Auschwitz: A Re-evaluation (1996)

Published: 1994-01-01

Official Estimates of the Number of Victims

Auschwitz was both the largest and most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps. Auschwitz is central to the literature on the Holocaust and Nazi crimes. At one time, it was claimed that as many as four million people were killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Through the years, historians have developed their own estimates. Few historians ever really accepted the four million number which was clearly a wartime exaggeration. Still, Kazimierz Smolen, who was director of the State Auschwitz Museum for many years, as well as a former Auschwitz prisoner, stated as late as 1991, "In my view, no one can deny the number of 4 million."[1] It is interesting to note that as early as 1952, Gerald Reitlinger denied the 4 million claim. He writes,

"… the figure of four millions has become ridiculous. Unfortunately Russian arithmetic has blurred the stark and inescapable facts that little less than a million human beings perished in Auschwitz."[2]

It is impossible to discuss the number of victims at Auschwitz without mention of the concentration camp commandant, Rudolf Höß. The testimonies and memoirs of Höß have contributed greatly to the confusion over and exaggeration of the number of victims at Auschwitz. Historians attempting to prove the exterminationist view of Auschwitz have been quick to use some of Höß' estimates. The problem is that Höß is very unreliable and his numbers varied greatly in his various testimonies. As a witness for the defense at Nuremberg, he claimed, on April 4, 1946 that, "the total of 2,500,000 victims were incinerated in Auschwitz, with at least 500,000 more who died of illness and exhaustion."[3] Later, Höß would repudiate these numbers. Höß would re-estimate the number of victims at 1.13 million.[4] Paul Rassinier pointed out another seemingly contradictory passage from Höß. In his "autobiography," Höß wrote,

"Toward the end of 1942, all the mass graves were cleaned [crematory ovens had not been built yet, and incineration was done in mass graves]. The number of cadavers buried there exceeded 107,000."[5]

The testimony of Höß is filled with inconsistent and implausible dates, non-existant places, and wild exaggerations. At the Nuremberg trial, Col. Amen would read an affidavit by Höß. Col. Amen read:

"I was ordered to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in June 1941. At that time, there were already in the General Government three other extermination camps: Belzek, Treblinka, and Wolzek… I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their exterminations. The camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of one-half year."[6]

Even this small paragraph has many inconsistencies. Many writers including J.C. Pressac have shown that the "June 1941" date is impossible. Pressac writes, "The evidence that we have studied suggests that Höß retrospectively confused 1941 with 1942."[7] This explanation is also weak however. Examining the complete affidavit reveals that Höß uses the 1941 date on numerous occasions. These dates should have been clear in Höß's mind. Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the U.S.S.R. in June of 1941. This was one of the most important dates in the entire history of the Third Reich. Similarly, Höß was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in July 1942. Each of these events should have stood out in Höß' memory. Höß also speaks of three other camps in existence at the time. Belzek was only established in December of 1941.[8] Treblinka, which Höß claims was in operation for at least six months only began operations on July 23, 1942.[9] As for the third camp mentioned in the affidavit, Wolzek. It never existed at all. Christopher Browning would admit under sworn testimony, "There is no such camp [as Wolzek] that I know of. I don't think that that testimony is accurate."[10]

An explanation for Höß's wild testimony is the evidence that Höß was tortured by his captors. Höß wrote of such torture,

"During the first interrogation they beat me to obtain evidence. I do not know what was in the transcript, or what I said, even though I signed it, because they gave me liquor and beat me with a whip. It was too much even for me to bear. The whip was my own. By chance it had found its way into my wife's luggage. My horse had hardly ever been touched by it, much less the prisoners. Somehow one of the interrogators probably thought that I had used it to constantly whip the prisoners."11]

An account, by Rupert Butler, of the capture and interrogation of Rudolf Höß, includes the following episode,

"The prisoner was torn from the top bunk, the pyjamas ripped from his body. He was then dragged naked to one of the slaughter tables, where it seemed to [Bernard] Clarke the blows and screams were endless. Eventually, the Medical Officer urged the Captain: 'Call them off, unless you want to take back a corpse.'"[12]

The inconsistencies and conditions under which the Höß "confessions" were made render them virtually useless.

