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Myth/Fact Sheets

Poland's cold and snowy weather would have inhibited the incineration process

 

The Holocaust Deniers Say:

Snow, wind and rain would have slowed down or stopped the process of incinerating bodies. There is no evidence that the Germans attempted to protect the grills from the elements with either roofs or walls.

An American Holocaust denier claims that:
  • It did not "dawn on the storytellers" who made up the incineration fable that rain would be a "logistical problem." He claims that because Claude Lanzmann, in his film Shoah, interviews a man in the rain at Treblinka in the early 1980s that meant that in 1942 it rained so much it would have disrupted the mass incinerations.
  • Lanzmann filmed Sobibor in the winter under a covering of snow. This denier claims that it snowed so heavily at Sobibor in 1942/1943 that it would have inhibited the incineration process.
  • Deniers argue that since the accounts of the incineration grills never mentioned a firewall to protect the fires from the wind, the fires would have lost most of their heat. Thus, "the bodies on top wouldn’t even get warm, much less cremated." 1
He goes on to claim that since the accounts of the incineration process never mentioned a roof over or wall around the grills, the weather would have made the incinerations impossible.
Poland’s Climate
Poland has a temperate climate, which means it has distinct seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter. The summers can be hot with temperatures sometimes as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the winters can be cold with temperatures below zero. Annual precipitation (rain and snow) averages about 18 to 24 inches in the southeastern lowlands (where the Operation Reinhard camps were located). That is 1.5 inches to 2 inches of precipitation a month on average. It tends to rain more often in the summer than snow in the winter. The average winds range between 4 and 22 miles per hour. 2
Thus, the claim that it rained or snowed so much that mass incineration would have been impossible does not hold up to the climatic facts.
How might rain and snow have affected the mass incinerations?
We cannot know precisely what the weather was in southeastern Poland in late fall/early winter 1942 and winter/spring 1943. However, the Germans did not have to conduct mass incinerations continuously. If we assume that it rained or snowed 20% of the time as the climate statistic shows then:
  • At Sobibor, where they had an entire year to cremate about 250,000 bodies, they had 292 days to finish their work. This amounts to needing to burn 856 bodies per day, which was more than doable and was in fact leisurely compared to the urgency in the other camps.
  • At Treblinka, the incineration time probably lasted longer than the 156 days that an American Holocaust denier claims was available. However, if we accept his estimate of 156 days, then the Germans had 125 days to cremate about 750,000 bodies. They started with one grill but rapidly increased them to a total of six. Each grill could hold at least 2,000 bodies. Allowing for three-quarters or 1,500 bodies per day per grill, because nothing operates at peak efficiency all the time, they could still have burned all or most of the bodies within his time span.
  • In Belzec the work of burning the bodies began in November 1942 and lasted until March 1943, or about five months. The total number of bodies they had to burn was around 600,000. Kola’s excavation team found the remains of three grills in their thorough forensic investigation. 3 In 120 days, assuming the 1,500 bodies per incineration grill figure, they could have cremated 540,000 bodies. However, the investigation team found that several graves still had the remains of unburned bodies in them. It appears that as the Germans neared the bottom of the graves, they lost their taste for the job or were in a hurry to be done and so they left them. 4
As a final note, Foot and Mouth Disease struck the cattle population in Great Britain throughout 2001. Possibly as many as 6,000,000 carcasses had to be destroyed or buried quickly. Some were buried while others were burned on open air pyres. 5 Great Britain is not known for its sunny, dry climate yet none of the news accounts or scientific or governmental reports on the disposal process discuss or show roofs over or walls around the burning pits. There is no evidence that the process was substantially impeded by the weather.
What about a roof over the pyres? Would it have helped? Was it necessary?
  • Yankiel Wiernik, a survivor of Treblinka, was the camp’s builder. In his account he describes in detail many of the buildings, including the new gas chambers, that he helped build-but he never mentions building roofs over or walls around the incineration grills.
  • Witnesses mention the flames roaring 30 feet into the sky. Would the Germans have risked setting the roofs on fire in these blazingly hot and huge fires?
Further, the Germans were in a big hurry. They did not have time to build whole buildings around the fires, use "special alloy rails," rig up adjustable grills or provide walls around or roofs over the grills. They needed to get it done and get out of there. Complicating the job would only have extended it and perhaps even made it impossible.
What about the wind?
Deniers argue that a bonfire on the beach would surrender much of its heat to the wind lengthening the time, decreasing the efficiency and making the need for firewood more.
However, what effect would wind have on incineration fires that covered about 66 square meters (710 square feet)? What would a little wind do to a fire this hot (between 800 and 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit or more) and big, where the flames leaped 30 feet into the air? It was just as likely that it would help it along, just as happens in forest fires.
An American Holocaust denier claims that experts get better results with a firewall. 6 But the incineration fires were> built into pits that provided wind protection for the fuel source. In fact, the very model he claims shows that there were no pits under them to protect the fire when examined more closely shows that they do.
Conclusion
  • The snow, rain and wind-unless it was extreme and extended-would not substantially affect the process.
  • Even if it did rain and snow 20% of the time, the bodies could still have been cremated in the time stated by the witnesses.
  • Guessing about roofs and fire walls is just that-speculation. It does not rise in any way to actual evidence.

Notes

1. See Clip 15: "Rain, Wind, Fire and Ice" at www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com.
2. "Geography of Poland" at ; "Poland: Climate" at http://travel.poland.com/texts/en/t-ap-2.php; "Poland" at .
3. Robin O’Neil, Belzec: Prototype for the Final Solution at (Chapter 10).
4. For more in-depth information on this topic see Roberto Muehlenkamp, "It’s Raining Empty Claims . . . " at .
5. Derek Brown, "Foot and mouth: Guardian Unlimited’s midday update," April 27, 2001 at ; "Foot and Mouth Disease in Cumbria-2001" at ; "Burial to replace burning of cattle," BBC News Online: UK, March 31, 2001 at .
6. See Clip 15: "Rain, Wind, Fire and Ice" at www.onethirdoftheholocaust.com.
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