Soviet reports about Auschwitz, 1944

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Sergey Romanov
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Soviet reports about Auschwitz, 1944

Postby Sergey Romanov » 24 Feb 2006 20:29

Reports are from USHMM, copies made from FSB archives. The references are RG-06.025*45, RG-06.025*46,
RG-06.025*47.

[header text, mostly unclear]

SPECIAL MESSAGE
about extermination camp "BERKENAU"[sic]

Head of the operational-intelligence group of the 4th department of NKGB UkrSSR "SHTURM", active in region of the city of Cracow [unclear text] informs that on Poland’s territory, 40 km south-east of Katowice, in the forest behind the town of Oswiecim /Auschwitz/, the concentration camp "BERKENAU" [sic] is located.

The camp occupies 5[?] square kilometers and has 4 special ovens for burning of corpses.

In the crematoria work the Jews forcibly selected into the team "Sonder" under guidance of a senior chief of SS staff, sergeant major [Feldfebel] SS [surname unclear, probably 4 letters, 2 last letters are "UT"].

In 1941 at "BERKENAU" [sic] 12,000 Soviet POWs were imprisoned, who eventually were tortured and exterminated, save for 50-60 persons, who worked for the Germans. Soviet POWs were being killed by sticks, or suffocated, and then burned.

As of June 1944 there were up to 80,000 civilians and POWs of different nationalities in the camp, including Russians, Poles, Czechs, Frenchmen, Belgians, Gypsies, Jews.

Beginning with [unclear] of 1944 [unclear] began mass incineration of the Hungarian Jews, exterminating more than 12,000 daily.

Because cremation ovens could not handle such a quantity of victims per day, 4 huge pits were dug out, where people were also burned.

Jewish families together with belongings arrive in the camp by whole transports.

In the camp the arrived people are sorted, old people and children are being kept separately from men and women.

Under the guise of visiting a bath, the arrived people are being undressed, given soap and are directed to the "bath sections", where the doors are hermetically closed, after which ampoules with unknown liquid are being thrown in from above, which break and emit gas, as a result of which after five-ten minutes happens [unclear word] suffocation.

After this the room is ventilated, the corpses are loaded into trolleys and are brought into the cremation ovens. Before the incineration the corpses are examined, golden teeth, crowns etc. are being pulled out.

At a distance of 200 meters from the cremation ovens an orchestra plays, to mute the shouts.

Germans remove stolen property from the camp daily, on a sanitary airplane.

According to the testimonies of former POWs, in 194[?] in the camp “BERKENAU”[sic] was burned general-lieutenant of the General Staff of the Red Army, doctor of technical sciences [surname unclear].

TO THE PEOPLE’S COMISSAR OF STATE SECURITY OF UkrSSR – [from] COMISSAR OF STATE SECURITY OF THE 2nd RANK
/SAVCHENKO/

23 August 1944
Kiev


[header text]

SPECIAL MESSAGE

Information of the head of operational-intelligence group "LVOV-[unclear]" about camp "Berkenau" [sic] sent to you on 23.7.1944 is mostly corroborated by newly received information of the head of another operational-intelligence group "[unclear]", received by him from former POWs, captain JAKOVLEV Grigorij, [unclear name and surname], and other persons who escaped from "Berkenau" [sic] camp at the end of July, 1944.

According to the testimonies of these persons, in the camp "Berkenau" [sic] in 1941-42 more than [?]0,000 Russian POWs and also 150,000 Jews and political prisoners were tortured and burned on pyres.

From 16 May to 20 July of 1944 1,200,000 Hungarian and Rumanian Jews were exterminated in the camp.

From the end of July of this year whole transports with Jews from France, Jugoslavia and Greece, occupied by the Germans, began to arrive in the camp.

Adults are being poisoned in special gas chambers, and old people and children are being thrown into fire alive.

Information about general [surname unclear] is being checked and after receiving of new data about him from our operational-intelligence groups, we will inform you.

HEAD OF THE 4th DEPARTMENT OF NKGB OF UkrSSR
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL OF STATE SECURITY
/SIDOROV/

6 September, 1944
Kiev


Comment: 1,200,000 Jews divided per 66 days is 18,000 Jews per day, an exaggeration, but probably originating in the camp itself, as Stanislaw Jankowski (Alter Feinsilber) also mentions this number.

REPORT

[of] PET'KO Ananij Silovich, b. 1918 in Gorbachevo-Mikhajlovka village, Makeevskij region, Stalinskaja oblast, Ukrainian, education - 7 grades, candidate for membership in VKP/b/ and

PEGOV Vladimir Jakovlevich, b. 1919 in Raznezhje village, Voratynskij region, Gor'kovskaja oblast, Russian, education - 8 grades, member of VLKSM - who [i.e. both of them] escaped in November of 1943 from the concentration camp "Auschwitz", located 3 km to the west of the town of Oswiecim /Poland/.

I. GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT CONCENTRATION CAMP "AUSCHWITZ"

Concentration camp "Auschwitz" is located 3 km to the west of the town of Oswiecim, on the eastern bank of river Vistula. External appearance of the camp reminds one of a military camp, with regularly placed wooden barracks, painted green. Territory densely built-up with barracks is about 2 x 3 km.

Around the camp, at the distance of 3-4 m from each other the reinforced-concrete 4 m high poles are installed. Between these poles from outside and inside there is a dense net of barbed wire. Under wire fence there is a foundation, made of reinforced concrete, 1.5 m deep. Along the line of the wire fence, at each 75-100 m there are watchtowers 20-25 m high. On each watchtower there is a guard armed with rifle and machine-gun.

On every second pole of the wire fence there are electrical lamps, which illuminate the camp at night-time.

The wire fence is always under the high-voltage electrical current - from 3 to 5 thousand volts.

The whole camp is divided into two parts - men's and women's. Men's camp is divided into:

a/ quarantine section;
b/ for Russians, Poles, Germans and others;
v/ for Italians and Frenchmen;
g/ for Czechs;
d/ for Gypsies;
e/ infirmary.

Quarantine section has 18 barracks, infirmary - 16 barracks. The remaining 4 sections have 40 barracks each.

Women's camp consists of two sections, 36 barracks in each. Children of all ages are in the women's camp.

Half of women's barracks are made of stone, with capacity of [?],000 persons.

Wooden barracks, men's and women's, are of one type and can accomodate 700-800 persons.

Between the mens' and womens' camps /the distance between them is 50 m/ passes a railroad and motor road, leading from the town of Oswiecim to the crematoria, which are located 50 m away from the camp in the western direction. There is also a motor road around the camp.

"Auschwitz" camp existed under Polish state, but then there were no crematoria and Polish political prisoners were contained in it. With the Germans' arrival the camp was expanded and improved.

Beginning with 1940, the POWs and civilians from all the countries occupied by the Germans were arriving in this camp without interruption. On average, in "Auschwitz" camp 150-200 thousand are accomodated.

Camp "Auschwitz" is also called the "death camp", because only those destined for extermination are sent there. From the Russians, in this camp arrive only those who have committed any offences /numerous escapes, murders, etc./

2. ROUTINE AND SECURITY

All those who arrived in the "death camp" immediately completely undress, hand over all their personal belongings, and then receive special camp clothes.

Except for Russian POWs, all doomed people have the same form of clothing, consisting of pants and jacket made of crude striped fabric /stripes are white and black or dark blue/. The shoes are wooden. The hat /peaked cap/ is from the same fabric as the suit.

Russian POWs wear Red Army uniform with big red cross on the blouse /on the back/ and painted-on red lines on pants near the stripe.

Administration and guards in the camp have unlimited rights. Anybody may kill as many prisoners without any reason as he wishes. Those murdering the most are encouraged by the administration. Guards consist only of SS and gendarmes. Everybody goes with a whip or a stick, and even without any reason attacks anyone not pleasant enough and beats him up until unconsciousness or death - as he wishes.

