Gas chamber (mass murder)
Gas chambers were facilities in six killing centers , several concentration camps and all extermination camps in which people were murdered by carbon monoxide (CO) or hydrogen cyanide ( hydrogen cyanide ) during the Nazi era . The carbon monoxide was partly introduced from gas bottles, but mostly produced as exhaust gases from gasoline engines. Here you also put gas vans one as a mobile gas chambers. Zyklon B was mainly used for poisoning with hydrogen cyanide .
First gas chamber in Poznan
After the occupation of Poland by the Wehrmacht were in October 1939 in the Sicherheitsdienst used VII in Poznan Fort conducted in a makeshift chamber first "test gassings" in which an unknown number of mentally ill was murdered. According to witnesses, August Becker was present, who a little later - in January 1940 - supervised test gassings for the T4 campaign in the Nazi killing center in Brandenburg . Probably on December 13, 1939, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler attended a gassing as an observer.
The gas chamber in Fort VII was then only used in November and December 1939. It is estimated that up to 400 mentally ill people were murdered in Fort VII in Poznan. According to Volker Rieß, the initiative to kill the mentally ill came from the heads of the civil administration and the Gauleiter Franz Schwede-Coburg , Albert Forster and Arthur Greiser , who contacted Himmler either directly or through higher SS and police leaders , who after approval provided by Adolf Hitler staff. Other patients were then murdered by a special command under Herbert Lange in a camouflaged gas truck using pure carbon monoxide (CO).
Action T4 gas chambers
On the basis of a letter of authorization from Adolf Hitler that was backdated to September 1, 1939, severely handicapped children were killed as " unworthy of life " by drugs in child euthanasia from 1940 onwards . The “euthanasia” (actually “beautiful death”) of individuals was continued with the T4 campaign to eliminate entire groups of “ ballast existences ” unable to work .
In January 1940, in the “old prison” in the city of Brandenburg , a trial was carried out in front of the eyes of selected doctors as to how the victims destined for “ mercy death ” could best be killed. While a smaller group was injected with a lethal dose of a mixture of the alkaloids morphine and scopolamine , so-called morphine-scopolamine , other mentally ill people were killed in a specially designed gas chamber. The CO recommended by the Forensic Institute of the Security Police (KTI Berlin) proved to be suitable.
The KTI later also appeared formally as the customer, so that the economic department of Aktion T4 remained hidden as the actual customer. CO (corresponding to approximately 6 cubic meters of gas) in specially procured and modified pressure bottle of 40 liters volume factory Ludwigshafen the IG Farben delivered.
In Brandenburg the gas chamber was called an inhalation room, later camouflaged as a bath room and equipped with tiled walls and shower traps. A pipe with multiple holes was laid right above the floor of the gas chamber. The gas bottles were in the next room; the valves were always operated by a doctor. There are contradicting statements about how the gas works. While several accomplices as witnesses in court claimed that the victims fell asleep gently within 3 to 15 minutes, others alleged that the people were short of breath and had cramps.
From September 1940, the Jewish sanatorium inmates officially classified as fit for work were also taken to Brandenburg and killed. When the “euthanasia campaign” became known to the population and caused concern, the gassings in the killing centers ended on August 24, 1941. Secretly, the mass killings continued elsewhere in a great many sanatoriums by withholding sufficient food from the victims or by misusing drugs such as Luminal to kill them.
A total of 8,989 victims are named for the Nazi killing center in Brandenburg who were poisoned by CO. At the Nazi killing center in Grafeneck , which was closed in December 1940, 9,839 deaths by gas can be proven in the ten months of its existence. At least 10,072 people were killed in the gas chamber at the Hadamar Nazi killing center , which succeeded Grafeneck. For the NS killing center in Bernburg , 9,385 victims are named who were murdered in the gas chamber. A total of 18,269 deaths is given for the NS killing center in Hartheim . 13,720 people were killed in the Nazi killing center in Sonnenstein . In addition, there were other victims from concentration camps in three of the murder institutions - this action was known as 14f13 .
