Learning Tools

Myth/Fact Sheets

The incineration fires would have needed to much wood: Part 1 of 2

 

The Holocaust Deniers Say:

The astronomic amount of wood necessary to burn so many bodies was unavailable to the camps. Therefore, the mass incinerations never happened.

An American Holocaust denier-who staged a video in which he attempts to burn a leg of lamb on a grill to demonstrate the impossibility of mass incineration-calculates that the Germans would have needed one half billion pounds of firewood to burn the estimated 600,000 bodies in Belzec. 1
Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, calculated that the incinerations at Belzec would have required an "astronomic" 96,000 tons of wood. Ultimately, the mass incinerations would have required 19,000 trucks or over 3,800 freight cars full of wood. No one ever saw such a convoy of trucks or long lines of trains filled with wood. 2
How did Mattogno and the American Holocaust denier calculate the wood that was needed?
Mattogno and the American denier each conducted their own amateur incineration experiments. The American Holocaust denier burned a 12.5 pound leg of lamb on a beach bonfire and Mattogno made a backyard grill and incinerated several pounds of beef under various conditions. 3
What the Holocaust deniers found in their experiments
Holocaust Denier Amount of meat in kg Amount of meat in pounds Amount of wood needed in kg Amount of wood needed in pounds
Mattogno 1 kg of animal meat 2.2 pounds 2.63 to 3.5 kg 6 to 8 pounds
Video-maker 5.7 kg of leg of lamb 12.5 pounds of leg of lamb 61.2 kg 135 pounds
*Video-maker 1 kg of leg of lamb 2.2 pounds 10.9 kg 24 pounds
*Adjusted to 1 kilogram of leg of lamb for purposes of comparison with Mattogno’s results.
Something is wrong with one or both of these experiments. The difference is so large-anywhere between 6 and 24 pounds of wood required to incinerate 1 kilogram of meat-that one or the other (or both) must contain faulty assumptions. They cannot both be correct.
The total amount of wood required for an estimated 600,000 victims in Treblinka according to the Holocaust deniers
Holocaust Denier Est. avg. weight of 1 body in kilograms Avg. weight of 1 body in pounds Amount of firewood needed to incinerate 1 body Total number of bodies Total amt of firewood needed in kilograms Total amt of firewood needed in pounds Total amt of firewood needed in metric tons
Mattogno 46 kg 101 pounds 161 kg (45 kg body x 3.5 kg wood) Rounded to 160 kg 600,000 96,600,000 (Rounded to 96,000,000) 211,643,772 96,000
Video-maker Unknown Unknown 300 pounds or 136 kg 1,500,000 204,166,566 450,000,000 204,166
The figures in bold for the video-maker’s calculations are determined by working backwards from his figures of 300 pounds of wood per body times 1.5 million bodies for a final total of 450,000,000 pounds of wood. 4
In Clip 23: "Lamb" the video-maker says the Germans would have needed to use 500,000,000 pounds of wood. But in Clip 29: "The Flameable Fence" he says they used 250,000,000 pounds. 5 He cannot even keep his own story straight.
Also in "Lamb" the video-maker’s calculations, as presented as a graphic in the video, come out to 450,000,000 pounds of wood, but he rounds it up to 500,000,000. That is very liberal "rounding up"-it represents a full 10% of the final figure of 500,000,000 pounds of wood that he claims was needed. It is so liberal in fact, that the more accurate amount of wood needed to incinerate some 1.8 million bodies in all three camps is less than just the amount he added on to arrive at 500,000,000 pounds of wood. See Part 2 of this article.
For these reasons, the video-maker's speculation about wood usage lacks any evidenciary support.
What is wrong with Mattogno's figures?
There are several reasons why Mattogno’s figures are wrong, but one of the most important is:
He overestimates the weight of an average body. As a result, he overestimates the amount of wood needed to incinerate an average body.
How much did an average body weigh?
Mattogno assumes that an average body weighed 46 kilograms (101 pounds) but does not explain how he selected that figure. 6
As it happens, we have some hard information about this matter. Kurt Gerstein, the SS man who saw a gassing at Belzec, recorded that he saw about 700 people (about half of who were children and infants) pushed into a gas chamber that measured about 5 by 5 meters (about 16.5 feet by 16.5 feet) and murdered. Gerstein estimated that the average weight of the victims was about 35 kilograms (77 pounds.) 4
