The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Problem of Cremator Hours and Incineration Time


Part I

1. Formulation of the Problem

David Irving[1] after finding fault with too much of the documentary evidence as accepted and perpetuated by contemporary historians asserted once more: “To historians is granted a talent that even gods are denied: To alter what has already happened” (page xi). (Later he discovered that “re-educated” West German publishers had acquired that talent too; page xvii). However as much as history cannot be comprehended and understood on a rational basis only, there are also rational elements inseparably knitted into history which even historians cannot alter — though they try.

Throughout history technology has not only provided means but has also dictated limits. These technological limitations are absolute, and if historical conclusions can be based on them they therefore become absolute too. For example “Wartime Diaries” written in ink cannot be genuine if the particular ink came on the market in 1951.[2] The Holocaust involves a number of technical problems. R. Faurisson[3] has investigated the use of Zyklon B-as claimed in the extermination theory, and found that most-if not all-of the reported evidence, taken for granted by today’s historians, must be dismissed on grounds of the technical properties of the insecticide (page 103). Another subject of a technical nature is the disposal of the alleged millions of corpses after the prisoners were supposedly gassed.

The problem is not a new one. Recently A.R. Butz[4] for example has examined the issue to some extent (pages 117-118). However most earlier comments on cremation have dealt only with particular aspects of the total problem. Therefore an attempt is made here to apply the rationale of cremation technology to the whole complex of the Holocaust theory on the best numerical basis available today. The reader, however, must be forewarned not to expect a complete solution, but rather another contribution to that end. This is for the simple reason that 36 years after WWII neither accurate nor reliable data are available.

The technical problem is basically a simple one. If victims were gassed and cremated, cremation facilities must have dealt with the proclaimed 6 million corpses. If one can calculate the total number of theoretically possible cremations on a technological basis and in accordance with the relevant historical data, one simultaneously has found the maximum number of theoretically possible dead.

For the present, the calculation shall be restricted to cremations in “Extermination Camps” and to cremations in cremators only. The result will justify such an approach. The term “Extermination Camp” as understood here refers to “Death Camps” and “Killing Centers” as listed by R. Hilberg[5] (pages 572 and 573).

2. A Simple Calculation in 1946

To emphasize that this technical problem has existed openly all the time -but is simply pretended to not exist by historians and Holocaust theory promoters-the picture as it presented itself as early as 1946 is first reproduced here.

The mathematical part is simple. If one knows the total number of “cremator hours” (that is, the sum of all existing cremators multiplied by their individual time of operation in hours) and the incineration time per corpse, one can calculate the theoretically possible maximum number of cremations. It is convenient to write the relevant correlation in the form of a simple equation:

N = C × T [1]

N = Number of possible cremations
C = Numbers of Cremators
T = Time of operation in hours
I = Incineration time for single charge cremation (one corpse) in hours

The term “cremator” as used here refers to a single furnace. That section of the cremator in which the actual cremation takes place is termed “muffle.” Consequently, structural units with-for example-3 muffles are counted here as three cremators. If the unit was operated for one hour it will contribute 3 “cremator hours” to the calculation.

In 1946 the reported numbers of dead in camps varied greatly. I remember that 6, 8, 9, 12 and even 40 million appeared in the news. During extensive talks with people operating crematoria I found that 4-6 hours represented an “approximate average incineration time” per cremation in coal fired cremators.[6] In calculations, therefore, 5 hours were used at that time. It must be pointed out that it is difficult to arrive at an average time since the incineration of corpses depends very much on size and condition of the corpse. However, it should be realized too that in 1946 in the above mentioned crematoria after 5 hours incineration, larger bones were still not reduced and were left inside the cremator for further incineration during subsequent cremations. This led to accumulation, and the cremators were periodically cleared and remainders buried at the cemetery. The question how long it “would” take to incinerate until “only ashes” would remain could not be answered. But guesses run from 18-20 hours and longer.

Having no other relevant information in 1946 I proceeded to calculate the theoretical number of cremators necessary to incinerate 6 million corpses during an “assumed” operational time of 5 years (roughly the full duration of WWII). Equation (1) can be easily rewritten for that purpose:

N = N × I [2]

Since the calculation is based on hours, T must be given in hours.

5 years × 365 days × 24 hours = 43,800 hours

Inserting the numerical values into [2] one obtains:

C = 6,000,000 × 5


C = 684.9

This was a sobering result in 1946. It meant that even the lowest number (6,000,000) which was in the news required 685 cremators to operate continuously (24 hours a day!) over a five year period. Checking on incineration time with the mortuaries again did not change anything. Those men would shrug their shoulders or laugh. Their responses must be seen against the background of the political climate of the time which Allied occupational policies under the heading of “re-education” had generated. For the more general impressions of a contemporary American observer see [7]. Probably, most Germans did at that time disregard the 6 million digit as propaganda (at least in private). Although it was clear that a figure of 685 cremators was too high to be acceptable, an actual number was simply not known. For reasons which are no longer relevant I finally “assumed” in 1946 that 100 cremators would be probably a more realistic figure. Inserting this figure in equation (1) one obtains the theoretical maximum number of possible cremations:

N = 100 × 43,800


N = 876,000

This result was even more stunning than the first one. Considering further that a 100% duty cycle (24 hours per day continuously) was technically unlikely (if not impossible) I also “assumed” that a 50% duty cycle (12 hours per day continuously over five years) was a more probable mode of operation. This cuts the first N in half (438,000 instead of 876, 000). In addition-and again in lieu of actual information-it “seemed reasonable in 1946 to assume” only 2.5 years (instead of 5 years) of total operational time. This produced again a lower but also a most “probable” N, namely 219,000, as compared to the media’s minimum number of 6, 000,000! While the figure 219,000 was founded on too many “assumptions” and therefore was historically meaningless, the calculation did demonstrate in general that there are technological elements involved in the Holocaust theory which can be made subject to rational scrutiny, with rationally convincing results.

