World War I Atrocity Propaganda and the Holocaust

Is There a Lesson Here?
Published: 2002-10-01

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Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, a professor of architecture at the University of Waterloo (Canada), has undoubtedly written one of the most important anti-Holocaust revisionist tomes ever penned.[1] Revisionist academic Samuel Crowell put his finger on the reasons as to why The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial is such an important work:

“First, because this book represents the first serious attempt to discuss the arguments of revisionists, and second, because the arguments, while incomplete, are thorough, handled with civility, and touch upon the writings of a number of [revisionist] authors, including Faurisson, Butz, Staeglich, Rudolf, and even [Crowell]. Indeed, the only significant omission is Carlo Mattogno, perhaps due to the fact that Mattogno’s authoritative analyses of crematoria operation are not easily refuted.”[2]

It is important that Holocaust revisionists provide rebuttals to van Pelt’s anti-revisionist arguments. This essay is the first of a series of proposed articles that will address these arguments.

During the First World War, false anti-German atrocity propaganda was utilized by the Allied leaders to attain their goals, such as bolstering the morale of the rank and file of the Allied nations.[3]

One of the most notorious pieces of anti-German propaganda was the gruesome account of the “corpse exploitation establishment” operated behind the front lines by a German company. The “evil Germans” supposedly used the corpses of their own fallen soldiers for the manufacture of soap. Professor van Pelt notes that the author of this piece of lying propaganda was the Chief of Intelligence of the British Army, Brigadier General J.V. Charteris. Apparently, one of his aims was to turn the Chinese, who revere the dead, against the Germans.[4]

Destroy this Mad Brute

U.S. Army Recruitment Poster from World War I

A detailed account of the “corpse exploitation establishment” appeared in the respected British newspaper, The Times, on April 17, 1917. According to the story, trains full of corpses arrived at a large factory. The bodies were attached to hooks connected to an endless chain. The article states:

“The bodies are transported on this endless chain into a long, narrow compartment, where they pass through a bath which disinfects them. They then go through a drying chamber, and finally are automatically carried into a digester or great cauldron, in which they are dropped by an apparatus which detaches them from the chain. In the digester they remain from six to eight hours, and are treated by steam, which breaks them up while they are slowly stirred by the machinery.”

The article continues:

“From this treatment result several products. The fats are broken up into stearin, a form of tallow, and oils, which require to be redistilled before they can be used. The process of distillation is carried out by boiling the oil with carbonate of soda, and some of the by-products resulting from this are used by German soap makers. The oil distillery and refinery lie in the south-eastern corner of the works. The refined oil is sent out in small casks like those used for petroleum, and is of yellowish brown color.”[5]

(The reader should note the meticulous detail!)

“It was a lie,” Dr. van Pelt emphasizes, “but it was plausible, and it was not possible to completely refute it during the [First World War].”[6]

In the years following the First World War, there was an expose of these false atrocity stories, and many of these legends were put to rest. “The overall effect of the relentless exposure of the atrocity stories was,” van Pelt claims, “a general resentment of the public against those who had roused its passion, inflamed its indignation, exploited its patriotism, and desecrated its highest ideals by government-initiated concealment, subterfuge, fraud, falsehood, and trickery.”[7]

One of van Pelt’s key arguments in the first part of the book is as follows:

“There is no historical justification for judging and dismissing the accounts of German atrocities during the Second World War within the context of the atrocity propaganda of the First World War: the attitude of the public of 1939-1945 was radically different from that of twenty-five years earlier, and it is clear that any attempt to generate the kind of propaganda symbolized by the notorious [corpse exploitation establishment] would have merely generated mockery.”[8]

Indeed, “The long-term effect of stories that told… of human bodies used as raw material for the production of soap was that few were prepared to be fooled once again by such a fabrication,” claims the University of Waterloo intellectual.[9]

In summary, van Pelt is arguing that people of the Western democracies were very much aware of how they were fooled by anti-German propaganda in WWI, and thus, would not be fooled by it again. Ergo, the Allied powers of WWII had nothing to gain and everything to lose by attempting to use false atrocity stories to attain their ends. Any atrocity claims made by the Allies had to be based upon facts, because the masses retained a skeptical outlook.

