Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 8: Burning of the Corpses (2). Cremation Devices, Methods and Times.

Cremation Devices, Methods and Times

Burning of corpses at Belzec took place as early as August 1942, according to the testimony of Dr. Pfannenstiel.[2] At that time cremation was not yet used as a means of body disposal per se but probably in order to help stretch the available burial space (judging by Dr. Pfannenstiel’s description whereby the corpses burned just partly and fresh corpses were placed on top of them thereafter), perhaps also for reasons of hygiene.[3]
Wholesale cremation of corpses extracted from the Belzec mass graves only started in November 1942, according to the deposition of former SS-man Heinrich Gley:[4]:
The gassings, as far as I remember, were stopped at the end of 1942, when there was already snow on the ground. Then began the general exhumation and burning of the corpses; it should have lasted from November 1942 until March 1943. The burnings were carried out day and night without interruption, first at one and then at two fireplaces. One fireplace allowed for burning about 2,000 corpses within 24 hours. About two weeks after the beginning of the burning action the second fireplace was erected. Thus on average there were burned about 300,000 bodies at the one fireplace over a period of 5 months and 240,000 bodies at the other fireplace over a period of 4 months. Of course these are only approximate estimates. It should be correct to put the total number of corpses at 500,000. […] Again a short time later I was assigned to the burning detachment; the incineration of the dug-out corpses was a process so abominable humanly, esthetically and in what concerns the smell, that the fantasy of people who today are used to live under civil conditions probably is not sufficient to imagine this horror.
The time given by Gley for the start of cremations, November 1942, is corroborated by the testimonies of Polish civilians living near the camp[5] and the depositions of another Belzec SS-man[6] and of one of the camp’s non-German guards[7]; these witnesses also tend to confirm that cremations ended in March 1943 as stated by Gley. On the other hand, erasing the traces of the camp lasted until June 1943, and a witness noticed the stench of exhumed corpses as late as April of that year[8], so it is possible that corpses were burned at Belzec beyond March 1943[9].
Little is known about the construction of the fireplaces mentioned by Gley and the method applied to burn the corpses, though it stands to reason that they resembled the devices and methods applied at the other two camps of Aktion Reinhard, Sobibor and Treblinka. According to a Polish investigation report, the corpses had been extracted from the soil with special cranes and burned on heaps doused with an easily flammable substance; later the procedure had been improved by building structures from railway rails on which the corpses were placed alternately with layers of wood drenched in an easily flammable substance.[10] 
Cremation remains were crushed with a special machine, the description of which suggests a ball mill[11]. According to O’Neil, this machine was borrowed from Janowska concentration camp and resembled a cement mixer with heavy iron balls inside the revolving drum; as the drum revolved at high speed, the metal balls crushed the bone material into small fragments. If this is accurate, the machine must have looked like the one shown in Image 8.1 below.[12]
Image 8.1
Heinrich Chamaides, David Manuschewitz and Moische Korn (f.l.t.r.) on the platform of the bone mill in the Janowska camp in Lwow.

Sobibor was the first of the three camps of Aktion Reinhard to change its body disposal procedure from burial to cremation, the main reason being probably a concern that the camp’s water supply might be polluted by leachate from the graves due to the camp area’s relatively high groundwater level.[13] The corpses of the victims killed after the camp resumed operation in October 1942 following a two-month interruption were taken directly from the gas chambers to places of cremation, while the corpses of the victims killed and buried until the end of July/early August 1942 were disinterred with a mechanical excavator for this purpose.[14]
As in the case of Belzec, little is known about the cremation sites at Sobibor. According to Schelvis[15], rails were criss-crossed over the top of a pit excavated for this purpose, forming a rudimentary grid. This configuration is also mentioned by survivor eyewitness Leon Feldhendler.[16] SS-Sturmbannführer Streibel, who visited Sobibor in 1942, recalled a roaster made of railway lines, supported by a stone base; he mentioned having seen "the cremation sites", which suggests that there was more than one of them.[17] The Judgment LG Hagen vom 20.12.1966, 11 Ks 1/64 mentions (several) huge grids inside a pit.[18]
The latter description is corroborated by the research findings of Andrzej Kola.[19] Graves nos. 1 and 2 were considered to be body-burning graves, presumably because (unlike graves nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6) they contained only cremation remains but no human remains in wax-fat transformation. The surface area of these graves is respectively 400 m² and 500 m²[20], which means that cremation grids of considerable size could fit into them. The mention of a single pit by eyewitnesses suggests the possibility that graves nos. 1 and 2 are actually part of what was one single grave in camp times, just like graves 3 and 4 and graves 5 and 6 may have been respectively one grave.[21] Kola’s team also identified a possible smaller location of body-burning activity with an area of 30 m², which is called grave no. 7 in Kola’s report.
