The Crematories of Auschwitz

A Critique of Jean-Claude Pressac
Published: 1994-11-01

This document is part of the Journal of Historical Review periodical.
Use this menu to find more documents that are part of this periodical.

Carlo Mattogno, a specialist in text analysis and critique, is Italy's foremost Holocaust revisionist scholar. Born in 1951 in Orvieto, Italy, he has carried out advanced linguistic studies in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He is the author of numerous books and monographs, several of which have been published in this Journal. Mattogno has been a member of this Journal's Editorial Advisory Committee since 1988. He lives with his family in a suburb of Rome.

This article is an edited transcript of Mattogno's presentation at the Twelfth (1994) IHR Conference. It was translated by Russ Granata, a Second World War US Navy veteran and retired California educator, and is copyright 1994 by Granata Publishing Corporation.

The points and arguments made in this article are developed in much greater detail in Mattogno's 150-page softcover book, Auschwitz: The End of a Legend, published by the IHR in September 1994. It is available from the IHR for $12.95, plus $2 shipping. [Check for current availability and price; ed.]

French Professor Robert Faurisson deserves credit for being the first to research the technical aspects of alleged homicidal gas chambers in wartime German camps, particularly in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He noticed that in none of the many trials of so-called Nazi war criminals had anyone ever called for an expert technical examination of the alleged weapon of the crime, which in this case would mean a technical study of one of the many "gas chambers" alleged to have been used by the Nazis for homicidal purposes. Therefore, Faurisson himself undertook such a technical study, even visiting a genuine execution gas chamber in an American penitentiary.

Faurisson's methodology in this field is very important because "exterminationist" historiography, which predominates in this field, is rooted in dogmatism. The virtually theological nature of this dogmatism is pointed up in a declaration by 34 French scholars published in the French daily newspaper Le Monde on February 21, 1979, in which they stated:

The question of how technically such a mass murder was possible should not be raised. It was technically possible because it occurred. This is the necessary starting point for all his torical investigation on the subject.

Rejecting this unscholarly axiom, French researcher Jean-Claude Pressac set out on a technical study of the gas chambers, as well as of the crematories. In this, Pressac directly challenged Faurisson and his findings.

Pressac's first work, which appeared in English in 1989, is entitled Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers. His second, published in French in 1993, bears the title Les Crematoires d'Auschwitz: La machinerie du meurtre de masse ("The Crematories of Auschwitz: the machinery of mass murder"). In 1994 an adaptation of this second work appeared as a chapter in the English-language anthology Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (published by Indiana University Press in association with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum).

Pressac's 1993 book, which was given tremendous worldwide promotion, was portrayed as a total and unquestionable refutation of Holocaust revisionism, and moreover one that beats the revisionists on their own favorite field, namely, the technical. As a result, Pressac achieved international fame as a unique specialist of the alleged Nazi extermination techniques.

In reality, both of Pressac's books display a surprising deficiency of documentation, both with regard to the chemical-physical properties, use, and purpose of hydrocyanic acid gas (from a pesticide known commercially as Zyklon B, which was widely used throughout Europe to disinfest clothing and buildings), and the structure and functioning of crematory ovens. Pressac's incompetence in these two essential aspects of the problem inevitably leads him to unfounded conclusions. All the same, his 1989 book should be recognized for its considerable documentation and for its critical spirit, which are uncommon among mainstream historians. Pressac also deserves credit for having the courage to overcome, or at least the intention to go beyond, the established historiographic technique with regard to this issue, which essentially has been a non-critical acceptance of "eyewitness testimony." Even though he did not intend it, his 1989 book has furnished so much useful material for revisionists that it might be considered crypto-revisionist.

Pressac's 1993 book was supposed to complement and advance his earlier work because it was said to be based on his study of a vast trove of hitherto unavailable documents in Soviet archives, particularly those from the Auschwitz construction department, or Bauleitung, which fell intact into the hands of the Soviets when they overran the camp. In reality, within those eighty thousand documents housed in Moscow, most notably the Bauleitung documents, Pressac did not find a single proof of the existence of even one homicidal gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau. This must have troubled Pressac who, returning to the cliches of the worst "exterminationist" historiography, found himself in the difficult situation of having to cite documents as saying what they do not say.

