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Tony Lund
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On the 21st April 1917, the Holmfirth Express published a modified version of a report that had appeared in a Belgium magazine that was being produced in Holland. The Express said they had removed the most gruesome details, and then added that the Germans were being accused of using parts of their dead soldiers for pig food, fats and oil.

“We have known for a long time that the Germans stripped their dead behind the firing line, fastened them into bundles of three or four bodies with iron wire, and then despatched these grisly bundles to the rear.

“Until recently the trains laden with the dead were sent to Seraing, near Liege, and a point north of Brussels. Much surprise was caused by the fact that of late this traffic as proceeded in the direction of Gerolstein, and it was noted that on each waggon was written, D.A.V.G.

“German science is responsible for the ghoulish idea of the formation of the German Offal Utilisation Company Limited. (D.V.A.G. or Deutsche Abfall Verwertunge Gesellschaft.) A dividend earning company with a capital of £250,000, the chief factory of which has been constructed 1000 yards from the railway connecting St Vish, near the Belgium frontier, with Gerolstein, in a lonely, little frequented, Eifel district, south west of Coblents. This factory deals especially with the dead from the west front. If the results are as good as the company hopes, another will be established to deal with the corpses on the east front.

“The factory is invisible from the railway. It is placed deep in forest country, with an especially thick growth of trees around it. Live wires surround it. A special double track leads to it. The works are about 700 feet long and 110 feet broad, and the railway runs completely round them. It the north west corner of the works the discharge from the trains takes place.

“The trains arrive full of bare bodies, which are unloaded by workers who live at the works. The men wear oilskin overalls and masks with mica eyepieces. They are equipped with long hooked poles, and push the bundles of bodies to an endless chain, which picks them up with big hooks, attached at intervals of 2 feet.

“The bodies are transported on this endless chain into a long, narrow compartment, where they pass through a bath which disinfects them. They then go through a drying chamber, and finally are automatically carried into a digester or great cauldron, in which they are dropped by an apparatus which detaches them from the chain. In the digester they remain from six to eight hours, and are treated by steam, which breaks them up while they are slowly stirred by machinery.

“From this treatment result several products. The fats are broken up into stearine, a form of tallow and oils, which require to be redistilled before they can be used. The oil is processed with carbonate of soda, and some part of the by-products resulting from this is used by German soap-makers. The oil distillery and refinery lie in the south-western corner of the works. The refined oil is sent out in small casks like those used for petroleum, and is of a yellowish-brown colour.

“The fumes are exhausted from the buildings by electric fans, and are sucked through a great pipe to the north-eastern corner, where they are condensed and the refuse resulting is discharged into a sewer. There is no high chimney, as the boiler furnaces are supplied with air by electric fans. There is a laboratory, and in charge of the works is a chief chemist with two assistants and seventy-eight men. All the employees are soldiers and are attached to the 8th Army Corps, There is a sanatorium by the works, and under no pretext is any man permitted to leave them. They are guarded as prisoners at their appalling work.”

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For some reason the words "beyond belief" sprang to mind as I read it although I am sure that some people at the time would have taken it as "Gospel".

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Of course what is a fact is that the Germans shipped back from the front the by products from their forward slaughterhouses, so trains loaded with stacks of bones, hides etc would certainly be observed from time to time. There is a long description about it in 'Das Bayernbuch vom Weltkriege' pp 236-237. The quantities were substantial; one Corps slaughterhouse alone dealing with dealing with 4,000 beef cattle and 3,500 pigs in a five and a half month period in 1915. That, plus a fertile imagination and you have a story!

Jack

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The process as described seems to leave their clothes on. Wouldn't contaminate any end product.

Wasn't this all based on the word "cadaver" being used relating to horses or some such?

zoo

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Of course what is a fact is that the Germans shipped back from the front the by products from their forward slaughterhouses, so trains loaded with stacks of bones, hides etc would certainly be observed from time to time. There is a long description about it in 'Das Bayernbuch vom Weltkriege' pp 236-237. The quantities were substantial; one Corps slaughterhouse alone dealing with dealing with 4,000 beef cattle and 3,500 pigs in a five and a half month period in 1915. That, plus a fertile imagination and you have a story!

Jack

Sorry Jack, but i don't know why you bring this up. We are talking in the original post of HUMAN bodies. This should not be mixed in this context and also misunderstood with recycling of animal remains which in fact happened allover in the world.

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A huge number of grisly stories came out of Belgium at the start of the war. Many were greatly blown up and published in papers worldwide. Much of this was aimed at outraging neutral countries, especially the USA with the hope of the being drawn into the was on the side of GB and France. With the passage of time it's impossible to say what was true. Atrocities were committed by German troops against Belgium civilians but I doubt if they were on the scale published at the time.

This story is one of many trying to demonise the Germans. There were some stories of babies being killed and even eaten! I expect most, if not all of these horror stories were propoganda. The killing of some few thousands of Belgian civilians was not and did happen.

Hopefully 90 years later, and with the context of WW2 we can separate fact from pure fiction.

Gunner Bailey

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Sorry Jack, but i don't know why you bring this up. We are talking in the original post of HUMAN bodies. This should not be mixed in this context and also misunderstood with recycling of animal remains which in fact happened allover in the world.

Probably because it is nearer the truth than using human remains is.

zoo

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Just browsing and this one caught my eye because I liked the movie. The story " Make room, make room " on which it was based, was very good too. Am I the only one thinking " Dachau ", 25 years before the event?

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I saw another report of this story yesterday in a book published in 1929, apparently the rumour spread all around the world in 1917.

Tony.

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