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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Samuel Crowell - The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes (C)

The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes

An Attempt at a Literary Analysis of the Holocaust Gassing Claim


by Samuel Crowell


"In Memoriam!"
Dec 22, 1997: Revised Jan 10, 1999

8. The Confessions of Rudolf Höß

 
Höß WAS SEIZED on March 13, 1946, on a farm in the British Zone where he had spent the past several months as a common laborer.282 His affidavits deserve particular attention: for many years historians have been content to merely quote extracts from Höß' affidavits, usually the one from April 5, 1946, as proof of the mass gassings.283 The popularity of this affidavit, also known as PS-3868, is directly related to the fact that it is the only thorough narrative concerning Auschwitz made by Höß that was entered into the trial record at the IMT. In later writings, Höß would claim that he had been severely beaten in the early period of his confinement,284 and later revelations, largely developed by Robert Faurisson, indicate that he was systematically tortured, largely by sleep deprivation.285
These factors probably explain the incoherence of his very first affidavit of March 16, 1946, which betrays a British influence in its many references to Belsen. The most interesting of these concerns a legend concerning 1,800 Belsen inmates who were sent to Auschwitz, a particularly venerable Holocaust story.286
The April 5, 1946 affidavit is the one most frequently quoted and the one which makes the various gas extermination claims with some semblance of order.287 The claims may be summarized:
  1. Mass gassings began in the summer of 1941 and continued until fall 1944.
  2. 2,500,000 were gassed, another 500,000 died from other means for a total of 3 million.
  3. Höß left Auschwitz in December of 1943, but he kept informed.
  4. The "Final Solution" meant the complete extermination of Jews in Europe.
  5. Höß was ordered to establish extermination facilities in Auschwitz in June, of 1941, on direct orders from Himmler.
  6. Höß visited Belzec, Treblinka, and Wolzek, where carbon monoxide was used.
  7. Höß decided to use Zyklon B.
  8. "We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped."
  9. Gas chambers could hold 2,000 people at a time.
  10. Children were invariably exterminated and mothers tried to hide their children.
  11. The exterminations were secret, but
  12. The stench from the burnings informed everyone for miles around that exterminations were going on.
Offhand, the affidavit seems impressive and authoritative. But on closer analysis it is clear that the document contributes absolutely nothing to what was already known as a "fact of common knowledge" at the time.288 Indeed, it seems remarkable that nearly all prior commentators on Höß fail to recognize the significance of the fact that by the time of his capture the gassing narrative had achieved almost finished form at the bar of the International Military Tribunal.289
In detail: that the exterminations were directly ordered by Himmler simply repeats the unsubstantiated assertion found the Höttl affidavit of 1945.290 The idea that the exterminations went back to 1941, and that the Final Solution was a code word for the extermination of the Jews, goes back to the Nuremberg testimony of Dieter Wisliceny given in January, 1946.291 The emphasis on the fate of the children reflects the testimonies of Shmegelovskaya and Vaillant-Couturier in January and February.292 The reference to the stench of the burnings is, as we shall see, a hoary exaggeration that goes back to rumors of the euthanasia campaign in 1941. The claimed number of victims for Höß' tenure -- 2.5 million gassed and 0.5 million dead by other means -- is traceable to the confession of Grabner the previous September. Both reflect the calculations of the Soviet Special Commission on Auschwitz, which claimed 4 million for the entire period of the camp's operation, which, if it came to 3 million by the end of 1943, implied approximately 1 million in 1944. It is also interesting to note that the range of victims -- 2.5 to 3 million -- as well as other details, coincides with the testimony of Pery Broad at the Tesch and Stabenow trial in Hamburg just weeks before.293 On the other hand, there was no "Wolzek" camp, and none of the three camps Höß claimed to have inspected existed in 1941.
In short, the April 5, 1946 Höß affidavit is simply a confirmation of what was already known.294 What it contributes is not new, and where it is new it is clearly wrong. It provides no elaboration or explanation for any of the claims which it repeats, in fact, most of Höß' testimony at Nuremberg, ten days later, consisted of making statements that failed to confirm the contents of the affidavit.295 After his testimony on behalf of Kaltenbrunner, his cross-examination by the prosecution consisted merely of nodding or answering "yes" as his affidavit was read into the record.296 The affidavit is ultimately an extension and confirmation of the Canonical Holocaust as represented by the Soviet Special Commission on Auschwitz. As such it is practically valueless from a historiographical point of view.
Within a few weeks, Höß was transferred to Poland, where he was put on trial.297 A number of affidavits were prepared in November, 1946, and these, stitched together with some other materials he composed during and after his trial, have frequently been issued as his "autobiography." It is frequently stated -- erroneously -- that these memoirs were composed in their entirety after his death sentence, so that he would have had no reason to lie or shade the truth.298 This is not accurate. Höß was not condemned to death until December 27, 1946, a month after deposing his only extensive narrative of gassing while in Polish custody299 (and which explicity contradicted the affidavits of March 16 and April 5, recorded in British and American custody respectively, which leads one to the inference that his British, American and Polish interrogators all had different expectations in their questioning.) Furthermore, his death sentence was not confirmed by the Polish People's Court until April 2, 1947, just two weeks before his death, and two months after his memoirs had been penciled.300 In addition, there is simply no material or documentary support for the claims made either here or in his various affidavits. Finally, the memoirs are a model of incoherence and contradiction, containing a number of demonstrable untruths, as for example the reference to the secret files recording the "several millions" of Germans who were killed in the Anglo-American bombing campaign.301 Nevertheless the memoirs remain the most frequently cited "official" source for the reality of the gassing claim, although what actually happens is that their mere existence is used to give retroactive authority to the problematic April 5, 1946 affidavit.

Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


9. Interpreting Documents and the Postwar Literature

 
A DISCUSSION of Höß' various confessions, and particularly those in the spring of 1946, leads naturally to the quality and context of the documentary evidence offered at the Nuremberg Trials.302 Thousands of documents were submitted; but the documents were selected and submitted with a view to convict, not to understand. This was recognized by AJP Taylor years ago.303
The evidence of which there is too much is that collected for the trials of war-criminals in Nuremberg. Though these documents look imposing in their endless volumes, they are dangerous material for a historian to use. They were collected, hastily and almost at random, as a basis for lawyers's briefs. This is not how a historian would proceed. The lawyer aims to make a case; the historian wishes to understand a situation. The evidence which convinces lawyers often fails to satisfy us; our methods seem singularly imprecise to them. But even lawyers must now have qualms about the evidence at Nuremberg. The documents were chosen not to demonstrate the war-guilt of the men on trial, but to conceal that of the prosecuting Powers. [....] The verdict preceded the tribunal; and the documents were brought in to sustain a conclusion which had already been settled. Of course the documents are genuine. But they are "loaded"; and anyone who relies on them finds it almost impossible to escape from the load with which they are charged.
It is advisable therefore to pause momentarily and look at some of the documents that were presented as proof of exterminations, and particularly gas exterminations.
It is surprising to note that it appears no documents referencing gas chambers were entered into the record of the International Military Tribunal, if we exclude affidavits and testimony.304 Most of the few documents that we have were recorded by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, an American court that ran from 1946 to 1949, and which comprised 12 cases against the Nazi leadership. The most important of these, in terms of the gassing claim, was Case #4, the "Concentration Camp Case" which occupied most of 1947. Of the seven hundred documents entered by the prosecution, only four can be interpreted as referencing gas chambers: NO-4473, the so-called "Vergasungskeller" letter, NO-4465, a letter referencing "three gas chambers" specified as "gasdichte Türme", and NO-4344 and 4345, which references the construction of "extermination chambers" specified as "Entwesungskammern" at the concentration camp of Gross-Rosen.305
Two of these documents are definite mistranslations, and the third is quite possibly so. As we have seen, "Entwesungskammern" were standard delousing and disinfestation chambers, and had nothing to do with extermination gas chambers. Similarly, "gasdichte Türme" are better translated as "gastight turrets" or "towers" but in any case cannot be associated with "gas chambers." Finally, as we have seen, "vergasen" (to gas) was widely used as a synonym for "begasen" (to fumigate) -- even in Auschwitz documents306 -- and has no necessary relationship to extermination gassing. The fact that at least two of these documents were clearly misused goes far to prove the argument that in the immediate postwar period the gassing claim was buttressed by the ignorant misuse of German documents taken completely out of context.
Probably for this reason, present day arguments in favor of the mass gassing claim rarely depend on such obvious mistakes, but rather on a second order of documentation that suggests, without directly attesting, to the existence of mass gassing.307
One example concerns a draft memo, the so-called Wetzel-Lohse correspondence, concerning conditions around Riga, and entered into the Nuremberg Military Tribunal as NO-365. The draft letter mentions putting large numbers of Jews into the Labor service, and discusses the need for building the necessary "Unterkünfte" with the appropriate "vergasungsapparate".308 In the context of the disinfection literature, this is clearly a reference to a Labor Service hut that would be equipped with the standard Entwesungskammern for delousing clothing.309 Yet this same document has been occasionally put forth as evidence of a homicidal gassing program, even though there is no material or documentary support for that interpretation, and even though there never were any gas chambers in Riga.310
Another example concerns the Diary of Dr. Kremer, who arrived at Auschwitz at the beginning of September, 1942.311 The Diary makes one reference to Zyklon B, in the unambiguous context of a barracks fumigation ("vergasungs eines Blocks") and then goes on to record the arrival of convoy after convoy of Western Jews arriving at the camp at a time when typhus is ravaging the camp and killing thousands. Yet this document, unambiguous on its face, is constantly advanced as proof of a mass gas extermination campaign. Two quotes are usually given:312
September 5, 1942. In the morning attended a Sonderaktion from the women's concentration camp (Muslims); the most dreadful of horrors. Hschf. Thilo -- army doctor -- was right when he said to me that this was the anus mundi. In the evening towards 8:00 attended another Sonderaktion from Holland. Because of the special rations they get of a fifth of a liter of schnapps, 5 cigarettes, 100 g salami and bread, the men all clamor to take part in such actions. [ó.]
October 18, 1942. Attended 11th Sonderaktion (Dutch) in cold wet weather this morning, Sunday. Horrible scenes with three naked women who begged us for their lives.
It is conceivable that Kremer is describing here selections for hospitalization, disinfection, or even euthanasia.313 But it is extremely unlikely that a gassing process is being described. For example, the Sonderaktionen (special actions) appear to be taking place outside, and there is a rush of SS men who wish to participate for extra rations. Yet, according to Pery Broad's writing, this is precisely the description of the rewards given to the SS men for helping in the processing of a new transport, not mass murder and not gas exterminations.314 Moreover, gassings would not take place outside nor would they require large participation -- the role of the SS in the gassings was supposed to have been limited to one or two individuals throwing the cans of Zyklon down some kind of chute.315
Nor are the terrified Dutch women determinative of mass murder. We know that Thomas Mann had broadcast rumors of gassings (specifically, train gassings) on the 27th of September.316 We further know that Anne Frank was aware of such gassing rumors from the "English radio" in Holland on the 9th of October.317 Other European Jews, recalling the war years, also regularly listened to the BBC.318 So we have every reason to believe that many of these Dutch deportees were at least aware of these kinds of rumors, and, regardless of the eventual fate of these people, since the Dutch Jews lost many lives in the camp system, there is a valid reason for suspecting that the reaction of the Dutch women was, in this particular instance, one of panic and hysteria. This is further borne out by the fact that Dr. Kremer told his interrogators where the diary was after the war was over, believing that its contents would exonerate him.319
Such examples as these could be multiplied many times over, although not that many times, because the documentary basis for the gassing claim is so slender. The simple fact remains that most of the documents generated at Nuremberg that were said to apply to mass gas extermination are simple references to known German delousing and disinfection procedures, or else documents that are benign onto which a gassing interpretation has been placed. It is noteworthy that those who use these documents as a means of proving the mass gassing claim tend to give short shrift either to the disinfection use of Zyklon B, German disinfection procedures in general, or the rampant epidemics that probably killed hundreds of thousands in the camps.320
