I'm almost pained to ask the question, but it was asked in class today, and I find myself morbidly curious to know the answer.
Harry W. Mazal OBE Responds:I am one of the persons in the Holocaust History Project that replies to questions from our readers. It is possible that you will get other answers from my colleagues.
An excellent website giving a brief history of J. A. Topf & sons, builders of the crematory furnaces in Auschwitz and elsewhere can be seen at:
Our own website carries an essay on the "Vergasungskeller" and the process used to murder and cremate victims in Auschwitz:
as well as a report written by Prof. van Pelt that was used in a recent libel trial:
One of my colleagues, Dr. Daniel Keren wrote:
"In The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Jozef Buszko (Jagiellonian University, Krakow) writes: "The first, relatively small gas chamber was built in Auschwitz I. Here the experimental gassing using Zyklon B gas first took place, on September 3, 1941. The victims were 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 other prisoners. After that experiment, the firm J. A. Topf and Sons received a contract to build much larger, permanent gas chambers connected with very large crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the mass exterminations were mainly carried out. Altogether four such installations -- II, III, IV, and V -- were built in Birkenau." (Encyclopedia, Vol. I, 113)"
I hope that this information answers your question.
Harry W. Mazal OBE
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Last modified: December 6, 2003