The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
(Documents 58/I and 58/II)

Jewish resettlement action.
The Auschwitz camp has a special task in the settlement of the Jewish question. The most modern methods make it possible to implement the Führer Order very quickly and discreetly. The so called “resettlement action” for the Jews proceeds as follows: The Jews arrive in special trains (goods wagons) towards evening and are taken by a special line to a special area of the camp. There they are unloaded and examined by a medical board in the presence of the Camp Commandant and several leading SS in the first place to see if they are fit for work ["selection"]. Here anybody who can be integrated into the work process in anyway is sent to a special camp. Those with some temporary ailment are sent immediately to the quarantine camp [B.IIf] and are brought back to health through a special diet The basic principle is: keep as many prisoners as possible for labor. The “resettlement action” of the old sort is completely rejected, for it is not permissible to systematically destroy substantial labour capacities.

The unfit go to a biggish house, into the basement rooms, which are accessible from the outside. They descend 5 or 6 [1] steps and come to a long, well built and ventilated basement [Leichenkeller 2], fitted with benches on the right and left. It is brightly lit, and above the benches are numbers. The prisoners are told that they are to be disinfected and washed ready for their new tasks. They therefore have to undress completely to be bathed. In order to avoid any panic or disorder, they are told to arrange their clothes neatly and leave them under a number so that they can find their things again after the bath. Everything proceeds in complete calm, They then go through a small corridor ["Gang” on drawing 932] and arrive in a big basement room [Leichenkeller 1] that resembles a shower room. In this room, there are three big pillars [2]. Into these it is possible from above, outside the basement, to lower certain products. After 300 to 400 people have gathered in this room, the doors [3] are closed and from above the containers with the products [cans of Zyklon-B pellets] are lowered into the pillars. When the containers reach the floor of the pillars, they produce certain substances that put the people to sleep [!] in one minute. A few minutes later, the door on the other side [4] is opened, leading to a lift ["Aufzug"]. The hair of the corpses is cut off and the teeth are broken out (gold teeth) by qualified people (Jews). It has been observed that Jews have hidden jewels, gold, platinum, etc. in hollow teeth. After this the corpses are loaded into the lift said go to the first floor [5]. There, there are 10 big crematorium furnaces [6] in which the corpses are burned, (As fresh corpses burn particularly well, the whole process requires only ½ to 1 Zentner [25 to 50 kg] of coke). The work itself is carried out by Jewish prisoners who will never leave this camp.

The result to date of this “resettlement action": 500,000 Jews [7]. The present capacity of the “resettlement action” furnaces: 10,000 in 24 hours [8].

[Franke-Gricksch reports that “The unfit go to a BIGGISH HOUSE, into the basement …”, without saying that it is a crematorium, or which one. Later in his account we learn that the “house” is equipped with “big crematorium furnaces”, so it must have been a crematorium. Only Krematorien II and III had semi basements, whereas Krematorien I, IV and V had none. On 4th May 1943, only Krematorium II was complete and operational, while Kr III was not yet ready. Franke-Gricksch’s “biggish house” can therefore be nothing other than Birkenau Krematorium II. The errors in his report are:
[1] “5 or 6 steps” (for the access stairway at the western end of Leichenkeller 2) instead of 10. Simple lack of attention on the part of a man who used this stairway only once. The error would be more serious on the part of a Sonderkommando member, using it several times a day.
[2] “three big pillars” [columns for pouring Zyklon-B] instead of four. The explanation of this error is that Franke-Gricksch must have just gone a few paces into Leichenkeller 1, not down to the end, and thus noticed only three of the four columns.
[3] “the doors [of Leichenkeller l] are closed” instead of the door, singular. This is probably due to confusion with the double door of Leichenkeller 2 leading to the corridor, through which he had just come before having a quick look over the threshold of Leichenkeller 1.
[4] “the door on the other side is opened, leading to a lift”. There was not an entrance door at one end and exit at the other, but only one door to Leichenkeller 1, through which the victims entered and from which the corpses were removed. This is the most glaring fault, but may be explained by the route taken during Franke-Gricksch’s visit.
[5] “go to the first floor” instead of the floor above, or ground floor. A common mistake made by many witnesses.
[6] “10 big crematorium furnaces”, instead of 5 three muffle furnaces or 15 muffles. As with Leichenkeller 1, Franke-Grisksch probably did not go the whole length of the furnace room, but stood at the western entrance in front of the first furnace and listened to the explanations given. It could be that the figure ten was the total he was given for the capacity of Krematorien II and III together (10 three muffle furnaces).
[7] “500,000 Jews” [in May 1943], instead of a true figure of probably somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000. This figure would have been provided by the Auschwitz SS guide and Franke Gricksch is merely repeating the inflated figure given to make the camp look efficient.
[8] “10,000 in 24 hours”, instead of the “official” figure of 4,756 per day for the FIVE Krematorien (I, II, III, IV and V), itself a theoretical figure that was never achieved in 1943, as proved by the Krematorium coke consumption. The maximum daily throughput of the 4 Birkenau Krematorien was in the order of 3,000 incinerations. What is more, in May 1943, Kr III was not yet in service. This is simply another Auschwitz SS propaganda figure passed on by Franke-Gricksch.]

