Page 470 AUSCHWITZ:
                        Technique and Operation
                            of the Gas Chambers ©
 
 
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  they were thirsty, and the magnanimous SS ordered water to be brought for them. The fiction had to be maintained right to the end, so that order could be kept. 

Everybody undressed in the yard. The doors of the Krematorium opened and they entered the big room which served as an undressing room in winter. Squashed together like sardines, they realised that they had entered a trap from which they could no longer escape. They still had some hope, however, for a normal brain could not imagine the terrible death awaiting them.

The red cross ambulance arrived. Dr Klein, Obersturmführer, got out, bringing the cans of gas. A supreme insult to a profession and an emblem that certain international bodies today want to use to cover up the accomplices of similar crimes.

At last everything was ready. The doors of the undressing room opened and an indescribable chaos commenced.

The first to enter the gas chamber (20) recoiled from it, sensing the death that awaited them.

With their rifle buts, smashing the heads of distraught women convulsivly clutching their children in their arms, the SS stopped this human ebb and flow.

The solid oak double doors (21) were closed. For two interminable minutes we could hear banging on the walls and cries that no longer had anything human about them. And then nothing. My head was spinning and I thought I had gone mad. What abominable crimes could these women and children have commited to deserve such a cruel death?

Five minutes later, the doors were opened. Like an avalanche, the bodies, heaped together and contorted, fell out. Some were so entangled with others that they were very difficult to extract. Covered with blood, they gave the impression of having fought desperately against death. Anyone who has once seen a gas chamber can never forget it.

The still-warm bodies passed through the hands of the barber, who shaved off the hair, and the dentist who tore out the gold teeth. Systematic recovery of anything of use by a band of assassins who left nothing to chance. And now an unbelievably hellish scene commenced These Sonderkommando men, like the learned lawyer from Salonika or the Budapest engineer that I knew so well, became completely inhuman, veritable devils. Under blows from the SS rifles and whips, they ran as if possessed, trying to rid themselves as quickly as possible of the load attached to their wrists.(22).

A thick, black smoke (23) rose from the ditches.

Everything happened so quickly and seemed so unbelievable that I thought I was dreaming. Dante’s inferno appeared to me then to be just an old and simple allegory.

An hour later, everything was calm, and the men were removing and piling up ashes from the pits.

Another convoy had just passed through Krematorium 4.

And that contiued day and night. For all the Krematorien and cremation pits together, the horrendous figure of twenty-five thousand bodies burned in 24 hours (24) was once reached.

At the time of the mass deportation of Jews from Hungary, in the space of two and a half months (May-June) four hundred thousand (25) met this fate.

The Nazis often, both in propaganda and in official speeches, expressed their contempt for gold, but this did not prevent them from recovering from their victims, between the coming into service of the Krematorien and the month of November 1944,(26) the the month in which they ceased to operate, seventeen tons of the precious yellow metal.(27)

A shameful rape by a regime that so well lived up to its aspiration to be the “Master Race”.
   
  Dr Paul(28) BENDEL, 167.460   

Comments on Doctor Bendel's account  
 
[1]   The Mauthausen and Dachau gas chambers:  
There was a 13.3 m² gas chamber at Mauthausen, operated by preheating the chamber before introducing Zyklon-B, which thus expanded as it vaporized. While 3455 victims were killed here according to the tribunals, it has been impossible to prove historically that what is thought to have been a gas chamber in the Dachau crematorium was ever actually brought into service. [Ref:Les chambers à gaz. Secret d'Etat, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1984]    
   
[2]   Long months: 
About a year according to another deposition by Dr Bendel.    
   
[3]  Four Krematorien: 
  This witness has used the “normal” numbering. The official equivalents are as follows:  
   
 
Krematorium 1 = Krematorium II
Krematorium 2 = Krematorium III
Krematorium 3 = Krematorium IV
Krematorium 4 = Krematorium V
The Bunker = Bunker 2/V 
   
[4]  Camouflaged: 
The Krematorien were never camouflaged, except numbers IV and V as from summer 1944, because of the proximity of Kanada II in the case of Krematorium IV and to prevent people seeing the incineration pits dug alongside Krematorium V, a palliative measure when its 8-muffle furnace was put out of service.   
   
[5]  Museum:  
Certain anatomical specimens may have been kept in the dissecting room, but there was no room set aside as a museum.   
   
[6]  March 1942: 
Incorrect. Work began at the end of August 1942 on Krematorien II and III. Krematorium IV was actually started in November 1942, but real work began at the same time as that on Krematorium V, in early January 1943.   
   
[7]   Thousands of prisoners: 
Pure invention. On each of the four Krematorien or “BW 30” work sites (30, 30a. 30b and 30c) there was a group of only about one hundred prisoners helping civilian bricklayers and other building tradesmen.    
   
[8]  January 1943: 
This date is too early. The five 3-muffle furnaces of Krematorium II were tested at the end of January 1943 and its gas chamber began operations in mid-March 1943.

The official completion dates are as follows:    
   
 
Krematorium II [1] :31st March 1943
Krematorium III [2] : 24th or 25th June 1943
Krematorium IV [3] : 22nd March 1943
Krematorium V [4] : 4th April 1943
   
[9]  Himmler:  
The presence of high-ranking SS is certain. That of Himmler is imaginary and dreamt-up.   
   
