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Excerpts from Testimonies of SS men
Excerpts from Testimonies of SS men
Testimony of SS Scharfuhrer Erich Fuchs, in the Sobibor-Bolender trial, Dusseldorf:[Quoted in “BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA – the Operation Reinhard Death Camps”, Indiana University Press – Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 31-32].
….We unloaded the motor. It was a heavy Russian benzine engine, at least 200 horsepower. we installed the engine on a concrete foundation and set up the connection between the exhaust and the tube.
I then tested the motor. It did not work. I was able to repair the ignition and the valves, and the motor finally started running. The chemist, who I knew from Belzec, entered the gas chamber with measuring instruments to test the concentration of the gas.
Following this, a gassing experiment was carried out. If my memory serves me right, about thirty to forty women were gassed in one gas chamber. The Jewish women were forced to undress in an open place close to the gas chamber, and were driven into the gas chamber by the above mentioned SS members and the Ukrainian auxiliaries. when the women were shut up in the gas chamber I and Bolender set the motor in motion. The motor functioned first in neutral. Both of us stood by the motor and switched from “Neutral” (Freiauspuff) to “Cell” (Zelle), so that the gas was conveyed to the chamber. At the suggestion of the chemist, I fixed the motor on a definite speed so that it was unnecessary henceforth to press on the gas. About ten minutes later the thirty to forty women were dead.
From the statement of Hans Stark, registrar of new arrivals, Auschwitz[Quoted in “The Good Old Days” – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988, p. 255].
At another, later gassing _ also in autumn 1941 _ Grabner* ordered me to pour Zyklon B into the opening because only one medical orderly had shown up. During a gassing Zyklon B had to be poured through both openings of the gas-chamber room at the same time. This gassing was also a transport of 200-250 Jews, once again men, women and children. As the Zyklon B _ as already mentioned _ was in granular form, it trickled down over the people as it was being poured in. They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them. I did not look through the opening because it had to be closed as soon as the Zyklon B had been poured in. After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten to fifteen minutes, the gas chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggedly all over the place. It was a dreadful sight.
* Maximillian Grabner, Head of Political Department, Auschwitz
Testimony of Treblinka’s second commandant, Stangl[Quoted in “BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA – the Operation Reinhard Death Camps”, Indiana University Press – Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 184].
Michel [the sergeant-major of the camp] told me later that Wirth suddenly appeared, looked around on the gas chambers on which they were still working, and said: ‘right, we’ll try it out right now with those twenty-five working Jews. Get them up here’. They marched our twenty-five Jews up there and just pushed them in and gassed them. Michel said Wirth behaved like a lunatic, hitting at his own staff with his whip to drive them on…
SS-Doctor Kremer at a hearing on 18 July 1947[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988, p. 258]
I remember I once took part in the gassing of one of these groups of women [from the women’s camp in Auschwitz]. I cannot say how big the group was. when I got close to the bunker I saw them sitting on the ground. They were still clothed. As they were wearing worn-out camp clothing they were not left in the undressing hut but made to undress in the open air. I concluded from the behavior of these women that they had no doubt what fate awaited them, as they begged and sobbed to the SS men to spare them their lives. However, they were herded into the gas chambers and gassed. As an anatomist I have seen a lot of terrible things: I had had a lot of experience with dead bodies, and yet what I saw that day was like nothing I had ever seen before. Still completely shocked by what I had seen I wrote on my diary on 5 September 1942: “The most dreadful of horrors. Hauptscharfuehrer Thilo was right when he said to me today that this is the ‘anus mundi’, the anal orifice of the world”. I used this image because I could not imagine anything more disgusting and horrific.
Anton Lauer, Police Reserve Battalion 9[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988, p. 73].
There were two gas-vans in use. I saw them myself. They were driven into the prison yard and the Jews – men, women and children – had to get into the van directly from the cell. I also saw the inside of the gas-vans. They were lined with metal and there was a wooden grille on the floor. The exhaust gases were fed into the inside of the van. I can still today hear the Jews knocking and shouting ‘Dear Germans, let us out’.
Testimony of SS-Unterscharfuehrer Schluch, In the Belzec-Oberhauser trial:[Quoted in “BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA – the Operation Reinhard Death Camps”, Indiana University Press – Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 70-71].