This might explain Pressac's openly specious approach, characterized by an unscrupulous use of sources, and by arbitrary and unfounded affirmations woven throughout the body of the text in such a way as to give the impression that they are based on documents. He forces connections between the various documents, and twists interpretations of the documents to support his preconceived notions about the alleged gas chambers.

Because Pressac purports to present a total and definitive refutation of revisionism on a technical level, a simple historical critique of Pressac's thesis is insufficient. Accordingly, I present here a historical-technical critique of Pressac's thesis. (This critique is developed in much greater detail in my recently-published book, Auschwitz: The End of a Legend.)

Some Background

Before laying out the most important aspects of this critique, I want to indicate how and why a scholar with a foundation in the humanities came to concern himself with complex technical questions, and to discuss the scholarly merit of my conclusions.

When I began my study of this issue, I felt that revisionists had not yet conducted adequate technical studies of alleged Nazi homicidal gas chambers; if, at Auschwitz-Birkenau, there really had been a mass extermination of Jews and others whose bodies were cremated, then the weapon of the crime, the homicidal gas chamber, must have had an indispensable accessory, namely, the crematory oven.

Faurisson's principal investigative methodology has been to demonstrate the technical impossibility of homicidal gassing (as alleged), thereby also demonstrating the material impossibility (and therefore the historical unreality) of mass extermination in homicidal gas chambers. This principle is also valid regarding cremation. If one demonstrates the technical impossibility of mass cremation of hundreds of thousands of corpses, one also demonstrates the material impossibility (and therefore the historical unreality) of mass extermination in homicidal gas chambers or by any other means.

Carlo Mattogno (left), with translator Russ Granata

Carlo Mattogno (left), with translator Russ Granata, presents his critique of the work of Pressac at the Twelfth IHR Conference (Sept. 1994).

It was on the basis of this principle that in 1987 I became interested in the technology of cremation. I delved into this question with the valuable collaboration of two talented engineers: Franco Deana of Genoa, Italy, and a German engineer, who died in 1991. After long years of research in German libraries, we have collected an extensive bibliography comprising practically all of the technical articles concerning cremation that appeared in Germany from the 1920s through the 1940s. Moreover, in the archives of the Auschwitz State Museum in Poland, we examined photocopies of unpublished documents from the Moscow archives concerning the crematory ovens manufactured during the war by the Topf company of Erfurt, Germany. In addition, we made on-site studies of the Topf crematory ovens still in existence at the concentration camps at Dachau, Mauthausen, Gusen and Buchenwald. We also studied the crematory ovens made by the Kori company of Berlin at the concentration camps at Dachau, Mauthausen and Majdanek.

Our on-site study of these installations is important because the two-chambered crematory oven at Mauthausen is of the same design as those installed in Crematory I at the Auschwitz main camp, and the three-chambered ovens at Buchenwald are of the same design as those installed in Crematories II and III at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The two Topf ovens in the Auschwitz crematory, however, were so poorly reconstructed after the war by the Poles that one cannot understand anything of their functioning. As they now stand, these ovens could not function.

One Louse, Your Death!”, Auschwitz-Birkenau”

“One Louse, Your Death!” This bilingual (German-Polish) poster graphically warned Auschwitz inmates of the danger of typhus bearing lice. (p. 54) Other measures taken by camp authorities to combat typhus included camp quarantines, routine delousings of barracks and clothes with “Zyklon” gas, quarantine of newly arriving prisoners, disinfection baths for inmates, and inspections of barracks. The dread disease claimed the lives of many tens of thousands of inmates. German camp personnel also fell victim, including SS garrison physician Dr. Siegfried Schwela and other high-level SS officers.

The result of all this study is a book on the technical aspects of cremation that is being published in Italy. The demonstrative procedures and conclusions of this work have been examined by a group of German engineers who have confirmed their scientific value. We expect to publish an English-language summary of our findings in the United States.

In addition to the cremation problem, we have delved deeper into the details of alleged homicidal gas chambers, collecting a valuable bibliography on hydrocyanic acid and disinfestation chambers, and, like German chemist Germar Rudolf, carrying out chemical testing. To this, we have added a very careful inspection of sites at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On the basis of my seven years of study, I feel I have acquired the requisite technical knowledge competently to judge Pressac's thesis.

The Problem of Cremation

A scientific study of the Auschwitz-Birkenau crematory ovens must confront and resolve two fundamental thermal-technical problems: cremation capacity and coke consumption.

