The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
The design of Krematorien IV and V
The design of Krematorium IV, the test bed, went through three phases, two theoretical and one practical. The first went no further than the drawings, while the second got as far as the beginning of implementation, then was modified in favor of the third which led to an illogical operating sequence for Krematorium IV and consequently its mirror image, Krematorium V. The period of design, then intensive utilization lasted from mid-August 1942 until mid-May 1943, when Krematorium IV was abandoned. Krematorium V alone went through two other phases: a fourth in May-June 1944, with a modification in the internal division of the gas chamber section and the digging of cremation ditches to do the work of the closed down furnace; and finally a fifth from autumn 1944 to mid-January 1945, a phase in which the building acquired a “normality” it had never previously known, being used simply as a sanitary installation for cremating the bodies of prisoners who died “naturally”.

The first phase is revealed by Bauleitung drawing 1678 of 14th August 1942, entitled “Cremation installation in the POW camp”, an installation to be duplicated and which was connected with the production of Bunkers 1 and 2, which was the result of the “special actions”. The disastrous health situation in the camp in August 1942 probably explains why the “cremation” part of the drawing was completed while the rest, considered secondary, was not. The building, measuring 67 m by 12 m, was made up of a “cremation” section (comprising the furnace room and its annexes and a separating air lock) and a “morgue” section of 48 m by 12 m, whose floor area of 576 m² was by no means exceptional for Birkenau, the combined area of Leichenkeller 1 and 2 of Krematorium II or III being slightly greater than this. However, the apparent normalcy of this additional cremation installation is called into question by a stove (source of heat) being shown in the morgue (cool room), thus indicating the presence of a gas chamber.

The drawing of the roof produced by Messrs Konrad Segnitz, dated 14th October 1942, shows the complete cremation installation, with its “furnace” and “morgue” sections being aired by six ventilation chimneys. The “abnormal” indication does not appear on this drawing.

Bauleitung drawing 2036 of 11th January 1943 provides further information and is to be considered the second phase of the project: the creation of two gas chambers to be used alternately, their “finished products” being evacuated via a corridor serving both of them into temporary storage in the central morgue, then “end use” of these products in the 8 cremation muffles of the furnace room. This plan was logical and functional. Admittedly there was no undressing room, but it would have been possible to use a system that was employed at Krematorium II in the second half of March 1943: the erection of a wooden undressing but in the immediate vicinity of the gas chambers. To make the gas chambers operational in this configuration required 4 gas-tight doors and 6 openings for pouring in the Zyklon-B, these last being fitted with gas-tight shutters (i.e. 2 doors and 3 openings per gas chamber). Bauleitung order 2261/80/17 of 18th January 1943 sent to the Auschwitz DAW workshops (number 109 of 19th February) was for “4 gas-tight doors” for worksite 30b (Krematorium IV). The Bauleitung order of 13th February. for worksites 30b and 30c (Krematorien IV and V) was for “12 gas-tight doors [shutters] 30 × 40 cm” six of these being destined for Krematorium IV.

In the end, however, the SS departed from this linear production line in the third phase, that of practical implementation. The two rooms and the corridor serving them became a “block” of three gas chambers, a space in which the internal divisions were no longer of any significance. To make the entire block gas-tight, only THREE gas-tight doors were now required (Bauleitung letter of 31st March 1943 to the DAW workshops, referring to order 2261/80/17 of 18th January 1943 for worksite 30b, initially for FOUR doors). The number of Zyklon-B introduction openings did not change, but instead of being 5 external and 1 internal they were now all 6 external. In order to work on the same principle of operation as Krematorien II and III, i.e. all stages taking place inside the building, the big central room now had two functions: morgue and undressing rooms.
The construction of Krematorien IV and V
The decision to build two additional cremation installations was taker in the middle of August 1942 and the relevant contracts were drawn up between the 14th and the end of the month. It was all done so rapidly that the contracts were awarded quite informally [Documents 5 and 6].

Nine civilian firms in Upper Silesia participated in the construction of Krematorien IV and V, which were designated during the construction stage as Bauwerke / Worksites 30b and 30c. Each firm was concerned with a particular part of the job, though they helped out another where appropriate. The shells were built by HUTA of Kattowitz and RIEDEL & SON of Bielitz; the roof was designed by KONRAD SEGNITZ of Beuthen and built by INDUSTRIE-BAU AC of Bielitz; the 8-muffle furnaces were built by JOSEF KLUGE of Alt Gleiwitz under the direction of the manufacturers, TOPF & SONS of Erfurt; the chimneys were built by ROBERT KOEHLER of Myslowitz; the external sewers and drains were installed by KARL FALCK o Gleiwitz and “TRITON” of Kattowitz.