After leaving the undressing barracks, I had to show the Jews the way to the gas chambers. I believe that when I showed the Jews the way they were convinced that they were really going to the baths. After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the doors were closed by Hackenholt himself or by the Ukrainians subordinated to him. Then Hackenholt switched on the engine which supplied the gas…
I could see that the lips and tips of the noses were a bluish color. Some of them had their closed, other’s eyes rolled. The bodies were dragged out of the gas chambers and inspected by a dentist, who removed finger rings and gold teeth…
Testimony of SS-Oberscharfuehrer Kurt Bolender, in the Belzec-Oberhauser trial
[Quoted in “BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA – the Operation Reinhard Death Camps”, Indiana University Press – Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 76].
Before the Jews undressed, Oberscharfuehrer Michel made a speech to them. On these occasions, he used to wear a white coat to give the impression that he was a physician. Michel announced to the Jews that they would be sent to work, but before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection so as to prevent the spread of diseases… After undressing, the Jews were taken through the so-called Schlauch. They were led to the gas chambers not by the Germans but by the Ukrainians…After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed the doors. The motor which supplied the gas was switched on by a Ukrainian named Emil and by a German driver called Erich Bauer from Berlin. After the gassing, the door were opened and the corpses removed….
Testimony of SS private Hoeblinger[Extracted from “Der Auschwitz Prozess”, by Hermann Langbein, Vol. I, quoted in “Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers – J.C Pressac, the Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, NY, 1989, p. 174].
I was detailed to the transport service and I drove the Sanka [abbreviation for Sanitatskraftwagon/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 quitely and without them suspecting anything. It happened very quickly.
Testimony of SS private Boeck[Extracted from “Der Auschwitz Prozess”, by Hermann Langbein, Vol. I, quoted in “Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers – J.C Pressac, the Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, NY, 1989, p. 181].
Q: were you present at a gassing operation one day?
A: Yes, it was one evening. I accompanied the driver Hoeblinger. 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. The trucks were already there, with wooden steps before them, and the people climbed aboard. Then they all started off. In the place Birkenau once stood, there was only a long 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 block leader and the sergeant, carrying a cane, were there. Hoeblinger said to me ‘lets go over there now’. There was a sign ‘to disinfection’. He said ‘you see, they are 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 I didn’t look at my wife for four weeks.
Testimony of Brack, regarding gassing of insane people in Germany[Quoted in “Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals” – Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 876-886].
Q: Witness, when adult persons were selected for euthanasia and sent by transport to euthanasia stations for that purpose, by what methods were the mercy deaths given?
A: The patients went to a euthanasia institution after the written formalities were concluded – I need not repeat these formalities here, they were physical examinations, comparison of the files, etc. The the patients were led to a gas chamber and were there killed by the doctors with carbon monoxide gas (CO).
Q: Where was that carbon monoxide obtained, by what process?
A: It was in a compressed gas container, like a steel oxygen container, such as is used for welding – a hollow steel container.
Q: And these people were placed in this chamber in groups, I suppose, and then the carbon monoxide was turned into the chambers?
A: Perhaps I had better explain this in some detail. Bouhler’s basic requirement was that the killing should not only be painless, but also imperceptible. For this reason, the photographing of the patients, which was only done for scientific reasons, took place before they entered the chambers, and the patients were completely diverted thereby. Then they were led into the gas chamber which they were told was a shower room. They were in groups of perhaps 20 or 30. They were gassed by the doctor in charge.
Q. What was done with the bodies of these people after mercy deaths were given?
A. When the room had been cleared of gas again, stretchers were brought in and the bodies were carried into an adjoining room. There the doctor examined them to determine whether they were dead.
