Wednesday, June 08, 2011

No End of History for the "Jewish Soap" Myth?

A critical review of Bożena Shallcross, The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture
By Joachim Neander, Kraków/Poland

A Promising New Approach in Holocaust Studies

In the spring of 2011, a new book appeared on the market for Holocaust literature: The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture. It was preceded already in 2010 by its Polish language version, Rzeczy i zagłada.[1] The author is Bożena Shallcross, presented at the University of Chicago’s Web site as “Associate Professor, Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures: Polish Literature & Interdisciplinary Studies; Program in Poetry and Poetics; Committee on Creative Writing; Affiliate, Department of Comparative Literature.”[2]

A publisher’s note, posted on various book dealers’ Web sites, gives a brief summary, which shall be quoted here for sake of simplicity: “In stark contrast to the widespread preoccupation with the wartime looting of priceless works of art, Bożena Shallcross focuses on the meaning of ordinary objects—pots, eyeglasses, shoes, clothing, kitchen utensils—tangible vestiges of a once-lived reality, which she reads here as cultural texts. Shallcross delineates the ways in which Holocaust objects are represented in Polish and Polish-Jewish texts written during or shortly after World War II. These representational strategies are distilled from the writings of Zuzanna Ginczanka, Władysław Szlengel, Zofia Nałkowska, Czesław Miłosz, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Tadeusz Borowski. Combining close readings of selected texts with critical interrogations of a wide range of philosophical and theoretical approaches to the nature of matter, Shallcross’ study broadens the current discourse on the Holocaust by embracing humble and overlooked material objects as they were perceived by writers of that time.”[3] In the following, references to pages of the English language version of the book will be given in round brackets (xx), to those of the Polish language version preceded by the letter P (P yy).

The underlying idea of Shallcross’ approach is that things used by human beings are more than pieces of dead matter: they testify to their owner’s life, they are part of his/her personality. “Holocaust objects,” commodities and utensils of everyday life, at that time taken away from the deportees for “recycling” to the benefit of the Germans and their collaborators and today exhibited at Holocaust museums, are the last vestiges of the life of a people brutally destroyed in the gas chambers or on the killing fields in the East. They are “Jewish” objects, and like the things found at an archeological excavation site, they tell us about their former owners, about a civilization forever lost.

The appropriation of Jewish objects, however, did not stop with the confiscation of the victim’s last shirt in the anteroom of the gas chamber. In the Holocaust, Shallcross argues, the Jewish body itself became an object, was “reified,” became property of the Reich. As examples of the treatment of Jewish bodies as objects may serve the searching of the corpses of the murdered for hidden valuables, cut open like the seams of the victims’ clothes or the soles of their shoes, or the burning of the exploited corpses like trash.

Writer Zofia Nałkowska Is Horrified by Nazi “Human Soap Factory”

Seeing the “reification” of the Jewish body as a unique feature of the Holocaust , Shallcross tops her train of thought with reflections on the introduction of the Jewish body into the German war economy with its emphasis on “recycling,” epitomized for her in the manufacture of soap from the Jews, to which she devotes the central (and longest) chapter of her book, Holocaust Soap and the Story of Its Production (55-70). Her source is Zofia Nałkowska’s short story Profesor Spanner, first published in 1945 and reissued in 1946 together with seven other short stories about German war crimes in Poland in the small booklet Medaliony. Medaliony has seen numerous reprints and was translated into all languages of the former Eastern Bloc, including German. A complete English translation, from which Shallcross obviously is quoting, did not appear until 2000. Profesor Spanner was obligatory reading matter in all Polish schools until 1990, when it was made optional. It is, however, still a favorite teaching object in Poland, recommended in teaching aids, and dozens of ściągi, “cheating aids” for students, on the Web testify to its unbroken topicality in the country’s educational system.

