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                        Technique and Operation
                            of the Gas Chambers ©
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  all pieces of bone and flesh. Other valuables worn by the dead, such as necklaces, pearls. wedding bands and rings(50), were taken and dropped through a slot in the lid of a strongbox. Gold is a heavy metal, and I would judge that from 18 to 20 pounds(51) of it were collected daily in each crematorium. It varied, to be sure, from one convoy to the next, for some convoys were comparatively wealthy, while others, from rural districts, were naturally poorer. 

The Hungarian convoys arrived already stripped. But the Dutch, Czech, and Polish convoys, even after several years in the ghettos, had managed to keep and bring their jewelry, their gold and their dollars with them. In this way the Germans amassed considerable treasures.

When the last gold tooth had been removed, the bodies went to the incineration kommando. There they were laid by threes on a kind of pushcart made of sheet metal(52). The heavy doors of the ovens opened automatically(53); the pushcart moved into a furnace heated to incandescence.

The bodies were cremated in twenty minutes(54). Each crematorium worked with fifteen ovens, and there were four crematoriums. This meant that several thousand people could be cremated in a single day(55) (The Hungarian and French versions give the figure of 20,000 rather than “several thousand”.] Thus for weeks and months — even years — several thousand people passed each day through the gas chambers and from there to the incineration ovens. Nothing but a pile of ashes remained in the crematory ovens. Trucks took the ashes to the Vistula, a mile away, and dumped them into the raging waters of the river.

After so much suffering and horror there was still no peace, even for the dead.

Comments on Doctor Miklos Nyiszli's account  
(1)   Window:  
Although from Nyiszli’s book it is difficult to establish where he was housed, it is certain that he slept in the “Aufenthaltsraum / [prisoners’ ] rest room” on the ground floor of Krematorium II. From its double window he would indeed have had a direct view of the “ramp”.   
(2)  Half an hour:  
Often longer, an hour.    
(3)  Left-hand: 
This does not correspond to the position of the observer. These people were on the “Hauptstrasse / main roads” leading to Krematorien II and III. To see them “on the left” it was necessary to be in the middle of the ramp and looking west. But they could also go “to the right” and take the “Lagerstrasse A / camp road A” which led them via the “Ringstrasse / ring road” to Krematorien IV and V.    
(4)  Fifteen Ventilators were going simultaneously, one beside each oven: 
WRONG. There were in fact five, one fan being mounted on the right hand side of each of the five 3-muffle furnaces, which Nyiszli implicitly admits. [Ref BW 30/41, page 33. The five fans were installed by Messing, a civilian employee of Messrs Topf & Sons, on Ist February 1943 ].
(multiplier to be applied to the facts to reach what is written:  3) 
(5)  500 feet long:  
WRONG. Drawing 933, confirmed by the ruins, indicates a length of 30 metres, or roughly 100 feet.
(Multiplier: 5)   
(6)  Each of these fifteen ovens was housed in a red brick structure: 
Poorly observed. The fifteen cremation ovens were in fact made up of five 3-muffle furnaces.   
(7)  swing-doors:  
Perhaps not swing-doors, but certainly double doors, still in place today.   
(8)   five abreast: 
The photographs in the Album d’Auschwitz confirm that they were in a column five abreast, at least the men, as this rule did not apply to women with children.   
(9)   300 yards:  
FAIRLY PRECISE. There were 420 metres between Nyiszli’s window and the center of the ramp where the selection was made. Taking into account that the head of the “left hand” column advanced about a hundred metres down the main road to make room for those following, before turning towards Krematorien II and III, the distance is accurately estimated.   
(10)  Water faucets:  
Confirmed by all the overall plans of the Birkenau POW camp. There was a tap 10 meters to the east of the waste incinerator wing.    
(11)  100 yards:  
CORRECT. The path from the entrance to the Krematorium yard to the steps leading down to the undressing room may vary a little, but it is almost exactly 100 meters. From the water tap to the undressing room steps is also a little under 100 meters.    
(12)  a cinder path edged with green grass: 
The aerial photographs of Krematorium II taken by the Americans clearly show its underground undressing room, bordered by a path — of cinders according to Nyiszli — with a grass-covered space between it and the northern barbed wire fence.   
(13)   iron ramp: 
Correct. These iron railings were found in the “Bauhof” (yard for building materials) when the camp was liberated [PMO neg. no. 897]. The holes where they fitted on the right and left hand sides of the access stairway are still visible in the ruins.   
(14)   10 or 12 concrete steps:  
Correct. Ten in fact.   
(15)   200 yards long:  
WRONG. The length of Leichenkeller 2 according to drawing 932 and the ruins is 50 meters.
(Multiplier: 4)   
(16)  rows of columns: 
Wrong. ONE row of eleven supporting pillars down the center of the room.   
(17)  3,000 people:  
Exaggerated figure. The true figure was certainly lower, probably 1000 to 1500 [see my comments on Dr Bendel's testimony concerning this subject].
(Multiplier: 2.5)    
(18)   within ten minutes: 
Much longer. During an interview with David Olère, he told me that filling the gas chamber [of Krematorium III], including the time taken to undress, “took hours”.    
(19)   swing doors of the large oaken gate at the end of the room: 
Perhaps not swing doors, but broad double doors confirmed by the drawings.   
(20)  The crowd flowed through it, into another:  
Not directly. The people passed through a “Vorraum / vestibule” before entering the gas chamber.   
(21)  This second room was the same size as the first: 
WRONG. Drawing 932 and the ruins prove that Leichenkeller 1, the gas chamber, was 30 metres long.
(Multiplier: 6.7)   
(22)  Thirty yard intervals / supporting columns / square sheet-iron pipes: 
This passage as Dr Nyiszli SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN IT is as follows:    
  Down the center of the room, about every 3 or 4 metres [distance between centers 3.80mn, space between pillars 3.40m according to drawing 932] seven [central ]pillars rose from the concrete floor to the ceiling. These were the supporting pillars. But on the left, between these pillars and the east wall, four others could be seen, 7 or 8 meters apart, also of square section, the corners being angle iron and the faces of wire grid. 
(Multiplier for distance between gas introduction columns: 4. Furthermore, 4 pillars separated by 30 metres gives a total length of 120 to 150 m, or 50 to 80 meters less than Nyiszli ’s earlier estimate)    
(23)  a deluxe model:  
Subjective remark. David Olère has drawn a Red Cross van bringing the Zyklon-B.   
(24)  SDG / Sanitätsdienstgefreiter:  
Incorrect. SDG is an abbreviation for Sanitätsdienstgrade or SS medical orderly NCO. Gefreiter was the equivalent of corporal in the Wehrmacht, not in the SS where this rank was Sturmmann. Hoess refers to these men as “trained disinfectors” [Commandant of Auschwitz, page 211].   
Technique and operation
of the gas chambers

Jean-Claude Pressac
© 1989, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
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