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The Holocaust History Project.
The Holocaust History Project.

"Vergasungsapparate" - "Gassing Devices"

Viktor Brack was a civil servant in the "euthanasia" program who had served in 1930 and 1931 as Heinrich Himmler's driver. In 1934 he was appointed the head of Central Office II of the Chancellery of the Führer, where he oversaw the murder by gas of thousands of mentally and physically handicapped victims. The jurisdiction of the Central Office II was "State and Party Affairs," under which Brack created a bureaucracy for the "euthanasia" to be imposed on Germany's undesirable citizens. Together with his deputy, he oversaw many of the details of the T4 program. [1]

The extermination effort would soon spread to the concentration camps:

In April 1941, by order of Himmler and under the code name "14 f 13," 132 the "euthanasia" of prisoners - the "special treatment of sick or infirm prisoners" - began. 133 [2]

In 1942, Brack would head to the front as a major in the Waffen SS, leaving T4 behind.

But while in mid-1941 the "science" of murder by gas had been well-nigh perfected by the operatives in the euthanasia program, these lessons had not been learned by the different bureaucracies responsible for overseeing the extermination of the Jews. "On July 17, 1941, seven hundred Jewish hostages from Vilna were shot at the train station in Ponary (Punar)." [3] Such displays were obviously undesirable.

The document below describes Brack as a man who can help put a stop to bloody, very public executions such as that in Vilna.

Hinrich Lohse was the Reich Commissar for the East - for the combined Baltic States and Russia. In 1941 he moved into his offices in Kovno, and then Riga. "With his ludicrous walrus-like appearance the former Gauleiter of Schleswig-Holstein looked like a small-town party boss and acted the part." [4]

In Kovno, on July 29, two weeks after the massacre in the train station, Lohse took a firm stand against the Jews, telling his men "that the [Jewish] ghettoes would receive only as much food as the rest of the population could do without...." [5]

More drastic steps were to follow. On October 4, 1941, Lohse sent a letter from Riga to court judge and Adviser on Jewish Affairs Dr. Erhard Wetzel, "re: the solution of the Jewish question."

Three weeks later, on October 25, Wetzel replied to Lohse - and now we have come to the document which is reproduced below. In this reply, Wetzel noted that Brack had agreed to set up the "gassing devices" - probably gas vans which killed using poisonous engine exhaust - and that this would help put a stop to the unfortunate public displays. [6]

This letter, marked Secret, is thus one of the important links in the chain leading directly from the murder by gas of mentally and physically handicapped German citizens to the murder by gas of Jews behind the Eastern Front. It is especially valuable because, unlike most communications regarding the Final Solution, it refers to gassing using that word, rather than a euphemism.



The Reich Ministry
for the Occupied Eastern Territories

 Berlin, October 25, 1941

Expert AGR Dr. Wetzel


Re: Solution of the Jewish Question

1. To the Reich Commissar for the East

Re: Your report of October 4, 1941 in respect to the Solution of the Jewish Question

With reference to my letter of October 18, 1941, this is to inform you that Oberdienstleiter Brack of the Führer Chancellery has agreed to collaborate in the production of the required shelters and gassing devices. At this time, the envisaged devices are not available in sufficient quantity; they will first have to be manufactured. Since in Brack's opinion, the manufacture of the devices in the Reich will cause much greater difficulties than doing it on the spot, Brack considers it most expedient to send his people to Riga, especially his chemist Dr. Kallmeyer, who will effect all further steps there. Oberdienstleiter Brack points out that the procedure in question is not without danger, so that special protective measures are necessary. In these circumstances, I request that you address yourself to Oberdienstleiter Brack in the Führer Chancellery through your Higher SS and Police Leader and request the dispatch of the chemist Kallmeyer and other assistants. I should inform you that Sturmbannführer Eichmann, the expert for the Jewish Question in the RSHA is entirely in agreement with this process. According to information from Sturmbannführer Eichmann, camps for Jews are to be set up in Riga and Minsk, to which Jews from the Old Reich territory may also come. At this time, Jews are being evacuated out of the Old Reich to Litzmannstadt (Lodz), and also other camps, to then later be used for labour in the east insofar as they are capable of work.

As things now are, there are no objections if the Jews who are not capable of work, are eliminated with the Brackian remedy. In this way, events such as those that, according to a report in front of me, took place on the occasion of the shootings of the Jews in Vilna, and which, considering that the shootings were carried out in public, can hardly be excused, will no longer be possible. On the other hand, those capable of work will be transported for labour in the east. It goes without saying that the male and female Jews capable of work will be kept apart.