In each section of the camp the main superior is the so-called Rapportfuehrer, to whom Blockfuehrers are subordinated, who maintain order in blocks /barracks/.

Each week, on Fridays the selection of the weak for extermination is performed. For this purpose all inmates are lined up, everybody completely undresses, and SS officers give orders as to who they deem necessary to destroy, and those are being led aside. Those selected for extermination are accomodated in special barracks, and are not fed for several days, then they are brought to crematorium and burned.

Escapes from the camp are absolutely impossible, those are performed only when people are working outside the camp. If a guard discovers escape of even a single person, alarm is sounded with the help of a powerful siren. Then all the works are paused, people are lined up in columns and continue to stand in one place until the search for escapees is finished. The search takes one day, if during this time the escapees cannot be found, then the search is stopped. All the guards and many dogs take part in the search.

3. CREMATORIA

50 m away from the camp "Auschwitz" 4 crematoria are located. In them suffocation is performed, and then burning of people, not only from this camp, but also from a number of other camps, which are located in the regions near Auschwitz. Here also the inmates are brought for burning from the camp which resides in the town of Oswiecim itself.

The camp in Oswiecim is a fortress in which political prisoners of all nationalities reside. Most horrible acts of violence against the prisoners are performed there by Gestapo, and they [i.e. prisoners's corpses] eventually go to a crematorium.

Externally crematorium appears as a factory or a small plant, surrounded by fence and having a tall smoke-stack /20-25 m/.

In underground part of the crematorium there are two sections: undressing room and gassing room. In the above-ground part the crematorium itself resides, i.e. the ovens, which are fired with coke. Each crematorium has 5 ovens, 3 muffles in each oven. Into each muffle 3-4 corpses are introduced simultaneously. After kindling, duration of the cremation of a batch of corpses is 5 to 10 minutes, later the burning time is shortened. Crematoria work at full capacity twenty-four hours and anyway fail to burn all corpses.

4. PROCESS OF POISONING AND INCINERATION

Groups of doomed persons are brought in automobiles on the territory of crematorium, they're lined up in a column and an examination is performed - whether anyone has gold teeth or other valuables. Those found to have gold teeth or gold in other places, are directed to the "surgical rooms", where the gold teeth or other compounds are pulled out.

After the examination people go to a basement room - an undressing room, similar to an undressing room in a bath. Having undressed, they go into the next room - a bath, where there are taps and showers, but there never was any water. In this room there are 4 /four/ lattice-work columns, going through the roof of the building. After the "bath" is full of people /standing next to each other/, the doors are hermetically closed. Into the openings, which are on the top of the columns, some sort of powder-like substance is poured, which emits poisonous gas, and people begin to suffocate. Process of suffocation lasts for 10-15 minutes.

Then corpses are brought on special trolleys to the upper room and incinerated.

Daily, several transports with people arrive to the crematoria, passing the camp. Crematoria cannot deal with all the corpses of people murdered with gas, therefore near the crematoria special pits were constructed, in which the burning is performed, like on a pyre.

Serving personnel of the crematoria consists entirely of Jews and is changed every month. Previous serving personnel is also incinerated.

Suffocating and burning is performed simultaneously for men, women and children.

There were occasions when infants were alive after gassing, then they were finished off by the SS with sticks or simply by [hitting them against] the wall.

During the crematoria's work, the flames appeared out of chimneys, up to 15 m high. Corpse smell spreads across many kilometers around this horrible place.

After the escape, already far from the camp, we heard from locals that Germans wrote in newspapers that in Oswiecim region four brick factories had been built.

In 1943 in one of the crematoria there was the following incident: one American Jewish girl attacked Rapportfuehrer SCHILLINGER, kicked gun out of his hands, and then from the same gun she shot him, his assistant, and wounded one SS-man.

Everything that concerns the arrangement of the crematoria, process of poisoning and burning of inmates we learned partially from personal observations, partially from the stories of the serving personnel of the crematoria; although they were living in separate barracks, nevertheless their stories about the arrangement of the crematoria and process of killing and burning of people were known to all inmates, residing in "Auschwitz" camp.

As for the fact of existence of crematoria, this is not a secret for inmates, because one can go near them up to the distance of 10-15 m. We personally saw, going at a near distance, when the doors of crematoria were open, that near the ovens in trolleys there were heaps of corpses.

Besides that, 2 crematoria were being finished in autumn of 1943, when we already had been in this camp. Construction works were performed by Russian POWs, who lived with us in the same barrack. Several times we were personally inside the incomplete crematoria and observed their internal structure.

5. ABOUT THE NEW CAMP

As far back as the summer of 1941 construction of the new camp began, which was on the same scale as the camp in which we resided, i.e. "Auschwitz".

Territory of the new camp adjoined the northern part of "Auschwitz" camp and was separated from it only by a motor road.

Construction was performed by the inmates of "Auschwitz" camp.

Besides, according to the stories of inmates who arrived from other camps, at a distance of 20-30 km from "Auschwitz" camp there is a number of small concentration camps, from which people are also brought for incineration.

6. ABOUT SEVERAL RKKA COMMANDERS AND OTHER PERSONS KNOWN TO US WHO RESIDE IN "AUSCHWITZ" CAMP

From the generals of the Red Army in Auschwitz camp, as far as we knew, there was no one. Whether any RKKA general was burned in crematorium we also do not know.

In the camp there were POWs from the numbers of middle- and high-ranking officers. We know lieutenant-colonel ANTIPOV, 35-38 year old, from Siberia, until capture had served in Pushkin tank division, took active part in our escape. Major OSIPOV Sergej, 40-45 years old, from Moscow. Professor MIRONOV Andrej Pavlovich, 40-45 years old, wrote many historical treatises. ZLOTIN Mikhail, b. 1916, engineer in flour-grinding industry, junior lieutenant of RKKA, escaped from the camp in October of 1943. We took part in ZLOTIN's escape.

All above-mentioned persons conducted great explanatory work among camp inmates, organized group and individual escapes.

From the number of traitors among POWs we know: "[nickname unclear]" - served camp commandant and betrayed honest Soviet people.

"[nickname unclear]" - from Western Ukraine, not only denounced Soviet people, but personally strangled many people.

BARANOV Jakov, 26-27 years old, worked at bread dispensation, taunted Russian in many ways, decreased scanty bread ration which they were receiving.

"VAN'KA" - /"SPITZMAUS"/, 2[?] years old, short, Russian, who also denounced honest Soviet people.

"[nickname unclear]" - 27-28 years old, from Western Ukraine, sergeant-major according to rank, active assistant of Gestapo.

All of them were greatly trusted by the Germans.

REPORT RECEIVED BY:
SENIOR OPERATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF 4th DEPARTMENT OF NKGB UkrSSR
Senior lieutenant of State Security
/[unclear]/

31 August, 1944
Kiev


Comments: most probably, 1943 near the mention of incomplete crematoria is a typo, as they were incomplete in autumn of 1942. Also, Pet'ko and Pegov escaped in autumn of 1943, so them saying "in autumn of 1943 we already were in the camp" doesn't make much sense. The authors' descriptions of Kremas II and III are almost fully corroborated by the German documentation and later witness testimonies. Their mention of trolleys is not a mistake, since, according to Henryk Tauber, trolleys were used in Krema II, although rarely. Schillinger incident is also often described in survivors' testimonies, although the nationality of the girl always varies.
Last edited by Sergey Romanov on 24 Feb 2006 21:03, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby David Thompson » 24 Feb 2006 20:55

Thanks, Sergey, on behalf of the readers and myself.

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Postby nickterry » 24 Feb 2006 22:05

I can vouch for the translation of these documents. They are really quite revealing, all in all.

