The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/auschwitz.01

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Auschwitz - The Death Factory
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Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Auschwitz,Zyclon

Archive/File: camps/auschwitz auschwitz.01
Last-modified: 1994/12/26


  The extermination plant with the most advanced design anywhere in the
world consisted of two large crematoria/gas chambers and two smaller ones.
Crematoria Four and Five were built on the surface of the ground.
Crematoria Two and Three had subteranian gas chambers and reception areas.
They were about 102 meters long by 51 meters across.  The basement
consisted of two main rooms -- the undressing area, which also served as a
mortuary, and a gas chamber.  Victims climbed down the steps into the
basement.  Those who could not walk were pushed down a concrete slide.
The gas chamber, about 225 square meters, looked like a large communal
bathroom with shower heads:

     The Zyclon B gas crystals were inserted through openings into
     the hollow pillars made of sheet metal.  They were perforated at
     regular intervals and inside them a spiral ran from top to
     bottom in order to ensure as even a distribution of the granular
     crystals as possible.  Mounted on the ceiling was a large number
     of dummy showers made of metal.

The largest room in the factory, the changing chambers, accommodated 1,000
people.  Notices throughout the room contributed to a "cunning . . . and
clumsy deception" -- telling victims they were in disinfection rooms,
urging clenliness, reminding them to remember their clothing hook

  The extermination plant contained a hair-drying loft run by fifteen
Orthodox Jews.  Spread over the floor, noticed Muller from the
extermination staff, was women's hair of every color:

     Washing lines were strung across the room.  Pegged on these
     lines like wet washing were further batches of hair which had
     first been washed in a solution of ammonium chloride.  When the
     hair was nearly dry, it was spread on the warm floor to finish
     off.  Finally it was combed out by prisoners and put into paper

  The SS set up a gold-melting room in the plant.  There two dental
technicians soaked the teeth for hours in acid to remove bone and flesh,
and used a blowtorch to melt the gold into molds.  They produced as much
as 5 to 10 kilos a day.

  As in Treblinka, the stoking gangs sorted out the bodies into
combustability catagories: strong men, women, children, and Mussulmans.
The SS staff had performed earlier experiments to find ways to economize
on fuel -- with the help of Topf and Sons, civilian experts:

     In the course of these experiments corpses were selected
     according to different criteria and the cremated.  Thus the
     corpses 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.  Members of these groups were
     especially interested in the amount of coke required to burn
     corpses of any particular catagory, and in the time it took to
     cremate them.  During these macabre experiments different kinds
     of coke were used and the results carefully recorded.

       Afterwards, all corpses were divided into the above-mentioned
     catagories, the criterion being the amount of coke required to
     reduce them to ashes.  Thus it was decreed that the most
     economical and fuel-saving procedure would be to burn the bodies
     of a well-nourished man and an emaciated woman, or vice versa,
     together with that of a child, because, as the experiments had
     established, in this combination, once they had caught fire, the
     dead would continue to burn without any further coke being

  As early as June 13, 1943, all was not well with the new installation.
The Central SS Construction Management of Auschwitz sent a letter to a
German equipment firm urging the completion of carpentry work in the new
crematoria.  The chief requested the delivery without delay of the doors
for the crematoria, "which [are] urgently needed for the execution of the
special measures; otherwise, the progress of the construction will be
jeopardized."  In addition, he demanded the completion of the windows for
the reception building.  If the carpentry work could not be done, building
operations would have to be suspended for the winter.  Eventually the
ovens seemed to fall apart.  Crematorium Four failed completely after a
short time and Crematoria Five had to be shut down repeatedly.[42]

  The plans for the crematoria have been preserved by an architect who
stole them from the Birkenau plant.  The one-story buildings looked like
large bakeries with steep roofs and dormer windows.  The underground gas
chambers rose 51 centimeters above the ground to form a grassy terrace.
No one would know at first glance what they were.  Crematoria Two and
Three were close to the camp and visible.  Pine trees and birches hid
crematoria Four and Five.  Around the crematoria lay large piles of wood
for burning the corpses in the nearby pits.  All chambers had doors with
thick observation windows.  In 1942 and 1943 alone those chambers used 27
tons of Cyclone B.  The gas chambers and the crematoria of Auschwitz were
called "special installations," "bath houses," and "corpse cellars."[43]

  Each day the trains rolled into the camp through the passageway
constructed in the far gate, down one of three tracks to the selection
platform.  As they fell out of the trains, the victims were sent one way
or another, with tearful prting scenes.  The procession moved to the
crematoria yard where the SS told the Jews they were going to take
disinfection baths.  An orchestra of attractive women played gay tunes
from operas and light marches.  Then to the dressing room or reception
center with numbered clothing pegs drivin into the walls.  The SS ordered
the victims to undress and to remember their numbers.  Sometimes they gave
them towels.  Then the SS drove the victims through the corridor to the
heated gas chamber.  The heating was provided not for the comfort of the
prisoners but to create a better setting for the evaporation of gas.  The
gas squads packed the 2,000 victims into the room.  From the ceiling hung
imitation shower heads.  The doors were closed, the air was pumped out,
and the gas poured in.  Cyclone B, or hydrogen cyanide, is a very
poisonous gas that causes death by internal suffocation.  In sufficient
concentrations, it causes death almost immediately.  But the SS did not
bother to calculate the proper quantities, so death took anywhere from
three to twenty minutes.  While the victims were dying, the SS witched
through the peepholes.