Nałkowska achieved fame as a gifted writer already in prewar times. With her Marxist Weltanschauung (“although not in any orthodox manner” (61)) and her longstanding active engagement in sociopolitical questions, she was predestined to hold a variety of official functions in Communist dominated postwar Poland, among others that of the Vice President of the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. In this function, she participated, on May 11, 1945, in the investigations of the Main Commission at the premises of the Anatomic Institute of the Danzig Medical Academy in the matter of the alleged manufacture of soap from human bodies. Back in Warsaw two days later, she wrote down her impressions in a short story, Profesor Spanner. Its eponymous hero is Rudolf Maria Spanner (1895-1960), head of the Anatomic Institute from January 1, 1940, until January 31, 1945, an anatomist of international reputation, Nobel prize candidate 1939. [4]

Rumors that the Germans were boiling their Jewish victims to soap began to circulate in occupied Poland already at the turn of 1940, spread until the summer of 1942 across whole German controlled Europe and, in the autumn of 1942, to Africa, Asia, Australia, and America. Presented as a “fact,” it became a stock phrase in Soviet propaganda. On liberation, however, at none of the places mentioned in the rumors as sites of soap-making even the slightest trace was found, and not a single German document among the millions of pages captured by the Allies and the Red Army pointed to such a production or, at least, to preparations for it.

It was, therefore, a godsend for the Soviets when, at the turn of May 1945, “human soap” was discovered on the premises of the Danzig Anatomic Institute. The Soviet NKVD and its Polish counterpart, UBP (Bureau of Public Security), were firmly convinced that they, finally, held in their hands the “proof” that “Nazi human soap” had not been a wartime rumor, but dire reality. The importance of this “discovery” for Soviet propaganda as well as for the fledgling Polish government may be seen from the fact that the Danzig Anatomic Institute was chosen as the first “case” to be investigated by the Main Commission—not Auschwitz, and not Majdanek—and that “human soap” from Danzig was presented by the Soviet prosecution at Nuremberg as a prime example of German crimes against humanity.

Among the members of the Main Commission there was not a single individual with at least a basic knowledge of soap-making or the things done in an anatomic research laboratory. This held also for the investigation committees that followed, up to the Institute of National Remembrance, the Main Commission’s successor, which took up the matter again in the beginning of the 2000s. With very few exceptions from the last years,[5] the whole discussion about the Danzig soap has revolved around statements given and papers written by individuals with no expertise in the field of the issue about which they expressed their views. Shallcross and her book are in good company.

Scholars: No “Holocaust Soap” Made at Spanner’s Laboratory

On the badly devastated premises of the Medical Academy—the liberators had flung books, papers, bones, skulls, and teaching material around and into the courtyard and converted part of the building into a horse stable—the members of the Commission, for the first time in their lives, were confronted with the interior of an anatomic institute, a horrifying sight also for students of medicine even under regular, peacetime conditions, causing some of them, shocked, to abandon medicine and to choose another subject. Small wonder that Commission member Nałkowska, a sensitive personality, was in a state of heightened agitation, which colored her perception and certainly influenced her writing.

Rumors had circulated within the Medical Academy since the spring of 1944 to the effect that in the “maceratorium,” a small building in the courtyard, shrouded in mystery, soap was made from human body parts. These rumors, indeed, were not baseless. The building (which still exists and is used as a storeroom for housekeeping) was Spanner’s research laboratory, where he and his closest collaborators made organ and skeleton preparations by “maceration,” i.e. treating specially prepared body parts with a watery solution of sodium hydroxide in an autoclave at about 110 degrees (45 centigrade) for a certain period of time, on the average three to five days. It is quite normal that such a laboratory is off limits to unauthorized persons, a fact that by no means points to a secret, “criminal” activity, as imputed by the Main Commission.

The sodium hydroxide dissolves all organic tissue, except bones, cartilage, and those parts of an inner organ that were previously fixed with a corrosion-proof synthetic resin. In this process, the fat contents of the body parts yield soap, which at the end of the maceration process and after cooling down floats to the surface, together with the non-saponificated corpse fat. After some refining (and, probably, re-boiling with NaOH), this “maceration grease”—under normal circumstances destroyed together with other preparation waste—was used in the last months of the war for cleaning purposes within the institute as ersatz for real soap that was difficult or not at all to get. Small amounts of “refined human soap” were also used for the conservation of skeleton preparations, as a substitute for chemicals no more available. There is no reason to call the research laboratory a “soap factory,” or even to impute that its main purpose was making soap from corpses. Who would call a steelworks where the Thomas process is used, a “fertilizer factory,” although a by-product containing phosphorous can be used as fertilizer?

