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                        Technique and Operation
                            of the Gas Chambers ©
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 A.   It was done mainly by Lisoform. 
[Incomplete and incorrect reply, because disinfestation of clothing was mainly by hot air in sealed chambers or by high pressure steam in autoclaves. Lisoform is the German trade name of a 21.5% solution of formic aldehyde or formalin a powerful and not very toxic antiseptic used for disinfecting premises and bedding, and for sterilizing surgical instruments. Sick rooms that have been inhabited by patients with infectious germs, can be disinfected by gaseous formaldehyde produced by a special device]   
Q.  It was done more with that than it was done with gas, is that correct?  
A.    Mainly by Lisoform. I remember only once having seen it done by gas.  
[Prepared and loaded reply, a consequence of the previous one, designed to show that the prisoners’ barracks were disinfected mainly with Lisoform, a formalin solution, hence liquid. Unfortunately for the witness, the only possible disinfestation method for the barracks was GASSING, using Zyklon B. At first the disinfestation of effects was also done with Zyklon-B. Hot air and pressurized steam, which can disinfest and disinfect at the same time, require much more complex installations and only gradually came to replace hydrocyanic acid disinfestation, a very effective procedure but one requiring care.

These questions and answers are aimed at proving that virtually ALL the Zyklon-B delivered by Tesch and Stabow was used in homicidal gassings, which is wrong as we now know. The trials of the leading figures of TESCH u. STABENOW (Testa), distributor for the East, and DEGESCH, the firm that produced Zyklon-B have NO historical justification. The Managing Director of Degesch, Dr Peters, knew that Zyklon-B was used in about twenty gas chambers of about 10m³ unit volume installed by Messrs BOOS, FOR DISINFESTATION PURPOSES. While he suspected that some of his product may have been used criminally now and again for “euthanasia” in the case of the seriously physically or mentally handicapped and incurably sick, it was not until the summer or autumn of 1944 that he is thought to have learned of the mass murders by Zyklon-B at Birkenau, and this through the loose talk of an SS sergeant. In any event, there was nothing he could do, and he certainly could not refuse to deliver Zyklon-B to the SS. The stultified and restrictive atmosphere of the regime, imposed by the war and the SS, curbed any desire for dangerous curiosity. Under a totalitarian dictatorship, this is a basic rule of survival. While the Testa and Degesch trials were of doubtful validity, this is not the case with TOPF & SONS, the manufacturers of the cremation furnaces, who despite their apparent innocence were compromised up to the neck in the installation of the homicidal gas chambers. This is clearly shown by documents of the period. And yet there was never a “Topf trial”.] 
Q.   In the months of May and June 1944 how many tins of Zyklon-B do you estimate were used for exterminating people? 
A.  That stands in relation to the number of people who have been killed. 
Q.   What is the relationship approximately?  
A.   Two tins for one thousand persons; 25,000 per day; then we may say 50 tins per day. 
[It goes without saying that this calculation is pure imagination, the figure of 25,000 never having been approached on any day, and certainly not maintained over one or two months]    
Q.  What happened to the bodies of the gassed people?  
A.   The bodies were thrown into mass graves, but, before they were throw into those graves their hair was cut and their teeth were pulled out; I have seen it.  
[The witness is here speaking of practices used at Krematorium V and Bunker 2/V. He forgets the cremation furnaces of Krematorien II and III. The gaps in his memory regarding these Krematorien, which he seems to have visited only rarely, despite his claim to have been the Sonderkommando doctor, are worrying. They reveal his reluctance to speak about his own activities in his normal place of work, which was the experimental barracks in the Gypsy Camp. It is rare to find a Sonderkommando survivor who is willing to talk about the whole of the period without self censorship of some sort. Filip Müller in hisTrois ans dans une chambre à gaz d’Auschwitz forgets to say that he survived the selections because he was “protected” by a Sudeten SS man. David Olère states that he worked ONLY on the waste incinerator. Their behaviour during their period in the Sonderkommando cannot and should not be judged. They experienced something beyond the limits of horror and for this reason are untouchable. But there is no reason why they should not tell the exact truth instead of trying to pretty things up.]   
Q.   Was the gold preserved from the teeth or all the teeth?  
A.  The National Socialist government said they did not care about gold; still they managed to get 17 tons of gold out of the four million bodies. 
[Dr Miklos Nyiszli also stresses the contrast between the official “disinterest” of the Third Reich and this abject recovery of gold from corpses. Though they did not live together, Nyiszli and Bendel operated in the same milieu, which explains their identical reactions. In announcing the collection at 17 tons of gold in reply to a question about teeth, the witness commits a stupid error. He states under oath that on average the victims had 4.25 grams of gold in their mouths. This is beyond the bounds of credibility. Dr Nyiszli states that the “gold foundry” Krematorium III produced 30 to 35 kg of gold per day, from teeth AND other objects. This figure, certainly inflated, gives an average of 7 grammes or so of gold per person for a daily inflow of 4000 people. The 17 tons of gold mentioned by Bendel is a figure calculated on the basis of the incorrect number of victims, 4 million, multiplied by the true weight of a wedding ring, 3 to 5g. Gold teeth really accounted for only a small part of the total, but the rings and jewelry have been conjured away to leave teeth as the principal source of the gold obtained. The counsel for the defence could not let such an outrageous claim pass.]   
Q.  How long, as a doctor, do you think it took these people to die with Blausäuregas [prussic acid gas]?  
A.   I should think about two minutes.  
Q.   Who were the actual men who put the gas into the gas chambers? 
A.  The SS. 
Q.  Were they specially trained men or any men? 
A.  No: these gentlemen were all volunteers.  
[Wrong. They were NCO medical orderlies, “Sanitdtsdienstgrade” or “SDG”, who had been trained by Tesch und Stabenow in the handling of Zyklon-B for disinfestation purposes.]    
Q.  What happened to the Sonderkommandos who worked the crematoria?  
A.  200 of them were gassed on the 27th September 1944, 500 were shot during a disturbance which was unique in the history of a concentration camp. 
[In the calendar of events in the camp compiled by Danuta Czech, a PMO official, this first episode is noted as taking place about 25th. They are supposed to have been gassed in Kanada I. See Part I, Chapter 4]   
Q.  Was it the policy to exterminate the Sonderkommando, or did it just so happen that way? 
A.  The witnesses who have experienced such atrocities could not and were not allowed to leave.  
[I believe, like the SS judge Konrad Morgen, that the situation was just as desperate for the SS employed in the Krematorien and they would have been quietly got rid of once the extermination was over, being posted to units to be sacrificed at the front.]    
Q.   After the bodies had been thrown into the pits, what happened to the bodies? 
A.  They simply disappeared. They became ashes. It was a fact that one thousand bodies having been thrown into such a pit disapppeared in one hour; they became ashes.  
Cross-examined by Dr ZIPPEL    
Q.  You have said that the gas chambers were ten metres by four metres by one metre sixty centimetres [the witness had in fact said something more like 1.73m]: is that correct?  
A.   Yes. 
Q.  Is it right that they are 64 cubic metres?  
A.   I am not very certain. This is not my strong side.  
(Page 31)    
Q.  How is it possible to get a thousand people into a room of 64 cubic metres?  
A.  This one must ask oneself. It can only be done by the German technique. 
[But the laws of physics are universal]   
Q.   Are you seriously suggesting that in a space of half a cubic metre you could put ten men [in fact a little less than 8]?  
A.  The four million people who were gassed in Auschwitz are the witnesses. 
Q.   Is it not possible that you are in error concerning the figures you have given? 
A.  It is possible that the details are incorrect as one could not bother about ten or fifty or even a thousand in these figures, but anyway, the main facts remain. 
[An argument used over and over again over the last 40 years, aimed at blocking any detailed research into the gas chamber exterminations. On 21st February 1979, on page 23 of the French newspaper Le Monde, 34 French historians signed a declaration on the “Faurisson Affair”, concluding in these terms:

