The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
(Page 27)
MAJOR DRAPER: My next witness is Dr Bendel, who will give his evidence in French, which Major Forrest will interpret.
(Page 28)
DR C S BENDEL is called in and having been duly sworn in is examined by MAJOR DRAPER as follows:
Q. What is your full name?
A. Charles Sigismund Bendel.
Q. What are you by profession?
A. A doctor.
Q. Are you at present living in Paris?
A. Yes.
Q. When did you first enter a concentration camp?
A. 10th December 1943.
Q. When did you leave the concentration camp for the last time?
A. 6th May 1945.
Q. Over that period what camps were you in?
A. Buna-Monowitz, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Mauthausen.
Q. Why were you originally interned?
A. For political and racial reasons.
Q. Were there any gas chambers at Auschwitz as opposed to Birkenau?
A. There was one gas chamber in Auschwitz.
[In fact there were 24 known gas chambers, but only one was homicidal, that in Krematorium I]
Q. How many gas chambers were there at Birkenau?
A. Four crematoria and one Bunker.
[The witness indicates the places in which there were gas chambers, the number of which he did not know, as a more precise question could have revealed]
Q. For how long did you work at Birkenau?
A. From 1st January 1944 to 18th January 1945.
Q. What was your employment at Birkenau?
A. I was a doctor.
Q. Who were you attending as a doctor?
A. The inmates.
Q. What special work were the internees of Birkenau doing?
A.. The normal inmate worked in the camp on whatever work could be found to give some sort of illusion of work
Q. Who looked after the crematoria in Birkenau?
A. The so-called Sonderkommando, a special task force.
[The witness is talking about the Sonderkommando-SS, made up of 3 SS NCOs per Krematorium]
Q. How many men were there in all working on the Sonderkommando at Birkenau?
A. 900 men.
Q. Were they all Häftlinge [prisoners]?
A. Yes.
Q. While you were at Birkenau, how many human beings were gassed in the crematoria?
A. In Birkenau or in the crematoria during the time I was in the crematoria?
Q. During the whole time you were at Birkenau.
A. About one million. [Getting on for 300,000 would be more accurate]
Q. That was from February 1944 to January 1945?
A. Yes, one million.
Q. In that time a million?
A. Yes.
Q. How were they killed?
A. They were gassed.
Q. What sort of gas?
A. Prussic acid.
Q. Did it have a name?
A. Zyklon-B.
Q. Do you know the total number of people exterminated at Auschwitz during the whole period of the camp’s existence?
A. More than four millions.
[The witness could not possibly have known the number of victims. He is repeating the figure generally accepted at the time, but which has now been determined more precisely, in particular by Georges Wellers and Raul Hilberg (one million for this latter historian)]
Q. What was the greatest number of people ever gassed at Birkenau in one day while you were there?
A. During the month of June the number of gassed was 25,000 every day.
[Or in other words 750,000 dead in the 30 days. The former camp commandant, Hoess, reports that the maximum figure reached was a little over 9,000 in 24 hours as the result of delays having caused five convoys to arrive on the same day. The witness is inventing things]
Q. With gas?
A. With prussic acid.
(Page 29)
Q. Did you ever see this prussic acid gas that was being used?
A. I have seen the tins. I have opened some of the bodies of those people who had been gassed.
Q. Would you indicate to the court whether any of those tins in front of the court are of a similar type to those to which you are referring?
A. Yes.
(Witness indicates Exhibit 4 and the smaller tin of Exhibit 2).
[We have no description of these exhibits. They were Zyklon-B cans of different sizes. The product came in cans of 200g. 500g, 1 kg and 1.5kg. Further on in the interrogation, the term “"medium.” is applied to Exhibit 4 and “small”, to Exhibit 2. Thus 2 would be 200 or 500g and 4 would be 500g or 1 kg]
Q. Are the labels on these tins the same as the labels on the tins you have been telling us about?
A. I remember “Zyklon-B.”.
Q. Have you yourself ever watched this gassing process?
A. Yes.
Q. How many people could be put into one crematorium at a time?
[Confusion between “Krematorium” and its gas chamber(s)]
A. In Crematoria 1 [II) and 2 [III], 2,000 into each; Crematoria 3 [IV] and 4 [V), 1,000 each: and into the Bunker [2/V], 1,000.
