• Search

    Diesel Exhaust: The Engines Used

    How do we know that the engines used in the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor were gasoline engines and not diesel engines?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The “exterminationists” [those who believe the Holocaust happen] have changed their story that diesel engines were used in the death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor, to gasoline engines because they are “desperate” in the face of the deniers’ proof that diesel engines could not have been used to murder Jews.

    The facts are:

    More recent research in newly-opened archives has shown that gasoline engines, and not diesel engines, were used in Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. Direct eyewitness evidence supports this conclusion. This is a simple matter of new information becoming available and not a product of “desperation.”

    Holocaust deniers say that as the result of the work of Friedrich Berg, an American Holocaust denier, the “holocaust pundits” are “desperate” because they have “precious little” evidence regarding the murder of 1.5 million Jews in the Operation Reinhard camps using diesel engine exhaust.

    Berg claims that because of his work the “exterminationists” are now engaged in an “attempt at evasion and distortion” and a “clumsy juggling of evidence” in a last ditch attempt to change their story to say that gasoline engines-not diesel engines-were used.[1]

    What we know about what type of engine was used in the Operation Reinhard death camps.

    We do not have any direct physical evidence concerning the type of engine used because all three camps were torn down and leveled, the engines disposed of and no verified gas van has ever been found. Therefore, our knowledge is based on eyewitness evidence—both survivor and perpetrator.

    It is true that the eyewitness testimony about the type of engines used in the gas chambers in the death camps is inconsistent but there are good reasons for the variations. First, some eyewitnesses saw the engines from a distance and others only heard them so they were not able to identify the type of engine definitively. Second, some eyewitnesses had little mechanical knowledge and could have misidentified the type of engine, even after seeing or hearing it. Finally, some eyewitnesses simply repeated information they heard from others about the type of engines used.

    Who then are the people who could identify the engines used without error? The best source is the SS men who installed, ran and maintained the engines. Others who saw or worked closely with the engine under certain circumstances could also be a reliable source.

    What we know about the type of engine used in Sobibor.

    SS men Franz Hödl and Erich Fuchs were in charge of installing, maintaining and using the engine for the gas chambers in Sobibor.

    Fuchs specifically stated that the engine used in Sobibor was a gasoline engine: “We unloaded the motor. It was a heavy Russian petrol [gasoline] engine (presumably from a tank or tractor engine) of at least 200 HP (V-engine, 8 cylinder, water cooled).”[2]

    Hödl also confirmed that there was a gasoline engine in Sobibor: “In the engine room there were indeed two engines. There was a petrol engine, probably from a Russian tank, and a diesel engine. The latter [the diesel engine] was never used, however.”[3]

    Therefore, we can reasonably conclude, given that these two men both used and worked on the engine, that a gasoline engine was used in Sobibor.

    What we know about the type of engine used in Belzec.

    We have no testimony from the SS users of the engine in Belzec. Kurt Gerstein, the SS officer who visited the camp in August 1942, described the engine as a diesel. However, he does not say how he knew what type of engine it was so his testimony for our purposes is less than conclusive.

    However, another eyewitness did see and interact with the engine in Belzec. Rudolf Reder, one of the two Jewish survivors out of the 450,000 or more Jews who were murdered in Belzec, made a statement in 1944 to the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. In it he described the engine as a “motor pedzony benzyna [gasoline-powered motor].” Reder also said that he carried 4 to 5 cans of petrol (gas) (kanistry benzyny) every day to the motor room of the gas chambers. Reder used the Polish word for gasoline (benzyny/benzyna) not diesel, which is ‘olej napedowy.’[4]

    The evidence indicates that the engine in Belzec was a gasoline engine.

    What we know about the type of engines used in Treblinka.

     

    There is one direct eyewitness who actually used the engine in Treblinka: Nikolay Shalayev. He was one of the Treblinka “motorists.” He testified: “It was an ordinary, four-cylinder engine which used gasoline and, according to the story of the German machine operator, was of Russian make.”[5]

    As one of the operators of the engine testified, the evidence indicates that the engine used in Treblinka was a gasoline engine.

    Conclusion

    It is clear that when reliable eyewitness testimony is examined, it is not necessary for Holocaust scholars to evade, distort or juggle the evidence in response to the “truth telling” of the Holocaust deniers. From the testimony of the SS men who installed and used the engines and a Jewish survivor who had access to them we may state that gasoline engines were used as the means of murder in Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec.Ultimately, however, the exact type of engine is irrelevant because both gasoline and diesels are capable of producing enough carbon monoxide and other toxic gasses necessary to murder human beings.

    Notes

    [1] 1 Friedrich Berg, “Diesel Gas Chambers: Ideal for Torture—Absurd for Murder,” Part 3 (“12. Scholarly Evasion and Metamorphosis”) at www.nazigassings.com/dieselgaschamberc.html and Friedrich Berg, “The Diesel Gas Chambers: Myth Within a Myth,” (“Postscript: More Surprises to Come!”) at www.vho.org/GB/Journals/JHR/5/1/Berg15-46.html.

    [2] 2 Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess, editors. “The Good Old Days”: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders (Free Press, 1991), p. 231. See also Jonathan Harrison, Robert Muehlenkamp, Jason Myers, Sergey Romanov and Nicholas Terry, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. A Critique of the Falsehoods of Mattogno, Graf and Kues, p. 317 at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2011/12/belzec-sobibor-treblinka-holocaust.html. They are citing Erich Fuchs’s statement, 2.4.1963, BAL162/208 AR-Z 251/59, Bd. 9, 1784,

    [3] Jonathan Harrison, Robert Muehlenkamp, Jason Myers, Sergey Romanov and Nicholas Terry, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. A Critique of the Falsehoods of Mattogno, Graf and Kues, p. 317 at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2011/12/belzec-sobibor-treblinka-holocaust.html. They are citing Franz Hödl’s statement, 29.3.1966, April HAP 1960 JS 27/61, p. 50.

    [4] “Gas Chambers Introduction” at http://www.deathcamps.org/gas_chambers/gas_chambers_intro.html. See also Rudolf Reder, Belzec (Fundacja Judaica w Krakowie, 1999), p. 51, 53.

    [5] Jonathan Harrison, Robert Muehlenkamp, Jason Myers, Sergey Romanov and Nicholas Terry, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. A Critique of the Falsehoods of Mattogno, Graf and Kues, p. 320 at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2011/12/belzec-sobibor-treblinka-holocaust.html. They cite court proceedings against Nikolay Shalayev, 20.12.1951 and in the Soviet criminal case against Fedorenko, vol. 15, p. 152. Exhibit GX-126 in US v. Reimer.