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|over the victims. 3kg [1 kg per opening] were required to kill the 500
to 700 people that the morgue could hold. It would appear that one or two
extractor fans were installed in the ceiling [according to the testimonies
of Fajnzylberg, Müller and Broad]. |
The homicidal gassings
The first experimental gassing took place on 3rd September 1941. using Zyklon B in the basement of Block 11, the openings of which had been crudely sealed with earth. The victims were 250 sick prisoners and 600 Russians. The next day, an SS man wearing a gas mask went to see the results and saw that some of the guinea pigs were still alive. More Zyklon B was introduced. On the evening of the 5th nobody moved any more. The corpses were then transported by a group of prisoners to Krematorium I to be incinerated. Shortly afterwards 900 Russian prisoners according to former camp Kommandant Hoess [in fact between 500 and 700], were gassed directly in the morgue of Krematorium I, which avoided the need to transport the bodies. Then, in January 1942, operations began at Birkenau Bunker 1, which had two small gas chambers for the extermination of Jews.
During the gassings, a certain area around Krematorium I was sealed off. Furthermore, it was forbidden to look at the roof of the Krematorium which was visible from the windows of the SS hospital located on the first floor of the building nearest to the Krematorium, separated from it only by the “Kasernenstrasse”. The Krematorium forecourt was closed off and served as an undressing place for the victims who were then pushed into the morgue. The two gas tight doors were closed and Zyklon B was injected through three openings in the roof. Outside, a truck kept its engine running during the whole operation to drown the cries.
It is not known how many deaths were caused by this gas chamber, which was used only occasionally and not continuously. The number is probably not more than 10,000.
Krematorium I functioned as a cremation installation from November 1940 to July 1943. Its gas chamber was used sporadically from the end of 1941 to 1942, but precise dates are not known. The installation was abandoned in 1943, its three furnaces dismantled and the chimney demolished.
Conversion to an air raid shelter
Because of the American bombing (the first raids on the IG Farben Buna factory at Monowitz and on Auschwitz I were on 13th September 1944), the “old” Krematorium, unused since the construction of the four “new” Krematorien at Birkenau, was converted into an air raid shelter for the patients of the SS hospital. Two similar Auschwitz Bauleitung drawings of 21st September 1944 [4287a and b] show the interior arrangement designated Bauwerk 14. The modifications concerned only the entrance vestibule. the laying out room, the washing room and the morgue. This last was divided into four rooms.
Technique and operation
of the gas chambers
© 1989, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation