The Holocaust Historiography Project

A tale of two gassings

For those seeing this for the first time, consider for a moment the impact of essentially the same story with the details changed and a different set of fabulous details thrown in.

What you are going to read are two different descriptions of the same event. Where you would expect to find the two stories to be complimentary and to shed light upon each other we find just the opposite.

We find unexplainable contradictions in most places. In one case we find an unexplainable identical mistake on color based upon a common misconception. We find different people and numbers of people involved.

We even find an absolutely impossible detail thrown into one story. It is a truly amazing comparison.

Naumann, Bernard. Auschwitz. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966, as cited in Conot (note 1) Nizkor Auschwitz FAQ various sources embedded Commentary
Although Hitler ordered that Jews and commissars were to be screened out before they reached POW camps, the procedure proved impractical, and many were not 'selected' before they arrived in the Reich. Those weeded out were then sent to concentration camps for execution. At Auschwitz, to which Russian prisoners were dispatched to clear land and build factories, the officers and 'commissars' were initially executed one at a time with a shot in the back of the neck at the so-called Black Wall, adjacent to the Bunker (camp prison). This was a laborious procedure that wore on the nerves of the SS executioners. In October 1941, however, an SS officer named Arthur Johann Breitwieser Auschwitz had been receiving trainloads of Soviet commissars and other POW's who were subject to liquidation. Höss's men had shot previous shipments of Russian prisoners, but on September 3 Höss's enterprising subordinate Hauptsturmführer Fritsch Note that different people are involved in the different stories. In one case it is a Breitweiser, in the other it is Fritsch.

Also note that in one case there is no mention Höss and in the other he is mentioned.
noticed that one of his companions, charged with delousing the camp laundry, was instantly knocked out when exposed to a whiff of Zyklon B, the gas that was used as a disinfectant. thought of an expedient new method based on the camp's own experience. The buildings, many of them former Polish army barracks, were full of insects, and the camp administration had previously brought in the Hamburg pesticide firm of Tesch and Stabenow to get rid of them.

Two experts had fumigated particular buildings with a patented insecticide, Zyklon B, a crystalline form of hydrogen cyanide that turned gaseous when exposed to the air. (Höss, "Commandant of Auschwitz," 175. Interrogation of Höss, 14 May 1946, NA RG 238, M-1019/R 28/63)
Note in one case the companions of this officer are charged with delousing. In the other case professional exterminators are brought in.

Note also that person knocked out with one whiff of a deadly poison.

Note further that it is not a crystaline form of hydrogen cyanide, rather liquid hydrogen cyanide absorbed into diatomite, what we commonly use today as kitty litter and to clear up machine shop oil spills.
To Breitwieser, this seemed to offer the possibility of more efficient and less time-consuming executions. After ordering the half-submerged lower level of the Bunker sealed, Breitwieser had several cans of the blue pellets,   Note that these pellets are grey and not blue. Diatomite is grey. Cyanide is colorless. The color is wrong.
which vaporize when exposed to air, dropped in among the one thousand Russians awaiting execution. On September 3 Fritsch decided to experiment. First he crammed five or six hundred Russians and another 250 sick prisoners from the camp hospital into an underground detention cell. Note that both the number and the composition of the people differ.
which vaporize when exposed to air, dropped in among the one thousand Russians awaiting execution. Then the windows were covered with earth. SS men wearing gas masks opened the Zyklon-B canisters to remove what looked like blue chalk pellets about the size of peas, creating a cloud of poison gas.
After they left, the doors were sealed.(Höss, Commandant at Auschwitz, 173. See also Yehuda Bauer, "Auschwitz," in Jand Rohwere, eds., Der Mord an den Juden, 167-68) Höss wrote later that death was instantaneous. Perhaps that was what he was told. But he was not present to witness the event; he was away on a business trip.
Note that the first story appears to indicate dropped in from above as in some other stories while the second has a "walked among" indication.

Note in the second story this is a clear indication of a visible cloud of gas but of course the gas is invisible.

Note also that this separate and independent story also invents a false blue color.
Two days later the camp inmates detailed to remove the bodies were met by a fearsome sight. Other sources indicate that even the next day not everyone was dead, and the SS men had to release more insecticide. Eventually all the prisoners died. When Höss returned to Auschwitz, he heard about the successful experiment. On Eichmann's next visit to Auschwitz, Höss told him about the possibilities of Zyklon-B, and, according to Höss, the two decided to use the pesiticide and the peasant farmstead for extermination. (Höss, Commandant, 175. From the History of KL Auschwitz, New York, 1982, I, 190)(Breitman, 203) Here we have a disagreement as to the times involved and the subsequent actions if any. In the first story it is unclear why, if being immediately "knocked out" was expected that they waited two days. In the second story it is strange that there is a major conflict between the time taken to die.
Men with contorted faces had locked themselves together in their death agonies, torn out each other's hair, and bitten off their fingers. Their flesh and their clothes had fused into gelatinous blobs that sometimes disintegrated when the members of the detail tried to pick them up. (Naumann, pp. 59, 112, 134.)   Here we have a description worthy of Steven King. Except that it has mistakes that Steven King would never make.

Go back and read about the statement that someone was knocked out with one whiff of the gas. Note here that apparently they regain consciousness before they die. And then they have all kinds of horrible self-inflicted injuries.

And then somehow this particular cyanide does what no other cyanide has ever done and which can not be replicated. It somehow fuses flesh and clothing into gelatinous masses.

When impossible things are claimed to have happened rest assured someone is making up a story.

We have two different people getting the idea to use it but in the first case his companions are charged with delousing and in the second case professional fumigators are brought in.

In one story it is 1000 Russians. In the other case we have 750-850 Russians and sick people.

In one case the pellets are dropped into the room, in the other men wearing gas masks are walking around in the room to spread it.

In neither case is the room large enough to hold even the lowest number of people.

In the first story there is a very strange pathology of cyanide poisoning (instantly knocked out but recovering later for the hair pulling and finger biting) while in the latter, they may or may not have died immediately. No horrifying details are noted.

In the former story the impossible gelatinous blobs are included while the latter does not include them or anything out of the ordinary.

One has to wonder how people who implicitely believe one story will deal with the other story and the conflicts between them.

Notes

  1. Also found in Nizkor, sort of a Holocaust database but it may be purged by the time you get there. It conflicts with the story they approve. They do not provide full attribution of the original work.