Pressac does not adequately deal with either of these two problems. Instead, he contents himself with a series of affirmations scattered throughout his work meant to establish that the cremation capacity in Crematory II and Crematory III each at Birkenau was 800 or 1,000 bodies per day, with the possibility of as many as 1,440, while the cremation capacity each of Crematory IV and Crematory V at Birkenau was 500 bodies per day, with the possibility of as many as 768. These higher figures are based on a purported Bauleitung letter dated June 28, 1943, according to which as many as 4,756 corpses were cremated every 24 hours in the 52 muffles of the five crematories at Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. This works out to one body every 15 minutes, or four bodies per hour. Pressac considers this possible. [See also Dr. Arthur Butz's comment on this purported letter in the May-June 1993 Journal, p. 35, n. 15.]

Crematory Capacity

The Topf ovens at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which were designed and constructed to hold one corpse at a time, required an average of approximately one hour to cremate each corpse. In fact, because of their limited heat potential it was not economically feasible to cremate two or more bodies together, from the point of view both of duration and of coke consumption. A simultaneous cremation of four bodies per hour, in accordance with Pressac's view, was therefore thermo-technically impossible.

The maximum capacity of the Auschwitz-Birkenau ovens could have been no more than 1,040 (adult) bodies per day. Taking into account the percentage of infants and children among those alleged to have been homicidally gassed, and considering average weight as a function of age, the daily cremation capacity could have been augmented by 20 percent, resulting in a theoretical maximum capacity of 1,248 bodies per 24-hour day. Of course, this does not mean that the Auschwitz SS ordered the cremation of 1,248 or 1,040 bodies per day; these are simply maximum theoretical figures.

Portion of Allied air photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau, May 31, 1944

Enlargement of a portion of an Allied aerial reconnaissance photograph of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, taken on May 31, 1944. As Mattogno and other revisionist scholars have pointed out, this photo shows no trace of the mass extermination of Jews that supposedly was being carried out there on that day.

Several practical considerations significantly lower the actual cremation capacity. First, proper functioning of the ovens required a break of at least four hours each day to clean coke slag from the furnace grilles.

Second, the ovens were programmed to function for twelve hours per day. Moreover, past experience with the two-chambered ovens at the Auschwitz main camp crematory had shown that these installations wore out rapidly and were subject to frequent breakdowns. Therefore, they could not have been expected to function continuously, or to be better than other ovens of that era. Consequently, it was necessary to arrange for the installation of more ovens than efficient cremation would dictate. (Similarly, at Majdanek, one of the five crematory ovens built by the Kori company in the new crematory was meant as a reserve oven.)

We also need to consider that the decision to build the four crematories at Birkenau (with their 46 oven chambers) was made on August 19, 1942, following Himmler's inspection of Auschwitz on July 17 and 18, after which he ordered a drastic increase in the capacity of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp from 125,000 to 200,000 prisoners.

Finally, we must consider the impact of the terrible typhus epidemic during the summer of 1942, with its huge death toll in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. During the first 20 days of August, in the male sector alone there were 4,113 deaths of registered inmates, for an average of 216 male deaths per day. During the third trimester of 1942, the death rate was 20.5 percent of the average camp population, which did not exceed 25,000 during this period.

Taking all these factors into consideration, we can maintain that the Auschwitz camp construction department (Bauleitung) ordered those 46 crematory oven chambers from the Topf company on the basis of a projected "worst case" mortality rate of approximately 500 prisoners per day from among an average projected camp population of 200,000. This corresponds to a monthly mortality rate of approximately eight percent. The capacity of the crematories therefore was quite adequate for the increase of the camp population anticipated by Himmler, even in the event of a typhus epidemic.

Abstractly, it might seem that a cremation capacity of 1,040 bodies per day was excessive. In August 1942 an average of 269 prisoners were dying each day at Auschwitz, which means that this maximum cremation capacity was almost four times greater than needed. This figure could perhaps be cited to demonstrate homicidal intentions on the part of the Auschwitz SS. By comparison, in 1939 in Germany there were 131 crematories with approximately 200 ovens, for a maximum cremation capacity of 4,000 corpses per day. However, during that entire year approximately 102,000 persons died in Germany (or about 280 per day). German crematories thus had a maximum capacity 14 times greater than the number of deceased: perhaps this shows that the Nazis intended to exterminate Germany's civilian population?

