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    Auschwitz-Birkenau Gas Chambers: Wire Mesh Introduction Columns

    Did the Nazis use wire-mesh columns to pour Zyklon-B into the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    Camp construction records say nothing about the existence of wire-mesh introduction columns, located under the holes in the roofs, which were used to distribute the poison gas throughout the gas chamber room.

    For instance, Holocaust denier Brian Renk, of the Institute for Historical Review in California, claims that other than the testimony of two survivors, no one has been able to find “. . . a single reference to them [wire-mesh introduction columns] in the camp’s voluminous design and construction records . . .[1]

    The facts are:

    The wire-mesh introduction columns cannot be found today. The Nazis dismantled and discarded them before blowing up the gas chambers. The Nazis did this to erase the evidence of genocide. However, the wire-mesh introduction columns are confirmed by multiple survivor and perpetrator eyewitness accounts, as well as by a surviving document that lists them in inventory.

    How the Zyklon-B was introduced into the gas chambers:

    The walls of the underground gas chamber room extended a few feet above ground, similar to the foundation of a house with a basement. The flat roof over the foundation walls was banked up with dirt around the edges which made it easy for the SS men to climb onto the low roof and walk from chimney to chimney with cans of Zyklon-B.

    Inside the gas chamber rooms in Cremas/Gas Chambers 2 and 3 and beneath the holes in the roof, there were hollow wire-mesh introduction columns that extended from the ceiling to the floor. These columns contained the Zyklon-B pellets and permitted the even distribution of the gas throughout the entire room.[2]

    Eyewitness testimony on the use of the wire-mesh columns:

    Three survivors and one Nazi perpetrator testified about the construction and installation of the wire-mesh columns.

    Michal Kula, a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, worked in the metal workshop where he helped build the wire-mesh introduction columns. He described the wire-mesh introduction columns in detail. Each column was made of three wire screens nested one within the other. The core of the inner column contained a collection basket for the used pellets so they could be lifted back to the roof for disposal.[3]

    David Olère, a Jewish French artist before the war, was arrested and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in March 1943. He was assigned to the Sonderkommando of Crema/Gas Chamber 3. He lived in the attic of that building and observed its operations on a daily basis. In 1945 and 1946 he drew a series of 50 pictures of what he had seen in Birkenau. In a cutaway elevation of Crema/Gas Chamber 3, Olère shows the four wire-mesh introduction columns. They are identified in the lettered key as “Grille pour Bombes a Gaz” (Gas Introduction Columns).[4]

    Henryk Tauber, a Polish Jew who arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 19, 1943, was assigned to the Sonderkommando in Crema/Gas Chamber 2 in Birkenau. In his deposition given to Polish judges on May 24, 1945, he described in detail the entire process of murder, including the existence and use of the wire-mesh introduction columns: “The roof of the gas chamber was supported by concrete pillars running down the middle of its length. On either side of these pillars where 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 of finer mesh and inside that a 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.”[5]

    Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau, also confirmed the existence of the wire-mesh introduction columns in his memoirs written after the war: “The door would be screwed shut and the waiting disinfection squads would immediately pour the gas [crystals] into the vents in the ceiling of the gas chamber down an air shaft which went to the floor. This ensured the rapid distribution of the gas.”[6]

    Primary source documents about the wire-mesh columns:

    In addition to multiple eyewitness testimonies, there is also primary documentary evidence about the wire-mesh introduction columns.

    The wire-mesh introduction columns were not shown on the master blueprints because they were non-structural changes. Thus, they were added to the working plans on site. The on-site drawings were destroyed shortly before Auschwitz-Birkenau was abandoned by the Nazis.[7] However, there is an inventory dated March 3, 1943, written at the time Crema/Gas Chamber 2 was formally completed, which lists “4 Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung.” This word translates into wire-mesh insertion device” or “wire-mesh introduction device.”[8]

    Zyklon-B container. By Michael Hanke (own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons.
    By Michael Hanke – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, [https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=129339].

    Conclusion:

    The wire-mesh columns cannot be found today because they were dismantled and discarded before the Nazis blew up the cremas/gas chamber buildings. However, the existence and function of the wire-mesh introduction columns is corroborated by multiple survivor and perpetrator eyewitness accounts as well as by a surviving Nazi inventory list.

    NOTES

    [1] Brian Renk, “Convergence or Divergence? On Recent Evidence for Zyklon Induction Holes at Auschwitz-Birkenau Crematory II” at http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v20/v20n5p33_Renk.html.

    [2] Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Indiana University Press, 1994), p. 167. See also David Olère’s floor plan of Crema 2 on page 174 of Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), for an modern architectural rendering of Crema 2 showing the four wire-mesh introduction columns, see p.190; and for an axonometric reconstruction (modern) of the gas chamber room in Crema 2 see p.194.

    [3] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“IV Attestations, 1945-46”) at https://hdot.org.

    [4] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), pp. 176-177. Olère made his drawings immediately after the war. The sketches ended up in Israel after the war and their existence was unknown before 1976.

    [5] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report (“IV Attestations, 1945-46”). You can read about Tauber’s testimony at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-carlo-mattogno-distorted-henryk.html. It was detailed in Jean-Claude Pressac’s Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York, 1989).

    [6] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Van Pelt Report, (“V Confessions, 1945-1947”) at https://hdot.org; Rudolph Höss, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (Prometheus Books, 1992), p. 31.

    [7] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 370.

    [8] Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 401.