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Defense Documents

[The Van Pelt Report]: Electronic Edition, by Robert Jan van Pelt

Table of Contents

IV Attestations, 1945 - 46

But it is time I should conclude this head, under which I have touched some of the reasons that show the folly of endeavouring to establish universal Pyrrhonism in matters of history, because there are few histories without some lies, and none without some mistakes; and that prove the body of history which we possess, since ancient memorials have been so critically examined, and modern memorials have been so multiplied, to contain in it such a probable series of events, easily distinguishable from the improbable, as force the assent of every man who is in his senses, and are, therefore, sufficient to answer all the purposes of the study of history. Lord Bolingbroke, Lessons on the Study and Use of History 220

On January 27,1945 units of the 28th and 106th Corps of the First Ukrainian Front liberated the Auschwitz camps. They found in Auschwitz-Monowitz, the slave labour camp attached to the IG Farben Buna works,600 sick inmates. The Italian Primo Levi was one of them.
They were four young soldiers on horseback, who advanced along the road that marked the limits of the camp, cautiously holding their sten-guns. When they reached the barbed wire, they stopped to look, exchanging a few timid words, and throwing strangely embarrassed glances at the sprawling bodies, at the battered huts and at us few still alive.
To us they seemed wonderfully concrete and real, perched on their enormous horses, between the grey of the snow and the grey of the sky, immobile beneath the gusts of damp wind that threatened a thaw.
It seemed to us, and so it was, that the nothing full of death in which we had wandered like spent stars for ten days had found its own solid centre, a nucleus of condensation; four men, armed, but not against us: four messengers of peace, with rough   and boyish faces beneath their heavy fur hats.
They did not greet us, nor did they smile; they seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by a confused restraint, which sealed their lips and bound their eyes to the funereal scene. It was that shame we knew so well, the shame that drowned us after the selections, and every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at the other's crime; the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist, that it should have been introduced irrevocably in the world of things that exist, and that his will for good should have proved too weak or null, and should not have availed in defence. 221
The Red Army liberated 1,200 sick prisoners in the Auschwitz Stammlager and 5,800 inmates in Birkenau. The rest, some 60,000 inmates, had been forced a week earlier in a death march to the west. In Birkenau the Soviets also found the blown-up remains of four crematoria--the SS had learnt from Maidanek--and a large compound with 32 burned storage houses. Again, the SS had tried to avoid the embarrassment caused by the 820,000 shoes in Maidanek. And they largely succeeded this time: all that was left in the four storage barracks that were not completely destroyed at Birkenau were a mere 5,525 pairs of women's shoes and 38,000 pairs of men's shoes--and 348,820 men's suits, 836,255 women's garments, 13,964 carpets, 69,848 dishes, huge quantities of toothbrushes, shaving brushes, glasses, crutches, false teeth, and seven tons of hair.
Immediately after the liberation the well-known Russian writer and Pravada correspondent Boris Polevoi wrote a first impression of the camp entitled "The Factory of Death at Auschwitz." Wired from Auschwitz, it appeared in Pravda on February 2. "It will take weeks of long and careful investigations by special commissions before a full picture of the truly unparalleled German outrages at Auschwitz is established," the article began. "What is noted here are only the outlines coming from a first glance acquaintanceship with the site of the monstrous outrages of the Hitlerite hangmen." And this was indeed what the article provided, "a first glance   acquaintenship." Today, more than fifty years later, in an epoch that expects descriptions of the camps to evoke the stark and terrible gentleness of Jean Cayrol's script for Alain Resnais' Night and Fog, or the naturalism of Primo Levi's If This Is A Man?, or the restrained agony of Elie Wiesel's Night, the histrionic language of the Pravda piece seems in bad taste. But it must be remembered that Cayrol wrote his lines ten years after the event, when the landscape of Auschwitz had become peaceful, while Polevoi wrote amidst the atrocity itself.
If Simonov's report on Maidanek had been characterized by utter surprise and shock, Polevoi admitted that he had been prepared for what was to be revealed.
The name of the town "Auschwitz" has long been a synonym for bloody German atrocities in the lexicon of the peoples of the world. Few of its prisoners escaped the fires of its notorious "ovens." From behind the wire of its numerous camps only a phantom echo had filtered of the wails from the lips of its thousands of prisoners. Only now, when the troops of the First Ukrainian Front had liberated Auschwitz, was it possible to see with one's own eyes the entirety of this terrible camp, in which many of its tens of square kilometers of fields were soaked in human blood, and literally fertilized with human ash.222
To the Soviet journalist there was no doubt: Auschwitz was the direct result of Monopoly-Capitalism--a Leitmotif that had been well established almost half a year earlier at the occasion of the liberation of Maidanek, and that went straight back to Karl Marx's analysis of the reduction of human labour into a commodity. But, as Polevoi observed, Auschwitz was in class of its own.
The first thing that strikes one about Auschwitz, and which distinguishes it from other known camps, is its enormous expanse. The territory of the camp occupied tens of square kilometers and in recent years had grown to absorb the towns of Makowice, Babice, and   others. It was an enormous industrial plant, having its own branch facilities, each of which received its own special charge. In one, the processing of the arrivals took place: prisoners were made of those who, before death, could be put to work, while the elderly, the children, and the infirm were sentenced to immediate extermination. In another, a division for those who were so exhausted and worn out as to be barely fit for physical labour, they were assigned the task of sorting the clothes of the exterminated, and of sorting their shoes, taking apart uppers, soles, linings. It is fair to say that all prisoners entering the branches of the industrial plant were to be killed and burned, either by being killed outright or through the many ordeals of confinement.223
Auschwitz, in other words, was a vast corporate enterprise which was unique in so far that it considered its workers to be totally expendable, and that once the labour had ceased to be a commodity, the body became one." Around this industrial plant enormous fields and enclosures were established in the Sola and Vistula river valleys. The remains of the prisoners, burned in the "ovens", had their ash and bones crushed in rolling mills and converted to meal, and this meal went to the fields and enclosures."
Auschwitz! Impartial commissions will establish the precise number of the people killed or tortured to death here. But already we can assert, based on discussions with Poles, that in 1941-1942 and at the beginning of 1943 five to eight trains of people arrived every day, indeed on some days so many came that the station could not handle them.
The people came from the surrounding territories occupied by the Germans, from the USSR, from Poland, from France, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The wagons were tightly packed with people and were always locked. At the station, the Polish railway workers were replaced by a crew from the camp, which included several special railway detachments. The wagons would disappear behind the gates and return empty. In the first four years of the camp's existence the railway workers did not see a single wagon coming   back from the camp carrying people.224
While the information of the Polish railway workers on the number of trains in the early years seem exaggerated--an item of misinformation that can be explained as the result of the fact that Auschwitz was a railway center of more than regional importance--their information about the fact that in the first four years the trains that left Auschwitz were empty seems correct if only because of its implication that in the last year trains left the camp with prisoners. As we know, in the last year of its existence a large number of prisoners who had survived selection left Auschwitz after some days on transports to other camps.225
Then the article turned to the machinery of death.
Last year, when the Red Army revealed to the world the terrible and abominable secrets of Majdanek, the Germans in Auschwitz began to wipe out the traces of their crimes. They levelled the mounds of the so-called "old" graves in the Eastern part of the camp, tore up and destroyed the traces of the electric conveyor belt, on which hundreds of people were simultaneously electrocuted, their bodies falling onto the slow moving conveyor belt which carried them to the top of the blast furnace where they fell in, were completely burned, their bones converted to meal in the rolling mills, and then sent to the surrounding fields. In retreat were taken the special transportable apparatuses for killing children. The stationary gas chambers in the eastern part of the camp were restructured, even little turrets and other architectural embellishments were added so that they would look like innocent garages.
But even so one can see the traces of the murder of millions of people! From the stories of prisoners, liberated by the Red Army, it is not difficult to make out all that the Germans tried so carefully to conceal. This gigantic industrial plant of death was equipped with the last word in fascist technology and was furnished with all of the instruments of   torture which the German monsters could devise.
In the first years of the camp, the Germans maintained only a cottage industry of death: they simply led prisoners to a large open pit, forced them to lie down and shot them in the back of the head. When one layer was full, the next would be forced to lie down head-to-foot on the layer below. And so was filled the second layer, and the third, and the fourth... When the grave was full, to make sure that all of the people were dead, it was raked with submachine gun fire several times, while those for whom there was no room in the grave covered it up. Thus were filled hundreds of enormous pits in the eastern part of the camp, which bore the name of the "old" graves.
The German hangmen, noting the primitiveness of this method of killing, decided to increase the productivity of the industrial plant of death by mechanizing it, leading to the gas chambers, the electric conveyor belt, the construction of the blast furnace for burning bodies and the so-called "ovens."226

In the weeks that followed, forensic investigation was to confirm the existence and use of the gas chambers and the ovens, and relegate the electric conveyer belt and the blast furnace to the realm of myth.227
The article followed with a catalogue of the "ordinary" instruments of torture, and in one   line described the condition of the surviving inmates--"people, so worn out that they swayed like shadows in the wind, people, whose age it was impossible to determine." And it concluded: "The Red Army saved them, and pulled them from hell. They honor the Red Army as the avengers for Auschwitz or Majdanek, and for all the pain and suffering which the fascist hangmen have brought to the people of Europe."228
The same day that Polevoi's article appeared in Pravda, the British weekly The Jewish Chronicle devoted one sentence to the event. "The Red Army has captured Auschwitz(Oswiecim), one of the most notorious of all death camps."229 A week later the same magazine carried a front-page article entitled "Oswiecim Revelations: Worst Death Camp Captured." The article provided a summary of Polevoi's account, and ended with the grim statistic that "it is estimated that over 1,500,000 victims were done to death in Oswiecim, and hundreds of thousands of them were Jews."230
It was from the outset clear that Auschwitz had been the site of a tremendous crime, and that the best way to use it as an indictment of National Socialism was to follow the example taken in Maidanek and establish the truth according to commonly accepted historical and judicial criteria of evidence. Therefore the Prosecutor's Office of the First Ukrainian Front immediately began a preliminary investigation. Like the investigation of Maidanek, it operated under the aegis of the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission for the Investigation of Fascist and Nazi Crimes. The investigators inspected the grounds of the camp, the pits containing human remains, and the ruins of the crematoria. They were assisted in the examination of the latter structures by Professor Roman Dawidowski, a specialist in heating and combustion technology from Cracow. Furthermore they studied the extermination process, and the remaining loot. Physicians   medically examined 2,819 former inmates, and conducted autopsies on the corpses of 536 prisoners, and members of the Prosecutor's Office interviewed 200 of the remaining prisoners. They were fortunate in that they were able to interview three surviving members of the Sonderkommando. Until the end the Germans had kept some 100 Sonderkommando around: 30 to run Crematorium V, and 70 to clean out the incineration pits used in the summer of 1944. These 100 Sonderkommando were marched out of the camp on January 18, but Alain Feinsilber (alias Stanislaw Jankowski), Szlama Dragon and Henryk Tauber were able to escape, and the last two returned in time to Oswiecim to give evidence to the Soviets. Dragon also remembered the location where his fellow Sonderkommando Salmen Gradowski had buried a journal, written in Yiddish,in an aluminium canteen.231 The canteen was dug up in the presence of the members of the Prosecutors office. It contained a 81-leave notebook and a letter, dated September 6,1944. Significant parts of the journal, which he had begun before his transport to Auschwitz, had become unintelligible. However the letter was preserved perfectly. For the record, here it is quoted in full.
I was writing this at the time when I was in the "Sonderkommando." I had been brought from the camp at Kielbasin near Grodno. I wanted to leave this as also other numerous notes as memento for the future world of peace, so that it may learn what had happened here. I have buried this under the ashes deeming it the safest place, where people will certainly dig to find the traces of millions of men who were exterminated.
But lately they have begun obliterating the traces and everywhere, where there was much ash, they ordered to have it ground fine and to cart it away to the Vistula and to let it flow with the current. We have dug up many graves and now two such open graves are in the terrain of the second and third crematorium. Several graves are still full of ashes.   Perhaps they had forgotten about them or they themselves had maybe concealed it from the higher authorities, why, the order was: to obliterate all traces as quickly as possible; so, by not carrying out that order, they desisted from it.
Thanks to that there are still two large graves left with ashes on the terrain of the second and third crematorium. Masses of ashes [from burnt corpses] of hundreds of thousands of Jews, Russians, Poles, were strewn and ploughed in on the sites of the crematoria. In the area of the fourth and fifth crematorium there are also small quantities of ash. There it was at once ground and taken to the Vistula, because all that area was destined for "burning the bridge"!!!
The notebook and other notes have lain in the graves, getting saturated with the blood of not always entirely burnt bones and pieces of flesh. One can recognize the odour at once.
Dear finder, search everywhere, in every inch of soil. Tens of documents are buried under it, mine and those of other persons, which will throw light on everything that was happening here. Great quantities of teeth are also buried here. It was we, the Kommando workers, who expressly have strewn them all over the terrain, as many as we could, so that the world should find material traces of the millions of murdered people. We ourselves have lost hope of being able to live to see the moment of liberation. In spite of good news that reaches us, we see that the world gives the barbarians the opportunity of destruction on an immense scale and of tearing out with roots the last remainder of the Jewish nation. Under our eyes tens of thousands of Jews from the Czech and Slovakian regions are now perishing. Those Jews could have certainly lived to see freedom. But everywhere where danger approaches the barbarians, from every place which they have to leave, they take the remnants of Jews still alive and bring them to Birkenau-Auschwitz or to Stutthof near Gdansk. This is known thanks to the reports of persons who had come from there to us, too.
We, the "Sonderkommando," had long since wanted to put a stop to our horrible work which we were forced to do under threat of death. We wanted to do great things. But people from the camp, a section of the Jews, Russians and Poles, have restrained us with all might and have forced us to put off the date of the mutiny. That day is approaching. It may happen today or tomorrow. I am writing these words in a moment of   the greatest danger and excitement. May the future judge us on the base of my notes and may the world see in them, if only one drop, the minimum, of this tragic world amidst which we had lived.
September 6,1944.
Salmen Gradowski.232
The uprising, which had been originally planned to happen in June, occurred one month later, on October 7,1944. Gradowski was one of the leaders of the revolt. The uprising failed. The Germans captured and tortured Gradowski, and crushed his skull.233
The notebook that accompanied the letter contained a detailed description of Gradowski's deportation to Auschwitz. He described how tension mounted in the train when it passed Bialystok on its way to Warsaw.
The train accelerated its motion. Everyone plunged again into an atmosphere of absolute despondency. The sadness grew with every kilometre and with every kilometre the emptiness became greater. What happened? Here we are approaching the ill-famed station of Treblinka,234" so tragic for the Jews, where, according to information which had filtered through to us, the majority of Poles and Jews from abroad were swallowed up and wiped out. Everyone is looking through the small windows and is searching for something in   silence. They will, maybe, notice something, find some sign which would tell them the truth. Somebody, perhaps, would stand in the road and would tell them whither they are being led and what is awaiting them. Oh, how horrible!235

The train passes two women who make a gesture across their throat. Then the train begins to slow down.
The train has stopped, two thousand five hundred persons held their breaths. Teeth were chattering with fright and hearts were beating like mad. This great human mass, bathed in deadly sweat, is awaiting the coming minutes. Each second is an eternity, each second--a step nearer to death. All have grown numb in the expectation of satan's hand, reaching out, which will soon snatch them with its claws and will hurl them into this abyss. The whistle awakened them from their torpor. The train wrenched itself free of death and continued on; its route. Mothers are kissing their children, husbands are kissing their wives. Tears of joy are shed, all have wakened to live and have heaved sighs of relief. A fresh surge of hopeful thoughts has mastered everyone. The belief that all these versions are untrue has begun to be strengthened. The fear is slowly fading away, the fright is vanishing. There is no foundation for all the bad news and anticipations. They are the result and the echo of some single horrible happening but not of mass phenomena. You can therefore notice now how everybody has plucked up his courage, deeming they were taken to live, perhaps to live a hard life, but still a life.236

In the end, their optimism proved without foundation. After a gruelling journey, the train stopped in Auschwitz, and the passengers were subjected to selection.
Men have to stand separately, women separately. This order came like a thunderclap upon   all. Now, when one is standing at the last stage, when one has come to the journey's end, one is ordered to separate, to cleave that which is indissoluble, which has been united and has grown into one inseparable whole. Nobody stirs from the spot, not being able to believe that which is unbelievable. It is not possible for something unreal to become real, a fact. But a rain of blows which the foremost ranks of people standing there had felt acted so that even in the farther ranks families had begun to separate.[...] It was thought that the formal procedure had begun of establishing the exact number of newcomers, both sexes separately. It was felt that the most important was approaching, when necessity arose to solace one another and to raise one another's spirits. The strength of indissoluble family ties was still felt. Here are two persons standing, the husband on one side, the wife and the child on the other. Older people are standing, an old father and opposite the mother, weak already. Brothers are standing there, looking in the direction of their dear sisters. Nobody knows what is going to happen next.237
Gradowski described how men who tried to cross over to the women's line were beaten up, and driven back, and how in the separation all the hope that had sustained them throughout their ordeal in the ghetto and the transit camp at Kielbasin was destroyed. "The thought of staying together with the family, this opiate, which had kept up their spirits on the journey, has all at once stopped to act."238 Lorries came up to transport the old people, the women and children.239 Gradowski was admitted into the camp.
 