A study of the crematory ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau offers three additional important proofs that refute the mass-gassing thesis.

SS Estimates

The first proof can be found in the SS projection of the number of cremations for March 1943. The Bauleitung file entry of March 17, 1943, estimates the projected consumption of coke for the four Birkenau crematories. The document indicates that the time period of activity of the crematories is twelve hours, and mentions a projected coke consumption. Therefore, one may calculate that it was possible to cremate approximately 360 emaciated adult corpses per day. From March 1 to 17, 1943, the average mortality at Birkenau was 292 prisoners per day, which in terms of crematory coke consumption represents 80 percent of the SS projection. This means that this projection is calculated on the basis of the average mortality, plus a 20 percent margin of error. Note that there is no allowance for the cremation of those alleged to have been homicidally gassed during this period, which were averaging 1,100 per day according to the supposedly authoritative Auschwitz Chronicle, 1939-1945 (compiled by Danuta Czech, and published by I.B. Tauris, London, 1991).

If the homicidal gassing claims were true, the daily death rate during this period would have been approximately 1,400, or almost four times the SS forecasts. This would have had to include 26,000 Greek Jews who, according to the Auschwitz Chronicle, were gassed and cremated between March 20 and April 28. The complete lack of any provision by the SS camp officials for dealing with these many additional corpses shows that there were no homicidal gassings.

Coke Consumption

The second proof concerns the consumption of coke in the Auschwitz-Birkenau crematories during 1943. In Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Pressac maintains that from April to October of 1943, the crematories of Birkenau cremated between 165,000 and 215,000 bodies using 497 tons of coke, resulting in an average consumption of 2.6 kilograms of coke per body. To determine the validity of Pressac's claims, let us examine coke consumption more closely.

At Gusen (a sub-camp of Mauthausen), 677 adult corpses were cremated in the crematory's Topf two-chambered oven during the period from October 31 to November 13, 1941, with a total consumption of 20,700 kilograms of coke, or an average of 30.5 kilograms of coke per body. Because there were 52 cremations per day on average, and the oven remained in constant thermal equilibrium, the average consumption of coke was the minimum obtainable with that type of crematory oven. This data can also be assumed to be valid for the three Topf double-chambered ovens at the Auschwitz main camp crematory.

The design of the Topf three-and eight-chambered ovens at the Birkenau crematories represented a significant thermo-technical advantage, in that they dramatically reduced fuel consumption. For the cremation of each emaciated adult corpse, the three-chambered oven required 20 kilograms of coke, while the eight-chambered oven required approximately 15 kilograms of coke. This means that in disposing of corpses from hypothetical Nazi homicidal gassings, in which are included infant and child corpses among those alleged to have been gassed, the minimum theoretical coke consumption at the Birkenau crematories would have averaged 13 kilograms, as against the 2.6 kilograms assumed by Pressac.

Detail of Allied air photo, August 25, 1944

Detail from an Allied aerial reconnaissance photo, taken on August 25, 1944, shows Crematories II and III at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

From March 1 to October 25, 1943, the crematories of Auschwitz-Birkenau were supplied with a total of 641.5 tons of coke. During this same period, the number of prisoner deaths from natural causes was approximately 27,300. The number of those alleged to have been gassed, according to the Aus chwitz Chronicle, was approximately 118,300, making a total of approximately 145,600.

For the prisoners who died of natural causes, the average coke consumption is 23. 5 kilograms per corpse, which agrees with the actual crematory oven requirements. After adding those alleged to have been homicidally gassed, the average consumption drops to 4.4 kilograms of coke, which is thermo-technically impossible. (Keep in mind that according to the "exterminationist" historiography, so-called "cremation pits" were not used during this period.) Therefore, the quantity of coke supplied to the crematories from March to October of 1943 also demonstrates that the crematories handled only the corpses of registered prisoners who died from natural causes.

Recapitulating, Pressac assumes a maximum cremation capacity for the ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau that is approximately four times what is realistically possible, and a coke consumption for each cremation that is approximately one-fifth of the average real effective requirement. This shows that Pressac's declarations regarding mass cremations of individuals alleged to have been homicidally gassed are technically and historically unfounded.