The same situation pertains to documents that claim to prove the extermination program per se. The vast majority of these involve the substitution of terms. In other words, the Germans had a policy of deporting Jews to Eastern Europe (Evakuierung zu dem Ost, umsiedlung), drawing off the able-bodied for labor, or the unfit for concentration in ghettoes through special actions (Sonderaktionen) where selections (Selektionen) were made, by way of achieving a final solution (Endlösung) to the Jewish problem in Europe.321 But according to the gas extermination interpretation, following on the assertions of Höttl and Wisliceny, all of these terms were simply code words for gas extermination.
The problem is that this interpretation is undercut by many other documents, for example, by the following extract from the summer of 1942, when the "Final Solution" had been in effect for almost a year:
In order to get initial control over the Jews, regardless of whatever measures may be taken later, Jewish Councils of Elders have been appointed which are responsible to the Security Police and Security Service for the conduct of their fellow Jews (Rassengenossen). Moreover, the registration and concentration of the Jews in ghettos have been started.... With these measures, the foundations for the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem -- planned for a later time -- have been laid in the territory of Byelorussia (Weissruthenien) 322
As well as by Hitler's own words in the fall of 1941:
From the rostrum of the Reichstag, I prophesied [in 1939] to Jewry that, in the event of the war's proving inevitable, the Jew would disappear from Europe. That race of criminals has on its conscience the million dead of the First World War and now already hundreds of thousands more. Let nobody tell me that all the same we can't park them in the marshy parts of Russia! Who's worrying about our troops? It's not a bad idea, by the way, that public rumor attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews. Terror is a salutary thing.
Hitler's interlocutors at this particular table-talk were Himmler and Heydrich: therefore, to read this text as something other than what it says one would have Hitler dissembling to the two main architects of his anti-Jewish policy.323 It is also worth pointing out that the "marshy parts of Russia" is a reference to Byelorussia (Belarus).
Finally the interpretation of Final Solution as a mass murder policy is undercut by a document shown by David Irving in his most recent book on Nuremberg, in which Staatsekretär Franz Schlegelberg wrote, in the spring of 1942, that Dr. Hans Lammers had phoned him, telling him that Hitler had repeatedly said that the Final Solution was to be postponed until after the war. The document was missing for many years.324
Therefore, to maintain that these documents pertain to an extermination plan, one must argue that sometimes these words meant extermination, and sometimes they did not. The reader is left to ponder how the German bureaucracy would ever have been able to function under such conditions, if such was the case.
Beginning in 1946, and therefore concurrent with the introduction of these documents at the International Military Tribunal, a number of personal eyewitness accounts were published for mass circulation. These included, among others, Olga Lengyel's I Survived Hitler's Ovens, and Miklos Nyiszli's Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account.325
It seems clear when reviewing this literature that it was written in a deliberately sensational style meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator in reading tastes. Lengyel's book, for example, is full of lurid gossip about Irma Grese, her supposed affair with the notorious Dr. Mengerle (sic!), grotesque medical experiments, and lesbian affairs among the women inmates.326 Nyiszli is an endless series of hard to believe mass murders, by various means.327 On the other hand, Nyiszli is considered an important source for all Holocaust historians, even though, by the time his book achieved prominence in the West in 1953, he was already dead and therefore incapable of being cross-examined. 328
The books, which, incidentally, were both written by Hungarian physicians, are clearly derivative of the Soviet Special Commission on Auschwitz. This is made clear not only by the number of victims (4 million),329 but also by the general arrangement of gas chambers and crematoria, the precise arrangement of the burning pits,330 and the numerous descriptions of medical experiments. In fact, when read in conjunction with the Soviet report these two books read almost like novelizations of that document. But it is precisely where the Soviets are silent in their report, that is, on the actual layout and carrying out of the gassing process, that Drs. Lengyel and Nyiszli make mistakes. Thus Dr. Nyiszli makes a number of observations about the size of the crematoria and gas chambers that are clearly wrong,331 while Dr. Lengyel writes that the gas crystals were introduced from a trapdoor on top of the chamber, and that a glass porthole had been fitted into the trap for observing the operation, which contradicts the current version.332
Such sensational and inaccurate studies are doubtless the most popular medium whereby knowledge of the mass gassing claim has been disseminated. But as we have seen these treatments are heavily indebted to, if they are not completely derived from, the Canonical Holocaust of the Soviet Special Commissions on Auschwitz and other camps. That decreases their historical value greatly.
But in fact what has happened over time is that the exaggerated claims in these sensationalist efforts have multiplied and acquired an authority almost equal to that of the Nuremberg court itself, for the simple reason that, having accepted the claim of mass gassing without adequate documentary or material support, we are in no position to deny the claim of streams of melted human fat gathered from the runoff of burning corpses, which is then either made into soap or ladled back onto the pyre to expedite the burning.333
In the fall of 1946, the International Military Tribunal gave its final verdict, and endorsed both the gassing claim and the soap making claim.334 Having thus officially passed into the historical record, any further proof would have been considered superfluous. But the problem, as we have seen so far, is that little in the way of proof was offered at Nuremberg.
The most troubling aspect of the mass gassing claim is not that it was made on the basis of slender or non-existent evidence. It is rather that nothing has been produced over the past 50 years that supports the claim. In the past several years numerous archives have been opened to study, and the British government has released many of its ULTRA decrypts for scholarly use along with the transcripts of conversations among detained Germans that were secretly recorded.335 The tapes and decrypts indicate a knowledge of mass shootings as far back as the summer of 1941, as well as the confessions of SS officers who took part in such procedures, as well as secret concentration camp radio traffic, including that of Auschwitz, but there is nothing in any of these materials about gassing.
This should represent a serious problem for historians. To maintain the gas extermination claim, purely on the basis of the documentation at Nuremberg, is to also maintain that it was carried out with such stealth and cunning that no record was ever made, not even in secret radio traffic or eavesdropped conversations. Because of the broad currency of the gassing claim, it is sometimes said that to deny it is to accuse the Jewish people of a grand conspiracy to create it. But the truth would seem to be the other way around: given the lack of evidence, it is those who assert that mass gassings took place who are in the position of having to explain why the evidence does not exist. They are the ones who end up asserting the existence of a grand conspiracy.

Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


10. Retrofitting the Euthanasia Campaign

 
SO FAR WE HAVE SEEN that through the spring of 1946 the gassing claim continued to develop, acquiring weight from authoritative reports and the judicial notice of the court, and acquiring immediacy and broad acceptance through the medium of popular paperbacks, graphic photos and newsreel footage. After two years, the claim had fastened on the now-familiar shower-gas-burning sequence, and beginning in the summer of 1944 that claim was imposed upon the physical facts of the camps. By the summer of 1946, the mass gassing claim, as a "fact of common knowledge" had been saturating popular consciousness for four years, even though up to this point, as we have seen, no direct material or documentary evidence had been offered in its support. The next development, starting in July, 1946, was remarkable: the gassing claim, and specifically the shower-gas-burning sequence, was now extended to the time period before the spring of 1942, and in particular to the National Socialist euthanasia program.
That there was a euthanasia campaign, beginning in the fall of 1939, is not in dispute.336 The program, never publicly discussed in Germany, was meant to provide for the mercy killing of the insane, and others who suffered severe mental and physical handicaps, or were near death. The program also provided for the euthanizing of children with severe disabilities.337 The severe mental and/or physical limitations of the victims is something that should be kept in mind, because of the euthanasia scenarios that would emerge in the fall of 1946.338
The euthanasia program generated many rumors which indicated the strong opposition of the German people. In December, 1941, Thomas Mann claimed over the BBC that 10,000 individuals had already been killed in the euthanasia program with poison gas.339 Before that, there had been widespread rumors in 1941, that elicited strong comments objecting to the program by Catholic clerics. The most famous of these was the sermon by Cardinal Count von Galen of Munster, on August 3, 1941, which explicitly discussed the claims that the mentally handicapped were being put to death and which vigorously condemned them.340 No method of execution was discussed; but what had registered in the minds of the people was the fact that the deceased were in all cases cremated: this alone gave rise to suspicions.341
Ten days later the Bishop of Limberg wrote a letter to the Reich Minister of Justice which demonstrated the extent to which the rumors had now filtered down even to children at play, once again emphasizing the extent to which cremation was the source of rumors:
Buses arrive at Hadamar several times a week with a large number of these victims, school children know these vehicles and say: "Here comes the murder wagon." After the arrival of such vehicles the citizens of Hadamar see the smoke coming from the chimney and upset by constant thoughts about the poor victims especially when, depending on the direction of the wind, they have to put up with the revolting smell. The consequence of the principles being practiced here is that children, when quarreling with one another make remarks like: "You are thick, you'll be put in the oven in Hadamar."342
It should be noted in passing that the references to the stench and smoke from the cremations are inaccurate exaggerations, but we will have more to say about cremation shortly.343
What we have then, as early as 1941, are rumors concerning the euthanasia program which have fastened on the cremation or burning element of the usual sequence. Going even farther back, we find rumors from 1940 that help to round out the picture. William Shirer's Berlin Diary was published in June of 1941, and, as a note for November 25, 1940, we find the following entry:
Of late some of my spies in the provinces have called my attention to some rather peculiar death notices in the newspapers. [....]
I am also informed that the relatives of the unfortunate victims, when they get the ashes back -- they are never given the bodies -- receive a stern warning from the secret police not to demand explanations and to 'spread false rumors.'[....]
No wonder that to Germans used to reading between the lines of their heavily censored newspapers, these [death] notices have sounded highly suspicious.[....] And why are the bodies cremated first and the relatives told of the deaths later? Why are they cremated at all? Why aren't the bodies shipped home, as is usually done?
A few days later, I saw the form letter which the families of the victims receive. It reads: 'We regret to inform you that your ---, who was recently transferred to our institution by ministerial order, unexpectedly died on --- of ---. All our medical efforts were unfortunately without avail. [....]
Because of the danger of contagion existing here, we were forced by the order of the police to have the deceased cremated at once."
This is hardly a reassuring letter [....] and some of them, upon its receipt, have journeyed down to the lonely castle of Grafeneck [....] They have found the castle guarded by black-coated SS men who denied them entrance. Newly painted signs on all roads and paths leading into the desolate grounds warned: "Seuchengefahr!" (Keep Away! -- Danger of Pestilence!)..
  [....]
  What is still unclear to me is the motive for these murders. Germans themselves advance three:
  1. That they are carried out to save food.
  2. That they are being done for the purpose of experimenting with new poison gases and death rays.
  3. That they are simply the result of the extreme Nazis deciding to carry out their eugenic and sociological ideas.
   The first motive is obviously absurd, since the death of 100,000 persons will not save much food for a nation of 80 million. Besides, there is no acute food shortage in Germany. The second motive is possible, though I doubt it. Poison gases may have been used in putting these unfortunates out of the way, but if so, the experimentation was only incidental. Many Germans I have talked to think that some new gas which disfigures the body has been used, and that this is the reason why the remains of the victims have been cremated. But I can get no real evidence of this. [...]344
Therefore no later than the fall of 1940 we have a full range of speculative rumor concerning the euthanasia program. There are associations with cremation, which is considered incriminating, the association with cremation has in turn led to rumors about death administered by poison gas and death rays which disfigure the victims. There are associations with disease control: first, the justification given by the government for the rapid cremations, and second, the quarantine signs that Shirer reports. So already we have in this period identified the burning element of the familiar sequence, which has in turn generated the gassing element. What we appear to be missing is the showering element, although we do have an association with the dread of disease and disease control measures.
Beginning with the affidavits of Konrad Morgen in July of 1946, which were intended to absolve the SS of responsibility for the mass extermination gassings, we have an attempt to link the latter procedures to the prior rumors of euthanasia gassings.345 The proof offered then, and which has been considered sufficient since, consisted not of direct material or physical evidence, but rather post-war testimonies.346
The numbers arriving varied between 40 and 150. First, they were taken to the undressing room. There they -- men and women in different sections -- had to undress or they were undressed. Their clothes and luggage were put in a pile, labeled, registered, and numbered. The people who had undressed then went along a passage into the so-called reception room. [....] Then the people were led [....] through a second exit back into the reception room and from there through a steel door into the gas chamber. The gas chamber had a very bare interior. It had a wooden floor and there were wooden benches in the chamber. Later, the floor was concreted and finally it and the walls were tiled. The ceiling and other parts of the walls were painted with oil. The whole room was designed to give the impression that it was a bathroom. Three showers were fixed in the ceiling. The room was aired by ventilators. A window in the gas chamber was covered with a grill. A second steel door led into the room where the gassing apparatus was installed. [....] The steel doors were shut and the doctor on duty fed the gas into the gas chamber. After a short time the people in the gas chamber were dead. After around an hour and a half, the gas chamber was ventilated. At this point, we burners had to start work. Before I deal with that I would like to make a few more statements about the feeding of the gas into the gas chamber. Next to the gas chamber was a small room in which there were a number of steel canisters. I cannot say what kind of gas was in these canisters or where it came from. The contents of these canisters was fed through a rubber pipe into a steel pipe. On the canisters there was a pressure gauge. When the gas chamber was full, the doctor went to the canisters, opened the tap, and the gas poured through a 15-20 mm pipe into the gas chamber. As I have stated previously, between the gas chamber and the gas canister room there was a steel door. A third door led from the gas chamber into the yard. These doors had a brick surround and there was a peephole into the gas chamber. Through this peephole one could see what went on in the gas chamber.