[10]   The convoy... these unfortunates:  
The route followed by the victims is correct, from the stairs giving access to the undressing room, to the TWO gas chambers. Why two, when Krematorium II was built with only ONE. This detail always appeared unlikely, but it is now confirmed as true. TWO gas chambers were obtained by subdividing Leichenkeller 1, considered by the SS to be of too large an area, and so that they could gas small groups of “unfit for work” in the second chamber. According to the testimony of 24th May 1945 by Henryk Tauber, this transformation was carried out at the end of 1943, BEFORE Dr Bendel's visit to Krematorium II. The “two mesh tubes with external valves” were in fact hollow square columns of heavy wire grid with a trap above through which the Zyklon-B was poured. The gas chamber had four such columns before being divided in two. Once the dividing wall was built, only two remained visible. On the other hand, there were no double doors of solid oak al the entrance to the gas chamber. The witness must have confused the gas chamber door with that opening from the undressing room to the corridor leading to the gas chamber. In the furnace room of the “Old Krematorium”, [Kr I] it is still possible to see a real gas-tight door from a desinfestation or homicidal gas chamber. It is made of rough planks of inferior timber.    
   
[11]  Sixteen furnaces: 
Fifteen in fact. Krematorien II and III each had five 3-muffle furnaces, or a total of fifteen incineration muffles.   
   
[12]   2000 bodies in 24 hours:  
1440 for Krematorium II according to a letter of 28th June 1943 (correspondence register no. 31550/Ja Ne) signed by Jährling [PMO file BW 30/42, page 2]. a purely calculated Figure, the practical “throughput” being closer to 1000.    
   
[13]  The twin Krematorien 3 and 4 ... in a day:  
According to the above-mentioned letter, the throughput of a type IV/V Krematorium was 768. a figure derived mathematically by dividing the theoretical throughput of Krematorium II, 1440, by 15 to obtain the throughput per muffle. then multiplying by 8, the number of muffles in Krematorien of type IV/V:   
   
 
1440/15 x 8 = 768
   
The true capacity was about 500 in 24 hours.   
   
[14]  Deemed insufficient:  
Not the true reason. The pits were dug to compensate for the closing down of the big furnace of Krematorium V, that of Krematorium IV already being out of service.    
   
[15]   One thousand:  
Materially impossible to verify.   
   
[16]   Conduit ... recovery pit: 
Technique described and confirmed by Filip Müller in Trois ans ...”   
   
[17]  One day in June 1944:  
Bendel states that he worked at Birkenau from 1st January 1944 to 18th January 1945, and was the Sonderkommando doctor. He was in fact Doctor Epstein’s assistant, and they both carried out medical experiments in participation with and under the direct control of Dr Mengele in a research laboratory installed in one of the huts of the Gypsy Camp (B.IIe). Such was his situation al the end of May and beginning of June 1944, according to Dr Nyiszli [Auschwitz: a doctor’s eye-witness account, page 35], who himself also claims to have been the doctor for the whole of the Krematorium personnel, in addition to his functions as pathologist. It would appear that Nyiszli really did occupy this post. Bendel’s account is a series of “snapshots” and his lack of overall knowledge of the Krematorien is then understandable, for he never actually lived there. A further possible explanation for Bendel’s late initiation into the gassings is put forward by Paul Rassinier in Le véritable procès Eichmann [The true Eichmann trial) (La Vieille Taupe, 1983) in a passage from the Kasztner document (page 234), where he states that the Birkenau gas chambers and Krematorien had been out of use from Autumn 1943 to May 1944.   
   
[18]  While smoke: 
Correct observation, proven by photograph 184 inL’Album, d’Auschwitz by Serge Klarsfeld and by two of the Polish Resistance photographs [PMO neg. nos 280 and 281].   
   
[19]  Three thousand: 
Probably an exaggerated figure, although identical to that given by Dr Nyiszli. Impossible to verify without a precise date.   
   
[20]   The gas chamber: 
In Krematorium V, there were three, later four, gas chambers with a total area of 240 m².    
   
[21]  The double doors:  
Incorrect. This passage had only ONE gas-tight door. Assimilation with the description already given of the entrance to the gas chamber of Krematorium II.    
   
[22]  The still.warm bodies ... load attached to their wrist:  
The gas chambers of Krematorium V were emptied towards the north and west where the cremation pits were. Two photographs [PMO neg. nos 280 and 281] taken from the northern gas chamber of Krematorium V and known as thePolish Resistance photographs, have recorded a similar scene. The technique of transporting the corpses by dragging them along by means of a thong around the wrist had spread to all the Birkenau Krematorien.
   
[23]  Thick black smoke:  
Incorrect and smacking of literary effect. See earlier comment.   
   
[24]  25,000 ... in 24 hours:  
Incorrect. On one occasion when delays had caused several convoys to arrive together, a little over 9,000 people were cremated in 24 hours.   
   
[25]  400,000:  
Exaggerated figure. In fact closer to 200,000.   
   
[26]  The month of November 1944:  
The 26th to be precise.   
   
[27]   17 tons of the precious yellow metal  
Manifestly false figure. See Bendel’s deposition before the Court for the trial of Bruno Tesch (below).   
   
[28]  Paul: 
Paul OR Charles Sigismund? Which is or are the real name(s)? What are we to think of the variation in the given name in the light of his account and deposition?     
 
AUSCHWITZ:
Technique and operation
of the gas chambers

Jean-Claude Pressac
© 1989, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
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