Another mention of six million Jews from 1942

I recently pointed out that a December 1942 entry of Abraham Lewin’s Warsaw ghetto diary mentions the figure of six million Jews killed by Hitler. It turns out that Lewin was not the first Warsaw diarist to mention this figure. Earlier that month (December 14), Emmanuel Ringelblum recorded the following in his diary:

They have liquidated 5-6 million European Jews and it doesn’t seem that the German war machine suffers because of this.

Source: E. Ringelblum, Notatki z getta, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, No. 13-14, 1955, p. 266.

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part VI: Conclusions

As I stated above, the bloggers’ manifesto is undoubtedly the most substantial piece of anti-revisionism since van Pelt’s Case for Auschwitz. Despite the work’s immense flaws, the exercise of engaging with its arguments and sources has proved salutary for revisionism. Yet, like van Pelt’s work, it is ultimately indefensible, written for tendentious purposes, lawyerly, systematically unfair to its opponents, and full of superficiality and error. Van Pelt has proven unable to defend his work against the withering critique which it has received from revisionists, most notably in Carlo Mattogno’s Auschwitz: the Case for Sanity, and his more recent work has declined severely in quality. Believing as I do that healthy criticism is good for a movement or school of thought, I hope that the bloggers will be able to avoid a similar decline, although I am forced to admit that the indications do not look good. One may hope that engaging with the criticisms voiced in this paper, and above all with the utter impossibility of their imagined cremation scenario, will help them to stave off such enfeeblement.

Although they have announced that they will not be offering a direct response to Mattogno, Graf, and Kues, I hope that the bloggers manage to find the courage to acknowledge the very serious corrections found in this memo. Naturally, just as they requested – and received – explicit acknowledgement of errors from Mattogno, Graf, and Kues (p. 527), I expect that the bloggers will not only correct the errors which I have pointed out, but also explicitly and transparently acknowledge these mistakes in their future work. Should the bloggers manage to work up the courage to reply, their response cannot be taken seriously unless they acknowledge the total failure of Roberto Muehlenkamp’s attempted apologia and come up with something more connected to reality. A response featuring Muehlenkamp’s predictable attempts to obfuscate his errors and defend the indefensible, above all on the matter of cremation, may have some humor value but will be, in scholarly terms, an automatic failure.

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part Vd: Dresden pyres, gasoline as a fuel for cremation, and High Bishopton farm

We now move on to the Dresden pyres, the second plank in Muehlenkamp’s platform. For his claims on Dresden, Muehlenkamp relies on the books by David Irving and Frederick Taylor. Irving gives no source for the statements concerning cremation, while Taylor cites a book by Götz Bergander, who refers us further to a document collection where we find that the only source for Muehlenkamp’s description of the cremations is a testimony from Theodor Ellgering dated December 20, 1955.[125] This is far too weak a source to have any value for the discussion of a technical problem concerning the practicality of mass cremation.[126] The pictures of the Dresden pyres offer little help, as they do not show the conduct of a cremation from beginning to end. In any large-scale pyre cremation (as seen for example in the extensive photographic record from the 2001 UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic), there will be an initial period of rapid burning in which the pyre is engulfed with large flames, followed by a longer period of slower burning (possibly with periodic refueling) as the pyre burns down. The photos of the Dresden pyres show at most rather weak flames, consistent with the burning-off of a modest quantity of liquid fuels – nothing like the initial period of burning in a genuine pyre mass cremation – yet they also show largely intact bodies, too intact to be consistent with the latter phase of a successful pyre cremation, after the initial period of rapid burning. Given that the available photos clearly do not show the full conduct of a successful pyre mass cremation, what do they represent? The sources do not allow a definite answer to this question, which in any case is irrelevant to the technical analysis of the problem of mass cremation, but they do raise the question of whether the photos were composed with an eye to propaganda exploitation. Certainly Joseph Goebbels does appear to have desired to use the Dresden attacks for propaganda to strengthen German morale by demonstrating the wickedness of the enemy and the necessity of total resistance. Incidentally, Ellgering’s Interministeriellen Luftkriegsschädenausschuss was subject to the Minister of Propaganda, and Ellgering clearly desired to make the Dresden pyres (“a spot of shame in the history of our century”) a symbol of allied atrocity.

In any event, one conclusion is clear: the available sources are inadequate for a technical analysis of the Dresden pyres. We simply do not know the full course of events involved in carrying them out. We do not know what fuels were used, nor in what quantities. The interaction between propaganda concerns and the representation of the attacks complicates the problem of interpretation still further. What can be said is that such pyres – however they were arranged – will have obeyed the same laws of nature as prevailed in better-documented mass cremations, such as those during the 2001 UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic. Any analysis claiming that cremations in Dresden proceeded in a fashion enormously superior to the comparatively well-documented cremations during that epidemic, or to other documented cases of mass cremation, can be safely disregarded.

Muehlenkamp’s other claim vis a vis Dresden is that “the possible presence of Treblinka ‘experts’ at Dresden […] suggests that cremation at Treblinka may also have chiefly relied on gasoline as external combustion agent” (p. 488). His source for this is Frederick Taylor’s book on the bombing of Dresden, which in turn cites a book by Olaf Groehler, who in turn refers us to an article by Ino Arndt and Wolfgang Scheffler. In this article, the matter is mentioned only in a footnote, the relevant portion of which reads:

As the disposal of the victims after the devastating air raid on Dresden in February 1945 caused difficulties, iron roasts were set up in the city’s Altmarkt and the dead burned by the thousands. This work was carried out by “Ukraininan volunteers”. These were a newly formed team from the former SS-Ausbildungslager Trawniki, and it is fairly certain that among them were also former guards of the extermination camp [Treblinka is meant. –FJ] who had at their disposal relevant experience.[127]

Arndt and Scheffler cite no source for this whatsoever. Given that Scheffler was closely involved in trials related to the Reinhardt camps, it seems reasonable to assume that he had some source in mind, perhaps a witness statement from one of the Trawnikis, but supposing it is true that Trawnikis were used in the clean-up work in Dresden, what source precisely points to their use in cremations? (Ellgering mentions kommandos of Russians and Ostarbeiter – although not Trawniki specifically – only for burial work, not for work on cremations.) Which Trawniki witness, precisely, testified to his participation in Dresden cremations, and what did he say? As for the possible presence of Treblinka guards with cremation experience in Dresden, the authors admit that this is merely speculation.

In support of his gasoline argument, Muehlenkamp cites the Eichmann trial testimony of Kalman Taigman concerning the existence of a tank of petrol in Treblinka. He does not acknowledge that Taigman is a lower camp witness, and fails to explain why testimony indicating the existence of a gas tank in the lower camp should be viewed as offering support for the notion that large quantities of gasoline were used for cremations in the upper camp. Had he bothered to examine the testimonies concerning the Treblinka cremations, he would have seen a very different picture, in which the liquid fuels are either dispensed with entirely or used in very moderate quantities. Consider, for instance, Eliahu Rosenberg, who reported that the cremations were initially fueled by “a few dry branches” ignited by a match, but that due to difficulties during the winter, permission was granted to pour one bucket of fuel over the corpses.[128] Another account is that of Jerzy Rajgrodzki,[129] who declared that at first the bodies were sprinkled with gasoline, but later, as they proved to burn well on their own, the practice of adding gasoline was stopped.[130] (He would appear to be the source for Yitzhak Arad’s unsourced claim to this effect.[131]) Rajgrodzki makes a point of mentioning the fuelwood used when describing his work in the kitchens,[132] so the fact that he does not mention wood in connection with cremations is significant: he really is saying that the bodies burned on their own, without the help of any additional fuel.

John DeHaan has pointed out that because of how quickly it burns off, gasoline is a poor fuel for body incineration and generally causes minimal damage.[133] Of course, this observation was made with regard to the burning of individual bodies. Could gasoline be more suited as a fuel for mass cremation? An official report on the 1967/1968 UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic, during which many animals were cremated on open-air pyres, explains why the answer is no:

We asked the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment of the Ministry of Defence about other methods of burning which might be more satisfactory than the use of coal and wood, but none was available. Napalm for instance would not be successful because of the high water content of carcases; the water must be evaporated before combustion takes place and since the rate of heat transfer from outside to inside the carcase is slow the process of evaporation is also slow. It has not yet been possible to improve on the method of burning other than by using “Isocal 1” (an exothermic product used in the iron smelting industry) to enhance the heat and burning qualities of coal and wood. This material was used extensively during the 1967/1968 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic to replace tyres which leave an inconvenient residue of wire.[134]

This analysis of the problems with the use of napalm applies a fortiori to gasoline. What evidence does Muehlenkamp have to offer for his belief that the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment of the Ministry of Defence was so massively incompetent as to completely fail to see that carrying out mass cremations is actually extremely easy?

We now move on to the third and last plank in Muehlenkamp’s empirical platform. This source is a third-party report on the cremations which took place at High Bishopton farm during the 2001 UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic (pp. 494-495), and is easily disposed of. The report in question[135] was written in October, 2001, and describes a cremation which took place in April of that same year. Muehlenkamp uses this source to determine the rate at which cremation can take place per unit of pyre area. The topic of the report, however, is the monitoring of air quality during the cremation, and the numbers it contains contradict those found in the literature written for the sake of the the people actually responsible for carrying out mass cremations.[136] Clearly works written for the sake of those who actually carried out cremations cannot be ignored in favor of a report written some six months after the fact by a company whose duties were limited to monitoring air quality. To make things even worse for Muehlenkamp, not only was the report written long after the fact by a company that played no role in the actual process of the cremation, but the report also contains a demonstrable error in its numbers. Muehlenkamp accepts without question the report’s claim that the width of the pyres was 1.5 meters, not knowing that this is evidently an error for 2.5 meters. The narrowest width of pyres used during the 2001 UK FMD outbreak was determined by the length of a railroad tie (as railroad ties were placed crosswise along the pyres), which is approximately 2.5 meters. Given that the source made this one demonstrable numerical error, it is all the more certain that the other figures are erroneous as well.

Figure 1: The crosswise positioning of railroad ties dictates a minimum pyre width of about 2.5 meters.

