The first English language mention of gas chambers?

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little grey rabbit
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The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 14 May 2011 06:52

Does anyone know what the first English language mention of gas chambers in the public sphere was - eg book, speech, newspaper or pamphlet. Or what the earliest ones were

From The Nazi New Order in Poland by Jon Evans, published in 1941 but written before the Soviet invasion I found this:

page 52
Mental or nerve patients have been shot or poisoned by gas. Some 2,000 patients from the asylums and hospitals for nervous diseases at Koscian, Owinska, Dziekanka and elsewhere in Poznania were taken to Fort VII at Poznan, and there put to death by poison gas. At Chelm Lubelski a detachment of the Gestapo surrounded the asylum and ordered the doctors and staff to leave. Then they killed every patient, 428 in all, with revolver shots. Forty normal children war refugees, who were being looked after in one wing of the build, were also executed
One wonders if this was what Cavendish-Bentinck had in mind when he stated in 1944
As regards putting Poles to death in gas chambers, I do not believe there is any evidence that this has been done. There may have been stories to this effect, and we have played them up in P.W.E. rumours without believing that they had any foundation. At any rate there is far less evidence than exists for the mass murder of Polish officers by the Russians at Katyn. On the other hand we do know that the Germans are out to destroy the Jews of any age unless they are fit for manual labour.
On page 64-65 of the Nazi New Order in Poland they have a longer account of Posen Fort VII
But Polish camps can match their German originals, horror for horror. Indeed, the notorious Fort VII at Poznan is outstanding even in the Nazi record of foulness. It has been established as a kind of school for sadism for Gestapo agents working in Poland. Every refinement of brutality and torture is practised there.
Almost all the prisoners sent to the fort are beaten until they lose consciousness. Cold water is poured on them to bring them round, then they are beaten again. Many of them have bones broken.
During the 1940 winter's extreme frosts the prisoners were driven into the yard and made to hold their arms stretched above their heads for so long that many of them suffered from frostbite.
The Nazis invent games to play with their victims. The prisoners are taken into the yard and made to run on all fours and bark like dogs. Those who do not bark satisfactorily are beaten with whips. This is called "playing at dogs". "Playing at hares" is rather different. In this prisoners are made to run and jump alternatively down the corridors. the wardens are the "hunters", who fire at selected "hares." Wounded men are killed off or not according to the whim of the jailers.
A favourite device is to keep the prisoners standing for very long periods, by crowding them so tightly into a cell that there is no room to move (twenty-four hours is a normal period for this, and under the intense glare of powerful electric lights), or by placing them singly in cells so narrow that they are no more than niches. Prisoners are regularly placed in these niches the day before execution. Executions are a nightly occurrence.
Perhaps the most ghastly torture of all is that of the air-pump. A special air valve is inserted into the prisoner's anus, and the guard them pumps air into his victim. How much air he pumps depends upon his whim; this treatment often results in burst intestines.
It is Fort VII, too, which contains the gas chamber to which reference was made in the previous chapter.
In anycase Posen Fort VII and its gas chamber is still very much part of the official narrative, as can be read here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_VII
Which includes a picture of the "experimental" gas chamber
Image
The description includes this
In the early stages of the camp's existence prisoners were generally executed within a week of arrival. In October 1939 an early experiment in execution by gas chamber was carried out, where around 400 patients and staff from psychiatric hospitals in Poznań and Owińska were killed.
Since they are dating this event to October 1939 there exists the possibility that this story was floating around in the English media for a long time before 1941. Does anyone know when and where the first version of this appeared?

What would be the first English language account of gas chambers as a means of the destruction of Jews? I know the BBC ran a story in July 1942, but I could imagine there might have been earlier accounts.

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by David Thompson » 14 May 2011 14:56

little grey rabbit -- You asked:
Does anyone know what the first English language mention of gas chambers in the public sphere was - eg book, speech, newspaper or pamphlet. Or what the earliest ones were
I've seen the term, in its modern (homicidal) context, used in US newspapers dating from the mid-late 1920s and throughout the 1930s.

little grey rabbit
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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 15 May 2011 03:39

Good things come to those who wait.

