human soap evidence presented at the Nuremberg trial U.S. National Archives, Still Picture Branch, College Park, MD, document
238-NT-270. Introduced at IMT on Feb. 19, 1946 as exhibit USSR-393.

Did Nazis use human body fat to make soap?

never on a mass scale, but...

page compiled by Harold Marcuse
(professor of German history at UC Santa Barbara)
Harold Marcuse homepage

page created October 12, 2004
, updated 12/28/06

Citations I've come across

Introduction (back to top)

  • The claim that Germans used the fat from human corpses to make products was already made by the British during World War I. It resurfaced very early during World War II, so early that it almost certainly was not true--yet. However, contemporary jokes, threats, rumors and insults show beyond a doubt that many people thought that it was believable. Later, when human bodies were indeed being plundered for products (hair for felt and insulation, for example), there are indications that some German scientists experimented with making soap from human fat. However, these experiments could only have been done on a very small scale, and would have been stopped immediately once SS-chief Heinrich Himmler heard of it. (On Nov. 20, 1942 he ordered an investigation.) However, for the very reason that Himmler, who authorized the industrial use of human hair, found this idea so repellant, other people found it a believable and powerful symbol of Nazism's utter disregard for the value of human life.
  • The information on these pages is based on research conducted by Polish scholar Joachim Neander, which he presented at the German Studies Association conference in Washington D.C. in October 2004.

Joachim Neander's research on the persistence of the soap legend

Is available in two forms:
  • ca. 7 page oral version (in German)
  • full research paper with footnotes (in German)
  • Engish version published as: "The Danzig Soap Case: Facts and Legends around 'Professor Spanner' and the Danzig Anatomic Institute, 1944-1945," in: GSR 29:1(Feb. 2006), 63-86.
    (not available online until 2009, when jstor will archive it [access through subscribing institutions only])

Links (back to top)

  • The most detailed discussion in English is "The Soap Allegations," 6 pages on the Nizkor site, which is devoted to debunking Holocaust denier claims.
  • The Jewish Virtual Library's jsource has a short article "The Soap Myth," published in 2000
  • Noted Holocaust denier David Irving, in tried and true denier fashion, mixes true debunking with exaggerated conclusions on his site:
    (I don't provide a live link so as not to raise his search engine rankings.)
  • Wikipedia Jewish soap legend page (begun in Dec. 2006 by Nikolay12 [a Ph.D. in Cambridge, UK--see that page's history page--who asked me for permission] based on my introductory text, above.

Citations I've come across (back to top)

  • 11/7/06: an article about the Nazi Foreign Office's Radio liason (and later president of West Germany) Kurt Georg Kiesinger cites a document that circulated in the Foreign Office with Kiesinger's name as section head on the distribution list. The Sonderdienst Seehaus had recorded and translated a Dec. 3, 1942 British report broadcast by Globe Reuter, which said that Hitler ordered the extermination of all Jews, and that their corpses would be used for 'crucial military products such as soap, fats/lubricants and fertilizer.'
    • see: Jürgen Klöckler, "Auslandspropaganda und Holocaust: Kurt Georg Kiesinger im Auswärtigen Amt, 1940-1945," in: Buchstab/Gassert/Lang (eds.), Kurt Georg Kiesinger, 1904-1988: Von Ebingen ins Kanzleramt)(Freiburg: Herder, 2005), 201-228, n. 58: Copy of document in Nachlass Kiesinger, Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik, St. Augustine, 01-226-253.

Photographs (back to top)

  • none yet, but since Dec. 22, 2006 soap from human fat has become a subject for sexy video spoofs on YouTube: "Rachel Sterling: Fat Soap" ("only $99.69"...)

hits since Oct. 19, 2004

1370 on 12/28/06=1.7 hits/day
[reference on Wikipedia 12/29]

page created by H. Marcuse on October 12, 2004, uploaded Oct. 19, 2004; updated: see page header
back to top; Legends about Nazi Germany page; Dachau Conc. Camp Memorial Site page; Harold Marcuse homepage