Few particulars about the body-burning procedure at Sobibor are known because no inmate from the Sobibor extermination sector "Camp III" survived.[22] Witnesses mentioned the pyres being doused with gasoline or another flammable liquid[23], and huge fires flaring up so high that they could be seen far and wide; Ukrainian guards in their watchtowers found it hard to breathe when the wind blew in their direction from the burning grids.[24] The smell of burned flesh prevailed throughout the camp and its vicinity.[25] The bones that survived cremation were crushed with hammers.[26]
From Treblinka extermination camp there are reports of corpse burning as early as August and September 1942.[27] These cremation procedures don’t seem to have been aimed at destroying all corpses in the graves, but rather at carbonizing the upper layers to stretch burial space and for hygienic purposes.[28] The same may have applied to reported cremations in the months of October, November and December 1942, another possibility being that these were early and not very successful attempts at wholesale cremation, perhaps motivated by shortage of burial space and/or by complaints such as one from the Wehrmacht local commandant in Ostrow about the unbearable stench of corpses emanating from Treblinka because the Jews there were not sufficiently buried.[29] Nevertheless, wholesale systematic, continued and eventually successful cremation of corpses at Treblinka started only after a visit of Himmler’s at the end of February/beginning of March 1943.[30] Oskar Strawczyinski described the exhumation of the corpses for cremation as follows:
While we in Camp I were busy building and beautifying, the work of exhuming and burning the bodies of the first victims of the Warsaw ghetto continued intensively in Camp 2. There were a few tremendously huge mass graves, each one filled with tens of thousands of murdered people. The layers of corpses were covered with chlorine. At the beginning, the chlorine used to arrive in wagonloads. The bodies were now being dug out and burnt in order to erase the evidence. It was not an easy job. For many months, three bulldozers growled away from 4 o'clock in the morning until nightfall. The work went on with great intensity, in two shifts. The bulldozers would constantly dig up earth mixed with body parts. The body parts had to be carefully picked out and taken on wooden carriers to be burnt in the great ovens. [31]
Camp commandant Stangl remembered the exhumation and burning procedure as follows:
It must have been at the beginning of 1943. That’s when excavators were brought in. Using these excavators, the corpses were removed from the huge ditches which had been used until then [for burial]. The old corpses were burned on the roasters, along with the new bodies [of new arrivals to the camp]. During the transition to the new system, Wirth came to Treblinka. As I recall, Wirth spoke of a Standartenführer who had experience in burning corpses. Wirth told me that according to the Standartenführer’s experience, corpses could be burned on a roaster, and it would work marvelously. I know that in the beginning [in Treblinka] they used rails from the trolley to build the cremation grill. But it turned out that these rails were too weak and bent in the heat. They were replaced with real railroad rails.[32]
About the "great ovens" mentioned by the witness more information is available than about their equivalents at Belzec and Sobibor. They are described as follows in the judgment at the Düsseldorf trial of Treblinka’s commandant Franz Stangl:
Around the turn of the year 1942/1943, following instructions from higher up, the bodies started being burned. At first a burning grid was made out of the trolley rails still available. However, these could not bear the weight of the mountains of corpses. Thereupon a bigger grid was erected by the gas chamber building, which was made of railway rails placed on concrete foundations. At first there were difficulties also with this burning installation. As a specialist for such burnings an Unterführer by the name of Floss came to Treblinka, who after some experiments brought the grid into the right position. In a pit underneath the grid a wood fire was maintained. The corpses were now placed upon the grid in layers and burned.[33]
The presence of a pit underneath the grid, in which a fire was made in order to set the corpses on the grid on fire, also becomes apparent from the description provided by Ukrainian guard Pavel Vladimirovich Leleko:
An incinerator from the burning of bodies was situated about 10 meters beyond the large gas chamber building. It had the shape of a cement pit about one meter deep and 20 meters long. A series of furnaces covered on the top with four rows of rails extended along the entire length of one of the walls of the pit. The bodies were laid on the rails, caught fire from the flames burning in the furnaces and burned. About 1000 bodies were burned simultaneously. The burning process lasted up to five hours.[34]
Details about the construction of the grid were also mentioned in the judgment at the 1st Düsseldorf Treblinka trial (Kurt Franz et al)[35], which contains the following description:
After the most diverse burning attempts had been made for this purpose, a large burning facility was constructed. It consisted of concrete bases about 70 cm high, on which 5 to 6 railway rails about 25 to 30 meters long lay in small intervals.
A comparison between Leleko's description and the ones contained in the above-mentioned Düsseldorf judgments suggests that the "furnaces" mentioned by Leleko were subdivisions of the pit by concrete blocks placed at certain intervals across the pit, which gave this witness the impression that each part of the pit between its ends and a concrete block or in between concrete blocks, in which fire was burning, was a "furnace". The description in the first Düsseldorf judgment suggests that the concrete blocks stood 70 cm above ground, which can be matched with Leleko’s description by assuming that these were either blocks 1.70 meters high placed inside the pit and protruding from the pit for 70 cm, or blocks 70 cm high placed on the rims of the pit, the distance between the bottom of the rails and the bottom of the pit being, in any case, 1.70 meters.
The area of the grid can be roughly estimated on hand of the above-quoted data, the author’s estimate being ca. 66 square meters.[36] The volume of space available underneath the grid, considering the calculations in the previous paragraph, would be about 66 x 1.70 = 112 cubic meters.
