The Final Solution: Why not kill them immediately?

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
bonzen
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Post by bonzen » 24 Jan 2005 05:51

At Yale in 1965 an undergraduate named Frederick Smith wrote a term paper where he argued that a centralized hub in shipping could reduce costs. His professor gave him a bad grade because it was nonsense. Frederick Smith went on to found Federal Express with his central hub in Memphis. All packages are sent through Memphis Tennessee. A new concept? not at all.....Chicago became the "hog butcher to the World" with the same idea. All animals were shipped to Chicago, slaughtered, and all parts used for different products. Hooves, horns, bones , marrow, even the hair used for bristle brushes. It was very profitable....Swift Armour, Oscar Mayer, all made fortunes.

neugierig
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Post by neugierig » 24 Jan 2005 23:54

drmessimer wrote:
“[…]In any event, let me add that the Nazis were not efficient. Quite the contrary. They relied on primitive technology to dispose of the KZ prisoners because they lacked the resources to do otherwise[…]”

I have heard this ‘The Nazis were too stupid, etc.’ argument before, and must dismiss it. For one, if we answer any technical question with ‘Well, that’s how they did it, they didn’t know any better’, we are admitting that we don’t have a reasonable, plausible answer. And two, the DEGESCH gaschambers were installed and working in Auschwitz, as well as a microwave disinfector, developed by Siemens-Schuckert, state of the art stuff. So, the argument that they run a shoestring operation doesn’t wash, the administration invested huge amounts of money to save lives.

David Thompson:
“The false premise is your assumption that the Nazi extermination program was to kill all of the Jews immediately, rather than take the more profitable course -- extract everything of value from them, including their labor, and then kill them.”

Forgive me, Sir, but I am having problems with your statement. We are told that the Reinhardt camps were pure killing facilities, with very few survivors. And this is my argument. If they were to be killed, why not install gaschambers in all the camps in Germany proper and kill the Jews from France, Theresienstadt, et al in them, little by little, instead of shipping them halfway across Europe. This would have also worked with the selection process. Sort out those fit for work at home and ship them to where they were needed and gas the rest close by. Believe me, energy of any kind was at a premium at that time, as well as rail space, needed for the war effort.

Agadanik:
“OK, let me try again, because I am obviously not being clear enough.

1. Even with mature technologies,you are generally given multiple choices - your home may be heated by oil, or by gas, or by electricity, or by solar energy[…]”

Well Sir, it appears we are talking past each other. One last kick at the cat, as it were. (while my cat isn’t watching) The method of killing had been decided upon in 1941, Zyklon B was to be used. Here it is:

“From Constantine FitzGibbon’s translation of the autobiography of Rudolf Höß:
“[…]I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain how these mass killings were to be carried out. It would be by gas, but we did not know which gas or how it was to be used. Now we had the gas, (Zyklon B) and we had established a procedure[…]”


The above was following the first gassings in Krema I, which took place in the fall of 1941, according to the Frankfurt verdict. Regardless of when the first gassings happened, there seems to be some disagreement, Zyklon B was to be used and since the DEGESCH delousing chambers had been developed, and were working efficiently, it is more than reasonable to assume that the people told to build the new gaschambers would have used this technology. They did not.

A little about the people in charge of the program:
“[…]Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Dr. -Ing Hans Kammler was Himmler's top engineer and head of Department-C, the building directorate of the WVHA, the main administrative and economic office of the SS[…]Kammler, who along with another military civil-engineer, Karl Bischoff, were recruited by Himmler from the Luftwaffe to head Himmler's projects[…]”

These people were top notch engineers and able to read and write, take my word for it. It is therefore hard, nay impossible, to understand why they went back to stone age ‘technology’.

Regards
Wilf

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 25 Jan 2005 00:18

neugierig -- You said:
Forgive me, Sir, but I am having problems with your statement. We are told that the Reinhardt camps were pure killing facilities, with very few survivors.
I'm not surprised that you're having problems. Your assumption that the "Aktion Reinhard(t)" camps "were pure killing facilities" is false. They were labor camp clusters with attached killing facilities for the "useless eaters."

Belzec Labour Camps
http://www.deathcamps.org/belzec/labourcamps.html
Sobibor Labour Camps
http://www.deathcamps.org/sobibor/labourcamps.html
Treblinka Labour Camp
http://www.deathcamps.org/treblinka/labourcamp.html
Majdanek - Airfield Camp
http://www.deathcamps.org/lublin/airfield.html
Majdanek - Lipowa Street Camp
http://www.deathcamps.org/lublin/lipowa.html
Majdanek - Sportsplatz Camp
http://www.deathcamps.org/lublin/sportplatz.html

And since you apparently haven't gotten around to reading it it, I'll recommend this thread to you again, so you can find out for yourself from original source documents:

Documents relating to "Aktion Reinhardt"
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=64269

Your statement "We are told" is a very passive formulation, usually seen in doctrinaire feminist writings and that sort of thing -- like you're a professional victim or something. You might try actively researching the topic, including the Nazi documents, before jumping to conclusions on the subject.

Erik
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Post by Erik » 25 Jan 2005 00:55

Mr. Thompson:
You're not seeing the opportunity here to maximize benefits to the people and state in the New Germany, neugierig. Extermination can take many forms – […]
The proposition is much easier to understand if you think of the Nazi extermination program not just as genocide, but often as a form of genocidal capitalism.

Heydrich at Wannsee:
Under proper direction the Jews should now in the course of the Final Solution [Endloesung] be brought to the East in a suitable way for use as labor. In big labor gangs, with separation of the sexes, the Jews capable of work are brought to these areas and employed in road building, in which task undoubtedly a great part will fall out through natural diminution [natuerliche Verminderung].

The remnant that finally is able to survive all this--since this is undoubtedly the part with the strongest resistance--must be treated accordingly [entsprechend behandelt werden] since these people, representing a natural selection, are to be regarded as the germ cell of a new Jewish development. (See the experience of history.)
”Entsprechend behandelt” (”treated accordingly”) is a Nazi code word for gassing.

If Heydrich had been a capitalist or a Southern U. S. slave owner (a hundred years or so, earlier), it would probably had meant a raise in salary or other gratifications instead.

But he wasn’t a capitalist or a slave owner. He was a genocider. The experience of history had taught Heydrich and other Nazis that the Jewish power of development was a constant threat to other races.