Q. Then what happened to the bodies?
A. After the doctor had determined death, he freed the bodies for cremation and they were cremated.
Q. After he had freed the bodies, had determined that they were dead, they were then cremated? Is that correct?
Q. There was a crematory built for every one of these institutions?
A. Yes. Crematoriums were built in the institutions. .
Q. And these people thought that they were going in to take a shower bath?
A. If any of them had any power of reasoning, they had no doubt thought that.
Q. Well now, were they taken into the shower rooms with their clothes on or were they nude?
A. No. They were nude.
Q. In every case?
A. Whenever I saw them, yes.
Testimony of SS-Unterscharfuehrer Pery Broad, describing gassing in Krema I in Auschwitz[Quoted in “KL Auschwitz as Seen by the SS”, p. 176]
… The “disinfectors” were at work. One of them was SS-Unterscharfuehrer Teuer, decorated with the Cross of War Merit. With a chisel and a hammer they opened a few innocuously looking tins which bore the inscription “Cyclon, to be used against vermin. Attention, poison! to be opened by trained personnel only!”. The tins were filled to the brim with blue granules the size of peas. Immediately after opening the tins, their contents was thrown into the holes which were then quickly covered. Meanwhile Grabner gave a sign to the driver of a lorry, which had stopped close to the crematorium. The driver started the motor and its deafening noise was louder than the death cries of the hundreds of people inside, being gassed to death
Testimony of Magnus Wochner, SS guard at the Natzweiler Concentration Camp[Quoted in “The Natzweiler Trial”, Edited by Anthony M. Webb, p. 89]
… I recall particularly one mass execution when about 90 prisoners (60 men and 30 women), all Jews, were killed by gassing. This took place, as far as I can remember, in spring 1944. In this case the corpses were sent to Professor Hirt of the department of Anatomy in Strasbourg.
SS-man Theodor Malzmueller on the Chelmno extermination camp[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 217-219]
When we arrived we had to report to the camp commandant, SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Bothmann. The SS-Haupsturmfuehrer addressed us in his living quarters, in the presence of SS-Untersturmfuehrer Albert Plate. He explained that we had been dedicated to the Kulmhof [Chelmno] extermination camp as guards and added that in this camp the plague boils of humanity, the Jews, were exterminated. We were to keep quiet about everything we saw or heard, otherwise we would have to reckon with our families’ imprisonment and the death penalty…
The extermination camp was made up of the so-called “castle” and the camp in the woods. The castle was a fairly large stone building at the edge of the village of Kulmhof. It was there that the Jews who had been transported by lorry or railway were first brought…
When a lorry arrived the following members of the SS-Sonderkommando addresses the Jews: (1) camp commandant Bothmann, (2) Untersturmfuehrer Albert Plate from North Germany, (3) Polizei-Meister Willy Lenz from Silesia, (4) Polizei-Meister Alois Haeberle from Wuerttenberg. They explained to the Jews that they would first of all be given a bath and deloused in Kulmhof and then sent to Germany to work. The Jews then went inside the castle. There they had to get undressed. After this they were sent through a passage-way on to a ramp to the castle yard where the so-called “gas-van” was parked. The back door of the van would be open. The Jews were made to get inside the van. This job was done by three Poles, who I believe were sentenced to death. The Poles hit the Jews with whips if they did not get into the gas vans fast enough. When all the Jews were inside the door was bolted. The driver then switched on the engine, crawled under the van and connected a pipe from the exhaust to the inside of the van. The exhaust fumes now poured into the inside of the truck so that the people inside were suffocated…
Testimony of gas-van driver Walter Burmeister[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 219-220]
As soon as the ramp had been erected in the castle, people started arriving in Kulmhof from Lizmannstadt in lorries… The people were told that they had to take a bath, that their clothes had to be disinfected and that they could hand in any valuable items beforehand to be registered…
When they had undressed they were sent to the cellar of the castle and then along a passageway on to the ramp and from there into the gas-van. In the castle there were signs marked “to the baths”. The gas vans were large vans, about 4-5 meters long, 2.2 meter wide and 2 meter high. The interior walls were lined with sheet metal. On the floor there was a wooden grille. The floor of the van had an opening which could be connected to the exhaust by means of a removable metal pipe. When the lorries were full of people the double doors at the back were closed and the exhaust connected to the interior of the van…
The Kommando member detailed as driver would start the engine right away so that the people inside the lorry were suffocated by the exhaust gases. Once this had taken place, the union between the exhaust and the inside of the lorry was disconnected and the van was driven to the camp in the woods were the bodies were unloaded. In the early days they were initially burned in mass graves, later incinerated… I then drove the van back to the castle and parked it there. Here it would be cleaned of the excretions of the people that had died in it. Afterwards it would once again be used for gassing…
I can no longer say what I thought at the time or whether I thought of anything at all. I can also no longer say today whether I was too influenced by the propaganda of the time to have refused to have carried out the orders I had been given.
