The Destruction of the European Jews

Bringing Jews to Death
Raul Hilberg
From The Destruction of the European Jews
Origins of the Killing Centers
The most secret operations of the destruction process were carried out in six camps located in
Poland in an area stretching from the incorporated areas to the Bug [River]. These camps were
the collecting points for thousands of transports converging from all directions. In three years
the incoming traffic reached a total of close to three million Jews. As the transports turned
back empty, their passengers disappeared inside.
The killing centers worked quickly and efficiently. A man would step off a train in the
morning, and in the evening his corpse would be burned and his clothes packed away for
shipment to Germany. Such an operation was the product of a great deal of planning, for the
death camp was an intricate mechanism in which a whole army of specialists played their
parts. Viewed superficially, this smoothly functioning apparatus is deceptively simple, but
upon closer examination the operations of the killing center resemble in several respects the
complex mass-production methods of a modern plant. It will therefore be necessary to explore,
step by step, what made possible the final result.
A salient fact about the killing center operations is that, unlike the earlier phases of the
destruction process, they were unprecedented. Never before in history had people been killed
on an assembly-line basis.1 The killing center as such had no prototype, no administrative
ancestor. This is explained by the fact that it was a composite institution that consisted of two
parts: the camp proper and the killing installations in the camp. Each of these two components
had its own administrative history. Neither was entirely novel. As separate establishments,
both the concentration camp and the gas chamber had been in existence for some time. The
great innovation was effected when the two devices were fused. An examination of the death
camp should therefore begin with its two basic components and how they were put together.
The German concentration camp was born and grew amid violent disputes and struggles
between Nazi factions. Even in the earliest days of the Nazi regime, the importance of the
concentration camp was fully recognized. Whoever gained possession of this weapon would
wield a great deal of power.
In Prussia, Interior Minister (and later Prime Minister) Göring made his bid. He decided to
round up the Communists. This was not an incarceration of convicted criminals but an arrest of
a potentially dangerous group. “The prisons were not available for this purpose”;2 hence
Göring established concentration camps, which he put under the control of his Gestapo (then,
Ministerialrat Diels).
Almost simultaneously, rival camps appeared on the scene. One was set up at Stettin by
Gauleiter Karpenstein, another was established at Breslau by SA leader Heines, a third was
erected near Berlin by SA leader Ernst. Göring moved with all his might against these
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“unauthorized camps.” Karpenstein lost his post, Ernst lost his life.
But a more powerful competitor emerged. In Munich the police president, Himmler,
organized his own Gestapo, and near the town of Dachau he set up a concentration camp which
he placed under the command of SS-Oberführer Eicke.3 Soon Himmler’s Gestapo covered the
non-Prussian Länder [states], and in the spring of 1934 Himmler obtained through Hitler’s
graces the Prussian Gestapo (becoming its “deputy chief”). Along with Göring’s Gestapo,
Himmler captured the Prussian concentration camps. Henceforth all camps were under his
Eicke, the first Dachau commander, now became the Inspector for Concentration Camps. His
Totenkopfverbände (Death’s Head Units) became the guards. Thus the camps were severed
from the Gestapo, which retained in the administration of each camp only one foothold: the
political division, with jurisdiction over executions and releases. After the outbreak of war,
Eicke and most of his Totenkopfverbände moved into the field (he was killed in Russia), and
his deputy, the later Brigadeführer Glücks, took over the inspectorate.
Eicke’s departure marks the midpoint in the development of the concentration camps. Up to
the outbreak of war the camps held three types of prisoners:5
1. Political prisoners: a. Communists, b. Active Social Democrats, c. Jehovah’s Witnesses,
d. Clergymen who made undesirable speeches or otherwise manifested opposition, e.
People who made remarks against the regime and were sent to camps as an example to
others, f. Purged Nazis, especially SA men
2. So-called asocials, consisting primarily of habitual criminals and sex offenders
3. Jews sent to camps in Einzelaktionen [apprehension of individuals].
After 1939 the camps were flooded with millions of people, including Jewish deportees,
Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, members of the French resistance movements, and so on.
The inspectorate could not keep up with this influx. Therefore, from 1940 on the Higher SS
and Police Leaders established camps of their own, specifically the transit camps in the west
and the labor camps in Poland. During the last stage of the destruction process, the Higher SS
and Police Leaders also put up killing centers.
At this point an office stepped in to centralize and unify the concentration camp network: the
SS Economic-Administrative Main Office, the organization of Obergruppenführer Oswald
Pohl. In a process that took several years, Pohl finally emerged as the dominant power in the
camp apparatus. His organization incorporated the inspectorate and enveloped almost
completely the camps of the Higher SS and Police Leaders. . . .
With the inspectorate’s incorporation into the Pohl machine, the administration of the
concentration camps acquired an economic accent. The exploitation of the inmate labor supply,
which had motivated Pohl to undertake this consolidation, now became the very reason for the
existence of concentration camps. This factor brought into the killing center operations the
same dilemma that had already surfaced in the mobile killing operations and the deportations,
namely the need for labor versus the “Final Solution.” This time the quandary was entirely an
internal SS affair.
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The consolidation process did not stop with the incorporation of the inspectorate, for Pohl
also bit into the camps of the Higher SS and Police Leaders. He annexed some camps outright,
controlled others by installing regional officials responsible to the WVHA6 and invaded the
killing centers in the Generalgouvernement by acquiring control over the entire camp
confiscation machinery in the territory. Concentration camps had become the principal factor in
the power structure of Pohl. He in turn had emerged as the dominant figure in the sea of
concentration camps.7
While Pohl tightened his hold over the camps, the camps absorbed ever larger numbers of
inmates. The following figures indicate the growth of the increasingly important army of slaves
in concentration camp enclosures:
September 1939: 21,4008
April 19, 1943: over 160,0009
August 1, 1944: 524,28610
The compilations do not include the camps of the Higher SS and Police Leaders, nor do they
show the millions of deaths.
To keep up with the influx of victims, the camp network had to be extended. In 1939 there
were six relatively small camps.11 In 1944 Pohl sent Himmler a map that showed 20 fullfledged
concentration camps (Konzentrationslager or KL) and 165 satellite labor camps
grouped in clusters around the big KLs. (Again the camps of the Higher SS and Police Leaders
were not included.)12 Himmler received the report with great satisfaction, remarking that “just
such examples show how our business has grown” [Gerade an solchen Beispielen kann man
sehen, wie unsere Dinge gewachsen sind].13 Pohl’s empire was thus characterized by a
threefold growth: the jurisdictional expansion, the increase in the number of camp slaves, and
the extension of the camp network.
The six killing centers appeared in 1941–42, at a time of the greatest multiplication and
expansion of concentration camp facilities. During this burst of activity, the construction and
operation of the killing centers could proceed smoothly and unobtrusively.
The death camps operated with gas. There were three types of gassing installations, for the
administrative evolution of the gas method had proceeded in three different channels. One
development took place in the Technical Referat of the RSHA. This office produced the gas van.
In Russia and Serbia, the vans were auxiliary devices used for the killing of women and
children only. But there was to be one more application. In 1941 Gauleiter Greiser of the
Wartheland obtained Himmler’s permission to kill 100,000 Jews in his Gau.14 Three vans
were thereupon brought into the woods of Kulmhof (Chelmno), the area was closed off, and the
first killing center came into being.15
The construction of another type of gassing apparatus was pursued in the Führer
Chancellery, Hitler’s personal office. For some time, thought had been given in Germany to
doctrines about the quality of life, from the simple idea that a dying person may be helped to
die (Sterbehilfe) to the notion that life not worth living may be unworthy of life. This move
from concern for the individual to a preoccupation with society was accomplished by
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representing retarded or malfunctioning persons, especially those with problems perceived to
be congenital, as sick or harmful cells in the healthy corpus of the nation. . . .
