Soap made from human corpses

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During World War II, many people believed that the Nazis were making soap from the bodies of Jewish concentration camp victims.  The Yad Vashem Memorial has said that the Nazis did not make soap from Jewish bodies on an large scale.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name  They say the Nazis spread rumors that soap was being made from human bodies, with the goal of scaring camp inmates.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name  However, evidence shows that research facilities had come up with a way to make soap from human bodies on a large scale.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

History[change | change source]

World War I[change | change source]

During World War I, the British had accused the Germans of using fat from human bodies to make products (see Kadaververwertungsanstalt).  In April of 1917, a popular London newspaper called The Times reported that the Germans were using fat from the bodies of their own dead soldiers to make soap and other products.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name  Eventually, in 1925, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, officially said that the "corpse factory" story had been a mistake.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

World War II[change | change source]

During World War II, rumors that the Nazis made soap from the bodies of concentration camp victims spread widely.  Germany had a shortage of fats during World War II, and the government took control of soap making.  The "human soap" stories may have started when people saw government-produced bars of soap, which were marked with the initials RIF.  Some people thought this stood for Reichs-Juden-Fett ("State Jewish Fat"); in German acronyms, "i" and "j" were often used for either letter.  Actually, RIF stood for Reichsstelle für Industrielle Fettversorgung ("National Center for Industrial Fat Provisioning"; this was the German government agency in charge of making and distributing soap and washing products during wartime).  RIF soap was a poor quality product that contained no fat at all, human or any other kind.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Raul Hilberg reports that stories about "human soap" were being told in Lublin, Poland, as early as October 1942.  The Germans knew about these rumors.  Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the SS (Hitler's secret police), had received a letter about the rumors.  The letter said that some people in Poland believed Jewish people were being "boiled into soap."  The letter also said the Poles were worried that they would also be used to make soap.  The "human soap" stories were so widely known some Polish people actually refused to buy soap.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name Himmler was so worried by the rumors, and the thought of poor security at the camps, that he said that all bodies should be burnt or buried as quickly as possible.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Soviet propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg reported a the "human soap" story as fact in his The Complete Black Book of Russian Jewry:

In another section of the Belzec camp was an enormous soap factory. The Germans picked out the fattest people, murdered them, and boiled them down for soap.
—Ehrenburg[1]

Nuremberg and Other Evidence[change | change source]

During the Nuremberg Trials, Sigmund Mazur, a laboratory worker at the Danzig Anatomical Institute, testified that soap had been made from the bodies of dead inmates at Stutthof concentration camp.  He claimed that 70 to 80 kg of fat collected from 40 bodies could make more than 25 kg of soap.  He testified that to make human soap, "5 kilos of human fat are mixed with 10 liters of water and 500 or 1,000 grams of caustic soda. All this is boiled 2 or 3 hours and then cooled. The soap floats to the surface while the water and other sediment remain at the bottom. A bit of salt and soda is added to this mixture. Then fresh water is added and the mixture again boiled 2 or 3 hours. After having cooled, the soap is poured into molds."Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name  Mazur claimed that the finished soap was kept by Professor Rudolf Spanner.  

At the Nuremberg Trials, other witnesses included Nazi prisoners, former British prisoners of war who were forced to build Stutthof concentration camp, and Dr. Stanisław Byczkowski, head of the Department of Toxicology at the Gdańsk School of Medicine.  These witnesses said that the Nazis had been trying to develop an industrial process for producing soap from human bodies.  They also said that small amounts of "human soap" were made, and were used by Nazi workers at the Danzig Anatomic Institute. Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

  In his book Russia at War 1941 to 1945Alexander Werth wrote that he saw an experimental factory for making human soap outside the city of Danzig (now called Gdansk).  Werth was visiting Danzig just after it was liberated by the Red Army.  Werth wrote that the factory had been run by "a German professor called Spanner" and "was a nightmarish sight, with its vats full of human heads and torsoes pickled in some liquid, and its pails full of a flakey substance - human soap".Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Evidence shows that the Nazis were never able to make large amounts of human soap, but that they did make small amounts, possibly as experiments.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Postwar[change | change source]

After the war, the rumor that the Nazis made mass quantities of "human soap" was repeated by Alain Resnais in his 1955 Holocaust documentary movie Nuit et brouillard.  After the war, some Israelis also spoke about Jewish victims of Nazism with the Hebrew word סבון (sabon, "soap").Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Mainstream scholars of the Holocaust think that the idea that the Nazis made "human soap" on an large scale is part of WWII folklore.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name  Well-known historians who share this view include Walter Laqueur,Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name Gitta Sereny,Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name Deborah Lipstadt,Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name Professor Yehuda Bauer of Israel's Hebrew University, and Shmuel Krakowski, archives director of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a nameInvalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name   Historian Yisrael Gutman agrees that human soap-making "was never done on a mass scale."Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name  And Holocaust historian Robert Melvin Spector says that the Nazis "did indeed use human fat for the making of soap at Stutthof," but in small amounts.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Today Holocaust deniers use this story to make people doubt the Nazi genocide.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Play[change | change source]

The Soap Myth is a 2009 play about the Nazis making "human soap" from their victims' bodies.Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no content must have a name

Related pages[change | change source]

Stutthof concentration camp where small amounts of soap is thought to have been made from the bodies of human victims.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Ehrenburg, Ilya; Il'ja Grigor'jevic Erenburg, Vasilij Semenovic Grossman, et al. (2003). The Complete Black Book of Russian Jewry. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 076580543X .

Other websites[change | change source]