The members of the Main Commission took at face value the strange stories told by a witness from hearsay, a braggart, and by a former laboratory assistant, characterized by U.S. journalists, who interviewed him some time later, as “half-wit” or “half crazy.” Ignorant of its real function, they saw in the maceratorium a “soap factory,” at least an experimental one. They had neither the time nor the qualification for a thorough investigation, nor were they interested in it. The Main Commission was a political body; its task was documenting German war crimes. At the Danzig Anatomic Institute its members saw what they wanted to see, and they heard from the witnesses what they wanted to hear. Their view became the standard narrative. Provided with the hallmark of authenticity at Nuremberg, it was uncritically accepted by the mainstream and so “made history.”

A flood of newspaper publications in the immediate postwar years, but first and foremost Nałkowska’s Profesor Spanner—in public opinion raised to a first-rate historical source—engraved the myth of the Danzig human soap factory into the collective memory not only of the Polish people, but of peoples across the whole Soviet dominated part of the world. Depending on the narrator’s and/or listener’s nationality, Polish political prisoners and/or Soviet prisoners of war were identified as the alleged “raw material.” In Western countries, the Danzig soap myth merged with the “Jewish soap” legend, making Jews the alleged “raw material” for “Professor Spanner’s soap factory,” as can be seen from Shallcross’ book: “At the beginning of Spanner’s operation the corpses he processed were Jewish” (58), or: “Indeed, during the earlier stages of his operation, the corpses Spanner processed were Jewish, mainly from the Stutthof concentration camp” (67).

In the period of time when the maceratorium was in operation, however, no Jewish corpses were delivered to Spanner’s institute, as I showed in an article published in 2006 in German Studies Review.[6] This concurs both with Yad Vashem Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer’s remark about the “laboratory”—“It did not involve Jewish bodies”—and Tomkiewicz/Semków’s research. Even the investigation made in the early 2000s by the Institute of National Remembrance, though not less flawed than that of its predecessor in 1945, came to the conclusion that Spanner’s activities had nothing to do with the Nazi genocidal project.

This alone would pull the carpet out from under Shallcross’ feet: since no soap was made at Spanner’s institute from Jewish flesh, the “Danzig soap,” whatever it may have been, cannot have been a “Holocaust object.”[7] From the point of view of formal logic, all her conclusions in this matter, as based on a false premise, must be rejected as likewise false and, on principle, would not deserve further discussion. Nevertheless I will discuss two items that play an important role in her chain of arguments: what she tells about the properties of soap and its manufacture, and where, in world literature, she sees a prediction of Spanner’s laboratory. I will demonstrate that she here, too, is showing ignorance of the facts and, in the case of Ezekiel’s vision, of the message of the original, Hebrew text. Clamped into the Procrustean bed of her preconceived notion that the soap from Spanner’s laboratory was Jewish, was “Holocaust soap,” she arrives at absurd conclusions.

Holocaust Soap’s “Unpleasant” Smell Reveals Its Origin

The author begins Chapter Three Holocaust Soap and the Story of Its Production with unfolding her ideas about “soap” and its role in our civilization. “Consumers,” she holds against Francis Ponge—“Soap, Ladies and Gentlemen, die Seife, die Seifenkugel, you know, certainly, what it is” (55; italics in the original)—“have only a vague idea of the contents of the cosmetic (including its main ingredient, animal fat) or the chemical process required to transform that coarse material into a pleasantly scented, neatly molded, and packaged cosmetic” (ibid.; italics mine). Though she confesses, “I am aware that soap is also produced from vegetable oils (coconut, palm kernel, etc.)” (149; endnote #2), she immediately qualifies this statement: “[B]ut this type of raw material for saponification has been used for commercial production only since the 1950s” (ibid.). In the Polish version, she is still more explicit: the use of vegetable oils in the commercial manufacture of soap “was only in the stage of experimental research, when Spanner was working on his project” (P 77, footnote #2).

