In 1945 it was announced that gas death chambers existed in all concentration camps in Poland, Germany, Austria and Alsace.
Announced by whom? Where? Sources?
Germans are meticulous record keepers but there is not one order for the construction of any gas chamber, no blueprint, no photo of any gas chamber or gassed victims There have been thousands of investigations of alleged Nazi war criminals, hundreds of trials, yet not one person was ever accused of being involved with actual gassings! No reliable witness on either side has ever come forward who saw a single person gassed—AND THERE ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN OVER 10,000 MASS GASSINGS!
The construction of Birkenau began in October 1941. The building was supervised by the “Central Building Authority of the Waffen SS and Police, Auschwitz, Upper Silesia”, established on 1 October, 1941, and headed by Sturmbannführer (Major) Karl Bischoff. The Blueprint Office, headed by Hauptscharführer (First Sergeant-Major) Wichmann, was responsible for preparing the construction plans, which were drawn up by SS officers who had studied architecture or engineering, and several prisoners with the appropriate technical training. Herta Soswinski, a prisoner who worked as a clerk at the Building Authority, recalls:
“The task of the Bauleitung [Building Authority] was the overall planning of all the construction works within Auschwitz, including living quarters, medical facilities, crematoria, gas chambers…The Bauleitungwas not only responsible for the planning, but also for the labor itself, the allocation of materials and supervision. The SS men who worked on the plans, were also active at the building sites, when necessary.”
The camp was built on swampy, exposed terrain. The construction was carried out in stages, with the ultimate goal of accommodating some 200,000 prisoners. In the early stages, most of the labor involved in preparing the area and the construction itself was carried out by thousands of Soviet prisoners of war who worked under German supervision. As time went on, they were joined by many Polish and Jewish prisoners. The labor conditions were appalling, and the death rate of the prisoners was especially high in the winter months. Polish prisoner Alfred Czeslaw Przybylski recalls:
“In the course of digging and building the foundations, the prisoners worked in the fall, in winter and frost, standing waist-deep in water. Female prisoners at the women’s prison in Birkenau worked under the same conditions. I firmly believe that the choice of building site – on wet ground, even though they could have built on ground that was dry and more suitable for construction – a choice made by professionals…was designed to exterminate the prisoners who worked on the construction and those who inhabited the buildings.”
Unlike the brick buildings in the main camp, a considerable number of the buildings in Birkenau were uniform wooden huts that were unfit for human habitation. They did not have an efficient drainage system, or insulation against the bitter cold. They were originally intended to house some 550 prisoners each, but in practice, many more prisoners were crammed inside. The severe overcrowding in the huts caused unspeakable sanitary conditions, and led to a high death rate amongst the prisoners living in them. A former prisoner recalls the conditions inside the huts at Birkenau:
“On rainy days, the packed-earth floor of the huts turned into a swamp as a result of the lack of drainage.
These huts were originally intended to house 500 people. Building manager Dejaco’s order to build a third lower layer of bunks increased the huts’ capacity to 800-1000, and often, not 4 but 10-12 prisoners would lie on each bunk…”
Living conditions were especially harsh in winter, and as a result, many prisoners fell ill and died. Renowned author Roman Frister writes the following about the conditions in the winter months:
“The seasons changed in accordance with nature’s logic, reminding us all of the existence of laws that never change: summer ended, fall followed suit, and winter burst into our lives, lashing at us with its whip of frost. Unlike the factory, which was pleasantly warm, the huts in the camp had never been heated; the heaters inside them were used as tables. After the evening roll-call, which lasted forever, or more accurately, until the Germans got fed up, there was nowhere we could warm up. We went to sleep without undressing, sometimes without taking off our shoes. The nights brought suffering, but for me, the waking moments were the worst. They forced me to make a choice. Each morning at 5, when the Blockaelteste’s whistle woke us up, I had to decide, yet again, if I was going to fight, or give up.”