From the interrogation of Adolf Eichmann[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 221-222]
A. I just know the following, that I only saw the following: a room, if I still recall correctly, perhaps five times as big as this one, or it may have been four times as big. There were Jews inside it, they had to get undressed and then a van, completely sealed, drew up to the ramp in front of the entrance. The naked Jews then had to get inside. Then the lorry was closed and it drove off.
Q. How many people did the van hold?
A. I can’t say exactly. I couldn’t bring myself to look closely, even once. I didn’t look inside the entire time. I couldn’t, no, I couldn’t take any more. The screaming and, and, I was too upset and so on. I also said that to [SS-Obergruppenfuehrer] Mueller when I submitted my report. He did not get much from my report. I then followed the van – I must have been with some of the people from there who knew the way. Then I saw the most horrifying thing I have ever seen in my entire life.
The van drove up to a long trench, the door was opened and bodies thrown out. They still seemed alive, their limbs were so supple. They were thrown in, I can still remember a civilian pulling out teeth with some pliers and then I just got the hell out of there. I got into the car, went off and did not say anything else… I’d had more than I could take. I only know that a doctor there in a white coat said to me that I should look through a peep-hole at them in the lorry. I refused to do that. I could not, I could not say anything, I had to get away.
I went to Berlin, reported to Gruppenfuehrer Mueller. I told him exactly what I’ve just said, there wasn’t any more I could tell him… terrible…I’m telling you… the inferno, can’t, that is, I can’t take this, I said to him.
SS-Untersturmfuehrer Oberhauser on the death camp at Belzec[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 228-230]
The camp of Belzec was situated north-east of the Tomaszo’w to Lemberg [Lvov] road beyond the village of Belzec. As the camp needed a siding for the arriving transports the camp was built about 400 meters from Belzec station. The camp itself was divided into two sections: section 1 and section 2. The siding led directly from Belzec station into section 2 of the camp, in which the undressing barracks as well as the gas installations and the burial field were situated…
The gassing of Jews which took place in Belzec camp up till 1 August 1942 can be divided into two phases. During the first series of experiments there were two to three transports consisting of four to six freight cars each holding twenty to forty persons. On the average 150 Jews were delivered and killed per transport. At that stage the gassings were not yet part of a systematic eradication action but were carried out to test and study closely the camp’s capacity and the technical problems involved in carrying out a gassing…
At the beginning of May 1942 SS-Oberfuehrer Brack from the Fuehrer’s chancellery suddenly came to Lublin. With Globocnik he discussed resuming the extermination of the Jews. Globocnik said he had too few people to carry out this programme. Brack stated that the euthanasia programme had stopped and that the people from T4 would from now on be detailed to him on a regular basis so that the decisions taken at the Wannsee conference could be implemented. As it appeared that it would not be possible for the Einsatzgruppen to clear individual areas of Jews and the people in the large ghettos of Warsaw and Lemberg by shooting them, the decision had been taken to set up two further extermination camps which would be ready by 1 August 1942, namely Treblinka and Sobibor. The large-scale extermination programme [Vernichtungsaktion] was due to start on 1 August 1942.
About a week after Brack had come to Globocnik, Wirth and his staff returned to Belzec. The second series of experiments went on until August 1942. During this period a total of five to six transports (as far as I am aware) consisting of five to seven freight cars containing thirty to forty people came to Belzec. The Jews from two of these transports were gassed in the small chamber, but then Wirth had the gas huts pulled down and built a massive new building with a much larger capacity. It was here that the Jews from the rest of the transport were gassed.
During the first experiments and the first set of transports in the second series of experiments bottled gas was still used for gassing; however, for the last transports of the second series of experiments the Jews were killed with the exhaust gases from a tank or lorry engine which was operated by Hackenholt.