A little bit of googling, however, would have shown her that already in an ancient Egyptian papyrus, vegetable oil is mentioned for soap-making, as well as in Arab and Turkish recipes from the 7th and 15th centuries. The world famous Marseilles soap industry, founded in the 17th century, was (and still is) based on vegetable (olive) oil. Tropical oil crops (“coconut, palm kernel, etc.”) were the main raw material used by German industrial soap manufacturers already at the turn of the 20th century. Therefore soap became a scarce commodity in Germany when, during the First World War, the British sea blockade successfully cut the country off from its suppliers overseas. In World War II, by the way, quite a lot of soap was produced in Germany from synthetic fatty acids, obtained from coal by hydrogenation.

To understand why Shallcross insists on “animal fat” as the “main ingredient” of soap, at least of soap produced before 1950, one must realize that it is one of the pillars supporting her edifice of ideas about soap and the Holocaust: “The narrative of soap’s consumption is brief and takes place entirely on the body’s surface, between the skin and the pleasantly disappearing product. The gist of this narrative can be contained in one sentence: the soap, made from an animal’s body, washes another body—in other words, the body washes the body” (55). In this train of thought, there is no place for soap made from oil crops.

“But what, ladies and gentlemen,” Shallcross asks rhetorically, “if a human body is washed by soap manufactured from the human body?” (ibid.). If Sigmund Freud was right calling soap “a ‘yardstick’ of civilization” (ibid.)—according to Shallcross, he could have meant only “soap made from an animal’s body,” since he died before 1950—the “soap manufactured from the human body”—such as that allegedly made by Professor Spanner’s team—turns out to be the yardstick of anti-civilization: “[T]he everyday artifact perverts the main trope of civilization to which the cosmetic traditionally belongs, since such soap dehumanizes one body in order to rehumanize another” (55-56).

The Danzig soap, however, had a fundamental shortcoming that made it, after all, unsuitable for “rehumanizing” another body: its “stubbornly persistent, peculiar odor . . . an ‘unpleasant’ human odor” (68). With Patrick Süskind (Perfume), Shallcross holds that “the odor, if captured and retained . . . would preserve the core of an individual soul” (70). Applying this idea to Spanner’s soap, she concludes: “The undesirable smell of the extract spoke of the spectral Derridian trace, of the illusive core that continued to remind its consumers of their own bio-ontology . . . [T]he somatic object of scientific desire . . . resisted the complete transformation. It became a spectral remainder/reminder of a seemingly neutralized truth” (ibid.). In plain English: In its “unpleasant” smell, Spanner’s “Holocaust soap” preserved the “core” of the “souls” of the Jews from whom it allegedly was made. Was the author not aware that she is evoking here associations with the “stinking Jew,” a stock phrase in popular antisemitic discourse?

On the other hand, she could have informed herself that, in anatomic institutes, the corpses are preserved by chemical agents, such as denatured alcohol, Lysol or Formalin, which, indeed, have a pungent odor that is not destroyed during the process of making organ preparations. If we assume that the Danzig soap, indeed, had a bad smell, it would have been from nothing but the chemicals used in the preservation of the corpses. The odor of the soap would not have been “the smell of truth” (68), but that of denatured alcohol, used in Spanner’s institute for preserving the corpses in the morgue, and Formalin, used for fixing the parts of human bodies intended for maceration. But such a simple, rationalistic explanation would not have allowed the author to end chapter three with the triumphant exclamation: “Of all types of Holocaust recycling, this one failed” (70).

Prophet Ezekiel Anticipating Professor Spanner’s Laboratory?

Under the subheading “The Meat in the Pot,” Shallcross interprets Nałkowska’s description of the writer’s “archetypal descent to the underworld (katabasis)” (63; italics in the original), into the morgue of the Anatomic Institute, located in the basement of the building. There the members of the Main Commission found several vats with corpse parts and “a huge cauldron brimming with a dark liquid. Someone familiar with the premises poked under the lid and retrieved a boiled human torso, skinned and dripping with the liquid. This dark liquid—fat—was what interested Spanner most” (ibid.). Let us pass over the fact that the “dark liquid” was not “fat,” but a foul-smelling broth, together with the body parts floating in it remnants from a maceration process not yet completed when the scientists, three and half months prior, abandoned the site, and which, from that time, were left to fungi and bacteria for decomposition.