Shortly after construction had begun at Birkenau, the decision was made to change its designation, and turn it into an extermination camp. The first experiments with gas were carried out in the main camp in the fall of 1941, and in the light of their success, the SS decided to build four permanent installations in Birkenau, for the specific purpose of gassing people to death. The construction began in 1942, directed by the Topf and Sons company, supervised by the SS. As a stopgap measure until the installations were completed, the Germans converted existing buildings to erect two makeshift gas chambers next to the camp.
The four extermination installations started operating in 1943. They each included an undressing room and a gas chamber, both underground, and a crematorium for incinerating the bodies of the murdered. These facilities made the murder of the Jews a far more efficient process.
SS man Perry Broad describes one instance of murder by gas that he witnessed:
“A number of victims noticed that the covers had been removed from the six holes in the ceiling (of the gas chamber). They screamed in terror when a head, covered in a gas-mask, appeared at one of the holes. The “disinfectors” went to work…. Using a hammer and chisel, they opened some innocuous-looking tins which bore the inscription “Zyklon, to be used against vermin. Attention, poison! To be opened by trained personnel only.” As soon as the tins were opened, their contents were thrown through the holes, and the covers were replaced immediately… about two minutes later, the screams died down, and only muffled groans could be heard. Most of the victims had already lost consciousness. Two more minutes passed, and Grabner (one of the SS men) stopped looking at his watch. Absolute silence prevailed.
The extermination reached its peak in the spring and summer of 1944, with the deportation of some 430,000 Hungarian Jews to the camp, and the subsequent murder of the majority of the deportees.
During this period, the pressure on the extermination machinery was so great that the Germans also reactivated the makeshift gas chambers that had been operating in 1942.
Concrete information about Auschwitz including relatively accurate drawings of its main camps and the extermination facilities only reached the West in the summer of 1944, in the form of the Vrba-Wetzler report. Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were Slovak Jewish prisoners who escaped from Auschwitz in April 1944. They prepared a comprehensive report on what was happening at Auschwitz, and sent it to the West via underground channels.
The construction work at the Auschwitz complex continued until November 1944. At this point, Himmler gave the order to halt the extermination of the Jews there, and the Germans began to dismantle the extermination facilities in order to conceal all traces of their crime.
Later, the Germans dismantled further sections of Birkenau, but when the Red Army arrived on January 27th, 1945, most of the Birkenau camp was still intact.
The Germans incinerated the camp archives shortly before the Soviets arrived, but missed the construction archive, which was kept in a different building. As a result, the Soviets found a considerable amount of the technical paperwork – including many of the construction blueprints.
These documents became accessible to researchers and the general public after the Cold War ended. From no other extermination camp did so much paperwork survive, including detailed documents about the extermination facilities. The Auschwitz construction blueprints thus constitute extraordinary documentation of the manner in which a major building operation served as a central tool of Nazi extermination policy.
More testimonies, unfortunately I can not bring all of them as there are too many for one article:
Former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening told a German court, that he helped keep watch as thousands of Jews were led from cattle cars directly to the gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp where he served as a guard.
He described in chilling detail how cattle cars full of Jews were brought to the Auschwitz death camp, the people stripped of their belongings and then most led directly into gas chambers. The 93-year-old, charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.
He recalled how a fellow guard discovered a baby abandoned among luggage and bashed it against a truck to stop its crying. After that, he unsuccessfully requested a transfer and started to drink vodka heavily to cope with working at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, he said.
During that period, so many trains were arriving that often two would have to wait with closed doors as the first was “processed,” Groening testified at the Lueneburg state court.
Though he was more regularly assigned to the camp’s Auschwitz I section, he said he guarded the Birkenau ramp three times, including one busy 24-hour shift. The main gas chambers were located at Birkenau.
“The capacity of the gas chambers and the capacity of the crematoria were quite limited. Someone said that 5,000 people were processed in 24 hours but I didn’t verify this. I didn’t know,” he said. “For the sake of order we waited until train 1 was entirely processed and finished.”