Crematory Endurance

The third proof concerns the durability or endurance of the fire-brick masonry of the crematory ovens. In his 1989 book, Pressac asserts that a total of 938,000 corpses were cremated at Auschwitz-Birkenau: 781,000 in crematories and 157,000 in "cremation pits." These numbers refer only to those alleged to have been killed by poison gas, and do not include the bodies of registered prisoners who died from natural causes. In his 1993 book, Pressac reduces his estimate of Auschwitz dead to 775,000, of whom at least 675,000 were cremated at Birkenau. Pressac's revision of the numbers of persons alleged to have been homicidally gassed has no connection with the Moscow documents he examined.

Engineer Rudolf Jakobskotter, speaking in 1941 of electrically-heated Topf ovens that were used in the crematory in Erfurt, stated with considerable pride that the second oven successfully carried out 3,000 cremations, while normally the durability of (flame) crematory fire-brick masonry permitted 2,000 cremations. The Topf two-chambered oven at Gusen lasted for approximately 3,200 cremations, after which it was necessary to dismantle it and replace its fire-brick masonry walls. The duration of one cremation chamber was therefore 1,600 cremations.

Even assuming the endurance of the Auschwitz-Birkenau oven masonry reached the extreme limit of 3,000 cremations per chamber, the highest possible number of corpses that could have been cremated would have been approximately 156,000. (Incidentally, according to Pressac, the total number of victims among the registered prisoners was 130,000.) The cremation of 675,000 bodies at Auschwitz-Birkenau would have required at least four complete replacements of the fire-brick masonry of all the camp's cremation chambers. For Crematories II and III, that would have required 256 tons of heat-resistant building materials, plus a labor time of approximately 7,200 man hours.

Yet, in the Auschwitz Bauleitung archives, which were captured intact and which Pressac has thoroughly examined, not a trace exists of such extensive construction work. The only possible conclusion is that this work was never carried out because it was not needed. Because it was technically impossible to cremate anything like 675,000 bodies at Birkenau, given what we know about crematory endurance, it follows that no mass extermination could have taken place there.

Hungarian Jews

Another important proof that specifically refutes the thesis of mass homicidal gassing at Birkenauin this case of Hungarian Jews – are Allied military aerial reconnaissance photographs taken of the camp on May 31, 1944. On that day, during the supposedly crucial period of the alleged extermination, 15,000 Hungarian Jewish deportees supposedly arrived at Birkenau. According to Pressac, during a 14-day period in May-June 1944 an average of approximately 13,000 Hungarian Jews arrived daily at Birkenau, while 110,000 of the 184,000 deportees were gassed at a rate of 7,800 per day.

But the aerial photographs of Birkenau do not show the least indications of this alleged mass extermination. No smoke; no cremation pits (burning or not); no traces of the earth that would have to have been dug out of the pits; no piles of wood to fuel the pits; no traces of vehicles, or of any activity in the critical zone of the courtyard of Crematory V, nor in the grounds around Bunker 2, nor in areas of Crematories II or III. These photographs provide irrefutable proof that the story of the extermination of the Hungarian Jews is historically unfounded.

Pressac claims that 292,000 Hungarian Jews were homicidally gassed and cremated in Birkenau at Crematories II, III, and V, and in "cremation pits," during a 70-day period in May-July 1944, at a rate of approximately 4,200 per day. In reality, the deportation of Hungarian Jews lasted only 39 days, and Crematories II, III, and V could cremate, at the maximum, only 900 bodies per day. "Cremation pits" are a technical absurdity, because combustion is impossible in a pit due to the lack of sufficient oxygen.

Thus, during the 39-day-Iong deportation of the Hungarian Jews, Birkenau's crematories could have cremated a maximum of 35,000 bodies. This leaves 257,000 bodies that would have to been stored somewhere. This is further evidence that the story of the mass homicidal gassing of the Hungarian Jews is historically false.

Gas Chambers

Pressac's basic thesis is that Crematories II and III in Birkenau were planned and constructed as normal hygienic-sanitary installations, but were subsequently transformed into homicidal gas chambers. There is no doubt that up to the end of 1942, various changes were made in the basements of Crematories II and III deviating from the initial design plans. Likewise there is no doubt that the oven rooms were not altered from the original design regarding their number and their capacity for cremation. How is this apparent inconsistency to be explained?