Beyond that, and of immediate historical relevance, the simple calculation in 1946 also demonstrated that even with uncertainties in the assumptions by factors between 2 and 4, the calculation would not yield anything close to the 6 million digit. This is why the three different numbers for N have been explicitly calculated here once again. Again, no more importance should be assigned to particular numbers derived from the 1946 calculations. However a compilation of all assumptions used in the calculation shall be given here:

  1. All corpses have been cremated in cremators
  2. Incineration time was 5 hours per corpse
  3. Cremators were single charged (one corpse)
  4. 100 cremators were operated
  5. Operational time equally for all cremators was assumed to be a) 5 years b) 2.5 years
  6. Duty cycle of all cremators was assumed to be
    1. 100% (24 hours per day)
    2. 50% (12 hours per day)

This resulted in:

  1. A theoretically possible maximum of 876,000 cremations (5 years 24 hours per day)
  2. A theoretically possible minimum of 219,000 cremations (2.5 years 12 hours per day)

Since WWII no professional historian has produced a comprehensive and critical investigation- including at least some technological feasibility study-of the Holocaust syndrome. “Opaque” organizations like the ADL, the JDL etc. display their “capacity to interfere” immediately and freely at the very first sign of a more scrutinizing approach to the Holocaust theory. The academic climate which has developed throughout the universities of the western world is, as a result, syndromatical too: Holocaust must be taken for a “fact” which must be proven — a posteriori — by “proper” interpretation of documents or what is presented as such by Holocaust theory promotors. The academic syndrome lies with the inversion of the intellectual process.

3. A New Attempt in 1981

As a result we do not even know with certainty how many cremators have existed in Auschwitz I or II. We do not know their operational time, and the severest discrepancy is found on incineration times. “Reports” range from little more than 1 minute to more than 1 hour.

In Table I the best obtainable data for today are compiled. To circumvent for the moment the problem of incineration time in the table, at first only cremator hours are calculated. The data are taken mostly from three Jewish sources: G. Reitlinger,[8] R. Hilberg,[5] and F. Müller[9] with some exceptions where more recent information from Communist sources was available. The data also comprise, according to the sources, maximum numbers for those camps which R. Hilberg lists as “Extermination Camps.” That is to say in all cases numbers have been chosen so that the calculation produces maximum numbers of cremator hours. Actual numerical values were certainly lower.

The first impression is astonishing again. Counting Auschwitz I and II as one camp, only two of the “Extermination Camps” had crematoria. The total maximum number of cremator hours obtainable from the sources add up to 861,120 for 100% duty cycle (24 hours per day) and 430,560 for 50% duty cycle (12 hours per day).

As before, if one divides the cremator hours by the incineration time, the number of cremations can be computed. Still, however, a realistic incineration time must be determined. In Table II figures are calculated for one hour as well as for two hours of incineration time.

Table I — Cremator Hours
Camp Time of operation Months Hours Cremators [C] Cremator hours [T] [C]
Auschwitz I June 1940
to June 1943
37 26,640 6 159,840
Auschwitz II (Birkenau) March 1943
to Oct. 1944
20 14,400 46 662,400
Nov. 1943
to July 1944
9 6,480 6 38,880
Belzek none
Sobibor none
Treblinka none
Kulmhof none
Total 861,120
*Time of operation includes only such time where cremators were operated. 1 month is calculated with 30 days. Data and sources are discussed in appendix I

Table II — Possible Cremations
Duty Cycle Incineration time [I]
1 hour 2 hours
100% 861,120 430,560
50% 430,560 215,280

The numbers displayed in Table II represent then the respective theoretically possible numbers of cremations. The maximum is-of course-861,120 for 100% duty cycle and 1 hour incineration time and the minimum computes to 215,280 for 50% duty cycle and 2 hours incineration time. At least on technical grounds 100% duty cycle operation over prolonged periods must be excluded. One hour incineration time is too short for wartime technology. It is shorter than the incineration time which is obtained today with automated gas fired cremators. (This can be verified with any mortuary). The calculations -based on 1 hour incineration time and 100% duty cycle-have been included to provide a numerical range rather than to insist on a pragmatic figure. However this is a concession to the lack of reliable data and not to technical reason.

Being reasonably familiar with other aspects of the Holocaust theory and the associated documentation, I personally believe that the minimum number in Table 11 (215,280) is indeed the “most probable” N which can be derived from the calculation. However, without more accurate data I wish to refrain from proposing any particular figure, leaving this question open at this time. I also do not intend to deny that cremation in open pits, etc. may have taken place at times or locations where cremator capacity was insufficient or absent. However, the obligation to derive actual numbers from the technical feasibility aspect of that process and the available information I must leave to professional historians who support such claims. The little I have to say is found in the appendix.

That leaves one, then, at present, with several hundred thousand theoretically possible cremations in cremators. Considering higher death rates in camps under wartime conditions, diseases, and executions, there is indeed not much left to support the Holocaust theory. During 36 years of post-wartime not a single discovery of a mass-grave with millions and not even one with a hundred thousand corpses in or near camps has been reported and numerically evaluated. For that reason I conclude that: Until professional historians deliver proof -beyond the shadow of a doubtthat-and technologically how-at least some 5.5 million people (more than 90% of 6 million) have been exterminated and made to disappear without trace and without the use of cremators, the 6 million digit must be considered for reason of lack of cremator capacity a hoax too.

Historians, political scientists and educators in general should finally discontinue the practice of conveying to their students “knowledge” for which they have never seen hard proof.

The time where purely “oral history” should have been superseded by the sober results of painstakingly critical research executed by formally trained historians has long passed. The political responsibility which professional history has loaded upon itself can hardly be overestimated. If in a nuclear holocaust hundreds of millions and possibly billions of people should die or suffer irreparable genetic damage, professional history and political science can take any partial credit they dare to assume.