We are here in a camp of death. It is a lifeless island. Man does not come here to live but to die, sooner or later. There is no room for life here. It is the residence of death. Our brain has grown dull, the thoughts are numbed, it is not possible to grasp this new language. Everyone is meditating on where his family is. Where were they driven and how will they manage in the new conditions? Who knows how the mortally frightened children will behave seeing how their mothers are being maltreated?[...] All are standing helpless, worried, full of despair, lonesome, unhappy, broken.
Bunks are being assigned. They are beds of boards, each for five, six numbers jointly. We are told to climb into them, to push in so far that only the head should be seen. Get inside as far as possible, you accursed man! You won't be able to see each other. The old camp inmates come to the bunks and ask how many were left in the lager and what was the strength of the transport. We are unable to grasp the meaning of such questions. Of what significance is [the list] of these numbers? Where are those who left us driving away in lorries? They regard us with cynical smiles and heavy sighs escape their lips. This is the sign of human compassion with us. Among the camp inmates of long standing there was one from our [transit] camp who had come with the former transport we knew nothing about till now and lost all trace of it. We thought he would inform us about the fate of those men, would show us some trace from "the country of Yekes" [Germany ]. But what does this man tell us! What does he have to say!? The heart trembles. It makes our hair stand on end. Listen to what he is saying, "My dears, we have passed the same road as you did [...] Those, who drove away in lorries, were led to death at once and those who went on foot also went to meet death--for some after a longer time of torture, for others after a shorter time."240
The journal recovered in March did not contain descriptions of Gradowski's work as a Sonderkommando. In the Summer of 1945 a Pole found a second manuscript by Gradowski. He gave it to an Oswiecim native Chaim Walnerman, who took it with him to Israel, to publish it in the 1970s under the title In the Heart of Hell (I have been unable to trace a copy of this text within   Canada). According to Nathan Cohen, the second manuscripts provides detailed descriptions of the murder of the inmates of the so-called family camp, and the incineration of their remains.241
Remarkable as the discovery of Gradowski's journal was, and the other gruesome discoveries the Soviet commission made, the Soviets chose not to use the camp as a major destination for foreign journalists. In August 1944, nothing much was happening on the front--in fact the Soviet armies had halted their advance in order to allow the Germans to crush the Warsaw uprising--and not only were many correspondents available to visit Maidanek, the concentration camp even provided a convenient decoy to detract western attention from the Soviet betrayal of the Polish underground army. Auschwitz was liberated just before the Yalta Conference. Exactly at the time that news of the liberation of Auschwitz reached Moscow, the allied leaders were gathered in the Crimea, and most western correspondents were there to cover the world-historical gathering. The moment the conference was over, they returned to the front to report on the enormous offensive which was to end with the conquest of Berlin. There was too much to cover, and the liberation of "another Maidanek" a couple of weeks earlier was not merely "old news," but also of considerable less interest than, for example, the conquest of the industrial area of Upper Silesia, the siege of Breslau, the surrender of Danzig, or the crossing of the Oder river.
Only in April, in the very last weeks of the war, did the concentration camps return to the frontpages of the press. With the liberation of Bergen-Belsen by British troops, and the liberation of Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and Dachau by the American army, for the first time large groups of western observers confronted the horrors of the camps, and within days pictures of mountains of emaciated corpses and starved inmates filled the newspapers and airwaves. The BBC program "War Report" aired on April 19 Richard Dimbleby's report from Bergen-Belsen.
I picked my way over corpse after corpse in the gloom, until I heard one voice raised above the gentle undulating moaning. I found a girl, she was a living skeleton, impossible to gauge her age for she had practically no hair left, and her face was only a yellow   parchment sheet with two holes in it for eyes. She was stretching out her stick of an arm and gasping something, it was "English, English, medicine, medicine," and she was trying to cry but she hadn't enough strength. And beyond her down the passage and in the hut there were the convulsive movements of dying people too weak to raise themselves from the floor.
In the shade of some trees lay a great collection of bodies. I walked about them trying to count, there were perhaps 150 of them flung down on each other, all naked, all so thin that their yellow skin glistened like stretched rubber on their bones. Some of the poor starved creatures whose bodies were there looked so utterly unreal and inhuman that I could have imagined that they never lived at all. They were like polished skeletons, the skeletons that medical students like to play practical jokes with.242
"The British and Americans hailed the liberation of the camps as a proper and fitting capstone to their war effort," Jon Bridgman wrote in his recent The End of the Holocaust.
From the very beginning they had proclaimed that they were fighting against the evil of Naziism which if triumphed would usher in "a new Dark Age made more sinister by perverted science" [Churchill]. Liberation provided overwhelming evidence that the "New Dark Age" was no mere figure of speech. The deaths in battle of American and British soldiers were then invested with a kind of sanctity: after the opening of the camps who could say that they had died in vain?243
With the liberation of the western camps, the name Auschwitz became once more of interest. Many of the surviving inmates in Belsen and Buchenwald had arrived there relatively recently, having been evacuated in January from Auschwitz. As journalists began to interview the   survivors, they heard again and again that Belsen and Buchenwald had not been the worst. "The worst camps were those at Auschwitz, in Silesia, and Lublin, Poland where many of Buchenwald residents had been at one time or another,"244 the American journalist Helen Kirkpatrick noted. A correspondent of the Polish Telegraph Agency, who had witnessed the liberation of Buchenwald, also cabled to his head office in London that, for all its apparent horrors, "Buchenwald is not among the worst of the concentration camps. It was a camp of slow death, of death by exhaustion, sickness and hunger." And he quoted one of the liberated prisoners, who had also been an inmate in Auschwitz, that "by comparison with Oswiecim, Buchenwald was a paradise."245 The American intelligence officer Saul K.Padover, who visited the camp shortly after liberation, recorded how he met among the prisoners a Polish high-school teacher from Kattowitz, located at some 30 miles from Auschwitz.
He had been through many camps, including the murder factory of Auschwitz(Oswiecim) where three million people, the majority of them Jewish men and women and children were gassed and then burned to death. The Pole, a Catholic, told it in a breaking voice, and as he talked he became hysterical and I had to put my hand on his shoulders to restrain him. "I saw them murder the Jews. God Almighty, do you know what it means to see human beings burned to death? They were God's children, like us. God's children, like everybody, except the Germans."246
On April 20, Radio Luxembourg's German-language "Story of the Day," prepared by a small group of German exiles serving the American army, carried an interview with an Auschwitz   survivor who had been evacuated earlier that year first to Buchenwald and finally to in Ohrdruf.
Q.: "You were in the concentration camp Auschwitz?"
A.: "Yes, I was in Auschwitz since June 30,1944. Since then I was also for a shorter time in the concentration camps Buchenwald and Ohrdruf. I escaped with three comrades from Ohrdruf and was able to reach the American lines.
Q.: "Can you tell us something more about Auschwitz?"
A.: "Auschwitz was an extermination camp built by the Nazis. There between 12,000 and 20,000 people were killed on a daily basis."
Q.: "Between 12,000 and 20,000?"
A.: "Yes. One can say with certainty that the Nazis killed more people in Auschwitz and the other concentration camps than have fallen during this whole war at the frontlines."
Q.: "Can you tell us how this terrible mass-extermination took place?"
A.: "Every day some transports arrived in Auschwitz, each of between 2,000 and 3,000 people. At their arrival they were divided into two groups: men and women. Each of these two groups was again subdivided into two. In the one group were those above 50 years old, and those who the SS doctors deemed to be unfit for work. In the other group were the younger and stronger people. Those who belonged to the group of over 50-year olds--and to this group also belonged the small children and mothers who did not want to be separated from their children --were immediately killed."
Q.: "In what manner?"
A.: "In Auschwitz were four enormous crematoria. Those condemned to death were led into these crematoria, had to undress themselves, and were gassed in a hall that was hermetically sealed. Then the corpses were incinerated in the same crematorium. The crematoria worked day and night. During the day heavy clouds of smoke hang over the camp, and by night the flames of the crematoria gave the camp a sinister glare. One could not escape the smell of burnt flesh."247
The name "Auschwitz" turned up again and again. Members of the British Parliament,   who had visited Buchenwald on invitation of General Eisenhower, were quoted in The Times of April,28 that "[o]ne of the statements made to us most frequently by prisoners was that conditions in other camps, particularly those in Eastern Europe, were far worse than at Buchenwald."
The worst camp of all was said by many to be at Auschwitz; these men all insisted on showing us their Auschwitz camp numbers, tattooed in blue on their left forearms.248
As the British Members of Parliament drafted their report, a special intelligence team of the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces, headed by Lieutenant Albert G. osenberg, was busy interviewing former inmates in an effort to document the atrocities. They were assisted by a group of prisoners, headed by the Austrian journalist and economist Dr. Eugen Kogon. The team interviewed some 150 people, and gathered in the process a number of important testimonies about Auschwitz and other extermination camps in the East. It is important to note that, at the time that Rosenberg, Kogon and their colleagues took these testimonies, the Soviet commission had not yet published its results. One of witnesses was a fifteen-year old girl Janda Weiss, who had been deported to Birkenau a year earlier with a transport of 1,500 Jews from Theresienstadt.
Out of 1,500 people the camp doctor, SS Captain [Josef] Mengele, selected ninety-eight. I was among the "strong." We immediately went into the camp; the rest of the family camp were gassed. In camp I became a helper in the kitchen. I visited the barracks of the Jewish work detail, which worked in the crematorium. These comrades told me about the horrors of the crematorium, where I would later work. After May 19 [1944] the Hungarian transports began arriving, with around 7,000 people daily.
I will now describe the crematoriums and the transports. At the station 2,000 people got off the trains. They had to throw away all their luggage. Afterward the men   and women were divided into two groups, at which the larger boys were assigned to the group with the men. Then the great devourer of Jews, Mengele, drove by in a car, seeking out the strongest from each transport. They numbered around thirty out of 2,000. The remainder were led away by SS Technical Sergeant Moll, the officer of the crematorium. The elderly were loaded onto dump trucks and then dumped into burning trenches while still alive. The remainder were led into the gas chambers. Meanwhile new transports were arriving.
In front of the gas chamber was a dressing room. On its walls was written in all languages: "Put shoes into the cubbyholes and tie them together so you will not lose them. After the showers you will receive hot coffee." Here the poor victims undressed themselves and went into the chamber. There were three columns for the ventilators, through which the gas poured in. A special work detail with truncheons drove the people into the chamber. When the room was full, small children were thrown in through a window. Moll grabbed infants by their little legs and smashed their skulls against the wall. Then the gas was let into the chamber. The lungs of the victims slowly burst, and after three minutes a loud clamoring could be heard. Then the chamber was opened, and those who still showed signs of life were beaten to death.
The prisoners of the special work details (Sonderkommandos) then pulled the corpses out, took their rings off, and cut their hair, which was gathered up, put in sacks, and shipped to factories. Then they arranged the corpses in piles of ten each. After Moll had counted them, they were taken to the ovens, or if the crematoriums were insufficient, thrown into fire trenches....
Once an Italian woman, a dancer, was brought to the crematorium. That drunken pig, the roll call officer Schillinger, ordered her to dance naked. She took advantage of a favorable moment, came near him, grabbed his pistol away from him, and shot him down.249 In the exchange of gunfire that followed, the SS won of course. Once Moll took a family of six. First he shot the youngest in the presence of the rest, then he shot the older   ones and finally the father and the mother. Thousands of women with shaved heads asked about their children and husbands. I lied to thousands of women, telling them that there loved ones were still alive, even though I knew very well that they were dead.250
The German Jew Walter Blass testified that Jews were not only subjected to selection on arrival. This procedure was also a regular occurrence for those imprisoned in the camp.
Selection--that was a terrifying word for every Jew in Auschwitz. It hung like the sword of damocles over each Jew. All Jews who were injured at work or in bomb attacks, who had wounds (and how many flesh wounds there were!) or skin rashes, who had fever or malaria, who were afflicted by typhus, as well as the great number of undernourished, called "Muslims" [Muselmänner]--all, all of them, were murdered.
Selections occurred at irregular intervals, sometimes after two or three months, then after four to five months, then again, as in January 1944, twice within two weeks. These last selections alone took from the men's camps B II d in Birkenau 1,200 victims each, out of about 4,000 Jews, so around two-thirds of the Jewish prisoners were liquidated. At this time there were in Auschwitz and the immediate vicinity around thirty camps for men and two camps for women with varied number of prisoners. A total of 40 percent of the men and 60 to 70 percent of the women were murdered in January [1944].
If the SS doctor came with his staff, the cards had to be quickly altered ("non-Aryans" became "Aryans"). Jews had to undress completely and were quickly observed front to rear. Then, according to whim, they were sent to the right to record the prisoner number tattooed on the arm; that meant the death sentence. Or they were sent to the left, that is, back to the barracks; that meant a prolongation of life.
When the "action" had been completed in the entire camp, those selected for death by gassing were transferred to the gassing barracks. There they were placed under especially strict guard, since they were "condemned to death." Often they remained there for two to three days, usually without food, since they were already considered to be   "disposed of" [abgesetzt]. They remained in the throes of death, a death only these totally depraved Nazi beasts could think of.251
The interest in the camps generated by Belsen and Buchenwald and the various references appearing in the western press to Auschwitz offered the Polish government-in-exile a good opportunity to present the atrocities of Auschwitz to the western public. The first substantial report to appear after the liberation of Auschwitz was entitled "Polish Women in German Concentration Camps," and it was published in the May 1,1945 issue of the Polish Fortnightly Review. The article consisted of two eye-witness testimonies, some statistics, and a note on medical experiments in the women's camp. The first testimony was entitled "An Eye-Witnesses's Account of the Women's Camp at Oswiecim-Brzezinka (Birkenau)--Autumn,1943,to Spring,1944," and like all the other articles published in The Polish Fortnightly Review, it was anonymous. It is, however, clear that it was written shortly after the beginning of the Hungarian Action.252
At the outset I want to say that the details given below are strictly true and authentic. They are not dictated by any desire for propaganda, by hatred, or by love of exaggeration. On the contrary, instead of making the picture more glaring, I shall try to tone it down, to make it more credible. For the reality I have to write about is so horrible that it is difficult to believe it. Yet it is reality, and believe my words as you would believe someone returned from the dead.253
The report began with some figures. At the time the author escaped, the serial numbers of new inmates had gone up in the 80,000s, of whom some 65,000 had died. Most of the dead were   Jewish women. Then the account discussed the conditions of work, the food, distinguishing marks, the camp administration, and a description of the physical lay-out of the camp itself.
Health and strength, honour and life--it is not sufficient to deprive the prisoners of these in order to consummate the work of dehumanizing them: the prisoners must be robbed of their heart. Perhaps the greatest torment of a stay in the camp was the sight of the terrible tragedy of the Jews, which was open to all the camp to see. In Brzezinka there were six "chimneys," or crematoria.254 They were never idle. Not an evening passes without the prisoners seeing flames leaping out of the broad chimneys, sometimes to a height of thirty feet. Not a day passes without heavy billows of smoke pouring from them. The cremating of the bodies of those who die in the camp is only a small part of the crematoria's functions. They are intended for the living rather than the dead. And every day trains draw into the camp along the sideline bringing Jews from Bulgaria, Greece, Rumania, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Poland, and until recently, from Russia.255 The trains bring men, women and children, and old people. Ten per cent of the women in each train are sent to the camp are given a number tattooed on them, a star on their clothing, and the numbers of those in the camp are thus increased. The others are sent straight to the gas chamber. The scenes which take place there defy all powers of description. But as ten per cent of the transports are brought to the camp amount to over thirty thousand Jewish women, what is the total figure of the victims whom the crematoria have consumed? It is terrible to think, terrible to watch when lorries pass through the Lagerstrasse, carrying four thousand children under ten years of age (children from the ghetto in Terezin in Bohemia) to their death. Some of them are weeping and calling   "mummy," others were laughing at the passers by and waving their hands. Fifteen minutes later not one of them was left alive, and the gas-stupefied little bodies were burning in the horrible furnaces. But who will believe that this is true? Yet I swear that it was so, calling on the living and the dead as my witnesses.256
The second account only dealt with the living conditions in Birkenau, and this was followed by a table showing the monthly gassing rate of registered inmates in the women's camp for 1943. The average number was a little over 1,600 persons per month.257
On May 6 units of the American army liberated a concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. One of the inmates was the 43-year-old painter David Olère. Born in Warsaw, Olère had moved to Paris is 1923 where he found work making posters and designing film sets. Arrested in February 1943, he had been deported to Auschwitz on March 2 of that year. He was assigned to the Sonderkommando of crematorium 3. A fellow Sonderkommando Don Paisikovic recalled after the war that among the few Sonderkommando who were not gassed was "a Parisian Jew named 'Oler.'"
He was an artist and during the whole time that I knew the commando, his only task was to do paintings for the SS. He was excused from all other work of the Sonderkommando. We knew that apart from the exceptions mentioned, all the detainees of the ex-Sonderkommando were gassed.258
Olère lived in the attic of crematorium 3, and observed both the building and its operation.
After his liberation Olère returned home to Paris. There he began to draw his memories:   over 50 sketches done in 1945 and 1946. These sketches remained unknown until they were first exhibited in 1976. They provide a very important visual record of the design and operation of the gas chamber and the incinerators of crematorium 3, made before information about that building was published. The first two architectural sketches that are of great importance are pen drawings dated 1945 and 1946, and are "cleaned up" versions of pencil sketches made in 1945. One of them, done in 1945, provides a plan of crematorium 3, the second, done in 1946, a section.259 The plan is a composite of the basement level with the underground undressing room and the gas chamber which jotted out beyond the footprint of the building (left), and the ground floor with the incineration room with the 15 cremation ovens, the chimney, incinerator for identity papers, the coke store, and the SS guard rooms. Arrows indicate the functional relationship between the various rooms from the undressing room (1) people went through the vestibule (2)to the gas chamber (3)to be killed. SS men overseeing the operation could enter the basement by a separate stairway connecting to the yard(13). After the gassing Sonderkommando moved the bodies to the elevator (4)which ascended to open into the incineration room (5), where other Sonderkommando filled the 15 incineration muffles of the ovens (0). The coke was brought with a truck running on a rails from the coke store(11) to the back of the ovens (0).Through five underground flues the smoke left the ovens to;the massive chimney (7) Olère's plan is fully corroborated by the plans that were found by the Russians in the building of the Central Construction Office, and which will be discussed below. One detail of particular importance which cannot be found on the blueprints recovered from the Auschwitz building archive is the staggered arrangement of the four hollow wire-mesh columns (marked 10) in the gas chamber (marked 3) through which the Zyklon-B was inserted into the room. As we will see below, there are various eye-witness accounts of these hollow columns, but they do not appear in the original blueprints as they were only added to the building shortly before completion. Olère's staggered arrangement is confirmed by air photos of Birkenau taken by the Americans on August 25,1944, and can be explained by assuming that these wire-mesh columns were attached on the west side of the first and fifth structural column that supported the roof of the gas chamber, and on the east       side of the third and seventh structural column.
The corresponding section, drawn in 1946,is a complex drawing that shows much information in an economical manner. At the underground level Olère depicted the undressing room to the west or left (marked A), with on the extreme left the staircase that provided the principal access to this space. As the undressing room was not equipped with a ventilation system built-in the walls, it was equipped with metal ventilation ducts that were suspended from the ceiling. Olère also depicts the benches and the clothing hooks. To the east or right of undressing room is the vestibule with the corpse elevator to the ground floor (C), and the gas chamber (D). In order to represent the gas chamber, which projected outwards to the north of the building at the back, and would have been hidden by the vestibule, Olère defied convention and turned it 90° from a south-north to a west-east axis, so that it is depicted under the incineration room (which had no basement). The most important information contained in this part of the drawing are the four hollow wire-mesh columns(E). For the section of the incineration hall Olère turned the five triple-muffle ovens 180° so that the muffles are visible. Important details are also to forced-air blowers to the side of each furnace,and;the coal truck which supplied the back of the furnaces with coal, while the corpses were loaded on the front.
In a number of other sketches, Olère provided additional information about crematorium 3. One drawing from 1945 shows crematorium 3 from the outside, with people filing into the compound from the road along the tracks, moving towards the end of the undressing room. A second sketch, dated 1946, shows the interior of the undressing room, with the benches, hooks, and the ventilation system. A third drawing shows the interior of the gas chamber with Sonderkommando collecting gold teeth and the hair of the women. In the back is depicted one of the hollow wire-mesh columns. Finally a fourth drawing shows the incineration hall with at the back, the corpse elevator that connects the basement level to the ground floor. The information in all of these drawings were to be corroborated in the testimony of the Sonderkommando Henryk Tauber(see below)and the blueprints found in the Central Construction Office (see below). None of these drawings could have been made on the basis of published material, as it was simply not available at the time.
Two other drawings are of interest. One, dated 1945 shows bunker 2--a peasant cottage             transformed into a gas chamber in 1942, taken out of commission in 1943, and brought back into operation during the Hungarian Action. In shows not only bunker 2, but also the undressing barrack in its correct position vis-a-vis the cottage. Of particular interest is the small window in the side of the cottage with the heavy wooden shutter. This was the opening through which the SS introduced the Zyklon-B into the room. The same way of introducing the gas was adopted in crematoria 4 and 5, and not only the plans, elevations and photographs of the crematoria show these openings, but three of these shutters still survive, and are presently stored in the coke room of crematorium 1. Even in its details, Olère's drawing is supported by surviving material evidence.
The second drawing depicts the execution of women and children at the edge of an incineration pit behind crematorium 5. It shows, to the left, crematorium 5 depicted again archaeologically correct, with to the far end the higher shed with the incineration rooms with the two chimneys, and closer to the main scene the lower wing with the gas chambers. Olère depicted again one of the small windows with the heavy wooden shutters. Drawn from memory, the elevation of the gas chamber is not perfect: the short side contained in reality a door and two of these Zyklon-B insertion points. But in its essentials Olère's representation is correct: the crematorium was a higher shed with two chimneys to which was attached a lower wing with small highly placed windows closed with heavy shutters.
On the same day that the Americans liberated Olère, May 6, 1945, the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission for the Investigation of Fascist and Nazi Crimes issued its findings, which were made available to the press a day later by the Soviet News Agency Tass.260 The Soviet Embassy in         Washington D.C. published the English version of the whole report on May 29, 1945 under the lengthy title "Statement of the Extraordinary State Committee For the Ascertaining and Investigation of Crimes Committed by the German-fascist Invaders and Their Associates On Crimes Committed by the German-fascist Invaders in the Oswiecim Death Camp." The report began with the statement that, on the basis of the interviews with the former inmates, study of German documents found, and inspection of the remains of the crematoria, the commission had come to the conclusion that
One: By execution, starvation, poisoning, and monstrous tortures, the Germans annihilated in Oswiecim camp more than four million citizens of the Soviet Union, Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary and other countries.
Two: German professors and doctors conducted in the camp so-called medical experiments on living men, women and children.
Three: In the degree of premeditation, technical organization, and mass scale and cruelty of murder, the Oswiecim camp leaves far behind all German camps known hitherto.
The Oswiecim camp had gas chambers, a crematorium, and crematoria, surgical departments and laboratories--all designed for the monstrous annihilation of people. The Germans called the gas chambers "special purpose baths." On the entrance to the "bath" was written "For Disinfection," and at the exit "Entrance to the baths." People earmarked for annihilation thus unsuspectingly entered the premises for disinfection, undressed and from there were herded into the special purpose bath--that is, into the gas chambers where they were wiped out by cyclone poison.
Special hospitals, surgical wings, histological laboratories and other installations were established in the camp not to heal people, but to kill them. German professors and doctors carried out wholesale experiments on perfectly healthy men, women and children in these institutions. They conducted experiments in sterilizing women and castrating men   and boys, in infecting large numbers of people with cancer, typhus and malaria, conducting observations upon them; they tested the action of poisons on them.261
Following these introductory paragraphs, the report presented the issues raised in greater detail. First of all it provided a short account of the development of the camp, in which it gave prominence to the role of the firm Topf & Sons, suppliers of incineration equipment. The report mentioned that the Soviets had recovered a large correspondence between Topf and the camp administration, and it printed two letters as evidence--letters which, in the translation from German to Russian, and back to German, lost some of their original meaning.
I.A. Topf & Sons Erfurt February 12, 1943. Central Construction SS and Police, Auschwitz (Oswiecim) Re: Crematoriums Two and Three of camp for war prisoners.
We confirm receipt of your telegram of February 10 of the following content: We again confirm receipt of your order for five triple muffle furnaces, including two electric lifts for hoisting corpses and one temporary lift for corpses. Also ordered are a practical device for feeding coal, and a device for transporting ashes. You have to deliver complete installation for crematorium No.3. We expect you to take all steps for immediate shipment of all machines and parts. Installation must absolutely begin functioning on April 10,1943.
I.A. Topf and Sons. No. 12, 115/42/er/na 2
With regard to the installation of two triple muffle ovens; one each for the "special   purpose baths," engineer Pruefer has proposed taking them from furnaces prepared for shipment to Mogilev. The head of the Service Section of the SS Economic Administration of the Central Department in Berlin was immediately notified of this and requested to issue further instruction.
SS-Untersturmführer (S) Oswiecim, August 21, 1942. 262
A page-long description followed of the gas chambers and incinerators. The report estimated that the Germans were able to kill and burn between 10,000 and 12,000 people per day--that is between 8,000 and 10,000 arriving deportees and between 2,000 and 3,000 inmates. It quoted surviving Sonderkommando Dragon and Tauber, and repeated the assertion that the crematoria could incinerate between 10,000 and 12,000 corpses per day.
The next parts of the report considered various issues: 1. the medical experiments; 2. the constant arrivals of transports from all over Europe --between three to five trains a day, each carrying between 1,500 and 3,000 deportees. The Germans selected from each train between 300 and 500 for work, and killed the remainder; 3. the exploitation of labour at IG Farben in such a way that people were completely expendable in a terrible "moving belt of death "; 4. the murder of hundreds of thousands of children; 5. the liquidation of intellectuals and scientists from all over Europe. 6. the mass plunder of possessions of the deportees: the report included an accurate accounting of the remaining loot found in the camp--348,820 men's suits, 836,255 women's coats and dresses, 5,525 women's shoes, 38,000 men's shoes, 13,964 carpets and so on--apart from seven railway wagons filled with another 514,843 garments ready for shipment to Germany, and 293 bags with women's hair weighing 7,000 kilos, and having probably belonged to 140,000 women.
The penultimate section of the report dealt with the German attempt to obliterate the traces of their crimes by destroying all documents concerning the number of people put to death in the Auschwitz camp. Yet the commission determined, on the basis of the remains of the   crematoria, the testimonies of prisoners and other witnesses, and various documents that millions of people were annihilated, poisoned and burned in Auschwitz. Most important in their determination of the number of victims was their assessment of the capacity of the crematoria. Crematorium 1, so it was estimated, had had a monthly incineration capacity of 9,000 corpses. Having been in operation for 24 months, it was assumed that it had had a burning capacity of 216,000 bodies. Crematoria 2 and 3 were estimated to each have had a monthly capacity of 90,000 corpses. As they had been in operation for 19 and 18 months, they would have been able to incinerate together a total of 3,330,000 corpses. Crematoria 4 and 5 were estimated at 45,000 bodies per month, and as they had been in function for 17 and 18 months, they had together over that time a cremation capacity of 1,575,000 bodies. In total the five crematoria would have been able to burn, at least in theory, 5,121,000 bodies. Added to that was an extra capacity provided by the pyres.
Making allowances for possible undercapacity operation of the crematoriums and stoppages, however, the Commission of technical experts established that during the existence of the Oswiecim camp the German executioners killed in it no less than four million citizens of the USSR., Poland, France, Jugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Holland, Belgium, and other countries.263
The report ended with putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the German government.
 
The Soviet investigation done by the Prosecution Office of the First Ukrainian Front had been short, and hurried, as the Army Group to which it belonged was at the time involved in heavy fighting: the conquest of Silesia, the siege of Breslau, and the final "Battle for Berlin" had a substantially higher priority than a forensic investigation in what quickly became the army rear. Yet, compared to the Polevoi account, the new report heralded an important step forward, and Polevoi's description of an extermination machine, that consisted of an "electric conveyor belt, on which hundreds of people were simultaneously electrocuted, their bodies falling onto the slow moving conveyor belt which carried them to the top of the blast furnace where they fell in," was relegated to the dustbin of history. In general, the description of the operation of the camp and the life of the inmates was to be confirmed by the more careful investigations of the ensuing years.
Yet the report contained one very monumental error: the assertion that at least four million people had been murdered at Auschwitz. This figure was based on what was an admittedly quick and crude calculation of the supposed incineration capacity of the crematoria. Yet there were also other factors that influenced this assessment. Most importantly of all, the forensic investigation in Auschwitz was done in the wake of the publication of the Maidanek report, and according to the latter the Germans had killed about 1.5 million people in Maidanek. As we have seen it would take two years before this figure was revised downward to 360,000 victims. In 1945 Maidanek provided the measurestick to estimate the number of victims of Auschwitz, and in every aspect the latter camp was considerably larger. The six completed compounds of Maidanek held 144 barracks; the main compounds of Birkenau held more than twice that number, to which could be added the camp at Auschwitz I, the camp at Monowitz, and the many satellite camps. In Maidanek the crematorium had five ovens; the four crematoria in Birkenau had nine times as many. Given these statistics, the commission, without any substantial data about the number of transports that had arrived at the camp, was inclined to see the number of victims as a multiple of that of Maidanek.264
 
The response to the revelation was limited. There were many other things on people's minds. In the West, the main news concerned the collapse and official surrender of the German Reich, the chaos everywhere, and the political re-arrangement of Europe. As far as the concentration camps were concerned, attention remained focussed on the camps liberated by the English and the Americans--most specifically Bergen Belsen and Dachau. While striking visual material from these camps and the deeply emotional observations of journalists and soldiers continued to remain directly available to the media, the English-language version of the Soviet report contained only one small picture showing a close-up of the bodies of Auschwitz victims.
While the media turned their backs to the camps to report on the issues of the day, serious forensic investigations at Auschwitz acquired momentum. The camp became one of the chief objects of study by the Polish Central Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. The commission, fashioned after the model of the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission, was given responsibility for producing a full account of all the Nazi crimes in Poland. Judging its work by today's standards, one must admit that it tried to establish historical truth with remarkable scholarly professionalism and following due legal form. In the foreword to the publication of the first reports, the commission took justifiable pride in the fact that they had worked "according to the principles which are valid in all judicial proceedings--i.e. impartiality, proper caution in collecting evidence, and careful verification of witnesses 'statements." As to the reports themselves, the commission stated that "only data of unquestioned evidential value were considered fit for publication."265
The commission applied a great transparency of method, and a general willingness to state the limitations of knowledge. In the case of Treblinka the commission admitted that "an accurate calculation of the number of victims is at present impossible."
It will remembered that Treblinka ceased its activities in the autumn of 1943, so that the   German authorities had enough time to wipe the traces of their crimes. The most reliable method of counting the number of victims is by counting the number of trainloads. The figures based on the dimensions of the gas chambers give no guarantee whatever of accuracy, as we do not know, firstly, how often the gas chambers were used, and, secondly, the number of people who, on average, were gassed at any one time.
In establishing the number of train-loads, the commission based its findings on the evidence given by witnesses, laying special stress on the statements of railway workers and on the railway records from Treblinka station, which are in the possession of the commission of enquiry.266
The commission established that between the middle of August 1942 and the middle of December 1942 at least one train arrived every day at the camp, and that the average number of wagons in those trains was 50. From the middle of December to the middle of May, 1943, the average was one train per week. As a result, "the total number of wagon-loads of victims from August 1, 1942 to May 15, 1943 may be taken, with some certainty, to have been 7,550." In the late summer of 1943 another 266 wagons arrived. Taking an average load of 100 person per wagon, the Polish commission came to a "probable" figure of 731,600 victims. And they added that, taking into consideration the great caution with which the investigators assessed the number of train-loads and the average number of persons per wagon, this must be accepted as probable, that in actual fact the number of victims was even larger."267 They were right. Careful and methodic research on the German liquidation of the Jewish communities in Poland, done in the years that followed, showed that in total 856,190 Jews were sent to Treblinka. Very few   survived.268
In Auschwitz the highly competent and scrupulous Judge Dr.Jan Sehn of the Cracow court led on behalf of the commission a very thorough, year-long forensic and historical investigation in Auschwitz. In this process he and his colleagues questioned and re-questioned many witnesses, amongst which the surviving Sonderkommandos Dragon and Tauber, who had already testified for the Soviet-Polish commission, and Alter Feinsilber (alias Stanislaw Jankowski), who had only been able to return to Poland after the Soviet-Polish commission had completed its work.
Jankowski was the first Sonderkommando to testify before Sehn's commission. On April 16 he was questioned in Cracow by Sehn's deputy, Edward Pechalski. Jankowski explained that he fought in Spain on the Republican side, and that after the fall of Barcelona he had crossed into France, where he had been interned. After the German invasion he escaped, ended up in Paris, where he was arrested as a Jew, interned in Drancy, to be deported to Auschwitz in March 1942. After an initial stay in Birkenau he was transferred to Auschwitz, where he worked in a carpentry shop. In November 1942 Jankowski was detailed to work in crematorium 1. At that time, the gas chamber of crematorium 1 was only sporadically used for killing people, having reverted back to its original function as a morgue.
The only gassing I knew about had taken place in November or December 1942. Over three hundred and ninety persons were then gassed, all of them Jews of various   nationalities, employed in the Sonderkommando at Birkenau.269 The gassing took place in the Leichenhalle. I heard from people working in the crematorium that before that gassing several other actions of that kind had taken place in the same Leichenhalle and in several rooms in the crematorium. Thanks to my own observations I know the following details of the gassing of that Sonderkommando. I was already employed in the crematorium at that time. We got the order to clear the Leichenhalle which was to be used for a larger transport. As there were many corpses collected in the mortuary at that time, we worked two days and two nights and cremated all corpses. I remember that after the mortuary had been cleared on Wednesday at about 11 a.m. Those three hundred and ninety odd from Birkenau were brought into the yard under a strong escort of SS men (two SS men for every five prisoners). We, Jews, were told to leave the mortuary and to go to the coke store. When we were permitted to return to the yard after some time, we found there only the clothes of those prisoners. Then we were ordered to pass to the Leichenhalle were we found the corpses. After writing down the camp numbers of the gassed prisoners we had to carry the corpses to the cremators.270
In July 1943 Jankowski was transferred to Birkenau, to join the squad of 120 prisoners that operated crematorium 5. According to Jankowski, crematoria 2 and 3 each had an incineration capacity of 2,500 corpses, while crematoria 4 and 5 could burn 1,500 each.  
At first prisoners were brought to Birkenau from the Auschwitz station by cars.271 They were told at the station that those who were weak or unwell could get into cars and would be brought thus to the camp. Many people believed this and in many cases they were young and healthy. All those who had come by cars went to be gassed. Moreover, old people, pregnant women and children were selected in each transport and they were also gassed. Circa 50%of each transport went to be gassed. At that time transports of Greek Jews were arriving (about 50,000), transports of French Jews (every two weeks circa 1,000 persons from the famous camp in France), Belgians, Dutchmen (circa 15,000), Germans, Italians (circa 20,000), large transports of Slovakian and Polish Jews. I remember that one week only 35,000 Jews from Katowice, Bedzin and Sosnowiec arrived to be gassed. Also Jews from Cracow went to be gassed. The Jews from Theresienstadt did not go straight to gas chambers. They were, at first, put in the families' camp and were gassed precisely 6 months after their arrival. The first transport from Theresienstadt consisted of about 3,500 persons; all of them were gassed and cremated in the crematorium.272
Moreover, several less numerous groups of Poles, who were arrested charged with affiliation to political organizations, were gassed and cremated at Birkenau. I remember the cremating of a group of 250 persons, belonging to the Union of Armed Fighting, the leader of which was a woman, Ela, I did not learn her surname. I state that all these people were cremated without having been entered in the records. And so, too, all those who went straight to be gassed at Birkenau were not registered, both old people and women, children, above all, also all those who professed to be ill. The number of those who were not registered in the camp and who were cremated in the cremators at any rate surpassed many times the number of prisoners with camp numbers. Only those who were selected from the camp went to the cremators. The number of unregistered persons who were   cremated amounts to several millions.273
Later in his deposition Jankowski came back to this issue.
I have to stress here that only persons destined to do various kinds of work were included in the registers of prisoners' strength and were given camp numbers. No camp numbers were given and no registering was effected both in the cases of all those who went straight to the gas from transports and of those who for some considerations were not liquidated at once but, being beforehand destined for cremation, awaited their turn to come in special places of isolation.274
Jankowski also testified that he had witnessed the incident in which a female deportee killed SS Oberscharführer Schillenger--an event which, a few days later, Janda Weiss would describe in some detail in her deposition given in Buchenwald.275 According to Jankowski, the zenith of killing occurred during the Hungarian Action.
It was in July 1944, I should think, that the first transport of Hungarians had arrived. This was the first transport to be conveyed in vans as far as the crematoria, using the railway siding built expressly for that purpose. The unloading ramp was situated opposite crematoria 2 and 3, more or less-halfway between camps C and D. At that time about 18,000 Hungarians were daily murdered at Birkenau. Circa 30%of the then arriving transports, which kept coming one after another all day long, were selected to be put in the camp. They were registered in series A and B. The rest were gassed and cremated in   the crematoria ovens. If the number of persons to be gassed was not sufficiently large, they would be shot and burned in pits. It was a rule to use the gas chamber for groups of more than 200 persons, as it was not worth while to put the gas chamber in action for a smaller number of persons.276 It happened that some prisoners offered resistance when about to be shot at the pit or that children would cry and then Oberscharführer Moll would throw them alive into the flames of the pits. I was eye-witness of the following incidents: Moll told a naked woman to sit down on the corpses near the pit and while he himself shot prisoners and threw their bodies into the flaming pit he ordered her to jump about and sing. She did so, in the hope, of course, of thus saving her life, perhaps. When he had shot them all he also shot this woman and her corpse was cremated.277
Kankowski's statements provided a solid basis for Sehn's investigation. They were to be corroborated in the testimonies and confesions taken in the two years that followed.
On May 10 Sehn took the testimony of Dragon concerning the operation of Bunker 2, the gas chamber in the grove of birch forests that had been the site of most of the mass killings in the   second half of 1942 and the first months of 1943. As we have seen earlier, Dragon became a Sonderkommando in December 1942, and he was put to work at Bunker 2 to haul the bodies of those killed from the gas chambers into the yard.
We were all given masks, and were led through the door into the cottage. Moll opened the door, and only then could we see that the cottage was full of naked corpses of both sexes and all ages. Moll ordered us to remove these corpses from the cottage through the door to the yard. We started work with four men carrying one body. This annoyed Moll. He rolled up his sleeves, and threw a body through the door into the yard. When, despite this example, we said we were incapable of doing that, he detailed two of us to carry each body. Once the corpses were in the yard, a dental technician, assisted by an SS man, pulled out the teeth A barber, also watched by an SS man, shaved off the hair....After having removed all the bodies from the cottage, we had to clean it thoroughly, wash the floor with water, spread it with sawdust, and whitewash the walls. The interior of the cottage was divided into four rooms by partition walls. One,in which one could house 1200 naked people, the second with a capacity of 700, the third of 400, and the fourth with a capacity of between 200 and 250.278
Dragon told how he was later transferred to Crematorium 5, where he worked in the garden, and was employed cutting lumber in the adjacent forest. During the Hungarian action he was once more employed to remove bodies from the gas chambers of Crematorium 5. These rooms, which were attached in an annex to the main building itself, resembled in many ways the arrangement of   Bunker 2. Also the procedure was similar, with an SS throwing Zyklon B crystals through a little window located in the outer wall of the gas chambers. Only in this case the window had been created at such height that one needed a small ladder to reach it. After the gassing Moll opened the doors of the gas chambers.
We put on our gas masks and pulled the bodies out of the various rooms through a short corridor into the undressing room and from there, once more through a short corridor, to the ovens. In the first vestibule, the one with the entrance doors, the barbers shaved the heads, in the second the dentists removed the teeth. In front of the ovens we put the bodies on an iron stretcher, which then were inserted into the ovens by means of iron rolls fixed to the ovens.279 We put the bodies on the stretchers in such a way that the first was head first, and both other corpses were with their heads to the back. In each oven we put three bodies at a time. By the time the third was put in, the first already started to burn. I saw how the hands of the corpses lifted, and later also the feet. In general we had to hurry, however, and could not observe the whole process of incineration. We had to hurry because, when the end of the burning corpses began to rise, we often got problems in inserting the third corpse. We handled the stretcher in such a way that two inmates lifted the side that was farthest away from the oven and one at the end that was inserted first into the oven. After we moved the stretcher in one of the inmates held the corpse back with a long iron pole. We called it a rake with its end turned. The two others then pulled the stretcher out from under the dead.289
Cremation lasted for 15 to 20 minutes, and after that time they just opened the door and inserted new bodies. In a three month period during the summer of 1944 the ovens were worked in two shifts, one from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm, and one from 6.30 pm to 6.30 am.
 
Remains at the site corroborated Dragon's account, and on orders of Jan Sehn the local engineer M.Nosal, himself an ex-inmate of the camp, drew up detailed drawings that showed the lay-out of Bunker 2, the site plan with the undressing barracks, Bunker 2, the tracks, and the four incineration pits.
Dragon was precise and reliable when he talked about what he had witnessed in person. But he proved less reliable as an accountant. When on 17 May he was asked about the total number of Jews killed in Auschwitz, he answered that he was unable to give a precise number. "I think the total number gassed in the two bunkers and the four crematoria exceeded 4 million."281
One week after examining Dragon, Sehn interrogated the 28-year old former Sonderkommando Henry Tauber. If Dragon had been able to provide evidence about Bunker 2 and crematoria 4 and 5, Tauber had worked in crematorium 2. Tauber was very hesitant to estimate how many people had been gassed.
At present, I am incapable of giving the exact number of all the people gassed and incinerated in the Krematorien and the pits. Some of the men working in the Krematorium noted individually and in secret the figures and the most dramatic events concerning the gassed persons. These notes were buried in different places close to the Krematorien. Some were dug up during the stay of the Soviet Commission and the Soviets took them away.282
Yet in the end he was prepared to state that, during the period that he worked the crematoria(February 1943 to October 1944), two million people had been gassed. And he added that "during my time in Auschwitz, I was able to talk to various prisoners who had worked in the     Krematorien and the bunkers before my arrival. They told me that I was not among the first to do this work, and that before I came another 2 million people had already been gassed in Bunkers 1 and 2 and Krematorium 1." And he concluded that,"adding up, the total number of people gassed in Auschwitz amounted to about 4 million."283
Distinguishing clearly between what he accepted on the basis of his own observations, and what he accepted on hearsay, Tauber showed himself a reliable witness. Indeed, his testimony proved very important: his very long, and very detailed account of the operation of crematorium 1, where he worked from early February 1943 until March 4, crematorium 2, and crematorium 4 is almost wholly corroborated by the German blueprints of the buildings. Because of its importance, I will print significant parts of Tauber's deposition.
Tauber told that he arrived in Auschwitz on 19 January 1943, and initially he was billeted in sector B1b. At the beginning of February Tauber and 19 other inmates were transferred to the main camp to work in crematorium 1. After a pep talk by an SS man who told them that they better get accustomed to some unpleasant work, the group was brought to the "bunker" or the morgue/gas chamber filled with hundreds of corpses. They dragged these corpses to the furnace room. There they were instructed to load a truck that ran on rails with the corpses.
Its strong frame was in the form of a box, and to make it heavier we weighted it with stones and scrap metal. The upper part was extended by a metal slide over two meters long. We put five corpses on this: first we put two with the legs towards the furnace and the belly upwards, then two more the other way round but still with the belly upwards, and finally we put the fifth one with the legs towards the furnace and the back upwards. The arms of this last one hung down and seemed to embrace the other bodies below.
The weight of such a load sometimes exceeded that of the ballast, and in order to prevent the trolley from tipping up and spilling the corpses we had to support the slide by   slipping a plank underneath it. Once the slide was loaded, we pushed it into the muffle.284 Once the corpses were introduced into the furnace, we held them there by means of a metal box that slid on top of the charging slide, while other prisoners pulled the trolley back, leaving the corpses behind. There was a handle at the end of the slide for gripping   and pulling back the sliding box. Then we closed the door. In crematorium 1, there were three, two-muffle furnaces, as I have already mentioned. Each muffle could incinerate five human bodies. Thirty corpses could be incinerated at the same time in this crematorium. At the time when I was working there, the incineration of such a charge took up to an hour and a half, because they were the bodies of very thin people, real skeletons, which burned very slowly. I know from the experience gained by observing cremation in Krematorien 2 and 3 that the bodies of fat people burn very much faster. The process of incineration is accelerated by the combustion of human fat which thus produces additional heat.285
Tauber went on to describe the lay-out of crematorium 1 in early 1943. At the back of the incineration room were a coke storage room and a store for urns. On inspection of the building in 1945, Tauber noted that the arrangement had changed: the door that connected in 1945 the "bunker" (morgue/gas chamber) and the furnace room had obviously been a new addition.286 "When I was working in crematorium 1, that door did not exist." The only entrance to the furnace room had been through the vestibule. That same vestibule gave access to a store room, which at times was used as an undressing room.
The men from small transports, brought by truck, used to undress there. When I was working at crematorium 1, they were shot in the bunker of the crematorium (the part of   the building where they gassed people known as the "bunker").287 Such transports arrived once or twice a week and comprised 30 to 40 people. They were of different nationalities. During the executions, we, the members of the Sonderkommando were shut up in the coke store. Then we would find the bodies of the shot people in the bunker. All the corpses had a firearm wound in the neck. The executions were always carried out by the same SS man from the Political Section, accompanied by another SS from the same Section who made out the death certificates for those shot.288
Tauber told how access to the "bunker" was through a second room that opened to the vestibule. As the longer-serving members of the Sonderkommando told him, this "bunker" had been previously been used for gassing people, but when Tauber worked in crematorium 1 he only witnessed shootings in that space.
One of the odd things Tauber noted that while he was at work in crematorium 1, his group was actually designated "Kommando Krematorium II." On March 4 everything became clear, when the whole group was sent to Birkenau to operate crematorium 2. "We had been sent there for one month's practical training in crematorium 1 in order to prepare us for working in crematorium 2."  
Crematorium 2 had a basement where there was an undressing room and a bunker, or in other words a gas chamber (Leichenkeller/corpse cellar). To go from one cellar to the other, there was a corridor in which there came from the exterior a (double) stairway and a slide for throwing the bodies that were brought to the camp to be incinerated in the crematorium. People went through the door of the undressing room into the corridor, then from there through a door on the right into the gas chamber. A second stairway running from the grounds of the crematorium gave access to the corridor. To the left of this stairway, in the corner, there was a little room where hair, spectacles and other effects were stored. On the right there was another small room used as a store for cans of Zyclon-B. In the right corner of the corridor, on the wall facing the door from the undressing room, there was a lift to transport the corpses. People went from the crematorium yard to the undressing room via a stairway, surrounded by iron rails. Over the door there was a sign with the inscription "Zum Baden und Desinfektion" (to bath and disinfection), written in several languages. In the undressing room, there were wooden benches and numbered clothes hooks along the walls. There were no windows and the lights were on all the time. The undressing room also had water taps and drains for the waste water. From the undressing room people went into the corridor through a door above which was hung a sign marked "Zum Bade", repeated in several languages. I remember the [Russian] word "banya" was there too. From the corridor they went through the door on the right into the gas chamber. It was a wooden door, made of two layers of short pieces of wood arranged like parquet. Between these layers there was a single sheet of material sealing the edges of the door and the rabbets of the frame were also fitted with sealing strips of felt. At about head height for an average man this door had a round glass peephole. On the other side of the door, i.e. on the gas chamber side, this opening was protected by a hemispherical grid. This grid was fitted because the people in the gas chamber, feeling they were going to die, used to break the glass of the peep-hole. But the grid still did not provide sufficient protection and similar incidents recurred. The opening was blocked with a piece of metal or wood. The people going to be gassed and those in the gas chamber damaged the electrical installations, tearing the cables out and damaging the ventilation equipment. The door was closed hermetically from the corridor side by means of iron bars which were screwed tight. The roof of the gas chamber was supported by concrete pillars running               down the middle of its length. On either side of these pillars there were four others, two on each side. The sides of these pillars, which went up through the roof, were of heavy wire mesh. Inside this grid, there was another finer mesh and inside that a third of very fine mesh. Inside this last mesh cage there was a removable can that was pulled out with a wire to recover the pellets from which the gas had evaporated.
Besides that, in the gas chamber there were electric wires running along the two sides of the main beam supported by the central concrete pillars. The ventilation was installed in the walls of the gas chamber. Communication between the room and the ventilation installation proper was through small holes along the top and bottom of the side walls. The lower openings were protected by a kind of muzzle, the upper ones by whitewashed perforated metal plates.
The ventilation system of the gas chamber was coupled to the ventilation ducts installed in the undressing room. This ventilation system, which also served the dissection room, was driven by electric motors in the roof space of the crematorium.
The water tap was in the corridor and a rubber hose was run from it to wash the floor of the gas chamber. At the end of 1943, the gas chamber was divided in two by a brick wall to make it possible to gas smaller transports. In the dividing wall there was a door identical to that between the corridor and the original gas chamber. Small transports were gassed in the chamber furthest from the entrance from the corridor.289
           
