Saturday, December 02, 2017

Mattogno on the Mass Graves at Ponary (Part 3)

Author: Roberto Muehlenkamp
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Now, let’s look at the Ponary photos that Mattogno "examined", and at what (other) photos that may be relevant to Mattogno’s argument regarding the exhumed corpses mentioned in the 26 August 1944 report (and/or to his other arguments presented in this context) are available in the online archives of The Ghetto Fighters House and Yad Vashem. All photos must, of course, be credited to the respective institution in whose archives they are featured, respectively The Ghetto Fighters’ House and Yad Vashem. Photos that appear in both collections are shown only once, with the references in each of these collections.

Whether or not they were taken at Ponary, some of these photos are very graphic and should not be viewed by sensitive readers.




Contrary to Mattogno’s claims, there aren’t all that many photos of Ponary available online. The Ghetto Fighters’ House online photos archive has 105 ("General Search" for "Ponary" on 01.12.2017), the YV photos archive has 188 (search for "Ponary" under "Global Search" on 01.12.2017), but some photos are in both collections and/or repeated in one of them (the YV collection), and most of the photos in both collections are prewar photos, photos of the monument(s)/memorials and/or visitors thereof at Ponary and/or of commemoration events, portraits of witnesses or other persons and other photos that are irrelevant to Mattogno’s argument and mine, for which the only relevant photos are such of corpses and of mass graves or cremation pits in the immediate postwar period or at least prior to the building of monuments, especially such that show members of investigation commissions and/or their work. Also relevant are photos of the procedures at Ponary that were taken in 1941 by Wehrmacht soldier Otto Schroff and others, which will be addressed later on.

The images shown below are the "most significant" photos that Mattogno has "examined" (GE2, pp. 274-275). "TGFH" stands for "The Ghetto Fighters’ House” and "YV" stands for "Yad Vashem". Captions are by the respective institution featuring these photos.

1.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5899
TGFH Brief Description: Bodies at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).







Mattogno’s comment is that this photo shows 10-12 "fresh" corpses lying on sandy soil.

My comment: whether the corpses are "fresh" or in an early state of decomposition is hard to determine, but what is obvious is that these corpses had not been buried. That might be because they are victims of last-minute executions before the Germans left the site, but no finds of such corpses are mentioned in any Soviet report that I know of. Maybe the photo was taken by one of the Ponary operators some time before the place was left, and later found in his possession, but without further information this is a merely speculative possibility. So it’s questionable whether this is really a Ponary photo. I wrote to TGFH recommending that they should recheck the photo’s provenance and context.

2.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5904
TGFH Brief Description: Corpses exhumed from mass graves at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).
YV Item ID: 30884
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Bodies of the victims that were massacred there.






Mattogno’s comment is that this photo shows about 50-60 "fresh" corpses lined up in a wooded area. The corpses don’t look "fresh" to me, but rather like they are in an early state of decomposition, perhaps because they were exhumed shortly after burial. Ponary is a wooded area, so the location could be Ponary. The lining-up of several corpses for viewing by Vilnius residents is mentioned in the August 1944 report. So this could be a Ponary photo.

However, there is the USHMM’s collection previously mentioned in this series (RG-14.101M.2304), which contains copies of photographs captioned as pertaining to the Ponary investigation in August 1944 on pp. 808-843, including the ones mentioned hereafter on which mass graves, excavations and exhumed corpses can be recognized. As this collection is not in the public domain (except for three or four of its photographs, which are in the Yad Vashem photo archive and will be addressed below), a description of what can be seen on the relevant photographs will have to do. The caption texts are translations from the German translation of the original Russian captions.

Pages 812-813
"Ponary, near the city of Vilna, where 100,000 peaceful Soviet citizens were annihilated": Five photographs of the Ponary site prior to excavations, with at least two showing unexcavated pits.