I request a report on your further measures.



Der Reichsminister
für die besetzten Ostgebiete

 Berlin, den 25. Oktober 1941.

Sachbearbeiter AGR Dr. Wetzel


Betr.: Lösung der Judenfrage.

1. An den Reichskommissar für den Ostland

Betr.: Ihren Bericht vom 4.10.1941 bezüglich Lösung der Judenfrage

Unter Bezugnahme auf mein Schreiben vom 18.Okt. 1941 teile ich Ihnen mit, daß sich Oberdienstleiter Brack von der Kanzlei des Führers bereit erklärt hat, bei der Herstellung der erforderlichen Unterkünfte sowie der Vergasungsapparate mitzuwirken. Zur Zeit sind die in Betracht kommenden Apparate in genügender Anzahl nicht vorhanden, sie müssen erst hergestellt werden. Da nach Aufassung Bracks die Herstellung der Apparate im Reich viel größere Schwierigkeiten bereitet als am Ort und Stelle, hält es Brack für am zweckmäßigsten, wenn er umgehend seine Leute, insbesondere sein Chemiker Dr. Kallmayer nach Riga sendet, der dort alles weitere veranlassen wird. Oberdienstleiter Brack weist darauf hin, daß das in Betracht kommende Verfahren nicht ungefährlich ist, so daß insbesondere Schutzmaßnahmen erforderlich seien. Unter diesen Umständen bitte ich Sie, sich über Ihren Höheren SS- und Polizeiführer an Oberdienstleiter Brack in der Kanzlei des Führers zu wenden und um die Entsendung des Chemikers Kallmeyer sowie weitere Hilfskräfte zu bitten. Ich darf darauf hinweisen, daß Sturmbannführer Eichmann, der Sachbearbeiter für Judenfragen im RSHA durchaus mit diesem Verfahren einverstanden ist. Nach Mitteilung von Sturmbannführer Eichmann sollen in Riga und in Minsk Lager für Juden geschaffen werden, in die evtl. auch Juden aus dem Altreichgebeit kommen. Es werden zur Zeit aus dem Altreich Juden evakuiert, die nach Litzmannstadt, aber auch nach anderen Lagern kommen sollen, um dann später im Osten, soweit arbeitsfähig, in Arbeiteinsatz zu kommen.

Nach Sachlage bestehen keine Bedanken, wenn diejenigen Juden, die nicht arbeitsfähig sind, mit den Brackschen Hilfsmitteln beseitigt werden. Auf diese Weise dürften dann auch die Vorgänge, wie sie sich bei den Erschießungen der Juden in Wilna nach einem mir vorliegenden Bericht ergeben haben, und die auch im Hinblick darauf, daß die Erschießungen öffentlich vorgenommen wurden, kaum gebilligt werden können, nicht mehr möglich sein. Die Arbeitsfähigen dagegen werden zum Arbeitseinsatz nach Osten abtransportiert. Daß bei den arbeitsfähigen Juden Männer und Frauen getrennt zu halten sind, dürfte selbstverständlich sein.

Über Ihre weiteren maßnahmen erbitte ich Bericht.

Source: provided to Prof. John Zimmerman by the U.S. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The translation above is by Holocaust History Project volunteer Gord McFee. The U.S. Chief of Counsel translation is included; the interested reader is invited to compare them.

This document is cited in the essay How Reliable are the Hoess Memoirs?

The Holocaust-denier "Samuel Crowell" has published his misinterpretation of this document; we have analyzed his errors.


1. Friedlander, Henry, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to Final Solution, 1995, pp. 40ff, 68ff. See also pp. 86ff, 198ff.

2. Kogon, Eugen, Germann Langbein, and Adalbert Rückerl, Nazi Mass Murder: A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas, 1993, p. 40. See also p. 24. Footnotes:

132. Generalstaatsanwaltschaft Frankfurt a/Main AZ: Ks 1/69, judgment of 27 May 1970 (Zentralstelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen (ZSL), Ludwigsburg, collection 435, p. 50).

133. Staatsanwaltschaft Wiedbaden AZ: 3 Js 46/61, indictment, p. 63 (ZSL: archive number: 419 AR 381/60).

3. Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution, 3rd ed., 1971, p. 228, as cited by Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, 1984, p. 71n. Ponary is just a few miles southwest of Vilna.

4. Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution, 1st ed., 1953, p. 202.

5. Ibid.

6. Fleming, op. cit., p. 70.


Last modified: February 20, 1999
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