The Soap Allegations
Yehuda Bauer on the Soap Allegations, Jerusalem Post, May 29, 1990, p. 4:
To the Editor of the Jerusalem Post:
Sir, - Neil Kuchinsky (letters, May 20) quotes from the Nuremberg trial transcripts to show that the Germans made soap from human bodies at the Danzig Anatomic Institute, basing himself on the testimony of two British PoWs and a German laboratory assistant. The facts are correct. They were quoted in extenso in a Czech- language book by Ota Kraus and Erich Kulka, and are well-known to historians.
The reason why no historian has ever claimed that Germans made industrial use of human bodies for the production of soap is also contained in those very testimonies. They show that the "Institute" was established in the course of 1944 by a Danzig Nazi scientist (Dr. Spanner) who invented the method by which this could be done, and persuaded an apparently enthusiastic Berlin authority (we do not know who it was) to support his experiments.
According to the somewhat contradictory evidence, 25 kg. or perhaps more of this horrible substance was made, and one source claims that it was used experimentally in Danzig itself. It emerges very clearly that this was a first and unique experiment and that it was in its experimental stages. The bodies used may have been those of prisoners of war and forced labourers from the immediate vicinity. It is also clear that had the war continued, the Nazis were certainly capable of turning this into another mass horror.
There was no industrial production, and the pieces of soap inscribed R.I.F. which Jewish victims were told were made of human fat were found to contain ordinary non-organic fats (R.I.F. means Reichsstelle fuer Industrielle Fettversorgung, or State Centre for Supply of Fats, and not Pure Jewish Fat, as the victims were told by the Nazis).
The reason why one has to be accurate is that one has to exercise tremendous responsibility and deep respect towards the victims and their relatives and towards the memory of the millions of Jewish dead. What the Nazis did is horrendous enough; we do not need to believe the additional horrors they thought about but did not have time to realize. The Holocaust deniers waiting in the wings are eager to pick up any inaccuracies we may inadvertently commit, and we should not ease their "work."
Source: The Nizkor Project. Reprinted by permission from the author.