Pages 814-817
"The first exhumation of a number of corpses.": One page has four photos, of which three show exhumed corpses and white-clad persons (obviously physicians of the investigating commission) as well as persons in uniform (obviously Red Army officers and/or soldiers). On the fourth one can recognize mounds of excavated soil in the foreground, a long pit with a deeper and a shallower part in the middle, white-clad persons bent-over or kneeling at the bottom of the shallower part, and persons standing behind the pit in the background. On another page there is an enlargement of one of the three photos showing exhumed corpses. On yet another page there is an enlargement of the photo showing the excavated soil. On this enlargement one can recognize that the white-clad persons kneeling or bent-over at the bottom of the pit’s shallower part are obviously examining corpses.

Pages 818-821
"Corpses of persons shot in June – July 1944. The Hitler thugs no longer managed to burn them": Four photos.
The photo on top left show corpses aligned inside a fairly deep pit. On the left side one can recognize two white-clad persons who seem to be examining a corpse and two other persons standing next to them. At the top of the pit there are several white-clad persons.
The photo on top right shows a single corpse lying on the ground. On a later page there is an enlargement of this photo.
The photo on bottom right shows uniformed men standing by several corpses.
The photo on bottom left shows two white-clad persons examining some out of several corpses inside a shallower pit, one white-clad person and two uniformed persons inside the pit looking at the corpses, and one white-clad person at the top of the pit. Another page contains an enlargement of this photo, on which one can recognize three further persons at the top of the pit and at least one other shape suggesting a corpse to the left of the uniformed men inside the pit.

Pages 822-826
"Opening of the first pit.": Four photos show people who are or have been digging to a considerable depth. Enlargements of three of these photos follow. On the first, corresponding to the photo on bottom right, one can recognize corpses lying at the bottom of a shallower part of the pit, and a while-clad person looking down at one or more of these corpses. On the second, corresponding to the photo on the upper left, one can see white-clad persons and other persons, some of them digging, inside a pit that is being excavated. What seems to be corpses can be seen at the lower right, behind three persons standing inside the pit. On the third enlargement, which corresponds to the photo on bottom left, persons standing inside a rather deep pit and at the edges of that pit can be recognized.

Pages 827-828
"The medical-juridical commission": Four photos showing white-clad persons examining corpses at the bottom of a shallow pit.

Pages 836-837
"Members of the Republic’s Commission in Ponary": Three photos. On one of them several persons who seem to be standing inside a shallow pit can be made out. Another photo shows the upper part of a pit and two white-clad persons bent-over or sitting by corpses, with what seems to be further corpses in the left foreground, to the left of the bent-over person. The third photo shows what seems to be the same place, with several persons seemingly bringing up or looking down onto further corpses.

Pages 840-841
"Upper left: the surface of the second pit prior to excavation works. Upper right: exhumation works at the 4th pit. Below: exhumation works at the second pit": Four photos. The one on the upper right seems to be a bird’s eye view of an excavated pit, showing bright mounds of soil and dark shapes, possibly corpses, silhouetted against the bright soil on which they are lying.
On the photo at the lower left one can recognize several standing persons and at least one bent-over white-clad person obviously examining a corpse. It seems that there are further corpses lying on the ground behind the bent-over person, in front of three persons in the background. There also seems to be another person standing among corpses on the ground.
The photo at the lower right shows three standing persons, one of them apparently clad in white, who seem to be surrounded by corpses lying on the ground.

Pages 842-843
"Above: exhumed corpses in the third pit with tied-up hands. Below: exhumation works at the 3rd pit.": Four photos.
On the upper left photo one can see a bent-over white-clad person inside a pit, apparently surrounded by corpses including one that person is examining.
On the upper right photo one can recognize the wall of a pit and what seem to be corpses lying at the bottom of that pit.
On the lower left photo several white-clad persons, including two that are bent over (obviously because they are examining one or more corpses) can be made out.
The photo on the lower right shows the bottom of a pit at its lower left side, with several persons including white-clad ones standing and shapes that must be corpses lying on the ground.