  When they opened the doors, they found the victims in half-sitting
positions in a towerlike pile.  Most were pink, others were covered with
green spots.  Some had foam on their lips, while others bleeding from the
nose.  Many had their eyes open.  The majority were packed near the doors.
The squads in special clothing moved in with hooks to pull the bodies off
of each other.

  The SS physicians and scientists monitored the selection and the
gassing, watching the procedure through the special airtight door.  The
doors could not be opened until the doctor gave the sign that all victims
were dead.  The doctors assumed their monitoring of the killings on a
rotating basis.[44]

  Two German firms, Tesch/Stabenow and Degesch, produced Cyclone B gas
after they acquired the patent from Farben.  Tesch supplied two tons a
month, and Degesch three quarters of a ton.  The firms that produced the
gas already had extensive experience in fumigation.  "In short, this
industry used very powerful gases to exterminate rodents and insects in
enclosed spaces; that it should now have become involved in an operation
to kill off Jews by the hundreds of thousands is not mere accident."[45]
Afetr the war the directors of the firms insisted that they had sold their
products for fumigation purposes and did not know they were being used on
humans.  But the prosecutors found letters from Tesch not only offering to
supply the gas crystals but also advising how to use the ventilating and
heating equipment.  Hoss testified that the Tesch directors could not help
but know of the use for their product because they sold him enough to
annihilate two million people.  Two Tesch partners were sentanced to death
in 1946 and hanged.  The director of Degesch recieved five years in

  The scientifically planned crematoria should have been able to handle
the total project, but they could not.  The whole complex had forty-six
retorts, each with the capacity for three to five persons.  The burning in
a retort lasted about half an hour.  It took an hour a day to clean them
out.  Thus it was theoretically possible to cremate about 12,000 corpses
in twenty four hours or 4,380,000 a year.  But the well-constructed
crematoria fell far behind at a number of camps, and especially at
Aschwitz in 1944.  In August the total cremation reached a peak one day of
24,000, but still a bottleneck occurred.  Camp authorities needed an
economic and fast method of corpse disposal, so they again dug six huge
pits beside Crematorium Five and reopened old pits in the wood.

  Thus, late in 1944, pit burning became the chief method of corpse
disposal.  The pits had indentations at one end from which human fat
drained off.  To keep the pits burning, the stokers poured oil, alcohol,
and large quantities of boiling human fat over the bodies:

     The sizzling fat was scooped out with buckets on a long curved
     rod and poured all over the pit causing flames to leap up amid
     much crackling and hissing. . . . The air reeked of oil, fat,
     benzole and burnt flesh.

  Muller described the ghastly scene:

     The corpses in the pit looked as if they had been chained
     together.  Tounges of a thousand tiny blue-red flames were
     licking at them.  The fire grew fiercer and flames leapt higher
     and heigher.  Under the ever-increasing heat a few of the dead
     began to stir, writhing as though with some unbearable pain,
     arms and legs straining in slow motion, and even their bodies
     streightening up a little, hesitant and with difficulty, almost
     as if with their last strength they were trying to rebel against
     their doom.  Eventually the fire became so fierce that the
     corpses were enveloped by flames.  Blisters which had formed on
     their skin burst one by one.  Almost every corpse was covered
     with black scorch marks and glistening as if it had been
     greased.  The searing heat had burst open their bellies: there
     was the violent hissing and sputtering of frying in great heat.
     Boiling fat flowed into the pans on either side of the pit.
     Fanned by the wind, the flames, dark-red before, now took on a
     fiery white hue: the corpses were burning so fiercely that they
     were consumed by their own heat.  The process of incineraton
     took five to six hours.  What was left barely filled a third of
     the pit.  The shiny whitish-grey surface was strewn with
     countless skulls.[46]

  At intervals, flamethrowers were brought in to destroy the rotten
remains.  In the center of Nazi industrial might it was the open pits that
finally broke the bottleneck of bodies: a technique from ancient times.

  Burning that many bodies produced an enormous quantity of ashes.  To
finish the task, the labor squad cooled the ashes with water, shoveled out
the ashes, piled them in heaps, removed remaining bones and limbs with
special tools, reburnt the limbs, pulverized the ashes, and buried them in
pits or threw them into the marshes.  Later they threw the ashes into the
Vistula and Solo rivers.  A small, carefully sifted quantity was kept in a
shed.  Sometimes families were notified of the death of their loved ones
and in return for money they would recieve urns filled with the ashes.[47]

[39] Muller, Eyewitness Auschwitz, 60-61; Serge Klarsfield, The Holocaust
   and Neo-Nazi Mythomania, 109-119
[40] Muller, Eyewitness Auschwitz, 65
[41] Ibid, 99-100
[42] TWC V:624
[43] Between 1945 and 1962 Polish officials found five manuscripts written
   by Sonderkommando members befor etheir deaths.  The published
   manuscripts and documents relate to the specific process of
   extermination at Birkenau, and provide detailed descriptions of the
   crematoria and gas chambers.
[44] Auschwitz, Vol I, Pt. I, 61.
[45] Hilberg, 567.  Commandant of Auschwitz (London: Weidenfeld and
   Nicholson, 1959)
[46] Naumann, Auschwitz, 267; and Muller, Eyewitness Auschwitz, 136-137
[47] Muller, Eyewitness Auschwitz, 138-139.

"Hitler's Death Camps" by Konnilyn G. Feig  LOC D810.J4 F36 1981

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