He knew what Benjamin Disraeli knew:
[…] that it is in vain for man to attempt to baffle the inexorable law of nature which has decreed that a superior race shall never be destroyed or absorbed by an inferior.
But the influence of a great race will be felt; its greatness does not depend upon its numbers, otherwise the English would not have vanquished the Chinese, nor would the Aztecs have been overthrown by Cortez and a handful of Goths. That greatness results from its organisation, the consequences of which are shown in its energy and enterprise, in the strength of its will and the fertility of its brain. Let us observe what should be the influence of the Jews, and then ascertain how it is exercised.[…]
http://www.gwb.com.au/2000/myers/100300.htm

Maintaining Jews as slaves and mistreating them like Lord Beaconsfield described in the link above, would only make them develop their ”germ” according to the ”inexorable law of nature”. They cannot be worked to death, nor kept around on a ”semi-permanent basis”, like the inferior Slavic people:
You're overlooking the fact that there wasn't going to be a slave labor shortage under the Nazi regime -- the Germans planned to use the Poles, Russians and others, after the Jews were used up. Unlike the fate the Nazis envisioned for the Jews, the Nazis planned to keep these other "inferior" types around on a semi-permanent basis:
The population of the Government General during the next 10 years, by necessity and after a consistent carrying out of these measures, will be composed of the remaining inferior population supplemented by the population of the eastern provinces deported there, and of all those parts of the German Reich which have the same racial and human qualities for instance, parts of the Sorbs [Sorben] and Wends [Wenden].

This population will, as a people of laborers without leaders, be at our disposal and will furnish Germany annually with migrant workers and with workers for special tasks (roads, quarries, buildings): they themselves will have more to eat and more to live on than under the Polish regime; and, though they have no culture of their own, they will, under the strict, consistent, and just leadership of the German people, be called upon to help work on its everlasting cultural tasks and its buildings and perhaps, as far as the amount of heavy work is concerned, will be the ones who make the realization of these tasks possible.


Himmler: Treatment of Alien Races in the East (1940)

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=63400

That sounds more like Disraeli’s colonialism than Adam Smith’s capitalism, and neither does it entail the necessity of ”treating them accordingly” (i.e., gassing them), if they are good at it (i.e., that the population ”finally is able to survive all this”(Heydrich)).

But you are right, I was perhaps ”overlooking the fact that there wasn't going to be a slave labor shortage under the Nazi regime”, when I suggested that Heydrich’s ”must” gassing sounded more like ”suicidal capitalism” than a ”genocidal” one.

What I wanted to suggest was that Heydrich wanted to put a final end to the hitherto existing ”experience of history”, the same one that is more eloquently emphasized by Benjamin Disraeli in his assessment of the same history (see link above). Heydrich thought that gassing the ”resistant germ” which the hard slave labor ”developed” (when it made the fittest survive), would finally prove the reverse of Disraeli’s ”inexorable law of nature” – i.e., that the German "race" was one of the superior races that could destroy inferior ones.

This could be compared to the Marxists’ laws of history – the class struggle would eventually put an end to class struggle, when the superior class of the proletariat got on top.

So it looks more like a socialist logic than a capitalist logic to me.

A National Socialist would likely say the same sort of things concerning ”class struggle”---but would add that the ”constant opposition” described by Marx was the constant Jewish opposition to the others’ nationalisms, and that Scientific Socialism meant the reappearance of the oppressor in the form of the Jewish race, and the common ruin of the other races. Class struggle is race struggle in disguise.
I don't think that this proposition ["Class struggle is race struggle in disguise"] is true, since "class struggles" also take place within a race -- as in ancient Greece and Rome, and modern Britain. It is something that can even be seen in primate societies, as a "pecking order" phenomenon.


I don’t think the Nazis were right, if that’s what you think that I do. But historians suggest that Goebbels learnt a lot from Leninist propaganda -- he said so himself, more or less:
Marxism had two important intellectual fathers: Marx and Engels. The Marxist movement is founded on their work. Bebel and Lenin brought Marxism to the masses. Marxism never attempted to alleviate the misery of its followers, rather to use their misery to build the political power that eventually gave it political success. National Socialism must do the same.
http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/rpt27c1.htm

The political success of Marxism must be countered with ”the same”. Goebbels described Jewish success as a form of ”mimicry”:
The Jews are masters at fitting in to their surroundings, without in any way changing their nature. They are mimics. They have a natural instinct that senses danger, and their drive for self-preservation usually gives them the proper ways and means to escape danger at no risk to their lives or need for courage.
http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb18.htm

So why not ”mimic”, too? :
National Socialism must do the same.
Put race instead of class, and you’re ”fitting in to their surroundings”!

Anti-capitalists see the camps system ”mimicing” Capitalism:
The camp system involved and dehumanised the prisoners who often took their powerlessness against the Nazis out on fellow prisoners. The struggle for survival ensured, in Primo Levi's phrase, that the 'worst lived, the best all died'. It is little surprise that so many survivors of the camps, like Levi and Jean Amery, still committed suicide 40 years after their liberation, so riddled with guilt did the camps make them and so painful were their experiences. It is in the name of the millions who died that the perpetrators must be brought to account.
The capitalist nature of the Holocaust can be seen from the SS, the army, the industrialists and the civil servants planning the Holocaust at Wannsee in January 1942, to the bureaucratised and efficient train system, to huge research and development into efficient gas for the ovens, to the country's best engineering firms competing for the contract to build the most efficient crematoria, to the fact that 'healthy' Jews were not exterminated immediately but, particularly in times of labour shortage, were worked to death as slave labour.
Put bluntly, the Nazis were the barbaric product of the crisis of capitalism in Germany between the world wars and the Holocaust was a product of their twisted world outlook. Often the murderous affair could appear irrational as industrial managers using slave labour complained, in production terms, of how wasteful it was to constantly have to train up new labour as the SS ensured that Jewish slave labour did not live too long. Also, on occasion, the transport of Jews could seem to go counter to the war effort. Yet the Holocaust was central to the Nazis, and the Nazis and the successful outcome of the war were central to the interests of German capital.
http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk ... aitles.htm
It was an efficient mechanism for the destruction of massive numbers of human beings. For example, early experiments showed that bullets were inefficient, the Nazis eventually settled on gas as the most efficient means of destroying people. The Nazis also found it efficient to use members of the Jewish community to perform a variety of tasks (for example, choosing the: next group of victims) that they otherwise would have had to perform themselves. Many Jews cooperated because it seemed like the "rational" thing to do (they might be able to save others, or themselves) in such a rationalized system. The Holocaust emphasized calculability, for instance, how many people could be killed in the shortest period of time. There was certainly little attention paid to the quality of the life, or even of the death, of the Jews as they marched inexorably to the gas chambers. In another quantitative sense, the Holocaust has the dubious distinction of being seen as the most extreme of mass exterminations: "Like everything else done in the modern-rational, planned, scientifically informed, expert, efficiently managed. co-ordinated-way, the Holocaust left behind and put to shame all its alleged pre-modern equivalents, exposing them as primitive, wasteful and ineffective by comparison. Like everything else in our modern society, the Holocaust was an accomplishment in every respect superior.... It towers high above the past genocidal episodes.'' There was an effort to make mass murder predictable. Thus, the whole process had an assembly-line quality about it. Trains snaked their the concentration camps, victims lined up and followed a set series of steps. Once the process was complete, camp workers produced stacks of dead bodies for systematic disposal. The victims were controlled by a huge nonhuman technology including the camps, the train system, the crematoria, and the bureaucracy that managed the entire process. Here is how Feingold describes some elements of this nonhuman technology:
"[Auschwitz] was also a mundane extension of the modern factory system. Rather than producing goods, the raw material was human beings and the end-product was death, so many units per day marked carefully on the manager's production charts. The chimneys, the very symbol of the modern factory system, poured forth acrid smoke produced by burning human flesh. The brilliantly organized railroad grid of modern Europe carried a new kind of raw material to the factories. It did so in the same manner as with other cargo... Engineers designed the crematoria; managers designed the system of bureaucracy that worked with a zest and efficiency... What we witnessed was nothing less than a massive scheme of social engineering".