Part II


1. Origin of Cremator Numbers and Operation Times for Cremators as Listed in Table I.

Here the data in Table I are justified. With “justification” nothing more is indicated than overall agreement with claims found in the Holocaust theory. No validation of the data can be derived from their use in this study. As a matter of fact, I consider cremator numbers and particulary their operational times in Table I too large. Personally I am not even convinced that crematoria IV and V in Auschwitz II did in fact exist. But nevertheless they have been included in the calculation in accord with the Holocaust theory.

Auschwitz I

The number of cremators in Auschwitz I is apparently unknown. R. Hilberg[5] and G. Reitlinger[8] do not elaborate on the subject. The L. Dawidowicz[10] presentation of the Holocaust theory does not relate useful technological information. In explaining the “final solution” the authoress simply states: “… and employed the best available technological means” (page xxiii).

A.R. Butz [4] comes to the conclusion that Auschwitz I had 4 cremators which is probably correct (page 115). F. Müller[9] however claims “6 ovens” (page 16). Table I therefore lists 6 cremators. The difference between 4 and 6 cremators results into some 50,000 additional cremator hours.

The time of operation (of cremators) is another problem in Auschwitz I. G. Reitlinger[8] states: “The camp was open for business on 14 January 1940” (page 110). W. Stäglich[11] reports an official letter from the Auschwitz museum dated 29 November 1977 in which it is stated that the crematorium in Auschwitz I operated up to July 1943 (page 75). Since Communist sources can be expected to deliver maximum Holocaust data for reasons of propaganda, and in lieu of more accurate information, operational time is listed in Table I from June 1940 to June 1943.

However, even F. Müller[9] reports technical failures and states “Therefore in autumn of 1942 operations had to be restricted” (page 49). And the Soviet War Crimes Commission states that the crematorium in Auschwitz I was operational over 24 months (W. Stdglich[11] page 188). If this is correct then the figure of 159,840 cremator hours in Table I is by more than 50,000 too large.

Auschwitz II

The number of cremators in Auschwitz II is listed in Table I with 46 simply because the Auschwitz museum in its letter to W. Stäglich claims that figure (page 75).

The start of the operation of the cremators was taken to be March 1943. At that time some cremators probably became operational. G. Reitlinger[8] states specifically that: “In fact crematorium No. 2 was not ready 'til March 13th. On June 13th it was still the only crematorium of the 4 which was actually working and the carpentry work was incomplete. On November 6th, 1943 an order for young trees to form a green belt between the crematoria and the camp only mentions Nos. 1 and 2. The working of all four crematoria was not put to test 'til May 1944 when the massive transport arrived from Hungary” (page 159).

G. Reitlinger[8] also states that selection for gas chambers in Auschwitz ended in October 1944 (page 493). R. Hilberg[5] quotes a letter from the “Zentralbauleitung” (central construction management) that: “The whole unit was due to be completed on 20 February 1943” (566). R. Hilberg[5] seems to agree that in October 1944 exterminations generally came to an end but does not state a specific date (see the various statements on pages 630, 631 and 632). The time used in Table I includes the time from March 1943 to October 1944 and was assumed for all crematoria (II, III, IV and V). This is clearly an overestimate but it frees the calculation from denouncement on the basis of “optimistic data.” (Using G. Reilinger’s data would reduce the 662,400 cremator hours for Auschwitz II in Table I at least by some 130,000.)


G. Reitlinger[8] reports that the “impressive Majdanek crematorium” was only completed in autumn 1943 (page 316). Werth[12] states: “… before it had officially become, on 3 November 1943 an extermination camp” (page 898) and tells that “the Russians discovered Majdanek on 23 July 1944” (page 890). He also describes six furnaces (page 893). Again, in lieu of better data, the above time interval from November 1943 to July 1944 (9 months) and 6 cremators have been listed in Table I. There is some ambiguity in the selection of the month of November. For example, if cremators had been operational 2 months earlier, some 9,000 cremator hours would have to be added. However, it must also be noted that on pictures of the Majdanek crematorium only 5 cremators can be counted. See for example G. Schoenberner[13] (page 60).

Belzek, Sobibor, Kulmhof, Treblinka

Belzek and Sobibor had no cremators (R. Hilberg[5] page 629). On the same page Hilberg suspects — quoting the “Jewish Black Book Committee” — that Kulmhof may “have acquired a crematorium” at the end. No other information is known to me and therefore no cremators are listed for Kulmhof.

For Treblinka no crematorium is claimed. G. Reitlinger 8 reports “pyres” in Treblinka (page 152). A.R. Butz, [4] D. Felderer[14] and W. Stdglich[11] have discussed information about crematoria in considerably more detail. For a more accurate discussion the reader is therefore referred to these authors. It was, however, my deliberate intention to base the data not on — however justified — Revisionist findings, but on those Jewish and Communist sources which have made Holocaust theory presentation their business. Still, since the sources in many cases widely disagree, some compromises became unavoidable.

2. The Technology of Cremation

Reducing a corpse by cremation means decomposition of tissue and bones by heat. Contrary to popular beliefs a corpse does not “burn” because there is not enough combustible matter involved. While tissue will carbonize and burn off producing some heat, most of the heat — for the thermal (and chemical) decomposition of the corpses — must be supplied from external sources of energy. Cremators are generally designed and constructed to process one corpse. No evidence exists that cremators as used in WWII camps were designed differently. The fuel during WWII was principally either coal or coke, but occasionally wood may have been used. Since combustion of fuel requires air (oxygen), some provision for either natural draft (convection) or forced air feed (compressors) must be included into the design of the cremator. All 6 units in Dachau[15] for example have provisions for convective draft. The four cremators seen at Auschwitz I today are apparently of a very similar design. However they were built after WWII (D. Felderer[11], W. Stäglich[16] page 137). In Auschwitz II it is said that compressors were installed. For example F. Miller[9] tells of “fans” (page 94 and elsewhere). Independent of the method of air supply all cremators have certain basic similarities.

