The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
silos, etc), together with the associated components (fans, valves, and cocks) and, of course, incineration furnaces, they did not manufacture gas detectors, objects associated with systems totally foreign to their spheres of activity, so they must necessarily have had to order them from another civilian firm. Why did this SS use Topf an intermediary instead of directly approaching a specialist supplier? The answer must be that in this was they avoided awkward questions or the putting of two and two together that might have occured if some civilian firm not knowing the “special activity” of the Auschwitz camp had received such an order. On the other hand there were no such worries in dealing with Prüfer, who was after all technical advisor for the Krematorien.

From 26th to 28th February, Messing was working on the air extraction ducting of Leichenkeller 2 (the future undressing room), which was in the form of a metal tube twenty centimeters or so in diameter running the whole length of the room [see the drawing by David Olère. Part II Chapter 6].

On Friday 27th February. following the letter concerning the weak state of the prisoners detailed to worksites 30 and 30a, the Bauleitung informed the camp labor service that this commando, since it could not be employed on worksite 30, had been sent to 30b (Krematorium IV), probably to do simple handling jobs better suited to their physical condition, and requested that the number of prisoners be increased and the commando be ready to work on both sites 30 and 30a, the nest day. On the same day, the Bauleitung sent to Messrs Topf its requests for the release of metal parts for the ventilation and air extraction installations and for the forced draught system for Krematorium II, asking Topf to specify the needs more precisely, naturally as a matter of urgency. In addition the Bauleitung informed Industrie Bau AG that work on the roof of Krematorium II should be commenced immediately, the cost being estimated by the Bauleitung at 9,418.04 RM.

On 28th February, following a conversation with Prüfer, Jährling wrote out the Bauleitung’s firm orders for two electric corpse lifts (one for Kr II, the other for III, to be used to raise the corpses from the basement morgues to the level of the furnace room on the ground floor) for a total of 18,742 RM (9,371 each), fitted with a transport cage 1.80 meters long, 1.35 wide and 2.10 high. This was in addition to a Demag goods hoist of 1,500 kg capacity at a price of 968 RM, to be delivered immediately to temporarily equip Krematorium II.

On 1st March. the contract for the roof of Krematorium III was awarded to Industrie Bau AG, on the basis of its tender of 27th February (drawn up by the Bauleitung!) for a sum of 9,418.04 RM. On the same day, Huta transmitted to its foreman at Auschwitz, Herr Stephan, Sheet 11 [see annex] of Project 7015/IV (Krematorien II and III) drawn that day and concerning the ceiling supporting beam and cross beams of the waste incinerator room (probably of Krematorium III, for this was modified with respect to Krematorium II, the annex wing being made longer).

From 1st to 7th March, Messing worked pro the ventilation system of Leichenkeller I (future gas chamber) which he brought into service on 7th.

On 3rd March, the Bauleitung sent to Industrie Bau AG a release request form for iron to be filled immediately. This was for 25 Kg required for the additional 2 meters of roof on the southern wing of Krematorium III and was on top of the request for 800 kg already made for the roof as a whole.

On 5th March, the Bauleitung ordered from the metalworking shop of the Auschwitz DAW [German Equipment Workshops] “1 St[ü]ck Handgriff für Gastür Ø 12 / 1 handle for gas [tight] door, 12 [mm] diameter” for Birkenau Krematorium II. The order was received on 6th March and completed on 10th. This was not an ordinary door handle, but a metal bar 20 to 30 cm long, riveted at each end and fitted horizontally on the door to facilitate its handling.

On 6th March, the Bauleitung ordered from the DAW metalworking and wood working shops “one gas [tight] door, 100 [cm wide] by 192 [cm high] for Leichenkeller 1 of Krematorium III, BW 30a, to be made on the same pattern as dimensions as the cellar door of the Krematorium opposite [II] with a 8 mm double glass peep-hole, with rubber sealing strip and fittings”. The door had still not been made by 31st March. This order proves that the Leichenkeller 1 of Krematorien II and III were fitted with gas tight doors [see this extract from a letter of 31st March 1943, Part II, Chapter 8, “Criminal traces"]. The same day, the Bauleitung sent a letter to Messrs Topf, written by Jährling and signed by Bischoff, agreeing to the written suggestion (by Prüfer) [this has not been found, and was probably destroyed because it discussed the project in “too realistic” terms] that the CORPSE CELLAR [LEICHENKELLER] 1 SHOULD BE PREHEATED with the hot air coming from the three small rooms housing the motors for the forced draught installation [Document 30]. This installation, driven by those 15 HP (11 kW) motors driving the three fans drawing the flue gases from the furnaces to the chimney, produced a lot of heat, and neither the SS nor Prüfer had planned any way of dissipating it. It is more than likely that it was again Prüfer who had the bright idea of getting around this problem by channeling the unwanted heat to the Leichenkeller 1, where heat was required to bring the temperature of the room up as quickly as possible to 25 or 30 degrees centigrade (the temperature of evaporation of hydrocyanic acid being 26-27° C). If the gas chamber were to be preheated, the toxic effect would be instantaneous, producing a “flash” death. Prüfer, while claiming to act out of “humanity” towards the poor Jews, was doing everything in his power to push his firm’s sales, on which he got a commission of 2%. In the author’s opinion, this letter is one of the most vital elements in proving the existence of a homicidal gas chamber in Leichenkeller 1 of Krematorium II. Otherwise it is incomprehensible and absurd that there should be plans to heat a morgue, a place that by definition should be kept cool. Furthermore, one cellar of Krematorium II is formally designated an “Auskleideraum / Undressing room”. The letter does not specify which cellar, but Messing, in his timesheets, indicates it precisely: “Auskleidekeller II / undressing cellar II [for 2]”. Thus, this document contains two damning “slips”, important indirect proofs demonstrating the “abnormality” of the Leichenkeller: Leichenkeller 1 can no longer be an underground morgue because there are plans to “preheat” it; Leichenkeller 2 can no longer be a morgue because it has become a place where people get undressed. However, before Prüfer’s bright idea could be put into practice, one of the forced draught motors caught fire, damaging the installation. This fire caused the system to be withdrawn from service in Krematorium II and totally abandoned in Krematorium III. Natural draught was henceforth used in all four Krematorien, which meant lost commission of several hundred Reichsmark for Prüfer and the impossibility of preheating the Leichenkeller 1.

Document 32
Document 32