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Not Enough Room In The Camps For The Mass Graves

 

Holocaust deniers say:

"At Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor an estimated 1.38 million bodies were allegedly buried . . . The problem is that there isn’t enough burial space in the maps and models for that many bodies."

This assertion is made by an anonymous American Holocaust denier in a short movie on the Operation Reinhard camps.1

How does this denier arrive at his conclusions?

  • He calculates how much space he believes one adult male body would take up and arrives at a figure of .3408 cubic meters for each (or about 12 cubic feet.)
  • He arbitrarily decides that one mass grave in Treblinka contained 11,250 cubic meters of burial space.
  • He divides the 11,250 cubic meters available in the selected grave by the .3408 cubic meters per body and concludes that each such grave could hold about 33,000 bodies, or about 3 adult male bodies per cubic meter.
  • Using the figure of 33,000 bodies for each grave, he divides the number of victims in each camp by the 33,000 figure to come to a number of pits each camp would have needed.
  • For Treblinka, with an estimated 700,000 victims, he arrives at a number of 21.2 pits.
  • For Belzec, with and estimated 600,000 victims, he arrives at 18.02 pits.
  • For Sobibor, he dispenses with his calculations entirely and relies instead on ridicule and unsupported assumptions. (This subject will be dealt with in a separate Fact Sheet).
  • Then he spreads red blocks representing either the 18 or 21 pits all over the maps of Treblinka and Belzec, in order to show that the area of the graves would have covered the entire camp-a clear impossibility.

What the denier is missing

  • The area he calculates that would be required for each body is not representative of the average size or mass of the victim.
  • He misrepresents the way the bodies were thrown into the graves in a way that actually wastes the space that was available.
  • He uses maps that are not scaled as to the size or distance between objects shown on it. Therefore, they cannot be used as the video-maker does to draw conclusions about size and area.
The American Holocaust denier video-maker’s assumptions are faulty and they invalidate his conclusions about the space required and the actual size of the graves in the camps.
Let us look at the video-maker’s faulty assumptions one at a time.

1. The calculated mass of each body is not representative of the average size of the victim.

The American Holocaust denier video-maker arrives at the conclusion that about 3 adult male bodies could be buried in one cubic meter. How does he calculate this figure?
  • He calculates a shoulder width of 26" inches for each body, a depth of 16" (including an even 7" layer of sand) and a length of 50" (less the area of the head, which he positions between the feet of two other bodies, thus creating a cheerleading-style pyramid form.)
  • The shoulder width of 26" corresponds to that of a healthy, well-fed, adult American male football player exceeding 225 pounds-not the emaciated women, children, infants, and elderly Polish Jews who were the larger part of the victims in the camps.2
  • Further, in the mid-20th century, Poles in general, and Polish Jews in particular, were-according to our modern standards in the United States-of smaller stature. The average height of a Polish Jewish male was about 5’3". It follows that their body mass was also less on the average.3
  • The layer of sand (or lime) was not exactly 7" at all times. Spreading even layers of sand and lime were not always used in every circumstance in every grave even in the same camp.
Others who attempt the same calculations come up with more realistic figures. Alex Bay, a meticulous scholar of the Operation Reinhard camps, calculates that 10.7 adult male bodies would fit in one cubic meter. Even Carlo Mattogno, an Italian holocaust denier, calculates 8 bodies per cubic meter assuming one-third of them were children.
The most realistic appraisal though comes from Alex Bay, a meticulous researcher of the Operation Reinhard camps, who caculates that 10.7 adult male modies would fit in one cubic meter.
Thus, it is fair to conclude that the video-maker’s calculations do not represent the actual size or mass of the majority of the adult victims in these camps. His calculations are at least double to triple the area needed for the body of a child or infant (which made up about half of the number of total victims.)

Why are the calculations so different?

  • The video-maker considers each body as if it were that of an adult male which was individually buried in a square unit of ground that occupied .3408 cubic meters or about 12 cubic feet. If you looked at his square from the side, you would see a body with 7" of space between it and the top of the box and areas of void around the entire body. The video-maker demonstrates this in Episode 11 (Treblinka Burial Space) at http://www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com.
  • Alex Bay uses a much more realistic approach. He calculates just the mass of the body itself. By discarding the void areas around each body and calculating the mass of an average adult male body itself, he comes much closer to the true burial capacity of a cubic square meter.4

2. The video-maker misrepresents the way the bodies were thrown into the graves in a way that actually wastes the space that was avaiable.