Not until after the outbreak of World War II, however, did Hitler sign an order (predated
September 1, 1939) empowering the chief of the Führer Chancellery, Reichsleiter Bouhler, and
his own personal physician, Dr. Brandt, “to widen the authority of individual doctors with a
view to enabling them, after the most critical examination in the realm of human knowledge, to
administer to incurably sick persons a mercy death.”16 . . . The administrative implementation
of this psychiatric holocaust was in the hands of Bouhler’s Führer Chancellery. The man
actually in charge of the program was a subordinate of Bouhler, Reichsamtsleiter Brack.17 For
the technical aspects of the project, the Reichsamtsleiter obtained the services of
Kriminalkommissar Wirth, chief of the Criminal Police office in Stuttgart and an expert in
tracking down criminals.18
“Euthanasia” was a conceptual as well as technological and administrative prefiguration of
the “Final Solution” in the death camps. In the summer of 1941, when the physical destruction
of the Jews was in the offing for the whole of the European continent, Himmler consulted with
the Chief Physician of the SS (Reichsarzt-SS und Polizei), Gruppenführer Dr. Grawitz, on the
best way to undertake the mass-killing operation. Grawitz advised the use of gas chambers.19
On October 10, 1941, at a “final solution” conference of the RSHA, Heydrich alluded to
Hitler’s desire to free the Reich of Jews, if at all possible, by the end of the year. In that
connection, the RSHA chief discussed the impending deportations to Lodz, and mentioned Riga
and Minsk. He even considered the possibility of shipping Jews to concentration camps set up
for Communists by Einsatzgruppen B and C in operational areas.20 The Ostland, emerging as
the center of gravity in this scheme, served to crystallize the idea of what was to be done to
Reich deportees on their arrival.
By the end of the month the race expert (Sonderdezernent für Rassenpolitik) in Bräutigam’s
office in the East Ministry, Amtsgerichtsrat Wetzel, drafted a letter in which he stated that
Brack was prepared to introduce his gassing apparatus in the East. Brack had offered to send
his chemical expert, Dr. Kallmeyer, to Riga, and Eichmann had referred to Riga and Minsk in
expressing agreement with the idea. “All things considered” wrote Wetzel, “one need have no
reservation about doing away with those Jews who are unable to work, with the Brackian
devices [Nach Sachlage, bestehen keine Bedenken wenn diejenigen Juden, die nicht
arbeitsfähig sind, mit den Brackschen Hilfsmitteln beseitigt werden].”21 There were,
however, some second thoughts about directing a continuing flow of transports to the icy
regions of the occupied USSR.22 Dr. Kallmeyer, told to wait in Berlin because of the cold in
the east, spent Christmas at home.23 The scene of the action had already been shifted to the
Under primitive conditions, three camps were built by Amt Haushalt und Bauten (after the
reorganization of March 1942, the WVHA-C) and its regional machinery at Belzec, Sobibόr, and
Treblinka. The sites were chosen with a view to seclusion and access to railroad lines. In the
planning there was some improvisation and much economizing; labor and material were
procured locally at minimum cost.
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Belzec, in the district of Lublin, was the prototype. Its construction, according to Polish
witnesses, was begun as early as November 1941. A locksmith who worked in the camp while
it was being built provides the following chronology:24
October 1941: SS men approach Polish administration in town of Belzec with demand for
twenty workers. The Germans select the site.
November 1, 1941: Polish workers begin construction of three barracks: a waiting hall
leading through a walkway to an anteroom, leading to a third building that had a corridor
with three doors to three compartments, each of which had floor piping and an exit door.
All six doors (entry and exit) in these three compartments were encased in thick rubber
and opened to the outside.
November–December 1941: A contingent of about seventy black-uniformed eastern
collaborators (Soviet prisoners of war released from captivity) lay narrow-gauge rail,
dig pits, and erect a fence.
December 22, 1941: Polish workers are discharged.
January–February 1942: Watchtowers are built.
The Germans at the Belzec site who had requisitioned the Polish work force were members of
an SS construction Kommando.25 The work was supervised by a “master from Katowice,” an
unidentified German with some knowledge of Polish who was in possession of building plans.
When one of the Poles asked about the purpose of the project, the German only smiled.26
Sometime before Christmas, the construction chief (Bauleiter) showed the blueprints to an SS
noncommissioned officer (Oberhauser) who was stationed in the area and who was going to be
a functionary in the administration of the death camps. The drawings were plans of gassing
installations (Vergasungsanlagen). By that time the construction of the buildings was
substantially finished,27 and shortly thereafter the chemist Dr. Kallmeyer arrived from Berlin.28
Sobibór, also in the Lublin District, was built, evidently more quickly, in March and April
of 1942. Supervision of the construction was in the hands of Obersturmführer (later
Hauptsturmführer) Thomalla, a master mason regularly assigned to the SS-Zentralbauleitung
Lublin/Bauleitung Zamosc.29 Thomalla had some professional help from Baurat Moser,
employed by the Kreishauptmann of Chelm (Ansel), in whose territory Sobibόr was located.30
To speed the work, Jewish labor from the surrounding region was employed extensively during
the construction phase.31
At Treblinka (within the Warsaw District), where euthanasia physician Dr. Eberl was in
charge, the Zentralbauleitung of the district, together with two contractors, the firm
Schönbrunn of Liegnitz and the Warsaw concern Schmidt und Münstermann (builders of the
Warsaw Ghetto wall), were readying the camp.32 Labor for construction was drawn from the
Warsaw Ghetto.33 Dr. Eberl also availed himself of the resources of the ghetto for supplies,
including switches, nails, cables, and wallpaper.34 Again, the Jews were to be the unwitting
contributors to their own destruction.
Even while the three camps were being erected, transports with Jewish deportees from the
Kraków District, the Reich, and the Protektorat were arriving in the Hrubieszów-Zamosc
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area. The director of the Population and Welfare Subdivision of the Interior Division in the
Gouverneur’s office of Lublin (Turk) was instructed by the Generalgouvernement Interior
Main Division (Siebert) to assist Globocnik in making room for the Jews pouring into the
district. Turk’s deputy (Reuter) thereupon had a conversation with Globocnik’s expert in
Jewish “resettlement” affairs, Hauptsturmführer Höfle. The Hauptsturmführer made a few
remarkable statements: A camp was being built at Belzec, near the Generalgouvernement
border in subdistrict (Kreis) Zamosc. Where on the Deblin-Trawniki line could 60,000 Jews
be unloaded in the meantime? Höfle was ready to receive four or five transports daily at
Belzec. “These Jews would cross the border and would never return to the
Generalgouvernement [Diese Juden kämen über die Grenze und würden nie mehr ins
Geneneralgouvernement zurück kommen]?35 The discussion, on the afternoon of March 16,
1942, was held a few days before the opening of Belzec. During the following month Sobibόr
was finished, and in July, Treblinka.
