The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/p/pfannenstiel.wilhelm/pfannen.002

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/belzec pfannen.002
Last-Modified: 1994/07/26

Professor Wilhelm Pfannenstiel, Waffen-SS hygienist, on a gassing 
at Belzec
[Quoted in 'The Good Old Days' - E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The 
Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 238-244]
When I am asked about executions of Jews I must confirm that on 19 August
1942 I witnessed an execution of Jews at Belzec extermination camp. I
would like to describe how I came to be there. During my conversations
with SS-Brigadefuehrer Globocnik, he told me about the large
spinning-mills that he had set up in Belzec. He also mentioned that
work at this camp would considerably outstrip German production. When
I asked him where the spinning materials came from, he told me proudly
that they had come from the Jews. At this point he also mentioned the
extermination actions against the Jews, who for the most part were
killed at the the camp at Belzec...

During this first visit I was taken to around by a certain
Polizieihauptmann named Wirth, who also showed and explained to me the
extermination installations at the camp. He told me that the following
morning a new transport of about 500 Jews would be arriving at the
camp who would be channeled through these extermination chambers. He
asked me whether I would like to watch one of these extermination
actions, to which, after a great deal of reflection, I consented. I
planned to submit a report to the Reichsarzt-SS about the
extermination actions. In order to write a report I had, however,
first to observe an action with my own eyes. I remained in the camp,
spent the night there and was witness to the following events the next

A goods train traveled directly into the camp of Belzec, the freight
cars were opened and Jews whom I believe were from the area of Romania
or Hungary were unloaded. The cars were crammed fairly full. There
were men, women and children of every age. They were ordered to get
into line and then had to proceed to an assembly area and take off
their shoes...

After the Jews had removed their shoes they were separated by sex. The
women went together with the children into a hut. There their hair was
shorn and they had to get undressed... The men went into another hut,
where they received the same treatment. I saw what happened in the
women's hut with my own eyes. After they had undressed, the whole
procedure went fairly quickly. They ran naked from the hut through a
hedge into the actual extermination centre. The whole extermination
centre looked just like a normal delousing institution. In front of
the building there were pots of geraniums and a sign saying "Hackenholt
Foundation", above which there was a star of David. The building was
brightly and pleasantly painted so as not to suggest people would be
killed here...

Inside the buildings, the Jews had to enter chambers into which was
channeled the exhaust of a [100(?)]-HP engine, located in the same
building. In it there were six such extermination chambers. They were
windowless, had electric lights and two doors. One door led outside so
that the bodies could be removed.  People were led from a corridor
into the chambers through an ordinary air-tight door with bolts. There
was a glass peep-hole, as I recall, next to the door in the wall.
Through this window one could watch what was happening inside the room
but only when it was not too full of people. After a short time the
glass became steamed up. When the people had been locked in the room
the motor was switched on and then I suppose the stop-valves or vents
to the chambers opened.  Whether they were stop-valves or vents I
would not like to say. It is possible that the pipe led led directly
to the chambers. Once the engine was running, the light in the
chambers was switched off. This was followed by palpable disquiet in
the chamber. In my view it was only then that the people sensed
something else was in store for them. It seemed to me that behind the
thick walls and door they were praying and shouting for help.

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