http://www.mtsu.edu/~jaeller/text/ritzer.html

Neugierig’s question is relevant:
There were several KZ’s in Germany proper, why nor equip them with gaschambers and kill the Jews from France etc., which were unable to work, in them, instead of shipping them east. Why even built a gaschamber in Dachau that late? Why not built it following Hitlers decision to kill the Jews, sometime in 1941, (summer, fall or winter), although a direct order has not been found.
According to The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, pp. 263-72, in Mar 1943 the Bulgarians authorities turned over about 11,300 Jews who lived in the Bulgarian-occupied sectors of Greece (Thrace) and Yugoslavia (Macedonia) to the Nazis. Those people were transported to KL Treblinka.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 761#242761

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 101#469101

They were transported to Treblinka via Vienna, past Auschwitz (in the south of Poland) to Warzaw, and from there to the extermination camp.

Wiernik witnessed their death:
These handsome Jews were not permitted an easy death. Only small quantities of gas were let into the chambers, so that their agony lasted through the night. They also had to endure severe tortures before entering the gas chambers. Envy of their well-fed appearance prompted the hangmen to torment them all the more.
http://www.zchor.org/treblink/wiernik.htm

Repeat from link above:
Often the murderous affair could appear irrational as industrial managers using slave labour complained, in production terms, of how wasteful it was to constantly have to train up new labour as the SS ensured that Jewish slave labour did not live too long. Also, on occasion, the transport of Jews could seem to go counter to the war effort. Yet the Holocaust was central to the Nazis, and the Nazis and the successful outcome of the war were central to the interests of German capital.
Here, the interest of German capital was less than central, it seems. German ”envy of their well-fed appearance” seemed to ”go counter to the war effort” – and the envy prompted them to do it in Poland, since the Germans didn’t allow such an expression of envy in Germany.

Genocidal capitalism, indeed. Suicidal, too - at least to the outcome of the war that allegedly was "central" to "German capital".

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 25 Jan 2005 02:38

neugierig asked:
If they were to be killed, why not install gaschambers in all the camps in Germany proper and kill the Jews from France, Theresienstadt, et al in them, little by little, instead of shipping them halfway across Europe. This would have also worked with the selection process. Sort out those fit for work at home and ship them to where they were needed and gas the rest close by. Believe me, energy of any kind was at a premium at that time, as well as rail space, needed for the war effort.
Erik also raised a similar question:
Neugierig’s question is relevant:
There were several KZ’s in Germany proper, why nor equip them with gaschambers and kill the Jews from France etc., which were unable to work, in them, instead of shipping them east. Why even built a gaschamber in Dachau that late? Why not built it following Hitlers decision to kill the Jews, sometime in 1941, (summer, fall or winter), although a direct order has not been found.
I have already answered part of this question in my previous posts regarding the NSDAP program, gaining the cooperation of local foreign officials, and the fact that only some of the Jews were going to be murdered on arrival. The remaining part of the question is easily answered.

In the first place, the questions assume, without proof, that rail or truck shipments for local killing would be more resource- and cost-efficient than rail shipments to Poland, in which the inmates were packed more densely than cattle into the railroad cars and left without food and water for the duration of the trip east. I think this assumption is mistaken. Here's why:

(a) Where the fit slaves are to be transported to the East for slave labor, the trains have to go to the slave camp anyway. Any economy gained by selecting out the unfit is only measured in the allocation of boxcars for the ride, not the allocation of locomotives.

(b) When the slaves are all going to the same place, the train only has to make one trip. If the "useless eaters" are sorted out and batched off to Dachau, Buchenwald, etc., there has to be a special trip just for them -- and "useless eaters" aren't all that special.

(c) Where the slave labor operations produced manufactured goods (and most of them did), the trains could carry a full load both ways -- slaves to the slave camp, and the fruits of their manufactures (and the possessions stolen from them) back to the Reich on the return trip. You don't end up with a bunch of locomotives and railroad cars in places where they're not particularly needed.

These considerations alone should be persuasive, but in addition, there are additional factors -- the operational and practical advantages of the system the Nazis actually used.

(d) To facilitate the deportations, the object was to lull the victims (and the bystanders) into thinking that the Jews were going to be "resettled in the East." Separating out families which are supposedly going to be "resettled" is an obvious inconsistency when it takes place at the point of embarkation. It would have resulted in many unnecessary disorders and escape attempts, and would have confirmed the rumors that were already being spread by communist resistance movements.

A man is more likely to be reckless when left alone than he is when his acts may affect the lives of his parents, wife or children, so why not leave him with his loved ones to wonder where they're going, instead of alarming him unnecessarily by separating him from his family and leaving him (and all the other slaves) alone and desperate before he even gets into the boxcar? That moment of realization can be postponed until he arrives at the well-guarded slave camp, where the "temporary" separation for hygienic purposes (after several days of being packed in a boxcar) is plausible, leaving him, alone and naked, to understand too late that his family is dead.

(e) Furthermore, there were no convenient out-of-the way spots for the "selektions" to take place. Most of the transit camps were packed, and most of the deportation trains only carried a thousand Jews or so each trip. To perform the "selektion" at the transit camp would have tipped off the rest of the inmates, who were still confined, that "resettlement" wasn't what the Nazis had in mind. To perform the "selektion" at crowded railroad stations located in the city centers of Europe was even more impracticable. That leaves the point of debarkation -- the slave camp destination, which is in fact what the Nazis settled on, and which is why the murder facilities were located, and the "selektion" took place, nearby.

(f) Also, it is more efficient to have the "selektion" made by the local slave camp administration, since the slaves' work differed from camp to camp and from time to time. A "selektion" at Drancy or some other transit camp, based on the theory that the slaves are going to build roads or drain swamps, isn't very effective if the local need for the slaves involves working in a tailor shop.

The questions overlook the convenience of the settled-on procedure, which involved relatively small numbers of guards and transport personnel, an even smaller number who were in on the secret, and the fact that the Nazis could conserve personnel resources and save themselves extra work by tricking Jews to cooperate in their own destruction. See the remarks of Christian Wirth to Konrad Morgen, related when Dr. Morgen testified on behalf of the SS at the IMT trial:
HERR PELCKMANN: How did you come onto the track of mass killings? You have just spoken of individual killings.

MORGEN: I found traces of mass destructions also by chance. At the end of 1943, 1 discovered two trails at the same time, one leading to Lublin and the other to Auschwitz.

