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Jewish Victims of the Holocaust: The Soap Allegations

We begin by examining the arguments made by several revisionist authors regarding allegations that Nazis made soap from human corpses during the Second World War. We will see claims from Mark Weber, Bradley R. Smith, Carlos Porter, and Richard Harwood and Ditlieb Felderer.

Because "revisionists" often portray the soap allegations as an attack on Germans generally, Nizkor wishes to make one thing clear from the outset. We present information on Professor Spanner and the Danzig soap experiment, not because we feel this isolated case is relevant to the history of the Holocaust as a whole, nor because we believe it is especially important, but because the revisionists we cite have attempted to confuse the issue. They have conflated the Auschwitz RIF rumor and the Danzig experiment into one "soap story" and have presented statements about one or the other as though they referred to both.

In order to eliminate this confusion, and to dissect this particular technique of denial, it is necessary to explain the evidence regarding the Danzig experiment in some detail.

Nizkor takes no position as to the reliability of this evidence, as it is not clear to us whether there is consensus among historians on the issue. The reader may make up his or her own mind. The important thing is that the evidence does exist, and that the revisionist tracts we shall examine ignore that evidence in an attempt to confuse the lay reader.

Claims by Mark Weber

Weber's first claim:

One of the most lurid and slanderous Holocaust claims is the story that the Germans manufactured soap from the bodies of their victims. [...] More important, this accusation was "proved" at the main Nuremberg trial of 1945-1946, and has been authoritatively endorsed by numerous historians in the decades since. [1]

This is not true. What does the Judgment of the IMT actually say?

After cremation the ashes were used for fertilizer, and in some instances attempts were made to utilize the fat from the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap. [2] (Emphasis Nizkor's.)

Note that the IMT did not say that soap was made from human remains -- on the contrary, they said that the Nazis tried to make soap from human remains. One can attempt something without being successful. The IMT also does not say that this attempt was widespread. Weber deliberately misinterprets what the IMT said in an attempt to discredit that body's judgments.

Weber's second claim:

...Holocaust historians have grudgingly conceded that the human soap tale is a wartime propaganda lie. [3]

Contrary to what Mr. Weber has said both here and above, the overwhelming majority of Holocaust historians have never believed that the Nazis mass produced human soap. He is trying to imply that people such as Yehuda Bauer and Deborah Lipstadt have suddenly changed their minds on this issue, especially because of what the revisionists have proved.

This is not the case, for Bauer and Lipstadt (and many others) never believed it or mentioned it in their published histories of the Holocaust. Even Weber's fellow revisionists Richard Harwood and Ditlieb Felderer contradict him by complaining that many Holocaust books do not mention anything about human soap (see below).

Weber's third claim:

Even British prisoners of war interned at Auschwitz in 1944 testified later about the wartime rumors that corpses of gassing victims were being turned into soap there. [4]

Actually, the Nuremberg documents contain the testimony of only one British POW who mentions the soap rumor at Auschwitz. This is what that POW, Douglas T. Frost, had to say:

The German civilians often threatened the inmates that they would be gassed and made into soap. We were told that quite a few times by the inmates and I personally heard the German civilians make those threats many times. Also I heard the Germans joking among themselves about the same thing. I didn't take it seriously at first but later I wondered whether it might not be true after all. Though I have no personal knowledge, I got the impression that the manufacture of soap from inmates was being done at Auschwitz by rendering the fat from the gassed bodies. [5] (Emphasis Nizkor's.)

As we shall later see, two British POWs testified to soap production at the Danzig Anatomic Institute, not Auschwitz; whether Weber has confused these deliberately or accidentally is impossible to know. Those testimonies were of activities witnessed firsthand, indeed participated in -- not reports of rumors.

Note that Frost merely testifies to rumors, and that Weber deliberately does not mention that Frost placed the blame for the rumors on the Germans who worked at Auschwitz.