In order to arrive at an estimate of the number of victims of Auschwitz we must look further than the trial testimonies and eyewitness accounts. A major study of the number of victims at Auschwitz was begun in 1980 by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. This analysis was completed in 1986. Franciszek Piper, who heads the Department of Historical Research at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was involved in this study. He has recently contributed an article entitled, "The Number of Victims" to an anthology of the latest exterminationist views on Auschwitz. In this volume, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Piper writes,

"The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the leading Polish institution on Auschwitz history, decided in 1990 to undertake a reassessment of the four million figure, which it was using in its own publications and had engraved on a statue that commemorates the victims at Birkenau. As a result of this reassessment, new calculations indicate that the number of victims was at least 1.1 million, about 90 percent of whom were Jews from almost every country in Europe."[13]

As one evaluates the literature and the statistics surrounding the Auschwitz camp, it quickly becomes clear that the new estimate is far from established fact and based on numerous assumptions which may become untenable in the future. Within the course of this article, assumptions, facts, and questions regarding the number of victims at Auschwitz shall be raised. The difficulties of arriving at an exact number should become clear to the reader.

One of the earliest analysis of the number of victims at Auschwitz was conducted by Gerald Reitlinger. Reitlinger pointed out in his, The Final Solution, "the total number, who were registered in the camp books between 1940 and 1945, Aryans as well as Jews, is said to be 363,000."[14] We can disregard Mr. Reitlinger's use of the word "Aryan". Other sources show that the camp registration includes people of all nationalities. Reitlinger's use of this word is rather ambiguous. Yisrael Gutman, commenting on the same topic, offers a slightly higher number. He writes,

"In the period from May 1940, when German authorities laid the groundwork for its establishment, to January 1945, when most surviving Auschwitz prisoners were marched off by their German captors and Soviet Army troops liberated the camp, approximately 405,000 prisoners of both sexes from nearly every European country were registered, assigned serial numbers, and incarcerated there."[15]

It is possible that Gutman's number may include prisoners at the Moniwitz camp, sometimes known as Auschwitz III, while Reitlinger's number only includes the Auschwitz main camp, Auschwitz I, and Birkenau, or Auschwitz II.

Just as the Nazis maintained records of the number of inmates, they kept track of the number of deaths in the camps. Similarly, prisoners attempted to determine the number of deaths occurring at the camp themselves. Prisoners noting their own registration number would compare it to the camps overall population at the time of their arrival. Reitlinger explained how the Nazi's used poor judgment when attempting to prevent the startling calculations from being made,

"In March, 1944, when registrations in the Birkenau male camp passed the 180th thousand, a new series was started to prevent internees making such disturbing calculations. The only result was to spread the belief that millions had died in the camp. It was only after the war that it was possible to check the number of camp registrations: 253,000 men and 110,000 women."[16]

This story is confirmed by Franciszek Piper who writes,

"When Soviet soldiers liberated the camp in January 1945, they found documents that confirmed only 100,000 deaths. Yet surviving prisoners maintained that millions had perished at Auschwitz."[17]

The Nazis recorded the number of victims in the Auschwitz Death Registry Volumes. These books were captured by the Soviets in January of 1945 and probably report a total close to the 100,000 estimated by Dr. Piper. In 1989, the world became aware of this valuable information which was sitting in a Soviet archive when officials in Moscow announced that they held 46 of the volumes, recording the deaths of 69,000 Auschwitz inmates. The 46 volumes cover a small part of 1941, 1942 completely and 1943 completely. No volumes for 1943 or 1945 have been released or acknowledged.[18] Dr. Arthur Butz reports slightly higher numbers for 1942 and 1943 based on information from the International Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany, an agency of the International Red Cross. According to Dr. Butz there were, "45,575 recorded deaths in 1942, and 36,960 in 1943, with death books missing for 1940, 1941, 1944, and January 1945."[19]

The task of calculating the number of victims at Auschwitz goes beyond the difficulty of knowing the numbers who died in the years of the missing death registries. Lucy Dawidowicz explains,

"The statistics of the death camps are only approximate. At Auschwitz, the largest mass-killing installation, many transports of deportees went directly from the detraining ramps to the gas chambers and were never statistically registered."[20]

The above quotation must be used with caution. It is probably appropriate to discuss inmates who were "never statistically registered." The evidence that Nazi official registration and accounting fell into chaos as the war continued seems to be great. To argue, however, that all unregistered deportees went "to the gas chambers" is unsupported. Many exterminationist theorists use the poor accounting and discrepancies in registrations as the only means to support the gas chamber extermination story. It is obvious to the objective reader that failure to register a deportee does not guarantee that they were killed or that the method of their destruction was a gas chamber.