HERR PELCKMANN: Please describe the Lublin trail first.

MORGEN: One day I received a report from the commander of the Security Police in Lublin. He reported that in a Jewish labor camp in his district a Jewish wedding had taken place. There had been 1,100 invited guests at this wedding

HERR PELCKMANN: Go on witness, a little faster.

MORGEN: As I said before, 1,100 guests participated in this Jewish wedding. What followed was described as quite extraordinary owing to the gluttonous consumption of food and alcoholic drinks. Among these Jews were members of the camp guard, that is to say some SS men, who joined in this revelry. This report only came into my hands in a roundabout way, some months later, due to the fact that the Commander of the Security Police suspected that the circumstances indicated that some criminal acts had occurred. This was my impression as well, and I thought that this

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report would give me a clue to another big case of criminal corruption. With this in mind, I went to Lublin and called at the Security/ Police there, but all they would tell me was that the events happened at a camp of the Deutsche Ausrustungswerke. But nothing was known there. I was told it might possibly be a rather odd and shrouded (this was the actual term used) camp in the vicinity of Lublin. I found out the camp and the commander, who was Kriminalkommissar Wirth.

I asked Wirth whether this report was true or what it meant. To my great astonishment, Wirth admitted it. I asked him why he permitted members of his command to do such things and Wirth then revealed to me that on the Fuehrer's orders he had to carry out the destruction of Jews.

HERR PELCKMANN: Please go on, Witness, to describe your investigations.

MORGEN: I asked Wirth what this had to do with the Jewish wedding. Then, Wirth described the method by which he carried out the extermination of Jews, and he said something like this: "One has to fight the Jews with their own weapons, that is to say "pardon me for using this expression - "one has to cheat them." Wirth staged an enormous deceptive maneuver. He first selected Jews who would, he thought, serve as column leaders, then these Jews brought along other Jews, who worked under them. With that smaller or medium-sized detachment of Jews, he began to build up the extermination camps. He extended this staff of Jews, and with these Jews Wirth himself carried out the extermination of the Jews. Wirth said that he had four extermination camps and that about 5,000 Jews were working at the extermination of Jews and the seizure of Jewish property. In order to win Jews for this business of extermination and plundering of their brethren of race and creed, Wirth gave them every freedom and, so to speak, gave them a financial interest in the spoliation of the dead victims. As a result of this attitude, this sumptuous Jewish wedding had come about.

Then I asked Wirth how he killed Jews with these Jewish agents of his. Wirth described the whole procedure that went off like a film every time. The extermination camps were in the east of the Government General, in big forests or uninhabited wastelands. They were built up like a Potemkin village. The people arriving there had the impression of entering a city or a township. The train drove into a dummy railroad station. After the escorts and the train personnel had left the area, the cars were opened and the Jews got out. They were surrounded by these Jewish labor detachments, and Kriminalkommissar Wirth or one of his representatives made a speech. He said, "Jews, you were brought here to be resettled, but

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before we organize this future Jewish State, you must of course learn how to work. You must learn a new trade. You will be taught that here. Our routine here is, first, every one must take off his clothes so that your clothing can be disinfected, and you can have a bath so that no epidemics will be brought into the camp."

After he had found such calming words for his victims, they started on the road to death. Men and women were separated. At the first place, one had to deliver the hat; at the next one, the coat, collar, shirt, down to the shoes and socks. These places were faked cloakrooms, and the person was given a check at each one so that the people believed that they would get their things back. The other Jews had to receive the things and hurry up the new arrivals so that they should not have time to think. The whole thing was like an assembly line. After the last stop they reached a big room, and were told that this was the bath. When the last one was in, the doors were shut and the gas was let into the room. As soon as death had set in, the ventilators were started. When the air could be breathed again, the doors were opened, and the Jewish workers removed the bodies. By means of a special procedure which Wirth had invented, they were burned in the open air without the use of fuel.

HERR PELCKMANN: Was Wirth a member of the SS?

MORGEN: No, he was a Kriminalkommissar in Stuttgart.

HERR PELCKMANN: Did you ask Wirth how he arrived at this devilish system?

MORGEN: When Wirth took over the extermination of the Jews, he was already a specialist in mass-destruction of human beings. He had previously carried out the task of getting rid of the incurably insane. By order of the Fuehrer himself, whose order was transmitted through the Chancellery of the Fuehrer, he had, at the beginning of the war, set up a detachment for this purpose, probably composed of a few officials of his, as I believe, the remainder being agents and spies of the Criminal Police.

Wirth very vividly described how he went about carrying out this assignment. He received no aid, no instructions, but had to do it all by himself. He was only given an old empty building in Brandenburg. There he made his first experiments. After much consideration and many individual experiments, he evolved his later system, and then this system was used on a large scale to exterminate the insane.

A commission of doctors previously investigated the files, and those insane who were listed by the asylums as incurable were put on a separate list. Then the asylum concerned was told one day to send these patients to another institution.

From this asylum

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the patient was transferred again, often more than once. Finally he came to Wirth's institution, where he was killed by gas and cremated. This system, which deceived the asylums and made them unknowing accomplices, enabled him with very few assistants to exterminate large numbers of people, and this system Wirth now employed with a few alterations and improvements for the extermination of Jews. He was also given the assignment by the Fuehrer's Chancellery to exterminate the Jews.

HERR PELCKMANN: The statements which Wirth made to you must have surpassed human imagination. Did you immediately believe Wirth?

MORGEN: At first Wirth's description seemed completely fantastic to me, but in Lublin I saw one of his camps. It was a camp which collected the property or part of the property of his victims. From the piles of things -- there were an enormous number of watches piled up -- I had to realize that something frightful was going on here. I was shown the valuables. I can say that I never saw so much money at one time, especially foreign money -- all kinds of coins, from all over the world. In addition, there was a gold smelting furnace and really prodigious bars of gold.

I also saw that the headquarters from which Wirth directed his operations was very small and inconspicuous., He had only three or four people working there for him. I spoke to them too.

I saw and watched his couriers arrive. They actually came from Berlin, Tiergartenstrasse, the Fuehrer's Chancellery, and went back there. I investigated Wirth's mail and I found in it confirmation of all this. Of course, I could not do or see all this on this first visit. I was there frequently. I pursued Wirth up to his death.
Testimony of Dr. jur. Konrad Morgen
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 0653#50653

The testimony of the concentration camp inmates and Nazi officials accord with this account, and its Auschwitz variation. You might have a look at some of the transcripts to get a better idea of how the deportation system worked.

walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 25 Jan 2005 10:33

I would suggest that there are two additional reasons - apart from those previously proffered, which IMHO are extremely weighty - for the bulk of the exterminations to have been carried out in the Eastern territories rather that in Germany itself or in the Western occupied countries.

