Death Camp Crematoriums- Method Used?

It’s my understanding that the primary method of corpse disposal during the height of the Holocaust was burning. With thousands being killed by the day, they would have obviously needed to render the bodies into ash in a very rapid manner. From dating a mortician, I know that a modern funeral home incinerator usually takes several hours to finish the job.

What kind of machinery and accelerants were the Nazis using that could break down bodies with such speed and quantity?

The bodies were often very emaciated meaning that one oven could accommodate three or four corpses. They ran 24 X 7. When those proved inadequate for the job at hand (as, for example around May 1944 when a huge influx of “cargo” arrived from Hungary), open fire pits were used to complement the ovens.

When ovens weren’t used (as in both Treblinka and Belzec for a time), the Germans developed a technique that involved placing “fat women” at the bottom and interweaving the bodies with wooden train ties to facilitate the flow of air to the fire. Typically, the ties had first been soaked in gasoline or a similar substance.

For those who can stomach it, photographic documentation of an incomplete job (the task was rushed, then subsequently abandoned as the Allied forces closed in).

And, the science of burning human bodies.

The body in the top left section of the pile has very muscular arms for a death camp victim, don’t ya think?

That is a leg.

As I recall, that particular picture may have been of captured (?French or Russian) soldiers. Regardless, do you think all death camp victims were cachectic? Generally speaking, there were two types of victims in the camps - those immediately sent to their deaths, and those worked to death (and/or starved to death and/or suffering from various infectious illnesses leading to death). Obviously,the former might include people with muscular builds. In fact, and as I mentioned, obese women were the preferred bottom layer of the pyres. Do you think they became obese while guests of the Germans?

All that said, you aren’t looking to dispute the facts of the matter, are you? Because your ‘observation’ could sure as hell be taken that way.

ETA: I am going to take it that way. Go away.

God almighty.

Need answer fast?


I’m pretty sure the photo KarlGauss linked to is actually the same pyre as this one. If so it’s actually the pyre used to burn the bodies of some of the victims of the Dresden air raid.

I’m pretty sure no photos of the actual pyres used in the extermination camps were taken, as the whole process was part of the failed Nazi attempt to cover up their crimes.

I think you are right and I sincerely apologize for being so sloppy. Frankly, I did a search for an image that fit what I was trying to describe and linked to it without doing sufficient due diligence.

All that said, I stand by everything I posted (even including the ‘rushed job’, i.e. there is a photo of an only partially incinerated pile of bodies left unburned when the Allies advanced unexpectedly - that was the one I thought I was linking to)

ETA: Here is a picture similar to the one I thought I was posting above. This one is from a camp and does contain incompletely burned bodies.

That first picture surprised me too, as I’d never seen anything like that related to Nazi death camps. This second picture you linked above, I believe that’s Gen. Eisenhower himself & his staff inspecting the pyre. I was always impressed reading how he (and others) ordered as many Germans & journalists to view the atrocities as possible because quote, “I know what will happen, in a generation there will be those who’ll say it never occurred…”

If the Nazis where so evil and efficient and efficiently evil, why did they bother with the cost of gas chambers - why not right into the furnace? I know that’s a horrible notion, but I’ve honestly wondered about that since I first studied the Holocaust.

I would’ve thought it quite a bit easier to horde people into a (supposed) shower than to get them into a furnace alive.

^ This.

Even though concentration camp prisoners were often greatly debilitated they vastly outnumbered those guarding them. The gas chambers disguised as showers let them kill vast numbers without those vast numbers fighting back.

One article I recall mentioned that toward the end they simply piled the bodies in big pits. One Allied soldier described these pits as shallow enough that they were still bubbling with occasional gas release from decomposition, even in the dead of winter.

I assume a bulldozer (or a crew of prisoners with shovels and wheelbarrows) used a lot less fuel than trying to reduce thousands of corpses to ash, once fuel became scarce. Originally the motivation for cremation was - I assume - hygiene and the need to reduce the amount of space required to bury all the bodies. Toward the end of the war, that was not the priority.

I have no cite at the moment, but the ashes were often used to cover the mud to make it useable for wheeled vehicles.

The truly excellent Holocaust documentary Shoah(1985) goes into this question in excruciating detail. Be warned though: It tops 9 hours. But It’s well worth your time to watch.

Also: My thread on the film. Roger Ebert’s Great Movies review of it.

Right, so disguise the furnace as showers, or have some kind of funneled hallway exiting the showers that’s increasingly sloped into a furnace chute.

I would think it would be possible to build a self-contained crematorium that fed corpses continuously through the heat of the exhaust stacks, which would render the fat out of the corpse, which would then be collected and fed to an efficient oil fired furnace that consumed the dessicated corpses. By using the heat of combustion more efficiently to render and dessicate the corpses before they entered the combustion chamber, it would reduce the amount of fuel that needed to be added to the system.

The Nazis were incredibly efficient with the business of death. By telling the people they needed to be showered and deloused, the gas chambers were filled with a minimum of fight. These were people who had traveled great distances riding in packed box cars. A shower probably sounded wonderful! And the showers had the outward appearance of actual bathing facilities: shower heads in the ceilings, and bars of “soap” were handed out. Once the doors were locked, however, it became obvious the shower heads were not real, and the soap bars were rock.

While the victims were being annihilated, the Nazi soldiers were systematically searching the belongings for anything of value. Gold and gems were often sewn into the seams of clothing. Anything usable was taken, the rest discarded.

Once the bodies were reduced to ash at the crematoria, the ash itself was sifted to retrieve the gold from teeth, plus any valuables the victims may have swallowed.

Throughout the course of history, mankind has always managed to produce leaderships which have targeted various peoples and committed acts of mass genocide. What makes the Nazi Holocaust so unique was the efficient, business-like manner that the Third Reich targeted and eliminated the numerous “Enemies of the State.”

I have to give the title to the USSR over the Third Reich for that one. They’d computed tables for the calorie count of food VS effort, and knew how long a slave laborer would last. The Nazis had the infamous selections, where people had to pass as either able to work or sent off to be killed, or simply killed to make more room for new trainloads. In the Gulags, work quotas were used with food rations as motivation, but set so as to starve and work the individual to death on schedule while those arriving still thought they had a chance. The Soviets had expansive space to dump bodies, so the slaves didn’t work under the smokestack all day. They didn’t sort out the old and children at the train depot, either. Kids went to hell-hole orphanages while mom and dad were given false hope of eventual release. The trick was to give everyone just enough food and just enough hope so that things ran smoothly, and they killed more people than the Nazis.