DThomas' Diesel Retreat

Part 3 of 4

This is an article posted on January 2, 1997 to alt.revisionism by Jamie McCarthy and is mildly edited for the conversion to HTML. The original article is available for comparison.


It appears this must be one of the "matters in which [you] have both interest and knowledge," which you told us on Dec. 11 that you would consider debating.

I do hope you stick with this and see it through. I would hate to get involved in a civil debate with you, and then have to watch the response be silence, or changing the subject. That's very frustrating for me.

I'll go through your article point-by-point. Allow me to outline your claims and my reply as follows:

Now, let's take a look at the arguments you present.

Can Diesel Engines Kill?

You write:

Their normal operating characteristics just aren't conducive to [carbon monoxide's] formation at lethal levels.

There's the first argument: the diesel engine must be run at a rich fuel-air ratio, which was impossible.

The problem is that it's just not true.

Is high carbon monoxide necessary?

Yes, running at a rich fuel-air ratio does indeed produce very toxic exhaust. True, gasoline engines (as opposed to diesel engines) can produce more carbon monoxide (CO). But, a diesel's oxygen output can easily be reduced below 10%, which is rapidly fatal.

Furthermore, there are NxOx compounds that are very dangerous as well -- 250 to 500 ppm of NO2 or N2O4 will do you in quickly. [1] The specific NxOx compounds weren't individually broken out and quantified in the sources Berg cited for his paper, so he is not justified in ruling them out. Also, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have a synergistic effect; while CO2 is not poisonous by itself, it exacerbates the effect of CO. [2] Berg does not take this into account. And, finally, the blistering heat and choking smoke of the exhaust being pumped into the gas chambers would not do the victims any good.

In fact, as Berg himself points out, some testimonies do indicate that the victims were blue. This points toward suffocation from lack of oxygen. It's also much easier to make a diesel produce low O2 than high CO, so the whole argument about CO is largely a red herring.

Here's what Berg says [3] on that:

If the Jews were not murdered with carbon monoxide from Diesel exhaust, could they have died instead from the effects of reduced oxygen in Diesel exhaust? Such a theory would at least be consistent with the claim that the corpses were "blue." A bluish coloring to certain parts of a corpse is indeed a symptom of death from lack of oxygen.

If you keep reading, Berg goes further than merely saying that the oxygen-deprivation theory is "consistent" with the blue color -- he says that it is the only possible theory:

[...] any possible death from Diesel exhaust would have been due to lack of oxygen, which would in turn have caused a bluish appearance of the corpse [...]

Since some witnesses' reports indicate a pink color, which in turn tends to indicate CO poisoning, I'm not sure I'd state the case as strongly as Berg does. But, for argument's sake, I'll grant that oxygen deprivation is what we need to look most closely at, though it is surely not the only causative factor.

Thus granted, the question is: what fuel-air ratio must have been achieved by the Nazis to kill by lack of oxygen? Again, the answer is in Berg's own paper:

At full load, which corresponds to a fuel/air ratio of 0.055, the oxygen concentration in the exhaust of any Diesel is 4%.

Berg also says that, below concentrations of about 6%, the victims stop breathing, which, let's assume, means death. There's our answer -- a ratio of 0.055 or more is more than sufficient. Four percent oxygen will kill quite effectively, by itself, with some room to spare.

Is a high fuel-air ratio possible?

And achieving that high ratio is very easy. One simply has to rev the engine up fairly high, so it doesn't stall, and block the air intake with a piece of cardboard. (This was the method used by Pattle et al. in their paper for the British Journal of Industrial Medicine.) Or unscrew the fuel pump plunger a few turns, so it injects more fuel. (This was the method used in the experiments cited in the Elliott-Davis paper which Berg himself used. [4] )

It's not rocket science. We'll see more on this below.

But, you and Berg give two reasons why this simple method could not have been used. Let's examine them.

Would particulate exhaust ruin the engine?

The first reason given is that particulates (solids) would ruin the engine:

A diesel engine would have to be operated at such a rich air/fuel ratio that there would be rapid buildup of solids in the cylinders which would ruin the engine. It isn't a lengthy process, it would occur within hours, or at most, days.