1. The potential effect upon the local populations. Despite all efforts to the contrary, it was inevitable that the purpose and workings of the extermination camps - had they been located e.g. in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany itself, etc. - would inevitably have become broadly known to the local population, and would at least conceivably have created an extremely serious impediment to the collaboration with - or at least the tacit aquiesence in the presence of - the German occupying forces, or in the case of Germany itself, with the morale of the home front. It is one thing to suspect that one's Jewish neighbors and co-citizens might possibly finally end up - figuratively and literally - in a KZ, forced labor or even perhaps an extermination camp in a far away location to the East; it is quite another to be almost certain that those same persons are being murdered in wholesale fashion just down the road in one's own backyard.

2. The early-on desire to rid Western Europe of its Jewish population, not by murder, but by expelling it to the East. Murder may have long existed in Hitler's mind, but apparently for many years the preferred means of "riddance" prevalent in the minds of the Nazi administration was to arrange for the resettlment of the Jews elsewhere. Initially, their emmigration from Germany was encouraged - but at the substantially devastatingly expensive price of leaving the bulk of their property and savings behind. Subsequently, their compulsory resettlement somewhere outside the confines of Western Europe had been accepted as the preferable "Solution" to the Jewish question- the early attempt October 1939 of transporting a number of Viennese and Moravian Jews East to the newly conquered Nisko District near Lublin ended in a debacle (See Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis at 318) - but the notion to export them somewhere to the East persisted as part of Hitler and Himmler's grandiose plans for a total and masive ethnic reorganization of the populations of the occupied Eastern territory, which was then followed by the plan to resettle the all of Jews in Madagascar, and when that became obviously impossible, then somewhere in the far reaches of the Soviet Union.

By the time the decision was made to exterminate rather than resettle the entire European Jewry (the population of Eastern Jews in Poland and Russia having in significant part already been murdered by action of the EinsatzKommandos and local indigenous forces) facilities had already been constructed or were underway in the East for the housing, employment, murder and disposal of enormous numbers of Jews and other undesirables. Hitler's decision in September, 1941 to physically rid the Reich (including Austria) and the Bohemia and Moravian Protectorate of their Jewish populations by expulsion to the East came some time before the date upon which, in my opinion at least, Hitler made the definitive decision that the Final Decision was to be extermination rather than relocation - ie, in early December, 1941. (I realize that some learned students of the Holocaust would place the latter date somewhat, if not considerably earlier.) Documents have recently turned up indicating that a decision to "expel" the Dutch Jews to the East had already been been made by November of that year. See Christopher R. Browning, Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers at 174. And certainly much of the Jewish population under German direct control had already been transported or designated for transportation to the Eastern killing camps, which had already been constructed or were far along in their planning - the difficulties of transportation to those camps was a trade off against the greater cost, psychological, diplomatic and financial, of constructing, equipping and operating local extermination camps within the Third Reich or the Occupied or Allied Territories.

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by michael mills » 25 Jan 2005 13:58

A factual response to Neugierig's questions.

1. Killing technologies

There was no central authoritiy which oversaw and regulated the killing technologies employed, ie no authority that could have devised and implemented a single, most efficient technology.

Only in two cases were technological experts, the chemists from the Criminal Technical Institute (KTI) of the Criminal Police (part of the RSHA), called upon to devise killing methodologies.

The first case related to the euthanasia of 70,000 mental patients selected from the general institutionalised population. Here the KTI chemists suggested the use of chemically pure bottled Carbon Monoxide gas as the most effective and humane method of inflicting death on groups of people, and that method was the one used in the Euthanasia Institutes in Germany.

The second case involved the development of an effective and unobtrusive means of killing the inmates of Soviet mental hospitals, in a situation where supplies of bottled CO were not readily available. Here the KTI chemists suggested the conversion of motor vehicles to killing machines through the use of their own exhaust. KTI mechanics at the RSHA vehicle park carried out the conversions, and the vehicles were sent to the Occupied Eastern Territories.

In both cases, the killing technologies devised by the KTI chemists were not intended to be applied to Jews, but rather to mental patients, although the "gas vans" were later used to kill groups of Jews, most particularly at Chelmno.

When it came to setting up centres at which Jews were killed en masse, the men put in charge of the operation were more or less left to their own devices.

Thus, Wirth and his men from the T-4 Euthanasia Institutes who were seconded to Globocnik to carry out the killing of the non-working Jews of the Generalgouvernement initially tried to use the method they had been trained in at the Institutes, ie gassing with bottled CO.

When that methodology proved unfeasible due to the unavailability of supplies of bottled CO, Wirth had recourse to the engine-exhaust methodology of the gas-vans, although he and his men had not used it before and were unfamiliar with it. The only change made by Wirth was to take the engines out of the vehicles and install them in the camps in a stationary position, the victims being taken to the killing device rather than the device to the victims.

Likewise, the methodology of killing with Zyklon-B was devised by the sanitary staff of Auaschwitz Camp, after observing a number of near-lethal accidents while using the product in its normal function of delousing the camp. The camp staff simply adapted to a homicidal purpose the methodology of delousing clothes in a sealed gas-chamber.

The homicidal use of Zyklon-B was developed by experiments in the context of the program of killing Soviet POWs who had been selected out as dangerous Communists and sent to the concentration camps, including Auschwitz, for liquidation; the aim was to find a surreptitious method to replace the messy shooting method.

Once the homicidal use of Zyklon-B at Auschwitz was established, it was later applied to the liquidation of prisoners unfit for work, who were mainly Jewish since the camp population as a whole became mainly Jewish from March 1942 onward.

The evidence for the homicidal use of Zyklon-B at places other than Auschwitz is very sketchy, and whatever evidence there is does not suggest anything other than a very small-scale use on an experimental basis.

But certainly there is no hard evidence for any central corps of technical experts overseeing the homicidal use of Zyklon-B at a number of locations.

The above factors account for the rather ad-hoc application of killing methodologies. It is also important to realise that gassing never replaced firearms as a killing methodology.

For example, in the summer of 1942, the Jewish population of Volhynia, part of Reichskommissariat Ukraine, was wiped out in mass-shooting actions. Volhynia is just across the Bug River from the gassing-centre at Belzec, yet no-one seems to have thought of sending the Volhynian Jews there; the Sipo in Volhynia stuck to the shooting methodology they were familiar with. Wirth had his own methodology, but it was applied only to his own operation.

2. Transportation of Western Jews to the East.

In the summer of 1942, the possibility of setting up an "Auffanglager" in Western Germany (apparently near Düsseldorf), to which Jews from France would be sent, would be considered for a time.

The main morivation for that plan was to save the huge cost of sending Jews from Western Europe all the way to Auschwitz.

In August 1942, the RSHA budget expert, Dr Siegert, sent a letter to the Reich Ministry for Finance containing proposals for reducing the transportation costs associated with the deportation of Jews from France.

Siegert explained that the cost of transportation to the Reich border was covered by the Wehrmacht from the funds levied from the French Government for the military occupation, but the the cost from the Reich border to Auschwitz, which was much greater, was met from the Reich budget. In order to reduce the latter, it was proposed to send the deported French Jews to an "Auffanglager" in West Germany.

