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Skeptics of the Holocaust ask a question most people don’t know the answer to: what happened to the bodies? If between 6 and 11 million people were slaughtered, where are the millions of bodies? The truth is that most were destroyed. The most evidence that remains from the Holocaust comes from the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941-42, and the final weeks of the European war in 1945. These were the times when the Germans were in a hurry and got sloppy.
Most Holocaust victims were not cremated in the ovens. There were only so many ovens built. Most of the dead were actually burned in funeral pyres where the Sonderkommando, the Jewish cremation work teams, would just pile on the corpses and burn them all outdoors. Ashes were buried, scattered, or used for fertilizer. Think of a huge wildfire… the ashes from that wildfire won’t stay there for more than a few days or weeks before seeping into the ground or blowing away.
In the case of Operation Barbarossa, the Holocaust moved with the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. When they were on the move, the SS and Wehrmacht volunteers were notorious for gathering entire village and town populations into large buildings, burning them to the ground, and flattening the charred ruins with tanks. The numbers of Jews and civilians killed in places like Romania and Yugoslavia were actually under-reported, since the SS were notorious for deciding that entire populations were partisans, or helping the partisans, and therefore must be executed as unlawful combatants.
When the Germans occupied an area, the Final Solution was implemented more efficiently. The Einsatzgruppen rounded up and executed Jews and other undesirable civilians. Babi Yar is an area in Kiev, Ukraine, and the site of a concentration camp and a killing grounds where over 100,000 Ukrainians were murdered by the Germans. Over 33,000 Jews were murdered there and buried in mass graves between September 29 and 30, 1941 alone. Red Army POWs or other prisoners were later forced to dig up the mass graves and cremate the decomposing bodies in pyres, to make room for more murders. Cremation sessions would last for forty days.
Many of the bones of the burned corpses were crushed in specially designed machines. SS-General Reinhard Heydrich authorized Sonderaktion 1005, whose job was basically to get rid of the bodies and all evidence of the murder factories. Other Aktion teams were formed across the Reich and occupied territories. Leichenkommandos, “corpse units” like the POW work crews at Babi Yar, dug up mass graves and burned corpses.
At the end of the war, mass graves with thousands of whole bodies were discovered near Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen. The SS near Buchenwald were clever in burying the bodies away from the camp, whereas Bergen-Belsen’s SS just buried them there. 23 years later, the North Vietnamese Army learned to dump acidic chemicals over the bodies before burying, so they decompose quickly and can’t be identified. In this day and age, the Mexican paramilitary cartels put bodies in drums of acid until they dissolve completely. Thousands of bodies have been disposed of this way.
The Holocaust wasn’t just several big concentration camps; there were hundreds of small camps across Germany and German-occupied areas, including the Natzweiler-Struthoff camp in eastern France. Another infamous one is Krakow-Plaszow in Poland, and of course Babi Yar in Ukraine. In August of 1942, SS officer and dissenter Kurt Gerstein blew the whistle on the Aushwitz murder factory to a Swedish diplomat, Baron Goran von Otter.
The Germans weren’t just trying to kill Jews… they were trying to wipe them from history. Former SS camp guard Oskar Groening delivered a powerful testimony where he owned up to everything he did and saw, and that “I did not expect any Jews to survive Auschwitz.” SS-Captain Amon Goeth said to his men during the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, “There had been for more than seven centuries a Jewish Krakow, and by this evening, those seven centuries would have become a rumor.”
Clearly, the Germans did just enough of a good job hiding bodies, destroying evidence, and diverting attention to the narrative of protecting Western Europe from Jewish Communism that millions of people around the world doubt the Holocaust ever happened. Another factor that severely discredits the historical narrative is the way the Israeli government hijacked the Holocaust as a political weapon to silence critics of the Israeli government’s illegal or immoral actions.
These actions include blocking economic aid to Gaza while also allowing Hamas to continue existing and destabilizing the border regions, and seizing land in the West Bank for Israeli settlements. The millions who were murdered or starved to death between 1941 and 1945 have become one modern-day government’s excuse for claiming to speak for all members and sects of the Jewish religion, and for conquering more lebensraum in the Palestinian territories. It’s a damn shame Israel has a less-than-honorable government, because Ayn Rand admired Israeli civil society is a bastion of civilization and progress in the Middle East. The tragic irony of the Israeli government’s Palestine incursions is then used for softball anti-Jewish, white nationalist propaganda by David Duke and the Stormfront community.
The Holocaust happened. Most Germans were not evil, but at the time the masses gave in to evil and stood by as innocents were murdered and suicidal war were started. That’s not a reflection on Germans today or on Germans in 1914 (and they didn’t start WW1 either). The WW2 generation of Germans murdered millions of people, not by aerial bombings, but by deliberate up-close executions. So did the Japanese under the Imperial military flags.
Neither Germans nor German-Americans today should bear any of the guilt of the Holocaust. But the memory of those mass murders must be kept alive. If anything, keeping alive the true extent of Nazi Germany’s crimes helps us better identify similarities being carried out in the world today. None of this takes away from the hundreds of millions of people who died under Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But this editorial wasn’t about them, it was about the Holocaust.