The undressing room and the gas chamber were covered first with a concrete slab then with a layer of soil sown with grass. There were four small chimneys, the openings through which the gas was thrown in, that rose above the gas chamber. These openings were closed by concrete covers with two handles.
Over the undressing room, the ground was higher than the level of the yard and perfectly flat. The ventilation ducts led to the pipes and the chimneys located in the part of the building above the corridor and undressing room. I would point out that at first the undressing room had neither benches nor clothes hooks and there were no showers in the gas chamber. These fittings were not installed until autumn 1943 in order to camouflage the undressing room and gas chamber as a bathing and disinfestation facility. The showers were fitted to small blocks of wood sealed into the concrete roof of the gas chamber. There were no pipes connected to these showers, from which no water ever flowed.
As I have already said, there was a lift in the corridor or rather a goods hoist. A temporary hoist was installed pending delivery of the electric lift to carry the corpses to the ground floor.290
It is important to note that Tauber's description of the basement level of crematorium 2 is fully corroborated by the surviving blueprints of the crematorium. These will be discussed in greater detail in Part Three of this report.
Tauber also gave a detailed description of the ground floor--an account that is likewise confirmed by the architectural drawings. The lift, he told Sehn, had two exits at this level. One led to the autopsy rooms, the other into the large furnace hall with its five triple-muffle ovens. "It was possible to put five human corpses in each muffle, which was closed by an iron door bearing   the inscription 'Topf.' Beneath each muffle, there was a space for a bin to collect the ashes, also closed by an iron door made by the same firm." Behind the furnaces were the pits with the fire boxes and the coke storage. To the back of the incineration hall were rooms reserved for the SS, the chief capo, and the doctor. "A stairway led up to the roof space, where there was a dormitory for the men working in the Sonderkommando and, at the end, the electric motors for the lift and the ventilation system."
Facing the entrance gate to the crematorium grounds, in the centre of the building, was a wing in which rubbish was burnt in an incinerator. It was called "Müllverbrennung." It was separate, reached by going down a stairway. It was surrounded by an iron platform and was coal fired. The entrance to the waste incinerator wing faced the crematorium access gate. This wing had, in addition to its entrance door with a transom window over it, two windows, one on the right and one on the left of the entrance. In the left corner of the entrance, there was an opening through which, from a walled-off area on the outside, the objects to be burned were passed inside. The incineration hearth for these things was to the left of the entrance and the firebox on the right. I would point out that it was in this particular furnace that the documents of the Political Section of the camp were always burned. From time to time, the SS would bring whole truckloads of papers, documents and files that had to be burned under their control. During the incineration of these papers, I noticed great stacks of records of dead people and death notices. We were not able to take any of these documents because we were operating under the close and direct surveillance of the SS. Behind the waste incinerator, at the end of the wing, was a chimney for all the cremation furnaces and the incinerator. At first, there were around this chimney three electric motors used for the draught. Because of the heat given off and the proximity of the incinerator, these motors often broke down. There was even a fire on one occasion. Because of these problems, they were later removed and the smoke flues of the cremation furnaces were connected directly to the chimney. A door allowed passage between the waste incinerator wing and the part where the chimney was. This part being slightly higher, it was reached by a few steps. After the motors were removed, some wash basins for the Sonderkommando were installed next to the chimney....In the roof space above the waste incinerator wing, the hair cut from the victims was dried, tossed and put in sacks         which were subsequently taken away by truck.291
Tauber continued with a very detailed account of the incineration procedure
As I have already said, there were five furnaces in crematorium 2,each with three muffles for cremating the corpses and heated by two coke-fired hearths. The fire flues of these hearths came out above the ash boxes of the two side muffles. Thus the flames went first round the two side muffles then heated the centre one, from where the combustion gases were led out below the furnace, between the two firing hearths. Thanks to this arrangement, the incineration process for the corpses in the side muffles differed from that of the centre muffle. The corpses of "Müselmanns" or of wasted people with no fat burned rapidly in the side muffles and slowly in the centre one. Conversely, the corpses of people gassed directly on arrival, not being wasted, burned better in the centre muffle. During the incineration of such corpses, we used the coke only to light the fire of the furnace initially, for fatty corpses burned of their own accord thanks to the combustion of the body fat. On occasion, when coke was in short supply, we would put some straw and wood in the ash bins under the muffles, and once the fat of the corpse began to burn the other corpses would catch light themselves. There were no iron components inside the muffle. The bars were of chamotte,292 for iron would have melted in the furnace, which reached 1,000 to 1,200° Celsius. These chamotte bars were arranged crosswise. The dimensions of the door and the opening of the muffles were smaller than the inside of the muffle itself, which was 2 meters long, 80 centimeters wide and about 1 meter high. Generally speaking, we burned 4 or 5 corpses at a time in one muffle, but sometimes we charged a greater number of corpses. It was possible to charge up to 8 "Müselmanns." Such big charges were incinerated without the knowledge of the head of the crematorium during air raid warnings in order to attract the attention of airmen by having a bigger fire emerging from the chimney. We imagined that in that way it might be possible to change   our fate. The iron components, in particular fire bars, still to be found in the camp, were from the fireboxes. Crematorium 2 had fire bars of heavy angle iron. Crematoria 4 and 5 were fitted with fire bars in the form of a lance, or rather were like swords with handles.293
After the description of the installation, Tauber recalled how on the first day, 4 March, they operated the ovens in the presence of observers from the Political Section, representatives of the Berlin headquarters, and engineers of Topf. For this occasion, the Political department had taken care to provide 45 bodies of well-fed victims recently killed in Bunker 2.
Via the lift and the door leading to the furnace room, we took out the bodies and placed them two or three at a time on trolleys of the type I described for crematorium 1 and charged them into the different muffles. As soon as all the muffles of the five furnaces had been charged, the members of the commission began to observe the operation, watch in hand. They opened the muffle doors, looked at their watches, expressed surprise at the slowness of the cremation process. In view of the fact that the furnaces were not yet hot enough, even though we had been firing them since the morning, and because they were brand new, the incineration of this charge took about 40 minutes.294
Tauber went on to explain that later on incineration became more efficient, and they could incinerate two loads per hour. In fact, the Sonderkommando tried to overload the muffles, because this would allow them some free time.
According to the regulations, we were supposed to charge the muffles every half hour. Ober Capo August explained to us that, according to the calculations and plans for this crematorium, 5 to 7 minutes was allowed to burn one corpse in a muffle. In principle, he   did not let us put more than three corpses in one muffle. Because with that quantity we were obliged to work without interruption, for as soon as the last muffle was charged, the contents of the first had been consumed. In order to be able to take a pause during the work, we would charge 4 or 5 corpses in each muffle. The incineration of such a charge took longer, and after charging the last muffle, we had few minutes' break until the first one was again available. We took advantage of this free time to wash the floor of the furnace room, as a result of which the air became a little cooler.295
After this first incineration, the Sonderkommando kept the fires burning, but there were no corpses to burn.
About mid-March 1943, one evening after work, Hauptscharführer Hirsch, in charge of the Krematorien at that time, came and ordered us to stay in the crematorium because there was some work for us. At nightfall, trucks arrived carrying people of both sexes and all ages. Among them there were old men, women, and many children. The trucks ran back and forth for an hour between the station and the camp, bringing more and more people. As soon as the trucks began to arrive, we, the Sonderkommando, were shut up in a room located at the back where, as I said in my description of the crematorium, the doctors who carried out the autopsies were to be housed. From this room, we could hear the people emerging from the trucks weeping and shouting. They were herded towards a hut erected perpendicular to the crematorium building, towards the entrance gate of crematorium II. The people entered through the door facing the gate and went down by the stairway to the right of the waste incinerator wing. At that time, this hut served as an undressing room. It was used for this purpose only for a week or so, then it was dismantled. After this hut was removed, the people were herded towards the basement area of the crematorium via a stairway leading to the underground undressing room, already described. After we had waited for two hours, we were let out and ordered to go to the gas chamber. We found heaps of naked bodies, doubled up. They were pinkish, and in places red. Some were covered with greenish marks and saliva ran from their mouths. Others were bleeding   from the nose. There was excrement on many of them. I remember that a great number had their eyes open and were hanging on to one another. The bodies were most crushed together round the door. By contrast, there were less around the wire mesh columns. The location of the bodies indicated that the people had tried to get away from the columns and get to the door. It was very hot in the gas chamber and so suffocating as to be unbearable. Later on, we became convinced that many people died of suffocation, due to lack of air, just before the gassing. They fell to the floor and were trampled on by the others. They were not sitting, like the majority, but stretched out on the floor, under the others. It was obvious that they had succumbed first and that they had been trampled on. Once the people were in the gas chamber, the door was closed and the air was pumped out. The gas chamber ventilation could work in this way, thanks to a system that could both extract and blow.296
Tauber recorded that the Sonderkommandos wore gas masks when removing the bodies to the corridor, where a barber cut off the women's hair before the corpses were loaded on the lift for transport to the ground floor. There two dentists pulled out the gold fillings and false teeth.
They also removed the rings and earrings. The teeth were thrown into a box marked "Zahnarztstation." As for the jewels, they were put into another box with no label other than a number. The dentists, recruited from among the prisoners, looked into all the mouths except those of the children. When the jaws were too tightly clamped, they pulled them apart with the pincers used to extract the teeth. The SS carefully checked the work of the dentists, always being present. From time to time they would stop a load of corpses ready for charging into the furnace and already operated on by the dentists, in order to check the mouths. They occasionally found a forgotten gold tooth. Such carelessness was considered to be sabotage, and the culprit was burned alive in the furnace. I witnessed such a thing myself. A dentist, a French Jew, was burned in this way in crematorium 5. He fought and cried, but there were several SS and they threw themselves on him,   overpowered him and put him in the furnace alive.297
Tauber also witnessed other forms of punishments. One particularly horrifying incident occurred in August 1944 in crematorium 5.
When the shifts were changing over, they had found a gold watch and wedding ring on one of the labourers, a man Wolbrom called Lejb. This Jew, aged about twenty, was dark and had a number of one hundred thousand and something. All the Sonderkommando working in the crematorium were assembled, and before their eyes he was hung, with his hands tied behind his back, from an iron bar above the firing hearths. He remained in this position for about one hour, then after untying his hands and feet,they threw him in a cold crematorium furnace. Gasoline was poured into the lower ash bin [that of the firebox at the back of the furnace] and lit. The flames reached the muffle where this Lejb was imprisoned. A few minutes later, they opened the door and the condemned man emerged and ran off, covered in burns. He was ordered to run round the yard shouting that he was a thief. Finally, he had to climb the barbed wire, which was not electrified during the day, and when he was at the top, the head of the crematoriums Moll, first name Otto, killed him with a shot. Another time, the SS chased a prisoner who was not working fast enough into a pit near the crematorium that was full of boiling human fat. At that time, the corpses were incinerated in open air pits, from which the fat flowed in to a separate reservoir, dug in the ground. This fat was poured over the corpses to accelerate their combustion. This poor devil was pulled out of the fat still alive and then shot.298
Tauber worked in crematorium 2 until mid-April, incinerating the remains of Greek, French and Dutch convoys. "I cannot say how many people were gassed during this period. We worked in   two shifts, a day shift and a night shift. On average, we incinerated 2500 corpses a day."299
Tauber was a careful witness, clearly distinguishing between what he had seen himself, and what not. At this time he did not witness how the people were herded into the undressing room and from there into the gas chamber because, when they arrived at the crematorium, all but two of the Sonderkommando were locked up in the coke storage room--the remaining two were in the furnace room keeping the fires going. Finally he was detailed to that job, and this allowed him to witness the outside of the gassing procedure.
Through the window of the incineration room, I observed how the Zyklon was poured into the gas chamber. Each transport was followed by a vehicle with Red Cross markings which entered the yard of the crematorium, carrying the camp doctor, Mengele, accompanied by Rottenführer Scheimetz. They took the cans of Zyklon from the car and put them beside the small chimneys used to introduce the Zyklon into the gas chamber. There, Scheimetz opened them with a special cold chisel and a hammer, then poured the contents into the gas chamber. Then he closed the orifice with a concrete cover. As there were four similar chimneys. Scheimetz poured into each the contents of one of the smallest cans of Zyklon, which had yellow labels pasted right round them. Before opening the cans, Scheimetz put on a gasmask which he wore while opening the cans and pouring in the product. There were also other SS who performed this operation, but I have forgotten their names. They were specially designated for it and belonged to the "Gesundheitswesen." A camp doctor was present at each gassing. If I have mentioned Mengele, that is because I met him very often during my work. In addition to him, there were other doctors present during the gassings, like König, Thilo and a young, tall, slight doctor whose name I do not recall.300
Unlike the practice of crematorium 1, the Sonderkommandos operating crematorium 2     soon abandoned using the trolleys for transporting and inserting the corpses into the muffles. They were replaced by metal stretchers. They were loaded according to procedure.
The procedure was to put the first corpse with the feet towards the muffle, back down and face up. Then, a second corpse was placed on top, again face up, but head towards the muffle. This method was used so that the legs of the upper corpse blocked that below and did not get in the way when the corpses were introduced into the furnace. Two prisoners loaded the stretchers. One end of the stretcher was put in front of the muffle, below the bar, alongside which stood two prisoners. While the corpses were being loaded on the stretcher, one of these opened the door of the muffle and the other positioned the rollers. Then, they lifted the stretcher and put it on the rollers, while a fifth prisoner, positioned at the handles at the other end of the stretcher, lifted it at the same time as them and pushed it into the muffle. As soon as the corpses were inside, a sixth prisoner held them there with a fire iron while the fifth withdrew the stretcher. The sixth man also had to cool the stretcher as it came out of the furnace by pouring over it water in which soap had been dissolved so that the next load of corpses would slide easily on the metal of the stretcher without sticking to it. The same procedure was used for the following charge destined to be incinerated in the same muffle. We had to work fast, for the corpses put in first soon started to burn, and their arms and legs rose up. If we were slow, it was difficult to charge the second pair of corpses. During the introduction of these other two corpses, I was able to observe the cremation process. It appeared that the trunk of the body rose and the arms stretched towards the sky before contracting. The same thing happened with the legs. The bodies became covered in blisters. Gassed bodies that had remained in the store room for two days were swollen, and in the fire their diaphragm burst and their intestines poured out. I was also able to observe how cremation proceeded while I was moving the corpses in the furnace with a fire iron, to accelerate the combustion. After each charging, the SS head of the Kommando checked to make sure that the furnaces were properly filled. We had to open each muffle for him and at that moment we could see what was happening inside. We burned the bodies of children with those of adults. First we put in two adults, then as many children as the muffle could contain. It was sometimes as many as five or six. We used this procedure so that the bodies of children would not be placed directly on the grid   bars, which were relatively far apart. In this way we prevented the children from falling through into the ash bin. Women's bodies burned much better and more quickly than those of men. For this reason, when a charge was burning badly, we would introduce a woman's body to accelerate the combustion.301
Tauber remembered that the ovens needed little cokes when in use for some time. "The furnaces burned thanks to the embers produced by the combustion of the corpses."
So, during the incineration of fat bodies, the fires were generally extinguished. When this type of body was charged into a hot furnace, fat immediately began to flow into the ash bin, where it caught fire and started the combustion of the body. When "Müselmanner" were being cremated, it was necessary to constantly refuel the fireboxes. The shift boss wrote in a notebook the number of corpses incinerated per charge and the head of the Kommando, an SS man, checked these entries. After an entire transport had been cremated, he took away the notebook.302
Tauber continued his testimony with detailed reports on the various personalities that operated the crematoria.
In April 1943, he was transferred to the newly completed crematorium 4. It was of a different design. Instead of having five triple-muffle ovens, this crematorium had one double-four-muffle furnace.303 Like in the case of crematorium 2, Tauber's description of crematorium 4   is fully corroborated by a surviving blueprint.
The muffles were in pairs on each side. One firebox heated two muffles, which together made up half of a furnace. Each furnace had its own chimney. the undressing room and the gas chambers were installed on the ground floor, and the part of the building where they were located was not so high as the furnace room so that it had the appearance of an annex to the crematorium. The boiler room was separated from the undressing room by a narrow corridor with four internal doors, allowing passage between the two rooms. The undressing room was illuminated by four small barred windows giving on the exterior. Another door led to a corridor whose entrance door opened onto the yard of the Krematorium. This entrance was flanked by two windows.
Opposite the entrance door in the corridor, there was a door that opened on a room with a window which was the kitchen for the SS working in the crematorium, a kitchen where the dishes were prepared by members of the Sonderkommando. This room was next to that of the Sonderkommando prisoners....The third door in the corridor led to a corridor with a barred window and a door leading to the crematorium yard.
From this corridor, the door on the right gave access to the first of the gaschambers and that opposite to the smallest of the chambers, communicating by another door with the biggest.
This corridor, and the three following rooms were used as chambers for gassing people. All had gas-tight doors, and also windows that had bars on the inside and were closed by gas-tight shutters on the outside. These small windows, which could be reached by the hand of a man standing outside, were used for throwing the contents of cans of Zyklon-B into the gas chambers full of people. The gas chambers were about two meters high and had an electric lighting installation on the walls but they had no ventilation system, which obliged the Sonderkommando who were removing the bodies to wear gasmasks. The corpses were dragged along the floor into the access corridor, where the barbers cut of the hair and then into the undressing room, which also served, in this kind of crematorium, as a store room for the corpses. It was a big hall where the bodies were   put while the gas chambers were being cleaned up. Then they were taken through the narrow corridor between the undressing room and the furnace room, where at each end a dentist tore out the gold teeth. In the furnace room, there was the room of the head of the Kommando and beside it another one for the rest of the SS.
This was followed by a narrow corridor, which originally led to the east yard of crematorium 4, the SS washroom and WC and the coke store. The building was entirely brick-built, with a wooden roof, covered with asbestos sheets and roofing felt. The yards of all the crematoriums were separated from the outside world by a thick enclosure of wicker and a hedge to which straw hurdles were attached.
In the yard, there were watchtowers, where SS armed with machine guns kept guard. Furthermore, the whole area was surrounded by electrified barbed wire and the yards were lit by powerful lamps. In May 1944, the SS ordered us to dig five pits in the yard of crematorium 5, between the building itself and the drainage ditch, five pits which were used later for incinerating the corpses of gassed people from the Hungarian transports. Although a track for the trolleys was laid between the building and the pits, we never used it because the SS considered it to be inconvenient, so we had to drag the corpses straight from the gas chambers to the pits. At the same time, the old Bunker 2, with its incineration pits, was also made ready for re-use. I never worked there. It was realized that the pits burned the corpses better, so the crematoria closed down one after the other after the pits came into operation. The first to be stopped was crematorium 4, apparently in June 1944,then,in October 1944, I think, Krematorien 2 and 3. Crematorium 5 kept going until the Germans fled. Towards the end, it was used to incinerate the bodies of prisoners who died naturally or were executed. Gassing ceased in October 1944.304
Tauber recalled how after the gassing ceased the Germans began to dismantle the equipment. "The parts were taken to the goods platform and loaded onto trains."305
       
Tauber's testimony is, without doubt, the most important record of the extermination procedure taken immediately after the war. It is largely corroborated by the contemporary testimonies of Jankowski and Dragon, and by the later memoirs of Filip Müller.306 It is in almost all its details corroborated by the surviving blueprints of crematoria 1, 2 and 4. The only piece for which there is no corroboration in the archives are the metal columns in the gas chamber of crematorium 2. Attached to the four structural concrete columns, which carried the roof, these columns allowed for the introduction of the Zyklon. They were retro-actively fitted into the space, but do not appear on the blueprints which, with one exception, were all drawn before the decision was made to use Leichenkeller 1 as a gas chamber. Yet their existence is independently confirmed in eye-witness accounts of the gas chamber, the drawings made by David Olère (see below), and the following testimony of Michael Kula, who manufactured these columns.
On 11 June Sehn interviewed the 32-year old former inmate Michael Kula. The Roman Catholic Kula, a mechanic by training and before his incarceration in Auschwitz a resident of the neighbouring town of Trzebinia, had been brought to the camp on 15 August 1940. In his testimony he gave an account how, exactly at the even of the first anniversary of his arrival, the Germans had initiated experiments to gas 250 inmates with Zyklon B in the basement of Block 11. He had been able to witness some of it, because he had the afternoon off on the 15th of August, in honour of the Feast of Assumption. The killing had taken two days, and only on the night of the 16th did the nurses of the lazaret retrieve the corpses to take them out of the camp. Kula had been able to witness this from a window of the dental station in Block 21. Right in front of Kula's observation point a cart loaded with corpses broke down, and many fell on the ground. "I saw then that they were greenish. The nurses told me that the corpses were cracked, and the   skin came off. In many cases they had bitten fingers and necks."307
Kula worked in the metal workshop of the camp, and had forged many of the metal pieces for the crematoria. For crematorium I, for example, he and his colleagues had made the trucks for inserting the corpses into the ovens, the tracks, and the iron framework that braced the brickwork of the ovens. Furthermore they had made "the supporting framework for the fire boxes and the ventilation pipes from the gas chamber. In addition to that we did small repairs in that room."308 Kula gave a detailed account of the work done for the crematoria in Birkenau. This included the iron braces for all the ovens. all scaffolds, the tools for retrieving the corpses, the metalwork of the doors, as well as the hooks, shovels and all that was necessary to run the ovens and the pit incinerations. His most important testimony concerned the construction of the sfour wire-mesh columns in the large gaschambers of crematoria 2 and 3. As we have seen, Tauber had described them as three structures of ever finer mesh. Within the innermost column there was a removable can to pull after the gassing the Zyklon "crystals," that is the porous silica pellets that had absorbed the hydrocyanide. Kula, who had made these columns, provided some technical specifications.
Among other things the metal workshop made the false showers intended for the gas chambers, as well as the wire-mesh columns for the introduction of the contents of the tins with Zyklon into the gas chambers. These columns were around 3 meters high, and they were 70 centimetres square in plan. Such a column consisted of 6 wire screens which were built the one within the other. The inner screen was made from 3 millimeter thick wire, fastened to iron corner posts of 50 by 10 millimeters. Such iron corner posts were on each corner of the column and connected on the top in the same manner. The openings of the   wire mesh were 45 millimeters square. The second screen was made in the same manner, and constructed within the column at 150 millimeters distance from the first. The openings of the second were around 25 millimeters square. In the corners these screens were connected to each other by iron posts. The third part of this column could be moved. It was an empty column with a square footprint of around 150 millimeters made of sheet zinc. At the top it was closed by a metal sheet, and at the bottom with a square base. At a distance of 25 millimetres from the sides of this columns were soldered tin corners supported by tin brackets. On these corners were mounted a thin mesh with openings of about one millimeter square. This mesh ended at the bottom of the column and from here ran in the [Verlaenderung] of the screen a tin frame until the top of the column. The contents of a Zyklon tin were thrown from the top on the distributor, which allowed for a equal distribution of the Zyklon to all four sides of the column. After the evaporation of the gas the whole middle column was taken out. The ventilation system of the gas chamber was installed in the side walls of the gas chambers. The ventilation openings were hidden by zinc covers, provided with round openings.309
The wire mesh columns had been totally dismantled after the cessation of gassings and before the demolition of the crematoria, and no remains were found. Yet the dismantling crews had not been able to remove the ventilation system as they were a structural part of the walls, and consequently had overlooked to remove the zinc covers mentioned by Kula. They were dislocated when the demolition squads dynamited the gas chambers, but six of them were retrieved in the rubble of crematorium II and sent for analysis in the forensic laboratory in Cracow. The laboratory report noted that these were covered with a thin, white-coloured and strongly smelling deposit. The laboratory retrieved 7.2 grams of the deposit and dissolved it in water. Sulphuric acid was added to this solution, and the resulting gas was absorbed in an absorbent material. This was divided in two and subjected to two different tests, each of which revealed the presence of   hydrocyanide.310
Sehn and Dawidowski did not only study the remains of the bunkers and the crematoria, interview witnesses and send material for chemical analysis. They also studied the plans for the crematoria. These plans were part of the archive of the Zentralbauleitung der Waffen SS und Polizei, Auschwitz O/S (Central Building Authority of the Waffen-SS and the Police, Auschwitz in Upper Silesia), located in a compound of barracks at some distance from the main camp. When the Germans burned the archives of the camp Kommandantur prior to their evacuation from Auschwitz in January 1945, they overlooked the archive of the building office that had been closed some months earlier, and as a result they were found more or less intact. The Soviet commission had paid scant attention to the massive amount of paperwork. It was up to the Poles to fully exploit the evidentiary value of this source.311
Building at the concentration camp had been subject to normal civilian procedures as well as to the wartime superstructure of special permissions, and as a result multiple copies of many documents survive with the comments and signatures of the individual bureaucrats or businessmen to whom they were sent. The result was that Sehn and Dawidowski found a wide paper trail that included tens of thousands of different items such as plans, budgets, letters, telegrams, contractors' bids, financial negotiations, work site labour reports, requests for material allocations, and the minutes of meetings held in the Building Office among the architects themselves, with camp officials, and with high-ranking dignitaries from Berlin.
Comparing the results of the site visits with the blueprints and the other documentation that had been recovered, Roman Dawidowski wrote a (roughly) 10,000 word-long expert report   on the technology of mass extermination in Auschwitz.312 Dawidowski's text was never published as a whole, but Sehn was to summarize its most important conclusions in the official account of the operation of the camp published by the Central Commission in 1946. The relative obscurity of the Dawidowski report is troublesome, as it erroneously suggests that the Poles did not do their homework in the post-war years. To be sure: today we know more about the construction of Auschwitz and the crematoria than Dawidowski. Yet, given the short time available to him and the general chaos in post-war Poland, it is still quite remarkable that most of his observations and conclusions have been confirmed over time.
Study of the archives quickly revealed that the creation of the crematoria and the gas chambers had been less straightforward than the language used by the Soviet experts and the journalists suggested: the development of Auschwitz as a "factory of death" had followed a twisted course. Correspondence suggested, for example, that the Germans had an important change of mind in early 1942. Originally, they had planned to construct a large crematorium with five triple ovens in Auschwitz, and two small crematoria with two triple-muffle ovens in Birkenau. At the end of February the chief of construction in the SS, Hans Kammler, decided in consultation with the Auschwitz Zentralbauleitung to erect the large crematorium with the five triple incinerators in Birkenau. Dawidowski did not know the exact circumstances for this change in plan, but correctly inferred that it had to do with the adaptation of Birkenau into an extermination camp.313
In studying the blueprints and the correspondence, Dawidowski discovered that the role of the crematoria in the Final Solution was veiled in innocuous-sounding code words. Whenever they were designated as extermination installations, the crematoria were referred to as   Spezialeinrichtungen (special installations) for the Sonderbehandlung (special treatment) of inmates. The latter term referred to killing.314 Dawidowski also found that the architects only once made a direct reference to the underground gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 as Vergasungskeller (gassing cellar) and only once to the adjacent space as Auskleideraum (undressing room). In general they designated the gas chamber of crematoria 2 and 3 as Leichenhalle (morgue), Halle (hall), Leichenkeller 1, L-Keller 1, Keller 1 while the undressing room was Leichenkeller 2 or simply Keller 2. Given all the other evidence he had found, Dawidowski was not particularly fascinated by the document with the reference to the Vergasungskeller, and he did not find it necessary to quote it. Yet more recently negationists have argued that this document is the "only" evidence for the genocidal use of the crematoria, and have spent considerable effort to challenge the common sense interpretation that the word Vergasungskeller refers to a homicidal gas chamber. Therefore it is good to print the letter in full.
29 January 1943 To the Chief Amtsgruppe C, SS-Brigadeführer and General-Major of the
Waffen-SS, Dr. Ing. Kammler. Subject: Crematorium II, condition of the building.
crematorium has been completed--save for minor constructional work--by the use of all the forces available, in spite of unspeakable difficulties, the severe cold, and in 24 hour shifts. The fires were started in the ovens in the presence of Senior Engineer Prüfer, representative of the contractors of the firm of Topf and Sons, Erfurt, and they are working most satisfactorily. The planks from the concrete ceiling of the cellar used as a mortuary could not yet be removed on account of the frost. This is, however, not very important, as the gassing cellar   (Vergasungskeller) can be used for that purpose.
The firm of Topf and Sons was not able to start deliveries of the installation in time for aeration and ventilation as had been requested by the Central Building Management because of restrictions on use of railroad cars. As soon as the installation for aeration and ventilation arrive, the installing will start so that the complete installation may be expected to be ready for use 20 February 1943.
We enclose a report of the testing engineer of the firm Topf and Sons, Erfurt.
The Chief of the Central
Construction Management,
Waffen-SS and Police Auschwitz,
SS-Hauptsturmführer

