The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
20. Gas[s]dichtenfenster versetzen [2nd mention] fit gas-tight windows
[File BW 30/38, page 61]
[Photos 26, 27, 28]
File BW30/38 contains 81 pages that can he separated into two parts. The first pages 1 to 42, contains the timesheets of the HUTA foreman Kolbe for the construction of the shells of Krematorien III[IV] and IV[V] from 9th November 1942 to 23rd January 1943, then Krematorium II[III] from 25th January to 21st February 1943. The second, pages 43 to 81, summarizes the continuation of this work until completion of Krematorien IV and V, from 23rd January to 10th April 1943. The initial timesheets show work carried out by Huta and are signed by foreman Kolbe and countersigned by the SS in charge of the worksite. The recapitulatory part, however, is in the form of a book of handwritten sheets, written in green ink (pages 44 to 75), and does not contain the name of either the firm or the author. Its text reproduces exactly that of the RIEDEL & SON “Tageberichten”, supplemented by progress reports on the construction of the chimneys by Messrs KOEHLFR (established by comparison with file BW 30/28. This notebook, of unknown origin and authorship, has to be authenticated, as it could have been written after the liberation of the camp.

It is necessary to prove that the notebook itself is of the period and that the text is not simply a straight copy of known documents. The paper itself was printed in 1935, as at the foot of one page in four there is the inscription “G.4 Waisenhaus-Buchdruckerei Kassel ( 1935) DinA4 doppelt” [Photo 29] This type of sheet may have been common and used by anybody. In 1945, the French military legal service were trying to prove the existence of a gas chamber in KL Natzweiler (the concentration camp at Struthof), and found a construction diary for the period 20th May 28th August 1943 [Photo 26] containing a page [Photo 27], dated 3rd August and signed by SS Second Lieutenant Heider, head of the camp Bauleilung, recording work carried out in a gas chamber and mentioning “Gasraum” three times and “Gaskammer” once. A photographic reproduction of this page, undoubtedly damning evidence, was presented in the albumCAMP DE CONCENTRACION STRUTHOF, published by the office of Captain Jadin, examining judge to the military Tribunal of the Xth Region at Strasbourg. The greater part of this work, which is no longer obtainable. was republished, with the addition of documents and comments in March 1985 in order to remove any ambiguity concerning the operation of this gas chamber (L'ALBUM DU STRUTHOF, Introduction and notes by Jean-Claude Pressac, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation). This page has at the bottom the same inscription as is found on those of the recapitulalory notebook of file BW 30/38, which indicates that the “Construction Management” of concentration camps such as Auschwitzand Natzweiler used this type of paper. As for the text of BW 30/38, there are differences as compared with BW 30/28. In addition no the work carried out by Riedel, there is that done by Koehler, and on the days when the latter is at work, the labor figures are higher than those shown on the Riedel timesheets and correspond to the total persons employed by the two firms. However, as file BW s30/28 also contains the “Tagelohn Zettel / daily timesheets” for Messrs Koehler, showing the number of people engaged and the work carried out, written in exactly the same way as as those mentioned in the notebook of BW 30/38, it might be thought that simply we simply have a copy with no original value. This assumption is not so justified as it appears, however, for the author of the notebook had to add up the labor figures, and recorded only the major details of the work carried out by KoehIer. There is a clear difference in the case of the electrical work, for which there are no other descriptions in any of the files BW 30/25 to 30/43 conserved in the PMO Archives (compare Photos 22 and 28, where on the latter the labor figures have been increased and the following additional text appears [lines 18-20]: “Stemmen und putzen bei Elektri[c]ker und bei Ofen Pflaster legen / chase and plaster for the electricians and lay tiles by the furnaces"). This establishes the authenticity of the notebook.

The timesheet for 28th February 1943 reads [lines 14 and 15 of Photo 28] Gas[s]dichtenfenster versetzen / fit gas-tight windows”. It should he noted that even the spelling mistake, “Gass-” instead of “Gas-”, has been copied.
21. betonieren im Gas[s]kammer [2nd mention]
[File BW 30/38, pages 62 and 63]
[Photos 29 and 30]
The daily report for 2nd March 1943 reads [Photo 29 line 28 and Photo 30 line 1] “und Fußboden betonieren im Gas[s]kammer / and concrete floor in gas chamber”. The same mistake is again copied.
22. 4 gasdichte Türe / 4 gas-tight doors
[Order No 226/80/17 of 18th January 1943 for Krematorium IV - NOT FOUND]

That there was an order of 18th January for 4 gas-tight doors for Krematorium IV is established by two documents that mention it: Order 109 [Photo 32] of 19th February of The “Schlosserei WL” file and the letter of 31st March 1943 [Photos 33 and 34] of Annex 3 to Volume 11 of the Hoesse Trial. The original has not yet been found.