Work on Krematorium IV began on 23rd September 1942 and the building was officially handed over by the Bauleitung to the Camp Administration on 22nd March 1943, though some further work was carried out from 24th April to 8th May 1943.

Work on Krematorium V started on 15th November 1942 and it was officially handed over on 4th April 1943, but it was not actually operational until 18th April and work was not completed on worksite 30c until 22nd April.

The western parts of both Krematorien were fitted with gas-tight doors and shutters ordered by the Bauleitung from the DAW metalworking and woodworking shops [see Part Il. Chapter 8, “Criminal traces”, which lists all the “slips” revealing criminal activity made by the Bauleitung and by civilian workers].

The barbed wire fences surrounding the ENTIRE Krematorien IV and V AREA were erected by Huta in April 1943. The work was held up somewhat by unforeseen difficulties [Document 7]. The fence was not electrified until much later, the current being switched on at 1600 hours on 26th June 1944.

The provisional estimate for Krematorium IV amounted to 247,000 RM, but after correction by the Bauteilung or the Inspectorate for Silesia the cost was reduced to 203,000 RM. The biggest saving was made on the shell, the price per square metre of which was reduced from the initial 50 RM to a final estimate of 35 RM. Huta and Riedel & Son cannot have been very happy about this saving of 40,000 RM made at their expense [Documents 8 and 9]. Koehler was paid 60,000 RM for the two chimneys. Messrs Topf & Sons received 22,000 RM for the 8-muffle furnace and an air extraction system costing about 8,000 RM, no mention of which is to be found in the remaining documents concerned with the construction of Krematorien IV and V. The guarantee given on the furnace by Messrs Topf & Son was for only TWO MONTHS. Prüfer knew the place and he knew the habits of the SS. Constant overloading together with the fact that the 8-muffle furnaces were built using second rate refractory materials (the only ones available) meant that they were not likely to last long. These two factors influenced the guarantee period and the fears were fully justified [Document 10].

Since we do not have the handover documents for Krematorium V, we do not know the exact cost price of the building, but it must have been very close to that of its twin, Krematorium IV, approximately 200,000 RM.

The incineration capacity of Krematorien IV and V appears in a letter sent by the Auschwitz Bauleitung to their superiors in Berlin on 28th June 1943: 768 corpses per unit in 24 hours, or a total of 1,536 per day for the two Krematorien. However, this figure was not based on practical experience of any kind but was calculated purely on the basis of the theoretical output of the 15 muffles of a Krematorium of type II/III:
1440 x 8 = 768 corpses per day
The practical output of a Krematorium of type IV/V was about 500 corpses per day. However, after the irreparable breakdown of Krematorium IV and the greatly reduced activity of V, these “results” triumphantly announced to Berlin meant absolutely nothing.

The fact is that Krematorien IV and V had scarcely been completed when the SS, like children with their new Christmas toys, started operating them at their absolute limit. Naturally, these overworked “toys” were soon broken. After two months, Krematorium IV was completely out of service. Krematorium V did not enter service until later, but was scarcely any better. The conditions of the two-month guarantee given by Topf were never respected: the furnaces were not operated correctly, being constantly overheated, and the Sonderkommando deliberately damaged the internal lining with their fire irons. All in all, the SS had great difficulty in trying to get some return on their investment of 400,000 RM, the approximate cost of Krematorien IV and V.
The operation of Krematorien IV and V
Arranged according to the third design stage of the SS, Krematorien IV and V were operated as follows: the “unfit for work” entered the central room and undressed there (undressing room function); naked, they were directed to the block of three gas chambers and once the gas-tight doors had been closed they were killed by means of the hydrocyanic gas given off by Zyklon-B poured in by an SS man; about thirty minutes later, the doors were opened to ventilate the gas chambers; the Sonderkommando men, wearing gasmasks extracted the bodies, removing anything that could be of use (hair and gold), and putting the bodies in the central room (morgue function) to await cremation according to the possibilities of the 8-muffle furnace (500 per day).

The floor area of the block of three gas chambers was 240 m² (4800m³). 2,400 people could therefore be squeezed in at a density of 10 per square metre. To gas them, 6 kg of Zyklon-B would be required (at the rate put forward by Camp Commandant Hoess of 6 kg for 500 m³ [ 1500 people in Kr. II/III] ). The SS pouring in the Zyklon-B would have to introduce one 1 kg can in each of the six openings in the outside wall, located about 2 metres from the ground. It would take four or five days to cremate these 2,400 bodies.

Documents 5 and 6
[PMO file BW 30/26, pages 52 and 53]
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The document, dated 20th August 1942, by which the Auschwitz Bauleitung informally awarded the contract for building the chimneys of Krematorien IV and V, worksites 30b and 30c to Messrs Roben Koehler of Myslowitz. This offer, with no acceptancc date, is not signed by either Robert Koehler nor by Bischoff, the head of the Bauleitung