[Bischoff]


Distribution:
1 - SS Ustuf Janisch and Kirschneck
1 - Filing office (file crematorium)

Certified true copy:

[signature ] SS--Ustuf (F)
Cross-referencing this letter with blueprints of the basement of crematorium 2, Dawidowski concluded that the designation "Vergasungskeller" applied to morgue 1. He noted that the blueprints showed that the section of this morgue differed from that of morgue 2 in that the former was equipped with two built-in ventilation ducts on each side. Correspondence explained that these ventilation ducts were connected to a ventilator   driven by 3.5 horsepower electric motor, and that the space was also equipped with a separate system for introducing warm air into it--an arrangement that made no sense if the space was used as a morgue (because corpses must be stored cold) but which made a lot of sense if the space was used as a Zyklon B gas chamber (because hydrogen cyanide, with a boiling point of around 27° Celsius, works much faster when used in a pre-heated space--an issue Dawidowski was to discuss at length later in his report).315 Both eyewitness testimonies, blueprints and correspondence corroborated each other.
Not all of Dawidowski's observations were equally valid. For example, he stressed the fact that the location of the crematoria was determined by the desire to achieve maximum camouflage, both to the outside world, and to the victims, who had to be fooled until the very end. In fact, the issue of camouflage only seems to have become of concern after the crematoria were completed, and does not seem to have determined their original location.316 Dawidowski also showed an unusual interest in an issue that seems rather arcane in hindsight: the fact that both the design and the operation procedures of the crematoria in Birkenau violated the German Law on Cremation promulgated on May 15,1934. Contrary to the stipulations of the law, which decreed that crematoria should be dignified in appearance, the Auschwitz crematoria had a factory-like appearance. More seriously than the question of aesthetics, the design of the Auschwitz incinerators violated the very important principle that only one corpse ought to be incinerated at a time, and that the ashes of the deceased ought to be identifiable and collected in an urn. The ovens designed by Topf did not heed the law: they had three (crematoria 2 and 3) or eight muffles (crematoria 4 and 5), and as up to five corpses could be incinerated in every muffle at the same time, iit was unavoidable that the ashes were to be mixed. Finally, Dawidowski complained that the SS did not obey the law in its demand that the wishes of   the persons or their immediate family as to burial or cremation were to be honoured." It is clear that the prisoners who had been given registration numbers, or the millions who were brought straight from the station to the gas chambers, were not asked before their murder if they wished that their corpses would be incinerated, or buried. And neither their family was asked, as this is stipulated by the German law (§2)."317 Dawidowski's outrage about this issue seems oddly misplaced, yet it does remind us of the fact that, even in 1945, the reality of the camps were still largely unimaginable.
On the basis of the documents Dawidowski reconstructed the development of the crematoria in its relation to the growth of the camp. The construction of crematorium 1 dated from 1940, and was equipped with two double muffle ovens. Dawidowski noted that the oven was initially heated by gasses created through the burning of coke. Once they had reached the ideal incineration temperature, the corpses were inserted. From that moment onwards the remains provided the most important fuel. He calculated that the original daily capacity of the crematorium was 200 corpses. After the addition of an third double-muffle oven in 1941 and the modification of the flues, the capacity rose to 350. This capacity was needed, as the mortality in the camp had risen at days up to 390 people per day. Causes of death were the general violence, starvation, exhaustion, and murder by means of phenol injections, and executions by rifle. According to Dawidowski, Zyklon B was first used as a killing agent in August 1941. Initially rooms in the basement of Block 11 were used as gas chambers. Later the SS adapted the morgue of the crematorium to that purpose.318
When transports with Jews began to arrive in 1942, the gas chamber of the crematorium in Auschwitz proved inappropriate, and the SS transformed two buildings in Birkenau, the cottages of farmers Wiechuja and Harmata, into gas chambers. In his   description of these extermination installations--bunkers 1 and 2--Dawidowski relied on Dragon's testimony and the remains of the buildings, as he had not found any documents or blueprints describing the two buildings. In fact, none were ever found. It seems that the two cottages were transformed without much fuss.
From a description of the bunkers Dawidowski went to a lengthy description of the chemical properties of Zyklon B, and the unusual form the agent had been shipped to Auschwitz. Violating three decrees, the Zyklon B used in Auschwitz had not been provided with a warning agent. As the hydrogen cyanide contained in the Zyklon grains evaporated more easily as the environment was warmer, Dawidowski noted that the gas chambers were either pre-heated with portable stoves or, in the case of crematoria 2 and 3, by warm air generated by the ovens. And he presented the results of the laboratory analysis on the presence of hydrogen cyanide in the six zinc covers found in crematorium 2 and the bags of hair.319
Initially the SS buried the corpses of those killed in the bunkers in large mass graves. On the basis of the testimony of Kula, Dawidowski came to the conclusion that in 1942 these corpses had begun to smell terribly. In response the SS ordered the opening of the mass graves and the destruction of the remains with the help of flame throwers. (As we have seen before, the War Refugee Report described this episode in great detail). This, so he argued, had triggered the decision to equip the camp with virtual "death factories": crematoria equipped with gas chambers and powerful incinerators.
In this case negotiations were undertaken with the largest crematorium construction firm in Germany, J.A. Topf and Sons in Erfurt. This firm proposed projects and the SS headquarters in Berlin accepted them (letter of 3 .8.1942 No. 11450/Bi/Ha). The latter demanded the completion of the crematoria at the beginning of 1943 (letter of the Firm Topf of 22.12.1942 No.20420/42, as well as letter from Berlin of 18.12.1942 No.Geh./42/Er/Z). In the course of 1942 the   Firm Topf began with the construction of two very large crematoria, designated in Birkenau with numbers 2 and 3. At the same time that firm transported to Auschwitz, to ensure a faster progress of construction, parts of crematoria ovens intended by the SS for Mogilev, and built in Birkenau two more, somewhat smaller crematoria, designated with the numbers 4 and 5. All this haste explains that the crematoria, built by the same firm, represented two different types, and well the type of the similar crematoria 2 and 3, and the second type of crematoria 4 and 5.320
Later research, comparing the design and construction schedules of the various crematoria, was to show that the difference between the two types of crematoria derived from the fact that the type used in crematoria 2 and 3 was developed before the transformation of Auschwitz into an extermination camp, while crematoria 4 and 5 were designed from the very beginning to serve the Final Solution.321
Dawidowski provided a detailed description of the technical equipment and interior arrangement of the crematoria, giving special attention to the killing installations, providing at every point cross references to the blueprints and the correspondence. Dawidowski noted that the plans for the basement of crematorium 2 provided for a room indicated as Goldarb.[eiters](Goldworkers)--the space where the dental gold removed   from the dead was melted. With the two adjacent spaces, the undressing room designated as morgue 2 and the gas chamber designated as morgue 1, "these spaces formed a unit that was carefully planned with the sole aim for the mass extermination of people using poison gas."322 The gas chambers of crematoria 4 and 5 had been above ground, and of various sizes.
The report continued with a lengthy description of the killing procedures in the various crematoria, based on the testimonies of Dragon and Tauber. This was followed by Dawidowski's calculations of the incineration capacity of the ovens. He assumed that each muffle could incinerate up to five corpses simultaneously, and that the average cremation duration was between 25 and 30 minutes. On the basis of these figures, he came to an hourly incineration rate of 175 corpses for crematoria 2 and 3, and a daily capacity of 2,500 persons for each crematorium--a reduction of 16 per cent from the figure estimated by the Soviet-Polish commission shortly after the liberation of the camp, but a figure that was a little over 60 per cent higher than the official capacity calculated by Topf of 1,440 corpses per day. Crematoria 4 and 5 had according to Dawidowski an incineration capacity of 1,500 corpses per day--a figure that was equal to the assumed capacity of the gas chambers, equal to the earlier Soviet estimate, and around double the official German figure of 768 corpses per day.323 During the Hungarian Action, however, actual incineration capacity exceeded, however, the total capacity of the crematoria of 8,000 corpses per day. Two incineration pits created in the spring of 1944 had a capacity of 5,000 corpses each, which brought the total incineration capacity at Birkenau to 18,000--a figure far below the (theoretically) maximum killing rate of 60,000 people in all the gas chambers.
In his conclusion, Dawidowski summarized the results: crematoria 2,3,4 and 5 were purposefully designed and built as extermination installations following an   industrialized system of mass production. "One finds a planned sequence of living and dead material from the entrance to the undressing room to the ovens," and the factory also allowed for the production of "secondary products, such as dental gold." A final development in German perversity was the attempt to use the heat generated in the ovens to warm water. Throughout the history of the camp, the SS was engaged with an "intensive, yes even feverish attempts to improve the gassing action, as also to make it more efficient and more economically. In this effort local initiatives were in competition with the headquarters in Berlin."324
Dawidowski's report was not without flaws, but it did mean an enormous step forwards compared to the Soviet report. Studying the remains of the crematoria in relation to the testimonies of Dragon, Tauber and Kula, and cross referencing these to the documents in the archive of the Central Building Office, the report put the history of the extermination installations at Auschwitz on a solid historical basis. If we may today quarrel with some of Dawidowski's conclusions as to the capacity of the crematoria or the motivations for the design changes between various crematoria types, we must also acknowledge that subsequent discoveries or the confessions of Kommandant Höss, made after Dawidowski had done his work, largely corroborated the Dawidowski report.325
The Central Commission accepted Dawidowski's conclusions, and integrated them in the first report on the history of the camp, written by Jan Sehn and published in 1946. For better and for worse, Sehn's history became the foundation of all subsequent histories of   Auschwitz. "For better," because in what it describes, the text is both responsible and accurate. "For worse," because Sehn emplotted the history in such a manner that he subtly suppressed the contingency of the camp's history in order to stress an assumed universality of its impact. In other words, he gave an impetus to the formation of a myth.
I use the word myth in the sense that Barthes gave to it in his essay "Myth Today." Mythification, he argued, occurs when language empties a narrative of its historical contingency to fill it with an unchanging nature. "In passing from history to nature, myth acts economically: it abolishes the complexity of human acts, it gives them simplicity of essences." The result is a "blissful clarity" in which there are no contradictions because statements of fact are interpreted as explanations; "things appear to mean something by themselves."326
The beginning of Sehn's narrative stresses the fact of Auschwitz's isolation from the rest of the world. "The small, provincial Polish town of Oswiecim is situated far from the main railway centres and the more important lines of communication," Sehn claimed. It set the tone for a theme that was to continue all through the text: the Germans chose Oswiecim as a location for an extermination camp because the site offered isolation and camouflage. Yet, even more important, the site was unhealthy.
It is sufficient to look at a topographical map (Fig.2) to see that the place where Oswiecim is situated and the centre of the camp is like the bottom of a flat basin with no regular slope for draining away water. It is encircled by a series of fishponds, which permeate the whole land with damp, mist, and mud.
The earth at the bottom of the basin is impervious to water owing to its geological structure,(Fig.3) consisting of a 60 to 80 metres thick layer of marl, at the bottom of the basin. The surface consisting of sand and pebbles is always muddy, due to its underlying substances. Besides, the quality of this stagnant water is very bad due to the rotting of organic substances which poison the air. It could be improved only by installing very expensive purifying works. For all these   reasons Oswiecim and its surrounding [s] are not only damp but also abound with malaria and other diseases, which endanger man's life.327
The geological conditions of the site where the Germans chose to erect a concentration camp resembled that of the "unlimited, quaggy and damp moorland, dim with fog," at Dachau. This proved, Sehn argued," that the choice of Oswiecim for a place of punishment was not accidental."
Dachau became the topographical model for the Nazi places of execution. Such places as Dachau and Oswiecim, in the opinion of Prof. Romer, were avoided by life for thousands of years, as death kept watch there. The German authorities used the climate and geographical character of Oswiecim with premeditation in their criminal design.328
Thus the town of Oswiecim was somehow cursed to host a German death camp, and the SS consciously acted to realize that destiny. Sehn saw therefore a direct causal link between geography, geology, and the creation of Birkenau, which he described in the following chapter entitled "'Sonderbehandlung' and 'sonderaktion.'"
To understand the proper character of the camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, attention must be drawn to the following facts:
In the autumn of 1941 on the moor of Brzezinka (Birkenau) 3 km. Away from the base camp, the construction of a special camp was proposed, ostensibly for prisoners of war (kriegsgefangenenlager--Official abbreviation K.G.L.)   According to that the original plan of the Berlin Centre it was calculated to contain 200,000 prisoners (order of construction of Nov.1.And Dec.16.1941--Assignment of credits and allotment of funds Jan 9th 1942).329
Sehn had no doubt that the original designation of Birkenau as a prisoner of war camp was mere camouflage to hide a more sinister purpose. One of the clues which led him to this conclusion was the fact that the building office created to design and oversee the construction of the camp was called Sonderbauleitung which was rather ominous as correspondence clearly stated that the camp was meant for the Durchführung der Sonderbehandlung ("to carry out special treatment.")--a purpose that was realized when the trains that started arriving were designated as Sondertransporte ("Special Transports") and when their passengers were led to a Badeanstalt für Sonderaktion (Bathing Establishment for Special Action). Sehn emphasized that all these terms that began with the adjective sonder(special) "were concealing the mass murder of millions of people, and that the special camp constructed for the carrying on of this Sonderbehandlung was already by assumption a huge extermination camp (Vernichtungslager)."
According to this assumption it grew in practice into the largest extermination camp, not only in Poland, but also in the whole of Europe, in which only those were left alive among the prisoners who were indispensable to the munition factories and other industrial establishments working for the Army and for the war at Auschwitz and in the whole of Silesia.
The highest authorities of the IIIrd Reich as well as those who carried out orders on the spot at Auschwitz were conscious of the purpose of the camp, and did everything to enable this camp to fulfil completely its mission of extermination of the conquered nations of Europe with the Slav nations and the Jews in first order of importance.
The only buildings calculated for long-lasting and constant use were the   four big crematoria with gas-chambers, and the barracks for the SS-men who staffed the camp. The rest of the settlements, and particularly the huts for the prisoners, were destined from the beginning for the short and transitory existence in them of a constantly changing tide of prisoners.330
Let there be no confusion: Birkenau became the largest extermination center in Europe. But does this mean that it was meant to become that center? Sehn felt the need to introduce form the very beginning of his narrative a sense of foreboding: Oswiecim had been a place avoided by life for thousands of years, and the fact that the building office that constructed Birkenau was called a Sonderbauleitung seemed to point to the camp's future use as a center of Sonderbehandlung. It is here, however, that Sehn's inexperience as a writer and a professional historian caught up with him. He fell in a trap that Sartre described in his philosophical novel La Nausée (1938): in narrative, unlike in life, the beginning always announces the end.
Nothing happens while you live. The scenery changes, people come in and go out, that's all. There are no beginnings. Days are tacked on days without rhyme or reason, an interminable, monotonous addition.... That's living. But everything changes when you tell about life; it's a change no one notices: the proof is that people talk about true stories. As if there could possibly be true stories; things happen one way and we tell about them in the opposite sense. You seem to start at the beginning: "It was a fine autumn evening in 1922. I was a notary's clerk in Marommes." And in reality you have started at the end. It was there, invisible and present, it is the one which gives to words the pomp and value of a beginning. "I was out walking, I had left the town without realizing it, I was thinking about my money troubles." This sentence, taken simply for what it is, means that the man was absorbed, morose, a hundred leagues from an adventure, exactly in the mood to let things happen without noticing them. But the end is there, transforming   everything. For us, the man is already the hero of the story. His moroseness, his money troubles are much more precious than ours, they are all gilded by the light of future passions. And the story goes on in the reverse: instants have stopped piling themselves in a lighthearted way one on top of the other, they are snapped up by the end of the story which draws them and each one of them in turn, draws out the preceding instant: "It was night, the street was deserted." The phrase is cast out negligently, it seems superfluous; but we do not let ourselves be caught and we put it aside: this is a piece of information whose value we shall subsequently appreciate. And we feel that the hero has lived all the details of this night like annunciations, promises, or even that he lived only those that were promises, blind and deaf to all that did not herald adventure. We forget that the future was not yet there; the man was walking in a night without forethought, a night which offered him a choice of dull rich prizes, and he did not make his choice.331
A competent judge and experienced forensic researcher, Sehn was, at least in 1945-46, an amateur writer, and did not sufficiently realize that the ultimate transformation of Birkenau into an extermination camp was not a foregone conclusion when the camp was established as a prisoner of war camp. He did not negotiate the paradox that underlies every historical narrative and which Sartre and before him Robert Musil so brilliantly analyzed: that while in everyday life--even in Auschwitz--each moment unfolds with no certainty of outcome, "history" is based on a known conclusion that charges an otherwise tedious chronicle with portent and pregnancy. Yet, in criticizing Sehn, one must also remember that he wrote his account without the aid of the confessions of memoirs of Rudolf Höss, which only became available later in 1946 and 1947. Without any sources that provided a possibility to reconstruct the changing motivations of the SS in Auschwitz, the blueprints and correspondence of the Central Building Office could be plausibly   interpreted as pointing to a unified development following an unchanging purpose --that is as long as one forgot the beginning of Dawidowski's report that suggested a change of mind in the beginning of 1942, when Kammler decided to cancel two small incinerators in Birkenau, and build there a large crematorium originally planned for the main camp.
Whatever its flaws in describing the origin and development of the camp, Sehn's history of Auschwitz provided much useful information on the arrangement and administration of the camp, the housing conditions, the life and death of the prisoners, the medical experiments, the selections within the camp, and selections of Jews on arrival.
The report ended with a discussion, largely based on Dawidowski's forensic report, of the gas chambers, the crematoria, and the attempts to wipe out the traces of the crime. Sehn mentioned that after a first experimental gassings in Block 11, a gas chamber was created near crematorium 1, and after that, in the Fall of 1941, two peasants cottages in the Birkenau forest.
In the summer of 1942 it was decided to extend enormously gassing operations and to improve them technically, entrusting the construction of huge crematoria to the firm of J.A. Topf and Sons at Erfurt (ms. of Aug.3,1942, No.11450/42/Bi/H). This was done just after SS. Reichsfürer Himmler's visit of inspection. The construction began immediately, and in the early months of 1943 four huge modern crematoria were ready for the use of the camp authorities; their fundamental and essential part consisted of a set of gaschambers of a type unknown before. These crematoria were distinguished by the numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5. Crematoria 2 and 3 had underground areas, called on the construction drawing Nos. 932 and 933 of Jan. 28, Leichenkeller 1, and 2, both of which were intended for the gassing of human beings. Cellar 2 had an area of 400 sq. metres (480 sq. yards) and was 2.3 metres high. Cellar 1 had an area of 210 sq. metres and was 2.4 metres (7 ft.9 in.) high. In crematoria 4 and 5 chambers were built on the surface, each having an extent of 580 sq. metres (694 sq. yards), which were officially called Badeanstalt für Sonderaktion ("Baths for Special Action") (Aktenvermerk of Aug 21,1942, No. 12115/42). From the specifications of the   central building board of Feb.19,May 6,1943 and Apr.6,1943 it appears that both cellar No.1 in crematoria 2 and 3 and the Badenanstalten in crematoria 4 and 5 had gas-tight doors with grated observation windows of unbreakable 8 mm glass. The true purpose of all these rooms variously described is revealed by Bischoff's letter of Jan. 29, 1943, to the Chief of the Official Group C. Kammler, 22250/43, in which he called them gas-chambers (Vergasungskeller). 332
Sehn followed with a description of the gassing procedure.
After undressing they were driven through a corridor to the actual gas chamber(Leichenkeller 1), which had previously been heated with the aid of portable coke braziers. This heating was necessary for the better evaporation of the hydrogen cyanide. By beating them with rods and setting dogs on them about 2000 victims were packed into a space of 210 sq. metres (250 sq. yds.)
From the ceiling of this chamber, the better to deceive the victims, hung imitation shower-bays, from which water never poured. After the gas-tight doors had been [c]losed the air was pumped out and through four special openings in the ceiling the contents of cans of cyclon, producing cyanide hydrogen gas, were poured in.
The contents of the cans fell down a cylindrical shaft constructed of four corner pieces covered with wire mesh-work of varying density. In the case of the surface gas-chambers in crematoria 4 and 5, the contents of the cans of cyclon were poured in through openings in the side-walls.333
Both the cruel regime and the gas chambers produced many corpses. Initially they were buried in mass graves, but as the War Refugee Board report had already described, the mass graves created an ecological problem. Following Dawidowski's assessment, Sehn   argued that the ecological problems caused by the mass burials necessitated the construction of the four new crematoria.
The first pair (2 and 3) had 5 furnaces of three retorts each, heated by two halfgenerator fires. Crematoria 4 and 5 were constructed at a distance of about 750 metres (820 yards) from the two previously mentioned, and had twin furnaces of 8 retorts each, heated by two fires on either side. Together, therefore, the four new crematoria had 46 retorts, each with a capacity of 3-5 corpses. The burning of one retort load lasted about half an hour, and as the cleaning of the fireplaces took about an hour per day, so all the four crematoria could burn about 12,000 corpses in 24 hours, which would give 4,380,000 a year.334
It is unclear why Sehn chose to change Dawidowski's assessment that the capacity of the four crematoria in Birkenau was 8,000 per day. Sehn's calculations do not make sense: even if we assume a load of 5 corpses per muffle, and an incineration time of 30 minutes, and an operation period of 23 hours per day, we come to a capacity of "only" (46 x 5 x 2 x 23 =) 10,580 corpses per day.
The report continued with how in the summer of 1944, during the Hungarian Action, even the crematoria could not cope, and how the practice of open-pit burning was reintroduced. It then went on to address the total number of victims.
On the basis of calculations made by experts of the Investigation Technical Commission under the guidance of Prof. Dawidowski it was stated during the inquiry that the installations for disposing of corpses in pits and crematoria could have burnt more than 5 million bodies during the period in which they were active.
As is well known, the Soviet Legal and Medicinal Commission, which arrived at Auschwitz immediately after the flight of the Germans, has stated that   the number of prisoners murdered exceeded 4,000,000.Ibid., 90.
Finally Sehn dealt with the obliteration of the traces. The Germans did not only remove documents and killed prisoners who knew too much, but also destroyed the crematoria.
As early as May, 1944, the old crematorium at Auschwitz was transformed into an air-raid shelter. Crematorium 4 was burnt on Oct.7, 1944, during a fire which broke out when the members of the Sonderkommando tried to avoid being gassed. The technical installations at crematoria 2 and 3 were dismantled in November, 1944, and part of them sent up to the camp at Gross Rosen, and the buildings were blown up. Crematorium 5 was burnt and its walls blown up in the night of Jan.20, 1945.336
In conclusion, Sehn reiterated once more that Auschwitz was an extermination camp which "already at its foundation was designed by the Nazi authorities as a place of execution for millions of people."337 n="337">
Using the findings of the Central Commission and cross-referencing these with their own experiences, the Czech former inmates Ota Kraus and Erick Schön/Kulka published in 1946 their Tovarna Na Smrt (Factory of Death).338 Both Kraus and Schön had been employed in Auschwitz as locksmiths, and as such they had been able to move throughout   the camp. Their book was an in general careful and well-organized account of the operation of the camp, and the chapter entitled "Masinerie smrto" ("Machinery of Death") calmly presented the terrible facts without recourse to histrionics.
Kraus and Kulka located the beginning of mass destruction by gas in the spring of 1942 with the killing of 700 Slovak Jews in crematorium 1. According to them, crematorium 1 was only an experimental killing station. Once the Germans had devised a workable method there, "work was started at Birkenau on the construction of four large crematoria complete with gas chambers."339 On their completion, crematorium 1 was closed down. The program of extermination overtook, however, the schedule of the architects, and therefore the SS was forced to adopt a stop-gap solution and adapt two cottages into gas chambers. After a description of bunkers 1 and 2, Kraus and Kulka described the gassing operation, and the disposal of the corpses in mass graves.
After a few months, although the corpses were covered with chlorine, lime and earth, and intolerable stench began to hang around the entire neighbourhood. Deadly bacteria were found in springs and wells, and there was a severe danger of epidemics.
To meet this problem, the Sonderkommando was increased in size. Day and night, working in two shifts, the prisoners in the squad dug up decaying corpses, took them away on narrow-gauge trucks and burnt them in heaps in the immediate vicinity.
The work of exhuming and burning 50,000 corpses lasted almost till December 1942.
After this experience the Nazis stopped burying their victims and cremated them instead.
Such were the emergency methods used for destroying people at Birkenau in the early days. They continued in use until February, 1943, when the crematoria were completed and brought into use--first Crematorium I, and then   the others.340
Kraus and Kulka stressed that these new crematoria were ultra-modern "factories of corpses."341 Their book reproduced the blueprints of the crematoria which, as they claimed, the inmate architect Vera Foltynova had removed from the architectural office in August 1944. Foltynova had given the plans to Kraus and Kulka, who in turn had been able to smuggle the plans out of the camp and send on their way to Czechoslovakia "because at that time we assumed that both the crematoria and ourselves would be liquidated as witnesses to German crimes."342
At first sight the crematoria--one-storey buildings in the German style, with steep roofs, barred windows and dormer windows--presented the appearance of large bakeries.
The space around them was enclosed by high tension barbed wire and was always well kept. The roads were sprayed with sand, and well-tended flowers bloomed in the beds on the lawn. The underground gas chambers, projecting some 50 cm. Above ground level, formed a grassy terrace.
A person coming to the crematoria for the first time could have no idea what these industrial buildings were actually for.
Crematoria I and II were close to the camp itself and were visible from all sides. Crematoria III and IV, on the other hand, were hidden in a little wood; tall pine trees and birches concealed the tragedies that befell millions. This place was   called Brzezinka, from which the mane Birkenau is derived.343
Kraus and Kulka followed with a description of the interior arrangement of the basement of crematoria 2 and 3 (I and II in their numbering system).
At Crematoria I and II there were two underground rooms. The larger of these was an undressing room and was occasionally used as a mortuary; the other was a gas chamber.
The whitewashed undressing-room had square concrete pillars, about 4 meter apart. Along the walls and round the pillars there were benches, with coathooks surmounted by numbers. A pipe with a number of water taps ran the entire length of one of the walls.
There were notices in several languages:
KEEP CALM!
KEEP THIS PLACE CLEAN AND TIDY!
And arrows pointing to the doors bearing the words:
DISINFECTION
BATHROOM
The gas chamber was somewhat shorter than the undressing-room and looked like a communal bathroom. The showers in the roof, of course, never held water. Water taps were placed along the walls. Between the concrete pillars were two iron pillars, 30 cm x 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 into which the SS men fed the cyclon gas. The purpose of the plaited wire was to prevent any interference with the cyclon crystals. These pillars were a later addition to the gas chamber and hence do not appear in the plan.
Each of the gas chambers at Crematoria I and II was capable of accommodating up to 2,000 people at a time.
 
