The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/documents/pressac/fg-report-commentary

Pressac, Jean-Claude.  _Auschwitz:  Technique and operation of the gas
chambers._  The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York, 1989.
pp. 238-239:

This report was shown to Professor Charles W Sydnor Hampton-Sydney
College, Virginia (United States) in 1976 by a person from Richmond
(Virginia) who had discovered it after the second world war.  This
man, apparently Eric M Lippmann according to the signature, was at the
time employed by the US Army on collection documents and seeking
anything that might be used as evidence in the Nuremberg trials.  He
seems to remember finding the carbon copy of the original report among
a set of documents in a place he cannot recall exactly, somewhere in
Bavaria.  The original was not there.  Having immediately realized the
value of this report, which described the whole process of
exterminating the Jews in Auschwitz, he made a typed copy for himself,
as he had to hand the carbon over to the American Prosecutor at
Nuremberg.  He certified in longhand that he had made a true copy, and
signed it "Eric M Lipmann."  The two sheets that he typed are now
preserved in the Tauber Institute of Brandeis University with other
documents from the Third Reich.

(The author would like to stress that in 1945-47 it was not so easy to
reproduce documents as it is today.  Finding the original of a
document, whose content is perfectly well known, requires long and
laborious research with frequently uncertain results.  Political
interference can lead to utter confusion in this type of
investigation, as has been shown by the recent case of a highly-placed
person in Austria.  [Kurt Waldheim, presumably -Nizkor])

   (Franke-Gricksch reports that "The unfit go to a BIGGISH HOUSE,
   into the basement...", without saying that it is a crematorium, or
   which one.  Later in his account we learn that the "house" is
   equipped with "big crematorium furnaces," so it must have been a
   crematorium.  Only Krematorien II and III had semi-basements,
   whereas Krematoriem I, IV and V had none.  On 4th May 1943, only
   Krematorien II was complete and operational, while Kr III was not
   yet ready.  Franke-Gricksch's "biggish house" can therefore be
   nothing other than Birkenau Krematorium II.  The errors in his
   report are:
   (1) "5 of 6 steps" (for the access stairway at the western end of
   Leichenkeller 2) instead of 10.  Simple lack of attention on the
   part of a man who used this stairway only once.  The error would
   be more serious on the part of a Sonderkommando member, using it
   several times a day.
   (2) "three big pillars" (columns for pouring Zyclon-B) instead of
   four.  The explanation of this error is that Franke-Gricksch must
   have just gone a few paces into Leichenkeller 1, not down to the
   end, and thus noticed only three of the four columns.
   (3) "the doors (of Leichenkeller 1) are closed" instead of the
   door, singular.  This is probably due to confusion with the double
   door of Leichenkeller 2 leading to the corridor, through which he
   had just come before having a quick look over the threshold of
   Leichenkeller 1.
   (4) "the door on the other side is opened, leading to a lift". 
   There was not an entrance door at one end and exit at the other,
   but only one door to Leichenkeller 1, through which the victims
   entered and from which the corpses were removed.  This is the most
   glaring fault, but may be explained by the route taken during
   Franke-Gricksch's visit.
   (5) "go to the first floor" instead of the floor above, or ground
   floor. A common mistake made by many witnesses.  ["First floor,"
   in German and French, means "second floor" in American English.
   (6) "10 big crematorium furnaces," instead of 5 three-muffle
   furnaces or 15 muffles.  As with Leichenkeller 1, Franke-Gricksch
   probably did not go the whole length of the furnace room, but
   stood at the western entrance in front of the first furnace and
   listened to the explanations given.  It could be that the figure
   ten was the total he was given for the capacity of Krematorien II
   and III together (10 three-muffle furnaces).
   (7) "500,000 Jews" (in May 1943), instead of a true figure of
   probably somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000.  This figure would
   have been provided by the Auschwitz SS guide and Franke-Gricksch
   is merely repeating the inflated figure to make the camp look
   (8) "10,000 in 24 hours," instead of the "official" figure of
   4,756 per day for the FIVE Krematorien (I, II, III, IV and V),
   itself a theoretical figure that was never achieved in 1943, as
   proved by the Krematorium coke consumption.  The maximum daily
   throughput of the 4 Birkenau Krematorien was in the order of 3,000
   incinerations.  What is more, in May 1943, Kr III was not yet in
   service.  This is simply another Auschwitz SS propaganda figure
   passed on by Franke-Gricksch.)