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Postby Sergey Romanov » 24 Feb 2006 22:16

The main point of these documents - and especially Pet'ko-Pegov report - is that they're 1944 documents, written long before the liberation (when the Soviets seized all the documents). So it cannot be argued that the witnesses were somehow coached with German blueprints and documents (not that it would make any freaking sense anyway).

And yet many particulars are confirmed by the German documentation. Thus, underground Leichenkeller 2 was indeed called "undressing room" in construction documents. The next room was Leichenkeller 1, which is called "Vergasungskeller" and "Gaskammer" in the documents. The bodies were indeed taken up after gassing, and indeed were burned in exactly 15 muffles. And 4 wire-mesh introduction devices are mentioned in one crematorium inventory.

Needless to say, important post-liberation testimonies, while differing in small details (as would be expected), mainly confirm the details relayed in these documents, and especially the procedure of poisoning.

There are several exaggerations (maximum flame height, cremation times), but they're inconsequential, and are dwarfed by the amounts of authentic details (not only concerning the crematoria), which the Soviets simply couldn't have known in 1944.

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Postby michael mills » 25 Feb 2006 02:01

From the testimony of Pet'ko and Pegov:

Daily, several transports with people arrive to the crematoria, passing the camp. Crematoria cannot deal with all the corpses of people murdered with gas, therefore near the crematoria special pits were constructed, in which the burning is performed, like on a pyre.



The above detail often appears in other witness testimony, but always in relation to the Hungarian deportation in the summer of 1944.

Filip Müller for example describes the digging of the pits in early summer 1944, in preparation for the arrival of the Hungarian Jews.

The only other incineration of bodies on pyres in the open occurred in the period from the late Autumn of 1942 to Spring 1943, before the new crematoria came into operation. These were the bodies of persons killed in Bunkers I and II, which had been buried in pits near the bunkers. On Himmler's orders those bodies were exhumed and burned on pyres; the bodies of persons killed in Bunkers I and II were thereafter also burned on pyres.

Once the crematoria came into operation, there was no further open-air cremation, except for the summer of 1944. In relation to the latter, the claim is made that the number of incoming Hungarian Jews was too great for the four crematoria to handle, and that therefore pits were dug to cremate the excess corpses. In fact, the ovens of both Crematoria IV and V had broken down by 1944, and that is the reason why open-air cremation was performed in the yard of Crematorium V.

The above claim in relation to open-air cremations in the summer of 1944 is exactly the same as the claim that appears in the testimony of Pet'ko and Pegov.

However, since they claim to have escaped from Auschwitz in October 1943, along with Zlotin, they cannot possibly have known anything about events in Auschwitz in Summer 1944.

It is apparent that the statement quoted at the head of this post must have been an interpolation into the testimony of Pet'ko and Pegov by the interrogators. Since the report is signed in August 1944, it is possible that reports of the open-air cremations (which are visible on air photos taken by Allied aircraft), and the incorrect reason for them invented by prisoner witnesses, had leaked out of the camp and found their way to Soviet Intelligence.

Whatever the explanation, Pet'ko and Pegov cannot possibly have witnessed this particular detail of their testimony.

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Postby nickterry » 25 Feb 2006 02:26

Michael,

the explicit references to the Hungarians in 1944 come from the later reports posted first:

Information of the head of operational-intelligence group "LVOV-[unclear]" about camp "Berkenau" [sic] sent to you on 23.7.1944 is mostly corroborated by newly received information of the head of another operational-intelligence group "[unclear]", received by him from former POWs, captain JAKOVLEV Grigorij, [unclear name and surname], and other persons who escaped from "Berkenau" [sic] camp at the end of July, 1944.


Where the more detailed statements are from these later escapees, I guess we'd have to ask the USHMM or FSB.

Pet'ko and Pegov do mention open pyres, but only in general terms. No mention of the Hungarians. Their testimony about crema-construction was misdated - they said, 'in the autumn of 1943' when 1942 was clearly meant. The interpolation is almost certainly forwards rather than backwards, i.e. a confusion with the open pyres of 1942/3 than those of 1944.

Given these are summaries rather than raw protokoly, the lack of too much chinese-whispers is quite remarkable.

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Postby Sergey Romanov » 25 Feb 2006 10:01

It is indeed quite possible that in light of the earlier reports (e.g. the one of 23 August) the interrogator misinterpreted the mention of Bunker pits (and maybe Hoessler pyres) as being the result of crematoria failure.
But I wouldn't exclude that at least some pits might have been in use in mid- or late 1943.
After all, who knew that there were gas vans used in Auschwitz, but here you are - they were. Quite possibly, we don't know the whole story of the pits too.

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Postby michael mills » 25 Feb 2006 12:42

There is no reason why cremation pits would have been in use in Auschwitz in mid to late 1943, after the four crematoria came on stream.

Pressac analysed the records of coke consumption by the four crematoria from their commencement for several months until the end of 1943, and found that the amount of coke consumed was sufficient to keep one crematorium with the capacity of Crematorium II or II in continuous operation. In other words, only 15 of the 46 muffles provided by the four crematoria were being used, a considerable under-utilisation of the total creamtion capacity.

That being so, there was no reason for open-air cremation pits to be used at any time between the commissioning of Crematorium II and the beginning of the Hungarian deportation.

Even after Crematorium IV was totally decommissioned after only a few months of operation, and the ovens of Crematorium V went out of operation, only the gas-chambers being used thereafter, Crematoria II and III provided more than enough cremation capacity between them.

In the previous period when open-air cremation was employed, between late 1942 and early 1943, there was no question of the crematoria being overtaxed, since at that time they were not yet in use. The only reason for the open-air cremations was that the method of burying the bodies had resulted in pollution of the water-table.

Hence, the passage in the alleged testimony of Pet'ko and Pegov is not something they could have known about, since they escaped from Auschwitz well before the Hungarian deportation and the reversion to open-air cremations in the yard of crematorium V in the summer of 1944. The passage can only be an interpolation into their testimony derived from a more recent source.

What that shows is that the statements allegedly made by certain named individuals are most likely compilations of data from various sources, possibly including material provided by the persons who signed their names to the statements, but also including material from other sources.

I would also like to hear more about the gas-van allegedly operating in Auschwitz for no discernible reason.

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Postby alf » 25 Feb 2006 13:50

I see Michael is focusing on one minute point, guessing I assume, if that may be potentially wrong then everything is wrong.

I would also like to hear more about the gas-van allegedly operating in Auschwitz for no discernible reason.


http://www.deathcamps.org/gas_chambers/ ... testi.html

Deathcamps.org is of the best internet sites for reference material

Resistance report from Auschwitz, sent by Stanislaw Klodzinski ("Staklo") to Teresa Lasocka-Estreicher ("K. Tell") and Edward Halon ("Boruta") in September of 1944 (Camp Resistance Files, vol. 2. p. 161):
"Police wagon no. 71462 - in other words a mobile gas chamber in Auschwitz. A unit of the so-called "Polizei-Sonderkommando", which previously worked in Lithuania, is stationed in the vicinity of the camp. This criminal commando used a car that was sealed, with a grate and hermetically closed doors, which served as mobile gas chambers (sic) to transport prisoners. To the end of the exhaust pipe there is attached the end of a metal hose, which when "needed" leads the wagon's exhaust gases into the wagon's interior through an appropriate opening. The inside of the wagon is a cabin made airtight by a tin lining, 4 metres long and 2.5 metres wide. The heavy doors lack any openings and have no latch on the inside. To the right of the doors is an opening covered by a heavy grating which can be opened from the outside and serves to air the wagon out after an execution. Description of the wagon: model Saurex (sic), in the shape of a long box, painted greenish-yellow. Registration no. Pol 71462, driver: Arndt, Oberwachtmeister of the Polizei-Sonderkommando. He should by the way be sentenced to death*. This wagon was used among other things to execute civilians convicted by the so-called Polizei-Sondergericht. The driver on that occasion left the van standing with the throttle open and, while walking around, joked: 'meanwhile, the little birds are choking in there.' Send to. (sic)
Cordial greetings - Staklo."
* At this time the camp resistance was composing a list of criminals from Auschwitz to be broadcasted by the BBC.

