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    Operation Reinhard Mass Cremation: Not Enough Wood

    How do we know how much wood would have been needed in the mass cremation process in the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor? (Part 1 of 2)

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    An astronomic amount of wood would have been required to fuel the cremation fires in the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.  

    The facts are:

    The evidence shows that the Holocaust deniers’ calculations for wood usage are too high in part because they are based on an unrealistic body weight of the remains of the murdered Jews.

    The self-named “Denierbud,” an American Holocaust denier video maker, calculated that the Germans would have needed one half billion (“B as in Bruce”) pounds of firewood to burn the estimated 600,000 remains in Belzec.[1]

    Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, calculated that the cremations at Belzec would have required an “astronomic” 96,000 tons of wood! He claims that the mass cremation would have required 19,000 trucks or over 3,800 freight cars full of wood. No one ever saw such a convoy of trucks or long lines of trains filled with wood.[2]

    How Mattogno and Denierbud calculated the wood that was needed.

    Mattogno and Denierbud each conducted their own amateur cremation experiments. Denierbud burned 12.5 pounds of leg of lamb on a beach bonfire and Mattogno made a backyard grill and cremated several pounds of beef under various conditions.[3]

    What the Holocaust deniers found in their experiments.



    Amount of meat in kg Amount of meat in pounds Amount of wood needed in kg Amount of wood

    needed in pounds

    Mattogno 1 kg of animal meat 2.2 pounds 2.63 to 3.5 kg 6 to 8 pounds
    *Denier         Bud 1 kg of leg of lamb 2.2  pounds 10.9 kg 24 pounds

    (*Denierbud burned 5.7 kg (12.5 pounds) of leg of lamb on his grill and claims it required 61.2 kg, or 135 pounds of wood. Denierbud’s figures are adjusted to represent 1 kilogram of leg of lamb for purposes of comparison with Mattogno’s results.)

    Something is wrong with one or both of these experiments. The difference is so large—anywhere between 6 and 24 pounds of wood required to incinerate 1 kilogram of meat that one—or both—must be incorrect.

    The total amount of wood required for an estimated 600,000 victims in Treblinka according to the Holocaust deniers.



    Est. avg. weight of 1 body in kilograms Avg. weight

    of 1 body in pounds

    Amt of firewood needed to incinerate 1 body Total number

    of remains

    Total amt

    of firewood

    needed in kilograms

    Total amt of firewood needed in pounds Total amt of firewood needed in metric tons
    Mattogno 46 kg 101 pounds 161 kg

    (45 kg body x 3.5 kg wood)

    Rounded to 160 kg

    600,000 96,600,000

    (Rounded to 96,000,000)

    211,643,772 96,000
    Denierbud Unknown Unknown 300 pounds or 136 kg 1,500,000 204,166,566 450,000,000 204,166

    (The figures in bold are Denierbud’s calculations, which he determined by working backwards from his figures of 300 pounds of wood per body times 1.5 million bodies for a final total of 450,000,000 pounds of wood.[4])

    Inconsistencies in the Denierbud’s assertions about the wood usage.

    Denierbud claims the Germans would have needed to use 500,000,000 pounds of wood to burn the bodies of the Jews in Treblinka. However, later in the video he claims they would have needed 250,000,000 pounds.[5] Denierbud cannot even keep his own story straight.

    Denierbud’s calculations, presented as a graphic in his video “One Third of the Holocaust,” come out to 450,000,000 pounds of wood, but he rounds it up to 500,000,000. That is very liberal “rounding up”—it represents a full 10 percent of the final figure of 500,000,000 pounds of wood that he claims was needed. It is so liberal in fact, that the more accurate amount of wood needed to incinerate the remains of 1,400,000 Jews in all three camps is less than just the amount Denierbud “rounded up” to arrive at 500,000,000 pounds of wood!!

    The speculations of Denierbud about wood usage can therefore be dismissed.

    How much did the average body weigh?

