The Holocaust Historiography Project

Wartime Germany’s Anti-Gas Air Raid Shelters: A Refutation of Pressac’s 'Criminal Traces'

Samuel Crowell

As Holocaust historians concede, hard evidence for mass killings in Second World War gas chambers has proven to be elusive. After an extensive search, especially of wartime German wartime records held in Polish archives, French author Jean-Claude Pressac acknowledged in his detailed 1989 study, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, that he was unable to find any direct proof of wartime gas chamber killings at Auschwitz (including the its nearby satellite camp of Birkenau). Instead, he offered 39 documentary “criminal traces” of such gassings — what he called “indirect proofs.”

These “traces” are wartime documents, mostly from the Auschwitz central construction office, that contain passing references to “gas tight doors,” “gas detectors,” and such. In the view of Pressac, and other defenders of the standard Holocaust story, these are implicit references to equipment or devices that were part of homicidal gassing operations.

In the following essay, American researcher Samuel Crowell presents detailed evidence of benign explanations for these “criminal traces." (note 1) His basic argument is that the documents cited by Pressac as “traces” of homicidal “gas chambers” are references to air raid shelters, or to their fittings or equipment. Specifically, he contends, the Birkenau crematory morgue rooms — the supposed “gas chambers” where, it is alleged, hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed with “Zyklon” pesticide — were modified to also serve as air raid shelters with features to protect against possible Allied attacks with poison gas.

Crowell extensively cites contemporary German specialized literature on wartime air raid shelters and measures against possible air attacks with poison gas to argue that such shelters, and their equipment, were widely used throughout wartime Germany, including in the concentration camps. He contends that seemingly damning documentary references to “gas tight doors” and so forth actually refer to normal civil air defense equipment. He therefore concludes that there is no documentary proof — direct or indirect — of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Crowell provides an important new perspective on the “gas chamber” issue that merits thoughtful consideration. May his work encourage further investigation and discussion of this crucial issue.

-- The Editor

It is well known that although poison gas was used extensively in the First World War, it was not used in the Second. As a result, we tend to forget that in the years before the outbreak of war in 1939, many people expected gas warfare to be a feature of any future conflict. German civil defense literature of the time reflected this anxiety, describing in detail how bomb shelters were to be made secure from both bombs and poison gas. In other words, German bomb shelters were also designed and built as anti-gas shelters. (note 2)

While the German wartime literature on bomb shelters or anti-gas shelters has been neglected, it is of enormous value to historians as a primary source. It is particularly relevant for historians of the Holocaust, because this literature uses many of the very same terms that are commonly associated with extermination gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 1989 an important work by French pharmacist Jean-Claude Pressac appeared in English, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers. (note 3) This massive, illustrated book of 564 oversize pages was instantly acclaimed as an authoritative refutation of revisionist critics. In it, Pressac sought to prove, strictly on the basis of wartime German documents, that extermination gas chambers were built in each of the four crematory facilities at Birkenau. The core of his demonstration is a list of 39 “criminal traces” of these elusive gas chambers. (note 4)

But there is something curious here: every one of these “criminal traces” describes a feature of an ordinary German bomb shelter. In other words, every “trace” cited by Pressac as evidence of homicidal gas chambers can also be interpreted as evidence of German bomb shelters or, more precisely, their anti-gas warfare features.

Significantly, others have already noted similarities between the alleged extermination gas chambers and German wartime bomb shelters. To some extent this is even suggested in the Holocaust literature. For example, Miklos Nyiszli, an important source for Pressac, claims in his memoir that during air raids prisoners would take shelter in the gas chamber. (note 5)

In Auschwitz and the Allies Jewish-British historian Martin Gilbert quotes the testimony of a Jewish woman survivor of Auschwitz who describes how, during an air raid, she and many other new female arrivals were led into a dark space and kept until the raid was over. (note 6) Interestingly, this testimony describes how several of the women became hysterical during the raid, believing themselves to be inhaling poison gas. (By inference this testimony confirms that the SS camp personnel took care to protect Jewish prisoners during air raids.)

Among independent researchers, the observation of Wilhelm Stäglich is noteworthy. In 1944 he was stationed at Auschwitz as an anti-aircraft artillery officer, and after the war he served for years as an administrative judge in Hamburg. In his detailed study of the Holocaust issue, first published in German in 1979, he noted that the presence of gas-tight doors in the cellars of the Auschwitz crematory facilities suggested their use as air raid shelters. “At that time,” wrote Stäglich, “gas-tight doors were not uncommon, since every cellar had to double as an air raid shelter… Air raid shelters had to be secure not only against explosives, but against gas as well." (note 7)

American researcher Friedrich Berg has also recognized the importance of German wartime civil defense literature, even though his main research interests lay elsewhere. (note 8) Among a handful of European researchers, Robert Faurisson made some suggestive comments in an article published in 1991. (note 9) American scholar Dr. Arthur R. Butz suggested, in an article first published in 1996, that Morgue #1 of crematory facility (Krema) II at Birkenau was in fact a “gas shelter." (note 10)

In general, though, the anti-gas features of German wartime bomb shelters has been overlooked. This article seeks to redress this neglect by showing that anti-gas warfare features were basic to German wartime bomb shelter design and construction. In doing so, we cite important but neglected contemporary literature. Finally, we compare this evidence of German wartime anti-gas shelter design and equipment with Pressac’s “criminal traces.”

This article comprises two main parts. After a brief discussion of the background of poison gas warfare, Part One takes a closer look at contemporary German bomb shelter and anti-gas shelter literature. This section’s rather detailed citations from primary source literature are appropriate, we believe, not only because of the importance of this relatively inaccessible evidence, but because the conclusions drawn from it are inherently very contentious, given the very emotion-laden nature of this subject. Part One finishes with some pointed conclusions about characteristics of German bomb shelters.

Part Two deals with each of Pressac’s “criminal traces,” with references to evidence and points from Part One, as well as to some of the documents in Pressac’s own book. Every one of these “criminal traces,” we show, can be interpreted in two ways: either as sinister indications of homicidal gas chambers (Pressac’s view), or, more plausibly, as benign anti-gas warfare features of common German wartime bomb shelters.

The obvious implication is that there is no contemporaneous documentary evidence whatsoever of homicidal gassings at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Part One: A Review of German Wartime Anti-Gas Shelter Literature

Poison Gas Warfare Prior to World War II

It is generally agreed that the era of poison gas warfare as we know it began during World War I on April 22, 1915. (note 11) On that day, German forces released a cloud of chlorine gas against French military positions at Ypres. From that date on, both sides used poison gas, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties, of which, however, only a small percentage died.

Poison gas was used in warfare after World War I, but not in Europe. It was used in Russia against Bolshevik “Red” troops, both by British forces and by anti-Communist “Whites.” It was also used by British forces in Afghanistan, and by French military units in Morocco. The most infamous use of poison gas during the interwar period was by Italian forces in Ethiopia in 1935, where 15,000 fell victim to mustard gas. With regard to the World War II “gas chamber” issue, the Ethiopian campaign usage was important because the Italian military deployed poison gas by air, which forged the conceptual connection between gas attacks and bombing raids. In line with these all these developments, the Soviet Union began developing large stores of poison gas in the 1920s, as well as hydrogen cyanide, which were produced at the Karaganda works.

Hydrocyanic acid (HCN), or hydrogen cyanide gas — the odorless and invisible poison supposedly used at Auschwitz-Birkenau to kill hundreds of thousands of Jewish prisoners between 1941 and 1944 — was adapted in 1924 in the United States as a means of legal executing criminals. (note 12)

In the years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the major European powers, including Germany, prepared for the use of poison gas in any eventual war. These preparations naturally also involved the possible use of hydrogen cyanide. For example, a relatively early Third Reich guide (published in 1936) to protective measures against poison gas specifically discusses hydrogen cyanide (Blausäure or Cyanwasserstoff). (note 13) Of the nine gas mask filters described, it mentions that the “G” filter is specifically designed for protection against HCN, with a capacity for 3.6 grams.

The author of this 1936 guide is “Fire Warden” (Branddirektor) Hans Rumpf. Given his title, it should not surprise us that he would draw on his practical experience with fires in discussing the potential dangers of poison gases. Thus, for example, in a table of poison gases, the common pesticide Zyklon B is listed separately from HCN (Blausäure) because of its normal irritant properties. (note 14) Rumpf also discusses the development of poisonous gases in fires, mentioning, for example, how gases generated by flames will drift to areas with a lower temperature than their boiling point, and then condense into a mist or smoke. He also observes (note 15)

We know, for example, that leather, celluloid, and proteinous substances give off nitric gas as well as cyanide, while rubber will produce sulphur gas and sulfuric acid. All of these gases are poison gases.

Further confirmation of the threat of cyanide gas usage came during World War II itself. In the summer of 1941, at the time of the outbreak of war with Soviet Russia, the German military obtained a Soviet gas mask with a high tolerance for HCN, and a short time later, it obtained Soviet contingency plans for using cyanide gas by spraying it from low flying airplanes. As a result, in early 1942 the German military conducted its own field tests using farm animals, and also developed the FE 42 gas mask filter, with a particular tolerance for HCN. (note 16)

To sum up, poison gases had been used for 24 years before the outbreak of war in 1939. During World War I hydrogen cyanide had been used on a limited scale by the Allies against German troops. In 1941 German authorities learned that the Soviet military had developed stocks of HCN, as well as contingency plans for using it. By 1941 the Germans feared gas attacks with HCN, and made appropriate preparations to deal with them. It should therefore not be surprising that the Germans would have produced masks and detectors designed to defend against and detect hydrogen cyanide gas.

Publicly-available literature published in Germany in the late 1930s and during the Second World War shows clearly that it was widely known and understood during the war years that air raid shelters could and should be built so that they also protect against possible poison gas attacks. Accordingly, the need for “gas tight” doors and such in this regard was widely understood.