In fact, we know that human soap was not made at Auschwitz. In discussing soap taken from Auschwitz, Michael Berenbaum explained that "The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tested several bars of soap reported to be composed of human fat but no such fat was found." [6] The negative test result was confirmed also in a letter to the present authors from Steve Friesen of the USHMM, 30 May 1995. But although human soap was not actually made at Auschwitz, many people there apparently believed it at the time, and German civilians there taunted inmates that they would be made into soap, as Frost pointed out in his deposition.

Weber's fourth claim:

[Soviet prosecutor] Smirnov quoted at length from an affidavit by Sigmund Mazur, an Institute employee, which was accepted as Nuremberg exhibit USSR-197. It alleged that Dr. Rudolf Spanner, the head of the Danzig Institute, had ordered the production of soap from corpses in 1943. [7]

This is correct: the most damning and vivid description of the Danzig Anatomical Institute comes from Mazur, who worked there from January 1941 until the capture of Danzig. Note that Weber does not attempt to discredit Mazur at all.

Weber's fifth claim:

A human soap "recipe," allegedly prepared by Dr. Spanner (Nuremberg document USSR-196), was also presented. [8]

Actually, the "recipe," which is in German, does not contain the word "human" in it, but it was a recipe for soap made from fat typed on the letterhead of the Danzig Anatomical Institute.

Weber's sixth claim:

Over the years, numerous supposedly reputable historians have promoted the durable soap story. Journalist-historian William L. Shirer, for example, repeated it in his best-selling work, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. [9]

What, exactly, did Shirer say?

One Danzig firm, according to a document offered by the Russian prosecution, constructed an electrically heated tank for making soap out of human fat. [10]

Notice that Shirer did not endorse, confirm, or "promote" the soap allegations. Nor does he mention mass production of soap by a factory. He merely states that there was one firm which made one tank -- according to an IMT document, USSR-272 to be precise. (The document was the written testimony of a British corporal and POW, namely William Anderson Neely.)

Weber's seventh claim:

More recently, Jewish historian Walter Laqueur "denied established history" by acknowledging in his 1980 book, The Terrible Secret, that the human soap story has no basis in reality. [11]

Weber makes this sentence sound very dramatic, especially since he insists on mentioning that Laqueur is Jewish, so we should look and see just what Laqueur actually said: "It emerged after the war that the [soap] story was in fact untrue." [12]

This was a completely nonchalant sentence from Laqueur, which Weber tried to turn into a dramatic concession and "denial of established history." Laqueur was only saying what several others have said -- that many people believed the soap allegations during the War.

Weber's eighth claim:

Gitta Sereny, another Jewish historian, noted in her book Into That Darkness: "The universally accepted story that the corpses were used to make soap and fertilizer is finally refuted by the generally very reliable Ludwigsburg Central Authority for Investigation into Nazi Crimes." [13]

The first part of that quotation is pure overstatement on Sereny's part: it was never "universally accepted," and she should not have phrased it that way. But what is most important is that Weber neglects to include Sereny's next sentence in his quotation. She continued:

The Authority has found after considerable research that only one experiment was made, with a few corpses from a concentration camp. When it proved impractical the idea was apparently abandoned. [14]

Although Sereny does not provide a citation for her quotation from the Ludwigsburg Authority, she is clearly stating that the Authority found that there was an attempt to make soap from human remains, but that it was given up. Weber deliberately omitted the second half of Sereny's quotation because it did not fit his thesis.

Weber's ninth claim:

The "RIF" soap bar initials that supposedly stood for "Pure Jewish Fat" actually indicated nothing more sinister than "Reich Center for Industrial Fat Provisioning" ("Reichsstelle für Industrielle Fettversorgung"), a German agency responsible for wartime production and distribution of soap and washing products. RIF soap was a poor quality substitute that contained no fat at all, human or otherwise. [15]

Weber is correct that the RIF soap was not made from human remains. But is it any wonder that people believed it during 1942-45, especially when Germans were taunting inmates at Auschwitz that they would be turned into soap?

