EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

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EG B. Breakdown of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby stcamp » 09 Jan 2009 22:57

I was surprised when I ran across this doing research. It is from the Moscow KGB Archives.

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Steve
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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby Simon K » 09 Jan 2009 23:44

What is the approximate date of the docs?

Sorry my German is poor. Is there the context for the term "breakout" in the text? What are the circumstances the document is outlining?

Would they have used so bald a phrase as "gaswagon"? Is there even the possibility that they mean another type of vehicle. (fuel bowser?)

Unique docs!

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby David Thompson » 10 Jan 2009 00:39

Thanks, Steve, for posting that interesting document. I'm interested in the date too, and the specific collection in which it appears so that our readers can cite to it.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby michael mills » 10 Jan 2009 01:12

This is old stuff.

I remember a couple of years an ex-Soviet member of this Forum (I recall his pseudonym was "Sergei Romanov") posted precisely that document. He also posted material showing that a vehicle with same registration number as one of the "Gaswagen" was seen within the grounds of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp by prisoners there, I think late in 1944.

The question remains as to what exactly these "Gaswagen" were. The trucks converted into mobile gas-chambers by the attachment of a pipe diverting the engine exhaust into the enclosed freight compartment were always referred to in German documents as "Sonderwagen", "Spezialwagen", or "S-Wagen", a term concealing their purpose.

The term "Gaswagen" was certainly used in other contexts to denote a vehicle powered by gas rather than liquid fuel.

So there are two possibilities regarding the two "Gaswagen" assigned to EG-B. One is that they were indeed the mobile homicidal gas-chambers that the Einsatzgruppen certainly possessed and used for mass-killings. If that is the case, it means that the composer of this document had abandoned the normal official designation of these vehicles, for an unknown reason, and used a more "in your face" designation. The statement that the vehicles were intially assigned to EK 8 and EK9, and would later be re-assigned to SK 7a and SK 7b, after completion of the operation by EKs 8 and 9, seems prima facie to support such an interpretation.

The other is that these were vehicles powered by gas, and were listed separately from the cars (PKW) and trucks (LKW) because they needed supplies of a different sort of fuel. If that is the case, it is to be assumed that the mobile gas-chambers possessed by EK-B were simply included in the given number of trucks (LKW), and not separately identified. That would have been consistent with the policy of concealing the existence of the mobile gas-chambers, and also with the purpose of the document, which was to list the number of vehicles held by EK-B and their mechanical condition and requirement for repairs, rather than to specifiy what the vehicles were being used for. Within the context of the document, there seems to have been no need to specify the mobile gas-chambers separately from other vehicles.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby Simon K » 10 Jan 2009 01:21

Ah for breakout read breakdown of vehicle types? A typo in title obviously.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby stcamp » 10 Jan 2009 03:06

Hi,

I am working from memory. I believe this is reel 10. I have 141(?) scanned pages from this reel. I will post a link to it sometime next week so it can be downloaded. This was a part of a report on the reel. Yes, it seems somewhat "in your face" yet when the same author(s) were listing, and using the words, executions and liquidations, it makes more sense. The same report gives total numbers of executions for the different kommandoes.

I don't have the file(s) on this computer. That is the reason for the delay.

Steve


Source:
Corporate Author: Federalʹnai︠a︡ sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossii.
Title: Central Archives of the Federal Security Services (former KGB) of the Russian Federation records relating to war crime trials in the Soviet Union [microform], 1939-1992
Extent: Original records 25 boxes (10.41 linear ft.)