Far more important is that Shallcross here has a eureka experience: in her eyes, “the lab’s true function” was suddenly revealed, “the space transmogrified from the forensic lab into a soap-manufacturing place” (63), evoking in her a whole chain of associations with works of philosophy and world literature. There is first “the parallel with a slaughterhouse and meat-processing factory” (ibid.)—an association expressed, for example, by Nałkowska in her war diary (61). Shallcross, in this context, also refers to works of Elias Canetti (63) and Daniel Pick (60).

She then sees, “under the writer’s pen, the modernist order of the slaughterhouse . . . intertwined with another form of imagery”: the brewing of “a potion out of morsels of animal bodies mixed with pieces of human corpses” (67), as described in scene one, act four, of Macbeth. According to Shallcross, this scene anticipates the final, mature phase of Spanner’s soap-making: “[D]uring the earlier stages of his operation, the corpses Spanner processed were Jewish . . . However, toward the end of the war, he used, in the mode of the Shakespearean witches, racially and ethnically diverse corpses” (ibid.).

But not only the visionary from Stratford-on-Avon predicted Spanner’s soap factory. Shallcross sees it foreshadowed already in the Old Testament, in “Ezekiel’s vision of the bodies of deportees from Jerusalem in a foreign city, described rather bluntly by the prophet as ‘the meat in the pot’ ” (67). Ezekiel here allegedly “anticipated . . . the accumulation of fragmented corpses in Spanner’s lab” (ibid.), stored in concrete vats “for ‘consumption’ in the form of soap” (P 90). In the Polish version, Shallcross again is more explicit: “Like in Ezekiel’s first vision, speaking of the murdered people of Israel as ‘the meat in the pot’ (Ez 11,1-13), the corpses lying here are stripped of the hope for salvation, promised by the Christ when He, in the moment of the mystical ‘consumption,’ is pointing to His Body — Hic est enim corpus meum” (ibid.; italics in the original).

I will not dwell here on the question, whether the biblical prophet was able to look into the future or not, or whether the corpses in the morgue could have been saved from eternal damnation or not, as both is a matter of faith, not of science. But I will show that Shallcross’ conclusions with regard to the Anatomic Institute of the Danzig Medical Academy are based on a misreading of Ezekiel, whose language excels in the use of metonyms and metaphors, and whose rhetoric is abundant of allegories and parables. For a correct interpretation of a text fragment from the Book of Ezekiel, a good knowledge of the phraseology of Classical Hebrew, therefore, is as indispensable as the analysis of the literary and historical context.

Without any doubt, Ezekiel was a historic personality. He was a man of immense erudition and belonged to that part of the upper class of the Kingdom of Judah, which was deported to Babylon after the conquest of this country by the Babylonians in 597 BC. He saw the reason for his country’s defeat in the violation of God’s commandments, not only of those concerning worship, but also of those demanding social justice and internal peace.

In the fragment of text concerned, Ezekiel sees twenty-five men gathering at the Eastern gate of the Temple in Jerusalem, among them two “leaders of the people,” members of the upper class who had not been deported (v. 1). God reveals to Ezekiel that they are up to no good for the town (v. 2). They say: “Hasn’t time come to settle in? She [the town, ha‘ir, is feminine in Hebrew] is the pot, and we are the meat” (v. 3). The situation is clear: in the absence of the former leaders (who were deported), the twenty-five are planning to take full command of the town, which has to be at their service, such as the pot is at the service of the meat.

