Auschwitz - Birkenau Gassing Facilities

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The Gas Chamber and Crematorium - Auschwitz - January 2017 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Wieslar Kielar recalled the aftermath of the first mass gassing of Russian Prisoners of War which took place in the bunkers of Block 11, during September 1941, overseen by Lagerfuhrer Karl Fritzsch:

The heavy wooden door to the yard of the penal colony opened. We pushed the trucks into the yard and turned them round, facing the gate. Waiting in the yard was the entire SS retinue, with Lagerfuhrer Fritzsch and the camp doctor Entress at the head.

We stood expectantly while the SS men conferred for a time, after which they summoned Gienek and Teofil. They were handed gas masks, Palitzsch and several Blockfuhrers also put on their gas masks. Together they approached the entrance to the block cellars. They stayed down there for rather a long time. We waited in silence. Night fell, in the yard it was now quite dark. Only above the entrance to the bunker a naked bulb cast a feeble gleam of light over the group of SS men waiting by the steps.

Palitzsch was first to reappear, behind him the rest of the SS men. They had taken off their gas masks which meant the gas was already diffusing, after a while Obojski and Teofil returned as well. Now we were divided into groups each with its own special task. Some went down into the bunkers in order to fetch the corpses out of the cells, others carried them up the stairs where yet another group of nursing orderlies undressed them. The rest were ordered to haul the naked corpses a little farther into the yard, ready for loading onto the waiting trucks.

I managed to get into the first group because I wanted to be as far away as possible from the SS and, in particular from Palitzsch of whom I was very much afraid. Downstairs it was stifling and reeked of dead bodies. All the cells were open, and in them we saw the corpses of the gassed, crowded together and standing up. It was a little less crowded where the sick had been.

A few corpses lay in a heap directly behind the door. We began with them. It was difficult to pry apart the bodies that were clinging together. One by one we dragged them into the corridor, from where the others carried them up stairs. The deeper we penetrated into the cells, the harder it became to fetch out the corpses. Pressed together in the small cells they stood, although they were dead, with the same countenance they had had presumably two days earlier. Their faces were blue, almost purplish. Wide open eyes, threatened to pop out of their sockets; their tongues protruded between their open lips, their bared teeth gave an eerie appearance to their faces.

To begin with, two of us carried one corpse. As a result there was confusion on the narrow stairs, people getting in each other's way. We made only slow progress; we began to work singly. Instead of carrying the corpses, we each dragged them behind us by a hand or foot. Now our work progressed much faster and more smoothly. The whole bunker was disinfected with chlorine, which made our labours easier still. True, the strong smell of chlorine made one's eyes smart, but at least it reduced the stench of the putrefying corpses. The greatest problem was getting the bodies up the stairs. Their heavy heads bumped against each step with a dull thud; their limp extremities caught on protruding steps and thresholds. 

Perry Broad - SS Unterscharfuhrer was a member of the SS-Garrison at Auschwitz, and after the war he wrote a detailed account of his experiences at Auschwitz dubbed the Broad Report. This is an extract covering the Crematorium building at the Auschwitz Main Camp:

The old Auschwitz crematorium stood at a distance of approximately 100 meters from the camp. It was said to have been a Polish Army store house for turnips. The stone building was surrounded on three sides by earthen embankments on which grass, young trees and beautiful flowers were planted. A level concrete block served as its roof. The area in front of the crematorium was closed in by a high wall with two large gates , the entrance and the exit.

Thus when wagons loaded with corpses, brought from the mortuary of Block 28, arrived of an evening to be unloaded, the whole place was hidden from the eyes of unwanted onlookers. A stranger would not so easily guessed that the rectangular mound planted with many coloured flowers, was in reality the crematorium - unless he noticed the thick metal pipe bent at right angles, which projected from the roof and emitted a monotonous humming. But even then he would hardly know that this was the ventilation pipe, which made the air in the mortuary at least a little more bearable. The square chimney, which stood some meters away and was connected by underground flues with the four ovens, also had quite an ordinary appearance. But the smoke did not always rise above the chimney in transparent bluish clouds. It was sometimes pressed down to the ground by the wind.

And then one could notice the unmistakable penetrating stench of burnt hair and burnt flesh, a stench that spread over many kilometers. When the ovens, in which four to six bodies could be burnt at the same time, were stoked up and dense, pitch-black smoke coiled upwards from the chimney, or when at night the tall flame issuing from the chimney was visible from afar, then there was no doubt as to the purpose of the mound.