Since the incineration is not an energy producing but mainly an energy-absorbing process, the thermal energy is produced in a “generator.” This can be — as in Dachau — simple “fire box” with doors for charging coal, and openings with simple valves to control the convective draft. In more sophisticated installations with compressors, generators for gasification of the primary fuel may by employed. A.R. Butz[4] has pointed this out in connection with the Holocaust terminology ("Gasoven” etc, see pages 120 and 121). From the generator the hot exhaust gas is then ducted along the corpse in an oblong muffle with flat walls and bottom but a semi-cylindrical ceiling. The corpse rests on bridges across the muffle, spaced about 12 — 18 inches apart. Ashes and remainders fall into the lower section of the muffle and are removed periodically. Usually the coal-burning generator and the actual incineration chamber — the muffle — are separated. Only the hot gas resulting from the combustion of fuel heats the muffle and the corpse. The corpse however is not consumed (in its majority at least) by flames or by the hot gas directly, but by radiation from the muffle walls.

This is an important technological factor which must be understood. The physical mechanism is as follows: The hot gas from the generator passes through the muffle, and transfers its heat to all absorbing surfaces. This heat transfer is not strictly a thermodynamic process. That is to say the amount of heat transferred does not depend only on the temperature difference between gas and wall but upon a gas-dynamic turbulence in the boundary layer between gas and wall. To be brief: In cremators the “roughness” of the fire brick lining will enhance the heat transfer to the walls as long as the velocity of the gas does not become too slow. Since the wall surface area of the muffle is much larger than the surface area of the corpse, much of the heat is transferred to the walls-and not to the corpse. Also, time plays an important role in the transfer process. It may sound convincing at first for even a technical mind that one could raise the input temperature of the gas coming from the generator in order to transport more heat per unit time into the muffle and thus achieve shorter incineration times. However, the exit temperature of the gas on leaving the muffle must be low enough so as not to burn out the ductwork and chimney. In short, again: the throughput velocity of the hot gas inside of the muffle must be slow to permit enough time for the heat transfer to be completed to such a degree that the exit temperature of the gas drops to a sufficiently low value. The practical parameter which is available to the designer is the cross-section of the muffle. The larger this cross-section can be made, the lower the gas velocity will be and the more time for heat transfer will be available. But if the muffle cross-section is made very large, another problem arises. In order to transfer a maximum of heat, all gas must be brought in contact with the walls long enough. This can only be achieved by continuous mixing of the gas within the muffle. But this again requires a minimum throughput speed. The designer therefore must establish a number of conditions simultaneously: For a given input temperature of the gas he needs a certain muffle size with enough wall area to absorb the heat, and a muffle volume which produces a low enough throughput speed, yet still generates enough turbulence to facilitate heat transfer and mixing of the gas. The latter conditions limit the muffle volume which must take the space occupied by the corpse — or the several corpses (!) — into account. And finally, the designer must still achieve a low enough exit temperature. These parameters dictate-for a given temperature-the input velocity of the gas and thus the total heat transport per unit time from the generator to the muffle. This determines the incineration time. The small muffle size as observed on cremators installed in WWII camps indicates that the muffles were optimized for single charge cremation without coffin.

Until now it has been demonstrated how heat is transported from the generator to the muffle and transferred mainly to the muffle walls. If this process would continue, the muffle walls would become hotter and hotter and the cremator would burn out. However, cooling occurs automatically by radiation. The thermal energy which the walls have absorbed is radiated back from the walls over a wide range of wavelengths, including visible light. However, the main wavelengths fall into the spectral range of infra-red and radiative heat. In exactly the same way as visible fight propagates along straight lines, heat and infra-red radiation do too. Both light and heat are electromagnetic radiation. Radiation from the wall of the muffle may strike the corpse and may be absorbed. It also may strike another section of the wall and be absorbed or reflected. This “bouncing” of the radiation continues until the radiation is finally absorbed by the corpse. In this process the temperature difference between wall and corpse plays an important role. While dense and opaque materials-wall and corpse, in the present case-absorb radiation readily, gas by comparison does not (or only to a minor degree). The hot gas transfers and radiates more heat to the walls than it can re-absorb. This is one reason why gas can enter the muffle at high temperature and leave the muffle at a lower temperature. The curved ceiling of the muffle mentioned earlier serves as a cylindrical mirror concentrating the radiation on the corpse.

Finally there is a last step in the total flow of thermal energy to the corpse which must still be understood. The radiation absorbed by the corpse is for the most part used up in chemical reactions and in evaporative processes during the decomposition. In short, the corpse represents a heat sink rather than a heat source. This is the main reason why originally hot gas can leave the muffle at a lower temperature. If the corpse would “burn” it would produce additional heat and would raise the temperature of the gas above the input temperature. Statements like: “The corpses were burning so fiercely that they were consumed by their own heat” (F. Müller[9] page 138) originate from technical misconceptions.

With this, a crude — but for the present purpose sufficient — model of the incineration process in coal or coke operated cremators has been presented. (Radiation from the gas has been neglected. But without detailed technical information, heat transfer and radiation cannot be compared.) By contrast the combustion of the fuel in modern gas-fired cremators takes place inside of the muffle itself. Since they are designed to accept a coffin, their wall area is quite large and the forced air from the compressors mixes the gas inside the muffle very effectively. In addition, the burners are usually directed toward the corpse. Furthermore, the ashes from the coffin are soon blown away from the corpse by the forced-air feed. Incineration times thus achieved are therefore much shorter than those with otherwise comparable coal-fired units.

3. Multiple Charge

With the above in mind, one can also immediately understand why multiple charge — 2 or 3 corpses stacked together as claimed in the Holocaust theory (see for example F. Müller[9] page 17) — will not produce shorter incineration times. First, several corpses packed together will offer a considerably smaller surface per corpse for heat transfer from the gas or absorption of radiation from the walls than 3 corpses separately exposed to the same muffle wall area. That amounts to less heat absorption per corpse and per unit time. But in addition, the muffle volume through which the gas must pass would become smaller. There is less time for the gas to transfer heat to walls and corpses. If the cremator is operated at the same throughput velocity, gas will simply be rushed through the muffle faster, and exit at higher temperature, which means less heat per unit time is available for incineration. In order to protect smoke ducts and chimney, the total throughput of hot gas would have to be lowered — decreasing the primary heat transport per unit time to the muffle.