What is interesting, though, is that Mazur never mentions any initials on the soap that he claimed was made at the Danzig Anatomical Institute. On the photograph of the soap evidence from the IMT, introduced as USSR-393, no initials are present. This photograph is reproduced on page 201 of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, by Arthur Butz. It is also available at Nizkor: an overview, and a closeup of the soap.

Thus, the RIF soap really has nothing to do with the Danzig Anatomical Institute. The rumors that Jewish corpses were being used to make soap began to surface in the West as early as August 1942. The Danzig soap evidence is all dated 1944: Mazur testified that Spanner gave him the soap "recipe" in February 1944 (IMT document USSR-197), the recipe from the Danzig Institute is dated February 15, 1944 (USSR-196), William Neely's testimony stated that the soap tank was installed in March or April 1944 (USSR-272), and so on.

Himmler himself was disturbed by the rumors that bodies of Jews were being used for soap and/or fertilizer, since the Nazis' extermination plans demanded strict secrecy. On November 30, 1942, after Rabbi Stephen Wise mentioned the soap rumors to the press in New York City on November 24, Himmler wrote to Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo:

In view of the large emigration movement of Jews, I do not wonder that such rumors come to circulate in the world.

We both know that there is present an increased mortality among the Jews put to work. You have to guarantee to me that the corpses of these deceased Jews are either burned or buried at each location, and that absolutely nothing else can happen with the corpses at any location.

Conduct an investigation immediately everywhere whether any kind of misuse [of corpses] has taken place of the sort as listed in point 1, probably strewn about in the world as a lie.

Upon the SS-oath I am to be notified of each misuse of this kind. [16]

It is clear, then, that the RIF soap allegations were merely a rumor, even though many people believed it at the time. But the RIF soap rumors have nothing to do with the allegations regarding Professor Spanner's possible experiments at the Danzig Anatomical Institute. What Himmler's letter does imply, though, is that if Spanner used Jewish corpses (which has never been claimed or documented), then Himmler should have known about it.

Weber's tenth claim:

Shortly after the war the public prosecutor's office of Flensburg, Germany, began legal proceedings against Dr. Rudolf Spanner for his alleged role in producing human soap at the Danzig Institute. But after an investigation the charge was quietly dropped. In a January 1968 letter, the office stated that its inquiry had determined that no soap from human corpses was made at the Danzig Institute during the war. [17]

Actually, Spanner was investigated twice by German authorities: in Hamburg (1947) and in Flensburg (1947-48). Both times he was not prosecuted. Does that mean that he was completely innocent, or that there was not enough evidence to proceed with a case? One would need to read the complete file on Spanner from the Flensburg Public Prosecutor's Office to understand fully the reasons for the cases being dropped.

Weber's eleventh claim:

He [Yehuda Bauer] had the chutzpah to blame the [soap] legend on the Nazis. [18]

Douglas Frost has already been quoted above from his Nuremberg testimony that Germans taunted Auschwitz inmates that they would be turned into soap. Because of testimony such as Frost's, Professor Bauer believes that the Nazis "used [soap threats] as a form of additional sadism, in words this time, on their Jewish victims." [19]

In reading Mark Weber's article, it is clear that he is deliberately overstating the belief in the soap allegations among what he calls "exterminationist" historians, so as to make his debunking of it seem that much more important and dramatic.

In truth, most historians do not believe that soap was mass produced from human remains (most of those who even mention the soap allegations at all in their writings are survivors who either actually saw the "RIF" soap, or who were taunted by the Germans that they would be made into soap). No matter what we know now, it was widely rumored during the Second World War that soap was being (and even Himmler heard the rumors), so we can forgive the victims of the Nazis for believing that their persecutors would do such a thing.

Konnilyn Feig, writing in Hitler's Death Camps, is one of the few historians who argue that the Nazis made human soap. In his article, Weber overstates support for the soap allegations and attempts to build up this straw man so he can dramatically tear it down, and thereby hopefully cast doubt on the Nuremberg proceedings and the entire Holocaust. Whatever doesn't fit into his thesis is either glossed over (the Frost statement), misstated (the Judgment of the IMT), or omitted (Sereny's full quotation).