Well, no one will argue with you that running a very rich fuel-air mixture is not good for the engine.

But then, the Nazis didn't really care whether their engines broke down, since they were scavenged (by most accounts) from Russian tanks.

The question is, how long would it take for this buildup of solids to make the engine unusable?

Quantification is absolutely necessary here because we are dealing with tiny amounts. According to Berg's own sources, [5] solid material is measured in grams per hour. And nearly all of that is flowing right out the tailpipe. "...the quantities of material sticking in an engine in the form of deposits amounts to possibly 0.0001% or 0.01% of the fuel burned. The 0.0001% figure corresponds to an engine with a normal life while the 0.01% figure means short engine life due to heavy deposits."

Their graph shows solid exhaust rising from a normal amount of around 1 gm/hr to somewhat under 20. Does this mean the engine life is reduced by a factor of twenty? If the normal engine life expectancy is twenty years, then did the Treblinka engines last ... one year? That wouldn't conflict with any of the information we have -- after all, "short engine life" in the real world would mean a motor that breaks down after only five years.

And, would routine maintenance on the engines, simple cleaning, improve the life expectancy? We don't know.

But! You say that engine breakdown "would occur within hours, or at most, days." So presumably you have some quantification of how solid buildup destroys an engine, and how this relates to the fuel-air ratio used. This is exciting news, because I have yet to see any mention of "hours, or at most, days" in any of the articles which I've read on the subject over the past three years.

So I'd appreciate it if you could present this evidence. Thanks.

Would a load be required?

Your (and Berg's) second reason why the simple method of blocking the air intake could not have been used is that the engine would have to be loaded:

In addition, the engine would have to be run at 80% to 100% of full load, rather a difficult thing to do for a stationary mounted unit. A dynamometer type loading device would have to be installed. There is again no record or mention of the presence of this large, expensive, and highly specialized item in any supply records, statements or testimonies.

There are several erroneous assumptions in this, the main one being that a dynamometer would be required to brake an engine. Any mechanical device which does work would suffice, of course, such as an electric generator. No "expensive and highly specialized item" is required. Berg, in fact, says this.

But the main error is simply that Berg is wrong. The engine need not be run at full load if one wishes to tweak the fuel-air ratio by blocking the air intake.

Let me repeat myself: Berg is wrong.

Now, if you would like to contact Berg and have him defend his thesis, you are welcome to do so. Berg has already left alt.revisionism after making some nasty comments about how ugly Jews were, [6] so he might not be happy to take your call. Then again, he might. Who can say?

How do I know Berg is wrong? I asked some questions of an acquaintance who was involved for a time with the design and development of engines at a British diesel engine manufacturing company. (I have been meaning to make this available on the web earlier, and I shall do so as soon as I find the time. I'll share his name and full qualifications as soon as I obtain permission from him.) [7]

I wrote to him. Among my questions was this comment, on page 5:

Berg makes the further claim that fuel/air ratio is directly related to the load placed on the engine, and that diesel engines canot be "tweaked" the same way gasoline engines can.

I then quoted Berg:

Please explain to me if you think you can, how you can run a Diesel "rich" at part-load as well as at full-load? What do you mean? I think you are simply confusing Diesel engines with gasoline engines.

My source commented:

The claim on page 5 that fuel/air ratios cannot be altered is incorrect. The fuel injected is under governor control, so is linked to speed. Thus a small drop in engine speed, as load is applied, will result in more fuel being injected to provide the additional energy required.

However, it would be possible to alter the governor/fuel pump relationship to produce an excess of fuel. The volume of fuel injected for each engine power stroke is controlled by rotating the fuel pump plunger which has a helical spill groove. This controls the effective fuel pump stroke hence the volume of fuel injected. The result of overfuelling would be an excess of exhaust smoke, i.e. high hydrocarbon emissions, together with an increase in CO.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. Berg is, quite simply, "incorrect." Furthermore, Berg offers no credentials for himself as an engine designer or technician. Nor does he have footnotes for his claim to me, quoted above, nor for his assertion that loading the engine is the only way to increase fuel/air ratios.

