The Holocaust Historiography Project


Appendix A: Four Descriptions of Prison Life in French Penal Institutions

The following are four descriptions of prison life in penal institutions which were operated by the French government at about the same time that Buchenwald and other German concentration camps were functioning.

Discipline in the Maison Centrale in Riom in 1939

"Three notable elements must be remembered about disciplinary methods.

"The first is the institution of an internal hierarchy of prisoners who cooperate with the wardens in maintaining proper order. I have often heard the French become indignant over this institution in the Nazi prisons, over these gratuitous assistants to the gang wardens; they are the same persons who cannot admit that the Germans were ignorant of what was going on in their country, and yet who do not know what is happening in France. For the Kapos, the Schreibers, the Vorabeiters, the Stubendienst, etc… there are however, precedents. The workshop bookkeepers, the foremen (although there were civilians too), the entire administration are made up of prisoners, and obviously enjoy certain advantages. Quite apart from this are the provosts explicitly in charge of keeping order. That goes for the dormitory provost, who has next to his bed an alarm button to alert the wardens in case that something abnormal occurs (smoke, reading, conversations, etc…. ) and which, happily, is little used. However, its use is up to the official executioner, the provost of the Ward.

"Now I must say what a Strong-Ward is: the special prison within the prison, and in fact a torture chamber (I can attest that the word is not an exaggeration). This second element of discipline, like Dante's Hell, includes various circles. It begins in the discipline room, where-in principle-the convicts are marched around in a circle with very short pauses, at a pace maintained by giving a special ration to the pace-setter. while smaller rations are given to the others: the fact is that blows rain down. I was lucky enough to escape this myself, but I can attest to having often seen the poor beggars coming back from the 'room' with obvious signs of recent blows. Then, there was solitary confinement — in principle — up to 90 consecutive days, practically equivalent to a death sentence, with a tin of soup every four days. Finally, there were some refinements of cruelty which are particularly repugnant. In particular was the torture called the 'shirt,' a straight-jacket that tied the arms together behind one's back; very often, then, the arms were brought up as far as the neck. I attest, after having collected numberless testimonies all in agreement, that some wardens struck the men with various instruments, including the poker, until death resulted. I attest that the Nazis only added some details in perfecting the art of slowly killing men.

"Now, and this is the third instrument of discipline, these 'accessory' sentences, which sometimes meant a death sentence, were not pronounced by tribunals established by law, but by a jurisdiction which to my knowledge was ignorant of the law, the Pretoire. It is a tribunal within the prison presided over by the director, assisted by a sub-director (in penitentiary slang, the 'under-pimp') with the head warden acting as clerk. At the Pretoire, there is no pleading, no defense, no intelligible indictment, and no reply except for the ritual " Merci, Monsieur le Directeur ," following the sentence. I was always able to get off with a simple fine, which meant only cutting down my right to buy things in the canteen: income was limited to salary, since help from the outside was very much reduced; in those days, no package was allowed to be received by a prisoner except for underwear. But heavy sentences were constantly handed down even for a simple non-fulfillment of a job." (Pierre Bernard. Revolution proletarienne , June 1949.)

In the Prisons of the "Liberation"

"All the French wanted this," say our 'patriots.'

"Edouard Gentez, printer at Courbevoie, sentenced in July 46, not as a criminal, but as a printer, was transferred from Fresnes to Fontevrault in September 46. As a result of beatings, privations and cold, he contracted pleurisy, which caused him to be struck from the list to be transferred to Fontevrault.

''An hour before the departure, the condemned of the S.P.A.C. who were on this list were struck oft on an order; they were still needed. They were replaced, and Gentez was among those newly inscribed.

"He arrived at the Centrale , two and a half hours standing, in the sun, then eight days shut up in a hole called the ' mitard '; after this, Gentez was admitted to the infirmary, ruled over by a butcher assassin, Ange Soleil, a mulatto who had cut to pieces and walled up his mistress, which prepared him for the functions of prison provost-nurse-doctor, far more powerful than the young civilian doctor, a dandy named Gaultier or Gautier

"Soleil admitted those sick men into the infirmary who shared with him two thirds of their parcels, and rejected those whose parcels were too small, by a very clear and simple system.

"Gentez, having neither parcel nor funds, could not pay, and in spite of the seriousness of his sickness, was put into the ' inoccupes ,' those forced to three quarters of an hour fast march, one quarter of an hour rest, from morning to night, every day, Sundays included

. "Gentez, who was too weak, was let off that torture, but for all that was not permitted to lie down n or even to sit down; he had to remain standing, without moving, hands behind his back, without coat, during the marching.

"The cold aggravated his pleurisy and Gentez went each week to the medical office where he was given aspirin, cod liver oil, and where cupping glasses were applied to him, but he was never admitted to the infirmary.

"He groaned without stopping all night long. The two prisoner doctors, the surgeon Perribert and Doctor Lejeune, sounded his chest Saturday morning, and discovered double bronchial pneumonia .

"When Gentez fell down in the yard, the nurse who was called, went to find Ange Soleil, who began to shout, called him a faker, and had him thrown in a dungeon, along with Doctor Perribert, who was guilty of having made the examination without authorization.