    There are several reasons why Mattogno’s figures are wrong, but one of the most important is that he overestimates the weight of an average body. As a result, he overestimates the amount of wood needed to incinerate an average body. Mattogno assumed that an average body weighed 46 kilograms (101 pounds) but does not explain how he selected that figure.[6]

    We have evidence about this matter. Kurt Gerstein, the SS man who saw a gassing at Belzec, recorded that he saw about 700 people (about half of who were children and infants) murdered in a gas chamber that measured about 5 by 5 meters (about 16.5 feet by 16.5 feet). Gerstein estimated that the average weight of the victims was about 35 kilograms (77 pounds).[7]

    Charles Provan, a self-admitted skeptic of the Holocaust, decided to test Gerstein’s observation for himself. He built a plywood box with a base area of 21 inches by 21 inches. The box had one glass side, two plywood sides, one open side and an open top.

    The results were surprising.

    First, Provan found that two young adults (27 and 34 years old), one woman in her seventies, and four children could fit into the box without difficulty. All of the people wore their regular clothing and all were able to breathe normally. Three children (aged 6, 4 and 2) sat down at the adults’ feet while the older child (8 years old) and the three adults stood. One of the adults held a doll in place of an infant. Provan—concerned that no one would believe him—took pictures.[8]

    Second, when Provan weighed his participants he found something even more interesting. The average weight of the seven human beings and the doll representing a baby was 33.25 kilograms (about 73 pounds). The two adult men weighed 63 and 62 kilograms, the older woman weighed 49 kilograms, the four children weighed 25, 26, 19 and 15 kilograms. He estimated the baby/doll’s weight as 7 kilograms.[9]

    Provan’s participants were well-fed Americans, not half-starved, naked Polish Jews who were of generally smaller stature than the average American. Provan’s average weight results (33.25 kilograms, or 73 pounds) are much closer to Gerstein’s observations (35 kilograms, or 77 pounds) than that of Mattogno’s (46 kilograms, or 101 pounds).

    The facts about the weight of the remains.

    First, one-third of the remains were brought straight from the gas chambers and weighed on average about 35 kilograms (77 pounds).This figure is realistic because half of the remains were those of children and infants.

    Second, two-thirds of the remains incinerated on the grills had been dug up after being buried for several months. A woman’s body contains about 50 percent water; a man’s body about 60 percent water; and a child’s body as much as 73 percent. The exhumed remains would have been dried skin and bone with a loss of about half their original weight. This lowers the average weight of the remains dug up from the mass graves from 35 kilograms (77 pounds) to about 14 kilograms (31 pounds) based on an average of about 60 percent water and the fact that about half were children and infants.[10]

    Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the average weight of all the remains was about 25 kilograms (35 kilograms plus 14 kilograms divided by 2), or about 55 pounds.

    By yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany - Motai-juku, Saku, Nagano, Japan, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24521385
    By yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany – Motai-juku, Saku, Nagano, Japan, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/


    Mattogno’s calculations for wood usage are too high in part because his calculations are based on an average body weight or 46 kilograms (101 pounds). In reality, the average weight of the remains—taking into account that about half of the victims were children and infants and that some were dried skin and bones—was about 25 kilograms (55 pounds). Denierbud’s speculations do not deserve further comment.


    [1] “One Third of the Holocaust” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taIaG8b2u8I at approximately 3:08 minutes.

    [2] Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 85 at http://vho.org/dl/ENG/b.pdf.

    [3] “One Third of the Holocaust” at approximately 3:02 to 3:09 minutes and Carlo Mattogno, “Combustion Experiments with Flesh and Animal Fat” at http://www.vho.org/tr/2004/1/Mattogno64-72.html.

    [4] “One Third of the Holocaust” at 3:08 minutes.

    [5] “One Third of the Holocaust” at 3:08 and 3:23 minutes.

    [6] Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 85.

    [7] The pertinent part relating to Gerstein’s observation of a mass gassing at Belzec can be found at http://www.deathcamps.info/testimonies/Gerstein.htm.

    [8] Charles D. Provan, “Kurt Gerstein and the Capacity of the Gas Chamber at Belzec” at http://holocaust.skeptik.net/documents/provan_gerstein.html.   The images are at the very bottom at “See the photos.”

    [9] Charles D. Provan, “Kurt Gerstein and the Capacity of the Gas Chamber at Belzec (Appendix: Statistics and Calculations of the Gas Chamber Capacity Experiment”) at http://holocaust.skeptik.net/documents/provan_gerstein.html.

    [10] Roberto Muehlenkamp, “Carlo Mattogno on Belzec Achaeological Research—Part 4(2)” at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/05/carlo-mattogno-on-belzec_28.html.