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    Diesel Exhaust: Smoke and Soot

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    Can smoke and soot in diesel engine exhaust play a role in the death of human beings?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    According to Holocaust deniers, the black smoke and soot in diesel exhaust would have “annoyed the hell out of any group of intended victims, but would have given them nothing worse than a headache.”[1] As further proof, Holocaust deniers claim that there are “no known Diesel suicides. Diesel exhaust is inherently safe.”[2]

    The facts are:

    Holocaust deniers are simply incorrect. Diesel exhaust is not innocuous, but can be quite noxious, noxious enough to cause human death. Heavy smoke and soot in diesel exhaust has been known to restrict human air passages. In the right conditions, this can easily lead to death by asphyxiation or can contribute to the impact of carbon monoxide poisoning. This was especially the case in the Holocaust because the Nazis modified the engines they used.

    Black soot and smoke from diesel exhaust is more than “annoying”:

    Diesel engine exhaust contains significant amounts of heavy smoke and soot (particulate matter) under normal operating conditions. It is worse when the engine is deliberately mistuned.[3]

    That smoke and soot was present in the gas vans is indicated by man named Lauer, who was a member of Einsatzkommando 4a in Poltava, Ukraine.[4] About the gas vans, he testified: “I was there when the van arrived. As the doors were opened, dense smoke emerged, followed by a tangle of crumpled bodies. It was a frightful sight.”[5]

    The facts about death by diesel engine exhaust:

    Diesel engines can most certainly cause death through carbon monoxide poisoning. In 2008, for instance, a truck driver was found dead in the cab of his idling truck and a subsequent investigation was conducted to determine the cause of death. The investigation indicated that the direct cause of death was accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from his truck’s engine.[6]

    Diesel fumes can also kill in other ways. A doctor named S. Sivaloganathan wrote a case study in 1998 about a U.K. man who died in his diesel-powered car. He concluded that the man’s cause of death was not carbon monoxide poisoning (which was less than 5 percent) but anoxia (lack of oxygen) because his air passages were blocked with “soot and other material in the emissions.”[7]


    The evidence shows that diesel engine exhaust can kill in and of itself. In addition, heavy smoke and soot is another factor in the toxicity of diesel engine exhaust, especially when combined with carbon monoxide, lack of oxygen, and several other toxic gases.


    [1] Friedrich Berg, “The Diesel Gas Chambers: Myth within a Myth” (“Diesels for Mass-Murder?” at http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v05/v05p-15_Berg.html.

    [2] Friedrich Berg, “Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture—Absurd for Murder” (“7.7 Diesels in Underground Mining-a Brief History”) at

    [3] H. H. Schrenk and L.B. Berger, “Composition of Diesel Engine Exhaust Gas,” American Journal of Public Health and the Nation’s Health, 31(7), 1941, p. 677. You can find the entire article at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1531320/pdf/amjphnation00722-0019.pdf.

    [4] Einsatzkommando 4a was a sub-unit of Einsatzgruppe C, which was one of four mobile killing units that murdered the Jews in the territories of the ex-Soviet Union by shooting them.

    [5] 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. 61.

    [6] Sean M. Griffin, M.D.; Michael K. Ward, B.S.; Andrea R. Terrell, Ph.D., and Donna Stewart, M.D., “Diesel Fumes Do Kill: A Case of Fatal Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Directly Attributed to Diesel Fuel Exhaust with a 10-Year Retrospective Case and Literature Review,” Journal of Forensic Sciences, September, 2008, 53(5), pp. 1206-1211.

    [7] S. Sivaloganathan, “Death from diesel fumes,” Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 1998, 5, pp. 138-139 at http://www.vho.org/GB/c/FPB/DieselDeath.pdf.