EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

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steve248
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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by steve248 » 10 Sep 2016 14:44

A number of Sipo/SD men from Einsatzgruppe D went on home leave for Christmas 1941. They returned in January and February 1942 depending on weather difficulties on the return journey and reporting their arrival to the Gruppenstab in Simferopol. Some men then were sent to Sonderkommando 10a which was stationed over 500 miles away in Taganrog. En route they travelled inside a Gaswagen and despite the winter, had the rear doors tied open with ropes.

I have an article appearing in a publication next year being organized through USC Shoah Institute in LA about Gaswagen actions in the Caucasus.
From available archival material the two Gaswagen of Einsatzgruppe D were actively used for 4 months. Each Gaswagen travelled long distances without breaking down and I reckon they must have been in use every other day. They were not used as michael mills quoting Browning mentions, if you will, they went in search of Jews rather than have Jews brought to them.

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Sergey Romanov
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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by Sergey Romanov » 17 Sep 2016 18:47


michael mills
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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by michael mills » 18 Sep 2016 04:55

A number of Sipo/SD men from Einsatzgruppe D went on home leave for Christmas 1941. They returned in January and February 1942 depending on weather difficulties on the return journey and reporting their arrival to the Gruppenstab in Simferopol. Some men then were sent to Sonderkommando 10a which was stationed over 500 miles away in Taganrog. En route they travelled inside a Gaswagen and despite the winter, had the rear doors tied open with ropes.
There is nothing remarkable about a group of men from EG-D travelling from Simferopol to Taganrog in the enclosed back of a gas van. After all, the gas vans were normal panel vans which had been adapted to perform a homicidal function by the addition of a hose leading to the inside of the van which could be attached to the exhaust pipe. When the hose was not attached, the exhaust vented to the open air, in which case the gas van was no more homicidal than any other vehicle.

Thus, when the gas van was not being used homicidally, eg when it was travelling from one place to another, and did not have the hose attached to the exhaust pipe, it could be used for normal purposes, such as carrying supplies, or transporting personnel.

It is entirely possible that some individual gas vans were more often used for normal, non-homicidal purposes than in the homicidal function for which they had been produced. Also, they were sometimes used as an adjunct to homicide rather than as a homicidal instrument themselves, by transporting victims to a place where they were to be killed by shooting. That was the case at Maly Trostinets for example, where the German personnel disliked gassing because of its "messiness" (involuntary defecation etc) and preferred shooting which they considered to be more "soldierly".

What is implausible in the story told by the men transported to Taganrog in the gas van is their claim that they were afraid of being gassed and for that reason tied the rear doors open. As members of EG-D, they would been well aware that the inside of a gas van was only a risk to Occupational Health and Safety when the connecting hose was attached to the exhaust pipe, which only was the case when the vehicle was being used homicidally.

Thus they would have known that when the vehicle they were riding in was travelling from Simferopol to Taganrog, ie making a normal journey, the hose was not attached to the exhaust pipe, and therefore there was no danger of their being gassed accidentally.

That part of their story resembles the post-war claims made by former participants in killing actions that they feared being killed themselves to prevent their bearing witness at a later time. As such, it needs to be taken with a rather large grain of salt.
Each Gaswagen travelled long distances without breaking down and I reckon they must have been in use every other day
The report to Rauff by Becker mentions quite a lot of mechanical problems with the gas vans, eg they developed leaks, and sometimes had to be sent back to the RSHA vehicle park in Berlin for repairs. In addition, the larger Saurer vans were stated to become immobile in wet weather.

