The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
On 8th and 9th March, and March, Messing continued working 8 hours a day on the air extraction system of Leichenkeller 2, which he designated “Auskleidekeller / undressing cellar”.

On 10th March, Messing worked for SIXTEEN HOURS straight, testing the ventilation and air extraction systems of Leichenkeller 1 of Krematorium II. These tests were intended to determine first the effectiveness of the ventilation, then the waiting time necessary between the introduction of the toxic gas and the opening of the gas-tight door. The ventilation system of Leichenkeller 1 had initially been designed for a morgue, with the fresh air entering near the ceiling and the cold unhealthy air being drawing out near the floor. Its use as a gas chamber really required the reverse situation, with fresh air coming in near the floor and warm air saturated with hydrocyanic gas being drawn out near the ceiling. But the SS and Prüfer chose to maintain the original “morgue” ventilation system in the gas chamber, hoping that it would be efficient enough. The famous ten gas detectors, ordered through Topf, were used to check this point, and probably also to cheek the gas-tightness of the door sealing. It would appear that by the evening it was established that the ventilation was almost satisfactory, and that 20 to 30 minutes appeared sufficient to bring the HCN concentration down to a reasonable level so that the door could be opened and the future (corpse) “extraction commando” could start its work in reasonable safety. In the author’s opinion, it was still necessary to make some adjustments and modifications before the optimal result was achieved.

On 11th March, principal engineer Schulze [written Schultze] obtained from Bischoff a certificate of presence at Auschwitz for 1st to 12th March, having had to remain on site, in accordance with the contract, for the installation of the ventilation and air extraction systems [of Leichenkeller 1] of Krematorium II. This certificate states that the ventilation of the gas chamber was to come into service in the evening of 12th March. In fact it was not ready until the following evening. The same day, Jährling sent the Camp Kommandantur Administration three copies of the “Betriebsanweisung / Operating instructions” for the 3 muffle furnaces of Krematorium II [Document 31] supplied by Messrs Topf and being no different from those provided for the third double-muffle furnace [known as the “new furnace” of Kr I]. Two copies were displayed in the furnace room [one of them being “recuperated” by Dr Miklos Nyiszli in November 1944] and the other was filed.

On 12th March, Messing was again at work on the ventilation of the “undressing cellar” [Leichenkeller 2] of Krematorium II, probably waiting for parts to he manufactured locally or the completion of other work before finishing off the ventilation system of Leichenkeller 1. The same day, Jährling calculated the theoretical coke consumption to allow for the four Krematorien and obtained a figure of 8,264 kg for 12 hours of operation (it being implied that the furnaces would operate 12 hours s day) [Document 32]. 321. His calculation contained TWO ERRORS [!], the first concerning the consumption of Krematorien IV and V, and the second an error in addition (a mistake of 800 kg — he should have obtained a total of 7,464, not 8,264). Bischoff initialed the incorrect result without question. The figures were considered to be maximum consumption ("Spitzleistungen / Peak production"). Jährling admitted he could not determine annual consumption because it was not known how many hours a day the furnaces world be working.
[The correct theoretical consumption was calculated by Jährling on 17th March [Document 33], giving a figure of 7,840 kg of coke for the four Krematorien in 12 hours of activity PER DAY. Very proud of himself for having achieved a “good” result, Jährling signed it and added his status “Z.a. Ing./ Civilian employee, Engineer” a detail that should have been omitted considering his arithmetical abilities! The result of 12th March, instead of being cancelled and destroyed, was filed with that of 17th, on which Kirschneck nevertheless wrote “dieser Vermerk is richtig! / this note is correct!”. While it might be thought that these calculations were the result of incompetence and irrealism, this is not the case and the theoretical result, apparently very approximate, turns out quite accurate when compared with another PMO file.

PMO microfilm 12,012 contains the coke delivery notes for the Krematorien (without distinguishing between them) from 16th February 1942 to 25th October 1943, a period in which Krematorium I was the only one in operation for the first thirteen months, followed by the completion and bringing into service (between 22nd March and 25th June 1943) of the four Birkenau Krematorien and the abandonment of the cold “old Krematorium” at the Stammlager. The some two hundred and forty delivery notes preserved make it possible to determine coke requirements month by month:
1942 1943
(from 16th only)
22 tons Jan 23 tons
Feb 40
Mar 39 Mar 144.5
Apr 39 Apr 60
May 32 May 95
Jun 29.5 Jun 61
Jul 16.5 Jul 67
Aug 31.5 Aug 71
Sep 52 Sep 61
Oct 15 Oct 82
Nov 17
Dec 39
Disregarding February 1942 (incomplete data) and stopping at the end of February 1943, we can determine the average monthly coke consumption of Krematorium I over a twelve month period: 31.1 tons. As Krematorium I had 3 double muffle furnaces, one muffle required approximately 5.2 tons of coke per month. The note of 17th March 43 establishes a theoretical daily consumption of 7.84 tons for the four new Krematorien with a total of 46 muffles, which also gives a monthly consumption of 5.2 tons of coke per muffle. These two concordant figures:, coining from different sources, show that the theoretically calculated figures of the note of 17th March can be considered valid and that in PMO microfilm 12,012 the delivery notes for the supply of coke to Krematorium 1 [Document 34] are complete.

As from March 1943, the delivery notes [Documents 35 and 36] indicate only total consumption without any breakdown between the different Krematorien. Disregarding March 1943, when Krematorium I was probably still working and large quantities of coke were used in drying out and warming through the Birkenau furnaces, then assuming for the sake of argument that all the Birkenau Krematorien were operational al the beginning of April, then the overall consumption was 497 tons of coke in seven months (April to October) and with a monthly consumption of 5.2 tons per muffle, then the total coke

Document 33
Document 33