The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
In these cells, the women have now been replaced by shelves loaded with files. The visit began. Iwaszko carefully explained the content of each one. There were many files, but in view of the activity of the camp and its great size it was obvious that there remains only a small part of what must have been an enormous amount of paper.

We examined five cells whose subjects were not connected with my work, except that in one there was a file on the consumption of wood and coke by the Krematorien. The sixth cell was that of the “Bauleitung” and here I found the drawings over which I had sweated so often. I at last discovered the system under which the documents and drawings concerned with the Krematorien were classified. Each document or set of documents is catalogued under the initial designation BW 30/ [i.e. “worksite 30” the Bauleitung designation of the Krematorien] followed by a catalogue number. BW 30/1 to BW 30/34 contain the drawings of the Krematorien. BW 30/25 to 30/31 and 30/34 contain correspondence, orders and various other papers that have been found concerned with the construction of these buildings. I checked, for the principle of the thing, to make sure that I knew the main files, going through them to identify them. On the middle shelf where the BW 30 files were arranged. I found two that were carefully boxed and tied, marked in black letters Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich W Polsce [Central Commission for the Investigation of Hitlerite Crimes in Poland] that I had never seen. I took them and put them on small table that had been placed there to facilitate handling the documents. The open boxes revealed twelve small files, ten catalogued BW30/32 to 42, plus 30/32 A and 30/34 A. Seeing my surprise, mixed with a certain suppressed irritation, Iwaszko assured me that he had received then only two months earlier [!]. After quickly checking to see whether there was anything new among the fourteen drawings of the BW30/ 34 A. I came across the timesheets of Messing, a Topf fitter. Messing had noted, week by week. the details of the work of installing all the ventilation in Krematorien II and III. His records confirm what I had been trying to prove for two years. Obviously, the “Auskleidekeller / undressing cellars” struck us immediately. The visit had to end there because I had little time to look over everything before returning to France. I never finished visiting the archives… I bet Iwaszko a bottle of (Romanian) champagne that these new files would reveal “traces / slips” with “Gas-”. By the time the archives closed I had found a “Gasskammer” [gas chamber] in BW 30/38 and asked for it to he sent to me in microfilm form as soon as possible, which was done. As for the champagne, our schedules being so tight, it became purely symbolic.

These “rediscovered” files are extremely important. They contain eleven “slips” by civilian employees participating in the construction of the Krematorien. What is more, the timesheets [Document 27], brought further evidence regarding the already accusatory significance of a Bauleitung telegram [Document 28] urgently requesting Topf to supply “10 Gasprüfer / 10 gas detectors” for BW 30 [Krematorium II]. I call “slip”, the fact that a civilian working in an underground morgue (here Leichenkeller 2) of an apparently normal cremation installation can write instead of “L-keller 2”, “Auskleidekeller 2” [undressing cellar], which means that he had understood and knew very well what the purpose of this installation was. He was prudent, however, and did not have the courage to go all the way and call Leichenkeller I “Gaskeller 1” or “Vergasungskeller 1”.

Messing’s timesheets are the best documents found on the ventilation installations in Krematorien II and Ill. They cover in particular the period during which Krematorium II was unofficially brought into service. Messing was the kingpin in this work. Gassing would not have been possible in an underground gas chamber without a proper ventilation system. The beginning of the industrial extermination programme depended directly on his work.
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Document 23:
Document 23

Document 23:
[PMO neg. no 291]
THE FURNACE ROOM OF KREMATORIUM II, END JANUARY 1943 looking west-east. At the far end on the right is the corridor from which a staircase led to the roof space and at the end of which was the room known as “prisoners rest room” where Dr. Nyiszli and his assistants were housed in summer 1944. The hot air evacuation openings are indicated above furnaces 2, 3, 4 and 5, that of furnace I being hidden by a supporting beam. These openings were connected to a duct leading to the main ventilation chimney. It is impossible to state whether this was the first or second opening at the east end, the other opening being the gas chamber noxious air outlet. David Olère relates that when the members of the Sonderkommando were made to live in the roof space of Krematorien II and Ill, the favourite places to sleep were along the ducting, because of the heat given off.

This photograph was already famous at the time. Pery Broad speaks of it:
“Krematorien I [II] and II [III] were fitted with 15 furnaces each able to take four or five corpses. The Auschwitz camp Bauleitung was so proud of its work that a collection of photos of the Krematorien was publicly exhibited in the vestibule of its main building.

It had been entirely forgotten that the civilians who were going in and out past a close up picture of 15 cremation furnaces neatly aligned one beside the other might have been inclined to reflect less about the technical capabilities of the Bauleitung and much more about some of the more dubious institutions of the Third Reich.

It is true that Grabner soon intervened and quickly put an end to this singular propaganda, but he could not prevent the Bauleitung from employing civilian workers who, naturally, were perfectly familiar with the Krematorium equipment. When they left the camp they told all that they had seen.”