"Gentez was stripped naked and thrown into the cell, where the temperature was five degrees above zero (-15° C.) He knocked all night for help, but no one came. The next morning, January 14, 1947, he was found dead.

"Finally. he was carried to the infirmary, where he was pronounced dead there, of a heart attack. He was buried simply under a number, 3479.

"But there was an embarrassing witness, Gentez' son whom I knew in prison and next to whom I lived out the vicissitudes of this stark drama. He obtained an investigation. This was properly conducted. Ange Soleil was transferred to Fresnes, but was set free by a procedure of amnesty [sic]. The Directors Dujour, Vessieres and Guillonet were removed.

"Andre Marie had promised to reduce Gentez' son's sentence to three years, as a result of this tragic business. Since then more than three years have gone by, and, if I am well informed, he is still in prison." Signed: Benoit C….

"This is an extract of a letter sent to me from X prison … somewhere in France. (My discretion is due to the fact that I do not want to expose the author to the legal process mentioned in the above document. )

''Benoit C… has not read Valsez , saucisses which he is not acquainted with, but Vertiges .

''He informed me about the percentage ( 10% ) of social workers gabbling around -not at all to reproach them for it-and describes without too much complaint the curious ways of certain ' messieurs de l'oeuvre de Saint-Vincent-de Paul ' [gentlemen of the Society of … ] with fingers heavy with signet rings.

"This testimony is all the more conclusive, as it comes from someone obsessed with sex and not at all with politics." (Communication from Albert. Paraz.)

At Poissy

"In February 1946, head shaved, in clogs and coarse cloth, Henri Beraud found himself in Workshop 14 on the second floor of the jail at Poissy. Under the eye of an overseer whose duty it was to enforce 'the rule of silence', a rule that weighed on the prison night and day, he made tags with cord or twist wire, averaging .95 francs per thousand.

"Typical prison stupidity: the table chief was a burglar who had under him, besides Beraud, General Linsard. a colonel, two Justices, an advocate general, the editor-in-chief of the Journal de Rouen , a university professor, and some Paris journalists.

"In his book., Je sors du bagne ,one of his prison companions at Poissy, as on Re island, brought out how much the convict Beraud earned during the month of April 1945: labor, 15 Fr. Deduction for the prison administration, 12 Fr. left, 3 Fr. Set aside. 1.50 Fr. left for the prisoner, 1.50 12 Fr.

"And this was for work for more than seven hours a day. "( La Bataille , September 21, 1949.)

German Prisoners in France

"La Rochelle, October 18.,1948. Informed of the scandalous acts of which former officer Max-Georges Roux, 36, assistant to the commanding officer of the German prison camp at Chattelaillon-Plage was guilty, the examining magistrate of La Rochelle referred the matter to the military tribunal at Bordeaux where Roux had been transferred. The ex-officer was then serving an 18 months prison sentence which had been given him the preceding August at La Rochelle for breach of trust and for swindling various associations(1).

"Infinitely more serious were the crimes committed by Roux in the prisoner-of-war camp. It was a matter of real crimes, and so great that it seems difficult to believe that Roux could be the only one found guilty before the judges. At Chatelaillon this base person had, among other things, made several [P.O.W] strip and had beaten them with a leaded whip. Two of the unfortunates had died during these sessions with the knout. "One overwhelming testimony was that of the German doctor Clauss Steen, who was interned at Chatelaillon. Interrogated at Kiel, where he lives, Mr. Steen stated that from May to September 1945, he had verified at the [P.O.W.] camp the deaths of fifty of his compatriots. Their deaths had been brought about by insufficient food, heavy labor, and by the perpetual fear they lived in of being tortured.

"The food given out in the camp, which was under the orders of the commanding officer Texier, consisted, in actual fact of a plate of clear soup with a little bread. The rest of the rations disappeared in the black market. There was one period when the number of those with dysentery amounted to 80 per cent.

"Texier and Roux, with their subordinates, proceeded, besides that, to loot their prisoners, taking away from them everything of value. The thievery of these gangsters with military braid, was estimated at one hundred million; they had so well organized their business that bank notes and jewelry were sent directly to Belgium by automobile.

"Let us hope that with Roux the other guilty persons will soon be incarcerated in the fortress of Ha, and that an exemplary punishment will be meted out to these real war criminals." ( in the newspapers , October 19, 1948.)


  1. At present this Roux holds a high administrative office in the southeast of France. As a reward for his fine deeds no doubt!

Appendix B: The Two French Versions of the Gerstein Document

The following is the French version of the Gerstein Document as presented by L. Poliakov in 1951 (Breviaire de la Haine, pp. 220-24), with this comment: "This account was written down as is, in a halting French; the style has, in essence, been respected." And eleven years later in his book the Proces de Jerusalem, Mr. Poliakov presents it again in the form of Exhibit No. 124 of the Judgment, with this comment: "This document was written down by Gerstein directly in French. We present it here just as is." These two versions are reproduced on the following pages in parallel columns, with the first printed on the left side, and with the second printed on the right side, so that the reader may see for himself to what extent Mr. Poliakov merely "in essence, respected the style." What is one to think of a document which, after an interval of eleven years, can be presented in two such contradictory versions? It will be noticed that the Jerusalem Tribunal retained neither the daily extermination figures of the camps cited, nor the visit of Hitler to Belzec. And, what is one to think of a man like Mr. Poliakov who, after an interval of eleven years, presents these two versions of the same text?