Testimony of Stanislaw Dubiel (Höß Trial, vol. 25, p. 82):
"It was Sturmbannführer Henschel who at first seemed to us to have a very good character. And in a few days, he found another method – gassing in a car. The car goes to Birkenau, by the time it gets there everyone is dead. The driver explained how it works, that the exhaust pipe goes straight into the car. By the time the driver gets to where he’s going, they’re already dead. That was the behaviour of this supposedly good man."

Testimony of Jan Dziopek (Höß Trial, vol. 8, p. 109):
"They were carried out at Block 11 until October 1944, after that the condemned were killed only at Birkenau, where they were taken from our place* in a prison van. That type of van was very tightly sealed and had apparatus for gassing the people inside. The gassing apparatus was built in the automobile workshops of the Fahrbereitschafts–Kommando."
* I.e. Auschwitz main camp.

Testimony of Edward Wrona (Höß Trial, vol. 26, p. 8.):
"I think none of the witnesses has emphasized that gas vans were used at Auschwitz. I assume that the accused Höß knew about it, because he went every day to look at his beautiful limousine in the automobile workshops and saw the three vans in which people were murdered standing there. Working at the water pumping station in Block 18, I leaned my head out and observed how girls and men were packed into these vans and the executions were carried out. I witnessed how one night a German general was executed, supposedly just for refusing to carry out an order in wartime. That time around 50 limousines drove up with a huge retinue of generals and the camp command, and the execution* was carried out ceremoniously, lighting up the wall of death and the square behind Block 11 with a searchlight."
* Possibly this refers to different, "regular" execution.

Testimony of Kazimierz Grabowski (Höß Trial, vol. 26, p. 32, 33):
"Presiding judge: Was there* a truck there designated in advance for gassing people?
Witness: Once one van that was especially encased in wood came in for repairs, I didn’t know what kind of van it was. German vehicles ran on methanol. There it was fitted with an exhaust pipe, round with small holes, when the prisoners were inside the van, the gas got in that way. After 15 minutes a person was ready. Before it even reached the crematorium, there were only corpses in the van. I ran across only one vehicle like that, on which I worked.
Pres: Was the van constantly in use?
Witness: Constantly, unless it was damaged, then it went in to be fixed.
Pres: Was this van used inside the camp, or outside?
Witness: That I don’t know.
* I.e. in the camp automobile repair workshops.

Testimony of Jozef Sliwa (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 3, p. 336, 337):
"When a larger number of sick people had accumulated*, they were taken in vans to Auschwitz. I saw the vans – gas chambers, into which transports of Muselmans were loaded. I went inside and saw the gassing apparatus, i.e. pipes to let the exhaust gases in."
* In the Golleschau sub-camp.

Testimony of Zbigniew Kazmierczyk (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 45, p. 4):
"Commissions often came from Auschwitz, which carried out selections among sick prisoners in the hospital. The selected prisoners were taken away to Auschwitz by vehicles, already gassing them on the way. I know from what friends told me that they were dark green, reinforced, sealed when closed, into which exhaust gas was let in."

Testimony of Wladyslaw de Rosenberg Grohs, police prisoner from Block 11 (APMAB. Collection "Statements", vol. 73, p. 38):
"Yes, well out of my hall sometimes only two persons out of 100 were transferred as prisoners to one of the blocks in the camp, the rest were loaded into trucks. In any case, at that time executions were not carried out in the courtyard of Block 11. We were convinced that the prisoners sentenced to death by the police Special Court were suffocated with exhaust products in the boxes of vans – before they got as far as the crematoria."

Testimony of Artur Meyer (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 93, p. 23, 23a):
"Moreover, in Auschwitz there was a special apparatus. It was a car - gas chamber. In this van up to 14 people were loaded, it was hermetically sealed and until the van arrived at Birkenau, its passengers were gassed to death."

Testimony of George Goiny-Grabowski (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 61, p. 167):
"As the Russian front approached to Auschwitz, a police Einsatzkommando arrived, whose members had green cuffs on the uniform. Among their vehicles were two gas vans, at which I had an opportunity to have a detailed look. The exhaust gases could be led into the car box filled with doomed persons... The gas vans had an image showing a human head which kept its nose closed with one hand."

Testimony of Kazimierz Czyzewski (Höß Trial, vol. 35, p. 163):
"Hitlerite civilian special courts which arrived every 14 days and tried hundreds of civilians in this Block 11. After the verdict, these people were driven into a hermetically proofed yellow van. Up to 50 people fit into it - the SS driver drove them to the crematorium (the prisoners did not know where they were brought), and in this van the people were gassed, the corpses were thrown out and cremated."


The statements were kindly supplied by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, Head of the Archives at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
Polish statements were translated by Dr. Steve Paulsson.

© ARC 2006


http://www.deathcamps.org/gas_chambers/ ... hwitz.html


Gas Vans in Auschwitz
During the war, several resistance messages indicated that a gas van operated in the Auschwitz area. After the war several testimonies were given to the same effect. Stanislaw Klodzinski's message from Auschwitz, sent to Teresa Lasocka in September of 1944, mentioned a yellow-green Saurer van with the license plate "Pol 71462", that had allegedly been used for executions of people sentenced to death by the police court after the "Black Wall" (execution site between Block 10 and 11) had been torn down, and to kill the prisoners of Auschwitz sub-camps.

Researchers at the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau were aware of the many references to gas vans by witnesses and of the resistance reports, but they regarded them as too uncertain, vague and imprecise to reach any definitive conclusion about the existence of the gas vans. They also examined the documents of the Auschwitz camp transportation department (Fahrbereitschaft) but did not find any hint of repairs or even of the existence of the van in question.

An unpublished Einsatzgruppe B report from 1 March 1942 (Osobyj Arkhiv in Moscow, 500-1-770, p. 8; also in USHMM, RG-11.001M.01, reel 10, 500-1-770) mentions two Saurer gas vans ("Gaswagen" is the term used) which had arrived in Smolensk on 23 February 1942.
Now our ARC member from Russia has found that, according to this report, one of these gas vans (the one that belonged to Einsatzkommando 8) had the same license plate "Pol 71462" as the gas van which has been described by the Auschwitz resistance!
It has also been found that a gas van with the license plate "Pol 71463" existed (PS-501, 13 July 1942 letter). Thus, Stanislaw Klodzinski's information about the Auschwitz gas van can be finally confirmed to be right.

nickterry
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Postby nickterry » 25 Feb 2006 14:29

The passage can only be an interpolation into their testimony derived from a more recent source.


No, read the three documents again, and the dates, and who is supposed to have provided testimony for the later dated documents. Pet'ko and Pegov do not mention the Hungarians at all.

They do, however, describe the construction of the crematoria in 1942, misdating it to 1943 by which time they had already left, and by which time there was no such construction going on. Thus it would seem most likely that they are discussing the open pyres in use up to ca. April 1943. There was presumably some overlap at the very beginning, which would only have been half a year before their escape.

Whether Sergey is right that there may have been additional use of open pyres over and above the use of the Kremas after April 1943, is debatable. There don't seem to be any other eyewitness testimonies indicating a reversion to open pits during August 1943, but one would have to check a lot to be absolutely sure of this.

However:

Auschwitz received around 50,000 Jewish deportees in August 1943, of whom up to 37,000 were gassed, slightly less than in January 1943, when up to 43,000 were gassed, before the new cremas came on-line. An additional 2,380 registered inmates died during August 1943.

