The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
received by the four Krematorien WAS ONLY SLIGHTLY MORE THAN THAT REQUIRED FOR 14 MUFFLES OUT OF 46 (including March 1943, the result changes very little, being slightly over 15 muffles). From April to October 1943 Krematorium II, III, IV, and V worked the equivalent of only TWO MONTHS at full capacity (out of seven). Admittedly, they incinerated the corpses of between 165,000 and 215,000 victims during that time, but it is apparent from the files that Birkenau was OVER equipped with cremation capacity, because until the end of October 1943 they were used to ONLY A QUARTER OR A THIRD OF THEIR MAXIMUM CAPACITY (which means that the 15 incineration muffles of JUST ONE installation of the Krematorien II/III type or the 16 muffles of Krematorien IV AND V would have amply sufficed for the incineration of the corpses from the extermination of the Jews and that two Krematorien, II and III, or three Krematorien, III, IV and V were superfluous to requirements). This over supply of cremation capacity is confirmed by Camp Commandant Hoess in his autobiography ["Commandant of Auschwitz”, Pan Books 1961, page 216]
“Number III [Kr IV] failed completely after a short time and later ceased to be used altogether. Number IV [Kr 5] had to be repeatedly shut down, since after its fires had been burning for from four to six weeks, the ovens or the chimneys burnt out. The gassed bodies were mostly burnt in pits behind crematorium IV [Kr V]” [is, fact this was the situation only in the summer of 1944 during the extermination of the Hungarian Jews].”
It should be noted that before May 1944 the SS made no attempt to repair Krematorien IV said V, considering (and the coke consumption figures prove it) that ON THEIR OWN the 30 muffles of Krematorien II and III [the 6 of Kr I finally having been withdrawn from service] were AMPLY SUFFICIENT for “routine” extermination. The only major repair undertaken was that of the Krematorium II chimney, in May to July 1943, as at this time the SS could not let their cremation capacity tend towards zero. In the author’s opinion, the excess cremation capacity al Birkenau, which remained a constant feature even during the extermination of the Hungarians, was due to two factors: first, the absolute panic that seized the SS in July/August 1942 when they were confronted with a raging typhus epidemic and were in a situation where they had to combat this by every possible means and at the same time urgently find an “industrial” technique for large-scale extermination; second, the influence of Topf engineer Prüfer, a born fighter who new how to profit from the SS panic and appear as their savior, selling them all he could and taking a profit for himself.]
On Saturday 13th March, after a working day of FOURTEEN HOURS during which Messing put the finishing touches to the job, the ventilation and air extraction systems of Krematorium II Leichenkeller 1 WERE FINALLY DECLARED “FIT FOR SERVICE”.

ON SUNDAY 14TH MARCH, Messing continued installing the ventilation of Leichenkeller 2, which he called “Auskleiderkeller II/ Undressing cellar II”. IN THE EVENING, ABOUT 1,500 JEWS FROM THE CRACOW GHETTO WERE THE FIRST VICTIMS TO BE GASSED IN KREMATORIUM II. They did not undress in Leichenkeller 2, still cluttered with tools and ventilation components, but in a stable-type hut temporarily erected in the north yard of the Krematorium [Document 37].

On 17th March, Jährling again calculated the theoretical daily coke consumption of the four Birkenau Krematorien, this time without any errors: 7.84 tons for 12 hours (one day of operation) [Document 33].

In view of the approaching date for the official handover of Krematorium II, the Bauleitung Drawing Office produced an inventory drawing on 19th March, drawing 2197, to be attached to the deed of transfer. Drawing 2197 to a large extent copied drawings 932,933, 934, 936 [937, 938]. 980, 1173 1174 and 1311, bringing them all together and modifying them according to the changes since made (but not completely). Three versions of 2197 were produced, with the differences concerning only the “Kettergnandriss/ Basement plan” [see these drawings in annex]. The most complete is 2197[b](r), showing the building’s drainage (inspired by 1300) and lighting systems, This drawing is essential for understanding the inventories, attached to the deed of transfer, describing the equipment installed on each floor of Krematorium II, and it even makes it possible to correct an error on one of these inventories. One of the two commissions of enquiry (probably the Polish Commission) had 2197 redrawn after the war, because it is barely legible [Document 38]. On the same day. Huta requested their site superintendent at Auschwitz, Herr Stephan, to find out which of his workers had worked on the night shifts instituted to complete Krematorium II, and for how long, so that this nightwork could be invoiced to the Bauleitung, who had ordered it. On 19th March the Bauleitung drew up the “Ubergabeverhandlung / Deed of transfer” for the handover of Krematorium IV to the KL Auschwitz Administration. Accepted on 22nd March, Krematorium IV was officially the first Birkenau Krematorium to come into “action” (built in five months and completed less than seven months after being designed), In actual fact, the furnaces of Krematorium II had been operational since the beginning of March and the gas chamber since the 14th.

