No evidence of open-air burning pits has ever been found in Auschwitz-Birkenau
Holocaust Deniers Say:
No evidence of open-air burning pits has ever been found in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, used complicated calculations to allegedly 'prove' the ovens at Auschwitz-Birkenau couldn't possibly have cremated some 1.1 million bodies. But ultimately all of these complex calculations were irrelevant because when there were too many bodies to be handled by the crema ovens, they were burned in open-air pits behind Crema 5 and by the White Bunker (one of the two cottages adapted into gas chambers at the back of Birkenau.)
The deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in late 1944
Between May and November 1944, more than 400,000 Jews from Hungary were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where about 90% of them were murdered.
During the Hungarian action, the White Bunker (which had been closed down when the ovens came on line in 1943) was re-opened to handle the overflow.
Filip Müller was put to work, along with 150 of his fellow Sonderkommandos, digging pits behind Crema 5 and in the woods by the White Bunker. The pits were 40 to 50 meters long, about 8 meters wide and 2 meters deep. Eventually they dug a total of nine large pits "making it possible to burn an almost unlimited number of bodies."1
Dr. Charles Sigismund Bendel was a Jewish physician who was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he was assigned to the crematoria Sonderkommando. At the Bergen-Belsen trial in 1945 Bendel confirmed how quickly and efficiently these burning pits worked after a transport of Jews from Lodz, Poland had been murdered: "I came at seven o'clock in the morning with the others and saw white smoke still rising from trenches, which indicated that a whole transport had been liquidated or finished off during the night . . . behind the crematorium they dug three large trenches 12 metres long and 6 metres wide. After a bit it was found that the results achieved even in these three big trenches were not quick enough, so in the middle of these big trenches they built two canals through which the human fat or grease should seep so that work could be continued in a quicker way. The capacity of these trenches was almost fantastic. Crematorium No. 4 was able to burn 1000 people during the day, but this system of trenches was able to deal with the same number in one hour."2
Using this method - a combination of ovens and open-air pit burning - Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, noted that they were able to dispose of a maximum of 9,000 bodies per day: "This figure was reached in the summer of 1944, during the action in Hungary, using all installations except Crematory . On that day five trains arrived because of delays on the rail lines, instead of three, as was expected, and in addition the railroad cars were more crowded than usual."3
Evidence of the open-air burning pits in aerial photographs
On July 8, 1944 the Luftwaffe (German air force) flew over Birkenau as they were taking reconnaissance photographs. The photo clearly shows a pillar of black smoke billowing out from behind Crema 5. This picture in full and as a closeup is available at: http://www.holocaust-history.org/see-no-evil/#anchor5080097.
Mattogno admits the existence of these open-air burning pits but he claimed that the smoke came from burning trash.4 In fact, both Cremas 2 and 3 both did had incinerators dedicated to burning trash. Pery Broad spoke of the wholesale destruction of records. Henryk Tauber also witnessed truckloads of documents being destroyed in the incinerators of Cremas 2 and 3.5
Holocaust deniers such as John Ball at www.air-photo.com, claimed that the aerial photos had been tampered with and then just cropped the smoke out of the picture. You can see the cropped picture at: http://www.air-photo.com/english/julypic.html. However, in 1996, experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, one of the world leaders of the analysis of aerial and satellite images, examined the negatives carefully. The JPL experts found no evidence of forgery or tampering.
Holocaust deniers also argue that an aerial photograph taken on June 26, 1944 by the Allies when they flew over Birkenau on their way to bombing targets showed no open-air pit burning activity. In fact, the June 26, 1944 photograph doesn't show any smoke from open-air burning pits because the deportations of Hungarian Jews were suspended during this time. The list of transports shows that no trains left Hungary from June 17 to June 24. They were resumed on June 25. The transports took three or four days to get there. In addition, there was no registration of Hungarian Jews being registered from June 20 to June 27.
Finally, rare photographs taken by a member of the Sonderkommando survived the war. Taken clandestinely from the window of Crema 5, these pictures show the men of the work unit dragging bodies to the open-air burning pits surrounded by smoke. These pictures are availalbe at http://veritas3.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/body-disposal/.
When the available ovens at Auschwitz-Birkenau couldn't handle the load, then open-air pit burning was used. Photographs from the air and on the ground show the open-air pit burning process. Eyewitness evidence from both victims and perpetrators also makes reference to the open-air pits.
1. Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers (Ivan R. Dee, 1979), p. 133.
2. Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2001), p. 234; Robert Jan van Pelt, Expert Witness Report for 2000 libel trial: p. 270 at www.hdot.org ('Evidence.")
3. Van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz , p. 266; van Pelt, Expert Witness Report , p. 318.
4. John C. Zimmerman, "Body Disposal at Auschwitz: The End of Holocaust Denial," www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/body-disposal/: p. 33 of 42.
5. Ibid., p. 24 of 42.