Open Air Incinerations in Auschwitz: Rumor or Reality?

Two Studies on the Ground Water Level in Auschwitz and its Consequences in History

Many former inmates as well as guards of the former National Socialist concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau claim that hundred thousands of corpses of murdered inmates were burned in ditches some 6 to 10 ft. deep. However, almost every book about Auschwitz points out that the entire grounds in and around the camp were swampy in those days. Since the 1970s, Holocaust revisionists have therefore claimed that the incineration of corpses in deep ditches would have been impossible due to the high ground water table in this swampy area, which would have quickly filled any deep ditch. After this argument spread widely with the so-called Leuchter Report in 1988,[1] it was argued that the ground water level during the operation of the camp was significantly lowered with the help of a sophisticated system of drainage ditches, thus allowing the open air incineration of corpses in deep ditches as attested to by various witnesses.[2] In May 2002, the controversy around Auschwitz focused even more on these open air incinerations, since a German mainstream journalist argued that most of the victims of the claimed mass murders of Auschwitz were supposedly disposed of using these open air incineration ditches.[3] Until recently, the effects of the ground water, and the questions arising from this matter, have not been investigated. Due to the availability of much-improved source materials after the end of the Cold War, this matter can now be investigated. The following two studies have thoroughly examined the existing primary documentary sources dealing with the ground water table in Auschwitz during World War II. As a result, the correctness of eyewitness accounts claiming incinerations in deep ditches must be called into question. The documents do not allow for any different interpretation: in the Birkenau area, the ground water table was about 0.30 to 1.20 m beneath the surface.


 

Ground Water in the Area of the POW camp Birkenau

By Dipl.-Ing. Michael Gärtner, Dipl.-Ing. Werner Rademacher

1. Preliminary remarks about the Birkenau Camp

Illustration 1: POW camp Birkenau in May 1942:
alleged location of Bunker 1.

        (click to enlarge)

The camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is today generally referred to as "concentration and extermination camp", was originally designated as a "prisoner of war camp" at the end of 1941 by the German authorities.[4] The construction section BIa was finished in March 1942 and was occupied mostly by Soviet prisoners of war until August 1942. The designation of the camp remained the same, though it subsequently had more the character of a concentration camp, meaning that it was mainly filled with criminal and political prisoners, including Jews, rather than prisoners of war. The camp also bore the name "KL Auschwitz II". "KL" was the official German abbreviation for concentration camp.

A drawing of ours showing the camp's state of construction in April/May 1942 is shown in Illustration 1. This drawing as well as many others are included in a study of ours about the history of the Auschwitz camp currently in preparation.[5] In the literature, maps of the Birkenau camp are very often false, since in almost all cases the final state of construction of late 1944 is shown, even if this map is used to refer to events that took place in earlier years. This leads to wrong assumptions and conclusions about events of the camp's history.

2. What Events Are Reported?

2.1. BUNKER 1

According to witness testimony there was an old farmhouse to the north of the Birkenau camp which as of May 1942 was allegedly used as gas chamber for the killing of human beings, cf. Illustration 3. In its vicinity, the accounts state, there were mass graves which later were allegedly also used to burn corpses.[6] It must be noted that there are no indications of where this Bunker 1 allegedly stood.[7] The witness Benroubi testified:[8]

"They [the Sonderkommando men] put them [the corpses] in front of graves about 20m long, 3m wide and 2.50m.

There were about ten graves ready to receive the martyrs. Parallel to these open graves there were some that had been covered with earth and these extended over about 300 meters [...]"

Witness Buki stated :[9]

"We took the trolleys to a grave about 40 meters long and I think about 6 meters wide [240 m2], which was about 100 meters away from the house."

Witness Garbarz said:[10]

Illustration 2: POW camp Birkenau; Soviet sketch of the alleged location of Bunker 1 and 2

        (click to enlarge)

"We saw big rectangles traced on the ground twenty or thirty meters wide by fifty or 60 meters long. In one of these rectangles the ground was stained red."

The witness indicates that he understood the rectangles to be grave plots. Later on he adds, regarding the depth of the pit, that it was approximately 1.5 m deep.[10]

There is no documentary evidence to corroborate these claims. Even J.-C. Pressac questions some of these witness statements, which furthermore are quite contradictory with respect to the number and size of the pits as well.[11]

2.2. BUNKER 2

Regarding this house, located to the northwest of the camp, witnesses also tell of gassings and of incinerations in pits from June 30, 1942 until spring of 1943 (Illustration 3). This 'Bunker' was allegedly brought back into operation in May/June 1944.[12] In this area, foundations of former buildings used for unknown purposes can indeed be made out today, and they are also recorded on a Polish map of this region.[13]

Regarding the pits, the witness Dragon states, for 1942:[14]

"On the other side of the cottage there were four pits 30 meters long, 7 meters wide and 3 meters deep."

The witness Dr. Nyiszli states for 1944 (which we shall come back to in 2.2.4):[15]

"The pyre was a ditch 50 yards long, six yards wide and three yards deep [...]"

A second Soviet sketch dated March 3, 1945, shows a burning pit of 30 m2, see Illustration 2.[16] Again the discrepancies regarding size are considerable. There are also no corroborative documents.

2.3. BURIAL AND LATER CREMATION OF TYPHUS VICTIMS

Various witnesses tell of the burial of victims of the first typhus epidemic, and of the burning of these bodies after their exhumation between September 21, 1942 and November 30, 1942 (Illustration 3).[17] The files of the Russian State Archive of War in Moscow[18] report in detail about the first epidemic, which had been introduced from outside by civilian labor personnel.[19] It began on July 1, 1942. Crematorium I, which at this time was the only one available, was not of sufficient capacity to cremate all the victims, which were therefore buried in Birkenau. Other casualties had already been buried in the same area earlier. The numbers given vary from 50,000 to 107,000. The 'body toxins' resulting from the decomposition process threatened to poison the ground water, which was used for the drinking water supply for the entire area. Hence, the corpses had to be exhumed again. They were then cremated, first on funeral pyres, later in pits. Thus go the reports. No publication that we know of makes any mention of the number of pits.

2.4. BURNING PITS AT CREMATORIUM V

Witnesses tell of burning pits in the area north of Crematorium V between the building and the ditch in front of the fence, in May to June 1944 (Illustration 3). Since the crematoria were out of service due to damage, a situation arose "[...] that open-air incineration ditches had to be rapidly dug [...]."[20]Pressac also mentions "five small incineration ditches" near Crematorium V. These, he says, became necessary because Crematorium IV had been closed since May 1943 and Crematorium V could not be adequately repaired.[21] As witnesses to these pits, Pressac quotes Dragon:[22]

"[...] Jews were burned in five ditches dug behind Crematorium V.",

as well as the witness Tauber:[22]

"It was realized that the ditches incinerated the corpses better, [than the furnaces; auth....] once the ditches entered service"

The witness F. Müller, whom Pressac accuses of errors and lies,[22] reports:[23]

"[...] work on digging five pits behind Crematorium V was soon [...] begun."
"The two pits that had been dug were 40 to 50 m long, about 8 m wide and 2 m deep "

There then follows a detailed description of the "[...] drainage channel for the human fat [...]" in the pits. On page 211, F. Müller continues:

"In the back yard of the Crematorium, Moll ordered three more burning pits excavated, so that he had five at his disposal there now."

The measures of these alleged pits result from these statements: total area = 5 pits of each 40 m or 50 m 8 m = 1,600 or 2,000 m and a total volume of excavated earth (2 m deep) of 3,200 or 4,000 m. This earth had to be disposed somehow, leaving visible traces, but nothing of this is ever mentioned. Further, F. Müller mentions a concrete surface of 60 15 m = 900m2, where bones that had not burned up were allegedly crushed. Of course, the allied air photos taken in 1944 show no traces of this concrete surface, any more than they show the pits themselves, their excavation, or the access roads for the transport of bodies and fuel.[24]

The fire in the burning pits could generate heat of several 100C, even 1,000C. The question is: how close can a person not wearing protective clothing approach to such a blaze? According to the eyewitness testimony, a team of laborers worked there without any protective gear. Any fireman could comment on this.

Pressac's 'Document 8'[25] also contradicts the eyewitness testimony. This cost estimate for Crematorium II, reviewed on May 26, 1944, shows clearly that the oven pit for the cremation ovens for Crematorium V was built as a waterproof tub and that during the excavation of this pit the ground water of the immediate vicinity was artificially frozen to prevent it from filling up the construction pit.[26] The cross-section diagram of this building, No. 1678,[27] shows that the upper edge of the base of the tub lay about one meter below ground level. Crematorium V did not have a cellar underneath. This proves that this oven pit stood in the ground water!

But if this oven pit had to be protected against the ground water, this proves that no burning pits as described in the foregoing could have been possible at this location.

Illustration 3: State of construction of the POW camp Birkenau in September 1942,
including alleged Bunkers 1 and 2 and mass graves/burning pits.

        (Click to Enlarge)

It must also be remembered that the grounds of the camp sloped downwards in a northerly direction, as the Polish ordnance survey maps, scale 1:25,000, prove (Illustration 6).

One section of a work authored by the late Dr. Jan Sehn, former Auschwitz inmate and director of the Auschwitz Museum, needs to be mentioned here, since it had caused some irritations:[28]

"At the bottom of the pit, thick wooden logs were piled up, followed by increasingly small branches and twigs. Corpses were thrown on top of this base. After that, the SS men supervising this work poured petrol into all four corners of the pit, lit a rubber comb and threw it onto the spots moistened by petrol."

Every boy scout in the world knows that there is no way one can light a fire in a pit this way. Yet this statement was never criticized. There is apparently not a single former boy scout under the world's historians! Such examples could be quoted continuously for pages on end. But this is not the purpose of this paper. Such examples could only emphasize why we pose questions like: how could it happen that such witness statements passed unchallenged for so long? And why does there not exist any research into the reasons for the many errors made by these witnesses?

3. Which doubts evolved, and what triggered them?

One reason for our initial doubts are certainly the contradictions between certain eyewitness accounts. Another are obvious incompatibilities with the laws of nature. But more importantly, the first book of J.-C. Pressac made us rethink our hitherto held beliefs. Pressac was the first to publish documentary proof for--or better against--what had been claimed by eye witnesses only, until then. Unfortunately, Pressac's important book is hardly known, and it is unlikely that the historians have read it thoroughly, if at all. If they had, they would know his massive critique of mainstream historiography and the eyewitnesses. The historians did not investigate, they 'believed'. Did they do it out of fear? It is also unavoidable to accuse the historians for not having included scholars of other fields in their research, like engineers and architects. They acted wrongly and arrogantly! Or did they fear to become victims of persecution and--in Europe--even of prosecution? Especially German historians know that the wrong opinion in these matters are prosecuted by public attorneys!

4. General Remarks on Documents and Physical Evidence

Whereas most eyewitness statements existed already shortly after the war, documentary and physical evidence became available in abundance only since the 1990s. Many documents and sketches regarding the matter of the ground water in Birkenau have become known only since the opening of the Moscow archives. And since there are obvious contradictions between the witness statements on the one hand and the documentary and physical evidence on the other hand, some historians tried to adjust either the witness statements or the meaning of documents and physical evidence by 'interpreting' them. However, any attempt to interpret documents and physical evidence in a way that would confirm the eyewitness testimony perforce must fail, for physical and scientific facts are not open to arbitrary interpretation.

Illustration 4: POW camp Birkenau in June 1944, including the alleged Bunker 2 and incineration pits.

     (Click to Enlarge)

For persons who lived through these times, the insistence on erroneous testimony is a very human phenomenon. For this reason one should not level accusations at persons who suffered injustices, even if they did make false statements - perhaps unintentionally; those who should be blamed are the ones who sensationalize these statements. The Berlin daily paper Die Welt of February 7, 1997, brought an interesting article on this topic, titled "Wenn die Erinnerung eines Zeugen trügt" (When a witness's memory errs).[29] This article confirmed the old-established forensic guideline that 'physical evidence takes precedence over witness evidence'.

5. Documents and Other Evidence on Ground Water

We have used the following knowledge and materials for our analyses:

5.1. MAPS

These are old maps from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (still available for purchase today), scale = 1:200,000, dating from 1889, 1905 and 1915. Nothing could show more readily why the area around Auschwitz is so waterlogged. A large number of ponds, fed by the ground water, stretches like a string of pearls along the Vistula and Sola rivers. This abundance of water, together with the abundance of coal of this area, was decisive for the decision to erect a coal gasification and liquefication plant of the German chemical corporation I.G. Farbenindustrie A.G. in this area. During the trial against the responsible officers of this corporation after the war, the witness O. Ambros listed the requirements for this huge factory:[30] one million tons of coal, and 15.000 m of water per hour.

We also consulted a Polish map, scale 1:25,000, dating from 1986 (Illustration 6). Both camps are shown on the maps, as is the industrial plant of the German chemical corporation I.G. Farbenindustrie A.G. The advantage of the scale of these maps is that they show the drainage ditches and even the smallest water surfaces. From the direction of their flow, especially north of the camp, they show how the ground drops off towards the Vistula. The course of ditches corresponds to the planning shown in the "Melioration, Teil III" of August 15, 1942.[31]

5.2. AMERICAN AIR PHOTOS

These photos were taken between end of 1943 and end of 1944 during reconnaissance flights as part of the allied bombing campaign against industrial targets in the German industrial area of Upper Silesia. Some of them have been known since 1979, and those of interest here were thoroughly interpreted by the Canadian air photo expert John C. Ball.[10]

5.3. FILES OF THE VARIOUS BUILDING ADMINISTRATIONS

The documents used were primarily files from the "Zentralbauleitung der Waffen-SS und Polizei, Auschwitz" (Central Building Administration of the Waffen-SS and Police, Auschwitz), insofar as they have been published or could be obtained. Tens of thousands more exist which we have not yet been able to access, basically due to our limited financial possibilities. For this reason, we must expect that we shall have to revise our findings in matters of detail in the future.

Illustration 5: Detail of a Polish map of, scale 1:25,000. Elevations used in this paper are underlined.

(click to enlarge)

5.4. KNOWLEDGE OF A CO-WORKER FROM OUR TEAM

He has performed an on-site examination of the terrain and has taken a series of slides; we are of course aware that the conditions prevailing today are comparable to those of 1942 only to a limited degree.

6. Documents Regarding the Area's Abundance of Water

We have in our possession a four page report dated October 29, 1941, based on the study of a professor from the University of Breslau. It points out the ground water flows "accompanying the Vistula, Przemsza and Sola Rivers".[32]

Another professor of the same university photographed and mapped the area's flora. Additionally, a ground water observation station was erected. We have not yet analyzed these files.

Since one study determined that the ground water was "not even fit to rinse one's mouth", reference is made to the dams as a source of drinking water. However, mineral water was distributed. The report proves that the authorities proceeded very carefully and professionally.[33]

The Austrian map of 1905, scale = 1:200,000, clearly shows that string of ponds parallel to the V and the Sola, fed with ground water stemming from the west Beskides, a mountain range south of Auschwitz.

The excellent Polish maps clarify the circumstances and indicate that the ponds probably formed as a result of the exploitation of gravel deposits and that their water table corresponds to the ground water level.

Pressac documents this pond landscape with a "plan of the sphere of interest of the concentration camp Auschwitz".[34] It confirms that most of those ponds are the result of gravel mining. An activity report of April 19, 1941, mentions "Added drawings of new ponds in the plan of the sphere of interest."[35] An independent surveyor's office was doing this work. The voluminous files of this department have not yet been analyzed and will certainly give new insights, not only about the topic discussed here.

7. Which Materials Document the Level of the Ground Water?

Every publication of significance about these camps points out that the terrain is swampy. Logically, the only terrain that can be swampy is one where the ground water level is very high or, as in this case, almost flush with the ground. Pressac confirms this fact with the following words:[36]

"The nature of the land at Birkenau, where the groundwater is almost at surface level, [...]"

An Allied air photo from 1944 shows,[37] to the north of the Birkenau camp, a 2.5-kilometer-long strip of land, running west to east, where a herringbone-pattern system of drainage ditches is visible, approximately 1.25 kilometers wide and expanded in sections to reach right to the Vistula.[38] The photo shows that the drainage work in the western regions was done only shortly before the air photo was taken.

In the camp itself as well, drainage was performed between the drainage ditches that had been dug around the individual camp sectors.[39] The entire ditch system is clearly shown on the Polish map, scale 1:25,000 (Illustration 6).

7.1. TEXT REFERENCES TO THE GROUND WATER LEVEL IN BIRKENAU

From a building description of October 30, 1941:[40]

"The ground water table varies between depths of 0.30 and 1.20 m." (Emph. added)

In a letter dated October 17, 1942, regarding Crematorium II:[41]

"[...] the building reaches more than 2 m into the ground water [...]" (Emph. added)

In a letter dated March 17, 1943, regarding the large delousing facility (BW 32, 'Large Disinfestation Facility' i.e. the so-called 'Central Sauna'), with reference to structural engineering:[42]

"[...] highest ground water level may be taken as 0.30 m below the surface."

In another letter dated June 4, 1943, regarding the same building:[43]

"[...] heating pits are relatively deep, and so insulation from the ground water, which is about 20 cm below the surface, is necessary [...]" (Emph. added)

7.2. PLAN INDICATION

On the plan of the disinfestation facility (BW 32), No. 2159 of March 8, 1943, the cross-section clearly shows a line labeled "ground water table".[44]

7.3. Buildings With Tub Foundations

Illustration 6: Air Photo of POW camp Birkenau form Sept. 13, 1944.[37]

(click to enlarge)

Another sign is the planning and construction of buildings with tub foundations. Buildings are built with this kind of foundation when their basements stand in the ground water, i.e. if they need to be waterproof. The basement becomes a pontoon, as it were, whose own weight, together with the weight of the superstructure, prevents it from bobbing up. The buildings are constructed in double-shell fashion in these parts. A waterproof layer separates the two shells. During the construction phase, the ground water level is either lowered with sump pumps or held back by icing-up the construction site. All the basement parts and basement pits in Birkenau are constructed as tub foundations.

It is important to note that the buildings with tub foundations listed in the following are spread over the entire camp from north to south as well as from east to west. This indicates that the ground water situation was similar in all parts of the camp.

1. Crematorium II

BW 30

2. Crematorium III

BW 30a

3. Crematorium IV

BW 30b

4. Crematorium V

BW 30c

5. Disinfestation Facility

BW 32

6. Water Treatment Plant

BW35

Due to their small surface area and depth, the subsoil at Crematoria IV and V was iced up.[45] The excavation pits of the other buildings were kept clear of ground water via sunken wells equipped with pumps.[46]

7.4. Witness Statements Regarding the Ground Water in Birkenau

In the books with which we are familiar, one witness reports about ground water in the aforementioned pits. This is Filip Müller in his book Sonderbehandlung.[23] Müller was a member of a Sonderkommando. On page 36 he writes about a pit into which ground water had seeped, and about a test to see how high it was:

"Then we were told to throw the bodies into the pit. [...] We took hold of the dead by their hands and feet and threw them full pitch as far towards the center of the pit as possible. When they hit the water's surface it splashed to all sides. Then they sank like millstones to the flat bottom, and the water closed over them."

8. Data Regarding the Terrain Around Birkenau

For the terrain all around the camps, elevation data was--surprisingly enough--already available based on sea level, albeit with zero level referring to the Adriatic Sea. This elevation, measured at the time of the Austrian Monarchy, is 0.38 m below Atlantic sea level standard used otherwise in Europe.

Such elevations can be found, e.g., in the detailed maps of the railway facilities, including the connecting railroad tracks. It would go beyond the scope of this study to include them here, but it should be mentioned that we have them in our possession and analyzed them.[47]

Illustration 7: Enlargement of the detail from the building plan for the "water treatment facility of the POW camp." Auschwitz-Birkenau, TCIDK 502-2-148. The elevation of the construction site above sea level is clearly marked (arrow).

The table below lists the building plans known to us with the elevation of their terrain above sea level. These are points of reference for our further observations.

Buildings of the POW camp Birkenau, with elevation

Building

Plan

Elevation*

Date

Source

1. Crematorium II

Huta 109/13a

235.366

Sept. 21, 1943

p. 323

2. Crematorium III

Huta 109/14a

235.366

Sept. 23, 1943

p. 325

3. Guard Building

ZBL 835

235.93

Nov. 5, 1941

RGVA,[48] see Ill. 7

4. Settling Basin BA III

ZBL 2534

233.71

June 15, 1943

p. 169

5. Water Treatment Plant

ZBL 2364

235.45

May 15, 1943

RGVA 502-2-148, see Ill. 8

* m above sea level; ** page numbers refer to J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 2).

The Polish map referred to earlier contains several reference points with elevation given which enable us to calculate the gradient of the camp's area in %. In Illustration 6 an excerpt of this map is shown with the elevation figures used underlined. The heights above sea level, the distances and orientations given were also calculated from this map.

At the camp's southern border, the area declines from its south east corner to the south west corner from 236.3 m to 234.4 m, which corresponds to a gradient of 0.138% over a distance of 1.380 m.

Along the camp road between camp sections II and III, the area declines in a similar way from 234.5 m at the east to 232.3 m in the west, i.e., 0.141% over 1.560 m.

The gradient changes slightly some 300 m north of the camp, inclining from 232.3 in the east to 232.8 m in the west, i.e., 0.046% over 1.080 m.

Along the eastern border of the camp, the area declines from 236.3 in the south to 232.3 m in the north, i.e., 0.182% over 2,200 m. Some 1,500 m more to the north, we find the river Vistula at a height of 227.3 m.

Along the western border of the camp, parallel to the line mentioned before, the area declines from 235.4 m in the south to 232.8 m in the north, i.e., 0.112% over 2.310. Some 1,375 m north of the camp, we again reach the Vistula, this time at 228.0 m over sea level.

In his first book, Pressac has reproduced a German map of the camp, in which every single barrack of camp section II is annotated in hand writing with its individual elevation over sea level.[49] The purpose of this is not clear. However, these data enabled us to draw detailed elevation lines for the camp. They start at the southeast corner of the camp at 235.5 m and end at the northwest corner at 234.5 m. They confirm both direction and amount of the gradient as established with the Polish map: the area declines 0.139% over 740 m. The direction is roughly north-northwest.

Of course, we have made more corroborating analyses which lead to the same results. It must therefore be concluded that the camp area was and still is almost even. This is also confirmed by the elevation lines in the Polish map as well as by photos of the area.

Further calculations could be done, for instance by using war time files on drilling drinking water wells in this area, but we have not had the opportunity to do this. D. Czech reports in her book about research of a Prof. Dr. Ing. Zunker, Breslau, on water and pond conditions for the purpose of using the area for cattle breeding and fish farming.[50] This research was apparently the basis for the afore mentioned construction description from Oct. 30, 1941 (chapter 7.1.), and the well drilling works referred to in the "Construction report for November 1941".[51]

But since we have sufficiently exact data for several essential points of the area in question, we can already now draw conclusions about the ground water situation in Birkenau.

9. Summary of Preliminary Examinations and Conclusions

The primary basis for our assessment is an "Explanatory report for the preliminary design of the new construction of the POW camp of the Waffen-SS, Auschwitz O/S", dated October 30, 1941.[40] The soil at the construction site is described as follows:

"Soil consistency is poor. The humus soil is followed by loam and shale [a fossil-rich, grayish blue, plastic marine clay from the Tertiary period], in which gravel and sand particles of minor size are embedded. The ground water level varies between 0.30 and 1.20 m. Parts of the terrain are boggy." (Emph. added)

Illustration 8: Detail enlargement of the building plan of the main police station of the POW camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The elevation of the construction site above sea level is clearly marked (arrow). This plan was obtained from the Moscow Central Archives, and without an archival reference number, which we are endeavoring to obtain.