In his attempt to calculate the number of victims, Dr. Piper considers the number of prisoners who left Auschwitz alive. Utilizing this analysis we can begin to approach some minimum figure for the number of victims at the camp. According to Dr. Piper, "… some 25,000 prisoners were transported from Auschwitz-Birkenau to other camps in the years 1940-43. A considerable discrepancy exists for the years 1944 and 1945."[21] Piper accepts the number of 187,820 for 1944 and 1945 which includes registered and unregistered prisoners. This number is derived from a study by Andrzej Strzelecki entitled, "Ewakuacja, likwidacja I wyzolenie KL Auschwitz." Piper utilizes Czech's Kalendarium to estimate the unregistered transferees at 25,000 persons. Dr. Piper continues,

"To the number of prisoners who were transferred out of Auschwitz from 1940 to 1945 (212,820), one must add 1,500 released prisoners, 500 escapees, and 8,000 liberated inmates, for an estimated grand total of 222,820 prisoners who left the camp alive."[22]

At this time, a word of caution must be advised. There is an extreme difficulty in utilizing the statistics from Auschwitz. Dr. Arno Mayer of Princeton University warns, "… there are no reliable statistics to work with."[23] Proceeding with caution, let us continue to use the statistics available. First we know the number of registered inmates at Auschwitz. Reitlinger reported 383,000 while Gutman reported 405,000. Next, let us recall Piper's calculation of the number of registered inmates who survived Auschwitz. Piper's conservative estimate would be, 222,820 minus the 25,000 unregistered deportees discussed above, or a total of 197,820. This results in a range of 185,180 (Reitlinger) to 207,180 (Gutman) registered victims.

This appalling death rate, 48% based on Reitlinger/Piper, 51% based on Gutman/Piper for those registered at Auschwitz can be tested for validity. In 1989, Fred Leuchter published an analysis of Auschwitz in which he estimated the theoretical capacity of the Crematories. Using an initial start up date and a final usage date for each of the crematories, Leuchter concluded that 193,576 people could have been cremated.[24] This tends to verify that the number of crematories at Auschwitz were in line with the number of inmates who were reported dying there. Leuchter's estimates vary considerably from those attributed to Kurt Prüfer, the engineer who designed the crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau. According to Jean-Claude Pressac, Prüfer estimated the capacity at 1,440 bodies in 24 hours.[25] We must be wary of Pressac's assertion however, as Robert-Jan Van Pelt, who has collaborated with Pressac writes,

"Figures that would point to a more sinister scenario, such as Pressac's assertion that Prüfer initially calculated that the crematorium would be capable of burning 1,440 bodies in 24 hours… must be considered either in the context of the fact that the furnaces in the main camp were estimated at a total output of 140 bodies in 24 hours… or as an error or at least a disregard for scholarly convention on Pressac's part… .Either I missed an important source that Pressac found but failed to properly annotate, or he creatively projected the numbers of June 1943 back into the discussions of October 1941" [26]

Leuchter has also not considered the various down-times for the crematoria. Throughout the article by Pressac and van Pelt, the numerous occasions in which the crematoria broke down due to excessive usage are documented.

Dr. Arthur Butz has also reviewed the crematoria in relation to the known numbers of deaths at the various concentration camps. Butz concludes:

"We see, in fact, that the ratio of cremation muffles to deaths somewhat disfavors Auschwitz: that is, it was decided that Auschwitz would be less well equipped with crematoria than Buchenwald and Dachau (two camps that, by universal agreement, were not extermination camps."[27]

Similarly, Robert-Jan van Pelt writes of the Birkenau crematoria capacity,

"If we compare these numbers with the figures for the Birkenau crematorium, it becomes apparent that, assuming that the camp was indeed going to be completed and filled to capacity, the sequence of five three-muffle furnaces was not an excessive proposition… With a capacity of 15 muffles or 22.5 units for 125,000 inmates, we come to 1 unit per 5,555 inmates, that is, less than a third of the capacity of Auschwitz I, and very much in line with Dachau and Buchenwald."[28]

Van Pelt goes on to discuss the enormous increase in corpse cellars at Auschwitz,

"The plan of January 6 added another 250,000 cu. ft., to arrive at Sachsenhausen's capacity of 1 corpse per 50 inmates. In short, this sixfold amplification was meant only to bring the morgue capacity of the camp in line with that found in other concentration camps."[29]

Van Pelt also raises an interesting question regarding the crematoria capacity and the supposed timing of the mass exterminations at Birkenau,

"To interpret [Hans] Kammler's visit as the key event in the transformation of Birkenau into an extermination site raises the paradox that the decision to begin mass murder coincided with the decision to reduce the incineration capacity of the camp from 1:4,000 to 1:5,555."[30]

It becomes evident that the facilities at Auschwitz are not, in and of themselves, indicative of the sinister scenarios portrayed in the popular media.

