The Techniques of Holocaust Denial: Soap Allegations 

Editors: Marc Fleisher ([email protected])
Researchers: John Drobnicki and Julian Hendy
Writer: John Drobnicki

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

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.

Polish war crimes prosecutors confirmed the testimonies with forensic testing which determined that human fat was one of the components in soap found in 1945.

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.)