The terrain of each camp was only a few hundred yards in length and width. The layout was
similar in all three camps. There were barracks for guard personnel, an area where the Jews
were unloaded, an undressing station, and an S-shaped walkway, called the Schlauch (hose),
two or three yards wide that was bordered by high barbed-wire fences covered with ivy. The
Schlauch was traversed by the naked victims on their way to the gassing facilities. The entire
arrangement was designed to convince the Jews that they were in a transit camp, where they
would be required to clean themselves on the way to the “east.” The gas chambers, disguised
as showers, were not larger than medium-sized rooms, but during gassings they were filled to
capacity. At the beginning, no camp had more than three of these chambers. The gas first used
at Belzec was bottled, either the same preparation of carbon monoxide that had been shipped
to the euthanasia stations or possibly hydrogen cyanide.36 Later, Belzec is reported to have
been equipped with a diesel motor; Treblinka is said to have had one from the start; and
Sobibór began with a heavy, eight-cylinder, 200+ horsepower, water-cooled Russian gasoline
engine that released a mixture of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the gas chambers.37
No crematoria were installed; the bodies were burned in mass graves.
The limited capacity of the camps troubled SS and Police Leader Globocnik; he did not wish
to get “stuck.”38 During the summer of 1942 there was congestion of railway traffic in the
Generalgouvernement, and the line to Sobibór was under repair. At Belzec operations were
reduced and interrupted, and at Sobibór the stoppage was prolonged. But Treblinka received
transports to the point of overflow, and mounds of unburned bodies in various stages of decay
confronted new arrivals of deportees.39
Between July and September an expansion was undertaken in the three camps. Massive
structures, of stone in Belzec and brick in Treblinka, containing at least six gas chambers in
each camp, replaced the old facilities. In the new gas buildings the chambers were aligned on
both sides of a corridor, and at Treblinka the engine room was situated at its far end. The front
wall of the Treblinka gas house, underneath the gable, was decorated with a Star of David. At
the entrance hung a heavy, dark curtain taken from a synagogue and still bearing the Hebrew
words “This is the gate through which the righteous pass.”40
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The Generalgouvernement was the location also of a regular concentration camp of the
WVHA, where Jewish transports were received from time to time. In German correspondence
the camp was referred to as Lublin, whereas its common name after the war was Majdanek. Up
to October 1942, the camp had facilities for men only. It had been built to hold prisoners of
war (among them Jewish soldiers of the Polish army) under SS jurisdiction. Even during these
early days, however, several thousand Jews, including men, women, and children, were
brought into the camp from nearby localities. In September-October 1942, three small gas
chambers, placed into a U-shaped building, were opened. Two of them were constructed for
the interchangeable use of bottled carbon monoxide or hydrogen cyanide gas, the third for
cyanide only. The area in front of the building was called Rosengarten and Rosenfeld (rose
garden and rose field). No roses adorned the camp—rather, the SS managers associated the
facility with a typical name of Jewish victims. The gassing phase, which resulted in about 500
to 600 deaths per week over a period of a year, came to an end with the decision to wipe out
the entire Jewish inmate population in one blow.41 After the Lublin camp acquired
administrative control of the Trawniki and Poniatowa labor camps, mass shootings took place
at all three sites in the beginning of November 1943.42
While Kulmhof in the Wartheland was being set up with gas vans and network of gaschamber
camps was established in the Generalgouvernement, a third development came to
fruition in the incorporated territory of Upper Silesia. There, in the corner below the
convergence of the Vistula and Sola rivers, the Polish army had maintained an artillery base
encircled by stagnant fish ponds which permeated the compound with dampness, mist, and
mud.43 After the Polish collapse, the German army quartered a company of construction troops
in this facility. At the beginning of 1940 the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps, making a
survey of the area, decided that with proper sanitary and structural improvements the buildings
might be used as a quarantine center.44 A few months later the SS moved in.45 Another
concentration camp was born. Its name was Auschwitz. Its commander, a Nazi from the earliest
days of the movement who had come up in the concentration camp world with experience in
Dachau and Sachsenhausen, was Rudolf Höss.
The first inmates were Poles and the first distinct purpose of the camp was their local
exploitation for economic purposes of the SS, including agriculture in the vicinity of the camp
enclosure. To this end, the SS made a considerable effort to extend its influence into the
surrounding territory. The land between the two rivers was consequently declared a “zone of
interest” (Interessengebiet), and all the Polish peasants in the local villages were evicted. The
aim was to establish a Gutsbezirk of the Waffen-SS, a district owned by the SS, and conferences
to this end were held over a period of two years. The complicated land transfer process,
comprising land of the Polish state, municipal property, ecclesiastical property, as well as
property belonging to Germans, could not be mastered, and on March 3, 1943, the
Oberpräsident of Upper Silesia, Bracht, issued a decree establishing, in lieu of a Gutsbezirk,
the administrative district (Amtsbezirk) of Auschwitz.46 Höss also became the chief executive
of this Amtsbezirk.47
This maneuvering for control was accompanied by plans for building in the area. A decision
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of the I. G. Farben Company to build a plant at Auschwitz led to an order by the SS construction
chief Kammler to erect barracks for 18,000 inmates by the end of 1941.48 A branch of
Auschwitz was founded outside the interest zone. It was called the Buna camp, descriptive of
the synthetic rubber (Buna) that was to be produced there. Later it was also named Monowitz.
Now there was a shortage of labor, and when Höss made an agreement with the local Landrat
for the seizure of Poles and Ethnic Germans who had refused work in the free market, the
civilian prosecutor protested against this encroachment of his prerogatives.49
The invasion of the Soviet Union stirred Himmler into action. From the overflow of
prisoners of war he wanted his share. The army agreed, and two sites were hurriedly styled SS
prisoner-of-war camps: the Lublin camp (Majdanek) and Birkenau. The latter was a virtually
empty expanse, about two miles from the main Auschwitz camp. Although Birkenau was
“partially swampy,” it was thought that 125,000 prisoners could be held there.50 Such masses
of men, however, did not materialize. Some 10,000 were marched from a nearby prisoner-ofwar
camp at Lamsdorf. Hoss had been told that they were the cream of the crop for hard labor,
but by February 1942, almost all of them were already dead.51
In the midst of this ferment, a new development was introduced into Auschwitz: the final
solution of the Jewish question. Höss recalled that in the summer of 1941 he was summoned to
Berlin by Heinrich Himmler himself. In a few spare words, Himmler told him of Hitler’s
decision to annihilate the Jews. One of the factors in the choice of Auschwitz, said Himmler,
was its location near railways. The details of this assignment would be brought to Höss by
Eichmann. Having placed this burden on the shoulders of Höss, Himmler added: “We, the SS,
must carry out this order. If it is not carried out now, then the Jews will later on destroy the
German people.”52 During the following weeks, Eichmann came to Auschwitz, and Höss
attended a conference in Eichmann’s office about railroads and arrangements for trains.53
One of the details to be resolved was the mode of killing. The solution to that problem was
serendipitous. Auschwitz served as one of the concentration camps to which the Gestapo
brought selected Soviet prisoners of war and Communist functionaries for “liquidation.” One
day, when Höss was away on business, his deputy, Fritzsch, locked some of the prisoners into
a cellar and killed them with hydrogen cyanide, a gas in stock for fumigation. The experiment
was repeated when Höss returned. The building (or “block” as it was called in Auschwitz),
numbered 11, had to be aired out for two days, and the next gassing was therefore planned for a
somewhat larger number of Russians in the crematory. Holes were made in the earth and in the
concrete roof over the crematory’s morgue. After the cyanide was introduced into the room,
some of the Russians shouted, “Gas!” and tried to break down the door, but the bolts did not
give way. Höss observed the corpses and listened to the explanations of the camp physician.
