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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