“One should not ask how, technically, such a mass murder was possible. It was technically possible because it happened. This is the obligatory point of departure for any historical research on this subject. It was our duly simply to recall this truth: there is not and cannot be any argument about the existence of the gas chambers.”

On the contrary: WE MUST ASK HOW SUCH A MASS MURDER WAS TECHNICALLY POSSIBLE. My work is the result of such research. This has enabled me to demolish certain absurd theories, expose certain lies and correct certain errors. But over the ruins of the old cob walls, the documents found in Poland and the Soviet Union have laid the new concrete foundations that will withstand the test of time.]    
Q.   Who were these four million people who were being killed? 
A.   There were men, women, children and old people.  
Q.   Were these people who were gassed rich people or poor people? 
A.  It was difficult to tell from the clothing whether they were rich or poor, but they were certainly belonging to all classes of society. 
Q.   When you say that 17 tons of gold were collected from these corpses, do you then count a ton as having 1000 kgs? 
A.  Yes. 
Q.  Then you would say that per person, man, woman, child or baby, they had on average four grams of gold in their mouths? 
A.  It must have been that some had more and some had less or nothing; it depended on the state of their teeth or their dentures. 
Q.   Was the disinfection being carried out by special squads of the SS?  
A.   The disinfection of the camp, yes. 
Q.  Is it right that the gas was being delivered to the camp by the Red Cross?  
A.  No; it was not being delivered by the Red Cross; it was brought in Red Cross vans. There is quite a difference between the two. 
Q.  Is it known to you that Lisoform is a disinfectant only against germs, but not against insects in clothing?  
[Formalin is an antiseptic, effective against microbes, but is not an insecticide and is useless against lice, for example.]    
A.   There was no disinfection intended, as these people brought into concentration camps were not brought there to be disinfected or kept clean or kept healthy, but to be disposed of. 
[In 1944, there were two categories of Jewish deportees: those unfit for work, who were destined for the gas chambers, and those fit for work, who received some very limited care from the impoverished Reich of the period. For those selected for work, the first thing on entering the camp was disinfestation treatment. The witness gives a deformed version of the facts.]    
DR ZIPPEL: We have no further questions.    
MAJOR DRAPER: No re-examination. 
(The witness withdraws) 

I, Alfred H ELBAU, US civilian. AGO No A-1655313, US Department of rhe Army. OCCWC. Numberg. herewith certify that the above copy is a true and correct copy of excerpt from the official transcript of the 2nd day of a trial by Military Court of Bruno TESCH, Joachim DROSIHN and Karl WEINBACHER which took place from 1 to 8 March 1946 at The War Crimes Court, Curichaus. Hamburg. Document received on 15th, September 1947 by OCCWC from War Crimes Group (North West Europe) at HQ. BAOR  
(Signature) Alfred H Elbau

Alfred H ELBAU 
Technique and operation
of the gas chambers

Jean-Claude Pressac
© 1989, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
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