We must now return to the issue of the unregistered deportees. We will consider the estimates offered by Reitlinger. Reitlinger lists Jewish deportees country by country and concludes that 840,800 were brought to Auschwitz. If we subtract our higher estimate for the number of registered victims, 207,180, we arrive at 633,620 unaccounted for. This corresponds closely with Reitlinger's claim, "550,000 to 600,000 may have been gassed on arrival."[31] We find that this estimate is corroborated by Jean-Claude Pressac; Pressac suggests that 630,000 victims were gassed.[32] We shall evaluate this estimate of the number of unaccounted for at Auschwitz, 633,620.

Many exterminationist theorists are quick to proclaim that the unaccounted for were sent directly to the gas chambers. This solution is actually too simple and does not consider all of the possiblities regarding the fate of the unregistered transferees. In an attempt to validate the existence of the gas chambers as well as justifying their own theories, exterminationists overlook the other possible explanations regarding the fate of the unregistered transferees. This author has determined four possible explanations regarding the fate of these 630,000 persons. They are as follows:

  1. Extermination
  2. Death by "natural" means
  3. An error in estimation
  4. Deportations / transfers.

Before analyzing each of these solutions, it is important to consider that the unregistered transferees do not have to fall entirely into one of these categories. It is possible that the fate of the unregistered is split between these four alternatives.

The Extermination Explanation

First, let us examine the primary claim of a vast number of Holocaust historians, namely, extermination. Many historians claim that the unregistered transferees were taken directly to the gas chambers. In reality, there is little proof of such a claim. Dr. Mayer writes for example, "Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable… No written orders for gassing have turned up thus far."[33]

In 1988, Fred Leuchter, an American who specialized in the design and fabrication of execution hardware used in American prisons analyzed the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz. In his report , Leuchter writes,

"… After study of available literature, examination and evaluation of the existing facilities at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek, with expert knowledge of the design criteria for gas chamber operation,… the author finds no evidence that any of the facilities normally alleged to be execution gas chambers were ever used as such and finds, further, that because of the design and fabrication of these facilities, they could not have been utilized for execution gas chambers."[34]

Leuchter's analysis is admittedly controversial. His analysis, however, has resulted in numerous other forensic studies of Auschwitz. These included a study initiated by the Auschwitz State Museum and carried out by the Institute of Forensic Research of Krakow. The Krakow institute found results similar to Leuchter,

"Of the samples taken from crematories 1, 2, 3, and 5, only sample number 15 showed almost indectectably small traces of cyanide compounds… The analysis of the wall plaster taken from the rooms of Block 3 did indicate the presence of hydrocyanic acid compounds, although only in very small amounts. This result is a confirmation of the fact that in these rooms of Block 3, preparations of hydrogen cyanide such as in Zyklon B were used for disinfection."[35]

A third study was conducted by Walter Lüftl, who was the president of the Austrian Engineers Chamber. Lüftl's findings were as follows:

"Mass murder in the manner described, with Zyklon B and with carbon monoxide, cannot have taken place, either, because it too would violate the laws of nature, and because the necessary technical and organizational prerequisites were lacking… The crematories could never have disposed of the number of victims: this may be considered proven by engineering science. Bodies are not a combustible material. Their cremation requires a great deal of time and energy."[36]

In 1993, expert chemist, Germar Rudolf , conducted another major study. Rudolf published his findings as Das Rudolf Gutachten (The Rudolf Report). Rudolf concluded:

"On chemical-physical grounds, the mass gassings as described, using hydrocyanic acid in the alleged gas chambers, could not have taken place. … The mass gassing procedures, as reported by witnesses interrogated by the courts, as established in the quoted judgments, and as described in scientific and literary publications, in whatever building one picks at Auschwitz at all, are irreconcilable with the laws of physical science."[37]

The findings of these various reports in no way minimizes the terrible situation in the Auschwitz camp. Dr. Mayer accurately points out that "the Jewish ordeal at Auschwitz is not contingent on the use of gas chambers."[38]

The "Natural" Death Explanation

We shall next examine the idea that many of the unregistered transferees succumbed to death by "natural" causes. By "natural," I will utilize the definition of Dr. Mayer,

"There is a distinction between dying from 'natural' or 'normal' causes and being killed by shooting, hanging, phenol injection, or gassing."[39]

It can certainly be argued that if the transferees were simply not registered but resided in the camps with their fellow inmates that they would have been exposed to similar conditions and therefore a similar "natural" death rate. Once again, I turn to Dr. Mayer who explains,

"… from 1942 to 1945, certainly at Auschwitz, but probably overall, more Jews were killed by so-called "natural" causes than by "unnatural" ones."[40]

One of the so-called "natural" causes of death at Auschwitz was Typhus. It is well-documented that this killer disease devastated the population of Auschwitz. It is reported that the camp doctors were surprised by the epidemic. Jean-Claude Pressac explains the situation,