And there is no reason why they would have been used "every other day", at least in the homicidal function. The target victim group, initially the inmates of Soviet mental and other hospitals, then Jewish women and children in some locations, was not enormous, and once the target group had been wiped out there was no need for the gas vans as homicidal instruments, particularly as shooting remained far and away the main method of killing Jews in occupied Soviet territory. Of course, as I wrote, the gas vans could be used for purposes other than the dedicated homicidal one.
They were not used as michael mills quoting Browning mentions, if you will, they went in search of Jews rather than have Jews brought to them.
What Browning states is that the gas vans were most effective, in terms of numbers killed, when used at a stationary killing centre such as Chelmno, where they did not travel long distances and where the victims were brought to them. The three gas vans stationed at Chelmno were able to kill over 100,000 victims, mainly Jews unfit for labour brought from the Lodz Ghetto and other parts of Reichsgau Wartheland, in the course of 1942. One reason for that greater effectiveness was that they could be used continuously in their homicidal function since they were not spending a lot of time travelling long distances from one group of victims to another. Another reason was that they were not exposed to the same amount of wear and tear as the gas vans operating on the Eastern Front which had to travel long distances, and therefore had fewer mechanical problems.

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Sergey Romanov
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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by Sergey Romanov » 18 Sep 2016 07:01

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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by Sergey Romanov » 18 Sep 2016 07:02

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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by Sergey Romanov » 18 Sep 2016 07:03

What is implausible in the story told by the men transported to Taganrog in the gas van is their claim that they were afraid of being gassed and for that reason tied the rear doors open. As members of EG-D, they would been well aware that the inside of a gas van was only a risk to Occupational Health and Safety when the connecting hose was attached to the exhaust pipe, which only was the case when the vehicle was being used homicidally.

Thus they would have known that when the vehicle they were riding in was travelling from Simferopol to Taganrog, ie making a normal journey, the hose was not attached to the exhaust pipe, and therefore there was no danger of their being gassed accidentally.

That part of their story resembles the post-war claims made by former participants in killing actions that they feared being killed themselves to prevent their bearing witness at a later time. As such, it needs to be taken with a rather large grain of salt.
While it is not improbable that some people either exaggerated or misremembered the reason, which would be a minor point, knowing how memory works, here are two further points:

1. The cargo box was made esp. tight (with the exception of openings which had to be there to avoid overpressure during the gassing) so when Sohns in Kiev wanted to use gas vans as transport vehicles (since they were standing around being useless), he had to make special ventilation openings. Thus the part about riding with open doors seems plausible even without fear of gassing as a reason, if they were riding in a still tight, functional gas van. It may be then that "fear of gassing" later appeared as a retroactive explanation.

2. Nevertheless, the usual gun safety rule is "All guns are always loaded". It too may not make sense to Michael Mills, and still it exists.

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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by Sergey Romanov » 18 Sep 2016 07:51

(Double-post while editing, plz delete.)

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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by michael mills » 18 Sep 2016 08:14

1. The cargo box was made esp. tight (with the exception of openings which had to be there to avoid overpressure during the gassing) so when Sohns in Kiev wanted to use gas vans as transport vehicles (since they were standing around being useless), he had to make special ventilation openings. Thus the part about riding with open doors seems plausible even without fear of gassing as a reason, if they were riding in a still tight, functional gas van. It may be then that "fear of gassing" later appeared as a retroactive explanation.

That sounds like a reasonable explanation for the story told by the SS-men transported in the gas van.

The information about Sohns is interesting. It seems to me to be consistent with the thesis that the gas vans that were not destroyed were converted back into normal transport vehicles once they were no longer needed for their homicidal functions, and that is the reason why no operational gas van ever fell into Allied hands either during or at the end of the war.

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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by Gorque » 19 Sep 2016 19:22

Why would a gas van be made esp. tight (with the exception of over-pressurization opening)? The air pressure going in is higher and this higher pressure gas has to exit somewhere, so why not leave these vans in a 'leaky' condition? It reads like typical German over-engineering.

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Re: EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Post by Sergey Romanov » 19 Sep 2016 19:38

Gorque wrote:Why would a gas van be made esp. tight (with the exception of over-pressurization opening)? The air pressure going in is higher and this higher pressure gas has to exit somewhere, so why not leave these vans in a 'leaky' condition? It reads like typical German over-engineering.
Probably because they didn't want poisonous and possibly inflammable gas leaking out uncontrollably. Plus, uncontrolled leaks might influence the gassing process inside the van (prolongation).

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