Weber also fails to differentiate between the various soap allegations. He is correct in asserting that RIF soap was not made from human remains. He is correct in asserting that there were no "soap factories" which mass-produced soap from human remains.

But he fails to address or respond to the affidavits of Sigmund Mazur, William Neely, or the second British POW, John Witton. All three worked at the Danzig Anatomical Institute. Weber merely states that Rudolf Spanner was cleared in 1948. But does the fact that a German prosecutor immediately after the War failed to bring charges against a prominent German academic mean that professor was necessarily innocent?

Claims by Bradley R. Smith

Smith's first claim:

The Encyclopedia Judaica (New York City, 1971) contains a photograph of the inside of a German soap factory. Titled "A German soap factory near Danzig," the photo accompanies the Encyclopedia's article on Poland. ...The photograph is not sourced, but who would want to doubt the intellectual integrity of the publishers of the Encyclopedia Judaica? [20]

Indeed, the integrity of the publishers is beyond question; the sources are readily available. Actually, there are two photographs of the interior of the Danzig Institute on those pages of the Encyclopedia (vol. 13, pp. 761-762). The two photographs were first published (along with a third) in Zaglada zydostwa polskiego: album zdjec, ed. Gerszon Taffet (Lodz: Centralna Zydowska Komisja Historyczna w Polsce, 1945), p. 96. According to that book's Introduction:

The photographs contained in this album are only a part of the photographic documents in possession of the Central Jewish Historical Committee in Poland.

The photographs also appeared in Mydlo z ludzkiego tluszczu: alfa i omega niemieckich zbrodni w Polsce, by Stanislaw Strabski (Poznan: Wydawnictwo Zachodniej Agencji Prasowez, 1946). There are other photographs of the interior and exterior of the Danzig Institute in Polish Monthly Review, no. 1 (Aug. 1945): 22-23; and in Het boek der kampen, by Ludo van Eck (Leuven: Kritak, 1979), pp. 247-252.

Smith's second claim:

At Nuremberg the human-soap indictment against the Germans was upheld.

Smith is half-correct. As quoted above in the section on Mark Weber's first claim, the Judgment of the IMT actually says that "attempts were made."

Smith's third and fourth claims deal with Yehuda Bauer.

Smith's third claim:

Yehuda Bauer has told a Holocaust memorial meeting for "Yom Hashoah," the yearly Jewish celebration of German bestiality, that the Jewish soap story isn't true after all.... He says that the "technical possibilities" for rendering soap from the cadavers of murdered Jews were not yet understood during World War II. Do you suppose it's been worked out since?

What, exactly, are Professor Bauer's views regarding the soap allegations? After he was quoted in several newspapers (including the Jerusalem Post, May 5, 1990; Chicago Tribune, Apr. 25, 1990; and Northern California Jewish Bulletin, Apr. 27, 1990) that the "technical possibilities for transforming human fat into soap were not known at that time," Bauer later explained that he was discussing the industrial production of human soap. In a follow-up letter to the editor of the Jerusalem Post (included as an Appendix to this document), Bauer wrote regarding the Danzig experiment:

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....

Thus, Bauer is convinced that there was a preliminary experiment performed by Spanner at Danzig.

Smith's fourth claim:

Why did Yehuda Bauer choose to deny the Jewish soap hoax this year rather than last year or the year before? Or ten or even twenty years ago.

As mentioned above in the Mark Weber section, most Holocaust historians have never believed the allegations concerning mass production of human soap, especially as they have been "presented" by revisionists, who confuse the Danzig experiment with the R.I.F. soap rumors. As Smith pointed out earlier in his chapter, Deborah Lipstadt did write a letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times on this topic. [21] And Yehuda Bauer has been quoted on this topic. The rational explanation as to why historians periodically mention this issue in public is because members of the public continue to bring it up. During 1995 alone, there were at least two attempts to sell "human soap," once in Israel and once in Poland.