I have no idea whether 39,000 bodies would exceed the capacity of the crematoria actually in operation during August 1943, the theoretical capacity was over 4,000 per day but as Michael points out some were out of service at various times. I am simply putting the numbers onto the table so there is some sense of chronology and of the size of influx over this period.

What is certain is there was never again as large an influx of Sondertransporte as in August 1943, until May 1944, when the Hungarian action began.

What that shows is that the statements allegedly made by certain named individuals are most likely compilations of data from various sources, possibly including material provided by the persons who signed their names to the statements, but also including material from other sources.


The statement by Pet'ko and Pegov is clearly a summary, not a protokol. But it is all in all a remarkably accurate one. One would ideally want to see every last piece of intelligence received by the Soviets, in chronological order, on Auschwitz, and to note who was taking the interrogations.


PS

KL Auschwitz Sondertransporte
- calculated from Czech's Kalendarium, number gassed also includes unknown number who died in transit; is the difference between those recorded (or estimated) as depoarting point of origin and those registered upon arrival at Auschwitz. Not included are registered inmate deaths or selections for the gas chambers among registered inmates. A + indicates the arrival of transports of a size not listed in Czech. Minor corrections to Czech from Tibaldi and Gottwaldt/Schulle for Italy and the Reich.

Notably missing in 1942: size of transports from Slovakia and 3-4 others from Yugoslavia, Vienna, etc. In 1943: many RSHA-transporte from Poland, Germany, Croatia and other places unclear as to initial size, from Czech.

July 1942
14,233+ Jews arrived; 1,634+ gassed, 12,609 selected

August 1942
40,059+ Jews arrived; 29,551 gassed, 9,885 selected; 653 Cosel AL

September 1942
26,000+ Jews arrived; 18,000+ gassed; 4,330 selected; ca. 3,820 to Cosel AL

October 1942
17,647+ Jews arrived; 12,605 gassed; 4,439 selected, 800 Cosel

November 1942:
27,031 Jews arrived; 19,972 gassed, 7,059 selected for labour and registered

December 1942:
18,413 Jews arrived; 14,281 gassed, 4,132 registered

1942: 143,383+ Jews arrived; 96,403+ gassed on arrival; 42,454 selected and registered, 5,273 selected before registration and sent to Cosel AL


January 1943
50,805 Jews arrived; 43,240 gassed; 7565 selected and registered

February 1943
17,460 Jews arrived; 13,835 gassed, 3,625 selected and registered

March 1943
29,914 Jews arrived;19,459 gassed; 10,455 selected and registered

April 1943
27,321 Jews arrived; 20,444 gassed; 6,877 selected

May 1943
14,930 Jews arrived; 12,454 gassed; 2,476 registered

June 1943
7344 Jews arrived; 5963 gassed; 1381 selected and registered

July 1943
1000 Jews arrived, 440 gassed, 660 selected

August 1943
50,960 Jews arrived; 37,423 gassed, 13,537 selected and registered

September 1943
15,760 Jews arrived; 5,911 gassed, 9,849 registered

October 1943
8,584+ Jews arrived; 6489 gassed; 2,133 selected

November 1943:
11,466+ Jews arrived; 7702+ gassed; 4,008 selected

December 1943
8,940+ Jews arrived; 2885+ gassed; 6,069 registered and selected


1943: 244,484+ Jews arrived; 176,245+ gassed on arrival; 68,635 selected and registered

January 1944
5,888 Jews arrived; 3,691 gas, 1,450 select

February 1944
5,456 Jews arrived; 4,161 gassed; 1,295 selected

March 1944
3,607+ Jews arrived; 3106+ gassed; 1,019 registered

April 1944
6,993+ Jews arrived; 4105+ gassed; 2,888 selected and regsistered

arrivals first four months = 21,944 + Jews arriving; 15,063+ gassed on arrival; 6,652 registered



July 1942 to April 1944: 409,811+ Jews arriving; 287,771+ gassed on arrival; 117,741 registered, 5,273 Cosel

both the former figures are underestimates because of unknown size of many arriving transports.

(Hungarian action, May-July 1944: 300-320,000 gassed on arrival, 29,000 registered, 88 to 108,000 transported out without registration)
May-November 1944 was also very busy with non-Hungarian transports.

None of the above includes the cremation of registered inmates who died.

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Sergey Romanov
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Postby Sergey Romanov » 25 Feb 2006 18:54

There is no reason why cremation pits would have been in use in Auschwitz in mid to late 1943, after the four crematoria came on stream.


The truth is, we simply don't know.

Pressac analysed the records of coke consumption by the four crematoria from their commencement for several months until the end of 1943, and found that the amount of coke consumed was sufficient to keep one crematorium with the capacity of Crematorium II or II in continuous operation. In other words, only 15 of the 46 muffles provided by the four crematoria were being used, a considerable under-utilisation of the total creamtion capacity.


Pressac is not necessarily the most correct interpreter of evidence. One needs only too look at his later estimates for AR camps. There might have been temporary bottlenecks (when too many arrived at once) during which they might have resorted to pit-burning. This is, of course, only a conjecture. The good way to test it would be to analyze Resistance messages for 1943.

Hence, the passage in the alleged testimony of Pet'ko and Pegov is not something they could have known about, since they escaped from Auschwitz well before the Hungarian deportation and the reversion to open-air cremations in the yard of crematorium V in the summer of 1944. The passage can only be an interpolation into their testimony derived from a more recent source.


I agree that the most plausible version is that the interrogator misinterpreted rationale for Bunker pit burnings (and maybe Hoessler pyres) in light of earlier POW reports.

What that shows is that the statements allegedly made by certain named individuals are most likely compilations of data from various sources, possibly including material provided by the persons who signed their names to the statements, but also including material from other sources.


No, it only shows as single misintepretation.

BTW, it is obvious why Mills wants to pick at these documents - they fully debunk his pet theory that Kremas II and III weren't used for homicidal mass gassings. Tough luck, Mills!

I would also like to hear more about the gas-van allegedly operating in Auschwitz for no discernible reason.


If you were reading RODOH forum more often, you would know that I have established that Einsatzgruppe B gas van Pol. 71462, which operated in Smolensk in 1942, also operated in Auschwitz.

Interestingly, the existence of this gas van also shows why Mills' argument about "no reason" is bunk.

michael mills
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Postby michael mills » 28 Feb 2006 07:46

The essential question is whether there was any period where the Birkenau crematoria co-existed with open-air cremations between 13 March 1943 when the first cremation was carried out in Crematorium II and October of that year when Pet'ko and Pegov are said to have escaped.

The question is also whether any open-air cremations were carried out in the March-October period becausethere were toom any corpses for the creamtoria to deal with.

No witness testimony makes such a claim, so far as I know. The reports of open-air cremations due to the alleged incapacity of the crematoria to cope with the number of bodies first appear in the early summer of 1944.

Crematorium II was handed over to the camp administration on 31 March 1943. After one month of intense use, indeed overuse, it broke down and was taken off-line on 22 March for one month of repair work.

Crematorium IV was commissioned on 22 March 1943. After two weeks of intense use the incinerator cracked, and was permanently decommissioned in May.

Crematorium V was completed on 4 April, and Crematorium III on 24 June.

Therefore, in August 1943, when 50,690 Jews arrived in Auschwitz according to Czech, Crematoria II, III and V were operative, providing 38 muffles of cremation capacity. If we assume that each muffle could process two corpses per hour, then in 20 hours the total cremation capacity could process 1,520 corpses.

If we assume that all of the 50,690 Jews who were not registered were killed in the same month in which they arrived, August, then there would have been over 37,000 corpses to dispose of. Assuming a lower rate of 1,000 corpses cremated per day, that pile of corpses would have required 37 days to dispose of, in other words the cremation of the corpses would have continued into the following month of September.