In 1939 a Berlin publisher issued Luftschutz durch Bauen ("Civil Air Defense Through Construction"), a rather comprehensive work that describes how bomb shelters should be constructed, operated, and furnished. One section has two pages of line drawings showing all the things one would expect to find in a normal German bomb shelter, including a container for contaminated clothing, a gas-tight door (gasdichte Tür), a washstand, a medicine cabinet, emergency lighting, benches, and a ventilation system. It also includes a blown-up diagram of an emergency exit showing the exit tunnel, a frame, a gas-tight shutter (Gasglocke), and a protective screen (Trümmerschutz), which looks like a mesh screen with a wide edge around it. (note 17)

Another section describes the layout of a regular bomb shelter: one enters a small foyer (Vorraum) where the bucket for contaminated clothes is kept, and where one can clean one’s shoes in a tray full of sand. From there one moves into a gas lock (Gasschleuse), where one can sit down, and preferably with a cold water tap for washing up. (note 18) Farther on in the bomb shelter proper (Schutzraum), there are benches, tables, and folding chairs. Apparently conscious of space limitations, the book notes that modern bomb shelters are also designed to also serve as washrooms and dressing rooms (whereas such rooms were separated in earlier shelters).

At another place in the book, the shelter’s ventilation system (Schutzraumbelüfter) is described in greater detail. Air is drawn from a pipe at about ceiling level, first passing through a dust filter (Staubfilter). Then as the air pipe turns downward, the flow can be interdicted by a stopcock. Then the air passes through two more filters, including a gas filter (Gasfilter). Finally, after passing through the extraction or pumping mechanism, which can be powered by hand or by electricity, and the now fresh air enters the shelter near the ground level. (note 19)

Another section of the book describes some of the devices used for protection from rubble and debris: (note 20)

Among new constructions we mention above all the grill or protective grille. The overhead exit of a light shaft is closed with a strong, rubble-resistant steel grating. One half of the grille is closed from below, so that if the grille is covered by rubble from a building it possible to open a space for an emergency exit from the bomb shelter. The opening of the grille is secured with a chain. On the inside of the cellar opening there is a gas tight shutter.

Further on the book discusses bomb shelters appropriate for factories or large work places. Such a bomb shelter complex (Schutzraumbau) comprises several sections, including a command center (Befehlsstellen), an emergency room (Rettungsstellung), and a decontamination center (Entgiftungsanstalten). (note 21) The entire structure is equipped with gas detectors (Gasspürer), (note 22) and the entrance has a gas-tight steel door. To accommodate many people comfortably during an air raid, the waiting room should be rather large. The book goes on to explain: (note 23)

From the waiting room, doors lead on the one side to the treatment rooms and on the other side to sleeping quarters. Among the treatment rooms for the wounded and for those exposed to poison gas there is a doctor’s office and an operating room. In large layouts the doctor’s office and the operating room are separate. Farther on there will be sleeping quarters, shelters for lightly wounded, and decontamination centers.

As we can already see, the German wartime bomb shelter is a rather sophisticated facility, based on a systematic design and with a division of functions. In addition, the references in this authoritative work to gas-tight doors, buckets for contaminated clothing, wash rooms, changing rooms, and decontamination centers reflects a very real concern with the possibility of poison gas attacks.

Another noteworthy publication is a booklet published in Berlin in 1939 entitled Schutzraumabschlüsse ("Air Raid Shelter Room Seals"). (note 24) Written by an engineer named Scholle, it describes in great detail how to make an air raid shelter (Schutzraum) gas tight. Indeed, Dr. Scholle emphasizes the need to make a shelter secure from poison gas (gassicher), debris (trümmersicher), and bomb splinters (splittersicher). (note 25) Scholle specifies that windows or emergency exits should be protected on the outside from debris and bomb splinters, while the protection from gas should be on the inside. (note 26) This would mean, in practical terms, that any screening or grille-work would be on the outside of an opening, and any gas tight cover would be on the inside.

In this booklet Scholle also describes the need for bomb shelter doors to be gas tight and to have a gas tight peephole: (note 27)

Every anti-gas bomb shelter door must be equipped with a peephole. The peephole should be made round, without the use of putty or other easily hardened materials to be made gas tight, and it should have a view of 40 millimeters. The disc of multi-layered glass of at least six millimeters in thickness should be protected from damage with a perforated steel plate.

The purpose of the peephole in a bomb shelter door was to enable the Fire Warden to check on the inhabitants of a shelter, to ensure their needs and safety, or to enable the inhabitants to check outside conditions before opening the door. The thin glass disc could, in practice, be recessed either on the outside or the inside of the door, depending on its location. The recessed side would be protected from damage. (note 28) Although a perforated steel plate would be the preferred protection, a number of other means could be used. (note 29)

Another important publication in this regard is the trade periodical Gasschutz und Luftschutz ("Gas Defense and Civil Air Defense"). An article published in 1939 in this periodical describes the latest advances in civil air defense technology as shown at a recent trade exhibition in Leipzig. (note 30) Attention is given to all the usual features of bomb shelters, including mechanisms for achieving darkening (Verdunklung). Darkening was considered very important. In an above-ground bomb shelter, it was the first thing to achieve in the event of an air raid.

This article also discusses modifications for bomb shelters, including doors and window shutters, which can be made of several materials, as well as a discussion of ways of making chimneys and smoke stacks gas tight: (note 31)

Bomb shelter doors and window shutters come in many different varieties, they are made out of steel, steel- saving constructions, wood, and other building materials … Among gas protective chimney seals there is a novelty that does not use a steel frame … consisting of a rubber flap that is pressed against the frame of the concrete chimney flue by means of a bolt.

This construction not only saves steel but also solves the problem of the frame rusting. Another construction for a chimney seal uses a rubber plate which normally hangs loose, but which can be placed into position by means of a hook on the inside of the external flue in order to achieve gas tightness in the chimney shutter.

Another article published in this same periodical in 1939, “Work Place Emergency Rooms", contains a floor plan for a typical anti-gas shelter: “A — Exhaust, E — Drainage, L — Air intake, GT — Gas tight door, N — Emergency exit, S — Stop valve, and U — Pressure release valve." (note 32) This article, written by Dr. Ing. Karl Quasebart, also contains recommendations on setting up an emergency room (Werkrettungsstelle), particularly for gas attacks, as part of the bomb shelter complex: (note 33)

Those who have been exposed to Yellow Cross or are suspected of same [however] are divided by sex in the undressing rooms, and go from there to the shower rooms, and to the dressing rooms, where extra clothes are available, and from here back to the waiting room, for further transport or direction to the doctor’s office.

("Yellow Cross,” according to the German gas classification system of the time, denotes vesicants, or blister gases.) (note 34) Thus, undressing rooms and showers were part of the decontamination process, and (as we have already seen) (note 35) were envisioned as an integral part of the bomb shelter complex.

Dr. Quasebart’s article also contains photographs of such decontamination facilities. A shower room (Duschraum) could contain showers, of course, but the photograph in this article captioned Duschraum shows not showers but three water faucets with hoses attached and coiled around exposed upright pipes. Another photo, captioned “Bath and Shower Room for Gassing Victims” (Bade- und Duschraum für Kampstoffverletzte) shows a bathtub with a more typical shower arrangement attached. (note 36) Clearly, the concepts of “shower room” and “decontamination facility” were rather elastic in their actual application.

Another article in Gasschutz und Luftschutz appearing in 1939, this one detailing “Practical Lessons for Work Place Bomb Shelters,” recommends Baustahlgewebe, described as “wire mesh of varying gauges that has been welded together at certain points,” to protect bomb shelter apertures. This is a good substitute, readers are told, especially for constructing covers. (note 37)

In March 1940 this periodical changed its name to Baulicher Luftschutz ("Civil Air Defense Construction"). A particularly noteworthy article, “Makeshift Bomb Shelters: Right and Wrong,” appeared that year in the journal. (note 38) Written by engineer Ernst Baum, it contains several photographs “gas tight window shutters” (gassichere Fensterblende), most of them constructed of wood. It also describes an incorrect method for fixing a shutter up against the grating of the window grille: (note 39)

Making a window gas tight, according to the regulations, is one of the easiest measures. But even so one observes many mistakes relating to gas tight shutters. It is wrong, for example, to wrap a board in cloth and press it up against the grating of the window grille with a Christmas tree pole.

The article includes a specific reference to “shutters made of wood” (Holzblende).

Another 1940 Baulicher Luftschutz article of interest, “Remarks on the Ordinance and Regulations for Building Makeshift Air Raid Shelters,” written by a Reich Air Ministry specialist, offers a series of recommendations for building improvised or do-it-yourself bomb shelters. Among them is a suggestion that when they are not serving to protect in air raids, bomb shelters should be, or at least can be, used for other purposes. (note 40)

It should be noted that these specifications pertain to makeshift or improvised shelters, that is, shelters which would not be expected to have a sophisticated ventilation system. As we shall see, the maximum limits of occupancy for ventilated shelters were different.

“Hygienic and Psychological Conditions for Building Air Raid Bunkers,” a lengthy article by a Reich Health Office specialist, appeared in a 1942 issue of Baulicher Luftschutz. (note 41) Among other relevant topics, it deals with recommended temperatures and air circulation for bomb shelters.

Also, citing Regulation No. 7 for air raid bunkers, the article recommends air temperatures of 17 C (62.6 F) degrees, and surface temperatures of 16 C (60.8 F) degrees. (note 42) Hence, efforts to heat or warm air raid shelters by the use of stoves or heated air would be entirely in keeping with these regulations.

A lengthy article by an Air Ministry engineer, “The Role of Heating and Ventilation in Planning Air Raid Bunkers,” published in a 1942 issue of Baulicher Luftschutz, covers such air circulation systems in much greater detail, and with several accompanying drawings. (note 43)

Several advertisements for relevant products appear in various 1942 issues of Baulicher Luftschutz. One offers wire grille products (Drahtegeflechte) produced by the Otto Christ Drahtwarenfabrik of Mannheim-Käfertal. Another advertisement offers gas tight doors and shutters (Gasschutztüren und Blenden) produced by the Albus Stahltürenwerk of Dortmund. Potential customers are assured that the products provide “Absolute safety in use!,” and that “the simple method of construction enables easy, quick usage." (note 44)

German measures against possible Allied use of poison gas were also noted in a confidential 640-page guide prepared during the final months of the war by the US War Department. This carefully researched and well-illustrated Handbook on German Military Forces was published in March of 1945. (note 45) The section on “Chemical Warfare Equipment” presents detailed information, for example, about decontamination vehicles for clothing, a variety of gas protection devices for personnel, horses, and even dogs and pigeons, and decontamination trucks for personnel (which could shower 150 men in an hour).