From this same Mr. Poliakov we have a third version of the Gerstein Documents in Le Troisieme Reich et les Juifs (1955, pp. 107-119) and a fourth version in La Terre Retrouvee (April 1, 1964). These third and fourth versions include whole paragraphs which do not occur in one or the other of the first two. Moreover, they include material which is contradictory on many points, when compared with the former. And, like the former, they both bear the assurance that they were "reproduced as is," but with an additional notation. "From the German historical review, Viertel-Jahreshefte fur Zeitgeschichte , no. 2, April 1953." There is no doubt that at this rate Mr. Poliakov could soon be the impresario of a multitude of "Gerstein Documents," all different and all contradictory, but somehow all authentic. Incidentally, not one of these versions mentions the estimates which appear in the original in which the number of European Jewish victims "reaches 25 million."

Lastly, to conclude this discussion of the proliferation of Gerstein documents, I want to mention that a small volume has just come out in German with the title Kurt Gerstein (E.V.Z. Verlag, Zurich) and with the signature of a certain Helmut Franz, who was, he says, an intimate friend of Gerstein. Mr. Franz gives us a second German version of the Document that is very different from the one offered by Hans Rothfels

So that none of these alarming manipulations lose any of their flavor, there might be some interest in giving a little free publicity to the latest news which has reached us concerning this famous "Document:" in offering his fourth version in the French tongue in La Terre Retrouvee, Mr. Poliakov informs us that his original version (which of the four?) "has disappeared from the central depository of the archives of the French military court," and also that "the dossier of the proceedings begun against the man in 1949 by the Spruchkammer of Tubingen" was gone. Since these "two essential items" — and how essential! — "were lacking," he says that he was "prevented — from undertaking a serious study." It is remarkable that he is aware of this after having given three versions already and that this fact does not prevent him from giving the fourth.

We are forced to conclude that no one will ever be able to consult this document removed forever in this way from the scrutiny of historians. So I ask this question: in whose interest was it that this document should disappear? I propose to make an inquiry into this disappearance which is a criminal outrage to historical truth.

The Gerstein Document

First French version attributed to Gerstein by Poliakov in 1951, in Breviaire de la Haine.

A. Poliakov's Introduction:

The victims are no longer here to give testimony before the world; their executioners, too, have disappeared, or gone underground. Among the rare testimonies which have come down to us on the functioning of the camps, here is one from the tragic hero of the German Resistance, the chemical engineer Kurt Gerstein. His account was written down directly in halting French and we have in essence kept his style.

B. Text of the Document:

… in January 1942 I was made chief of the technical disinfection services of the Waffen-S.S., including also an extremely toxic gas section.

In this capacity I was visited on June 8, 1942, by S.S Sturmbannführer Gunther of the R.S.H.A., in civilian clothes. He was unknown. He ordered me to get for him immediately, for an ultra secret mission, 100 Kg of Prussic acid, and to bring them to a place known only to the driver of the truck

A few weeks later, we left for Prague. I could more or less guess what purpose the Prussic acid was to serve, and what kind of an order this was, but I accepted because it gave me the chance I had long been waiting for to get to the bottom of all these things. Moreover, as an expert on Prussic acid, I had such authority and jurisdiction that it was easy for me to state under some pretext or other that the Prussic acid was not usable, decomposed or something like that, and thus to prevent its being used for extermination. We took with us, pretty much by chance, Professor Doctor of Medicine Pfannenstiel, S.S-Obersturmbannführer, holder of the chair of Hygiene at the University of Marburg-on-the-Lahn.

Second French version attributed to Gerstein by the Jerusalem Tribunal in 1961, offered to the public by Poliakov in Proces de Jerusalem.

A. Tribunal's Introduction:

Exhibit 124. Here now we have a description from the pen of a German of the extermination method at the camp at Belzec, which very much resembled the one at Treblinka. The author is an officer of the S.S. by the name of Gerstein, whose conscience gave him no peace, and who, after 1942, tried to unveil to the world what was going on in the extermination camps.

Immediately after the war he drafted the document which we are about to cite, and handed it over to allied officers. Later we will return to Gerstein's comments about that. For the moment we will only say that the statements of Gerstein are supported on all points by the depositions we have heard, so that the proofs are mutually backed up. We consider that the description given by Gerstein is a description of what he actually saw. Here is what he wrote (T/ 13 09 (1)):

(N.B. This document was drafted by Gerstein directly into French. We offer it as is.)