On the side farthest from the road one could notice gaps in the earthen embankment, where windows with iron bars provided the crematorium furnace with fresh air. Weird noises were heard in that dark space. They were produced by the steel bars and shovels with which coke was shoveled into the ovens, and with which corpses were pushed into the flames. The interior of the crematorium consisted of the furnace, a hall, and a spacious mortuary in the roof of which, besides the ventilation pipe, six covered air-shafts were built.

The condemned men and women stood in the yard before the crematorium. A wrought-iron lantern, hanging above the entrance door gave a cosy impression, as if hung over the door of a home. This was a sight full of irony, if one remembered that countless people had entered through that door without ever returning, and that day after day, whole wagon-loads of corpses were tugged in over its threshold.

Josef Paczynski witnessed the gassing of prisoners in the Auschwitz Crematorium, which he recounted for the BBC in their programme: 'The Nazis and the Final Solution ,' broadcast in 2005:

I went into the attic of that building. I stood on a crate or something. I lifted a roof tile and I could see everything that was going on right there in front of me.And they were very polite with those people - very polite - undress, pack your things here - this there- that here.

And then an SS man climbed onto the flat roof of the building, he put on a gas mask, opened the hatch and dropped the powder in. When he did this, in spite of the fact that these walls were very thick, you could hear a great scream from within - despite the thick walls. This took place at lunchtime, in the daytime. In order to stifle the screaming they had two motorcycles standing on the pavement near the crematorium. Engines revved up as far as they could go, to stifle the screams. To cover up the yelling they had these engines going, but they failed - they gave it a try but it didn't work. The screaming lasted for fifteen or twenty minutes, it became weaker and weaker then went quiet.


Aerial Photograph of Birkenau showing the locations of the gas chambers

Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz -Birkenau described the selection of the former peasant farmhouse by him and Adolf Eichmann during the month of August 1941:

We left the matter unresolved. Eichmann decided to try and find a gas that was in ready supply and would not entail special installations for its use, and to inform me when he had done so.

We decided that a peasant farmstead situated in the northwest corner of what later became Section III in Birkenau, would be most suitable. It was isolated and screened by woods and hedges, and it was also not far from the railroad. The bodies could be placed in long, deep pits in the nearby meadows. We had not at that time thought of burning the corpses. We calculated that after gas-proofing the premises then available, it would be possible to kill about 800 people simultaneously with a suitable gas. Eichmann returned to Berlin to report our conversation to the SS -Reichsfuhrer. A few days later I sent to the SS-Reichsfuhrer by courier a detailed site plan and description of the installation.

Moshe Maurice Garbarz described the gas chamber known as Bunker i, also known in the camp as the 'Red House':

We saw a sort of barn closed on three sides, identical to those where our farmers keep the hay, and not far from it, three or four pretty little buildings, like country houses, only the first of which was close enough to be clearly visible. The convoys arrived, adult men and little boys together, women, girls and babies together.

They went completely naked in groups of twenty towards the little house. Despite the distance we could see that they were not afraid. A strange kommando dressed in white, led them, four men only, plus two SS. When people had entered the house, they were shut in by a fairly strong door. When the door was well and truly bolted, an SS man passed with a can and disappeared from our eyes, hidden by the house. Then we heard a bang, that of someone opening a trap door, rather than a window. Twice after this bang, we heard the prayer, 'Shema Israel,' then we heard cries, but very faintly.

From time to time, at the last minute, just before disappearing behind the door, the people understood. I saw one group of men revolt. The case had been foreseen; a kommando of four or five people was waiting beside the entrance and pushed them inside, while an SS man used his revolver to shoot some in the head. The external aspect of the little house was so ordinary that such incidents were very rare. In seven days I saw only one revolt with my own eyes. But others took place, for several times, from afar, we heard the same characteristic sound of a shot at point blank range.

Richard Bock, an SS-Rottenfuhrer who worked in the camp garage, recalled witnessing a mass gassing at Bunker I, in Birkenau:

Holbinger said to me, 'Richard, are you interested in seeing one of the 'aktions?' I said, 'Yes, very interested indeed.' and he said, 'I'll take you with me this evening.' We drove out to Birkenau, not to where the ramp was later, but where the train stopped on the big slope. It was a transport from Holland, and the Dutch Jews who came to Auschwitz were very elegant and rich. He parked his ambulance there and I sat in it, pretending to be the co-driver.