Eyewitness descriptions of the burning procedure suggest that corpses considered to burn better than others were placed at the bottom of the pile of bodies so that they would help combustion of the corpses above them, and that the operators endeavored to create a huge and very intensive fire so that the corpses on the grid would quickly be engulfed by the fire and start burning themselves:
At that time SS Oberscharführer or Hauptscharführer [Herbert] Floss, who, as I assume, was previously in another extermination camp, arrived. He was in charge of the arrangements for cremating the corpses. The cremation took place in such a way that railway lines and concrete blocks were placed together. The corpses were piled on these rails. Brushwood was put under the rails. The wood was doused with petrol. In that way not only the newly accumulated corpses were cremated, but also those taken out from the graves.[37]The SS "expert" on body burning ordered us to put women, particularly fat women, on the first layer of the grill, face down. The second layer could consist of whatever was brought – men, women, or children – and so on, layer on top of layer … Then the "expert" ordered us to lay dry branches under the grill and to light them. Within a few minutes the fire would take so it was difficult to approach the crematorium from as far as 50 meters away.[38]It was genuine hell. From a distance it looked like a volcanic eruption boiling up through the earth’s surface and spreading flames and lava. Everything around was caught up in the noise and turmoil. At night the smoke, fire, and heat were unbearable.[39]
About the number of cremation grids in operation at Treblinka there are no precise data. Arad mentions that at the height of cremation operations the number of cremation sites was increased to six and the roasters "occupied a good portion of the area east of the gas chambers, which was clear of mass graves and buildings"[40]. Yet according to the judgment at the 1st Düsseldorf Treblinka trial[41], the number of cremation roasters could not be established exactly in the main proceedings.
The result of the cremation process was not complete combustion of all bodies. Arad writes that the corpses were taken to and arranged on the roasters during the daytime and burned throughout the night, and that when the fire went out there were "only" skeletons or scattered bones on the roasters, and piles of ash underneath. Ukrainian guard Leleko testified that
After the bodies had been burned, the prisoners belonging to the "working crews" passed the ashes and remains of the bodies through a sieve. The parts of the body that had burned but had preserved their natural shape were put into a special mortar and pounded into flour. This was done in order to hide the traces of the crimes committed. Later on the ashes were buried in deep pits.[42]
Arad writes that round wooden sticks were then used to break the remaining bones into small fragments, which were then run through a tightly woven screen made of metal wire; those bone fragments which did not pass through the screen were then returned for further smashing. Unburned bones which proved too difficult to fragment were returned to the roaster and re-ignited with a new pile of bodies.[43] What Arad calls "round wooden sticks" are likely to have been not sticks but wooden logs similar to those portrayed in this drawing from Auschwitz-Birkenau by David Olère:[44]
Image 8.2

In another article by Arad, these objects are more correctly referred to as Holzpflöcke, i.e. wooden logs.[45]
The ash and bits of bone left after cremation and crushing were returned to the mass graves that had previously held the bodies, where they were scattered in several layers, interspersed with layers of sand, and covered by a top layer of earth 2 meters thick.[46] Some of the cremation remains were taken away from the camp area, as is mentioned in the Soviet investigation report about Treblinka I and Treblinka II dated August 24, 1944.[47]
After the Soviet army overran the camp area these remains were largely brought to the surface by robbery diggers searching for valuables supposedly buried with the victims, which included Red Army troops using explosives.[48] As becomes apparent from contemporary investigation reports and photographs[49], these activities unearthed not only ashes and bone fragments but also huge amounts of larger human remains such as bones (sometimes still with tissue on them) and skulls. This shows that the results of the exhumation, burning and crushing procedure were not nearly as complete as certain descriptions suggest.[50]
Chełmno extermination camp operated in two phases. During the first phase, between December 1941 and March 1943, at least 150,000 people were killed. In the second phase, which lasted from June 1944 to January 1945, a total of 7,176 Jews were deported from Łódź to Chełmno and killed there between June 23 and July 14, 1944.[51]
In the 1st phase the murdered deportees were initially buried in large mass graves in the Rzuchów forest.[52] In the summer of 1942, decomposition gasses emanating from the graves polluted the whole surrounding area, whereupon burning instead of burial became the camp’s body disposal method, which starting in the autumn of 1942 was also applied to the corpses previously buried in mass graves.[53] The change of this camp’s body disposal method coincided with the start of the operation known as Aktion 1005, an attempt to eliminate the traces of the Nazis’ massacres in Eastern Europe by exhuming and burning the corpses, which was entrusted to SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel.[54] Blobel experimented with various types of cremation devices, one of which was described by SS-Untersturmführer Dejaco as having the aspect of a round coal furnace (Kohlenmeiler)[55], while another was mentioned by Fritz Ismer, a member of the Chełmno staff, who had witnessed a failed experiment of Blobel’s with a flamethrower-like apparatus.
