Breakdowns and Maintenance must have reduced the Nazi's ability to cremate bodies
Holocaust Deniers Say:
The ovens in Auschwitz-Birkenau couldn't be run day and night for years without a break. They must have been out of operation for long periods of time due to breakdowns and maintenance.
The Holocaust deniers claim that the ovens were inoperable for long periods of time due to maintenance and breakdown, thereby reducing the number of bodies that could be burned in total.
German documentation about the maintenance of ovens
The letter dated June 28, 1943 from Karl Bischoff, the head of the Central Building Administration in Auschwitz-Birkenau, to Hans Kammler in Berlin, refers to ideal operations on a continuous basis. Of course, in reality that didn't happen. Oven overload was common and breakdowns were frequent.
Overuse and misuse caused the bricks in the muffles, flues and inside the chimneys to crack or break, requiring maintenance or mending. However, minor repairs could be made quickly. Filip Müller, a member of one of the Sonderkommandos who stoked the ovens, recalled that special fireclay paste was used to patch the cracks on a temporary basis.1
How many ovens were in use at any given time?
It is true that not all 52 available muffles were in use at all times. For instance, Crema 1 in the Main Camp (6 muffles) was shut down on July 19, 1943 when the four dedicated facilities in Birkenau came on line.
Crema 4's ovens (8 muffles) were destroyed in a Sonderkommando uprising in October 1944 and were never able to be used again. The other three facilities also suffered frequent breakdowns and required repairs.
German testimony about other options for body disposal
Pery Broad, a member of the Gestapo in Auschwitz, recalled these breakdowns in his confession: "The four crematoria were exploited to the utmost. Because of the over-use, the ovens were constantly in need of repair. Then only crematorium (4) would remain in working order. There was no help for it - the pyres had to be used again to dispose of the thousands of bodies lying in big heaps behind the crematoria. The gas chambers were hurriedly opened to be ventilated, as soon as the last groans stopped . . . There were no breaks."2
Thus when the number of bodies to be cremated overwhelmed the capacity of the ovens currently in use - such as in late 1944 when 8,000 to 10,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered at the peak of the Hungarian Action - then open-air pits behind Crema 5 and in the back of Birkenau were used to burn thousands of bodies at a time.
Not only did the ovens suffer breakdowns and need maintenance, the use of some ovens were discontinued by German decision, while others were destroyed in a prisoner uprising. However, when there were more bodies than could be burned in the crematoria, the Germans used open air pits which could burn thousands of bodies at once. Therefore, the claim that because of overn breakdowns, the number of bodies that could be burned was low is incorrect.
1. Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers (Ivan R. Dee, 1979), p. 124; John C. Zimmerman, "Body Disposal at Auschwitz: The End of Holocaust Denial," www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/body-disposal/: p. 15 of 42.
2. KL Auschwitz Seen by the SS (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 1995): p. 137