"[the camp doctors] thought that prophylactic measures (quarantining, shearing of hair) and hygiene (local disinfection of hair, showers) applied to the prisoners upon arrival would prevent the introduction of the plague into the camp by eradicating the agent of the disease, lice."[41]

Even with quarantines, the death rate of the inmates soared. Pressac calls the situation, "catastrophic."[42] Mayer calls the epidemic, "devastating."[43] It was absolutely necessary to combat this disease. The tool used was a hydrocyanic acid (prussic acid) pesticide known as Zyklon B . Pressac explains the method utilized,

"Everything had to be deloused immediately: personal effects, barracks, buildings, and workships. Tons of Zyklon B were needed to save the camp."[44]

Pressac also reports that at this time, there were no operable crematorium. In July of 1942, the company Huta accepted a proposal to build a new crematorium.[45] The building of crematorium at Auschwitz, in light of the typhus epidemic seems entirely reasonable. Exterminationist theorists normally cast this decision in a far more sinister fashion.

Assuming that the "natural" death rate was largely responsible for the deaths of most of the victims of Auschwitz, corresponds with the documented, stated purpose of the concentration camp system. On January 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Security Service and Secret Police discussed the plans for the final solution of the Jewish question at the Wannsee Conference. Heydrich said,

"Under proper direction the Jews should now in the course of the Final Solution [Endlösung] be brought to the East in a suitable way for use as labor. In big labor gangs, with separation of the sexes, the Jews capable of work are brought to these areas and employed in road building, in which task undoubtedly a great part will fall out through natural diminution [natürliche Verminderung].[46]

The German military situation caused an extreme shortage of labor. Following Heydrich's plan, many companies turned to the SS for prisoner labor. Krakowski reports,

"Many German firms were involved in the exploitation of the Auschwitz prisoners. The most important were IG Farbenindustrie and Bismarckhuette, Oberschlesische Hydrierwerke, Siemens-Schuckert, Herman Göing Werke, Ost Maschinenbau, Gruen & Bilginer, Holzmann, Koenigshuetter Metallwerke, Emmerich Machold, Borsig Koks-Werke, Rheinmetall Borsig, and Schlesische Feinweberei. These firms worked in close partnership with the SS."[47]

By April of 1942, SS General Oswald Pohl who was chief of the Central Economic and Administrative Office of the SS (the WVHA) submitted a working plan to Himmler regarding the Concentration camp system. In this plan, Pohl explained the economic need of the camp prisoners:

The war has brought a manifest change in the structure of the concentration camps along with a fundamental change in their mission concerning the utilization of their inmates.

The detention of prisoners for reasons of security, correction, and prevention is no longer the first priority. The center of gravity has shifted to the economic side. The mobilization of the labor power of all internees primarily for war tasks (increase of armaments) must take absolute precedence, until such time as it can be used for peacetime assignments.

Such being the case, all necessary measures must be taken to transform the concentration camp from an exclusively political organization into one fitted for its economic mission.[48]

Large sums of money were being paid to the SS for use of this prison-slave labor. In an article by Dr. Piper, he writes,

"At the end of 1943, the state's monthly earnings from the hire of Auschwitz prisoners reached two million reichsmarks. Partially preserved bills for seven months of male prisoner labor and nine months of female prisoner labor indicate that the state received over 12 million reichsmarks. Total earnings of the Nazi state from Auschwitz prisoners' labor from 1940 to 1945 are estimated to have reached 60 million reichsmarks."[49]

Considering the economic benefits of the slave-labor system, it is no wonder that in December 1942 that Heinrich Himmler ordered, "… the death rate absolutely must be reduced."[50]

The value of the Jewish inmates to the economy cannot be over-estimated. On November 14, 1942, General Becker wrote:

"… the Commander of the Security Police said that if he was ordered to dismiss his Jews immediately he would of course do so, but then he would at the same time have to report that his plant, in particular the motor vehicle plant, would have to close as a result. I too made the point that the immediate dismissal of all the Jews from the plants of the order police would cause considerable difficulties."[51]

The Estimation Error Explanation

The third possible explanation of the fate of the unaccounted for, is that there was an error in estimation. The type of estimates made by Piper, Reitlinger, and Pressac are extremely difficult to do with any precision. Clearly there are inherent dangers in utilizing the statistics of Auschwitz. Dr. Mayer writes,

"The camp officials did not keep very accurate records of the inbound deportees. Untold thousands were 'processed' without being signed in. Because of this, and because so many records were destroyed, there are no close approximations of the numbers and identities of the Jews checked into Auschwitz except for those sent there from western Europe."[52]