The above examination of Ponary excavation/exhumation photos of which copies are available at the USHMM shows that there are more such photos, mostly not in the public domain, than can be found in the TGFH and YV collections. On the other hand, the photo TGFH Catalog No. 5904/YV Item ID 30884, from what can be made out on the USHMM copies, is none of these photos. Why not? While the Soviets need not have made available to the German prosecutors all photographs taken during the August 1944 excavations/exhumations at Ponary, it seems odd that they should have omitted so graphic an image of Ponary victims. Therefore, it remains open to question whether the photo TGFH Catalog No. 5904/YV Item ID 30884 was taken at Ponary. I wrote to TGFH recommending that they should recheck the photo’s provenance and context.

3.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5900
TGFH Brief Description: A body in a mass grave at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).








My comment: the single corpse shown on this photo is obviously lying in sandy soil, meaning that it could be one of the corpses exhumed at Ponary. If so, the photo would either not have been among the ones made available to German prosecutors by Soviet authorities, or a close-up from the original or a better-quality copy of one of these photographs.

4.
TGFH Catalog No.: 5901
TGFH Brief Description: Bodies at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).
YV Item ID: 76136
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Three corpses.








My comment: the three corpses visible on this picture seem to have been excavated from sandy soil and are lying by a pit, presumably the one from which they were extracted. They could thus be Ponary corpses, like the single corpses in the previous photo shown.

5.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5911
TGFH Brief Description: A pit at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna), containing the remains of the murdered victims.






Mattogno’s comment: "removed soil with a skull" ("terra rimossa con un teschio"). That’s correct, except that there are also numerous other objects that were probably not part of the original sandy soil. These could be bone fragments left over from the grinding of cremation remains.

6.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5912
TGFH Brief Description: A pit at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna), containing shreds of clothing and the remains of the murdered victims themselves.
YV Item ID: 81416 YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Scattered clothing at the execution site, 1941.



Mattogno’s comment: "the edge of a pit from which hang a few pieces of clothing that partially cover long human bones in two or three cases" ("il bordo di una fossa da cui pendono pochi brandelli di vestiti che coprono, in parte, in due o tre casi ossa umane lunghe").

My comment: Mattogno missed the small white objects littering the soil below the clothes and also visible inside the pit’s wall on the right, which could be bone fragments. Besides, the fact that people were deprived of their clothes at Ponary (if the photo was taken there) is already an indication that Ponary was an extermination site. But then, Mattogno doesn’t call that into question, if I understood him correctly.

7.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5910
TGFH Brief Description: A pit at the Ponary mass extermination site, in which the remains of victims can be seen.







Mattogno’s comment: "a small pit at the bottom of which one sees about twenty objects, predominantly shoes" ("una piccola fossa in fondo alla quale si vedono una ventina di oggetti, in pre-valenza scarpe").

My comment: Soviet investigators also mentioned smaller pits at Ponary, but it cannot be determined if the photo shows a smaller pit or part of a partially excavated larger pit. What objects are at the pit’s bottom is hard to tell.

Mattogno’s conclusion from this part of his "examination" is that none of these photographs confirm the Soviet assertions. Which may be correct, but the reason is that
a) Mattogno left the interesting publicly available photographs out of his "examination" (as we shall see below), and
b) photographs pertaining to Soviet investigations of the Ponary killing site are not necessarily included in collections accessible on the internet (as was demonstrated above regarding the copies of Ponary photos included in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304). This, in turn, means that Mattogno’s assertion is
i) somewhat-less-than-honest, and
ii) irrelevant.

Mattogno continues by referring to photos that that were undoubtedly taken at Ponary and depict the circular pits "mentioned above". Here’s one of these photos:

8.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5906
TGFH Brief Description: A mass grave at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).
YV Item ID: 30956
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, A mass grave.







After describing the features of this pit, Mattogno claims that there is no proof that this covered pit was a mass grave. If that were true as concerns the features of the pit visible on the photograph, the pit would be no different from the "Gräberfeld" (field of graves) shown in Image 2 attached to the "Amtliches Material zum Massenmord von Katyn", mentioned in Part 2 of this series – there’s nothing in this "Gesamtübersicht" (overall view) of pits being excavated to suggest that these pits are mass graves. But actually the Ponary pit carries a more sinister message already in its shape and on its covered surface. For if this pit had been not a mass grave but a pit used for another purpose (namely the purpose for which it was originally intended by the Soviets prior to the German invasion, as a fuel storage deposit), then why was it filled up with soil? Moreover the circular shape of burial pits at Ponary is not only mentioned in eyewitness testimonies and in Soviet investigation reports, which Mattogno goes out of his way to discredit. It is also mentioned in yet another of Mattogno’s valuable (though unwitting) contributions to serious historical research.

