The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
Thus Muller considered Krematorium V to be out of service, while at the same time he described himself as working there in the gas chambers, at the cremation ditches and at the 8-muffle furnace! To say nothing of the fact that he knew that Krematorium IV could not be working because between 500 and 700 Sonderkommando men, including Müller himself, were living there. Despite the fact that Filip Müller’s account was recorded too late and included involuntary errors and embellishments, and perhaps even lies, it is clear from it that one of the twin Krematorien IV and V was not operational in the summer of 1944.
5.- Slama Dragon, another former prisoner, heard by the Examining Judge Jan Sehn on 10th and 11th May 1945, states that he was detailed to Krematorium V in the autumn of 1943 and worked there until May 1944. He states that he was employed on gardening, wood cutting and coke transport [for which Krematorium?] as a member of the Sonderkommando of Kr V which was out of service throughout this period and whose furnaces were not reactivated until the arrival of the first transport of Hungarian Jews. He subsequently confirms that in May 1944 Krematorium V was brought back into service, but that at the very beginning of the Hungarian action the furnace of Krematorium IV was used to cremate the victims because that of V was out of order. He then reports that the Jews were burnt in five ditches dug behind Krematorium V.

Dragon’s statements concerning Krematorium V are now confirmed, but doubt remains about the use of the Krematorium IV furnace.
6.- Henryk Tauber, another former Sonderkommando man, testified before the Polish Judiciary on 25th May 1945 and is the best witness we know as regards the descriptions of the Krematorien. While he describes very precisely the layout and installations of Krematorium IV. where he was sent in mid-April 1943, Tauber says nothing about its breakdowns, its withdrawal from service and its occupation by 500 to 700 Sonderkommando men. When he speaks of the gas chambers of Krematorium IV it is actually those of Kr V that he describes, since he worked very little at IV and a great deal at V. He was an excellent stoker on the three-muffle furnaces [those of Kr II and III], knowing all their ins and outs and all the tricks for extracting the most from them, but he is unable to remember that the doors of the 8-muffle furnaces [of Kr IV and V] opened and closed guillotine fashion. In one extraordinary sentence, he reverses the causality having led to the digging of cremation ditches:
“It was realized that the ditches incinerated the corpses better [than the furnaces] which led to the successive shutting down of the Krematorien once the ditches entered service.”
Tauber, an exceptional witness. never departs far from the truth, but knowingly hides certain embarrassing facts through omission and causal metathesis, venial sins which were perfectly normal in the context of the Liberation when a single witness was scarcely able to say anything that could call into doubt the figure of 4 million victims had been decided upon too rapidly by the Soviet and Polish Commissions.
A comparison of these six “recollections” leads to the certainty that Krematorien IV and V cannot have worked continuously. There are areas of silence in the testimonies of former Sonderkommando members, caught between their honesty and the desire to communicate the horror of their life in the Krematorien, an experience that really cannot be transmitted. In 1945, faced by interrogators who were more interested in knowing the number of victims in the camp than in trying to understand the demential universe of everyday extermination, they-gave up the straggle and substituted a monstrous generality for their individual incommunicable experience. The[y] said what the people facing them wanted to hear; keeping silent about anything that conflicted with their vision of the continuous functioning of the death factories. We now have a number of German documents indicating that this was far from the truth, though it still cannot be irrefutably proved. As for the SS witnesses, having nothing more to lose they generally told something close to the truth, except for such cases as the gross error of dating committed by Pery Broad.
The genesis of Krematorien IV and V
The idea of constructing Krematorien IV and V came from a civilian, Kurt Prüfer, chief engineer of Messrs Topf & Sons. While the decision to switch the “projected crematorium” from the main camp to Birkenau, to build two mirror-image versions of it [Kr II and III] and to convert these installations for criminal purposes can be understood in the context of the “Sonderbehandlung” [special treatment) of the Jews, the building of two additional “forest Krematorien” seems quite superfluous. They represent in fact Prüfer’s “technical” response to the primitive experimentation of Bunkers 1 and 2.

It was found that the bodies “produced” by Bunkers I and 2 could not go on being buried in mass graves for fear of polluting the groundwater with the toxic products produced by their decomposition, so it was decided that they should be cremated. This meant in the first place “emptying” the graves. In preparation for the second phase Prüfer proposed on 19th August 1942 that a two-muffle furnace (carefully delivered “by error” to Auschwitz) should he installed near bunkers 1 and 2 in order to “treat” their production. The SS were not fooled by this “mistaken delivery” and refused the furnace. which was subsequently sent on to its original destination, Mauthausen. However. Prüfer was not one to give up easily, and he managed to turn a refusal to spend 8 or 9,000 RM, the price of one double-muffle furnace, into an order worth 27,600 RM, the cost of two eight-muffle furnaces at 13,800 RM each. For the price of about 6 or 7 cremation muffles produced by his competitors, Prüfer was offering l6. While we know that Prüfer directly influenced the Auschwitz Bauleitung in order to ensure that his furnaces, and in particular the eight-muffle ones were installed, we can but surmise about why the order was doubled. The two eight-muffle furnaces ordered on 28th August 1942 to equip the future Krematorien IV and V were not ordered for the sake of symmetry but, and it is here that the SS had the last word over Prüfer, because Himmler’s headquarters in Berlin had two eight-muffle furnaces of the “Mogilew contract” immediately available [out of a total of three and a half] and these were switched to the Auschwitz camp. The history of this order was recalled by Messrs Topf in a letter written to the Bauleitung on 7th July 1943, probably at the time when final settlement for the Krematorien IV and V furnaces was due, and the SS were trying to obtain a maximum discount on one furnace that was completely out of service after two months and another in very bad condition [Documents 2, 3, and 4].