Burial space, part 3: Great Orton

Great Orton was the first mass burial site built during the 2001 UK foot and mouth epidemic. As previously mentioned, it was built at a time when the authorities were desperate to find a way to deal with the huge backlog of carcasses awaiting disposal. Even if you think that the Soviets at Katyn were remiss in their burial efficiency practices (as though the NKVD lacked experience in mass burial!), the British can hardly be subject to the same accusation.

How many carcasses were they able to dispose of in a given area? This is what the burials looked like:

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News accounts described the pits as 4 meters deep:

The BBC:

half a dozen mechanical diggers were ploughing up the top soil and cutting the first burial trench – 100 metres long and four metres deep.

The Guardian:

About 20 trenches, four metres deep and 150 metres long, will hold half a million carcasses.

Here is a photograph of the site from the time of the burials:

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And here is what the site looks like today:

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We highlight the approximate area that has been excavated in the 2001 photo:

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The highlighted region has an area of 55 hectares.

“A” marks an area where there is already some digging in the 2001 photograph, and which the current photograph suggests may have contained another burial pit. “B” marks a large region whose current appearance suggests that it might have been used for mass burial, but which has not been excavated in the 2001 photo. These areas are ignored for the purpose of the calculation of burial space; i.e. we assume that the area that has been dug up in the 2001 photo is all that was ever dug up.

The site was later converted into Watchtree nature reserve. According to the description of an internship it has an area of 84 hectares. According to its facebook group, the nature reserve has an area of 205 acres (= 83 hectares).

Now, how many carcasses were buried in that (at least) 55 hectares? Carcass Disposal: A Comprehensive Review informs us that the site received 466,312 carcasses, 96% of which were sheep, but 12,085 of which were cattle. Assuming that one 500 kg cow takes the same amount of space as ten 50 kg sheep, the site received a total of 575,077 sheep-equivalent carcasses. That’s 575077/55 ~= 10456 carcasses per hectare.

Assuming that one Jew takes the same amount of burial space as a 50 kg sheep, we can calculate the burial space requirements at each of the Reinhardt camps with efficiency equivalent to Great Orton:

Sobibor: 80,000 carcasses in 7.65 hectares
Belzec: 435,000 carcasses in 41.6 hectares
Treblinka: 760,000 carcasses in 72.7 hectares

In all three cases the required areas drastically exceed the space available.

Here’s the map of Great Orton with an inlay (to scale) of Kola’s map of the entire Belzec camp. The number of alleged burials in Belzec is 75.6% of the number of sheep-equivalent carcasses buried at Great Orton.

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Here it is with a map of Treblinka showing Sturdy Colls’ findings (to scale, of course). The number of alleged burials at Treblinka is 132% of the number of sheep-equivalent carcasses buried at Great Orton.

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Here it is with an inlay (again to scale) of the pits found by Sturdy Colls placed inside a one hectare square:

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Those little pits supposedly held more carcasses than all of Great Orton. To be fair, there is some uncertainty about Sturdy Colls’ findings in the area covered by the concrete memorial, but as that region has area ~1 hectare, the most that could possibly be found there is a square the size of the one inlaid in the lower right of the image above. Obviously even if a second such square were added, the burial space would still be insufficient.

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Some more images of Great Orton:

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One Response to Burial space, part 3: Great Orton

  1. Pingback: Muehlenkamp mangles mass cremation calculations | Holocaust History Channel

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