Report on Gas Vans by August Becker


Kiew 16.5.42

Top Secret

To SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Rauff

in Berlin

Prinz Albrecht Strasse. S.



The check-up on cars in Groups D and C has been completed.Whereas the cars of the first issue can be used when the weather is not too bad, those of the second series (chemical vans Saurer) are completely stuck in wet weather. For instance even if it has only been raining for half an hour, the car cannot be used as it just skids away. It is only usable when the weather is quite dry. The question then arises whether it can only be used as a stationary vehicle at the place of execution. But first it would have to be brought to this place which could only be possible in fine weather. However, the place of execution is usually 10 -15 kilometers away from any highways, and is, in any case by reason of its position very difficulty of access and impossible in damp or wet weather. If the people to be executed are led or driven to this place they will realise at once what is on foot and will become restless, which should be avoided at all costs. The only way which remains is to pick them up at collecting points and to drive them out there.

By having small windows introduced, one on each side of the smaller van and two on each side of the bigger van, such as one sees on peasants' houses in the country, I have had the vehicles in group D disguised to look like vans for living in. The cars are so well known that not only the authorities but also the civilian population allude to it as the 'death car' as soon as one of the vehicles appears. In my opinion even with camouflage it cannot be kept secret for any length of time.

Besides this I ordered that during the gassing all the crew were to be kept as far as possible away from the van so that their health could not possibly be impaired by any escaping gases. In this connection I should like to draw attention to the following: Several Kommando's have the unloading after the gassing done by their own men. I have brought to the notice of the Commanders of the respective S.K. what frightful mental and physical harm this work may do to the men, if not immediately, then later. The men complained to me of headaches which come on after each unloading. Nevertheless, they will not alter this arrangement, because they are afraid that if they took prisoners for the work these would use a favourable opportunity to escape.

The gassing is not at all correctly carried out. In order to produce the effect as quickly as possible the drivers turn on maximum gas throughout. By this means those to be executed suffer death from suffocation instead of death through loss of consciousness. My instructions have insured that through the correct placing of the lever, death takes place more quickly and the prisoners go peacefully to sleep. Distorted faces and excretions are no longer to be seen , as they were formerly.

Signed: Becker

             SS -Untersturmfuhrer 

Source

IMT Document 501-PS

Wiener Library, London

Copyright: Holocaust Historical Society -January 12, 2020