B. Text of the Document:

[That part of the document that appears on the page at the left is omitted by the Jerusalem Tribunal.] (Left page)

Then we left with the truck for Lublin (Poland). SS-Gruppenführer Globocnik was waiting for us there. At the factory at Collin, I purposely let it be understood that the acid was to be used to kill human beings. In the afternoon a man showed a great deal of interest in our truck. He went off in a great hurry when he saw he was observed. Globocnik told us: "This is one of the most secret of all secrets there are, even the most secret. Anyone speaking about it will be shot at once. Just yesterday, two gabbers were shot." Then he explained to us:

"Actually (it was the 17th of August 1942) there are three installations in existence: 1) Belzec, on the Lublin-Lwow road. Maximum per day, I 5,000 persons. 2) Sobibor, I do not know exactly where it is, 20,000 persons a day. 3) Treblinka, 120 Kilometers NNE of Warsaw. 4) Majdanek, near Lublin (in preparation)."

Globocnik said, "You will have to disinfect a very large quantity of clothing coming from Jews, Poles, Czechs, etc. Your other duty will be to improve the working of our gas chambers, functioning on the exhaust of a Diesel motor. A more toxic gas is needed, and one that works faster, such as Prussic acid. The Führer and Himmler — they were here the day before yesterday, August 15th — ordered me to go myself with all those who are to see the installation."

Professor Pfannenstiel asked him. "But what does the Führer say?" Globocnik answered. "The Führer orders that all operations be accelerated. Dr. Herbert Linden who was here yesterday asked me, 'But wouldn't it be more prudent to burn the bodies instead of burying them? Another generation might judge these things in a different way.'

"I answered, 'Gentlemen, if ever after us there is a generation so cowardly, so soft that it cannot understand our so good and so necessary work, all of National Socialism will have been in vain. On the contrary bronze tablets should be buried stating that it was us, we, who have the courage to carry out this gigantic work.' Then the Führer said, 'Yes, my good Globocnik, you are right."

(Right page is blank) [That part of the document that appears on the page at the left is omitted by the Jerusalem Tribunal]

(Left page) The next day we left for Belzec. Globocnik introduced me to SS (1) … who showed me the installations. That day we did not see any dead, but a pestilential smell pervaded the whole region. Next to the station there was a large barracks "wardrobe" with an office-window "valuables." Farther on a hall with about a hundred chairs, "hair-dresser." Then a corridor 150 meters long in the open air, with barbed wire on both sides and with a sign "To the baths and inhalations." In front of us a house of the bath establishment type; on the right and on the left large concrete basins with geraniums and other flowers. On the roof the star of David. And on the building the inscription "Heckenholt Foundation."

The next day, a little before 7 o'clock, they announced to me: "In ten minutes the first train will arrive!" Indeed, a few minutes later a train did arrive from Lemberg: 45 cars with more than 6,000 persons. Two hundred Ukrainians detailed for this service, tore off the doors and with leather riding whips chased the Jews out of the carriages. A loud-speaker was giving instructions: Take all clothing off, even artificial limbs and spectacles. Turn all valuables and money in to the window marked "Valuables." Women and girls are to have their hair cut in the "Hair-dresser" barracks. (An Untersturmführer-S.S. told me, "It's to make something special for submarines.")

(Right page) The other day we left for Belzec. A small special station with two platforms sloping up the hill of yellow sand immediately to the north of the road and the railway. To the south, near the roadway, with a few service houses with the sign "Service area Belzec of the S.S. army." Globocnik introduced me to S.S.-Hauptsturmführer Obermeyer of Pirmasens, who showed me the installations with great retenance. That day no dead were seen, but the smell of the whole region, also of the highroad, was pestilential. Next to the little station there was a large barracks "Wardrobe" with a window "Valuables." Then a room with 100 chairs "Hair-dresser," then a corridor 150 meters long in the open air, barbed wire on both sides and with a sign "To the baths and inhalations!"

In front of us a house like a bathing institution; to the right and left, big concrete tubs with geranium or other flowers. After having gone up a small stairway, to the right and to the left, three and three rooms, like garages, 4 x 5 meters, 1.90 m. high. Going back, but not visible, wooden openings. On the roof, the star of David in copper. In front of the building the inscription "Heckenholt Foundation."

More — that afternoon — I did not see.

Other morning, a few minutes before 7 o'clock, I was told, "After ten minutes, the train will arrive!"

Truly after a few minutes the first train arrived from Lemberg, 45 cars with 6,700 persons, 1,450 already dead on arrival. Behind the little sky-lights with barbed wire over, children, youngsters, full of fear, women, men.