Considering the physical size of the muffles in Dachau, it must be judged that three corpses could not be loaded into those muffles even when they were cold. W. Stäglich[11] quotes Kautsky (a former prisoner) stating that the aperture of the ovens (in Auschwitz I) permitted only one, or at the most two, corpses to be charged (page 158). In actual operation it would be extremely difficult to charge these muffles with even two corpses. In any case two corpses would have covered up a considerable portion of the wall area, restricting the heat transfer from the gas to those portions of the wall and forcing a reduction of the throughput velocity. This is equivalent to a longer incineration time.

Careful comparison of the size of bricks in pictures reveals that the muffles in crematoria II and III in Auschwitz II were certainly not larger than those in the new crematorium in Dachau (pictures are found for example in A.R. Butz[4] page 157 and 213.

I have observed only single charge incineration of corpses and in coffins. But I will spare the reader my well-founded speculation (and description thereof) how several corpses in one muffle would “fuse” together prolonging the incineration time even further for that reason.

I conclude this part by stating: Technologically it is an illusion that charging cremators as found in WWII camps with more than the charge for which they were designed (one corpse) would shorten the incineration time per corpse. Such a mode of operation would, quite to the contrary, prolong the total incineration time. Even when considering very emaciated corpses (for example during typhus epidemics) my personal estimate would be that no gain in incineration time would occur. But other complicated factors, concerning the state of tissue (dehydration etc.) enter the estimate. For these reasons the calculations have been based on single charge cremation.

4. Incineration Time

In 1946 the incineration time in coal-fired cremators was about 4 to 6 hours. [6] The variation is caused by different physical sizes of the corpses but also by the condition of the tissue. Tougher or firmer tissue requires a longer incineration time. For this reason heart and lungs for example decompose slower during cremation. The coal-fired cremators in 1946 were technologically comparable with those in Dachau. Therefore it must be concluded that the cremators in WWII camps could not have produced a shorter incineration time, except for one major difference: In camps, the corpses were cremated without coffins (therefore the much smaller muffles). Morticians maintain that a coffin does delay the cremation of the corpse even though the wood burns fiercely at first and raises the muffle temperature considerably. But the coffin (and later its ash) also shield the corpse during that time from the radiation of the walls. Taking this into consideration a shorter incineration time in WWII camps can be expected. Morticians have suggested to me that factors up to ½ could perhaps result. That could reduce 1946 incineration times to about 2-3 hours for the camp cremators which were especially designed for cremations without coffins.

One could fill a book with direct or indirect statements concerning incineration times from Holocaust theory presentations. A few examples however shall suffice here. F. Müller[9] states that in Auschwitz I the cremators were charged with 3 corpses simultaneously and that the total incineration time was 20 minutes (page 17). In 1979 in Dachau exactly the same set of numbers was stated to me by one of today’s camp officials who, however, had not been in the camp himself during WWII.[15] As a matter of fact the “20 minutes and three corpses combination” is found quite commonly in the Holocaust theory. By comparison, W. Stäglich[11] quotes from the WRB (War Refugee Board) report about 1.5 hours (page 234). This appears strangely close to more realistic incineration times. The Los Angeles Times[17] reporting on a visit to Auschwitz II by “Members of the U.S. Presidential Commission on the Holocaust” declares: “They also toured the crematoria which could and did dispose up to 60,000 bodies a day.” Since the Los Angeles Times report specifically states “crematoria” one can calculate the incineration time per corpse. Equation (1) solved for incineration time becomes:

I = C × T [3]

Because each day has 24 hours one obtains:

I = 46 × 24


I = 0.0184 hours = 1.1 minutes (!)

This would be the incineration time for single charge. With triple charge — according to the Holocaust theory — 3.3 minutes would be available for the cremation of three corpses.

Nothing reflects the state of affairs in Holocaust matters better than the fact that a leading newspaper can offer such figures to the public without being contradicted.

A look at incineration times today generates an astonishingly different set of data. In 1974 in Dortmund a cremation took 2.5 hours in a gas operated cremator (H. Roth[18] page 106). A mortuary in Los Angeles advised me 1978 by phone of “two hours or a little less.” Their cremator was operated on gas. From a personal letter I learned that in 1951 in Indianapolis a cremation took 2.5 hours. The cremator was gas fired. W. Stäglich[11] quoting 3 sources (including H. Roth above) finds that 1.5 to 2 hours are realistic incineration times today. In January 1981 CBS presented a discussion during their “60 Minutes” dealing with cremation today. 2.5 hours incineration time was indicated for modern cremators. One could go on only to find an average for today’s incineration time in the neighborhood of 2 hours for gas fired cremators.

In 1979 I was permitted to observe two cremations in Darmstadt, West Germany. The cremator was gas-fired and utilized several electrical compressors for forced-air feed (as practically all of today’s gas operated cremators do). It was the same crematorium I had visited in 1946. Nobody knew anymore how long a cremation took back then but the 4 to 6 hours for coal-fired cremators appeared acceptable to today’s crews. Their modern cremator was fully automated (temperature, time, cycling of the directional burner sets etc.) and was pre-programmed for 1 hour in the first incineration stage. After that period a timer would be set by the crew for additional incineration time if and as needed. When the remainders of the corpse had fallen to the bottom of the muffle they were mechanically transferred to a second muffle-below the main muffle-to be exposed to heat for two more hours while the next two cremations, one after the other, were taking place in the main muffle. After three hours the final remainders from the first cremation-ash and bone fragments-were removed from the lowest section of the cremator and processed through a bone mill to render them fit for the urn. When a hydraulic lift (similar to a forklift) positioned the coffin into that cremator in Darmstadt all the burners were shut down and yet it took only perhaps 10 seconds before the coffin was engulfed in a fury of flames. A steel hood with an electric exhauster above the steel door was needed to protect the operator of the lift from injury from the flames shooting out of the cremator. It was a vivid demonstration of the role which radiation plays during cremation. When the lift was withdrawn on its rails and the large steel doors had been closed, the temperature rose for about 10 minutes from the burning of the coffin to about one and one half times of the operational temperature. After that time the main muffle cooled down and the automatic temperature control took over.

