Sunday, March 01, 2015

Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz, Part 5: Construction Documents, B: Ventilation & Elevator

Rebuttal of Mattogno on Auschwitz:

The Gas Chamber's Ventilation at Crematoria 2 & 3

The homicidal gas chambers in the basements of crematoria 2 & 3 were equipped with a ventilation system with both fresh air injection and air extraction. Mattogno claims that these ventilations had capacities of 4,800 m³/h yielding 9.48 air exchanges per hour (ATCFS, p. 47). This capacity (+ the info that the aeriation and air extraction fans are driven by 2 HP engines) is provided in the corresponding invoices of 22 February and 27 May 1943 respectively.

However, what Mattogno ignores is that Jean-Claude Pressac has shown already more than two decades ago that the files of the construction office provide sufficient evidence to conclude that the engine power was upgraded from 2 to 3.5 HP:

  • Topf plan D 59366 of 10 March 1942 according to which the fans for the gas chamber are driven by 3.5 HP motors (Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz, p. 47).
  • Letter and telegram of the central construction office Auschwitz to Topf of 11 February 1943 according to which the fan with 3.5 HP for the corpse cellar 1 has not been delivered yet and has to be dispatched immeadiately (Pressac, Technique, p. 360). This implies that the second 3.5 HP engine was already delivered. 
  • Handover inventories according to which two and three engines with 3.5 HP were installed in the roof spaces of crematorium 2 and 3 respectively, but no 2 HP engines (Pressac, Technique, p. 376).
  • Construction office plan 2197 of 19 March 1943 according to which there were two 3.5 HP engines installed in the roof space of crematorium 2 for the ventilation of the gas chamber instead of 2 HP engines (Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz, doc 37).

These sources provide a consistent picture of the ventilation's engine power of the homicidal gas chamber: 3.5 HP engines were planned for this cellar, a 3.5 HP engine was declared missing and requested to dispatch and 3.5 HP engines are displayed in the hand over documents from the construction office to the camp administration.

In contrast to this, the invoices cited by Mattogno suggest that Topf charged the central construction office Auschwitz with only 2 HP engines for the gassing cellars. But these invoices are more isolated and less reliable sources on what was actually installed than the handover documents, which show that 3.5 HP engines were used for the gas chamber's ventilation (+ the previous correspondence on the missing 3.5 HP engine implying that one was already delivered), since what was formally paid is not necessarily what was installed. It's possible that the higher price of the 3.5 HP engines was charged with something else (say it was a compensation for Topf's delays) or that Topf missed to update the invoice.

Since the engine power was upgraded from 2 to 3.5 HP some time in early 1942, the ventilation capacity and number of air exchanges can be supposed to be higher than these 4800 m³/h and 9.5 air exchanges per hour given for the 2 HP engines. Likewise, the originally intended ventilation capacity for the undressing room was increased by upgrading its 5.5 HP engine to a 7.5 HP engine (later even to 10 HP engine for crematorium 2 but with same rotating speed). I leave it to people, who actually know how to do these kind of calculations, to estimate which of the cellars had the higher number of air exchanges per hour after these changes (note that ventilation capacity is not simply proportional to engine power as Pressac seems to have erroneously assumed with his 8,000 m³/h or almost 16 air exchanges per hour, Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz, p. 47). As far as the question of mass gassing in the crematoria is concerned, the exact ratio is irrelevant anyway.

Mattogno thinks otherwise:
"Two conclusions refuting the thesis of the transformation of these rooms in a criminal sense derive from these facts. The first one concerns the number of air exchanges in the two rooms...Hence, for the alleged homicidal gas chamber the ZBL engineers had planned on (4,800÷506 =) 9.48 exchanges of their entire air volume per hour and on (10,000÷902.7 =) 11 changes per hour for the alleged undressing room – which means that the gas chamber would have been less well ventilated than the undressing room."

(ATCFS, p. 47)

He argues that if the undressing room had a higher number of air changes per hour than the gas chamber, then this is "refuting the thesis of the transformation of these rooms in a criminal sense". Except that it's not.

Corpse cellar 1 (the later gas chamber) was the only room in the basement which was ventilated by both aeration and deaeration blowers as it is required for a gas tight place. In contrast to this, the air extraction of corpse cellar 2 (the later undressing room) had to fail if the room was made properly airtight. Therefore, it was not decisive for the SS, which of the corpse cellars had the higher number of air exchanges (in either case only slightly and practically insignificant anyway) when they picked which one was to be their gas chamber. More important was that the configuration of the ventilation was compatible with a gas chamber.

The ventilation capacity of corpse cellar 1 was considered sufficient for homicidal gassing by the SS. This can be deduced from the fact that homicidal gas chambers were installed in the basements of crematoria 2 & 3 and that the capacity of the ventilation was not further upgraded after it is usually assumed that the decision to install gas chambers was made (in the second half of 1942). Certainly, the SS might have equipped the gassing basements with 20 or 30 air exchanges per hour by purchasing bigger engines, blowers and pipework (just that somebody then had the inconvenient job to tell somebody else higher up things are getting more expensive and that the construction would have been likely further delayed). But they did not, which means that it was believed that the > 9.5 air exchanges could do the job. Keep in mind that at the time the SS was operating the Bunker extermination sites without any forced ventilation whatsoever, just by natural ventilation. The > 9.5 air exchanges per hour were a technical improvement over the natural ventilation at the Bunker sites, which was speeding up the ventilation process significantly.


Revisionists, foremost Mattogno, have underestimated the engine power of the gas chamber's ventilation - despite that the relevant documents were made available by Pressac more than two decades ago. Pressac couldn't make it any easier to reproduce a close-up of the inventory plan of crematorium 2 of 19 March 1943 together with his own table even converting the engine power in kW to HP (this was, by the way, also missed by Anti-Revisionist author John Zimmerman, see Report of Richard Green, p. 7).
The corpse cellar 1 was selected as gas chamber obviously because its ventilation was the only one in the basement able to operate under gas tight conditions. Its ventilation capacity - as it was fixed in early 1942 - was considered sufficient by the SS for their purpose of mass extermination, which explains why it remained similar to that of the undressing room.

The Elevators at Crematoria 2 & 3

Mattogno argues that the flat-plate elevator "with a capacity of 300 kg" installed into crematorium 2 "is absolutely out of proportion when it comes to the gigantic figures of a mass exterminations cited by van Pelt" (Mattogno, ATCFS, p. 54), i.e. it was supposedly insufficient for mass extermination. It is noteworthy that the argument is not valid for crematorium 3, since there an elevator with 750 kg capacity (with optional upgrade to 1500 kg) was installed from the very beginning.

He explains that for an
"average duration of five minutes for one complete operation (loading, upward journey, unloading, downward journey), the transportation of 2,000 bodies from the half-basement to the furnace hall...would have taken...some 33 hours" 

(ATCFS, p. 53; Mattogno further asserts that the "average transit time for one load was higher" than he assumed in his estimation).

First of all, 300 kg was not necessarily the available capacity, but the "minimum payload" ordered by the construction office. That's a difference. The metalworking shop may have constructed the platform with a higher maximum payload. We don't have the technical documentation of the device, so we don't know. And even if its maximum payload was 300 kg, if it was properly constructed with safety factor, its actual maximum load that could have been exploited by the Sonderkommando prisoners was higher. The cables were designed for higher loads anyway, else the construction office would not have ordered a minimum, but a maximum load. Furthermore, it cannot be excluded that the payload of the elevator wasn't upgraded at some point. In short, the actual operation capacity of the elevator is far from certain and well established from German documents.

Secondly, Mattogno does not explain why two strong Sonderkommando prisoners should have required at least 2 minutes for lifting five corpses on the elevator's platform. This is 24 s for one single corpse, which sounds patently absurd. All they had to do was to grab the legs or arms of the corpse, rotate by 180°, walk one or two steps and drop the corpse. This is done in few seconds. After loading these corpses on the elevator platform, they had time to relax until the empty platform came back again.

Thirdly, Mattogno assumed that it took 60 s for a round trip of the elevator without the loading time. Actually, he misunderstood the estimation from an "anonymous architect" cited by Van Pelt in The Case for Auschwitz, p. 469. This Revisionist assumed that it took 30 s for a modern elevator round trip of one person for one floor, including loading of the (living) person. Mattogno understood that these 30 s referred only to a single upward trip. So he doubled it to arrive at 60 s for the roundtrip. But this is doublecounting, since the 30 s is already the time for the round-trip according to the anonymous architect. By the way, Mattogno's 30 s for the upward trip translates into an average elevator speed of something like 0.1 m/s. It takes a power of about 300 W to lift 300 kg (neglecting the weight of the platform) in 30 s at a height of 3 m. Yet, the engine installed in crematorium 2 to operate the elevator had 10 HP or about 7000 W. If Mattogno's assumption of load and speed were true, this elevator had an awful poor efficiency.

Thus, each of Mattogno's parameters assumed to estimate the time it took to transport 2000 bodies from the basement to the furnace is either unfounded or false. The loading capacity may have been higher than 300 kg, the elevator took likely less than 30 s for the 2.6 m from the basement to the furnace hall and the time to load a corpse was certainly less than 24 s. If we only correct Mattogno's loading time down to 12 s (which seems still too long for something like lifting a corpse onto the elevator by two strong men, who may have been replaced once they got fatigue), the 2000 corpses were transported in less than 17 hours to the furnace hall, which is less than the actual bottleneck, the cremation of these corpses took.

Mattogno also argues that the fact that Topf's supplier faced some trouble to get the construction permit for two brand new elevators for crematoria 2 & 3 from the Reich Minister for Armament and Ammunition in August 1943 "is in stark disagreement with the thesis that the Birkenau crematoria were the instruments for the implementation of Himmler’s extermination order" because "in such a case any opposition on the part of the Plenipotentiary for machinery construction would obviously have been considered sabotage" (ATCFS, p. 51). But the Reich Minister for Armament and Ammunition would have hardly even cared if the central construction office Auschwitz considered anything they decided as "sabotage". The issue had to be escalated to higher levels before such a powerful authority would feel any pressure. In fact, the SS-WVHA apparently intervened and achieved the approval of the elevators, as they were finished in May 1944.

On 12 May 1944, the construction office Auschwitz sent an "urgent telegram" to Topf according to which "installation of the 2 elevators cannot be done now. Installation will be done later, together with installation of de-aeration equipment in 4 and 5" (ATCFS, p. 51). The document suggests that Topf reported the construction or dispatch of the elevators to the construction office and was already prepared to install them in the crematoria, but were called off by the Auschwitz authorities. The date of this urgent telegram makes it particular interesting, it was few days before the Hungarian transports were rolling into Auschwitz. Obviously, the Auschwitz authorities could not afford downtimes of crematoria 2 and 3 when thousands of Hungarian Jews had to be killed at these sites in the next days (see also Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz, p. 115).


The provisional elevator in crematorium 2 was capable to perform the task of transporting 2000 corpses from the basement to the furnace hall in less than 20 hours (provided the elevator was not out of order, see also ATCFS, p. 50). Mattogno's contrary conclusion is based on unfounded and false parameters determining the daily capacity of the elevator.

Most seriously, he assumed the Sonderkommando prisoners were working in slow motion. It's entirely possible that Mattogno - at his present age and shape - would need twenty-four seconds to move 30 kg (= 60 kg corpse lifted by two) by say one meter. But certainly not so the strongest guys in their early 20s selected from a pool of hundreds of people.


  1. Hi Hans. What do you think about David Coles 46 unanswered questions?:

    Best regards,


  2. Hi Reactionary,

    I just briefly looked at those on Auschwitz.

    Some of the points have already been tackled here at the blog (e.g. holes) or on THHP site (Prussian Blue).

    Others are simply far fetched, such as that the victims could have disposed hundreds of little Zyklon-B pellets in manholes and drains in a tightly packed gas chamber. Aside, there were two simple ways how to handle this for the SS if it really occurred: a) increasing the amount of Zyklon-B or b) sealing the manhole and drains.

  3. The following document also shows a TOTAL of 15PS for the lift (2x 7.5PS):

    But doesn't the following document say there were 3 motors, each (je) with 15PS capacity?


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