There were no holes in the roof of the gas chambers
Holocaust Deniers Say:
There is no physical or documentary evidence in existence today that confirms that there were holes in the roof of the gas chambers.
Brian Renk, of the deniers' Institute for Historical Review, claims that no one has been ". . . able to find physical evidence of Zyklon-induction holes at the site, or a single reference to them in the camp's voluminous design and construction records . . ."1
What are these wire-mesh columns?
Four hollow wire-mesh introduction columns, extending from the floor to the ceiling, were placed underneath each hole in the gas chamber roof in Cremas 2 and 3 in Birkenau. Installing these four columns in each gas chamber room permitted the even distribution of the gas throughout the entire room.2 The wire columns also prevented the people inside the gas chamber from interferring with the gas pellets.
The underground room itself extended a few feet above ground, similar to the foundation of a house with a basement, and it was banked up with dirt on which grass was planted. This made it easy for the SS men to climb the gentle hill and walk from chimney to chimney with the cans of Zyklon-B.3
Eyewitness evidence for the existence of the wire-mesh columns
Michael Kula, a prisoner at Auschwitz, worked in the metal workshop where he helped to build the wire-mesh columns. Each column was made of three 3 wire screens nested one within the other. The core of the inner column contained a collection basket for the used pellets so they could be lifted back to the roof for disposal.4 A picture of what these columns looked like can be seen at: http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/intro-columns/.
Ota Kraus and Erick Kulka were Czech inmates in Auschwitz. They were both employed as locksmiths and so had the run of the camp. In 1946, they published a book called Factories of Death about their experiences in which they confirmed the existence and use of the wire-mesh columns: "Between the concrete pillars where two iron pillars, 30 cm by 30 cm, covered in thickly plaited wire. These pillars passed through the concrete ceiling to the grassy terrace mentioned above; here they terminated in airtight trap-doors in which the SS men fed the cyclone gas. The purpose of the plaited wire was to prevent any interference with the cyclone crystals. These pillars were a later addition to the gas chamber and hence do not appear in the plan."5
David Olére, a Parisian artist, was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in March 1943. There he was assigned to the Sonderkommando of Crema 3. He lived in the attic of that building and observed its operations. After the war, in 1945 and 1946 he drew a series of 50 pictures of what he had seen in the camp. One of Olére's drawings shows a cutaway elevation of Crema 3. Olére shows the four wire-mesh columns. They are identified in the lettered key as "Grille pour Bombes a Gaz" (Gas Introduction Columns.)"6 You can see this drawing at: http://holocaust-info.dk/auschwitz/k3_side.htm.
Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, also confirmed the existence of the wire-mesh columns, in his memoirs written after the war: "The door would be screwed shut and the waiting disinfection squads would immediately pour the gas [crystals] into the vents in the ceiling of the gas chamber down an air shaft which went to the floor. This ensured the rapid distribution of the gas. The process could be observed through a peep hole in the door."7
Evidence in German documents about the wire-mesh introduction columns
The wire-mesh columns were not part of the master blueprints kept in the files in the building office outside of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Non-structural changes were made on the working plans on site. These on-site drawings were later destroyed before Auschwitz-Birkenau was abandoned.8 In an inventory dated March 3, 1943, written at the time Crema 2 was formally completed, listed "4 Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung." This compound German word translates as "wire-mesh insertion device" or "wire-mesh introduction device."9
The fact that the wire-mesh introduction columns can't be found today is easily explained. They were dismantled and discarded before the crema facilities were blown up by the Germans to cover their crimes. Their existence however, is confirmed by eyewitness accounts -- both perpetrator and survivor -- and by a surviving German documents that lists them in an inventory.
1. Brian Renk, "Convergence or Divergence? On Recent Evidence for Zyklon Induction Holes at Auschwitz-Birkenau Crematory II," http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v20/v20n5p33_Renk.html.
2. See also David Olére's floor plan of Crema 2 on page 174 of Robert Jan van Pelt's Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002); for an modern architectural rendering of Crema 2 showing the four wire-mesh introduction columns, see p. 190; and for an axonometric reconstruction (modern) of the gas chamber room in Crema 2 see p. 194.
3. Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Indiana University Press, 1994): pp. 166, 167.
4. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: pp. 206, 207; and van Pelt, Expert Witness Report for the 2000 libel trial at www.hdot.org : pp: 196-198.
5. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: pp. 220, 221 and van Pelt, Expert Witness Report: p. 220.
6. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: p. 173-177; and van Pelt, Expert Witness Report, Plate 5, following p. 161. Olére made his drawings immediately after the war. The sketches ended up in Israel after the war and were unknown before 1976.
7. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: p. 256; Rudolph Höss, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (Prometheus Books, 1992): p. 31.
8. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: p. 370.
9. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: p. 401; see also "Four wire-mesh introduction devices, four wooden covers" at http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/19430331-inventory/.