Then they drove them all off in a lorry to Bunker I, where there were four big halls. The halls did not have a proper roof, just a sloping top. At first Holbinger did not have anything to do. Then they went into the hall, and the new arrivals had to get undressed, and then the order came, 'Prepare for Disinfection.' There were enormous piles of clothing in there, and there was a board running around so that the piles did not all collapse. And the new arrivals, the Dutch people had to stand on top of this great heap of clothes to get undressed. Lots of them hid their children under the clothes and covered them up, then they shouted, 'Get ready,' and they all went out, they had to run naked approximately twenty yards from the hall across to Bunker I.

There were two doors standing open and they went in there and when a certain number had gone inside, they shut the doors. That happened about three times, and every time Holbinger had to go out to his ambulance and took out a sort of a tin - he and one of his block chiefs - and then he climbed up the ladder and at the top there was a round hole and he opened a little round door and held the tin there and shook it, and then shut the little door again. Then a fearful screaming started up and approximately after about ten minutes it slowly went quiet.

They opened the door - it was a prisoners' Sonderkommando who did that - then a blue haze came out. I looked in and I saw a pyramid. They had all climbed up on top of each other until the last one stood at the very top, all one on top of the other, and then the prisoners had to go in and tear it apart. They were all tangled, one had his arm down by another's foot, and then round it and back up again and his fingers were sticking in someone else's eye, so deep.

They were all tangled, they had to tug and pull very hard to disentangle all these people. Then we went back to the hall and now it was the turn of the last lot to get undressed, the ones who had managed to hang back a bit all the time. One girl with beautiful black hair, a beautiful girl, was crouching there and didn't want to get undressed, and an SS man came up and said, 'I suppose you don't want to get undressed,' and she tossed her hair back and laughed a little. Then he went away and came back with two prisoners and they literally tore the clothes off her, then they each grabbed an arm and they dragged her across to Bunker I and pushed her in there. Then the prisoners had to check where the small children had been hidden and covered up. They pulled them out and opened the doors quickly again and threw all the children in and slammed the doors.

During June 1942, another farmhouse in Birkenau became operational as a gassing facility, similar to Bunker I, but this time there were four gas chambers, two more than in Bunker I. It was located to the west of the yet to be built Crematorium IV and V, and it was known within the camp, as Bunker II,or the 'White House'. The farmhouses originally belonged to the families Harmata and Wichaj, who were forced to vacate. One of the members of the Sonderkommando, Szlama Dragon described the conditions in Bunker II, during December 1942: 

The next day on the morning of December 10th, 1942, once all the kommando's had gone to work, Moll arrived at Block 14 and gave the order 'Sonderkommando raus!' It was thus that we learnt we were detailed not to go to the rubber factory (Buna) but to a Sonderkommando and we did not realise what this was for, nobody had ever given us the slightest explanation of it. On Moll's order we went out of the block and divided into two groups of 100 men each, to be marched out of the camp by the SS.

We were taken into a forest where there was a cottage covered with thatch, its windows bricked in. On the door leading to the interior of the cottage was a metal plate with the inscription 'Hochspannung/ Lebensgefahr (High Tension / Danger). Thirty or forty meters from this cottage, there were two wooden huts. On the other side of the cottage there were four pits, 30 meters long, 7 meters wide, and 3 meters deep, their edges black with smoke.

We were then lined up in front of the house. Moll arrived and told us we would work here at burning old lousy people, that we would be given something to eat and in the evening we would be taken back to the camp. He added that those who did not accept this work would be beaten and have the dogs set on them. The SS who escorted us were accompanied by dogs. Then he split us into a number of groups. I myself and eleven others were detailed, as we learnt later, to remove the bodies from this cottage. We were all given masks and led to the door of the cottage, when Moll opened the door, we saw that the cottage was full of naked corpses of both sexes and all ages.

Moll ordered us to move these corpses from the cottage to the yard in front of the door. We started work with four men carrying one body. This annoyed Moll, he rolled up his sleeves and threw a body into the yard. When, despite this example, we said we were incapable of doing that, he allowed us to carry them, two men to a body. Once the corpses were laid out in the yard, the dentist assisted by an SS man, pulled out the teeth and the barber, also watched by an SS man cut off the hair.

Another group loaded the bodies onto wagons, running on rails, that led to the edge of the pits. These rails ran between two pits. Still another group prepared the pit for burning the corpses. First of all, big logs were put in the bottom. The logs are on the right along the wall of the undressing hut, then smaller and smaller wood in criss-cross fashion and finally dry twigs.