Q. How were they put in — tightly packed or not?
A. In the beginning they started gassing incoming groups above the number of 300; up to the number of 300 they were shot, above the number they were gassed.
Q. Later how was it done?
A. There were two [basement] rooms in each crematorium. In Crematoria 1 and 2 [II and III] one put 1,000 people into one room, so it was 2,000 at a time in both gas chambers.
Q. What size were the chambers?
A. Each chamber was 10 metres long and 4 metres wide. The people were herded in so tightly that there was no possibility even to put in one more. It was a great amusement for the SS to throw in children above the heads of those who were packed tightly into these rooms.
[The Leichenkeller 1 (gas chambers) of Krematorien II and III were 30 m long, 7 m wide and 2.41 m high, and the Leichenkeller 2 (undressing rooms) were 50 m long, 7.93 m wide and 2.44 m high, according to surviving Bauleitung drawings 932 and 933. Taking into account the division of Leichenkeller 1 into two. we obtain two chambers 15 m long, 7 m wide and 2.41 m high. In the witness’s memory, the size of the gas chambers has diminished by one third to one half. The concentration of people per square metre is increased accordingly]
Q. Were the people dressed or undressed at the time?
A. They were naked.
Q. How high was the room in relation to an ordinary person?
A. You had the impression that the roof was falling in on your head; it was about 5ft 8ins.
[Subjective estimate — see previous comment]
Q. After the people had been pushed inside, what happened next?
A. When the people were there inside, one locked the doors. For about two minutes you heard shoutings and screams.
Q. How was the gas inserted?
A. There were two methods of infiltrating the gas. In Crematoria 1 and 2 [II and III], it came from the roof and it came straight down until it touched the floor.
[Correct. The poison, fixed on silicon pellets, was poured into mesh columns, from which it diffused]
Q. How many tins of gas did it need to exterminate a thousand people in a gas chamber?
A. I have the impression that two tins were sufficient for one thousand people.
Q. Which size, the middle size, the large size or the small size?
A. The medium size. (Witness indicates Exhibit 4)
[Two cans of 500g or 1 kg to kill 1.000 people piled up on 105m²corresponds to the introduction of 1 or 2 kg HCN in a volume of 250m³. Before the Nuremberg Tribunal, Hoess had stated that it took 6 cans of 1kg (6kg) to gas 1,500. Only the Leichenkeller 1 of crematorium II and III, with 210m² of area and 500m³ of cubic volume, was actually able to contain that human mass. So gas, was used according to Bendel at a concentration of HCN from 4 to 8g/m³ and, according to Hoess, one to 12g/m³. A concentration of 0.3g/m³ being enough to kill a man instantly, the quantity indicated by Bendel was 13 to 27 times the lethal dose, the one given by Hoess 40 times. These high percentages brought on an “overkill” ensuring a “flash” death]
Q. How many were gassed in May and June 1944?
A. About 400,000.
[200,000 would be more accurate]
Q. In August of 1944?
A. From the 15th July to ist September, 80,000.
[The Lodz ghetto, the last in Poland, contained 70,000 Jews who were “resettled” in Auschwitz between 15th August and 18th September]
Q. What was the big period of the exterminations?
A. It was May, June or July.
Q. What did they do with the clothing of the prisoners who had been gassed?
A. There was a special working party and their duty was to collect those clothes. The clothes were sent to Auschwitz to be disinfected.
[Not to the main camp, but to Kanada I situated between the main camp and the station]
Q. Can you give any idea of the quantity of such clothing which would be available?
A. I do not know about the quantity, but I know about the disinfectant room where these clothes have been disinfected.
(Page 30)
Q. How large was the room and how much clothing was in it?
A. It was a very little room. I know it because 200 men of my own Kommando were gassed in that room.
[The witness is speaking of the gas chamber or perhaps one of the two disinfestation gas chambers of Kanada I. There is no relation between the smallness of the room and the 200 men gassed, an incident that is not confirmed. See Part I, Chapter 4 “Kanada 1"]
Q. What quantity of clothing was stored there?
A. Clothing belonging to about five to six hundred people.
Q. When was disinfection of barracks and clothing carried out in that camp?
A. During the whole period from 10th December 1943 until the 18th January 1945 I remember only one disinfection of barracks.
Q. What method was used?
A. This time when I saw it — I repeat once — it was done by gas.
Q. Did they ever do disinfection of clothes or of barracks by any other method than than gas at Auschwitz and Birkenau?