JTA — An Israeli film maker who is admittedly “obsessed” with the Holocaust is finally putting to rest the myth that the urban myth that the Nazis used the remains of Jewish bodies to create bars of soap.
“Soaps,” a new film by director Eyal Ballas, 43, finds that the soap myth originated in World War I, when Germans were rumored to be turning bodies into the cleaning product. During World War II, SS guards would harass concentration camp members by threatening to kill them and turn them into soap.
Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt told The Jewish Week that “there is no proof that the Nazis made Jews into soap in a mass fashion … There were attempts, but it was never practical.”
Certain German soaps had the initials “RIF” printed on them, which was thought to stand for “Reichs Juden Fett,” which translates to “State Jewish Fat.” In actuality, the inscription stands for Reichsstelle fur industrielle Fettversorgung, or National Center for Industrial Fat Provisioning, according to the film.
Although this rumor is usually dispelled by historians, Yad Vashem’s website contains three photographs of soap burials, with one captioned, “In this grave is buried soap made from pure Jewish fat … A silent testimony to the Holocaust and the brutality of the Germans.”
According to a Haaretz article about the new film, a Yad Vashem spokesman says the captions are a temporary issue, and Yad Vashem has changed the picture captions for the exhibition at the museum. They are currently working to make the same changes on the website.