The following group threw the bodies into the pit. Once all the bodies had been brought from the cottage to the pit, Moll poured kerosene over them in the four corners of the pit and set fire to it by throwing in a burning rubber comb (roughly fringed piece of rubber). That is how the corpses were burnt. While Moll was starting the fire, we were in the front of the cottage, on the north-west side and could see what he was doing.

After having removed all the bodies from the cottage, we were obliged to clean it thoroughly, washing the floor with water and spreading sawdust, and whitewashing the walls. The interior of the cottage was divided into four parts by partition walls running across it, one of which could contain 1,200 naked people, the second 700, the third 400, and the fourth 200 to 250.

Filip Muller, a member of the Sonderkommando recalled Crematorium II in Birkenau during the summer of 1943:

On our way we went past the women's camp. On the left behind the barbed wire there were emaciated female figures busy loading soil into wheelbarrows . But something else attracted my attention: at the end of the camp of Birkenau behind barbed wire fences which had been put up on either side of the dusty road, two buildings stood out clearly, and towering above them a chimney.

Presently we turned to the left and through an iron gate entered a yard. The long single-storey red brick building of Crematorium II, was only a few meters away in front of us. On one of its longer sides there was a projecting structure from which the square chimney rose up. The sight of it reminded me very forcibly of the transitoriness of life; but before long this lethal giant had become part of our daily life. Five underground channels connected it to the fifteen ovens which were arranged in groups of three................

In the lunch break I ran across a mate of mine whom I had first met at the beginning of 1943, during his training as a stoker in the old crematorium at Auschwitz. Through a wooden door in the left wing of the building he took me into the coke store. From there we went along a narrow semi-dark corridor, past three doors - one of which led into the kommandofuhrer's room.- into the cremation plant.

Five ovens, each with three combustion chambers, were installed here. Outwardly the fifteen arched openings did not significantly differ from those at the Auschwitz crematorium. The one important innovation consisted of two rollers, each with a diameter of 15 centimeters, fixed to the edge of each oven. This made it easier for the metal platform to be pushed inside the oven.

The process of cremating corpses was similar to that in Auschwitz. The only way in which this death factory differed from the one in Auschwitz was its size. Its fifteen huge ovens, working non-stop, could cremate more than 3,000 corpses daily Bearing in mind that scarcely more than 100 meters away there was another crematorium with the same capacity, and still another 400 meters further on the two smaller crematorium IV and V, with eight ovens each. One was forced to conclude that civilization had come to an end....................

Using the lift which brought the corpses up we descended into the basement. The sight of the rooms down there made me shudder. Every detail had been devised with the sole aim of cramming up to 3,000 people into one room in order to kill them with poison gas. When we entered the morgue we found lying in a heap some 200 emaciated corpses, all of whom had obviously died of hunger, disease or exhaustion. They had been thrown down the concrete chute from the yard into the mortuary basement.........

We left the mortuary and came to a huge iron-mounted wooden door; it was not locked. We entered a place which was in total darkness. As we switched on the light, the room was lit by bulbs enclosed in a protective wire cage. We were standing in a large oblong room measuring about 250 square meters. The unusually low ceiling and walls were whitewashed. Down the length of the room concrete pillars supported the ceiling. However, not all the pillars served this purpose: for there were others too. The Zyklon B gas crystals were inserted through openings into hollow pillars made of sheet metal. They were perforated at regular intervals and inside them a spiral ran from top to bottom in order to ensure as even a distribution of the granular crystals as possible. Mounted on the ceiling was a large number of dummy showers made of metal. These were intended to delude the suspicious on entering the gas chamber into believing that they were in a shower-room. A ventilating plant was installed in the wall: this was switched on immediately after each gassing to disperse the gas and thus to expedite the removal of corpses.

At right angles to the gas chamber was the largest room in the extermination complex, the so-called changing room. Measuring over 300 square meters, this underground room could accommodate more than 1,000 people, They entered from the yard down wide concrete steps. At the entrance to the basement was a signboard, and written on it in several languages the direction: 'To the Baths and Disinfection Rooms.' The ceiling of the changing room was supported by concrete pillars to which many more notices were fixed, once again with the aim of making the unsuspecting people believe that the imminent process of disinfection was of vital importance for their health. Slogans like Cleanliness brings freedom or One louse may kill you were intended to hoodwink, as were numbered clothes hooks fixed at a height of 1.50 meters.