A copy of the Siegert letter is in the book "Auschwitz war für mich nur ein Bahnhof", by Pätzold and Schwarz.

There are some other documents relating to the plan,ost notably from the Gestapo office in Paris. However, the plan was not implemented, and there is no surviving documentary evidence to show why it was abandoned.

So the upshot is that the deportation of Western Jews to distant Auschwitz was not inevitable. The German Government did look at the possibility of sending them to camps in West Germany close to their countries of origin, but seems to decided against it at some unknown time.

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Post by Erik » 25 Jan 2005 20:04

Mr. Mills:
A factual response to Neugierig's questions.

1. Killing technologies

There was no central authoritiy which oversaw and regulated the killing technologies employed, ie no authority that could have devised and implemented a single, most efficient technology.
[…]
When it came to setting up centres at which Jews were killed en masse, the men put in charge of the operation were more or less left to their own devices.

[…]certainly there is no hard evidence for any central corps of technical experts overseeing the homicidal use of Zyklon-B at a number of locations.

The above factors account for the rather ad-hoc application of killing methodologies. It is also important to realise that gassing never replaced firearms as a killing methodology.


This improvised ”ad-hoc application of killing methodologies” is still described by a prominent Holocaust historian as ”industrial efficiency at its most horrifying, but it is also a striking example of the harnessing of modern capacities to an anti-modernist reactionary political stance”, and the striking example of ”harnessing of modern capacities” is Treblinka.

Prof. Christopher Browning:
[…]While it may have taken thousands of Germans to shoot down Soviet Jewry, a camp like Treblinka, where they murdered 950,000 people in one year, had a staff of 30 Germans, 120 Ukrainian guards, and 800 slave laborers from the prisoners and victims themselves. This is modern efficiency, this is industrial efficiency at its most horrifying, but it is also a striking example of the harnessing of modern capacities to an anti-modernist reactionary political stance.
[…]

B- My position is that in some essential way the Holocaust is unique. If one looks at the ideological drive behind it in the sense that here was a regime committed to killing every last Jewish man, woman, and child over an entire continent, that is not a common historical phenomenon. And if you look at the fact that this regime was able to harness virtually every organized aspect of German life, and especially the bureaucratic, administrative, and technological efficiencies of one of the modern nations of the world to this purpose, that, too, is a unique feature of the Holocaust.(emphasis added)
www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf

”…virtually every organized aspect of German life, and especially the bureaucratic, administrative, and technological efficiencies of one of the modern nations of the world” (Prof. Browning) ”…account for the rather ad-hoc application of killing methodologies” (Mr. Mills).

Somebody must have made a mistaken account!

Who?

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Post by David Thompson » 25 Jan 2005 20:10

Erik -- You asked:
Somebody must have made a mistaken account!

Who?
There's no mistake. Your question confounds the existence of power (Browning) with the ability to exercise it more or less efficiently (Mills).

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Post by neugierig » 26 Jan 2005 05:06

michael mills:
“When it came to setting up centres at which Jews were killed en masse, the men put in charge of the operation were more or less left to their own devices.”

This may well be, but at Auschwitz Höß and Eichmann decided to use Zyklon B in the summer of 1941, according to the Frankfurt verdict. (Höß mentions this in his memoirs)

Here are a few excerpts from the Frankfurt verdict, along with my less than adequate translation:

“Als die ersten RSHA-Transporte noch im kleinen Krematorium vergast wurden[...]Zwei SS-Männer, die dem sog. Vergasungskommando angehörten und im Umgang mit Zyklon B ausgebildet worden waren, schütteten dann Zyklon B durch zwei Öffnungen von oben in den Vergasungsraum hinein[...]“
(when the first RSHA were still gassed in the small crematoria (Krema I, in the fall of 1941)….two SS-Men, belonging to the so-called gassing-commando and trained in the handling of Zyklon B, poured the Zyklon B through two openings from the top into the gassing-room)

Again, it was decided early on, i.e., before the large transports arrived, to use Zyklon B. Now, why not use available technology, that is, the DEGESCH gaschambers as a basis and expand on them? Why un-invent them and go back in time, by chiseling holes in the ceiling. I can understand this happening in the beginning, but when Cremas II to V were built, this readily available technology would have been used, since the models, the DEGESCH delousing chambers were in use anyway.

As for the men in charge picking their own devises, why pick diesel exhaust, as happened in Treblinka and Belzec, which is surely the most cumbersome devise, if it is possible to kill with diesel at all. And please, don’t give me this ‘The Nazis were stupid’ sham.

As for having the killing done away from Germany so as to not arouse public interest, Auschwitz was located in a fairly well populated area. Also, people from the surrounding towns worked in the camp and work parties from the camp worked outside. And Germany? I will never believe that a huge undertaking like this could have been concealed. In fact, Schröder and Annan, in their speeches commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz, suggested that this could only have happened because of indifference of the Germans. I agree that it could not have been hidden from them, as to their indifference, well, public pressure stopped the euthanasia program.

Anyway, those are the doubts I have and nothing posted so far will alleviate them.

Regards
Wilf

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Post by David Thompson » 26 Jan 2005 09:22

neugierig -- You started this thread with a quote, followed by five questions:
[…]If extermination of large groups of people was the objective, and the technology has been proven effective, then the proliferation of such technology would be a natural development[…]”


This is it in a nutshell. If extermination was the objective, why not built the gaschamber in Dachau sooner and use it? Why not built one for every camp in Germany proper? Why waste all those resources to ship the Jews to some far away camps in Poland? And not only that, why experiment with steam, electrocution, diesel, etc.? Why not utilize this ‘effective technology’, i.e., killing with Zyklon B?

Those questions have never been answered, satisfactorily, IMHO.

Regards
Wilf
Apparently the first three questions have been answered satisfactorily, since there hasn't been any recent follow-up posts questioning the replies. This takes care of the general topic "Why not kill them immediately?"

This leaves us with the last two questions:
And not only that, why experiment with steam, electrocution, diesel, etc.? Why not utilize this ‘effective technology’, i.e., killing with Zyklon B?
(1) I will answer the second, more significant question first. The initial poison gas employed in the Nazi mass murder system was carbon monoxide. It was used in the "Aktion T-4" euthanasia program, beginning in l940. The killing method was devised by Christian Wirth, after consulting with physicians. He told Konrad Morgen, in a passage which I have already quoted above at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 653#628653 , how this happened:
HERR PELCKMANN: Did you ask Wirth how he arrived at this devilish system?

MORGEN: When Wirth took over the extermination of the Jews, he was already a specialist in mass-destruction of human beings. He had previously carried out the task of getting rid of the incurably insane. By order of the Fuehrer himself, whose order was transmitted through the Chancellery of the Fuehrer, he had, at the beginning of the war, set up a detachment for this purpose, probably composed of a few officials of his, as I believe, the remainder being agents and spies of the Criminal Police.

Wirth very vividly described how he went about carrying out this assignment. He received no aid, no instructions, but had to do it all by himself. He was only given an old empty building in Brandenburg. There he made his first experiments. After much consideration and many individual experiments, he evolved his later system, and then this system was used on a large scale to exterminate the insane.