Two hours were used in the calculations because all discussions with morticians have established that this value for camp conditions during WWII must have been an average incineration time. One hour is, on the basis of technological information, certainly too short and it appears even impossibe that the cremators in Dachau could actually have reduced a corpse to the necessary degree in two hours. Their simple fire-box type generator could not have transferred the required amount of heat during that period.

Incineration times as claimed in the Holocaust theory are thus contradicted by actual incineration times in modern cremators of today, to a remarkable extent. This has been reported. In addition, practically all of today’s information refers to gas fired cremators which achieve for technical reasons shorter incineration times than coal-fired units.

Within the frame of a technological investigation, incineration times for WWII cremators shorter than those which can be achieved today must be absolutely rejected.

5. Some Necessary Comments.

In the book Commandant of Auschwitz[19] cremation capacities for Auschwitz II are discussed which can be used to calculate incineration times (page 181). The two smaller crematoria (Nos. IV and V) had — according to the book — 16 cremators and could dispose of 3000 corpses daily.

Equation (3) yields the incineration time:

I = 16 × 24 [3]


I = 0.13 hours = 7.68 minutes

The larger crematoria (Nos. II and III) had — according to the book again — 30 cremators and could cremate 4000 corpses in “less than 24 hours.” Since it is unknown how much “less than 24 hours” is, 24 hours will be used for the calculation.

One obtains:

I = 30 × 24 [3]

or I = 0.18 hours = 10.8 minutes

While it is immediately apparent that the alleged Höss statements fall in well with the pertinent Holocaust theory claims, they nevertheless contribute nothing to dissolve the discrepancy between those claims and today’s incineration times.

In stark contrast to what R. Höss supposedly had written, stands the testimony given by Richard Baer — the last commandant of Auschwitz (1944 — 1945). E. Aretz[20] reports on pages 58 and 59 some of what is known. Here are some essentials: Baer had been arrested in October 1960. At that time he declared that no gas chambers had existed in Auschwitz. He believed- on that basis — that he must be found innocent. However, he died a mysterious death at the age of 51 in perfectly good health on 17 June 1963 in prison. The post mortem revealed that poison could not be excluded as cause of death. However a man believing in his own innocence has no reason to commit suicide. And a former Auschwitz commandant would (at least in 1960) hardly have even contemplated convincing a West German court (with the Zionist Bauer as Attorney General of Hesse) that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz in operation unless this was his rock-solid knowledge. Their former commandant’s sudden death must have served as an impressive message to the rest of the defendants. There only remains to be reported that the first Auschwitz trial could finally start immediately after Baer had died and his name and testimony were never mentioned in the proceedings of the court — or in the Holocaust theory. W. Stäglich[11] who is well qualified as former judge to evaluate court matters, was, in 1976, refused access to the court’s proceedings (which he had sought while writing his book on Auschwitz) on the grounds that the protective interests of those involved in the court proceeding had priority over Dr. Stäglich’s private interests in a scientific evaluation of the proceedings (page 374). This is quite an interesting statement (from the Hessian Minister of justice) since during the actual Auschwitz trial “those involved” in the proceedings were apparently much less protected. For some detail the reader is referred to H. Laternser[21] who was the defense lawyer for Richard Baer and others. He never came to defend his client but he spoke out on the general witness situation at the first Auschwitz trial.

P. Rassinier[22] discusses in more detail the statements which R. Höss allegedly made (page 235 to 243), but P. Rassinier also quotes the “Kasztner Report” according to which the gas chambers in Auschwitz II for 8 — 9 months (the autumn 1943 to May 1944) were out of order. P. Rassinier draws this conclusion: “It remains to be established how many persons more than 107,000 could have been incinerated from February 1943 to October 1944 …” (page 241). The figure of 107,000 refers to the Höss[19] statement (page 177) concerning cremations in pits.

Today world-wide lobbied pressure to prosecute so-called “Nazi-war-criminals” prevents very effectively all those from speaking out who have knowledge about the camps and know the answer to one of history’s most important questions. One must wonder whether this is not the actual motivation behind this pressure “to prosecute.” The Holocaust theory has many faces.

6. Cremation in Pits

There are various claims in the Holocaust theory that huge amounts of corpses have been cremated without cremators on pyres and in pits. To clear up this Holocaust theory created problem would be quite another task.

However some general comments are possible. G. Reitlinger reports that: “Apparently the furnaces were superceded altogether after August 1944 because compared with the burning pits they were considered uneconomical” (page 160). R. Höss[19] states that: “During the summer of 1942 the bodies were still being placed in the mass-graves. Toward the end of the summer however, we started to burn them; at first on wood pyres bearing some 2000 corpses and later in pits together with bodies previously buried” (page 177). In other words the alleged efficiency of burning in pits was supposedly well known before the new crematoria in Auschwitz II were built. Nevertheless they were built — and with great difficulties due to war conditions — only to find out that burning in open pits was more efficient-which is exactly what allegedly had been known before.

In open fires, larger amounts and-especially partly decomposed corpses from earlier graves-can be cremated. The authorities in German towns had to resort to this process during WWII after Allied fire bombings. Photographs exist, for example, of cremations on pyres in Dresden.[23] Unfortunately reports are too scarce and not detailed enough that technical conclusions could be drawn. In any case, in this type of operation, cremation is incomplete and large amounts of bones and incompletely cremated organic materials would have remained. I am not aware of any thorough investigation including a numerical analysis in or near WWII extermination camps. And personally I do not believe -provided there is factual evidence of residue from large scale cremations in pits at all-that at the present day, numerical results could be derived. At least any evaluation would have to involve the actual moving and sifting of thousands of tons (if not more) of soil, lest the result of such an investigation must be mistrusted before it has ever been obtained. Impartiality of those conducting the excavation would present today an almost insoluble problem. As to the reports which do exist, the burden of the missing proof lies with those who relate them. A brief discussion of one report will demonstrate the nature of the claims. F. Müller[9] for example refers frequently to the burning in pits. Even after discounting such way-out allegations such as the claim that “human fat” was collected at the bottom of the pits, the remainder of the report cannot be given credence either.