The victims, he was assured, had not suffered in agony. He concluded that death from the gas
was bloodless and that its use would spare his men a great psychological burden.54
The mortuary now became the first gas chamber. It was in operation, with an interruption for
repair of the smokestack, for a year. Since the size of the chamber and the capacity of the two
ovens were not sufficient for the task at hand, Höss looked for a new location to carry out
additional gassings. Accompanied by Eichmann, he found two small farmhouses in Birkenau
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that seemed suitable. Work was begun to fill in their windows. The interior walls were
removed and special airtight doors installed. The two gas buildings were placed in operation
during 1942, the smaller one in March, the larger in June. They were called Bunker I and II.55
Himmler visited the camp on July 17 and 18, 1942, with Gauleiter Bracht and the Higher SS
and Police Leader of Upper Silesia, Schmauser. He watched a procedure from the unloading of
the living to the removal of the dead at Bunker II. At that time he made no comment. Later, he
sat in Höss’s office and said that Eichmann’s transports would rise from month to month, that
Jews incapable of work were to be annihilated ruthlessly, and that the Gypsies too were to be
The bodies of the people gassed in the two bunkers were buried in mass graves. A survivor
reports that in the summer of 1942 the corpses swelled, and a “black, evil-smelling mass
oozed out and polluted the ground water in the vicinity.”57 From the end of summer to
November 1942, the accumulated decomposing bodies infested with maggots had to be
uncovered and burned.58
In the meantime the entire camp was in ferment. Auschwitz was continually under
construction. Most of the work was planned and supervised by the SS-Zentralbauleitung
Auschwitz, an organization of barely one hundred, including engineers, architects, technicians,
and other personnel.59 The Zentralbauleitung was responsible for erecting all the SS
installations and two plant halls that were to be used by the Krupp company. In addition, I. G.
Farben had a construction commission for its buildings, and the construction office of the
Auschwitz railway station laid tracks and set up its equipment.60
The Zentralbauleitung was not capable of carrying out its task by itself. The SS company
Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke (DAW) could undertake only simple carpentry. Consequently,
about two hundred private firms were engaged, many for construction in the camp, the others as
suppliers of materials to Auschwitz. Most of the companies were in Upper Silesia and their
volume of business was small, but several of them were in Düsseldorf, Cologne, or Vienna,
and a few had branches in several cities.61
Almost all the firms had to wrestle with multiple problems caused by wartime conditions:
the allocation of material, which was a concern of the Speer ministry; the availability of freight
cars for shipment, which was determined by the Reichsbahn; and the assignment of labor for
Auschwitz projects, which was subject to the control of labor offices. In these matters the
Zentralbauleitung attempted to support applications in order to expedite the process,62 but
only the labor shortage could be alleviated on the spot by drawing on the inmate population.
As of December 22, 1942, for example, the construction firms employed 905 of their own
workers and 2,076 prisoners in the camp, while the Zentralbauleitung used an additional
5,751 inmates.63 The search for professional and skilled labor was a special effort early on,
when Auschwitz tried to find qualified engineers and architects among German inmates of
other concentration camps.64
The Auschwitz construction projects were begun with the laying of streets, the importation
of electricity, and the digging for water.65 Then came hundreds of barracks, particularly in
Birkenau. Most of these structures were prefabricated horse stables assembled on bare earth
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without floors, and used for inmate housing and latrines.66 Temporary guard towers (without
hygienic amenities) were to be replaced in April 1943 by 16 large, 45 medium, and 42 small
structures.67 Throughout these activities, tons of barbed wire were strung and electrified.68
It was in the course of all this construction that a new kind of edifice made its appearance.
Four massive buildings containing gas chambers and crematoria were erected in Birkenau.
They were to be the answer to Himmler’s admonition that more and more transports would
arrive in Auschwitz. While under construction they were designated Bauwerke (Building
Projects) 30, 30a, 30b, and 30c, and this numeration indicates that they were planned, not all
four at one time, but in sequence.69
Bauwerk 30, the first in the set, was to become Krematorium II: the second Krematorium of
Auschwitz. It was put on the drawing board in late 1941 when there was still an expectation of
the large-scale delivery of Soviet prisoners of war.70 At that moment the Zentralbauleitung
envisaged five ovens with three retorts each. After the flow of Soviet prisoners had stopped,
the design was scaled back to two morgues in the cellar and only two furnaces on ground level.
By February 27, 1942, however, the Jewish transports were in the offing. That day, Oberführer
Kammler visited the camp and decided that the five furnaces should be installed.71 Some time
later several changes were made in the plans for the building. A chute for corpses was deleted
and a staircase inserted. One of the morgues in the basement was turned into an undressing
room. For the other the planners added a separate drainage system as well as ventilation—the
transformation into a gas chamber.72
While these modifications were projected in a succession of drawings, a third Krematorium,
identical to the final version of the second, was planned. This structure, 30a, was to become
Krematorium III.73 Finally, two more Bauwerke, 30b and 30c, were added. These buildings,
which were Krematoria IV and V, did not have a cellar. Their gas chambers were on the
surface, and as an economy measure each Krematorium was to have a double furnace with two
smokestacks.74 The double ovens had been ordered by the SS Construction Inspectorate in the
area of the Higher SS and Police Leader Russia Center von dem Bach for Mogilev on the Dnepr
River, but they were diverted from that destination to Auschwitz.75
The hydrogen cyanide, solidified in pellets, was to be shaken into the cellars of Krematoria
II and III through shafts, and into the surface chambers of Krematoria IV and V through side
walls. In the gas chambers, the pellets would pass immediately into the gaseous stage. Thus an
altogether more efficient system, which guaranteed much more rapid processing than in other
camps, had been devised in Auschwitz.
There was one drawback. The construction of these elaborate buildings required much more
time than the erection of their counterparts in the Generalgouvernement killing centers of
Sobibόr and Treblinka. Table 6 shows the time spans in Auschwitz from start to finish.76
Table 6. Numeration of Krematoria
Numeration of Krematoria Start of construction Date of transfer to camp administration (Standortverwaltung)
II July 2, 1942 March 31, 1943
III September 14, 1942 June 26, 1943
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IV October 9, 1942 March 22, 1943
V November 20, 1942 April 4, 1943
More than a dozen firms were contractors on the sites of the four Krematoria,77
—for crematory–gas chamber design and the supply of ovens: J. A. Topf und Söhne, Erfurt
—for erection of the buildings: HUTA Hoch-und Tiefbau, Breslau, branch Kattowitz;
Hermann Hirt Nachf., Beuthen; W. Riedel und Sohn, Bielitz; VEDAG Vereinigte
Dachpappen A. G., Breslau
—for drainage: Continentale Wasserwerksgesellschaft, Berlin; Tiefbauunternehmung
“TRITON,” Kattowitz
—for roofs: Baugeschaft Konrad Segnitz, Beuthen; Industrie-Bau A. G., Bielitz
—for smokestacks: Robert Koehler, Myslowitz
—for plumbing: Falck, Gleiwitz
—for ventilation: Josef Kluge, Alt Gleiwitz
—for electrical current: AEG (Allgemeine Elektrizitätsgesellschaft), branch Kattowitz.
