The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
month it was increased to 1000 because of the Hungarian transports. Moll and his men plunged us into despair and distress through their behaviour and the way they treated us during the whole period of the mass cremations of the Hungarian transports. As soon as contact was established between the camp and the outside world, we decided to organize an insurrection that would enable us to find a way to freedom or die in the attempt. The uprising was fixed for June 1944, but I no longer remember the exact date. However, it never took place even though everything was ready, to the point that we had revealed the secret to some people who had previously suspected nothing. This affair caused us a great deal of trouble, and when it was discovered there were many victims. The first to be shot, shortly after the date planned for the beginning of the insurrection, was our Capo, Kaminski. Then, in order to make it impossible for us to have any contact with the outside world, we were transfered to Krematorium IV. Two hundred prisoners from the Sonderkonnnando installed there were selected and sent to be gassed. They were gassed in the delousing chamber of Auschwitz “Kanada”, [1] and were incinerated in Krematorium II by the SS themselves.

[Henryk Tauber is here reporting a dubious episode that he did not personally witness. The fact is that it is most unlikely that 200 members of the Sonderkommando would allow themselves to he shut in a gas chamber, even though it appeared “normal” because it was used for disinfestation purposes. Since it was fitted, like the homicidal gas chambers, with the same type of gas-tight door visible at the entrance, it is impossible that 200 men who knew all about the business, who had been opening and closing such doors for months, would have entered such a room without staging a revolt. This execution by gassing still remains to be proved.]

As our situation was becoming more and more painful, we decided to escape from the camp, even though we were closely guarded and rigorously controlled. Once preparations were complete, the revolt came in September 1944 [Incorrect date, it actually began at noon on Saturday 7th October 1944, with the burning of Krematorium IV]. It also spread to Krematorium II. During the revolt in Krematorium IV, we killed 25 to 30 SS [incorrect figure. Only three SS were killed], then we scattered. Before fleeing., we set Krematorium IV on fire and blew it up [the explosion is not certain]. The alarm was given in the camp, and the SS surrounded all the Krematorien, capturing virtually all the escaping prisoners. When the insurrection was over, of the 1000 men of the Sonderkommando, only about 190 remained alive [of the 212 surviving on 9th October, 14 were arrested and imprisoned on 10th and 198 were temporarily saved]. We were all housed first of all in Krematorium III, then some were transfered to block 11 of Sector BIId [barracks of the punishment commando, a prison in the men’s camp]. Then, a convoy of 100 prisoners left there [their intended destination was KL Gross-Rosen. It is not known what became of them] and a further group of 30 was detailed to the incineration of corpses at Krematorium V. Sixty remained in block 11 and worked in the demolition commando (Abbruchkommando) dismantling Krematorien II and III, which were to be transported to Gross-Rosen.

[Project mentioned by the Unknown Author in a note of 26th November 1944. See the text in Part II Chapter 6 on the ventilation systems of Krematorien II and III. This is a story that probably grew up among the members of the Abbruchkommando themselves, and is a pure myth concerning the installation of gas chambers at KL Gross-Rosen and Mauthausen using the air extraction equipment of the undressing rooms!]

Later on, the 30 “stokers” of Krematorium V came back to block 11, which housed about 90 Sonderkommando members when the camp was liquidated. On 18th January 1945, we were assembled, together with the prisoners from the other Auschwitz blocks and herded in the direction of the Reich. After about 20 kilometres. I escaped, and so I was able to save my life.
I have already mentioned that there were four pathologists belonging to the Sonderkommando. At first, they lived with us in the block, but later they installed themselves in the room [23] next to the coke store [18] of Krematorium II. These doctors carried out autopsies in a room [11] on the ground floor of Krematorien II and III, on big stone tables [that of Krematorium III was installed on 17th and 19th April 1943 and polished on 20th, 21st and 23rd by the firm Josef Kluge of Gleiwitz (file BW 30/34. pages 1 to 5)]. There they dissected the corpses of prisoners who had died in the hospital. sometimes those of certain persons shot in the corridor [3] between the undressing room [2] and the gas chamber [1]. More often than not, Moll shot them himself. They shot prisoners coming from the bunkers [cells] of block 11] in the main camp] or from outside the camp. As soon as prisoners were brought to be shot, an Unterscharführer [sergeant], whose name I do not know, often came to the crematorium to cut the meaty parts from the bodies of these prisoners when they had been shot. The pieces of the body cut off from the buttocks and thighs were put in boxes and buckets by this SS man, who took them away in a car. I do not know why he did this.

[This fact, which is not specific to the “crematorium” environment, is confirmed by an early sketch and later painting by David Olère, that I deliberately abstain from presenting here, considering that if was a criminal act practiced in secret by certain SS, and that there are limits to everything, even horror.]

These pathologists had to produce a report on each autopsy, which was subsequently taken away by an SS doctor.

In mid-April 1943, I was transfered to Krematorium IV which had just come into service [Officially handed over by the Bauleitung to the SS administration of the camp on 22nd March 1943], the second to come into service. Then, still in the first half of 1943, came Krematorium V,

[which came into service on 4th April 1943, but the employees of Riedel & Son of Bielitz went on working there until 17th (file BW 30/28, page 121). the day on which the fitting of the “Gastüren / gas[-tight] doors”, started the previous day, was completed by six civilians employed by Huta of Kattowitz. (file BW 30/36. page 27),]

and finally Krematorium III [handed over on 25th June 1943]. Krematorium III was identical in construction to II, except for the internal difference that the trolleys for charging the corpses were never used there. In the room beside the coke store where, in Krematorium II, the doctors were housed, in Kr III it was the gold workers (Goldarbeiter) who poured the gold teeth into ingots.