The train arrived: 200 Ukrainians, coerced to this service, tore off the doors and with leather riding whips chased the people out of the cars. Then a big loud speaker gave instructions: "In the open, some in the barracks, take off all clothing, also artificial limbs and spectacles. With little piece of string, offered by a little Jewish boy 4 years old, tie the shoes together. Turn in all valuables, all money to window." Valuables without voucher or receipt. Then the women and the young women to the hair-dresser - to have cut, one or two cuts, the hair which disappears into large potato sacks "to make something special of it for submarines, padding etc… . " the S.S.-Unterscharführer of the service told me. (Left page)

Then the march began. On the right and left the barracks, behind, two dozen Ukrainians, guns in hand. They approach. Myself and Wirth, we find ourselves in front of the death chambers. Completely naked, the men and women, babies, the mutilated, they go by. In the corner, a big S.S. with a loud pastoral voice says to the wretched people, "Nothing terrible will happen to you! Just breathe very deeply, it strengthens the lungs, it is a way of preventing the spread of contagious diseases, it's a good disinfectant!" They asked him what their fate was to be. He told them, "The men are to work, build houses and lay streets. The women will not be made to; they will be occupied with housekeeping and in the kitchen." It was for some of these poor people a last little hope, enough to make them march without resistance toward the death chambers. Most of them know everything, the smell gives it away! They go up a small wooden stairway and go into the death chambers, most not saying anything, pushed by the others coming behind them. A Jewess of about 40 years with eyes like torches, curses the murderers; getting a few blows of the whip from Captain Wirth himself, she disappeared into the gas chamber. Many say their prayers, others ask, "Who will give us water for death?" (Israelite rite.) Into the chambers the S.S. shove the men, "Fill up" Wirth has ordered, 700-800 in 93 sq. m. The doors are closed. At this moment I understand the reason for the sign "Heckenholt." Heckenholt is the driver of the Diesel, whose exhaust is to kill the unfortunates. S.S. Unterscharführer Heckenholt tries to get the motor started. But it doesn't go! Captain Wirth arrives. It is noticeable that he is afraid because I am present at this disaster. Yes, I see everything and I wait. My stop watch clocked everything, 50 minutes, 70 minutes, the Diesel doesn't go!

(Right page) Then the march began: to the right and left barbed wire, behind two dozen Ukrainians with whips. Led by a young girl, extraordinarily beautiful they came on. Myself with Captain Wirth, Police, we found ourselves in front of the death chambers. Completely naked, men, women, young girls, children, babies, those with only one leg, all naked went by. In the corner a husky S.S. who, in a loud, pastoral voice, said to the poor things: "Nothing will happen to you except that you must breathe deeply, it makes the lungs strong, this inhalation, it is necessary to counter contagious diseases, it is a very good disinfectant!" When he was asked what was to become of them, he said to them, "Truly the men are to work making roads and houses. But the women do not have to. Only, if they want to, they can help with the housekeeping or in the kitchen." For some of those poor people a little hope once more, enough to make them march without resistance to the death chambers, most of them know everything, the smell indicates what their lot will be! Then they go up the little stairway and — seeing the truth! Mothers, nursing, babies at the breast, naked, many children of all ages — naked — they hesitate, but they go into the death chambers, most of them without saying a word, pushed by those behind them who are hustled by the whips of the S.S.

A Jewish woman, about 40 years old, with eyes like torches, calls the blood of their children down on their murderers. Getting five blows of the whip on the face from Police Captain Wirth himself she disappeared into the gas chamber. Many say their prayers, others say, "Who will give us the, death water?" (Israelite rite.) Into the rooms the S.S. push the men. "Fill up good," Captain Wirth has ordered. The naked men are standing on the feet of the others. 700-800 in 25 square meters (2) and 45 cubic meters! The doors close. Meanwhile the rest of the train, naked, are waiting. I am told, "Also in winter naked," "But they might die!" "That's what they are here for," was the answer. Then I understood what "Foundation Heckenholt" meant. Heckenholt is the driver of the Diesel "the exhaust of which is destined to kill the poor people!" S.S. Unterscharführer goes to some trouble to get the Diesel motor running. But it doesn't start. Captain Wirth arrives. I can see that he is afraid because I am observing this disaster. Yes, I see everything, and I wait. My stop watch has fixed everything. 50 minutes, 70 minutes, the Diesel engine does not go!

(Left page) The men are waiting in the gas chambers. In vain. They are heard crying "like in the synagogue" says Professor Pfannenstiel, his eye to a window fitted into the wooden door. Captain Wirth, furious, gives a few lashes of the whip to the Ukrainian who is Heckenholt's helper. After two hours and 49 minutes the watch recorded everything — the Diesel begins to run. 25 minutes go by. Many are already dead, that can be seen through the little window, since an electric lamp lights up the interior from time to time.

After 32 minutes, finally, all are dead! On the other side, Jewish workers open the wooden doors. They have been promised — for their awful work — their lives, as well as a small per cent of the valuables and money found. Like pillars of basalt, the men are still standing, there not being the smallest space for falling or leaning. Even in death can be seen families holding hands. It is difficult to separate them, as they empty the rooms for the next load. They throw out the bodies, blue, damp with sweat and urine, legs covered with fecal matter and menstrual blood. Two dozen workers are busy going through the mouths, opening them with iron hooks, "Gold on the left, not on the right!" Others examine the anus and genital organs looking for money, diamonds, gold, etc… Dentists take out with the help of hammers, gold teeth, bridges, crowns. In the midst of them stands Captain Wirth. He is in his element, and, showing me a large can full of teeth, he says, "Look for yourself at the amount of gold! Just from yesterday and day before yesterday! You can't imagine what we find every day, dollars, diamonds, gold! You'll see yourself!" He leads me to a jeweler, responsible for all these valuables. They show me one of the heads of the great Berlin store "Kaufhaus des Westens," and a little man to whom violin music was being played, the heads of the gangs of Jewish workers. "He is a Captain of the Imperial Austrian Army, Chevalier of the German Iron Cross!"

Wirth tells me. Then the bodies were thrown into great ditches about 100 x 20 x 10 meters in size, situated near the gas chambers. After a few days the bodies began to swell up and the whole thing raised up about 2 to 3 meters because of the gas forming in the corpses. After a few days, when the swelling was over, the bodies sank down. Then, I was told, on the tracks of the railway the bodies were burned with the use of Diesel oil, so as to make them disappear ……

(Right page) The men wait in their gas chamber. In vain. We listen to them crying "like in the synagogue" says S.S.-Sturmbannführer Professor Dr. Pfannenstiel, ordinarius of Hygiene at the University of Marburg-Lahn, with his ear to the wooden door. Captain Wirth, furious, gives 11 to 12 lashes of the whip across the face of the Ukrainian, who is assistant to Heckenholt. After two hours, 49 minutes — the stop watch has recorded everything — the Diesel starts. Until this moment the men in the four chambers already full are living, living four times 750 persons in four times 45 cubic meters! Again 25 minutes go by. Many, it is true, are dead. That is what can be seen through the little window, through which an electric lamp lights up for a minute the inside of the room. After 28 minutes, still a few alive. After 32 minutes, finally, all are dead! From the other side, Jewish workers open the wooden doors. They have been promised — for their awful labor - their liberty and a few percentages of whatever the value of the valuables and money found. Like pillars of bassalt the dead are still standing, there not being the smallest space to fall or to lean. Even dead, one recognized families with their hands still clasped. It was difficult to separate them, in order to empty the rooms for the next load.

C. Poliakov's Conclusion:

There is much to add to this description, valid for Treblinka or Sobibor as well as for the camp at Belzec. The installations were conceived more or less in the same manner, and carbon monoxide, produced with a Diesel motor, was the method used for administering death. At Majdanek, which was created later and which lasted until the last days of the German occupation, the method of asphyxiation with Prussic acid (Zyklon B) was introduced, as it was in Auschwitz; we have pointed out, on the other hand, that Majdanek was not a camp for immediate extermination.

The researchers of the Polish War Crimes Commission have established that the total number of victims was close to 600,000 at Belzec, 250,000 at Sobibor, more than 700,000 at Treblinka, and 300,000 at Chelmno (300). They were more than 90% Polish Jews; but there was no European nationality not represented in the remaining 8 to 10%. In particular, out of the 110,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands, at least 34,000 were exterminated at Sobibor (301).

After nine months of intensive activity, the Belzec camp stopped functioning in December 1942. In the fall of 1943, once the "final solution" was for all practical purposes achieved in Poland, Sobibor and Treblinka were also closed down, and as many traces of them as possible were effaced, buildings torn down or destroyed, and the grounds carefully re-wooded. Alone, the camp at Chelmno, the first in place, kept on operating without interruption until the month of October 1944, and was not completely eliminated until January 1945.

C. Conclusion of the Jerusalem Tribunal

It is evident from the report of the Polish commission enquiring into Belzec (T. 1316) that this camp served above all for the extermination of Jews from southeast Poland; but Jews from Czechoslovakia, Austria, Rumania, Hungary and Germany were also killed there. The Commission estimated at 600,000 at least the number of people who met death there.

125. Testimonies given on Sobibor camp have given us a picture similar to that of Treblinka and Belzec camps. The Jews who were exterminated there came from Poland and the territories which the Germans occupied in Soviet Russia as well as Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. This camp was destroyed following a revolt of the Jewish prisoners which broke out there in October 1943. According to the estimates of the Polish Commission, 250,000 persons at least perished there.

126. Majdanek camp, a large concentration camp near Lublin, likewise served as an extermination center for Jews. They were killed there by shooting and by gas. Witness Joseph Reznik described to us (Session 64) a massacre of Jews by shooting that took place in November in "Field No. 5 of Majdanek." In the report of the Polish Commission is found the number of victims who were killed in the open in a single day, November 3, 1943: 18,000 Jews. Gas chambers were also installed at Majdanek. Jews were deported to this camp from Poland, Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, and western and southern Europe. The Commission estimated that 200,000 Jews perished there. Majdenek camp had branch camps, such as Travniki, which has already been mentioned as the destination for Jews from Germany.

Author's Postscript

The manuscript of this work was being printed when the shocking business of the Vicaire hit Paris. In the newspaper, Le Monde, which supported the play, I wrote that the Gerstein Document was an historical forgery, so false that the Nuremberg Tribunal itself had ruled it out as not proof of evidence, on January 30, 1946. Le Monde (December 26, 1963) published the information I gave them, with the following editorial comment:

"It is true that during the Nuremberg Trial the President set aside this part of the proof brought by the French Prosecution. Taken from the documents of the American delegation, it had not yet been authenticated under oath. This took place January 30, 1946, during the morning session. When the proceedings were resumed in the afternoon, the British Attorney General Sir Maxwell-Fyfe, explained that this report as well as all those of series PS had been authenticated by American officers. The Court then decided to take it in consideration."