Rudolf Höss was the commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau from mid-1941 to December 1943, after which he was promoted to the administrative office that supervised all of the camps. In early May 1944, Höss briefly returned to Auschwitz-Birkenau to take up his command again during the Hungarian Action. After the war, Höss was arrested, tried, convicted and put to death for his role in the Final Solution. Before he was executed he wrote his memoirs, in which he noted: “Originally, all the Jews transported to [Auschwitz-Birkenau] . . . were to be destroyed without exception, according to Himmler’s orders.” However, because of labor needs in the armaments industry, by 1942 the Nazis saved some able-bodied Jews as workers. According to Höss: “The railways cars were unloaded one after another. After depositing their baggage, the Jews had to individually pass in front of an SS doctor, who decided on their physical fitness as they marched past him. Those who were considered able-bodied were immediately escorted into the camp in small groups. Jews selected for gassing were taken as quietly as possible to the crematories.”Only those selected for labor were given numbers; Jews sent to the gas chambers were not.
Pery Broad, a member of the Gestapo at Auschwitz-Birkenau, described how those selected for slave labor were treated upon selection: “Once fashionable and lively women and girls, they now had their heads shorn and a prisoner’s number tattooed on their left forearms; and they were clothed in sack-like, blue and white striped smocks.” These prisoners were the ones accounted for in the Death Books. Like the inventory for a business, these prisoners were now the property of the Third Reich. As a result, they needed to be tracked like inventory: their number and location could be accounted for at any given time. The books do not record the 900,000 Jewish men, women, and children who were sent straight to the gas chambers.
Since Broad worked in the Gestapo office in Auschwitz-Birkenau, he had valuable information on the record-keeping process, including the preparation of the Death Books. Broad stated: “When information was requested by the Reich Main Security Office concerned a past transport, as a rule nothing could be ascertained. Former transport lists were destroyed. Nobody could learn anything in Auschwitz about the fate of a given person. . . At present, after the evacuation of Auschwitz and burning of all papers and records, the fate of millions of people is completely obscure. No transport arrival lists are in existence any more.”
Stanislaw Jankowski was a member of the Sonderkommando at Crema/Gas Chamber 5 in Auschwitz-Birkenau in July 1943. Jankowski gave a deposition to the Russian authorities after the war: “I have to stress here that only persons destined to do various kinds of work were included in the registers of prisoners’ strength and were given camp numbers. No camp numbers were given and no registration was effected . . . in the cases of all those who went straight on to the gas from the transports . . .” Jankowski further noted: “Circa 30% of the then arriving transports [of Hungarian Jews] . . . were selected to be put in the camp . . . The rest were gassed and cremated in the crematoria ovens.”
Henryk Tauber, a member of a Sonderkommando who worked in several of Birkenau’s gas chambers, stated after the war: “We worked in two shifts, a day shift and a night shift. On average, we incinerated 2,500 bodies a day.” Tauber also described how the muffles were filled with multiple bodies:
The procedure was to put the first body with the feet towards the muffle, back down and face up. Then a second body was placed on top, again face up, but head towards the muffle . . . We had to work fast, for the bodies put in first soon started to burn, and their arms and legs rose up. If we were slow, it was difficult to charge the second part of bodies . . .
We burned the bodies of children with those of adults. First we put in two adults, then as many children as the muffle could contain. It was sometimes as many as five or six. We used this procedure so that the bodies of children would not be placed directly on the grid bars, which were relatively far apart. In this way we prevented the children from falling through into the ash bin. Women’s bodies burned much better and more quickly than those of men. For this reason, when a charge was burning badly, we would introduce a woman’s body to accelerate the combustion.
Generally speaking, we burned four or five bodies at a time in one muffle, but sometimes we charged a greater number of bodies. It was possible to charge up to eight ‘Muselmanns.’
