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Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/aktion.reinhard/belzec/deathcamp.02

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Gernstein Witnesses Gassings & Reports..
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Belzec,Gernstein,Karski,lime

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/belzec deathcamp.02
Last-modified: 1994/07/06


  SS Lieutenant Gerstein also visited Belzec, and his famous description
of the gas chambers is as horrible as any.  Gerstein, an expert in Cyclone
B gas, delivered a load of the experimental gas to Belzec.  What he
witnessed during the carbon monoxide gassing of Jews stunned him.  Later
he tried to convince papal officers and diplomats, but no one believed
him.[12]  His report follows:

     In the hot August weather the whole place smelt like the plague
     and there were millions of flies everywhere. . . . In front of
     us a sort of bath-house with geraniums, then a few steps, and
     then three rooms each on the right and left, 5 x 5 m., 1.9 m.
     high, with wooden doors like garages. . . . On the roof, as a
     "witty little joke," the Star of David!  In front of the
     building a notice: Heckenholt Institute.

The next morning the transport arrived, containing 6,700 people, of whom
1,450 were dead.

     200 Ukrainians tore open the doors and drove people out of the
     wagons with their leather whips.  A big loadspeaker gave further
     instructions: undress completely, take off artificial limbs,
     spectacles, etc.  Give up valuables at the counter without
     credit notes or receipts.  Tie shoes together carefully (for
     textile salvage), otherwise in the pile of shoes, which was a
     good 25 m. high, no-one could have found a pair that matched. .
     . .

  Then the procession began to move, a long line of naked men, women,
children.  An SS man calmly told the crowd to take a deep breath in the
disinfection chambers to expand the lungs.  Inhalation would prevent
disease and infection.

     When asked what was going to happen to them, he answered: "Well,
     of course, the men must work, building houses and roads, but the
     women don't have to work.  Only if they want to, they can help
     with the housework or in the kitchen."  This gave some amount of
     these poor people a glimmer of hope that lasted long enough for
     them to take the few steps into the chambers without resisting.
     The majority realized -- the smell told them what their fate was
     to be!  So they climbed the steps and then they saw everything.
     Mothers with babies at the breast, naked little children,
     adults, men, women -- all naked.  They hesitated, but they went
     into the gas chambers, pushed on by those behind them, or driven
     in by the leather whips of the SS.  Most of them without saying
     a word.  A Jewess of about 40, with eyes blazing, called down
     upon the heads of the murderers the blood being spilt.

  She recieved six lashes in the face from the commandant's riding whip.

  Many people in the packed chamber were praying, and Gerstein prayed with
them.  The doors closed.  But the diesel engine did not work.  The people
waited in the chamber, some weaping, some standing quietly.  Finally,
after three hours, the diesel fired up:

     Up till then people were alive in these four gas chambers, four
     times 750 people in four times 45 cubic metres!  Another 25
     minutes went by.  True, many were now dead.  One could see that
     through the little glass window through which the electric light
     lit up the chamber for a moment.  After 28 minutes few were
     still alive.  At last, after 32 minutes everyone was dead!

  The Jewish work squad opened the doors and faced the standing upright
dead pressed tightly together, unable, even in death, to fall down or bend

     One could tell the families, even in death.  Theye were still
     holding hands, stiffened in death, so that it was difficult to
     tear them apart in order to clear the chamber for the next load.
     The corpses were thrown out -- wet with sweat and urin, soiled
     with excrement, menstrual blood on their legs.  Children's
     bodies flew through the air. . . .  The naked corpses were
     carried in wooden barrows just a few meters away to the pits. .
     . .  After some days the putrefying bodies swelled up and by
     then, a short time later, collapsed violently so that a new
     batch could be thrown on top of them.  Then 10 cm. of sand was
     strewn over it so that only a few single heads and arms stuck

  If that method of execution was not bad enough, the Nazis had a unique
process in reserve for those times when the gas facilities broke down or
were overcrowded, which seemed often.  The deportees who had been standing
in the open without foor for days were crammed into the train cars and
sent a mile away.  The floors had been covered with lime, and the victims
suffocated -- in time.[14]

  Karski viewed that method of killing and reported on it.  He described
the guard marching the Jews to the waiting freight cars.  A guard told the
assembled people that they would be taken to a labor camp.  Freight cars
may carry 40 soldiers or 8 horses, but the Germans jammed 120 to 130 Jews
into each car.  The policeman slammed doors across the arms and legs that

     The floors of the car had been covered with a thick, white
     powder.  It was quicklime.  Quicklime is simply unslaked lime or
     calcium oxide that has been dehydrated.  Anyone who has seen
     cement being mixed knows what occurs when water is poured on
     lime.  The mixture bubbles and steams as the powder combines
     with the water generating a searing heat.
       The lime served a double purpose in the Nazi economy or
     brutality: The moist flesh coming on contact with the lime is
     quickly dehydrated and burned.  The occupants of the cars would
     be literally burned to death before long, the flesh eaten from
     their bones.

  The Jews would die in agony.  The lime was also an efficient and
inexpensive preventative against the spreading of disease by the
decomposing bodies.

  Not until evening were the forty-six cars packed.  The train "with its
quivering cargo of flesh seemed to throb, vibrate, rock and jump as if
bewitched."  After a period of certain calm, the train began "to moan and
sob, wail and howl."  A few dozen dead bodies remained on the ground.

     In the now quiet camp the only sounds were the inhuman screams
     that echoed from the moving train.  Then these, too, ceased.
     All that was now left was the stench of excrement and rotting
     straw and a queer, sickening, acidulous odor which, I thought,
     may have come from the quantities of blood that had stained the

  Karski, hearing the dwindling cries, pictured the journey in his mind.
Afetr a 13 kilometer trip, the train would halt in an empty field:

     Then nothing at all would happen.  The train would stand stock
     still, patiently waiting while death penetrated into every
     corner of its interior.  This would take from two to four days.

  The disposal process took from three to six days.  Then the train would
return to begin the process again.[15]

  Few inmates escaped from Belzec and only one survived the war.[16]

[12] Gersteins and his reports are in Meltzer, 128; Toland, Hitler, 713-
     714; Sereny 111; Saul Friedlander, Kurt Gerstein; and Pierre Joffroy, A
     Spy for God.
[13] Gerhard Schoenberner, The Yellow Star, 171-174.
[14] Sereny, 112.
[15] Karski, "Polish Death Camp," 21.
[16] EJ 4:455

Friedlander, Saul. Kurt Gernstein.  New York: Knopf, 1969.
Joffrey, Pierre.  A Spy for God: The Ordeal of Kurt Gernstein.  New York:
  Harcourt Brace, 1971
Karski, Jan.  "Polish Death Camp." Colliers, October 14, 1944, 12. Memoir.
Meltzer, Milton. Never to Forget.
Schoenbacher, Gehard.  The Yellow Star.  New York: Bantam, 1973
Sereny, Gitta.  Into that Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder.
Toland, John. Hitler.  New York Doubleday, 1976

Exerpted From ------------------------------------------------
"Hitler's Death Camps" Konnilyn G. Feig.  LOC D810.J4 F36 1981

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