Summary: Contains interrogation transcripts, witness statements, arrest warrants, evidence documents, copy prints, sketches, diagrams, photographs and other trial documents relating to the arrests and investigations of suspected war criminals for war crimes trials held in Riga, Kiev, Minsk, Babruisk (Bobruysk), Sevastopol, Kishinev (Chisinau), Chernihiv (Chernigov), Pskov, Velikie Luki, Stalino, Krasnodar, Bryansk, Nikolaev, Novogrod, Leningrad, and Smolensk in the Soviet Union. Also includes trial documents for trials of several individuals suspected of war crimes and several Sachsenhausen concentration camp officials as Otto Enoch, Ion Antonescu, Mihai Antonescu, Fritz Ziegel, Reiner Schtangel, Hans Foss, Maximillian Angelis, Ferdinal Scherner, Erich Hansen, Fritz Panziggier, Bruno Henrich, Wilhelm Mohnke, Alfred Gerstenberg, Sachsenhausen guards: Willy Busse, Oscar Burchhardt, Erich Prengemann, August Jansen, Ludwig Erasam, and guard in Ravensbrűck, Gerta Wiedemann and other war criminals.
Language(s): In Russian, German, and English.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby David Thompson » 10 Jan 2009 03:33

Thanks, Steve.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby Georg_S » 10 Jan 2009 06:34

Hello,

I also doubt that this man writes about the "Sonderwagen". There was a rule in the SS, especially the IKL / WVHA Amt D that all documents, reports etc shouldn´t mentioning the real purpose if a unit/KL etc was wrting about killings executions etc. I have in a book a copy of a letter from Arthur Rödl, Kdt of KL Gross Rosen, that he is reporting an execution of an inmate. In return he got a sharp letter from Liebenschel, WVHA Amt D, that he (Rödl) should use the words "Sonderbehandlung" etc when reporting such things.

So if this man is really reporting / writing about the gaschamberwaggons that was used in the beginning of Aktion Reinhard is hard to believe.

Best regards,

Georg

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby AliasDavid » 10 Jan 2009 14:54

The mobile gas-chambers were converted Saurer trucks. They were often referred to as "Saurer", like in the report, or "Saurerwagen", like in http://www.ns-archiv.de/einsatzgruppen/gaswagen/becker/becker-an-rauff.php. The usage of "Saurer" in connection with "Gas" does not leave room for a reasonable doubt that the vehicles mentioned in the report were not mobile gas-chambers.
UlrichH

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby David Thompson » 10 Jan 2009 18:16

For an earlier discussion of this document, see the posts beginning at viewtopic.php?p=858098#p858098

For a full copy of the document, which is a report covering the period 16-28 February 1942, see the initial post on this RODOH forum thread at
http://rodohforum.yuku.com/reply/56889/ ... eport.html

For judicial proceedings involving the use of gassing vans by Ek 8, JuNSV offers these synopses:

Verfahren Lfd.Nr.624
Tatkomplex: Massenvernichtungsverbrechen durch Einsatzgruppen
Angeklagte:
Har., Adolf Josef Freispruch
Gerichtsentscheidungen:
LG Frankfurt/M. 660312
BGH 680911
Tatland: GUS
Tatort: Mogilew, Monostyratschtschina, Dowsk, unbekannt (Raum Smolensk), unbekannt (Raum Mogilew)
Tatzeit: 42
Opfer: Juden, Häftlinge
Nationalität: Sowjetische
Dienststelle: Einsatzgruppen EK8
Verfahrensgegenstand: Massen- und Einzeltötungen durch Erschiessen und Vergasen mittels 'Gaswagen' . Durchführung von 'Gefängnisräumungen' . Erhängung von zwei Angehörigen des beim EK8 tätigen jüdischen Arbeitskommandos

Veröffentlicht in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen Band XXIII

Verfahren Lfd.Nr.702
Tatkomplex: Massenvernichtungsverbrechen durch Einsatzgruppen
Angeklagte:
Ha., Hans Karl Albert 5½ Jahre
Ric., Heinz Richard Hugo 7 Jahre
Gerichtsentscheidungen:
LG Kiel 690411
Tatland: GUS
Tatort: Mogilew
Tatzeit: 41-42
Opfer: Juden
Nationalität: Sowjetische
Dienststelle: Einsatzgruppen EK8
Verfahrensgegenstand: Vergasung von Juden mittels 'Gaswagen'