Claims by Carlos Porter

Porter's first claim:

In 1946, it was a "proven fact" that Nazis made human soap (Judgement, Nuremberg Trial, IMT I 252; VII 597-600; XIX 506; XXII 496). [22]

As we have already mentioned above in the sections on Weber and Smith, the Judgment of the IMT actually says that "attempts were made," not that soap was made, and it also specifically says "in some instances": not a large-scale program.

Note that the point Porter is trying to make here is that things which were proven at Nuremberg have been retracted later by historians. Since, as we have seen, historians repudiate the "RIF" soap rumor but not the Stutthof/Danzig evidence, Porter's point is not supported.

Furthermore, Porter cites four sections of the trial record to back him up on the matter of "proven fact." He correctly points out that I-252 is the Judgment, but neglects to mention that XXII-496 is the same text, just in a different place. VII-597 through 600 is the Soviet prosecution's introduction of the evidence, and XIX-506 is simply a reference to that evidence by the British prosecution. In short, not one of these quotes backs up his claim.

Porter's second claim:

They [The Hague] have the "human soap," which has never been tested, and the "original human soap recipe" (Document USSR-196), which is a forgery; but apparently no original wartime German documents. [23]

Since Porter claims that virtually every Nuremberg document that shows a German in a bad light is a forgery, it would be impossible to change his mind in this regard. Notice that he does not show how or why the soap recipe is a forgery.

In Sigmund Mazur's deposition of 11 June 1945 (USSR-197), which Porter even includes as Appendix I in his other book, Made in Russia: The Holocaust, Mazur confirmed that the recipe in possession of the Soviet interrogator, which would later be introduced to the IMT as USSR-196, was the one he knew from the Danzig Institute:

Question: You have been shown a recipe typed in the letterhead of the Anatomical Institute. What do you have to say in respect of this recipe?

Answer: The recipe shown to me, dated 15th February 1944, is the same recipe about which I have just testified. This recipe was stuck to a plywood board which hung in the building where soap was prepared. [24]

Porter's third claim:

Since the affiants almost never (if ever) wrote their own "statements," it is common to find identical or nearly identical phrases or even entire paragraphs occurring in different documents, even when they have been prepared on different days by people; for example, ... Documents USSR-264 and 272 (human soap affidavits). [25]

Porter makes this sound sinister and conspiratorial, but there is a rational explanation for why USSR-264 (affidavit of John Henry Witton, 3 January 1946) and USSR-272 (affidavit of William Anderson Neely, 7 January 1946) might contain similar phrases and/or terminology.

The first thing to point out is that both affidavits were given to the British Judge Advocate General's Office, not to the Soviets. But even though both of these documents were witnessed by different members of the JAG Office, it is likely that both men were deposed by the same interviewer -- i.e., someone familiar with the Danzig Institute who could ask relevant questions -- especially since the two former POWs gave their affidavits only four days apart, at 6, Spring Gardens in the City of Westminster.

Porter's book, Made in Russia: The Holocaust, contains what we will call his fourth claim:

Of the two British human soap witnesses -- signers of mutually contradictory hearsay affidavits prepared with the help of other people -- John Henry Witton has apparently emigrated, while William Anderson Neely lives in Scotland. He has declined to discuss his experiences, and appears unaware that his story could make him wealthy. [26]

As usual, Porter merely brushes aside Nuremberg documents without offering any proof to back up his assertions. A close examination of both affidavits reveals only two "contradictions":

  1. Number of corpses: Witton stated that corpses "arrived at an average of 7 to 8 per day," with sometimes 5 to 6 in a Red Cross wagon and sometimes 3 to 4 in a small truck. Neely, however, said that corpses "arrived at an average rate of 2 to 3 per day."
  2. Length of preparation time of corpses: Witton stated that after fluids were inserted into the corpses, they "were then put into large metal containers where they were then left for approximately 4 months." Neely, however, said that the corpses were "kept for an average of three to four weeks in large tanks before being taken upstairs and used for dissection purposes."