Figure 1: The crosswise positioning of railroad ties dictates a minimum pyre width of about 2.5 meters.

Thus, all in all, Muehlenkamp’s real-world sources for his fantastic picture of cremation are (1) a set of experiments dealing with the cremation of a single large carcass which took place over a century ago and have remained unreplicated by any other author in the literature on cremation, which was characterized as impractical by contemporaneous commentators, whose authors referred to the results of their experiments as being complete carbonization, and which took place within the context of the sanitization of anthrax carcasses by thermal means, which the authors understood could be achieved without complete cremation; (2) a witness statement concerning Dresden cremations from ten years after the fact, used together with an unsubstantiated and unfounded interpretation of some photographs; (3) a report dealing with air quality in connection with a pyre from the 2001 UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic, written some six months after the incineration took place, whose figures are demonstrably erroneous. One can only laugh at Muehlenkamp’s pretensions to overturn all experience concerning the reality of mass cremation on the basis of such flimsy sources, particularly given his colleagues’ pretensions to get close to the first-hand sources and dismiss second-hand and hearsay material.

Given the complete failure of Muehlenkamp’s cremation evidence, we are back to the conclusions reached by Mattogno, Graf, and Kues: the alleged Reinhardt cremations cannot have taken place as claimed, and therefore the alleged Reinhardt extermination also cannot have taken place as claimed. The pillars of his previous argument having collapsed, Muehlenkamp – and his blogging colleagues – will have to come up something entirely new if he hopes to evade this conclusion. Given his fondness for fantasy, will he perhaps explain that Herbert Floss struck a rail with his staff and cried Loge! Loge! Hieher! to summon magic fire? At this point, he had might as well rely on Konrad Morgan’s account of fuel-free cremation, which is just as good a source as the rest of his analysis:

By means of a special procedure which Wirth had invented, [the bodies] were burned in the open air without the use of fuel.[137]


[125] Theodor Ellgering, Bericht über die Erfahrungen des Interministeriellen Luftkriegsschädenausschusses – Berlin 1943-1945, 20.12.55.
[126] The same applies to Muehlenkamp’s use of this source to support the claim that gasoline’s volatility would not cause practical problems with explosions (p. 490).
[127] Ino Arndt & Wolfgang Scheffler, Organisierten Massenmord an Juden in nationalsozialistischen Vernichtungslagern, in: Karl Dietrich Bracher, Manfred Funke, and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (eds), Nationalsocialistische Diktatur 1933-1945: eine bilanz, 1983, pp. 539-571, here p. 562.
[128] Demjanjuk trial, 25.2.87, pp. 1012-1014. According to Rosenberg’s testimony, the bucket was small enough to be carried by a single individual.
[129] A witness seemingly unknown to the bloggers: he is mentioned only once, in a footnote, where his name is misspelled.
[130] Jerzy Rajgrodzki, Jedenaście Miesięcy w Obozie Zagłady w Treblince, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, No. 27, 1958, pp. 101-118, here p. 107.
[131] Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, 1987, p. 175.
[132] Jerzy Rajgrodzki, Jedenaście Miesięcy w Obozie Zagłady w Treblince, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, No. 27, 1958, pp. 101-118, here p. 104.
[133] John DeHaan, “Fires and Bodies,” in: Christopher Schmidt & Steven Symes (eds), The Analysis of Burned Human Remains, p. 12.
[134] Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Foot-and-Mouth Disease, 1969-1970, §128.
[135] available at
[136] e.g. National Animal Health Emergency Management System Guidelines. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 2005. Operational Guidelines: Disposal. Online:
[137] IMT Vol. XX, p. 494.

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part Vc: Herbert Floss, Treblinka, and pyre systems based on pits

Before moving on to Muehlenkamp’s second plank, we will take a quick detour to address another factor which allegedly contributed to the unequaled performance of the Reinhardt cremations. Discussing Treblinka, Muehlenkamp argues (p. 446f) that the cremations took place in a pit, which he believes helped in attaining especially favorable results. Muehlenkamp also requires the pit in order to increase the space available for fuel under the ‘roasts’ in order to make his numbers work. This depiction contradicts the version which has been accepted in standard histories, and contradicts the witness statements. To the extent that the Treblinka witnesses tell a coherent story of the cremations at all, they claim that there were initial attempts at cremation in a pit, which enjoyed only limited success, but that later a different method was adopted which led to much better results. The new method is generally attributed to Herbert Floss. In September 1944, Abraham Goldfarb stated that initial attempts at cremation made in February 1943 using a system involving a pit and forced air had very limited success, but that when the cremations were moved out of pits onto ground level (an innovation he attributed to a certain Scharführer who arrived from another camp, presumably identifiable with Herbert Floss), they proceeded much more successfully.[121] Thus according to Goldfarb, Floss’ innovation was not to bring the grid into the right position (as Muehlenkamp would have it) in a cremation system based on a pit, but to remove the cremations from pits altogether. Pinchas Epstein also gave testimony to the failure of an initial cremation system based on a grid in a pit, and the ultimate replacement of this system with a new one devised by Herbert Floss.[122] Yankiel Wiernik and Chil Rajchman also gave accounts of the failure of an initial cremation system.[123] At the Fedorenko trial, Epstein even testified that the cremation was carried out with a mobile apparatus:

This burning structure was a movable affair and could move to wherever it was needed. For example, to burn the bodies from pit number three, they moved it and set it up close to number three and burned the bodies from there.[124]

Evidently a “movable affair” like the one Epstein described cannot have been based on a system involving a pit. Muehlenkamp’s fantasy that it was Herbert Floss’ expertise concerning the efficiencies of cremation in a pit that allowed the Germans to achieve such unexampled results in mass cremation must be rejected even on the basis of the Jewish Treblinka testimonies.


[121] Goldfarb statement, 21.9.44, USSR-380.
[122] Demjanjuk trial, 23.2.87, pp. 650-651.
[123] Chil Rajchman, Treblinka: A Survivor’s Memory, pp. 71-72; Yankiel Wiernik, Rok w Treblince, Nakładem Komisji Koordynacyjnej Warszawa, 1944, p. 13.
[124] Fedorenko trial, 8.6.78, p. 1064.

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part Vb: Lothes and Profé’s carbonization experiments with anthrax carcasses

We turn now to Muehlenkamp’s treatment of cremation, which is even more absurd than his discussion of mass graves. We will not rehearse the facts about mass cremation here, but suffice it to say that, for example, the United States Department of Agriculture “recognizes that incineration [of carcasses] is both difficult and expensive,”[102] and that accounts of real-life mass cremations of animals confirm this and offer specific figures for the quantities of space, time, and fuel required for mass cremation that prove the impossibility of the Reinhardt cremations taking place in the manner alleged, and dramatically and uniformly contradict the portrait of cremation given in witness statements regarding the Reinhardt camps. As in his analysis of mass graves, Muehlenkamp generally ignores reality in favor of long lines of speculative extrapolations, which can be massaged until they give the answer desired. I will not go into the details of the flaws of his analysis, but suffice it to say that his methodology implies that a pyre containing thousands of pig carcasses needs only be set on fire and will then self-cremate, a conclusion that would astonish all of the organizations ever involved in the difficult and expensive process of carrying out such cremations.[103]

Despite his focus on elaborate and inventive extrapolation, Muehlenkamp does bring a few real-world events into his discussion of cremation. The remainder of this section will focus on those few real-world events that Muehlenkamp thinks support his position, and will show that he is wrong about every single one of them. The planks in Muehlenkamp’s empirical platform are three: first and foremost, his interpretation of the experiments of the veterinarians Lothes and Profé in the disposal of anthrax carcasses; second, claims concerning pyre cremations in the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden; third, a cremation that took place at High Bishopton farm during the 2001 UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.

A set of experiments[104] by the veterinarians Lothes and Profé, performed over a century ago, are the basis of Muehlenkamp’s calculations of fuel requirements. Even at first glance, they are a rather doubtful foundation, given that they dealt not with mass cremation but with the disposal of single large carcasses and that Muehlenkamp ignores a great deal of specific evidence concerning fuel requirements of mass cremation (which give figures much less favorable to his argument). One might recall that contemporaneous observers referred to Lothes and Profé’s methods as being impractical (umständlich)[105] and as suffering from the disadvantage of requiring constant expert supervision.[106] One might point out that the study’s specific mention of abundant fat supply from the cremated beast[107] contrasts sharply with the situation which prevailed at the Reinhardt camps. One might also ask why, despite over a century having passed, the results have never been replicated, why on the contrary other sources (including another study published in the same journal in the same year[108]) consistently report higher fuel requirements. Above all, one might ask why anyone is entitled to assume that the unreplicated results of these impractical procedures could be scaled up to a project that aimed to incinerate thousands of carcasses on a single pyre. While all of the above considerations are more than sufficient to show that Muehlenkamp’s reasoning is poorly justified, they will inevitably be met by Muehlenkamp’s trademark practice of ignoring all the evidence telling against his thesis while insisting that the burden of proof is on his opponents to prove that his speculations are impossible. A closer examination of Lothes and Profé’s experiments is therefore in order. The vital question is whether Muehlenkamp is correct in asserting that Lothes and Profé achieved complete cremation, or whether Carlo Mattogno was correct in assuming[109] that their experiments aimed only at more or less complete carbonization.

The term unschädliche Beseitigung in the paper’s title strongly suggests that the latter is the case. What are Muehlenkamp’s arguments to the contrary? Muehlenkamp claims that Lothes and Profé achieved complete rather than merely sanitary cremation for three reasons: first, because of their use of the term complete burning (vollständige Verbrennung); second, because of their reference to an experiment leaving only a heap of ashes behind; third, because of their concern over the dangers of anthrax (pp. 466-467). We will address these three arguments in turn.

First, consider the use of the words complete burning (vollständige Verbrennung). This term is indeed used in the paper by Lothes and Profé which Muehlenkamp cites. How should it be interpreted? This question can be answered by examining a subsequent paper by the same authors on the same topic, which Muehlenkamp ignores. Here the authors refer to complete carbonization (vollständige Verkohlung) three times, as well as vollständige Verbrennung.[110] They do not differentiate between the two terms – on the contrary, they treat them as equivalent. Vollständige Verbrennung is therefore not a reference to complete cremation, but only to carbonization.