The remarkable thing about this testimony, generated in 1946 or thereafter, is that it so closely parallels the kind of procedure said to have taken place according to the Canonical Holocaust. Hence, we have the arrival of a bus or train of people. They are separated by sex. They are led to undressing rooms where their belongings are sorted and registered. Then they are led into a shower, where they are gassed. Finally, they are burned. The other remarkable thing about this testimony is that its physical description strongly suggests the disinfection chamber arrangement at Majdanek: the steel doors with peepholes, the small pipe that leads to nowhere, but which is here explained as connected by rubber tubing to carbon monoxide in tanks,347 the two steel doors with peepholes to the gas chamber, one of which leads to the outside, but for no apparent reason, and the brick facing on the concreted structure.
There are two fundamental problems with such testimony: one is that it simply repeats the by-then universally known shower-gas-burning sequence. Second, the concept behind the extermination procedure makes no logical sense.
Let's just assume for the moment that the shower-gas-burning sequence had actually been developed for the extermination of people being deported to the East. There would be some logic to the procedure, but only to this extent: some means would have been needed to deceive the victims so that they could be concentrated into a small enclosed space, and the regulation delousing procedure might theoretically provide cover for this deception.348 But such a procedure would have been purposeless for the euthanasia victims, since many were incapable of any rational thinking and would hardly require such subterfuge, let alone the fact that many could probably not even stand, to say nothing of standing in a camouflaged shower room waiting to be gassed.
There is a confusion of deceptions here: the deception to get people into the gas chambers is not the same as the deception whereby people are gassed with carbon monoxide so that they die painlessly and without premonition.349 The trappings of a shower would be irrelevant to bring about the deceptive death by CO to a euthanasia victim. Moreover, there has never been any testimony that the extermination gassing victims did not know that they were being killed.
As a result the euthanasia eyewitnesses contradict each other: on the one hand we are told that the victims would go into the shower facility, and then within a few moments would go lie down on the benches where they would pass into a lethal sleep unawares,350 while others assure us that the death agony would take 10 minutes or more and would be accompanied by horrible scenes.351 And this leads to another confusion: euthanasia victims in Germany were not passing through zones where diseases were endemic, indeed, in most cases they were simply being transported from asylums or sanitariums. A delousing procedure would not be necessary, so, apparently for this and for other reasons the showers were now to be equipped with benches: in other words, in the testimonial descriptions, the shower rooms were transformed into steam baths. But what is the purpose of showerheads in a steambath?
Nevertheless, to the Allies prosecuting the Doctor's Trial it must have made sense. After all, it was known by virtue of the International Military Tribunal's judicial notice that millions of people in Eastern Europe had been exterminated by the shower-gas-burning sequence, and it was further alleged that thousands had been gassed and burned in the euthanasia program. Therefore it must have seemed obvious to the Allies that the euthanasia program would have employed the shower element and all that was necessary was to get the defendants -- on trial for their lives -- to confess to these facts. This led to one of the strangest exchanges in the Nuremberg Trials, during the questioning of Dr. Viktor Brack:
Question: And these people thought that they were going to take a shower bath?
Brack: If any of them had any power of reasoning, they had no doubt thought that.
Question: Well, now, were they taken into the shower rooms with their clothes on or were they nude?
Brack: No. They were nude.
Question: In every case?
Brack: Whenever I saw them, yes.352
Given the chronological order of these testimonies and the context of the evolution of the shower-gas-burning sequence it seems clear that these descriptions of euthanasia shower-gassings represent a clear case of concept transference: that is, the shower element from the camps has been retrofitted onto another situation, with a correspondingly poor fit.
A similar case occurred in World War One propaganda. At that time, the legend arose that German soldiers were cutting off the hands of Belgian children.353 The claim was of course false, and furthermore no logical reason was ever advanced for the procedure. However, if we go back to the turn of the century we can find the likely source of the story. In 1903, Roger Casement published an expose of the brutal treatment which King Leopold's concessionaires were carrying out in the Belgian Congo.354 This included the use of bounty hunters, who were supposed to provide proof of their kills. The proof consisted in the hand of the victim. Hence, the claims of sacks of hands, taken as bounty, figured prominently in this scandal. The practice, as grotesque as it was, makes some sense in the context in which it is said to have occurred. It seems likely that this claim was simply transposed from the Belgian Congo to Belgium proper in 1914 and the identities of the malefactors were changed, but in the process of transference the concept acquired a certain telltale illogic.
Since there was a euthanasia program, and since it antedated the mass gassing program, the acceptance of the shower-gas-burning sequence for the euthanasia program provides strong support for the chronologically later, but earlier reported, claim of mass gassing.355 Yet the description of the sequence for the euthanasia program comes after, and is clearly influenced by, the establishment of the canonical shower-gas-burning sequence, and furthermore has no material, documentary, or physical support.356
There are, however, elements in the euthanasia rumors which may have influenced subsequent developments. The stench and smoke from the crematoria, and the "murder wagons" are two such elements.357 It is significant that within days of Bishop von Galen's protestations about the euthanasia program, rumors of gassings were alleged in Poland, both of these followed Shirer's gassing rumor, published in June.358 There is also the possibility that the disease control measures supposedly invoked to conceal the operations of the euthanasia program, as well as to justify its cremations, inspired rumors analogous to the disinfection rumors from the turn of the century.359 But, here again, it is clear that the invocation of disease control for the sake of secrecy and cremation would have been applied to the outside world: there would have been no reason to continue such an elaborate charade for the victims of the program itself. The presence of the showering element in the euthanasia program thus makes no sense.
This observation leads us back to the presence of the gassing element in the euthanasia program. We know that gassing had been alleged as far back as the fall of 1940 because it was conceived as causing disfiguration, which would then require cremation to hide the traces. Gassing is not being claimed for any other reasons, or based on any other evidence. This simply means that the suspicion of cremation, and fear of disfiguration caused by poison gas, were the real source of the gassing claim at that time. Therefore we most now turn and consider the social and cultural attitudes about cremation and poison gas in the 1930's.

Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


11. The Fear of Cremation and Poison Gas


THE MODERN ADVOCACY OF CREMATION was only about sixty years old by the time the National Socialist dictatorship began.360 Two factors tended to support the procedure: a chronic lack of burial space, and hygienic requirements, including disease control.361 On the other hand, the procedure inspired sometimes violent opposition, largely because it conflicted strongly with both Christian and Jewish conceptions of body disposal and the hopes of the afterlife.362 As a result, the development of the procedure in the 20th Century was slow.363 
Advocacy of the process increased throughout the late 19th and early 20th Century, especially in Germany, where it was associated with rationality, modernity, and public health.364 By the beginning of the 1920's, less than 2% of the deceased in Germany were cremated, but by 1930 that number had increased to over 7%.365 The National Socialist government gave its support to the process by the law of 1934, placing cremation on the same level as more traditional burial practices.366 Many have commented subsequently on the rapid development of the practice, and have noted that it represents the "full mechanization" of modern life,367 and, as such a strong rupture with traditional life. What needs to be appreciated, however, is that rapid changes in how people live also affects how they perceive the life they are living: no doubt many of the fearful perceptions of cremation were related to that rapid cultural change which shook traditional faiths368 -- "The modern world is an anti-Christian world," so wrote the leader of German Social Democracy, August Bebel, in 1884, who, in accordance with his Will, was cremated in 1913.369 
Probably as a result of these anxieties about cremation, the procedure became the focus of a number of strange ideas. One of these was that cremation was suspicious, because, by burning a body a post mortem on the cause of death would be next to impossible to carry out.370 Under such conditions, all manner of murder, poisoning, and other activities could be carried out secretly.371 It was this element that clearly excited the German people, especially after the National Socialist government not only endorsed cremation for an overcrowded Germany but also made it mandatory in all concentration camps.372
A second aspect of cremation concerned utopian and futuristic ideas of recycling. Aldous Huxley would clearly articulate the idea in his negative utopia "Brave New World" in 1932:
Following [the train's] southerly course across the dark plain their eyes were drawn to the majestic buildings of the Slough Crematorium. For the safety of night flying planes, its four tall chimneys were flood-lighted and tipped with crimson danger signals. It was a landmark.
  "Why do the smoke-stacks have those things like balconies around them?" enquired Lenina.
  "Phosphorous recovery," explained Henry telegraphically. "On their way up the chimney the gases go through four separate treatments. P2O5 used to go right out the chimney. Now they recover over 98 percent of it. More than a kilo and a half per adult corpse. Which makes the best part of four hundred tons of phosphorous from England alone." Henry spoke with a happy pride, rejoicing whole-heartedly in the achievement, as though it had been his own. "Fine to think that we can go on being socially useful even after we're dead. Making plants grow."373
Cremation was not only associated with recycling and various sinister motivations. Some of the claims made about the process can be connected to various other fantastic claims made about German technological and even medical innovations which were typical during the war and in the immediate postwar period. For example, it was claimed by the Soviets at Nuremberg that German doctors had perfected a method of infecting people with cancer374, and General Patton, in his memoirs, seemed to take seriously a claim that a Germans doctor had been able to keep a brain alive, separated from its host.375 When plans for a German space station were uncovered -- a development which made sense in terms of the German space program -- it was reported in the American press as a plan for a platform that would use a giant mirror to reflect the sun's rays back to the earth in concentrated form in order to incinerate cities or boil "part of the ocean."376 Speculation about the development of the so-called "Sun Gun" was matched by the hysteria of Allied pilots beginning in the Fall of 1944, who began to report small balls of fire tracking their aircraft over Germany -- these "Foo Fighters" or "Kraut Balls" were said to be remote controlled flying objects sent up by the Germans to sabotage the electrical systems of Allied planes; although they appear to have been nothing more unusual than St. Elmo's fire.
Cremation falls into this category of technological superstition because of the fantastic burn rates attributed to German crematoria. It was not uncommon during the immediate postwar period to hear testmonies asserting that German cremation ovens could burn thousands of people in a single day377, or that the Germans had devised a "special procedure" for burning thousands of bodies in the open air without fuel,378 just as one could hear testimonies arguing that thousands of people could be packed into a space for gassing which normally would scarcely contain hundreds by use of "the German method."379
Notwithstanding these attributed rates of cremation, which according to one document, suggests that bodies could be burned to ash in fifteen or twenty minutes,380 the facts, developed by the Italian researcher Carlo Mattogno, are simply otherwise. The cremation of a body has a thermal barrier of about 40 minutes for the reduction of body proteins and about 20 to 30 minutes more to reduce the bones to ash.381 Bearing these facts in mind, derived in empirical tests by British cremationists in recent years,382 we are forced to conclude that the daily capacity of German crematoria are more realistically measured in the several dozens rather than the several thousands. It follows also that the existence of crematoria cannot be cited as evidence of an intent to exterminate, as was argued then, and even though that claim is still encountered from time to time to this day.
To a certain extent the German leadership is responsible for encouraging the Allies to make exaggerated claims about German technological prowess. The constant talk of wonder weapons that would turn the tide of war helped maintain homefront morale. On the other hand, such claims, coupled with the very real German innovations in weapons technology, including jet aircraft, rocket planes, cruise missiles, guided missiles, and many others, were bound to lead the Allies to believe that the "latest word in fascist technology"383 would have no limits and thus any claim became plausible: even crematoria that could defy the laws of nature, or which were in fact "gas ovens".384
There were also cases where the Nazi leadership, and specifically Adolf Hitler, would attempt to gain a psychological advantage by exaggerating German technological capabilities. For example, when the Germans invaded Belgium in May, 1940, they seized the fortress of Eben Emael in 24 hours, much to the astonishment of the Allies. In a speech, Hitler attributed the success to a special weapon or Angriffsmittel, whose character he would not divulge. His coy announcement immediately created apprehension among the Allies, as well as speculation about the nature of the wonder weapon: bombs containing liquid oxygen as well as a paralyzing and non-lethal nerve gas were both suggested as possibilities.385 In fact, the legendary Angriffsmittel turned out to be nothing more complicated than a shaped explosive charge, but that does not mean that these other contemporary speculations are valueless to the historian. On the contrary, because they represent almost pure projection, they tell us a great deal about the widely-held beliefs in German technological and scientific prowess as well as about then common concerns with specific types of weapons, including poison gas.
Even more than cremation, poison gas raised great fears. Doubtless much of this was directly due to the extensive use of gases in the First World War, which injured over a million men.386 A number of gases were used in that war, but two appear to have particularly excited the popular imagination. The first of these were the blister gases, or vesicants, commonly called mustards, which were notorious for scarring and disfiguring their victims.387 It was clearly this kind of gas that the German people were thinking of when the euthanasia rumors developed.
The second gas was hydrocyanic acid, or cyanide gas, whose usage in the war was not very successful, but which nevertheless created a very odd optimism about the use of this odorless, invisible, almost instantly lethal and therefore painless gas.388 A practical side effect of this optimism was the appropriation of cyanide gas for executions in the United States in 1924.389
A brief perusal of inter-war culture makes it clear that poison gas, and the effects of its use, were very much a part of the cultural landscape. The Austrian Vicki Baum's novel, Grand Hotel, later made into a widely popular film in 1932, featured events in a Berlin Hotel, the narrator of which was a doctor, whose face had been hideously scarred by mustard gas in the Great War.390 Pabst's Kameradschaft (1931), a film that describes a group of German miners who bravely tunnel across the border to rescue their French comrades, features at its climax the hallucination of a wounded Frenchman, who sees the German trying to save him suddenly as a soldier, in gas mask and coal scuttle helmet, emerging from a cloud of gas. The film also juxtaposes the gas explosion in the mine that traps the Frenchmen to the communal shower room of the German miners: perhaps already here we have the popular image of showering and gas combined.391 
