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Archive/File: people/e/erichsen.hugo/cremation-of-the-dead
Last-Modified: 1998/05/25

"[the Belgian government] dispatched Colonel Creteur to
examine into the grievances, and, if possible, remove them.
One's hair stands on end when one reads the report of the
colonel on the condition of the Sedan battle-field. The only
way to remedy the evil was to destroy the dangerous cadavers
by cremation, which was a difficult task, under the
circumstances, but which was nevertheless accomplished by
the ingenious Creteur. The colonel's report is full of
horrible facts. The bodies of German soldiers in a trench at
Laid-Trou were covered so little by earth that carnivorous
animals had already devoured part of the hands and faces.
Rain-water had caused 30 large pits, containing the remains
of Bavarians, to cave in, and had laid bare the bodies.
Between Belan and Bazailles, the owners of a field had
leveled the elevation of a Bavarian grave. Relics of the
dead protruded from the ground. The bodies were covered only
by a thin layer of earth, in which corn flourished
luxuriantly. Wild bears, foxes, and dogs, relishing the
human flesh, helped to scratch away the soil over the
remains, as did the numerous crows upon the pit in which the
horses had been buried. Dogs, having once feasted on this
fare, would not eat anything else.

Creteur at first could not obtain men to  carry out his
plans, as every one who attempted to open the trenches
contracted phlyctaena, an eruption of the skin. Finally, by
promising good pay, he enlisted 27 workmen, whom he
endeavored to protect by saturating their clothing and
moistening the graves with a solution of carbolic acid. But
this only intensified the phlyctaena. He then determined to
cover the graves with a layer of chloride of lime, and to
pour diluted muriatic acid upon them subsequently. By this
means he succeeded in laying bare the topmost layer of the

He then had large quantities of coal tar poured into the
pit, which trickled down among the bodies to the bottom,
thoroughly covering the remains. He then had more chloride
of lime heaped upon the corpses, and finally had bundles of
hay, previously saturated with kerosene, thrown burning into
the pit.

Creteur declares that from 200 to 300 bodies were consumed
within 50 to 60 minutes. The smoke, impregnated with the
smell of the carbolic acid that was formed by the
combination of the chloride of lime and coal tar, was not
offensive, and proved entirely harmless to the workmen.
About one-fourth of all the contents remained in the pits,
consisting of calcined bones and a dry mass. These were
again covered with chloride of lime, and then the trenches
were closed. In this way, 45,855 human and equine bodies
were disposed of." (Erichsen, 137-138)

                         Work Cited
Erichsen, Hugo. Cremation of the Dead. Detroit, 1887

This information was provided by John C.Zimmerman, an ssociate 
professor at the University of Nevada,Las Vegas. He is presently 
completing a major work on Holocaust denial.

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