Along the walls stood wooden benches, creating the impression that they were placed there to make people more comfortable while undressing. There were other multi-lingual notices inviting them to hang up their clothes, as well as their shoes, tied together by their laces, and admonishing them to remember the number of their hook, so that they might easily retrieve their clothes after their showers. There were further notices on the way from the changing room to the gas chamber, directing people to the baths and disinfection room

Dr. Miklos Nyiszli and his wife and daughter were deported to Auschwitz from Hungary in May 1944. On the ramp in Birkenau he responded to Dr. Mengele's invitation for doctors to step forward. He was eventually selected to be the doctor for all the Sonderkommando personnel. Dr. Nyiszli recalled his initiation to the grisly world of the Sonderkommando, in Crematorium Number One:

For about twelve minutes we drove through the labyrinth of barbed wire and entered well-guarded gates, thus passing from one section to another...... We left the camp and skirted the Jewish unloading ramp for about 300 yards. A large armored gate in the barbed wire opened behind the guard. We went in: before us lay a spacious courtyard, covered with green grass. The gravel paths and the shade of the pine trees would have made the place quite pleasant had there not been, at the end of the courtyard, an enormous red brick building and a chimney spitting flame. We were in one of the crematoriums. We stayed in the car. An SS ran up and saluted Dr. Mengele. Then we got out, crossed the courtyard and went through a large door into the crematorium.

'Is the room ready?' Dr Mengele asked the guard. 'Yes, sir,' the man replied. We headed towards it, Dr Mengele leading the way. The room in question was freshly whitewashed and well lighted by a large window, which, however, was barred. The furnishings, after those of the barracks, surprised me: a white bed, a closet, also white, a large table and some chairs. On the table, a red velvet tablecloth. The concrete floor was covered with handsome rugs. I had the impression I was expected. The Sonderkommando men had painted the room and outfitted it with objects the preceding convoys had left behind.

We then passed through a dark corridor until we reached another room, a very bright, completely modern dissecting room, with two windows. The floor was of red concrete, in the centre of the room, mounted on a concrete base, stood a dissecting table of polished marble, equipped with several drainage channels. At the edge of the table a basin with nickel taps had been installed; against the wall, three porcelain sinks. The walls were painted a light green, and large barred windows were covered with green metal screens to keep out flies and mosquitoes.

We left the dissecting room for the next room, the work room. Here there were fancy chairs and paintings. In the middle of the room, a large table covered with a green cloth - all about comfortable armchairs. I counted three microscopes on the table. In one corner there was a well-stocked library, which contained the most recent editions. In another corner a closet, in which were stowed white smocks, aprons, towels and rubber gloves. In short, the exact replica of any large city's institute of pathology........

As a matter of fact it was almost dinner time. I followed them up the stairs to the second storey of the crematorium, where the prisoners lived. An enormous room with comfortable bunks lining both walls. The bunks were made of unpainted wood, but on each one silk coverlets and embroidered pillows shone. This colourful, expensive bedding was completely out of keeping with the atmosphere of the place.

The whole room was bathed in a dazzling light, for here they did not economise on electricity as they did in the barracks. Our way led between the long row of bunks. Only half the kommando were present, the otther half, about a hundred men, was on the night shift.....

The table awaiting us was covered with a heavy silk brocade tablecloth; fine initialed porcelain dishes, and place settings of silver, more objects that had once belonged to the deportees. The table was piled high with choice and varied dishes, everything a deported people could carry with them into the uncertain future. All sorts of preserves, bacon, jellies, several kinds of salami, cakes and chocolates. From the labels I noticed that some of the food had belonged to Hungarian deportees. All perishable foods automatically became the property of the legal heirs, of those who were still alive, that is, the Sonderkommando.

Seated around the table were the Kapo-in-chief, the engineer, the head chauffeur, the kommando leader, the tooth pullers and the head of the gold smelters. Their welcome was most cordial. They offered me all they had and there was an abundance of everything, for the Hungarian convoys continued to arrive at an ever-increasing rate and they brought a great deal of food with them.

birkenau - crem314

Birkenau - Crematorium IV - 1943 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Filip Muller described the historic events of October 7, 1944, in Crematorium IV, when members of the Sonderkommando revolted:

Next day 7 October, the sky was blue and cloudless. Towards mid-day, Scharfuhrer Busch, Unterscharfuhrer Gorges and several other SS men and guards arrived in the yard in front of Crematorium IV. All prisoners were ordered to line up, with the exception of fourteen who were away on various jobs and who, in any case, were not affected by the selection. Then Busch began calling out the first few numbers on the list, starting with the highest and working his way down to the lowest. Those selected for transfer were made to stand on the opposite side of the yard, those not concerned, once they had been called, were allowed to return to Crematorium V. Since i had the lowest number of all assembled in the yard, I was still standing there waiting to be called.