Krematorien IV and V were built on the same plan [Document 41] and situated symmetrically on either side of the road [Ringstraße / ring road] running between construction stage BII and “Mexico” [BIII] in the direction of the new sauna [Zentral Sauna]. These Krematorien were each fitted with two four-muffle furnaces.

[Unit designated on the drawings as “eight-muffle cremation furnace”, and composed of two four-muffle furnaces built as a unit. This model was designed at the beginning of December 1941 by Kurt Prüfer, chief engineer of the firm Topf & Sons, a job that he did at home and in his spare time! (Staatsarchiv Weimar, Bestand 2/555a, letter of 6th December 1941). According to a Topf letterof 7th July 1943, This type of furnace had been ordered from Berlin by the Reichsführer-SS on 4th December 1941 (file BW 30/27, page 24)].

The muffles [on drawing 2036, m1 and m²] were in pairs on each side. One firebox [g] heated two muffles [m1 and m²], which together made up half of a furnace. Each furnace had its own chimney [c1 and c2]. The undressing room [9] and the gas chambers [13, 14, 15 and 17] were installed on the ground floor, and the part of the building where they were located was not so high as the “boiler room” so that [to an observer outside the building] it had the appearance of an annex to the crematorium. The boiler room [5] was separated from the undressing room [9] by a narrow corridor [7, 8] with four internal doors, allowing passage between the two rooms. The undressing room [9] was illuminated by four small barred windows giving on the exterior [in fact, 4 in the northern wall and 4 in the southern, not appearing on the original drawings, but visible on contemporary photographs]. Another door [the third] led to a[nother] corridor [10] whose entrance door [16] opened onto the yard of the Krematorium. This entrance was flanked by two windows [f and f'].

[The Album d'Auschwitz, published by Seuil shows that the lower half of window f, but not f', was bricked up to head height. This was because of the damage incurred. The fully clothed victims entered calmly through the door (16) of the corridor (10) and were directed to the undressing room (9). Once they were naked, vulnerable and anxious, they were sent back into the corridor (10) and pushed into the gas chambers (13, 14, 15 and 17). The sight of the interior of the first one, with no showers visible, or of its heavy entrance door with the sealing strips, sometimes caused the victims to recoil, which. combined wilh the pressure of those arriving from the undressing room created a crowd of panic-stricken people at this point. Since the only exit, the entrance door (16) was closed, there only remained the window f, which suffered accordingly.]

Opposite the entrance door [16] in the corridor [10], there was a door that opened on a room with a window [incorrect: two windows] which was the kitchen for the SS working in the crematorium [room designated on drawing 2036 as “Arztzimmer / doctors' (pathologists) room”, but it is not known whether the room was in fact ever used by a doctor], a kitchen where the dishes were prepared by members of the Sonderkommando. This room was next to that of the Sonderkommando to prisoners [12]. In Krematorium V, it was in the corresponding room that the Sonderkommando bootmakers, tailors and carpenters worked. There were similar workshops in Krematorium II [in the roof space] where in addition there were heaps of hair shorn from the gassed people [dried in the roof space above the waste incinerator]. The third door in the corridor [10] led to a corridor [[13] with a barred window and a door [18] leading to the crematorium yard.

[This door of Krematorium IV is visible in the background and on the right, on photo 189 of the Seuil Album d'Auschwitz, but does not appear on the original drawings.]

From this corridor [13], the door on the right gave access to the first [14] of the gas chambers and that opposite to the smallest [17] of the chambers, communicating by another door with the biggest [15].

[This arrangement is valid ONLY FOR Krematorium V, where the traces of the door between 13 and 17 are still visible. In fact, this complex of rooms, initially planned to have two gas chainbers (14 and 15) served by a corridor (13 + 17), actually had three (14, 15 and 13 + 17) and this was the arrangement in both Krematorien IV and V for a while. Kr V only was subsequently equipped with four by dividing the corridor (13 + 17) in the proportion 2/3(13):1/3(17). Henryk Tauber’s description tends to float between the two Krematorien, since the above sentence applies to Kr V, whereas he appeared to be talking about Kr IV].

This corridor, and the three following rooms were used as chambers for gassing people. All had gas-tight doors, and also windows that had bars on the inside [due to a lack of documents or testimonies the form of the bars or grid is not known] and were closed by gas-tight shutters on the outside [see Documents 42, 43, 44 and 45].

[The shutters of Kr IV, designated “Gasdichtenfenster / gas-tight window”, were installed by civilian employees of Riedel & Son on Sunday 28th February 1943 in the rooms that their foreman designated as “Gasskammer / gas chamber” on the following Tuesday (file BW 30/28. pages 73 and 68). The doors of Kr V. called “Gastüren / gas doors”, were installed by civilian employees of Huta on 16th and 17th April 1943 (file BW 30/36, page 27)].

These small windows. which could he reached by the hand of a man standing outside, were used for throwing the contents of cans of Zyklon-B into the gas chambers full of people [as a rule, the SS used a short ladder to reach them]. The gas chambers were about 2 meters high and had an electric lighting installation on the walls

[actually SET IN the walls. “Chambers” 14 and 15 each had 4 “Wand-Lampen versenkt / set-in wall lamps” (file BW 30/43, page 33), designated on another drawing. 2036, as “kavernischen” (file BW 30/43, page 6)]

but they had no ventilation system, which obliged the Sonderkommando who were removing the bodies to wear gasmasks. The corpses were