If Crematories II and III had been designed as sanitary installations adequate for the natural mortality rate of the camp, their transformation into instruments of mass extermination would have required alterations permitting a corresponding increase in the cremation capacity of the ovens that is to say, the installation of extra ovens. But this did not occur. So Pressac has no choice but to triple or quadruple the cremation capacity of the ovens, and to declare that ovens designed for normal, hygienic-sanitary purposes could, without difficulty, have coped with mass extermination.

The reality is very different. The installation of a 210-square-meter gas chamber (the size of Leichenkeller [mortuary cellar] 1), in Crematories II and III – in which, according to Pressac, it was possible homicidally to gas 1,800 victims at a time without difficulty (eyewitness testimony even speaks of 3,000 victims) – would have required 75 crematory oven muffle chambers instead of the actual 15 for the cremation of the corpses produced in just one day. It would have required five days to cremate the bodies of the victims of one gassing – a major impediment to the alleged extermination process. The fact that the oven room was not altered shows that the basement alterations had nothing to do with mass murder.

According to Pressac, the final SS project was to turn Leichenkeller ("corpse cellar") 1 into a homicidal gas chamber, and to turn Leichenkeller 2 into an undressing room. Of course this would mean that Leichenkeller mortuary cellars for storing bodies awaiting cremation would no longer be available in Crematories II and III. So where would the SS have stored all the bodies of the registered prisoners who had died of natural causes, including typhus, prior to cremation? This question is significant because Crematories II and III originally were conceived with three mortuary rooms for each: a total of 671 square meters reserved exclusively for hygienic-sanitary use. In support of his thesis, Pressac puts forward a series of conjectures, the most important of which deal with the ventilation systems of the crematories, and the "gas testers."


It is well known that because of the extreme toxicity of hydrocyanic acid – the gas contained in Zyklon B – ventilation was of vital importance in the safe operation of disinfestation gas chambers. Pressac claims that an important element of the criminal transformation of a morgue into a homicidal gas chamber was an increase of the ventilator capacity in the alleged gas chamber from 4,800 to 8,000 cubic meters of air per hour. This alteration was supposedly decided on because the original ventilation installation had been planned and constructed for a normal mortuary chamber, and because a homicidal gas chamber would require much more efficient ventilation. Pressac cites this alteration as proof that the mortuary chamber was transformed into a homicidal gas chamber. Apparently for balance or symmetry, Pressac also declares that the capacity of the ventilators of the alleged undressing room was increased from 10,000 to 13,000 cubic meters of air per hour.

As evidence of this change of ventilator capacity, Pressac cites Topf company invoice number 729, of May 27, 1943, for Crematory III. [Published in facsimile in Auschwitz: The End of a Legend, p. 110.] However, a study of the ventilation installations in Crematories II and III demonstrates to the contrary that Leichenkeller 1 was not transformed into a homicidal gas chamber.

First, the Topf invoice cited by Pressac projected for the alleged homicidal gas chamber a ventilator with capacity of 4,800 cubic meters of air per hour, not of 8,000, and for the alleged undressing area a ventilator with a capacity of 10,000 cubic meters, not of 13,000. Pressac has therefore misrepresented the contents of this document.

Second, considering the volume of the two rooms, it is clear that for the alleged homicidal gas chamber, the SS had projected 9.5 exchanges of air per hour, but for the alleged undressing room 11 exchanges per hour: the so-called undressing room was better ventilated than the alleged homicidal gas chamber! This is technically senseless.

The classic work of engineer Wilhelm Heepke on crematory planning establishes that for mortuary chambers it is necessary to provide for a minimum of five exchanges of air per hour, but in the case of intense usage, up to ten exchanges. This is entirely consistent with the revisionist position that the ventilation installations of Leichenkeller 1, with their 9.5 exchanges of air per hour, were planned and constructed for a mortuary chamber, and that the room in question was not transformed into a homicidal gas chamber. By comparison, for the (non-homicidal) disinfestation or delousing gas chamber with hydrocyanic acid, using the DEGESCH-Kreislauf (circulation) system, 72 air exchanges per hour were projected.

Pressac asserts that Crematories II and III were planned and constructed as normal hygienic-sanitary installations but were later transformed into instruments of extermination. Yet, after the alleged transformation, the oven rooms of the two crematories still had the same number of crematory ovens that had been projected to handle the prisoner death rate due to natural causes, and the ventilators of Leichenkeller 1 still had the same capacity that had been specified for normal mortuary rooms. Where, then, is the criminal transformation of the crematories?