At the entrance to the gas chamber was a lift, behind double doors, for transporting the corpses to the furnace rooms on the ground-floor, with their 15 three-stage furnaces.
At the bottom stage air was in by electric fans, at the middle the fuel was burnt, and at the top of corpses were placed, two or three at a time, on the stout fire-clay grate. The furnaces had cast-iron doors which were opened by means of a pulley.
There was also a dissecting-room on the ground-floor where the prisonerdoctors in the Sonderkommando carried out various experiments and post mortems under the supervision of SS doctors.344
One of the great services of Kraus and Kulka's book was that it was the first to provide reliable plans of Auschwitz and Birkenau. For example, their description of the crematoria was accompanied by a fold-out sheet with a set of three annotated plans, showing the basement of crematorium 3, the first floor of the same building, and the plan of crematorium 4.345 They also provided two photographs of a model of crematorium 3, which showed the underground gas chamber, the incineration hall with the five triplemuffle ovens, and the living quarters of the Sonderkommando in the attic.346
Kraus and Kulka provided lengthy descriptions of the arrival procedures both before and after the completion of the spur line that connected Birkenau to the main railway lines. Before the spring of 1944, transports arrived at a special ramp outside the camp, adjacent to the railway corridor, and were greeted by the SS and inmates of the so-called Canada Squad who had orders to take care of all the deportees' belongings.  
As the men got out of the trucks, they were separated from women and children. Then an SS doctor and SS officer, after a superficial examination of each man, would show by a jerk of the thumb whether they were to go to the right or left--life or death.
Children were assigned to death, and women who did not want to be separated from their children went with them. Of the remaining women only those from sixteen to thirty who were young and healthy were selected for the camp; the rest were sent to the gas chambers. Of the men some 15 to 20% were classified fit for work.
People destined for the gas chambers were loaded on to waiting lorries. Those classified as fit for work had to walk to the camps on foot, but before they left they were given the option of going on the lorries, if they thought they could not walk--which meant death in the gas chambers.
We shall never forget the sight of those long convoys of fast-moving lorries, packed full of people. We were unable to give them the last word or sign to show them where they were heading--but they were really better off if they did not know.
One of the most cynical touches in the whole affair was the use of an ambulance, marked with the Red Cross. The vehicle waited at the ramp, to give the impression that it was performing the normal function of an ambulance, and then moved off at the tail of the convoy. But instead of medicines and patients it carried tins of deadly cyclon B crystals for the gas chambers.347
Well-written and filled with observations based on personal experience, Kraus and Kulka's Factory of Death was to become a classic, going through many and increasingly expanded editions in both Czech and other languages.
In the years that followed, enormous amounts of eye-witness evidence became available,   some of which Sehn was to include in the subsequent editions of his initial forensic report. There is little use to review the various testimonies of survivors, as they do not substantially challenge or alter the knowledge that had been based on the evidence given in 1945 and 1946. It is, however, useful to include at this point a short discussion about the attempts of Holocaust deniers to challenge the testimonies of eye-witnesses such as Dragon, Tauber, and others. In general, Holocaust deniers have not spent too much energy on attempts to refute these statements. Their major effort has been directed to cast doubt on German documents such as Bischoff's letter containing the reference to the gassing cellar (Vergasungskeller), or the confessions of SS men who worked in Auschwitz, such as Pery Broad and Dr. Johann Paul Kremer, or camp Kommandant Rudolf Höss. The attacks on pieces of contemporary documentary evidence, or the self-incriminating statements made by SS personnel, are often of an intensively technical nature, and will be discussed in detail in Part Four of this report.
Attempts by deniers to discredit Jewish eye-witnesses such as Dragon, Tauber, and others have, in general, not taken the form of detailed hermeneutical analysis. Instead, Holocaust deniers have limited themselves to cats general suspicion on the evidentiary validity of such historical sources. The basic negationist position vis-a-vis survivor testimony was developed by, the "father of Holocaust denial," the Frenchman Paul Rassinier. During the war Rassinier, belonged to the French resistance, and after his arrest on November 29, 1943, Rassinier spent fourteen months as an inmate in the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dora.348 According to his own account, het met there an         inmate named Jircszah, who had been in Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Dachau and Oranienburg before being transported to Buchenwald, and who became his mentor. Jircszah told Rassinier not to trust the atrocity stories told by the other inmates.
He told me the story of Buchenwald and the other camps. "There is a lot that is true in all that is said about the horrors for which they are the setting, but there is a lot of exaggeration, too. You have to reckon with the complex of Ulysses' lie, which is everyone's, and so it is with all of the internees. Human beings need to exaggerate the bad as well as the good and the ugly as well as the beautiful. Everyone hopes and wants to come out of this business with the halo of a saint, a hero, or a martyr, and each one embroiders his own Odyssey without realizing that the reality is quite enough in itself."349
Liberated in April 1945, Rassinier returned to France physically a broken man, but mentally he had hardened in the ideological stance prepared for by his pre-war revolutionary ideology and shaped by Jircszah's lectures. He had no patience for or empathy with his fellow deportees.
The deportees came back with hatred and resentment on their tongues and in their pens. They were not tired of war, rather they had an axe to grind and they demanded vengeance. Moreover, since they suffered from an inferiority complex--there were only sone 30,000 of them out of a population of 40 million   inhabitants--they wantonly created a story of horror for a public that always clamored for something more sensational in order the more surely to inspire pity and recognition.
The inflammatory fabrications of one deportee soon inspired similar stories by others, and the progressively were caught on a treadmill of lies. Although some deportees were duped by others in this process, most of them managed quite consciously to blacken the picture even more in their zeal to hold the limelight. So it was with Ulysses who, during the course of his voyage, each day added a new adventure to his Odyssey, as much to please the public taste of the times as to justify his long absence in the eyes of his family.350
Rassinier became a crusader against the horror stories told by the deportees. It was not difficult to show inconsistencies and errors in detail. These were important to him. "I would like to make the observation ...that the whole is composed of details," Rassinier observed, "and an error of detail, whether made in good or bad faith, regardless of whether it is of a kind that is intended to mislead the observer, must logically make the observer doubt the reliability of the whole." And he added the rhetorical question: "and if there are many errors in detail...? And if they are almost all shown to be made in bad faith?"351
Following Rassinier, Holocaust deniers routinely dismiss survivor testimonies concerning the Holocaust as "Lies of Ulysses," and their mental disposition as the "Odysseus Complex." They will try to find one "error of detail," and on the basis of this dismiss the whole statement. For example, during the First Zündel Trial held in Toronto in 1985, the Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson argued that the War Refugee Board report had no value because the plan of the crematorium drawn by Vrba contained errors.  
[Defense Counsel]: "Now, in respect to this W.R.B. Report, you say because of the drawings respecting the gas chambers that are in the W.R.B. Report, and that in relation to the plans you found; is that right?"
[Faurisson]: "Yeah."
Q.: "Any other reason why you say we should not believe the W.R.B. Report of Dr. Vrba and others?"
A.: "The plan of Auschwitz, the plan of the crematorium."
Q.: "What about them?"
A.: "They do not--they are nothing."
Q.: "What do you mean, they're nothing?"
A.: "When you see the reality of the place ..."
Q.: "Yes."
A.: "...It does not stand, that's all. When you see on the same level a gas chamber, then a track to put the people, the bodies in the furnaces, and when you see that in fact this place which was a mortuary was underground, that you had a little lift, and on the--at the other level you had the furnaces..."
Q.: "Yes."
A.: "...And the furnaces are not at all like they have been drawn by Dr.Vrba, and he said..."
Q.: "What do you conclude from that, doctor?"
A.: "I conclude that it is not exact."
Q.: "What do you conclude about the author of that, if he says it is exact?
A.: "I say, 'You say something which is not exact.'"
Q.: "All right. So is there any other reason why we should not believe the W.R.B.Report?"
A.: "Yes, because, for example, you have the report of the Polish major."
Q.: "Yes, which is part of the W.R.B. Report?
A.: "Yes, I remember that, that there are many things; this Polish major says that   the people were gassed by a hydrocyanic bomb."352
After a diversion on the statement of another witness, Christie asked Faurisson if he had any other reasons to say that the War Refugee Board report should not be considered credible. He answered: "I think it's sufficient for me."353
The Spanish negationist Enrique Aynat Eknes tried to demolish the credibility of the War Refugee Board report by quoting its description of crematorium 2. His treatment of the Vrba-Wetzlar account followed that of the testimonies of a)Rudolf Höss, b)Pery Broad, 3)Dr.P. Bendel--testimonies that will be discussed in the following chapter. In each case, Eknes quoted a selected passage describing the killing installations, and provided his "critique."
d)Alfred Wetzler (Auschwitz internee):
At present there are four crematoriums in operation in Birkenau, two large ones, I and II, and two small, III and IV. Those of type I and II consist of three parts: a) the furnace room; b) the great hall; c) the gas chamber. An enormous chimney rises above the furnace room, around which are grouped nine furnaces, each with four openings, each opening can receive three normal cadavres at one time, and at the end of an hour and a half the corpses are completely consumed. That represents a daily capacity of around 2,000 bodies. Near this room there is a large reception hall arranged so as to give the impression of being the lobby of a public bath. It holds 2,000 people and apparently there is a similar waiting room on the floor below. From there, a door and several stairsteps take you to the gas chamber which is very long and narrow. The walls of this room appear to contain shower entrances, for the purposes of deceiving the victims. In the ceiling are fixed three little doors that can be sealed hermetically from   the outside. A track leads from the gas chamber towards the crematory room. The administering of the gas is done as follows: the unfortunate victims are taken to the hall (b) where they are ordered to disrobe . . . Next the victims are brought together into the gas chamber (c). In order to squeeze this crowd into the cramped space, shots are frequently fired for the purposes of inducing them those who have already got to the far end to move still closer together. When everyone is inside, the heavy doors are closed. Then comes a short pause, probably to let the temperature of the room rise to a certain level, after which the SS men, wearing gas masks, climb to the roof, open the little doors, and drop a preparation in powder form taken from metal canisters labelled "Cyclon," "For use against parasites." . . . At the end of three minutes everyone in the room has died. No one ever survived this treatment, whereas it is was not uncommon to discover signs of life in those who had been executed in the birch forest, because of the primitive methods employed there. Next the room is opened, ventilated, and the Sonderkommando piles up the bodies on flatbed trucks and transports them to the crematory rooms where the incineration takes place.

