The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
Document 23a
[PMO file BW 30/34, page 102]
Document 23a

The inspection of the above mentioned Krematorien and their internal installations has shown that despite the great amount of construction work involved and the difficulties due to weather conditions and the supply of materials, work has progressed rapidly.
Signed for J A Topf & Sons
Chief Engineer Prüfer
For Archives
[signed] Pollok
SS Second Lieutenant (S)

The cremation of disinterred corpses in open air ditches was completed on 30th November. According to Hoess, this operation destroyed 107,000 corpses.

The last date shown on the Topf “Bauberichte”, 30th November, seems to mark the end of the main construction work on the five 3-muffle furnaces, but they were not yet entirely complete or operational.

On 16th December, the 179 prisoners at worksite 30 and their capo (the number was at a maximum at that date, on average it was about one hundred) worked only in the morning, 4 hours instead of the usual 8 [PMO file BW 30/37, page 83]. This was probably connected with the security operation that was mounted over the next two days.

On 17th December, the camp Gestapo, for reasons of security, undertook a “Sonderaktion / Special action” (which probably in fact began the previous day) AMONG THE CIVILIAN WORKERS (of whom there were about 40 or 50 at worksite 30), [NB: the term “special action” in this context means checks and interrogations among a specific category of person and has nothing to do with the selection of those fit for work and the gassing of the rest]. In fact, a telex of 18th December signed by Bischoff [Document 21] specifically mentions the operation as being from 16th December, and two Huta “Tagesberichte / Timesheets” confirm it indirectly, the report for 17th slating: “Today there were neither civilian workers nor prisoners at the worksite” [30] and that for 18th. “Again, no civilians at the worksite”. Bischoff’s telex is the ONLY document concerning the Krematorien that is classified “SECRET”, and yet it contains nothing out of the ordinary. The mention “Secret” is probably a result of the Gestapo action, which made the Bauleitung SS more security conscious — for four days. Once the alert was over, they fell back into their administrative routine to such an extent that they made several “slips” that are now considered to be definite criminal traces, beginning about the middle of January 1943. The telex, in announcing in the same breath the completion dates for three Krematorien and the sending of civilian workers on holiday, borders on the surrealist, in that it disregards a basic fuel: buildings do not advance when nobody is working on them. The delays in the official handover of the Krematorien as compared with the dates announced were: one month for Krematorium IV, just under two months for Krematorium II and just under three months for Krematorium III. In order to make up for the twelve working days loss, the SS had to institute night shifts to work on the Krematorien.

On 19th December, SS Second Lieutenant Dejaco PERSONALLY DREW drawing 2003 [see annex] concerning the partial rearrangement of the ground floor of the western part of Krematorium II and the junction between Leichenkeller 1 and 2 in the basement. The elimination of the “Rutsche / [corpse] chute” makes the drawing incomprehensible, unless one accepts that the plan was for the corpses destined for incineration to enter the two mergers on their own two feet, hence STILL ALIVE. This drawing gives rise to the question: why did the SS want to bring live people into morgues, places generally reserved for the dead? The gradual adaptation of the Krematorien to become instruments of large scale murder enables this question to be answered.

On 22nd December, the Bauleitung informed Messrs Topf in their turn of the planned completion dales for Krematorien II, III, IV AND V (the planned date for this last being 31st March 1943 and the actual handover date being 4th April, only four days later), the dates for the first three having been announced in the telex of 18th December, and requesting that these dates be respected and that Topf and their principal representative for these buildings, Prüfer, take all necessary steps to this end. It should be noted that in this letter the Bauleitung still under the influence of the recent Gestapo “Sonderaktion” in the camp, coyly refers to the Krematorien as “Anlagen / installations”, a foolish attempt at dissimulation in view of the clearly stated subject of the letter: “KGL Auschwitz, Krematorium" [PMO file BW 30/27, page 19].


Having left Erfurt on 4th January 1943, the Topf fitter, Messing, arrived at Auschwitz on the morning of the 5th for the recommencement of work on BW 30 and 30a. That same afternoon, he started the job of fitting the three (suction type) forced draught installations on three sides of the collective chimney of Krematorium II, a job that took him until 24th January.

On 13th January, the Bauleitung reminded the Auschwitz DAW (German Equipment Workshops) that its woodworking shop was to produce on time the articles ordered for the different worksites around the camp. Particular mention was made of the doors ordered by the Bauleitung on 26th October 1943 “for Krematorium I [to become Kr II] at the POW camp [Birkenau] of which there is urgent need”, “zur Durchführung des Sondermassnahmen / for implementing the special measures” [Volume 11 of the Hoess Trial, Annex 4, microfilm no 205]. The same day, Messrs Kart Falck began work on the drainage of Krematorium II, a job that lasted until 30th March.

On 18th January, the DAW replied that the doors for worksites 30 and 30a had been made in accordance with the five tracings attached to the letter and that the Bauleitung should inspect them for conformity. It was Kirschneck who did this. The DAW also told the Bauleitung that any required changes could be made up to 21st January. However, it was not until 23rd that the Bauleitung told the DAW that one door thickness had to be increased and at the same time requested delivery of the windows for the roof space of Krematorium II (the two at each gable end and the thirteen dormer windows).

Between 26th January and 7th February, Messing fitted the pulsed air blower motors (known as “secondary motors") on the five 3-muffle furnaces of Krematorium II.

On 27th January, the Bauleitung informed Huta that their engineer, Herr Stephan, had not used a frost protection agent when pouring the concrete roof of Leichenkeller 2, despite the cold weather. Furthermore, the pit for the corpse lift (of Kr III), which should have been allowed for in the foundations, had been forgotten. It was now being dug, thus compromising the handover date for Krematorium II [?] and should be temporarily stopped, but the work was continuing despite the orders given, If either of these faults caused the slightest damage or delay, Huta would have to take the consequences. Krematorium II had to be finished by 31st January. This letter was not without its effect, for Huta finished the shell of Krematorium II almost on time.