Surprisingly, even Dr. Piper seems to agree with this evaluation admitting,

"Incomplete source material precludes the possibility of calculating all the numbers of transfers, releases, and escapes. Some prisoners may have been counted twice if, for example, a transport that carried prisoners from Auschwitz to an unknown destination was counted again in a list drawn up by another concentration camp."[53]

Sometimes, the estimates used for the number of victims are offered by former prisoners who survived Auschwitz. These estimates are also quite faulty and cannot be used with any objectivity. Of these reports, Dr. Piper writes,

"Because of the difficulty these prisoners had in gaining access to information and the inevitable distortions that occurred when the data were analyzed and transmitted, these reports are marred by serious errors, discrepancies, and contradictions."[54]

The Western Transfers Explanation

Finally, let us examine the possibility that those who were unregistered when transferred to Auschwitz were transferred elsewhere. There is no doubt that this is a viable explanation of the fate of many of the unregistered transferees. Shmuel Krakowski, the Chief Archivist of Yad Vashem, Israel's national memorial to the Holocaust, explains,

"The Germans did not register the prisoners who were sent to quarantine; nor did they compile statistical data on the number of prisoners sent there. Those who were transferred to other concentration camps were not registered, either. Only those prisoners who were selected for work in the Auschwitz satellite camps were registered and tattooed with Auschwitz concentration camp numbers."[55]

Similarly, Reitlinger comments,

"… very large groups of Jews in 1944 stayed in the camp without registration, awaiting transfer elsewhere, and they stayed long enough to die of epidemics."[56]

In order to determine the numbers of unregistered transferees, the overall concentration camp system statistics become very helpful. The total concentration camp system (all camps) population statistics for registered inmates are known. Analyzing the data for the years of Auschwitz's existence we find the entire system averaged around 100,000 inmates in 1941 and 1942. By August of 1943, the numbers crept up to 220,000. They continued to rise so that by August of 1944, they had reached 520,000. The final population numbers for January of 1945 report 710,000 inmates.[57] The statistics for Auschwitz are: August 1943- 74,000, August 1944- 105,168, January 1945 - 67,000.[58]

In the period from 1944 to 1945, when the entire camp system population grew so dramatically (five to seven times the 1942 population), large numbers of inmates were being transferred from the East to the West. Dr. Piper explains that initially, these transferees were non-Jewish,

"Declaration of the Reich territory as 'Judenfrei' precluded the transfer of Jewish Auschwitz prisoners to camps inside Germany. Since the prohibition did not apply to non-Jewish prisoners, many non-Jews, especially Poles, were moved to camps in the German interior."[59]

This situation would change by the spring of 1944, when large numbers of Jews were transferred to the western concentration camps. Again Dr. Piper explains,

"The subsequent lifting of the prohibition [of sending Jews to the west] in the spring of 1944 marked the onset of mass transfers of manpower surpluses into the Reich. A new category of prisoners was established. These prisoners were not assigned serial numbers."[60]

It is from this time, the spring of 1944, that Dr. Piper declares that Auschwitz, "became the center for the distribution of Jewish labor for the entire network of concentration camps."[61]

Dr. Mayer also notes the huge number of transferees to the west:

"Even as these Jews were being delivered to Auschwitz-Birkenau, thousands of others were being shipped out by train to camps in Germany, including Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenbürg, and Sachsenhausen. These evacuations were part of the frantic effort to remove valuable labor and incriminating evidence from the path of the Red Army. During the second half of 1944 about 400,000 foreigners were forcibly taken to Germany, most of them from the east and a large number of them Jews."[62]

We also know at this time, Herman Göring and Albert Speer were desperate to increase the output of fighter planes. They proposed a plan to build an impregnable underground factory at Auschwitz. On April 7, 1944, Hitler offered to urge Heinrich Himmler to help procure the necessary manpower by impressing 100,000 Hungarian Jews. On May 11, Himmler notified Pohl that Hitler had ordered 10,000 Waffen-SS troops be detached "to guard the 200,000 Jews… [about] to be transferred to the Reich's concentration camps for assignment to large construction projects of the Todt Organization or to other essential war work."[63]

The fate of the Hungarian Jews is very important to the controversy over the number of Jews killed at Auschwitz. The deportations of Hungarian Jews represent the largest deportation to occur at that time. We now know that while some of the Hungarian Jews were retained to work in Auschwitz itself; many were were dispersed to over 386 camps in the Nazi empire.[64] The largest groups were sent to Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Gross-Rosen, Gunskirchen, Mauthausen, Neuengamme, Ravensbruck, and Sachsenhausen.[65]

It is clear then, that by Summer of 1944, that the most infamous concentration camps in the east (excluding Auschwitz) were no longer in operation [Note: see Table 1 below]. Auschwitz became, in Piper's words, "a center for distribution of Jewish labor." It is also clear, that according to Krakowski, Jews sent to Auschwitz who were waiting to be transferred to other concentration camps were not registered. Therefore it is safe to say that many Jews, although shown to be deported to Auschwitz, were never registered until their arrival in the western camps.

