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No.14, July 20, 1998

Excavations at Belzec Camp Reported

Reuters reports (Jul. 9) a recent archaeological study at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp at Belzec, Poland; this, states the British press agency, located thirty-three "mass graves" containing the remains of thousands -- skulls, flesh, hair, fat, and whole human bones.

WASHINGTON--Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek toured the U.S. Holocaust Museum Thursday and said a new memorial would be built on the site of a Nazi extermination camp in Poland which was crumbling and neglected.

Buzek, who will meet President Clinton at the White House Friday, handed two silver spoons as a symbolic gift to museum chairman Miles Lerman. The spoons were found this year at the site of the Belzec extermination camp during part of an unprecedented archeological survey.

Belzec, in eastern Poland near the Ukrainian border, was the first camp in which the Nazis erected permanent gas chambers. At least 600,000 Jews were murdered there.

The Polish government and the Holocaust Museum quietly signed an agreement last year to build a new memorial there to replace a sculpture that was erected in the 1960s by the former Communist authorities of Poland.

Jewish visitors to the site had complained that it was badly neglected, overgrown with weeds and strewn with garbage. They also said the existing memorial was inappropriate and was falling apart.

"Construction will begin in the near future. Archeological work is going on at that site and new discoveries are being made systematically," Buzek told reporters.

Lerman said Belzec was a place of great personal significance to him. "My entire family, my mother, perished in Belzec," he said.

A Polish team recently carried out the most comprehensive archeological survey ever conducted on a major Holocaust site and located 33 previously unknown mass graves.

"This was the first archeological survey on this scale done systematically on a grid system and we have learned many new things," said Jacek Nowakowski, associate director of the Holocaust Museum, coordinating the project from the U.S. side.

According to a report by Robin O'Neill, a British scholar who took part in the survey, the team bored holes to a depth of some 18 feet at 15-yard intervals throughout the site

"The largest mass graves ... contained unburned human remains (parts and pieces of skulls with hair and skin attached). The bottom layer of the graves consisted of several inches thick of black human fat. One grave contained uncrushed human bones so closely packed that the drill could not penetrate," O'Neill wrote.

Belzec was one of six extermination camps erected by the Nazis. The other five were Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Chelmno.

The camp began operating in March 1942. Victims were packed tightly into four gas chambers and killed by carbon monoxide generated from a huge aircraft engine, with some taking as long as 35 minutes to die. Their naked bodies were dumped in trenches. There were only five recorded survivors, none of whom is still alive.

The Nazis had built Belzec to destroy the centuries-old Jewish communities of southern and eastern Poland. In 1942, that job done, they closed the camp. They later tried to hide their crime, burning the bodies and grinding up the bones.

Nowakowski said the unburned bodies that had been discovered this year numbered in the thousands and were probably the remains of Jews brought to the site to burn the remains of victims of the gas chambers.

"The fact that there were many more people employed in burning the bodies than we thought suggests they had many more bodies to burn. We may have to revise upward the estimate of the number who died at Belzec and that only increases the huge significance of the site," he said.

Revisionist researcher Samuel Crowell comments that this Reuters dispatch supports revisionist thinking:

"That the fatalities at Belzec were in the thousands rather hundreds of thousands,

  • that their bodies were buried, and not burned to ashes
  • that -- contrary to legend -- their bones were not crushed to powder, and
  • that therefore the Nazis made little attempt to wipe out the traces of their crimes."

The USHMM in Washington, comments Crowell, has arrived at a diametrically opposite conclusion:

  • since the remains of thousands have been found, unburned and uncrushed, therefore these are the remains of those employed to cremate (and grind to powder) the remains of the 600,000 others hitherto alleged to have perished at the camp, and
  • since there were thus thousands of participants involved in just "wiping out the traces", there must have been far more than 600,000 victims.

Fuel shortage footnote: Abandoning the traditional story of hydrogen-cyanide, of which no trace has been found in the buildings, Reuter's dispatch breezily claims that the gas chambers at Belzec were furnished with carbon monoxide gas from "a huge aircraft engine."

AR logoThis is a departure from the traditional Navy-surplus U-boat diesel-engine version.

1944 air photo of Belzec site


On May 16, 1944 a German reconnaissance plane took this photograph [7-5 GX8095 33SK exp. 155] of the Belzec site. One of the splendid photographs from John Ball's book Air Photo Evidence. This photo's URL is



For the on-line version of the book [in Swedish | in German ]

To contact author John Ball

Reader Tom Moran comments (Thursday, June 17, 1999) with heavy irony: "Belzek is one of my favorite camps. On the side of a hill that rose 120 feet. A main highway and rail line right at the bottom. Polish houses and commercial facilities right there. An expanse of agriculture with farm houses and all on the plains just beyond the by lanes. An oblique view from the very town of Belzek itself. From the bottom like viewing the top floors of a 12 story building from about a city block away. Over a period of months 600,000 Jews unloaded at the bottom, marched to the middle of the hill, gassed in concrete gas chambers, the naked bodies carried to the top and buried, then some months later dug up and cremated in open air fires blazing away there at the very top for months on end, all there for whoever to watch like a reverse amphitheater. The only thing missing from the picture are the seats."

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