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    Operation Reinhard Mass Cremation: Enough Room for Ashes

    How do we know the total amount of ash from the remains and the wood required to cremate them would have fit back into the mass graves in the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    In the Operation Reinhard death camp of Belzec the amount of human and wood ash that would have been created by the cremation of 600,000 or more corpses would have filled the entire volume of known mass graves with “60 railroad freight cars” left over.[1]

    The facts are:

    The Holocaust deniers’ claim that there would have been too much ash from the cremation of 600,000 corpses in the Operation Reinhard death camp of Belzec is incorrect. Their assumptions about the weight of the bodies and the amount of wood needed are not realistic. When taking into account more realistic figures for the amount of wood and the total mass of the remains shows that there was more than adequate space for reburial.

    Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, asserts that his calculations mean that there would have been too much wood and human ash from the mass cremations to be reburied in the mass graves. He asserts that this proves his theory that Belzec was a “transit camp” for Jews being deported further to the East.[2]

    How Mattogno arrives as his figures for wood usage.

    First, he uses 46 kilograms for the weight of an average body. Multiplying by 600,000 remains he comes up with 1,350 tons of human ash with a volume of 2,560 cubic meters.

    Second, he claims that the 96,000 tons of wood would have created 7,680 tons of wood ash with a volume of 22,600 cubic meters. The total volume of ash is therefore 25,300 cubic meters (2,700 + 22,600).

    If we use the estimated mass grave volume figures of Andrzej Kola, the archeologist who surveyed the Belzec camp in 1997-1999, as 15,840 cubic meters, then there would have been about 6,760 cubic meters of ash left over.

    Why Mattogno’s figures are wrong.

    Mattogno’s figures for both the total kilograms of human remains and the total kilograms of wood needed are many times too high.

    First, Mattogno’s figure for the average weight of a body was 45 kilograms. However, the actual average weight of a body was 25 kilograms. Mattogno’s figure for the average body weight is almost twice as high as reality.

    Second, the total amount of wood needed was about 6 times less than the amount Mattogno calculated. The amount of wood needed was closer to 1 kilogram of wood for 1 kilogram of remains (a 1:1 ratio).

    More realistic figures for wood usages in Belzec.

    Using more realistic figures for the mass cremations in Belzec, the total amount of human and wood ash produced was closer to 1,500 cubic meters of human ash and 3,530 cubic meters of wood ash. This is a total of 5,030 cubic meters of ash which is 32 percent of the total known area of the mass graves.

    Even increasing the figures arbitrarily to 35 kilograms for the average body and increasing the ratio of wood to 2 kilograms of wood to 1 kilogram of human bodies (a 2:1 ratio) would have produced a total of 9,760 cubic meters of ash, or 61 percent of the total volume available in the mass graves.

    Recall, too, that the figure of 15,840 cubic meters is the minimum volume of the mass graves, as two of the largest graves extend outside the current area of the camp onto private land and could not be measured.

    Wood Ash
    By Laurentius (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    What we know about the disposal of the ashes in the Operation Reinhard camps.

    About the handling of ashes in the three death camps of Operation Reinhard camps we have some information. Chil Rajchman (also known as Henryk Reichman), who worked in the death camp area in Treblinka, testified: “A shallow layer of ash was poured into the deep pits from which the corpses had been exhumed, then on top of that a shallow layer of sand, and so forth until they had reached the level of about 2 meters below the surface. The last two meters were filled only with sand. In this way they reckoned that they would erase forever the traces of their horrible crime . . . The carriers who delivered the ash and sand from morning till night firmly tamped down the surface with their feet.”[3]

    Conclusion

    Mattogno’s calculations about average body weight and the amount of wood needed to burn the bodies, do not correspond to reality. Because his figures are grossly inflated his conclusions about the amount of wood and human ash produced are invalid.

    Taking into account more realistic figures for the amount of wood and the total mass of the remains buried in Belzec’s mass graves, there was more than adequate space to re-bury the human and wood ash that was produced from the mass cremations.

    NOTES

    [1] Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 86 at http://vho.org/dl/ENG/b.pdf.

    [2] Carlo Mattogno, Belzec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History, p. 108.

    [3] Chil Rajchman, The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory 1942-1943, translated from the Yiddish by Solon Beinfeld (Pegasus Books, 2009), p. 78.