This “phanthom” document is not “conclusive” proof of the existence of homicidal gas chambers in Krematorium IV. but it helps us to understand and establish how they were planned, built and used.

Contrary to what I said in my article on Les Krematorien IV et V de Birkenau in Le Monde Juif, the three documents cited above [Photos 31, 32 and 33] together with Krermatorium drawings 1678 of 14th August 1942 and 2036 of 11th January 1943 enable us to state that KREMATORIEN IV AND V WERE DESIGNED AS CRIMINAL INSTRUMENTS, though modifications introduced in the course of their construction and operation made their operating sequence absurd.

Krematorium II was used criminally with two different operating sequences. For one or two weeks (in March 1943 according o Henryk Tauber), victims took the following route: external undressing hut in the north yard, underground gas chamber [Leichentkeller 1] ground floor furnace room.No room had been planned for the storage of corpses (though the “Waschraum” on the ground floor was used for this purpose as a stop gap measure). The gas chamber itself assumed this function, which was that for which it was originally planned. Subsequently, after the temporary but had been dismantled, the victims took the route that was to become “conventional” for Krematorien II and III: underground undressing room [Leichenkeller 2], underground gas chamber[Leichenkeller 1] and the ground floor furnace room.

The Bauleitung produced only two drawings for Krematorium IV, valid also for Krematorium V. Comparing these drawings with the “Schlosserei WL” orders reveals the following evolution:
· Preliminary project: based on drawing 1678 of 14th August 1942, showing only the furnace room with two twinned 4-muffle incineration furnaces and its associated rooms on the eastern side, connected through a safety air lock to a large gas chamber of undetermined length. I state that this incomplete room is a gas chamber (and not a morgue, which by definition has to he kept cool) in order to explain the presence of a stove and a buffer air look between this room and the furnace room. The flue from the stove runs underground to chimney of one of the twin 4-muffle furnaces. This incomplete preliminary project could have been completed by an undressing room in the western part, so that its functioning would have been in a straight line running west to east. It was abandoned for unknown reasons that I would assume were connected with the risk of accidental poisoning in the furnace room during natural ventilation of the gas chamber.
· First design: based on drawing 2036 of11th January 1943, the orders of 18th January and 19th March 1943 for FOUR gas-tight doors and that of 13th February 1943 for 12 gas-tight windows for BOTH Krematorien IV and V (SIX per building).

The drawing shows than the two rooms on the west Side are gas chambers, for they each have a stove and require, to be made gas-tight, 4 doors (two per room) and 6 windows (3 per room), one being INSIDE the corridor giving access to the chambers, unlike the five others that are on the outside). The victims would take the route: gas chamber 1 OR gas chamber 2, corridor, vestibule. morgue [central room) and furnace room. This sequence is linear, thus LOGICAL.

In industrial terms, 2 manufacturing units [gas chambers 1 and 2] alternately supply a product [corpses] to be held in a store [morgue] while waiting to be consumed [in the cremation furnaces]. In human terms, people walk in on their own two feet at the western end of Krematorium IV and go out in the form of smoke from the chimneys at the eastern end.

The position of the two gas chambers and their corridor, at the western end, permits natural ventilation without danger to the people working in the morgue or the furnace room. But the building has no undressing room. The victims have to get undressed outside. The Bauleitung could alleviate this problem by erecting a “stable type” hut for this purpose on the other side of the “Ringstraße / ring road” just opposite Kr IV.
· Second design: based on the letter of 31st March 1943 and the testimony of S. Dragan with the creation of a gas-light unit comprising the two gas chambers AND the corridor. Three doors and six or seven windows are required to make it gas-tight. By adding the possibility of using the morgue as an undressing room, the following sequence is obtained: entry through the vestibule, undressing room [central room], vestibule, western unit of the two gas chambers and corridor, vestibule, morgue [central room] and furnace room. The route is no longer linear and the operating sequence has become totally illogical, the argumenl I maintained in my article.