Veröffentlicht in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen Band XXXII

Verfahren Lfd.Nr.720
Tatkomplex: Massenvernichtungsverbrechen durch Einsatzgruppen
Angeklagte:
Schl., Heinz Joachim Freispruch
Gerichtsentscheidungen:
LG Kiel 691128
Tatland: GUS
Tatort: Mogilew, Minsk
Tatzeit: 41-42
Opfer: Juden
Nationalität: Deutsche, Sowjetische
Dienststelle: Einsatzgruppen EK8
Verfahrensgegenstand: Vergasung in 'Gaswagen' von mindestens 2500 sowjetischen Juden in Mogilew und von zirka 50 deutschen Juden in Minsk

Veröffentlicht in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen Band XXXIII

Verfahren Lfd.Nr.750
Tatkomplex: Massenvernichtungsverbrechen durch Einsatzgruppen, NS-Gewaltverbrechen in Haftstätten
Angeklagte:
Stro., Karl Freispruch
Gerichtsentscheidungen:
LG Frankfurt/M. 710319
Tatland: Polen, GUS
Tatort: Nowogrodek, Baranowicze, Minsk, Mogilew
Tatzeit: 4107-4210
Opfer: Juden, Häftlinge, Geisteskranke
Nationalität: Polnische, Sowjetische
Dienststelle: Einsatzgruppen EK8
Verfahrensgegenstand: Massenerschiessung mehrerer tausend Juden in 5 Teilaktionen. Vergasung mittels 'Gaswagen' von Häftlingen des Gefängnisses Mogilew bei der monatlichen 'Gefängnisräumung' sowie von Geisteskranken einer Irrenanstalt bei Mogilew

Veröffentlicht in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen Band XXXV

http://www1.jur.uva.nl/junsv/brd/Dienstdeufr.htm

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby michael mills » 10 Jan 2009 23:26

The mobile gas-chambers were converted Saurer trucks.


Not all of them. The first vehicles converted into mobile gas-chambers were a different model (Renault I think, although I am not sure). And not every Saurer truck was a mobile gas-chamber.

The important point is that "Gaswagen" was not the official designation for these vehicle converted to a homicidal purpose. For example, the linked report by Becker nowhere uses the term "Gaswagen"; indeed he refers to the need for camouflage, to hide the homicidal function of the vehicles, which of course is why the term "Gaswagen" was not used in official correspondence in reference to these vehicles.

In this technical report by Rauff, dating from June 1942:

http://www.ns-archiv.de/einsatzgruppen/ ... /97000.php

the prescribed official term "Spezialwagen" is used.

It may be that German personnel aware of the existence of these homicidal vehicles used the term "Gaswagen" when talking among themselves. That would lead to confusion with the more normal use of that word to designate a vehicle powered by gas rather than petrol or diesel fuel. Furthermore, it does not alter the fact that "Spezialwagen" and "Sonderwagen" were the officially prescribed terms for designating the homicidal vehicles.

("Spezialwagen" and "Sonderwagen" were not terms specific to homicidal vehicles, but designated all vehicles with some special purpose other than the usual one of transporting person and goods. The homicidal vehicles were lumped together with other special-purpose vehicles as a way of concealing their existence).

As I wrote previously, it is possible that the member of EG B who composed the message from the field to Berlin on the basis of which staff at RSHA headquarters produced the report that we actually have, used the collquial term rather than the official one, But if that was the case, it remains a mystery why he did so, or why the staff at RSHA headquarters did not pick up and correct this non-regulation usage.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby steve248 » 11 Jan 2009 19:26

Come on Mike Miller, you are beginning to sound like a denier. Why would Einsatzgruppe B decribe a "Gaswagen" as anything other than a mobile gassing vehicle. Have you honestly ever seen any report, by any Einsatzgruppe, in which they report having vehicles powered by wood?