It is true that we do not have a lot of details about how the bodies were actually buried in the mass graves, but there is some information available:
  • Abraham Krzepicki, who survived Treblinka, testified that in the mass graves near the reception area which were reserved for the bodies of those who had perished on the train or who were executed before they ever made it to the death camp area: "Things were humming out there on that big field . . . They [the work Jews] were dragging corpses into the ditches which had been dug for them by the machine. We could also see Jews pushing carts piled with bodies toward the big ditches at the edge of the field . . . They were all running . . . There were various kinds of ditches in that place. At a distance, running parallel with the outermost camp fence, there were three giant mass graves, in which the dead were arranged in layers."5
  • Kurt Gerstein, an SS officer who witnessed a mass gassing at Belzec, testified: "When silence prevailed in the chambers, the outside doors were opened, then the corpses were taken out, checked for gold teeth, and afterward they were put, layer upon layer, in a pit." 6
  • Slamek Bajlar, also known as Yakov Grojanowski, described the process of burying the bodies at Chelmno: "The corpses were thrown one on top of another, like rubbish on a heap. We got hold of them by the feet and the hair. At the edge of the ditch stood two men who threw in the bodies. In the ditch stood an additional two men who packed them in head to feet, facing downwards. If any space was left, a child was pushed in." 7
The key factors seem to be speed and layering the bodies, although not necessarily with the precision claimed by the American Holocaust denier video-maker. The object appears to have been to fill the grave more or less evenly-as opposed to arranging them in neat rows of 12 cubic foot rectangles and covering them with even layers of sand.
Why should the bodies of Jews be treated with any dignity when in life they were literally diseased parasites and vermin. The Germans even forbade the work Jews to use the words "corpse" or "victim." The dead were instead referred to as "Figuren" (puppets, dolls) or "Schmatters" (rags.)8 To Christian Wirth, the director of all three camps, they were simply "garbage" to be disposed of quickly and with the least fuss so the process of killing would not be slowed down. 9

3. The video-maker uses a of the Operation Reinhard camps that is not scaled as to its overall size or distances of objects shown on it.

The maps used by the video-maker are not scaled. They were drawn from the memories of eyewitnesses and are for visualization purposes only. Therefore, any calculations pretending to measure the area of the camp and then cover it with red blobs representing one mass grave multiplied many times can not be scientific.

Conclusion

The American Holocaust denier video-maker’s calculations are deliberately exaggerated to achieve his final goal of "proving" Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor were transit camps and not death camps. His conclusions are based on faulty assumptions and as a result his conclusions are wrong.

Notes

1. See Episode 11 (Treblinka Burial Space), Episode 12 (Belzec Burial Space) and Episode 13 (Sobibor Burial Space) at www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com.
2. R&D Ergonomics sells ergonomic rests for computer users which are based on shoulder measurements. An average-framed individual (about 95% of the population) is between 16 and 26 inches. A large-framed rest fits people with very wide shoulders, exceeding 26 inches. See www.morencyrest.com/sizing.htm.
3. The average stature of male Poles (both Jewish and non-Jewish) was about 5’3", with Jews being, on the average, slightly shorter than Poles. Female Jews were, on the average, shorter yet-around 5’ tall. About 10% of the Jewish population was taller than the average. See www.Jewish Encyclopedia.com, "Stature" at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1045&letter=S. See also "Physical Condition of Jews, "New York Times, June 6, 1904.
4. See "The Reconstruction of Treblinka" by Alex Bay, Appendix D-Ash Disposal and Burial Pits (Continued), Estimating the Capacities of the Burial Pits: Human Body Proportions from DaVinci" at http://www.holocaust-history.org/Treblinka/appendixd/appendixd2.shtml.
5. Abraham Krzepicki, "Eighteen Days in Treblinka" in Alexander Donat’s The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary (Holocaust Library, 1979), p. 86.
6. Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 104.
7. "Szlamek Bajler, also known as Yakov Grojanowski, Notes on the Chelmno Waldlager, January 1942" at , p. 2/8.
8. Testimony of Motke ZaÏdl and Itzhak Dugin on the digging up and cremation of the bodies in the mass graves at Vilna, Lithuania. Claude Lanzmann, Shoah: The Complete Text of the Acclaimed Holocaust Film (Da Capo Press, 1995), p. 9.
9. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p. 183.
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