In order to bolster his argument, van Pelt quotes respected sources from the era of the Second World War that were indeed skeptical of Nazi atrocity stories precisely for these reasons.[10]

Professor van Pelt’s whole viewpoint is undermined by the empirical facts. The Soviets, Zionists, Americans and British in the Second World War did use false propaganda claims to further their ends. In fact, some of the Allied atrocity propaganda from the First World War found its mirror image in anti-German atrocity propaganda promoted by Zionist groups and other Allied sources in the Second World War.

In the August 21, 1944 issue of Time, there was the “first eyewitness description” of the “Nazi extermination camp” at Majdanek concentration camp in Poland. Professor van Pelt claims that in spite of the climate of skepticism that surrounded these “Hitler gas chamber” stories, the editors of Time believed that they were indeed true. Here is his description of the article: “The editors of Time showed less hesitance to accept facts for what they were. On August 21, they had provided a first hand account of the ‘gigantic murder plant,’ [at Majdanek] largely taken from notes by Russian war correspondent Roman Karmen.”[11]

Dr. van Pelt committed a sin of omission. He failed to mention the obvious false statements in the article, perhaps knowing full well that to inform the reader of the contents of the entire article would have undermined his entire argument.

Let us examine Time’s and Karmen’s claims. The article reads:

“In the center of the camp stands a huge stone building with a factory chimney—the world’s biggest crematorium. The Germans attempted to burn it but most of it still stands—a grim monument to the Third Reich.”

“Groups of 100 people would be brought here to be burned almost alive. They already had been stripped and then chlorinated in special gas chambers adjoining. The gas chambers contained some 250 persons at one time. They were closely packed… so that after they suffocated they remained standing… The human cargoes were dumped into a roaring furnace heated to 1,500 [degrees] Centigrade… ” (emphasis added)

Further on “eyewitness” Karmen claims:

“It is difficult to believe it myself but my eyes cannot deceive me. I see the human bones, lime barrels, chlorine pipes and furnace machinery… ” (emphasis added)[12]

The Holocaust lobby now claims that Majdanek inmates were murdered with Zyklon B/hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide, so the allegation that chlorine gas was the killing agent is false.[13]

But even more importantly, consider Time's and Karmen’s description of how the corpses of the “murdered ones” were put to use:

“The victims’ charred bones and ashes were moved into an adjoining department where an incredible process went on. These human bones were mechanically pulverized, placed inside large tin cans and shipped back to Germany for fertilizing the fields.”[14]

This is false propaganda, as there is not one iota of credible evidence to support it. To be sure, the Holocaust lobby no longer claims that there was a “fertilizer factory/corpse exploitation establishment” at Majdanek, where human remains were processed, canned, and then sent back to Germany to be used as fertilizer. Yet, the reader should note how the story is strikingly similar to the aforementioned “corpse exploitation establishment” story of the First World War that van Pelt admits to be a lie. In the WWI version the corpses were utilized to make soap; the WWII version claims the bodies were used for fertilizer.

Here we have an excellent example of Soviet-Communist propaganda that was simply accepted as fact and repeated by a very respected American news source. Like I said, Professor van Pelt failed to mention the false claim about the fertilizer factory at Majdanek, probably because it would have undermined his line of argumentation.

At the risk of sounding redundant, let us repeat and examine Professor van Pelt’s claims. He asserted “the long-term effect of stories [from the First World War] that told… of human bodies used as raw material for the production of soap was that few were prepared to be fooled once again by such a fabrication.”[15]

An important study by revisionist historian Mark Weber proves this claim false.[16] He noted that the wartime rumor that the Germans were manufacturing soap from the corpses of slaughtered Jews was “spread so widely in 1941 and 1942 that by late 1942 German authorities in Poland and Slovakia were expressing official concern about their impact.”[17]

Weber further pointed out that although a similar charge during the First World War that the Germans manufactured soap from corpses was exposed as a hoax, “it was nevertheless revived and widely believed during the Second. More important, this accusation was ‘proven’ at the main Nuremberg trial of 1945-1946, and has been authoritatively endorsed by numerous historians in the decades since.”[18]

Weber went on to list Allied and Zionist sources that were promoting the propaganda lie during the Second World War that the Germans were manufacturing soap from the bodies of their victims.