I wrote again to Le Monde to point out to them that "authenticated by American officers" and "taken in consideration" did not mean "retained for the prosecution." I pointed out:

1. That during the afternoon session in question what had above all been decided (Report of the Hearings, p. 377) by common consent of the President of the Tribunal and Mr. DuBost was that Document P.S. 1553 was composed solely of 12 invoices for Zyklon B and that the Gerstein statement was not part of it. The Gerstein statement had only been introduced as a foundational reference to the aforementioned invoices: "To document P.S. 1553 [sic] attached the deposition of Gerstein and the explanations of the American chief of service who obtained this document…"

2. That all the P.S. documents "authenticated by American officers" had not necessarily been authenticated by the Tribunal — far from it! - and had not all been retained for the prosecution. All of those documents that had been authenticated and retained for use as evidence appeared either in one of the books reporting the hearings or in the list (Volume 24) of the documents retained, and in one or the other of the 18 volumes of documents, which was not the case with the Gerstein statement. In fact, all that was retained from P.S. 1553 by the prosecution at the Tribunal appears in volume 27, pp. 340-42. Two invoices for Zyklon B are found there (out of 12), but of the Gerstein statement there is not a word.

On December 30, 1963, Mr. Jacques Fauvet answered that the statement of Gerstein had, indeed, not been "taken in consideration" but that "he hesitated to prolong the controversy." In a word, I was right, but the readers of Le Monde were not to know it. The controversy remained open in their columns, but only to those who supported the merits of the argument of the play. Such are the mechanisms of conditioning public opinion. I need not comment further.


  1. This name is not legible. Wirth?, Pohakov says in a note.
  2. In other versions of this document, the dimensions of these rooms are given as 4 x 5, or 20 sq. meters, not 25; note also that the Poliakov version of 1951 does not give the dimensions of the rooms, but only their ground area, or 93 square meters.

Appendix C: The Wolfgang Grosch Statement and A Report of a Second Lieutenant to a Lieutenant

1. The Wolfgang Grosch Statement

The following is the statement of Wolfgang Grosch which is quoted from Le Pitre ne rit pas by David Rousset:

The undersigned Wolfgang Grosch attests and declares that the following is true:

… Concerning the construction of the gas chambers and their crematory ovens, the people of office C were responsible for the construction, after office D sent the order. The chain of command was this: office D got in touch with office C. The C.I. bureau laid down the plans for these installations, in so far as it concerned just the construction alone, then sent them to bureau C. III which took care of the mechanical aspects of these constructions, such as, for example, getting the air out of the gas chambers, or the fittings for the gassing. Then bureau C. III turned over the plans to some private company, which was to supply the special machines, or the crematory ovens. Always in channels, bureau C. III notified bureau C. IV which sent the order on via the Inspection Division of West, North, South and East Constructions, to the Board of Directors of Constructions. The Board of Directors of Constructions then transmitted the construction order to the respective directive offices of concentration camp construction, who then had the construction proper built by the prisoners which the D. III office put at their service. Office D gave the orders to office C. and the instructions concerning the dimensions of the constructions and their purpose. Fundamentally, it was office D which gave the commands for the gas chambers and the crematory ovens, signed: Wolfgang Grosch. (Emphasis added.)

This deposition was given to the Nuremberg Tribunal. If it was not entirely Grosch's doing, the gibberish in which it was drafted seems to have been scrupulously respected by the translator, obviously to keep up the confusion. The following points, however, cannot escape the reader:

  1. It is only a question of the construction of gas chambers, and not of their intended purpose or their use;
  2. The witness refers back to facts whose materiality could easily be established, and to "instructions" which could be published, but which, nevertheless, seem to have been carefully avoided, particularly concerning the purpose of the gas chambers, to which an allusion is made.
  3. Out of all the construction projects for the camps (living quarters, infirmaries, kitchens, workshops, factories, and the like), whose planning and building were consigned to office D, the gas chambers and crematory ovens were picked out and, in a singular manner, juxtaposed, with the object of better impressing upon public opinion the idea that the crematory ovens were designed as instruments of genocide for the specific use in the concentration camps; such a conclusion is unwarranted since cremation is a common practice — just as common as burial — all over Germany. For all these reasons, no historian can ever accept this deposition as reliable historical data.

2. Report of a Second Lieutenant to a Lieutenant

David Rousset also cites the following report in his Le Pitre ne rit pas:

501 P.S Kiev, April 16, 1942 (Reich Secret Business)

No. of postal sector: 32,704 B.N. 40/42 To S.S. Obersturmführer Rauff

Berlin, Prinz Albrechts, 8.