Mattogno mentions and partially quotes from a letter dated sent by the Kreisarzt (County Medical Officer) of the Gesundheitsverwaltung des Kreises Wìlna (Health Administration of Vilna County) to the Gebietskommissar Wìlna-Land, regarding corpses and carcasses in the county’s area. [39] The interesting contents of this document, which mentions mass graves at a number of places visited by Jäger’s Einsatzkommando 3, will again be referred to when discussing Mattogno’s assessment of the Jäger Report. For now the part to be highlighted is the one referring to Ponary. Remarks in square brackets are mine and refer to mistakes in the German text, which must be due to the fact that the County Medical Officer, a Lithuanian, did not fully master the German language.
In der Gemeinde Rudamina, im Wäldchen Paneriai (in der Nähe des Bahnhofes Paneriai) sind die Massengräber etwas höher auf dem Sandboden gelegen. Es sind etliche rundförmige Bestattungsstellen vom[von] 30 m. Umfang. lm Falle einer Senkung werden diese Stellen mit Erde nachgehauft[nachgehäuft]. Die Bestattungsstellen sind umgezäunt[umzäunt] und unter fortwährender Aufsicht und unterstehen der deutschen Sicherheitspolizei.

My translation:
In the community of Rudamina, in the small forest Paneriai (near the Paneriai railway station) the mass graves lie a little higher on the sandy soil. There are several round-shaped burial places with a diameter of 30 m. In case of subsidence these places are backfilled with soil. The burial places are fenced-in and under constant vigilance and are under the control of the German Security Police.

Emphases in the above translation are mine. I translated as "diameter" the term "Umfang", which literally means "circumference", as I consider it improbable that the County Medical Officer would have established the graves’ circumference whereas the diameter was easy for him to estimate (and sufficient to calculate the graves’ area according to the formula A = π x r², which in this case would mean an area of 706.86 m²).

Mattogno quotes the above text to make the "point" that it mentions neither the number of graves nor whether they contain Jews, but that is quite irrelevant as the number and contents of the graves can be established on hand of other evidence. Besides, a paragraph of the letter omitted by Mattogno (which mentions burial sites pertaining to the Wehrmacht at the "N.Wilna" POW camp) makes it clear that the graves did not contain corpses of Soviet POWs who had died in captivity. As there were also no large-scale killings of non-Jewish civilians in the Vilnius area in 1941 (the figures in the Jäger Report add up to a mere 2,056 non-Jews executed in all of Lithuania, versus 135,391 Jews), it is obvious that the mass graves at Paneriai mentioned by the County Medical Officer contained almost exclusively the corpses of Jews shot at Paneriai.

Anyway, what’s essential here is the mention of the graves’ round/circular shape, which dovetails with the shape of the pit shown in the above image GFH Catalog No.: 5906/ YV Item ID: 30956. It is also in line with the description of the excavated pits in the previously quoted 26 August 1944 report by the Soviet forensic-medical commission. Even the measurements are similar: according to the Soviet commission the pits, or at least the one from which 486 corpses were stated to have been exhumed, were 34-35 meters wide (i.e. had a diameter of 34-35 meters). So here we have another case in which a Soviet investigation report is corroborated by evidence independent of the Soviets.

Further corroboration of these two sources comes from the testimonies of bystander witnesses of which, as we shall see later, Mattogno suppresses one in a vain attempt to discredit the other.

Now to the last three Ponary photographs from the TGFH collection that are addressed by Mattogno.

9.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5914
TGFH Brief Description: A bunker at the Ponary mass extermination site, which housed the Jewish "sonderkommando" men.
YV Item ID: 77989
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, The unfinished fuel tank site, which was used as an execution site for Jews from the Vilna region.
YV Item ID: 25077
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, A bunker.

