Gas Chambers at Bunker 2, KL Auschwitz

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Gas Chambers at Bunker 2, KL Auschwitz

Post by David Thompson » 15 Jul 2004 22:34

Here is a collection of witness testimony and statements related to the homicidal gas chambers at Bunker 2 at KL Auschwitz, scanned from Jean-Claude Pressac's book Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989, pp. 171-80.
Historical note

Located 350 metres due west of the Zentral Sauna, the installation known as Bunker 2 seems, according to Szlam[y] Dragon and the PMO, to have consisted of a whitewashed farmhouse (hence the name <<white house>>) whose converted interior held four gas chambers of different sizes, with an overall floor area of 105m 2, two sheds serving as undressing rooms and a certain number of cremation ditches, four on 10th December 1942 according to the witness S. Dragon. His desposition perfectly describes the <<working>> of Bunker 2, which operated from summer 1942 to spring 1943: when it was abandoned in favour of Krematorien IV and 11, which had recently entered service.

In summer 1944 Bunker 2 was reactivated to participate in the <<Hungarian action>>. It was now known as Bunker V, logical enough when one considers that in the Birkenau camp the new Krematorien II, III, IV and V were usually referred to as I, II, III and IV respectively, the old, abandoned Krematorium I at Auschwitz being forgotten. It is difficult to say at this stage whether the Bunker was used in the same way in 1944 as in 1942 or whether the internal walls had been knocked down so that it now comprised a single gas chamber roughly 7m wide and 15 long. Filip Mueller relates that it operated in 1944 as in 1942, but his evidence in the form of a book dates from 1979, and by then he was certainly familiar with the deposition of S. Dragon. Doctor Miklos Nyiszli speaks of a <<thatched-roof house whose plaster was peeling off>> and suggests that <<partitions must have divided the interior into rooms>>, implying that there were none when he went to Bunker 2 V. The doctor relates an episode in the summer of 1944 in which the functioning of Bunker V had changed. From a gas chamber it had turned into an undressing room. His account concerns a period when there was a lack of Zyclon-B because of a supply problem and during which the victims were pushed directly into the cremation ditches after being killed by a shot in the back of the neck, or even still alive. David Olere sketched such a scene of pure dementia, situating it behind Krematorium V, a place where Staff Sergeant Moll acted in a particularly brutal way (described in Part II, Chapter 7 on Krematorien IV and V). David Olere's 1945 sketch showing a thatched cottage must be a memory from before this insane period, when Bunker V was working <<normally>> with Zyclon-B.

For the study of Bunker 2/V, I present as witnesses: Szlam[y] DRAGON, the main one, Pery BROAD, Filip MULLER, Miklos NYISZLI and David OLERE. There are still others of course. The first two testimonies are concerned with the period 1942-1943 and the last three with the summer of 1944. They do not contradict one another, for they are describing different periods. The present ruins of Bunker 2/V make it possible, should there be any need, to judge their testimony.

I/ The testimony of Szlamy DRAGON concerning Bunker 2, recorded on 10th May 1945 [Volume II of the Hoess trial, pages 102 to 1211]
The next day, on the morning of 10th December 1942, once all the kommandos had gone to work, MOLL (then unterscharfuehrer/Sergeant, later to be Hauptscharfuehrer/Staff Sergeant and head of the Birkenau Krematorien) arrived at Block 14 and gave the order <<Sonderkommando raus- [get outside]. It was thus that we learnt that we were detailed, not to the rubber factory (Buna) but to a Sonderkommando and we did not realise what this was for nobody had ever given us the slightest explanation of it. On Moll's order, we went out of the block and were divided into two groups of 100 men each to be marched out of the camp by the SS.

