From The Nazi New Order in Poland by Jon Evans, published in 1941 but written before the Soviet invasion I found this:
One wonders if this was what Cavendish-Bentinck had in mind when he stated in 1944Mental 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
On page 64-65 of the Nazi New Order in Poland they have a longer account of Posen Fort VIIAs 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.
In anycase Posen Fort VII and its gas chamber is still very much part of the official narrative, as can be read hereBut 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.
Which includes a picture of the "experimental" gas chamber
The description includes this
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?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.
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.