As gas vans postwar research designated purpose-built trucks, which the Nazi regime undertook killings by gas. At that time, the SS used other names for camouflage reasons, such as "Sonderwagen", "Sonderfahrzeug", "Spezialwagen", "S-Wagen", and "Dellausungswagen"). With this technique, the SS murdered both using CO and exhaust gases .
Shortly after the attack on Poland , the sanatoriums and nursing homes there were combed for victims who were considered “unworthy of life” by the National Socialists. Most of them were shot. Almost at the same time - the exact date is controversial - with the test gassings in January 1940 in the Nazi killing center in Brandenburg , the Lange Sonderkommando used a truck trailer as a mobile gas chamber in East Prussia and Poland . It was a truck body camouflaged with the inscription “ Kaiser's Coffee Shop ”, into which pure CO was introduced from a few steel bottles carried in the tractor unit . This team was only used from January 1940 to July 1941.
At the suggestion of Heinrich Himmler, attempts to kill people with cars were carried out in Mogilew in the autumn of 1941 in order to be able to relieve the firing squads of their bloody murder in the future. On November 3, 1941, this new type of gas truck was tested in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp ; 30 Soviet prisoners of war were killed with engine exhaust. In contrast to the model used by the “SK Lange”, it was now a truck with a fixed box body into which the engine exhaust gases were directed. A second, larger Saurer truck was probably also tested in Sachsenhausen and further test gassings were carried out.
Gas vans had been stationed in the Kulmhof extermination camp since December 1941 , but were also in use in Riga , in the Wartheland and with four Einsatzgruppen . In 1942 a gas truck from Berlin was ordered to be used in occupied Serbia . Between March and June 1942, 7,500 Jews , Roma and Sinti from the Sajmište concentration camp, which was then located on Croatian territory, were murdered on their way through Belgrade to Jajinci , where the bodies were thrown into a pit. After this mission, the gas truck was transferred by train to Berlin and, after an overhaul, was then used by Einsatzgruppe B in Belarus ( Minsk ), where two Diamond brand cars and a larger Saurer had been used in the killings there in Maly Trostenez since June 1942. At the KdS offices, the successor institutions of the Einsatzgruppen, gas vans were sometimes used for the execution of prisoners - especially Jews. B. in Kiev 1942/43.
The Forensic Institute of the Security Police in Berlin advised the client on the construction of these gas vans . Department II D 3 a of the RSHA under Walther Rauff had six 3-ton trucks of the Diamond T and Opel Blitz types converted and at the end of 1941 ordered the first 20 of a total of 30 Saurer cars, which were larger and could hold up to 100 people. A Renault truck with a gasoline engine was also used in Chelmno .
The box bodies with tightly closing wing doors at the rear were supplied by the Gaubschat vehicle works in Berlin-Neukölln. The conversion to a gas truck was carried out in the workshop of Section II D 3 a. The witness Harry Wentritt described this in 1961 before the court in Hanover:
“There an exhaust hose was attached to the exhaust pipe that was led from the outside to the floor of the car. In this car we drilled a hole with a diameter of about 58 to 60 mm, the thickness of the exhaust pipe. Inside the car, above this hole, a metal pipe (exhaust pipe) was welded on, which was or could be connected to the exhaust hose brought in from the outside. When the engine was started and after the connections were made, the exhaust gases from the engine went through the exhaust pipe into the exhaust hose and from there into the exhaust pipe installed inside the car, where the gas was then distributed. "
The box extension was clad inside with sheet metal. A small viewing window initially attached should be omitted in later versions. Further technical amendment proposals for "optimization" were not implemented.
Depending on the size of the trucks, which looked like furniture vans, 25 to 50 victims were forced to get on board. The engine was run for at least ten minutes. During this time, screams and knocks were often heard from the trapped people who, in fear of death, pushed toward the tightly locked door. The chemist August Becker, who was appointed for inspection, wrote:
“The gassing is consistently not carried out correctly. In order to end the action as quickly as possible, the drivers are consistently full throttle. As a result of this measure, those to be executed suffer death from suffocation and not, as intended, death from being put to sleep . My instructions have now shown that if the lever is set correctly, death occurs more quickly and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully. "
If the CO content in the car exceeded 1 percent, deep unconsciousness and then death occurred (→ see: carbon monoxide intoxication ).
