The Sobibor “Death Camp” in the Context of the Demjanjuk Case (2009)

Published: 2009-01-01

On April 14, John Demjanjuk was almost deported to Germany to stand trial for alleged war crimes. A last minute ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati blocked this German extradition request, and the 89 year-old Ukrainian émigré was returned to his home.

German authorities claim Demjanjuk walked Jews from train cars to the “gas chambers” at the WWII Sobibor concentration camp. In view of this allegation, I would like to briefly examine the so-called evidence for the existence of “homicidal gas chambers” at Sobibor.

Holocaust historian Robert Jan van Pelt conceded the evidence for the mass killings of Jews at Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec—where allegedly millions were murdered—is very meager. In reference to these three camps, he wrote: "There are few eyewitnesses, no confession that can compare to that given by [Auschwitz commandant Rudolf] Höss, no significant remains, and few archival sources."[1] In other words, the only support for the traditional extermination story at Sobibor is the testimony of former inmates and German officials who were on trial for alleged war crimes.

The Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland asserted that 250,000 people were murdered at Sobibor.[2] The pre-eminent Holocaust authority, the late Raul Hilberg, engaged in “Holocaust denial.” He denied that 250,000 people were murdered at Sobibor. He reduced this figure by twenty percent, as he claimed that up to 200,000 people were murdered at Sobibor.[3]

Polish archaeologists who investigated the camp site find it “very difficult to imagine how the killing of 250,000 took place here.”[4] This statement has subsequently disappeared from their web site.[5]

All the same, Sobibor survivor Moshe Bahir narrated that in February of 1943, the Germans celebrated the murder of the first million Jews.[6] I repeat: Polish forensic scientists cannot imagine how 250,000 people could be murdered at Sobibor, and Holocaust historian Hilberg reduced the number allegedly slaughtered down to 200,000. Nevertheless, “accurate eyewitness” Bahir claims that four times 250,000 were murdered at the site! Bahir’s testimony is of such “high quality” that it earned him the honor of testifying at the 1965 Sobibor Trial in Hagen, West Germany.[7]

Holocaust historian Leon Poliakov claimed there were five gas chambers, fifty square meters each, and built to hold approximately 2,000 people. Each chamber was packed with 400 victims.[8]

In the same book, Holocaust historian Miriam Novitch contradicts Poliakov on the dimensions and capacity of the “gas chambers.” She claims the “original” three gas chambers were ten square meters and could hold 50 people. Later on new gas chambers were built, five of them in total, and each was 4 x 12 meters (forty-eight square meters) and could hold 70 to 80 victims.[9]

This is all contradicted by another “expert” on the Sobibor camp, Yitzhak Arad. He insisted there were originally three gas chambers, each 4 x 4 meters and able to hold about 200 people.[10] In the autumn of 1942, Arad claims the Germans added three new gas chambers, to make a total of six gas chambers. They were of the same dimensions as the old gas chambers, 4 x 4 meters (sixteen square meters).[11]

Now, let’s get our contradictions straight. Poliakov says each of the five gas chambers were fifty square meters with a capacity of 400 victims. Arad says there were originally three gas chambers. Subsequently, three new gas chambers were added to make a total of six chambers. Each chamber was sixteen square meters with a capacity of about 200 victims. But Novitch claims the “original” chambers were ten square meters and could hold 50 victims. Later the five new gas chambers were forty-eight square meters and could hold 70 to 80 victims. These are no minor discrepancies. In any murder investigation the nature of the murder weapon is of prime importance.

The inconsistencies in the official story don’t stop here. The pre-eminent historian of the Holocaust, the late Raul Hilberg, claimed that a diesel engine supplied the deadly gas to “gas chambers.”[12] This is contradicted by Arad, who cites the testimony of a German official who was put on trial for alleged war crimes committed at Sobibor. He “identified” the engine that supplied the deadly gas as a benzene engine.[13]

Former Sobibor camp inmate, Jacob Biskubicz, implies that chlorine was the lethal gas used in the “homicidal chambers,” for he stated: “I couldn’t believe in the reality of camp No. 3 [where the mass gassings allegedly took place]. One day, I was pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with chlorine and, eager to know what was happening in the camp, I went beyond the limit. I was nearly killed.”[14]

Sobibor eyewitness Hella Fellenbaum-Weiss told the story of how Jews on their way to Sobibor were gassed with chlorine. We let her pick up her story here: “The arrival of another convoy distressed me in the same way. It was thought to come from Lvov, but nobody knows for sure. Prisoners were sobbing and told us a dreadful tale: they had been gassed on the way with chlorine, but some survived. The bodies of the dead were green and their skin peeled off.”[15]