Much of the work was plagued by shortages of products, delays in the completion of
installations, and poor quality of workmanship. On January 29, 1943, for example, the AEG
bluntly told the Zentralbauleitung that the company was unable to obtain the best components
for the supply of electricity in time, that equipment would have to be cannibalized from other
projects, and that this compromise would curtail simultaneous incineration and “special
treatment” in Krematorium II.78 A stoppage in the allocation of freight cars, in turn, delayed the
installation of ventilation equipment through the concrete ceiling of the “special cellar”
(Sonderkeller) of the Krematorium.79 The Zentralbauleitung complained to the SS company
Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke on January 13, 1943, that carpentry work had not been completed
and that doors for one of the units, “which was urgently needed for the implementation of
special measures [welches zur Durchführung der Sondermassnahmen dringend benötigt
wird]” were not finished.80 On March 31, another note was sent about a door that was to have
a peephole, with a reminder that this order was specially urgent.81 After the Krematoria had
been placed into operation, repairs were needed, particularly of the chimney in Krematorium
II. On this occasion there was an argument between Engineer Prüfer of Topf, who was
responsible for the plans, and the firm Koehler, which carried them out. In the fact-finding
attempt, even the senior German inmate supervisor had to be consulted.82 Finally, the two
double ovens diverted from Mogilev to Krematoria IV and V did not function very well.83
There was a reason for the feverish attempts to ready the buildings and to use them even
with faulty parts. Throughout 1942, Auschwitz had received barely 175,000 Jews. The
Generalgouvernement camps had swallowed more than eight times as many. The burial pits in
Birkenau and in the Generalgouvernement were filling up or they were already full. In the first
few months of 1943, more Jews were arriving in Auschwitz, but additional tens of thousands,
from Macedonia, Thrace, France, and the Netherlands, were directed on longer routes to
Treblinka and Sobibór, where no industry was located and no selection of the fittest could be
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conducted. Consequently, Auschwitz was becoming the center of attention. Auschwitz had to
come into its own.
The status of Auschwitz as a focal point was underscored in a report by Bischoff to
Kammler on January 27, 1943. Referring specifically to the “implementation of the special
action [Durchführung der Sonderaktion]” in Birkenau, Bischoff noted an intervention by
Hitler himself: “Pursuant to a Führer order the completion of construction in the camp is to be
carried out on a specially accelerated basis [Durch einen Führerbefehl ist der Aufbau des
Lagers besonders beschleunigt durchzuführen].”84 Two days later Bischoff wrote
encouragingly to Kammler that after the commitment of all available manpower and in spite of
tremendous difficulties (unsagbare Schwierigkeiten), Krematorium II was now ready but for
minor construction details (bauliche Kleinigkeiten).85 . . .
If the construction of the gas chambers was a drawn-out affair, the laying of railway tracks
for transports coming to Birkenau took even longer. The Auschwitz station, as part of the Upper
Silesian network, was under the jurisdiction of Reichsbahndirektion in Oppeln. This
Direktion, which had various offices also in Katowice and Sosnowiec, was headed until
October 14, 1942, by Präsident Pirath, who retired on that day, and then by Präsident
Geitmann, an engineer. On frequent occasions, the SS Zentralbauleitung had direct dealings not
only with functionaries of the Auschwitz station but with officials of the Reichsbahndirektion
responsible for construction, operations, and traffic.
Trains arriving in Auschwitz carried building supplies and raw materials for production, as
well as prisoners. As early as the spring of 1942, when the prisoners were still unloaded at the
railway station, the Zentralbauleitung began to consider the laying of a spur to Birkenau.86
Already then, Oppeln had warned the Zentrabauleitung of a possibility that trains might be
barred (Annahmesperre).87 The construction project, however, was not so simple. Under a law
of 1892, any tracks, including those owned by official agencies, were defined as “private” if
they were not open to general traffic.88 The SS, therefore, had to have a budget, allocations of
rails and ties, agreements with the Reichsbahn, and permission of the Regierungspräsident
before it could proceed.
By the beginning of 1943, the Zentralbauleitung unloaded thirty cars a day for construction
materials alone.89 Höss had negotiated with the Reichsbahn for the use of an outside spur that
had been put down by the railways themselves for their own construction projects.90 The SS,
however, wanted arriving transports to halt before the new gas chambers inside Birkenau.
Tracks were to be laid through the guard building at the entrance, with gates that could be
locked.91 On March 19, 1943, Höss explained to Oberreichsbahnrat Stäbler that the tracks
were needed “urgently” now that notification had been received of a heavier flow of
transports.92 The provisional ramp had to be moved when the Reichsbahn was expanding its
construction, and the SS had some anxiety that congestion might limit its unloading capacity to
five transports a day.93
Nevertheless, there were more complications and interim solutions.94 Finally, the
construction of the spur was started in early 1944, when a contractor, the firm Richard
Reckmann of Cottbus, was engaged for the undertaking.95 On April 19, 1944, the railway
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station of Auschwitz approved the use of the newly built tracks for locomotives of the
Reichsbahn.96 Barely one month later, the Hungarian transports began to roll in, and for the
next half-year the camp was to receive more Jews than had arrived during the preceding two
Construction was one-half of the problem faced by the SS. The gas supply was the other half.
Hydrogen cyanide or Zyklon was a powerful lethal agent—a deadly dose was 1 milligram per
kilogram of body weight. Packed in containers, the Zyklon was put to use simply by opening
the canister and pouring the pellets into the chamber; the solid material would then sublimate.
The Zyklon had only one drawback: within three months it deteriorated in the container and
thus could not be stockpiled.97 Since Auschwitz was a receiving station, always on call, it was
necessary to have a dependable gas supply.
The SS did not manufacture Zyklon, so the gas had to be procured from private firms. The
enterprises that furnished it were part of the chemical industry. They specialized in the
“combating of vermin” (Schädlingsbekämpfung) by means of poison gases. Zyklon was one of
eight products manufactured by these firms,98 which undertook large-scale fumigations of
buildings, barracks, and ships; disinfected clothes in specially constructed gas chambers
(Entlausungsanlagen); and deloused human beings, protected by gas masks.99 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 no mere accident. In German propaganda, Jews had frequently been portrayed as
insects. Frank and Himmler had stated repeatedly that the Jews were parasites who had to be
exterminated like vermin, and with the introduction of Zyklon into Auschwitz that thought had
been translated into reality.
1. The phrase was used by a camp doctor, Friedrich Entress, in his affidavit of April 14, 1949, NO-2368.
2. Testimony by Göring, International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals (Nuremberg, 1947) IX, 257.
3. See orders by Eicke, October 1, 1933, PS-778.
4. Camps for foreign laborers and prisoner-of-war camps were outside of Himmler’s sphere. However, in October 1944
Himmler took over the POW camps in the rear.
5. By October 1943, 110,000 German prisoners, including 40,000 “political criminals” and 70,000 “asocials,” had been sent to the
concentration camps. Himmler speech before Militärbefehlshaber, October 14, 1943, L-70.
6. Order by Pohl, July 23, 1942, NO-2128. Pohl to Himmler, July 27, 1942, NO-2128.
7. See the essay by Martin Broszat, “The Concentration Camps 1933–45,” in Helmut Krausnick, Hans Buchheim, Martin
Broszat, and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, The Anatomy of the SS State (New York, 1968), 397–504.
8. Pohl to Himmler, April 30, 1942, R-129.
9. Pohl to OStubaf. Brandt, April 19, 1942, Himmler Files, Folder 67.
10. WVHA D-IV (signed Stubaf. Burger) to WVHA-B (Gruf. Lörner), August 15, 1944, NO-399.
11. Pohl to Himmler, April 30, 1942, R-129.
12. Pohl to Himmler, April 5, 1944, NO-20.
13. Himmler to Pohl, April 22, 1944, NO-20.
14. Greiser to Himmler, May 1, 1942, NO-246.
15. Judge Wladyslaw Bednarz (Lodz), “Extermination Camp at Chelmno,” Central Commission for Investigation of German
Crimes in Poland, German Crimes in Poland (Warsaw, 1946–47), vol. 1, 107–17.
