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There are no Mass Graves in Belzec

 

Holocaust deniers say:

The excavations that located and mapped 33 mass graves at the Belzec death camp from 1977 to 2000 revealed only traces of whole human remains in them. These traces are the result of death by disease and hardship of a handful of Jews as they were being deported farther to the East-not a program of mass murder.

Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, makes two major claims about the mass graves in Belzec:
  • The 33 mass graves contain only a "handful" of unburned bodies.
  • The amount of ashes and bone fragments in the 33 graves is very small.
  • Mattogno claims that these few bodies represent only a "resettlement policy" that showed a "very severe German attitude toward the Jews." 1

What we know about the existence of mass graves in Belzec

The 1945 Polish investigation
In 1946, Czeslaw Godzieszewks, the Regional Investigative Judge of the district court of Zamosc, presented a report about their investigation of the grounds of Belzec. The Commission dug 9 trenches about 10 meters (33 feet) across and 8 meters (26 feet) deep. In them they found meters-thick layers of human ashes, as well as the charred remains of human bodies, body parts, women’s hair and unburned human bones. In one 26-foot-deep trench alone they found a layer of human ashes 3 meters thick (about 10 feet.) 2
The Kola investigation
Between 1997 and 2000, a team of experts including archeologists, historians and cartographers exhaustively and scientifically surveyed the entire site of the camp. The research was authorized by the Polish government and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The team, headed by Professor Andrzej Kola of the University of Torun in Poland, undertook the study because the memorial at Belzec needed to be replaced and they did not wish to disturb the mass graves when they designed and built the new memorial space.
Kola’s team drilled 2,001 soil cores 5 meters (16.5 feet) apart to a depth of 6 meters (20 feet) in a grid over the entire area of the camp. The soil samples that contained human remains were analyzed in a laboratory and were returned and replaced in the original drill holes out of respect for the dead.
The Kola investigation found that Belzec was "one large a patchwork of mass graves." 3 They located and measured 33 mass graves which had a total volume of approximately 21,300 cubic meters or approximately 752,202 cubic feet.
More information about these investigations is available at http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/belzec1/bel150.html.

The facts about Mattogno’s claims

Claim 1: The graves contain only a "handful" of unburned bodies.

Mattogno claims that of the 33 mass graves found by Kola that only Graves 3, 10 and 20 contain a shallow layer of unburned bodies at the very bottom. He concludes that the "only legitimate conclusion one can draw" is that there are "only rare corpses here and there" totaling "at most several hundred corpses." 4
What Mattogno does not tell the reader is:
  • Grave 3 is 16 meters long by 15 meters wide by 5 meters deep (about 52 feet by 50 feet by 16 feet.)
  • Grave 10 is 24 meters long by 18 meters wide by 5 meters deep (about 78 feet by 59 feet by 16 feet.)
  • Grave 20 extends outside the current camp boundaries and so could not be completely measured. The part that could be measured is 26 meters long by 11 meters wide by 5 meters deep (85 feet by 36 feet by 16 feet).
It is absurd to believe that the Germans would have dug such large, deep graves (about the height of a two-story house) with heavy excavating equipment and then laid only one or two layers of bodies on the very bottom of each before covering them up.
  • More dishonestly, Mattogno fails to mention at all that Graves 1, 4, 13, 25, 27, 28 and 32 also contain unburned remains.
Therefore, out of 10 graves that held whole human remains, Mattogno only acknowledges 3 of them.
However, even Kola’s careful examination does not reveal exactly how many bodies might be in the mass graves because he took great care not to drill through layers of whole bodies if he could avoid it. For instance, in Kola discontinued drilling in Grave 4 when he hit a layer of whole human bodies.5 Therefore, in that grave we do not know how thick that layer was. Recall that mapping the depth and volume of the graves was not Kola’s brief-he was to determine where the mass graves were so they could be respected in the final memorial design.

Why are there any whole human remains in the mass graves at all if they were all incinerated?

We cannot say for sure why they are there but it is reasonable to suppose that:
  • After long months of exhuming and burning the bodies, the Germans wanted to finish the job and get out of that backward and miserable place as quickly as possible. Despite their desire to eliminate the evidence of mass murder, leaving some bodies 25 feet below the surface probably did not seem like a very big risk.
  • The condition of the bodies at the bottom of the graves is so terrible that the Germans-even though their Jewish slaves did the work-might not have been able to face exhuming them.