According to a document dated June 5, 1942, 97,000 Jews had been killed in three such gas vans operating in Kulmhof since December 1941.
In Kulmhof were two stationed (temporarily three) gas vans. 100 to 120 people were squeezed into the largest truck, which looked like a dark-painted moving van. There 10,003 people were murdered in January 1942 alone. The extermination campaign was temporarily ended in March 1943, but resumed at the end of May 1944 and continued until the Red Army's winter offensive in January 1945.
Early Polish estimates put more than 300,000 people killed in Chelmno from engine exhaust. In addition to the number given in the Korherr report , further victims were added in June and July 1944, so that a total of 152,477 can be calculated.
Gas chambers in Auschwitz (Oświęcim)
Himmler commissioned Rudolf Höß , who was deployed as commandant in Auschwitz I (main camp) and in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp , to find a quasi- industrial method of killing to carry out the mass murder of the Jews.
For the gassings in Auschwitz, only the hydrocyanic acid-containing disinfestation agent Zyklon B was used. The warning and fragrance substance originally added to the product was reduced by the manufacturer due to war-related shortages and was completely eliminated from June 1944 at the latest. A year earlier, in June 1943, there had already been deliveries to Auschwitz without warning material, which Kurt Gerstein had requested.
The first mass gassing took place in Auschwitz I (main camp). At the end of 1941, possibly even at the beginning of September, about 250 selected patients and 600 Soviet commissioners and officers were gassed by Zyklon B in the basement of Block 11 on the initiative of protective custody camp leader Karl Fritzsch .
- Shortly afterwards, the morgue of the crematorium in the main camp, which had a ventilation system, was converted into a gas chamber by knocking three openings in the ceiling. Around 900 Soviet prisoners of war were murdered there by gas in December 1941. This first gas chamber in Auschwitz was used until April 1942; the associated crematorium was gutted in July 1943 and later converted into an air raid shelter for the guards. - The gas chamber shown today in the main camp is a reconstruction.
In Auschwitz-Birkenau there were gas chambers in six different buildings, but not all of them could be used at the same time.
- In the spring of 1942, two gas chambers were set up in a farmhouse (the “ red house ”, often referred to as Bunker I ) in Auschwitz-Birkenau and used for mass killing. This building was demolished in late 1942.
- At the end of June 1942, four rooms in a second farmhouse (“ white house ” or Bunker II ) were used as gas chambers. This facility was operated until the spring of 1943 and was used again from May 1944 (under the name Bunker V) . The foundation walls of this building, which was destroyed by the SS in early 1945, have been exposed and cover an area of 105 square meters.
The best documented are four crematoria (numbers II to V) with gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau, which were completed between March and June 1943 and for which the construction documents were found. The camouflage language is ignored a few times there; There are reports on work on the gas chamber and heatable (!) morgues , and confirmations of receipt for gas-tight doors or orders for gas testing devices for hydrogen cyanide have been received. Heinrich Messing, plumber for the company Topf and Sons , noted on his job slip on assembly in Auschwitz: March 13, 1943, 15 working hours, ventilation systems in basement I put into operation. Basement I was the gas chamber, and 1492 Jews from Krakow were murdered here the following night.
- Crematoria II and III were largely identical in construction and, according to the SS Central Construction Office, each had a capacity of 1,440 cremations in 24 hours.
In the basement there was a changing room as well as a heatable and ventilated gas chamber. At the end of 1943, the approximately 210 square meter gas chambers were divided, so that 500 to 700 selected adults and children on a transport could now be crowded together in around 100 square meters and killed. For this purpose, Zyklon B was poured into a device made of wire mesh and lowered into a wire mesh column. According to witnesses, death occurred within 5 to 15 minutes. After 30 to 40 minutes of ventilation, prisoners from the so-called Sonderkommando had to drag the murdered out, pull out their gold teeth and use a freight elevator to transport the corpses to the muffle furnaces. Rooms were set up in the attic for the members of the Sonderkommando.