Muehlenkamp’s second argument that Lothes and Profé achieved complete cremation is their reference to only a pile of ashes being left behind. This might seem to suggest complete cremation, but the term “ashes” – in both English and German – is rather flexible. One might say that a house had burned to ashes, or even a city burned to ashes, without literally meaning that there remained nothing but ashes, but rather that one considered the burning to have been complete in some sense of the term. As corpses never – not even in crematory ovens – burn to ashes in the strict sense of the term, we know that Lothes and Profé are not making strict use of language. Consequently this passage does not establish in precisely what sense Lothes and Profé’s combustion was ‘complete’. A contemporaneous study by Fabricius, published in the same journal and also dealing with the burning of anthrax carcasses, refers to an anthrax carcass being, though still very much intact, covered with glowing ash towards the end of a burning, and thereby shows in what direction we should look when interpreting this particular statement of Lothes and Profé.[111]

Muehlenkamp’s final argument concerns the dangers of anthrax. Here he reasons that Lothes and Profé would not have been satisfied with anything less than complete cremation because they were concerned with these hazards. He states quite correctly that Lothes and Profé were concerned about the risks involved in burying anthrax carcasses, and concludes from this that they must have demanded a very complete degree of combustion (p. 467). This inference is unfounded. Lothes and Profé’s concern over the danger of anthrax in a burial environment implies nothing about their beliefs concerning the destruction of anthrax by thermal means. As we have seen, they referred to the results of their experiments as vollständige Verkohlung, a phrase also used by Volmer, another author publishing on the burning of anthrax carcasses at the time,[112] and were satisfied with this result. The above cited passage from the work of Fabricius indicates an even lower standard of what degree of thermal destruction was seen as necessary for dealing with an anthrax carcass. The same conclusion – that complete cremation is not required for the sake of disposing of an anthrax carcass – was laid out in some detail by E. Zschokke.[113] In fact, Lothes and Profé were so sanguine about the thermal destruction of anthrax that they considered cooking (or boiling) to be a practical method of rendering a carcass unharmful through thermal means.[114] Their opinion in this regard was quite standard, and was backed up by other authors dealing with the anthrax problem.[115] Indications are that all of these experts were on-target in their assessment of the situation. Modern results suggest that heating anthrax to a little beyond 100 degrees centigrade will render it safe in a relatively short period of time.[116] While this is not quite as simple as it sounds, given the time it takes for heat to diffuse through to the center of a large carcass,[117] it is still far, far short of what is involved in complete cremation. As Lothes and Profé were well aware that anthrax could be destroyed by quite modest degrees of heat, their concern over the risks of burying anthrax carcasses has a significance precisely opposite that which Muehlenkamp assumes. Rather than suggesting that they would have insisted on complete incineration, it illustrates their incentive to settle for a quite limited degree of cremation, as cost was a major reason why carcasses were not burned.[118] Lothes and Profé were therefore at pains to establish that carcass burning could be performed inexpensively, because if it could not be performed inexpensively it likely would not be performed at all. Their incentives did not favor ensuring complete cremation of the carcass, but rather being able to advertise a procedure inexpensive enough for frugal farmers to be willing to adopt it.

In summary, by examining the literature on the disposal of anthrax carcasses contemporary to their work, we have shown that the result of Lothes and Profé’s experiments was a form of sanitary cremation and not complete cremation, and that therefore their experiments do not offer, as Muehlenkamp believes, proof that the governments of Great Britain, the United States, France, Australia, and other countries have been wasting large amounts of money by using wildly excessive amounts of fuel for mass cremations of livestock. Carlo Mattogno’s initial suspicion[119] that the experiments dealt only with more-or-less complete carbonization was entirely correct. Muehlenkamp’s appeal to Lothes and Profé can now join John C. Zimmerman’s failed appeal to the body-disposal activities of Créteur[120] on the garbage heap of failed anti-revisionist arguments: both are attempts to demonstrate the feasibility of the alleged German open air cremations by appealing to activities from the early history of modern cremation, whose results upon closer examination fall far short of what the anti-revisionists require.


[102] United States General Accounting Office, Report to the Honorable Tom Daschle, U.S. Senate: Foot and Mouth Disease: To Protect U.S. Livestock, USDA Must Remain Vigilant and Resolve Outstanding Issues, July 2002, p. 64.
[103] See the details at
[104] Lothes & Profé, Zur unschädlichen Beseitigung von Thiercadavern auf dem Wege der Verbrennung, Berliner Thierärztliche Wochenschrift, No. 37, 1902, p. 557-560.
[105] Zwick, Die unschädliche Beseitigung der Tierkadaver und die Fleischkonfiskate, p. 7, in: Transactions of the IXth International Veterinary Congress at The Hague, 13-19 September 1909.
[106] W. Heepke, Die Kadaver-Vernichtungsanlagen, quoted in Carlo Mattogno, Thomas Kues, and Jürgen Graf, The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”: An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious “Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers, 2013, p. 1240.
[107] Lothes & Profé, Zur unschädlichen Beseitigung von Thiercadavern auf dem Wege der Verbrennung, Berliner Thierärztliche Wochenschrift, No. 37, 1902, p. 558.
[108] Volmer, Ueber das Verbrennen der Milzbrandkadaver auf freiem Felde, Berliner Thierärztliche Wochenschrift, No. 42, 1902, pp. 617-618.
[109] “Verbrennungsexperimente mit Tierfleisch und Tierfett,” Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2003, pp. 185-194, here p. 189.
[110] Lothes & Profé, Die unschädliche Beseitigung von Thiercadavern auf dem Wege der Verbrennung, Fortschritte der Veterinär-Hygiene, No. 12, March 1904, pp. 325-328; cf. review in Berliner Thierärztliche Wochenschrift, No. 22, 1904, p. 401.
[111] L. Fabritius, Nochmals über das Verbrennen der Milzbrandkadaver, Berliner Thierärztliche Wochenschrift, No. 4, 1903, p. 50. Here is the relevant passage: Allmählich senkt sich die Feuerstätte immer tiefer, bis im Laufe einiger Stunden die glühende Asche nur noch spärliche verkohlte Reste des Cadavers birgt.
[112] Volmer, Ueber das Verbrennen der Milzbrandkadaver auf freiem Felde, Berliner Thierärztliche Wochenschrift, No. 42, 1902, pp. 617-618
[113] E. Zschokke, Über die Vernichtung von Milzbrandkadavern, Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde, No. 6, 1902, pp. 283-292, here p. 291. For the reader’s convenience, we reproduce the pertinent passage in full: Ohne Kenntnis von ähnlichen Verfahren, wurde doch in gleicher Weise, wie oben beschrieben, vorgegangen, d.h. der Kadaver wurde in einer mit Holz gefüllten Erdgrube, von den üblichen Dimensionen dieser Verscharrungsgruben, verbrannt, unter Benutzung einer bedeutenden Menge von Petroleum. Dabei bestand allerdings nicht die Absicht, den Kadaver komplett zu veraschen, sondern nur soweit zu verkohlen, dass man sicher sein konnte, dass die Pilze durch die Hitze abgetötet, und namentlich alle, etwa mit der Luft in Berührung stehenden Körperpartien, wo die Bildung von Sporen zu befürchten gewesen wäre, verkohlt wurden. Das dürfte im allgemeinen doch wohl genügen. Der Rest des Kadavers sinkt in die Grube und wird mit Erde bedeckt.
[114] Lothes & Profé, Die unschädliche Beseitigung von Thiercadavern auf dem Wege der Verbrennung, Fortschritte der Veterinär-Hygiene, No. 12, March 1904, pp. 325-328, here p. 328.
[115] Zwick, Die unschädliche Beseitigung der Tierkadaver und die Fleischkonfiskate, pp. 1-2, in: Transactions of the IXth International Veterinary Congress at The Hague, 13-19 September 1909.
[116] E.A.S. Whitney, M.E. Beatty, T.H. Taylor, et al. Inactivation of Bacillus anthracis Spores. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Vol. 9, No. 6, 2003, pp. 623-627; S. Xu, T.P. Labuza, F. Diez-Gonzalez. Thermal Inactivation of Bacillus anthracis Spores in Cow’s Milk. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Vol. 72, No. 6, 2006, pp. 4479-4483.
[117] Jacqueline McKinley, In the Heat of the Pyre: Efficiency of Oxidation in Romano-British Cremations – Did it Really Matter?, in: Christopher Schmidt & Steven Symes (eds), The Analysis of Burned Human Remains, 2008, p. 165.
[118] Zwick, Die unschädliche Beseitigung der Tierkadaver und die Fleischkonfiskate, p. 2, in: Transactions of the IXth International Veterinary Congress at The Hague, 13-19 September 1909.
[119] “Verbrennungsexperimente mit Tierfleisch und Tierfett,” Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2003, pp. 185-194, here p. 189.
[120] John C. Zimmerman, Body Disposal at Auschwitz: the end of holocaust denial, online: ; cf. Carlo Mattogno, An Accountant Poses as Cremation Expert, in: Germar Rudolf & Carlo Mattogno, Auschwitz Lies, 2011, p. 91f.

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Ausrottung yet again

Jonathan Harrison and Roberto Muehlenkamp have made some short blogs attempting to rebut particular elements of my memo post on ausrotten. This post consists of replies to several such points.

Ausrottung in Hitler’s speech of 30.1.42

As I had pointed to Hitler’s speech of 30.1.42, in which he referred to the potential Ausrottung of all European peoples, as an example of a National Socialist using Ausrottung in a sense not implying killing, Harrison writes

German propaganda truly did claim that the allies were embarked on the physical extermination of the German people. Hitler’s speech repeated that claim, and thus did use “ausrottung” in the sense of physical extermination.

Unfortunately for Harrison’s attempted interpretation, in the speech in question Hitler referred not to the Ausrottung of the German people, but to the Ausrottung of all European peoples. Repeat: all European peoples, including those of the allied nations. Perhaps Harrison will explain how Hitler was claiming that every single English man, women, and child would be killed if Germany lost the war? And the same for the Irish, the French, the Swedes, the Dutch, etc.? Was this also a part of ‘German propaganda’? Of course not.

