that she left of her impressions:[93]

All kinds of scavengers and marauders come here in droves, shovels in hand. They dig, search and ransack; they sift the sand, they drag parts of half-rotted corpses from the earth, bones and scattered refuse in the hope that they may come upon at least a coin or a gold tooth. These human jackals and hyenas bring along live artillery shells and unexploded bombs. They explode several of them at once, tearing huge craters into the desecrated, blood¬ drenched soil which is commingled with the ashes of Jews.

But the physical evidence was not limited to objects. As we moved further into the grounds, we walked over a field which was sown with human bones.
The bombs had uncovered the contents of the desecrated soil. Leg bones, ribs, pieces of spine, skulls big and small, short, and long, round and flat.

Auerbach didn’t reveal who those bomb-toting scavengers were, though, perhaps for good reason: the bombs had indeed been exploded by Soviet troops – but not in order to "obliterate traces" or "lay false tracks", as conspiracy theorists Mattogno & Graf would have it:[94]

In the autumn of 1944 Ukrainian and Russian guards appeared again, but this time in Stalin's service. With their arrival the peasant digging became an enterprise. From Ceranów airport, 10 km away, the Soviets brought along mines and blind bombs. The explosive charge was lowered into a mass grave, a Soviet fellow detonated it, and the Jewish corpses flew through the air.

Soviet participation in the gold rush at Treblinka may also have been the reason why the bomb craters’ provenance was not mentioned in Łukaszkiewicz’ report of 13 November 1945. The judge may have been trying to stay out of trouble, or then he was compelled to leave references to the robbery-digging context of the craters out of the report.


