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There never was enough coke (coal) at Auschwitz-Birkenau for cremating over 1,000,000 bodies

 

Holocaust Deniers Say:

There never was enough coke (coal) at Auchwitz-Birkenau for cremating over 1,000,000 bodies in the crematoria ovens.

David Irving, whom the High Court in London declared to be a Holocaust denier, racist and antisemite, made a point of the amount of coke needed to cremate one body at the 2000 trial of the libel charge he brought against Professor Deborah Lipstadt in London. During his examination of Robert Jan van Pelt, the expert on Auschwitz, he put a water bottle on the table and asked: "Do you really, sincerely believe that you can burn one body with enough coke that you could fit into one of these waters bottles, is that what you are saying?"1

The truth about the amount of coke needed to fuel the ovens in Auschwitz-Birkenau

The records of coke delivery to Auschwitz are incomplete. They run from February 16, 1942 to October 1943 with a gap in the middle. The records that survive show that 497 tons of coke was delivered in 240 deliveries.2 Therefore, it is simply futile to try to make average calculations of any kind.
Irving claims that it took between 30 and 35 kilograms of coke to cremate one body. In 1993, Irving published figures of coke shipments to Auschwitz-Birkenau that he said were based on documents in the Moscow archives. According to Irving, they show that a total of 2,188 tons of coke was delivered to Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 to 1944. Irving claims that even this amount of coke wouldn't have been enough to cremate some 1.1 million bodies. Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, was unable to verify the existence of these records in the Moscow archives and to date Irving has refused to publish the actual documents.3
Although we don't know how much coke was shipped to Auschwitz in total, we do know some other facts. When the coke supplies did get low, Henryk Tauber, a member of the Sonderkommando that burned bodies in the ovens at Auschwitz, testified that other materials, including wood (which was very abundant in the area around Auschwitz), were used. ". . . we used the coke only to light the fire of the furnace initially, for fatty bodies burned of their own accord thanks to the combustion of the body fat. On occasion, when coke was in short supply, we would put some straw and wood in the ash bins under the muffles, and once the fat of the body began to burn the other bodies would catch light themselves."4
Further, it did not take as much coke to burn bodies once the fires were started and bodies were introduced continuously. For instance, a Topf memo headed "Estimation of coke usage for Crematorium II K L" dated March 11, 1943, stated that the coke usage could be "reduced by one third" if the ovens were used on a continuous basis.5
Finally, in late 1944 when between 8,000 and 10,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered per day at the peak of the Hungarian Action, the number of bodies to be cremated did exceed the capacities of the ovens. Then open burning pits were dug behind Crema 5 and beside the White Bunker in which the overflow of bodies were burned. 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."6

Conclusion

We will probably never know exactly how much coke was delivered to Auschwitz or how much was required in the cremation process because the records are not complete. So any attempt to calculate how much fuel would have been needed per cremation based on known fuel supplies is futile.
Further, the cremation of multiple bodies at the same time, continuous usage of the ovens, the use of alternate fuels and open-air burning pits make the whole question of supplies of fuel largely irrelevant.

Notes

1. Trial transcripts, January 25, 2000, Day 9: p. 148 at www.hdot.org ("Transcripts").
2. John C. Zimmerman, "Body Disposal at Auschwitz: The End of Holocaust Denial," www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/body-disposal/: p. 18 of 42.
3. David Irving, "Must Try Harder," Action Report, December 1993; Zimmerman, "Body Disposal," p. 18. of 42.
4. Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2001): p. 195, 196; Zimmerman, "Body Disposal at Auschwitz": p. 23 of 42.
5. Zimmerman, "Body Disposal at Auschwitz": p. 20 of 42.
6. Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers (Ivan R. Dee, 1979): p. 133.
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