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Myth/Fact Sheets

Diesel Engines Simply Were Not Appropriate Murder Devices

 

Holocaust deniers say:

The idea of having used diesel engine exhaust to murder 1.5 million Jews in the gas vans and the gas chambers of the three death camps of Operation Reinhard in southeastern Poland is "idiotic" and "simply incredible." 1

In 1984, Friedrich Berg, an American Holocaust denier, published an article in which he argued that diesel engine exhaust cannot kill a human being. Berg boasts that his conclusions mean that "as the Diesel myth falls, so falls the entire extermination story" and that his essay puts "the holocaust monster to its final, well-deserved rest . . ." 2

How carbon monoxide kills

Before we can examine the evidence about whether diesel engine exhaust can produce enough carbon monoxide in its exhaust to kill people, we need to understand how carbon monoxide kills. What is it and how does it work?
  • Carbon monoxide is a gas that cannot be seen, tasted or smelled.
  • It is a byproduct of the incomplete burning of gasoline, wood, coal, oil, propane or any other substance containing carbon.
  • When carbon monoxide is inhaled it attaches to hemoglobin, which is the chemical in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to our brain and vital organs.
  • Carbon monoxide binds over 200 times more aggressively to hemoglobin than does oxygen.
  • As more and more hemoglobin is taken over by the carbon monoxide less and less is available to oxygen. At a certain point, even if there is still oxygen in the air, the person suffocates chemically-essentially from the inside out.
  • Low exposure to carbon monoxide causes headaches, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea.
  • Higher exposure leads to convulsions, coma and death.3
  • Carbon monoxide can be lethal to human beings when it exceeds 0.1% (1/10 of one percent) of the atmosphere. That means that 4,000 parts of carbon monoxide in 1,000,000 parts of atmosphere (air) can be fatal. The higher the amount of carbon monoxide in the area the faster death occurs.4

What is a diesel engine? How is it different from a gasoline engine?

Both diesel engines and gasoline engines convert fuel into energy through a series of small explosions or combustions. The major difference between diesel and gasoline engines is the way these explosions happen.
  • In a gasoline engine, the fuel is mixed with air in the carburetor. This fuel-air mix is then compressed by pistons and ignited by sparks from spark plugs.
  • In a diesel engine the air is compressed first and then the fuel is injected. Because air heats up when it is compressed, the fuel ignites without the need for a spark.
  • Diesel engines do not need carburetors and they use a heavier more oily gas.
  • The diesel combustion process is more efficient than the gasoline process. When the diesel engine is properly tuned it produces less exhaust and gets better gas mileage.
  • Gasoline engine exhaust contains between 7% and 12% carbon monoxide, which is deadly. This is because combining the fuel and the air in the carburetor first and then creating the spark for the combustion does not burn up all the fuel efficiently. The fuel that is not fully burned comes out in the exhaust in the form of toxic chemicals.
  • A properly tuned diesel engine produces exhaust that contains about 1% carbon monoxide because the fuel is burned much more efficiently, especially when the engine is idling. That is why truck drivers can leave their trucks on all night without fear and why diesel-powered vehicles and equipment are favored in mining or underground situations.

Conclusion

Carbon monoxide is deadly in very small concentrations-as little as 4/10 of one percent (0.4%) or 4,000 parts in 1,000,000.
Although diesel engines do produce less carbon monoxide in their exhaust than do gasoline engines, they are equally as deadly as we will see in Part 2 of this series.

Notes

1. Friedrich Berg, "Pat Buchanan and the Diesel Exhaust Controversy," p. 3/6 at http://www.nazigassings.com/PatBuchanan.htm and Friedrich Berg, "The Diesel Gas Chambers: Myth within a Myth," p. 1/19 at http://vho.org/GB/journals/JHR/5/1/Berg15-46.html.
2. Berg, "Pat Buchanan and the Diesel Exhaust Controversy," p. 5/6 and Friedrich Berg, "Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture-Absurd for Murder, Part 1, p. 1/17 at http://www.nazigassings.com/dieselgaschambera.html.
3. "Carbon Monoxide," Rutgers University with National Transit Institute at http://165.230.194.195/documents/NTI_36300_f_sheet_carbon.pdf.
4. Friedrich Berg, "Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture-Absurd for Murder, Part 1, p. 10/19.
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