On page 130 the author reports that: “The pits were 40 to 50 meters long, about 8 meters wide and 2 meters deep.” on page 137 the procedure of setting up a cremation in these pits is described: “Then the bearers laid about 100 corpses face up in four long rows on top of the fuel.” If one allows 0.5 meters (19.7 inches) in width for each corpse the described procedure (100 corpses in one row) would fill the pit completely lengthwise with no space left at the ends. Accepting 70” as an average human height one obtains for the four rows 7.1 meters width which would leave less than 0.5 meters on each side of the pit. Considering further that wood was placed between the 3 layers, each of 400 corpses, those pits would have been full to the brim and no cremation is conceivable at all. F. Müller tries to explain that this difficulty was overcome by pouring oil and wood alcohol (plus “human fat” again) on the corpses (page 136). However these liquid fuels would have evaporated in the hot pit immediately and burnt off on the surface of the pit that is, on top of the corpses-since nowhere else did oxygen have access to the fuel vapors. But F. Miller goes on to report: “The process of incineration took five to six hours” (page 138). Cremation in pits-not on pyres-could have had only one purpose: To provide for convenient burial of the remainders by filling the pit in with soil after the cremation. F. Müller[9] however insists that the remainders were removed each time and the pits re-used (page 139). All one can say about this type of report is-that it cannot have happened that way.

In Katyn during 1943 the corpses of some 4143 Polish officers were exhumed.[24] The mass-graves which R. Höss[19] allegedly has reported supposedly contained 107,000 corpses (page 177). This is the equivalent of almost 26 Katyns — with no proof except for the questionable Höss document written, at least in part, in pencil while under Communist imprisionment. And the original (like in the “Anne Frank case") is practically unaccessible even today, presuming that an “original” did in fact ever exist and provided that what is kept so secret in the Auschwitz museum today is not a forgery[22](page 27).

In Part I of this study it has been demonstrated that — of the alleged 6 million — at least some 5.5 million would have had to be cremated in pits. Even dismissing any realistic incineration time in pits it must be pointed out again that large amounts of bones must have resulted from such an enterprise. Considering the 5.5 million evenly distributed over R. Hilberg’s six “Killing Centers” one would have to find remains of more than 916,000 corpses in each camp (a numerical equivalent of 221 Katyns for each camp). Even R. Hilberg[5] claims such a number only for Auschwitz (page 572). But while claims exist, tacit proof in the form of excavations and numerical evaluations is absent, for even 10% of the claims — 36 years after WWII. Today this most fantastic part of the Holocaust theory must either be totally rejected for lack of proof or must be fanatically believed which requires no proof.

7. Some Other Technical Points

A 50% duty cycle has been considered “most probable” for the purpose of the calculations. For the actual work time of crews another 3 — 4 hours of preheating time and probably another hour for cleaning (de-slagging) would have to be added. This would amount to 16 to 17 hours of worktime per day. All calculations based on a 100% duty cycle are at least for technological reasons unrealistic.

Disposal of corpses by cremation in WWII camps in itself clearly does not represent proof of atrocity but was rather a necessity especially during epidemics. Cremation is an effective way to decompose infectious organic material. This however does not require complete cremation. If one speculates a lesser degree of cremation in WWII camps (to decrease incineration time) large amounts of bones must have accumulated and their disposal would have created a problem by itself. However, personally, I do not believe that today numerical results from bone contents of soil in camps -provided there are any to speak of-could still be derived.

This brings up the question of fuel and ashes. It is at best difficult to estimate the consumption of coal or coke for cremators whose technical design is not known at least in some detail. But if one assumes 100 kg (220 lb) of coal per corpse (which may be insufficient) even 250,000 cremations would have required 25,000 tons. There are no storage or processing facilities known for larger amounts of fuel. One would expect at least railway tracks to have been extended directly up to the cremators. There were none.[25] There are not even simple mechanical unloading facilities (ramps or chutes for example) known either. Distributed over 20 months in Auschwitz II, 25,000 tons would have required more than 41 tons of manual handling of coal per day. If one considers R. Hilberg's[5] “one million” dead in Auschwitz (page 572) 167 tons per day would have had to be moved. And Pope Paul II’s announcement of 4 million victims in Auschwitz[26] would have required the manual handling of no less than 667 tons per day.

The disposal of ashes presents another problem. Dumping sites of ashes must exist near crematoria. However, here too, a numerical evaluation has probably become impossible by now.

8. Critique and Limitations of the Method

In scientific work — and Holocaust theory is not one — results are usually given within error ranges. A speed for example might be given as 50 mph ± 5 mph. The meaning is that the actual speed may be either 55 or 45 mph or any value in between those limits. Sometimes however there are reasons to conclude that a particular number is the “most probable” one. In the above example that could be, for example, 47 mph — if there is reason to justify this number it would be termed the “most probable” speed.

In the interpretation of the results of this investigation most probable numbers have been derived-with statements of reason. For example Table II (Part I) gives a “theoretically possible maximum of cremations” and a “theoretically possible minimum of cremations” (861,120 and 215,280). As explained above, the actual number can e either one of these figures or any number within this range. In the text, however, the lowest number (215,280) is stated to be the “most probable” number. This was based on the

fact that a 50% duty cycle is “much more” probable than a 100% duty cycle and 2 hours incineration time “much more” probable than 1 hour incineration time, both for technical reasons. While the range of figures is absolute within the conditions on which the calculation is based, the most probable number is not. If, for example, proof should be produced that 75% duty cycle and 1.5 hours incineration time are “more probable” then the “most probable” number of theoretically possible cremations would have to be calculated on that basis.