What might be the possible explanations for these two apparent contradictions? One idea might be that the second one could just be a typo, where "months" was substituted for "weeks," or vice versa. But this is unlikely; the most logical explanation is that Witton was correct and Neely was wrong.

In his affidavit, Neely wrote: "I myself was employed in taking the corpses down to the cellar and laying them on the tables in the dissecting room and also in clearing them away at the end of the day." Perhaps Witton was much more involved in the process at the Danzig Institute than Neely was and therefore saw more corpses than his fellow POW did. This might also explain the discrepancy in the length of time, if Witton knew more details about the entire process than Neely did.

Aside from these two "contradictions," the rest of the two statements are in accord with each other. But it is really not surprising that their statements are not identical, since both men had been POWs for over four years, obviously traumatic events in their lives.

More importantly, it would have been more suspicious if their affidavits were exactly alike. In fact, Porter charged this as well: in one of his books, Porter complained that the two statements contained too many of the same phrases to be trusted, and in his other book he said they were too contradictory!

Finally, since both men worked in the Danzig Institute, their statements are not "hearsay."

Claims by Richard Harwood and Ditlieb Felderer

Harwood/Felderer's first claim:

It would thus appear that the entire [soap] allegation is founded on anonymous reports and speculative hearsay. No one can come up with any locations, dates, or names. [27]

While many of the early reports regarding human soap were anonymous, usually regarding the RIF soap, the later ones regarding the Danzig Anatomical Institute are not based on anonymous reports. Although they mention the photograph of the IMT soap evidence reproduced in Butz's book, Harwood and Felderer fail to mention USSR-197 (affidavits of Sygmund Mazur, 28 May 1945; 11 June 1945; 12 June 1945); USSR-264 (affidavit of John Henry Witton, 3 January 1946); or USSR-272 (affidavit of William Anderson Neely, 7 January 1946).

They also fail to mention anything regarding Professor Spanner, Mazur, Witton, and Neely. All actually worked in the Danzig Institute -- not quite "speculative hearsay."

Harwood/Felderer's second claim:

Many Exterminationist books make no mention at all of the "soap" story; even outlandish books such as We Have Not Forgotten (2 & 6) which covers every other conceivable German atrocity. The same is true of the numerous other "Holocaustiana" which I have plowed through. Surely if there were such factories there would be ample evidence to write book after book, article after article, on this one subject. [28]

This is in direct contradiction to Mark Weber who argues (see above) that the soap story "has been authoritatively endorsed by numerous historians." Yet his two fellow Holocaust-deniers are pointing out that most "exterminationists" do not mention the soap allegations in their books and use that fact as proof that it did not happen. That is hardly the picture that Weber painted in his article. The "revisionists" can't have it both ways.

Harwood/Felderer's third claim:

Determined to get to the bottom of the "human soap" problem, I paid a visit to Danzig, and unsuccessfully tried to locate the site of the "human soap factory." At the nearby Stutthof "extermination camp" I again sought evidence, but not one of the officials or guides there could help. [29]

Evidently, Felderer and/or Harwood did not go to the Medical Academy on that visit to Gdansk. Other researchers have not had any such problems. Carl Tighe discussed Mazur, Spanner, and the Institute in his book, Gdansk: National Identity in the Polish-German Borderlands, and in a letter to the authors, he wrote:

I lived in the city of Gdansk in 1975-76 and was shown the recipe Spanner used - I believe it is still in the possession of the Polytechnic. Among students, particularly students at the Medical Academy and Polytechnic, and local residents, most of whom arrived in the city after Spanner had left, Spanner's experiments were common lore. [30]

Julian Hendy visited the Gdansk Medical Academy during the Summer of 1994. According to Hendy, "It occupies the same building as the Anatomical Institute, the small brick shed built by the British POWs is still there. And there's a plaque on the wall about the soap experiments."

Harwood/Felderer's fourth claim:

It is certain that if the western public realized that almost all of these atrocity allegations emanated from the communist bloc, then they would receive about as much credence as contemporary communist propaganda about intervening in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and now Afghanistan to "rescue the inhabitants from foreign interference." [31]

Although it was a Russian (L. N. Smirnov) who brought up the soap allegations at the IMT, the Soviets had no control over the British statements. Both Neely and Witton gave their depositions to the British Judge Advocate General's Office -- in fact, both USSR-264 and USSR-272 clearly bear the designation MD/JAG/FS/22/609(4a) across the top.

What about Mazur's depositions? Were they just communist propaganda, or can his statements to the Soviets (USSR-197) be corroborated by anyone else? Before speaking to the Soviets and giving his depositions, Mazur was interviewed by the Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce ("Committee for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland").

This Committee, which was comprised of several prominent Poles (journalists, doctors, lawyers) as well as some representatives of the Red Army, entered the Danzig Institute on May 5, 1945. Mazur gave his formal deposition to the Committee on May 12, sixteen days before he gave his first deposition to the Soviets.

Zofia Nalkowska, a prominent novelist, was a member of the Committee and discussed Mazur, Spanner, and the Danzig Institute in her 1946 non-fiction book, Medaliony. The relevant portion was translated into English in Introduction to Modern Polish Literature, Ed. Adam Gillon and Ludwik Krzyzanowski. Nalkowksa quotes extensively from Mazur, and what he said to the Committee was in substance exactly what he later said to the Soviets. Nalkowska in no way can be considered a communist tool.

Stanislaw Strabski, another member of the Committee, was a Polish journalist and published a 1946 book called Mydlo z ludzkiego tluszczu, a preliminary translaton of which shows that he also discusses Spanner, Mazur, and the Institute. So it is disingenuous to merely dismiss the testimony at the IMT regarding the soap as communist propaganda: two of the three affidavits were provided by the British JAG, and Mazur's statements to the Soviets are consistent with what he told the Committee earlier in May 1945.


Why should it matter whether or not human soap was made from the corpses of Nazi Germany's victims? Whether Nazi Germany, or even one Nazi, made human soap or attempted to make human soap does not change the fact that Hitler attempted to exterminate European Jewry and murdered between 5 and 6 million of them.

Compared with this monumental crime, the soap allegations can be seen as trivial.

Yet, the revisionists attach special importance to this question, hoping thereby to cast doubt on the Nuremberg proceedings and on the Holocaust itself.

For example, Mark Weber writes:

It is worth emphasizing here that the "evidence" presented at the Nuremberg Tribunal for the bogus soap story was no less substantial than the "evidence" presented for the claims of mass extermination in gas chambers. [32]

Bradley R. Smith:

If Bauer and Lipstadt are right, who supplied this false evidence about human soap to the Court? Why? Was the Court bamboozled about other anti-German atrocity stories? Which ones? The gas chambers maybe? [33]

Carlos Porter:

The human soap accusation is particularly important because it was upheld in the judgement at Nuremberg on the same page (IMT I-252) as gassing millions of Jews and cutting their hair off to make human hair mattresses. [34] (Emphasis in original.)

(Actually, the statement about the killing of millions is on the first two lines of I-253, and has nothing to do with the statement about mattresses on I-252 -- but in any case, why would the page number be the least bit important?)

As has already been pointed out several times above, the IMT did not "uphold" or "confirm" the soap allegations that these revisionists are talking about. Nor does it really matter whether or not the Nazis actually made human soap -- it does not affect, in any way whatsoever, the facts of the Holocaust.

Nor was the quantity or quality of the evidence for soap production in any way comparable to that of mass gassings: three testimonies and a few corroborating pieces of evidence is in no way comparable to the overwhelming stream of physical evidence and testimonies from the perpetrators and other witnesses of gassings and other facets of the Holocaust. To even try to draw the comparison is ludicrous.