Charles Provan, a self-admitted skeptic of the Holocaust, wondered if that was really possible and decided to test Gerstein’s observation for himself. He built a plywood box with a base area of 21 inches by 21 inches. The box had one glass side, two plywood sides, one open side and an open top. He was surprised by the result.
  • He found that two young adults (27 and 34 years old), one woman in her seventies, and four children could fit into the box without difficulty. All of the people wore their regular clothing and all were able to breathe normally.
  • Three children (aged 6, 4 and 2) sat down at the adults’ feet while the older child (8 years old) and the three adults stood. One of the adults held a doll in place of an infant. Provan-concerned that no one would believe him-took pictures. You may read the study and see the photographs at .
When Provan weighed his participants he found something even more interesting. The average weight of the seven human beings and the doll representing a baby was 33.25 kilograms (about 73 pounds). The two adult men weighed 63 and 62 kilograms, the older woman weighed 49 kilograms, the four children weighed 25, 26, 19 and 15 kilograms. He estimated the baby/doll’s weight as 7 kilograms. 8
Provan’s participants were well-fed Americans, not half-starved, naked Polish Jews who were of generally smaller stature than the average American. This average body weight is possible because about half of the Jews who were murdered in these death camps were children and infants.
Therefore, Mattogno’s figure of 46 kilograms for an average body is apparently too high and Gerstein’s estimate of 35 kilograms was closer to the truth.
The Holocaust deniers do not voluntarily mention Provan’s study.
The real weight of an average body
  • One-third of the remains were brought straight from the gas chambers and weighed on the average about 35 kilograms (77 pounds). This figure is realistic because half of the remains were those of children and infants.
  • Two-thirds of the remains incinerated on the grills had been dug up after being buried for several months.
  • A woman’s body contains about 50% water; a man’s body about 60% water; and a child’s body as much as 73%. The exhumed remains would have been dried skin and bone with a loss of about half their original weight.
  • This lowers the average weight of the remains dug up from the mass graves from 35 kilograms (77 pounds) to about 14 kilograms (31 pounds) based on an average of about 60% water and the fact that about half were children and infants. 9
  • Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the average weight of all the bodies was about 25 kilograms (35 kilograms plus 14 kilograms divided by 2), or about 55 pounds.
Conclusion
Mattogno’s calculations for wood usage are too high in part because his calculations are based on an average body weight or 46 kilograms (101 pounds). In reality, the average weight of the remains-taking into account that about half of the victims were children and infants and that some were dried skin and bones-was about 25 kilograms (55 pounds).
A more accurate figure for the average victims' weight proves that Mattogno’s figures for wood usage per kilogram of body weight are about 2 times higher than was likely in reality.

Notes

1. See Episode 23: "Lamb" at www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com.
2. Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archaeological Research, and History (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 85.
3. See Clip 23: "Lamb" at www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com; Carlo Mattogno, "Combustion Experiments with Flesh and Animal Fat" at http://www.vho.org/tr/2004/1/Mattogno64-72.html; "Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research-Part 4(2)" at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/05/carlo-mattogno-on-belzec_28.html, p. 3 of 22.
4. See Clip 23: "Lamb" and Clip 29: "The Flameable Fence" at www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com
5. See Episode 25: "The Flameable Fence (the Germans wouldn’t have)."
6. Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archaeological Research, and History (These & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 85.
7. The pertinent part relating to Gerstein’s observation of a mass gassing at Belzec can be found at .
8. Charles Provan, "Kurt Gerstein and the Capacity of the Gas Chamber at Belzec," p. 13 of 14 at and "Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research-Part 4(2)" at , p. 3 of 22.
9. "Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research-Part 4(2)" at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/05/carlo-mattogno-on-belzec_28.html, p. 8 and 9 of 22.
Popups by overLIB