Critique:
--We already know that each crematorium was provided with five crematories of three muffle furnaces each. The reference to the nine furnaces and four openings is pure invention.
--The "Great hall" is also a product of Wetzler's imagination, just like the "waiting room" on the ground floor. The "gas chamber" and the "crematory room" were not connected by a "track" but, as we know, by an elevator.
--Accordingly, if the only means of access to the crematories from the supposed gas chamber was the freight elevator, the "flatbed truck" mentioned in the text would serve no purpose.
--It would not be necessary for the SS men wearing gas masks to "climb" to the gas chamber, since the latter was underground, and its ceiling was practically at ground level.
--But the best way of convincing ourselves that we are faced with apocryphal   evidence is to compare the plan contained in Wetzler's supposed original document(see figure 12) with Figure 5, put out by the Auschwitz museum. The conclusion is obvious: Wetzler has never seen the place he describes.354
Indeed, neither Wetzlar nor Vrba were ever inside the crematoria, and they did not claim that they were. In his 1963 memoir I Cannot Forgive, Vrba was very explicit about the fact that he had never been inside a crematorium, and that he got his information from Sonderkommando Philip Müller.355 In 1985, during the Zündel Trial, Vrba came back to the issue as a witness for the prosecution. In cross-examination by Zündel's defense counsel Christie, Vrba had given the following explanation when challenged on the reliability of the description and the accompanying drawing included in the War Refugee Board report.
Mr.Christie: "How do you explain the fact that you've drawn on the diagram that I showed you every crematorium the same shape in 1944, when you drew the diagram upon your escape?"
A.: "Because I had only two days to write the whole report, and to try to depict the crematoria. There was a great urgency with that plan, because the objective of the plan was to get it to Hungary and to use this whole report towards the Hungarian Jews of imminent deportation. Under that conditions I didn't lose much time with details like what is the difference between Krematorium I and II and Krematorium II and III, but I limited myself to depict the position of the gas chambers and crematoria [on] one side, and the geographic position of the whole murderous complex on the other side."
Q: "Sure. I now produce and show to you a diagram which came from, I suggest,   your War Refugee Report of 1944 in which you depicted a crematoria. Correct?"
A.: "That's right."
Q.: "Is it accurate?"
A.: "This I cannot say. It was said that as we were not in the large crematoria, we reconstructed it from messages which we got from members of the Sonderkommando working in the crematorium, and therefore, that approximately how it transpired in our mind, and in our ability to depict what we have heard."356
In other words, the question is not if the reconstruction Vrba and Wetzlar made after their escape is an exact description of the crematoria, but if it is probable that they had indeed been in some regular contact with a Sonderkommando who knew the crematoria, and who gave them information about these installations and the extermination procedures therein. Reading the passage with this in mind, it is important first of all to observe that Eknes did not provide a full quote, but omitted to passages that provide specific detail.357
The administering of the gas is done as follows: the unfortunate victims are taken to the hall (b) where they are ordered to disrobe. To complete the fiction that they are going to bathe, each person receives a towel and a small piece of soap issued by two men clad in white coats. Next the victims are brought together into the gas chamber (c).   [...] and drop a preparation in powder form taken from metal canisters labelled "Cyclon," "For use against parasites," which is manufactured by a Hamburg concern. It is presumed that this is a "Cyanide" mixture of some sort which turns into gas at a certain temperature. At the end of three minutes everyone in the room has died.
Both details were later confirmed by independent sources, and Eknes' decision to drop them in his "quotation" from the War Refugee Report seems a brazen attempt to remove evidence contrary to this thesis.
If we consider the text as a whole, and identify the various elements of the description, then it becomes clear that most of them can be accounted for in the design of either crematoria 2 and 3, or crematoria 4 and 5, and that the compilation of these elements into a composite "crematorium" reconstructed by two escapees without any architectural training is as good as one could expect, given the circumstances. First of all, as Vrba and Wetzlar mentioned, there were four crematoriums in operation in Birkenau, consisting of two large crematoria--I (2) and II (3)--and two small crematoria--III (4)and IV (5). The information about the number of incinerators is obviously wrong, but the statement that each opening can receive three normal cadavers at one time was confirmed by Tauber and Höss. The "large reception hall arranged so as to give the impression of being the lobby of a public bath" must refer to the undressing rooms of crematoria 4 and 5, which were indeed located next to the incineration rooms. The description of the gas chambers, with the "little doors" in the ceiling can refer to either crematoria 2 and 3, or to crematoria 4 and 5. The description of the extermination procedure is more or less correct, as is the use of metal tins containing the Zyklon delousing agent and the way the solid substance "turns into gas at a certain temperature." Finally "flatbed trucks" were at times used in crematorium 2 to transport corpses from the elevator to the ovens. The tracks are still to be seen in the ruins of this crematorium.
The description of the crematoria in the War Refugee Board report contains errors, but given the conditions under which information was obtained, the lack of architectural   training of Vrba and Wetzlar, and the situation in which the report was compiled, one would become suspicious if it did not contain errors. Vrba and wetzlar did not claim to provide an exact description of the crematoria. Their report was not a dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment for a graduate degree in archeology. Their reconstruction of the killing installations was a good-faith attempt, based on whatever information they had been able to obtain, to convince the world that an unimaginable event was taking place in the heart of Europe--an event that still staggers and numbs the mind.
Confronted with the lengthy and very detailed testimony of Tauber, Eknes applied a technique of evasion. He implicitly dismisses the importance of Tauber's statement with one sentence: "In general, this testimony is in agreement with the official thesis."358 Like so many other Holocaust deniers, Eknes prefers to deal with inconvenient evidence by ignoring it. Yet he does not want to let one opportunity slip to use Tauber against "the official thesis."
In general, this testimony is in agreement with the official thesis. However, it contains a contradiction where he states that he was assigned to the Sonderkommando of crematorium II on 4 March 1943, inasmuch as this crematorium was not turned over to the camp administration until the 31st day of that month. H.Tauber further declared:
Between these two rooms [the disrobing room and the gas chamber] there was a corridor to which there was access from the outside by way of few stairs, and a chute down which they flung the cadavers coming from the camp, to convey them to the crematories.
This chute for cadavers establishes at least that the Germans had designed the crematoriums also for the incineration of prisoners who died from natural causes or epidemics, since, as we shall see, the "circuit" followed by those destined for   extermination in the gas chambers was different. The tacit acknowledgement of the mixed use of the crematoriums that is derived from Tauber's statement is per se disturbing for the credibility of the official doctrine. It is difficult to accept that the Germans had established a "circuit" for the cremation of the deceased from non-criminal causes which interfered with that followed by the victims of the gas chambers. It would have been much simpler to take the ones who died from natural causes directly to the crematory furnaces, avoiding their passage through the crowded basement of the crematorium.359
Eknes probably felt that he could ignore the bulk of Tauber's testimony because he had identified the one contradiction that, according to Rassinier, was to make the whole account irrelevant: while Tauber claimed that he had been assigned to the Sonderkommando of crematorium 2 on March 4,1943, documents showed that crematorium 2 was only turned over to the camp administration on March 31. But is there really a contradiction? It is clear that the official transfer of the crematorium occurred when the building had been fully completed but tests of the incinerators, undertaken in the presence of visitors from Berlin, had taken place as early as March 5,and the first experimental gassings had taken place on March 13. Both operations required a team of Sonderkommando. Only when the crematorium was deemed fully operational was it signed over to the camp authorities. As a result, there is no contradiction between the fact that Tauber was assigned to the Sonderkommando of crematorium 2 on March 4, and the official transfer of the building more than three weeks later.
As to the second part of Tauber's testimony that raised Eknes' interest the following: Eknes claims that Tauber stated that "there was a corridor to which there was access from the outside by way of few stairs, and a chute down which they flung the cadavers coming from the camp, to convey them to the crematories." The translation made by Dorota Ryszka and Adam Rutkowski, used by Pressac and consequently by   myself, states that "there was a corridor, in which there came from the exterior a stairway and a slide for throwing the bodies that were brought to the camp to be incinerated in the crematorium." Thus while Eknes makes a claim about a practice (of "flunging" "cadavers" into the basement of crematorium 2), Tauber refers to the intention of the slide--an intention that preceded the transformation of morgue 1 into a gas chamber. It is unclear to what extent that intention was actually realized during the operation of crematorium 2. What is clear is that even if the slide was used, there is no necessary contradiction with the use of the basement as an extermination installation. Eknes claims that "[i]t is difficult to accept that the Germans had established a 'circuit' for the cremation of the deceased from non-criminal causes which interfered with that followed by the victims of the gas chambers. It would have been much simpler to take the ones who died from natural causes directly to the crematory furnaces, avoiding their passage through the crowded basement of the crematorium." He assumes, therefore, that there are two continuous processes, represented by two "circuits" that ought not interfere with each other. Yet the basement of crematorium 2 was not constantly crowded. Especially before the Hungarian Action, there were many days that no gassings took place, and there was ample time and space for corpses of inmates who had died in the camp to be brought to the basement of the crematorium, where their numbers would be registered in the death books and, if any, their golden teeth would be removed.
The Holocaust deniers have preferred to bury Tauber's testimony in silence.
As to the countless testimonies of those survivors who were not employed as Sonderkommando, but who arrived in the camp, were subjected to selection, lost their family at that moment, and who were admitted to the camp never to see their beloved ones back, admitted to eke out a miserable existence marked by monthly selections, which led to the disappearance of one's comrades, one's bunkmates--as to these survivor testimonies the Holocaust deniers claim that the source of all their stories is, in the words of the German negationist Wilhelm Stäglich, "mass suggestion."
The investigation of this phenomenon, in regard to the alleged extermination of   Jews in the "gas chambers" of so-called extermination camps, would certainly be a worthwhile task for psychologists and sociologists. For even if the extermination of Jews had taken place, it would be unrealistic to assume that the laws of mass suggestion could not have had any influence on the description of the extent and nature of killings of Jews that actually took place. Probably this influence was far greater than one would imagine.360
According to Stäglich, the camps were closed off from the world, and were therefore ruled by rumour and provided therefore the perfect context for the emergence of mass suggestion. Invoking the work of the French psychologist Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931) on self-delusions of "psychological crowds,"361 Stäglich claimed that "the many accounts of the alleged mass gassings in Birkenau have their origin in mass hallucinations or mass suggestion inspired by propaganda." In short, inmates would have heard Allied radio broadcasts claiming gassings in the camps, and as a result have started to fantasize about such gassings in their own situation. "It is easy to find examples substantiating the view   that many accounts of the alleged mass gassings in Birkenau have their origin in mass hallucinations or mass suggestion inspired by propaganda, for the observations upon which such reports are based can usually be explained in a completely natural way," Stäglich argued. That those deemed "unfit for work" left the place of selection in the direction of the crematoria can be explained because in that vicinity was also a hospital for inmates, and a bath house.
An equally natural explanation can be given for the observation, variously reported, that corpses were removed from the cellar of one of the crematoria, or a room next to the crematorium, to the incineration area of the crematorium. It is well-known that the death-rate in the Auschwitz camps was high at times-- especially during the frequent typhus epidemics. It is understandable that all these dead people could not be cremated at once. They must have been stored in a special area until they could be cremated. This was the "corpse cellar" of the crematorium, mentioned in various documents, or an annex serving the same purpose. The removal of corpses from such an area was a completely normal procedure. But many an inmate who observed such a procedure may, under the mass suggestive influence of rumors that were in circulation, have come in all good faith to the conclusion that he was witness to a "gassing."362
But then, what about the testimonies about living people descending into those "corpse cellars."
Stäglich was not concerned about the fact that so many people unanimously attest that gassings occurred. "In the nature of things," he observed, "the unanimity of many groups of witnesses is itself the result of mass suggestion."363 Stäglich then formulated his rules for accepting eye-witness evidence.  
As evidence for the alleged gassing of the Jews, reports that do not contain specific details about it, but are limited to quite vague allegations of this type--as is usually the case--must be rejected at once. Such general statements are just as worthless as hearsay testimony, since they cannot be proved. Further, only statements free of contradictions, which do not stand in contradiction to other circumstances and facts, may lay claim to credibility. Finally, to have probative value, a statement must contain nothing improbable, something that may seem obvious to most people, but--as we shall see--is not always the case with reports about the Birkenau crematoria.364
Stäglich had no trouble finding some obscure accounts published immediately after the war that did, indeed, have little probative value. Especially Eugène Aroneau's 1946 collage of unrelated quotes taken from 125 different eyewitness accounts of various quality, proved an easy victim.365 Aroneau had submerged all the individual differences between the camps in order to evoke something that could be called "the essence of the concentration camp." He reserved a particular scorn for Aroneau because it was the "original source of the later and often-modified story of a woman who allegedly snatched a pistol from an SS officer, in front of the gas chamber at Birkenau, and shot him to death.
In this case, it was an "Israelite of extraordinary beauty" from Belgium, whose child had been "smashed against a concrete wall" by that SS officer. Kogon, on the other hand, tells this story as that of an Italian dancer who, on orders of the SS, had "to dance naked in front of the crematorium" before her gassing. Kogon even knows the name of the SS officer who was shot to death because he was so careless about his pistol: It was "Rapportführer Schillinger." Karl Barthel also   repeats this tale, in his book Die Welt ohne Erbarmen [The World Without Pity]. According to him, however, the heroine was a "French actress," for whose "courage" Barthel has words of praise. Barthel himself was only in Buchenwald, but he probably found it necessary to make his own account a little bit more interesting with this and other such gossip. Other authors vary the tale of this "martyr" even further. She is an unusually instructive example of the imaginings of former concentration camp inmates.366
Aroneau was an easy target, but Stäglich studiously avoided the accounts published in this chapter--the posthumous testimony of Salmen Gradowski, statements made by Walter Blass, Shlomo Dragon, Henry Tauber, and Michael Kula. And he ignored the corroborating statements of the Polish inmate Stanislaw Klodzinski, "The Polish Major," Stanislaw Jankowski, Janda Weiss, and an SS-man named Pery Broad who, independently from each other, corroborated the event. Klodzinski did so in a letter written to Teresa Lasocka-Estreicher, smuggled out of the camp shortly after the event. "The Polish Major" did so in early 1944, when he wrote about the incident in his report. Stanislaw Jankowski testified about the incident immediately after the war in Auschwitz, and Janda Weiss talked about it in Buchenwald--mor or less at the same time that SS-man Pery Broad provided information about the event whilst imprisoned in a British prisoner-of-war camp. All these witnesses told of that extraordinary woman who on October 23, 1943 could not tolerate her fate and that of her companions any longer, snatched Schillenger's pistol, and killed him. As the story that Stäglich judged "an unusually instructive example of the imagiinings of former concentratio camp inmates" has indeed proven to be based on fact, what about all those other stories, all those testimonies full of instructive details, all those statements free of major contradictions?
I.A. Topf & Sons Erfurt February 12, 1943. Central Construction SS and Police, Auschwitz (Oswiecim) Re: Crematoriums Two and Three of camp for war prisoners.
We confirm receipt of your telegram of February 10 of the following content: We again confirm receipt of your order for five triple muffle furnaces, including two electric lifts for hoisting corpses and one temporary lift for corpses. Also ordered are a practical device for feeding coal, and a device for transporting ashes. You have to deliver complete installation for crematorium No.3. We expect you to take all steps for immediate shipment of all machines and parts. Installation must absolutely begin functioning on April 10,1943.
I.A. Topf and Sons. No. 12, 115/42/er/na 2
With regard to the installation of two triple muffle ovens; one each for the "special   purpose baths," engineer Pruefer has proposed taking them from furnaces prepared for shipment to Mogilev. The head of the Service Section of the SS Economic Administration of the Central Department in Berlin was immediately notified of this and requested to issue further instruction.
SS-Untersturmführer (S) Oswiecim, August 21, 1942. 29 January 1943 To the Chief Amtsgruppe C, SS-Brigadeführer and General-Major of the
Waffen-SS, Dr. Ing. Kammler. Subject: Crematorium II, condition of the building.
crematorium has been completed--save for minor constructional work--by the use of all the forces available, in spite of unspeakable difficulties, the severe cold, and in 24 hour shifts. The fires were started in the ovens in the presence of Senior Engineer Prüfer, representative of the contractors of the firm of Topf and Sons, Erfurt, and they are working most satisfactorily. The planks from the concrete ceiling of the cellar used as a mortuary could not yet be removed on account of the frost. This is, however, not very important, as the gassing cellar   (Vergasungskeller) can be used for that purpose.
The firm of Topf and Sons was not able to start deliveries of the installation in time for aeration and ventilation as had been requested by the Central Building Management because of restrictions on use of railroad cars. As soon as the installation for aeration and ventilation arrive, the installing will start so that the complete installation may be expected to be ready for use 20 February 1943.
We enclose a report of the testing engineer of the firm Topf and Sons, Erfurt.
The Chief of the Central
Construction Management,
Waffen-SS and Police Auschwitz,
SS-Hauptsturmführer

[Bischoff]


Distribution:
1 - SS Ustuf Janisch and Kirschneck
1 - Filing office (file crematorium)

Certified true copy:

[signature ] SS--Ustuf (F)