A commission of doctors previously investigated the files, and those insane who were listed by the asylums as incurable were put on a separate list. Then the asylum concerned was told one day to send these patients to another institution.

From this asylum

494

7 Aug. 46

the patient was transferred again, often more than once. Finally he came to Wirth's institution, where he was killed by gas and cremated. This system, which deceived the asylums and made them unknowing accomplices, enabled him with very few assistants to exterminate large numbers of people, and this system Wirth now employed with a few alterations and improvements for the extermination of Jews. He was also given the assignment by the Fuehrer's Chancellery to exterminate the Jews.
SS-Oberfuehrer Viktor Brack, Wirth's superior, testified in the "Medical Case" that the choice of carbon monoxide gas in the euthanasia program was a decision of the Fuehrer:
Brack gave the Tribunal considerable information concerning the method of extermination by euthanasia, stating that the program was so designed as to render the process inconspicuous and painless. In December 1939, or January 1940, Brack, Bouhler, Conti, and some other doctors were present at the administration of euthanasia to four experimental subjects. The victims were led into a gas chamber which had been built to resemble a shower room. The patients were seated on benches and poisonous gas was let into the chamber. A few moments later the patients became drowsy and finally lapsed into a death sleep without even knowing they were being executed. On the basis of this execution "Hitler decided that only carbon monoxide was to be used for killing the patients."
NMT judgment in the "Medical Case"
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 996#582996

Because Wirth was experienced in murdering people with carbon monoxide and had been doing it that way since at least 1940, he used this same method in the "Aktion Reinhard(t)" killing facilities which he set up and initially supervised.

Wirth, formerly a Kriminalkommissar in the homicide branch of the German police in Stuttgart, may have gotten the idea from investigating the somewhat common deaths of persons who left their automobiles running in closed garages. We'll never know, though, because Wirth didn't survive the war. He was killed, reportedly in a partisan ambush, outside Fiume on 26 May 1944.

See also Michael Mills' response at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 853#628853

(2) The answer to your other question ("why experiment with steam, electrocution, diesel, etc.?") is equally easy. There is little or no evidence that such experiments ever took place at all, or took place as described. Even assuming that these things actually happened, there's nothing to indicate that they were government-sponsored experiments, or anything more than a unique or rare act of one or a few individuals.

Murder methods in "Aktion Reinhardt" camps (steam)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=64864
From the diary of Wilm Hosenfeld (electrocution)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=62373

Here are two other unlikely claims of experiments involving different methods of killing:

Can this be true? (murder by frying pan)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=44760
Death by quicklime
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=23456

The evidence for the alleged use of diesel engines for homicidal gassings is nearly as scanty. As has already been stated, Wirth used carbon monoxide gas in his killing operations. Many witnesses testified that the carbon monoxide was produced by the exhaust gases of an engine. In an excellent post, Roberto Muehlenkamp collected a large number of witness accounts regarding the "Aktion Reinhard(t)" killing facilities and gassing vans, which showed that only a total of 3 or perhaps 4 witnesses (1, possibly 2 at Belzec and 2 at Treblinka) testified to the supposed use of diesel exhaust to try to kill people:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 264#228264

The likelihood that those 3 or 4 witnesses (2 guards and 2 visitors -- all bystanders to the killing process) were mistaken is increased by the fact that Wirth had three or more years' experience in successfully gassing folks with carbon monoxide. As a general proposition, diesel exhaust doesn't contain enough carbon monoxide to work as an effective poison gas. If Wirth used diesel engines at all, it was to pump the carbon monoxide, not produce it.

szopen
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Post by szopen » 27 Jan 2005 09:25

walterkaschner wrote: 1. The potential effect upon the local populations. Despite all efforts to the contrary, it was inevitable that the purpose and workings of the extermination camps - had they been located e.g. in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany itself, etc. - would inevitably have become broadly known to the local population, and would at least conceivably have created an extremely serious impediment to the collaboration with - or at least the tacit aquiesence in the presence of - the German occupying forces, or in the case of Germany itself, with the morale of the home front. It is one thing to suspect that one's Jewish neighbors and co-citizens might possibly finally end up - figuratively and literally - in a KZ, forced labor or even perhaps an extermination camp in a far away location to the East; it is quite another to be almost certain that those same persons are being murdered in wholesale fashion just down the road in one's own backyard.
Could you please elaborate more, sir? Are you suggesting that effect on local population in Poland was different than in, say, Netherlands?

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Post by David Thompson » 27 Jan 2005 10:48

szopen -- walterkaschner wasn't suggesting that the effect of nearby mass murder facilities on the local population in Poland was different than in, say, Netherlands, and he wasn't casting any moral aspersions. At the time the deportations of Jews began from western Europe, Poland already had an active partisan movement; the countries of western Europe didn't. walterkaschner was saying that the Germans didn't want additional partisan movements in the other occupied countries, and I agree with him.

Now let's get back on topic.

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Post by David Thompson » 27 Jan 2005 12:55

Here is Auschwitz commandant Hoess's account of how Zyklon came to be used there, taken from Rudolph Hoess, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Commandant at Auschwitz, ed. Steven Paskuly, Prometheus Books, Buffalo [NY]: 1992, pp. 155-157:
22

The Gassings

Before the mass destruction of the Jews began, all the Russian politruks [Communist Party members] and political commissars were killed in almost every camp during 1941 and 1942. According to the secret order given by Hitler, the Einsatzgruppe [special troops of the SS] searched for and picked up the Russian politruks and commissars from all the POW camps. They transferred all they found to the nearest concentration camp for liquidation. The reason for this action was given as follows: the Russians were murdering any German soldier who was a member of the Nazi Party, especially SS members. Also, the political section of the Red Army had a standing order to cause unrest in every way in any POW camp or places where the POWs worked. If they were caught or imprisoned, they were instructed to perform as of sabotage. This is why these political officials of the Red Army were sent to Auschwitz for liquidation. The first small transports were shot by firing squads of SS soldiers.

While I was on an official trip, my second in command, Camp Commander Fritzsch, experimented with gas for these killings. He used a gas called Cyclon B, prussic acid,[1] which was often used as an insecticide in
__________________________________________________________________________________

[1.] "The gas [Cyclon B] was manufactured by the Dessauer Works for Sugar and Chemical Industry and distributed by the German Corporation for Combating Vermin [Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schaedlingsbekaempfung m.b.H.—Degesch], whose managing director was Dr. Gerhard Peters. The Cyclon-B was used for fumigating ships, army posts, and camps, as well as for the killings in Auschwitz . . . Specific quantities within the allocation of the gas were ordered by the SS Economics Administrative Main Office's Group D, located in Oranienburg and headed by SS Brigadier General Richard Gluecks." Documents of Destruction, edited by Raul Hilberg, 1971, p. 219.