German anti-gas shelters are specifically mentioned, while a subsection cites a variety of German gas detectors, including detector sets for fortifications, and gas detection laboratories. Widely distributed German gas masks, it mentions, were designed to protect against attacks by HCN and other gases. This shows widespread German awareness of the potential danger of hydrogen cyanide gas attacks, and suggests that the available gas detectors could detect the presence of cyanides in the atmosphere.

Also in this book is a photograph of several air raid bunker ventilators (Schutzraumbelüfter), which the Handbook calls “collective protectors." (note 46) The photo shows the extensive overhead ductwork suspended from the ceiling by “stirrups” (Bügel). Because the ceiling appears to be of concrete formwork, we would suspect that the stirrups are attached to some other element, possibly flat wooden squares. It is worth noting also that such “stirrups” are frequently used on the outside of above-ground bomb shelters to brace fortifying elements — timber, sandbags, concrete, and so forth. (note 47)

Allied Bombings of Auschwitz

The German “Air Raid Guide Emergency Program” (Luftschutz Führer Sofort Programm) of November 1940 specifically required that: “All new constructions, especially in buildings of the armaments industry, are henceforth to be equipped with bomb-proof air raid shelter rooms." (note 48) This unquestionably applied to Auschwitz. During the course of the war, the concentration camps — of which Auschwitz was one of the largest — played an increasingly important role in the German war economy. (note 49)

German authorities had good reason to be concerned about Allied air attacks against Auschwitz. In fact, the camp complex was repeatedly bombed during the war. Because of its critical importance as a major gasoline production center, Auschwitz III (Monowitz) was a target of several Allied bombing raids, and was consequently heavily defended with anti-aircraft flak batteries. Bombers of the Allied Mediterranean Air Force carried out four major raids against Monowitz in 1944: On August 20, September 13, December 18, and December 26. (note 50)

During the September 13 attack, for example, 96 US air force B-24 heavy bombers dropped almost a thousand 500-pound bombs. Besides Monowitz, the Auschwitz main camp and Birkenau were also hit. Fifteen SS men and 40 inmates, including 23 Jews, were killed at the main camp, and 30 civilian workers were killed at Birkenau. A further 65 inmates and 28 SS men were badly injured. (note 51)

In mid-November 1943, Auschwitz commandant Arthur Liebehenschel issued an order on measures to be taken in the camp against Allied air raids. (note 52)

Important in this regard are three wartime documents from the Auschwitz central construction office (Zentralbauleitung) that were recently discovered in Moscow archives. These documents — from October 1943, November 1943, and November 1944 — deal with an extensive network of air raid shelters (Luftschutzdeckungsgräben) at Auschwitz. (note 53) They indicate that, from the summer of 1943, many such shelters for the protection of prisoners were ordered, planned and under construction at Auschwitz. (We don’t know how many were actually completed.) Designed to hold 50 persons each, the shelters were to have ventilation and drainage. The WVHA agency in Berlin, which ran the German concentration camp system, budgeted 110,000 Reich marks for building materials for this large-scale project.

It is noteworthy that the SS authorities would go to considerable trouble and expense to build air raid shelters for Jewish prisoners who, supposedly, were already condemned to death. (note 54) (Similarly, German authorities provided building materials to the Warsaw ghetto for the construction there of air raid shelters to protect the Jewish inhabitants from Allied bombing attacks.) (note 55)

Because German air raid shelters were routinely built to protect against possible poison gas attacks, they were often fitted with gas tight doors and other related fixtures. We should naturally expect to find many such shelters at Auschwitz and Birkenau, together with quite a few “incriminating” gas tight doors and similar items. (As already suggested, the “incriminating” items found at Auschwitz at the end of the war, and cited in the years since by Pressac and other defenders of the standard Holocaust story, were most probably features of anti-gas air raid shelters, or of non-homicidal disinfestation facilities.)

It is worth noting that, until now, no mainstream historian has bothered to take notice of the German wartime civil defense equipment, facilities and measures, in relation to the gas chamber claims.

On the basis of the foregoing, the following conclusions may be safely drawn:

  1. After 1940, German bomb shelters were routinely constructed to also serve as anti-gas shelters.
  2. German bomb shelters, including anti-gas shelters, were built according to a sequential organization plan that allowed for decontamination and several other functions. In large structures, separate rooms were reserved for each of these functions.
  3. Decontamination procedures involved a sequence of steps, including undressing, showering or washing, and medical attention. In large structures, a separate room was devoted to each function.
  4. Facilities and rooms designed for a variety of purposes could be, and often were, adapted for alternative use as bomb shelters, as needed.
  5. Bomb shelters, although usually underground, could be and sometimes were built above ground.
  6. In the event of an air raid, particular attention was paid to the darkening of shelters.
  7. German air raid shelters often featured an elaborate system of ventilation, which drew air from ceiling height and filtered it out near the bottom. The ventilation ductwork was suspended from the ceiling. In addition, the regulations recommended ventilation capacities allowing for anywhere from 15 to 18 air exchanges. Regulations recommended that the air in bomb shelters be heated to 17 C (62.6 F) degrees.
  8. A standard feature of a German wartime shelter was a gas tight door, which could be made of either wood or steel. The seal could be achieved with either rubber or felt.
  9. These gas tight doors had glass peepholes, which were usually protected from damage with a perforated steel plate, although other means could be, and were, used.
  10. A flat iron bar was frequently bolted along the base of a gas tight door to help insure a gas tight seal.
  11. Windows and emergency exits were usually covered with grating, mesh, or grille work of some kind to protect against splinters and rubble.
  12. Shelter windows and emergency exits normally were both covered with gas tight shutters, which were installed inside a grating, mesh, or grille. The shutters could be made of steel or wood.
  13. An advertisement for wire mesh (Drahtnetz), appearing in a 1942 issue of the specialized German periodical Baulicher Luftschutz, suggests that this material was commonly used for window or emergency exit gratings, mesh, or grilles. There is also a specific reference here to using wire mesh screens for splinter and debris protection.
  14. Chimneys and smoke stacks were also designed to be gas tight.
  15. Gas detectors were a common feature of German military equipment. That German military personnel were equipped to detect HCN is an entirely reasonable inference.
  16. The extensive and publicly available German literature on civil defense used a large number of synonyms and neologisms. This is typical of any new field, which takes time to standardize its vocabulary. For example, poison gas victims are described variously as “Gelbkreuzverletzte,” “Gasvergiftete,” and “Kampstoffvergiftete.” Hence, when reviewing documents and other contemporary material about bomb shelters, we should expect similar variability in the use of terms.

Part Two: Pressac’s 'Criminal Traces'

In his much-heralded book, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Jean-Claude Pressac attempted to prove, on a strictly material and documentary basis, the existence of extermination gas chambers in the four crematory facilities at Auschwitz-Birkenau (Kremas II-V).

Specifically, he offered 39 “criminal traces” as “indirect proof” for homicidal gassings. He readily acknowledged that there is no “direct proof” for the alleged murder of millions of Jews in gas chambers, such as a document or diagram that refers, even in passing, to a “gas chamber for killing Jews” or even a document that specifically mentions a homicidal gas chamber. Pressac also acknowledged that the “witness testimony” that is usually cited as evidence is unreliable. He further explained that he was offering these “traces” in response to the insistent demand by French revisionist scholar Robert Faurisson for “one proof, one single proof” of the supposedly incontrovertible mass gassings. (note 56)

As we shall show in the following pages, a benign interpretation for each of Pressac’s “criminal traces” is possible. Therefore there is no proof — even indirect — of “criminal” gassings of Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Criminal Trace 1: The 'Gassing Cellar' Letter

This document, which is the oldest and best known “criminal trace,” has been cited for years as evidence of homicidal gassings at Birkenau. It is a January 1943 letter about Birkenau crematory facility (Krema) II from SS Captain Bischoff of the Auschwitz central construction office (ZBL) to the WVHA in Berlin. Bischoff’s passing mention in this letter to a “gassing cellar,” or Vergasungskeller, is regarded by Pressac as a “slip” and an “enormous gaff,” because supposedly this was a thoughtless reference to a homicidal gas chamber.

For more than 20 years, revisionists have offered alternate explanations of it. In an essay published in 1996 and 1997, Dr. Butz persuasively proposed that this “gassing cellar” referred to an air raid “gas shelter." (note 57)

Each of the various interpretations offered by revisionists is plausible because the word Vergasungskeller is a neologism, a newly coined term that is also apparently unique. This point should be stressed: The term Vergasung or Vergasungskeller occurs in no other known document or item of literature from this era. (note 58)

Just what was this “gassing cellar"? No explanation can be definitely proven, but as we shall see, several of the other “trace” documents cited by Pressac contain similarly unconventional wordings.

Clearly this document is not, in itself, a “criminal trace” because benign interpretations of the term Vergasungskeller are possible, if not probable. It could be considered a “criminal trace” only with further corroborating evidence.

Criminal Trace 2: Ten Gas Detectors

This is a February 1943 telegram order for ten gas detectors (10 Gasprüfer), sent to the Topf company in Erfurt that manufactured the Birkenau crematory ovens. As already noted, gas detectors (Gasprüfer or Gasspürer) were common in German chemical warfare equipment and in anti-gas shelter equipment. (note 59) A benign interpretation is possible, therefore it is not a criminal trace.

There is more to this “trace,” however. In a book on the “crematories of Auschwitz,” published in German and French in 1993, Pressac cited a newly discovered letter of March 2, 1943, from a Topf company engineer to the Auschwitz construction office, reporting that he had not been able to acquire the requested ten gas detectors. (note 60) The letter, headed “Crematory, Gas Detectors,” refers to the items as “Indicators for residual hydrocyanic acid” (Anzeigegeräte für Blausäure-Reste), which shows that the specific gas to be detected in this case was HCN. (There is no record that the requested detectors were ever located or delivered, much less evidence that they were ever used for the purpose assumed by Pressac.) (note 61)

This “criminal trace” can be readily dismissed: Germans had been gassed with HCN in the First World War, and they prepared for its possible use in the Second. Gas detectors for HCN have no “criminal” significance at all.

