Matvey Zaydel (aka Motle Zaidl), a Jew from Vilnius, Lithuania, was interrogated by a Soviet commission, whose report is undated, but probably dates from 1946. According to this report, Zaydel claimed to have been arrested by German forces in October 1943. From December 1943 until April 1944, he was forced to exhume and burn corpses from mass graves near a Vilnius suburb called Ponary. He escaped from there at an unknown date and under unknown circumstances.
However, in a much-later interview for Claude Lanzmann’s documentary Shoah sometime in the early 1980s, Zaydel plagiarized the tale told by Yuri Farber about a sophisticated escape tunnel, fitted with support poles and electric lighting. (See the entry on Farber.) If we follow Zaydel, they dug that tunnel into the sandy soil mainly with a tablespoon. Since Zaydel’s statements made during the Shoah interview, and the concurrent statements by his alleged former co-inmate Itzhak Dugin, are evidently polluted with “knowledge” gained after the war, it is worthless as evidence, hence will be ignored here.
In his 1946 interview, Zaydel claimed to have been involved in preparing firewood and burning corpses. He asserted that the pyres were built by having a layer of firewood, then a layer of 100 corpses, and so on, until the pyre contained 2,000 or even 3,000 bodies. This would amount to some 20 to 30 layers.
Cremating an average human body during open-air incinerations requires some 250 kg of freshly cut wood. With such pyres, a layer that is as wide as the bodies are tall can accommodate some four to five bodies per meter. Hence, Zaydel’s pyre would have been some 20-25 m long. One hundred bodies require some 25 tons of freshly cut wood. The density of green wood is roughly 0.9 tons per m³, and its stacking density on a pyre is 1.4 (40% for air and flames to go through). This means that the wood required to burn 100 bodies would have had a volume of some 40 m³. Spread out over a pyre 25 m long and 2 m wide, this wood would have stacked up to a height of some 0.8 meters, and together with the corpses to about 1 meter. A pyre with 20 or 30 such layers would have been 20 to 30 meters high. Of course, a pyre two meters wide can never be 20 or 30 meters high. It would collapse at a shorter height already. While the shape of the pyre can be changed (for instance 7 m × 7 m, as other witnesses claimed, although that makes it much more difficult to build, burn and dispose later), this would not affect the height.
Zaydel claimed that, within five months, 80 to 90 thousand corpses were processed this way. Cremating 80,000 bodies requires some 20,000 metric tons of wood. This would have required the felling of all trees growing in a 50-year-old spruce forest covering almost 45 hectares of land, or some 100 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 five months (150 days) would have required some 211 dedicated lumberjacks doing nothing else but felling and cutting up trees. Zaydel does not indicate how many inmates were in his unit. Other testimonies about the claimed Ponary mass graves indicate that their unit had no more than 80 inmates, with most if not all of them busy digging out mass graves, extracting bodies, building pyres, sifting through ashes, crushing bones, and scattering the resulting powder. There were nowhere near 200 lumberjacks in that unit.
If Zaydel’s tale has any real background, it would have been on a much smaller order of magnitude than what he claims.
This testimony relates to one of many events claimed to have been part of the alleged German clean-up operation which the orthodoxy calls Aktion 1005. The above exposition demonstrates that Zaydel’s scenario is detached from reality. Its claimed dimensions cannot be based on experience, but on mere propaganda, imagination and delusion.