When Einsatzgruppe D were retreating from the Caucasus in January 1943, they too had a "Gaswagen". When it broke down and no one could quickly repair it, they could not simply leave it behind so it was blown up to stop its purpose be revealed to the Soviets. Report by Einsatzgruppenchef Bierkamp.

Possibly the same vehicle was one of the three sent to Einsatzgruppe D at Simferopol a year before, in January 1942. The same ones reported by August Becker who explained its operation. One of these Gaswagens during March 1942 was transferred from Simferopol to Sonderkommando 10a in Taganrog, about 800 kms distant by land. Because of a lack of alternative transport, a number of SS-Unterführer having reported to the Einsatzgruppe D Group Staff (Gruppenstab) were being sent to Sonderkommando 10a at the time and travelled in the back of this particular Gaswagen "with the doors tied open" to preclude being accidentally gassed themselves despite the winter weather. Perpetrator testimonies.

Having researched all the four Einsatzgruppen in Russia through perpetrator testimonies and documentation of the time at Zentrale Stelle and various Bundesarchiv locations, I have not seen a single reference to wood-powered vehicles ever being used for anything. This despite the ever present lack of vehicles spare, tyres and fuel. Panjewagens yes, wood-powered vehicles no.

A "Gaswagen" in German documentation, epecially when described by the Einsatzgruppen, was just that - in your words, a homicidal gassing vehicle.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby David Thompson » 11 Jan 2009 19:54

steve248 -- You wrote:
Come on Mike Miller, you are beginning to sound like a denier. Why would Einsatzgruppe B decribe a "Gaswagen" as anything other than a mobile gassing vehicle. Have you honestly ever seen any report, by any Einsatzgruppe, in which they report having vehicles powered by wood?

The author of the post you're countering is Michael Mills. AHF moderator Michael Miller hasn't posted to this thread.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby michael mills » 12 Jan 2009 01:05

Come on Mike Miller, you are beginning to sound like a denier.


I will treat this insult with the contempt it deserves. Making this sort of accusation is simply an attempt to stifle debate, and does nothing to further our understanding of the meaning and purpose of documents such as the one at issue in this thread.

Why would Einsatzgruppe B decribe a "Gaswagen" as anything other than a mobile gassing vehicle.


A more pertinent question is why the clerk in EG B who compiled the data on which the report at issue was composed by RSHA staff in Berlin used the word "Gaswagen" rather than the official designations "Spezialwagen", "Sonderwagen" or "S-Wagen", as used for example by Rauff in his technical report.

Are there any other examples of official German reports in which the word "Gaswagen" was definitely used in reference to a vehicle converted to a mobile gas-chamber? I am ready to be corrected on this point.

When Einsatzgruppe D were retreating from the Caucasus in January 1943, they too had a "Gaswagen". When it broke down and no one could quickly repair it, they could not simply leave it behind so it was blown up to stop its purpose be revealed to the Soviets. Report by Einsatzgruppenchef Bierkamp.


Did Bierkamp actually use the word "Gaswagen" in that report? A reference to that report, and a quote from it, would be helpful.

As stated, I am ready to be corrected on this point. If there are other examples of the use of the word "Gaswagen" in official German reports as a designation for vehicles converted to homicidal gas-chambers, then we can be fairly certain that the two vehicles with the registration numbers Pol 71 462 and Pol 71 457 were such. That would mean that at some point the compilers of the reports from the field abandoned the official designations and began using a colloquial term devoid of camouflage, for some unknown reason.

The report by Bierkamp is interesting in that it apparently describes the destruction of a mobile gas-chamber that could not be withdrawn from the front in the face of the advancing Red Army. One of the salient features of the history of the vehicles converted to mobile gas-chambers is that none was ever actually found, and so far as I know no-one has been able to trace what happened to them. Were they all blown up perhaps? Or perhaps they were re-converted into ordinary vehicles by removing the special attachments.

Because of a lack of alternative transport, a number of SS-Unterführer having reported to the Einsatzgruppe D Group Staff (Gruppenstab) were being sent to Sonderkommando 10a at the time and travelled in the back of this particular Gaswagen "with the doors tied open" to preclude being accidentally gassed themselves despite the winter weather. Perpetrator testimonies.