- According to the SS-Zentralbauleitung, crematoria IV and V each had a cremation capacity of 768 corpses within 24 hours. These buildings did not have a basement; they were preceded by a barrack as a changing room. There were two gas chambers each with an area of 100 square meters. The Zyklon B was installed in these buildings through a wall-mounted device.
First women and children were led into the supposed shower room, then the men were pushed into it. In order to deceive the victims and prevent panic that would have disrupted the smooth running of the mass murder, multilingual signs such as “To bathing” and “To disinfection” were put up, and the SS deployed prison functionaries . Occasionally there were reassuring instructions on camouflage. Potential troublemakers may have been singled out beforehand and shot at a different location.
There were definitely non-functioning shower heads in the gas chamber of the most recently completed Crematorium II ( completion June 25, 1943; counting with the crematorium in the main camp ). This has been attested several times and is explained by the fact that initially a shower system was actually planned in the basement in order to be able to combat a typhus epidemic that had just flared up through improved hygiene . - There are several indications that further gas chambers were retrofitted with fake shower heads at a later date (not before autumn 1943). Rudolf Höß also confirms this with his description of the extermination process: "... The Jews (went) into the gas chamber, which, equipped with showers and water pipes, gave the impression of a bathroom."
On October 7, 1944, the members of the Sonderkommando of Crematorium IV dared to revolt . The uprising was put down, the building burned down and was demolished.
At the end of November, the gassings were stopped at Himmler's behest. On January 20 and 21, 1945, crematoria I, II and V were blown up. Holocaust deniers such as David Irving argue that therefore “material evidence” for the existence of these gas chambers cannot be produced. Nonetheless, the convergence of evidence (construction plans, correspondence, accounts, testimony and confessions of the perpetrators) leaves no reasonable doubt.
Gas chambers of the extermination camps in German-occupied eastern Poland
As part of Aktion Reinhard , which SS Brigade Leader Odilo Globocnik directed on behalf of Himmler, the SS had three extermination camps built in occupied eastern Poland : Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. Christian Wirth was later employed as an inspector.
During the construction of the Belzec extermination camp , which began on November 1, 1941, the SS planned a barrack that contained three gas chambers. This barrack was 12 m long and 8 m wide. A door from a corridor led into one of the chambers, which had a second door on the outer wall. This hit the outside. All doors were tightly covered with rubber and made of strong wood. The gaps in the double-skinned board wall were filled with sand. Inside the walls were covered with cardboard, the floor and the side walls were clad with zinc sheet up to a height of 1.10 m. Shower nozzles were installed to deceive the victims. A pipe from which gas could be introduced ran just above the floor.
At the end of February 1942, the SS had these gas chambers tested by murdering three transports with 400 to 600 Jews each. Originally designed and tested to the use of CO gas from bottles, with which one in the Action T4 already had experiences had collected. But then the SS used the exhaust gases of an engine for gassing. While the Gerstein report mentions a diesel engine, another witness reports that there were two engines there: a diesel engine as a generator for the electricity in the camp and a gasoline engine for gassing. Presumably this was the gasoline engine of an armored fighting vehicle .
The factory-organized mass murder began with a transport on March 17, 1942. During this major action, which lasted four weeks, the murder of 80,000 Jews in Belzec took place. Another 16,000 Jews were murdered by mid-June 1942; then the gas chambers were converted.
The wooden building was demolished and a solid building 24 m long and 10 m wide was built in its place. It contained six gas chambers of different sizes, which were hardly higher than 2 m. These new gas chambers could hold 1,500 people. The extermination campaign ended in Belzec in early December 1942. Until March 1943, corpses were exhumed and burned. The SS had buildings demolished, the site leveled and a farm set up there.
A source published in 2001, the Höfle Telegram from January 1943, gave the number of Jews murdered in Belzec at 434,508.