[43] Mattogno, Bełżec, page 90. The pertinent passages are quoted in Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research - Introduction and Part 1.
[44] Kola, Bełżec, page 3 (foreword by Miles Lerman, Chairman Emeritus of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council), emphasis added.
[45] Avi Weiss, A Monumental Failure at Bełżec.
[46] Gilead et al, Extermination Centres.
[47] As note 43.
[48] Carlo Mattogno, BEŁŻEC E LE CONTROVERSIE OLOCAUSTICHE DI ROBERTO MUEHLENKAMP (hereinafter "Mattogno, Controversie"), pp. 1-4, English translation: Bełżec or the Holocaust Controversy of Roberto Muehlenkamp (hereinafter "Mattogno, Controversy"). Quotes are from the English translation.
[49] See for instance the web pages Belzec Memorial; Belzec Death Camp; see also Dr. Bonnie Harris, Holocaust Memorialization in Poland and the Czech Republic. An air photo of the Bełżec camp memorial area is included in Barbara Buntman, "Tourism and Tragedy. The Memorial at Belzec, Poland", in: International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol. 14, No. 5, September 2008, pp. 422-488.
[50] "As can be seen from photographies published online[178] the intense activities in connection with the construction of the memorial have disturbed the soil of the fomer Bełżec camp. A trench with walls of reinforced concrete, serving as a path, intersects the camp, and the surface of the camp has been covered with large stones[179], so that any verification of Kola’s data has now become impossible." – Mattogno, Controversy (original Italian text in Controversie, p. 56).
[51] Carlo Mattogno, LE ULTERIORI CONTROVERSIE OLOCAUSTICHE DI ROBERTO MUEHLENKAMP Parte I, refuted in my blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology - Continuation (1).
[52] Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (1)
[53] Included in Buntman’s article (note 49).
[54] Webpage Belzec Building Site 2003/2004
[55] Joe Berkovsky, Memorial project in Poland sparks a lawsuit from Holocaust survivor; Berkovsky, Lawsuit Over Belzec Memorial Withdrawn.
[56] A. Klein, "Covering the mass graves at the Belzec Death Camp, Poland; geotechnical perspectives", in: Geotechnical and Environmental Aspects of Waste Disposal Sites – Sarsby & Felton (eds), 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, London, pp. 149 ff.; p. 155; see also Buntman, as above, note 40: "At Belzec site 'work was carried out in order to avoid even the smallest disturbance of the mass graves', which are now permanently protected with layers of 'geo-textile covering, gravel and sand' (Andrew Baker, e-mail, 18 December 2006)".
[57] Mattogno, Controversie, pp. 2/3; Mattogno, Controversy.
[58] Father Patrick Desbois, The Holocaust by Bullets, translated by Catherine Spencer, 2008 Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pages 129/130.
[59] As note 51.
[60] Rabbi Myron S. Geller, Exhuming the dead
[61] Discussed in my blog mentioned in note 51.
[62] Avi Weiss, A Tribute That Desecrates Rather Than Sanctifies.
[63] Mattogno, Controversie p. 3; Mattogno, Controversy.
[64] Kola, Bełżec, page 69.
[65] MGK, Sobibór, p. 110.
[66] Gilead et al, Extermination Centres
[67] MGK, Sobibor, pp. 166/167
[68] Mattogno, Bełżec, pp. 76-79; see also Controversie, pp. 6-12; Controversy.
[69] Kola, Bełżec, p. 15.
[70] Kola, Bełżec, p. 27.
[71] Kola, Bełżec, p. 18.
[72] Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research - Part 3
[73] Mattogno, Controversie, p. 9; Controversy; refutation in my blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (3).
[74] Mattogno, Bełżec, footnote 239 on page 78.
[75] Mattogno (Ibid, p. 78) argues that this assumption is not warranted "in the light of the approximating method used by Kola (one sample every 5 meters)". However, if one drills into human remains every five meters it is reasonable to assume that the area in between drills also contains human remains, unless there is the possibility of something else in between. This possibility was not present in the Bełżec mass graves area. The method applied by Prof. Kola was the same he had applied in his investigation of the Soviet "Katyn crime" killing sites at Kharkiv and Miednoje (Kola, Bełżec, footnote 14 on page 13).
[76] The plausibility of this density was demonstrated in my blog Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research - Part 4 (1) (hereinafter "Muehlenkamp, Bełżec Research 4 (1)"). It is even conservative considering the presumable age and sex composition and the severe malnourishment of most of the deportees, as I demonstrated in the blog Belzec Mass Graves and Archaeology: My Response to Carlo Mattogno (4,1) (hereinafter "Muehlenkamp, Bełżec Response 4 (1)"), where a concentration of 20 corpses per cubic meter (not considering the earlier corpses’ loss of volume due to dehydration during the decomposition process, which allows for an even higher density) was shown to be plausible. This is addressed in more detail in section 3.3 below.
[77] Mattogno, Bełżec, p. 85.
[78] Kola, Bełżec, p. 20.
[79] Mattogno, Bełżec, pp. 81/82, p. 92; for further information about these labor camps see the web page Belzec Labour Camps. The burial places mentioned in this page are outside the area of Bełżec extermination camp.
[80] Kola, Sobibór (as note 23).
[81] MGK, Sobibór, p. 121.
[82] Ibid.
[83] MGK themselves point out, in the context of scavenger activity, that diggings at Sobibór "are naturally aided by the fact that the soil at the former camp site is soft and sandy" – Sobibór, p. 122.
[84] In the area of the Treblinka I labor camp, according to Mattogno & Graf, Soviet investigators in August 1944 found three mass graves with the dimensions 10x5x2, 10x5x1.9 and 10x5x2.5 meters, respectively containing 105, 97 and 103 bodies (M&G, Treblinka, p. 77). Two years later a Polish investigating commission found 41 graves, of which 40 had been desecrated and the bodies removed, with a total area of 1,607 m3. The graves were up to 3 meters deep and had contained the bodies of at least 6,500 people according to the commission’s estimate (MGK, Treblinka, p. 88).
[85] MGK, Sobibór, pp. 121/122.
[86] Examples see Nick Terry, Mass Graves in the Polesie; Muehlenkamp, Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies …, Photographic documentation of Nazi crimes; Photos from the German East; Drobitski Yar; Nazi crimes in Soviet footage; Mass Graves and Dead Bodies.
[87] Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde. Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944, Hamburg, 1999, pp. 859 ff.; see translated excerpts in my blog One might think that ….
[88] Letter sent to Rosenberg by Hinrich Lohse, Reich Commissioner for the Eastern Territories, from Riga on 18.6.1943 (Nuremberg Document 135-R, IMT Vol. XXXVIII, pp. 371 ff.). Translation from German and emphases are mine.
[89] Regarding the Jews who perished during or after the revolt see the deposition of Felix Gorny (member of German Security Battalion 689 in Cholm (Chelm), Poland from 28 March 1942 to 26 July 1944) in Dortmund on 6.9.1962 (BAL B162/208 AR-Z 251/59, Bd. VIII, fl. 1517-21, Schelvis file 23, pp. 78ff, pp. 81-80). Gorny mentioned having been informed by Sobibór SS-men that all Jews who had not managed to escape had been shot and then burned with gasoline in a pyre near the ramp by the branch line, and having himself seen the place of this cremation. Regarding the working Jews taken from Treblinka to Sobibór see the deposition of Arthur Matthes in Cologne on 04.07.1962 (BAL B162/208 AR-Z 251/59, Bd. VII, fl. 1385 ff., Schelvis file 49, pp. 160 ff., pp. 162-63), and the deposition of Franz Suchomel in Altötting on 07.11.1962 (BAL B162/208 AR-Z 251/59, Bd. VIII, fl. 1613 ff., Schelvis file 49, pp. 279 ff., pp. 283-84).
[90] M&G, Treblinka, p. 90
[91] Webpage Treblinka Labour Camp.
[92] M&G, Treblinka, page 82.
[93] Rachel Auerbach, "In the Fields of Treblinka" (hereinafter "Auerbach"). English translation in: Donat, Alexander, The Death Camp Treblinka. A Documentary, New York 1979 (hereinafter "Donat, Treblinka"), pages 17 to 76. The quoted excerpts are from pages 69/70 and p. 71.
[94] Głuchowski and Kowalski, Gold Rush (as note 30).

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