  1. A secret US Army military intelligence report quoted a Polish source that alleged the Germans were operating a “human soap factory” in 1941 in Turek, Poland.[19]
  2. In November of 1942 Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, wartime head of both the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Congress, publicly asserted that the Germans were processing Jewish corpses into soap, fats and fertilizer.[20]
  3. In late 1942, an American Jewish Congress publication, Congress Weekly, claimed the Nazis had two special factories in Germany that processed soap, glue and train oil from the bodies of Jewish deportees from France and Holland.[21]
  4. The highly respected and influential American publication, New Republic, reported in 1943 that the Germans were “using the bodies of their Jewish victims to make soap and fertilizer in a factory at Siedlce.”[22]
  5. Finally, the myth the Germans manufactured soap from the bodies of their victims was “authoritatively proven” at the main Nuremberg Trial of 1945-1946. In their final judgment, the Nuremberg Tribunal judges found that “attempts were made to utilize fat from the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap.”[23]

Once again, we quote the key claim of Dr. van Pelt:

“There is no historical justification for judging and dismissing the accounts of German atrocities during the Second World War within the context of the atrocity propaganda of the First World War: the attitude of the public of 1939-1945 was radically different from that of twenty-five years earlier, and it is clear that any attempt to generate the kind of propaganda symbolized by the notorious [corpse exploitation establishment] would have merely generated mockery.”[24]

In view of the evidence presented in this article alone (there is more to come), van Pelt’s conclusion must be rejected. The atrocity propaganda of the First World War served as a model for the Allied and Zionist atrocity propaganda of the Second World War, and the attitude of the public was such that people were conditioned to accept these wartime propaganda lies as “the truth.” The masses have a very short memory, and the lone voices that did reject these atrocity stories of the Second World War because they were so similar to the false atrocities stories of the First World War were in the minority, and they had little influence.

In the years following WWII, dignitaries, journalists, writers, and influential groups promoted the canard that the Germans manufactured soap from the bodies of their victims.[25] This propaganda did not generate mockery, as van Pelt would have us believe. Quite the contrary—as historian Weber points out:

“The ‘human soap’ story demonstrates anew the tremendous impact that a wartime rumor, no matter how fantastic, can have once it has taken hold, particularly when it is disseminated as a propaganda lie by influential individuals and powerful organizations.”[26]

It was only around the 1980s the Holocaust lobby finally admitted that the Second World War “Jews-into-soap” story is a myth.[27]

The “mass electrocution” myth further illustrates the fact that Allied and Zionist sources did use wartime propaganda lies in the Second World War to attain their ends.

Belzec was a Nazi concentration camp located in Eastern Poland. Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg claimed that the first killing agent used there was either bottled carbon monoxide or hydrogen cyanide. Later, the camp was equipped with diesel motors, and the Jews were murdered in “gas chambers” that utilized the diesel exhaust.[28] Although The Case for Auschwitz deals mainly with Auschwitz concentration camp, van Pelt has some very important things to say about Belzec.

He wrote:

“Fighting Hitler under the inspired leadership of men such as Churchill and Roosevelt, the Allies had no need for atrocity propaganda… Churchill was able to mobilize a nation without the need to engage in the very kind of all-too-easily dismissable atrocity propaganda that the weak leaders of the First World War found necessary to employ to bolster morale.”[29]

This is false. The Allies did in fact use false, unsubstantiated atrocity stories to attain their ends. In December of 1942, the Inter-Allied Information Committee (an agency of the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Greece, India, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Yugoslavia, the Danish Legation in America, the French National Committee, and the United States) issued a statement in London in regard to the alleged fate of Jews in German-held Europe. It was then distributed in New York through the local office of the United Nations Information Committee. The document concluded:

“The means employed in deporting from the ghetto all those who survive murders and shooting in the street exceeds all imagination. In particular, children, old people and those too weak for work are murdered. Actual data concerning the fate of the deportees is not at hand, but the news is available—irrefutable news—that places of execution have been organized at Chelmo and Belzec, where those who survive shootings are murdered en masse by means of electrocution and gas.”[30]

Here, these Allied sources claimed they had irrefutable evidence that Jews were murdered en masse by electrocution at Belzec. We now know that this is false, as the “mass-electrocution-of-Jews-story” is admitted by van Pelt and the Holocaust lobby to be a myth.[31]