Ismer also mentioned the more effective cremation method that was eventually adopted; pointing out that "a certain technique in burning corpses on the grids" had been developed after some time.[56] Former police officer Frank Sch., who for a time had been part of the guard detachment in the Rzuchów forest section of Chełmno (known as the Waldlager, or forest camp) testified that the bodies extracted from the mass graves had been burned in three or four pits about 5 meters long, 4 meters wide and three meters deep.[57] The descriptions of Ismer and Frank Sch. suggest a method of burning corpses on grates inside of pits, akin to the one applied at Sobibor extermination camp. Archaeologist Łucja Pawlicka-Nowak mentions "repetitive accounts about burning corpses in bonfires, which took place in the initial phase of opening the mass graves and was aimed at quick liquidation of the decomposing bodies."[58] Whether or not it was Blobel who developed or at least contributed to the development of this method – Ismer’s testimony suggests otherwise – Blobel seems to have claimed the credit for it, judging by the above-quoted deposition of Treblinka commandant Stangl, who mentioned having been told by Wirth about the experience of a Standartenführer whereby "corpses could be burned on a roaster, and it would work marvelously." The Standartenführer  in question must have been Blobel[59], as is further corroborated by the fact that the method of burning on roasters was adopted not only at the Aktion Reinhard camps but also by Blobel himself at places like Babi Yar, where the corpses were cremated on funeral pyres built on iron rails.[60]
The witness Frank Sch. also mentioned a large oven with a chimney 4 to 5 meters high, built by craftsmen. Two such ovens with chimneys were mentioned by the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland[61], which however couldn’t establish any details about these ovens. These furnaces were blown up by the camp authorities on April 7, 1943. Two new ones were, however, constructed in 1944, when the camp activities were resumed. The witnesses Zurawski and Srebrnik, and the captured gendarme Bruno Israel, who saw them in 1944, described them as being shaped like inverted cones with rectangular bases, measuring 6 x 10 meters at the top on ground level and 1.5 x 2 meters at the bottom by the ash pit and having a depth of 4 meters, with grates made of rails and a channel to the ash-pit that ensured the admittance of air and permitted the removal of ashes and bones. The furnaces burned alternate layers of chopped wood and corpses, space being left between the corpses to facilitate combustion. They could hold 100 corpses at a time, new corpses being added as the previous ones burned down. Larger bones remaining after cremation were crushed in a ball mill before being buried, scattered or thrown into the Ner River.[62]
After the end of transports from the Łódź Ghetto, which in August 1944 went no longer to Chełmno but to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the remaining Jewish slave laborers had to work in removing all remaining traces of the extermination activity, including further burning of corpses in the forest camp.[63]
Archaeological research has corroborated the scarce eyewitness information about the Chełmno cremation devices and provided much additional information. In 1986/87, relics of a blown-up cremation oven were found. Described as probably rectangular in shape, with a measurable size of 17x17m, walls obliquely narrowing towards the inside, concrete pipes supplying air to the hearth, a depth of 4.5 meters, and a bottom layer of brick and concrete debris, it is believed to be one of the two furnaces with chimneys observed by outside witnesses during the 1st phase. Blocks of concrete in the foundations were found to have survived the blowing up of this construction at the end of the 1st phase.[64]  Five objects found in 2003/04 are presumed by archaeologists to have been "most likely built in order to liquidate quickly the decomposing corpses from the mass graves".[65] Object 2/03 is square on the surface (8x8 m) and narrows towards the bottom, with the depth slightly exceeding 5 m. It contains traces of preserved concrete pipes, which were probably meant to supply air to the furnace interior. Object 3/03 has the shape of an 8x9 m rectangle, lumps of concrete as well as pieces of chamotte brick and concrete pipes having been found when uncovering the object. Such objects were also found when uncovering Object 4/03, which has the shape of a 7x8 m rectangle. Object 5/03 has a rectangular outline with the measurements 3.50 x 4 m. Object 20/03 is an 8x8 m square in horizontal projection and includes lumps of concrete and blackened chamotte bricks. All objects except Object 5/03, which was not explored, were found to be filled with soil containing burn waste, ashes, and pieces of burned and/or crushed bones.  
The descriptions of objects 3/03, 4/03, 5/03 and 20/03 bring to mind the three or four pits about 5 meters long, 4 meters wide and 3 meters deep that were mentioned by Frank Sch.[66], whose size estimate comes across as below the mark. The identical square shape and measurements of Object 2/03 and Object 20/03, on the other hand, suggest that these were identically built objects narrowing towards the bottom, even though such narrowing is not mentioned regarding Object 20/03.
Further possible archaeological evidence to the burning of corpses on grids (as mentioned by Fritz Ismer) in pits (as mentioned by Frank Sch.) was found in the mass grave referred to as the second grave.[67] A larger object found in 2003/04, on the other hand, was believed by archaeologists to probably be the relics of a furnace "used for liquidating corpses during the systematic center operation(a function also attributed to an object called "10/03", which can be seen next to "21/03" in the map of Plot IV linked to in Pawlicka-Nowak’s online article[68] and is described in a printed version of that article.[69] Object 21/03 is described as having the shape of a 25x9 m rectangle and being over 6.30 m deep, 2 pipes supplying air to the inside having been found together with a shaft about 4 m wide, presumed to have been used for removing ash from the ash pit, and pieces of concrete as well as nearby fence posts. The object is "filled with gray, very sandy humus, mixed with inclusions of burn waste, ash, and crushed burned bones."[70]
Mattogno’s attempt to tackle this inconvenient evidence (insofar as he addresses it at all) starts with a feeble argument that two incriminating documents were not related to Chełmno. The documents are Dejaco’s report of September 17, 1942 about his trip the previous day as member of a delegation from Auschwitz-Birkenau including camp commandant Rudolf Höss for the purpose of inspecting a Sonderanlage, a "special installation", and the corresponding travel authorization of Sepember 15, 1942, whereby the "special installation" to be inspected was a Versuchstation für Feldöfen Aktion Reinhard, an experimental station for Aktion Reinhard field ovens.[71]
As the Auschwitz delegation’s trip to Chełmno (a.k.a. Kulmhof) is mentioned in the notes later written by Rudolf Höss in Polish captivity[72], Mattogno further claims that Höss’s account – which he maintains is the only evidence about Blobel’s activities at Chełmno, ignoring the testimonies of Frist Ismer and others[73] - is false because in another part of his notes Höss stated that Kulmhof was no longer in operation when he visited it, while according to the established historical record the camp functioned until April 1943 in its 1st phase. Unfortunately for Mattogno, Höss was actually correct in his statement, insofar as the flow of transports to Chełmno stopped following the deportation of 15,700 Jews from the Łódź ghetto between September 1-2 and September 7-12, 1942, and a final deportation from the Zelów ghetto on 14 September 1942, after which the camp was dedicated to removing the bodies.[74] As concerns killing operations the camp had indeed stopped operating by the time of Höss’s visit on September 16, 1942.