10.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5913
TGFH Brief Description: A bunker at the Ponary mass extermination site, which housed the Jewish "sonderkommando" men.
YV Item ID: 26407
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, A bunker











11.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5915
TGFH Brief Description: A bunker at the Ponary mass extermination site, which housed the Jewish "sonderkommando" men.





Mattogno concedes that these photographs correspond well to eyewitness descriptions of the place they were kept in and managed to escape from, but adds that the photos were taken at a time after the arrival of the Soviets when the place was accessible to everyone, including the witnesses – an obvious insinuation that the witnesses modeled their accounts on what they had seen on site a posteriori.

The photos are also supposed to visually illustrate the utter impossibility (which Mattogno has argued at great length before, especially as concerns the witness Yuri Farber) of digging with bare hands and spoons a tunnel that would end at the intended place in the wooded area seen in the background. That wooded area doesn’t look like it’s far away, the tunneling work is stated to have taken months, and digging in the sandy soil even with bare hands was easy, according to the longest testimony rendered in the NKGB "Special Report" of 14 August 1944 (which Mattogno attributes to Yuri Farber[40]). The problem was stabilizing the tunnel’s walls, which kept caving in (Mattogno also takes issue with what the witness stated about how this problem was overcome).

Anyway, in Mattogno’s world the witnesses are supposed to have picked the most improbable of possible scenarios for their "escape story". And they would also have subsequently "planted" archaeological evidence[41] (which Mattogno doesn’t address, even though the finding of this evidence was reported in mid-2016 whereas Mattogno’s book was published in 2017) suggesting that the escape tunnel wasn’t as impossible as Mattogno would like it to be.

More convincing than Mattogno’s aforementioned musings regarding the escape tunnel and (especially) the Ponary burial pits is his assessment of one photo in the Yad Vashem photo archives captioned as pertaining to Ponary, the one shown below.

12.

YV Item ID: 83877
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, A pile of corpses and skulls at the time of liberation.









This photo is obviously not from Ponary. On the USHMM website, the same photo is captioned as having been taken at Dachau concentration camp.

Like other obviously or possibly mistaken captions in the Ponary collection, this one has been brought to Yad Vashem’s attention.

In this context it should be pointed out that the apparent unreliability of the TGFH and/or Yad Vashem photo captions as concerns Ponary would mean that their online archives are poorly suited for determining whether and to what extent photographs corroborate the Soviet investigators’ description of their work and finds at the Ponary site. In other words, the absence of such photographic corroboration in the TGFH and Yad Vashem online archives need not mean anything.

The presence of corroborating photographs unmentioned by Mattogno, on the other hand, would be a further blow to his already depleted credibility.

In the following we’ll have a look at images not addressed by Mattogno that are captioned as having been taken at Ponary in the Yad Vashem online archive.

The purpose of this exercise is twofold: to check the accuracy (or at least plausibility) of these archives’ photo captions, and to find photos pertaining to the August 1944 Soviet forensic investigation that Mattogno failed to detect in his "examination" (or deliberately omitted). Where neither of the two applies, the photo shown need not be commented.

13.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5905
TGFH Brief Description: Dr. Alexander Libo standing beside a mass grave at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).







14.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5907
TGFH Brief Description: Corpses exhumed from a mass grave at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna). The photo was apparently taken by a Soviet inquiry committee.
YV Item ID: 77297
YV Title: Kovno, Lithuania, Jewish children's corpses in the ghetto 30/08/1944.




My comment: The photo suggests an urban setting. It is likely to have been taken after the Soviets re-conquered Kovno in August 1944[42], as is also suggested by YV’s dating. Thus the photo was in all probability not taken at Ponary. This conclusion is further hardened by the aforementioned USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304, where the photo appears on p. 745 with the following caption on the previous page, translated to German from Russian: "Graultaten[sic] der Hitlerschergen in Kaunas. Leichen von gequälten, verbrannten und erstickten Juden im Getto Kaunas" ("Atrocities of the Hitler thugs in Kaunas. Corpses of tortured, burned and choked Jews in the Kaunas Ghetto"). I informed TGFH about the Kaunas setting, whereupon they added the last period of the description, but maintained the photo’s attribution to Ponary.