Thus, my argument stands: in this and other speeches, Hitler was using Ausrottung in a sense not implying that the people in question would be killed off. (In reality, his line of thought was probably something along the lines of “an allied victory will lead to the Bolshevization of Europe,” which he considered to be an Ausrottung.)

Harrison’s treatment of this speech answers a question I had asked: evidently he does not bother to read the writings to which he responds or the sources he interprets. However, Harrison refused to answer my question regarding whether (or to what extent) he can read German. To admit that he cannot read German to any reasonable extent, in light of how many German-language sources he cited in his contribution to the HC manifesto, would be rather embarrassing for him, as it means he has not and can not properly read most of his sources. Nevertheless, this appears to be the case: Harrison seems to have a rather limited (at best) ability to read German, which means that when he wrote his chapter in the manifesto he understood even less German. How, then, does he justify citing so many German sources – sources he could not read? The same question applies to Nick Terry, who can’t read Polish but still cites lots of Polish-language sources.

Muehlenkamp runs away

Roberto Muehlenkamp had, before the release of my “Memo for the controversial bloggers”, repeatedly argued with me concerning whether Ausrottung can be applied to a human population in a non-lethal sense – he claimed it could not. He has now made an awkward retreat from that position, likely because his blogging colleague Harrison quoted a statement from Peter Longerich that contradicted Muehlenkamp’s former position. Muehlenkamp’s attempt to shift his ground confirms the suspicion I earlier expressed regarding how Muehlenkamp and Harrison will treat my most explicit example. As I wrote:

I gave a number of examples of the word’s non-homicidal use, including a particularly explicit one from “Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb”. That particular passage is so explicit in stating that an expulsion counts as an Ausrottung that we can expect Muehlenkamp and Harrison to continue to ignore it, as it is so clear in its meaning that they will not be able to creatively misinterpret it.

Muehlenkamp now states that the various 19th century examples I’ve given of the application of ausrotten to groups of people in a sense not indicating killing are “of little if any relevance to Nazi uses of the term in connection with what they meant to do, were doing or had done to Jews”. This is rather odd, as Muehlenkamp had included 19th century examples on his list of uses of ausrotten which he thought to be homicidal. Apparently evidence only becomes irrelevant when it disproves Muehlenkamp’s (former?) thesis that ausrotten applied to groups of people always means killing.

Ausrottung in the Luther bible

Despite the fact that he has declared the subject irrelevant, Roberto Muehlenkamp has made another rash attempt (updating a previous post) to defend his thesis that the Luther’s use of ausrotten with respect to people always means killing. With respect to some additional examples which I cited in which Luther uses “ausrotten” to render what is generally given as “cut off” in English, a penalty which is explicitly contrasted with being put to death, Muehlenkamp (engaging in characteristically uninformed speculation) argues that Luther probably thought the offences in question so atrocious that they must have also been punishable with death. This argument, based as it is on Muehlenkamp’s ideas of what Luther thought was atrocious, fails because ausrotten was also used with respect to offences of an entirely different nature. For instance being ausgerottet from your people is the penalty for eating blood, for visiting fortune tellers, and eating leavened bread at the wrong time.

It’s easy to find more examples of Luther’s use of ausrotten showing that the word has a meaning much broader than just “killing”. For instance, those who collect money have been ausgerottet (Zeph 1:11), and Yahweh refers to “alle Völker, die ich ausgerottet habe” (Jos 23:4), which might suggest extermination if not for the fact that the next verse states that “der HERR, euer Gott, wird sie ausstoßen vor euch und von euch vertreiben, daß ihr ihr Land einnehmt”. Here being ausgerottet meant being driven from your land – brutally, certainly, but not always via extermination in the holocaust sense of the word. For a Volk to be ausgerottet meant that it was deprived of Lebensraum. Again, words have broader meanings than the controversial bloggers believe.

Or take something from Proverbs:

Denn die Gerechten werden im Lande wohnen, und die Frommen werden darin bleiben; aber die Gottlosen werden aus dem Lande ausgerottet, und die Verächter werden daraus vertilgt.

or in English

For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

When killing is meant there is sometimes even clarification regarding those who are ausgerottet durch Morden (Ob 1:9) – if being ausgerottet already implied killing, as Muehlenkamp thinks, such statements would be superfluous.


We turn now to some more general considerations relevant to ausrotten in the Luther bible and beyond. The Deutsches Wörterbuch confirms an argument that I had made earlier regarding the “literal” meaning of Ausrotten. While Muehlenkamp argued that the literal meaning when applied to a group of people is to kill while other meanings are merely figurative, I pointed out that the actual literal meaning is to uproot or root out, and that all other meanings, while perfectly normal, are still figurative, so that the meaning of “to kill” is not privileged over others. The DWB entry for ausrotten emphasizes the literal sense of uprooting, and terms the biblical applications to humans “bildlich” (figurative) – regardless of whether they are lethal or not.

The DWB gives ausreuten as an equivalent, which it describes in terms also emphasizing the literal sense of uprooting, and also gives the Latin exstirpare, which has a literal meaning of uprooting, as an equivalent. This latter word has a direct English version, extirpate. English also has another Latin-derived word indicating uprooting, eradicate. While both of these words certainly can be used to indicate killing, they do not necessarily have this meaning – just as with ausrotten. Consider the case of extirpate. Just as with ausrotten, it can be used in a territorial sense. Consider talk of Indians planning to extirpate the English nation out of the continent of America, or a desire to “extirpate the white man” which could be expressed by making “one great effort to drive them from the land“, or their desire to “extirpate the whites out of Kentucky,” or Indians who “determined to extirpate, or drive all the English from New-England.” Or one could mention a reference to the cost of expelling and extirpating the formerly resident Indians as reason not to allow them to settle in an area again. Or a Quaker activist who, complaining of the expulsions of the Indians (in the context of the debate over the Indian Removal Act), spoke of the Indians being extirpated from their country.

On Vernichtung durch Arbeit and Harrison’s new interpretation of a Rosenberg diary entry

Jonathan Harrison has made another blog post rejecting his previous interpretation of a particular entry in the Rosenberg diary to which I had pointed, and suggesting a different one. In this connection I should first point out that Harrison has focused exclusively on this single issue, and has ignored the main line of my argument regarding Rosenberg’s diary, namely that it confirms Rosenberg’s postwar statements to the effect that he was unfamiliar with any extermination of the Jews in the sense in which Harrison believes it to have taken place, and in particular offers further evidence in support of Rosenberg’s explanations of what his use of Ausrottung meant. In any event, Harrison now interprets the entry to refer to policy in the Reich, which is a possible reading but not a necessary one – the entry speaks of an intention in the Reich, which may or may not have been associated with a policy implementation in the Reich. In fact, Harrison undermines his own interpretation somewhat by quoting Thierack’s reference to opening up Eastern territories for German settlement.

The context Harrison gives for the entry is that of Vernichtung durch Arbeit, a phrase used with reference to an enhanced sentencing program for asocial elements. Harrison does not address the considerable range of meanings which Vernichtung can take, although I gave a number of examples of this in one of my memo posts, but reads Vernichtung durch Arbeit as meaning “worked to death”. Harrison completely ignores the relevant passage from Goebbels’ diary, which shows that death was not necessarily the intended goal, but simply an accepted possible consequence of the harsh conditions in which convicts were to work. Indeed, the intended Vernichtung of asocial elements is already to an extent achieved in that they are separated from the German people – ausschaltet, nach dem Osten verfrachtet. Their death, while not viewed as regrettable, is also not prescribed.

Goebbels wrote:

Der neue Reichsjustizminister Thierack hält mir Vortrag über seine Maßnahmen. Er vertritt einen durchaus nationalsozialistischen Standpunkt. Sein Weg führt dahin, die Juristen wieder mit neuem Selbstbewußtsein zu erfüllen, dem Richter ein neues Selbstbewußtsein zu geben, einerseits die unbrauchbaren Elemente auszuschalten, andererseits aber den brauchbaren wieder den Rücken zu stärken. Ich verspreche ihm in dieser Arbeit weitestgehende Unterstützung der deutschen Publizistik. Vor allem halte ich es für notwendig, daß im Gegensatz zu früher, wo vielfach psychologisch schlechte Urteile veröffentlicht wurden, jetzt psychologisch gute Urteile veröffentlicht werden. Die Frage der asozialen Elemente will Thierack dadurch lösen, daß er die mit hohen Zuchthausstrafen belegten Gewohnheitsverbrecher zu Strafkompanien zusammensetzt und sie nach dem Osten verfrachtet. Dort sollen sie unter den härtesten Bedingungen Arbeiten verrichten. Wer an dieser Arbeit zugrunde geht, um den ist es nicht schade. Allerdings rate ich ihm dringend, das nicht einfach mechanisch und schematisch nach der Höhe der Zuchthausstrafen zu beurteilen, sondern hier eine individuelle Beurteilung Platz greifen zu lassen. Es gibt eine Re[i]he von Fällen, in denen zwar harte Strafen ausgesprochen werden müssen, in denen es sich aber nicht um Elemente handelt, die gänzlich unbrauchbar für das Staatsleben geworden sind. Thierack vertritt hier einen sehr großzügigen, aber auch nationalsozialistischen Standpunkt. Ich glaube, man wird mit ihm gut arbeiten können. Jedenfalls verspreche ich ihm, jede Kritik an der deutschen Justiz in der deutschen Presse zu unterbinden. Man muß Thierack und seinen Hilfsorganen zuerst einmal eine Anlauffrist geben. Jedenfalls hat er den besten Willen, den ihm vom Führer erteilten Auftrag baldmöglichst und in der großzügigsten Weise durchzuführen. Im übrigen hat der Führer ihm bei seinem Besuch im Führer-Hauptquartier genau die Gedankengänge entwickelt, die ich letzthin bei meiner Rede vor dem Volksgerichtshof dargelegt habe.