The report was found in his career file and is now thought to be preserved in the National Archives Collection of World War II, War Crimes Records, in Washington, under reference NA RG 238. The author is unable to be certain whether or not Franke Gricksch was a direct witness of the gassing of the Greeks found unfit for work. The enthusiastic tone of the report throws some doubt on his DIRECT participation, despite his description of the gassing, and this would explain certain errors. Unlike other dignitaries of the Third Reich, who after witnessing the “special treatment” of the Jews, became silent about it, visualizing the insane consequences, Franke-Gricksch is quite lyrical about the technique used by the Auschwitz SS to implement the “Jewish resettlement action”, the title he gave to his report, which in fact was to be the very first report on the extermination of Jews in the Birkenau Krematorien, at a farm when Kr III was not even finished. In addition, this report was produced under very favorable circumstances: it was the first, the author was an SS witness writing freely (not testifying before an Allied tribunal) and he had visited the site, guided and given explanations by one of the people responsible for its operation. However, as compared with the testimony of former Sonderkommando members collected after the war, his report is disappointing, and contains eight errors, six of which can be attributed to its author, Franke-Gricksch.

There are two hypotheses possible: either Franke Gricksch visited Krematorium II when it was empty, or he witnessed a batch of unfit for work being gassed and then incinerated. In 1942 43, most of the “special actions” took place at night for obvious reasons of discretion, and since Franke Gricksch was expected in Cracow in the evening of 4th May it is almost certain that he would have been unable to see the arrival of the Greek Jews, which probably took place after his departure. This is the author’s firm belief, but he is unable to prove it.

The most striking and serious error in his report is his stating that the gas chamber (Leichenkeller 1) had a door at each end. This can be explained only if there was some kind of break in his visit to the crematorium that caused him to lose his bearings somewhat. His error becomes comprehensible if we assume the following itinerary: descent from the outside to the undressing room [Leichenkeller 2], walk through its entire length to the double door at the far end, through this into the short corridor and then the vestibule, from which he took a few steps into the gas chamber [Leichenkeller 1], whose operation was then explained to him. He emerged from the basement via the northern stairway into the yard. then entered the ground floor of the crematorium through the north entrance and was shown into the furnace room. Here the virtues of the Topf furnaces were extolled, probably while he was standing before Furnace 1. Then he took the corpse lift down to the basement, in front of the entrance to the gas chamber (where, not recognizing the vestibule he had passed through some time before, he thought this was ANOTHER door to the gas chamber). He probably went back up to the ground floor on the corpse hoist and left the Krematorium through the main, north, door. The “break” thus occurred when he emerged from the basement by the northern stairway, instead of more logically taking the corpse hoist directly up to the furnace room. One indication that Franke-Gricksch did not actually witness a gassing, is his description of the successive states of the victims: they walk in, are put to sleep and are then corpses to be incinerated. Finally. the Franke-Gricksch report is very short on detail regarding Krematorium II, even though it does correctly describe its criminal operation. It’s only real, and very important, merit is that it gives a clear and precise explanation of the term “Jewish resettlement action / Umsiedlungsaktion der Juden”. The original method was wholesale annihilation, the second method involved selection into three groups (those it for work being used as labor, those temporarily unfit being rapidly cured and used as labor, those unfit being sent to a “biggish house” [Krematorium II] where they are “put to sleep” and reduced to ashes), The title of the “Auschwitz: Album” by Serge Klarsfeld. “Umsiedlung der Juden aus Ungarn” [Resettlement of the Jews from Hungary], despite the fact that it has been possible to compare certain scenes in the photographs with a “peaceful country outing against a background of barbed wire”, can no longer give rise to any discussion, and covers the second type of “resettlement”.]