This sounds like lurid embellishment on the part of the persons being interrogated. Any danger to persons inside the freight compartment of the vehicle could only arise when the exhaust pipe was connected to that compartment by means of the special attachment. Obviously when the vehicle was travelling normally, eg when it was being transferred from Simferopol to Taganrog, that attachment was disconnected and the exhaust pipe vented normally into the open air, not into the interior of the freight compartment.

I have read other accounts of vehicles converted into mobile gas-chambers being used for non-homicidal transportation purposes. For example, the police staff at the Maly Trostinets camp had a couple of homicidal vehicles but disliked using them for gassing, for a number of reasons; they were messy to unload, were not very effective, and also the pooicemen regarded this method of killing as "unmilitary" as compared with shooting. After a while, they bgan using the vehicles just to transport the victims to the gravesites, where they shot them.

Did those perpetrator testimonies use the term "Gaswagen"? That in itself would not be conclusive, since it might just reflect post-war usage, rather than the official designation for such vehicles at the time the events described occurred.

I have not seen a single reference to wood-powered vehicles ever being used for anything.


The Bothmann-Sonderkommando which ran the extermination centre at Chelmno certainly had vehicles powered by wood-gas. Such vehicles were among a number of vehicles assigned to the Sonderkommando for the purpose of transporting away the clothing and other belongings of the victims that were being stored on site. A report by the Sonderkommando listed the assigned vehicles according to type of propulsion, ie so many gasoline-powered vehicles (Vergaserwagen), so many diesel vehicles (Dieselwagen), so many gas-powered vehicles (Treibgaswagen).

A "Gaswagen" in German documentation, epecially when described by the Einsatzgruppen, was just that - in your words, a homicidal gassing vehicle.


To reach any conclusion, we would need to examine all known uses of the term "Gaswagen" in German documentation, in particular the context in which the term was used.

For example, in the document at issue, we find this sentence:

Ausserdem ist es beim Vormarsch unbedingt notwendig, alle schweren LKW - wie Werkstattwagen, Omnibus, Gaswagen und Tankwagen - mit 2 Fahrern zu besetzen


One may legitimately ask why the compiler of the report felt the need to specifically name the "Gaswagen" along with other types of heavy truck in the context of asking for two drivers for each vehicle, given the overall requirement for discretion in referring to the homicidal vehicles.

There were of course contexts where RSHA headquarters required specific information about the homicidal vehicles, most importantly in regard to their security. Bierkamp's report on the blowing up of a disabled homicidal vehicle that could not be withdrawn is an example of that security requirement; obviously RSHA h\eadquarters would want to know that a "Spezialwagen" had been saved from falling into enemy hands. Other examples were technical reports on the functioning of the homicidal vehicles, such as those by Becker and Ruff; but in those reports, the designation "Spezialwagen" was generally used.

However, in an "innocent" context of asking for two drivers for each heavy truck, there would have been no need for homicidal vehicles to be specifically named, and one is left wondering why they were.

We have to remember that German official documents were not produced for the benefit of future historians, but to fulfil a specific purpose at the time, and in order to understand the documents properly we have to know what that purpose was. In this case, we have to determine the reason for specifically identifying certain vehicles as "Gaswagen" and listing them separately to other vehicles.

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Re: EG B. Breakout of Vehicles incl. Gaswagons

Postby steve248 » 12 Jan 2009 14:12

Apologies to Michael Miller for misusing his name in my earlier post above. I am sorry to have taken your name in vain.

Turning to the posts of Michael Mills:

It was not the case, as Michael Mills states, that German documents always referred to the gassing trucks for killing people as "Sonderwagen", "Spezialwagen" or "S-Wagen". The previous post with the EG B report shows that the Einsatzgruppe B did refer to these gassing trucks for killing people as "Gaswagen". Why would EG B want to include its Gaswagens among its numbers of LKWs? Different sections of RSHA II wanted to know about the individual types of vehicles. As did the Kraftfahrwesen section on EG B staff.