The Belzec electrocution myth further illustrates another flaw in van Pelt’s methodology and beliefs. As he points out, the Polish Fortnightly Review, an English-language newspaper published by the Polish government in exile during WWII, published a July 10, 1942 description of the alleged “electrocution devices” whereby Jews “were murdered en masse at Belzec.” It stated:

“… the men go to a barracks on the right, the women to a barracks situated on the left, where they strip, ostensibly in readiness for a bath. After they have undressed both groups go to a third barracks where there is an electrified plate, where the executions are carried out.”[32]

In an attempt to get the reader to believe that these were just “honest errors” and not deliberate propaganda lies, van Pelt resorts to this rationalization:

“In the summer of 1942, when the report was written, no one who was part of the execution team had left Belzec alive, and thus the description of the method of killing was based largely on rumor.”[33]

In other words, since no one escaped these alleged mass killings alive to precisely describe the technology of mass murder, false rumors developed as to the exact method of killing. Nevertheless, the central event—the mass killings of Jews—definitely took place.

According to a report that was printed in the February 12, 1944 issue of The New York Times, “eyewitnesses did in fact” escape these mass executions, and they lived to “precisely describe” the “actual method of mass murder”:

“A young Polish Jew who escaped from a mass execution in Poland… repeated a story [told to him by escapees who allegedly saw the electrocution machinery at at Belzec]… Jews were forced naked onto a metal platform operated as a hydraulic elevator which lowered them into a huge vat filled with water. They were electrocuted by current through the water.”[34]

Dr. van Pelt can’t rationalize this one away. Contrary to what he claims, here we have “eyewitnesses” who “actually escaped a mass electrocution” and lived to tell the story to another escapee of an alleged atrocity, who then in turn gave a “precise description” of the electrocution machinery at Belzec to the world. This shows that pro-Allied media sources in the US were in fact promoting invented atrocity lies.

And there is more. Consider this “eyewitness” account about the “electrocution chambers” at Belzec, which was published in the “authoritative” The Black Book: The Nazi Crimes Against the Jewish People:

“The Belzec camp is built underground. It is an electric crematorium. There are two halls in the underground buildings. People were taken out of the railway cars into the first hall. Then they were led naked into the second hall. Here the floor resembled an enormous plate. When the crowd of men stood on it, the floor sank deep into a pool of water. The moment the men sank up to their necks, a powerful electric current of millions of volts was passed through, killing them all at once. The floor then rose again, and a second electric current was passed through the bodies, burning them until nothing was left of the victims save a few ashes.”[35]

Keep in mind this is based upon an “eyewitness” (or “eyewitnesses”) who “saw these mass electrocutions with his (their) own two eyes.”

In order to “prove” the existence of “gas chambers,” throughout the entire book van Pelt relies upon a convergence of evidence—an ensemble of evidence that supposedly points to only one conclusion. Namely, the gas chambers existed. Here, I have shown a convergence of evidence—one United Nations report and some eyewitness accounts—that points to the false conclusion that murders by electrocution occurred at Belzec.

Dr. van Pelt admits that the evidence to “prove” that Jews were murdered en masse with diesel exhaust at Belzec is sparse at best:

“The evidence [that Jews were murdered in gas chambers at Belzec] is much less abundant [than the evidence that Jews were murdered in gas chambers at Auschwitz]. There are few eyewitnesses, no confession that can compare to that given by [Auschwitz commandant Rudolf] Höss, no significant remains, and few archival sources.”[36]

Since the “evidence” used to prove that Jews were murdered en masse by electrocution devices at Belzec is not really qualitatively different from the “evidence” used to “prove” that Jews were murdered in gas chambers at Belzec; and since the “evidence” for mass murder by electrocution leads to a false conclusion, isn’t it also possible that the “evidence” for mass killings of Jews in gas chambers at Belzec also leads to a false conclusion?

Holocaust historian van Pelt claims the “evidence” leads one to the “moral certainty” that Jews were murdered en masse in gas chambers at Belzec.[37] In light of what was pointed out in this essay, this is a false conclusion.