We were taken into a forest where there was a cottage covered with thatch, its windows bricked in. On the door leading to the interior of the cottage was a metal plate with the inscription ,Hochspannung - Lebensgetahr/High tension - danger. [Document 3: Figure 2]. Thirty or forty metres from this cottage there were two wooden huts (huts 1 and 2 in Drawing 1). On the other side of the cottage there were four pits 30 metres long, 7 metres wide and 3 metres deep (above in drawing 1), their edges black with smoke. We were lined up in front of the house. Moll arrived and told us we would work here at burning old and lousy people, that we would be given something to eat and in the evening we would be taken back to the camp. He added that those who did not accept the work would be beaten and have the dogs set on them. The SS who escorted us were accompanied by dogs. Then he split us into a number of groups. I myself and eleven others were detailed as we learnt later, to remove the bodies from this cottage. We were all given masks, and led to the door of the cottage. When Moll had opened the door, we saw that the cottage was full of naked corpses of both sexes and of all ages. Moll ordered us to move these corpses from the cottage to the yard, in front of the door. We started work. with four men carrying one body. This annoyed Moll. He rolled up his sleeves and threw a body into the yard. When, despite this example, we said we were incapable of doing that, he allowed us to carry them, two men to a body. Once the corpses were laid in the yard, the dentist, assisted by an SS man, pulled out the teeth [Dragon forgets the removal of rings andj ewels, unless these had been removed earlier], and the barber, also watched by an SS man, cut off the hair. Another group loaded the bodies onto wagons running on rails that led to the edge of the pits. These rails ran between two pits [Document I: Drawing 1]. Still another group prepared the pit for burning the corpses. First of all, big logs were put in the bottom (Document 9, sketch by David Olere The logs are on the right, along the wall of the undressing hut), then smaller and smaller wood, in criss-cross fashion, and finally dry twigs. The following group threw the bodies into the pit. Once all the bodies had been brought from the cottage to the pit, Moll poured kerosene over them in the four corners of the pit and set fire to it by throwing in a burning rubber comb (roughly fringed piece of rubber). That is how the corpses were burnt. While Moll was starting the fire, we were in front of the cottage, (on the north-west side) and could see what he was doing.

After having removed all the bodies from the cottage, we were obliged to clean it thoroughly, washing the floor with water and spreading sawdust and whitewashing the walls. The interior of the cottage was divided into four parts by partition walls running across it (Document 2: Drawing 2), one of which could contain 1 200 naked people, the second 700, the third 400 and fourth 200 to 250 .
[Making a total Of 2 500 to 2 550 people which represents a density of 28 people per square metre over an area Of 90M2 This is physically impossible and S. Dragon's estimate of 2 500/2 550 is clearly wrong. I do not think that this witness was intentionally misleading. but he was following the tendency to exaggerate which seems to have been the general rule at the time of the liberation and which is what gave rise to the figure of 4 million victims for K.L. Auschwitz, a figure now considered to be pure propaganda. It should be divided by four to get close to reality.]

In the biggest room there were two little windows and just one in each of the the three others [Document 2: Drawing 2]. These windows were closed by little wooden doors. Each room had a separate access. On the entrance door there was a metal sign with the inscription <<Hochspannung - Lebensgefahr" as already mentioned above. When the door was opened, -this sign was invisible but one could see another, <<Zum Baden/ to the baths- [Document 3:Fig.1] The people entering these rooms to be gassed saw on the exit door another sign with the inscription <<Zur Desinfektion/to disinfection". It is obvious that behind this door, there was no disinfection. That was the door through which we removed the bodies. Each room had its own exit door [Document 3 : Figures 3 and 4].

The room I have just described is faithfully reproduced in the drawing made by M. Nosal, an engineer living in Oswiecim. This cottage was designated Bunker 2...

After the construction at Birkenau of Krematorium II, the huts situated next to Bunker 2 were also dismantled. The pits were filled with earth and the surface was smoothed The Bunker itself was kept until the end It remained unused for a long time and then was started up again for gassing the Hungarian Jews. They then built new huts and dug new pits...

Bunker 2 could contain over 2 000 people in all its rooms [see above comments on this point].
I would like to point out that the window fittings of Bunkers I and 2 and the doors of these Bunkers and of Krematorien I V and V were similar and made of the same wood...

