Operation “Harvest Festival”

The orthodoxy insists that on 3 and 4 November 1943, all remaining Jews in the Trawniki and Poniatowa forced-labor camps, as well as in the Majdanek Concentration Camp, were murdered. Some 42,000 to 43,000 persons are said to have been shot and buried in mass graves on these two days, 17,000 to 18,000 of them in Majdanek. But then, the bodies were exhumed right away and burned on gigantic pyres over the next 50 days.

No document exists relating to this alleged event. The head of occupied Poland, Hans Frank, does not mention it in his extensive diary. When giving a speech during a meeting with Frank a couple weeks after the alleged event, Himmler says no word about it either. Odilo Globocnik stated in an undated document of that time that the workers of several labor camps had been evacuated and transferred. Several German police units noted in their activity diaries that they were involved in a major special operation in the Lublin area.

There is no proof that the term “Harvest Festival” has ever been used as a code word for anything during the Third Reich. The timing is off as well, because Harvest Festival (Erntedankfest) is a German secular holiday celebrating a year’s grain and produce harvest on the first Sunday of October (not November).

As the war progressed, Germany’s manpower situation became increasingly desperate. The more men were taken out of the production process to die at the various fronts, the more they needed to be replaced with whatever forced laborers could be mustered.

In the same vein, Himmler and his subordinates issued ever-more urgent orders to reduced camp mortality, preserve or improve all camp inmates’ health and thus ability to work, and to integrate even modestly sick and handicapped inmates into the production process. Particularly relevant is an order by the head of all concentration and labor camps, Oswald Pohl, head of the SS’s Economic and Administrative Main Office (Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt). On 26 October 1943, he sent an order to the commandants of all concentration camps and their forced-labor subcamps. Therefore, this order was also addressed to the head of the camps at Majdanek, Trawniki and Poniatowa. It states:

“Thanks to the expansion and consolidation of the past 2 years, the concentra­tion camps have become a factor of vital importance in German arms production. […]

Now […] all measures taken by the commandants […] and physicians must work towards keeping the inmates healthy and fit.

Not out of a false sense of sentimentality, but because we need them with their physical abilities intact – because they must contribute to the German people win­ning a great victory – we must take good care of their health and well-being.

I propose as our first goal: no more than 10% of all inmates at a time may be un­able to work due to illness. By everyone responsible working together, this goal must be attained.

This requires:

1) proper and practical diet,
2) proper and practical clothing,
3) making full use of all natural means for preserving health,
4) avoiding all unnecessary strain and expenditure of energy not directly required for work,
5) productivity bonuses. […]”

In complete contravention to this order, the orthodoxy insists that, just eight days later, the three camp commandants of Majdanek, Trawniki and Poniatowa, with the help of various SS forces, rounded up all the Jews in these camps – whose work was absolutely crucial for the German war effort – and executed them all.

The orthodox narrative has its roots in reports of the Polish underground, although they wrote of 10,000 victims (later increased to 13,000), and dated the execution on the 5th of November.

No mass graves with at least 17,000 victims existed at the Majdanek Camp, nor graves with 15,000 bodies in Poniatowa or 8,000 in Trawniki. Hence, they must have been burned without leaving a trace – so the orthodoxy asserts, as they cannot concede that the witnesses they rely on can be profoundly wrong. However, the Majdanek Camp is in plain sight of the city of Lublin. Therefore, there should have been thousands of witnesses to this inevitably long-lasting, stinking, smoking conflagration of an outdoor cremation operation erasing the traces of 17,000 bodies. But there are none. The Polish resistance also reported nothing to that effect.