Claim 2: The amount of ashes and bone fragments in the mass graves is very small.

It would also be best for the Holocaust deniers’ "transit camp" theory if there were not a substantial amount of human ashes or fragments of bone or teeth in the graves either-or at least very little. So it should not be surprising that Mattogno claims that the graves contain "only a very thin layer of sand and ash" which is " absolutely incompatible with the cremation of 600,000 corpses." 6
But Mattogno is wrong: the layers of ash and bone in the graves are not "very thin" at all. Here are some examples. 

  • Grave 5 contains "pieces of burnt human bones so densely packed together that the drill could not penetrate further." The grave is 32 meters long by 10 meters wide by 4.50 meters deep (about 105 feet by 33 feet by 15 feet).
  • Grave 6 is 30 meters long by 10 meters wide by 4 meters deep (about 99 feet by 33 feet by 13 feet). It contains "carbonized wood and pieces of fragments of burnt human bones. At the east end of the grave, the ground is covered with gray sand containing a mixture of crushed pieces of burnt and unburned pieces of human bones."
  • Graves 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33 all contain fragments of burnt human bones, human ashes and carbonized wood.
  • Grave 14 is the largest in the camp. It contains "burnt pieces of human bones and fragments of carbonized wood mixed with grey sandy soil to a depth of 5 meters." That is about 16 feet deep. No matter how much Mattogno wants it to be, a 5 meter thick (16 feet) layer of ash is not a "thin layer" of ashes.
  • The ashes and bone remnants are not just in the graves either. Kola’s team found them mixed with sand on the surface and scattered all around the mass graves. They can be seen by the human eye even today.
The above facts are devastating to Mattogno’s theory about Belzec being a transit camp and explains why he does not even mention them at all.
Kola’s report was written in Polish but you may read the English translation of portions of it and see the detailed map of the mass graves found on the site and the meticulous diagrams of the dimensions and contents of the mass graves at: http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/05/carlo-mattogno-on-belzec.html.
Why were the remains not exhumed to be sure?
Mattogno complains that his questions about exactly how deep the graves were (when they exceeded the 20 foot core), how many whole bodies were in the graves and precisely how much human and wood ash and bone remnants were in them could have been solved by doing a thorough and proper exhumation in order to settle the matter. However, exhumation was not Kola’s brief. Even if it had been Kola’s charge, he would have been unable to complete the task because several of the largest mass graves extend outside the current boundaries of the camp onto private land and could not have been investigated.
In addition, some religious figures objected strenuously to any investigation being done at all, feeling that any disturbance of the graves was a violation of the dead.7 Digging up all the mass graves to count every body and quantify all the ashes and bone remnants would have been totally intrusive and would have raised a storm of controversy. Therefore, every effort was made to disturb the mass graves as little as possible.
The American Holocaust denier makes the same complaint about both Belzec and Treblinka. He contends that the "lack of searching for physical evidence is shocking" and states that Kola was handpicked because "they" knew he would not find anything that "didn’t support the story." He wants both camps to be entirely dug up to prove it is not all a "big lie." The same ethical considerations-as well as practical considerations of digging up every square foot of acres of land in both camps-applies.8

Conclusion

Mattogno’s attempt to diminish the number of unburned bodies to "at most several hundred" and the ashes and bones to a "thin layer" to fit his "transit camp" theory is both desperate and dishonest. In order to make it work Mattogno resorts to distortions, omissions and lies.
The facts show that two separate investigations 60 years apart show that the remains of the bodies of at some 450,000 Jewish men, women and children are buried in Belzec. Their deaths were part of a campaign of systematic mass murder by the Germans and not just the result of death by disease or hardship during the deportation process.
Mattogno did get one thing right: the Jewish men, women and children who were murdered at Belzec were the victims of a"very severe German attitude" towards them.

Notes

1. Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History (Castle Hill Publishers, 2004), p. 99.
2. Ibid., p. 79-81.
3. "Archeological Investigation: Belzec: A Review by Historians," p. 5/9 at www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ar/modern/archreview.html.
4. Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, pp. 78, 79.
5. Robin O’Neil, Belzec: Prototype for the Final Solution: Hitler’s Answer to the Jewish Question at http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/belzec1/be1150.html.
6. Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, p. 87. (The emphasis is Mattogno’s in the text.)
7. See http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/05/carlo-mattogno-on-belzec.html, p. 4/6.
8. See www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com, Episode 18: Physical Evidence, Part 1.
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