S. Dragon went to live in Israel. He was a witness at the 25th session of the Dejaco-Ertl trial in Vienna on 1st March 1972. When the hearing was resumed at 1. p.m., he stated that he had worked in a Krematorium which was a small building with a gas chamber And stated that <<Dieses Gebauede war aussen weiss/ this building was white on the outside>>. He was in fact speaking of Bunker 2. S. Dragon's total confusion between Krematorium I and Bunker 2 caused the hearing to be suspended so that a Hebrew interpreter could be called. At the 26th session on 2nd March, he very honestly said <<Ich kann mich heute nach 30 Jahren nicht mehr erinnern ... /I can't remember today after 30 years ... >> He had also forgotten the drawings (I and 2) made in 1945 according to his indications. The intervening time had done its work, a blessing for the witness, a disaster for justice and for History. I have added this anecdote to show the irreplaceable value of early testimony. Afterwards, witnesses constantly go over the same story, altering it as the years go by.


II/ Declaration by Pery BROAD concerning the <<two farmhouses>>
Not far from Birkenau, which was rapidly expanding, there were two pretty and neat peasant cottages in a pleasant site. Separated by a copse, they were whitewashed and covered with nice thatched roofs. All around were fruit trees. This was one's impression at first sight.

Nobody would have believed that the number of people assassinated in these two inoffensive-looking houses corresponded to the population of a big town, However, a careful observer would have noticed first of all on the walls of these houses signs with an inscription in several languages: <<to disinfection-. He would then have discovered that the houses had no windows, but on the other hand had an astonishing number of doors of an extraordinary thickness, sealed with rubber and fitted with latches that could be screwed tight. Near to these doors there were small wooden shutters .

He would also have noticed, beside these houses, several big stable-type huts, similar to those prisoners lived in at Birkenau"...

There is perhaps a translation error with the word <<copse>> Replacing this by <<small wood>>, the declaration validates itself. In this case Pery Broad can be speaking only of Bunker 2 (white cottage with an astonishing number of doors - see Document 5), though also he mentions the existence of Bunker I that he never seems to have seen. The doors sealed with rubber are entirely imaginary. They were sealed with felt. The inscription <<to disinfection>> in several languages would appear to show that Broad was in fact talking of the installation known as Bunker V in summer 1944. His declaration therefore concerns Bunker 2/V only.

III/ The testimony of Rudolf HOESS [<<Commandant of Auschwitz>>, page 211]
<<During the spring of 1942 the actions were comparatively small, but the transports increased in the summer, and we were compelled to construct a further extermination building The peasant farmstead west of the future site of crematoria III and IV [IV and V] was selected and made ready. Two huts near Bunker I and three near Bunker 2 were erected, in which the victims undressed. Bunker 2 was the larger and could hold about 1200 people .>>
[or about 13 people per square metre, a physically impossible density].

Extracts from <<Der Auschwitz Prozess>> by Hermann Langbein, Volume I

[Moderator's note -- Pressac's section IV/ is a transcript of the testimony of Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, which is posted on the thread Dr. Miklos Nyiszli - An eyewitness from Auschwitz, at ]

Page 72: Testimony of Dr. Johann Paul KREMER, reserve Second Lieutenant, who was at Auschwitz from 30/8/42 to 18/11/42:
<<Old farmhouses had been converted into bunkers and fitted with a sliding door that closed perfectly. Above there was an opening. Naked men were sent in there. They entered without suspecting anything, very few resisted and these were taken aside and shot. The gas was introduced by a member of the SS. To do this, he had to climb a ladder...>>
[It is impossible to say whether Dr. Kremer is speaking of Bunker 1 or 2].

Page 73: Testimony of SS private HOEBLINGER, replying to questions:
<< / was detailed to the transport service and / drove the Sanka, (abbreviation for Sanitaetskraftwagen/ medical truck) which was to carry the prisoners...

Then we drove to the gas chambers. The medical orderlies climbed a ladder, they had gas masks up there, and emptied the cans. I was able to observe the prisoners while they were undressing. It always proceeded quietly and without them suspecting anything. It happened very quickly.>>

Presiding Judge: <<How long did the gassing take?>>

Hoeblinger: <<About one minute. When the gas penetrated, we could could hear cries of horror. One minute afterwards, everything was silent. The gas was brought in cans by the SDG (Sanititsdienstgrade/ SS NCO medical orderlies) . . . .>>

[It is again impossible to situate this scene specifically at Bunker 1 or 2.]



