The crematoria ovens at Auschwitz couldn't have disposed of the remains of the 1.1 million Jews
Holocaust Deniers Say:
The crematoria ovens at Auschwitz couldn't possibly have disposed of the remains of the 1.1 million Jews who supposedly died there. After all, it takes several hours to burn one body in a civilian crematorium oven.
In the Leuchter Report, Leuchter theorized that since modern crematoria ovens can cremate one body in 1.25 hours, or 19.2 bodies in 24 hours that must mean it was the same at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Based on this observation and allowing for down time for maintenance and repairs, he concluded that 'only' 85,092 bodies could have been cremated.1
Carlo Mattogno, an Italian denier, built his arguments on Leuchter's amateurish speculations, in a 1994 monograph.2 To prove the ovens could not have cremated enough bodies he compared the operation of modern civilian ovens to the situation in Auschwitz-Birkenau.3
What is the cremation process in the civilian world?
In a civilian crematorium, based on laws and out of respect for the dead and their families, each body must be cremated individually so the ashes can be collected and returned to the family.
The civilian crematorium oven is heated up and cooled down for each cremation and is cleaned out after each use. The body is usually burned together with a coffin or some kind of container, which lengthens the time required to complete the process. On the average it takes between one and two hours for each cremation depending on the oven and the remains being cremated.4
The cremation process in Auschwitz-Birkenau
In Auschwitz the authorities were not burdened by respect for the dead or any need to consider civilian rules or laws regarding cremation.
Multiple bodies were cremated together. The muffles (the actual openings in the oven; there were 52 in total in Auschwitz) were filled with as many bodies as could be fit into them.
The men who worked in the Sonderkommandos quickly learned how to combine the bodies of fat people, skeletal 'Muselmänner' and children to achieve maximum results (that is, more bodies could be burned in less time).
Once the first bodies started to burn they just kept putting more bodies in to keep the fires hot. The result was continuous operation at very high efficiency in which very little fuel was needed to keep the process going for hours or days.
Eyewitness evidence about the burning of multiple bodies
Mattogno and his fellow deniers refuse to address a detailed body of survivor and perpetrator eyewitness evidence about body disposal at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Here is some of the evidence they ignore:
- Henryk Tauber, a member of a Sonderkommando that worked in Cremas 1, 2 and 5, recalled after the war: "We worked in two shifts, a day shift and a night shift. On average, we incinerated 2,500 bodies a day."5
- Tauber also described how the muffles were filled with multiple bodies: "The procedure was to put the first body with the feet towards the muffle, back down and face up. Then a second body was placed on top, again face up, but head towards the muffle. . . . We had to work fast, for the bodies put in first soon started to burn, and their arms and legs rose up. If we were slow, it was difficult to charge the second part of bodies . . . We burned the bodies of children with those of adults. First we put in two adults, then as many children as the muffle could contain. It was sometimes as many as five or six. We used this procedure so that the bodies of children would not be placed directly on the grid bars, which were relatively far apart. In this way we prevented the children from falling through into the ash bin. Women's bodies burned much better and more quickly than those of men. For this reason, when a charge was burning badly, we would introduce a woman's body to accelerate the combustion."6 "Generally speaking, we burned four or five bodies at a time in one muffle, but sometimes we charged a greater number of bodies. It was possible to charge up to eight 'Muselmanns.' Such big charges were incinerated without the knowledge of the head of the crematorium during air raid warnings in order to attract the attention of airmen by having a bigger fire emerging from the chimney. We imagined that in that way it might be possible to change our fate."7
- Filip Müller, also a member of a Sonderkommando that cremated bodies, confirmed the process of multiple cremations in his memoirs. The bodies were ". . . sorted according to their combustibility: for the bodies of the well-nourished were to help burn the emaciated. Under the direction of the Kapos, the bearers began sorting the dead into four stacks. The largest consisted mainly of strong men, the next in size of women, then came children, and lastly a stack of dead Mussulmans, emaciated and nothing but skin and bones. This technique was called 'express work,' a designation thought up by the Kommandoführers and originating from experiments carried out in crematorium 5 in the autumn of 1943. The purpose of these experiments was to find a way of saving coke. . . . Thus the bodies of two Mussulmans were cremated together with those of two children or the bodies of two well-nourished men together with that of an emaciated woman, each load consisting of three, or sometimes, four bodies."8
Evidence about multiple body burning from the perpetrators
Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, confirmed Tauber's and Müller's accounts of burning multiple bodies in each muffle: "Depending on the size of the bodies, up to three bodies could be put in through one oven door at the same time. The time required for cremation also depended on the number of bodies in each retort, but on average it took twenty minutes."9
Additional instructions from Topf in September 1941 advised that "once the cremation chamber has been brought to a good red heat the bodies can be introduced one after the other in the cremation chambers." This letter again cautioned against letting the ovens cool.10
The Topf instructions for their double muffle furnaces envisaged that a body would be added in the oven during the last twenty minutes before the last one was fully cremated. "As soon as the remains of the bodies have fallen from the chamotte grid to the ash collection channel below, they should be pulled forward towards the ash removal door, using the scraper. Here they can be left for a further twenty minutes to be fully consumed . . . In the meantime, further bodies can be introduced one after the other into the chambers."11
According to Topf's calculations this would result in a 25 minute burning cycle for each body.12
The authorities in Auschwitz abandoned any respect for the dead and did not abide by civilian laws of cremation. They burned multiple bodies at one time, continuously pushing in more to keep the fires hot.
Therefore, citing the civilian cremation process as some kind of proof that the ovens in Auschwitz-Birkenau couldn't have handled so many bodies is a false comparison.
1. Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2001): p. 385. See also Fred Leuchter, Leuchter Report: The End of the Line? The First Forensic Examination of Auschwitz , with a foreword by David Irving (Focal Point Publications, 1989): p. 19 (Table VIII, factoring out the Majdanek figures.)
2. Carlo Mattogno and Franco Deana, "The Crematoria Ovens of Auschwitz and Birkenau," www.codoh.com/found/fndcrema.html, pp. 3-11 of 58.
4. "Cremation," Wikipedia. See also National Funeral Directors Association, Cremation FAQ, www.nfda.org and Internet Cremation Society at www.cremation.org/.
5. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz : p. 198. Deposition of Henry Tauber, as quoted in Jean-Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers , p. 489.
6. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz : pp. 198, 199; Robert Jan van Pelt, Expert Witness Report for the 2000 libel trial, pp. 192, 193 at www.hdot.org ("Evidence.")
7. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz : pp. 198, 199; van Pelt, Expert Witness Report, pp. 192, 193.
8. Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers (Ivan R. Dee, 1979): p. 99; John C. Zimmerman, "Body Disposal at Auschwitz: The End of Holocaust Denial," www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/body-disposal/: p. 23 of 42.
9. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz , p. 317; Rudolph Höss, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz , edited by Steven Pakuly (Prometheus Books, 1992), p. 45.
10. Zimmerman, "Body Disposal at Auschwitz," p. 16 of 42.
11. Ibid., p. 14 of 42.