But what the revisionists' writings on the soap allegations demonstrate is their usual techniques of anti-scholarship: deceit, denial, and misrepresentation. They misquote; they omit what contradicts their preconceived notions; and they offer nothing substantial to refute or disprove the statements of Mazur, Witton, and Neely. Then, they take their distorted case and say that it is only the beginning of "revisionist" historical successes: if the soap, why not the gas chambers?

Nowhere is this clearer than in the words of Greg Raven:

The main front on which the revisionist battle is being fought is to correct the Holocaust story. Here, the years since the publication of the first Journal have seen remarkable retreats from the standard Holocaust story, which used to include soap made from Jewish corpses, gas chambers at Dachau, and all manner of fiendish methods of murder (including nuclear devices). Revisionists have convincingly demonstrated virtually every facet of the traditional Holocaust tale to be untrue, or at least wildly exaggerated, resulting in a inexorable whittling down of the "accepted" Holocaust story to a tiny fraction of what it once was. Even so, the "six million" figure remains, indicating that there is yet more work to be done. [35] (Emphasis Nizkor's.)

We still cannot say with certainty whether or not human soap was made at the Danzig Anatomical Institute. There are three affidavits from three people who worked there to that effect, and corroborating physical evidence. That is not sufficient to establish human soapmaking for certain, but neither can it be dismissed out of hand.

Unlike the "revisionist scholars" cited in this rebuttal, we will continue to investigate, examining all the evidence before reaching a conclusion, rather than adopting their practice, which is to develop their prejudices and then look for evidence to support them.


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."

Yehuda Bauer

Works Cited

  1. Weber, Mark, "Jewish Soap," p. 217.
  2. IMT, vol. 1, p. 252.
  3. Weber, op. cit., p. 217.
  4. Ibid, p. 218.
  5. NMT, vol. 8, p. 624.
  6. Gutman et al., Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, p. 80.
  7. Weber, op. cit., p. 219.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid, p. 221.
  10. Shirer, William, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 971n.
  11. Weber, op. cit., p. 222.
  12. Laqueur, Walter, The Terrible Secret, p. 82.
  13. Weber, op. cit., p. 222.
  14. Sereny, Gitta, Into That Darkness, p. 141n.
  15. Weber, op. cit., p. 222.
  16. Himmler to Müller, 30 Nov. 1942, US National Archives, Record Group 242, Microfilm Series T-175/Roll 58/Frame 2521486. As quoted in Breitman, Richard, "Secrecy and the Final Solution," from Millen, pp. 70-71.
  17. Weber, op. cit., p. 222.
  18. Ibid.
  19. From a letter from Bauer to the editor of The Jewish Standard, dated January 9, 1991, a copy of which was provided to the authors by Bauer.
  20. Smith, Bradley R., "Rub-a-Dub-Dub."
  21. Lipstadt, Deborah, Letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1981, Sec. II, p. 2.
  22. Porter, Carlos, Not Guilty at Nuremberg, p. 2.
  23. Ibid, p. 5.
  24. Porter, Carlos, Made in Russia, p. 369.
  25. Porter, Carlos, Not Guilty at Nuremberg, p. 12.
  26. Porter, Carlos, Made in Russia, p. 377.
  27. Harwood et al., "Human Soap," p. 135.
  28. Ibid, p. 136.
  29. Ibid, p. 137.
  30. Letter from Carl Tighe to the authors, March 21, 1995.
  31. Harwood et al., "Human Soap," pp. 137-138.
  32. Weber, Mark, "Jewish Soap," p. 219.
  33. Smith, Bradley, Rub-a-Dub-Dub.
  34. Porter, Carlos, Made in Russia, p. 368.
  35. Raven, Greg, "A Look Back."

Sources: The Nizkor Project. Reprinted by permission from the author.

See Also: Extended List of Works Cited

Editor: Marc Fleisher
Researchers: John Drobnicki & Julian Hendy
Writer: John Drobnicki