15.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5908
TGFH Brief Description: The excavation of mass graves at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna) in July 1944.
TGFH additional info: The excavation of mass graves at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna) in July 1944. The exhumation was carried out by the "Medical - Historical Committee of the Red Army for Discovering the Murders of the Germans." In the photo: the partisans Yechezkel Kremerman and Elchanan Telerant.

YV Item ID: 36271
YV Title: Ponary, Vilna, Poland, 1945, Exhumation.

My comment: This photo is in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304, page 819, upper left of four photos showing exhumed corpses. It is thus obviously related to the 26 August 1944 report of the Soviet forensic-medical commission, and thus belies Mattogno’s assertion that there are no photos in line with the contents of this report. Either Mattogno’s "examination" of the online photos from the TGFH and YV archives was very sloppy, or then he deliberately withheld from his readers information that contradicts his claims.

16.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5916
TGFH Brief Description: A bunker at the Ponary mass extermination site, which housed the Jewish prisoners who work it was to burn the corpses.






17.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5953
TGFH Brief Description: A mass grave at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).








18.

TGFH Catalog No.: 5954
TGFH Brief Description: Dr. Alexander Libo beside a mass grave at Ponary near Vilnius (Vilna).







19.

TGFH Catalog No.: 26794
TGFH Brief Description: The bodies of children who were murdered at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius. The photo is a still from a Soviet documentary titled "The Battle for Our Soviet Ukraine" (1943).







My comment:
This image is definitely not a photo taken at Ponary. It is a still from the 1943 Soviet documentary "Битва за нашу Советскую Украину" ("The Battle for our Soviet Ukraine"). In this video of the documentary, the full image of the dead children can be seen at 1:07:36. A still with the bodies of the children and an adult is also shown here. I informed TGFH about the provenance of this image, whereupon they added the last period of the description, but maintained the image’s attribution to Ponary. Maybe their notions of geography and World War II history (the Soviet army only reached Vilnius in July 1944) are a bit hazy.

20.

TGFH Catalog No.: 26795
TGFH Brief Description: The bodies of children who were murdered at the Ponary mass extermination site near Vilnius (Vilna).







My comment:
This image is definitely not a photo taken at Ponary. It is a film still from the Soviet documentary "The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR", where it is part of a sequence showing a family killed by the Germans in Makeyevka, Ukraine. I informed TGFH about the mistaken caption, but they maintained it.

21.

TGFH Catalog No.: 28734
TGFH Brief Description: Red Army soldiers standing beside the bunker at Ponary which housed members of the Sonderkommando who carried out the task of burning the victims' corpses.







22.

TGFH Catalog No.: 37545 TGFH Brief Description: One of the mass killing pits in Ponary, that has not undergone restoration.









My comment: the stone lining of the pit’s walls suggests the pit in which the prisoners ordered to exhume and burn corpses were left. The piled-up sand suggests ongoing excavations.

23.

TGFH Catalog No.: 57223
TGFH Brief Description: Members of a Soviet Commission of Inquiry on a site visit to Ponary













My comment: this is the upper of the three photos shown in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304, page 837. It is thus obviously related to the August 1944 Soviet investigation.

24.

YV Item ID: 5060
YV Title: Ponary, Lithuania, A covered mass grave.











25.

YV Item ID: 79733
YV Title Ponary: Poland, Crowds of people standing near the corpses of people who were hanged.








My comment: There is no evidence I know of that any public hangings took place at Ponary, so this photo was in all probability not taken at Ponary

26.

YV Item ID: 1313
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Exhumation of corpses from ditches.







My comment: A lesser "Revisionist" argued that this photo cannot have been taken at Ponary because it shows an open field whereas Ponary is a wooded area. I’d say that whether trees can be seen or not on a Ponary photograph depends on the photographer’s vantage point and the size of the area captured by the camera eye. A weightier argument (not made by said "Revisionist") is that this photo is not one of the Soviet photos of Ponary excavations/exhumations shown in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304, pp. 808-843. So it remains open to question whether this photo was taken at Ponary.