Filip Müller, also a member of a Sonderkommando that cremated bodies, confirmed the process of multiple cremations in his memoirs. The bodies were sorted
according to their combustibility: for the bodies of the well-nourished were to help burn the emaciated. Under the direction of the Kapos, the bearers began sorting the dead into four stacks. The largest consisted mainly of strong men, the next in size were women, then came children, and lastly a stack of dead Mussulmans, emaciated and nothing but skin and bones. This technique was called ‘express work,’ a designation thought up by the Kommandoführers and originating from experiments carried out in crematorium 5 in the autumn of 1943. The purpose of these experiments was to find a way of saving coke [coal] . . . Thus the bodies of two Mussulmans were cremated together with those of two children or the bodies of two well-nourished men together with that of an emaciated woman, each load consisting of three, or sometimes, four bodies.
Filip Müller was put to work in a Sonderkommando, assigned to dig burning pits behind Crema/Gas Chamber 5 and in the woods by the cottages. The burning pits were 40 to 50 meters long, about 8 meters wide and 2 meters deep [131 to 164 feet long, about 26 feet wide and 6.5 feet deep]. Eventually they dug a total of nine large burning pits “making it possible to burn an almost unlimited number of bodies.”
Dr. Charles Sigismund Bendel was a Jewish physician who was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he was assigned to the crematoria Sonderkommando. At the Bergen-Belsen trial in 1945, Bendel confirmed how quickly and efficiently these open-air burning pits worked. For instance, he recollected how a transport of Jews from Lodz, Poland had been murdered and burned in such way: “I came at seven o’clock in the morning with the others and saw white smoke still rising from trenches, which indicated that a whole transport had been liquidated or finished off during the night . . . behind the crematorium they dug three large trenches 12 metres long and 6 metres [39 feet by 20 feet] wide. After a bit it was found that the results achieved even in these three big trenches were not quick enough, so in the middle of these big trenches they built two canals through which the human fat or grease should seep so that work could be continued in a quicker way. The capacity of these trenches was almost fantastic. Crematorium No. 4 was able to burn 1,000 people during the day, but this system of trenches was able to deal with the same number in one hour.”
Pery Broad, a member of the Gestapo in Auschwitz-Birkenau, was captured by the British after the war. Broad wrote a detailed report on Auschwitz-Birkenau, in which he described the first gassing in the Main Camp. Broad detailed how Jews from one transport were herded into the former morgue room, where they expected to get showers: “The covers had been removed from the six holes in the ceiling . . . With a chisel and hammer they [the SS] opened a few innocuous looking tins . . . filled to the brim with blue granules the size of peas. Immediately after opening the tins they were thrown into the holes which were quickly covered.”
Hans Stark, also a member of the camp’s Gestapo unit, gave evidence at the Auschwitz-Birkenau trial in Frankfurt in 1963. He testified that gassings were carried out “in a room in the small crematorium which had been prepared for this purpose.” Stark recalled that the roof above the gas chamber room had openings, through which Zyklon-B was poured in granular form. On at least one occasion, Stark himself poured the Zyklon-B in the holes. Stark recalled that the Zyklon-B “trickled down over the people as it was being poured in. They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them . . . After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten or fifteen minutes, the gas chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggledy all over the place. It was a dreadful sight.”
A letter, dated June 28, 1943, was sent by Karl Bischoff, the head of the Central Building Administration in Auschwitz-Birkenau, to Hans Kammler in Berlin. It summarized the ideal cremation capacity for the 52 muffles in a 24-hour period (including down time for cleaning and maintenance):
Crema 1 340 persons
Crema 2 1,440 persons
Crema 3 1,440 persons
Crema 4 768 persons
Crema 5 768 persons
Total per 24 hours 4,756 persons
Bischoff arrived at his figures by assuming that each of the 52 muffles could cremate four bodies an hour, which by definition required multiple cremations at one time.