In March 1942 the construction of the Sobibor extermination camp began ; it was ready for use in late April. The first gas chambers were in a solid brick building with a concrete foundation. Inside there were three gas chambers, each 16 square meters in size. The information provided by the perpetrators later on trial about the capacity are contradictory and range from 40 to over 150 people who could be crammed into a chamber. There was a second door opposite the entrance from which the bodies could be dragged. They were on Loren charged and thrown into huge pits. From autumn 1942 the bodies were burned in pits on grates made of railroad tracks.
The engine, the exhaust gases of which could be discharged, is usually described as "heavy Russian petrol engine with at least 200 HP (V-engine, 8 cyl., Water-cooled)". However, it may have been an aircraft engine from the booty of the French army. At the suggestion of a chemist, the engine was set to a certain speed. The victims were reportedly dead after 10 minutes.
In the first phase between May and July 1942, at least 77,000 Jews were murdered in Sobibor. At the end of July 1942, the Lublin-Chelm railway was only temporarily open due to repair work.
In September 1942 the old gas chambers in Sobibor were replaced by 6 newly built ones, each 16 m² in size. At the end of the year, a radio message, the so-called Höfle telegram , stated the number of Jews killed in Sobibor as 101,370. The extermination operations continued. Estimates of the total number of victims are between 150,000 and 250,000. Dieter Pohl assumes 152,000 victims in a publication from 2011.
The construction of a third extermination camp began at the end of May 1942 in Treblinka . The murder campaigns started in July 1942, although the camp was not yet completely finished. The gas chambers were in a massive brick building. Initially, three gas chambers were in operation, each of which was 4 by 4 m in size and 2.60 m high. The walls were tiled in white up to a certain height; Water pipes and shower heads gave the appearance of a bath. As in Sobibor, there were two heavy doors in each chamber. An internal combustion engine stood in an adjoining room, and its toxic exhaust gases were directed into the gas chambers. Almost no contemporary files have been preserved for the “Aktion Reinhardt” camps; it is not possible to determine which engines were involved.
The first major extermination campaign in Treblinka lasted from July 23 to August 28, 1942. 268,000 Jews were murdered. Since the gas chambers were insufficient, shootings were also carried out. Excavators were used to dig mortuary pits; nevertheless the conditions were so chaotic that the camp commandant was relieved. From spring 1943 the bodies began to be exhumed and burned in the open air.
While this extermination action was still going on, the construction of ten additional gas chambers in a new building with a total area of 320 square meters was pushed ahead. In the final phase of the camp, on August 2, 1943, there was an uprising among the Jewish prisoners, the Treblinka uprising . By then, according to realistic estimates, far more than 800,000 people had been killed there; a compilation in the so-called Höfle-Telegram shows 713,555 Jewish victims at the end of 1942.
Majdanek gas chambers
The Majdanek concentration camp was not only used as an extermination camp and can be compared to the Auschwitz concentration camp because of its dual function. Due to the disordered juxtaposition of the prisoner-of-war camp, penal camp and reception camp, it can be better described as a "multifunctional provisional facility". In August or October 1942 (the exact date is controversial) , two provisional gas chambers were set up in a wooden barrack in the POW camp in Lublin, which was called the Lublin concentration camp from February 1943 , and were later replaced by a brick building. This had three (according to some information, four) chambers of different sizes with a capacity of 150 to 300 people.
The invoices for the iron doors with rubber lips have been preserved. Other sources that provide information on the gas chambers in Majdanek are scanty. An instruction from May 1943 is ambiguous: “The hydrogen cyanide gasification from the dressing room of the east wing is to be expanded from the existing disinfestation barracks in order to achieve greater performance. For the hydrogen cyanide gasification, a special chamber will be built under the canopy. ” How many of the gas chambers were used for the murder of people and how many people were killed there cannot be determined precisely. Jean-Claude Pressac , a recognized expert on the Auschwitz crematoria, questioned in 1985 whether these gas chambers had even been used for killing people. However, the director of the Research Center of the State Museum in Majdanek Tomasz Kranz thinks it is very likely that three of the gas chambers were used for mass killing between September 1942 and October 1943, with the focus on the murder of Jews from Warsaw and Białystok in the summer 1943 lay. In addition, a gas truck was used at times.