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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part Va: The sum of all errors: Roberto Muehlenkamp – burial space and decomposition

In the above sections, we have seen Nick Terry’s struggles with the Polish language, Jonathan Harrison’s difficulties with German words, and Jason Myers’ troubles with technical issues and witness statements. The contribution of Roberto Muehlenkamp, however, is the apotheosis of erroneous argumentation. This said, Muehlenkamp is the only one of the bloggers who goes much beyond ripping off the published literature. While Terry, Harrison, and Myers have rightly been dubbed the ‘plagiarist bloggers’, Muehlenkamp’s work is for the most part original. After all, whom could he plagiarize? No-one else in the world has ever come up with such nonsense. It’s no surprise to see that Muehlenkamp’s analysis is so poor, given that he proves unable even to understand how to calculate the volume of a truncated pyramid (p. 428) – a topic routinely mastered by twelve-year-olds.[91] Likewise, one can hardly expect a man who genuinely believes (p. 428) that loose sand excavated from pits will form piles whose walls have slopes of 173% (60 degrees)[92] to have much connection with reality. Muehlenkamp does not even manage to be consistent with his colleagues, who made a great fuss about distinguishing upper camp (extermination area) witnesses from lower camp witnesses, as he cites lower camp witness Oscar Strawczynski in support of the claim that the Treblinka mass graves could not be completely emptied (p. 387). In making this argument, Muehlenkamp ignores the statements of upper camp witnesses such as Pinchas Epstein, who claimed to have been personally involved in the cleaning out of the last, small, remains (bone fragments and the like) from the bottom of the Treblinka pits.[93]

The core elements of Muehlenkamp’s presentation concern the burial capacity of mass graves, and the resources in time, space, and fuel required for mass cremation. We will first examine some aspects of his treatment of mass graves. Speaking in general terms, the first feature which should jump out at the reader is Muehlenkamp’s unrelenting hostility to empiricism. One would expect an author examining the burial capacities would begin from the literature on mass burials. Muehlenkamp, however, keeps a respectful distance from empirical results, favoring long chains of extrapolations absent adequate empirical confirmation. There is good reason for this: an examination of actual mass graves would refute Muehlenkamp’s claims, while data-free speculation allows him to tweak the numbers as he sees fit. With his long chains of extrapolation, Muehlenkamp can lop off 5% here and 35% there, continuing the process until he obtains his desired figures. This creative accounting would break down in the presence of hard data.

This memo does not aspire to examine all the manipulations which Muehlenkamp employs in order to make the numbers work for burial capacity at the Reinhardt camps,[94] but will focus on one of these factors, namely his treatment of decomposition. Supposing that each mass grave was kept open for some months, and that over this time period the decomposing bodies would have lost much of their volume, Muehlenkamp deduces that there was a substantial increase in burial capacity. He bases his discussion of decomposition (p. 420) not on the academic literature, but on an online museum exhibit describing the decomposition of a 1.5 kg piglet on the earth’s surface in Australia. From this source he obtains a set of stages of decomposition which he employs throughout his contribution (e.g. pp. 469, 475). The first thing that should be observed is that this particular set of stages of decomposition is nothing more than the descriptive terminology of one museum exhibit. There are various ways in which the stages of decomposition for a body on the surface can be described. In examining several dozen scholarly books treating human decomposition, I have not found any source that gives the phases which Muehlenkamp uses so confidently.

In keeping with his preference for long chains of speculative extrapolation rather than direct data, Muehlenkamp examines decomposition on the basis of an inference from the behavior of bodies on the surface to the behavior of bodies in mass graves. While there do exist rules of thumb for such inference, they are rough instruments, and depend on many factors which Muehlenkamp ignores, such as depth of burial. The differences between decomposition on the surface and underground go beyond simply rescaling the time axis. Decomposition underground is a complex phenomenon that must be studied directly. While Muehlenkamp simply transfers his idiosyncratic list of stages of decomposition from the surface to underground, actual scientists studying underground decomposition have not devised any comparable standardized list of stages for decomposition underground – and certainly not the list which Muehlenkamp uses.[95] Likewise, decomposition in mass graves demands its own special study, as large mass graves have a tendency to preserve bodies better than individual burials.[96] If one is seeking to study decomposition in mass graves, one examines cases of decomposition in mass graves, rather than attempting some kind of extrapolation based on bodies on the surface.

Setting aside the methodological inadequacy of Muehlenkamp’s discussion of decomposition, let us examine the details of how he carries out his analysis. As usual, he errs fundamentally in carrying out his calculations. On the basis of accumulated degree day methods, and the work of Arpad Vass in particular, he states that he will analyze “time to skeletonization at Belzec in the late spring, summer and autumn of 1942” under the assumption that temperatures at this place and time were 20 to 30 degrees Celsius (p. 420). These assumed temperatures would be excessive even if daily highs were the relevant figures. Given that accumulated degree day methods actually rely on average temperatures,[97] Muehlenkamp’s temperature suppositions are wildly incorrect. In nearby Zamość, the average temperatures for the months of April through November are 7, 12, 15, 17, 16, 13, 8, and 2 degrees centigrade, well shy of Muehlenkamp’s 20-30 degree range.[98]

In truth, however, Muehlenkamp’s use of results on time to skeletonization in terms of accumulated degree days is more apparent than actual, and serves mainly to give the analysis a veneer of scientific rigor. Muehlenkamp does not even seem to be aware that Vass is using the term “skeletonization” in a very specific sense, in which a body is said to be skeletonized if it has ceased to release volatile fatty acids. Though this is not made absolutely explicit in the manifesto, the details being hidden behind his citation of one of his blog posts, the output that Muehlenkamp takes from his analysis of decomposition is that the bodies older than 50 days will have lost 50% of their mass – a figure which is nothing more than Muehlenkamp’s guesstimate, unsupported by any data. There is no direct link between Vass’ work and Muehlenkamp’s assumption’s regarding mass loss. How could one infer how much mass a carcass has lost from the fact that it has ceased to release volatile fatty acids? In fact, the figure found in the literature is that a total of one third of the carcass mass is ultimately lost in leachate.[99] Although we will not elaborate on this point, this particular piece of distortion on Muehlenkamp’s part has consequences not only for his treatment of burial capacity, but also for his treatment of cremation, as he feeds this false data into his cremation analysis.

In addressing the alleged contribution of decomposition to the burial capacity of mass graves, we need to obtain figures for the volume loss of the carcass mass. Thus far we have seen how Muehlenkamp, on the basis of his own invented (and false) numbers, estimates the mass loss of individual carcasses in mass graves. How does he make the transition from mass loss of the individual carcasses to volume loss of the carcass mass? In the most mindless of possible ways: he assumes that the proportion of mass lost by the individual carcasses is equal to the proportion of volume lost by the carcass mass. This assumption is unfounded for two complementary reasons. First, organic substances which dry out generally decrease in density, a fact precisely equivalent to the statement that they lose proportionally less volume than they lose mass. Second, a pile of carcasses each of which is shrinking due to loss of fluids will generally increase in porosity, i.e. it will contain proportionally more free space. This is tantamount to saying that the proportion of volume loss for the carcass mass is less than the proportion of volume loss of the individual carcasses. The increase in porosity arises for a number of reasons. Surfaces which were once convex and pressed up against one another in a space-filling fashion now become more concave as the objects dessicate, but due to the discrete nature of the carcasses and the semi-rigid structure given by the human skeleton, the gaps introduced by dessication are not filled in. The configuration of the carcasses is largely fixed on their initial burial, and they cannot rearrange themselves of their own accord; thus, for example, shrinkage in one of the horizontal axes does not translate into a proportional reduction in the height of the carcass mass.

All of these factors are difficult to quantify, but it is clear that the volume loss of the carcass mass will be significantly less than the mass loss of the carcasses. Given the difficulties involved in estimating this volume loss theoretically, it should be assessed on the basis on real life experience with mass graves. Ultimately, however, one can spare oneself the trouble, because as Carlo Mattogno has pointed out,[100] the filling rates for the graves would have been far too rapid for decomposition losses to have made any significant contribution to grave capacity.

There is one final topic concerning the role of decomposition that should be mentioned, although it lies off the main road of Muehlenkamp’s analysis, namely Kurt Gerstein’s tale of collapsing pits at Belzec (p. 419). Gerstein describes this as a rapid phenomenon, quite unlike the slow settling that may accompany decomposition, and his story clearly belongs to the realm of fantasy. As Gerstein’s testimony was widely publicized, this story influenced other accounts, and the theme was taken up by later authors, such as Gitta Sereny in her rendition of Franz Stangl’s alleged prison statements. In these later accounts, the tale continues to reveal its nature as fiction. This can be seen, for instance, in Eliahu Rosenberg’s version, given in his testimony at the Demjanjuk trial:

The pits somehow rose up and this – as we had covered it – the whole thing would suddenly rise up and it served as a kind of volcano from which a thick, viscous sort of material rose-colored and it was bubbling. It was a sort of vulcanized type of matter and the pit and the earth on top of the pit would rise up and then would suddenly drop, would subside. I don’t understand anything about the chemistry of this, but this is how it happened. And in these pits, to the extent that it had subsided, it had sunk, well we would top it up again.[101]

What Rosenberg and Gerstein describe is plainly not something with a real foundation in terms of the settlement due to decomposition. It is a tall tale, nothing more.