On 24th March, the engineers Prüfer and Schulze, summoned by the Bauleitung, arrived at Auschwitz to find a solution to the problems encountered in the operation of Krematorium II during the first gassings (1,500 Jews from Cracow) the on the 14th and 2,200 from Saloniki on 20th). A summary record of this meeting, which lasted two days, was compiled by Kirschneck on 25th [Documents 39]. There was bad news for Topf: the famous forced draught installations, which had done nothing but cause problems, were to be dismantled. This decision meant that the installations planned for Krematorium III were to be abandoned and the planned preheating of Leichenkeller I was no longer possible. Also, a more substantial blower casing, in cast iron, was to replace the wooden one in place, probably to prevent leakage. Finally, the corpse charging trolley (of the type used in Krematorium I) was to be abandoned in favor of the easier to use “Leichentrag [or Leichenbrett] / Corpse stretcher [or board]”. As a result the rails running along the furnace room and carrying the turntable were removed and replaced by a concrete trough which was kept full of water to make it easier to drag the corpses from the lift to the furnaces. The rails in front of the furnaces, however, were left in place even though now redundant [Documents 40, 41, 42 and 43]. During Prüfer and Schulze’s stay at the camp, almost 2,000 Jews from the Saloniki ghetto were gassed on 24th and a further 1,200 on 25th. The two engineers must have witnessed this, in view of their degree of involvement in the homicidal installations of Krematorium II.

[Document 39, the summary record of the meeting of 25th March 1943, is a “criminal trace” concerning the existence of homicidal gas chambers.]

On 29th March. Jährling, on behalf of the Bauleitung, confirmed to Topf by letter that the wooden case or housing of the two air extractor fans (for the Leichenkeller 1 of Krematorien II and III) were to be replaced by a cast iron model. From 29th to 31st March, Messing was completing the installation of the undressing room ventilation system, which became operational on 31st.

On 30th March, Kirschneck wrote a brief note to the effect that SS Second Lieutenant Eggeling (an agricultural engineer) was to be responsible for all water supply and drainage work for Krematorium III.
[The drainage system of Krematorium III was simplified as compared with that of Krematorium II. For example, the Kr II gas chamber [Leichenkeller 1] sewer manhole was brick built with an internal iron ladder, whereas in Kr III it was simply a few sections of low cost concrete pipe [Documents 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48]. In the author’s opinion, this type of simplification of construction, based on the experience of building Krematorium II, was used wherever possible in Krematorium III, which probably explains its lower overall cost: 554,550 RM for Kr III, as against probably 646,000 RM for Kr II.]

Document 38
Document 38

[When a Krematorium was handed over to the camp administration, the Bauleitung compiled a set of documents comprising:
A. The deed of transfer ("Ubergabeverhandlung")
B. A description of the building ("Gebüadebeschreibung") [this was in fact on the verso of the above, A and B being a single sheet].
C. An inventory drawing ("Bestandsaufnahme") of the building on a scale of 1:200 (Kr II and III) or 1:100 (Kr IV and V).
D. Three inventories (basement, ground floor, roof space) indicating the nature and number of electrical, sanitary or other installations on each floor for Kr II and III (3 sheets), or just one inventory (ground floor) for Kr IV and V (I sheet).
E. The construction contract ("Bauantrag") with an explanatory report ("Erläuterungsbericht") (2 sheets).
F. A summary of the expenses incurred and the total cost of the building ("Kostenverschlag") (2 sheets).
In theory, such a file should have been handed over each time one of the Krematorien was accepted, making a total of 32 documents and drawings. However, only 20 documents, are known at present:

Krematorium II: A, B, C, D (E and F missing. C is drawing 2197).
Krematorium III: A, D, E, F (B and C missing. Probably no specific drawing).
Krematorium IV: A, C, D E F (B missing. C is drawing 2036)
Krematorium V: (All documents missing. Probably no specific drawing).

The known documents are preserved in PMO File BW 30/43.]