Following this unfortunate attempt to get rid of Höss’s testimony about Blobel’s activities at Chełmno and a peculiar "demonstration" that the Chełmno Sonderkommando used a ball mill (Kugelmühle) and not a bone mill (Knochenmühle), as if the two were mutually exclusively propositions and the former were not incriminating evidence to the crushing of bones, Mattogno reproduces without comment Judge Bednarz’s description of the 1st phase cremation devices in the Central Commission’s report and a more detailed description from a later book authored by Bednarz, which besides the two crematorium ovens with chimneys mentions enormous fireplaces (focolari) on which the accumulated corpses (which presumably means those extracted from the mass graves) were cremated.[75] The detailed descriptions of the 2nd phase cremation devices in the Central Commission’s report (see above) and in Bednarz’s book get more attention from Mattogno, as he argues that these devices resemble a 19th century contraption for incinerating animal carcasses known as the Feist apparatus, a brick furnace that had the aspect of an inverted cone and was covered by a chimney-like metal funnel, as shown in Image 8.3 below.[76]
Image 8.3
After musing about supposed "contradictions regarding the activity of the crematory furnaces," Mattogno then turns his guns against the archaeological investigations carried out in the Rzuchów forest in 1986/87 and in 2003/04. Regarding the described cremation sites uncovered in 2003/04[77] (objects 2/03, 3/03, 4/03, 5/03, 20/03 and 21/03), Mattogno’s essential claim is that their interpretation as cremation sites is highly disputable.[78] This claim ignores the above-mentioned descriptions of the objects (perhaps because these descriptions, especially the mentioned inclusions of burn waste, ashes, and pieces of burned bones, are hard to reconcile with the notion that the objects in question were not cremation sites) and is based on the objects having been individualized by what Mattogno considers too few probing excavations or, according to Mattogno, no probing excavations at all in two cases. However, Mattogno’s reading of the pertinent map leaves much to be desired. According to the author’s assessment[79], the number of probing excavations corresponding to a given object is the following:
Object 2/03: 1 probing excavation (nº XV). Mattogno claims zero probes.
Object 3/03: 2 probing excavations (nos. XVI and XXVI). Mattogno claims just one probe.
Object 4/03: 1 probing excavation (nº XVII). Mattogno claims zero probes.
Object 5/03: 1 probing excavation (nº XIV).
Object 20/03: 2 probing excavations (nos. XXVII and XXVIII).
Object 21/03: 4 probing excavations (numbers XLV, XXXIX, XLVI and XLIV), with probing excavations XLIII and XLVII possibly also belonging to this object.  Mattogno claims just one probe. 
As to the criteria underlying Mattogno’s claim that the number of probing excavations is too small for the size of the objects, all his readers get to see is an exclamation mark. Mattogno’s criticism – if such it can be called – also seems to be based on a misunderstanding of the archaeological method applied, which according to its description in Pawlicka-Nowak’s article (not quoted by Mattogno) provided for a reduced number of boreholes or excavations:
The research in the cemetery was carried out with the application of methods which did not disturb the layers and places where human remains were expected to be found. We adopted the method of intersecting objects on the photointerpretations with 1-meter long probes, thus obtaining a legible horizontal stratigraphy, that is a photograph of sod and a humus layer, only sporadically reaching deeper, when stratigraphy was disturbed. Due to the large extend of the research, it was decided to make boreholes in the places where clarifications were needed. [80]  
Mattogno claims that the above-mentioned object identified in 1986/87 was the only crematorium furnace used at Chełmno[81], which implies the baseless accusation that the archaeologists who identified seven other cremation objects in 2003/04 (objects 2/03, 3/03, 4/03, 5/03, 10/03, 20/03 and 21/03) manipulated their finds or (unlike self-appointed master archaeologist Mattogno) didn't know what they were doing. Another claim is that the 1986/87 object was not as big as stated in Pawlicka-Nowak’s article, because a photo supposedly taken of this object by Mattogno in 1997 suggests a somewhat smaller size and there is a plaque by the object reading that the furnace’s contours were reconstructed on the surface with authentic fragments from the furnace.[82] A more reasonable conclusion would be that the reconstruction covers only a part of the object’s identified size and the text on the plaque is inaccurately formulated.
Mattogno also holds that the object cannot have had a brick chimney, based on nothing other than its claimed similarity with the Feist apparatus[83], which like this object narrowed towards the inside. He doesn’t explain why a larger furnace built according to the Feist principle couldn’t have had such chimney instead of the funnel that can be seen in Image 8.3, which presumably had the function of a chimney. Moreover, if Mattogno were right about the object found in 1986/87 being a cremation device without a brick chimney rather than one of the 1st phase crematoria (which is unlikely insofar as the object was a construction with a concrete foundation that could not be fully destroyed by explosions), it would still be entirely possible that objects 10/03 and 21/03 are the remains of the crematoria with chimneys observed by witnesses in the 1st phase. The other oven similar to the one uncovered in 1986/87 would then be Object 2/03, which like the former object is described as narrowing towards the inside, thus matching the description of the second-phase furnaces in the Central Commission’s report, whereas objects 3/03, 4/03, 5/03 and 20/03 would be traces of open-air cremation grates similar to those used at the Aktion Reinhard camps, corresponding to the above-mentioned descriptions of Frank Sch. and Fritz Ismer. Another possibility (considering that Object 20/03 has the same square surface area as Object 2/03, though unlike the latter it is not described as narrowing towards the inside) would be that the second-phase furnaces were objects 02/03 and 20/03, that only three objects (3/03, 4/03 and 5/03) correspond to grate structures described by Ismer and Sch. (which doesn’t exclude the possibility of there having been more such structures, considering the above-mentioned traces of open-air cremation found in the second grave), and that besides the crematoria with chimneys (objects 10/03 and 21/03) there was another furnace (the 1986/87 object) also used for cremating corpses right after gassing in the latter stages of the first phase.