[91] Muehlenkamp erroneously assumes that the volume of a truncated pyramid whose sides slope at a given angle can be given in the form V=c*height*(AreaOfBase), where c is a fixed constant. In fact, the value of c in such a formula depends not only on the slope of the sides but also on other aspects of the shape of the truncated pyramid. No matter what the sides’ angle of slope might be, it can take any value in the open interval (1/3, 1). In the case Muehlenkamp considers, it will not take the value he supposes.
[92] Muehlenkamp assumes that deep burial pits will be dug with walls of this slope, and infers that the removed sand can be piled up at the same angle. In reality, it is common knowledge that soil will support a steeper slope when still in the ground (with years’ worth of compression having given it strength) than it will when it has been removed, loosened, and thereby deprived of its strength.
[93] Demjanjuk trial, 23.2.87, p. 651; Fedorenko trial, 9.6.78, pp. 1141-1144, 1154-1155.
[94] A few of these have been analyzed separately at
[95] For an overview of decomposition underground, see William C. Rodriguez, Decomposition of Buried and Submerged Bodies, in: William D. Haglund and Marcella H. Sorg (eds). Forensic Taphonomy: The Postmortem Fate of Human Remains, CRC Press, 1997.
[96] See William D. Haglund, Recent Mass Graves: An Introduction, in: William D. Haglund and Marcella Sorg (eds), Advances in Forensic Taphonomy: Method, Theory, and Archaeological Perspectives, CRC Press, 2002.
[97] It should be self evident to any thinking person that it is the average, and not the high, temperature which should be used; indeed, this is implied by the (not strictly accurate) assumption of linearity which underlines accumulated degree day (or hour) methods. For the benefit of those who, like Muehlenkamp, prefer to eschew rational mental processes, we will cite a paper that confirms this fact: see e.g. Mary Megyesi, Stephen Nawrocki, and Neal Haskell, Using Accumulated Degree-Days to Estimate the Postmortem Interval from Decomposed Human Remains, J. Forensic Sci., Vol. 50, No. 3, 2005, pp. 618-626.
[99] Carcass Disposal: A Comprehensive Review, Chapter 1: Burial, p. 6; Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Construction Specifications for Carcass Burial Facilities, Wellington, 2005, pp. 3-5; C.P. Young, P.A. Marsland, & J.W.N. Smith, Foot & Mouth Disease Epidemic. Disposal of culled stock by burial: Guidance and Reference Data for the protection of controlled waters. Draft R&D Technical Report: Version 7: 20 June 2001, pp. 17-18.
[100] Carlo Mattogno, Thomas Kues, and Jürgen Graf, The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”: An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious “Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers, 2013, pp. 1118-1120.
[101] Demjanjuk trial, 25.2.87, pp. 1008-1009.

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Further sources on steam chambers, with a response to Harrison’s feeble flailing

Jonathan Harrison has come out with a successor to his previous failed attempts to snipe against particular elements of my two part takedown of Nick Terry’s failed attempt to defuse the November 15 steam chamber report. Harrison’s blog hardly merits a reply in itself, but I will take the opportunity to discuss some further sources on the steam chambers (although Harrison still has not given any sign of having read the sources which I cited in my initial discussion), which give the lie to the mantra that reports of steam all originated from a single source, before returning to briefly respond to Harrison’s latest quips. Specifically, these are reports from the underground publication Wiadomości. Issues 1-3, 5, and 6 of this paper have been published by Szymon Datner; they date to between mid-November 1942 and mid-January 1943, and contain numerous mentions of Treblinka.

Issues 1 and 2 mention Treblinka, but without specifying a killing method at Treblinka (issue 2 says that Treblinka is still operating at full steam, but that’s not a description of the killing method). Wiadomości no. 3 describes killing with steam, but with different details from the November 15 report, which had described a transition from a first-phase 3-chamber steaming building to a second-phase 10-chamber steaming building (both of which were later remodelled as gassing buildings by Treblinka story-tellers). Wiadomości no. 3, however, says that reports leave no doubt about the following: at the beginning of the resettlement action, the deportees were simply mowed down with gunfire, probably because there was not yet adequate technical preparation for a different killing method. Wiadomości is keen to work in the “buried alive” meme, regarding the horrible suffering of those who were merely wounded by the gunfire but were buried anyway. From the modern orthodox standpoint, the idea that the Germans started the resettlement action before they had finished building a gas chamber is absurd. (On the other hand, the accepted notion that having built a too-small gas chamber building at Belzec, which they then had to replace by a larger one, the Germans proceeded to build too-small gas chamber buildings at Treblinka and Sobibor is almost equally absurd.)

Wiadomości goes on to explain that in August and September the flow of deportees exceeded the capacity of the Treblinka steam chambers, causing the Germans to adopt a system of killing all the deportees on the trains with lime and chloride (?). It does not explain when the steam chambers were built – they weren’t there initially, when the deportees were all shot, but in August and September they were overloaded.

Datner did not publish Wiadomości no. 4, while no. 5 refers back to a story in no. 4 regarding hair cutting before being sent to the steam chambers, but without any further details on the killing. No. 5 also mentions that further letters from deportees in the east had been received. Such letters were also mentioned in the September 20 Oyf der Wach article. In both cases, Warsaw ghetto resistance groups were eager to dismiss the letters as forgeries so as to promote the extermination story which they were telling, in order to encourage the Jews to engage in armed resistance. No. 6 mentions steam chambers as well, but without further details, though it does mention that at other camps Jews are burned alive.

In summary, Wiadomości discussed the Treblinka steam chambers repeatedly, but with details that distinguished the story from that found in the November 15 report to some extent.


We now return to Jonathan Harrison’s blog post. Let the reader recall the issue in question. In the first part of my piece on this matter, I showed (among other things) that Nick Terry’s two gas chamber witnesses who were supposed to have antedated the November 15 steam chamber report were in fact steam chamber witnesses. In the second part, I gave some further information on where this report fit in the broader pool or Treblinka extermination stories, and made the fundamental point that the November 15 report introduced the description of Treblinka which is accepted today, in which there were a first-generation death chamber building with three chambers and a second-generation death chamber building with ten chambers, five on each side of a central corridor. Other, earlier reports had offered very few details on killing methods, sometimes opting for shooting, sometimes some other method, but without any details of this nature. Therefore, orthodox holocaust historians are in the uncomfortable position of having to insist that the November 15 report’s detailed description of the production of steam and the after-effects of that method of killing are pure inventions, while simultaneously having to insist that the other details in the report are accurate, and indeed represent by far the most accurate of the early accounts of Treblinka’s killing system.

Unable to deal with my argument as I actually laid it out, Harrison attempts to reduce it to a single sentence that he quotes, to which he offers a non-rebuttal:

the Critique already addressed this point, noting that “steam is, after all, a gas, and it is not difficult to see how the anonymous source describing steam to Wasser could have deduced that the victims were being killed with steam when witnessing the opening of a gas chamber and mistaken the emanation of exhaust fumes from the chamber for a lethal sauna.”

First, the argument which Harrison cites from the manifesto is not in any way a response to my argument, which concerns the genealogy of Treblinka extermination stories. It is merely a response to the argument “there was a report that mentioned killing with steam at Treblinka.” This is not what I argued. Rather, I pointed out (among other things) that it was this very steam chamber report that invented the accepted account of the structure of the Treblinka killing facilities.

Second, the explanation which Harrison quotes from the manifesto (to the effect that the idea of killing with steam derived from a misinterpretation of what was seen when opening an engine-exhaust gas chamber) is no good. As Carlo Mattogno has already pointed out, the November 15 report described the kettle and boiler involved in generating the water vapor (the description is more explicit in the Polish original than in the English translation published in the Black Book of Polish Jewry). These descriptions cannot have been justified by simply seeing fumes being vented.

Third, Harrison carefully avoids quoting the sentence directly preceding what he quoted from the HC manifesto. In fact, Nick Terry wrote

As both Rabinowicz and Krzepicki had referred to gas chambers, it is mildly hard to understand why the long report compiled by Oneg Shabes activist Hersz Wasser on the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto and the extermination camp at Treblinka, dated November 15, 1942 referred to steam chambers.

In fact, as I have shown, both Rabinowicz and Krzepicki referred to steam chambers. Terry was completely wrong about both of his key witnesses.

Harrison continues by noting the manifesto’s mention of the Milgroim testimony’s reference to gas, and adds that

I am therefore entitled to conclude that Jansson is engaging in a “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” fallacy that tries to reduce the whole of Treblinka witness accounts in 1942-43 to “steam”, and attempts to claim that “steam” invalidates all the other details the witnesses supplied.

This is wrong on all counts. First of all, Milgroim was not a direct, upper-camp witness. Second, as I have already explained, the opposition is not between gas and steam, but between engine exhaust and steam. Third, Milgroim’s testimony dates to over nine months after the period which we are discussing, and is therefore irrelevant to my argument, which concerns the genealogy of Treblinka extermination reports. That is, I pointed out that the first claims of extermination were made (on communist radio broadcasts, no less) without knowledge of the fate of the deportees (not even that they went to Treblinka), and that the source that invented the accepted description of the Treblinka killing facilities (old 3-chamber building, new 10-chamber building with central corridor, etc.) also gave a detailed description of the generation of steam in those facilities and the effects of the use of that steam for killing the Jews in the chambers. Milgroim’s testimony has nothing to do with any of this.

Fourth, Harrison’s claim of a “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” fallacy is totally unfounded. Such a fallacy would only appear if I had argued simply “the November 15 report is false, therefore there was no extermination at Treblinka.” Anyone who will actually read what I wrote can easily see that this was not the structure of my argument. What does Harrison think he is accomplishing by repeatedly misrepresenting my position and responding to strawmen of interest only to himself? Is this the result of incompetence or malice? Perhaps both.

(Strictly speaking, the “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” principle applies to dismissing a particular witnesses because of a particular falsehood in his account, not to dismissing other witnesses because of a particular witness’ false account – but I have accepted Harrison’s broader use of the phrase for the sake of argument.)

Finally, Harrison claims that

Jansson also gaffes in his assumption that we can only be sure that nobody left Treblinka eastwards if there was “a 24/7 watch on Treblinka to make sure that Jews never left the camp.” Jansson seems unaware that Polish railway workers were reporting to the underground, despite this fact being noted in the Critique.

His paraphrase of my argument completely misrepresents what I said. The passage he quotes comes from the following paragraph:

As for Harrison’s argument that death was deduced from the fact that Jews never left the camp, he has evidently not read the sources which I cited, as they included articles which claimed that the deportees were killed without even mentioning Treblinka as a destination. Nor is there anything to support Harrison’s idea that claims of killing were based on a 24/7 watch on Treblinka to make sure that Jews never left the camp. Indeed, the “investigator” which he cites merely travelled to a destination some 20 miles from Treblinka – hardly suitable for such monitoring.