The overhauling of the vehicles of D groups and group C is completely finished. Although the vehicles of the first series can be used, even in bad weather (nevertheless it must not be too bad) the vehicles of the second series (Saurer) bog down completely in rainy weather. When, for example, it has rained, if only for half an hour, the vehicle cannot be used. It simply slides. It is not possible to use them except in perfectly dry weather. The only question that arises is one of knowing whether the vehicle can be used right at the place of execution when it is stopped. First of all, the vehicle must be brought to the place in question, which is only possible if the weather is fine.

The execution place is usually 10 to 15 km. away from the main roads, is chosen ahead of time, and not very accessible. It is completely inaccessible if the weather is damp or rainy. If the persons are brought on foot or by car to the execution place, they see right away what is going on, and become restless, which is to be avoided as much as possible. The only solution left is to load them in the trucks in the assembly area, and then take them to the place of execution.

I had the vehicle of group D. disguised as a gypsy wagon, and to do this I had one little window put on each side of the small cars, such as are often seen on our peasants' houses in the country, and two of these little windows on each side of the large cars. These vehicles were caught onto so quickly that they got the name "death cars." Not only the authorities, but even the civilian population, called them by this name, as soon as they were seen. In my opinion, even the disguise will not long keep them from being recognized.

The brakes of the Saurer vehicle which I drove from Simfiropol to Taganrog proved to be defective en route. The S.K. of Mariupol found that the brake handle worked on both oil and compression. Persuasion and bribery on the part of the H.K.P. did the trick, so that a form was made from which two handles could be cast… When I arrived a few days later at Stalino and Gerlowka the drivers of the cars complained of the same defects. After an interview with the commanding officers of those Kommandos, I went at once to Mariupol to have two other handles made for each of the vehicles. According to our agreement two handles will be cast for each car and six more will be sent to S.S. Untersturmführer Ernt for the cars of group C. For groups B. and A. handles can be got from Berlin, since their shipment from Mariupol northward is too complicated and takes too much time. Little defects in the vehicles are repaired by the technicians of the Kommandos or groups, in their own workshop.

The bumpy ground and the unbelievable condition of the roads and highways, little by little wear out the connections and the waterproofing. They asked me if we then had to have the repair work done in Berlin. But this would cost too much and would require too much gasoline. In order to avoid these expenses I left an order to have small soldering jobs done on the spot, and in case this should prove impossible, to telegraph at once to Berlin, saying that vehicle P.O.L. No…. was out of service. In addition, I gave an order that all the men should step away at the moment of the gassing so as not to have their health affected by any possible emanations of these gasses. I would like, on this occasion, also to make the following observation: several Kommandos have their vehicles unloaded by their own men, after the gassing. I drew the attention of the S.K. in question to the damages, as much moral as physical, which these men were risking, if not immediately, at least a little later. The men complained to me of headaches after each charging. The regulation, however, cannot be modified because it is feared that the prisoners (2) used for this work might be able to seize a favorable moment to flee. To protect the men against this disadvantage, I beg you to issue ordinances in accordance.

The gassing is not accomplished as it should be. In order to finish the job as soon as possible, the drivers always press the accelerators to the bottom. This chokes the persons to be executed instead of killing them by putting them to sleep. My directives are to open the throttle in such a way that death is more rapid and peaceful for those concerned. They do not then have such disfigured faces, do not leave behind them so much elimination as we have seen until now.

Today I am going to the station of group B. and further news can reach me there. Signed: Dr. Becker S.S. Untersturmführer

This report comes as support for an affirmation of Eugen Kogon who writes in his "Enfer organise":

… they (the S.S.) also used traveling gas chambers: they were autos which on the outside looked like police vans, and which on the inside had been adequately equipped. In these cars, asphyxiation by gas does not seem to have taken place very fast, since they usually rolled along for a long time before stopping and unloading the dead bodies. (Page 154)

Eugen Kogon, who does not tell us if any of these death vehicles have been found, does not cite this report either

In any case, the translator is to be congratulated, for although he failed to satisfy one's curiosity about certain things, he at least gave the text an extraordinary Latin cast in the expression of thoughts. And it must be noted:

  1. That it is easier for the present researchers to uncover documents about what went on at Mariupol than about what happened at Dachau;
  2. That, instead of an order that was issued by a ministry, being placed in evidence, what we have is the simple letter between a second lieutenant and his lieutenant concerning the matter;
  3. That even if this letter is a genuine document, it does not seem that any of the vehicles were found; at least, if any were found, very little publicity was made about the discovery.

The matter is still at issue, but, as we have seen from the proceedings of the Chelmno trial at Bonn, March 6, 1953, another version has been brought forward: it is no longer a question of Saurer vehicles. It was discovered in the meantime that the Saurer firm had not been making that type of vehicle since 1912! Rather, now it is claimed that the vehicles were American-made trucks that were designed for the disinfecting of troops while on campaign. These trucks, it seems, were furnished to Germany by the United States at the time of the Spanish Civil War. Further, it is claimed that vehicles of a similar nature were built by the Germans.

Verily, witnesses to anything can always be found!


  1. It is curious that this report of a second lieutenant was found, but not the written order with which it is concerned; or at least, it is curious that the one was published and not the other.
  2. What prisoners?