The incineration fires would have needed to much wood: Part 2 of 2
The Holocaust Deniers Say:
96,000 tons of wood would have been needed to incinerate the 600,000 remains in Belzec and they ask where that amount of wood would have come from. 1
Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier states that that much wood would have required the stripping an area of mature woods 30 times greater than the area of the camp and according to aerial photographs taken in 1945 there are still plenty of trees in the area. 2
Do we have any information that might be more pertinent to the wood usage situation in the camps?
In fact, we have much better data based on the yearly destruction of large numbers of diseased animals. Their carcasses present a public health problem and have to be quickly and thoroughly destroyed.
- Health officials have found that they could burn 41,300 kilograms (about 91,050 pounds) of swine carcasses with 40 cubic meters of firewood (about 24,145 kilograms of wood.) This means that to incinerate 1 kilogram of carcass about 0.58 kilograms of wood was required. 3
- More generously, experts in the field note that "a good rule of thumb is that you need roughly the same amount of wood waste as the weight of the carcasses . . .For 5 tons of carcasses you need 4-5 tons of wood waste. If you were to incinerate a lot of bones, much less wood waste would be needed." 4
A more informed and realistic number for the amount of firewood needed to incinerate the bodies of the Jews in Belzec
We will use an average body weight of 25 kilograms (about 55 pounds), which takes into account the weight of the number of bodies which were in various stages of decomposition from just beginning down to completely dried out skin and bones (about 14 kilograms) and those that had just been murdered (about 35 kilograms). See Part 1
600,000 bodies x 25 kg of weight each = 15,000,000 total kg of body weight
15,000,000 kg x 1 kg of wood per kg of body weight = 15,000,000 kg of wood
15,000,000 kg of wood = 15,000 metric tons of wood
Thus, Mattogno’s figure of 96,000 metric tons is too high by a factor of at least 6 times.
Where did the waste wood come from? Would the area around the camps have been stripped bare?
In all three camps, Jewish work groups cut and hauled wood to the camp daily, sometimes from as far as 5 kilometers away. The wood was used both to fuel the incineration grills and to refurbish the old brown branches that had been woven into the fences for camouflage. The old branches made good tinder for starting the incineration fires.
- Thomas (Toivi) Blatt, who survived Sobibor, recalls that he volunteered to work for the forest commando: "The work performed there also took place outside the barbed wires of the camp. This particular group supplied wood for the crematorium by cutting down trees and digging out the stumps." 6
- Blatt recalls that "When there were no more saplings in the immediate area, he put me in charge of a group of tree cutters deeper inside the forest." 7
Aerial photographs taken in 1940 before Belzec was established show the camp site to be heavily forested. An aerial photograph taken in 1945 (two years after the camp was closed) shows the nearby area of the camp largely stripped of trees, some of which were removed in order to build the camp. As the eyewitnesses testified, wood was taken from inside and around the camp but it was also cut outside of the area of the picture. This is consistent with the wood requirements when properly calculated. These photographs are available at .
Mattogno’s calculations about wood requirements per kilogram of remains are grossly inflated.
Proper estimates of the amount of firewood needed take into account:
- the actual state of two-thirds of the bodies (dried out skin and bones)
- the ages of the victims (one-third to one-half children and infants)
- the correct average body weight estimates
- responsible figures for the amount in kilograms of wood required to incinerate 1 kilogram of remains
This means that 6 times less wood was needed than Mattogno claims.
The wood, according to multiple eyewitnesses, was taken from around the camp and from other sites kilometers away and the de-forestation of the area is consistent with the amount of wood required.
1. (See Part 1)
2. Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archaeological Research, and History (These & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 85.
3. "Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research-Part 4(2)" at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/05/carlo-mattogno-on-belzec_28.html, p. 4 of 22. The entire study "Options for the Mechanised Slaughter and Disposal of Contagious Diseased Animals-A Discussion Paper by R. D. Lund, I. Kruger and P. Weldon can be read at .
4. "Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research-Part 4(2)" at , p. 4 of 22. (emphasis added)
6. Thomas Toivi Blatt, From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival (Northwestern University Press, 1997), p. 112. See also Abraham Krzepicki, "Eighteen Days in Treblinka" in Alexander Donat, editor, The Death Camp Treblinka: A Documentary (Holocaust Library 1979), p. 124; Samuel Willenberg, Surviving Treblinka, edited by Wladyslaw T. Bartoszewski, translation by Naftali Greenwood (Basil Blackwell, 1989), p. 110; Richard Glazar, Trap with a Green fence: Survival in Treblinka (Northwestern University Press, 1992), pp. 127-135.
7. Thomas Toivi Blatt, From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival (Northwestern University Press, 1997): p. 110.