The context for this was that Harrison had quoted me referencing the earliest Treblinka extermination reports, and had attempted to justify their knowledge of extermination (but not the method whereby it was carried out) on the grounds that they had observed that the Jews went into Treblinka but never came out. I then replied with the above-quoted paragraph, pointing out that the earliest reports did not even identify Treblinka as a destination. Because Harrison had also made reference to an investigation which is said to have taken place in late-July 1942, I pointed out that this investigator could not be a source of monitoring, as he got nowhere near Treblinka. Harrison’s attempt to change the subject to reports of Polish railwaymen is irrelevant, for it concerns the question of whether in principle observations regarding Jews never leaving Treblinka could have been reported – something I never contested – rather than the issue we were discussing, namely whether the earliest reports that the Jews deported from Warsaw were killed were actually supported by such observations (they manifestly were not).

There is nothing in Harrison’s blog post that could not have been refuted by anyone who troubled to actually read my posts – that is, to read with an aim of comprehension. As Harrison has still not bothered to do this, I am as before puzzled as to what he imagines his blogs are achieving. They do not even attempt to rebut my actual arguments, and really deserve no response beyond


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Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IV: The technical and testimonial blunders of Jason “Myers”

Moreso than Harrison or Terry, the pseudonymous Jason “Myers”, who contributed chapters on resettlement, gas chambers, and witnesses, attempts to attack specific revisionist arguments, many of these of a scientific or technical character. Unfortunately, he does so with such a uniform incompetence that one is almost tempted to suspect that he might be a cryptorevisionist making poor arguments aimed at embarrassing his exterminationist colleagues, and meanwhile benefiting from a fellowship from the famously corrupt ‘Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.’ Unlike another former revisionist whose work performed under Jewish largess gave rise to suspicions that he was secretly a cryptorevisionist,[75] Myers fails to perform any significant original research. In light of the somewhat discursive nature of Myers’ work, and the detailed replies which he has already received from Mattogno, Kues, and Graf, I have opted to treat several brief topics, regarding either technical issues or witness statements, about which the discussion to date has omitted some important points.

First, we consider the question of corpse color, to which Myers devotes a section (pp. 328-333). We will not concern ourselves with arguing the question in general, as Myers’ ill-informed remarks have already received a very good response from Thomas Kues.[76] Our present ambitions are limited to correcting one recurring error. Myers argues (p. 332) that the pressure which the corpses brought to bear on each other prevented the visibility of the red coloration associated with CO poisoning. This argument reveals a total lack of comprehension of the mechanism behind the formation of lividity. What causes lividity? The answer is: blood. In fact, blood also plays a role in the skin color of living people. A simple experiment will illustrate this: press firmly on your arm with two fingers held close together. Upon releasing the pressure, you will find that the areas on which you pressed are pale, while there are red areas between and outside of the pale areas. This occurs because the pressure pushed the blood out of the areas to which it was applied, which consequently appear pale, while the areas into which it was pushed appear red. Simple enough. This illustrates the key fact for interpreting the impact of pressure on lividity. Pressure moves blood around, but it does not remove blood. After death, as the blood settles and thickens, the ability for the color to return to a spot after it has been pressed on wanes, and with more time elapsed the blood sets up to the point where pressure will not move it at all. Kues gave a reply which focused on the timing on this process, which is all very well, but misses a simpler fact: when books say that lividity can be removed (or prevented from forming) by pressure, they are referring to the lividity in the specific regions to which the pressure is applied. As no packing of Jews in chambers could ever attain uniform pressure on all portions of the bodies, the pressure between the bodies could not under any circumstances have led to a disappearance of lividity.[77]

Second, Myers faults revisionists for ignoring research on which aspects of memory are most reliable (p. 351). While it is certainly true that the specific criticisms revisionists have made of witness errors vary widely in strength, this is largely a result of the natural tendency for pioneers in the field to compile arguments, and only later to sift through and separate the truly compelling from the merely suggestive. Given the youth of the revisionist literature on the Reinhardt camps, it is no surprise that it has sometimes only reached the initial phase of compilation of arguments. This said, Myers’ argument on this point is notably feeble, as he fails to draw the distinction between memories of specific events and memories pertaining to an extended period of time or a sequence of repeated events. That recollections of the first type of event are often filled with errors is a familiar fact, but genuine recollections of the second sort should be more reliable. To mistake the color of a car that you saw used in a drive-by shooting is normal. To forget the color of a car that you drove for years is abnormal. Not to know the difference between the two is a sign that you may be a member of holocaust controversies.

Our next issue, intermediate between witnesses and technical questions, is engine type at the Reinhardt camps. This is the domain of the bloggers’ main innovation, namely the attempt to convert Belzec and Treblinka from diesel to gasoline engines. As Carlo Mattogno has already commented on this maneuver in detail, I wish to focus on the less novel, but still interesting, topic of the Sobibor engine. At this camp mainstream holocaust historians had already accepted a gasoline engine, on the basis of statements from the 1960s trial of camp staff. The best known of the statements in favor of a gasoline engine is that of Erich Fuchs, which Myers quotes twice (pp. 283, 317). Fuchs described the engine as being a V-8 water-cooled Russian engine presumably from a armored vehicle or tractor.[78] Myers, however, twice writes (pp. 283, 317), copying a doubtful translation from Jules Schelvis,[79] “traction engine” rather than “engine of a tractor”. In fact, a traction engine is a type of steam engine, not an internal combustion engine at all. While Zugmaschine (tractor) can be used in the sense of Dampfzugmaschine (traction engine), it seems doubtful that Fuchs had this in mind, and if we are to take the interpretation seriously one might well ask how precisely the Jews were to be killed with the exhaust from a steam engine.

As Fuchs gave a rather detailed account of the engine with which he was held to have had such an intimate connection, it is reasonable that we attempt to ascertain its make and model. The results of such investigation are startling: on the basis of reference works on Soviet tanks, tractors, and other vehicles, the engine described in Fuchs’ statement does not appear to correspond to any real engine. To add to the confusion, Fuchs also gave a completely different description of the engine in a later statement. By this latter account, the engine had four inline cylinders, and Fuchs didn’t know whether it was air- or water-cooled.[80] Myers even cites this very document (p. 318) but, in a stunning display of dishonesty, neglects to mention the contradictory description of the engine. Given that holocaust controversies has raised Fuchs to the level of chief witness on the gassing engine, stressing his importance (pp. 34, 291-292) and labeling him a “knowledgeable mechanic” (p. 317) they should explain why he gave two completely contradictory descriptions of this engine, the first of which does not correspond to any real engine. One can only pity the country whose ‘competent mechanics’ are unable to say whether the engines which they have themselves repaired and repeatedly operated have a V-8 or inline 4 engine, and who alternate between knowing that an engine is water-cooled and having no idea whether it is air- or water-cooled.

As I pointed out in my previous review,[81] Myers neglects to mention key portions of the testimonies of the witnesses he uses to give his depiction of the gas chambers. For example, he neglects to mention that three witnesses (Shalayev, Shevchenko, and Leleko) which he proffers in connection with his account of the Treblinka gas chambers (two of which he relies on heavily) reported that the larger gas chamber building at that camp was built in 1943, a date clashing dramatically with the standard story. This pattern of selective use of witness testimonies on Myers’ part extends also to another of his favorite witnesses, Abraham Goldfarb. Despite repeatedly citing Goldfarb’s testimony, Myers neglects to mention Goldfarb’s statement that due to the inadequacy of the motor initially supplied, the killing in the new gas chambers was done with chlorinated lime until April 1943, when the killing method was switched to engine exhaust.[82] This account obviously contradicts the standard version of Treblinka’s history. In another convenient omission – although here he may be excused by ignorance – Myers hushes up Goldfarb’s later attribution of a diesel engine to Treblinka.[83]

Finally, Myers makes much of the testimonies of railroad workers (pp. 250-251). His arguments on this front have received an excellent reply from Thomas Kues,[84] but recently digitized sources allow for a few additional remarks. One minor point is that, copying an error from Alfred Mierzejewski, Myers attributes a testimony actually given by a ‘Kurt M’ to Eduard Kryschak.[85] More serious is the case of Myers’ appeal to the testimony of railroad worker Hans Prause (p. 251). Myers recounts how Prause was supposedly told about extermination in Treblinka by an SS officer whom Myers identifies as Georg Michalsen, and invited to tour the camp. The impact of this story is rather blunted by the fact that Prause reports being told of killings with cyanide in showers at Treblinka.[86] Moreover, Myers’ attempt to identify the “Michaelson” with whom Prause spoke as Georg Michalsen founders on the fact that Prause clearly stated that he was uncertain of the man’s name.[87] If Prause himself didn’t know the name, how can Myers be so certain? Prause also remembered the SS officer as appearing younger than he, while Georg Michalsen was a year older.[88] Thomas Kues has already pointed out to the absurdity of supposing that random railroad workers were invited to tour Treblinka,[89] but on examining Prause’s testimony the story becomes still more absurd. The conversation about Treblinka also included the mother of the local stationmaster, who happened to be visiting, and the invitation to visit Treblinka and see how humanely the killing was carried out (with hydrogen cyanide) extended to her as well. Apparently Myers imagines that Georg Michalsen enjoyed inviting not only random railroad personnel to tour Treblinka, but also the visiting mothers of stationmasters.

While Myers might point to his own ignorance of the sources to defend his silence on the fact that Prause claimed that Jews were killed with hydrogen cyanide at Treblinka, this excuse would not extend to Prause’s interview with Claude Lanzmann, which has been online since before the bloggers published their manifesto, in a collection which the controversial bloggers knew perfectly well. In this interview, Prause’s story is a little different: now the invitation to visit the extermination camp came from the Treblinka commandant, and was relayed to Prause by the Malkinia stationmaster, who also told him about the extermination with hydrogen cyanide in Treblinka.[90] The main lesson that can be drawn from such accounts is just how extraordinarily weak late testimony is as evidence, particularly concerning a widely publicized topic which has been the focus of ‘re-education’ and ‘politische Bildung’.