[2] See Chapter 7.
[3] O’Neil, Belzec, chapter 15.
[4] Deposition of Heinrich Gley in Munich on 07.01.1963, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. IX, f. 1697 ff. Gley’s estimate of the number of bodies cremated must be considered too high in light of the Höfle Report, whereby the total number of Jews deported to Belzec was 434,508.
[5] Eugeniusz Goch, in his deposition before examining judge Godziszewski in Zamość on 14.10.1945, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. VI, f. 1134-36, stated that the corpses were burned at the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, and mentioned having seen three heaps burning simultaneously. The same time span was given by Stefan Kirsz, who in his deposition before examining judge Godziszewski in Zamość on 15.10.1945 (translation from Polish to German as above, f. 1147-49) also mentioned several fires at once. According to Eustachy Ukraiński’s deposition before examining judge Godziszewski in Zamość on 11.10.194, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. VI, f. 1117-20, corpses were burned starting December 1942 and throughout the spring of 1943, with several fires burning at the same time. Stanislaw Kozak, questioned by Godziszewski on 14.10.1945 (translation from Polish to German as above, f. 1129-33), recalled two to three fireplaces and that the burning had started in late autumn 1942 and lasted for three months without interruption.
[6] In his deposition in Munich on 18.12.1963 (BAL B162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. IX, f. 1831 ff), former Belzec SS-man Fritz Tauscher stated that upon his arrival in Belzec at the end of October 1942 camp commandant Hering had put him in charge of exhuming the corpses from the mass graves and burning them. He had gone to work immediately, and the corpses had thereupon been burned day and night without interruption, first at one and then at two fireplaces, until March 1943. Tauscher mentioned that some transports had arrived while the burning operation was going on and the corpses of their occupants had been burned together with the exhumed corpses.
[7] Deposition of Aleksandr Illarionovich Semigodov in Penza, 24.05.1973, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 643/71, Bd. IV, f. 704-11. The witness stated that the corpses extracted from the mass graves had been burned starting at about the end of autumn 1942, together with the corpses of newly gassed deportees. At the time Semigodov had left Belzec in March 1943, according to this deposition, the extermination and burning had still been under way (f. 709). 
[8] Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution. The Attempt To Exterminate The Jews Of Europe, 1939-1945, 2nd revised edition, Cranbury: Thomas Yoseloff, 1968, p.148:  "In April, 1943, a Jewish doctor, who later escaped to Switzerland, noticed the appalling stench of the exhumed bodies as he passed the spot by train."
[9]  According to Eustachy Ukraiński (as note 5), cremation lasted throughout the spring of 1943.
[10] Report about investigation results in the Belzec extermination camp case, signed by state attorney Witkowski, German translation from Polish in BAL B162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. VI, f.1185-88. The report refers to several witnesses including Eustachy Ukraiński, Tadeusz Misiewicz, Stanislaw Kozak and Kazimierz Czerniak. The machine(s) extracting the corpses were mentioned by witnesses Goch, Kirsz, Ukraiński and Kozak (depositions as note 5); Kirsz and Kozak mentioned the pyres being doused with a liquid, while Ukraiński stated that the fires had constantly been "fueled with a certain powder" ("mit einem bestimmten Pulver verstärkt", in the deposition’s German translation, as note 5, f.1119).
[11] A ball mill is a cylindrical device used in grinding (or mixing) materials like ores, chemicals, ceramic raw materials and paints. Ball mills rotate around a horizontal axis, partially filled with the material to be ground plus the grinding medium. Different materials are used as media, including ceramic balls, flint pebbles and stainless steel balls. An internal cascading effect reduces the material to a fine powder. Cf.
[12] O’Neil, Belzec, Chapter 10. O’Neil mentions that the machine was operated by a Janowska inmate, an Hungarian Jew named Szpilke; this was obviously the same Szpilke, or Szpilka, who told Belzec survivor Rudolf Reder about having set up and operated this machine, as mentioned by Reder in his report about Belzec (German translation in BAL B162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. II, f.258 ff., mention of Szpilke on f. 286-287) and in his deposition before examining judge Jan Sehn in Krakow on 29 December 1945, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 252/59, Bd. I, f.1175 ff.; mention of Reder’s acquaintance Scharf – Szpilka on f. 1180. The machine used at Janowska concentration camp is mentioned in the testimonies before the Lvov Deputy District Attorney of Heinrich Chamaides on 21.9.1944 and of Moische Korn on 13.9.1944, quoted in Klee/Dressen (eds), Gott mit uns, p.226 ff. The photo in Image 8.1 is shown on p.225 of the same collection. It was taken in 1943 and resides in Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography according to the USHMM database, from which the digital public domain image was taken.
[13] See Chapter 7.
[14] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.177; Schelvis, Sobibor, p.111f.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.172.
[17] Ibid.