For structural engineering calculations pertaining to the basement parts, therefore, it was necessary to proceed on the assumption of a ground water table of 30 cm. This in and of itself shows that pits 1.5 to 3.0 m deep would perforce have collected ground water. However, there is further evidence. All facts mentioned fit the above description perfectly. The data regarding the level and direction of flow of the ground water as well as the content of the documents quoted agree with the other observations. We shall present further evidence with respect to two locations of burning pits as described by eyewitness testimony.

9.1. PITS NORTH OF CREMATORIUM V, BW 30C

  1. It has been shown that the oven pit, whose upper edge was positioned approximately 1.00 m below ground level, was constructed in tub style. It has also been shown that during the construction of the building the pit was kept free of ground water by means of icing-up.
  2. Documents prove that at the location of the Large Delousing Facility (BW 32) the ground water table was 20 cm below ground level. This building is situated approximately 270 m away from Crematorium V. Assuming a 3 slope of the ground water table, and disregarding the proven slope of the terrain, the ground water could have been at most 1.01 m below ground level. We have deliberately postulated a worst case, since it is already sufficient proof in and of itself. However, by the same logic, the ground water cannot have been that far beneath the surface; if it had been, then on the one hand the terrain would not have been boggy, and on the other hand, ameliorative drainage would have been superfluous. Witnesses give the depth of the pits as 2 m.
  3. Four air photos specified reveal none of the five pits attested to by witnesses.
  4. These five pits allegedly covered a surface area of at least 1,600 m2. The material excavated from them would have required approximately the same area. The concrete slab took up 900 m2. Without even taking into account that there would also have to have been room among all these items for the labor commando to go about its work, the requisite area of approximately 4,100 m2 did not exist between the building and the ditch by the fence. This area actually comprises only 2,000 m2.
  5. According to eyewitness testimony, the pond next to Crematorium IV, which exists still today, existed already in those days, fed by the ground water. This is further proof of the high ground water table.[52]
  6. We shall dispense with recounting other impossible, alleged events that violate the laws of nature. Anyone with an education will have no trouble recognizing them.

9.2. PITS NEAR BUNKER 2

  1. Just as for 2.6.1, the distance of the pits west of BW32 is approximately 320 m. Again disregarding the slope of the land, the ground water table would be 1.16 m below ground level here. The witnesses placed the depth of the pits at 3.0 m.
  2. In conclusion it must also be pointed out that work on stage III of the ameliorative drainage had not yet begun in 1942. This is proven by a document dated November 25, 1942, which stated:[53]

"[...] that in all probability it will not yet be possible to begin thorough drainage of this terrain at full-scale in 1943. [...]"

Hence, the measures could not have had its full effect. Proof for this are also air photos from Sept. 13, 1944.[37]

There are a number of further documents that provide proof of the fact here at issue; we shall dispense with detailing them, since they do not add any new information.

10. Conclusion

Burning pits of the depth alleged by witnesses were not possible in Birkenau.

11. Opposing Expert Statements

For all our statements, we have tried to locate opposing views of experts in our field in order to address them appropriately. However, we did neither find any opposing views by any peers, nor any technically correct work by non-experts that would be worth considering. We therefore ask our peers to address the issues discussed here.

J.-C. Pressac may forgive us that be do accept him neither as a technician nor as an engineer. The 'technical explanations' in his books are void of any basis, as indicated not only by the examples shown above. However, we are still grateful for his books, since they caused our own involvement in these matters. Without his books with their document reproductions in abundance, there would not be a common basis for a discussion.

12. Researching the Reasons

Pressac's generally neglected first books, which can be found only in major libraries, is filled with justified criticism, as we mentioned before, and we can agree with a lot what he has to say, as well as with those of his contentions that we can confirm. From the multitude of his critical remarks, only a few shall be quoted in order to understand the problem we are dealing with here:

"The witnesses state the contrary, and for them it is the truth." (p. 16, 3rd col.)

"Five hundred (in actual fact 800) meters further on (from Bunker 2) there was another cottage designated Bunker I. [...], able to contain altogether 200 naked persons. (manifest exaggeration by the witness, practically the rule among all the early accounts)." (p. 161. 1st col.)

"The interior of the cottage ws [sic] divided into four parts by partition walls [...], one of which could contain 1 200 naked people, the second 700 the third 400 and fourth 200 to 250. (making a total of 2,500 to 2,550 people which represents a density of 28 people per square meter over an area of 90 m. This is physically impossible and S. Dragan's estimate of 2,500/2,550 is clearly wrong. I do not think that this witness was intentionally misleading, but he was following the tendency to exaggerate which seems to have been the general rule at the time of the liberation and which is what gave rise to the figure of 4 million victims for K.L. Auschwitz, a figure now [1989] considered to be pure propaganda. It should be divided by four to get close to reality.)" (p. 171, 3rd col.)

"[...], was four black columns of smoke, belched forth 24 hours a day by the Krematorien. This picture, of course, cannot be taken entirely at face value, because two of the Krematorien were out of service and aerial photographs taken during this period show no trace of smoke. An argument has grown up over the discrepancy between the memory of survivors and the indisputable evidence of the aerial photos." (p. 253, 1st col.)

"This study already demonstrates the complete bankrupt of the traditional history (and hence also of the methods and criticisms of the revisionists), a history based for the most part on testimonies [not any longer! note added], assembled according to the mood of the moment, truncated to fit an arbitrary truth [...]" (p. 264, 3rd col.)

Only those who have studied Pressac's books und perused it repeatedly after having gathered new information can see that Pressac had tried with all restraint due to correct false statements and to downgrade eyewitness testimony back to the status they always used to have, and rightly so. In a perspective which is almost revisionist in nature, he recognized that an inversion of this principle had to lead to false conclusions. Perhaps he even foresaw the possible consequences if these details become known to a wider audience. But how bad must the situation really be if not even those warning critiques from friendly persons like J.-C. Pressac are heard?

Our circle of researches includes individuals who experienced World War II. Those who have been herded together under conditions similar or worse than those that prevailed in the German concentration camps, in this case the POW camps of the allies after the war, have an understanding for erring inmates and their overreactions. We also have made it a principle of ours to conclude that very frequently there is some truth to most rumors. This might also be in regard to the so-called Bunkers. To report about the truth behind these eyewitness reports will be the topic of later publications.

Finally, we may close this article with the remark that persons residing in Germany who would publish sentences like the one we quoted above from J.-C. Pressac would be accused and sentenced for "Stirring up the People" and "Incitement to Hatred". His or her books would be confiscated and, as so many others before, would be destroyed![54] What is a democracy worth without freedom of speech?

Explanation of Terms Used

DRAINAGE SYSTEMS

Drainage systems lower the ground water level of the drained area. This is done either by open ditches or closed pipelines, depending on the ground water level.

(A)MELIORATION

Amelioration is the improvement of ground water conditions mainly for farming purposes. The recommended average level of ground water for various types of agricultural use is:

WITNESS

In this paper we used the term 'witness'. However, we do have to stress that we do not know whether the testimonies we quoted were given in front of a court of law or are simple statements of certain individuals. The Auschwitz Museum contains a great number of such statements, as is well known. The evaluation certainly depends to a certain degree on this.

Against all common practice, the pharmacist J.-C. Pressac, form whose book[2] we quoted these statements, does not give any sources for these statements so that we are unable to check them. All we do know is that these statements certainly did not originate from experts.

We therefore can only ask you to assess these statements for yourself and to find out whether or not they were given during a trial. The authors, September 1997

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

Half a year after the original German version of this article was released in print, in late 1998, the publisher was notified by the Public Prosecutor of Munich, District I, that this journal issue was confiscated and subject to destruction and that a criminal case for "Stirring up the People" and "Incitement to Hatred" had been opened against both publisher and the two authors. The reason given was, i.a., this article.[55]


Notes

This is a slightly abbreviated translation of the original German version: "Grundwasser im Gelände des KGL Birkenau (Auschwitz)", Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung (hitherto VffG) 2(1) (1998), pp. 2-12; online: vho.org/VffG/1998/1/GaeRad1.html