In one of his better known assaults on the German bourgeoisie, the Weltbühne critic Kurt Tucholsky would casually mention gassing his opponents, sardonically describing the gas that would seep into the houses and kill children, women, and men alike.392 And Ernst Krenek, in his opera, Der Diktator (1926), which tells of a dictator that controls a nation with hypnotic powers, features a character blinded by poison gas who sings a lyric describing the horror of a poison gas attack, emphasizing disfiguration and discoloration.393
This constant awareness of poison gas increased after the Italians made a much publicized, but perhaps overstated, use of aerial mustard gas attacks against the Ethiopians in 1935. H. G. Wells' Things to Come, in the 1938 film version, also would feature such an aerial gas attack.394
At the same time, in the fall of 1938, Europe was gripped by the threat of war as the Munich crisis unfolded. Fear of bombing was great, but so too was the fear of aerial poison gas attacks. The British government had prepared to distribute some 38 million gas masks, and after the Fleet was mobilized on "Black Wednesday", panic became a feature of gas mask distribution.395 Two other aspects of public attitudes during the crisis are worth noting: the proliferation of rumors such that, for example, a clouds of autumn mist might be interpreted as poison gas,396 and psychosomatic reactions, as when the rumor of a squadron spraying chlorine gas in East London caused the physical illness of several.397 Indeed, a government committee of psychiatrists estimated that, in the event of war, the two million estimated dead by bombing and gassing would be joined by some five to six million victims of panic and hysteria.398
The generalized fear of poison gas inarguably played a role in one of the most notorious episodes of mass hysteria in modern times: The War of the Worlds radio broadcast of October, 30, 1938.399 Following directly on the heels of the Munich crisis, and the popularity of a play that described aerial warfare, the fictionalized and updated account featured a Martian invasion of New Jersey that caused panic among tens of thousands nationwide.400 Two points about the broadcast are noteworthy: the initial destruction, at the precise point when most people would have tuned in, discussed the discovery of bodies that had been horribly disfigured and burned, and the fact that the broadcast contained a lurid description of a cloud of poison gas moving across Manhattan destroying everyone that it touched.401 The accounts in the New York Times the next day are interesting in assessing public reaction:402
Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact
Despite the fantastic nature of the reported "occurrences", the program, coming after the recent war scare in Europe and a period in which the radio frequently interrupted regularly scheduled programs to report developments in the Czechoslovak situation, caused fright and panic throughout the area of the broadcast.
Many sought first to verify the reports. But large numbers, obviously in a state of terror, asked how they could follow the broadcast's advice and flee from the city, whether they would be safer in the "gas raid" in the cellar or on the roof, how they could safeguard their children, and many of the questions which had been worrying residents of London and Paris during the tense days before the Munich agreement.
"They're Bombing New Jersey!"
Jersey City police received similar calls. One woman asked Detective Timothy Grooty, on duty there, "Shall I close my windows?" A man asked, "Have the police any extra gas masks?" Many of the callers, on being assured the reports were fiction, queried again and again, uncertain in whom to believe.
The incident at Hedden Terrace and Hawthorne Avenue, in Newark, one of the most dramatic in the area, caused a tie-up in traffic for blocks around. The more than twenty families there apparently believed a "gas attack" had started and so reported to the police. An ambulance, three radio cars, and a police emergency squad of eight men were sent to the scene with full inhalator apparatus.
They found the families with wet cloths on faces contorted with hysteria. The police calmed them, halted those who were attempting to move furniture on their cars and after a time were able to clear the traffic snarl.
East Orange police headquarters received more than 200 calls from persons who wanted to know what to do to escape the "gas."
The role of the radio in propagating the War of the Worlds broadcast was duly noted in the contemporary media. Thus the New York World Telegram would editorialize on November 1:
It is strange and disturbing that thousands of Americans, secure in their homes on a quiet Sunday evening, could be scared out of their wits by a radio dramatization of H. G. Wells' fantastic old story, The War of the Worlds.
Mr. Welles did not plan deliberately to demoralize his audience. But nerves made jittery by actual, though almost incredible, threats of war and disaster, had prepared a great many American radio listeners to believe the completely incredible "news" that Martian hordes were here.403
While columnist Hugh Johnson opined:
... the incident is highly significant. It reveals dramatically a state of public mind. Too many people have been led by outright propaganda to believe in some new and magic power of air attack and other development in the weapons of war.404
Columnist Dorothy Thompson was even more emphatic:
The immediate moral is apparent if the whole incident is viewed in reason: no political body must ever, under any circumstances, obtain a monopoly of radio.
The second moral is that our popular and university education is failing to train reason and logic, even in the educated.
The third is that the popularization of science has led to gullibility and new superstitions, rather than to skepticism and the really scientific attitude of mind.
The fourth is that the power of mass suggestion is the most potent force today and that the political demagogue is more powerful than all the economic forces.405
The reminiscences of the "survivors" of the Martian invasion also tell us a great deal about common attitudes about Germans, poison gas, and other subjects. One recalled:
The announcer said a meteor had fallen from Mars and I was sure he thought that but in the back of my head I had an idea that the meteor was just a camouflage. It was really an airplane like a zeppelin that looked like a meteor and the Germans were attacking us with gas bombs.406
And a Californian remembered:
My wife and I were driving through the redwood forest in Northern California when the broadcast came over our car radio. At first it was just New Jersey but soon the things were landing all over, even in California. There was no escape. All we could think of was to try to get back to LA to see our children once more. And be with them when it happened. We went right by gas stations but I forgot we were low on gas. In the middle of the forest our gas ran out. There was nothing to do. We just sat holding hands expecting any minute to see those Martian monsters appear over the tops of the trees. When Orson said it was a Halloween prank, it was like being reprieved on the way to the gas chamber.407
These fears were clearly carried over to World War Two itself, especially around the time of D-Day. The Allies, in their dress rehearsals at Slapton Sands, were clearly concerned about the possibility of gas attacks,408 and this fear appears to have had something to do with the disaster at Omaha Beach, when a brush fire was taken as a cloud of poison by pinned down American soldiers.409 Within a month, Winston Churchill would dictate a memorandum discussing these very matters, as well as the possibility of drenching the German cities and armaments centers with mustard gas.410
There is no question then that the fear of poison gas was very much a part of the inter-war consciousness. But we should also note that poison gases, like poisons generally, are well suited to paranoid and hysterical reactions, because by definition the substances tend towards the impalpable.411 
If, for example, gas is conceived as having an odor, then any unfamiliar odor could be attributed to a deadly gas. Berton Roueche provided a case study of such a hysterical reaction that occurred in 1971 in a Florida school: a new carpet had been laid, leaving an unfamiliar smell, a young woman fainted, because she had the flu, and within an hour dozens of students complained of being poisoned.412 This association of odor with poison, by the way, is particularly deeply rooted in Western culture, in the sense that it ties into the miasmic theory of disease,413 as well as with the Victorian belief in "vapours" which were the supposed source of hysteria among women.
On the other hand, if a gas is conceived as a cloud of smoke or mist, then any cloud of smoke or mist may be perceived as a poison gas, and this is apparently what happened at Omaha Beach.
Again, if the gas is conceived as both odorless and invisible, then we have a case where simply the suggestion of poison gas can lead to the claim of its use: this occurred during the Gulf War, when a Iraqi SCUD missile landed in Israel.414
Finally, if the gas is conceived as disfiguring -- and this is what most people had in mind during World War Two -- then the result is that any decomposed or otherwise disfigured body would be attributed to poison gas usage, and this happened in Germany following an allied raid.415 Since the Americans and British found similar scenes in the Western camps when they liberated them, there is little reason to doubt that they suspected poison gas usage for the same reasons.416
The fear of poison gas usage in the West was pervasive even before World War Two. It was variously believed that it would come in a visible cloud, or be dropped from the skies, or be both odorless and invisible, and would kill instantly with terrible disfiguration. Thus the culture was primed for accusations of poison gas usage. But, since the main fear was that such gas would be delivered from the air, we would also expect gas protection to be a prominent feature of German civil defense. And indeed it was.

Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


12. German Civil Defense


THE GERMANS INVESTED hundreds of millions of dollars in the preparation of air raid shelters.417 From the beginning, all German air raid shelters were designed to protect against poison gas as well as against bombs.418 As a result, special air raid shelter doors were developed, usually made of steel. The doors would feature a round peephole covered with a perforated steel plate to prevent breakage, the peephole meant to facilitate visual inspection without having to break the gas-tight seal by opening the door.419 
Because the particular concern for poison gas, a number of other measures were adopted. Part of every municipal air raid crew was designated as a decontamination squad, whose uniforms and equipment would come in handy for other sanitation procedures, including corpse disposal.420 Because of the particular fear of mustards, municipal disinfection centers, bathhouses, and laundries, would all be adapted for decontaminating people and their belongings in the event of a gas attack.421
The Germans devised a number of different shelters, including an emphasis on above-ground air raid and anti-gas shelters that the Western Allies never matched.422 Every basement or Keller was also supposed to serve doubly as a gas-proof bomb shelter if needed.423 
In one of the strange ironies of history, the allied bombing campaign, that killed perhaps 3/4 of a million German civilians, gassed and burned most of its victims.424 Most of the victims, trapped in the basement shelters of their buildings, could not escape the carbon monoxide generated by the bombs and fires, whose small molecular size was almost impossible to filter, and so were in effect gassed.425 Meanwhile, the tremendous heat from the fire-storms, which often exceeded 1,000 degrees Centigrade, would effectively cremate their bodies with dry heat.426 But in the aftermath of the war this destruction of the German people with gas and fire was completely overlooked in the allied prosecution of claims of gassing and burning made against them.

Analytical Table of Contents and Overview


13. Civil Defense in the Concentration Camps


THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS also featured extensive civil defense paraphernalia. There are three reasons why this would be so. In the first place the Guidelines for air raid shelter construction from the fall of 1940 mandated that all new constructions, particularly in the armaments industry, should be equipped with (gas tight) air raid shelters.427 Secondly, it is well known that the concentration camp system was regarded as crucial as a source of labor for the armaments industry.428 Third, a directive from Heinrich Himmler dated February 8, 1943, makes it clear that the SS was very concerned about the possibility of air attacks on the concentration camp system.429
The main shelters found in the concentration camps were covered trenches dug out of the ground.430 But given the concerns among the civilian population, we should expect similar adaptations in the camps, especially for gas warfare. A cursory inspection of contemporary photographs and documents further support the inference of widespread air raid and gas protection in the concentration camps. The dwelling of the Auschwitz Commandant, for example, clearly shows a gas-tight shutter or Blende attached to the right front of the building, along with a ventilation pipe,431 while the blueprints for the Central Sauna at Birkenau indicate that its basement was equipped with an emergency exit.432
The hypothesis concerning air raid shelters at Auschwitz is confirmed by the recent discovery of three documents from the Moscow archives that prove that the Germans were concerned with developing an extensive network of air raid shelters at Auschwitz Birkenau starting from the summer of the 1943, that is, at the same time that the building office of that camp was flooded with work orders for gastight fixtures.433
The Bath and Disinfection Complex II at Majdanek has a number of features that support an air raid shelter, and thus gastight, interpretation. Clearly, the gastight doors with peepholes are air raid shelter doors, constructed by the Auer firm in Berlin, which was a major supplier of air raid shelter equipment in Germany throughout the war.434 Other doors in the complex appear to be rudimentary air raid shelter doors constructed of wood. The CO gas mask filter found on site were also produced by Auer, and was specifically constructed according to air raid shelter specifications.435 The overhead openings in Room "A", discussed earlier, were constructed simultaneous to the delivery orders for the gastight doors,436 and furthermore meet German industry standards (DIN) for the construction of emergency exits from air raid shelters.437
Of course, as we have seen, other features point to a disinfection use. These include the overall construction and context, the external boilers, the piping, the tanks of carbon dioxide, and the positioning of a thermometer in one of the peepholes. However, these features can be squared with air raid shelter usage in the context of decontamination, inasmuch as hot air was a recommended form of decontamination, required gas tight doors, as well as openings for thermometer consultation.438 Furthermore, a wartime pamphlet of the German Gas Protection Service of the Wehrmacht specifies that existing structures can be adapted for decontamination use.
The simplest explanation is that the Bath and Disinfection Complex II at Majdanek was modified in the fall of 1942, such that it could continue its use as a delousing station while in addition being available for air raid and gas protection as well as decontamination.439 Support in the surrounding context lies in the fact that these modifactions to the Majdanek camp in occupied Poland occurred at the same time as the Germans were providing the Jewish inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto with materials for air raid shelters, materials that were used instead to construct a network of defensive bunkers that were used against the Germans in May, 1943.440 Surely a more thorough analysis of concentration camp buildings would extend the evidence of air raid shelters and gas protection.441
END Sections 8 thru 13
Copyright 1997, Samuel Crowell

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