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'wanted: scientific references on corpse color'
We have an excellent thread here on the color of corpses when exposed to cyanide & CO poisoning (1). There are some excellent references in that thread. However, I feel it's important to acquire an even greater number of these. There is an end product in all this and I want to leave little room for spin doctoring by The Believers.
So, in this thread I would like to collect only specific testimonies on corpse color, as many as possible. Who gave the testimony? Under what circumstances? When? Any and all details which may be a factor.
(1) 'The most important Photograph / corpse color' -
1) Dario Gabbai, USC Shoah Foundation interview
1:55 "some of them were black and blue from the gas"
Gabbai also states this in Laurence Rees' 2005 BBC program on Auschwitz, in episode 4, at 5:30 ("some black and blue from the gas")
2) Ya’akov Silberberg, in an interview in Gideon Grief's book "We Wept Without Tears," makes the following statements:
Q: What happened when you joined the Sonderkommando? I’m referring to the first moments, the first hours.
A: What I can tell you? The Sonderkommando was something terrible. When I went in the first night and saw the bodies . . . and the furnaces burning . . . I went there and right away I saw this scene: The large, long room where the people undressed was full of corpses, arranged in layers up to the ceiling. They were no longer shaped like human beings; they were swollen and black. Children, women, girls . . . they didn’t look human anymore. The bodies were allowed to accumulate there because the furnaces didn’t have the capacity to cremate them.
Q:Yankl, can you describe, in as much detail as possible, how the bodies were removed from the chamber? What did they look like?
A: When they opened the doors, we saw a tangled mass of people who’d been suffocated. Little children at the bottom, adults above them, fat people below. Everyone had wanted to be on top, in order to breathe. It was terrible. The people had become swollen, black, and entangled because of the way they’d suffocated in there. It was hard to untangle them in order to take them to the furnaces.
Q: When you took out the bodies, were they warm or cold?
A: Warm. They were blue, black, and swollen. What I saw in the gas chamber was ghastly, a horrible scene: the people were tangled, it was hard to separate them, they were one mass. We untangled the bodies. The people who were inside, in the chamber—it was horrible. They no longer had faces at all. They’d become a pile; they weren’t people anymore.
3) Joseph Sacker, in Grief's "We Wept Without Tears," gives the following description of gassed people:
Q: Why did the people sprawl on top of each other?
A: When you’re standing up and you suddenly faint, you fall over. The people fell on each other. When they threw in the gas and the people died, they fell. We had to use a lot of force to separate them. You could see on their faces the pain that the asphyxiation caused. After a few hours, blood oozed from the bodies.
Q: What did you feel when you began to pull the bodies?
A: It was easier to separate the bodies at first, when they were still warm, but after ten to twelve hours the bodies were cold as ice, heavy as stone. And sometimes the skin had disintegrated from the heat, from the effect of the gas.
Q: Did you have time to observe the faces of the people whom you removed from the chamber?
A: We looked. We saw the people’s faces. It was a suffering that lasted three minutes. Terrible suffering. I don’t think it took longer. For those three minutes, it was a life-and-death struggle. The people there knew that the end was approaching and tried to climb as high as they could to escape the gas. Sometimes all the skin on the bodies peeled due to the effect of the gas. It looked like burns, burst blisters.
Q: Did that happen often?
A: Yes, often, sure.
Q: What color were the bodies after the gassings?
A: After the gassings they had a totally natural color, but after the blisters burst they turned red as fire.
Q: Did the entire body take on that color?
A: No, only certain places. Not the whole body.
Q: Did you see people holding hands in the chamber?
A: Yes, there were some who grasped each other by the hands.
Q: How did you separate the bodies?
A: We pulled them apart. With our hands or with pitchforks. I’d rather you didn’t ask me about the details.
Q: But I have to ask. I’d like you to describe this accurately.
A: Well, I already said that there were pitchforks that were used to drag the bodies, by their hands or their feet.
Q: Couldn’t it be done without the pitchforks?
A: It could hardly be done. They were stuck to each other. One next to the other . . . It took a lot of strength to drag them out.
So according to Sacker, bodies did turn red, but because of skin blistering/peeling/disintegrating/bleeding. The theme that the skin loosens and that gassed corpses stick together appears in a number of testimonials. The pitchforks also appear throughout Grief's book, for a variety of purposes: to remove the sticky corpses, to load the ovens [!], and to stir the ovens during the cremation process.
4) Shlomo Dragon, in Grief's book:
Q: What did the bodies look like after they were gassed?
A: When they opened the door, the bodies were lying on top of each other, jammed together, in layers. Others were standing up. I often saw something white on the dead people’s lips. It was terribly hot in the gas chamber and you could sense the sweetish taste of the gas. When we went into the chamber, we could still hear groaning, especially when we began to drag the bodies by their arms to take them out.
Once we found a baby who’d been stuffed into a pillow and was still alive. The baby’s head was also buried in the pillow. After we removed the pillow, the baby opened his eyes. Meaning that he was still alive. We took the bundle to Oberscharführer Moll and told him that he was alive. Moll took the kid to the edge of the pit, put him on the ground, stepped on his neck, and threw him into the fire. With my own eyes I saw him trample on that kid. The baby moved his little arms. He didn’t cry out, so I can’t say for sure that he was still breathing. In any case, he looked totally different from the other bodies.
So according to Dragon people who have died from inhaling cyanide look totally different from those who have survived, but he doesn't say how, except that the dead have something white on their lips. [The story of the baby who survives is variation of one Nyiszli told about a teenage girl surviving a gassing.]
5) Shaul Chazan, in Grief's book:
Q: Did the bodies have a special color?
A: I didn’t notice that.
Chazan then repeats the theme about skin loosening and bodies becoming glued together as a result of the gassing.
6) In Mattogno's book on the bunkers, he quotes (p. 116) from notarized declaration released by Milton Buki on December 15, 1989, in Jerusalem. Of those gassed in the bunker, Buki states that "the bodies were all naked and some had blue stains on them."
7) In Auschwitz: the first gassing, Mattogno quotes (pp. 34-36) from the 1944 English translation of an August 1943 Polish pamphlet written by Natalia Zarembina:
"the greenish tinge on the dead bodies does not disappear: it seems rather to become more distinct now in the new light of day.
One of the grave-diggers, holding a corpse in his arms to throw it back on the cart, gazes into the greenish-grey face for a while. Years ago he saw similar faces: a deserted trench with corpses of soldiers. The same ghostly pallor. It is the discolouration of poison gas."
Mattogno returns to the matter in section 6.5:
The witnesses who described the aspect of the corpses of the alleged gassing victims quite uniformly agree on the fact that the bodies “were “greenish” (Kula), “bluish” (Banach), “green” (Hałgas), “blue” (Wolny), “bluish” (Kurant), “blue, almost purple-black” (Kielar), “bluish” (Weber), “bluish” (Gemański), “blue-black” (Petzold), “bluish” (Broad), whereas Natalia Zarembina speaks of a “ghostly pallor.”
Some of the witnesses Mattogno mentions above are quoted at greater length elsewhere in the same book: he quotes (pp. 42-43) a passage from Kula's testimony containing the "greenish" description, together with a description of skin falling off and bodies becoming glued together; also (p. 60) from Kazimierz Hałgas via Stanisław Kłodziński ("The corpses were already in a state of decomposition, green and smelly"); also (p. 61) from Jan Wolny ("The sockets of their eyes were swollen, their fingers, toes, and abdomen sky-blue"); also (p. 66) Wiesław Kielar ("Their faces were blue, almost purple-black."); also (p. 40) Walter Petzold ("The nature of the corpses, on account of the terrible effect of the poison gas, was such that one could see only blue-black, bloated, and mushy flesh that had once belonged to human beings. Cyklon ‘B’ has the property of disintegrating a human body almost completely, of causing the human lung to burst and of turning the rest of the body into a jelly-like state.")
I found two more:
*Stangl allegedly saw at Treblinka, ‘the pits full of black-blue corpses'. Wiki, Treblinka
* 'Their faces were blue, almost purplish' – at Auschwitz, a recollection of mass gassing of Russian Prisoners of War in September 1941, 'Auschwitz remembered' http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org ... bered.html
So my question is this: Did these witnesses see bodies or not? Are all these statements made up by those in charge after the event, because that's what they thought gassed people would look like. Or did these witnesses see piles of bodies which had died from another reason. If so what would have made all these people blue, post mortem?
'We don't need evidence, we have survivors' - israeli politician
“[...]we were let out and ordered to go to the gas chamber. We found heaps of naked bodies, doubled up. They were pinkish, and in places red. Some were covered with greenish marks and saliva ran from their mouths. Others were bleeding from the nose. There was excrement on many of them.”
“On days when the gentlemen would learn by telephone from the extemrination headquarters in Lublin that no new transports woul be arriving the next day, the murderers, out of sadism, woul let the peoples stand stuffed into the gas chambers so that they woul be asphyxiated. Once they stood like that for forty-eight hours and when the exterior doors were opened, a few people were still struggling and showing signes of life.
Most of the people were entirely swollen and black.”
There was a difference in the appearance of the dead from the small and from the large gas chambers. In the small chambers death was easier and quicker. The faces often looked as if the people had fallen asleep, their eyes closed. Only the mouths of some of the gassed victims were distorted with a bloody foam visible on their lips. The bodies were covered in sweat. Before dying, people had urinated and defecated. The corpses in the larger gas chambers, where death took longer, were horribly deformed, their faces all black as if burned, the bodies swollen and blue[...]”
Yankel (Jankiel, Yankiel) Wiernik:
“Some people who had been spared from another form of death, which I shall discuss later on, would become yellow and swollen from hunger and finally drop dead.”
“There was no longer any beauty or ugliness, for they all were yellow from the gas.”
Rachel Auerbach wrote with the use of testimonies:
“The bodies were naked; some of them were white, others were blue and bloated. They were always wet, covered with their final sweat, befouled with the filth of their final defecation, with rivulets of blood running from their mouths and noses.”
“One day, a convoy brought to the camp prisoners in striped pyjamas. They were extremely thin, and their heads were shaved; women and men looked alike and they could hardly walk. Rumors spread that these people, about 300 of them, came from Majdanek where the gas chambers were out of order. When they alighted from the train, they literally collapsed. SS Frenzel met them and poured chloride on their heads, as though they were already dead. The arrival of another convoy distressed me in the same way. It was thought to come from Lvov, but nobody knew for sure. Prisoners were sobbing and told us a dreadful tale: they had been gassed on the way with chlorine, but some survived. The bodies of the dead were green and their skin had peeled off.”
“The bodies were tossed out, blue, wet with sweat and urine, the legs smeared with excrement and menstrual blood. ”
Deposition of Henryk Tauber dated May 24, 1945, before the investigating judge Jan Sehn. Höss trial, vol. 11, pp. 122-150.; Jean-Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York 1989, p. 489.
Chil Raichman, The Last Jew of Treblinka, Pegasus Books LLC, 2011, p. 65ff., p. 67.
Yankel Wiernik, A Year in Treblinka, American Representation of the General Jewish Workers’ Union of Poland, Verbatim translation of this document (from Yiddish), New York 2, N.Y. 1945; online at http://www.zchor.org/treblink/wiernik.htm. ;Alexander Donat (ed.), The Death Camp Treblinka, Holocaust Library, New York 1979, p. 155, 159.