But there is still a problem. We know that the Degesch company that manufactured the HCN pesticide Zyklon had HCN gas detectors, and that the German military had its own gas detectors. Why, then, would one ask for gas detectors from a crematory oven manufacturer (Topf)? And why ten in number? Perhaps the most plausible answer is that these gas detectors were meant for the ten three-muffle crematory ovens of Birkenau crematory facilities (Kremas) II and III, and that they probably had some characteristic (heat resistance?) that made them usable in or near the ovens. (note 62) It makes sense that the gas detectors would be meant for Kremas II and III because, as Pressac himself notes, the Birkenau crematory facilities were always discussed as pairs (II and III, IV and V), (note 63) and because Kremas IV and V did not have ten but rather four double muffle ovens each.

We must next ask what the function of these detectors might be. Pressac argues that they prove homicidal gassings with Zyklon in the Birkenau crematory morgue cellars (Leichenkeller). Why else would anyone want gas detectors for a morgue room?

But if so, the responsible personnel certainly would not have needed devices to let them know that near by there were dangerous concentrations of HCN gas. In other words, this request for detectors most plausibly suggests a wish to detect the presence of HCN residues created by processes other than the release of HCN from Zyklon in crematory morgue cellars.

Arthur Butz has argued that burning certain fabrics in the incineration chute behind the crematory ovens of Birkenau Kremas II and III would have generated high levels of HCN in the crematory ductwork, and that this would explain the desire for such HCN detectors. There is merit to this argument. (note 64)

Recognizing that the important issue here is not the “criminality” of these detectors, but rather the question of why the Topf company was asked to supply them, I accept the general validity of Dr. Butz' thesis, in the absence of a more convincing explanation.

Criminal Trace 3: Gas Door Handle

This document mentions “handle for a gas door, one item” (1 Stck Handgriff für Gastür), presumably meaning a “gas tight door.” As already shown, gas tight doors were a common feature of anti-gas air raid shelters. (note 65) A benign interpretation is possible, therefore this is not a criminal trace.

It’s worth noting that the German term Stück ("unit,” “piece” or “item") is abbreviated or misspelled here as “Stck.” There are other such abbreviations or misspellings in the “trace” documents cited by Pressac.

Criminal Traces 4, 5, 10 and 12: Undressing Rooms and Undressing Cellars

In these four documents are passing references to an “undressing room” or an “undressing cellar” (Auskleideraum, Auskleidekeller). Undressing rooms were a common feature of bomb shelters, forming part of the decontamination sequence. (note 66) A benign interpretation is possible, therefore these are not criminal traces.

Criminal Traces 6, 11, 14 and 29: Gas Doors

These documents contain references to “gas doors,” presumably meaning “gas tight” doors. Probably the most important of these documents is one dated March 31, 1943, that mentions “three gas tight doors (3 gasdichte Türe) and a “gas door … for morgue cellar 1 of crematory facility III … with peephole” (Gastür 100/192 für Leichenkeller I des Krematoriums III … mit Guckloch). (note 67) Because these specifications exactly match those of a typical bomb shelter door, (note 68) this should be regarded as a clear-cut reference to a typical anti-gas shelter door. As already noted, gas tight doors were a common feature of wartime German anti-gas shelters. A benign interpretation is possible, therefore these are not criminal traces.

Criminal Traces 7, 15, 17, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28 and 29: Gas Tight Doors

These documents contain passing references to “gas tight doors.” As already noted, gas tight doors were a common feature of anti-gas shelters. Because a benign interpretation is possible, these are not criminal traces.

Criminal Traces 8 and 9: Wire Mesh Devices and Wooden Shutters

A March 1943 construction project inventory form for Birkenau Krema II contains handwritten mentions of “four wire mesh introduction devices” (4 Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung) and of “four wooden shutters” (4 Holzblenden). Because these items are listed next to each other on the same document, are for four items each, and are both in the same handwriting, both we and Pressac assume that their functions are related. Pressac regards this document as “important evidence” that morgue cellar (Leichenkeller) 1 in Birkenau crematory facility (Krema) II was used “as a homicidal gas chamber." (note 69)

Pressac contends that these “wire mesh” items were column-like devices through which Zyklon B was poured from a roof opening into a Birkenau extermination “gas chamber.” He also cites this document in a 1994 article on the “machinery of mass murder at Auschwitz” (written with Robert-Jan Van Pelt). Here he translates Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung as “wire netting inserting devices,” adding that these are “grillework columns for pouring Zyklon B into the gas chamber." (note 70) However, there is no material or documentary corroboration for this thesis.

Pressac contends that the Holzblenden mentioned in this 1943 document were wooden “covers” or “lids” on the roof of the semi-underground morgue of Birkenau Krema II, which were lifted when dumping Zyklon into the chamber’s wire mesh “columns” to gas Jews.

In fact, Blenden (tendentiously rendered by Pressac as “covers” or “lids") were simply shutters or blinds. Made of either steel or wood, they were commonly used in German air raid shelters to make an opening, such as a window, gas tight. (note 71) A benign interpretation of these Holzblenden is possible, therefore it is not a criminal trace.

Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung is a neologism, and we cannot explain definitively what these “wire mesh” devices were. However, we offer the following probable explanation:

At least two advertisements in the pertinent literature depict wire mesh screens in an anti-gas shelter, one depicting a screen behind an open shutter. The anti-gas shelter literature also contains advertising for wire mesh (Drahtnetz). (note 72) The pertinent literature also specifies that all windows and other openings of German anti-gas shelters must have some kind of mesh, netting, grating or grille work. (note 73)

Auschwitz work order No. 353, dated April 27, 1943, contains an order for “twelve window gratings” or “window lattice-works” (12 Stück Fenstergitter 50 × 70 cm), which Pressac accepts as a reference to wire mesh screens or grilles for the 12 “gas tight windows” (or doors) (gassdichten Fenster) of Birkenau Kremas IV and V. These were functionally identical to “shutters” (Blenden, Holzblenden). (note 74)

Therefore, we propose that the “wire mesh” devices cited here by Pressac were functionally related to the “wooden shutters” (Holzblenden) in the same way that the just-mentioned “window gratings” (Fenstergitter) were related to the “gas tight windows” (gassdichten Fenster) of Kremas IV and V.

In addition, given that the specialized literature specifies that such openings must be available for emergency exit, we further hypothesize that these inserts must be removable. (note 75)

Auschwitz work order No. 78, of March 11, 1943, mentions (translated from Polish): “For the manufacture of screens with scantlings [or screens with edges] for crematory facility II (construction site 30), the gist of which is that wire gauze and wire mesh are to be used to meet the order." (note 76) This order is significant because it helps to explain the nature of the “wire mesh” devices cited by Pressac. The order’s reference to screens is not a reference to induction devices, and indeed, they seem most likely to be the screens for emergency exits discussed earlier. (note 77)

We believe, therefore, that the supposedly sinister “wire mesh induction devices” or “wire netting inserting devices” were most probably simply removable wire mesh screens that were placed into openings that the “wooden shutters” were designed to cover. A benign interpretation is possible, therefore this is not a criminal trace.

It should be noted that Pressac himself has candidly observed that the roof of morgue cellar (Leichenkeller) of Birkenau crematory building (Krema) II — for which these four pairs were designated — has only two holes in its largely collapsed but still intact roof. (It takes some courage to observe that there are two, not four, holes in the roof of morgue cellar 1 of Birkenau Krema II, and they are not where they are supposed to be.) (note 78) German chemist Germar Rudolf has demonstrated that these holes must have been made after the war. (note 79) In any case, though, because there are only two holes, in whatever manner these four pairs of “wire mesh” devices and “shutters” were meant to be used, they could not all have been used exclusively in the roof of this morgue cellar. This fact weakens Pressac’s “homicidal” interpretation of their construction and purpose.

Criminal Traces 13 and 26: Flat Iron for 'Gas Doors'

These are references to flat iron bars for gas (tight) door fittings (Flacheisen für … Stück Gastürbeschläge). Flat iron bars and similar items were often used to improve the seal on gas tight doors or gas tight shutters of German air raid shelters. For gas tight doors, such bars would be placed along the side or on the base of the door. (note 80) A benign interpretation is possible, therefore it is not a criminal trace.

Criminal Trace 16: Shower heads

A mention of 14 shower heads (14 Brausen) in a June 1943 inventory form is regarded by Pressac as a reference to dummy shower heads in morgue cellar (LK) No. 1 of Birkenau crematory facility (Krema) III. He says that this document, which also mentions “one gas tight door” ("criminal trace” 15), is “the only one known at present that proves, indirectly, the existence of a homicidal gas chamber in Leichenkeller I of Krematorium III.” This inventory form, his Pressac also writes, is “absolute and irrefutable proof of the existence of a gas chamber fitted with dummy showers” in Krema III. (note 81)

There is no material basis for Pressac’s assertion that these shower heads were fake. In any case, this “criminal trace” is only “relative” — that is, it is criminal only insofar as some other criminal trace(s) can be proved. Showers were a common feature of German wartime bomb shelters, forming part of the decontamination sequence. (note 82) A benign interpretation is possible. Therefore, it is not a criminal trace. (note 83)

Criminal Trace 17, 17A, 17B: Gas Tight 'Doors'

This February 1943 document mentions twelve “gas tight doors” (12 St. gasdichten Türen ca 30/40 cm). I agree with Pressac that this is actually a reference to gas tight windows — not least because of their small size: 30 by 40 centimeters. These are in Birkenau crematory facilities (Kremas) IV and V. As already pointed out, gas tight windows were a common feature of German bomb shelters. (note 84) A benign interpretation is possible, therefore it is not a criminal trace.

The fact that these small openings — in spite of their small their small size: 30 by 40 centimeters. — are referred to as doors further strengthens our view that the engineers and construction workers at Auschwitz used unorthodox words to describe familiar, but differently named, objects. In addition, and as already noted, these objects are effectively identical to the shutters (Blenden) discussed above.

Criminal Traces 18 and 20, and 19 and 21: 'Gas' Windows and 'Gas' Chamber

“Traces” 18 and 20 mention putting “gass [sic] tight window” in place (Gassdichtenfenster versetzen), while “traces” 19 and 21 mention “concrete in gas chamber” (betonieren im Gasskammer). Pressac regards these “traces” — which are from February and March 1943 and relate to Birkenau Kremas IV and V — as very as very important evidence of homicidal gassings at Birkenau.

As already pointed out, gas tight windows were a common feature of German anti-gas shelters. (note 85) In addition, and as already noted, these objects are identical to the “shutters” (Blenden).