But that would not have posed any problems, since in September only 6000 of the 15,800 Jews who arrived were left unregistered and probably killed. It was quite possible to store corpses in the crematoria and work through them progressively until any backlog was disposed of.

Accordingly, there does not appear to have been any need for open-air pyre cremations in that period.

As for Police vehicle 71452, observed in the vicinity of Auschwitz by a member of the Camp resistance in September 1944, I will reserve any substantial comment until I have seen the full text of the EG B report of 1 March 1943 which mentions a vehicle with that registration number arriving in Smolensk on 23 february 1942.

I would particularly want to see what function was ascribed to that vehicle in the 1 March 1942 report. EG B must have had a lot of vehicles; all the Einsatzgruppen had a large complement of drivers.

We cannot assume that the vehicle at issue was a mobile gas-chamber, since the great majority of the vehicles possessed by the Einsatzgruppen were normal means of transport.

Mobile gas-chambers were referred to in documents as "Sonderwagen", "Spezialwagen" or "S-Wagen". If a vehicle were specifically designated with the word "Gaswagen", that probably refers to the means of propulsion, eg gas produced from wood.

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Postby nickterry » 28 Feb 2006 11:17

michael mills wrote:The essential question is whether there was any period where the Birkenau crematoria co-existed with open-air cremations between 13 March 1943 when the first cremation was carried out in Crematorium II and October of that year when Pet'ko and Pegov are said to have escaped.

The question is also whether any open-air cremations were carried out in the March-October period becausethere were toom any corpses for the creamtoria to deal with.

No witness testimony makes such a claim, so far as I know. The reports of open-air cremations due to the alleged incapacity of the crematoria to cope with the number of bodies first appear in the early summer of 1944.

Crematorium II was handed over to the camp administration on 31 March 1943. After one month of intense use, indeed overuse, it broke down and was taken off-line on 22 March for one month of repair work.

Crematorium IV was commissioned on 22 March 1943. After two weeks of intense use the incinerator cracked, and was permanently decommissioned in May.

Crematorium V was completed on 4 April, and Crematorium III on 24 June.

Therefore, in August 1943, when 50,690 Jews arrived in Auschwitz according to Czech, Crematoria II, III and V were operative, providing 38 muffles of cremation capacity. If we assume that each muffle could process two corpses per hour, then in 20 hours the total cremation capacity could process 1,520 corpses.

If we assume that all of the 50,690 Jews who were not registered were killed in the same month in which they arrived, August, then there would have been over 37,000 corpses to dispose of. Assuming a lower rate of 1,000 corpses cremated per day, that pile of corpses would have required 37 days to dispose of, in other words the cremation of the corpses would have continued into the following month of September.

But that would not have posed any problems, since in September only 6000 of the 15,800 Jews who arrived were left unregistered and probably killed. It was quite possible to store corpses in the crematoria and work through them progressively until any backlog was disposed of.

Accordingly, there does not appear to have been any need for open-air pyre cremations in that period.


Thank you Michael. This is what I would have assumed, I just thought it worth throwing the numbers onto the table.

To my mind, the statement about pyres refers to events before circa March 1943 when the new crematoria first came into operation, seven months before the escape of the two prisoners, rather than to events six-seven months after their escape. There is a lack of synchronicity in this point of the testimony, but not one that necessarily implies that information from another source has been inserted. Since we only have a summary not a protokol, there is simply no way of knowing what was understood or misunderstood by the interrogator, or if it was the prisoners themselves who confused their chronology.

As for Police vehicle 71452, observed in the vicinity of Auschwitz by a member of the Camp resistance in September 1944, I will reserve any substantial comment until I have seen the full text of the EG B report of 1 March 1943 which mentions a vehicle with that registration number arriving in Smolensk on 23 february 1942.



The report is scanned and available via

http://p102.ezboard.com/frodohforumfrm1 ... 1023.topic

the particular pages to look at are pages 6, 7 and 8, remember to click to expand image to get the clearest view.

I would particularly want to see what function was ascribed to that vehicle in the 1 March 1942 report. EG B must have had a lot of vehicles; all the Einsatzgruppen had a large complement of drivers.

We cannot assume that the vehicle at issue was a mobile gas-chamber, since the great majority of the vehicles possessed by the Einsatzgruppen were normal means of transport.

Mobile gas-chambers were referred to in documents as "Sonderwagen", "Spezialwagen" or "S-Wagen". If a vehicle were specifically designated with the word "Gaswagen", that probably refers to the means of propulsion, eg gas produced from wood.


this has also been debated and refuted at

http://p102.ezboard.com/frodohforumfrm1 ... =972.topic


The report (transcription from my copy, which is not stamped 'Kopie' like the one that Sergey secured from Christian Gerlach, because it is from the Moscow archive direct)

I - Innere Verwaltung
....
3.) Kraftfahrwesen
a) Allgemeines
In der Berichtszeit wurden der Einsatzgruppe B insgesamt 10 Pkw zugewiesen und zwar:
Pkw. Opel Kapt. Pol 71 530 gem. Erl.des. RSHA vom 31.1.42 - II D 3 a Nr. 135/42 und 9 Pkw von der Nachschubstelle Ost, die wie folgt verteilt wurden:
[SK7a - 4, Sk 7b - 2, EK 8 - 1, Ek 9 -1, SKM - 1, Ferner Gruppenstab - 1
Die am 23.3.42 in Smolensk eingetroffenen Gaswagen wurden wie folgt verteilt:
EK 8: Lkw Saurer Pol 71 462
EK 9: Lkw Saurer Pol 71 457
Beide Fahrzeuge kamen defect in Smolensk an und wurden nach Behebung der Defekte den Einsatzkommandos zugeteilt. Die beiden kleineren Gaswagen werden nach Abschluss des Einsatzes beim EK 8 dem SK 7a und dem SK 7b überwiesen.

Der Bestand an Kfz. ist nach Absetzung der verlorenen z.Zt. folgender:

Stab (einschl. SKM): 19 Pkw, 4 Lkw, 3 Sonder-Kfz., 1 Krad (SKM 5 Pkw und 1 Funkstelle)

SK 7a: 19 Pkw (davon 1 Funkstelle) , 2 Lkw, 1 Sanka

SK 7b: 23 Pkw (davon 1 Funkstelle), 3 Lkw, 1 Sanka

EK 8: 35 Pkw, 3 Lkw, 1 Sanka, 1 Gaswagen

EK 9: 36 Pkw (davon 1 Funkstelle), 5 Lkw, 1 Gaswagen

....

Einsatzgruppe B, Tätigkeits- und Lagebericht 16-28.2.42, p.7, Osobyi Arkhiv 500-1-770


underlinings in original.

Note that the Gruppenstab already has 3 Sonder-Kfz, and refers to two additional 'kleineren Gaswagen' which will be sent to other commandos 'beim Abschluss des Einsatzes'.

Note also the positioning of Gaswagen after Sanka (Sanitaetskraftwagen), if it had been a Holzgas-Pkw or Holzgaz-Lkw it would have been listed earlier, or stated (davon 1 auf Holzgas).

Thus, this is one of those documents which let the Sprachregelung camouflage slip.

Another document I transcribed (also referred to by e.g. Browning/Matthaeus in their recent book) indicates that two Sonderfahrzeuge were en route from mid-December.

Reichskriminalpolizeiamt Berlin. Fs. Dienst

Name des Bear. KR.Dr.Menke
int. Anruf. 241

Tag
13.Dez. 1941

Funkspruch


An

die Einsatzgruppe B

Lieber Kamerad Naumann!