This difference, however, would not alter the fact that more than 5.5 million corpses must have “disappeared” without cremation in cremators — according to the Holocaust theory.

While the technological approach demonstrated in this investigation cannot produce an “exact” figure, it does not suffer from other uncertainties as much as, for example, statistics. However statistics can be accurate, too, if based upon secure and certain data.

For example the “Sonderstandesamt Arolson” (Special Registrar’s Office Arolson West Germany) states in a letter[27] 271,304 DOCUMENTED fatalities for 13 WWII concentration camps. Another 93,069 are listed in the letter as documented by other Registrars' Offices. The figure given for Auschwitz is 52,389 fatalities. These 364,373 fatalities represent then an “absolute minimum” number. The actual figure cannot be lower but could be higher. But even if one doubles the above figure the result remains below one million.

This demonstrates again that for more than 5.5 million of the 6 million claim no documentation exists — except by inference in “Holocaust Theory.”

Thirty-six years after WWII this discrepancy is not acceptable any longer. Neither is the defamation against the German people. The failure of historians to secure data in due time can today only be overcome by methods which are based on data which cannot be altered. The technical properties of Zyklon B are such data. Cremator hours and incineration times are others.

Part III


An attempt has been presented to apply technological aspects of cremation to the numerical claims in the Holocaust theory. It has been demonstrated that even when accepting the rawest of data from the Holocaust theory the disposal of millions of corpses in available cremators was impossible. It is inconceivable that more than 90% of the legendary 6 million could have been disposed of in open pits etc. without leaving extensive traces; none of which have been demonstrated to exist and evaluated numerically within the vicinity of WWII camps. Testimony from camp personnel-other than prisoners-is effectively suppressed by continued persecution of former camp personnel.

Therefore rational- technological -criteria must be applied to the historical problems which Holocaust theory has created. The maximum data which have been purposely accepted from the Holocaust theory for this investigation concern the number of cremators and their operational times. Other parameters, especially incineration time and multiple charge, have been investigated with results which make related Holocaust theory claims unacceptable. Therefore they have been dismissed.

When, in the future, those parameters accepted here from the Holocaust theory will be adjusted to already available and still to come information, I predict that the total 66 most probable” death toll from all causes for Auschwitz (for example) will drop to or below 100,000 dead.

As to the prospective results of investigations of pit areas in the future I expect no surprises. While smaller pits may have been operated, any pit area where millions or even a hundred thousand corpses had been cremated would have been found a long time ago and its numerical evaluation propagandized to the world in great detail.


  1. David Irving, Hitler’s War, The Viking Press, 1977
  2. Mark Weber, “Anne Frank Fable Losing Credibility", Spotlight 1 December 1980, page 19
  3. Robert Faurisson, “The Mechanics of Gassing,” The Journal of Historical Review, Volume One, Number One, Spring, 1980
  4. Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Historical Review Press, 1976
  5. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Harper Colophon Books, 1979
  6. During the first half of 1946 the author personally visited the crematorium in Darmstadt and had several extended discussions with crew members operating the crematoria in Darmstadt and Mainz (both towns in West Germany)
  7. Ralph Franklin Keeling, Gruesome Harvest, Institute of American Economics, Chicago, 1947
  8. Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution, Sphere Books Limited, 1971
  9. Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz, Stein and Day, 1979
  10. Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, Bantam, 6th printing (1979)
  11. Wilhelm Stäglich, Der Auschwitz Mythos, Grabert-Verlag, Tübingen (West Germany) 1979
  12. Alexander Werth, Russia At War
  13. Gerhard Schoenberner, The Yellow Star, Bantam Books, 1979
  14. Ditlieb Felderer, Revisionist History, see for example RH Nr. 166 and RH Nr. 167
  15. During summer 1979 the author visited Dachau with special interest in the crematoria. (As a side result it was found that no ductwork appears to exist from the four cremators in the new crematorium to the chimney.) Also no compressors were installed in Dachau during WWII. Fuel was coke.
  16. Ditlieb Felderer reports in RH. 167 that Czech and Piper-both officials at the Auschwitz camp today-stated that the 4 ovens at the crematorium I (Auschwitz I) were built in 1946 or 1947.
  17. Los Angeles Times, Thursday 2 August 1979, Part I, page 11
  18. Heinz Roth, Öder makaberste Betrug aller Zeiten, Druck + Verlag 581, Witten (West Germany) 1974
  19. Rudolf Höss (?), Commandant of Auschwitz, Popular Library, 1960
  20. Emil Aretz, Hexen Einmal Eins Einer Lüge, Franz von Bebenburg (West Germany) 1979
  21. Hans Laternser, Die andere Seite im Auschwitz Prozess, Seewald Verlag, Stuttgart (West Germany) 1966
  22. Paul Rassinier, Debunking the Genocide Myth, Institute for Historical Review, 1978
  23. David Irving, The Destruction of Dresden, Ballantine Books, 1968. See picture section between pages 160 and 161
  24. Louis Fitz Gibbon, Katyn, (see appendix 6) The Noontide Press, 1979
  25. The plan of Birkenau (Auschwitz II) is reproduced in (4) page 229. There were no railway tracks at crematoria IV and V. There is only the end of the switching yard between crematoria II and III. Aerial photographs in Life (Vol. 2, Nr. 4 April 1979, page 12) show however clearly that tracks were not extended to the crematoria and no special unloading facilities existed.
  26. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (German Press-Agency), reproduced in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Saturday 9 June 1979 Nr. 132, page 5.
  27. Copy of letter dated 11 May 1979 is in the author’s possession.

Bibliographic information
Author: Reinhard K. Buchner
Title: The problem of cremator hours and incineration time
Source: The Journal for Historical Review
Date: Fall 1981
Issue: Volume 2 number 3
Location: Page 219
ISSN: 0195-6752
Attribution: “Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, PO Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA.”
Please send a copy of all reprints to the Editor.