[75] Namely Jean-Claude Pressac. For suspicions of Pressac’s cryptorevisionism, see: In Memoriam Jean-Claude Pressac, Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, Vol. 7, Nos. 3&4, 2003, pp. 406-415, here p. 407.
[76] Carlo Mattogno, Thomas Kues, and Jürgen Graf, The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”: An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious ‘Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers, 2013, pp. 856-868, cf. Carlo Mattogno’s remarks on pp. 842-843.
[77] The only circumstance in which pressure is likely to remove lividity from the entire corpse is when the body is submerged in deep water, as in this case there is uniform pressure on all portions of the skin.
[78] Fuchs statement, 2.4.63, ZStL 208 AR-Z 251/59, Vol. 9, p. 1784, copy in NIOD, archive 804, inventory 47.
[79] Myers quotes the passage from Schelvis on p. 283, while on p. 317 he claims to have taken it directly from an archival source but still copies Schelvis’ translation.
[80] Protokoll vom 15.11.1965, Staatsanwaltschaft Dortmund 45 Js 27/61 Ordner Novemb. ’65/NO, p. 559, copy in NIOD, archive 804, inventory 46.
[81] Friedrich Jansson, The Extermination Camps of Aktion Reinhardt, Inconvenient History, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2014. Online:
[82] Goldfarb statement, 21.9.44, USSR-380.
[83] Elizabeth Loftus, Witness for the Defense, 1992, p. 217.
[84] Carlo Mattogno, Thomas Kues, and Jürgen Graf, The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”: An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious “Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers, 2013, pp. 653-659.
[85] YVA P.26.126, pp. 434-438, here p. 435. The full surname is blacked out in the document, but the Yad Vashem staff have written in ‘Meyer’. The testimony of Eduard K. (presumably Kryschak) comes directly after, pp. 438-439.
[86] YVA P.26.126, pp. 37-46, here p. 40.
[87] YVA P.26.126, p. 40.
[88] YVA P.26.126, p. 41.
[89] Carlo Mattogno, Thomas Kues, and Jürgen Graf, The “Extermination Camps” of “Aktion Reinhardt”: An Analysis and Refutation of Factitious “Evidence,” Deceptions and Flawed Argumentation of the “Holocaust Controversies” Bloggers, 2013, p. 653.
[90] USHMM RG-60.5029.

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A little more on Ausrottung

My recent discussion of Ausrottung has provoked a series of hasty and unthinking replies from the bloggers of holocaust controversies, none of which do much to touch the arguments made. The bloggers seem to be employing a style of “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” – that is, they quickly post any objection which occurs to them without any attempt to think things through, just so as to be able to say that they had responded. Harrison had already set this pattern of replies with his total inability to comprehend my arguments regarding the November 15 steam chamber report. While this strategy may succeed in creating a diversion, it ultimately only causes the bloggers to humiliate themselves further with their ill-thought replies. In this post I will reply to several of their arguments, and will also introduce some additional examples in which ausrotten is used with a rather broad meaning.

The meaning of Genesis 17.14 and other occurrences of ausrotten in the Luther bible

Roberto Muehlenkamp contests my reading of Genesis 17.14, which is rendered with ausrotten in the Luther bible. I had stated that

In the Luther Bible translation of Genesis 17.14, it is commanded that the uncircumcised be ausgerottet, with the meaning that they be removed from the people, or exiled.

He appeals to a dictionary which lists this passage as meaning killing. Yet appeals to dictionaries are no way to settle the meaning of a passage. The question is, what does the verse actually mean? In English translations of Genesis 17.14, what the Luther bible renders as “ausgerottet aus seinem Volk” is generally rendered as “cut of from his people”. For example, in the ESV the verse is rendered

Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

What does “cut off” mean? Does it mean killing? No, at least not directly. First of all, it makes little sense to say that someone will be “killed from his people”. The element of “from” the people conflicts with the meaning of killing. Second, we can examine other passages regarding being “cut off” from the people – which are also translated with ausrotten. Take Leviticus 20 in English and German. Here, the punishment of being put to death is contrasted with the punishment of being cut off [ausgerottet] from your people. Adultery with another man’s wife gets you (and her) put to death, while sex with a menstruating woman and “uncovering her nakedness” only gets you (and her) cut off from your people. Giving your children to Molech gets you death, but if the people should fail to kill you God will cut you off from the people. Being cut off from the people is a different punishment from death. In its most literal and natural interpretation, it means being deprived of membership in the people, and of all the attendant benefits. As I said, this is removal from the people. My use of the word “exile” is perhaps a slight over-interpretation, as it gives particular emphasis to the territorial aspect of having your status as a member of a people removed, but this is a subtle distinction. The point is that being cut off from the people does not, in itself, mean being killed.

There are further such passages in, for instance, Leviticus 7 and 19. For the sake of completeness, I should mention that these mention being ausgerottet von your people rather than aus. Also, one of the passages in Leviticus 20 had vor: Die sollen ausgerottet werden vor den Leuten ihres Volks.

Finally, what Muehlenkamp calls my “self-serving interpretation” (that this passage does not imply killing) is in fact by no means original to me, but is quite common in the literature, as Muehlenkamp would have discovered had he done any actual research.

Incidentally, it’s not only the Luther bible that uses “ausrotten” in this context. Moses Mendelssohn’s translation uses “ausrotten” here as well.

Two more examples of ausrotten being used in a broader sense

In my previous discussion of Ausrottung, I gave a number of examples of the word’s non-homicidal use, including a particularly explicit one from “Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb”. That particular passage is so explicit in stating that an expulsion counts as an Ausrottung that we can expect Muehlenkamp and Harrison to continue to ignore it, as it is so clear in its meaning that they will not be able to creatively misinterpret it. While we wait for them to address this most explicit of examples, here are two more cases of ausrotten being used with respect to Jews, in a sense broader than that which the bloggers attach to it.

In an 1806 letter quoted in the 1912 book “Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preußen” by Ismar Freund (vol. 1, p. 111), the Prussian reformer Friedrich von Schrötter wrote, speaking of the Jews (“diese ungluckliche Menschenrasse”) “Ausrotten läßt sie sich nicht, aber einschränken und bessern”. Was it really just the possibility of killing all the Jews which he rejected? No. The meaning of the rejected Ausrottung is clearly broader than this, and encompasses any sort of project designed to eliminate the Jewish population.

The second example comes from the book Preußen in seinen religiösen Verhältnissen. In addressing the Jewish question, the author states that there were only two possibilities: to educate the Jews, or to violently ausrotten them. What did the author mean by violent Ausrottung? This becomes clear by the continuation: the author states that a violent Ausrottung seems to him wrong, because “[the Jews] are, after all, residents of the land, and have a right to continue to live in the land in which were born”. That is to say, an Ausrottung simply consists of denying the Jews the ability to continue to live in a given land. Hence the author’s insistence that there are precisely two possibilities. Those are: either the Jews will continue to live in our land or they will not. If they do continue to live in our land, we must educate them so as to make them less of a menace. Getting rid of them would require force (the Jews being unwilling to leave voluntarily) which the author found morally unacceptable. Indeed, as he sums up his position:

1) Es wäre zu wünschen, wir hätten gar keine Juden im Lande.
2) Die wir einmal haben, müssen wir dulden, aber unablässig bemüht sein, sie möglichst unschädlich zu machen.

The two possibilities are either to make the land Judenfrei, or to continue to live with the Jews. The former possibility would require an Ausrottung – rooting out the Jews – and while the author recognizes that the absence of Jews would be desirable he rejects such an action on moral grounds. Again, ausrotten has been used in the sense of the removal of a population, independent of the means employed in that removal, and without implying killing.

What about National Socialist usages of ausrotten?

Jonathan Harrison quotes Peter Longerich to the effect that while Ausrottung applied to groups of people need not mean killing in general, it does always mean killing when used by National Socialists. This claim ignores some rather blatant counterexamples. In his January 30, 1942 speech at the Berlin Sportpalast, Hitler characterized the war as having two possible outcomes, one of which was that the European peoples would be ausgerottet. He expressed the same idea in other speeches as well – that the war was a choice between the Ausrottung of the Jews or the Aryans. At Nuremberg, Alfred Rosenberg confirmed that statements like this did not mean a general slaughter:

this word [Ausrottung] has been used with respect to the German people and we have also not believed that in consequence thereof 60 millions of Germans would be shot.

Thus, the National Socialist use of “Ausrottung” has a broader set of meanings than Harrison or Muehlenkamp – or Longerich – would like to believe.

Rosenberg’s diary

As I have explained, Alfred Rosenberg’s diary fully confirms his postwar statements to he effect that he knew nothing of an extermination of the Jews in the sense which allegedly occurred. Without acknowledging this fact, Jonathan Harrison has taken exception to one particular observation which I made regarding Rosenberg’s diary. In reply to my mention of Rosenberg’s diary entry discussing the proposal to put the Ukrainians on the same legal footing with the Jews and Gypsies, Harrison claims that I have “misinterpreted” the entry. In fact, I did not offer any interpretation. I only stated that according to the interpretations of holocaust controversies, this would mean a proposal of extermination. If the policy towards the Jews was “kill them all” then putting the Ukrainians on the same legal footing would mean “your position before the court is a bullet through the skull – for every Ukrainian.” Obviously that is not what was proposed. Harrison tries to get around this by claiming that the inclusion of the Jews is “moot” because he believes they were already dead. This simply begs the question; i.e. Harrison assumes his own desired conclusion. Rosenberg evidently did not consider the inclusion of the Jews moot, because, well, he included them. Despite his well-known sympathy for the Ukrainian cause, Rosenberg did not respond with shock at the idea of putting Ukrainians on the same legal footing as a Jewish population that (allegedly) had already been killed off, but simply with strong disapproval and the sentiment that such a policy would worsen German-Ukrainian relations. This indicates that the Jews’ legal standing, while not very good, was not simply that of being subject to a policy of extermination.

Harrison also notes Rosenberg’s other uses of ausrotten, which completely misses the point again, namely that ausrotten has a range of meanings, so that its meaning is not confined to the narrow sense to which Harrison wishes to limit it, and therefore its usage cannot be used to deduce a Nazi policy of killing the Jews.

(A side issue: does Harrison even read German? In the manifesto he generally relies on other authors’ translations – sometimes their mistranslations – even when he claims to have used an original German source. And by “read German” I don’t mean “type stuff into Google translate” – the way that Nick Terry seems to “read Polish”, although as I showed in my discussion of Terry’s error concerning the “Rabinowicz” document, sometimes he doesn’t even bother to do that.)

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