The Gas Chambers
At the fulcrum of the extermination system in Poland were the camps at Auschwitz, Maidanek, Treblinka, Chelmno, Belzec, and Sobibor…. Auschwitz was the most notorious of the extermination centers. At the height of its activity Auschwitz could house more the 100,000 men and women and could provide for the gassing and incineration of 12,000 prisoners a day…. The … gas chambers could accommodate 2,000 prisoners at one time. Rudolf Hoess testified at Nuremberg: “When I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Zyklon B which was crystallized prussic acid which we dropped into the death-chamber from a small opening. It took from 3 to 15 minutes to kill the people in the death-chamber, depending on climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited for half-an-hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special commandos [‘Sonderkommandos’ made up of prisoners who were partially trusted] took off the rings and extracted the gold teeth of the corpses.”
“We tried to fool the victims into believing that they were going through a delousing process. Of course, at times they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties. Frequently women would hide their children under their clothes, but we found them and we sent the children to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy, but the foul and nauseating stench from the continued burning of bodies permeated the whole area and all the people living around Auschwitz knew what was going on.”
Taken from the Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, by Dr. Louis L. Snyder, Professor of History, The City College and The City University of New York. Paragon House, New York, 1989. ISBN 1-55778-144-3
“The gassing was carried out in the detention cells of Block 11. Protected by a gas mask, I watched the killing myself. In the crowded cells, death came instantaneously the moment the Zyklon B was thrown in. A short, almost smothered cry, and it was all over…. I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon, and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain as to how these mass killings were to be carried out. It would be by gas, but we did not know which gas and how it was to be used. Now we had the gas, and we had established a procedure.”
“KL Auschwitz seen by the SS Hoess, Broad, Kremer”, second edition, Museum w Oswiecimu, 1978, pp. 92-95.
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