Open Air Incinerations in Auschwitz: Rumor or Reality?

Published: 2003-02-01
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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.


[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.

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Author(s) Germar Rudolf
Title Open Air Incinerations in Auschwitz: Rumor or Reality?
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Dates published: 2003-02-01, first posted on CODOH: June 7, 2012, 7 p.m., last revision: n/a
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