[18] The already decomposed corpses were extracted from the pits with the excavator’s help and burned on huge grids in an already dug, but still empty pit.". Former SS-man Erich Bauer mentioned that the corpses were burned in pits on grids made of railway rails ("In den Gruben wurden die Leichen auf Rosten, die aus Eisenbahnschienen hergestellt waren, verbrannt."), see Bauer’s deposition in Berlin on 10.12.1962, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 251/59, Bd. VIII, f.1663 ff. (f.1669). A deep pit containing burning grids was mentioned by survivor witness Chaim Engel, see Engel’s deposition before the Information Bureau for Jews in Westerbork, Netherlands, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 251/59, Bd. V, f.889-92 (f.890). Survivor eyewitness Kurt Thomas mentioned what was translated as a "Krematoriumsschacht" (crematorium shaft) or "Verbrennungsschacht" (burning shaft) in the German translation of his letter to the World Jewish Congress dd. 3.12.1961 (as above f. 1024 ff., namely f.1027, 1036 and 1043-44).  In his letter to the Dutch Red Cross dd. 3.9.1946, written under the name Kurt Ticho, the witness mentioned a "Kremationsgrube", i.e. a cremation pit (digital copy of the letter see NIOD 804/20, p.95, pp. 91 ff., p. 95). Jan Piwonski, turnout setter at Sobibor train station, learned about the burning of corpses in a pit from a non-German camp guard named Waska, according to his deposition in Lublin on 10.5.1984 (StA. Do Sob 85 PM III NO 99, pp.8-9 of the interrogation protocol).
[19] Kola, Sobibor, translation and digital copy under See also Chapter 7.
[20] See chapter 7.
[21] See chapter 7.
[22] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.172.
[23] Report of Berisch Freiberg (inmate) taken down by Bluma Wasser in Łódź on 25.7.1945, StA.Dortmund Js2//61 Aktenband VIII, f.2630-79 (f.2638); deposition of Jan Krzowski (inhabitant of Wlodawa) in Lublin on 07.08.1974, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 643/71, Bd. III, f.410-418 (413-14); deposition of Bronislaw Lobejko (railway worker) in Olesnica on 08.01.1946, StA. Dortmund Sob 85 PM IV NO 178 (the witness mentioned having smelled burning petroleum); deposition of Jan Piwonski in Lublin on 10.5.1984, as note 18.
[24] Schelvis, Sobibor, p.112, referring to the testimonies of Ukrainian guard Daniltsjenko (deposition on 25 January 1985 in Lisakowsk, Kazakh SSR, StA Dortmund Sob 85 PM V NO 96) and Polish villager Piwonski (deposition in Lublin on 29 April 1975, BAL B162/208 AR-Z 643/71, Bd. IV, f. 441-452, f.443-44). 
[25] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p. 172.
[26] Ibid., quoting Feldhendler.
[27] Krzepicki, ‘Eighteen Days in Treblinka’, p.92; Eddi Weinstein, Steel Quenched in Cold Water, The Story of an Escape from Treblinka, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2001, online excerpt under; deposition of Samuel Rajzman on 26.09.1944, quoted in M&G, Treblinka, p.141f.
[28] Rajzman’s mention of pyres suggests otherwise, but it is possible that he mixed up the burning he witnessed upon arriving at the camp with the later wholesale cremation in his recollection.
[29] Strawczyinski, ‘Escaping Hell’, pp.129 ff.; Glazar, Trap With A Green Fence, p.29 f.; Mendel Korytnicki, 23.09.1944, GARF 7445-2-134, pl.57ob, quoted in Sergey Romanov, "The Clueless Duo and early corpse incineration in Treblinka and Belzec" ( The Wehrmacht commandant’s complaint is documented KTB MiG OQu, 24.10.42: "OK Ostrow meldet, dass die Juden in Treblinka nicht ausreichend beerdigt seien und infolgedessen ein unerträglicher Kadavergeruch die Luft verpestet." – "OK [local commandant] Ostrow reports that the Jews in Treblinka are not adequately buried and as a result an unbearable smell of cadavers pollutes the air.", cf. Christopher Browning, ‘Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution’. Regarding the connection between this complaint and the start of systematic corpse exhumation and cremation see Jens Hoffmann, "Das kann man nicht erzählen": "Aktion 1005" - Wie die Nazis die Spuren ihrer Massenmorde in Osteuropa beseitigten, Hamburg: Konkret, 2008, p. 234.
[30] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, pp. 173; see also the discussion by Romanov, as previous note. 
[31] Strawczynski, ‘Escaping Hell’, p. 169.
[32] Quoted in Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.174. 
[33]JuNSV, Bd. XXXIV (Urteil LG Düsseldorf vom 22.12.1970, 8 Ks 1/69; Lfd.Nr.746).
[34] Deposition of former Ukrainian guard Pavel Vladimirovich Leleko on 20.02.1945, English translation online under
[35] JuNSV, Bd. XXII, (Urteil LG Düsseldorf vom 3.9.1965, 8 I Ks 2/64; Lfd.Nr.596).
[36] See Muehlenkamp, ‘Incinerating corpses on a grid is a rather inefficient method: Size and Configuration of the Roaster’, The link to the site providing measurements of various types of flat bottom rails is now The author’s estimate of 65.625 ≈ 66 m² is a comparatively conservative one. Mattogno & Graf assume an area of 90 m² (M&G, Treblinka, p.148). 
[37] SS-Oberscharführer Heinrich Matthes, quoted in Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.174.
[38] Yechiel Reichman, member of the inmate "burning group", quoted in Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.175.
[39] Jacob Wiernik, quoted in Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.175.
[40] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, pp.175-176.
[41] As note 35.
[42] Leleko’s deposition on 21.02.1945, English translation under
[43] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.176.
[44] Pressac, AUSCHWITZ: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, p.390.  
[45] Arad, ‘Reinhard’, p.189.
[46] Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p.176.
[47] Akt, 24.8.1944, GARF 7021-115-9, p.109. 
[48] See Chapter 7.
[49] See Chapter 7.
[50] The presence of larger human remains may be explained by insufficient burning/crushing and/or by the incomplete emptying of the burial pits mentioned by Oscar Strawczyinski (‘Escaping Hell’, p.169, quoted in see chapter 7).
[51] See chapters 3 and 7.
[52] Regarding the size and capacity of these graves see Chapter 7.
[53] Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p.273.
[54] Rudolf Höss, "Die »Endlösung der Judenfrage« im Konzentrationslager Auschwitz", written in Krakow in 1946, published in: Rudolf Höss, Kommandant in Auschwitz. Autobiographische Aufzeichnungen. Edited by Martin Broszat, 19th edition April 2004 by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, pp.237-259, here pp.244-245; Hoffmann, Aktion 1005, pp.74ff.
[55] Jean-Claude Pressac, Os Crematórios de Auschwitz. A Maquinaria do Assassínio em Massa, Lisbon: Editorial Notícias, 1993, p.100.
[56] Hoffmann, Aktion 1005, p.81 (interrogation of Fritz Ismer on 1 August 1961, criminal case 141 Js 204/60 Vol. 4, f. 1419ff.).
[57] Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp.273-4.
[58] Pawlicka-Nowak, ‘Chełmno Museum’.
[59] This is also the opinion of Arad, ‘Reinhard’, p.174.
[60] Reitlinger, Final Solution, p.146, wrote that, after the visit of Höss et al, "Blobel adopted the method which he was to introduce at Treblinka death camp and at the immense mass graves outside the larger towns of the Baltic States, White Russia and the Ukraine, a vast pyre constructed of iron rails and wooden sleepers". Regarding Babi Yar see the relevant parts of the translated accounts of witnesses David Budnik ( and Yakov Kaper (
[61] Central Commission, Chełmno: "Those who lived near had only noticed two constantly smoking chimneys within the enclosure."
[62] Hoffmann, Aktion 1005, p.223; Central Commission, Chełmno.
[63] Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p. 286; Hoffmann, Aktion 1005, p.229.
[64] Pawlicka-Nowak, ‘Chełmno Museum’.
[65] Ibid.
[66] Pawlicka-Nowak mentions an apparent contradiction between the testimonies of Dejaco and another witness, whereby the Chełmno field ovens had a round shape, and the rectangular shapes of the cremation objects archaeologically identified in 2003/04. These eyewitness observations suggest that they were watching experimental devices that, unlike those identified by archaeologists, never saw much operational use.
[67] Pawlicka-Nowak, ‘Chełmno Museum’. The description of this grave is summarized in Muehlenkamp, ‘Chełmno Mass Graves’.
[68] The map is available under
[69] Łucja Pawlicka-Nowak, "Archaeological Research in the Grounds of the Chełmno-on-Ner Former Extermination Center", in: Łucja Pawlicka-Nowak (ed.), Chełmno Witnesses Speak, 2004 Konin and Łódź, pp.42-67, here p.65.
[70] Pawlicka-Nowak, ‘Chełmno Museum’.
[71] This argument, together with Mattogno’s subsequent arguments addressed in this section, is discussed with more detail in the blog article Muehlenkamp, "Mattogno on Chełmno Cremation (Part 1)",
[72] Höss, ‘Endlösung’, Kommandant in Auschwitz p. 244.
[73] Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p 274 n.64; Hoffmann, Aktion 1005, pp.80f., referring to criminal case 141 Js 204/60, Vol. 13, f.4935 ff., interrogation of Julius Bauer on 4/5 July 1963 (p.81 n. 98; the date of Bauer’s interrogation is mentioned in n.93). Julius Bauer was Blobel’s driver, to whom Blobel mentioned that the new task he had been given was a "Secret Reich Matter" (Geheime Reichssache) and that Bauer was to keep strictest silence about all matters related thereto (Hoffmann, Aktion 1005, p.80).
[74] Krakowski, Chełmno, p.122. The last transport from the Zelów ghetto is mentioned on pp 95-96, the dates of the Łódź deportations in September are stated in a ghetto statistic published on 1 October 1942, transcribed on p.119. See also Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p.280 (where it is stated that transports diminished considerably since the autumn of 1942) and p.290 (where an absence of documents and reliable testimonies about transports from October 1942 to March 1943 is mentioned); Hoffmann, Aktion 1005, pp.223-224.
[75] Mattogno, Chełmno, pp.107f. The second source cited is W. Bednarz, Obóz straceń w Chelmnie nad Nerem.
[76] Ibid., pp. 108 ff. Image 8.3 is a drawing provided by Mattogno as Document 11 in the appendix to his book.
[77] Pawlicka-Nowak, ‘Chełmno Museum’.
[78] Mattogno, Chełmno, p.128. 
[79] Muehlenkamp, ‘Chełmno Cremation 1’.
[80] Pawlicka-Nowak, ‘Chełmno Museum’.
[81] Ibid., p.131.
[82] Ibid., p.124.
[83] Ibid., p.130.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please read our Comments Policy