Leon Weliczker (aka Leon Wells, 10 March 1925 – 19 Dec. 2009) was a Jew from Lviv who, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, lived initially at the Lvov Ghetto, but at age 18 was transferred to the Janowska Forced-Labor Camp. After the war, he studied first in Gleiwitz (Polish: Gliwice), then in Munich, graduating with a PhD in engineering. He later emigrated to the United States, where he changed his last name to Wells.
In 1944, he deposited a witness statement in the Soviet Union about his alleged work from 15 June 1943 until 20 November 1943 in a “death brigade” at the outskirts of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Some excerpts of notes he wrote down during the war were published in an edited version in a 1946 book, whose translated title is The Death Brigade. It is the most-important source for the alleged eradication of mass graves near Lviv within the context of what today’s orthodoxy calls Aktion 1005. Here are several peculiar claims made by Weliczker:
- At age sixteen/seventeen, he was rounded up on four occasions to be shot with all the other Jews in his group, but he managed to escape every time. He then ended up in the Janowska Labor Camp near Lviv, escaped from there as well, and was finally assigned to the “death brigade,” but again managed to flee. While everyone else got killed, he miraculously escaped six times as the sole survivor.
- In his 1944 statement, Weliczker claimed that his death brigade exhumed and burned 310,000 bodies from mass graves near the Janowska Labor Camp, which even orthodox historians consider inflated by a factor of three. In his book, he claims to quote from a diary he kept while working in the death brigade. These diary entries only mention a total of some 30,000 exhumed and cremated bodies. Asked during his testimony at the Eichmann Trial how many bodies his unit burned, he repeated the first figure: “A few hundred thousand.”
- Although right at the city’s edge, no contemporary photographs, documents or testimonies exist of this alleged enormous cremation activity presumably lasting eleven weeks.
- Weliczker described an absurd and physically impossible cremation technique: a large area of wooden logs (7 m × 7 m) was set on fire – with an olive-oil squirting machine! After the pyre was ablaze, Weliczker and his co-inmates brought corpses on stretchers, climbed with them on a wooden platform next to the fire, and threw the bodies into the fire. A stoker stood next to the pyre stoking the fire. If bodies were thrown in wrongly, the inmates had to climb into the fire, pull the bodies out, and throw them in properly. This absurd story fails on several points: olive oil was virtually unknown, very rare and very expensive in Central and Eastern Europe during the war; furthermore, although olive oil can burn if sprayed in a fine mist, it generally it is not flammable, and certainly would never be used to ignite something; the wooden platforms would have caught fire; the stoker would have burned himself; the inmates would have gotten severe burns; those climbing in to get bodies out would never have gotten out themselves. Weliczker made it up from beginning to end, with no truth to it whatsoever. He claimed that normal pyres with alternating layers of wood and bodies were built later, and ignited only once properly built, but he abstains from giving any data about those pyres.
- Cremating an average human body during open-air incinerations requires some 250 kg of freshly cut wood. Cremating 300,000 bodies thus requires some 75,000 metric tons of wood. This would have required the felling of all trees growing in a 50-year-old spruce forest covering almost 167 hectares of land, or some 374 American football fields. An average prisoner is rated at being able to cut some 0.63 metric tons of fresh wood per workday. To cut this amount of wood within the six month (160 days) he claimed to have worked on that project would have required a work force of some 750 dedicated lumberjacks just to cut the wood. According to Weliczker’s account, all the members of his unit were busy digging out mass graves, extracting bodies, building pyres, sifting through ashes, scattering the ashes, refilling the graves with soil, and planting them with grass seeds and saplings. He says nothing about where the firewood came from.
- Weliczker claimed that all cremation ashes were sifted through fine flour-type sieves to find bones fragments and metal objects (gold teeth). Bone fragments were either pulverized (manually with wooden pestles, or in a bone mill), or burned again. However, wood-fired pyres burn unevenly and leave behind lots of unburned wood pieces, charcoal, and incompletely burned body parts, not just ashes (80% of which would have been wood ash). Those remains could not have been crushed or ground down in ball mills. If 100,000 bodies were processed, as the orthodoxy claims, then several thousand metric tons of ashes had to be processed this way by a few dozen inmates within a few months – in small flour sieves that would have clogged with the first load. Moreover, any occasional rainfall would have rendered any burned-out pyre into a moist heap of highly alkaline, corrosive slush that could not have been processed at all. Hence, Weliczker’s tale is pure fantasy.
- The ball mill allegedly used to grind up bones has turned out to have been a road-building device to crush gravel. Since most inmates from the Janowska Camp were deployed in building roads, this is what this machine was used for. (See the entry on bone mill.)
- He asserted that the empty graves were filled up, and grass was planted, making the grave indistinguishable from surrounding areas within weeks. As every garden owner knows, freshly sown patches of grass are distinguishable from old-grass areas for years. Furthermore, unless heavy machinery is used to compact filled-in soil – which Weliczker does not mention – the soil filled into pits several meters deep will subside considerably within weeks, turning them into very easily distinguishable depressions.
- Weliczker mentioned several other locations where his death brigade allegedly unearthed bodies. These bodies were allegedly put into refrigeration trucks and driven to the Janowska Camp for burning. For several locations mentioned by Weliczker, no events resulting in mass graves are known. The use of refrigeration trucks, commonly used to transport perishable food items, to transport decomposing corpses of mass-murder victims is highly unlikely, to say the least.
Orthodox historian Thomas Sandkühler wrote about Weliczker’s book:
“Weliczker’s shocking notes have only little probative value.”
However, because there are no other informative sources for the alleged exhumation and cremation activities near Lviv, Weliczker’s ludicrous novel is the mainstay upon which almost the entire load of the orthodox narrative of these alleged events rests.