Germans Would Have Used Producer Gas Rather than Diesel Engines
Holocaust deniers say:
The Germans would have used "producer gas" engines to murder people in the gas chambers and gas vans since they produce much more carbon monoxide in their exhaust than do diesel engines.1
The American Holocaust denier videomaker offers a homemade producer gas generator cobbled together by "innovative people" from an old water heater, pipes and a pail "found lying around the backyard." Noting that this contraption can produce a much higher concentration of carbon monoxide than a regular gasoline engine, he asserts that the "Germans would have known that" since a high percentage of Nobel Peace Prize winners for chemistry before 1939 were Germans. He concludes that the Holocaust survivors, who he describes as "storytellers," described diesel engines in their accounts because they "assumed that the biggest smelliest engine would be the one that produced the most deadly gas." 2
Friedrich Berg, an American Holocaust denier, sums it up: "If the National Socialists had ever intended to commit mass murder with CO [carbon monoxide], they would doubtless have used the ubiquitous producer gas technology. 500,000 producer gas vehicles are the incontrovertible evidence that the diesel claim is totally absurd." 3
What is a "wood gas" or "producer gas" vehicle? How does it work?
- It is a vehicle with a special chamber attached in which wood is burned.
- The gases produced by the burning wood are drawn through a pipe where they are used as fuel in a modified gasoline or diesel engine.
- During the war, gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel were in short supply in the Greater Reich and needed to be reserved for military uses, so the Germans began to convert many non-military gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles to producer gas.
- By the end of the war, more than 500,000 gas producer vehicles were in service.4
Most importantly, according to Berg and the American Holocaust denier videomaker, the exhaust of producer gas vehicles contains between 18% and 25% carbon monoxide, which is a lethal amount many times over.5
Since producer gas engine exhaust is so lethal, how come the Germans did not use them instead of gasoline or diesel engines?
The major drawback to the use of producer gas technology in the gas chambers or gas vans is that:
- Carbon monoxide has a very wide flammability range. It can ignite when it exceeds as little as 12% of the volume of the atmosphere.6 Therefore, the risk of fire and/or explosion was very high with producer gas.
Berg does not mention this small problem at all, although the American Holocaust denier videomaker does note its high flammability in passing. Interestingly, in the clip the homemade gas generator is always shown sitting out in the open. The Holocaust denier and his "innovative" friends are nowhere in sight. If it is so simple and safe, why are they are not brave enough to go near their invention once it is lit?
If the gas chamber buildings had burned to the ground or the gas vans had blown up each time they were used they would not have been a very useful or dependable method of mass murder.
There are several other limitations of producer gas vehicles that made them impracticable for use in the gas chambers or gas vans:
- A producer gas vehicle cannot be started immediately. A fire had to be lit in the chamber and there was a waiting period as the burning wood or coal started to generate the gases.
- A producer gas vehicle cannot be started or run in an enclosed space like a garage without the users themselves risking death from carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Sobibor, Treblinka and Belzec the eyewitness testimony indicates that:
- The engines were housed in nearby sheds or in rooms attached to the back of the gas chambers. If producer gas engines or generators had been used the German SS or Ukrainians who ran the engines-the 'Gasmeisters’ ('gas masters’)-ran the very real risk of dying along with their victims.
- During peak periods in the camps the transports arrived daily, one after the other. It would have been very inefficient to have had to tinker with lighting fires, continually providing fuel, and constantly monitoring the exhaust gases-all the while risking possible fire and explosion at any moment.
- The same is true of the gas vans: it would have been impracticable to have to start a fire and wait until the gases were produced before the truck could even move.
- The efficient operation of both the gas chambers and the gas vans depended on keeping the process going smoothly and quickly at all times.
- No perpetrator, survivor or bystander ever described the use of producer gas generators but always described some type of motor (either gasoline or diesel).
However, there is an intriguing piece of evidence that at least one of the gas vans might have been converted experimentally into a gas producer vehicle:
- In a letter dated June 5, 1942 Willy Just, the foreman in the shop that modified regular trucks into gas vans, to Walther Rauff, who was responsible for the construction and deployment of the gas vans in the field, mentions an explosion of a gas van at the Chelmno death camp. Just writes the accident was an "isolated case" and was caused by "improper operation." He assures Rauff that "special instructions" have been given to avoid future safety violations.7
Just’s letter is not enough proof to draw a definite conclusion about whether any of the engines used in the gas vans were producer gas. It is possible that the Germans converted one van to producer gas as an experiment and found it was not really workable. However, there is not enough evidence to be sure on this matter.
In the end, three things determined what engines the Germans used for the gas chambers and gas vans:
- Safety. Producer gas engines carried a high risk of fire or explosion and were potentially deadly to the perpetrators themselves. A gasoline or diesel engine would have been much safer to use and just as lethal in the end.
- Availability. The Germans used whatever engine technology that they could get the most easily in southeastern Poland. Captured or damaged Russian tanks and trucks-either gasoline or diesel-were readily available, as were the parts for them.
- Efficiency. The murder process in the death camps and in the East was like a factory production line. It had to run smoothly and at top speed. Using producer gas engines or gas generators would have been very inefficient and slow.
In practice, producer gas engines or generators were too dangerous and ultimately less efficient than using readily available and easily-used gasoline or diesel engines.
Berg’s empty speculations on what the Germans "would have" or "should have" done and the supposed ease of construction and use of a homemade "gas generator" by the American Holocaust denier videomaker are immaterial. It does not follow that because the Germans chose to use gasoline or diesel engines and not producer gas engines or generators that the murder of some 1.5 million Jews never happened.
1. Friedrich Berg, "Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture-Absurd for Murder," Part 2, pp. 8-11/15 at http://www.nazigassings.com/dieselgaschamberb.html.
2. This video can be seen at http://www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com, Episode 4: Engine Exhaust.
3. Friedrich Berg, "Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture-Absurd for Murder," Part 3, p. 3/14 at http://www.nazigassings.com/dieselgaschamberc.html.
4. Friedrich Berg, "Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture-Absurd for Murder," Part 2, p. 10/15. The article also contains pictures of these types of trucks.
5. Friedrich Berg, "Pat Buchanan and the Diesel Exhaust Controversy," p. 4/6 at http://www.nazigassings.com/PatBuchanan.htm.
6. Jamie McCarthy, "DThomas’ Diesel Retreat," Part 3 of 4, p. 7/13 at http://www.nizkor.net/hweb/people/nyms/dthomas/diesel-retreat-03.html.
7. You may see the entire text of this letter and the translation at http://www.holocaust-history.org/19420605-rauff-spezialwagen/.