16. Order by Hitler, September 1, 1939, PS-630.
17. For the organization and personnel of this office, see Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide.
18. Affidavit by Morgen, July 13, 1946, SS(A)-65. The chief psychiatric examiner for asylums was an SS physician, Prof. Werner
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Heyde. Each euthanasia station had its own medical director. The term “psychiatric holocaust” was coined by Peter Roger
Breggin, ‘The Psychiatric Holocaust,” Penthouse, January 1979, 81–84, 216. The stations were called “killing centers” by
Leo Alexander, “Medical Science under Dictatorship” New England Journal of Medicine 24 (1949): 39–47. Alexander’s
designation is used here to describe the camps in which the gassings of the Jews took place.
19. Affidavit by Morgen, July 13, 1946, SS(A)-65.
20. Israel Police 1193.
21. Draft memorandum by Wetzel for Lohse and Rosenberg, October 25, 1941, NO-365.
22. When Generalgouverneur Frank was in Berlin (middle of December 1941), he was told that “nothing could be done with
the Jews in the Ostland.” Frank in GG conference, December 16, 1941, Frank Diary, PS-2233.
23. Helmut Kallmeyer (in Havana) to Dr. Stahmer (attorney), June 18, 1960, Oberhauser (Belzec) case, Landgericht München
1, 1 Js 278/60, vol. 5, 974–75. All volume numbers pertaining to the Belzec, Sobibόr, and Treblinka cases refer to the
collection in the Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg, 8 AR-Z 252/59.
24. Statement by Stanislaw Kozak, October 14, 1945, Belzec case, vol. 6, 1129–33. The November 1, 1941, date is mentioned
also by Eustachy Ukrainski (principal of grade school in the town of Belzec), October 11, 1945, Belzec case, vol. 6, 1117–
20. The presence of eastern collaborators at the end of 1941 is confirmed by Ludwig Obalek (mayor of Belzec) in his
statement of October 10, 1945, Belzec case, vol. 6, 1112–14.
25. Statements by Josef Oberhauser, February 26 and September 15, 1960, Belzec case, vol. 4, 656–60, and vol. 6, 1036–40.
26. Statement by Kozak, and statement by Edward Ferens (also a locksmith), March 20, 1946, Belzec case, vol. 6, 1222–23.
27. Statement by Oberhauser, December 12, 1960, Belzec case, vol. 9, 1678–93.
28. Kallmeyer to Stahmer, June 18, 1960, Belzec case, vol. 5, 974–75. In the letter Kallmeyer asserts that he was not needed.
29. Statement by Georg Michalsen (Globocnik’s Aussiedlungsstab), September 4, 1961, Sobibόr case, Hagen, 45 Js 27/61, vol.
4, 723–25. See also Richard Thomalla’s personnel record in the Berlin Document Center.
30. Statement by Landrat Dr. Werner Ansel, June 15, 1960, Sobibór case, vol. 3, 416. Moser is mentioned also by Sobibór
commander Franz Stangl, June 26, 1967, Treblinka case, Düsseldorf, 8 Js 10904/59, vol. 13, 3712–22.
31. Statement by Jan Stefaniuk (a non-Jewish worker at Sobibόr), February 26, 1966, Sobibόr case, vol. 13, 2694–95. The
gassing apparatus was tried out in the presence of an unnamed chemist. See Adalbert Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager
(Munich, 1977), 165–66. Rückerl’s book contains texts of German Federal Republic court judgments and selected testimony
about all three of the Generalgouvernement camps as well as Kulmhof.
32. Indictment of Kurt Franz, enclosed by prosecutor Hühnerschulte to Landgericht in Düsseldorf, January 29, 1963, through the
courtesy of the Israel police.
33. See entries by Czerniaków (chairman of Warsaw Ghetto Jewish Council) in his diary (January 17; February 4 and 20;
March 10, 27, and 29; April 9 and 18; May 23; and June 1, 1942), in Raul Hilberg, Stanislaw Staron, and Josef Kermisz,
eds., The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow (New York, 1979), 316, 322, 328, 333, 338, 339, 341, 344, 358, 361. A labor
camp (Treblinka I) was already in existence not far from the site. Jewish labor from the Warsaw Ghetto was sent to
Treblinka I, and its inmates, Poles as well as Jews, could be utilized for construction. Treblinka I, under Hauptsturmführer
van Eupen, was not administratively joined to the death camp.
34. Eberl to Kommissar of Jewish district (Auerswald), June 26, 1942, facsimile in Jüdisches Historisches Institut Warschau,
Faschismus-Getto-Massenmord (Berlin, 1961), 304. Eberl to Kommissar, July 7, 1942, facsimile in Alexander Donat, cd.,
The Death Camp Treblinka (New York, 1979), 255.
35. Memorandum by Reuter, March 17, 1942, in Jüdisches Historisches Institut Faschismus-Getto-Massenmord, 269–70.
36. Bottled gas (Flaschengas) is mentioned by Oberhauser (Obersturmführer at Belzec). See text of his statement in Rückerl,
NS-Vernichtungslager, 136–37. The court judgment in the Oberhauser case identifies the gas as cyanide (Zyklon B). Ibid.
37. Ibid., 133, 203, 165–66. Eugen Kogon et al., Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas (Frankfurt am Main,
1986), 154, 163, 158–59. The Sobibόr engine is described by Unterscharführer Erich Fuchs in Massentötungen, 158–59.
Fuchs helped install the engine and tried it out on a contingent of 30–40 Jewish women.
38. Brack to Himmler, June 23, 1942, NO-205.
39. Rückerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, 208–9.
40. Ibid., 204. Information about the number and size of gas chambers in each camp rests not on documentation but on
recollection of witnesses. There is agreement that the new chambers were larger than the old (the capacity for
simultaneous gassing in Belzec during the summer of 1942 was estimated at 1,500). Counts of gas chambers are given in
the following ranges: Belzec 3, then 6; Sobibόr 3, then 4, 5, or 6; Treblinka 3, then 6 or 10. It is likely that each facility was
designed from the same basic plan; hence three is probably the initial capacity, and six the subsequent one. German
defendants in Treblinka trial of 1965 (Franz et al.) indicated six chambers there after expansion. Ibid. A Jewish survivor,
who was a carpenter at Treblinka, states that there were ten gas chambers. Jankiel Wiernik, “A Year in Treblinka,” in
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Donat, Treblinka, 147–88, at 161. For a sketch drawn by Wiernik, see Filip Friedman, This Was Oswiecim (London, 1946),
81–84; and Glówna Komisja, Obozy, 526. See, however, two different sketches, in Donat, Treblinka, 318–19; and Stern,
May 17, 1970, 170.
41. For a history of the Lublin camp, see Jozef Marszalek, Majdanek (Hamburg, 1982), particularly 24–44,135–52; judgment of
Landgericht Düsseldorf April 27, 1979, in the matter of Ernst Schmidt, 8 Ks 1/75; affidavit by Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert
(Director, Technical Division, Lublin camp from September 1942 to August 6, 1945, NO-1903; and Glówna Komisja, Obozy,
302–12. On deliveries of Zyklon to the camp in 1943, see affidavit by Alfred Zaun (bookkeeper with Tesch und Stabenow,
suppliers), October 18, 1947, NI-11937, and facsimiles of correspondence between Lublin camp and Tesch und Stabenow
during June-July 1943, Glowna Komisja, Obozy, appendix, items 18, 140, and 141. The gas was routinely used in camps also
for fumigation.
