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    Diesel Exhaust: The Engines Used

    Were gasoline engines or diesel engines used in the death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    According to Holocaust deniers, those who believe the Holocaust happened have changed their claims about Nazi killing methods. They once claimed that the Nazis and their collaborators killed their victims with diesel engines at the death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor. Now, they claim that gasoline engines were used by the Nazis. Thus, Holocaust scholars have changed their position because deniers have “proven” that diesel engines could not have been used to murder Jews. 

    For example, Friedrich Berg, an American Holocaust denier, claims to have proven that gasoline engines, not diesel engines, were used at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec. Berg asserts that because of his “historical” work “holocaust pundits” (those who believe the Holocaust happened) are changing their story. He states that these “pundits” have little evidence regarding the murder of 1.5 million Jews in the Operation Reinhard camps. Thus, according to Berg, Holocaust historians are now engaged in an “attempt at evasion and distortion” and a “clumsy juggling of evidence,” largely in a last ditch attempt to change their narrative of the Holocaust.[1]

    The facts are:

    Recent discoveries have shown that the Nazis and their collaborators could have used either diesel engines or gasoline engines to murder victims at the death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor. Direct eyewitness evidence supports the potential that gasoline engines were used. However, contrary to the claims of Berg and other Holocaust deniers, this potential change is a simple matter of new information becoming available; it is not the product of “desperation,” nor is it a concerted effort at “distortion.” Regardless, both diesel engines and gasoline engines are capable of killing people.

    The type of engines used in the Operation Reinhard death camps:

    We do not have any direct physical evidence concerning the type of engine used at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec. The Nazis tore down and leveled all three camps. The engines were disposed of and no verified gas van has ever been found. Therefore, our knowledge is based on eyewitness evidence—that of both survivors and perpetrators.

    It is true that eyewitness testimony about the type of engines used is inconsistent. However, there are good reasons for the variations. First, some eyewitnesses saw the engines from a distance, while others only heard them and were not able to identify the type of engine definitively. Second, some eyewitnesses had little mechanical knowledge and could easily have misidentified whether the engine used diesel or gasoline. Finally, some eyewitnesses simply repeated information they heard from others about the type of engines used.

    Who then are the people who could best identify the engines used? The most accurate sources are the SS men who installed, ran, and maintained the engines. Others who saw or worked closely with the engines are also reliable witnesses.

    The type of engine used at Sobibor:

    SS men Franz Hödl and Erich Fuchs were in charge of installing, maintaining, and operating the gas chamber engine at the Sobibor death camp.

    Fuchs specifically stated that the engine used at 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] Likewise, Hödl also confirmed that there was a gasoline engine at 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]

    We can reasonably conclude, therefore, that the Nazis used a gasoline engine at Sobibor, given that these two men both operated and maintained the engine in question. A potential reason for eyewitness confusion is also provided by Hödl: there were two engines, one gasoline and one diesel. The diesel engine may not have been used, but it was present in the engine room.

    The type of engine used at Belzec:

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

    However, another eyewitness did see and interact with the engine at Belzec. Rudolf Reder was one of just two Jewish survivors from the 450,000 or more Jews murdered at Belzec. In 1944, Reder made a statement to the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland regarding the engines used at Belzec. 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] Reder’s testimony indicates that the engine at Belzec was also probably a gasoline engine.

    The type of engine used at Treblinka:

    There is one direct eyewitness who actually used the engine at the Treblinka death camp: Nikolay Shalayev. He was one of the so-called 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, his evidence indicates that the engine used at Treblinka might have been a gasoline engine as well.

    Conclusion:

    From the testimony of eyewitnesses, such as the SS men who operated the engines and a Jewish survivor who had access to them, we may conclude that gasoline engines were probably used as the means of murder in Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec. Holocaust scholars do not evade, distort, or juggle the evidence. Rather, as testimonies are examined anew and unknown archival material is discovered, Holocaust scholars find new information. Holocaust scholars have been transparent about new sources and new perspectives. Ultimately, however, the exact type of engine is irrelevant to the fact that the Nazis and their collaborators killed 1.5 million Jews at the Operation Reinhard death camps. Both gasoline engines and diesel engines 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.