27.

YV Item ID: 46516
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, 1945, An exhumation.







My comment: This seems to be an enlargement of the upper part of photo nr. 15, the first of the publicly available Soviet excavation/exhumation photos omitted by Mattogno.

28.

YV Item ID: 31876
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, October 1965, A mass murder site of Jews.









29.

YV Item ID: 79659
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Corpses in a trench.











My comment: The soil seems to be sandy, as it was/is at Ponary On the other hand, the emaciated state of most corpses suggests a site other than Ponary. But then, the Jews of the Vilnius ghetto were hardly well-fed. One might also argue that, although some of the corpses can be seen quite sharply, the corpses show no trace of gunshot wounds or blood (which of course is far harder to see on a black-and-white photograph than on a color photograph), except perhaps for a fairly large spot more or less in the stomach area of one corpse visible on the photo’s lower left (which seems to be partially clothed), even though the corpses’ position does not suggest that they were shot in the neck or the back of the head as they were lying face down. There is also horizontal line on the left that "cuts" though a naked emaciated corpse, whose upper part is partially still buried in soil, suggesting the possibility that the image is a composition of two photos. Additionally a fairly large part of the photo on the upper right seems to have been cut off for some reason. Last but not least, there is no visible sign of decomposition on the corpses. So there are several reasons to doubt that this is really a photo taken at the Ponary killing site, as captioned.

30.

YV Item ID: 80492
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Corpses hanging from the gallows.









My comment: The photo shows several hanged bodies, both men and women, apparently on a winter day and close to what seem to be the houses of a town or village. There is no evidence I know about that any such hangings took place at Ponary. The photo probably shows people hanged as partisans or people suspected of being or having helped partisans, who were left hanging as a deterrent to whoever might have similar ideas.

31.

YV Item ID: 81217
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Corpses hanging on the gallows.









My comment: Same as regarding images nos. 25 and 30.

32.

YV Item ID: 25199
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Exposed bodies of victims in a mass grave.







My comment: Same as regarding image nr. 3.

33.

YV Item ID: 25070
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Bodies of victims that were massacred near the barbed wire fence.







My comment: The barbed wire fence by the corpses suggests a camp setting. Whether it is Ponary is unclear for the same reasons that were stated regarding image nr.1.

34.

YV Item ID: 33
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Corpses of murdered people.














My comment: Same as regarding photo nr. 2. This seems to be a close-up of some of the corpses shown in photo nr. 2.

35.

YV Item ID: 3112
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Corpses of Russian POWs.















My comment: The crew-cut and attire suggests that these are indeed Soviet POWs shot down by their German captors. The barbed wire fence suggests a camp setting. But is this Ponary? If it is, the photo cannot be of Soviet provenance, otherwise the discovery at Ponary of unburied Soviet POWs killed in last-minute executions would have been mentioned in the aforementioned Soviet reports of July and August 1944. Maybe the photo was taken by one of the Ponary operators some time before the place was left and later found in his possession, but without further information this is a merely speculative possibility. The photo might just as well have been taken in the context of a revolt or escape attempt, or some other mass killing at a POW camp, of which there were quite a few according to German historian Christian Gerlach. [43]

36.

YV Item ID: 1087
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Corpses.















My comment: Same as regarding photo nr. 2.

37.


YV Item ID: 3902
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Corpses.









My comment: Same as regarding photo nr. 3.

38.

YV Item ID: 69485
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Killing pit.

My comments:









• The photo on the upper left also appears in the YV collection as item ID 78805, archival signature 3380/598, with the caption "Ponary, Poland, Jews digging a trench in which they were later buried, after being shot." This caption is clearly mistaken. The photo may show civilians commandeered by Soviet investigators to excavate mass graves in search of corpses, but Jews digging their own graves is out of the question. With the large intended fuel storage pits left behind by the Soviets, and with a bulldozer available to dig what additional graves were needed[44], the people to be executed would hardly have been compelled to dig their own graves.

• The photo on the upper right, showing a conveyor belt used to lift corpses to the top of cremation pyres, was taken at Ponary.