Professor Wilhelm Pfannenstiel, Waffen-SS hygienist, on a gassing at Belzec[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 238-244]
When I am asked about executions of Jews I must confirm that on 19 August 1942 I witnessed an execution of Jews at Belzec extermination camp. I would like to describe how I came to be there. During my conversations with SS-Brigadefuehrer Globocnik, he told me about the large spinning-mills that he had set up in Belzec. He also mentioned that work at this camp would considerably outstrip German production. When asked him where the spinning materials came from, he told me proudly that they had come from the Jews. At this point he also mentioned the extermination actions against the Jews, who for the most part were killed at the the camp at Belzec…
During this first visit I was taken to around by a certain Polizieihauptmann named Wirth, who also showed and explained to me the extermination installations at the camp. He told me that the following morning a new transport of about 500 Jews would be arriving at the camp who would be channeled through these extermination chambers. He asked me whether I would like to watch one of these extermination actions, to which, after a great deal of reflection, I consented. I planned to submit a report to the Reichsarzt-SS about the extermination actions. In order to write a report I had, however, first to observe an action with my own eyes. I remained in the camp, spent the night there and was witness to the following events the next morning.
A goods train traveled directly into the camp of Belzec, the freight cars were opened and Jews whom I believe were from the area of Romania or Hungary were unloaded. The cars were crammed fairly full. There were men, women and children of every age. They were ordered to get into line and then had to proceed to an assembly area and take off their shoes…
After the Jews had removed their shoes they were separated by sex. The women went together with the children into a hut. There their hair was shorn and they had to get undressed… The men went into another hut, where they received the same treatment. I saw what happened in the women’s hut with my own eyes. After they had undressed, the whole procedure went fairly quickly. They ran naked from the hut through a hedge into the actual extermination centre. The whole extermination centre looked just like a normal delousing institution. In front of the building there were pots of geraniums and a sign saying “Hackenholt Foundation”, above which there was a star of David. The building was brightly and pleasantly painted so as not to suggest people would be killed here…
Inside the buildings, the Jews had to enter chambers into which was channeled the exhaust of a [100(?)]-HP engine, located in the same building. In it there were six such extermination chambers. They were windowless, had electric lights and two doors. One door led outside so that the bodies could be removed. People were led from a corridor into the chambers through an ordinary air-tight door with bolts. There was a glass peep-hole, as I recall, next to the door in the wall. Through this window one could watch what was happening inside the room but only when it was not too full of people. After a short time the glass became steamed up. When the people had been locked in the room the motor was switched on and then I suppose the stop-valves or vents to the chambers opened. Whether they were stop-valves or vents I would not like to say. It is possible that the pipe led led directly to the chambers. Once the engine was running, the light in the chambers was switched off. This was followed by palpable disquiet in the chamber. In my view it was only then that the people sensed something else was in store for them. It seemed to me that behind the thick walls and door they were praying and shouting for help.
Willi Mentz testifies about his days in Treblinka[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 245-247]
When I came to Treblinka the camp commandant was a doctor named Dr. Eberl. He was very ambitious. It was said that he ordered more transports than could be “processed” in the camp. That meant that trains had to wait outside the camp because the occupants of the previous transport had not yet all been killed. At the time it was very hot and as a result of the long wait inside the transport trains in the intense heat many people died. At the time whole mountains of bodies lay on the platform. The Hauptsturmfuehrer Christian Wirth came to Treblinka and kicked up a terrific row. And then one day Dr. Eberl was no longer there…
For about two months I worked in the upper section of the camp and then after Eberl had gone everything in the camp was reorganized. The two parts of the camp were separated by barbed wire fences. Pine branches were used so that you could not see through the fences. The same thing was done along the route from the “transfer” area to the gas chambers…
Finally, new and larger gas chambers were built. I think that there were now five or six larger gas chambers. I cannot say exactly how many people these large gas chambers held. If the small gas chambers could hold 80-100 people, the large ones could probably hold twice that number…
Following the arrival of a transport, six to eight cars would be shunted into the camp, coming to a halt at the platform there. The commandant, his deputy Franz, Kuettner and Stadie or Maetzig would be here waiting as the transport came in. Further SS members were also present to supervise the unloading: for example, Genz and Belitz had to make absolutely sure that there was no one left in the car after the occupants had been ordered to get out.