God now orders Ezekiel to tell these twenty-five (v. 4-5a) that He knows very well what they said and planned (v. 5b): “You made many oppressed in this town, and you filled her streets with [the] humiliated” (v. 6). The key word in this verse is ħalal, in its basic meaning “(the) pierced,” “(the) perforated” (singular). In the Bible, it occurs mostly in its non-metaphorical meaning and is then usually translated by “(the) slain” or “(the) corpse.” But in our text fragment, this translation would not make sense, because in the next verse, the “slain” apparently are alive and even are promised a happy life. It is, therefore, necessary to take ħalal here metaphorically—the ħalelim are the victims of violence, the oppressed, the abused, the humiliated.

God, however, will reverse the unjust social order set up by the usurpers: “Those you abused, who you drew up in her [i.e. the town], they are the meat, and she is the pot” (v. 7a). ħalelekhem cannot mean “those you slew” here, because in Hebrew phraseology, “corpses” would not have gone with the predicate śamtem (2nd person plural masc. qal of śim: “to put/set up, to raise/draw up (troops, a team)”). With regard to “the slain,” hipaltem (hif‘il of nafal: “to fell,” “to throw down”) or a word with a similar meaning would have had to be used — another clue pointing to the necessity of treating ħalal here metaphorically.[8] The victims of violence will be “the meat,” i.e. those who will be served (and protected) by the town. The wrongdoers, however, will be expelled from the town—“I will expel you from her,” v. 7b—and will be killed (v. 8-10): “She (the town) will not be the pot for you, and you will not be the meat within her” (v. 11a). It again shows that “meat in the pot” here has a positive meaning.

At any rate, the metaphor “The meat in the pot” in this text fragment from the book of Ezekiel has the opposite meaning of that which Shallcross assumes. “The meat” are neither “the murdered people of Israel,” nor “deportees from Jerusalem in a foreign city,” though both would have nicely gone with the master narrative of the Holocaust. Quite the contrary, the “meat” are those who are doing well in the city of Jerusalem, the “pot.” Maybe Shallcross fell victim to a translation—traduttore traditore, the translator is a traitor, as an Italian saying goes. But even the rather conservative Polish Catholic, standard Bible translation Biblia Tysiąclecia, though not taking into account the metaphorical use of ħalal (which makes the text fragment difficult to understand), does not leave any doubt that Ezekiel must have meant something positive with “the meat in the pot,” something agreeable, quite the contrary of lying partially dissected in the morgue of an anatomic institute or in an autoclave ready for maceration.


Shallcross’ analysis of selected works of the Polish writers Szlengel, Ginczanka, Miłosz, Andrzejewski, and Borowski under the aspect of the intimate relations between objects of everyday use and their users/owners, indeed, opens a new perspective on the Holocaust, not so much on the events as such, but on the way those affected by these events experienced them, be it as victims (Szlengel, Ginczanka), fellow-sufferers (Borowski), or empathic observers (Miłosz, Andrzejewski). I am not a scholar of Polish literature, and from the works dealt with in this book I know only those of Miłosz and Borowski, as well as some literature about these. But as far as I can see, Shallcross’ trains of thought concerning the texts of these writers are comprehensible and her conclusions in accord with the wording and the message of the texts she is analyzing.

In the pivotal third chapter of her book, however, the author falls victim to an uncritical reading of a piece of docufiction, Zofia Nałkowska’s short story Profesor Spanner, which laid the foundation for the nationwide spreading of the “Danzig soap” myth in the author’s home country, Poland, and which she expands to a “Danzig Holocaust soap” myth, clamping, among other things and texts, the technology of soap-making, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a vision of the Prophet Ezekiel into the Procrustean bed of her preconceived notions.

Can we, with reference to C. P. Snow’s ideas expressed in Two Cultures, be forbearing with the author who obviously never felt the necessity of studying, at least in some detail, how an anatomic research laboratory is working and how soap is made, before drawing far-reaching—and what is more, erroneous—conclusions from a piece of literature about these items? Or shall we accept the same excuse she grants to those who believe(d) in the Jewishness of RIF soap: “We may consider this misperception a curious symptom of a purist and essentialist reading, or, at least, note that the tension between essentialism and utilitarianism reaches its peak in this misreading” (68) ? Or shall we concur with Job: “Mi-yiten haħaresh taħarishun, utehi lakhem leħokhmah!” (Job 13, 5)?[9] I will leave the answer to the readers.