This didn’t prevent the Polish judiciary from convincing Erich Mussfeldt, the former head of the Majdanek crematorium, to write down a lengthy confession about it all, after the Americans had softened him up in their torture center at the former Dachau Camp, and then extradited him to the Poles for further processing. Here is what Mussfeldt claimed in his confessions:

  • First, three 100-m long pits, zig-zag in shape, were dug by inmates during the three days prior to the shooting. However, zig-zag shape makes no sense for mass graves, but makes sense for infantry fighting trenches. Many of those are visible around the camp’s perimeter on an air photo taken in September 1944. This is probably the origin of that story.
  • Then, Mussfeldt was forced to watch – eleven hours long – how “more than 17,000” victims were shot next to those pits, then dumped into them. However, the only reason to claim that he was forced to watch this alleged massacre is so he could satisfy the Poles demand that he was a witness.
  • To drown out the shooting, loud marches and dancing music was played. However, music cannot drown out mass shootings going on for 11 hours. It can only attract even more attention. Tens of thousands of Poles living in the vicinity would have wondered what dance party was unfolding there, and would have gathered to join the fun…
  • Some 300 Jews left alive sorted clothes left behind by the naked victims, while others covered the pits with soil. Two days later, Mussfeldt had 20 Russians (probably PoWs) assigned to him to burn the victims. However, at this point in time, the so-called Aktion 1005 is said to have been in full swing everywhere in German-controlled areas. This was the alleged order to exhume all bodies in mass graves and burn them. If those in charge at Majdanek were even marginally competent, no pits would have been dug ever, and no soil used to cover the murdered victims. After all, the plan must have been all along to burn the victims on pyres straight away.
  • These 20 Russians collected wood, built pyres with it at the empty end of the pits, pulled any gold teeth from the corpses before putting them on a pyre, then burned it down. Once a pyre had burned out and the ashes cooled down, the ashes were taken out of the pit, and the bones ground with a “gasoline-powered mill.” The bone powder was put into paper bags, taken away with cars, and used as soil fertilizer. This lasted until just before Christmas, hence some 50 days.

All these tasks would have been impossible to accomplish by just 20 Russians within 50 days. To make the point, let’s just focus on the firewood needed, which the Russians “collected.” With 250 kg of green wood needed to cremate one body during open-air incinerations, these 20 PoWs had to chop at least 4,250 tons of fresh wood in neighboring forests. This would have required the felling of all trees growing in a 50-year-old spruce forest covering some 9.4 hectares of land, or some 21 American football fields.

An average prisoner is rated at being able to cut some 0.63 metric tons of fresh wood per workday. If the last pyre was getting built five days prior to the operation ending, then these 20 inmates had 45 days to chop up wood, if they did nothing else. That would have amounted to some 567 tons of fresh wood, hence only some 13% of what would have been needed. To cut the required amount of wood within 45 days would have required a work force of some 150 dedicated lumberjacks. Hence, these 20 inmates would not have taken 45 days to get the wood needed, but almost a year, hence until several months after the conquest of the area by the Soviets. And this completely ignores the time and manpower needed to extract gold teeth from the corpses, build all the pyres required, burn them down, extract the resulting ashes, grind down the bones, and spread the ashes…

Furthermore, grinding the bones to dust would have been another impossible task. Outdoor pyres do not reduce corpses to mere ashes and bones. Considerable parts of a body burn only incompletely, and so does the firewood. These partly charred, mixed remains of flesh and wood cannot be ground to dust in mills. Moreover, we are talking about hundreds of metric tons of ashes. These would not have been filled into paper bags and driven around in cars, but loaded onto dump trucks and hauled away.

This all demonstrates that Mussfeldt’s testimony was cooked up in the witch’s cauldron of Polish postwar propaganda, with no connection to reality.

The Polish newspaper-in-exile Dziennik Polski, printed in England, published the following report on 20 November 1943:

“25,000 Jews were transferred from Majdanek to Cracow, where they were quartered in hundreds of recently constructed barracks. Probably these Jews will have to work in the German factories which have recently been transferred to the Cracow district.”

And as mainstream historian Raul Hilberg noted, the number of Jewish forced laborers deployed in the armaments industries of the General Government increased from October 1943 to January 1944 from 22,444 to 26,296!

This explains what really happened.

(For more details, see Graf/Mattogno 2012, pp. 207-228.)

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