When the Jews had got off, Stadie or Maetzig would have a short word with them. They were told something to the effect that they were a resettlement transport, that they would be given a bath and that they would receive new clothes. They were also instructed to maintain quiet and discipline. They would continue their journey the following day.
Then the transports were taken off to the so-called “transfer” area. The women had to undress in huts and the men out in the open. The women were than led through a passageway, known as the “tube”, to the gas chambers. On the way they had to pass a hut where they had to hand in their jewellery and valuables..
Kurt Franz testifies on his days in Treblinka[Quoted in ‘The Good Old Days’ – E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 247-249]
I cannot say how many Jews in total were gassed in Treblinka. On average each day a large train arrived. Sometimes there were even two. This however was not so common.
In Treblinka I was commander of the Ukrainian guard unit as I had been in Belzec. In Treblinka as in Belzec the unit consisted of sixty to eighty men. The Ukrainians’ main task was to man the guard posts around the camp perimeter. After the uprising in August 1943 I ran the camp more or less single-handedly for a month; however, during that period no gassings were undertaken.
It was during that period that the original camp was demolished. Everything was leveled off off and lupins were planted…
Testimony of SS Oberscharfuehrer Heinrich Matthes about Treblinka[Quoted in “BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA – the Operation Reinhard Death Camps”, Indiana University Press – Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 121]
During the entire time I was in Treblinka, I served in the upper camp. The upper camp was that part of Treblinka with the gas chambers, where the Jews were killed and their corpses laid in large pits and later burned.
About fourteen Germans carried out services in the upper camp. There were two Ukrainians permanently in the upper camp. One of them was called Nikolai, the other was a short man, I don’t remember his name…These two Ukrainians who lived in the upper camp served in the gas chambers. They also took care of the engine room when Fritz Schmidt was absent. Usually this Schmidt was in charge of the engine room. In my opinion, as a civilian he was either a mechanic or a driver…
All together, six gas chambers were active. According to my estimate, about 300 people could enter each gas chamber. The people went into the gas chamber without resistance. Those who were at the end, the Ukrainian guards had to push inside. I personally saw how the Ukrainians pushed the people with their rifle butts…
The gas chambers were closed for about thirty minutes. Then Schmidt stopped the gassing, and the two Ukrainians who were in the engine room opened the gas chambers from the other side.
Testimony of SS Oberscharfuehrer Erich Bauer[Quoted in “BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA – the Operation Reinhard Death Camps”, Indiana University Press – Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 77]
Usually the undressing went smoothly. Subsequently, the Jews were taken through the “tube” to Camp III – the real extermination camp. The transfer through the “tube” proceeded as follows: one SS man was in the lead and five or six Ukrainian auxiliaries were at the back hastening the Jews along. The women were taken through a barracks where their hair was cut off. In Camp III the Jews were received by an SS man… As I already mentioned, the motor was then switched on by Gotringer and one of the auxiliaries whose name I don’t remember. Then the gassed Jews were taken out.
Testimony of SS-Unterscharfuehrer Herman Lambert about Sobibor[Quoted in “BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA – the Operation Reinhard Death Camps”, Indiana University Press – Yitzhak Arad, 1987, p. 123]
As I mentioned at the beginning, I was in the extermination camp of the Jews for about two to three weeks. It was sometime in autumn 1942, but I don’t remember exactly when. At that time I was assigned by Wirth to enlarge the gassing structure according to the model of Treblinka. I went to Sobibor together with Lorenz Hackenholt, who was at that time in Treblinka…
We reported to the camp commander, Reichsleitner. He gave us exact directive for the construction of the gassing installations. The camp was already in operation, and there was a gassing installation. Probably the old installation was not big enough, and reconstruction was necessary.
Kurt Prufer, senior engineer of Topf and Sohne, testifying in Erfurt, Germany, March 5, 1946[Quoted from the interrogation transcripts by Prof. Gerald Fleming from the University of Surrey, in an NYT article, July 18 1993]
Q. Who apart from you participated in the construction of the furnaces?
A. From 1941-2, I constructed the furnaces. The technical drawings were done by Mr. Keller. The ventilation systems of the “Kremas” [crematoriums] were constructed by senior engineer Karl Schultze.