42. According to Ruppert, about 17,000 Jews were shot in Lublin in November 1943. Franz Pantli, an SS man in the camp,
estimates 12,000. Affidavit by Franz Pantli, May 24, 1945, NO-1903. Obersturmführer Offermann cited 15,000 killed in
Lublin, another 15,000 in Poniatowa, and 10,000 in Trawniki. Jüdisches Historisches Institut, Faschismus-Getto-
Massenmord, 366–67n. See also Marszale, Majdanek, 138.
43. Jan Sehn, “Concentration and Extermination Camp at Oswieçim,” Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes
in Poland, German Crimes in Poland (Warsaw, 1946–47), vol. 1, 27–29. Certificate of the New Construction Directorate
(Neubauleitung) in Birkenau, October 21, 1941, noting heavy clay soil and frequent rain, U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum Archives Record Group 11.002 (Center for the Preservation of Historical Documentary Collections, Moscow),
Roll 21, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 41.
44. Obf. Glücks to Himmler, copies to Pohl and Heydrich, February 21, 1940, NO-34.
45. Heeresamt Gleiwitz to IdS Breslau, April 27, 1940, and IdS to Hoss, May 31, 1940, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Archives Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 21, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 55. No
payment was made by the SS to the army for the camp. The owner was simply the Reich. Report by the Chief of the
Zentralbauleitung in Auschwitz (Ostuf. Jothann), June 22, 1944, ibid., Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 38. The goal was
10,000 prisoners. Hauptamt Haushalt und Bauten II c 5 to Neubauleitung Auschwitz, August 3, 1940, ibid., Roll 36, Fond
502, Opis 1, Folder 265.
46. Bodenamt Schlesien in Kattowitz (signed Kusche) to Director of Zentralbodenamt beim Reichsführer-SS/RKfdFdV (Gruf.
Freiherr von Holzschuher), May 22, 1940, PS-1352. Brif. Lörner to Finance Ministry, October 1, 1941, NG-5545. Pohl to
Finance Ministry, November 7, 1942, PS-1643. Records of conferences, November 3 and December 17–18, 1942, under the
chairmanship of Oberfinanzpräsident Dr. Casdorf of the Finance Ministry, PS-1643. Full power signed by Casdorf in
agreement with the chief of the Main Trusteeship Office East (Winkler), January 12, 1943, PS-1643. Ministerialrat
Hoffmann (Interior Ministry) to Regierungspräsident in Kattowitz, January 22, 1943, PS-1643. Order by Bracht establishing
the Amtsbezirk of Auschwitz with detailed description of the area, May 31, 1943, PS-1643. Map in U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum Archives Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 34, Fond 502, Opis 1,
Folder 26.
47. Kommandantur Order (signed Höss), March 2, 1942, in which Höss refers to himself as Amtskommissar, U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum Archives Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1,
Folder 32.
48. Kammler to Zentralbauleitung, June 27, 1941, ibid., Roll 54, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 215.
49. Weekly report by I. G. Farben (Auschwitz) engineer Faust, covering August 17–23, 1941, NI-15254.
50. Bauleitung Explanatory Report, October 30, 1941, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Record Group 11.001
(Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 35, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 233. Kammler to Bauleitung, November 1
1941, ibid. HStuf. Bischoff (Zentralbauleitung) to Rüstungskommando Weimar November 12, 1941, ibid., Roll 41, Fond
502, Opis 1, Folder 314. Construction Certificate by Neubauleitung, November 18, 1941, ibid., Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1
Folder 41.
51. Rudolf Höss, Kommandant in Auschwitz (Munich, 1978), 105–6. Danuta Czech, Kalendarium der Ereignisse im
Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau 1939–1945 (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1989), particularly 160, 166, 170, 177.
Most of the prisoners had arrived in October.
52. Höss, Kommandant, 157, 180–81. See also his testimony in International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War
Criminals (Nuremberg, 1947–49), vol. 11, 398. Höss does not recall the precise date of the meeting with Himmler, although
in one of his statements, which is also his most confused, he mentions June. See his affidavit of March 14, 1946, NO-1210.
Given the development of the final solution, June is unlikely. July may also be ruled out. Richard Breitman, reviewing
Himmler’s traveling, specifies July 13–15 as the only time that month when Himmler was in Berlin. See his Architect of
Genocide (New York, 1991), 295. Danuta Czech suggests that in July Höss was absent from Auschwitz on the 29th. See
her Kalendarium, entry for July 29, 1941, 106–7.
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53. Höss, Kommandant, 157–59. Dating the meetings with Eichmann is difficult. See Christopher Browning, Fateful Months
(New York, 1985), 22–28.
54. Höss, Kommandant, 127, 159. Czech, Kalendarium, 115–18. On the basis of witness testimony, Czech proposes September
3 as the date of the gassing in Block 11. Franciszek Piper also chooses September 3–5. See his article, “Gas Chambers and
Crematoria,” in Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, eds., The Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Bloomington,
Ind., 1994), 158–59. Soviet prisoners sent to Auschwitz before October were communists and Jews selected, not for labor,
but killing. No precise date has been advanced for the second gassing in Auschwitz.
55. Jean-Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (Auschwitz, 1989), 123–82, and (for
information about the original Krematorium) his Les crematoires d’Auschwitz (Paris, 1993), 16–20. On the bunkers see also
the affidavit by Friedrich Entress, April 14, 1947, NO-2368. The gassing of Jews in the Krematorium began on February 15,
1942, in Bunker I on March 20, 1942, and in Bunker II on June 30, 1942. Czech, Kalendarium, 174–75, 186–87, 238–39.
56. Höss, Kommandant, 161, 184.
57. Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz (New York, 1979), 50–51.
58. Höss, Kommandant, 161.
59. See the Zentralbauleitung’s figure of 98 for the second quarter of 1943, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives
Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 21, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 46.
60. See the partially reconstructed figures of Reichsbahndirektion Oppeln for Auschwitz and other localities in the area of the
Direktion. Verkehrsmuseum Nuremberg Archive, Folder mm.
61. For firms participating in the construction of the Auschwitz complex, see the files of the Zentralbauleitung in the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), passim.
62. For allocations of material, see, for example, Himmler’s Personal Staff/Raw Materials Office (Rohstoffamt) to
Zentralbauleitung, May 11, 1944, regarding Speer Ministry’s authorization to AEG/Kattowitz for relay station, ibid., Roll 21,
Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 38, and correspondence affecting other firms in ibid., Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 307. For
railroad freight embargo and priority problems, see 1943 correspondence in Folder 307, and with specific reference to
crematory construction, Eng. Prüfer (Topf firm) to Zentralbauleitung, January 29, 1943, ibid., Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1,
Folder 313. For approval of the Labor Office in Kattowitz (Katowice), see Wilhelm Kermel Kattowitz Elektrotechnisches
Installationsgeschäft, September 8, 1942, seeking the help of the Zentralbauleitung, ibid., Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder
63. Compilation of the Zentralbauleitung for December 22, 1942, ibid., Roll 21, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 57.
64. Bauleitung to Kommandantur Auschwitz, November 12, 1941, ibid., Roll 21, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 54.
65. See the proposed budget of the Zentralbauleitung, January 9, 1942, referring to budget proposal of October 20, 1941, ibid.,
Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 24.
66. Bischoff to Kammler, January 27, 1943, and Zentralbauleitung audit report, February 2, 1943, ibid., Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1,
Folder 28.
67. Notation by Untersturmführer Dejaco (Zentralbauleitung), December 4, 1942, ibid., Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 26.
Höss to WVHA-D, April 12 1943, ibid., Roll 36, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 260. Bischoff to Kammler, April 27, 1943, ibid., Roll
20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 28.