Finally, in his book I can find no reference to the fact that Nazi atrocity stories (real and mythical) were used by Zionists during WWII to gain sympathy for the cause of creating a Jewish state in Palestine. At a mass rally in Madison Square Garden in March 1943, the Zionist activist and first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, was quoted as saying:

“Two million Jews have already been exterminated… The democracies have a clear duty before them… Let them negotiate with Germany through the neutral countries concerning the possible release of the Jews in the occupied countries… Let the gates of Palestine be opened to all who can reach the shores of the Jewish homeland… ”[38]

As van Pelt probably realizes but would not dare publicly admit, the seeds of the current Middle East crisis were nourished by the endless repetition of these Nazi atrocity stories by pro-Zionist groups and governments. There is a lesson in all of this that we should consider. With war once again looming upon the horizon in the Middle East, we are justified in looking with skepticism upon the “official reasons” given by the US government and mass media that are used to “justify” the current proposed war plans.


© copyright 2002. Editors Note: A copy of this article was sent by the author to Dr. van Pelt prior to its publication in The Revisionist

Robert Jan van Pelt, THE CASE FOR AUSCHWITZ: EVIDENCE FROM THE IRVING TRIAL (Indiana University Press, 2002).
Robert Jan van Pelt, p.134.
Ibid, p.130.
Ibid, p.134.
Ibid, p.131.
Ibid, pp.132-133.
Ibid, p.156.
TIME, August 21, 1944, p.36. I am indebted to my good friend Terry Dumke for bringing this issue of TIME to my attention.
Robert Jan van Pelt, p.157.
TIME, August 21, 1944, p.36.
Robert Jan van Pelt, p.131.
Mark Weber, “Jewish Soap,” The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1991, pp.217-227. Online:
Weber, p.217; Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: 1985), pp.966-967; Walter Laquer, The Terrible Secret (Boston: 1980), pp.54, 82, 145, 219; U.S. State Department document 740.001.16 (from 1943), facsimile in Encyclopedia Judaica (New York and Jerusalem: 1971), vol.13, pp.759-760; Bernard Wasserstein, Britain and the Jews of Europe (London: 1979), p.169.
Weber, p.217. Online:
Secret U.S. Army military intelligence report No.50, April 27, 1945. National Archives, National Records Center (Suitland, Maryland), RG 153 (JAG Army), Box 497, Files 19-22, Books I and II, Entry 143.
“Wise Says Hitler Had Ordered 4,000, 000 million Jews Slain in 1942,” New York Herald-Tribune (Associated Press), Nov. 25, 1942. pp.1, 5.; “2 Million Jews Slain by Nazis, Dr. Wise Avers,” Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 25, 1942.; New York Times, Nov.26, 1942, p.16.; See also: Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (1985), p.1118.
“The Spirit Will Triumph” (editorial), and “Corpses for Hitler,” p.11, Congress Weekly(New York: American Jewish Congress), Dec. 4, 1942.
New Republic, Jan.18, 1943, p.65.
International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (IMT “blue series,” Nuremberg: 1947-1949, vol. 1, p.252. Facsimile reprint in: Carlos Porter, Made in Russia: The Holocaust (Historical Review Press, 1988), p.159.
Robert Jan van Pelt, p.134.
For the list of such people and groups with appropriate documentation, see Weber, pp.219-222.
Ibid, p.223.
Ibid, pp.222-223.
Raul Hilberg, THE DESTRUCTION OF THE EUROPEAN JEWS: Student Edition (Holmes and Meier, 1985), p.229.
Robert Jan van Pelt, p.134.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 20, 1942, p.23.
Robert Jan van Pelt, p.145.
Ibid, p.145.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 12, 1944, p.6.
THE BLACK BOOK: THE NAZI CRIMES AGAINST THE JEWISH PEOPLE (Nexus Press, 1974), p.313. This edition is a reprint of the 1946 edition.
Robert Jan van Pelt, p.5.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 2, 1943, pp.1, 4.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Paul Grubach
Title: World War I Atrocity Propaganda and the Holocaust, Is There a Lesson Here?
Sources: The Revisionist # 13, Oct. 2002, Codoh series
Published: 2002-10-01
First posted on CODOH: Oct. 30, 2002, 6 p.m.
Last revision:
Comments: An improved, peer-reviewed version was published in "The Revisionist" 1(1) (2003), pp. 104-109:
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