[1]Frederick A. Leuchter, An Engineering Report on the alleged Execution Gas Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek, Poland, Samisdat Publishers Ltd., Toronto 1988.
[2]The drainage plan of the Birkenau camp was first published by J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gaschambers, Beate-Klarsfeld-Foundation, New York 1989, p. 209.
[3]Fritjof Meyer, "Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz. Neue Erkenntnisse durch neue Archivfunde" (Number of Auschwitz Victims: New Insights from Recent Archival Discoveries), Osteuropa, 52(5) (2002), pp. 631-641; cf. the two contributions in this issue by G. Rudolf and C. Mattogno dealing with Meyer's article.
[4]See the blueprints for the initial camp layout of Oct. 10, 1941, reprinted in J.-C. Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz. Die Technik des Massenmordes, Piper, Munich 1994, p. 185.
[5]It will appear as part of a comprehensive revisionist history of Auschwitz in both German and English, published by Castle Hill Publishers and Theses and Dissertations Press, respectively, probably not before end of 2004.
[6]Jean-Claude Pressac, op. cit. (note 2), pp. 161-171.
[7]Ibid., p. 165, Pressac warns against regarding the settling basin of the sewage treatment plant begun in Section B III as "incineration ditches", an error which, according to him, has already occurred in the subject literature. Compare his skepticism with regard to a Russian camp sketch of March 3, 1945, ibid., p.179.
[8]Ibid., p. 162.
[9]Ibid., p. 163.
[10]Ibid., p. 164. We shall dispense with a discussion of the area requirements of these pits and the materials excavated from them, and of the fact that no traces of such are visible on the air photos; cf. J.C. Ball and A. Neumaier, in: E. Gauss (ed.), Dissecting the Holocaust, Theses & Dissertations Press, Capshaw, AL, 2000, p. 271-284 and 467-495, resp.
[11]Jean-Claude Pressac, op. cit. (note 2), p. 161, 164.
[12]Ibid., p. 171-182.
[13]Sheet 531.44 TYCHY - BOJSZOWY, scale 1:25.000.
[14]Jean-Claude Pressac, op. cit. (note 2), p. 171.
[15]Ibid., p. 177.
[16]Ibid., p. 180.
[17]Cf. D. Czech, Kalendarium der Ereignisse im Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau 1939-1945, Rowohlt, Reinbek 1989, pp. 305 and 346.
[18]Rossiskii Gosudarstvennii Vojennii Archiv, henceforth RGVA, this is the former Center for the Keeping of Historical Documentary Collections (Tsentr Chranenija Istoriko-Dokumentalnich Kollektsii).
[19]RGVA 502-1-332.
[20]Jean-Claude Pressac, op. cit. (note 2), p. 253.
[21]Ibid., p. 420f.
[22]Ibid., p. 380.
[23]Filip Müller, Sonderbehandlung. Drei Jahre in den Krematorien und Gaskammern von Auschwitz, Steinhausen GmbH, Munich 1979, p. 207.
[24]See J.C. Ball, op. cit. (note 10) for more.
[25]Jean-Claude Pressac, op. cit. (note 2), p. 387.
[26]In this process, the ground water is literally frozen, usually using nitrogen, until the foundation is finished.
[27]J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 2), p. 393.
[28]Dr. Jan Sehn, Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau, Wydawnictwo Prawnicze, Warsaw 1957, p. 173.
[29]Klaus Wilhelm, "Wenn die Erinnerung eines Zeugen trügt", Die Welt, Feb. 7, 1997, p. 9.
[30]Quoted acc. to Udo Walendy, Auschwitz im IG-Farben-Prozeß, Verlag für Volkstum und Zeitgeschichtsforschung, Vlotho 1981, p. 163.
[31]RGVA 502-1-319.
[32]RGVA 502-1-149-109/112. Further files we have not yet received seem to indicate intensive research in this area.
[33]Cf. also the reference in Czech, op. cit. (note 17), for March 7, 1941, p. 80, to the studies by one Prof. Dr. Zunker regarding the water conditions.
[34]J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 4), Doc. 19.
[35]RGVA 502-1-214-60.
[36]J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 2), p. 269,
[37]National Archives Air Photo Library, 13.9.1944, Ref. No. RG 373 Can B 8413, exp. 3VI.
[38]Re. drainage technology, cf. any engineering handbook, e.g. Hütte. Des Ingenieurs Taschenbuch, Vol. III, W. Ernst & Sohn, Berlin 1951, pp. 1082ff.
[39]Building description dated Oct. 28, 1942, discovered in Historický ustav Armady Ceske republiky, Prague; unfortunately the materials archived there have not yet been given registration numbers when we received copies from it several years ago. Plans specified 114,000 m of so-called suction pipes 5 cm in diameter, as well as collectors (8,000 m of 6.5 cm dia. and 4,000 m of 8 cm dia.). Two ditches carried the drainage water from the camp to the Vistula river; the southern one via the "Königsgraben". The material excavated from the ditches, some 110,000 m3, was laid down directly in the camp area so as to partly alleviate the problem. Re. method of implementation, cf. RGVA 502-1-233-22 and 502-1-26-194, 502-1-319.
[40]RGVA 502-1-233.
[41]RGVA 502-1-313.
[42]RGVA 502-1-336-46.
[43]RGVA 502-1-336/107.
[44]J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (Note 2), p. 73.
[45]RGVA 501-2-54-11.
[46]RGVA 502-1-150.
[47]RGVA 502-1-186.
[48]Unfortunately the Central Archives in Moscow forgot to mark this plan with an archival reference number.
[49]J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (Note 2), p. 195
[50]Czech, op. cit. (note 17), p. 80, with date March 7, 1941.
[51]RGVA 502-1-214-9/11.
[52]According to the witness statements, the ashes of at least some of the murdered people were sunk in this pond, a claim which has yet to be investigated.
[53]RGVA 502-1-19-141.
[54]About censorship in Germany, see online at www.vho.org/censor/D.html#GB
[55]StA Munich I, Ref. 112 Js 11282/98.

Source: The Revisionist 1(1) (2003), pp. 3-12.


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