68. Special Order (Sonderbefehl) by Höss, November 10, 1940, ibid., Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 32. Bauleitung to
Festungspionierstab 12 (Fortification Engineers Staff 12 of the army), November 28, 1941, asking for 7 metric tons of
barbed wire for Birkenau, ibid., Roll 21, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 55. Work card, Zentralbauleitung, July 10, 1943, ibid., Roll
41, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 316.
69. See construction correspondence in ibid., Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folders 306–14. Contractors were sometimes confused
by these designations.
70. Bischoff to Riistungskommando Weimar, referring to the Russians, November 12, 1941, ibid., Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1,
Folder 314.
71. As of October 22, 1941, the Krematorium was to have five ovens, each with three retorts. See the letter of the Bauleitung
to the Topf firm on that day, with specification of time limits for delivery of plans and parts. Facsimile of an original copy
(Abschrift) without signature in Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation, 187. A brief letter outlining a plan for
substituting 150,000 Jews for the missing Soviet prisoners was sent by Himmler to Glücks on January 25, 1942, NO-500.
Lacking exact word, the Zentralbauleitung placed an order orally for only two ovens on February 12, 1942. Bischoff to Topf,
March 2, 1942, facsimile in Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation, 191. After Kammler’s visit on February 27,
1942, the oral order was rescinded and the original one was reinstated. Bischoff’s letter of March 5, 1942, ibid. See also
Bischoff to WVHA-C III (Stubaf. Wirtz), March 30, 1942, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Record Group 11.001
(Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 313. Pressac assumes from the blueprints
that Krematorium II was at first intended for the main camp. See his discussion and facsimiles of drawings in his two books.
Hayes, Peter, ed. How Was It Possible? : A Holocaust Reader. Lincoln: UNP – Nebraska, 2015. Accessed January 3, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from unomaha on 2018-01-03 08:58:42.
Copyright © 2015. UNP – Nebraska. All rights reserved.
72. See the blueprints in Pressac with his analyses, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation, 183–84, 267–329 (particularly 284–
303), 355–78, and his Les crematoires d’Auschwitz, 46–86 (passim), with blueprints and photographs on glossy pages. See
also his article (with Robert-Jan van Pelt), “Machinery of Mass Murder,” in Gutman and Berenbaum, eds., Anatomy of the
Auschwitz Death Camp, 199–201.
73. See photographs of Krematorium III under construction and completed in Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation,
333, 336–37, 339, and 342.
74. See facsimiles of drawings, ibid., 392–403. The earliest of these drawings, by a prisoner, is dated August 14, 1942.
75. Memorandum by UStuf. Ertl (Zentralbauleitung), August 21, 1942, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Record
Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 313. Liquidation post (in
Poznan) of SS Construction Group Russia Center to Zentralbauleitung, August 11, 1944, and other correspondence in the
same folder. Prüfer (Topf firm) to Zentralbauleitung, July 7, 1943, in Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation, 382–
76. Start of construction dates in timetable of Zentralbauleitung, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Record Group
11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 34, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 210. Completion dates in
Zentralbauleitung file, facsimile in Jadwiga Bezwinska, cd., Amidst a Nightmare of Crime (Auschwitz, 1973), 55.
77. Pressac, Les crématoires d’Auschwitz, 140–42, and documents of the Zentralbauleitung in U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum Archives Record Group 11.00] (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Fond 502, passim.
78. Memorandum signed by engineer Tomitschek of AEG and Unterscharfuhrer Swoboda of the Zentralbauleitung, January 29,
1943, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll
20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 26.
79. Memorandum by UStuf. Wolter (Zentralbauleitung), November 27, 1942, ibid., Roll 41, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 313.
80. Zentralbauleitung to DAW, January 13, 1943, NO-4466.
81. Zentralbauleitung to DAW, March 31, 1943, NO-4465.
82. Memorandum by UStuf. Kirschncck (Zentralbauleitung) on discussion with Topf representative Prüfer and Ing. Koehler,
September 14, 1943, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections,
Moscow), Roll 20, Fond 501, Opis 1, Folder 26. The inmate, Oberkapo August Brück, had arrived from Buchenwald.
Czech, Kalendarium, 431n.
83. Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation, 386–90.
84. Bischoff to Kammler, January 27, 1943, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives, Record Group 11.001 (Center for
Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 28.
85. Zentralbauleitung to Kammler, January 29, 1943, NO-4473.
86. Zentralbauleitung to Reichsbahndirektion (RBD) Oppeln/Dezernat 47, July 30, 1942, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Archives Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 32, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 186.
87. Reichsbahn Operations Office (Betriebsamt) Kattowitz 4 (signed Reichsbahnrat Mannl) to Zentraibauleitung, and RBD
Oppeln to Zentraibauleitung, May 1942, ibid.
88. See the correspondence of 1943, the approval of March 6, 1944, by the office of the Regierungspräsident in Kattowitz
(signed Scholz), and RBD Oppeln to Standortverwaltung of Auschwitz, February 5, 1944, ibid.
89. Bischoff to Höss, April 7, 1943, ibid. A single prefabricated barracks was carried by five cars. Army Construction
Office/Barracks (Heeresbauamt/Barracken) to Zentralbauleitung, February 18, 1943, ibid., Roll 35, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder
90. Memorandum by Zentralbauleitung, January 18, 1943, ibid., Roll 32, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 184. BischofF to WVHA C-HI,
May 4, 1943, ibid., Folder 186.
91. Bischoff to WVHA C-III, May 4, 1943, ibid., Folder 186.
92. Höss to Stabler, April 19, 1943, and Bischoff repeating the call for urgency in a letter to the Regierungsprasident, September
11, 1943, ibid.
93. Discussion between Oberreichsbahnrat Stäbler, Oberreichsbahnrat Doll (Dezernat 32), Reichsbahnrat Sander, Amtmann
Löw, and Bischoff, Untersturmführer Jänisch, and Unterscharführer Dr. Kuchendorf (Zentralbauleitung), March 27, 1943,
94. See the note of a meeting between Möckel, Bischoff, and Jänisch, with Oberreichsbahnrat Fehling and two of his assistants,
July 12, 1943, ibid., Roll 20, Fond 501, Opis 1, Folder 26, and other correspondence in ibid., Roll 32, Fond 510, Opis 1, Folder
95. Zentralbauleitung to Standortverwaltung, February 10, 1944, ibid., Roll 32 Fond 501, Opis 1, Folder 186.
96. Railway station to Zentralbauleitung, April 19, 1944, ibid. Road crossings, heavily used, were a remaining problem, because
warning signs and beams were still missing. Memorandum by Bauleitung, May 30, 1944, ibid.
97. Characteristics of Zyklon described in undated report by Health Institute of Protektorat: “Directive for Utilization of Zyklon
Hayes, Peter, ed. How Was It Possible? : A Holocaust Reader. Lincoln: UNP – Nebraska, 2015. Accessed January 3, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from unomaha on 2018-01-03 08:58:42.
Copyright © 2015. UNP – Nebraska. All rights reserved.
for Extermination of Vermin” (Ungeziefervertilgung), NI-9912. For the toxic properties of the gas, see also Steven I.
Baskin, “Zyklon B” in Walter Laqucur, ed., The Holocaust Encyclopedia (New Haven, 2001), 716–19.
98. Lectures by Dr. Gerhard Peters and Heinrich Sossenheimer (gas experts), February 27, 1942, NI-9098.
99. Ibid.
Hayes, Peter, ed. How Was It Possible? : A Holocaust Reader. Lincoln: UNP – Nebraska, 2015. Accessed January 3, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Created from unomaha on 2018-01-03 08:58:42.
Copyright © 2015. UNP – Nebraska. All rights reserved.

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