Einsatzgruppe D did exactly the same with its vehicles and used the term "G-Wagen" for one vehicle. On 18 February 1943, Chef EG D Walther Bierkamp sent a radio message from his new HQ in Simferopol (Crimea), having retreated from the Caucasus, to RSHA Chef Kaltenbrunner - RSHA Antschef I-VI (by name) and Kommandostab Ost, advising them of the whereabouts of his various Kommandos and vehicle strength.

The vehicles belonging to his HQ Staff were "6 Pkw, 7 Lkw, 1 G-Wagen, 1 Tankwagen" and his Schupo detachment had "4 Lkw, 1 Streifwagen". Bierkamp added "Ein G-Wagen auf Marsch gesprengt und verbrannt."

In 1965 when interrogated by the West German police, SS-sergeant Arendes explained that incident: "The retreat of EK 12 [from Woroschilowsk to Rostow] began at the end of December 1942. Orders were given and we travelled in one long column of vehicles. We spent at least one night en route. The column leader was [SS-Stubaf] Hersmann. In the vehicle column was also a Lkw of closed-construction [mit geschlossenen Aufbau] and we all knew that it was a Gaswagen. This Gaswagen on the route from Woroschilowsk to Rostow was blown up [gesprengt]... Hersmann gave the order to blow up the Gaswagen". SS-Stubaf Werner Hersmann, the officer involved, was wounded in Rostow soon after arriving on 28 Jan 1943. So the incident happened sometime in January 1943. There is another statement from another SS sergeant giving basically the same information. I believe this was a "Diamond" Gaswagen.

The same Bierkamp radio message of 18 February 1943, lists each of its Kommandos, new location, and vehicle strength. It separately lists the "Beutefahrzeuge", SLkw, MLkw, Omnibus and "Flitzer" (jeep). To my mind when read in conjunction with the EG B report, different types of vehicles were always listed separately, contrary to Mr Mills' belief.

Going back to the 1942 Gaswagen being used to transport peronnel: SS-Sturmmann Odenthal, questioned in 1965, said that outbound from "Simferopol via Berdjank to Mariupol at the end of March/beginning April [1942]. This journey I made 'im Kastenbau eines Gaswagens'...". SS-sergeant Hummel was also in this vehicle that he names as a "Gaswagen" and gives a full description of its construction including the wooden "Lattenrost" covering the floor and its use in Taganrog. The fact that the driver could divert the exhaust gases into the interior of the truck was not missed on these SS passengers and the reason why they tied the rear doors open.

All the Einsatzgruppe D perpetrator and non-perpetrator testimonies always use the word "Gaswagen" and they always mean a gassing truck to kill people. They do not use any other terms as Michael Mills posted above.

I do not deny that camouflage terms were used in RSHA Berlin paperwork during the testing and manufacturing of gassing vehicles for killing people; but in the field, in use, the perpetrators always use the word "Gaswagen".

Incidentally Michael Mills states twice that these Gaswagens were "converted" from other vehicles. To my mind, these Gaswagens were purpose designed and manufactured for RSHA. Many statements say the Gaswagen in the Caucasus looked like what I call a "Moving Van" (for transporting your belonging when moving house) with painted windows. But RSHA had them built as an hermetic construction to contain the exhaust gases and to my mind, this is not a conversion.

As regards wood-powered vehicles, my post did not mention or deny their use in Germany or Poland, the Warthegau or the General Government. I denied that they were used by the Einsatzgruppen in Russia. I have never seen these vehicles described as "Gaswagen", more usually "Holzgas".

And if Mr Mills does not have "Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas" by Eugen Kogon, Hermann Langbein, Adalbert Rückerl and others (S Fischer Verlag, Fr,/Main, 1983), on his bookshelf, then he might find additional information to assist him. The English translation is almost as good as the German original.


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