On February 26, 1943, the Auschwitz main construction office (Zentral-Bauleitung) sent a telegram to the Topf company asking for ten gas analyzers or testers (Gasprüfer). [Pressac translates this as "gas detectors."] In Moscow, Pressac discovered a letter of response from the Topf company, dated March 2, 1943, in which the Gasprüfer were referred to as Anzeigegeräte für Blausäure-Reste, or "apparatuses for indication of hydrocyanic acid traces." [These two documents are published in facsimile in Auschwitz: The End of a Legend, pp. 117,118.] Pressac contends that this document constitutes proof of the existence of a homicidal gas chamber in Crematory II at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In reality, the document could, at the most, be an indication, but not definitive proof, of the existence of a gas chamber. However, the contention that this gas chamber was homicidal is arbitrary. Regarding this document, the following points should be made:

  1. In German technical terminology, Gasprüfer were simply analyzers or testers of combustion gas.
  2. The standard apparatus that was used to detect hydrocyanic acid residual traces was called Gasrestnachweisgeräte für Zyklon ("Gas trace detection apparatus for Zyklon"). This was a test kit for measuring the amount of residual Zyklon gas.
  3. This apparatus was routine required equipment at all (non-homicidal) disinfestation or hydrocyanic acid delousing installations, including those at Auschwitz.
  4. The request for ten combustive-gas testers sent to the Topf company, which manufactured crematory ovens, was perfectly understandable. However, what could have motivated the Auschwitz Zentral-Bauleitung office to request ten devices for detecting traces of hydrocyanic gas from Topf, a company specializing in the installation of combustion equipment, rather than ordering them directly from the company that manufactured Zyklon B namely DEGESCH (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Schädlingsbekämpfung or "German company for combatting pests") – or from the firm that was one of the two distributors of Zyklon for the manufacturer – namely TESTA (Tesch und Stabenow)? The Auschwitz Zentral-Bauleitung office was in regular contact with TESTA, its supplier of Zyklon B.

The conclusion is that the ten Gasprüfer requested in February 1943 were simple testers of combustion gas in the crematories. They were meant for the ten smoke ducts or conduits of Crematories II and III, or perhaps for the ten smoke flues of the crematory stacks at Birkenau. I therefore conclude that the document discovered by Pressac is a fake.


As already mentioned, Pressac wished to carry out a technical study of the question of the crematory ovens and of the alleged homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. While he did not possess the requisite competence to undertake such a study, he nevertheless accepted the methodological principle put forth by revisionists, that is, in case of discrepancy between testimony and physical evidence, it is physical evidence that should prevail.

Pressac has applied this principle by reducing the number of persons alleged to have been homicidally gassed at Auschwitz. He did this precisely because of technical incompatibilities between the previously-claimed number of victims and the capacity of the crematories, even though he arbitrarily increased their capacity three-or four-fold.

In accepting the revisionist methodology, Pressac has punctured an irreparable hole in the traditionally dogmatic "exterminationist" historiography, because technical reality and physical evidence show the material impossibility of a mass extermination at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Pressac's colleagues, including those responsible for compiling Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, seem immediately to have understood the danger here, and have taken remedial action. In fact Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp seems to be directed against Pressac more than against revisionist scholars. In refutation of Pressac's three most important conclusions, this book states:

  1. All the crematories at Auschwitz-Birkenau were designed and planned for criminal purposes of mass killing.
  2. The number of Auschwitz victims amounted to 1,100,000 persons.
  3. The Birkenau crematories were able to cremate 8,000 corpses per day.

With this, the theological dogmatism proclaimed by the French scholars in 1979 and imprudently violated by Pressac has been re-established. All Pressac can do now is make public amends; by collaborating on Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, he already seems to have begun doing so. For the revisionists, however, Pressac's own two books are further milestones in the dismantling of a legend.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Carlo Mattogno
Title: The Crematories of Auschwitz, A Critique of Jean-Claude Pressac
Sources: The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 14, no. 6 (November/December 1994), pp. 34-42
Published: 1994-11-01
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 12, 2012, 6 p.m.
Last revision:
Appears In: