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The German Nazis would have used special alloy rails for the incineration pyres

 

The Holocaust Deniers Say:

The heat from the incineration fires would have melted the railroad rails used to construct the grills.

The American Holocaust denier video-maker makes this claim based on his own amateur experiment in which he burned a leg of lamb on a bonfire on the beach, after which the metal grill he used was warped from the heat. Thus, he concludes that the Germans "would have used specially built alloy beams made to hold up a lot of weight in high heat conditions." 1
What we know about how the incineration grills were built
The use of railroad rails in the incineration grills was described by the SS men who built and operated the grills in various trials after the war.
In Treblinka, SS Oberscharführer Heinrich Matthes, the commander of the extermination area, testified at the first Treblinka trial in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1964:
"The cremation took place in such a way that railway lines and concrete blocks were placed together. The corpses were piled on these rails. Brushwood was put under the rails. The wood was doused with petrol. In that way not only the newly accumulated corpses were cremated, but also those taken out from the graves". 2
About the grills in Sobibor, Karl Streibel, who visited the camp at the end of 1942, said that the "roaster made from the railway lines was supported by a stone base." 3
Where did the Germans get these railroad rails?
Thomas Blatt, a survivor of Sobibor, relates how he was selected for a special work group:
"Wagner led us along the railroad for about five minutes, finally stopping next to a pile of neatly stacked reserve railroad rails. . . Now we were ordered to pick up a rail. The gates opened again and we were back in another hellish world. We marched straight in the direction of Lager III [the extermination area] and left the rails near the gate. This was simply the way the burned-out grates of the pyres were replaced. I was wondering why, with all their might, the SS stole the rails at night. But I assumed that the clever SS Wagner had found this eliminated the hassle of going through regular channels." 4
Samuel Rajzman carried railroad rails into Treblinka:
"They had brought some very heavy railroad rails, and these rails had to be brought into the death camp because the Germans were making another enormous ditch in which to cremate the dead. We almost died carrying those rails. It was extremely hard work. Each rail had to be carried by a team of six or eight people. Weakened as we were, this was almost a death sentence. We carried them as best we could, put them down, and the Germans led us back to our regular work". 5
Samuel Willenberg also carried rails at Treblinka:
"A few days later a train of open wagons with a cargo of iron rails pulled up. Miete [an SS guard], screeching, ordered all the prisoners to begin unloading. With Miete alongside, I shouldered the end of one of the rails and set out . . . Miete ordered us to throw down the rail beside the camouflaged fence which separated the death camp and our complex. So it went on for several hours; as they beat and shoved us, we carried dozens of iron rails-at speed-from two wagons to the gate of the extermination area." 6
These rails would be available near any railroad maintenance depot. In at least one case, the Germans stole the rails and in others apparently commandeered them as they needed them.
Would railroad rails have been strong enough to survive the hot fires?
In fact, the Germans struggled to find the right material for the rails. Paul Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka, related:
"I know that in the beginning they used rails from the trolley to build the incineration grill. But it turned out that these were too weak and bent in the heat. They were replaced with real railroad rails." 7
The "trolley" to which Stangl is referring was a small-gauge track laid from the gas chambers to the burial pits on which carts loaded with bodies were pushed along by the prisoners.
The accounts of Stangl, Blatt, Willenberg and Rajzman show that regular railroad rails were used on the incineration grills. The fact that these rails, which are hardened in the manufacturing process and are designed to bear up continuously under the weight of heavily-loaded trains in every type of weather, had to be replaced occasionally because they melted in the ferocious heat of the pyres-instead of making the process impossible as the Holocaust deniers claim-supports the eyewitness accounts because the extreme heat that melted heavy iron rails would have made the incineration grills all the more efficient at their gruesome task.
Conclusion
All of the evidence points to these facts:
  • The general design of the huge grills that were used to incinerate bodies at the Operation Reinhard camps consisted of railway rails placed on concrete blocks above a pit.
  • The railroad rails had a useful lifespan and then had to be replaced.
  • The railroad rails were easily acquired around the camps.
No realistic comparison about durability can be made between the heavy railroad rails used in the incineration grills in the camps and the video-maker’s lightweight stainless steel grill used in his beach bonfire. This is a ludicrous comparison.
The video-maker’s speculation that the Germans would have used "special built alloy beams" has no basis in fact. There is no evidence that such beams existed-much less were ever used-and sound evidence that regular railroad rails were obtained from the area when needed.

Notes

1. See Episode 24: Bone Crushing at www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com.
2. Treblinka-Franz, Band 10, p. 2057 as cited in Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 174.
3. Sobibor-Bolender, Band 9, p. 1743 as cited in Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, p. 172.
4. Thomas Toivi Blatt, From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival (Northwestern University Press, 1997), pp. 113-114.
5. Samuel Rajzman, "The End of Treblinka" in Alexander Donat’s The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary (Holocaust Library, 1979), p. 236.
6. Samuel Willenberg, Surviving Treblinka, edited by Wladyslaw T. Bartoszewski, translation by Naftali Greenwood (Basil Blackwell, 1989), pp. 107, 108.
7. The Second Treblinka Trial of Franz Stangl in 1969, StA Düsseldorf AZ: 8 Js 10904/59 (ZSL: AZ: 208 AR-Z 230/59, Vol. 13, fol. 3726 as cited in Eugen Kogon, Hermann Langbein and Adalbert Rückerl, editors, Nazi Mass Murder: A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas (Yale University Press, 1994), p. 135.
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