Q. How often and with what aim did you visit Auschwitz?
A. Five times. The first time at the beginning of 1943, to receive orders of the SS Command where the Kremas were to be built. The second time in spring 1943 to inspect the building site. The third time was in autumn 1943 to inspect a fault in the construction of a Krema chimney. The fourth time at the beginning of 1944, to inspect the repaired chimney. the fifth time in September-October 1944, when I visited Auschwitz with the intended relocation [from Auschwitz] of the crematoriums, since the front was getting nearer. The crematoriums were not relocated, because there were not enough workers.
Q. Were you the sole Topf engineer in Auschwitz in spring 1943?
A. No, [senior engineer Karl] Schultze was with me in Auschwitz at the time. I saw personally about 60 corpses of women and men of different ages, which were being prepared for incineration. That was at 10 in the morning. I witnessed the incineration of six corpses and and came to the conclusion that the furnaces were working well.
Q. Did you see a gas chamber next to the crematoriums?
A. Yes, I did see one next to the crematorium. Between the gas chamber and the crematorium there was a connecting structure.
Q. Did you know that in the gas chamber and in the crematoriums there took place the liquidation of innocent human beings?
A. I have known since spring 1943 that innocent human beings were being liquidated in Auschwitz gas chambers and that their corpses were subsequently incinerated in the crematoriums.
Q. Who is the designer of the ventilation systems for the gas chambers?
A. Schultze was the designer of the ventilation systems in the gas chambers; and he installed them.
Q. Why was the brick lining of the muffles so quickly damaged?
A. The bricks were damaged after six months because the strain on the furnaces was colossal.
Engineer Fritz Sander testifying on March 7 1946[Quoted from the interrogation transcripts by Prof. Gerald Fleming from the University of Surrey, in an NYT article, July 18 1993]
I decided to design and build a crematorium with a higher capacity. I completed this project of a new crematorium in November 1942 – a crematorium for mass incineration, and I submitted this project to a State Patent Commission in Berlin.
This “Krema” was to be built on the conveyor belt principle. That is to say, the corpses must be brought to the incineration furnaces without interruption. When the corpses are pushed into the furnaces, they fall onto a grate, and then slide into the furnace and are incinerated. The corpses serve at the same time as fuel for heating of the furnaces. This patent could not yet be approved by the Main Patent Office in Berlin, because of its classification (as a state secret).
Q. Although you knew about the mass liquidation of innocent human beings in crematoriums, you devoted yourself to designing and creating higher capacity incineration furnaces for crematoriums – and on your own initiative.
A. I was a German engineer and key member of the Topf works and I saw it as my duty to apply my specialist knowledge in this way to help Germany win the war, just as an aircraft construction engineer builds airplanes in wartime, which are also connected with the destruction of human beings.
Testimony of Engineer Karl Schultze[Quoted from the interrogation transcripts by Prof. Gerald Fleming from the University of Surrey, in an NYT article, July 18 1993]
Q. What was your personal part in these “Krema” building operation and what was Prufer’s part?
A. Prufer was an expert. he designed and constructed these crematoriums and led the building operations in the concentration camps. I was responsible for the ventilation systems and for its air injection into the muffles. In specific instances, I led the installation operations personally. I personally led the installation work in Auschwitz crematoriums and gas chambers. For this purpose, I traveled to Auschwitz three times in 1943.
I did not know that in the crematoriums in Auschwitz-Birkenau innocent human beings were being liquidated. I thought criminals were being killed there who who had partly been sentenced to death because of the crimes they had committed against the German army in Poland and other occupied territories. I am a German and supported and am supporting the Government in Germany and the laws of our Government. Whoever opposes our laws is an enemy of the State, because our laws establish him a such. I did not act on personal initiative but as directed by Ludwig Topf. I was afraid of losing my position and of possible arrest.
Q. Your views do not really differ from the views of a Nazi.
A. No, I was not a member of the NSDAP [National Socialist German Workers Party]. I only respected and acted according to the laws of my country.
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