The Holocaust Historiography Project

Crematories vs. burning pits

Part of the myth of mass extermination at Auschwitz involves vast burning pits, to dispose of the corpses of the victims of gassings and other forms of mass execution.

These pits were amazing: free to build, cheap to operate, and totally efficient. Here is a description from Charles Sigsmund Bendel, sworn and examined by Colonel Backhouse concerning the Auschwitz camp (from: The Trial of Josef Kramer and 44 others: The Belsen Trial, William Hodge and Company, 1949, pp. 130-133):

In Crematorium No. 4 the result which was achieved by burning was apparently not sufficient. The work was not going on quickly enough, so behind the crematorium they dug three large trenches 12 metres long and 6 metres wide. After a bit it was found that the results achieved even in these three big trenches were not quick enough, so in the middle of these big trenches they built two canals through which the human fat or grease should seep so that work could be continued in a quicker way. The capacity of these trenches was almost fantastic. Crematorium No. 4 was able to burn 1,000 people during the day, but this system of trenches was able to deal with the same number in one hour.

Now let’s say you are a bureaucrat in charge of choosing between two systems of body disposal. Let’s look at the plusses And minuses of the two systems, System A (the crematories) Or System B, the alleged Pit System according to Holocaust literature.

  System A System B
Cost To build $40,000,000 Free
Reliability Frequent break-downs Trouble-free
Efficiency 1 24 times system A
Cost of operation $250 per day Free
Construction time 6 months 2 days
Effectiveness in disposing of remains Needs secondary system to “crush” bones Total

All the above are pretty much based on the actual records of crematory operations (updated to present-day costs) vs. the alleged operation of the “burning pits.” So can anyone explain why the Germans would have abandoned System B? If the Tales of Burning Pits are true, there was no economic reason to give them up.