These four “traces” are dealt with here together because in each the word “gas” (Gas in German) is misspelled. In these four “traces” it is rendered as “Gass.” I do not agree with Pressac’s view that these are simple misspellings. Instead, I'm inclined to think that they are abbreviations: “tight windows for the [anti-gas shelter]” (Gass[chutzraum]dichtenfenster) and “[anti-]gas shelter” (Gass[chutz]kammer). (note 86)

In any case, a benign interpretation is possible. Therefore, these are not criminal traces.

Criminal Trace 25: Gas Tight 'Towers'

A construction office (Zentralbauleitung) letter of March 31, 1943, mentions “three gas tight towers” (3 gasdichte Türme). Pressac assumes that “towers” (Türme) here is nonsensical, and that it should instead read “doors” (Türen). Is so, these would simply be references to gas tight doors. As already pointed out, such doors were a common feature of German bomb shelters. A benign interpretation is possible, therefore this is not a criminal trace. (note 87)

But there is more to be said about this. There is no material or documentary support for Pressac’s view that these “towers” are really “doors.” Given that this Türme spelling is repeated in this same document, his contention that this is merely a stenographic error seems strained.

I propose that “gas tight towers” is not an error, but may have been a reference to shutters for chimneys or smoke stacks, which, according to German anti-gas literature, were also supposed to be gas tight. (note 88) While the word Turm in German means “tower,” it (and its associated diminutive, Turmchen) can also mean, in German building parlance, a turret or ventilation chimney. Referring to the drawings of Kremas IV and V with their shuttered cupolas surmounting the roof, one might easily conclude that these may also have been referred to as “towers.” Supposedly the “extermination gas chambers” of Kremas IV and V were at the opposite end of the building. But this end of the buildings also had chimneys, although much smaller ones. In short, we propose that these “towers” (Türme) were gas tight chimneys of some kind.

Criminal Trace 28: Bolts for 'Gas Tight' Doors

This document mentions “anchor bolts for gas tight doors” (24 Ankerschrauben für gasduchte [sic] Türen). As already emphasized, such doors were a common feature of German wartime bomb shelters. (note 89) A benign interpretation is possible, therefore it is not a criminal trace.

Criminal Traces 30 and 31: Heating a Morgue

In two documents, both from March 1943, there are references to warming or heating “morgue cellar” (Leichenkeller) 1 in Birkenau Krema II. One mentions a “hot air supply” to the morgue, and the other mentions a “pre-warmed” morgue. These are “supplementary traces,” writes Pressac, because “heating a mortuary is nonsensical.” Still, they are “criminal” only to the extent that other traces are shown to be criminal. (note 90)

Actually, warming or heating an anti-gas shelter is mentioned in the relevant literature, where specific temperatures are cited as ideal in keeping the humidity low. (note 91) In addition, warming this semi-underground morgue cellar to keep it from freezing, such as in winter, would not be unusual. (note 92) A benign interpretation is possible. Therefore these are not criminal traces.

Criminal Trace 32: Gas Tight Door Fittings

This 1943 work order for Krema V mentions “fittings for gas tight door” (Beschläge für gasdichte Tür). Because the date of this order is June 17, 1943 — that is, some time after Krema V had begun operation — Pressac argues that this new door was used to replace a faulty or damaged one, However, he offers no material evidence in support of this assertion. Anyway, and as already pointed out, gas tight doors were a common feature to anti-gas shelters. A benign interpretation is possible, therefore this is not a criminal trace.

Criminal Trace 33: Key for Gas Chamber

This July 1943 work order mentions a “key for gas chamber” (1 Schlüssel für Gaskammer). Noting that “doors to the homicidal gas chambers … were not fitted with locks,” Pressac offers this only as “a dubious 'trace'.” Apparently he cited it only because it contains the word “gas.” Anyway, he adds, this documentary reference is “incomprehensible with our present state of knowledge." (note 93)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this document (which is also the source of “criminal traces” 32 and 33) is a portion that Pressac does not mention. Under August 11, 1943, Number 708, there is an order for “30 fittings for red light lamps” (30 Stück Befestigungskonstruktionen für Rotlichtlampen) for Birkenau crematory buildings IV and V. As already noted, the relevant German literature stresses that darkening was very important for bomb shelters, and installing red light lamps in rooms of Kremas IV and V would therefore be very understandable if, as we believe, these rooms also served as bomb shelters, or at least were adapted or modified for that purpose. (note 94) If, as Pressac and other Holocaust historians contend, such rooms only served as homicidal gas chambers, the purpose of red lamps there seems pointless, or at least unclear.

Criminal Trace 34: Gas Chamber

This May 1943 work order mentions “fittings for a door with frames, air tight, with peephole for gas chamber” (Beschläge zu 1 Tür mit Rahmen, Luftdicht mit Spion für Gaskammer). Pressac regards this “trace” as merely “supplementary,” not least because the “gas chamber” mentioned here in this Polish extract or summary is explicitly identified as a disinfestation or delousing chamber (Entwesungskamer [sic]). Moreover, this fits the description of a normal anti-gas shelter door with a peephole. (note 95) A benign interpretation is possible, so no further commentary is necessary.

Some Additional Arguments by Pressac

At another place in his 1989 book, Pressac specifies eleven modifications of crematory facility (Krema) II that, he believes, are evidence of homicidal gassings there. (note 96) Here are these alleged “incriminating” modifications, with a brief response to each.

1. An access stairway was built to morgue cellar No. 2, allegedly the “undressing” room for gassing victims.

The addition of a staircase here at the nexus of the main building with the right angle underground morgues makes complete sense in terms of access to a air raid anti-gas shelter. Without such a staircase, those seeking shelter there would have had to go another 50 yards out of their way.

Given their large size, these semi-underground morgue cellars would have provided effective shelter for many people in the event of a bombing raid or a gas attack. Morgue cellar 1 of Birkenau Krema II was 210 square meters in size, and morgue cellar 2 was 392.5 square meters in size. They could have held from 500 to 1,500 persons each.

Birkenau’s crematory facilities were among the most prominent and solidly-built structures in the entire camp. They were among only a handful of brick structures in Birkenau built by the Germans from the ground up. It seems only natural that they would have been modified or adapted to incorporate features and capacities in addition to their primary role as morgue rooms. Given their sturdy construction, and prominence, one can easily envision their secondary use as anti-gas air raid shelters, decontamination centers, or personnel shelters.

The location of Birkenau’s crematory facilities athwart or near rail lines alone would have insured their strategic importance. In the event of enemy attack with bombs or poison gas (or even artillery fire), there would have been no safer place in the entire camp than the morgue cellars of Birkenau Krema buildings II and III.

2. The double door of morgue cellar 1 of Birkenau Krema II was refitted to open outward.

Pressac contends that this new door was never actually installed. Anyway, an outward opening double door creates further problems for Pressac and other defenders of the standard Holocaust story, insofar as it blocks the corpse lift.

3. This double door was replaced with a single gas tight door.

Although Pressac cites a document to support this contention, it is not completely clear whether this door was meant for morgue cellar 1 or morgue cellar 2. In either case, as we have seen, gas tight doors of both types were used for air raid shelters. Oddly, Pressac claims (note 97) that the double door, with dimensions of 190 × 190 cm, was replaced by a single door 100 × 192 cm in size. A more reasonable explanation is that this single door was meant for morgue cellar 2, which no on has ever claimed was a homicidal gas chamber.

4. The drainage system was separated from the other drains in the building.

This is a design feature consistent with anti-gas shelter design. If, as we propose, the drainage of morgue cellar No. 1 was designed to evacuate poison gas contaminants, one would certainly want to keep its drainage separate. (note 98)

5. The efficiency of the morgue cellar 1 ventilation system was tested with Zyklon.

There is no material evidence for this claim.

6. A wooden wall was built in front of the corpse chute.

In this case as well, this modification is consistent with bomb shelter and anti-gas shelter design.

7. Four wire mesh induction columns with lidded chimneys were installed.

This is another claim (discussed above) for which no material evidence is offered.

8. Dummy wooden shower heads were installed in the ceiling of morgue cellar No. 1 (Krema II).

This is another non-material claim. The relevant document actually mentions 14 shower heads, and these are for Krema III. In any case, the decontamination section of an air raid shelter would naturally have showers and shower heads. (note 99)

9. The three water taps were removed.

This is yet another non-material claim. The presence of water taps was typical in bomb shelters for cleaning and decontamination, and could certainly sustain shower heads, as we have seen.

10. Benches with clothes hooks were installed in morgue cellar No. 2 (Krema II).

The benches are typical of those in the front (waiting) room of large bomb shelters. The clothes hooks would be expected in the undressing rooms of large bomb shelters equipped with decontamination centers.

11. The area of morgue cellar No. 3 was reduced.

It appears that morgue cellar No. 3 (Krema III) was indeed subdivided to provide additional spaces or rooms. This is entirely consistent with the layout of a large bomb shelter. One of these new rooms was, naturally enough, for the collecting of gold and other metals from the dead. This is a perfectly logical procedure, when we recall that these morgues were after all morgues, and that metals are not consumed in cremation. Indeed, cremated tooth fillings emit mercury as a toxic air pollutant. (note 100)

To sum up, Pressac provides no material evidence of unique or telltale adaptations indicating that the “Vergasungskeller” morgue cellar ever served, or could have served, as a homicidal (extermination) gas chamber. To the contrary (and Dr. Butz has argued), there are several reasons why the Vergasungskeller was most probably an anti-gas shelter, an interpretation that is supported even by some of the modifications cited by Pressac. Moreover, and as we have shown, all of Pressac’s “criminal traces” are consistent with German air defense shelter design.

The contemporary German technical literature explains the design, layout and equipping of these “morgue cellars” as morgues, with modifications for secondary bomb shelter use. We therefore conclude that these cellar rooms were, in fact, designed and constructed as morgues with a secondary or additional use as air-raid shelters. In this context, the morgue cellar with the gas tight door and the shower heads (or water taps) could only be one thing: a decontamination facility (Entgiftungsanstalt), with shower (Duschraum), for treating poison gas victims — in short, a semi-underground decontamination center, or Vergasungskeller.