My source continues:

The injectors would soot up quite quickly. But for an engine which is being run to the death (and for the death) the period required to stop and clean injectors would not be a problem. Neither would the internal condition of the engine give cause for concern.

Here is one more thing which Berg has failed to take into account: simply cleaning the injectors will alleviate his concern (and yours) about excess smoke rendering the engine useless.

We have just seen that the two objections raised by you and Berg are both invalid. The first is unquantified when quantification is absolutely necessary. The second is based on an assertion by Berg which is both unreferenced and false.

As my source says:

In short I do not believe that the engines were loaded -- let alone overloaded. They could be overfuelled in the full speed - no load state.

And, as Berg says:

At [...] a fuel/air ratio of 0.055, the oxygen concentration in the exhaust of any Diesel is 4%.

Berg says that this corresponds to "full load," but as we have seen, this is false. High fuel/air ratios can be attained at "full speed - no load." Berg is wrong.

At this point I must ask you to reexamine your claim that there was no lack of oxygen. You seem to disagree with these conclusions, but you failed to present any evidence. What you did present was:

Lack of oxygen in diesel exhaust??? Daniel, you know as much about engines as you do about other technical matters you attempt to address. The limit approaches zero. And in your ignorance you persist in braying out "liar" like a mantra. Jeez, get a clue guy.

Do you stand by these assertions, and if so, why?

Was There Anything Better?

So, now that we have shown that diesel engines are quite capable of extinguishing human life, what arguments remain? Well, not much. The only arguments left are that diesel would have been inefficient, and that the ever-efficient Germans would have chosen something better to kill people with.

This argument is very weak on its face. If something happened, it happened, and there is no need for it to make sense. The Nazis did many things which did not make sense. The slaughter of the Jews itself was absurd. To claim that because some details were absurd, they therefore did not happen, is ridiculous.

Even if one were to pretend for the sake of argument that not a single Jew was deliberately murdered, just the mere roundup, transportation, and incarceration of children and old people was senseless and highly wasteful of resources. Yet even the revisionists admit this happened.

Furthermore, this argument is especially weak because the gas chambers of Treblinka and the other Reinhard camps were not the zenith of this supposed German efficiency. Auschwitz holds that distinction, and at Auschwitz, the more powerful poison in Zyklon-B was used. Diesel gas chambers could have been improved upon -- and, tragically, were.

Were gasoline engines better?

DThomas continues:

Gasoline engines, on the other hand, are excellent sources of carbon monoxide, as evidenced by the frequency of suicides using automobile exhaust. Gasoline was also in short supply in wartime Germany,

An excellent reason, then, for not using gasoline engines!

Also, I understand that gasoline itself is more highly refined than diesel fuel, so it would be cheaper and easier to use diesel engines for that reason.

Was producer gas better?

You go on:

a fact that caused them to invent and build a half-million or more "producer gas generators" which were small add-on modules that could be mounted on vehicles to provide fuel for their modified engines. This was done in great numbers to solve the problem of petroleum shortages. Producer gas powered vans, trucks and buses were a standard mode of transportation throughout Germany and occupied Europe and Russia.

Wood chips were burned in a converter chamber whose output was a flammable mix of gases that contained high levels of carbon monoxide, 25% on the average (carbon monoxide is also flammable). This gas mix was lethal in its produced state and found limited use as a fumigant, probably for rats, not insects. The drawback of course is that it's also highly flammable, and in quantity, explosive.

Highly flammable, yes -- a fact which Berg mentions but does not emphasize, because he also suggests that the producer-gas vehicles would have been used to kill:

The gaswagons [...] would have been far superior for mass murder to any conventionally powered vehicles [...]

The fact is that pumping producer gas into a room would turn it into a giant Bic lighter. Carbon monoxide has an extremely large flammability range: anywhere from 12 to 75%. [8] And as Berg says:

The combustible gas produced in this way always contained between 18% and 35% carbon monoxide.