Zwei der in unserer letzten Besprechung behandelten Sonderfahrzeuge werden noch im Laufe der kommenden Woche zur Einsatzgruppe in Marsch gesetzt.
Heil Hitler!
Ihr
N e b e.

Bundesarchiv Zwischenarchiv Dahlwitz-Hoppegarten file ZR 7, Bl. 165

michael mills
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Postby michael mills » 01 Mar 2006 02:28

Thanks for the link to the scanned document.

I note that the word "Gaswagen" occurs a further time in Section 3 "Kraftfahrwesen", on page 8 of the EG B report, in this passage:

Damit beim wieder einsetzenden Vormarsch hinsichtlich der besetzung der Kfz. (insbesondere der Beute-Kfz.) keine Schwierigkeiten entstehen, ist die Zuweisung von ca. 20 Fahrern erforderlich. Außerdem ist es beim Vormarsch unbedingt notwendig, alle schweren Lkw - wie Werkstattwagen, Omnibus, Gaswagen und Tankwagen - mit zwei Fahrern zu besetzen. Entsprechende Zuweisungsanträge werden gesondert gestellt.


From the above passage it seems that the term "Gaswagen" is a functional classification like "Werkstattwagen" or "Tankwagen", rather than a classification according to the type of propulsion as I had initially surmised. It is also apparent that it is a heavy truck.

Some comments on the report:

Section 3 "Kraftfahrwesen" is an administrative item with the purpose of informing the RSHA of the stock of vehicles held by EG B in the time period covered by the report. The item consists of:

1. A list of new vehicles added to the stock held by EG B, presumably since the last vehicle inventory was submitted. The new vehicles are all identified by registration number.

2. A list of vehicles held after the addition of the new vehicles, and their distribution among the sub-groups of EG B. These are not identified by registration number, presumably because such identification was made in earlier reports as vehicles were added to the stock.

3. A statement of the number and type of vehicles deducted from the stock described in 2, due to damage or destruction. These vehicles are not individually identified, presumably because they remained in the inventory of EG B.

One question that occurs to me is whether this sort of report on the stock of vehicles held was a regular item in the "Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte" submitted by all the Einsatzgruppen. If so, it should be possible to check on the distribution of other vehicles to EG B and the other Einsatzgruppen, including the arrival or listing of suspicious-sounding items. For example, does the word "Gaswagen" occur in other reports?

There is a book that I read a while ago, "Die Einsatzgruppen in der besetzten Sowjetunion, 1941/42 : die Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD", edited by Peter Klein (Berlin : Edition Hentrich, 1997), which supposedly included all the Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte of all the Einsatzgruppen. I cannot recall whether each of them had a section on "Kraftfahrwesen", but then I was not particularly looking out for such a section. I am fairly sure that the word "Gaswagen" did not appear in the reports in that book; I would surely have remembered such a hot item. In any case, I will check the book again when convenient.

Another thing that needs to be considered is whether the "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" held by EG B headquarters and the "Gaswagen" assigned to EK 8 and 9 are in fact the same type of vehicle.

The fact that two different designations are used suggests prima facie that these are two different types of vehicle rather than the same type of vehicle with two different designations. Given that this was an official report, it is to be assumed that the writer used official designations for vehicles, and did not introduce unofficial designations that might be confusing. There seems to be no reason why different designations would be used for the same type of vehicle possessed by different sub-units of EG B.

If the terms "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" and "Gaswagen" denote different types of vehicles, the question is whether either of the designations indentifies a mobile homicidal gas-chamber, and if so which one.

The terms "Sonderwagen", "Spezialwagen", "S-Wagen" occur in other German documents which describe, albeit in veiled terms, homicidal actions with vehicles designated by those words appearing as killing mechanisms in such actions. It can be deduced that the variations on the word "Sonderwagen" were the official designation for vehicles with a homicidal function.

On that basis, it could be hypothesised that the three "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" held by EG B headquarters were mobile gas-chambers, and were deployed where needed by the different sub-units of EG B. If that is the case, then the two "Gaswagen" that arrived and were assigned to EK 8 and EK 9 must be some other sort of vehicle.

Against that is precisely the fact that the two "Gaswagen" were assigned to EK 8 and 9, which were the main killing units within EG B, as indicated by the summary of "Sonderbehandlungen" given in this same report. If the "Gaswagen" were homicidal mechanisms, then it would be logical to assign them to the sub-units of EG B that had a major homicidal function.

On the other hand, the report states that once EK 8 and 9 have completed their "Einsatz", the two "Gaswagen" are to be assigned to SK 7a and 7b, which, judging by the list of "Sonderbehandlungen", did not have a major homicidal function.

The list of persons "sonderbehandelt" (the official RSHA designation for the execution of identified individuals or groups of people authorised by the chief of the RSHA, without any judicial procedure) by EG B until the date of the report in question appears on page 14 and shows a total of 91,012 summary executions, of which the overwhelming majority, 84,320, had been carried out by EK 8 and 9, with EK 8 well in the lead with 60,811 scalps on its belt.

By contrast, SK 7a had executed only 1,581 over the eight months since the beginning of Barbarossa, an approximate average of only 50 per week. SK 7b had executed only 2,515, SK Moskau only 2,474, and Trupp Smolensk a piddling 122.

It is clear that the two Einsatzkommandos had a different function from the rest of EG B, namely carrying out or organising fairly large-scale massacres of groups of people. The other sub-units of EG B do not appear to have been involved in massacres of groups, but performed executions of individuals from time to time.

As far as I recall, the Sonderkommandos were active in the immediate rear of the advancing front, carrying out security and intelligence tasks in newly captured areas. The Einsatzkommandos operated further to the rear, carrying out "cleansing" operations and liquidating population groups identified as "enemies".

So the use of mobile gas-chambers by the two Einsatzkommandos seems to fit in with their destructive function, but the functions of the other parts of EG B do not seem to require the use of such killing mechanisms, at least not to the extent of having such mechanisms assigned to them. Why the two "Gaswagen" were to be transferred from EK 8 and 9 to SK 7a and 7b thus remains something of a puzzle, unless we hypothesise that the two Sonderkommandos were about to assume a major killing function that they had not performed hitherto.

One avenue of investigation would be to examine earlier Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte produced by EG B, to determine whenther the arrival of the three "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" held by the Einsatzgruppe staff is reported and the vehicles identified by theri registration numbers, and if so how the function of those vehicles is described.

nickterry
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Postby nickterry » 01 Mar 2006 17:44

Michael,

some comments:

One question that occurs to me is whether this sort of report on the stock of vehicles held was a regular item in the "Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte" submitted by all the Einsatzgruppen. If so, it should be possible to check on the distribution of other vehicles to EG B and the other Einsatzgruppen, including the arrival or listing of suspicious-sounding items. For example, does the word "Gaswagen" occur in other reports?


Vehicle distribution - very hard to locate further documentary evidence, alas.

There is a book that I read a while ago, "Die Einsatzgruppen in der besetzten Sowjetunion, 1941/42 : die Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD", edited by Peter Klein (Berlin : Edition Hentrich, 1997), which supposedly included all the Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte of all the Einsatzgruppen. I cannot recall whether each of them had a section on "Kraftfahrwesen", but then I was not particularly looking out for such a section. I am fairly sure that the word "Gaswagen" did not appear in the reports in that book; I would surely have remembered such a hot item. In any case, I will check the book again when convenient.


I'll save you the bother: these Taetigkeits- und Lageberichte were summaries, circulated to e.g. the Auswaertiges Amt, so lacked the administrative details - not least because they were compiled from the contemporaneous Ereignismeldungen. No mention of Kraftfahrwesen or Gaswagen at all.