Now and then when Busch called a number, nobody stepped forward, although he would repeat the number loud and clear. When shortly before the end of the selection there was only a small group of about ten men left, it struck Busch that something was amiss, and that at least a dozen prisoners must be hiding somewhere. He therefore despatched a few of the guards to Crematorium IV to try and track them down. The guards were just leaving when quite suddenly from out of the ranks of selected prisoners, they were pelted with a hail of stones. Some SS men were wounded, but others managed to dodge the stones and were drawing their guns and starting to shoot blindly into the crowd of prisoners. Two more SS men had managed to get away to the camp street, where they grabbed two bicycles leaning against the camouflage fence and sped off in the direction of the camp.

Meanwhile Crematorium IV had been set on fire, the roof was blazing in several places, flames leaping up and clouds of smoke rising into the sky. Within five minutes of the start of the fighting the camp siren began to wail. Shortly afterwards several trucks arrived, and steel helmeted SS guards, many of them still in their vests, spilled out, swiftly they surrounded the yard and set-up their machine guns.

All this time I was still in the yard where prisoners were milling about aimlessly and panic-stricken while from all sides they were met with a shower of bullets. One by one they fell to the ground fatally injured. Finally a large number raced towards the barbed wire to try and breakthrough. I ran to Crematorium IV and a few meters from the door threw myself to the ground. The shooting continued unabated. I had only one thought, to reach the Crematorium without getting hurt.

 Taking my courage in both hands I stood up, bounded forward and flung myself through the door into the cremation room. I was by now completely out of breath. The crematorium was still burning fiercely. The wooden doors were ablaze, several of the wooden beams were charred and dangling from the ceiling, and there was a fire raging in the coke store. The windows on the opposite wall were riddled with bullet holes. Outside the firing continued. Bullets hit the ovens and ricocheted in all directions.

In the last period of the camps existence members of the Sonderkommando were used to remove the traces of mass murder. In October 1944, they were employed in pulling down the walls of the burnt out Crematorium IV, and in November 1944, they dismantled the technical installations of the gas chamber and ovens in Crematoria II and III. On January 20, 1945, an SS Division under the leadership of SS-Rottenfuhrer Richard Perschel destroyed Crematoriums II and III. At one in the morning of January 26, 1945, an SS squad destroyed Crematorium V, the last of the crematoriums in Birkenau.

A Polish report in 1946, by Dr. Philip Friedman and Tadeusz discovered the use of a gas-wagen at Auschwitz, used to liquidate people sentenced to death by the special Police Court which convened throughout the war in Auschwitz:

To kill small groups of prisoners (up to 30 people) in 1944, they introduced a special lorry-gas chamber. Special Report of secret organization dated 21 September 1944, describes that. (i do not know why the date is earlier than 1944).

In the sandy area - close to Maczki is located so-called Sonderkommando Rycyrk - special lorry-gas chamber and plough. This lorry Sauer Pol 71-462, yellow - green was constructed in the special way, it included 4 meter long and 2.5 meter wide chamber, steel plated inside, with door without handles, floor -trap door grated window in the right corner to let in fresh air. This lorry has at the back the pipe to which another pipe may be connected where necessary. When the engine was started the fumes were killing people inside. The plough was used for digging and burying the victims.

This Kommando was created in Russia to kill dangerous elements (people) in the areas close to the front line. Then it arrived from Lithuania and served in Oswiecim under the direction of Polizei Standesgericht. There are other witnesses of similar killings in Oswiecim, who have seen the driver Arndt walking around this lorry and smiling, 'my birds are being smoked inside.' 


D. Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle, Henry Holt and Company, New York1989

KL Auschwitz - Seen by the SS, Panstwowe Muzeum w Oswiecimiu, 1978

Wieslaw Kielar, Anus Mundi, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1980

Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, Auschwitz, Granada Publishing Ltd, St Albans, 1981

Filip Muller, Eyewitness Auschwitz, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 1979

Chris Webb, The Auschwitz Concentration Camp, ibidem-verlag, Stuttgart, 2018

Richard Holmes, The World At War, Ebury Press, 2007

BBC - The Nazis and the Final Solution Programme, 2005

Thanks to Pawel Kubisztal for his translations

Photographs Chris Webb Private Archive

Holocaust Historical Society January 14, 2022