In the literature it is shown that CO gas was initially introduced into the chambers from steel cylinders to kill ; Zyklon B was probably used in 1943 . At low outside temperatures, this preparation could be heated by a special device for faster outgassing. Since the capacity of the gas chambers was limited, larger transports of emaciated Soviet prisoners of war and Jews from Lublin were not gassed but shot in gravel pits.
There is evidence that 7711 kg of Zyklon B were delivered to Majdanek, but this does not allow any direct conclusions to be drawn about the number of people murdered. A large part of the poison should have been used as intended to combat clothing lice and disinfest barracks. A small fraction of the amount of the insecticide, which is highly toxic to warm-blooded creatures, would have been enough to kill hundreds of thousands of people.
The gas chambers were not in operation for more than a year; the murder by poison gas stopped in early September 1943. For a long time there was only rough estimates of the number of victims who died in Majdanek or were killed by various methods - mostly by shooting. First figures after the liberation in 1944 named 1,700,000 victims. In 1948 it was assumed that 360,000 people died in Majdanek. Later estimates assumed a total of 235,000 victims (110,000 of them Jews); With these estimates, the number of victims from mass gassing in Majdanek was assumed to be below 50,000. New research from 2006 reduces the total number of those who perished in Majdanek to 78,000, including 59,000 Jews.
Majdanek is known as an extermination camp because of the initially very high number of victims and the systematic murder of Jews. Some other concentration camps also had gas chambers. However, these were not used systematically for the genocide of the Jews of Europe. In them were political commissars and "work-disabled prisoners" murdered.
Gas chambers in concentration camps
In autumn 1941, the construction of a gas chamber in the main camp of Mauthausen concentration camp began, which was located in the cellar of the camp prison. The room disguised as a shower bath was approximately 3.90 m long and 3.60 m wide. The switches for lights and ventilation were outside the room. The hydrogen cyanide gas was also introduced from there. The preparation Zyklon B was not poured directly into the room here. The substrate was heated with a special device for rapid outgassing and introduced through a pipe.
Gassings took place in Mauthausen between March 1942 and April 28, 1945. After that, parts of the facility were removed. However, none of the SS leaders who were held responsible after the war denied that people had been killed in this gas chamber. The number of victims gassed there cannot be precisely determined; according to a court ruling, a minimum of 3455 people can be considered safe.
In the Gusen I subcamp in Mauthausen, too, gassings were carried out in individual prisoner blocks. Between 1942 and 1945 at least 823 people were murdered in improvised killings using Zyklon B. In the area of the Mauthausen and Gusen camps, a gassing car was also used to deliver emaciated prisoners from Gusen directly to the Mauthausen crematorium and vice versa. Around 5000 weakened prisoners were taken to the Nazi killing center in Hartheim as part of Operation 14f13 in 1944 . At least 900 people were killed in a gas truck that ran between the camps in 1942 and 1943.
The research was able to clear up some inconsistencies and clear up errors that were contained in the "otherwise extremely meritorious documentation" from the year 1983 on National Socialist mass killings by poison gas through newly discovered files from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp commandant's office and especially from Russian archives . It was known that in the autumn of 1941 30 Soviet prisoners of war were killed "on a trial basis" in a gas truck developed by the Forensic Institute of the Security Police (KTI). New research results allow “with a high degree of probability” the assumption that this converted Opel Blitz truck was used several times and that a larger model from the Saurer brand was also tested in Sachsenhausen.
All the disinfestation facilities in the concentration camps were supervised by the “Sanitary and Camp Hygiene” department from the inspection of the concentration camps in Oranienburg, which was also involved in the procurement of Zyklon B and the central training of SS disinfectors. Enno Lolling had been the department head since 1941 ; the first camp doctor from Sachsenhausen acted as his deputy. A circulating air chamber operated with Zyklon B for delousing clothes proved so effective that this procedure was to be introduced in all camps from October 1940.