Each one of Pressac’s “criminal traces” can be explained as an anti-gas feature of an ordinary German wartime air raid shelter. More specifically, the “gas tight” features cited by Pressac were not designed to keep poisonous gas in, but rather to keep poisonous gas out. Pressac’s “criminal traces” notion assumes that these “traces” must have a criminal interpretation. Our explanations, however, render them invalid. With these “criminal traces” no longer valid, it follows that there is no material or documentary evidence whatsoever for the existence of extermination gas chambers in the four Birkenau crematory facilities. Therefore, the only evidence of extermination gas chambers at these locations is witness testimony and postwar affidavits.

The contemporaneous German technical literature, a small part of which has been cited here, describes the design features, layout, and equipment of German wartime bomb shelters, or air-raid anti-gas shelters.

The design features, layout, and equipment of the alleged “extermination gas chambers” described by Pressac match those of morgues modified or altered to serve secondarily as air defense shelters with anti-gas warfare features.

The available material and documentary evidence shows that the alleged “extermination gas chambers” in the Birkenau crematory facilities were designed and constructed as morgues, with modifications for their additional or secondary use as anti-gas shelters.

How, or even if, these rooms were actually used as air raid shelters, or anti-gas shelters (in addition to their primary use as morgues), and what additional modifications may have accordingly been carried out, is beyond the scope of this article.

It should be noted that if these morgue cellar rooms had in fact been used as extermination gas chambers, as widely alleged, additional modifications or adaptations of them would have been required for that use. (note 101) There is no evidence of such additional modifications.


1. This article was first posted on CODOH Web site on March 23, 1997 { It was expanded on April 30, 1997. A German translation, edited by Germar Rudolf, was published in the December 1997 issue of Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung (Jg. 1, Heft 4), pp. 226-243. In that form it was slightly altered to include a section pertaining to air raid shelters in the concentration camp system, derived from a sister article, “Defending Against the Allied Bombing Campaign: Air Raid Shelters and Gas Protection in Germany, 1939-1945", which may be found at the CODOH site at The present version, edited by Mark Weber, is adapted from the English-language text prepared for the German-language version. See also: Samuel Crowell, “The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes,” posted on the CODOH site at

2. Throughout I have used the terms bomb shelter and anti-gas shelter interchangeably, because the original German terms “Luftschutzraum,” “Gasschutzraum,” and “Schutzraum,” are used as synonyms in the German literature. I have adopted the (translated) term “anti-gas shelter” from a contemporaneous English-language source, Handbook on German Military Forces (published by the US War Department in March 1945, p. 518), which is further discussed in the body of the text.

3. Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers was published in 1989 by the Beate Klarsfeld Foundation (New York). This book was announced in a sympathetic article by Richard Bernstein in The New York Times, December 18, 1989. Reviews and analyses of Pressac’s book that have appeared in The Journal of Historical Review include: M. Weber, Summer 1990 issue (Vol. 10, No. 2), pp. 231-237; C. Mattogno, Winter 1990-91 (Vol. 10, No. 4), pp. 461-485; R. Faurisson, Spring 1991 (Vol. 11, No. 1), pp. 25-66, and Summer 1991 issue (Vol. 11, No. 2), pp. 133-175.

4. Actually, the number of criminal traces is something less than 39. The “39” refers to 39 documents, which are photographically reproduced in Pressac’s book.

5. Miklos Nyiszli, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account (New York: Arcade, 1993), p. 128, or (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1965), p. 97. (This is at the beginning of chapter 22.)

6. Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981), p. 309.

7. Wilhelm Stäglich, Auschwitz: A Judge Looks at the Evidence (IHR, 1990), p. 53. This is a translation of Der Auschwitz-Mythos, first published in German in 1979.

8. Friedrich P. Berg, “The German Delousing Chambers,” The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1986 (Vol. 7, No. 1), pp. 73-94; F.P. Berg, “Typhus and the Jews,” The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1988-89 (Vol. 8, No. 4), pp. 433-481.

9. Analysis of Pressac’s 1989 Auschwitz book, by Robert Faurisson, in The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1991 (Vol. 11, No. 1), pp. 25-66, esp. pp. 55-58. Specifically, Faurisson wrote (pp. 49, 65): “A gas-tight door is a Gastür or gasdichte Tür; English speakers use “gas-proof door” as well as “gas-tight door"; this type of door can be used either for delousing gas chambers or for airlocks (for example, airlocks in an oven room or in an air-raid shelter)… In a bombing attack, the door to an air-raid shelter is supposed to guard against two effects, among others, caused by exploding bombs: suction of the oxygen out of the shelter and penetration of CO into the same shelter.”

10. Dr. Butz' “Vergasungskeller” article was first published on his Northwestern University Internet website on August 6, 1996, and has been revised at least twice since then. It appeared in the January 1997 issue (No. 51) of the Adelaide Institute Newsletter. A revised version was published in The Journal of Historical Review, July-August 1997 issue (pp. 20-23) under the title “The Nagging 'Gassing Cellar' Problem.” (See also note 57.)

11. This section draws on the following sources: Sterling Seagrave, Yellow Rain: A Journey Through the Terror of Chemical Warfare (New York: 1981); the article “Poison Gas Warfare” by Major General Sir Louis Jackson, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 12th edition, 1923 (Supplementary volumes to the 11th edition, 1910), volume XXXII, pp. 110-117; and, the article “A Whiff of Death: Chemical Warfare in the World Wars” by David Tschanz, in Command: Military History, Strategy & Analysis, issue 33, March-April 1995, pp. 46-57. The author expresses his gratitude to Richard A. Widmann for providing this last reference. Perhaps the most detailed exposition of World War I gas usage is Dieter Martinetz, Der Gaskrieg, 1914-1918 (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe, 1996).

12. Stephen Trombley, The Executioner’s Protocol (New York: Crown/ Anchor, 1992), p. 12. (This book was reviewed in the March-April 1998 Journal of Historical Review, pp. 34-36.)

13. Branddirektor Hans Rumpf, Gasschutz: Ein Leitfaden für den Gasschutzlehrer und den Gasschutzmann (Berlin: E.S. Mittler & Sohn, 1936/ 3rd ed.), p. 46.

14. H. Rumpf, Gasschutz (cited above), pp. 49, 52.

15. H. Rumpf, Gasschutz (cited above), p. 54.

16. Guenther W. Gellerman, Der Krieg, der nicht stattfand (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe, 1986), pp. 186 f.

17. Luftschutz durch Bauen (Berlin: Bauwelt Verlag, 1939), pp. 174-177.

18. Luftschutz durch Bauen (cited above), p. 180.

19. Luftschutz durch Bauen (cited above), pp. 178 f.

20. Luftschutz durch Bauen (cited above), pp. 182 f.

21. Luftschutz durch Bauen (cited above), p. 205.

22. Luftschutz durch Bauen (cited above), p. 208.

23. Luftschutz durch Bauen (cited above), p. 210.

24. Dr.-Ing. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (Berlin: W. Ernst & Sohn, 1939)

25. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (cited above), p. 2.

26. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (cited above), p. 3.

27. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (cited above), p. 21.

28. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (cited above), pp. 32, 37.

29. Further research on this precise point indicates that the peephole might be variously shaped or covered, and might be recessed either on the inside or outside of the door, depending on the nature of the construction and available materials. Thus, the peephole cited in R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (1939, cited above), pp. 32, 37, shows the recess and covering on the inside. However, an article in the periodical Gasschutz und Luftschutz (Berlin-Charlottenberg: Verlag Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 10. Jg., 1940, pp. 6 and 42) shows it on the outside. See also the photographs of such doors in: J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (1989), pp. 29, 46, 48, 49, 50, 61. The literature also shows that, while the perforated steel plate was preferred, many other expedients were used, sometimes wired glass or ordinary glass, and sometimes the peepholes themselves might be rectangular, Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1940, cited above), p. 42.

30. "Der Zivile Luftschutz auf den Frühjahrausstellungen 1939,” by Heinz-Guenther Mehl, published in Gasschutz und Luftschutz (Berlin-Charlottenberg: Verlag Gasschutz und Luftschutz), 9. Jg. (1939), p. 106.

31. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (cited above), 9. Jg. (1939), p. 111.

32. "Werkrettungsstellen” ("Work Place Emergency Rooms"), by Dr. Ing. Karl Quasebart, published in Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 9. Jg. (1939), p. 236.

33. Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1939, p. 237.

34. Handbook on German Military Forces (Washington, DC: US War Department, March 1945), p. 528. (Facsimile reprint: Louisiana State University Press, 1990 [with introduction by historian Stephen E. Ambrose].)

35. Luftschutz durch Bauen (cited above), p. 210.

36. "Werkrettungsstellen,” in Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1939 (cited above), p. 239.

37. "Aus der Praxis für die Praxis im Werkluftschutz” ("Practical Lessons for Work Place Bomb Shelters"), by Major a.D. (retired) Stein, in Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1939, p. 263.

38. "Behelfsmässige Luftschutzräume, falsch und richtig” ("Makeshift Bomb Shelters: Right and Wrong"), by Dr. Ing. Ernst Baum, in Baulicher Luftschutz (formerly Gasschutz und Luftschutz) 10. Jg., 1940, pp. 22 ff.

39. Baulicher Luftschutz (cited above), 1940, p. 26.

40. "Bemerkungen zur Verordnung und den Bestimmungen über die behelfsmässige Herrichtung von Luftschuträumen” ("Remarks on the Ordinance and Regulations for Building Makeshift Air Raid Shelters"), by K. Otto, Referent im Reichsluftfahrtministerium, published in Baulicher Luftschutz, 1940, p. 8.

41. "Hygienische und physiologische Grundlagen für den Bau von Luftschutz-Bunkern” ("Hygienic and Psychological Conditions for Building Air Raid Bunkers"), by Dr. W. Liese, Reichsgesundheitsamt, in Baulicher Luftschutz, 1942, pp. 104-110.

42. Baulicher Luftschutz (article by Dr. W. Liese, cited above), 1942, p. 107.

43. "Einfluß der Heizung und Belüftung auf die Planung von LS Bunkern” ("The Role of Heating and Ventilation in Planning Air Raid Bunkers"), by Dr. Ing. Hermann Schrader, Regierungsbaurat im Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Reich Air Ministry), published in Baulicher Luftschutz, 1942, pp. 110-116.

44. Advertisements in Baulicher Luftschutz (cited above), 1942 issues, apparently pp. iv and v. Text portion translations: “Absolute safety in use!” (Unbedingte Betriebssicherheit!), and “the simple method of construction enables easy, quick usage” (Die einfache Bauart ermöglicht leichte, schnelle Bedienung).