Notes

220. Henry Saint John, 1st Viscount of Bolingbroke, "Letters on the study and use of history," The Works of Lord Bolingbroke, 4 vols. (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1844), vol. 2, 218.
221. Primo Levi, The Reawakening, transl. Stuart Woolf (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965), 11f.
222. Boris Polevoi, "The Factory of Death at Auschwitz," Pravda, February 2, 1945, as translated by Samuell Crowell and published on David Irving's web-site, http://w.w.w.tpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Auschw.html.
223. Ibid.
224. Ibid.
225. Van Pelt and Dwork, Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present, 337ff.
226. Polevoi, "The Factory of Death at Auschwitz,."
227. One can only speculate as to the source of Polevoi's claim that the extermination installation contained an electric conveyer belt between the gas chamber and the so-called "blast furnace." In crematoria 2and 3 an electrical elevator connected the underground gas chamber and the incineration room. In the confusion of tongues that existed in Auschwitz at liberation, Polevoi could have misunderstood references to the electrical elevator. As to the blast furnace, the most likely source is a patent application T 58240 submitted by incinerator manufacturer J.A. Topf & Söhne in Erfurt for a "Continuous Operation Corpse Incineration Furnace for Intensive Use," filed by Topf on November 5, 1942. In its design it reflects in general terms Polevoi's description. The Auschwitz Central Construction Office possessed a copy of this patent application, and it may have been possible that Polevoi was shown this document and drew his conclusions. For a detailed discussion of patent T58240 see Chapter IX.. J.A. Topf & Söhne, Erfurt, Patent Application, "Kontinuierliche arbeitenderLeichen-Verbrennungsofen für Massenbetrieb," Archive Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, BW 30/44.
228. Ibid.
229. "Poland 's Jewish Survivors," The Jewish Chronicle, vol. 104, no. 3,956 (February 2, 1945), 1.
230. "Oswiecim Revelations," The Jewish Chronicle, vol. 104, no. 3,957 (February 9, 1945), 1.
231. Salmen Gradowski (1909-1944) was a native of Suwalki and worked as a clerk in Luna until hisdeportation to the transit camp at Kielbasin near Grodno. From there he was brought in early 1943 to Auschwitz. There he lost his whole family during the selection. Gradowski led the mutiny of the Sonderkommando that occurred in October 1944. He did not survive the uprising. See Nathan Cohen, "Diaries of the Sonderkommando," in Gutman and Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, 523ff.
232. Salmen Gradowski, Letter, in Jadwiga Bezwinska and Danuta Czech, eds., Amidst a Nightmare of Crime: Manuscripts of Members of Sonderkommando, transl. Krystyna Michalik (Oswiecim: StateMuseum at Oswiecim, 1973), 75ff.
233. Cohen, "Diaries of the Sonderkommando," in Gutman and Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, 523.
234. Treblinka was located on a side-line some six miles from the main railway line connecting Bialystokand Warsaw.
235. Gradowski, "Diary," in Bezwinska and Czech, eds.,Amidst a Nightmare of Crime, 81.
236. Ibid., 82ff.
237. Ibid., 94
238. Ibid., 95
239. The transport arrived at the so-called Judenrampe, at some distance from Birkenau. Those who were selected as "unfit for work" at the Judenrampe were usually transported by lorries to the gas chambers. After the completion of the spur into Birkenau in the Spring of 1944, the distance between the place of selection and the crematoria was such that even the weakest were deemed to be able to walk to the place of their death.
240. Gradowski, "Diary," in Bezwinska and Czech, eds., Amidst a Nightmare of Crime, 99ff.
241. Cohen, "Diaries of the Sonderkommando," in Gutman and Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, 525ff.
242. As quoted in Desmond Hawkins, ed., War Report: D-Day to VE-Day (London BBC Books, 1994), 318.
243. Jon Bridgman, The End of the Holocaust: The Liberation of the Camps (Portland: Areopagitica Press,1990), 110.
244. As quoted in Lipstadt, Beyond Belief, 259.
245. "Polish Women in German Concentration Camps," Polish Fortnightly Review, no. 115 (May 1, 1945),1.
246. Saul K. Padover, Experiment in Germany: The Story of an American Intelligence Officer (New York:Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946), 358.
247. Stefan Heym, Reden an den Feind, Peter Mallwitz ed. (Munich: C. Bertelsmann, 1986), 334f.
248. "The Horrors of Buchenwald," The Times, 28 April, 1945, 2.
249. This incident was independently confirmed by Sanislaw Jankowski during a testimony given in Polandon April 16, 1945. Stanislaw Jankowski, "Deposition," Jadwiga Bezwinska and Danuta Czech, eds., Amidst a Nightmare of Crime: Manuscripts of Members of Sonderkommando, transl. Krystyna Michalik (Oswiecim: State Museum at Oswiecim, 1973), 55.
250. Document 159, "Experiences of a Fifteen-Year-Old in Birkenau," in Hackett, ed.. The Buchenwald Report, 349.
251. Document 157, "Selections in Birkenau," in Hackett, ed.. The Buchenwald Report, 346f..
252. The internal evidence of the document points to June 1944. It mentions the recent completion of railway spur that connected the railway corridor to Birkenau. Ibid., 3.
253. Ibid., 2.
254. In equating the number of chimneys with crematoria, the eyewitness created some confusion. In fact, Birkenau had four crematoria, but two of these had one chimney each (2 and 3), and two of these hadtwo chimneys each (4 and 5). Thus Birkenau counted a total of four crematoria with a total of six chimneys.
255. With the reference to trains from Russia the witness probably referred to transports coming from Boryslaw in Eastern Galicia.
256. Ibid., 5f.
257. Ibid., 8.
258. As quoted in Serge Klarsfeld, David Olère 1902-1985: Un peintre au sonderkommando à Auschwitz (New York: The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1989), 8.
259. Both drawings are in the collection of the museum of the Ghetto Fighters House, Israel.
260. The most readily available version is the German translation of the report used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials. See: Document 008-USSR, "Statement by the Extraordinary Commission for the Investigation of Fascist and Nazi Crimes on the terrible horrors and crimes of the German government in Auschwitz (Oswiecim)," in International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals, 41 vols. (Nuremberg: Secretariat of the Tribunal, 1947-49), vol. 39, 242ff.. The official English translation can be found as "Report on crimes committed by the German-fascist invaders in Oswiecim(Auschwitz)," in Soviet Government Statements on Nazi Atrocities (London: Hutchinson & Co., n.d.),283-300, and as "Statement of the Extraordinary State Committee For the Ascertaining and Investigation of Crimes Committed by the German-fascist Invaders and Their Associates On Crimes Committed by the German-fascist Invaders in the Oswiecim Death Camp," Information Bulletin, Embassy of the Soviet Socialist Republics (Washington D.C.), vol. 5, no. 54 (May 29, 1945), 1-8.
261. "Statement of the Extraordinary State Committee For the Ascertaining and Investigation of Crimes Committed by the German-fascist Invaders and Their Associates On Crimes Committed by the German-fascist Invaders in the Oswiecim Death Camp," Information Bulletin, Embassy of the Soviet Socialist Republics (Washington D.C.), vol. 5, no. 54 (May 29, 1945), 1.
262. Ibid., 2.
263. Ibid., 8; in the Nuremberg trials another translation was used when this paragraph was introduced as evidence. "However, using rectified coefficients for the part-time employment of the crematorium ovens and for the periods when they stood empty, the technical expert commission has ascertained that during the time that the Auschwitz camp existed, the German butchers exterminated in this camp not less than four million citizens of the U.S.S.R., Poland, France, Jugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Holland, Belgium, and other countries." The remarkable language of the "rectified coefficients" invited a wry comment from Reitlinger some years later. See International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals, 41 vols. (Nuremberg: Secretariat of the Tribunal,194749), vol. 7, 589; also Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe 1939-1945 (London: Valentine, Mitchell & Co., 1953), 460.
264. The proportion between the victim count of Maidanek and Auschwitz as 1 : 3, established in the reports of the Soviet-Polish commissions, re-appeared after the victims count of both camps was revised on the basis of more solid data to 360,000 and 1.1 million respectively.
265. Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, German Crimes in Poland, 2 vols. (Warsaw: Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, 1946-7), vol. 1, 7.
266. Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, German Crimes in Poland, 2 vols. (Warsaw: Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, 1946-7), vol. 1,102f.
267. Ibid., 104.
268. See the list of transports in Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Bloomington and Indianopolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), 392-398. The response of the negationists to the work of the Poles has been simple denial. Rassinier simply dismissed it out of hand, falsifying the record. For example, when he quotes both the Polish estimate of 700,000 victims for Treblinka and 300,000 victims for Chelmno, he first remarks he does not know how "the Warsaw Commission" came to its conclusions, to state in the next paragraph that its unit of measure and its base of reference was purely conjectural, and that the publication of its findings is "a pack of contradictions by people of whom it cannot even be said that they existed and who are given as 'survivors.'" See: Paul Rassinier, The Holocaust and the Lies of Ulysses, transl. Adam Robbins (Costa Mesa: The Institute for Historical Review, 1978), 267.
269. The German practice to periodically kill the Sonderkommando involved in the operation of the bunkers and crematoria in Birkenau was established in late 1942. As long as crematorium 1 was still operational as an extermination installation, these Sonderkommando were brought from Birkenau to Auschwitz to be killed by a special group of Sonderkommando not involved in the genocide taking place in Birkenau. When crematorium 1 was taken out of commission in 1943, the practice evolved that the first task of the newly appointed Sonderkommando in Birkenau was to kill and incinerate their predecessors.
270. Stanislaw Jankowski, "Deposition," Jadwiga Bezwinska and Danuta Czech, eds., Amidst a Nightmare of Crime: Manuscripts of Members of Sonderkommando, transl. Krystyna Michalik (Oswiecim: State Museum at Oswiecim, 1973), 45f.
271. With the Auschwitz station Jankowski referred to the so-called "Judenrampe," an unloading point at the west side of the large marshalling-yard just south of the Auschwitz station.
272. All the data given in this paragraph was later corroborated.
273. Jankowski, "Deposition," in Bezwinska and Danuta Czech, eds., Amidst a Nightmare of Crime, 53ff.
274. Ibid., 63.
275. Ibid., 55; Document 159, "Experiences of a Fifteen-Year-Old in Birkenau," in Hackett, ed.. The Buchenwald Report, 349.
276. During the Hungarian Action the practice evolved to shoot those deportees at the pits who were unable to walk to the crematoria. Throughout the killing operations, the Auschwitz SS always faced a problem how to manage the circumstance that the arriving deportees were of different mobility. When the selections took place at the so-called Judenrampe outside of Birkenau, those who were selected to live would walk to the camp, while those who could not were loaded in trucks and brought to the bunkers or crematoria. When in early 1944 the railspur was completed that connected Birkenau with the main railway line, this procedure had to change as there was little opportunity in the confined situation within the camp for trucks to operate. Given the relatively small distance from the place of selection to the crematoria, most condemned to die could walk the distance. As there was no transport available for those who could not, a situation arose in which those who had walked to the crematoria would have had to wait a long time for the lame and cripple to catch up. Such a delay would disturb the efficiency of the killing operation and produce greater anxiety, and hence the Ss decided not to wait for those who were unable to join the main body of those deportees to be gassed, and begin the gassing immediately after all who had been able to walk to the crematoria once they had undressed themselves. From this evolved the practice to shoot those left behind.
277. Jankowski, "Deposition," Bezwinska and Czech, eds., Amidst a Nightmare of Crime, 56.
278. Protocol testimony Shlomo Dragon, 10 and 11 May 1945, added as Appendix 17 to: Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of MassExtermination of Humans in Birkenau," 26 November 1946, transl. Roman Sas-Zalaziocky, in Republic of Austria, Ministry of Justice, Case 20 Vr 3806/64 (Ertl/Dejaco), Landesgericht für Strafsachen, Vienna, file ON 264, 393y to 393z.. All references to the archives of the Landesgericht für Strafsachen in Vienna concern documents used in the Trial against the architects of Auschwitz Walther Dejaco and Fritz Ertl. These documents are collected in dossier 27 C Vr 3806/64 and comprises 487 files, consecutively numbered from ON 1 to ON 487, and bound in eleven volumes.
279. These rolls are still to be found in the remains of the ovens of crematorium 5.
280. Protocol testimony Dragon, 10 and 11 May 1945, in Republic of Austria, Ministry of Justice, Case20Vr 3806/64 (Ertl/Dejaco), Landesgericht für Strafsachen, Vienna, file ON 264, 393cc.
281. Ibid., 393ff. See also Franciszek Piper, Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz Aufgrund der Quellen und der Erträge der Forschung 1945 bis 1990, transl. Jochen August (Oswiecim: Verlag Staatliches Museumin Oswiecim, 1993), 84.
282. Testimony Henryk Tauber, as quoted in Jean-Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (New York: The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1989), 501
283. Ibid.
284. Two of these slides or trucks still exist, and can be seen in crematorium 1. In the 1970s, the Sonderkommando Filip Müller provided a very precise description of the procedure used to insert corpses in the ovens of crematorium 1. "The cast-iron truck had a box-shaped superstructure made of sheet metal. . . . An iron hand-rail went right across its entire width at the back. A loading platform made of strong sheet metal . . . jutted out in the front. . . . Open at the front, the platform was not quite as wide as the mouth of the oven so that it fitted easily into the muffle. On the platform there was a box-shaped pusher made of sheet metal, higher than the side walls of the platform and rounded off at the top [which] could be moved back and forth quite easily. Before the truck was loaded, the pusher was moved to the back of the platform. To move the truck from one track to another one had to hold onto the turn-table to prevent the truck from jumping off the rails as it left the turn-table. /To begin with, the corpses were dragged to the ovens. Then, with the help of the turn-table, the truck was brought up to a branch rail, and the front edge of the platform supported by a wooden prop to prevent the truck from tipping during loading. A prisoner then poured a bucket of water on the platform to stop it from becoming too hot inside the red-hot oven. Meanwhile two prisoners were busy lifting a corpse onto a board lying on the floor beside the platform. Then they lifted the board, tipping it sideways so that the corpse dropped on the platform. A prisoner standing on the other side checked that the body was in correct position. /When the truck was fully loaded two corpses were lying on either side facing the oven while a third was wedged between them, feet first. Now the time had come to open the oven door. Immediately one was overcome by the fierce heat which rushed out. When the wooden prop had been removed, two men took hold of the front end of the platform on either side pulling it right up to the oven. Simultaneously two men pushed the truck from behind, thus forcing the platform into the oven. The two who had been doing the carrying in front, having meanwhile nipped back a few steps, now braced themselves against the hand-rail while giving the pusher a vigorous shove with one leg. In this way they helped complete the job of getting the corpses right inside the oven. As soon as the front part of the pusher was inside the oven, the truck with its platform was pulled back. In order to prevent the load of corpses from sliding out of the oven during this operation, a prisoner standing to one side thrust an iron fork into the oven pressing it against the corpses. While the platform--which had been more than three-quarters inside the oven--was manoeuvred on its truck back onto the turn-table, the oven door was closed again." Filip Müller,, with Helmut Freitag, Auschwitz Inferno: The Testimony of a Sonderkommando, transl. Susanne Flatauer (London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), 14f.
285. Deposition of Henry Tauber, as quoted in Jean Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gaschambers (New York: The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1989), 483.
286. Crematorium 1 was changed after it ceased to be an extermination installation. The morgue / gas chamber was transformed into an air-raid shelter. For this reason the door between the morgue and the incineration room was closed. After the war, the Poles reconstructed the situation of 1942 by restoring the passage between the morgue/ gaschamber /air-raid shelter and the incineration room.They did not, however, "restore" the gas-tight door with its frame and fittings.
287. Immediately after the War, SS man Pery Broad described the way the morgue of crematorium 1 was used as an execution place for smaller groups of people from 1941 onwards. "The walls were stained with blood, and in the background there lay the corpses of those already shot. A wide stream of blood was flowing towards the drain in the middle of the hall. The victims were obliged to step quite close to the corpses and formed a line. Their feet were stained with blood; they stood in puddles of it. . . . .The right-hand man of the camp leader, SS-Hauptscharführer Palitzsch, did the shooting. He killed one person after another with a practised shot in the back of the neck." Pery Broad, "Reminiscences," in Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, KL Auschwitz Seen by the SS: Rudolf Höss, Pery Broad, Johann Paul Kremer, transl. Constantine Fitz Gibbon and Krystyna Michalik (Warsaw: Interpress, 1991), 128ff.
288. Deposition of Tauber, as quoted in Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gaschambers, 483.
289. The only part of Tauber's testimony that cannot be confirmed in the blueprints or by means of other documents in the archive of the Auschwitz Central Construction Office is the division of the gas chamber of crematorium 2 into two spaces. This has become for Holocaust deniers an occasion to refute the validity of the whole of Tauber's testimony. However, there is independent corroboration of this in Daniel Bennahmias's memoirs of his stay in Auschwitz. He stated that after some time, the gas chamber of crematorium II was divided into two spaces, with a smaller one at the back. "The plan for the newly restructured Crematorium II entailed gassing smaller groups in the farther end of the gas chamber and larger groups in the remaining area. This was more or less what happened, but exceptions did occur. These exceptions had to do with the erratic pattern of the transports' arrival. This, if the smaller chamber was occupied and a larger transport arrived, the larger chamber might have been used for any number of persons. As new transports arrived, however, the smaller chamber was 'tended to' when there was time, but the larger functioned at all times. Despite the foregoing, the system still proved its efficiency because there were fewer people to process and a smaller area to clean. After splitting the chamber in this way, and employing the technique described, it was not unusual for the smaller of the two chambers to remain sealed and intact with its complement of people for as long as four or five days or longer. When the door finally was opened, the Sonderkommando was assaulted by an overwhelming stench and the ghastly sight of putrid flesh." Rebecca Camhi Fromer, The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando (Tuscaloose and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1993), 52f.
290. Ibid., 483f.
291. Ibid., 488.
292. Chamotte is fire clay or firebrick.
293. Deposition of Henry Tauber, as quoted in Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gaschamber, 489.
294. Ibid.
295. Ibid.
296. Ibid.
297. Ibid., 489.
298. Ibid., 489, 494.
299. Ibid., 494.
300. Ibid., 494.
301. Ibid., 495.
302. Ibid.
303. The double-four-muffle oven had been originally developed for use in the concentration camp at Mogilev. When, in August 1942, the SS decided to dramatically increase the incineration capacity of Auschwitz, the camp architect Karl Bischoff initially planned to equip crematoria 4 and 5 with stripped-down versions of the triple-muffle ovens designed for crematoria 2 and 3. The manufacturer of the ovens, Topf, suggested to use the double-four-muffle ovens developed for Mogilev. Bischoff accepted their suggestion. Van Pelt and Dwork, Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present, 321.
304. Ibid., 498, 500f.
305. Ibid., 502.
306. It is highly unlikely that Filip Müller's memoirs was inspired and or shaped by Tauber's testimony. Müller recorded his memoirs in the 1970s, and the English-language edition of his book appeared in 1979. Tauber's Polish-language testimony remained, at that time, dormant in the Auschwitz archive. It was only published in 1989 in Pressac's Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the gas Chambers.
307. Protocol testimony Michael Kula, 11 June 1945, added as Appendix 16 to: Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 26 November 1946, transl. Roman Sas-Zalaziocky, in Republic of Austria, Ministry of Justice, Case 20 Vr 3806/64 (Ertl/Dejaco), Landesgericht für Strafsachen, Vienna, file ON 264, 393u (r).
. Ibid, 393u (v)
309. Ibid., 393v (r & v)
310. Report 15 December 1945 signed of the Forensic Laboratory at Cracow, signed by its Director Dr.Jan Z. Robel, added as Appendix 12 to: Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 26November 1946, transl. Roman Sas-Zalaziocky, in Republic of Austria, Ministry of Justice, Case 20 Vr3806/64 (Ertl/Dejaco), Landesgericht für Strafsachen, Vienna, file ON 264, 393g (r) to 393h (r).
311. The crematorium in the main camp was assigned the number BW 11, those in Birkenau were all taken under the general heading of BW 30-crematorium 2 as BW 30, crematorium 3 as BW 30/a,crematorium 4 as BW 30/b, crematorium 5 as BW 30/c.
312. Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 26 November 1946, transl. Roman Sas-Zalaziocky, in Republic of Austria, Ministry of Justice, Case 20 Vr 3806/64 (Ertl/Dejaco),Landesgericht für Strafsachen, Vienna, file ON 220, 309-353 and 393a-393f..
313. Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on theMachinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 311.
314. See Eugen Kogon, Hermann langbein, and Adalbert Rückerl, eds., Nazi Mass Murder: A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas, Pierre Serge Choumoff english ed., transl. Mary Scott and CarolineLloyd-Morris (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 5ff.
315. Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 314ff.
316. Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 315f.
317. Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 323v.
318. Cracow District Commission for the Investigation of German War Crimes, "Protocol on the Machinery of Mass Extermination of Humans in Birkenau," 330r.f.
319. Ibid., 334.
320. Ibid., 335r.f.
321. Crematorium 2 was designed in the Fall of 1941, and crematorium 3 was an exact copy of number 2.Only in July 1942 did Himmler decide to make Auschwitz into an extermination camp for Jews. Crematoria 3 and 4 ere designed in August 1942. The designs of crematoria 2 and 3 were modified in the Fall of 1942 to accomodate the new purpose of the camp within the so-called Final Solution of the Jewish Question: i.e. whilst under construction, they were retroactively equipped with homicidal gaschambers. Jean-Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gaschambers (New York: The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1989); Jean-Claude Pressac, Les crématoires d'Auschwitz: la machineriedu meurtre de masse (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1993); Robert Jan van Pelt, "A Site in Search of a Mission," in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp. Eds. Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 93-156
322. Ibid., 340v.f.
323. Ibid., 351ff.
324. Ibid., 393e.
325. Holocaust deniers have not engaged Dawidowski's report directly. They have, however, either denied the existence of Polish forensic investigations done in Auschwitz immediately after the war, or dismissed all such work as being of no value as it was done under the aegis of communist authorities who had a vested interest in finding casu quo manufacturing evidence against the Germans. It will be clear that I do not share their view, and that, having studied the Polish investigations in Auschwitz after the war, I am rather impressed with the manner in which Sehn, Dawidowski and their colleagues were able to maintain high professional standards in a very difficult situation.
326. Roland Barthes, Mythologies, transl. Annette Lavers (London: ***, 1972), 143.
327. Jan Sehn, "Concentration and Extermination Camp at Oswiecim (Auschwitz-Birkenau),'in Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, German Crimes in Poland, 2 vols.(Warsaw: Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, 1946-7), vol. 1, 27f.
328. Ibid., 28.
329. Ibid., 31.
330. Ibid., 32f.
331. Jean Paul Sartre, Nausea, transl. Lloyd Alexander (New York, A New Directions Paperbook, 1964),39f.
332. Ibid., 83f.
333. Ibid., 85f.
334. Ibid., 88.
335. Ibid., 90.
336. Ibid., 91.
337. Ibid., 92.
338. Ota Kraus and Erich Schön, Továrna na Smrt (Prague: Cin, 1946).
339. Ibid., 116.
340. Ibid., 119.
341. Ibid.
342. Ibid., 120; the blueprints are printed on a fold-out page between pages 144 and 145.
343. Ibid., 120f..
344. Ibid., 121f.
345. Ibid., between pages 144 and 145.
346. Ibid., figures 22 and 23, between pages 160 and 161.
347. Ibid., 125f..
348. Holocaust deniers claim that Rassinier's wartime record as a member of the resistance and an inmate of Buchenwald and Dora lends particular authority to his thesis that the Holocaust was a Hoax invented by Jews to swindle money from the Germans. Their argument goes that, if an ex-inmate of the camps had come to the conclusion that these camps could not have been used as sites for the genocide of the Jews, one should assign to his opinions and writings, a particular credibility. He was, as the negationists argue, after all a witness. Yet, one may ask, a witness of what? I have already addressed the issue that the world of the concentration camps was labyrinthine and complex, and that even in the case of Auschwitz the camp fulfilled contradictory purposes. It was possible for an inmate of one part of Auschwitz to remain largely ignorant of the mass exterminations going on in Birkenau. What goes for Auschwitz applies, in even a stronger degree, to the system of concentration camps as a whole. Buchenwald only functioned twice in its history as an important place in the Holocaust: in late1938 it was the temporary prison for many Jews arrested after Crystal Night, and in 1945 it became one of the main destinations of the death marches from Auschwitz. Yet for the rest of its history, Buchenwald did not have a significant role in what the Germans labelled as the "Final Solution of the Jewish Problem." Consequently an inmate of Buchenwald would not be a particularly qualified witness of the Holocaust on the basis of his experience as an inmate alone.
Yet, even so, the case of Rassinier is not so easily dismissed, and deserves closer attention. When Rassinier entered the camps he was an ideologue, who saw no basic difference between the democratic West, National Socialist Germany, or communist Russia, between the First World War and the Second. He was simply not prepared to acknowledge that the National Socialist regime was different, or their concentration camps unique. "The problem of the concentration camps was a universal one, not just one that could be disposed of by placing it on the doorstep of the National Socialists." His fellow inmate Jircszah, who had been in Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Dachau and Oranienburg before being transported to Buchenwald, became his guide in the world of the camps. "He did not hate the Germans, To his mind, the concentration camps were not specifically German and did not reveal propensities that were unique to the German people. 'The camps--Les Lager,' as he said, 'are an historical and social phenomenon through which all peoples go as they reach the idea of a nation and State. They were known in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and in modern times. Why should the contemporary epoch be different?'" [Paul Rassinier, The Holocaust Story and the Lies of Ulysses (Costa Mesa: The Institute for Historical Review, 1978),35f.]
There is no doubt that Rassinier suffered in the camps: he emerged after a year's imprisonment physically as a broken man. Yet mentally he seemed energized by the experience, a splendid example of someone who had been able to avoid the grip of the horror reality because from the moment of his arrival and his conversations with Jircszah he had been able to contain the reality of the camp within the framework of the unalterable idea that the camps were not special. Solzhenitsyn described the mentality of men like Rassinier when he discussed a particular class of inmates of the Gulag who, though shaken by their own deportation, stubbornly and against all evidence continued to believe that the Soviet ideology and system, which had caused their own destruction, was metaphysically correct and historically necessary. Separating their experience as inmates from their convictions as communists, these "good thinkers" continued to stand for Stalin and his decisions. "What does the loyalists' lofty truth consist of?," Solzhenitsyn asked. "Simply that they do not want to renounce a single one of their former values or accept a single new one." And he continued: "Let life gust over them, surge over them, or even roll over them with wheels-still they won't let it into their heads! They won't accept it, as though it weren't happening it all! This reluctance to change anything inside their own brains, this simple inability to make a critical assessment of their life's experience, is what they pride themselves on! Prison must not influence their world outlook! Camp must not influence it! What they stood upon before, they will continue to stand by now! We . . . Are Marxists! We . . . Are materialists! How can we possibly change because we landed in prison by sheer chance?" And Solzhenitsyn added that these "good thinkers" were unable to feel any loyalty to their fellow inmates. "Here is heir inevitable moral: I have been imprisoned for nothing and that means that I am good, and that all these people around me are enemies and have been imprisoned for good cause." [Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, transl. Thomas P. Whitney, 3 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), vol 2, 336.] Indeed: as we will see, the "good thinker" Rassinier revealed after the war a remarkable lack of empathy and solidarity with his fellow deportees--and a remarkable sympathy for his former jailers.
Unlike the communist inmates in the Gulag, who remained devoutly loyal to the communist ideal whilst being destroyed in the name of communism, Rassinier was not a Nazi when he suffered in the Nazi concentration camps. But he was pig-headed, and an ideologue. As such he became, like the "goodthinkers" in the Gulag, a shining example of a modern type. In his The Future of a Negation, Alain Finkelkraut summarized Rassinier ideology-determined relation to reality as follows. "As Hannah Arendt reminds us, a purely recent phenomenon of our culture is a certain pretentiousness of thought by which we subject history to the logic of a single idea and explain the movement of the natural course of things as a unique, coherent process. This may in fact be the twentieth century's own contribution to the history of reason. And from this point of view, Rassinier is a product of the century, a true hero of our time. If in fact he is delirious, it is due to an excess of modernity; if he is mad, it is due to the total victory of ideology over common sense within him. . . . His own life experience is no longer a test; it is a verification. Properly speaking, Rassinier has not had any experience. The worst can happen to him, and nothing happens to him. Ideology, that imperious landlord, that omnipotent host, eliminates all other forms of apprehending the real and does not allow experience to shed its own light. . . . He simply closed his mind and protected it from history's threat to undermine his thinking by adopting a logic of history that transcends factual reality. In so doing, Rassinier, an exemplary madman, brought to a climax the temptation or, to be more precise, the perversion of the century." [Alain Finkelkraut, The Future of a Negation: Reflections on the Question of Genocide, transl. Mary Byrd Kelly (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 87f.]
To the ideologue Rassinier, the SS was not different from their prisoners. He believed that the horror of camp life was not the result of German policies, but of the common practice, found in every country, to let trusted inmates run the prison on behalf of the jailers. "I saw at last what the Chaouchs--the prisoner trustees who are referred to in French literature about penitentiaries of all kinds--really were. From morning to night, our Chaouchs, throwing out their chests, plumed themselves on the power that they said that they had to send us to the Krématorium for the least indiscretion and with a single word. Also from morning to night, they ate what they stole, to our certain knowledge, from our rations: quarts of soup, bread and margarine, and potatoes fricasseed with onion or paprika. Moreover, they did not work. They were dat. They revolted us." [Rassinier, The Holocaust and the Lies of Ulysses, 34] Again Jircszah provided the neophyte inmate Rassinier with guidance. "He certainly did not approve of the conduct of the Chaouchs, but he was no longer shocked, and he did not even despise them. "I have seen worse," he said. "You mustn't expect men to have too much imagination along lines of what is right; when a slave gets power without changing his station, he becomes more tyrannical than the tyrants."[Ibid., 35] Following's Jircszah's teachings, Rassinier constructed a mental map of the place in which he had arrived in which the concentration camp, run by prisoners, existed on a parallel plane with the adjacent camp for the SS. "All the services of the camp had their parallel in the S.S. Camp where everything was centralized, and from which daily or weekly reports were sent directly to Himmler's offices in Berlin. The S.S, camp was, therefore, the administrator of the other. When the camps were just at the beginning during the Straflager period, they were administered directly; afterwards, and as soon as possible, the S.S, carried on the camp administration only through the prisoners themselves as intermediaries. One would think that this arrangement was used out of sadism, and, after the war was over, that is what was said. But, it was really out of necessity to economize personnel that the system was used, and for that reason, in all prisons in all countries, the same situation holds. The S.S. Itself only administered the camp when it was impossible for them to do otherwise. We knew what the self-government by the prisoners of the camps was. All of the old hands who have experienced both systems are unanimous in recognizing that the former was in principle the better and the more humane, and that if it was not in fact, it was because wartime circumstances and the pressure of events did not permit it. I believe it; its is better to deal with God than with the saints." [Ibid., 53] Thus, to Rassinier, the reality of life in the concentration camp had little to do with the SS. In fact, he claimed that they were largely ignorant of what happened in the camps. [Ibid., 58] When Rassinier became a batman to an SS man in charge of the dogs, he began to appreciate them truly, as they gave him extra food and showed interest for his background and even his opinions. "This direct contact with the S.S. Personnel made me see them in quite a different light than that in which they were universally seen in the camp," Rassinier observed. "There was no possible comparison: in public they were brutes; taken individually, they were lambs."[Ibid., 102] Not very intelligent, Rassinier could well understand why they were clueless as to the origin of the bad conditions in the camp. "They did not understand how we could be so thin, so weak, so dirty, and so badly clothes. The Third Reich, after all, had furnished us with everything we needed: food, everything necessary to keep us perfectly clean, comfortable lodging in a camp as modern as possible, health, recreations, music, lectures, sports, a Christmas tree, and so forth. And, wedid not know how to take advantage of it. That was proof that Hitler was right and that, with veryrare exceptions, we belonged to a physically and morally inferior part of humanity! They idea neveroccurred to them that they might be responsible as individuals for the wrongs that were done undertheir eyes, or with their cooperation, unconscious or active. They were victims of the environment-ofthat special environment-in which, while breaking collectively with the restraints of tradition, allpeoples, without distinction as to regime or nationality, founder periodically." [Ibid., 103] Thus in hisview of the camps the two camps were not only parallel, but the SS became victims, and some of thevictims became the perpetrators. First this only applied to the Chaouchs. Later Rassinier would identifyanother group as the truly guilty: the Jews.
349. Rassinier, The Holocaust Story and the Lies of Ulysses, 35
350. Ibid., 112.
351. Ibid., 118.
352. Testimony Faurisson, 1st Zündel Trial, Transcript of Her Majesty the Queen vs. Ernst Zündel, District Court of Ontario, 1985, 2530f.
353. Ibid, 2532.
354. Enrique Aynat Eknes, "Crematoriums II and III of Birkenau: A Critical Study," The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 8 (1988), 314f.
355. Vrba and Bestic, I Cannot Forgive, 175.
356. Testimony Vrba, 1st Zündel Trial, Transcript of Her Majesty the Queen vs. Ernst Zündel,District Court of Ontario, 1985, 1478f.
357. War Refugee Board, "German Extermination Camps--Auschwitz and Birkenau," in David S. Wymaned., America and the Holocaust, 13 vols. (New York and London: Garland, 1990), vol. 12, 20. It is important to note here that for reasons beyond my understanding The Journal of Historical Review did not choose to quote the official English edition of the WRB Report, but printed a text which must have been a new English translation of Eknes' Spanish translation of the English original of the WRB report--a procedure that does not live up to the rigorous standards of scholarship Eknes and the JHR like to claim.
358. Eknes, "Crematoriums II and III," 315.
359. Ibid., 315f.
360. Wilhelm Stäglich, The Auschwitz Myth: A Judge Looks at the Evidence (S.L.: Institute for Historical Review, 1986), 109f.
361. Stäglich abuses Le Bon's theory about the psychology of the crowd when he applies the latter's theories to the world of the camps. Le Bon's book was a straightforward critique of modern society as a whole. Civilisation with its identity of surrounding, its shared ideals and its unity of sentiment had given way to a confused agglomeration of individuals which had lost "the genius of the race" to become a crowd" at the mercy of every chance." (Gustave le Bon, Psychologie des foules (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1963), 124. Consequently, all men today easily fall victim to mass suggestion. It is inappropriate to single out the world of the camps. If Stäglich had used Le Bon's thesis correctly, he should have argued that, given the fact that all of society has disintegrated into a crowd, it has become impossible to make any determination about the truth or falsehood of any testimony, and that if one could claim on the basis of this that Auschwitz was a myth, so was the whole World War. In other words, Stäglich would have had to draw the epistemological consequences from his invocation of Le Bon, and admit not only that no piece of evidence about any fact has any probative value, or that the Auschwitz Myth is just a part of the Reality Myth, but that even Le Bon's Psychologie des foules has no authority as it was conceived, published and read by crowd-men.
362. Stäglich, The Auschwitz Myt., 114.
363. Ibid.
364. Ibid., 115f.
365. A new edition is available as Eugène Aroneau, Inside the Concentration Camps: Eyewitness Accounts of Life in Hitler's Death Camps, transl. Thomas Whissen (Westport CT.: Praeger, 1996).
366. Ibid., 119.
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