Table 1: Operational duration of major Eastern Camps
Camp Beginning Date Ending Date
Belzek December 1941 December 1942
Chelmno December 1941 March 1943
Treblinka July 1942 August 1943
Sobibor May 1942 October 1943
Majdanek November 1941 July 1944
Auschwitz June 1940 January1945

If we return to the camp system statistics, we find that, taking the 633,620 unaccounted for inmates of Auschwitz and divide by the number of months from April 1944 through January 1945 that we arrive at a total number of 70,402 transferees per month. (633,620 / 9). Clearly some portion of these transferees died enroute to their destination camps in the West. A precise estimate of the number who died in this fashion is difficult to determine. In some cases, trainloads arrived without any casualties. In other cases, the numbers were significant. If we assume that on average 1% of the transferees died enroute to their final destination, that leaves 627,284 transferees from Auschwitz (633,620 - 6,336) still unaccounted for.

Looking at the total camp system population statistics, we know that 280,000 inmates were registered in April of 1944. We know that in August of 1943 the total system death rate was 2.09 percent.[66] An analysis of the number of prisoners who died at the Dachau camp shows no major increases in the number of casualties until the July 1944 timeframe. The numbers jump again in November of 1944 and remain high throughout 1945.[67] Attempting to model this pattern, I have applied a death rate starting at 2% in April of 1944 and increasing to 5% by January of 1945. Using these statistics we arrive at a total camp system population of 710,842 by the end of January 1945 (280,000 + (633,618 - 6336) - 196,440) [Note: see Table 2 below]. Remember, according to Dr. Mayer, the camp population reached 710,000 in January of 1945.

Table 2: Total Concentration Camp System Population Statistics
Month Start Pop. Transfers Death Enroute Total Pop. Death Rate Death
End Pop.
Apr 280,000 70,402 704 349,698 .02 6,994 342,704
May 342,704 70,402 704 412,402 .02 8,248 404,154
Jun 404,154 70,402 704 473,852 .02 9,477 464,375
Jul 464,375 70,402 704 534,073 .03 16,022 518,051
Aug 518,051 70,402 704 587,749 .03 17,632 570,116
Sep 570,116 70,402 704 639,814 .03 19,194 620,620
Oct 620,620 70,402 704 690,318 .03 20,710 669,608
Nov 669,608 70,402 704 739,306 .04 29,572 709,734
Dec 709,734 70,402 704 779,4320 .04 31,177 748,255
Jan 748,255 748,255 .05 37,413 710,842
Ttl 633,618 6,336 196,440 710,842

Thus, returning to the number of registered victims, 185,180 (Reitlinger) to 207,180 (Gutman) we must add the 6,336 approximate for the number of victims who died enroute to the western camps and would not otherwise be accounted for. The balance of the victims, 196,440 would have been registered and accounted for among the death books of the western camps. Therefore, the range for the number of victims of the Auschwitz camps (including Birkenau and Monowitz and other satellites) would be 191,516 to 213,516.

Clearly, it is important to remember the statement of Dr. Piper, "Incomplete source material precludes the possibility of calculating all the numbers of transfers, releases, and escapes."


In conclusion each of the four explanations discussed describe the possible fate of the unregistered inmates of Auschwitz. It is this author's opinion that the extermination explanation has been wrongfully exaggerated as the only possible solution regarding the whereabouts of the unregistered. It seems much more likely, based on the statistics of the camp system and the analysis performed by this author that the unregistered at Auschwitz were deported or transferred to other camps. At these camps, a large number of the transferees undoubtedly perished but have long been accounted for in the traditional literature.

The error of the traditional statistics is a double counting of these victims, once at Auschwitz, and once at a camp in the west where the deportee met his or her final fate. The numbers indicate that while conditions in the concentration camp system were often terrible, the victims of this system did not die due to an extermination policy but rather due to disease, malnutrition, and overwork in a state which was nearing its final collapse.


This article was originally conceived and written in 1994. It was updated in 1996.