45. Handbook on German Military Forces (US War Dept., 1945. Cited above), pp. 518-527.

46. Handbook on German Military Forces (cited above), p. 527 (Figure 125).

47. Baulicher Luftschutz (cited above), 1942, p. 202.

48. Luftschutz Führer Sofort Programm ("Air Raid Guide Emergency Program"), November 1940. Quoted in: Samuel Crowell, “Defending Against the Allied Bombing Campaign: Air Raid Shelters and Gas Protection in Germany, 1939-1945.” The relevant portion of the text is posted on the CODOH Internet web site: Sources cited by Crowell for this document: Joachim Stahl, Bunker und Stollen für den Luftschutz im Raum Siegen (Kreuztal: 1980), pp. 23 ff., and, Georg Wolfgang Schramm, Der zivile Luftschutz in Nürnberg, 1933-1945 (Nuremberg: 1983), pp. 327 ff. The wording in German is: “Bei allen Neubauten, insbesondere bei den Bauten der Rüstungsindustrie, sind von vorneherein bombensichere Luftschutzräume auszuführen. Sie sind in die gleiche Dringlichkeitsstufe wie die Bauvorhaben selbst aufzunehmen.”

49. Letter from Oswald Pohl, head of the SS agency that administered the concentration camps (WVHA), to SS chief Heinrich Himmler, with attached order by Pohl to all camp commandants, April 30, 1942. Nuremberg document R-129. Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg: 1947-1949), IMT “blue series,” vol. 38, pp. 362-367. See also: Himmler to Glücks, Jan. 25, 1942. Nuremberg document NO-500. Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals (1949-1953), NMT “green series,” vol. 5, p. 365. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Holmes & Meier, 3 vols., 1985), p. 917.

50. David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews (New York: 1984), pp. 299-300; R. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: 1985), pp. 981, 1128-1129; At least two of these raids were reported in The New York Times: Aug. 21, 1944, p. 6, and Sept. 14, 1944, p. 6.

51. Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies (New York: 1981), pp. 315-316, and illus. # 32, opp. p. 193.

52. Order (Standortbefehl) Nr. 51/43 of November 16, 1943, by Auschwitz commandant, and SS officer, Liebehenschel. Quoted by Carlo Mattogno in his “Reply to Samuel Crowell’s 'Comments' About my 'Critique of the Bomb Shelter Thesis',” 1999, posted on CODOH web site: In February 1943 Himmler issued an order on measures to be taken in the concentration camps in anticipation of Allied air bombing raids. Source: R. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (1985), pp. 913-914.

53. Memorandum (Aktenvermerk), Auschwitz, October 25, 1943. (Betr. Luftschutz-Dekungsgräben), signed by SS-Untersturmführer Dejaco (?). Original in the Central State Archives, Moscow. Document No. 502-1-26-178. Memorandum (Aktenvermerk), Auschwitz, November 5, 1943. (Betr. Luftschutzdeckungsgräben), signed by SS-Untersturmführer Dejaco (?). Original in the Central State Archives, Moscow. Document No. 502-1-26-186 +186R. Letter, from SS WVHA, Berlin, November 9, 1944, to Bauinspektion Kattowitz. (Betr. Errichtung von Luftschutzdeckungsgräben), Copy of copy. Original in the Central State Archives, Moscow. Document No. 502-1-281. These three documents are posted, both in facsimile and retyped text, along with commentary, on David Irving’s Focal Point web site: In addition, a document of November 10, 1943, by SS officer Jothann, mentions work on such air raid shelters (Luftschutzgräben). Cited by Carlo Mattogno in his “Reply to Samuel Crowell’s 'Comments' About my 'Critique of the Bomb Shelter Thesis',” posted on CODOH web site:

54. On measures to protect inmates at Auschwitz (including Birkenau) against death by disease, especially typhus, see: M. Weber, “High Frequency Delousing Facilities at Auschwitz,” The Journal of Historical Review, May-June 1999, pp. 4-12.

55. "The Stroop Report.” Nuremberg document 1061-PS. Published in: IMT “blue series” (cited above), vol. 26, pp. 637-638, 672; Nuremberg Tribunal testimony of Joseph Bühler (April 23, 1946), in: IMT “blue series,” vol. 12, pp. 75.

56. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (cited above), p. 429. On the following pages of his book (pp. 430-457), Pressac presents his 39 “criminal traces,” with commentary, source references, and photographic reproductions of each.

57. Arthur R. Butz, “The Nagging 'Gassing Cellar' Problem,” The Journal of Historical Review, July-August 1997, pp. 20-23. (See also note 10.) Dr. Butz argues here that the large concrete semi-underground morgues of Birkenau crematory facilities (Kremas) II and III, with their reinforced concrete roofs, and their intended bermings, would have been ideal as air raid “gas shelters.” Actually, these morgue had features not only of anti-gas bomb shelters, but also of personnel shelters. Such personnel shelters, which were common in German emplacements, would preferably be underground, “or as low as the water level table permits.” (See: Handbook on German Military Forces, cited above, p. 263). Also, they would be constructed of concrete reinforced with steel rods, have gas locks, be carefully camouflaged, and have four ventilation ducts, two of which would be dummies to thwart enemy attempts to introduce gas or explosives. (See: Handbook on German Military Forces, cited above, pp. 262-264). Butz' research shows that “Gaskeller” can mean “Gasschutzkeller” or “gas shelter,” and that “Vergasungskeller” can mean “Gaskeller.” This is a good etymological argument, and important in this regard because, as we have seen, the construction workers and engineers were very creative in their use of the German language. As already noted, the bomb shelter literature boasted an impressive vocabulary of synonyms and neologisms. Several nouns, that no one has heard before or since, were coined, using “Gasschutz-” or “Luftschutz-” as a prefix. In the subject index for one periodical year, we find at least 20 words that use Gas- or Gasschutz- as a prefix or suffix, including Gasschutzbettchen and Kleinkindergasschutz. Luftschutz- is even more productive, no fewer than 50 terms are listed, including such interesting terms as Luftschutzhausapotheke, and Luftschutztürme (See: Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1939, cited above, index.) A similar prolificacy affects bomb shelters (Gasschutzraum, -keller, Gaskeller [as Dr. Butz has noted], Luftschutzraum, -haus, -keller, Schutzraum, even Selbstschutz; LS-Bunker only rarely), poison gas victims (Gaserkrankung, Vergiftungen, Kampfstoffvergiftung, Kampstoffverletzte, Gaskranken, Gelbkreuzverletzte, and others) as well as decontamination centers (Entgiftungsanstalt, Badeund Duschraum für Kampstoffverletzte, Gasentgiftung, Rettungsstelle). Such terms as Vergasungskeller for Krema II, and Gasskammer for Krema IV and V, would follow naturally in this series of neologisms.

58. For more on this, see the full, “original” text of this essay, posted on CODOH web site: See also: S. Crowell, “The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes” [abstract], particularly Section 3 ["German Delousing Procedures"], posted on the CODOH site at

59. Handbook on German Military Forces (cited above), p. 525.

60. J.-C. Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz (Munich: Piper, 1994), p. 93, and, J.-C. Pressac, Les crématoires d'Auschwitz: la machinerie du meurte de masse (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1993). This letter is reproduced in facsimile, together with an English translation, by J.-C. Pressac and Robert-Jan Van Pelt in their article in: Y. Gutman and M. Berenbaum, eds., Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 230-231. See also the discussion of this letter in: Arthur R. Butz, “Gas Detectors in Auschwitz Crematory II,” The Journal of Historical Review, Sept.-Oct. 1997, pp. 24-30. The argument that this document is an altered copy or forgery has been advanced by Werner Rademacher in: E. Gauss, ed., Grundlagen zur Zeitgeschichte (Tübingen: Grabert Verlag, 1994), pp. 55-57. Carlo Mattogno has made this same argument, for example, in C. Mattogno, Auschwitz: The End of the Legend (IHR, 1994), p. 66, and in, C. Mattogno, “Auschwitz: Die Ende einer Legende,” in Herbert Vorbeke, ed., Auschwitz: Nackte Fakten (Berchem, Belgium: VHO, 1995), p. 147.

61. J.-C. Pressac, Die Krematorien von Auschwitz (cited above), p. 94.

62. At this point it is worth mentioning that the word “Gasprüfer” in the contemporary German literature refers to a device for measuring the mix of gases in a furnace. See: Hütte, des Ingenieurs Taschenbuch (Berlin: Verlag von W. Ernst & Sohn [Akademischer Verein Hütte], 1931), vol. 1, p. 1013 (with specific reference to exhaust gas analysis). This page is reproduced in facsimile in: C. Mattogno, Auschwitz: The End of the Legend (cited above), p. 122, and pp. 65-67, 117-122. This is also given in: C. Mattogno, in H. Vorbeke, ed., Auschwitz: Nackte Fakten (cited above), p. 152, and pp. 146-152.

63. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), p. 452.

64. "Gas Detectors in the Auschwitz Crematorium II” was published on Dr. Butz' Internet homepage on March 3, 1997, and revised several times thereafter. It was also published in The Journal of Historical Review, Sept.-Oct. 1997, pp. 24-30. One such source of HCN when burned is rayon. During the war years German military uniforms were made with an increasingly high proportion of rayon. (Handbook on German Military Forces, 1945, cited above, pp. 541, 543, 551.) It is also not unreasonable to assume that most concentration camp fabrics contained similar proportions of wool and rayon, and that highly flammable rayon fabrics would be treated with flame retardant, which would provide a catalyst for HCN release when burned. In addition, our review of the literature has shown that several other substances — including leather, celluloid, and proteinous matter — produced HCN when burned, and could have a poisonous effect. All of these could have been burned in the incinerator as well. (H. Rumpf, Gasschutz, 1936, cited above, p. 55.) A possible counter argument to Butz' thesis is that these gas detectors had special characteristics that made them appropriate for measuring HCN in connection with homicidal gassings. Aside from this being purely speculative, this counter argument offers no clue as to what these characteristics might be. Moreover, this argument would not explain why ten detectors would be needed, or how they would be used or consulted in a space that, after all, had only one door.

65. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (1939, cited above), pp. 21, 24 f; Advertisements in Baulicher Luftschutz, 1942 issues, cited above; and, Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1939, p. 236.