Bauer, Yehuda, Letter to The Jewish Standard, January 9, 1991. On the Web: Last accessed February 5, 2009.
Ehrlich, Arnold B., Randglossen zur Hebräischen Bibel. Textkritisches, Sprachliches und Sachliches [Marginal notes to the Hebrew Bible. On text, language, and facts], vols. I-VII, Hildesheim (Georg Olms) 1968, facsimile reprint of the 1st edition, Leipzig (J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung) 1908-1914.
Gesenius, Wilhelm, Hebräisches und aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament [Hebrew and Aramaic concise dictionary of the Old Testament], 17th edition, Berlin/Göttingen/Heidelberg (Springer) 1962 (1st edition 1915).
Kittel, Rudolf (ed.), Biblia Hebraica [The Hebrew Bible], 16th, revised edition, Stuttgart (Württembergische Bibelanstalt) 1973 (1st edition 1929).
Mandelkern, Solomon, Veteris testamenti concordantiae hebraicae atque chaldaicae [Hebrew and Aramaic concordance of the Old Testament], Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (Shocken) 1978.
Nałkowska, Zofia, Medaliony. Warsaw (KAMA) 1994 (edition for use at school).
———, Medallions. Translated from the Polish by Diana Kuprel, Evanston IL (Northwestern University Press) 2000.
Neander, Joachim, “The Danzig Soap Case: Facts and Legends around ‘Professor Spanner’ and the Danzig Anatomic Institute 1944-1945,” in: German Studies Review XXIX/1, February 2006, pp. 63-86.
Shallcross, Bożena, The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture, Bloomington and Indianapolis (Indiana University Press) 2011.
———, Rzeczy i zagłada [Things and the Holocaust], Cracow (Universitas) 2010.
Snow, Charles Percy, Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, New York and Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 1959.
Süskind, Patrick, Perfume. The Story of a Murder. Translated by John E. Woods. New York (Pocket Books) 1991.
Tomkiewicz, Monika, and Piotr Semków, Profesor Rudolf Spanner 1895-1960. Naukowiec w III Rzeszy [Professor Rudolf Spanner 1895-1960. A scientist in the Third Reich], Gdynia (Róża Wiatrów) 2010.
Zespól Biblistów Polskich (eds.), Pismo Święte Starego i Nowego Testamentu. W przekładzie z języków oryginalnych [The Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament. Translated from the original languages], 5th revised edition, Poznań (Pallottinum) 2003 (“Biblia Tysiąclecia”), Imprimatur from August 21, 1999.


[1] In the foreword of the Polish version, the author writes that it is based on the English language edition. That means that the Polish publisher was faster than the American.
[2] Quoted from, last accessed May 24, 2011.
[3] E.g., last accessed May 25, 2011.
[4] For a biography of Spanner, focusing on his Danzig years, see Tomkiewicz/Semków 2010.
[5] My article in German Studies Review and Tomkiewicz/Semków's book.
[6] By the way, none of the male corpses in the morgue, which were carefully examined by a Polish and a Soviet medical commission, was reported to have shown signs of circumcision.
[7] Shallcross knows that wartime "RIF" soap was not made from Jewish fat (68). Did she perhaps feel to have to invent "Holocaust soap made at Danzig" to save the "Jewish soap" myth, deeply engraved in public perception worldwide?
[8] I am referring here and in the two preceding paragraphs to Ehrlich 1912/1968, vol. V, pp. 34-36.
[9] "If you only would keep completely silent! For you, that would be wisdom" (New English Translation).


  1. Holocaust Controversies favourite, Thomas "Sobibor Submarine" Blatt
    in his 1996 paper "Soap from human fat: Evidence of a Nazi crime" (which was edited by his wife Dena, who usually writes & lectures about aliens from Sirius living amongst us)
    states that there is "without any doubt enough evidence of the experimental canniblaism in soap making in the cellars of the former Institute of Hygiene in Gdansk"

    This paper was ironically cited by Michael "Skeptic" Shermer
    although we still await his review of Dena Blatt's 'The Artist & the Alien'

    Antony Beevor in Berlin: The Downfall 1945, also claims the Nazis experimented with human soap at the Danzig Institute (page 94, UK hardback)

  2. Great article, Joachim!

    Hope you don't mind the "applause" from the wrong side.:-)

  3. Hi,
    I found your site through axis history forum. Have you an introductory page that explains your site's purpose? It looks to be of great use for me in teaching my students the use of historic sources but, teaching near Dachau, I need to be vigilant about outside sites' agendas.