Y. Gutman, M. Berenbaum ed., Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press, (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1994), p. 74. Hereafter this volume will be referenced as AADC .
G. Reitlinger, The Final Solution, Jason Aronson Inc., (London, 1987), p. 460.
A. Lasik, "Rudolf Höß: Manager of Crime," AADC, p. 296.
F. Piper, "The Number of Victims," AADC, p. 64.
P. Rassinier, The Holocaust Story and the Lies of Ulysses, Institute for Historical Review (Costa Mesa, 1978) p.240; R. Höß, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz, Da Capo, (New York, 1996) p. 32.
H. Zeiger, ed., The Case Against Adolf Eichmann, Signet, (New York, 1960) p. 117.
J.C. Pressac, R. Van Pelt, "The Machinery of Mass Murder at Auschwitz," AADC, p. 213.
A. Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? Pantheon, (New York, 1990) p. 396.
J. Noakes, G. Pridham, ed., Nazism 1919-1945: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts Vol. II, Schocken, (New York, 1988) p. 1155.
B. Kulaska, Did Six Million Really Die?, Samisdat, (Toronto, 1992), p.122.
R. Höß, p. 179.
R. Butler, Legions of Death, Hamlyn, (London, 1983), p.237. Also R. Faurisson, "How the British Obtained the Confessions of Rudolf Höß." The Journal of Historical Review (JHR) 7(4) (1986) pp.389-403.
F. Piper, "The Number of Victims," AADC, p. 62.
G. Reitlinger, p. 115.
Y. Gutman, "Auschwitz - An Overview," AADC, p.6
G. Reitlinger, p. 117.
F. Piper, "The Number of Victims," AADC, p. 61.
M. Weber, " Pages From the Auschwitz Death Registry Volumes," (JHR) 12(3) (1992) p. 265-66.
A. Butz, "Some Thoughts on Pressac's Opus," (JHR) 13(3) (1993) p.26.
L. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, Bantam, (New York ,1976) p.199.
F. Piper, "The Number of Victims," AADC, p. 71.
A. Mayer, p.363.
F. Leuchter, The Leuchter Report, Focal Point, (London, 1989) p. 19.
J.C. Pressac and R. Van Pelt, "The Machinery of Mass Murder at Auschwitz," AADC, p.199.
R. Van Pelt, "A Site in Search of a Mission," AADC, p. 142.
A. Butz, "Some Thoughts on Pressac's Opus," p.27.
R. Van Pelt, p.142.
Ibid. , p.144.
Ibid., p.148.
G. Reitlinger, p.460-61.
J.C. Pressac, Les crematoires d'Auschwitz: La machinerie du meurtre de masse, (Paris, 1993) p.148.
A. Mayer, p.362.
F. Leuchter, p. 10.
J. Sehn, "An Official Polish Report on the Auschwitz "Gas Chambers," (JHR) 11(2) (1991).
W. Lüftl, "The Lüftl Report: An Austrian Engineer's Report on the "Gas Chambers" of Auschwitz and Mauthausen," (JHR) 12(4) (1992) p.419.
R. Kammerer, A. Solms (Ed.), The Rudolf Report, Cromwell Press, (London, 1993), p. 11.
A. Mayer, p. 363.
A. Mayer, p. 365.
A. Mayer, p. 365.
J.C. Pressac and R. Van Pelt, p. 214.
Ibid., p.215.
A. Mayer, p. 367.
J.C. Pressac and R. Van Pelt, p. 215.
Ibid. p. 216.
NMT, Vol. XIII, pp.210-217, NG-2586-G.
S. Krakowski, p.53.
A. Mayer, pp. 331-333.
F. Piper, "The System of Prisoner Exploitation," ; AADC pp.45-46.
Nuremberg document NO-1523; NMT green series, Vol 5, pp.373-373. Also see G. Reitlinger, The Final Solution, p. 121.
J. Noakes, G. Pridham, ed., Nazism vol. 2, p. 1163.
A. Mayer, p. 367.
F.Piper, "The Number of Victims," AADC, p.71.
Ibid., p. 62.
S. Krakowski, "The Satellite Camps," AADC, p.52.
G. Reitlinger, p. 460.
A. Mayer, p.336.
F. Piper, "The System of Prisoner Exploitation," AADC, p.39.
Ibid., p.47.
A. Mayer, p. 424.
Ibid., p.375.
R. Braham, "Hungarian Jews" AADC, p. 466.
J. Cobden, Dachau: Reality and Myth, Institute for Historical Review, (Newport Beach, CA, 1994) p.5.; P. Berben, Dachau: 1933-45, The Official History p.94 -95.
J. Cobden, p. 4.; P. Berben, p. 281.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Richard A. Widmann
Title: Auschwitz: A Re-evaluation (1996)
Published: 1994-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1995, 7 p.m.
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