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    Operation Reinhard Mass Cremation: Cremation of Bodies

    How do we know remains can burn on their own once the mass cremation process had begun in the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The remains of the murdered Jews would not have burned “like wood” like the eyewitnesses testified.

    The facts are:

    The evidence shows that remains, either fresh or decomposed, would have burned “on their own” when the grills and pits were properly built and provided with enough fuel.

    Yankiel Wiernik, a survivor of Treblinka who saw the cremation process, wrote that the “. . . bodies of women burned more easily than those of men. Accordingly, the bodies of women were used for kindling the fire.”[1] The self-named “Denierbud,” an American Holocaust denier and video maker, cites this passage in Wiernik’s memoirs and asserts that Wiernik was saying that the bodies of women burned on their own “like wood.” Denierbud claims that this was impossible and cites the result of his own experiment with a single leg of lamb over a beach bonfire.[2]

    The facts about the cremation process.

    The Germans were faced with disposal of two different types of remains. The first type was the bodies of people who had just been murdered. These bodies still contained fat which contributed fuel to the cremation process.[3]

    Chil Rajchman (also known as Henryk Riechman), a Jewish survivor of the extermination camp area of Treblinka, recalled: “[The SS expert] orders that the first layer of corpses should consist of women, especially fat women, placed with their bellies on the rails. After that anything that arrives can be laid on top: men, women, children. A second layer is placed on top of the first, the pile growing narrower as it rises, up to a height of 2 metres [6.5 feet] . . . Then the “specialist” orders dry twigs placed underneath and lights them with a match. After a few minutes the fire flares up so strongly that it is difficult to get any closer to the oven than 50 metres [164 feet].”[4]

    Bodies were also burned in pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Eliezer Eisenschmidt, a member of the Sonderkommando who helped to burn the remains, testified: “After all the bodies were placed in the pits, the ‘stokers’ took gasoline and set the wooden beams on fire . . . The Germans designed the cremation procedure so that the fat of the bodies would fuel the fire. In other words, the bodies themselves were the fuel.”[5]

    The second type was the bodies from the mass graves that had been buried for at least one month and had lost most of their soft tissues and bodily fluids (about 60 percent of the body is water). They were dried skin and bones which once ignited burned like coal and created a very hot fire. In addition, the decomposition process produces methane and butyric acid which are highly flammable, which aids in the cremation process.[6]

    Confirming this, Chil Rajchman noted that the bodies of the Jews that were exhumed from the mass graves “burn even better than those of recently gassed people.”[7]

    It seems then that in reality both types of bodies burned equally well for different reasons.

    Albert Ganzenmüller bei Cherson
    By Walter Hollnagel (Eisenbahnstiftung Joachim Schmidt) [CC SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/sa/1.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons


    The evidence shows that both types of remains (fresh or decomposed) do burn “on their own” when the grills and pits were properly built and provided with enough fuel. In fact, if you look closely at Denierbud’s little fire you will see that the leg of lamb did ignite briefly and burn “on its own” just as the Holocaust deniers claim cannot have happened.[8]


    [1] Yankel Wiernik, A Year in Treblinka (American Representation of the General Jewish Workers’ Union of Poland, New York, 1945) at http://www.zchor.org/treblink/wiernik.htm (“Chapter 9.”)

    [2] “One Third of the Holocaust” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taIaG8b2u8I at approximately at approximately 3:05 to 3:07 minutes.

    [3] For more information on this process see “Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Archaeological Research,Part 4.2 Wood Requirements” at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2009/07/belzec-mass-graves-and-archaeology-my.html.

    [4] Chil Rajchman, The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory 1942-1943 (Pegasus, 2009), p. 86.

    [5] Eliezer Eisenschmidt in Gideon Greif, We Wept Without Tears: Testimonies of the Jewish Sonderkommando from Auschwitz (Yale University Press, 2005), p. 224.

    [6] For a complete discussion of this topic see 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, pp. 420, 421 at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2011/12/belzec-sobibor-treblinka-holocaust.html. Select Google Docs, Rapidshare or Archive.org for a PDF version.

    [7] Chil Rajchman, The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory 1942-1943 (Pegasus, 2009), p. 87.

    [8] “One Third of the Holocaust” at approximately 3:04 minutes.