The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
VI/ The floor area of Bunker 1 (Rudolf HOESS)
According to Camp Commandant Hoess, Bunker 1 could contain 800 victims, while Bunker 2 with a total surface area of 105m² and a usable area of 90m² could take 1 200, i.e. 13 persons per square meter This is an exaggerated figure, since it is possible to squash together only 8-10 persons per square meter. In reality, Bunker 2 “absorbed” no more than 700-900. However, if we assume that the figures given by Hoess are both exaggerated in the same proportion, it is possible to calculate the useful floor area of Bunker 1 by dividing its capacity by the it number of persons per m², i.e. 60m² and including the walls a total ground area of a little under 70m² which could hold only a batch 450 600 victims.
In order to try to adopt a valid approach to Bunker 1, I have cited six witnesses: two SS and four former prisoners:
1. Rudolf Hoess speaks only of the genesis of Bunker 1. He was the direct initiator of the installation comprising, according to him, a converted farmhouse and two undressing huts. Extermination capacity 800 persons.
2. Pery Broad never described Bunkers 1 and 2, but in reality only Bunker 2, as can be proved, i.e. the white house(s).
3. Szlam[a] Dragon, white he worked at Bunker 2 and knew this place perfectly, devoted only a few lines to Bunker 1, which means that he visited it but little. Yet he is the only one to give a precise description of the unit known as Bunker 1: a small house converted into two gas chambers, a small barn and two huts. In the light of certain other testimonies, this description, which was considered sound, calls for a certain caution.
4. Maurice Benroubi mentions Bunker 1 as comprising only “two blocks” with one or more gas chambers. His account is not situated, but the indication of 300 to 400 meters separating the graves from the Bunker called a “brick house” (of reddish color), indicates that he was certainly speaking of Bunker 1.
5. Milton Buki by 1980 remembered only a “farm cottage of brick” with a few steps and the mass graves some distance off. These elements indicate fairly certainly that he was speaking of Bunker 1.
6. Moshe Garbarz was only able to see Bunker very far off as he worked at the graves and I hesitated a long time before situating his account. Was it Bunker 1 or Bunker 2? I have decided in favor of 1 because of a single detail that agrees with S. Dragon's deposition: the presence of a barn. Historically, this is not sufficient, but with all due caution, two factors come to reinforce the thesis that Bunker 1 was involved: the strange Sonderkommando dressed in white and his participation in the erection of the lamps for night work, facts mentioned by Mr Benroubi. But in order to accept that Mr Garbarz' account is concerned with Bunker 1, it has to be admitted that a straight path wide enough for the circulation of the wagons (hence 6 or 7 meters wide) was cut through the forest and gave a direct view between two places, Bunker 1 and its graves. Nothing Mr. Benroubi says confirms his point, and would even seem to contradict it. Another clue would indicate that it was Bunker 1, the distance of the observation. In the area if Bunker 2 and its graves, observation is direct and of no more than 50 to 100 meters maximum. A distance of 400 to 400 meters would better explain the account of this witness. In addition to the barn, he also mentions two or three houses where there were small gas chambers able to handle about twenty persons at a time per house, or 80 in all. This is far from the figure put forward by R. Hoess, 800, Lastly, I would stress that Mr. Garbarz' testimony is by no means early, his book dating from 1984.
It is impossible to make a synthesis of all these accounts. A drawing of Bunker I and the associated installations would make it possible to judge the value of the testimonies, which include many personal impressions, but few precise details on the gas chambers. These participants could hardly have imagined in 1942 that they would become the “privileged few” who witnessed an incredible episode and lived to tell the tale. All they knew was hunger, cold and the wish to save their own skins. The rest did not exist.

There was, no drawing made except, it would appear, for a situation plan drawn by Hoess, and Bunker 1 was carefully dismantled without leaving any ruins. Without any material traces, the location [Document 2], internal organization [Document l], and the arrangement of the different annexes of Bunker 1 will never be clearly elucidated. Its purpose, the extermination of human beings by gassing, cannot be called into question, if only because of the consent repetition of an identical process in the accounts of former prisoners, unless like certain revisionists of bad faith we claim that the witnesses were all lying, including the SS.
The plan of the Birkenau camp [Document 3] is that presented by G. Wellers in “Les chambres à gaz ont existe” [The gas chambers did exist], which was taken from Hermann Langbein's book “Der Auschwitz Prozess”, the Auschwitz Trial]. pp. 930 931

Comparison with other plans of Birkenau reveals that it is of very mediocre quality as regards many details. I present it here simply to demonstrate the difficulty historians had in situating Bunker 1 and its incineration ditches in 1965, and indeed still have today, and the errors that can result.

Documents 4 and 5, together with drawings 2534(2) [Document 6] and 3386 [Document 7] prove without doubt that these are the provisional sewage decantation basins of B.A. III, dug alongside drainage ditch F while awaiting the building of the future sewage treatment plant for BA. III, which was in fact never completed.

Thanks to the testimonies of survivors of the burial Kommando, we now know that the Bunker 1 graves were 300 to 400 meters to the WEST of the Bunker, not to the SOUTH, and were dug actually IN the Birch Wood in order to be hidden from view.

It can be seen that drawing 2534 (2) shows neither orientation nor situation, but by reference to drawing 3386, showing the second planned section of sewage plant III, we can locate the four basins in the proximity of Graben [drainage ditch] F, on the western edge of the third construction stage of Birkenau. Photo 1 also confirms this location of the basins. On Photo 2, at the end of the basin is the Bestehender Weg [existing road] shown on drawing 3386.

I have presented Lagdein's “Auschwitz-Prozess” plan reproduced by G. Wellers, not to accuse them of “falsification”, for their books are sound and honest and have become classics of K.L. Auschwitz history, but to illustrate the difficulty of rectifying a mistaken interpretation even on a minor point. In this case two photographs and two drawings are required.
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