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    Auschwitz-Birkenau Gas Chambers: Gas Chamber Is Not a Fake

    How do we know that the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (the Main Camp) is authentic, not a fake created for tourists?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum officials have confirmed that the gas chamber in the Main Camp (Auschwitz I) is a fake created for tourists.

    Holocaust deniers make this claim by taking the statements of officials and news outlets out of context. For example, in January 1995, L’Express, a French news magazine, marked the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau with an article about preservation challenges at both the Main Camp (now the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum) and Birkenau. Eric Conan, the author, noted that the current crematorium building in the Main Camp had been restored after the war to the appearance it had had when it was used as a gas chamber in 1941/1942.[1] David Irving, who the High Court of London in 2000 declared to be a Holocaust denier, racist, and antisemite, seized the opportunity and took the article out of context. He hailed the article as a breakthrough: “L’Express has admitted that the gas chamber shown to tourists at Auschwitz is a fake–built by the Polish Communists three years after the war.”[2]

    The facts are:

    The crema/gas chamber in the Main Camp (Auschwitz I) has been accurately restored to its historic role as a gas chamber. It is meant to be a memorial and symbolic representation of all the cremas/gas chambers in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex.

    Crema 1 in the Main Camp during the war:

    Originally, Crema 1 was equipped with two (later three) cremation ovens with a morgue room behind them. In late 1941, the Nazis sealed up the morgue room in Crema 1 and punched five holes in the roof. The holes were capped with small chimneys through which the Zyklon-B was dropped. A large fan was also installed and the door was made gas tight.[3]

    On February 15, 1942, the first transport of Jews from Upper Silesia was gassed in Crema/Gas Chamber 1. The gassings continued until the fall of 1942 when the murder operation was moved out to Birkenau.[4]

    When the Nazis transformed the building into an air raid shelter in 1944, the ovens were dismantled and the holes in the ceiling were filled in. The rooms were subdivided with strong walls, to support the ceiling and minimize the effects of a direct bomb strike.

    Crema/Gas Chamber 1 after the war:

    After the war, the Main Camp was turned into a museum. Authorities felt that a crematorium/gas chamber was required at the end of the memorial journey for visitors. However, the four main cremas/gas chamber buildings, where most of the mass murder took place, lay in ruins in Birkenau, over three miles away. Therefore, the Museum authorities restored Crema/Gas Chamber 1, according to Nazi blueprints from September 25, 1941 and eyewitness testimony. As a partial reconstruction, this gas chamber speaks for the existence of all the cremas/gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.[5] Subsequently, several other features were rebuilt or restored: the chimney for the crematoria ovens, the gas chamber room, the doors, two of the three ovens, and four of the roof openings used for Zyklon-B.[6]

    How do we know Crema 1 was actually a gas chamber? There is the eyewitness testimony from Nazi perpetrators:

    Pery Broad, a member of the Gestapo in Auschwitz-Birkenau, was captured by the British after the war. Broad wrote a detailed report on Auschwitz-Birkenau, in which he described the first gassing in the Main Camp. Broad detailed how Jews from one transport were herded into the former morgue room, where they expected to get showers: “The covers had been removed from the six holes in the ceiling . . . With a chisel and hammer they [the SS] opened a few innocuous looking tins . . . filled to the brim with blue granules the size of peas. Immediately after opening the tins they were thrown into the holes which were quickly covered.[7]

    Hans Stark, also a member of the camp’s Gestapo unit, gave evidence at the Auschwitz-Birkenau trial in Frankfurt in 1963. He testified that gassings were carried out “in a room in the small crematorium which had been prepared for this purpose.” Stark recalled that the roof above the gas chamber room had openings, through which Zyklon-B was poured in granular form. On at least one occasion, Stark himself poured the Zyklon-B in the holes. Stark recalled that the Zyklon-Btrickled down over the people as it was being poured in. They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them . . . After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten or fifteen minutes, the gas chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggledy all over the place. It was a dreadful sight.”[8]

    Similarly, there is the eyewitness testimony from survivors about Crema 1:

    Filip Müller, a Slovak Jew who arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau in April 1942, was put to work as an oven stoker in Crema/Gas Chamber 1. One of Muller’s jobs was to drag the corpses from the gas chamber to the ovens. Later, he was transferred to Birkenau to work in its crematoria and burning pits. Müller gave a detailed description of the process of murder in Crema/Gas Chamber 1: “When the last one had crossed the threshold, the SS leaders slammed shut the heavy iron-studded door which was fitted with a rubber seal, and bolted it . . . the Unterführers on duty had gone onto the crematorium roof . . . They removed the covers from the six camouflaged openings. There, protected by gas masks, they poured the green-blue crystals of the deadly gas into the gas chamber.”[9]

    There is physical evidence that Crema 1 was a gas chamber:

    A rigorously conducted forensic study of the gas chambers, completed in 2000, found physical and photographic evidence of the five holes used in the roof of Crema/Gas Chamber 1. The holes had been sealed up when Crema/Gas Chamber one was transformed into a bomb shelter. In the first restoration, done in the late 1940s, four of the holes were re-opened and capped with wooden chimneys, as they had been when Crema 1 was a gas chamber. A Polish witness to the reconstruction, Adam Zlobnicki, recalled how traces of the holes were clearly visible: “I remember well that the introduction holes for Zyklon B, which are situated on the roof of the crematory, were also reconstructed in 1946/47. Those who reconstructed them had an easy task because the erstwhile introduction holes had distinct traces . . . Thus, they constructed in the same places again the openings for the little chimneys.”[10]

    Conclusion:

    Crema/Gas Chamber 1 in the Main Camp is not a “fake” but a space accurately restored to its historic role as a gas chamber. It is meant to be a memorial and symbolic representation of all the cremas/gas chambers in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex.

    Interior of Gas chamber in Main Camp. By Illogical2007 (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
                           Interior of Gas chamber in Main Camp. By Illogical2007 (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

    NOTES

    [1] Eric Conan, “Auschwitz: La mémoire du mal,” L’Express, 19 Janvier 1995 at www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/docs/Conan.html. See also Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report “(XI Irving Adrift [1993-1998]”) at https://hdot.org.

    [2] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“XI Irving Adrift [1993-1998]”) citing David Irving, “L’Express: ‘Tout y est faux” – Everything About it is a Fake, French Make a Clean Breast: Admit Forty-seven Year Auschwitz ‘Gas chamber’ Fraud,” Action Report #9, May 1995.

    [3] Franciszek Piper, “Gas Chambers and Crematoria” in Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Indiana University Press and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1994), p. 159.

    [4] Robert Jan van Pelt, “A Site in Search of a Mission” in Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Indiana University Press and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1944), p. 145.

    [5] Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present (W.W. Norton, 1944), pp. 363, 364.

    [6] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“XI Irving Adrift [1993-1998]”) fn 1066.

    [7] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“V Confessions, 1945-47”); KL Auschwitz Seen by the SS (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 1995), p. 130.

    [8] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“IX The Leuchter Report”).

    [9] Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chamber (Ivan R. Dee, 1979), p. 38.

    [10] Daniel Keren, Jamie McCarthy, and Harry W. Mazal, “The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 18(1), Spring 2004 at https://phdn.org/archives/holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/holes-report/holes-intro.shtml.   See “Part IV: The Zyklon Introduction Holes in Crematorium I.”