(The report was found in his career file and is now thought to be
preserved in the National Archives Collection of World War II, War
Crimes Records, in Washington, under reference NA RG 238.  The author
is unable to be certain whether or not Franke-Griksch was a direct
witness of the gassing of the Greeks found unfit for work.  The
enthusiastic tone of the report throws some doubt on his DIRECT
participation, despite his description of the gassing, and this would
explain some errors.  Unlike other dignitaries of the Third Reich, who
after witnessing the "special treatment" of the Jews, became silent
about it, visualising the insane consequences, Franke-Griksch is quite
lyrical about the technique used by the Auschwitz SS to implement the
"Jewish resettlement action," the title he gave to his report, which
in fact was to be the very first report on the extermination of the
Jews in the Birkenau Krematorien, at a time when Kr III was not even
finished.  In addition, this report was produced under very favourable
circumstances:  it was the first, the author was an SS witness writing
freely (not testifying before an Allied tribunal) and he had visited
the site, guided and given explanations by one of the people
responsible for its operation.  However, as compared with the
testimony of former Sonderkommando members collected after the war,
his report is disappointing, and contains eight errors, six of which
can be attributed to its author, Franke-Gricksch.

There are two hypotheses possible:  either Franke-Gricksch visited
Krematorium II when it was empty, or he witnessed a batch of unfit for
work being gassed and then incinerated.  In 1942-43, most of the
"special actions" took place at night for obvious reasons of
discretion, and since Franke-Gricksch was expected in Cracow in the
evening of 4th May it is almost certain that he would have been unable
to see the arrival of the Greek Jews, which probably took place after
his departure.  This is the author's firm belief, but he is unable to
prove it.

The most striking and serious error in his report is his stating that
the gas chamber (Leichenkeller 1) had a door at each end.  This can be
explained only if there was some kind of break in his visit to the
crematorium that caused him to lose his bearings somewhat.  His error
becomes comprehensible if we assume the following itinerary:  descent
from the outside to the undressing room (Leichenkeller 2), walk
through its entire length to the double door at the far end, through
this into the short corridor and then the vestibule, from which he
took a few steps into the gas chamber (Leichenkeller 1), whose
operation was then explained to him. He emerged from the basement via
the northern stairway into the yard, then entered the ground floor of
the crematorium through the north entrance and was shown into the
furnace room.  Here the virtues of the Ropf furnaces were extolled,
probably while he was standing before Furnace 1.  Then he took the
corpse lift down to the basement, in front of the entrance to the gas
chamber (where, not recognizing the vestibule he had passed through
some time before, he thought this was ANOTHER door to the gas
chamber).  He probably went back up to the ground floor on the corpse
hoist and left the Krematorium through the main, north, door.  The
"break" thus occurred when he emerged from the basement by the
northern stairway, instead of more logically taking the corpse hoist
directly up to the furnace room.  One indication that Franke-Gricksch
did not actually witness a gassing, is his description of the
successive states of the victims:  they walk in, are put to sleep and
are then corpses to be incinerated.  Finally, the Franke-Gricksch
report is very short on detail regarding Krematorium II, even though
it does correctly describe its criminal operation.  It's [sic -Nizkor]
only real, and very important, merit is that it gives a clear and
precise explanation of the term "Jewish resettlement
action/Umsiedlungsaktion der Juden."  The original method was
wholesale annihilation, the second method involved selection into
three groups (those fit for work being used as labour, those
temporarily unfit being rapidly cured and used as labour, those unfit
being sent to a "biggish house" (Krematorium II) where they are "put
to sleep" and reduced to ashes).  The title of the "Auschwitz Album"
by Serge Klarsfeld, "Umsiedlung der Juden aus Ungarn" (Resettlement of
the Jews from Hungary), despite the fact that it has been possible to
compare certain scenes in the photographs with a "peaceful country
outing against a background of barbed wire," can no longer give rise
to any discussion, and covers the second type of "resettlement.")

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.