Sobibor survivor Moshe Bahir also suggests that chlorine was the gas used in the “Sobibor gas chambers.” He recounted: “I remember one incident that happened to a group of our comrades: one day several of them were ordered to roll barrels of chlorine towards the death camp [Lager 3]. They went out hastily, spurred on by blows from their guards, and when they arrived with the barrels at the border of Lager 3 the gate opened and the Jews who worked at the crematoria came to meet them to get the chlorine. The men of our camp were ready to return, but suddenly, Oberscharführer Bolander appeared and ordered those who had brought the barrels to join those who had met them at Lager 3. We saw them no more.”[16]

So, once again, here we have another problem. The official story coming from Raul Hilberg asserts that a diesel engine supplied the deadly gas used to commit mass murder. Nevertheless, Holocaust expert Arad cites the testimony of a German official who claimed that a benzene engine was used. Yet, other Sobibor “eyewitnesses” say the murder weapon was chlorine, not diesel or benzene engine exhaust. The chlorine gas story has clearly been quietly abandoned and the “engine exhaust” story is now the “official truth.” But did the Germans use a diesel or benzene engine?

At this point the hardcore believer in the Sobibor gas chambers should ask himself this question: if the story of Jews being gassed with chlorine at Sobibor is false, isn’t it also possible that the story of Jews being gassed with some type of engine exhaust is also untrue?

The next logical question: how were the bodies removed from the “gas chambers?” Historian Arad says that the victims entered through one door and their dead bodies were extracted through the other.[17]

This is contradicted by “accurate eyewitness” Moshe Bahir. He claimed that after the conclusion of a mass gassing, when all of the victims were dead, the “gas chamber operator” Bauer would open the “trap doors” in the floor of the gas chamber (the “bathhouse”) and the bodies would fall into wagons positioned below. In his own words: “At his [Bauer’s] order the machinery which opened the floor of the ‘bathhouse’ was activated, and the corpses fell into small carts which took them at first to mass graves and, later when time was short, to cremation ovens instead.”[18]

According to Arad, when three new gas chambers were added in autumn of 1942, they were the same size as the “old” gas chambers, 4 x 4 meters. He made no mention of any “trap doors” through which the bodies fell into carts positioned below.[19]

Let us consider the next logical question: how were the dead bodies transferred from the gas chambers to the mass graves, where they were allegedly burned? According to Sobibor expert Arad, the bodies were originally put in carts, which were horse-drawn or pushed by prisoners. Eventually, this inefficient system was replaced by a narrow railway trolley that ran to the burial pits.[20]

Yet, even here, the testimony of Bahir is substantially different from the story presented by Holocaust expert Arad. Toward the end of July 1942, the Germans installed giant cranes to transport the bodies from the “gas chambers” to a crematorium.  In Bahir’s own words: “After a few days, two giant cranes were brought to camp and set up near the gas chambers. These cranes worked unceasingly, three shift a day, taking the bodies out of the chambers and transferring them to the new crematoria which had been built nearby.”[21]

Here is my most important point. If a hardcore believer in the orthodox Sobibor “extermination story” simply consults academically acceptable sources, even he will find enough evidence to be very skeptical of the “gas chambers” of Sobibor. The contradictions and falsehoods that I’ve enumerated here are exactly what one should expect from a historical myth.

The reader should keep this in mind during any possible future trial of John Demjanjuk for the crime of “leading Jews to the gas chambers.” Indeed, as I’ve shown elsewhere, this is precisely the ulterior reason for the further prosecution of the hapless Demjanjuk. The promoters of the Holocaust mythology want to use a show trial to fight the phenomenal growth of “Holocaust denial.”[22]


copyright 2009

Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 5.
Miriam Novitch, ed., Sobibor: Martyrdom and Revolt (Holocaust Library, 1980), p. 33.
Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews: Student Edition (Holmes & Meier, 1985), p. 338.
Thomas Dalton, Debating the Holocaust: A New Look at Both Sides (Theses & Dissertations Press), p. 119.
Novitch, p. 156.
Ibid, p. 152.
Ibid, p. 12.
Ibid, pp. 24, 26.
Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 31.
Ibid, p. 123.
Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews: Student Edition (Holmes & Meier), p. 229.
Arad, p. 31.
Novitch, p. 121.
Ibid, p. 50.
Ibid, p. 148.
Arad, p. 31.
Novitch, p. 147.
Arad, p. 123.
Ibid, pp. 32, 123-124.
Novitch, p. 155.
See Paul Grubach, “Hunting Demjanjuk: Injustice, Double Standards, and Ulterior Agendas.” Online:

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Author(s) Paul Grubach
Title The Sobibor “Death Camp” in the Context of the Demjanjuk Case (2009)
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Dates published: 2009-01-01, first posted on CODOH: June 29, 2009, 7 p.m., last revision: n/a
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