Why on earth would the Nazis have wanted something so flammable? And, given that we've already shown that diesel engines would suffice, why would they replace a solution that worked with one so dangerous?

However, it is a simple matter to set such an engine so that its exhaust emits carbon monoxide in reduced but still deadly levels that would kill quickly without the risk of explosion.

You don't give references, and I'd like to hear how this gas could have been used "without risk."

Ironically, one of the claims made in the Leuchter Report -- to which your own web site offers a link! [9] -- was that HCN was explosive and therefore would have been too dangerous to use in the Kremas, near the cremation furnaces:

The building is too damp and cold to utilize Zyklon B gas effectively. The gas would have reached the ovens, and after killing all the technicians, would have caused an explosion and destroyed the building.

Leuchter says this about hydrocyanic gas, whose minimum explosive concentration is two hundred times greater than the toxic concentration. By contrast, carbon monoxide is flammable at twice the same toxicity level. [10]

We needn't even mention how it's more dangerous to handle a gas which is continually produced under pressure, as opposed to one that comes in measured quantities from a can.

So, DThomas, may I ask what your reference was for the claim that this gas "would kill quickly without the risk of explosion"?

You go on:

Given the ready availability of the producer gas vehicles and the fact that their operation required only ordinary wood chips, they would have been an obviously more practical choice than either of the other two types of engines or, for that matter, Zyklon-B.

True. Except for that little problem with turning buildings (and the victims inside) into torches.

But since you raise the argument of practicality, you must remember that the producer gas vehicles had an alternative use, as vehicles. Meanwhile, there were hundreds of functional engines sitting in Soviet tanks -- and foreign engines were not "plug-and-play" with any German vehicles or machines, so they could serve little other use.

Yet, aside from stories of field use of "killing vans" in which the alleged victims were placed in the back of such trucks for gassing in a limited area of the Eastern Front and one or two other locations, there is absolutely no mention of their use in camps for this purpose in the historical record. No mention in German records, and no claims by purported witnesses. (The former, by the way, would naturally be the case if there were no gassing chambers.)

If there were such testimonies, I suspect Leuchter and Berg would be the first to criticize them because of the severe danger of explosion. (And they'd be right to do so. Except no such impossible testimonies exist. Too bad for the revisionists, I suppose.)

Miscellaneous Objections

You go on:

All you have is the diesel claim, which I understand is beginning to be revised to gasoline by some of the sanctioned historians, no doubt in quiet reaction to the improbability of a diesel being able to do what has been claimed.

Thank you for bringing this up.

You "understand" this to be true because Berg has told you so. But, as Holocaust-deniers often do, Berg is hiding important facts in an attempt to distort the historical record. It is vital that we look at exactly how Berg distorts the truth, because I believe it casts his credibility into serious question.

Berg claims that "several leading holocaust proponents" -- and he gives six of them by name -- are trying to pull a fast one on their readers. He says they are "taking great pains to drop the Diesel claim and replace it with the view that the engines were not Diesels but conventional gasoline engines which simply burned Diesel fuel."

Berg's sole evidence for this is a few pages in their book Nationalsozialistiche Massentoetungen durch Giftgas, 1983, which was translated into English as Nazi Mass Murder in 1993.

In those pages, the editors quote part of the Gerstein statement. Just as is done elsewhere in the book, they use only the parts they find relevant and omit the rest. This is because the book is not just a collection of documents: it is an edited work, and it attempts to present somewhat of a narrative flow.

The editors used portions of, by my reckoning, the first half of the statement -- about five hundred words -- where Gerstein describes his arrival, then the Jews' arrival, at the Belzec camp. They omitted the second half, in which Gerstein mostly described the murder operation itself. Instead, they chose to use Professor Pfannenstiel's affidavit to describe that, presumably for reasons of flow and so that the reader would not falsely suspect that there was only one testimony concerning the gassing.

Now, it just so happens that the second half of Gerstein's statement contained two references to the diesel engine, and one reference to diesel oil being poured over the bodies. And, part of what was omitted in the first half happened to mention the diesel engine as well.

Coincidence? Not to Berg. He is convinced that this 1983 book contains the seeds of a great conspiracy to remove the "inconvenient" diesel engines from history and substitute gasoline engines instead!

Now, keep in mind that the editors never state what type of engine was used -- because, to most people, this is an insignificant detail. And also note that Pfannenstiel's testimony, which rounds out the account of the gassings, specifically says:

Der Motor selbst befand sich nicht in einem besonderen Raum, sondern stand offen etwas erhöht auf einem Podium. Er wurde mit Dieselkraftstoff betrieben.

Or, in the English translation (Nazi Mass Murder, Kogon et al., 1993, p. 130):

The engine itself was not in a separate room but stood in the open, raised on a platform. It was a diesel engine.

It is true that Pfannenstiel's description, "Er wurde mit Dieselkraftstoff betrieben," means literally "it ran on diesel fuel." This is obviously just a way of saying "it was a diesel engine." Suppose I told you, "I once had a Volvo that ran on diesel" -- would it ever cross your mind that I was trying to fool you into thinking I really put diesel fuel into a regular gasoline engine!?

Of course not. And if the editors really were trying to pull a fast one on the world -- if they were taking great pains to start a massive campaign to "revise" history and replace diesel by gasoline, they obviously would not have allowed that sentence to be translated: "it was a diesel engine"!

Not to mention the other places in the book where diesel engines are mentioned quite explicitly. See p. 163 in the German edition.

But, now that you know the whole story, read Berg's description of this supposed conspiracy:

Several leading holocaust proponents are now taking great pains to drop the Diesel claim and replace it with the view that the engines were not Diesels but conventional gasoline engines which simply burned Diesel fuel, presumably to make the engines more deadly than if they had only burned regular gasoline. This amazing transformation has appeared in a recent book in Germany entitled Nationalsozialistiche Massentoetungen durch Giftgas. 34 The book was a joint project of 24 of the most eminent scholars on the subject, including such notables as Eugen Kogon, Hermann Langbeing, Adalbert Rueckerl, Gideon Hausner, Germaine Tillion and Georges Wellers. The book represents the current state of the art of holocaust mythomania and has already been recommended by the World Jewish Congress in London. 35 The new, "revised" version of the holocaust says, in effect, that Gerstein and the others were mistaken when they had claimed that Diesels were used to kill Jews at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. The claim now is that gasoline engines were used.

This last sentence is an invention. This "claim" is simply not made.

Berg continues:

The clumsy juggling of evidence which characterizes this book is exemplified by the fact that although the Gerstein statement refers to diesel engines four times, the portion of the Gerstein statement which is quoted in this supposedly definitive rebuttal of the revisionists does not mention Diesels at all, nor does it even describe the alleged killing process. 36 For a description of the killing process that Gerstein supposedly witnessed, the book gives a piece of postwar testimony by Dr. Pfannenstiel in which there is also no mention of the use of Diesels, but only of the use of Diesel fuel in the engine. How one could possibly have operated a gasoline engine with Diesel fuel is, of course, left to the imagination.

Whose imagination? No one was asked to imagine this, because the book never said any such thing.

The impact on Berg's credibility is, I think, obvious.

But back to what you write. You go on:

And, yes, I know of the report from a British medical journal in the fifties in which several animals were killed with diesel exhaust in a scantily documented experiment. All that proves is that it is, as stated earlier here and elsewhere by Berg, marginally possible to push a diesel to its limits and achieve lethal levels of CO in its exhaust for a very short period of time, something I do not recall the report addressing.

Again, a total lack of quantification, at exactly the point where quantification is desperately needed. The report fails to support your point that the engines self-destructed after "hours, or at most, days."

Because this effect was not mentioned, DThomas, you assert again that it must be "a very short period of time" (your emphasis). I don't believe a nonmention of something is evidence that it must be true.


I should point out that, because historians have already established the facts about the killing at the Reinhard camps, the burden of proof is on Berg (and you) to demonstrate that they could not have occurred. To be proper skeptics, we must carefully consider the issues which Berg raises -- but we must also insist that this heavy burden be met. That means quantification of his claims. Berg has done an admirable job of providing numbers in his original article, but unfortunately, he was wrong on several key assumptions, rendering his work useless. Now, if he (and you) intend to continue to defend his claim, which I assume is the case, we must still insist that quantification be given wherever necessary.

This article will be HTML'ized with footnotes to sources and URLs, hopefully within the next week or two. I'll post a followup to this thread when that's done.

Meanwhile, DThomas, I would like to see your evidence for your claim that running very rich would render an engine useless in "hours, or at most, days." Ideally it would consider the case of the injectors being cleaned, perhaps on a regular basis.

I'd also like you to expound on what you mean by this:

it is a simple matter to set [a producer gas] engine so that its exhaust emits carbon monoxide in reduced but still deadly levels that would kill quickly without the risk of explosion.

What's that simple technique?


  1. According to p. 189 of Clinical Toxicology by Clinton Thienes and Thomas Haley. Thanks go to Mike Stein's analysis of Berg for finding this.

  2. See Jain, Kewal K., Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, 1990, p. 36. Again, thanks to Mike Stein.

  3. This and all other quotes from Berg's paper are taken from his 1983 paper "The Diesel Gas Chambers: Myth Within a Myth," which is currently available on the CODOH web site at http://www.codoh.com/gcgv/gcdiesel.html.

  4. Elliott, Martin A., and Rogers F. Davis, "Composition of Diesel Exhaust Gas," SAE Quarterly Transactions July 1950, Vol. 4, No. 3, p. 335:

    At fuel/air ratios greater than the stoichiometric or chemically correct value there is a deficiency of air, and the concentration products of incomplete combustion (carbon monoxide, hydrogen, methane, and unburned carbon) increased rapidly with an increase in fuel/air ratio. Operation of a diesel engine under such conditions is not normal and was achieved in these tests by changing the stop limiting the maximum quantity of fuel that can be injected on each stroke of the fuel pump.

    Also, see another of Berg's sources: Holtz and Elliot, Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Vol. 63, Feb. 1941, p. 99. Berg uses their Figure 2 in his work, but somehow forgot to mention that:

    Although Fig. 2 presents data on exhaust-gas composition at fuel-air ratios on the rich side, such conditions of operation are not normal and were obtained in these tests by changing the adjustment of the stop limiting the travel of the rack on the fuel pump of engine B. After this change the fuel injected at full throttle was increased by approximately 60 per cent.

  5. Elliott-Davis, p. 345.

  6. Samples of Mr. Berg's attitude:

  7. I have not yet contacted my source to ask about revealing his identity and exact qualifications; I apologize for this and will remedy this matter as soon as possible.

  8. The Merck Index says:

    Carbon Monoxide. CO; mol wt 28.01 [...] Highly poisonous, odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. Very flammable, burns in air with a bright blue flame. Ignition pt in air: 700° [...] Flammable limits in air: 12 to 75 vol %.

  9. The Leuchter Report is online at http://www.webcom.com/ezundel/english/leuchter/report1/leuchtertoc.html; the CODOH site links to it from http://www.codoh.com/gcgv/gcgv.html and possibly elsewhere. (As of June 9, 1997, it appears their link is outdated, but the sentiment is there.)

  10. CO at 6.4% kills in "less than" four minutes by Berg's math. Hydrocyanic gas at 300 ppm kills in "a few minutes" (according to the Merck Index, from which the following numbers are also taken). HCN's minimum explosive concentration is 56,000 ppm, which is 187 times greater than 300 ppm; CO's minimum is 12% which is 1.87 times greater than 6.4%.

    Friedrich Berg claims (dubiously in my opinion) that as concentration of a toxic gas doubles, lethality time is halved. By Berg's math, then,

    0.4% - fatal in less than one hour
    0.8% - fatal in less than 30 minutes
    1.6% - fatal in less than 15 minutes
    3.2% - fatal in less than 7.5 minutes
    6.4% - fatal in less than 3.75 minutes

    I doubt Berg's claim that the relationship is linear -- I think it's obviously folly to take it too far. But that's how the numbers come out in this case. A 100-fold difference in danger is in the right ballpark.

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