In the summer of 1943, a gas chamber was installed in the crematorium building of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp , which was tested in early autumn 1943 at the latest. The functionality and equipment of the gas chamber differ significantly from those who killed with carbon monoxide gas or the preparation Zyklon B, so that one can speak of a "new development". Possibly incipient delivery problems and bottlenecks for Zyklon B should be bridged. Liquid hydrocyanic acid, a mixture of 90% carbon cyanide and 10% chlorinated carbon ether, was used. The glass ampoule could be destroyed by an externally attached mandrel and the preheated gas was fed into the gas chamber with suction and pressure fans. The KTI supplied the liquid hydrocyanic acid preparation and the devices were also manufactured in the KTI workshops in the troop and prisoner camp.
Apparently the gas chamber was rarely used. Only a few actions can be proven, such as the gassing of 27 Eastern workers at the beginning of February 1945. Many witnesses cite a total of 4,000 victims. However, there is a lack of documents and research has not yet been able to verify such a figure. The gas chamber in Sachsenhausen was not used systematically and regularly; most of the victims were shot in a sand pit or shot in the neck.
In the course of evacuation and camouflage measures, the equipment was dismantled and hidden in the spring of 1945. The gas chamber was converted into a normal shower room and the loopholes in the firing room were walled up. The facility was reconstructed in connection with a film that DEFA made on behalf of the Soviets in 1946/1947.
For the period from February to the end of May 1942, transports from the Ravensbrück women's concentration camp to the Nazi killing center in Bernburg followed as part of Aktion 14f13 . A gas chamber was only set up after the arrival of SS-Hauptsturmführer Johann Schwarzhuber , who had been transferred from Auschwitz via Dachau to Ravensbrück in 1945.
The gas chamber was set up in February 1945 in a shed next to the crematorium. In court, Schwarzhuber stated her size as 9 meters by 4.5 meters, other witnesses named the dimensions 6 meters by 4 meters. Zyklon B was used. On April 23, 1945, the shed was demolished. - The number of victims is estimated at 2,300 to 2,400. Witness statements that gas vans were also used there in 1945 are not confirmed.
In the Stutthof concentration camp , which was built about 40 kilometers from Danzig in 1942, a gas chamber, originally built as a clothing disinfestation facility, and later a converted railway wagon were used to kill several hundred victims.
In 1944, the commandant Paul Werner Hoppe had the clothing delousing system, a room five meters long and three meters wide, used to kill people a few times. Contemporary witnesses give different dates for the time. Eugen Kogon states from court records that for the first time on June 22, 1944, around one hundred Poles and White Ruthenians were gassed for whom an execution warrant existed. On July 26, 1944, another twelve Polish resistance fighters are said to have been gassed; In a third killing operation, 40 invalid Soviet prisoners of war were killed.
Karin Orth names the period “summer or autumn” 1944 for the construction of the gas chamber. It is limited to the announcement that at the end of September / beginning of October 1944 mostly sick Jewish women from the Baltic States and Hungary were gassed. After a short time, the gassings in the clothing disinfestation facility were stopped, although a fire that had started or the spread of knowledge and feared acts of resistance by the victims could have played a role.
In the autumn of 1944, a covered railroad car was converted into a gas chamber instead by sealing all the cracks and adding a pouring opening for Zyklon B. Allegedly, Hoppe had railroad tracks laid as a deception, a second railroad car put up and SS men in railway uniforms appear.
The time at which the gassing operations were stopped is also not exactly clear; the information goes from November 1944 to April 1945. The court in Bochum, before which Hoppe had to answer in 1957, named "a few hundred" as the number of victims; Kogon puts it at around 1150. Other representations indicate that more than 1,300 people were poisoned there by Zyklon B.
Probably in October 1942 197 Soviet officers from Fallingbostel and three other camps from the Lüneburg Heath were taken to the Neuengamme concentration camp and killed by Zyklon B in the arrest bunker. For this purpose, steel flaps were attached to the windows and the access door reinforced. Six pipes were installed in the roof and a heating coil and fan were connected. The course of events was described in detail by one of the perpetrators in the main Neuengamme trial . A second transport with 251 mostly war-disabled prisoners of war was killed in the same way in November 1942. No further murders with poison gas took place in Neuengamme, but more than a thousand exhausted prisoners were killed there by phenol injections.
Special case: Natzweiler-Struthof
On April 12, 1943, a 20 cubic meter gas chamber was completed in the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in Alsace. The biologist Otto Bickenbach used these for experiments on Jewish prisoners with the warfare agent phosgene , in which he accepted their death.
In August 1943 Bruno Beger selected 115 Jews from Auschwitz on behalf of the then head of the Anatomical Institute of the Reich University of Strasbourg , August Hirt , who were to be murdered in order to build a skeleton collection. 86 of the selected people were transferred to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp. Earlier investigations mostly erroneously assumed that the gas chamber of this camp was built specifically for the murders of them.
The victims were poisoned in four to five groups in the gas chamber with hydrogen cyanide ( hydrogen cyanide gas ). On July 26, 1945, the confessing camp commandant Josef Kramer testified before a French examining magistrate that he had received a bottle from Hirt containing 1/4 liter of “salts” which he believed were “cyanohydrate salts”. According to Hirt's instructions, he introduced this into the gas chamber with water and then observed the fatal effect on the victims.
According to the French biochemist and historian Georges Wellers , it may have been calcium cyanide (the calcium salt of hydrogen cyanide ), which decomposes in water. It was known as "cyanogas" in agriculture as a pesticide. A mixture of potassium cyanide or sodium cyanide with crystallized citric acid or oxalic acid could also be considered: the addition of water was then sufficient to release hydrogen cyanide gas.
The corpses were transported to the anatomical institute at the Imperial University of Strasbourg and prepared for the skeleton collection. The names of the murdered have been known since 2004 through research by the historian Hans-Joachim Lang .
Special case: Dachau
American film recordings from the Dachau concentration camp on May 3, 1945 show a windowless room in the crematorium with a ceiling in which perforated metal caps were let. The inscription "Brausebad" was visible above the iron entrance door; However, there were no suitable water-bearing installations.
However, it is considered unlikely that this gas chamber in fact the killing of prisoners by Zyklon B has been used. In a letter from SS doctor Sigmund Rascher to Heinrich Himmler on August 9, 1942, it says: “As you know, the same facility is being built in KL Dachau as in Linz. Since the transport of invalids ends anyway in certain chambers, I ask whether the effects of our various combat gases can not be tested in these chambers on the people who are designated anyway . ”Furthermore, there is a statement by the prisoner Frantisek Blaha:“ The gas chamber was opened in 1944 accomplished; I became Dr. Called in more quickly to examine the first victims. Of the 8 to 9 people who were in the chamber, three were still alive and the others appeared to be dead. ”Since this is the only concrete evidence and this witness gave different information at another point in time, questions remain unanswered. It is still considered unclear whether this war gas test suggested by Rascher took place.
According to the Bavarian State Center for Political Education , the gas chamber of this concentration camp was "never used as intended". She comes to the conclusion that the “commissioning of the gas chamber cannot be verified”.
The National Socialists mostly killed sick prisoners from Dachau in the Nazi killing center in Hartheim .
The film footage of the American liberators and a sign from 1945 on which 238,000 individuals who were cremated here could be read gave the false impression that en masse people had been killed in this gas chamber. Since the memorial began to be built, boards have indicated that the use of the gas chamber cannot be proven.
Since the beginning of the 1960s there have been repeated reports about an alleged "Dachau gas chamber hoax": The gas chamber and crematoria were only built on the orders of the Americans in order to discredit "the Germans" in the world.
The cremation of the corpses
In the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek concentration camps , the process of extermination of the deported persons or prisoners continued with the cremation of the corpses: mostly in crematoria, some in open cremation pits .
In other places, the corpses were partly burned in open fires or buried in trenches, partly in multiple layers. However, the SS had these buried corpses exhumed and subsequently cremated at various locations as part of the special operation 1005 .
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