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Myth/Fact Sheets

Diesel Exhaust Contains Too Much Oxygen to Kill via Asphyxiation


Holocaust deniers say:

Diesel engine exhaust contains 18% oxygen so that a human being cannot die from asphyxiation from exposure to the fumes.

Friedrich Berg, an American Holocaust denier, correctly identifies this important issue: "The principal danger to life from Diesel exhaust arises . . . from the combined effects of CO and reduced oxygen." 1 However, he introduces the theory only to dismiss it as impossible a short time later.2

What happens when a human being is deprived of oxygen?

The atmosphere at sea level contains about 21% oxygen. When the oxygen in the atmosphere drops to:
  • Between 10% and 14% the person experiences impaired judgment and motor skills.
  • Between 6% and 10% the person experiences nausea and vomiting, loss of consciousness and/or lapses into a rigid, glassy-eyed coma.
  • Below 6% the person experiences convulsions and death.3

How much oxygen does diesel engine exhaust contain?

A 1941 study was conducted by Holtz and Elliott who ran a diesel engine in several different fuel-air ratios and studied the composition of the exhaust.
  • Holtz and Elliot were able to produce diesel exhaust that contained less than 1% oxygen. They achieved this result by adjusting the fuel pump so it injected more fuel and ran the engine just a little outside the manufacturer’s suggested range of maximum efficiency.4
  • They also achieved levels of carbon monoxide of 6%, which in and of itself is lethal.
  • In his essay, Berg includes a graph from the Holtz and Elliott study that clearly shows this rapid drop in the oxygen content yet he dishonestly insists that the diesel exhaust always contains 18% oxygen5


The key to the ability to kill a person with diesel engine exhaust is that, in addition to flooding the atmosphere with a soup of toxic gases including carbon monoxide, it robs the atmosphere of oxygen. One way or the other the person:
  • Suffocates from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Suffocates from lack of oxygen in the atmosphere around them.
  • Suffocates due to a combination of carbon monoxide, lack of oxygen, smoke, soot and other toxic gases.
Berg’s claim that there is always too much oxygen in diesel engine exhaust is false. The very study Berg cites as proof that diesel engine exhaust always contains 18% oxygen, shows the exact opposite is possible if the engine is run just slightly outside the manufacturer’s specifications. Berg distorts, manipulates and omits evidence to arrive at his foregone conclusion that diesel engine exhaust cannot kill people. His study only shows how important it is to approach critically even data that is presented "scientifically."
In addition to high levels of carbon monoxide and low levels of oxygen, the heat, smoke and soot in diesel engine exhaust can also kill, as we will see in Part 4.


1. Friedrich Berg, "The Diesel Gas Chambers: Myth within a Myth," p. 13/19 at http://vho.org/GB/journals/JHR/5/1/Berg15-46.html.
2. Friedrich Berg, "Pat Buchanan and the Diesel Exhaust Controversy," p. 3/6 at http://www.nazigassings.com/PatBuchanan.htm.
3. Y. Haldane and H.W. Haggard, Noxious Gases (Reinhold Publishing, 1943), p. 144-45 and J.S. Haldane and J.G. Priestly, Respiration (Yale University Press), p. 223-24 as cited in Friedrich Berg, "The Diesel Gas Chambers: Myth within a Myth," p. 11/19 at http://vho.org/GB/journals/JHR/5/1/Berg15-46.html.
4. John C. Holtz and M.A. Elliott, "The Significance of Diesel-Exhaust-Gas Analysis," Transactions of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), 1941 at http://www.vho.org/G|B/c/FPB|/DieselExhaust.html. See charts on page 2 of the web article, page 98 of the original article.
5. Friedrich Berg, "Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture-Absurd for Murder," Part 1, p. 13/17 at http://www.nazigassings.com/dieselgaschambera.html.
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