The Ottawa Citizen on 1 May 1941 has the following article (with a brief mention of gas chambers tucked away)
CLAIM GERMANS KILLED THOUSANDS AGED BLIND
------
Editor of the "New Republic" says 85,000 Put to Death by the Nazis in Three Months Because Their Usefullness to the Stte is Gone.
---------
NEW YORK, April 30 -
(C.P) - "The New Republic" carries an article today by Michael Straight, its Washington editor, asserting that in september, October and November of 1940 the Nazis put to death 85,000 blind, aged or incurably ill persons in Germany becaue theywere unable to contribute to the German war effort.
Use Nazi Logic
"They were put to death as casually as the S.P.C.A. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chloroforms old and helpless dogs," the article says. "They were killed because they could no longer manufacture guns in return for the food which they consumed; because the German hospitals were needed for wounded soldiers because their death was the ulitmate logic of the National Socialist doctrine of racial superiority and survival of the physically fit"
Straight, 24-year-old son of the late William Straight, founder of "The New Republic," says that his information comes from a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church, in turn, he says, received its information from Catholic priests and bishops in Germany.
The sole clew to the executions, said to have been carried out by poison, gas chambers and injection of air bubles into the viens is contained in the December issue of "Acta Apostolicas Sedis" the official monthly publication of the Vatican, Straight says.
According to Straight, on a rear page of that issue, printed in Latin, is an acknowledgement of a question sent to Pope Pius XII by an unnamed German bishop. The acknowledgement says: "It was asked of the supreme sacred congregation: 'Whether, by order of public authority, it is illicit directly to kill those who, although they have committed no crime deserving death, yet, because of mental or physical defects, are no longer able to benefit the nation, and are considered rather to burden the nation and to obstruct its energy and strength'"
Straight says that the reply, approved by the Pole, said that the question must be answered; "'In the negative,' since it is contrary to natural and Divine positive law."
Note People Dying
The story behind the few lines in the Vatican publication, according to Straight, is this:
"There is a big hospital near urach, in Wuerttemburg. In September the priests of Urach noted that the elderly people in the hospital were dying in increased numbers, and dying on certain days. These priests discovered that systematic euthanasia was being practised in this hospital. the old and incurably ill were being killed off by the injection of small quantities of poison into their veins.
"Later, according to the accounts of these priests, the Gestapo found that poisoning was unneccesarily expensive. Gas chambers were used, the priests reported, until the Nazis found an even simpler method which involved no cost at all. Air bubbles were injected into the veins of those chosen to die, and death was instantaneous when the bubbles reached the heart. Relatives of the victims were never told, of course. They merely received a small box containing the victim's ashes."
The plot of a famous novel by Dorothy L Sayers.

Michael Straight was recruited as a Soviet agent by Blunt at Cambridge in the 30s and remained so during the war - although this was written before the entry of either the USSR or the USA into the war.

You can't help but wonder why Pope Pius XII was not taking a more open and denunciatory line and instead relying on the good offices of The New Republic

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by uberjude » 15 May 2011 04:03

The hesitance of the Catholic Church to speak out against Nazi Germany is hardly news; for what it's worth though, the Church did not just rely on the New Republic, and in the summer of 1941 (shortly after this article), a number of prominent Catholic clergymen (most notably the Bishop of Munster, whose speech is partially excerpted below) made public and private protests regarding the T4 program. As a result of those protests, and the public unrest that resulted, the T4 program was at least publicly suspended.

http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/galen.htm

little grey rabbit
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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 15 May 2011 04:44

August 1941 to be precise.

The New Republic article was April 1941. Anyway the purpose of this thread is to look at how news of euthanasia and gas chambers first appeared in the public sphere outside Germany.
While I try to provide context (cf Posen) when the facts might not be well known, its not what I really want to document here

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by uberjude » 15 May 2011 04:58

Actually, a letter was circulated to all the churches with a somewhat indirect criticism in June, and Cardinal Galen's public reading of the letter, on July 6, made it more explicit even before his own personal protest. As I noted, it's no secret that the Church wasn't eager to criticize the German gov't. No problem for me, but I'm not the one who suggested that the Church wasn't taking an "open and denunciatory line" when, in fact, it did just that, to fairly good effect.

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 15 May 2011 05:30

uberjude wrote:Actually, a letter was circulated to all the churches with a somewhat indirect criticism in June, and Cardinal Galen's public reading of the letter, on July 6, made it more explicit even before his own personal protest. As I noted, it's no secret that the Church wasn't eager to criticize the German gov't. No problem for me, but I'm not the one who suggested that the Church wasn't taking an "open and denunciatory line" when, in fact, it did just that, to fairly good effect.
I am not aware of that letter - read on July 6 - do you know a link for it. I am aware of the sermon of July 13 1941, but my reading of it suggests it is mostly on Church issues. Or is the July 6 just a reference to what is in the August 3 sermon and has not survived?

To complete the previous references I might add in The Pittsburgh Press Dec 6 1940, there is reference to Straight's Vatican annoucement (without mention of Germany)
Mercy deaths Rapped by Catholic Church
By The United Press
VATICAN CITY, Dec. 6 - The Catholic Church today condemned the "mercy killing" of mental or physical defectives who mioght be a burden to the state. The stand was in the form of a decree by the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, annouced by Osservatore Romano, official Vatican newspaper.
Euthanasia, or mercy killing, was discussed at a general meeting of the Congregation Nov. 27 and the decree was approved the same evening. Pope Pius personally approved the decree last Sunday and ordered it made public.
The decree, issued as an answer to the question of whether the "killing of innocents upon the mandate of public authorities is right" found such killings wrong "because they are contrary to a natural and positive divine law. Public authority cannot kill those who no longer are useful to the nation but rather are a weight upon the nation's power and constitute an obstacle to the nation's vigorous strength."
It is possible this question was in relation to the recent publication of Erbpflege und Christentum by I Koltz - that was put on the proscribed list by the Vatican a few months later.

Finally, since uberjude mentioned Galen, there is also in early October 1941 some menitons in the English press.

In this case the Melbourne Age of October 8
NAZI PERSECUTION OF CHURCH
Property Plundered.
Washington, oct. 7 (AAP)
Senator Mead revealed in the Senate yesterday details of correspondence that had passed between the Roman Catholic Bishop of Munster (Prussia) and Nazi officials, in which the bishop protested against the Nazi persecution of thee church. Senator Mead said the bishop had protested against the seizure of Catholic monasteries and other property, and the bishop himself had been placed under house arrest. The Nazi secret police were plundering and destroying the Cathlic church in Germany.

Senator Mead said he could not reveal the source of the correspondence, as it would endanger the lives of other brave men, but he assured the Senate that it was genuine. The correspondence, he said, clearly showed that Hitler inteneded to wipe out all religion, and that no man would be safe under hilterism and his anti-God crussade.

Included in the correspondence was a statement by the bishop condemning Himmler, leder of the Gestapo, for the cold-blooded killing of demented, ill and aged Geramns under compulsory euthanasia.
It is interesting to consider that American correspondents were in Germany for the entire period of the T4 project and yet did not seem to hear about it.

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by David Thompson » 15 May 2011 05:36

little grey rabbit -- You wrote, in reference to a report in the American magazine New Republic on the German euthansia program:
Michael Straight was recruited as a Soviet agent by Blunt at Cambridge in the 30s and remained so during the war - although this was written before the entry of either the USSR or the USA into the war.

You can't help but wonder why Pope Pius XII was not taking a more open and denunciatory line and instead relying on the good offices of The New Republic
What does this have to do with the topic you introduced for discussion, namely:

(a)
Does anyone know what the first English language mention of gas chambers in the public sphere was - eg book, speech, newspaper or pamphlet.
and

(b)
What would be the first English language account of gas chambers as a means of the destruction of Jews?

little grey rabbit
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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 15 May 2011 05:56

Well pre 1942 - or at the very earliest pre-September 1941 - mentions of gas chambers would only be involved with euthanasia. Hence it is very hard distinguish the two issues. You will note that the TNR article does actually mention gas chambers.

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by David Thompson » 15 May 2011 06:07

little grey rabbit -- You wrote:
Well pre 1942 - or at the very earliest pre-September 1941 - mentions of gas chambers would only be involved with euthanasia. Hence it is very hard distinguish the two issues. You will note that the TNR article does actually mention gas chambers.
Anyone who has studied the subject knows that the NS-regime first used poison gas on mental patients. We already have open threads on the Nazi euthanasia program, and the denunciations of the program by various ecclesiastical figures, including Catholic bishops. We also have a number of open theads on the Catholic church and Nazi war crimes generally. Let's not muddy the waters -- pick a subject and stick to it. That way everyone will have some idea of what we're talking about here. If you want to post to the other threads on the subjects they cover, step right up, but we don't need a redundant or duplicative discussion in this thread.

little grey rabbit
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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by little grey rabbit » 15 May 2011 06:17

Well as I said I was interested in the way these reports appeared in the English speaking world or the public sphere. I agree the substantive issue is very well documented and researched.

As I am sure you are aware there are a number of excellent works detailing how news of the Holocaust came to the attention of the outside world - I perceive a gap in the coverage of how euthanasia came to the attention. Of course this is partly due to it not having the same impact as the Holocaust. Although it is certainly seen as important, understandly the Holocaust does tend to overshadow it - at least in the public mind.

So I hope you will be able to indulge me in a thread that concentrates on early reports of gas chambers extending to euthanasia and the reception of these reports, as opposed to the actual history of euthanasia.

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by David Thompson » 15 May 2011 06:37

little grey rabbit -- You wrote:
So I hope you will be able to indulge me in a thread that concentrates on early reports of gas chambers extending to euthanasia and the reception of these reports, as opposed to the actual history of euthanasia.
All right. For those who want to discuss the history of the euthanasia program generally, please post to:

Aktion T-4
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=45327

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by michael mills » 16 May 2011 08:05

Perhaps the most ghastly torture of all is that of the air-pump. A special air valve is inserted into the prisoner's anus, and the guard them pumps air into his victim.
Is that meant to be a torture?

Inflation of the large intestine is a common medical procedure, for example for the purpose of taking an X-ray. I have had it done to me, and it is not particularly pleasant, but nevertheless beneficial for early detection of possibly life-threatening conditions.

I suspect that the above account may be a distorted description of the medical procedure. If torture was called for, then the tried and true rubber truncheon would have been quite sufficient.

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by bluespaceoddity » 16 May 2011 10:02

...

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Re: The first English language mention of gas chambers?

Post by David Thompson » 16 May 2011 13:42

michael -- I think little grey rabbit had a different form of gas chamber in mind when he started the thread.

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