Hydrocyanic acid—HCN--(prussic acid) is a highly volatile, poisonous liquid used for fumigation and for case-hardening iron and steel. It is also used in electroplating. The German Cyclon B was a mixture of this acid with diatomaceous earth creating the blue crystalline substance so often described. The containers were airtight because the crystals sublimated into gas, that is, went from their solid state to a gas upon contact with air. The rate of sublimation depended on temperature and humidity. Lower temperature and high humidity cause the process of sublimation to be considerably slowed. Water hydrolyzes the gas, since it is miscible (dissolves) in water. Therefore, a spray of water, preferably slightly acidic, would neutralize the gas. "Treatise on Inorganic Chemistry," Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology.

156 DEATH DEALER

the camp to exterminate lice and vermin. There was always a supply on hand. When I returned Fritzsch reported to me about how he had used the gas. We used it again to kill the next transport.

The gassing was carried out in the basement of Block 11. I viewed the killings wearing a gas mask for protection. Death occurred in the crammed-full cells immediately after the gas was thrown in. Only a brief choking outcry and it was all over.[2] This first gassing of people did not really sink into my mind. Perhaps I was much too impressed by the whole procedure.

I remember well and was much more impressed by the gassing of nine hundred Russians which occurred soon afterwards in the old crematory because the use of Block 11 caused too many problems. While the unloading took place, several holes were simply punched from above through the earth and concrete ceiling of the mortuary. The Russians had to undress in the antechamber, then everyone calmly walked into the mortuary because they were told they were to be deloused in there. The entire transport fit exactly in the room. The doors were closed and the gas poured in through the openings in the roof. How long the process lasted, I don't know, but for quite some time sounds could be heard. As the gas was thrown in some of them yelled "Gas!" and a tremendous screaming and shoving started toward both doors, but the doors were able to withstand all the force. It was not until several hours later that the doors were opened and the room aired out. There for the first time I saw gassed bodies in mass. Even though I imagined death by gas to be much worse, I still was overcome by a sick feeling, a horror. I always imagined death by gas a terrible choking suffocation, but the bodies showed no signs of convulsions. The doctors explained to me that prussic acid paralyzes the lungs.[3] The effect is so sudden and so powerful that symptoms of suffocation never appear as in cases of death by coal gas or by lack of oxygen.

At the time I really didn't waste any thoughts about the killing of the Russian POWs. It was ordered; I had to carry it out. But I must admit openly that the gassings had a calming effect on me, since in the near future the mass annihilation of the Jews was to begin. Up to this
__________________________________________________________________________________
[2.] Death is caused by the cyanide gas combining with red blood cells, thus prohibiting them from carrying needed oxygen to the body. Victims of this gas first fall unconscious due to lack of oxygen. As the body struggles to save the vital organs, it cuts off the blood flow to the extremities, attempting to bring the oxygen-full blood to the heart, brain, and other vital organs. If the victim is not removed or given the amio nitrate antidote, he will die of oxygen starvation. This explains the many descriptions of the Sonderkommando, who worked pulling out bodies from the gas chambers. They reported that the victims' lips, fingers, toes, and even ears were purple or dark blue. The gas is noticeable in the air by a bitter almond smell; some have described it as a peach pit smell. Two hundred to five hundred parts per million of air for thirty minutes is usually fatal. Interview with Craig Skaggs, Dupont Chemical Company, Wilmington, Delaware.
[3.] Hoess and the doctors are incorrect. See footnote 2.

THE GASSINGS 157

point it was not clear to me, nor to Eichmann, how the killing of the expected masses was to be done. Perhaps by gas? But how, and what kind of gas? Now we had discovered the gas and the procedure. I was always horrified of death by firing squads, especially when I thought of the huge numbers of women and children who would have to be killed. I had had enough of hostage executions, and the mass killings by firing squad ordered by Himmler and Heydrich.

Now I was at ease. We were all saved from these bloodbaths, and the victims would be spared until the last moment. That is what I worried about the most when I thought of Eichmann's accounts of the mowing down of the Jews with machine guns and pistols by the Einsatzgruppe.[4] Horrible scenes were supposed to have occurred: people running away even after being shot, the killing of those who were only wounded, especially the women and children. Another thing on my mind was the many suicides among the ranks of the SS Special Action Squads who could no longer mentally endure wading in the bloodbath. Some of them went mad. Most of the members of the Special Action Squads drank a great deal to help get through this horrible work. According to [Captain] Höffle's accounts, the men of Globocnik's extermination section drank tremendous quantities of alcohol.
________________________________________________________________________________
[4.] The infamous Einsatzgruppe (special action squads) was a contingent of the SS who followed behind the Wehrmacht (regular German army) and arrested Communist Party members, those connected with the Soviet government (politruks) and Jews. These were usually marched to a wooded area, machine-gunned to death, then buried in shallow mass graves. If the number was small, they would be shot in town and their bodies left.

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Post by walterkaschner » 28 Jan 2005 03:09

szopen wrote:
walterkaschner wrote: 1. The potential effect upon the local populations. Despite all efforts to the contrary, it was inevitable that the purpose and workings of the extermination camps - had they been located e.g. in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany itself, etc. - would inevitably have become broadly known to the local population, and would at least conceivably have created an extremely serious impediment to the collaboration with - or at least the tacit aquiesence in the presence of - the German occupying forces, or in the case of Germany itself, with the morale of the home front. It is one thing to suspect that one's Jewish neighbors and co-citizens might possibly finally end up - figuratively and literally - in a KZ, forced labor or even perhaps an extermination camp in a far away location to the East; it is quite another to be almost certain that those same persons are being murdered in wholesale fashion just down the road in one's own backyard.
Could you please elaborate more, sir? Are you suggesting that effect on local population in Poland was different than in, say, Netherlands?
I think that, for a number of reasons, the Germans were substantially less concerned with the reaction in Poland than they were in the Western occupied areas, where at this point of time there was little actively organized resistance and the possiblity (which turned out in most cases to be an actuality) of cooperation by the local population, who may have had a suspicion but no direct knowledge of the consequences, in the round up and deportation of the Jews. Surely by this time the Poles knew the bestiality which the Germans were capable of - not just toward Jews, who had been openly murdered by the thousands throughout Poland, and those remaining already in the course of being brutally rounded up and segregated in ghettos - but to thousands of murdered Polish gentiles as well. There could hardly have been much of a question of turning the Polish populace further against their occupier. Armed Polish resistance was already formed and active.

But, frankly, although I doubt that it was a significant factor and have no wish to make a major point of it, I do think it at least possible that the Germans may also have felt, justly or not, that the Poles were by and large infected with a more virulent strain of anti-Semitism than the peoples of the occupied territories of the West and thereby less likely to be concerned about actions taken on their territory to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Certainly the Germans had first hand knowledge that at least in one case (Jedwabne) it had been possible under certain circumstances to incite Poles to murder their Jewish neighbors. I know of no such case having taken place in the West, but the surrounding circumstances there were quite different, and I personally can draw no moral conclusions on the basis of one incident.

Regards, Kaschner

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