Another thing that needs to be considered is whether the "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" held by EG B headquarters and the "Gaswagen" assigned to EK 8 and 9 are in fact the same type of vehicle.
The fact that two different designations are used suggests prima facie that these are two different types of vehicle rather than the same type of vehicle with two different designations. Given that this was an official report, it is to be assumed that the writer used official designations for vehicles, and did not introduce unofficial designations that might be confusing. There seems to be no reason why different designations would be used for the same type of vehicle possessed by different sub-units of EG B.
If the terms "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" and "Gaswagen" denote different types of vehicles, the question is whether either of the designations indentifies a mobile homicidal gas-chamber, and if so which one.
The terms "Sonderwagen", "Spezialwagen", "S-Wagen" occur in other German documents which describe, albeit in veiled terms, homicidal actions with vehicles designated by those words appearing as killing mechanisms in such actions. It can be deduced that the variations on the word "Sonderwagen" were the official designation for vehicles with a homicidal function.
On that basis, it could be hypothesised that the three "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" held by EG B headquarters were mobile gas-chambers, and were deployed where needed by the different sub-units of EG B. If that is the case, then the two "Gaswagen" that arrived and were assigned to EK 8 and EK 9 must be some other sort of vehicle.


The different designation is naturally of interest, however I believe without having recourse to Matthias Beer's article that there were two generations of gas vans in use by 1942; the very first were somewhat more improvised than the second generation. I would therefore conjecture that this may have had some reflection in the reports and wordings.

Against that is precisely the fact that the two "Gaswagen" were assigned to EK 8 and 9, which were the main killing units within EG B, as indicated by the summary of "Sonderbehandlungen" given in this same report. If the "Gaswagen" were homicidal mechanisms, then it would be logical to assign them to the sub-units of EG B that had a major homicidal function.


Also against the interpretation that the 'Gaswagen' were not gas vans is the fact that eyewitnesses identified a gas van with the same registration number at Auschwitz, as one of these two Gaswagen.

Ultimately, it is this separate eyewitness testimony that is surely decisive. Each source on its own can be explained away in one manner or another, together they are conclusive.

On the other hand, the report states that once EK 8 and 9 have completed their "Einsatz", the two "Gaswagen" are to be assigned to SK 7a and 7b, which, judging by the list of "Sonderbehandlungen", did not have a major homicidal function.
The list of persons "sonderbehandelt" (the official RSHA designation for the execution of identified individuals or groups of people authorised by the chief of the RSHA, without any judicial procedure) by EG B until the date of the report in question appears on page 14 and shows a total of 91,012 summary executions, of which the overwhelming majority, 84,320, had been carried out by EK 8 and 9, with EK 8 well in the lead with 60,811 scalps on its belt.
By contrast, SK 7a had executed only 1,581 over the eight months since the beginning of Barbarossa, an approximate average of only 50 per week. SK 7b had executed only 2,515, SK Moskau only 2,474, and Trupp Smolensk a piddling 122.
It is clear that the two Einsatzkommandos had a different function from the rest of EG B, namely carrying out or organising fairly large-scale massacres of groups of people. The other sub-units of EG B do not appear to have been involved in massacres of groups, but performed executions of individuals from time to time.
As far as I recall, the Sonderkommandos were active in the immediate rear of the advancing front, carrying out security and intelligence tasks in newly captured areas. The Einsatzkommandos operated further to the rear, carrying out "cleansing" operations and liquidating population groups identified as "enemies".


The reason for the lower number of reported executions is not due to a change in policy per se. Sonderkommandos of Einsatzgruppe B were noticeably less active than for example Blobel's Sonderkommando 4a during 1941. However, they advanced into territory occupied only after the start of 'Taifun' at the start of October 1941, in which significantly fewer Jews remained. Prior to the end of September, the Sonderkommandos had conducted decapitation strikes against Jewish leadership groups and communists left behind, thus SK 7a passed through Vitebsk and carried out a series of executions, but then moved on swiftly and left the actual destruction of the Vitebsk ghetto to EK 9. Also, from August 1941, the Sonderkommandos were almost completely sucked into antipartisan warfare.

So the use of mobile gas-chambers by the two Einsatzkommandos seems to fit in with their destructive function, but the functions of the other parts of EG B do not seem to require the use of such killing mechanisms, at least not to the extent of having such mechanisms assigned to them. Why the two "Gaswagen" were to be transferred from EK 8 and 9 to SK 7a and 7b thus remains something of a puzzle, unless we hypothesise that the two Sonderkommandos were about to assume a major killing function that they had not performed hitherto.


In actual fact, Sonderkommando 7a was transferred from Rzhev to Klintsy in February 1942, whereupon it massacred every last remaining ghetto in the western portion of Bryansk Oblast. It also received a new commander beforehand, who was noticeably more active than his predecessor. The transfer was intended as 'rest leave', but the SS being the SS, they couldn't resist a busman's holiday. This accounts for the 6,281 recorded executions by the Kommando as of 31.8.42, a significant increase over the early 1942 figures. In the late spring/early summer of 1942, SK 7a was transferred back to Rzhev/Vyazma and resumed its 'normal' security duties with 9th and 3rd Panzer Armies. It reported 9,221 executions as of 1.2.43, ie 2,940, overwhelmingly of Russian partisan suspects, in the five months between September and January 1942-1943.

SK 7b had also carried out mass executions of Jews into the hundreds during 1941, and did so again in 1942. Not least among these latter actions was the destruction of the small ghetto in Orel in February 1942. It it only claimed a bodycount of 4096 by 1.2.43.

Off the top of my head, I can tell you that eyewitness testimony for the use of gas vans comes from Smolensk (Trupp Smolensk), Bryansk (SK 7b), Gomel (EK 8), Borisov (EK 8), Mogilev (EK 8). I have yet to really digest the reports from Roslavl and Vitebsk (SKs 7c/VKM and EK 9 respectively. The van used at Smolensk in mid-July 1942 was shuttled to Minsk at the end of July, where it is testified that it was used in the reduction of the Minsk ghetto. I would conjecture that it may have been this van that 'stayed west' and was perhaps the one that ended up at Auschwitz. One would have to read the Maly Trostinets/Heuser testimonies to see whether further EGr B vans were transferred to KdS Weissruthenien or if they came from Germany direct.

With the exception of the van used at Smolensk and Minsk in July 1942, all vans were used against Russians and Belorussians, small numbers of Jewish forced labourers at the Mogilev camp were killed in them, but they played almost no role in the killing of at least 30,000 Jews in the military zone during 1942. All other documented actions involved shootings. The vans were not so easily deployable to off-the-main-road ghettos.

One avenue of investigation would be to examine earlier Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte produced by EG B, to determine whenther the arrival of the three "Sonder-Kraftfahrzeuge" held by the Einsatzgruppe staff is reported and the vehicles identified by theri registration numbers, and if so how the function of those vehicles is described.


There are only around 10-11 Taetetigkeits- und Lageberichte surviving from Einsatzgruppe B. The first few cover into July and early August 1941; one is for example reprinted in the Klein(hrsg) Einsatzgruppen collection you mentioned earlier.

The others cover the following time periods
16-28.2.42 (Osoby Arkhiv, copy in BStU-Stasi-Archiv)
5.42 - fragment only, on religion in the Operationsgebiet Mitte
16-31.8.42 (NARA, Minsk NARB)
1-15.9.42 (NARB)
15.11-15.12.42 (NARB)
1-31.2.43 (BStU - ask Gerlach where the original is!)
1-31.3.43 (AGK, Warsaw)

So there is no further documentary data on the vehicles. Moreover, only 2-3 of the later 1942/43 reports mention I - Organisation/Innere Verwaltung matters, and these do not mention Kraftfahrwesen.

As I said above, I think it is the combination of documentary and eyewitness evidence, created under entirely different circumstances and in isolation from each other, that is most conclusive. The evidence indicates that a gas van with the same registration number arrived at Einsatzgruppe B in early 1942 and went to Auschwitz by 1943.


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