V/ Testimony of Filip MULLER

Extracts from <<Trois ans dans une chambre a gaz d'Auschwitz)> [Three years in an Auschwitz gas chamber] by Filip Mueller editions Pygmalion/Gerard Watelet, Paris 1980.

Page 169:
-In Bunker 2, now renamed Bunker V - an old whitewashed farm separated from the camp by a little wood - there was also great activity. Nobody could imagine that in this country house, peaceful and ordinary, thousands of people would be exterminated by gas. Kommandos of prisoners of all trades, electricians, metal workers, road builders, succeeded in less than a year [this must be an error: a month would be more accurate] in getting this installation of death operational.
Page 180:
<<A few days later he had three more cremation pits dug behind Krematorium V He thus had five pits at his disposal there now. Furthermore, the old farm situated to the west of Krematorien IV and V, which had already been used as an extermination site in 1942, was brought back into service under the designation Bunker V and four cremation pits were dug near the four rooms serving as gas chambers. The undressing rooms in which the victims left their clothes before being gassed were transfered to three wooden huts. There were no longer any numbered clothes hooks or other camouflage in the form of signs or any other attempt to mislead...>>
I offer this account by F. Mueller for what it is worth. Much too late, thirty six years after the event, it is at the limit of credibility. Filip Mueller is an important witness, but in chosing to describe material and precise facts in a book and in 1979 (1st German edition) he has accumulated errors, thus making his account historically dubious. The best approach is to read it as a novel based on true history.

SS man Boeck's testimony

Extract from <<Der Auschwitz Prozess>> [The Auschwitz Trial] by H. Langbein, Volume 1, page 74:
A comrade of Hoelblinger, another member of the SS, accompanied him one day in the vehicle to the[Bunker]. [His name was Boeck].

Deputy Judge Hummerich: Were you present at a gassing operation one day?

Boeck -Yes, it was one evening. I accompanied the driver Hoelblinger A transport had arrived from Holland and the prisoners had to jump from the wagons. They were well-off Jews. There were women with Persian furs. They arrived by express train. [They disembarked at the <<Jewish ramp- at Auschwitz station, not directly at Birkenau. This account concerns 1942]. The trucks were already there, with wooden steps before them, and the people climbed aboard. Then they all started off. In the place where Birkenau once stood, there was only a lone farmhouse (Bunker 2), and beside it four or five big huts. Inside, the people were standing on clothes which were, building up on the floor. The -Blockfuehrer/ block leader and the Unterscharfuehrer/ sergeant- carrying a cane were there. HoeIblinger sad to me: <<Let's go over there now.>> There was a sign: <<to disinfection.>> He said: <<You see, they're bringing children now>>. They opened the door, threw the children in and closed the door. There was a terrible cry. A member of the SS climbed on the roof. The people went on crying for about ten minutes Then the prisoners opened the doors. Everything was in disorder and contorted. Heat was given off. The bodies were loaded on a rough wagon and taken to a ditch. The next batch were already undressing in the huts. After that/ didn't look at my wife for four weeks . . . .>>
Comments of Boeck's testimony:

There is only one clue to show that the scene took place at Bunker 2: <<a long farmhouse>>. In this type of account, this is already a good deal. SS Boeck seems to have been a decent enough man. The gassing of children upset him so much that he saw the SS medical orderlies <<climb on the roof>> (they did not climb so high) and did not look at his wife for four weeks. Not everyone is cut out to be an executioner. Hermann Langbein writes:
<<Boeck is the only SS witness who demonstrated a sincere aversion before the court.>>
I would just ask one , one question: <<How many gassings did Boeck see?>>
If he saw only the one he described before the court, it is not so surprising that his <<aversion>> should remain intact. If he had been forced by his duties to see them regularly, his attitude might have been different. It is all too easy to become hardened.

Richard Boeck's testimony is also discussed on this thread:

Richard Bock

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Post by alf » 16 Jul 2004 02:05

I removed, my mistake I posted Krema 2 not Bunker 2 :)

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