Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/belzec pfannen.002 Last-Modified: 1994/07/26 Professor Wilhelm Pfannenstiel, Waffen-SS hygienist, on a gassing at Belzec [Quoted in 'The Good Old Days' - E. Klee, W. Dressen, V. Riess, The Free Press, NY, 1988., p. 238-244] ---------------------------------------------------------------------- When I am asked about executions of Jews I must confirm that on 19 August 1942 I witnessed an execution of Jews at Belzec extermination camp. I would like to describe how I came to be there. During my conversations with SS-Brigadefuehrer Globocnik, he told me about the large spinning-mills that he had set up in Belzec. He also mentioned that work at this camp would considerably outstrip German production. When I asked him where the spinning materials came from, he told me proudly that they had come from the Jews. At this point he also mentioned the extermination actions against the Jews, who for the most part were killed at the the camp at Belzec... During this first visit I was taken to around by a certain Polizieihauptmann named Wirth, who also showed and explained to me the extermination installations at the camp. He told me that the following morning a new transport of about 500 Jews would be arriving at the camp who would be channeled through these extermination chambers. He asked me whether I would like to watch one of these extermination actions, to which, after a great deal of reflection, I consented. I planned to submit a report to the Reichsarzt-SS about the extermination actions. In order to write a report I had, however, first to observe an action with my own eyes. I remained in the camp, spent the night there and was witness to the following events the next morning. A goods train traveled directly into the camp of Belzec, the freight cars were opened and Jews whom I believe were from the area of Romania or Hungary were unloaded. The cars were crammed fairly full. There were men, women and children of every age. They were ordered to get into line and then had to proceed to an assembly area and take off their shoes... After the Jews had removed their shoes they were separated by sex. The women went together with the children into a hut. There their hair was shorn and they had to get undressed... The men went into another hut, where they received the same treatment. I saw what happened in the women's hut with my own eyes. After they had undressed, the whole procedure went fairly quickly. They ran naked from the hut through a hedge into the actual extermination centre. The whole extermination centre looked just like a normal delousing institution. In front of the building there were pots of geraniums and a sign saying "Hackenholt Foundation", above which there was a star of David. The building was brightly and pleasantly painted so as not to suggest people would be killed here... Inside the buildings, the Jews had to enter chambers into which was channeled the exhaust of a [100(?)]-HP engine, located in the same building. In it there were six such extermination chambers. They were windowless, had electric lights and two doors. One door led outside so that the bodies could be removed. People were led from a corridor into the chambers through an ordinary air-tight door with bolts. There was a glass peep-hole, as I recall, next to the door in the wall. Through this window one could watch what was happening inside the room but only when it was not too full of people. After a short time the glass became steamed up. When the people had been locked in the room the motor was switched on and then I suppose the stop-valves or vents to the chambers opened. Whether they were stop-valves or vents I would not like to say. It is possible that the pipe led led directly to the chambers. Once the engine was running, the light in the chambers was switched off. This was followed by palpable disquiet in the chamber. In my view it was only then that the people sensed something else was in store for them. It seemed to me that behind the thick walls and door they were praying and shouting for help.
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