• Regarding the other three photos, a Ponary setting is possible, but one should bear in mind the caveats mentioned regarding photo nr. 2 above (which is one of the two photos showing corpses in this collection of five photos).

39.

YV Item ID: 27571
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, The Soviet Army exhuming the bodies of those murdered in Ponary, August 1944.









My comment: This is one of the photos from the August 1944 Soviet investigation shown in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304, pp. 808-843. It is the upper left photo on p. 815. Mattogno doesn’t mention it, so what applies to his omission of photo nr. 15 above also applies to this omission.

40.

YV Item ID: 79149
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Doctors exhuming corpses.















My comment: Similarity with the corpse examination photos copied in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304 suggests a Ponary setting, but the photo doesn’t match any of those photos. So a Ponary setting is possible but cannot be confirmed.

41.

YV Item ID: 292
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, July 1944, A medical committee at the exhumation of corpses.













My comment: Same as regarding the previous photo. A Ponary setting is possible but cannot be confirmed.

42.

YV Item ID: 4480
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, July 1944, A medical committee at the exhumation of corpses.









My comment: This is one of the photos from the August 1944 Soviet investigation shown in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304, pp. 808-843. It is the upper right photo on p. 815, which is shown enlarged on p. 816. Mattogno doesn’t mention it, so what applies to his omission of photos nos. 15 and 39 above also applies to this omission.

43.

YV Item ID: 12220
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, A covered mass grave.











44.

YV Item ID: 4192
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Two bodies in a pit.











My comment: Same as regarding photos nos. 2 and 34.

45.

YV Item ID: 9207529
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Postwar exhumation.









My comment: This could be a Ponary photo, but as it is not among those included in USHMM Reel RG-14.101M.2304, pp. 808-843, the setting is uncertain.

46.

YV Item ID: 9207515
YV Title: Ponary, Poland, Human bones inside a Coffin.









My comment: Same as regarding the previous photo.

The conclusions of this exercise are the following:

1. The Ghetto Fighters’ House and Yad Vashem need to re-caption some images mistakenly captioned as pertaining to Ponary and (re)check the provenance of other photos regarding which a Ponary setting is uncertain or even unlikely.

2. Due to either sloppiness or malicious intent, Mattogno omitted three photos in the TGFH and/or YV online collections that clearly pertain to the 1944 Soviet investigation of Ponary and thus contradict his claim that no photographs confirm or corroborate the Soviet forensic-medical commission’s statements in its 26 August 1944 report.

Notes

[39] GE2, p.230. The archival reference: LCVA, R-613-1-10, p. 70 (LCVA stands for Lietuvos Centrinis Valstybės Archyvas, the Lithuanian Central State Archives). The document is dated 30 July 1942 (not 2 July 1942 as claimed by Mattogno). A facsimile, transcription and translation of this document can be found in the HC Reference Library’s thread Jewish mass graves in Lithuania (color copy, transcription, translation).
[40] GE2, pp. 257-260.
[41] "Escape Tunnel, Dug by Hand, Is Found at Holocaust Massacre Site", The New York Times, June 29, 2016. See also the documentary Holocaust Escape Tunnel. Melodrama and some of the photos discussed here aside, it’s quite interesting.
[42] See Jonathan Harrison, French Military Witness in Kaunas (Kovno)
[43] Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde , pp. 848-855. (translated excerpts here).
[44] Piotr Niwiński, "Ponary, the Place of "Human Slaughter"", p. 34.

3 comments:

Jonathan Harrison said...

Photo 15 and its GFH caption were cited at CODOH back in 2004 so Mattogno's omission is even more suspicious

https://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?t=1239

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

Maybe Mattogno considers CODOH below his level. In which he would be completely right :-)

But then, Mattogno honored Joachim Neander with a "rebuttal" written on account of a remark written by Dr. Neander on the CODOH forum on 31.01.2010. So obviously Mattogno was no stranger to the cesspit at that time.

Maybe he has just become forgetful. After all he also forgot to address on of the most important sources regarding Ponary, the Ponary diary of Kazimierz Sakowicza (which will be addressed in an upcoming article).

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

PS: Read "Sakowicz".