66. Luftschutz durch Bauen (1939, cited above), pp. 180, 205, 210; Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), p. 237.

67. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), pp. 434, 436.

68. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (1939, cited above), pp. 21, 24 f.; Advertisements in Baulicher Luftschutz, 1942 issues, cited above; and, Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1939, p. 236. The references in these other “trace” documents are to: “Gasdichtetür,” “Beschläge für 1 Stück Gastür,” “4 Gasdichte Türe,” “Gastüren Verankerungen 210 stk,” “4 dichte Türen, mit Türfutter,” für 4 gasdichte Türen,” “Gastüren einsetzen.” Werner Rademacher in Grundlagen zur Zeitgeschichte (cited above), p. 57, has argued that all these items would have been superfluous for use with the supposed gas chambers, or the gas chamber doors. However, my bomb shelter thesis answers this problem.

69. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), pp. 430, 436, 438.

70. J.-C. Pressac and R.-J. Van Pelt in Y. Gutman and M. Berenbaum, eds., Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (cited above), p. 233. Holzblenden is translated here as “wooden lids.”

71. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), p. 111, and, 1940, pp. 22 ff, 26. Elsewhere in his 1989 Auschwitz book (pp. 425-428), Pressac provides several photographs of shutters, which he identifies as the “gas tight windows” or “doors” of Birkenau crematory facilities (Kremas) IV and V. These shutters are generally identical in size, shape, and construction to ordinary wooden shutters (Blenden) for air raid shelters, as can readily be seen by consulting the literature cited above, and they are also of about the right size for emergency exits. Thus, “gas tight windows,” “gas tight doors,” “shutters” or “wooden shutters” are, in this context, all the same thing. This is important not only because it demonstrates the propensity of Birkenau construction workers and engineers to describe things by unconventional names, but also because it helps put this “wire mesh” or “wire netting” in context.

72. Advertisements in Baulicher Luftschutz, 1942 issues, cited above.

73. Luftschutz durch Bauen (1939, cited above), p. 182 f; Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1940, p. 26; Baulicher Luftschutz, 1940, p. 263. German terms used are Rost, Gitterstäbe and Geflecht von Draht.

74. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), p. 441.

75. There are several references in the German anti-gas shelter literature to various Schieber, that is, devices that slide in and block, filter, or mediate a space (such as Absperrschieber, Rosettenschieber, or Aufbläseschieber). In each such case, the Schieber is something that it is slid into something else. In no case does it refer to a device into which something else is slid. (R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse, 1939, cited above, p. 5; Luftschutz durch Bauen, 1939, cited above, pp. 174ff, 182f.) Pressac’s characterization of Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung as “wire mesh induction devices” or “wire netting inserting devices” is therefore semantically incorrect.

76. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), p. 440. The relevant portion of the text, in Polish, reads: “na wykonanie zaslon i kontówek dla krematorium II /B.W. 30/, z tresci którego wynika, ze dla wykonania tego zamówienia zuzyto gaze druciana i druciana plecionke.” The original (German-language) order is not available, because, Pressac believes, the original document was taken from the Auschwitz State Museum and has not been returned. (J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz, cited above, p. 438). This seems to be the only original document that is missing. Pressac therefore relies on a Polish-language abstract, notarized by Jan Sehn.

77. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (1939, cited above), p. 5; Luftschutz durch Bauen (1939, cited above), pp. 174ff, 182f.

78. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), pp. 354, 436. On page 436 he wrote: “According to the American aerial photograph of 24th August 1944, the four introduction points were located along a line running the length of the room in the EASTERN half. In the present ruins, two of these openings are still visible at the southern end but in the WESTERN half. Nobody up to now seems to have been concerned by this contradiction, nor to have explained it.” However, on page 354 Pressac wrote: “The reason for this as yet unexplained difference could well be simply that the roof shifted considerably when dynamited.”

79. R. Kammerer, A. Solms, eds., Das Rudolf Gutachten (London: Cromwell Press, 1993), pp. 26, 28. The text is also on the Internet at: (See also the English-language summary edition: The Rudolf Report [Cromwell Press, 1993], pp. 6-7.) Rudolf argues that the two holes were crudely cut through the reinforced concrete after pouring, and that they could not be made secure or gas-tight under any conditions. Therefore they must have been made after the war. For more about Rudolf and his VffG journal, see “Important New German-Language Revisionist Quarterly,” in the May-June 1998 Journal, pp. 26-27.

80. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (1939, cited above), p. 22.

81. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), pp. 429, 430, 438, 439.

82. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), 1939, p. 276.

83. It should be pointed out that this reference to 14 shower heads pertains to morgue 1 of Birkenau crematory building (Krema) III, not Krema II. (For Krema II we have the materially unsubstantiated claim that it had 24 shower heads.) According to the Krema II inventory, morgue 1 was equipped with either three or five water taps, which would be consistent with the facilities or equipping of a decontamination shower room. (See: Gasschutz und Luftschutz, 1939, cited above, p. 276.)

84. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), p. 111; and, 1940, pp. 22ff, 26.

85. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), p. 111; and, 1940, pp. 22ff, 26.

86. Traces 18 and 19 are time sheets filled out by the foreman of a civilian construction firm that worked on Kremas IV and V. These contain two similar spellings, which Pressac considers mistakes: gassdichtenfenster, and Gasskammer. Traces 20 and 21 repeat the “misspellings” in a log book. I consider these misspellings odd, because there is more than one mistake being made here. For more on all this, see the full, “original” text of this essay, posted on CODOH web site:

87. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989), pp. 452, 453. As Pressac notes here, Polish examining judge Jan Sehn arbitrarily changed Türme ("towers") to Türen ("doors") in producing an “authentic copy” of this document, which he “certified.” Sehn certified as an “authentic copy” a document to which alterations had been made. Certification of altered documents could certainly be characterized as forgery.

88. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), p. 111.

89. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), p. 111; and, 1940, pp. 22ff, 26. See, for example, the small “towers” above Krema IV or V shown in the drawing on the front cover of Pressac’s 1989 book. It should be noted that “gas tight” (gasdichte) is misspelled as gasduchte. But this comes from the Polish transcript, not from the German original document.

90. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), pp. 230, 433, 454.

91. Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), p. 276.

92. The heating of an underground morgue would sometimes be necessary to keep temperatures above the freezing point. See: E. Neufert, Bauentwurfslehre (Frankfurt: Ullstein Fachverlag, 1962), p. 423.

93. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers (1989), pp. 456, 457. This Polish summary or extract of a German work order reads: 1 Schlüssel. für Gaskammer/ Melden bei H.stuf der Apotheke im 44-Revier/. Bestellschein der Verwaltung BBD Nr. 87 Block vom 9.7.43. Pressac translates this as: 1 key. for gas chamber. Report to SS captain of the SS hospital pharmacy. BBD administration Order No. 87 Block of 9th July, 1943. I believe that alternate interpretations of this “trace” are conceivable, and that, anyway, there are several possible mistakes in this extract. Until the original German work order is found, I think it best to leave this “trace” alone.

94. "Der Zivile Luftschutz auf den Frühjahrausstellungen 1939,” by Heinz-Guenther, published in Gasschutz und Luftschutz (1939, cited above), pp. 5, 264, 323ff.

95. R. Scholle, Schutzraumabschlüsse (1939, cited above), p. 21. Note the use of the word Spion for the peephole, instead of the more usual Guckloch. This is further evidence of the creative vocabulary of Birkenau construction workers.

96. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), p. 286, with pp. 302-303, 310 and 312.

97. J.-C. Pressac, Auschwitz (1989, cited above), p. 434.

98. Germar Rudolf has also made the point that it would be natural to segregate the drainage of this space if the cellar contained contaminated corpses. R. Kammerer, A. Solms, eds., Das Rudolf Gutachten (London: Cromwell Press, 1993). Also on the Internet at:

99. It has been mentioned in this regard that the architectural drawings for morgue cellar #1 of Krema II do not indicate the piping for the shower heads. As a matter of fact, they indicate no shower heads at all, but rather three water taps (actually, symbols indicating three points where water would be piped in) against the eastern wall (Pressac, Auschwitz, 1989, pp. 310, 312). It is strange that Pressac suggests (Auschwitz, 1989, p. 310) that this same drawing would indicate that the water taps were removed, but on closer inspection it turns out that the water taps were removed according to witness testimony only. Furthermore, it seems odd that Pressac would consider a lack of piping in any way significant. Elsewhere in this same book (Pressac, Auschwitz, 1989, pp. 55-57), he presents four drawings of a known delousing station for prisoners: all four indicate the 55 shower heads, but only one shows the piping for the shower heads, which are in turn led back to only four water outlets. A photograph presented by Pressac (Auschwitz, 1989, p. 80) shows how such outlets, by the use of exposed piping suspended from iron rods attached to the ceiling, could sustain shower heads in a ratio of 14 to 1. Therefore, it should be clear that this entire issue of piping, shower heads, water taps, and such is, from a documentary point of view, just not relevant.

100. Kenneth V. Iserson, Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? (Tucson: 1994), p. 251.

101. In particular, it would have been necessary to reverse the screens and shutters. Normally (that is, in the case of air raid shelters), the screens would be on the outside, to protect against bomb splinters and debris, while the shutters would be on the inside, to afford gas protection. If not reversed, the intended gassing victims could simply have opened the emergency exits and climbed out. But if reversed, the debris, splinter, and gas protection features would be compromised. In short, converting these rooms to extermination gas chambers would have prevented their effective use as bomb shelters. There is no material or documentary evidence that such modifications were ever made.

About the author:

Samuel Crowell is the pen name of an American writer who describes himself as a “moderate revisionist.” At the University of California (Berkeley) he studied philosophy, foreign languages (including German, Polish, Russian, and Hungarian), and history, including Russian, German and German-Jewish history. He continued his study of history at Columbia University. For six years he worked as a college teacher. This essay is copyright © 1999 by Samuel Crowell.

Bibliographic information
Author: Crowell, Samuel
Title: Wartime Germany’s Anti-Gas Air Raid Shelters: A Refutation of Pressac’s 'Criminal Traces'
Source: The Journal for Historical Review
Date: July/August 1999
Issue: Volume 18 number 4
Location: Page
ISSN: 0195-6752
Attribution: “Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, PO Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA.”
Please send a copy of all reprints to the Editor.