The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
Extracts from the “MEDICAL FIELD MANUAL: FIELD SANITATION” published by the United States War Department. Washington D.C. 1940, taken from chapter 9 “Control of lice”

(2) Disinfestation of clothing and equipment.

b. Lice and their eggs are killed in one minute when subjected to dry heat at a temperature of 155°F [68°C] or in five minutes at 131°F (55°C], immersion in boiling water for thirty seconds will kill both adults and eggs. Dry heat will not injure leather, felt, or webbing but will harm woollen fabrics. Boiling water will cause shrinking of wool but steam causes very little shrinkage.


These are of the four-wheel trailer type and are usually steam pressure disinfestors although a current steam disinfestor is manufactured (thresh type). The pressure type consists of a horizontal steam chamber around which there is an outer jacket which is assembled as a unit with a boiler, After the clothing is placen in the disinfestor a vacuum of 10 to 15 inches [254 to 381 mm of Mercury] is created after which the steam is turned on until a positive pressure of 15 pounds [6.8 kg] is attained [corresponding to a water temperature of 165 °C], this being held for about twenty minutes. At the end of this time the steam is released and a vacuum of 10 to 15 inches is produced in order to dry the clothing. This vacuum is held for about five minutes. Clothing should be placed loosely in order that the steam may penetrate.


a. (Summary) here clothes placed in a galvanised garbage can or similar with wire mesh in the bottom are disinfested by having steam from boiling water underneath passed through them for forty five minutes.


Clothing and equipment maybe placed in ovens, boxes or cans and subjected to dry heat Small buildings or dugouts may be converted into hot air disinfestors by installing heating apparatus which will heat the air to 160°F(71°C]. Clothing should be hung loosely and exposed for about thirty minutes.


Cotton, linen or silk clothing maybe disinfested by immersion in boiling water for one minute Or in water having a temperature of 135°F [57°C) or more to) live minutes. In order to disinfect as well as disinfest, the clothing should be subjected to a temperature of at least 160°F [71°C] for fifteen to thirty minutes. Woollen clothing can be disinfested by this process, but considerable shrinkage will occur. Leather, felt or webbed articles are damaged by exposure to hot water.


a. Chemicals such as acetic acid (vinegar), kerosene, gasoline, cresol or naphthalene may be applied to the person or clothing of the infested individual. Most of these substances will not kill the eggs however.

b. (Summary) a 5% solution of cresol in water or a 2 % solution that can be maintained at a temperature of about 100°F [38°C] for thirty minutes.

c. (Addendum of December t943): Methyl bromide bag fumigation using a special bag already containing an ampule of 20 cc. The time of exposure varies according to the temperature of the clothing: at 55°F (13°C] or above, three quarters of an hour. For each 10° [5-6°C] drop below 55°F, half an hour is added to the fumigation period, giving one and a quarter hours at 45° F (7°C). one and three quarter hours at 35°F [2°C] and two and a quarter hours at 25°F [-4°C).”
These extracts from the US Army recommendations on field sanitation show the different delousing methods that can be used according to the effects to he disinfested.

Paragraph 171 makes it possible to undersand the working of the three autoclaves in the Birkenau Zentral Sauna and the function of the two gauges fitted on the southern doors: one for temperature, the other for pressure.

The principle of methyl bromide bag fumigation is that of a small gas chamber. In Auschwitz, the bag became a brick or concrete gas-tight room and the delousing agent was hydrocyanic acid.