Thomas Kues in the respect to this sentence: “In the previously published version of this article Treblinka key witness Jacob (Jankiel) Wiernik was listed as witness number 5, due to the English (as well as Yiddish) translation of his pamphlet A Year in Treblinka mentioning “yellow” corpses (“There was no longer beauty or ugliness, for they all were yellow from the gas”, in the Polish original: “Nie ma ładnych i brzydkich, wszyscy żółci-zatruci.”). It has since been pointed out to us by a scholar who wishes to remain anonymous that we are here dealing with a mistranslation of a Polish idiomatic expression, żółci-zatruci, where “żółci” does not come from the word for “yellow” (żółty) but for “gall” (żółć) which has in vernacular an association with “poison”, cf. the German expression “Gift und Galle“. Thus Wiernik (in his known testimonies) has nothing concrete to say about the appearances of the corpses.”; Kues missed the first mention of yellow victims, victims of hunger, thus if translators previously correctly translated word yellow, their later alleged bad translation of the word “żółć” mentioned by Kues was probably deliberate. For example, Google translated this Wiernik´s passage as "yellow-poisoned" too, word “żółć” (gall) was in all probability in this part “żółci-zatruci” used as a description for color from Wiernik, i.e. yellow/dark green color and probably for this reason they translated this passage as "yellow" and not literally as "gall". Thus I disagree with Kues´s point, Wiernik used this word "gall" as a description for the appearance of the bodies, my opinion.
Rachel Auerbach in Alexander Donat (ed.), The Death Camp Treblinka, Holocaust Library, New York 1979, p. 36.
Miriam Novitch (ed.), Sobibór. Martyrdom and Revolt. Documents and Testimonies, Holocaust Library, New York 1980. p. 50.
Kurt Gerstein in one of his reports, PS-1553, p. 7.; online (with spelling errors) at http://www.gerstein.dk/report.htm
“Many had their mouths wide open, on their lips traces of whitish dried-up spittle. Many had turned blue, and many faces were disfigured almost beyond recognition from blows.”
“When the door finally was opened, the Sonderkommando was assaulted by an overhelming stench and the ghastly sight of putrid flesh. The bodies had turned blue and were bloated to double and treble their normal size, and Danny was among those who had to extricate them.”
Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers, 1979, published by Ivan R Dee, Inc , 1999, p. 117.
Rebecca Camhi Fromer, The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 1993, p. 53; Description of alleged gassed bodies which were kept for four to five days in the alleged gas chamber.
People who carried out this task [removing bodies from the chambers] have told me that the faces of the dead were very yellow and that around 70 per cent of them were bleeding slightly from the nose and mouth; physiologists, no doubt, can explain this.
The Russian original can be found here:
A partially bilingual edition is here:
The Russian original reads
Люди, работавшие на разгрузке камер, рассказывали мне, что лица покойников были очень желты и что примерно у семидесяти процентов убитых из носа и изо рта вытекало немного крови. Физиологи могут объяснить это.
I don't think this can mean anything but literally "very yellow." On the other hand, лицо can mean "person" as well as "face" so Grossman may be saying that the people were very yellow rather than that their faces were very yellow. Do we have any fluent Russian speakers here to check this?
The passage also seems to support the idea that Wiernik does mean that the corpses were yellow.
Grossman's piece was apparently written in September 1944 and published in November 1944 in Znamya [banner]. Who was Vassily Grossman? According to the translator's introduction to his book "Life and Fate"
During World War II Grossman worked for Red Star, the leading army newspaper. Grossman personally witnessed the disastrous retreats of the first year, the defence of Stalingrad and the capture of Berlin. As a war correspondent, he was second in popularity only to Ilya Ehrenburg.
He was also one of the first witnesses of the consequences of the Holocaust. His articles on this theme were mostly published in Unity, a newspaper produced for international distribution by the Jewish anti-Fascist committee. In the Russian journal Znamya he published 'The Hell of Treblinka', the first journalistic account of a German death-camp in any language. Together with Ilya Ehrenburg, Grossman was on the editorial committee of the Black Book, a massive anthology – yet to be printed in the Soviet Union – of documents relating to the Holocaust.
2. The question of whether the corpses might have been disposed of (either buried or burned) before they developed livor mortis has been raised. (The cherry-red color is visible before livor mortis, but livor mortis does intensify it.) Here is a relevant passage.
from Chil Rajchman, "Treblinka:A Survivor’s Memory" Maclehose Press, 2011 - continuing directly from the passage quoted by Bob.
The corpses in the larger gas chambers, where death took longer, were horribly deformed, their faces all black as if burned, the bodies swollen and blue, the teeth so tightly clenched that it was literally impossible to open them, and to get to the gold crowns we had sometimes to pull out the natural teeth – otherwise the mouth would not open.
Thus rigor mortis had set in. If there was time for rigor mortis to set in, then there was time for livor mortis to appear.
3. There are also some references not yet given here in Thomas Kues' blog post:
http://www.revblog.codoh.info/2011/06/s ... testimony/
Due to the steam all the bodies have become a homogenous mass stuck together with the perspiration of the victims. In their death agonies, arms, legs, trunks are intertwined into a gigantic macabre entanglement. To make it possible for the grave-diggers to get out single bodies, cold water from the near-by well is poured over the mass. Then the bodies separate and may be taken out. As a rule the surfaces of the bodies are not defaced; only the faces and buttocks are purple.
I guess they went with purple because they were going with the idea of steam chambers which caused asphyxiation. The mass of bodies stuck together is reminiscent of some testimonies about the bodies at Auschwitz, which is suggestive of cross contamination of sources.
More quotes from Mattogno/Graf:
A Polish officer who was sent to Treblinka with his Jewish wife on September 6, 1942, but escaped, in a a report sent to the Polish government-in-exile in London on March 31, 1943:
I do not know what kind of gas is used, but I know from a colleague who worked three weeks in ‘Treblinka II’ that the corpses have a bluish color
Also from the reports sent to the Polish government-in-exile in London on March 31, 1943:
In August as well as the following months, as the acceleration of the campaign exceeded the possibilities of the steam chambers, the transports were loaded into cars, which were sprinkled with a layer of lime and chlorine, so that after the arrival in Treblinka, exclusively corpses of a violet-blue color were tossed out of the cars. All had suffocated under torment in the cars.
The color seems to be the same no matter how they're being killed!
A 1944 report by Rabbi Silberschein (which appears to use the Novermer 15 1942 report as a source, but also innovates):
Water is fetched from a nearby well and the bodies are sprinkled with it so the gravediggers can carry away the corpses. These are loosened by it, one from the other, and it is easier to remove them. Their appearance has not changed, aside from a violet coloration of the head and the back side
I examined a number of people who died on CO poisoning and even more who were still alive.
I never witnessed anyone who was the classic cherry red.
The text books state the colour is only usually seen in those who have achieve fatal levels of carboxyhaemoglobin.
That I never witnessed it has no evidential meaning, the cherry red physical sign is so well known in medical circles.
If large numbers were killed with CO, witnesses would have remarked on this physical sign.
I carried out an extensive search of CO poisoning from diesel fumes. There is only one case in the literature. I know a man who worked in a factory repairing and servicing lorry diesel engines. People worked around running diesel engines, sometimes in closed rooms, all day every day. No-one suffered ill effects.
"There from the inside of the bathrooms they remove stiffed, swollen, purple corpses[...]”
Alfréd Wetzler, Čo Dante Nevidel, Pavel Zrínyi and Milanium M, 2009., p. 85.
p. 123 The bodies were naked, entwined tendrils; the bodies were yellow and blood had dribbled down their faces from their noses.
p. 124 One day, when we'd removed the wedges from the gas-chamber doors, when the doors opened and we saw the sodden yellow bodies...
p. 136 I could picture their yellowish bodies lying in the grave.
The description "the bodies were yellow and blood had dribbled down their faces from their noses" is obviously ripped off from Vassily Grossman (as quoted above), whose Treblinka Hell had appeared in French just five years before Gray's book was published (as L'Enfer de Treblinka. Paris: Arthaud, 1966); Wiernik is probably also an influence.
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