  4. Keir,

    It's in our first blog: Intention and Explanation.

    The author, Dr. Nick Terry, teaches history at Exeter University.

  5. Haven't you found some inspiration in my post "THE *RIF* SOAP'S HOAX." that I have been posting on alt.revisionism since at least from 2008? My friend Google reminds it
    Even the allusion to an Egyptian papyrus is in your work...
    I have nothing against you for not mentioning me at anytime as a part of your "inspiration" but I am glad to observe that you develop very well my basic argumentation on that topic. That is good to see that some revisionist reasoning can be useful sometimes.
    Sans rancune

  6. Cheers Roberto. I am very grateful and look forward to following your most useful blog.

  7. Roberto, a suggestion: put this introductory post "Intention and Explanation", that explains the philosophy of the blog, highlighted as "About the blog."

    This would inform the purposes of the blog for the people who knows nothing about it and would avoid that people with bad intentions defaming the blog saying lies out there. Attacks such as those you all received from some idiots.

    I put something like this("About the blog") in the holocausto-doc blog to prevent this kind of trouble, in case of someone bad claims malicious lies about the blog.

  8. @Zulu:
    Thank you for directing my attention to your blog post from 2008. I'll add it to my list of references.
    Let me, however, remind you that I already published about this issue in FABULA-Journal of Folktale Studies 3/4, 2005, and, in much detail, in German Studies Review, 1/2006. A preliminary version of my FABULA article, from 2004, is on the Web site of Prof. Harold Marcuse, UCSB.

    by Roger Price
    February 1, 2013 | 11:09 am
    Note: Another version of this post was published previously at
    Poland's National Remembrance Institute confirms: 'We have determined that, without shadow of a doubt, soap was produced using substances obtained from human bodies'
    Copyright © Yedioth Internet. All rights reserved.
    Published: 10.10.06, 09:09 / Israel Jewish Scene
    Poland's Nazi German occupiers used "substances" from the bodies of concentration camp prisoners to make soap, a study carried out by Poland's National Remembrance Institute (IPN) to counter the arguments of negationists showed Friday.
    "We have determined that, without the shadow of a doubt, soap was produced using substances obtained from human bodies at the anatomical insitute of the Medical Academy of Danzig, led by Professor Rudolf Spanner," Paulina Szumera of the IPN told AFP.
    Danzig is the German name for the Polish city of Gdansk.
    "We launched our investigation to still the voices denying that this ever happened," she said.
    Evidence for Nuremberg trials
    For the IPN probe, Polish scientists studied a bar of soap that was presented as evidence during the Nuremberg Nazi war crime trials after World War II, that was in the archives of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Szumera said.
    Polish television station TVN24 cited IPN investigators as saying the bodies of prisoners at the Nazi concentration camp of Stutthof, in northern Poland, and at Gdansk municipal jail were used to make the soap.

    The bodies of patients at a psychiatric hospital in Gdansk were also used, the investigators told TVN24.

    Several dozen kilogrammes of soap were produced by the Nazis in Gdansk and used to clean Spanner's laboratory work surfaces, the IPN said.
    Almond extract was added to the soap to give it a palatable scent.
    Soaps are usually made from fats and oils that react with lye (sodium hydroxide).
    Copyright © Yedioth Internet. All rights reserved.


    The D&E method, used on unborn children 14 weeks or older, involves using a long steel tool to grasp and tear off, by brute force, the arms and legs of the developing human—after which the skull is crushed.
    Dr. Anthony Levatino, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has performed many D&E abortions, describes the procedure: “Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can…Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.”


    101 USES FOR A DEAD (or live) BABY
    by Olga Fairfax, Ph.D


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